Stop The Violence Foundation Youth Center

The Corpus Christi church in Buffalo wants to make the most out of additional buildings it runs, and one building that seems to have the most promise is an older athletic center.

The athletic center on Sears Street boasts an indoor basketball court and a bowling alley.

Church leaders are now working with a group called the Stop the Violence Foundation to see how they can work together at reducing violence in Buffalo.

One idea, for example, came from Bishop Perry Davis, who suggested a Hoops for Peace tournament in February.

“You don’t want to change the minds of the kids, but you want to give a kid somewhere to go and something to do,”
he said. “That’s going to keep them off the streets. That’s going to keep their minds occupied, and that will hopefully save lives with what we’re doing here.”

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Jay Dickey’s Complicated Legacy Is A Lesson For Politicians And Scientists Alike

To a generation of researchers, the name “Jay Dickey” was synonymous with frustration.

For over 20 years, legislation authored by Dickey ― a former U.S. representative from Arkansas, and a Republican ― has stood in the way of public health researchers who want to examine American gun violence.

But when Dickey died last week at 77, many of those same researchers mourned his passing. They praised Dickey for publicly admitting that his amendment was a mistake, and for working to undo the damage it caused with his efforts to promote gun violence research.

The Dickey Amendment of 1996 prohibited the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from funding research meant to “advocate or promote gun control.” Unwilling to risk losing funding, the CDC cut back on its firearm violence research, and publications on the topic subsequently plummeted 64 percent between 1998 and 2012. 

The ban likely deterred young scientists from entering the gun violence research field in the first place, Dr. Alice Chen, the executive director of Doctors for America, told HuffPost in 2015.

“If you are a young scientist, and you’re looking into which field you can go into to make a difference and there’s no funding, you’re not going to go into this field,” she said.

Today, just a handful of scientists regularly produce in-depth research on the subject. Given his namesake amendment’s chilling effect on their field, it would make sense for gun violence researchers to remember Dickey less than fondly. And certainly some do.

“Representative Dickey had a complicated legacy,” Charles Branas, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine, told HuffPost. “The nation continues to struggle with a famine in solutions to gun violence that never materialized.” 

But in the final years of his life, Dickey made an about-face: Seeing how the Dickey Amendment had damaged public health research, he admitted his mistake.

“I wish we had started the proper research and kept it going all this time,” Dickey told HuffPost in 2015. “I have regrets.”

That self-awareness hit home with researchers. And it forged Dickey’s legacy of understanding and evolution, two qualities that our polarized members of Congress could do well to emulate. 

“To me, it’s a huge loss. I’m very, very sad,” Dr. Mark Rosenberg, the former director of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Control and Prevention, told HuffPost. 

“Spoke w Rep. Dickey a few times,” Ted Alcorn, who works at the nonprofit advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, tweeted Wednesday. “He did something rare in politics ― admitted he was wrong ― & I admire him for it.”

CQ Archive via Getty Images

Rep. Jay Dickey (R-Ark.), at left, speaks at a House hearing in 1995. In the final years of his life, Dickey became a vocal proponent of gun violence research.

A rivalry that became a partnership

As younger men, Dickey and Rosenberg were archrivals.

“I was told not to have anything to do with Mark Rosenberg,” Dickey told NPR in 2015. 

When the pair met in person, however, they sought common ground. And over time, Dickey’s views on research shifted. 

“What the highway industry did was to solve a problem that would be an example for us,” Dickey told NPR. “They had a goal of eliminating head-on collisions in our interstate system. And they never ― they didn’t come out and say, we’re going to eliminate the cars.”

By 2012, Dickey’s views had changed so much that he and Rosenberg co-authored an op-ed in The Washington Post titled “We won’t know the cause of gun violence until we look for it.”

Public health researchers often compare firearm deaths to traffic fatalities. As a result of public health research in the 1970s, evidence-based interventions such as child restraints, seat belts, frontal air bags, a minimum drinking age and motorcycle helmets saved hundreds of thousands of lives. 

