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Toms Donates Record $5 Million To End Gun Violence

The Toms company is donating $5 million and mobilizing its social network and customer base to support a unique corporate-initiated campaign to End Gun Violence Together.

The shoe company’s donation is the largest corporate contribution toward ending gun violence in the history of the U.S., Toms founder Blake Mycoskie said.

The venture, which was created less than two weeks after a deadly mass shooting at the Borderline Bar in Thousand Oaks, California, launched on Monday. Mycoskie told HuffPost that he conceived of the idea after receiving a call from his wife, Heather Lang, who was at their home near Thousand Oaks.

“She said, ‘I’m not dropping our son off at school this morning, and I don’t know if I ever will. We’re not safe. Somebody’s got to do something,’” he recalled. “It was a pretty emotional moment for us.”

The Toms funds will go to organizations working to end gun violence in the U.S. by addressing issues such as urban crime, domestic violence, mental health and suicide. Campaign partners include: Moms Demand Action, The Black and Brown Gun Violence Prevention Consortium, March for Our Lives and Giffords: Courage to Fight Gun Violence. 

The new campaign also joined forces with Winter Minisee, one of the student organizers of the National School Walkout to support gun control. Minisee, 17, said activism was one way for students who were too young to vote to participate in the political process.

“It’s been frustrating for me to see politicians not take action on guns after the Parkland school shooting. But it has been inspiring to see so many people working to change things,” Minisee told HuffPost.

A key focus of the Toms campaign will be to push for universal background checks for all gun purchases. The change would require a background check every time a gun was sold, including at gun shows, online and through other direct sales that currently allow buyers to duck the process.

Toms is reaching out to its 10 million social network followers and customers to encourage them to send postcards to their local representatives and demand universal background checks. The transformed Toms website now offers a postcard template, which can be submitted directly through the site. 

Mycoskie appeared on “The Tonight Show” on Monday night to unveil the campaign, and host Jimmy Fallon used the site to send the first postcard:

Mycoskie told HuffPost that Toms customers were split between the Democratic and Republican parties.

“So this is an opportunity to work together in these divisive times,” he said.

Toms was founded 12 years ago with a plan to donate a pair of shoes for each pair purchased as part of TOM’s “One for One” program. The model was later expanded to providing safe water to communities as well as prescription eyeglasses, medical vision treatment or eye surgeries for children in need.

To date, the company has donated over 86 million pairs of shoes, 600,000 weeks of safe water as well as glasses or vision treatment to 600,000 children.

Shooting At Chicago Hospital Leaves 4 Dead, Including Police Officer

Four people were killed during a shooting on Monday at Chicago’s Mercy Hospital & Medical Center, including a city police officer and two hospital employees, authorities said. 

Eddie Johnson, the superintendent of the Chicago Police Department, said at a press briefing an unidentified gunman was involved in a domestic dispute with a woman outside the hospital around 3:30 p.m. local time. The man later pulled out the handgun, fatally shot the woman, who was an employee of the hospital, and ran inside the building while firing multiple shots at officers arriving in a patrol car.

The gunman killed another female hospital employee inside the building who was emerging from an elevator before exchanging more gunfire with police officers, one of whom was also fatally wounded. A bullet hit the other officer’s holster but did not injure the officer.

The suspect died at the scene from a gunshot wound, although police said they were unclear if the wound was self-inflicted or from officers.

“Those officers that responded today saved a lot of lives,” Johnson told reporters. “That guy was just shooting, that poor woman got off an elevator and he just shot, why? We just don’t know how much damage he was prepared to do.” 

The officer killed was identified as P.O. Samuel Jimenez, according to Anthony Guglielmi, the chief communications officer for Chicago Police. He was hired in February 2017 and had recently completed his new hire probationary period, Johnson said.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel called the slain officer and his partner’s responses “selfless” and said the tragedy, just days before Thanksgiving, had affected the entire city.

“The city of Chicago lost a doctor, a pharmaceutical assistant and a police officer all going about their day, all doing what they love,” Emanuel, holding back tears, said at the briefing. “This tears at the soul of our city. It is the face and the consequence of evil.”

