“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.'” — Isaac Asimov
The New York lawmaker condemned the fatal attack on Twitter, focusing her message on the American gun group.
“At 1st I thought of saying, “Imagine being told your house of faith isn’t safe anymore. But I couldn’t say ‘imagine,’” the lawmaker wrote, citing the deadly shootings at a Charleston, S.C. church, a Pittsburgh, Penn., synagogue and a Sutherland Springs, Texas church.
“What good are your thoughts & prayers when they don’t even keep the pews safe?” She added.
Ocasio-Cortez noted that “thoughts and prayers” is a reference to the NRA phrase she says is “used to deflect conversation away from policy change during tragedies.”
The progressive congresswoman called on communities to “come together, fight for each other & stand up for neighbors.”
“Isolation, dehumanizing stereotypes, hysterical conspiracy theories & hatred ultimately lead to the anarchy of violence,” she wrote on Twitter. “We cannot stand for it.”
Ocasio-Cortez added that she greatly admires New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.
Ardern called the shootings one of New Zealand’s darkest days,” according to the Associated Press, adding that it was “an extraordinary and unprecedented act of violence.
“It is clear that this can now only be described as a terrorist attack,” Ardern said.
The prime minister raised the national security threat to the second-best level following the shootings.
Authorities have charged one person and detained three others in the attack. They also defused explosive devices after the gunman published live footage of the shooting and published a “manifesto” calling immigrants “invaders.”
With Proposition F—the San Francisco ballot measure to restrict Airbnb and other short-term rentals—failing after votes were tallied last night, the home-sharing company at the center of the controversy invited members of the press to a debriefing at its San Francisco headquarters this morning. Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s head of global public policy and a former aide to Bill Clinton, detailed what the company felt it learned from its successful campaign against Prop F. In particular, he said, the company realized it could organize and mobilize its enormous base of Airbnb users, both hosts and guests.
“We began to think about this election in a little bit of a different way,” Lehane said. “Was there something we could do? We had this big base of support, the light bulb went off in our heads. Could we actually organize and activize (sic) this community and change what the voter pool in San Francisco was going to look like?”
At one point, presenting the company’s prepared slides, Lehane compared the influence of the Airbnb community to the National Rifle Association. Airbnb now has over 4 million members, both hosts and guests, compared to the NRA’s 5.1 million members. “The [Airbnb] voting bloc that is growing is a formidable constituency,” Lehane said, comparing Airbnb’s numbers to the NRA, the Sierra Club, teachers in the National Education Association and pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign members.
It turns out there are some gun control proposals that Republicans and Democrats actually agree on. According to new findings from the Pew Research Center, fully 85 percent of Americans—including 88 percent of Democrats and 79 percent of Republicans—believe people should have to pass a background check before purchasing guns in private sales or at gun shows. Currently, only licensed gun dealers are required to perform background checks. A majority of Americans (79 percent) also back laws to prevent the mentally ill from purchasing guns.
There is a greater divide between the parties on other gun issues. Seventy percent of respondents support the creation of a federal database to track all gun sales, including 85 percent of Democrats but just 55 percent of Republicans. A more narrow majority (57 percent) would like to ban assault-style weapons. That proposal draws support from 70 percent of Democrats and 48 percent of Republicans.
The survey found even sharper partisan disagreement on other questions:
Seventy-three percent of Democrats say it’s more important to control gun ownership, while 71 percent of Republicans say it’s more important to protect gun rights.
Republicans are almost twice as likely to see gun ownership as an effective form of protection rather than a way to jeopardize safety.
The study also examines demographics such race, gender, and education level:
Proposals for a federal gun database draw more support from African-Americans (82 percent) and Hispanics (76 percent) than from whites (66 percent). Fifty-six percent of African-Americans say gun ownership is a safety hazard.
Sixty-five percent of women favor banning assault-style weapons, compared with 48 percent of men.