That comparison made sense to Dickey.

“Like motor vehicle injuries, violence exists in a cause-and-effect world; things happen for predictable reasons,” Dickey and Rosenberg wrote in their op-ed. “By studying the causes of a tragic — but not senseless — event, we can help prevent another.”

Dickey’s evolved thinking made a lasting impression on Rosenberg, who called it “a sign of a mature person that when you understand things differently, you’re willing to change to your mind, and you’re not so protective of your reputation.”

“We started out as fierce opponents as we could possibly be,” said Rosenberg, who plans to speak at Dickey’s funeral in Arkansas on April 29. “And we ended up coming to trust each other, and I would say deeply love and respect each other.”

That respect is echoed by others in field

“I will remember Mr. Dickey for his courage in publicly admitting his mistakes and working hard to rectify them,” Dr. Garen Wintemute, a physician at UC Davis Health who has researched gun violence for more than three decades, told HuffPost. 

Erika Soto Lamb, of Everytown for Gun Safety, said she was grateful that Dickey spoke out about the importance of research. 

“In order to better prevent the gun violence that kills more than 90 Americans and injures hundreds more every day, we have to improve our understanding,” she said.   

“He made a compelling case for why ending research leaves us with open questions and challenges our capacity to have an informed debate,” said Dr. Sandro Galea, an epidemiologist and a dean at the Boston University School of Public Health. “If that can be his legacy, it will be worth remembering.” 

In our current political climate, where the mere mention of firearms is controversial, Dickey’s willingness to critically examine his previously held beliefs is a reminder that politicians and scientists can work together for the public good.

“It’s possible to start at extremely different positions and come to listen, trust, respect and work out a path forward,” Rosenberg noted. “To me that’s a very important lesson.”

Justice Sotomayor Boils Down What’s Twisted About The Law On Police Brutality

WASHINGTON ― The Supreme Court doesn’t decide a lot of police shooting cases, but when it does, it tends to side with the officers. And increasingly it does so in unsigned rulings for which it doesn’t bother to hold oral arguments.

The justices again sided with the police Monday, but by choosing to not get involved. They declined to review a ruling from Texas favoring an officer who shot an unarmed man in the back after a vehicle stop. In the officer’s view, the shooting was justified because the driver had appeared to reach for a gun in his waistband.

Except it’s not at all clear that the victim, Ricardo Salazar-Limon, was even reaching for his waistband, let alone that the officer’s version of events is the final word of what happened in the case. A jury never got to weigh the conflicting versions.

Given this uncertainty, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a pointed dissenting opinion that the Supreme Court should have heard the case — if only to reaffirm the principle that juries, not judges, should be the ultimate arbiters of who’s being truthful when an officer is accused of violating a person’s civil rights.

“The question whether the officer used excessive force in shooting Salazar-Limon thus turns in large part on which man is telling the truth,” Sotomayor wrote in her opinion, joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “Our legal system entrusts this decision to a jury sitting as finder of fact, not a judge reviewing a paper record.”

Brooks Kraft via Getty Images

Justice Sonia Sotomayor has become one of the more vocal critics of how the law shields police abuses.

In many ways, the facts of Salazar-Limon v. City of Houston are reminiscent of the countless incidents of police brutality that have grabbed headlines and hashtags since the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.

Back in 2010, Salazar-Limon had been drinking and driving erratically on a Houston freeway when Chris Thompson, a Houston Police Department officer, stopped him at a roadside check. After finding no open warrants or pending charges, Thompson asked Salazar-Limon to step out of his truck, and the two stood next to each other near the back of the vehicle.

This is where the details of their encounter gets a little hazy, and the two sides dispute what happened exactly. But one thing is clear: Salazar-Limon began to walk back to his truck, then Thompson shot him in the back. The victim testified that he was shot “immediately.” But Thompson said he shot Salazar-Limon only after he ordered him to stop walking and perceived that he was reaching for a firearm in his waistband.

