First, a preface.
The NRA’s largest 2016 outlay was the $30.3 million it spent in support of Donald Trump. “[T]he NRA’s investment, which was more than any other outside group, paid for a slew of ads that directly targeted the same voters who propelled Trump to victory.”
Now the FBI is investigating whether a top Russian banker with ties to the Kremlin illegally funneled money to the National Rifle Association to help Donald Trump win the presidency. FBI investigating whether Russian money went to NRA to help Trump:
FBI counterintelligence investigators have focused on the activities of Alexander Torshin, the deputy governor of Russia’s central bank who is known for his close relationships with both Russian President Vladimir Putin and the NRA, the sources said.
It is illegal to use foreign money to influence federal elections.
It’s unclear how long the Torshin inquiry has been ongoing, but the news comes as Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s sweeping investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election, including whether the Kremlin colluded with Trump’s campaign, has been heating up.
Disclosure of the Torshin investigation signals a new dimension in the 18-month-old FBI probe of Russia’s interference.
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Investigators for three congressional committees probing Russia’s 2016 operations also have shown interest in Torshin, a lifetime NRA member who has attended several of its annual conventions. At the group’s meeting in Kentucky in May 2016, Torshin spoke to Donald Trump Jr. during a gala event at the group’s national gathering in Kentucky in May 2016, when his father won an earlier-than-usual NRA presidential endorsement.
So there’s this aside.
In the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School massacre in Parkland, Florida and the level of furious activism from high school students highly critical of the president’s weak response to their being victims of gun violence, Trump took the small step of directing Attorney General Sessions to propose regulations to ban ‘bump stocks’:
President Trump announced Tuesday afternoon that he has signed a memorandum directing Attorney General Jeff Sessions to propose regulations to ban bump stocks and other devices that turn semiautomatic firearms into “machine guns.”
Note: The bump stock is not banned under federal law even though it allows a weapon to fire at nearly the rate of a machine gun without technically converting it to a fully automatic firearm. (It is illegal for private citizens to possess fully automatic firearms manufactured after May 19, 1986; ownership of earlier models requires a federal license.)
The device was [on twelve of the rifles] used by the shooter who opened fire on a country music festival in Las Vegas in October, killing dozens and immediately prompting calls for lawmakers or the administration to ban such devices through legislation or regulations. At the time, the White House and the National Rifle Association made clear that they were open to the idea.
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As gun-control issues are once again being discussed nationally, following a mass shooting at a high school in Florida last week, Trump was pushed to act.
“I expect that these critical regulations will be finalized … very soon,” the president said during a medal ceremony at the White House on Tuesday afternoon. “The key in all of these efforts … is that we cannot merely take actions that make us feel like we are making a difference. We must actually make a difference. We must move past cliches and tired debates and focus on evidence-based solutions and security measures that actually work.”
On the very same day that Trump signed this memorandum, the Arizona legislature was voting down a bill to regulate bump stocks. Apparently they didn’t get the memo from their “Dear Leader.” Republicans reject vote on proposal to ban gun bump stocks:
Republicans today rejected a Democratic maneuver to force a vote on a proposal banning so-called bump stocks or accessories designed to accelerate the rate of fire of semiautomatic rifles, such as the one used in the shooting of concertgoers in Las Vegas last year.
Rep. Randy Friese, D-Tucson – one of the trauma surgeons who treated Rep. Gabriel Giffords after the mass shooting in Tucson in January 2011 – made the motion to vote on HB 2023, which sought to expand the definition of prohibited weapons to bump-fire devices.
The motion came nearly a week after 17 people died at a shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida and as news outlets reported that President Donald Trump has directed the U.S. Department of Justice to ban the use of devices that modify rifles to be used as fully automatic weapons.
House Majority John Allen, a Republican, outmaneuvered Friese by successfully making a motion to instead proceed with the debate scheduled for the afternoon.
Democrats urged their Republican colleagues to give Friese’s motion a chance, but were outvoted.
Republicans countered that the issue isn’t about guns or accessories, but about addressing mental health issues.
Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, also blamed violent video games, saying they have led to a rise in school shootings. House Majority Whip Kelly Townsend added that such games created a culture of violence.
Others, like Rep. Jay Lawrence, R-Scottsdale, said the number of fetuses aborted so far this year outnumbered gun-related deaths last year.
Wow. This is so typical of the so-called “pro-life” anti-abortion fetus fetish GOP legislators. They only care about human life in utero, but once you have been born “you’re on your own, baby!” No assistance from the Arizona legislature for your health, education, welfare and safety. “Get a job you takers!”
The Arizona Republic reports, Arizona Legislature won’t hear any gun-control measures:
Citing the mass shooting that killed 17 high school students and teachers in Parkland, Florida, last week, the chamber’s minority party pleaded with their colleagues to start a debate about gun laws.