Sixty percent of men say guns help protect people, compared with 49 percent of women.
Those with post-graduate degrees are more likely to favor a ban on assault weapons (72 percent) than those with a high school diploma or less education (48 percent). Those with post-graduate degrees are also more likely to say gun ownership does more to endanger than increase safety (57 percent).
College graduates are almost evenly divided; 48 percent say guns endanger people, while 46 percent say they protect people.
Those with a high school diploma or less say gun ownership does more to protect people (59 percent).
For more information, check out these interactive charts from the Pew Research Center.
John Cornyn introduces NRA-supported background-check bill
The Senate’s second most powerful Republican is pitching his own plan to prevent the mentally ill from obtaining firearms — and he’s gotten the National Rifle Association to endorse the measure.
The new legislation from Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn tries to patch some holes in the current national background checks system by encouraging states, through the promise of federal funding, to send more information on mental-health records to the national database.
Cornyn’s bill would also create a path for people who may be mentally ill to be ordered into treatment by a judge without being involuntarily committed. That provision, the Texas senator said, would boost access to treatment options to strike at some of the root causes of gun-fueled violence, such as the recent shootings at a movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, by a man who authorities say had a history of mental illness.
Still, under Cornyn’s legislation, the person getting treatment wouldn’t be officially determined to be mentally ill and could, in theory, still purchase firearms. Under current law, a person would have to be adjudicated as mentally ill in order to be barred from purchasing a gun.
In a small roundtable with reporters on Wednesday, Cornyn said the issue of gun control had been “politicized so much” and that his legislation tries to strike a middle ground. Aside from the powerful NRA, which helped quash a background-checks bill two years ago, Cornyn’s legislation is also endorsed by the National Alliance on Mental Illness and the National Association on Police Organizations.
“We’ve known mental health was a key component to addressing this problem in so many instances,” Cornyn said. “And yet, rather than actually try to make progress in dealing with people who are mentally ill, we’ve had these broader debates about the Second Amendment and about infringing the rights of law-abiding, sane citizens.”
The measure doesn’t increase existing federal funding for the current background checks database or mental health programs. But it would redirect some of the existing cash to states that send more information to the national system, which is run by the FBI.
Overall, the bill authorizes about $195 million per year for the federal database — the National Instant Criminal Background Check System — and other related programs, Cornyn said.
“We know because the background check system depends on the voluntary participation and compliance of various states, that there’s a lot of variety in the ways that the states upload their background check information,” the Senate’s No. 2 Republican said. “So what this will do is to make sure that it’ll clarify the scope of the mental health records that the states must share and upload on the background check system.”
Meanwhile, the third-ranking Senate Democrat, New York’s Chuck Schumer, proposed legislation earlier this week that would deal with issues similar to those raised by Cornyn.
Flanked by actress and comedian Amy Schumer (a cousin), the senator outlined legislation that, like Cornyn’s bill, would push states to submit key mental health records into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. The July 23 shooting occurred at a screening of Amy Schumer’s latest movie, “Trainwreck.”
On election night in November 1992, I waited anxiously with other animal welfare activists at the Radisson Hotel in Denver, Colorado, to learn the outcome of a statewide ballot measure to ban the baiting, hound hunting, and spring hunting of black bears. The initiative was a big deal both for me (it had been my idea) and for the animal welfare movement more generally. Colorado was a political redoubt for the National Rifle Association and other pro-hunting groups; if the ballot measure passed, it might inspire other reforms for animals, and if it failed, it might set the movement back years. Most of my fellow activists had been skeptical about the initiative, arguing that it was a fool’s errand because the hunting lobby was too strong to defeat. But the leaders of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)—then as now, the largest animal protection organization in the country—had overruled their political staff and decided to support the effort, on principle. “It’s too important not to try,” John Hoyt, then the group’s president, told me. “If we lose, I want to be on the side of the losers.” In the end, we won big, getting 70 percent of the vote.