Rather than acknowledge this conflicting testimony and let the case be decided by a jury, two lower courts determined that Thompson’s version of the shooting ruled the day and that he shouldn’t be held liable.

Perhaps drawing on her years as a trial judge, Sotomayor observed that “the evenhanded administration of justice does not permit such a shortcut.”

We take one step back today.
Justice Sonia Sotomayor

“Our failure to correct the error made by the courts below leaves in place a judgment that accepts the word of one party over the word of another,” wrote Sotomayor, who has become one of the fiercest critics of how the law shields police abuse.

In a footnote, Sotomayor added that the “increasing frequency” of police officers shooting unarmed suspects going for “empty waistbands” makes it all the more imperative for jurors to be the ones deciding who’s more credible in these kinds of cases.

More tellingly, the justice then expressed dismay at a “disturbing trend” in how the Supreme Court has played a role in jumping to immunize police officers who are quick to pull the trigger, while doing little to step in whenever an officer has been wrongly shielded.

“But we rarely intervene where courts wrongly afford officers the benefit of qualified immunity in these same cases,” she wrote, as she listed case after case after case in which her colleagues instead gave officers a reprieve from liability. She called that feature an “asymmetry” that the court, at times, has tried to correct.

“We take one step back today,” Sotomayor wrote.

Justice Samuel Alito wrote a short response to Sotomayor, in which he stood up for the courts that ruled for Officer Thompson — and for the Supreme Court’s handling of similar cases.

“This is undeniably a tragic case, but as the dissent notes … we have no way of determining what actually happened in Houston on the night when Salazar-Limon was shot,” Alito wrote. “All that the lower courts and this Court can do is to apply the governing rules in a neutral fashion.”

Fired Surgeon General Leaves Behind A Mixed Record On Gun Violence

President Donald Trump’s administration relieved Vivek Murthy of his surgeon general post Friday, cutting his four-year term in half. However, it’s not Murthy’s firing but his silence on gun violence that may tarnish his legacy. 

In an April 21 Facebook post about his departure, Murthy highlighted his report on alcohol, drugs and health, as well as the millions of letters he mailed to doctors imploring them to join him in fighting the opioid crisis, as among his accomplishments. 

“While I had hoped to do more to help our nation tackle its biggest health challenges, I will be forever grateful for the opportunity to have served,” Murthy wrote. “Thank you, America, for the privilege of a lifetime.”

While Murthy will be remembered for shining a light on addiction in America, the way his predecessors highlighted AIDS and smoking as public health problems, he’ll also be remembered for his views on guns, which nearly kept him from being confirmed as surgeon general.

As co-founder of Doctors for America, initially named Doctors for Obama, Murthy had been outspoken about addressing gun violence as a public health problem. (His wife, Dr. Alice Chen, whom he married in 2015, is executive director of Doctors for America and a vocal advocate for gun violence research.) 

After his 2013 nomination by President Barack Obama, Murthy quickly found himself in the crosshairs of the National Rifle Association, and his confirmation took a year. Tweets like the one below from 2012 likely contributed to the impression that he would advocate for gun control. 

The NRA, in its effort to block Murthy, lobbied Senate leaders, alerting them to his views on ammunition limits, gun buyback programs and federally funded gun violence research.  

“Murthy’s record of political activism in support of radical gun control measures raises significant concerns about the likelihood he would use the office of Surgeon General to further his preexisting campaign against gun ownership,” the NRA wrote on its website in 2014.

Murthy’s silence creates mixed legacy on gun violence   

In December 2014, Murthy gained confirmation after promising senators he wouldn’t advocate for gun control as surgeon general. 

“I do not intend to use my office as surgeon general as a bully pulpit on gun control,” he said. 

True to his word, Murthy rarely mentioned firearms or gun violence during his time as surgeon general.