As the discussion was happening on the Arizona House floor, President Donald Trump announced that he has directed the U.S. Department of Justice to take steps to ban bump stocks.
Bump stocks existed for years, but calls to outlaw the devices intensified in the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting that killed 58 people and injured more than 700 last year. That shooter used rifles outfitted with bump stocks.
Despite Trump’s move, the Arizona House voted 34-25, along partisan lines, to effectively reject a bill to ban bump stocks, House Bill 2023.
‘We have an epidemic’
House Minority Leader Randy Friese, who tried to force a vote on HB 2023, chastised Republicans for blocking votes on gun regulations over the last three years.
“We have an epidemic in this country and we cannot continue to turn our back on it,” he said. “I’m asking you to have the courage, to have the political will.”
Friese and Rep. Daniel Hernandez, both Democrats from Tucson, sponsored HB 2023 to ban bump stocks. Such devices attach to the rear end of a rifle and use the energy from its recoil to move the rifle back and forth rapidly against the shooter’s trigger finger.
Majority Whip Kelly Townsend said banning guns won’t end violence. She said lawmakers should instead focus on violent video games and the number of abortions.
“The answer is changing our culture first of all,” Townsend, R-Mesa, said. She said the Legislature should instead consider a bill to allow teachers to carry guns to protect students. Wrong!
Tuesday’s debate came after the Republican-dominated Legislature refused to schedule any committee hearings on a host of gun-related bills sponsored by Democrats this session.
Gun-regulation bills don’t get hearings
HB 2023 was one of about a dozen bills proposed this year that would restrict firearms, from a bill requiring universal background checks to another that seeks to stop people with a mental illness from keeping guns.
Those bills went nowhere — none received a committee hearing.
Most of their bills were defeated in the House Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. That committee’s chairman, Rep. “Fast Eddie” Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, wouldn’t hear the bills.
Now, the bills cannot advance in the House without a special procedural motion like that one that failed Tuesday.
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Among the gun-related measures that haven’t received hearings in the Legislature this year (each House bill listed has a similar partner in the Senate):
- HB 2024 would require universal criminal background checks for people buying firearms. It would close the so-called “gun show” or “private sale” loophole by requiring a private person selling or transferring a firearm to go through a licensed firearm dealer, with some exceptions. Licensed dealers are required to run background checks.
- House Concurrent Resolution 2001 is nearly identical to HB 2024, but its asks legislators to put the issue of universal background questions on the ballot
- HB 2140 would create a process where immediate family members or a police officer can petition a judge for an injunction to prohibit someone with mental-health issues from possessing a gun.
- HB 2299 would require a person on probation for a domestic-violence offense to hand all their firearms over to a law enforcement agency for the duration of their probation.
What has advanced: Bill to cut gun-safety rules in foster homes
State lawmakers have, however, advanced a bill that would repeal gun-safety rules for foster homes.
House Bill 2535 would eliminate the state Department of Child Safety’s gun requirements for foster parents. The rules allow guns in foster and group homes, but require specific safe-storage practices.
The rules, broadly speaking, state that a foster parent with a gun must keep the weapon unloaded, use a trigger lock of some sort and store ammunition in an unbreakable, locked container that is tamper proof.
A committee of lawmakers in the House voted 5-4 to recommend the bill. HB 2535 now awaits a vote in the full House.
One of the most influential lobbyists at the Arizona legislature is the Arizona Citizens Defense League, which advocates for the absolutist position of no regulation of firearms. For these absolutists, firearms are “the alpha and the omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last” (Revelation 22:13), their false god in an idolatrous religion. They believe firearms are sacred, but the lives of our children are expendable. Sick bastards.
Next month, Arizona teenagers plan to take that fight to the state Capitol with the #MarchForOurLives to show solidarity with survivors of the Florida shooting and to advocate for gun control.
There is an old axiom that when you do not want to address an issue and want to kick the can down the road, form a commission to study it. This is what the Arizona legislature wants to do. And our Koch-bot Governor Ducey demonstrates, once again, his utter lack of morality and leadership. Lawmakers call on Ducey to form task force to prevent school violence:
Three years into office, Gov. Doug Ducey said Tuesday he has no clear idea of how to prevent mass shootings at schools.
But the governor said he does believe in two things: Protect the Second Amendment and don’t “politicize” the massacre at the Florida high school.
Speaking to reporters a week after the gunman killed 17, Ducey said he could provide no guidance on what changes in laws are necessary to prevent similar shootings here.
“These are issues that are going to require more than one governor, one state to participate,” the governor said when asked about the lack of any formal policy from his administration to deal with gun violence. “I think you’re going to have to have law enforcement, education, school leaders around a table, discussing about, one, how these things happen, what the consistencies were, and what changes in law or policy would have avoided them, or would have stopped them.”
