One day ahead of President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address, Vice President Joe Biden was in Philadelphia on Monday hosting a roundtable discussion advancing the administration’s gun control proposals.
The discussion, which was held at Girard College, took place as Delaware State Police were investigating a deadly shooting that happened inside the lobby of the New Castle Delaware Courthouse in Wilmington, Biden’s home state.
Biden was joined by Mayor Michael Nutter, local law enforcement officials, members of the Pennsylvania congressional delegation and Deputy Attorney General James Cole. Congressmen Chaka Fattah, Bob Brady, Senator Bob Casey and Rep. Allyson Schwartz were also in attendance.
“As mayors of major cities, many of us do all we can to reduce gun violence, but our efforts are too often thwarted by trafficking from other areas and states,” Nutter said following the administration’s outlining of their proposals in January. “The president’s plan would institute background checks nationally and crack down on those who buy guns for the express purpose of turning around and selling them to criminals. It will be an enormous help to us.”
The Obama administration has been pushing for new gun control laws since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., on Dec. 14. Twenty-six people, mostly children, were murdered in the mass shooting.
“How much more bloodshed are we willing to tolerate? There is no need for assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips to be a part of the American civilian stockpile. I wholeheartedly support a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips, and I also support universal background checks for all those lining up to buy weapons of what should be termed weapons of mass destruction,” Brady said at an earlier press conference.
Last week during the House Democratic Issues Conference Biden said that the federal government has a duty to take the lead on this important issue.
“I can't imagine how [the parents] deal with it," Biden said in a published report. “But I can imagine how we will be judged as individuals, judged as a Congress, judged as a nation, if we do not. It's simply unacceptable. The ability, because of all this happening, to misrepresent our positions no longer exists as it did in 1994. The world has changed. The American public has changed. You can go into areas you're told you can't go and politically survive. I'm telling you, the times have changed.”
The Obama administration has outlined several key points in the gun control debate. Requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales, reinstituting the federal ban on assault weapons and a ban on high capacity magazines, a federal gun trafficking law and giving law enforcement additional tools to prevent and prosecute gun crimes.
Residents here will soon have new options for discarding electronic trash.
Each year, thousands of televisions, radios, old microwaves and other electronic equipment are thrown away and placed in landfills.
While Vice President Joe Biden addressed a crowd of thousands at Girard College on Martin Luther King Day, one group, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, was doing its part to save the environment by collecting discarded electronic appliances for recycling in an effort to raise awareness about e-cycling.
A new law, soon to take affect, will make it illegal to place electronic equipment on the curb as trash and require that these items be recycled.
“We are trying to create an efficient, green way to allow people a means to recycling their old electronics,” said Selena Brown of Keep Philadelphia Beautiful. “As opposed to having them throw things in the trash, we are providing them an avenue to recycle their electronics.”
Outside of Girard College awaited several trucks on which the hundreds of electronic devices were to be transported.
Once removed from the site, they were taken to a waste management processing facility where they will be deconstructed with the plastic, metals and other parts separated for use in new products.
According to John Hambrose, community relations person coordinator for Waste Management, the company is North America’s leading recycler and provider of environmental services.
During the recycling campaign, residents dropped off their electronic equipment at the site where Waste Management Company volunteers sorted and packed them to be taken away and recycled for free. Tons of items were believed to have been collected.
“We are going to take this back and safely disassemble and recover all of the plastic, glass and metal from them and assemble new products,” Hambrose said.
Those wishing to utilize such services will have to wait just a little longer to do so, however.
“I’d ask them to hold on to those things [electronic trash] a little bit longer because there is a new state law that will provide free electronic recycling to homes and small businesses,” Hambrose said. “In coming months you will see that there will be places to drop off these electronics.”
Phoebe Cole, executive director of Keep Philadelphia Beautiful, says that the new law, taking effect in 2013, and would forbid residents from placing covered electronic objects on curbside as trash for pick up.
“We are using this project to try to educate citizens that this law is coming very shortly and you should understand what options you have to dispose of your electronics,” she said.
Cole noted there are several options people have of discarding their old electronics.
One of them is to sell old products back to companies who offer money for such items. Another is to utilize some of the recycling efforts being hosted around the city.
“There are a lot of neighborhoods doing local collection drives,” Cole said. “There are neighborhoods in Northern Liberties, Chestnut Hill and Mount Airy already doing them, and I expect more will come on line.”
CHARLOTTE, N.C. —In a Democratic National Convention that featured memorable speeches by first lady Michelle Obama and former President Bill Clinton, the nation’s first African-American president, Barack Obama, spoke to the American people Thursday night about his first-term accomplishments, and urged voters to elect him to a second term on November 6.