“He has been rather mum on the issue, as has everybody in his administration,” Dr. Sandro Galea, an epidemiologist and a dean at the Boston University School of Public Health, told HuffPost. 

Dr. Mark Rosenberg, the former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Control and Prevention, sees that as a missed opportunity. 

“He was a person who was brilliant,” Rosenberg told HuffPost. “He knew about the public health approach. He knew about the cost, the consequences and prevention of gun violence. And yet he made a deal to be silent about this.

“Someone that we needed more than ever made a deal to be silent. I think that was a huge mistake.”

Why calling gun violence a public health problem is controversial 

Referring to gun violence as a public health concern, rather than solely a criminal justice issue, is controversial in Congress. In public health circles, it’s common sense.

“The statements I’ve made in the past about gun violence being a public health issue, I stand by those comments because they’re a fact,” Murthy told The Washington Post in 2015.

“They’re a fact that nearly every medical professional who’s ever cared for a patient can attest to.” 

More than 30,000 Americans die by firearms every year, according to the CDC. That puts doctors who treat gun-related injuries on the front lines of an issue that lacks comprehensive research and data.

And although suicides make up the bulk of these deaths, gun homicides are a significant problem in the United States and far outstrip the gun violence levels in other developed nations.

The NRA spent more than $36 million toward electing Trump and Republican Congress members during the 2016 election, more money than on any election in history, according to The Trace. Trump is scheduled to speak at the NRA’s leadership forum on April 28, making him the first president in 34 years to do so.

Trump has yet to nominate a replacement for Murthy, whose deputy, Rear Adm. Sylvia Trent-Adams, is now acting surgeon general.

It’s not unprecedented for an incoming administration to appoint a surgeon general whose views line up with its own. In 1961, Dr. Leroy E. Burney stepped down to allow the Kennedy administration to nominate a surgeon general. (Burney had served a full four-year term.)    

It remains to be seen whether Murthy will address gun violence now that he’s no longer surgeon general.

“I got into some trouble for saying gun violence is a public health issue,” Murthy told Stat last year. “I was stating what I think is the obvious, and I think most people in the country understand, which is that far too many people die from gun violence. And in my book, every single death from gun violence is a tragedy because it was preventable.”

Cody Lyon: Jeff Sessions’s Crime Rhetoric Aimed At New York City Drips With Hypocrisy

This past Friday, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) sent letters to nine jurisdictions that had been identified in a May 2016 report by the DOJ Inspector General as having laws that potentially violate 8 U.S.C. § 1373—in other words, these are places that local officials have declared sanctuary cities.

Reportedly, Sessions is warning each of those cities they have to prove compliance with federal immigration laws by June or risk losing federal funding from the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant.

Named after Edward Byrne, a New York City police officer who was assassinated by a drug gang in 1988 while he sat in a marked patrol car guarding a witness, the grant provides critical funding for police departments around the country, including: law enforcement, prosecution, indigent defense, courts, crime prevention and education, corrections and community corrections, drug treatment and enforcement, planning, evaluation, technology improvement, and crime victim and witness initiatives.

I live in the biggest sanctuary municipality of them all―New York City―a place that celebrates its diversity, a melting pot of countless cultures where hard- working immigrants and their children can climb the educational and economic ladder. And it’s incredibly safe for a city its size, especially when compared to the rest of the country. The fact is, I feel five times more safe here than in most of Session’s home state, Alabama, which also happens to be where I grew up and visit often. Although Alabama’s biggest city, Birmingham, is going through an exciting economic and cultural rebirth, there are pockets of nasty violent crime that statistically make New York City look like Mayberry in comparison.

And, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Alabama had the third-highest rate of death by guns in the United States (behind Alaska, Montana and Louisiana). Nonetheless, Alabama’s affection for guns runs deep. State leaders in Montgomery just passed a bill eliminating the requirement for a permit from a county sheriff to carry a concealed handgun.