Both Emanuel and Johnson had presided over the graduation and promotion of 363 officers earlier in the day at the city’s Navy Pier, and the mayor said that with the afternoon’s shooting, the day had been a rollercoaster of emotional highs and lows for the police force.

Johnson celebrated the bravery of the responding officers at Monday’s press conference, saying they hadn’t been assigned the call but heard gunshots and rushed over.

“They do what officers always do, they ran toward that gunfire,” the superintendent said. “They weren’t assigned to that call, but they went. Because that’s what we do.”

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Ohio Mayor Leads Cities In Revolt Against Irresponsible Gun Companies

As chief executive of Ohio’s fourth-largest city, Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz has limited power to confront gun violence on a national scale. But in the face of an endless barrage of mass shootings and daily gun deaths, he says doing nothing is no longer an option.

Under a city policy announced last month, between massacres at a Pittsburgh synagogue and at a bar in California, gun and ammunition companies seeking to outfit Toledo’s law enforcement officers will first have to show that they follow what the city has deemed responsible business practices. It will use the following questions to judge potential partners:

  • Do you manufacture assault weapons for civilian use?
  • Do you sell assault weapons for civilian use?
  • Which firearms does your company agree to not sell to civilians?
  • Do you require your dealers to conduct background checks?
  • Does your company have a plan in place to invest in gun- and ammunition-tracing technologies?
  • Do you use, at a minimum, industry best practices for inventory control and transactions?

The policy ― the first of its kind in the U.S. ― will go into effect early next year, when the city begins soliciting bids for contracts for its gun and ammunition needs. The city’s police chief said he agrees with the mayor’s decision, telling Toledo’s The Blade that it is “not an indictment on the Second Amendment.”

Kapszukiewicz said he sees his plan as a way to use the free market to tackle gun violence by trying to impose change on the firearm industry, which has long resisted getting involved in divisive debates about how to best prevent shootings.

“What we are doing is quintessentially American and baked into the capitalist structure that has been a foundation of this country since its founding,” he told HuffPost.

Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz is working to get other U.S. mayors behind a plan to do business exclusively with gun co


Wade Kapszukiewicz Campaign

Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz is working to get other U.S. mayors behind a plan to do business exclusively with gun companies that follow responsible practices.

Although there are federal regulations designed to control the flow of firearms from manufacturer to buyer, few gun companies go beyond those standards. And when safeguards inevitably falter and guns are diverted onto the black market or used in crimes, manufacturers and dealers are largely shielded from liability under a federal law passed in 2005.

By creating a financial incentive for responsible behavior, Kapszukiewicz hopes he can get manufacturers to take further steps to address the violence committed with their products.

“I’m not saying this is going to eradicate the problem in our nation or even avoid a tragedy in my own city, but just because we can’t do everything doesn’t mean we can do nothing,” he said.

In Kapszukiewicz’s ideal world, the U.S. would be taking a multifaceted approach to gun violence, touching on issues of access to firearms, mental health care and even school safety. But with congressional lawmakers showing that they “don’t care” about the bloodshed, firearm manufacturers must be part of the solution, Kapszukiewicz said. And if they won’t step up voluntarily, he’ll try to force their hand.

Toledo will likely need help creating the financial pressure necessary to do that. The city spends $150,000 to $175,000 every year on firearms, ammunition and replacement parts, he said — a tiny fraction of a large gun company’s annual revenue.

But if other cities follow Toledo’s lead, the movement could have more sway.

Add the other big cities of Ohio, and “the $150,000 of free-market pressure that the city of Toledo is going to bring to bear on this problem all of a sudden becomes almost $1 million,” said Kapszukiewicz.

And with buy-in from larger cities around the nation, that amount could swell far beyond that.

“While the gun companies could easily ignore Toledo and its $150,000 and never miss it, my sense is that they would miss the tens of millions of dollars of business that they would lose from the major cities of America,” he said.