Colorado Democrats were also holding their election party at the Radisson that night, and as the votes were counted, they, too, were celebrating, because the Democratic presidential candidate, Bill Clinton, carried the state and the country. The animal advocates decided to hold an impromptu victory parade through the hotel, led by one of our members in a bear costume, and the partying Democrats cheered us on as we passed by. But then the mood darkened: as later returns came in, it became clear that Amendment 2, a major statewide anti-gay-rights measure, had also passed. Dejected gay rights activists slumped along the walls of the ballroom, embittered by the realization that the same people who had voted to protect bears had declined to protect gay and lesbian humans.
This is my ghost gun. To quote the rifleman’s creed, there are many like it, but this one is mine. It’s called a “ghost gun”—a term popularized by gun control advocates but increasingly adopted by gun lovers too—because it’s an untraceable semiautomatic rifle with no serial number, existing beyond law enforcement’s knowledge and control. And if I feel a strangely personal connection to this lethal, libertarian weapon, it’s because I made it myself, in a back room of WIRED’s downtown San Francisco office on a cloudy afternoon.
I did this mostly alone. I have virtually no technical understanding of firearms and a Cro-Magnon man’s mastery of power tools. Still, I made a fully metal, functional, and accurate AR-15. To be specific, I made the rifle’s lower receiver; that’s the body of the gun, the only part that US law defines and regulates as a “firearm.” All I needed for my entirely legal DIY gunsmithing project was about six hours, a 12-year-old’s understanding of computer software, an $80 chunk of aluminum, and a nearly featureless black 1-cubic-foot desktop milling machine called the Ghost Gunner.
The Ghost Gunner is a $1,500 computer-numerical-controlled (CNC) mill sold by Defense Distributed, the gun access advocacy group that gained notoriety in 2012 and 2013 when it began creating 3-D-printed gun parts and the Liberator, the world’s first fully 3-D-printed pistol. While the political controversy surrounding the notion of a lethal plastic weapon that anyone can download and print has waxed and waned, Defense Distributed’s DIY gun-making has advanced from plastic to metal. Like other CNC mills, the Ghost Gunner uses a digital file to carve objects out of aluminum. With the first shipments of this sold-out machine starting this spring, the group intends to make it vastly easier for normal people to fabricate gun parts out of a material that’s practically as strong as the stuff used in industrially manufactured weapons.
The Ghost Gunner may signal a new era where the barrier to building an untraceable semiautomatic rifle is lower than ever before.
James Holmes didn’t attack for the reason that gun rights activists claim.
A page from James Holmes’ diary.
It’s an argument we hear frequently from gun rights activists and conservative lawmakers: Mass shooters select places to attack where citizens are banned from carrying firearms—so-called “gun-free zones.” All the available data shows that this claim is just plain wrong. As I reported in an investigation into nearly 70 mass shootings in the United States over three decades, there has never been any known evidence of gun laws influencing a mass shooter’s strategic thinking. In fact, the vast majority of the perpetrators have indicated other specific motivations for striking their targets, such as employment grievances or their connection to a school.
Most recently, the marquee villain used to decry gun-free zones is James Holmes, who is currently on trial for the July 2012 massacre in Aurora, Colorado. “Out of all the movie theaters within 20 minutes of his apartment showing the new Batman movie that night, it was the only one where guns were banned,” Fox News pundit John Lott wrote not long after the attack. “So why would a mass shooter pick a place that bans guns? The answer should be obvious, though it apparently is not clear to the media—disarming law-abiding citizens leaves them as sitting ducks.”
Now, with the release this week of a detailed handwritten diary that Holmes kept before the attack, we know that there is no evidence to support Lott’s widely parroted claim.