The bloodshed in Session’s own backyard didn’t stop him from citing Chicago’s spike in gun violence or a gang-bust in the Bay Area, and then he launched into a rant about New York City and the danger it faces from immigrants and transnational gangs.

“New York City continues to see gang murder after gang murder, the predictable consequence of the city’s ‘soft on crime’ stance,” said the DOJ statement.

New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio wasted no time hitting back on the “soft stance” quip. He wrote in the New York Daily News Saturday that “New York City’s record on public safety is nothing less than stunning. This is a city of 8.5 million people. We host around 60 million visitors a year. Yet, we continue to beat our own records on driving down crime.”

New York City has seen crime fall for the past quarter-century. “Last year was the safest in this city’s modern, recorded history. Last year, we had the fewest shootings,” wrote the mayor.

New York City has been doing something right. In 1990, more than 2,300 people were murdered here. By 2016, that number had dropped to 355. Since 1993 overall crime in this city has fallen 73 percent according to NYPD.

Meanwhile, in cities such as Memphis, population 600,000, there were 228 murders in 2016; in St. Louis, a town of just over 300,000, 188 murders in 2016. And, in mine and Jeff Sessions’ beloved native home state sits Birmingham, a city with barely more than 200,000 people which saw 104 people murdered in 2016.

Sanctuary cities do not permit municipal funds or resources to be applied in furtherance of enforcement of federal immigration laws―at least on paper. These cities normally do not permit police or municipal employees to inquire about one’s immigration status.

Truth be told, U.S. citizens are more likely to commit a violent crime than immigrants. Numerous studies have confirmed this. Jeff Sessions is promoting biased and xenophobic illogic. People like Sessions and President Trump are experts at exploiting fear and ignorance.

There is a also a deep scent of hypocrisy wafting from the Trump administration justice department. If Jeff Sessions and other Trump administration officials truly wanted to take a bite of crime, they would focus their energies on the abject poverty, isolationism, and the social, educational as well as economic inequity infecting many of our cities and rural areas. These are places where poverty equals hopelessness and hopelessness is a state where survival at any cost is the reality. Violent crime festers in communities and conditions like that. I’d argue that Jeff Sessions should consider New York City’s remarkable decline in violence as something to aspire to. Perhaps he could pay the city a visit, and learn a thing or two that could be implemented in places like Alabama.

Trump To Speak At NRA Convention — First President In 34 Years To Do So

Donald Trump has agreed to speak at the National Rifle Association’s upcoming annual convention in Atlanta, the organization has announced.

The NRA endorsed Trump for president last May and poured money into his campaign after he addressed the forum last year. Trump frequently spoke out in support of the right to carry guns and against “gun-free zones” on the campaign trail. At one point, he urged “Second Amendment people” to do something about Hillary Clinton — a call many viewed as urging violence against his rival, which he denied.

“If she gets to pick her judges ― nothing you can do, folks,” Trump said at a North Carolina rally last August, after suggesting Clinton would destroy gun rights. “Although, the Second Amendment people. Maybe there is. I don’t know.”

Trump’s Supreme Court judge Neil Gorsuch is a staunch backer of the Second Amendment. The president has also been hacking away at gun restrictions, most notably signing a law eliminating an Obama administration background check requirement aimed at blocking gun sales to certain mentally ill people.

The NRA is over the moon about Trump’s appearance on April 28.

“The NRA is honored to have the president address our annual meeting at the leadership forum,” spokeswoman Jennifer Baker told Bloomberg. “We’re excited to once again have a president who respects the Second Amendment.”

Trump’s son, Donald Jr., a big game hunter, is also a darling of the NRA. He headed up his father’s Second Amendment Coalition advisory group. He’s behind a current push to ease restrictions on the sale of silencers.

Trump is the first president to address the NRA’s leadership forum since Ronald Reagan did so 34 years ago. Dick Cheney spoke at the convention in 2004 when he was vice president. George H.W. Bush dropped his NRA membership in 1995 after an organization letter described some federal agents as “jack-booted thugs,” Bloomberg noted.