Other mayors have already expressed an interest in joining Kapszukiewicz in his attempt to use cities’ consumer power to encourage better corporate behavior from gun companies, Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley told HuffPost.

Cranley chairs the Task Force of Mayors and Police Chiefs under the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He said he’ll be calling a meeting of the committee in the spring to discuss expanding Toledo’s policy nationwide.

“I suspect that we’ll have broad-based support from the mayors and from the chiefs to try to come up with a good behavior model that a majority of us would agree to,” he said. “The goal is for all the members of the conference to sign on.”

Cranley will be watching to see how gun companies respond to Toledo’s questionnaire, he said. He added that he intends to reach out to firearm manufacturers for feedback on criteria they could use to craft a national model for the conference to consider. 

“You’ve got to believe that at least one of the companies, if not several, are going to want to be responsive,” he said.

But it’s not yet clear how manufacturers will respond to Kapszukiewicz’s survey.

The first questions about so-called assault weapons are fairly straightforward. Many of the leading suppliers of law enforcement sidearms also manufacture semiautomatic rifles, which are typically available to civilians, as well as police and military. 

Sig Sauer, the company that currently makes Toledo’s duty pistols, also manufactures a variety of rifles, including the one used in the 2016 mass shooting at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida. Glock, a favorite of U.S. police departments, is one of the few large companies that offer only handguns.  

A rack of Sig Sauer rifles at the company's booth during the National Rifle Association annual meeting in Dallas, May 5.


Bloomberg via Getty Images

A rack of Sig Sauer rifles at the company’s booth during the National Rifle Association annual meeting in Dallas, May 5.

Other questions on Toledo’s questionnaire are less clear cut. Federal law already stipulates that licensed gun dealers must conduct background checks at the point of sale. But there are loopholes.

The gunman in the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina, church shooting was able to purchase a handgun before his background check was completed, for example. Walmart is among the retailers that have sought to patch that gap by adopting a policy of denying any gun sale in which the buyer hasn’t been approved by federal authorities. Because manufacturers don’t typically sell their products directly to consumers, they may have limited control over this sort of retail practice.

Federal law has also established guidelines for inventory control and transactions, to be upheld by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said Mike Weisser, a Massachusetts-based gun dealer.

“If I’m a federal dealer with a federal license and I ship my gun to another place, I have to keep track of where that gun went,” he said. “The ATF inspects that.”

The bureau lays out additional best practices for federally licensed gun dealers to keep track of their wares, but the agency lacks the authority to fully enforce the standards. Most large firearm manufacturers are likely in adherence, said Weisser. But if a company is not, it would be hard to know unless ATF caught it in a specific violation.

Questions about manufacturer investments in tracing technologies could also pose issues, he said. Mainstream gun companies aren’t investing in those areas, he said, even though California law requires all new handguns sold in the state to be able to microscopically stamp the firearm’s make, model and serial number onto each fired shell casing, allowing police to trace spent ammunition back to individual guns. Weisser argued that mayors might be better off pressing manufacturers on other gun features related to child safety.

Those companies that are doing it poorly will see their market share diminish, or they’ll change their behavior in an effort to win that business.
Toledo Mayor Wade Kapszukiewicz

Kapszukiewicz said he understands the initial set of questions may not be perfect. It’s possible the survey will reveal that no gun company fits Toledo’s definition of “responsible,” he said, or conversely, that all gun companies provide answers to make them look as though they’re already doing everything they can to keep their products out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill.

But in exploring the topic, he said, he was surprised to learn that nobody had done research identifying responsible and irresponsible firearm manufacturers. By establishing a procedure to figure out which companies have the strongest policies, cities ― and consumers more generally ― will be able to make more informed choices about which gunmakers to support.

“Those companies that are doing it poorly will see their market share diminish, or they’ll change their behavior in an effort to win that business,” said Kapszukiewicz. “And if no responsible gun companies exist, the market will create one out of whole cloth.”

California Has A Law That Might’ve Prevented The Thousand Oaks Shooting. It Wasn’t Used.