That’s precisely what 50 of the state’s 90 lawmakers are asking from Ducey.
In a letter sent Monday, the legislators — mostly Democrats but some Republicans like the governor — called on him “to act quickly, decisively and compassionately” to protect Arizona school children by convening a task force to prevent potential school violence.
The signers suggested the panel should include parents, teachers, school administrators, counselors, law enforcement and behavioral health professionals and be charged with finding a way to identify students “at risk of inflicting violence upon others and protocols for interventions to safeguard our children.”
Ducey said Wednesday he had not yet seen the letter.
“I’ll be in contact with legislative leadership and we’ll be talking about what next steps can happen,” the governor said.
Ducey’s promise Tuesday to work with all parties to deal with the problem is hardly new.
In 2014, when he was running for governor, the Arizona Republic asked candidates what they would do to prevent future gun violence. At the time he promised to work with mental health experts, the firearms community and law enforcement”to make sure that any programs brought forward will reduce violence and not infringe on the Constitution.”
On Tuesday, the governor sidestepped repeated questions about the fact that, to date, the only consistency in his actions has been to sign measures to loosen state regulations of guns.
For example, he signed legislation allowing weapons on public rights of way through campuses. He also penned his signature to one law requiring cities to sell off weapons used in crimes or surrendered rather than allowing them to be destroyed.
And Ducey gave his blessing to yet another which forbids the state from telling people they can only purchase “smart” guns which can not only be tracked but also can be programmed to fire only if held by the person to whom it belongs.
In each of those situations — and again Tuesday — Ducey said while he wants to protect public safety he also wants to ensure that Arizona does not impinge on the Second Amendment right of people to bear arms.
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Ducey just last year signed legislation that specifically prohibits background checks any time any sort of property is sold.
On paper, that law does not refer to firearms. But Rep. Randall Friese, D-Tucson, sought to cut to the core as the measure was being debated.
“No one is talking about background checks for refrigerator sales or microwave sales or dining room furniture sales,” he said. “Let’s just be serious.”
That law also adds teeth to prohibitions against local gun ordinances, like one previously approved in Tucson, to require background checks when weapons are sold during gun shows on city property. That ordinance was designed to deal with what some call the “gun show loophole,” as federal laws requiring background checks on purchasers — checks that look for criminal or mental health history or other flags that show people should not be allowed to own a weapon — do not apply in person-to-person sales, even if an individual may be regularly engaged in such sales.
“I think that we can look at the background check system, state by state,” Ducey said when asked about his signature on the 2017 legislation.
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The letter from lawmakers comes on the heels of the latest mass shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 dead. Since that day groups of students have pressured legislators and Gov. Rick Scott who, in response, insisted that “everything’s on the table.”
“I think they’re very persuasive,” Ducey said Tuesday about the students.
“I think they have a lot to say,” he continued. “And I think they’re right to say it.”
But the governor, while saying he wants to see our schools as “a place of learning and safety,” he also said “we shouldn’t politicize this.”
You coward. This is becoming a national movement of young adults whose lives are put in jeopardy every day by the cowardice of politicians like Gov. Ducey and our Tea-Publican legislators who kowtow to the gun lobby to act for the safety and welfare of our children. Well just maybe, to paraphrase Isaiah, “the children shall lead us.” We value the lives of our children over false idols.
UPDATE: I caught the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Students rally at the Florida state capitol building in Tallahassee during lunch. These young adults are articulate and motivated. It gives me hope for the future.
High school students around the country are walking out of school in support of the Florida students. Students at Mesa High School in Mesa, Arizona, are walking out of the classrooms to demand stricter gun laws, CNN affiliate KNXV reports.
This reminds me of the civil rights movement, which drew children, teenagers, and young adults into meetings, marches, violence, and in some cases, imprisonment. See the Civil Rights History Project, Youth in the Civil Rights Movement. #NeverAgain, #DouglasStrong.
UPDATE: Nancy LeTourneau at the Political Animal Blog makes an excellent point:
Of course the right-wingers are losing their minds over the idea that young people are being empowered to fight for their own safety. People are accusing them of being coached by the “deep-staters” at the FBI; not having their own agency and instead, being manipulated by people like George Soros; and they are being referred to as “traumatized teens” who shouldn’t be allowed to make policy. Anyone else remember David Bowie’s song “Changes?”
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They’re quite aware of what they’re going through
It strikes me that Republicans, who completely discarded African American voters in the 60’s and have recently done their best to alienate women, Hispanics and immigrants, are now doing their best to ensure that the next generation of voters is committed to their downfall. Contrary to everything they’ve been saying over the last couple of days, it has always been the passion of young people that inspired change.