Trump’s secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, is also expected to speak at the forum, as are Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), according to the NRA website.

The convention, expected to be attended by some 80,000 people, will run from April 27-30. April 28 is the last day of government funding under the current spending bill. The government faces a partial shutdown if Congress doesn’t pass a new spending measure by then, and things could be tense back in Washington.

Terrifying Video Shows 2 Bullets Narrowly Missing 4-Year-Old Girl’s Head

A 4-year-old girl in Chandler, Arizona, was almost hit by two gunshots fired into the window of her grandfather’s barbershop by a disgruntled patron of a nearby tattoo parlor, police said.

Surveillance video released on Wednesday shows the girl sitting in a barbershop chair on Monday when a bullet suddenly crashes through the window, just inches from her head. Seconds later, a second shot pierces the window on the other side of the girl’s head, sending her running away screaming. 

The unidentified girl was hit by flying glass. She was treated for minor injuries at a nearby hospital, according to AZFamily.com.

Investigators said the shots were fired by a man upset that he was asked to leave Damaged Ink Tattoo, located next door to the barbershop, according to AzCentral.com.

“Investigators believe that the shooter was outside in the parking lot,” Sgt. Daniel Meija told Phoenix TV station KPHO. “We believe that the intent was to shoot towards the tattoo shop, but ended up striking the business, which is right next door, which is the barbershop.”

“I heard five gunshots go off in a row and then heard a woman screaming and a baby crying as well,” said Michelle Cohrs, who was inside a chiropractor’s office in the same shopping center. “I was extremely scared.”

Tattoo parlor employees quickly identified 23-year-old Michael Hart as the suspect. They said he was a regular at the business.

Hart told his girlfriend he had “popped off” some rounds, she said in an interview with investigators, according to what Chandler Detective Seth Tyler told AzCentral.com.

Hart was charged with one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of child endangerment, one count of discharging of a firearm within city limits, one count of possession of a weapon by a prohibited person, and one count of discharging a firearm at a non-residence.

A second suspect, 21-year-old Rafael Santos, was arrested after a witness reported seeing him with Hart at the time of the shooting. He has been charged with discharging a firearm at a non-residence, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and two counts of endangerment of a minor.

In the mugshots below, Hart is on the left, and Santos is on the right.

Mike Weisser: Study Suggests Accidental Shootings May Be Twice As Common As Official Statistics Suggest

According to the CDC, in 2014 slightly less than 16,000 Americans accidentally shot themselves or someone else and survived their wound.  Back in 2009, the number was 18,610.  Which means, according to the gun industry, that guns are getting safer all the time.  And of course when it comes to accidental shootings which result in death, the number has not only been declining year after year, it’s so paltry now that the whole gun safety issue is not even worthy of concern.  

After all, how can anyone get worked up over a few hundred deaths when we all know that folks walking around with guns prevent millions of serious crimes from being committed every year? And if you doubt that figure, just take a look at the NRA’s Armed Citizen website, which shows that 38 armed Americans used their guns to protect themselves and others from criminals in the month of March alone! Now if you read the fine print you’ll discover that eight of those armed citizens turned out to be off-duty cops who are supposed to have their guns handy even when they aren’t on the job, which gets us down to around 30 times when someone exercised their 2nd-Amendment ‘right’ to defend themselves with a gun. And a little bit of math that even I can do gets us up to a whopping 360 armed-citizen protective incidents a year. Wow! How could you even begin to doubt the value of civilian gun ownership when all we lose to gun accidents is less than five hundred folks each year?

Of course leave it to those troublemakers at Harvard’s School of Public Health to point out that official counts on fatal gun accidents may, in fact, be undercounted by at least half.  And this is because coroners are often reluctant to rule a gun death as an accident since many such events end up being reviewed in court. As one coroner told the researchers, “If one person kills another person, we usually call it homicide and let the courts decide whether there was any wrongdoing” So that’s the end of that.