Few might have been able to predict that Ian David Long would walk into a bar in Thousand Oaks, California, late Wednesday night, and open fire on patrons, killing 12 and wounding dozens more before turning the gun on himself.

But it would be inaccurate to say there weren’t warning signs. In fact, Long appears to have had the very sort of red flags in his past that might have been used to keep him away from firearms under a 2014 California law. Authorities haven’t released the full details of Long’s prior involvement with law enforcement, so we don’t yet know why the law wasn’t used. It’s only clear that it wasn’t.

Long, a 29-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran, lived with his mother in a ranch-style house five miles from the Borderline Bar, the site of Wednesday’s shooting. Neighbors reported loud arguments coming from the home over the past year, and said Long could sometimes be heard kicking holes in the wall.

Acquaintances said Long had post-traumatic stress disorder, though it’s not clear whether he ever received a formal diagnosis of PTSD. His mother was reportedly frustrated that he wasn’t getting help. Long was also known as a gun owner, and officials said Thursday that he’d carried out the shooting with a legally owned semiautomatic handgun. One neighbor said he believed he heard gunshots coming from Long’s property more than a year ago.

In April, deputies with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office were summoned to Long’s house to handle a domestic dispute. Police have said little other than that Long was “somewhat irate and acting irrationally,” according to Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean.

Deputies requested a crisis intervention team and a mental health specialist, who determined Long was not “qualified to be taken under 5150,” said Dean, referring to the California code that allows authorities to involuntarily commit individuals for evaluation when they are found to present a danger due to mental illness. People subject to 5150 holds are generally barred from possessing or acquiring firearms for five years.

A man waves a flag in Thousand Oaks, California, as a Ventura County Sheriff's patrol car passes. Deputies visited the s


David McNew via Getty Images

A man waves a flag in Thousand Oaks, California, as a Ventura County Sheriff’s patrol car passes. Deputies visited the suspected gunman’s home in April.

While Long was determined not to qualify for a 5150, there was another option to get guns away from him. Because 5150s are used only in the most extreme cases, California passed another law in 2014, following a deadly shooting spree in Isla Vista, intended to temporarily remove guns from people who pose a danger to themselves or others. California is now one of more than a dozen states with these so-called “red flag” laws on the books.

Just weeks before the Isla Vista shooter went on his rampage, his family called police to check in on him. After finding him “courteous and polite,” officers decided it wouldn’t be appropriate to issue a 5150 hold, even though he’d posted videos online expressing a desire to commit violence against women. Advocates of the red flag law fought successfully for the creation of another tool to get guns away from potentially dangerous people, even if their behavior might not technically be the result of a mental health crisis.

“When a person doesn’t qualify for a 5150 or that doesn’t seem appropriate, this is another option for disarming them,” said Amanda Wilcox, legislative chair of the California chapters of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Under California’s red flag law, family members, roommates and law enforcement officers can petition the court to remove firearms from individuals who have displayed violent behavior. A judge will then hold a hearing to review evidence and decide whether to order the gun owner to surrender their firearms and stay away from all guns. Those restraining orders can last up to a year, and can be extended further based on additional evidence.

Advocates of red flag laws often point to encounters like the one Long had with police in April as opportunities for law enforcement to intervene and petition for a gun violence restraining order.

“If they’d used it, it sounds like they could’ve done a successful petition,” Wilcox said.

Authorities haven’t said why such a restraining order wasn’t obtained. But Wilcox suggested a few possibilities. Deputies with the sheriff’s office may not have understood how this process works, or perhaps weren’t aware of the law, which has only been in effect since 2016. Alternatively, they might have known about it but determined that petitioning for a restraining order wouldn’t have been appropriate given what they knew about Long. It’s even possible that officers did file a petition for a gun violence restraining order, only to have it rejected by a judge.

There’s also the question of whether officers knew Long was in possession of a gun in April. When law enforcement is called to respond to a domestic dispute, they’re supposed to check the California firearms database to see if the person has a gun registered to them, Wilcox said. It’s not clear if they did that.