The diary includes five pages in which Holmes laid out his strategy for attacking the Cinemark theater complex. Under the header “Case the Place,” he drew maps and diagrams accompanied by many tactical notes regarding where victims would be located and how they would potentially react. “South side of theater optimal,” he wrote, noting its “15 screens.” He zeroed in on theaters 10 and 12 as the “best targets in complex” and marked the “best parking spot” for his car. Among his lists of “pros” and “cons,” he observed that theater 10 would have “many initial persons packed in single area.” He assessed the many doors and hallways through which people would try to escape.
Nowhere in any of this extensive planning did Holmes make reference to gun regulations at the theater or the potential for moviegoers to be armed. Moreover, he had every expectation that he would not get away with his crime. In one sketch, he drew two other locations not far from the theater: the Aurora Police Department and a Colorado National Guard facility. “ETA response [approximately] 3 mins,” he noted. In his list of possible methods of attack, where he checked off mass murder using firearms as his choice, he also wrote “being caught 99% certain.”
Additional evidence from the trial underscores that Holmes clearly was not planning to avoid getting shot, killed, or apprehended. On an AdultFriendFinder.com profile he filled out shortly before the shooting, he wrote: “Will you visit me in prison?”
Here are the five diary pages filled with Holmes’ plans, followed by the full document:
They might be doing more harm than good. American schools are safer than they’ve ever been. If the worst happens — someone shows up at a school intending to kill dozens of students — there’s no evidence that having conducted mass shooting drills actually helps.
Meanwhile, school employees and parents are beginning to complain that the drills themselves can be traumatizing.
Great news: going to school is very, very safe
School shootings seem scarily common. In the two years after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in December 2012, there were 49 shootings at K-12 schools in the US, according to a report from Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control group; 15 of those shootings killed at least one person.
News coverage gives the impression that schools have become more violent, not less, since the Columbine mass shooting in 1999. But federal data shows the number of students killed at school has actually dropped since the 1990s, even as public school enrollments climbed:
The risk of a child getting killed by someone else at school in 2011, the last year for which there’s final data, was about 1 in 5 million. That’s slightly less likely than being struck by lightning. (In 2012, Sandy Hook drove up the homicide rate, but it doesn’t seem to have changed the overall trend, according to the Education Department. The Everytown study appears to back this up.)
It’s possible that new safety measures after Columbine, including drills, contributed to the quick drop in the murder rate. But it’s more likely that it’s part of a bigger trend of declining crime and violence at school. The rate of “serious violent victimization” among students — rape, sexual assault, robbery, or aggravated assault — was about 1 in 1,000 in 2011, down from 1 in 100 in 1995. In 1995, 10 percent of students were victims of some kind of crime at school; in 2011, just 4 percent were.
Lawmakers in a bright blue state passed extraordinarily popular legislation on Monday that closely tracks a proposal that was recently one of President Obama’s top priorities. Under normal circumstances, that wouldn’t be a particularly surprising news story. This bill, however, involved gun sales, an area where lawmakers appear immune to public opinion.
At the national level, legislation requiring background checks for all gun sales is immensely popular. The most recent poll on the subject logged by Polling Report, a site that aggregates national polling data, found that 92 percent of registered voters support “requiring background checks for all gun buyers.” That includes 86 percent of Republicans.
Background checks do not achieve the same stratospheric levels of popularity in Oregon that they enjoy in the nation as a whole, but a 2014 poll nevertheless found that 78 percent of the state’s voters support such regulation of gun sales. Notably, the same poll found that “50 percent said they would be less likely to re-elect someone who opposes the bill,” while only “29 percent said they would be more likely to vote for a lawmaker who opposes it.”
The legislation that passed the Oregon legislature on Monday cleared the state house by a narrow 32-28 vote. It will close a loophole that enabled online gun sales without a background check, while exempting gun transfers between close family members. Gov. Kate Brown (D) is expected to sign it.
The National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm reacted to the bill’s passage by claiming that “the Oregon House of Representatives voted against your Second Amendment rights.” But even the most conservative members of the Supreme Court disagree. As Justice Antonin Scalia explained in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Court’s most important Second Amendment decision, “nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”