In any case, there may be a chance, although I doubt it, that Gun-nut Nation will take a somewhat less benign view of gun accidents given what happened at the gun range in NRA headquarters this past week. Evidently an employee of the NRA was in the process of holstering his gun after banging a few; the gun went off, the bullet hit the guy in the ‘lower part of his body,’ he was taken to a nearby hospital at Fairfax, treated and released – no harm done.

What I found interesting in this report was that the accident evidently occurred during a training session at NRA headquarters; it wasn’t just a case of someone going down to the range on their own time to fiddle around with their gun. And the NRA training manuals repeat ad nauseum the idea that you must keep your finger off the trigger at all times unless the gun is pointed at the target that you intend to shoot.

Which brings up the whole issue of gun safety that Gun-nut Nation tries mightily to avoid, namely, that when it comes to making a mistake with a gun, there’s no oops. And the problem is that we are human, and as humans we are all careless and we will sooner or later forget. That’s the reason we mandate seat belts but we can’t put a harness around a gun.

But I have an idea for how my friends at the NRA can prevent such accidents from happening again. Why don’t they just declare NRA headquarters to be a gun-free zone? I’m not talking about the old guns in the museum – those guns are all sitting behind glass. I’m talking about the guns that folks wear in the building because, of course, there’s always a chance that a criminal might try to assault or rob you at 11250 Waples Mill Road.

At Least Two People Dead After Shooting At San Bernardino Elementary School

LOS ANGELES ― Law enforcement officials confirmed Monday that there were multiple gunshot victims at North Park Elementary School in San Bernardino, California, in what is believed to be a murder-suicide.

San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan tweeted that four people were shot in a classroom around 10 a.m. local time. Two of them, possibly students, had been transported to a local hospital, he said.

Later, he revealed that two deceased victims were adults and were inside of a classroom at the school.

San Bernardino City Unified School District announced that the shooting threat had been neutralized, and NBC News also reported that the gunman was down, citing school officials.

Later, Burguan tweeted that police believed the “threat is down.”

Other students are being transported to Cajon High School for their safety, Burguan said. Parents of students at the elementary school should report to Cajon High School and have a photo ID to pick up their children, the school district said.

Once reunited, families will be escorted to California State University San Bernardino.

Students at California State University San Bernardino were also asked to shelter in place until further notice. The elementary school is about a mile from campus. By midday, the shelter in place request had been lifted and campus was open.

CSUSB announced it would serve as an evacuation location for the elementary school.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Mike Weisser: How Do We Reconcile A Drop In Violent Crime With An Explosion In Gun Sales?

How do we explain that the number of guns owned by Americans keeps increasing at a rather remarkable rate, yet violent gun crimes have been fairly level since 2000 even though gun sales exploded between 2008 and 2016? You would think that, given the ease with which a gun can be used in a violent way (as opposed to a knife or other types of weapons), that the more guns we have floating around, the more violent crime would occur.  But that has not been the case. Since 2008, arrests for murder have decreased by nearly 20 percent. Meanwhile, over the same period, more than 75 million guns were added to the civilian arsenal, a doubling of the number added during the administration of George W. Bush. So what gives?

The pro-gun gang will tell you that it’s very simple, namely, that since more people are armed, the bad guys are afraid to commit crimes. This idea that more guns = less crime has been a favorite slogan of the gun industry since John Lott published a book with the same title back in 1998. But notwithstanding the book’s popularity, it suffers from some serious flaws, not the least of which is the difficulty in using regression analysis (comparing one trend to another) to explain any type of behavior which changes over time.

There is a whole literature on why violent crime declined after 1994, and when it comes to a definitive answer, the jury is still out. The leading scholar in this regard is Franklin Zimring, Professor of Law at Berkeley, who has published two books on the great crime decline, neither of which finds that an increase in gun ownership had anything to do with crime rates at all. Professor Zimring is one of our most prolific scholars on gun violence, having published pioneering articles beginning in 1968.  Now he’s at it again, with a new article, “Firearms and Violence in American Law,” which will shortly appear in an academic journal but right now can be downloaded here.  