“These are hard calls,” Wilcox said. “I don’t know all the details and I’m not trying to be blatantly critical of law enforcement, but it looks like [the gun violence restraining order] might have been a tool that could’ve saved lives.”

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office did not respond to a request for comment on how the department uses the state’s red flag law.

But the data suggests police in Ventura County make use of this tool only rarely. Between 2016 and 2017, just three gun violence restraining orders were filed in the county, according to data from the California Department of Justice obtained by HuffPost. The state attorney general’s office did not immediately respond to a request for more recent data.

There is a large problem of agencies not being well-informed or well-trained on this law.
Allison Anderman, Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

In other counties, including Los Angeles, San Diego and Santa Barbara, gun violence restraining orders were filed far more frequently. That may make sense in counties with larger populations, but Santa Barbara only has about half as many people as Ventura. Advocates of red flag laws say some departments have simply been slow to adopt the process.

“What we are seeing in the state is there is a large problem of agencies not being well-informed or well-trained on this law,” said Allison Anderman, managing attorney of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The biggest issue with California’s red flag law, its supporters say, is that many law enforcement officials and residents of the state don’t know these tools are available to them. Advocates like Anderman and Wilcox are working hard to educate agencies about the value of gun violence restraining orders. Organizations like Speak for Safety also provide resources to family members who may be in volatile situations that could call for such petitions.

The slow pace of progress has been especially frustrating for Wilcox. In 2001, her 19-year-old daughter Laura was killed when a mentally ill man entered the clinic where she was working and opened fire. Two others were slain in an ensuing shooting spree, and three more were injured.

The gunman had been visited by mental health personnel numerous times before the shooting, but they never found cause to commit him under the state’s 5150 statute ― which meant he wasn’t prohibited from gun ownership.

“People with mental illness are not stupid,” Wilcox said. “He could hold it together for the evaluation.”

California’s red flag law was designed specifically for cases like his and Long’s, according to Wilcox.

“It’s a temporary prohibition,” she said. “You can always get the gun back. You can’t get a life back.”

NRA Tweets Warning To Anti-Gun Doctors: ‘Stay In Your Lane’

Physicians who treat bullet wounds and deal with gun-related deaths were stunned when the National Rifle Association directed “self-important anti-gun” doctors to “stay in your lane.”

The Twitter attack just hours before 12 people were killed in a California bar late Wednesday (the second mass shooting in the nation in less than two weeks) triggered an avalanche of angry responses from physicians, other health care workers and their supporters.

The NRA also grumbled in its tweet that doctors were consulting only medical research and other members of the health community to reach the conclusion that guns are an increasingly serious public health issue.

“Half of the articles in the Annals of Medicine are pushing for gun control,” the NRA complained. 

Several new studies on gun violence were reported last month in the journal, which is published by the American College of Physicians. The organization also issued new guidelines for doctors to help protect their patients from gun-related injuries and death.

“Everyone has hobbies. Some doctors’ collective hobby is opining on firearms policy,” sniped an NRA opinion piece linked to the Twitter post. 

Furious physicians noted on Twitter that treating bullet wounds or informing parents that a child has died from a shooting actually is their “lane.” 

Dr. Mary Brandt, a pediatric surgeon at Texas Children’s Hospital and professor at Baylor College of Medicine, tweeted a number of studies linking increased gun control to a decrease in fatalities.

The NRA attack on medical doctors is the latest response by the gun manufacturers lobbying group against statistics and research detailing the devastating toll of firearms in American society.

Guns send nearly 8,000 children to U.S. emergency rooms each year, according to a study last week in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Half of all gun-related deaths in the world in 2016 occurred in just six nations, even though they include just 10 percent of the world’s population, according to a study in August in JAMA. The U.S. ranked second in the number of gun deaths with 37,200 fatalities, after Brazil’s 43,200.

Fox News Guest Suggests It’s Better To Charge At A Shooter Than Run Away

A guest on Fox News’ “Fox & Friends” show suggested Thursday morning that in an active shooter situation, people should charge the gunman instead of taking cover and calling the authorities.

Dr. Darrin Porcher, a former New York police lieutenant, claimed “we’ve seen a lot of success with confronting the shooter directly” during a discussion on Wednesday’s deadly mass shooting at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California, where a gunman killed 12 people.

And we look at what happened with the 9/11 hijackers in Pennsylvania, for example,” Porcher said. “There are so many people at that location, if they converge on the shooter, it’ll stop it.”

“Granted, someone may get shot,” he said. “But the truth of the matter is this will decrease the carnage far greater than if you look to run, hide and dial 911.”

For the record, in an active shooting situation, the Department of Homeland Security recommends on its website to “run and escape, if possible,” and to “hide, if escape is not possible.” Fighting the shooter, it says, should be “an absolute last resort.”

Confusingly, Porcher almost immediately walked back his gung-ho suggestion when issuing this further advice: “When you’re in these types of situations, you have two options: to either evacuate or shelter in place.”

Check out the clip via Media Matters here:

Thousand Oaks Shooting Survivors Escaped Through Windows While Gunman Reloaded

Survivors of a mass shooting in southern California on Wednesday night that left at least 13 dead, including the gunman, have begun sharing harrowing accounts of their escape from the deadly scene.

Matt Wennerstrom, 20, said he had spent 30 minutes or so inside Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, located roughly 40 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, before the first round of gunshots rang out.

″I grabbed as many people as I possibly could around me, everyone, and got them below the pool table … until we heard the shots stop,” Wennerstrom told CBS News. “At that point, I knew [the gunman] was reloading and there was not much he was going to be able to do.”

Wennerstrom said he saw another person throw a barstool through a window to escape so he “followed suit,” directing people out before the next round of shots were fired.

“We just pushed people towards the bar so they weren’t in the direct line of sight of him and then just filed as many people ― everyone that was there in that area ― out through that back window,” he said.

Wennerstrom, in an earlier interview with KABC, estimated he helped about 30 to 35 people escape the attack.

“As soon as I heard the shots, I knew exactly what was going on,” he told KABC. “I’m here to protect my friends, my family, my fellow humans, and I know where I’m going if I die so I was not worried to sacrifice. All I wanted to do was get as many people out of there as possible.”

One woman interviewed by KRCG, who was not identified, described the terrifying moment she realized the bar was being shot up. She said she was one of the patrons who fled through the broken windows.

“We were at the bar having fun, dancing ― and then all of a sudden you hear the bang bang of the gunshots and it just started going crazy,” she told reporters. “People were pushing. We thought it was a joke. We didn’t take it seriously at first.”

“Our friends got the barstools and they started slamming them against the windows so that we could get out,” she continued, breaking down into tears. “That’s how we were able to get out. They broke the window and we were able to climb out.”

Borderline, which bills itself as the “biggest dance floor in town,” had been hosting college night when the shooting occurred. Customers under the age of 21 are permitted into the bar, but staff marks their hands with “X”s to show they are not allowed to drink. 

Teylor Whittler, 19, had been celebrating her friend’s 21st birthday at the bar when shots broke out. She told reporters she was on the dance floor when she saw the gunman opening fire.

“We all just kind of froze for a split second,” Whittler told Fox News, “and then everyone booked it and dove to the floor.”

“After the first round, it was quiet for about five seconds and then some guys that were next to me on the floor got up and started sprinting towards the back door and yelled at everyone, ‘Get up, run, he’s coming!’” she continued.

Whittler said she was stuck in a “dog pile” with dozens of people and getting trampled, so she wasn’t sure at the time whether she would be able to make it out until someone stopped to help her.

“This man came up from behind me and grabbed me by the waist and pulled me up,” Whittler said, “and he told me, ‘Run, get out, let’s go.’”

“The only thing going through my head the entire time was, ‘Get out. You gotta get out, get safe,’” she added. “I’m just shocked. I don’t understand how people could think this way. I don’t understand why this would happen. I didn’t think this would ever happen to me until it actually happened.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Gun Safety Advocates Notch Big Wins In Midterm Elections

Candidates emerged victorious in dozens of pivotal races this week after running on platforms that included support for gun safety measures, and gun violence prevention groups are hailing those successes as a validation of their unprecedented election efforts, which included hundreds of endorsements and tens of millions of dollars in total campaign spending.