The article touches on just about every important current debate on gun violence, but it makes a significant breakthrough when the author talks about the apparent contradiction between the increase in gun ownership and the decrease in violent crime. What he points to are surveys that show a continued decline in household firearms ownership while, at the same time, an increase in the average number of guns found in gun-owning homes. He cites a  recent Harvard-Northeastern Study which found that no more than 3 percent of the American population may own half of all the civilian guns.

Zimring refers to the growth of the civilian gun arsenal as the ‘incidence’ of gun ownership, but characterizes the concentration of guns in relatively fewer hands as the ‘prevalence’ of gun ownership – two very different things. What makes them different is that the incidence of guns may be a decisive factor in the number of guns stolen or moved in secondary transfers (legal or not), but the prevalence of guns would increase the possibility that a gun might be used in suicides, domestic disputes or other violent acts.

He further argues that the difference between gun incidence and gun prevalence may explain the apparent contradiction between the enormous increase in the size of the civilian arsenal as opposed to the relative stability of the proportion of violence involving guns: “If the increase in guns hasn’t been accompanied by an increase in rates of personal or household ownership, it should not be expected to produce a major increase in the proportion of violence that involves gun use.”

Frank Zimring’s provocative thesis poses a challenge to the gun-sense community, because crafting a strategy for reducing the number of guns held in gun-owning households is much different than simply trying to limit the overall number of guns. But nobody ever said that reducing gun violence in a country with 300 million privately-owned guns would be an easy thing to do.

Josh Sugarmann: Will We Ever Improve Our Method Of Discussing Crime In Black Communities?

In 2014 there were 6,095 black homicide victims in the United States as reported to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports Supplementary Homicide Report. More than eight out of 10 of these victims were killed with guns. Gun violence in the United States affects us all―99 people die in gun homicides, suicides, and unintentional shootings each day in our nation but black Americans continue to be disproportionately impacted by firearms homicide.

My organization, the Violence Policy Center, recently released the 11th edition of our annual study Black Homicide Victimization in the United States. Our report found that in 2014 the national black homicide victimization rate was four times higher than the overall national homicide victimization rate and six-and-a-half times higher than the homicide victimization rate for whites.

Broken out by gender, the divide becomes even more stark: black males are eight times more likely to be murdered than white males. Black females are three times more likely to be murdered than white females.

African Americans comprise only 13 percent of the U.S. population, yet account for 50 percent of all homicide victims. In cases where the weapon was identified, 83 percent of victims were killed with a gun.

When the issue is gun homicide―especially in communities of color―there is all too often a default willingness to blame the victim, falsely asserting that those who died by gunfire were most likely involved in criminal activity. Not surprisingly, the data say otherwise. Our study shows that for homicides in which the circumstances could be identified, 71 percent were not related to the commission of any other felony. Of these, 50 percent involved arguments between the victim and the offender.

Our report also details black homicide victimization rates state by state. In 2014, Missouri had the highest black homicide victimization rate in the nation, 34.98 per 100,000: a rate more than double the national black homicide victimization rate. In fact, Missouri has ranked either first or second in the nation for black homicide victimization for the past eight years that we have released the study.

Below is a chart showing the 10 states with the highest black homicide victimization rates in 2014:

Each year with disheartening regulatory, our report reveals the devastating and disproportionate impact homicide, almost always involving a gun, has on black men, boys, women, and girls in America. These deaths devastate families and traumatize whole communities. The goal of our study and the information contained in it is to not only help educate the public and policymakers, but also aid community leaders already working to end this grave injustice.

You can keep up with the Violence Policy Center’s latest research, public education, and advocacy activities by visiting www.vpc.org, following us on Twitter, or joining us on Facebook.

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