The issue of firearms was expected to play a role in the 2018 midterms, but it was unclear how important it would be. Although the gun safety movement has been growing steadily since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the massacre this February at a high school in Parkland, Florida, gave a surge of momentum to the cause. A new generation of young leaders emerged out of that tragedy, and current and former students crisscrossed the nation ahead of the election to register and mobilize voters around gun violence prevention.

With polls showing that gun policy was an important issue for many Democratic voters on Election Day ― and with gun safety groups actually outspending the National Rifle Association’s lagging political expenditures ― advocates got an early start on their big night.

In the NRA’s home state of Virginia, Sen. Tim Kaine (D) handily defeated GOP nominee Corey Stewart, an NRA-backed county board supervisor and staunch defender of Confederate symbols and monuments. A short time later, Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) ― widely regarded as an NRA darling ― fell to Democratic challenger Jennifer Wexton in a battle for Virginia’s 10th congressional district, which houses NRA’s headquarters. Also in Virginia, Democrats Elaine Luria and Abigail Spanberger would go on to defeat GOP incumbents in their U.S. House races. 

Democrat Jennifer Wexton on Tuesday defeated incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) in Virginia's 10th congressional district. W


Bloomberg via Getty Images

Democrat Jennifer Wexton on Tuesday defeated incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock (R) in Virginia’s 10th congressional district. Wexton had the support of national gun violence prevention groups eager to take down Comstock, who was regarded as a darling of the NRA.

Kaine, Wexton, Luria and Spanberger all carried endorsements from leading gun safety groups, including the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety and the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Those organizations also backed Democrat Jason Crow, a U.S. Army Ranger veteran who toppled Rep. Mike Coffman (R) in Colorado. Crow supports a ban on assault-style rifles, and in January, he’ll be sworn in to represent a district that includes Aurora, the site of the deadly 2012 mass shooting at a movie theater. The gunman there was equipped with a semiautomatic AR-15 rifle and high-capacity ammunition magazines, among other weapons.

In Texas, Democrats Colin Allred, Lizzie Pannill Fletcher and Veronica Escobar all won their U.S. House races with the help of gun safety groups. Allred defeated incumbent Rep. Pete Sessions (R), who had been a top recipient of NRA money over the course of his career. Gun safety advocates also claimed key House victories in other states, including Kansas, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York. And with some races still too close to call at the time of publish, they could still pick up more seats.

Brady, Everytown and Giffords also backed winners in U.S. Senate competitions. Democrat Jacky Rosen knocked out incumbent Sen. Dean Heller (R) in Nevada, and Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) fended off a challenge from Republican Leah Vukmir, who carried an A-plus rating from the NRA.

Gun safety advocates triumphed in gubernatorial races as well, with Democrat Adam Sisolak winning in Nevada, Democrat Tim Walz securing victory in Minnesota and Democrat Gretchen Whitmer defeating Bill Schuette in Michigan. The NRA had endorsed all three Republicans in those races. 

The cause of gun violence prevention also proved to be popular on the ballot, as voters in Washington state passed a measure to raise the legal age to buy semiautomatic rifles to 21, while also implementing enhanced background check, training and waiting period requirements for those firearms.

“Lawmakers will have to start proving that they’re acting to stop gun violence in order to keep their jobs.”
Shannon Watts, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America

But Election Day didn’t pass without disappointment for the gun reform movement. In Florida, young activists watched as Democratic gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum fell to NRA-backed Republican Ron DeSantis. Advocates could suffer another setback in the state’s U.S. Senate race, though the tight contest between Sen. Bill Nelson (D) and Republican Rick Scott appears headed for a recount. And with the NRA endorsing candidates in hundreds of safer competitions across the nation, plenty of reliable pro-gun allies will be headed to Congress or governorships next year.

Still, to gun violence prevention advocates, Tuesday’s results served as a clear sign that the intensity gap on gun policy has closed, and that the longstanding NRA stranglehold on the issue has been broken.

“Americans voting with gun violence in mind are voting for gun safety and against the NRA,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, an arm of Everytown, in a call with reporters on Tuesday.

Voters have grown tired of politicians offering the empty rhetoric of “thoughts and prayers” after national shooting tragedies, Watts added.

“Lawmakers will have to start proving that they’re acting to stop gun violence in order to keep their jobs,” she said.

With a Democratic-controlled House and new proponents of gun safety in Congress, Brady Campaign co-president Avery Gardiner expressed optimism that lawmakers would finally take action on key gun safety priorities.

“Expanded background checks, banning weapons of war, passing nationwide extreme risk protection orders ― at long last, all of these important measures will see a vote from a Congress committed to keeping Americans safe,” Gardiner said in a statement.

Although the midterm elections mark a significant achievement for these advocacy groups, the work of stopping gun violence has only just begun, said former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Ariz.), who founded the Giffords Law Center after surviving a near-fatal shooting in 2011.

“When you’re fighting to save lives, the stakes are simply too high to walk away,” Giffords said in a statement. “Tonight’s election shows, as Martin Luther King once said, that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. We’re committed to keep fighting for justice, no matter how long it takes.”

2 Children Shot While Trick-Or-Treating In Philadelphia

A Philadelphia teenager and her 5-year-old brother were trick-or-treating on Halloween when they were both shot by masked gunmen, police said.

Mikaya, 14, was with her brother Mael when two men began shooting, striking the children in the crossfire, WPVI reported. Both children were shot once in the leg, Philadelphia Police Capt. Malachi Jones said Thursday.

Mikaya was released from the hospital and her brother remains in stable condition.

“I was just focused on getting my little brother,” Mikaya told WPVI. “I was just focused on getting him to safety and making sure he was alright.”

Police said two masked men exited a car and began shooting in their direction. Six shots were fired from two guns, and reporters found shell casings next to candy that had been dropped during the mayhem.

Officers visited Mael at the hospital on Thursday to make sure he still got treats for Halloween. 

The children’s mother, identified only as Dominique, expressed anguish at the idea children can’t even trick-or-treat without fearing being shot.

“It makes no sense to send your children out to trick-or-treat and then you get a phone call that not one but two of your children were shot,” Dominique told the station.

Police are still searching for suspects in the shooting.

Parents Of Parkland Victim Transform ‘Fearless Girl’ Statue With Bulletproof Vest

New York City’s “Fearless Girl” statue was transformed into a “Fearful Girl” on Friday morning in a powerful protest against gun violence.

The bronze statue in Manhattan’s financial district sported a new addition Friday morning: a bulletproof vest that read “#FEARFULGIRL.” The demonstration was created by Change the Ref, a gun control advocacy group founded by Manuel and Patricia Oliver, whose son Joaquin died in February in the school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

“She can’t be fearless if she’s afraid to go to school,” CTR tweeted Friday morning with a photo of the statue wearing the bulletproof vest.

Manuel Oliver told HuffPost that he and his wife put the vest on Kristen Visbal’s iconic statue early Friday and stood next to her as people commuted to work and tourists swarmed the area.

“They saw the girl with the bulletproof vest and they also saw us,” Oliver said. “So, some of them will be realizing that there is a chance that it could happen to them. I really hope that society understands that they don’t need to go through what we’re going through.”

“The reality is that if we want to keep [our children] safe, ironically, we should ask them to wear bulletproof vests,” he added. 

Oliver said he hopes the protest art leaves a lasting impression on people, especially as the midterm elections are just days away.

“This is an American reality. It happens every single day,” he said. “While I’m talking to you, someone is dying from gun violence. A hundred people will die today, another hundred will die tomorrow, and after one year, 30,000 or more will die from gun violence. Our son happens to be one of these victims. You don’t need your son or yourself to be one of these victims.” 

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