The threat of rain, thunder and lightning during an outdoor speech was the reason the Democratic National Committee and the Obama for America campaign decided to move the speech from the 73,000-seat Bank of America stadium into the smaller 20,000-seat Time Warner Cable Arena, where the first two days of events were held.
Obama for America campaign spokesman Tom Reynolds told the Tribune an estimated 65,000 people from all around the nation were expected to see Obama speak at Bank of America stadium, and another 19,000 people had standby tickets.
In an effort to please the thousands of potential voters who were disappointed they could not see Obama speak in person in Charlotte, the president participated in a conference call Thursday before his speech to thank supporters. Obama supporters around the nation, including thousands in Charlotte who had tickets, saw the speech at watch parties or in their hotel rooms.
Pennsylvania Democratic Chairman Jim Burn said Pennsylvania’s electoral votes are key to Obama’s chances of winning the election. He said in order to win, the state party must continue to stress the president’s record over the past three and a half years of job creation (including 29 straight months of national job growth) and saving the country from the possible worst fiscal collapse since the Great Depression.
“African-American voters are as important to Pennsylvania turnout and the success of President Obama as any of our bases,” Burn said. “Sure he (Obama) has a lot of work to do. Every campaign is like a snowflake — there are no two identical campaigns. Most Pennsylvanians, and most Americans, have already made up their minds about who they’re voting for. It’s all about the ground game now, and all about voter turnout. There is nothing in this Republican ticket that is conducive to African-American voters voting for it.”
The delegates to the convention from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware are leaving Charlotte fired up about the final weeks of this year’s campaign and ready to go do everything possible to re-elect President Obama and homegrown Vice President Joe Biden, a Delaware senator and Pennsylvania native. Biden also gave a speech accepting his vice-presidential nomination right before the president’s speech.
Actress Sheryl Lee Ralph, the wife of Philadelphia State Sen. Vincent Hughes, attended the convention with her husband. She says she cannot fathom that any African-American would vote for Romney over Obama.
“Don’t look at me with your Black self and ask, ‘Why should I support the brother?,’” Ralph said. “Stop that foolishness about sitting this thing out. If you’re confused about who to vote for, vote for Barack Obama. What are you going to do? Give your vote to Mitt Romney by voting for nobody? That is madness.”
“Brothers and sisters in the beauty shops and the barber shops know when the okie doke is being played on them,” Sen. Hughes added. “ They know what’s up. We just have to act now like we got some sense and send the message out. When the president says ‘Do you have my back?, we need to stand up and say “yea brother, we’ve got you back and we’re going to stand with you and we’re not going to stand for this foolishness.’”
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who delivered a speech yesterday, said a Romney administration would be a disaster for the nation.
“To Mitt Romney, education is a luxury,” Nutter said in prepared remarks. “ As governor of Massachusetts, he vetoed universal pre-K. In his first year, K-12 schools saw drastic cuts that lead to teacher layoffs. He failed his students. Whose values do you want in the Oval Office? I know who Philly wants, who Pennsylvania wants, and who you want — President Barack Obama.”
Philadelphia City Councilwoman Marian Tasco, a delegate to this year’s convention, said now that the Democratic and Republican conventions are over, it is a two-month sprint to Election Day to convince Pennsylvanians and Philadelphians to vote for Obama and Biden.
“I think the public will understand that he (Obama) needs the next four years to complete his agenda,” Tasco said. “From day one, the Republicans made up their minds they weren’t going to do anything to help the president succeed. They don’t want him, and it is personal. I just have to say it — I just think it is outright racism.”
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama can expect some sweet serenades at his inauguration ceremony, with hit-makers Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and James Taylor on tap to perform some of the country's most patriotic songs.
From Hollywood to Music Row, celebrities have been a staple of Obama's candidacy and presidency, so it was with little surprise that some of the biggest names in entertainment are helping him celebrate his Jan. 21 swearing-in.
Planners said Wednesday that Obama picked Beyonce to sing the national anthem, Clarkson to perform "My Country 'Tis of Thee" and Taylor to sing "America the Beautiful."
Beyonce and Taylor have been devoted Obama supporters. Beyonce sang the Etta James classic "At Last" for the president and first lady's dance at the inaugural balls four years ago and hosted a $4 million fundraiser for his re-election. Taylor sang at the White House in Obama's first term and at the Democratic National Convention last summer.
Clarkson, however, once said she was a fan of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul for the 2012 race, although she said she voted Obama in 2008. She said on Twitter Wednesday that she is "excited & honored" to be performing at the inaugural.
Richard Blanco, the son of Cuban exiles, is the 2013 inaugural poet, joining a select group that includes Maya Angelou and the late Robert Frost. Blanco's works explore his family's exile from Cuba and "the intersection of his cultural identities as a Cuban-American gay man," inauguration planners announced. They said Blanco, 44, will be the youngest-ever inaugural poet and the first Hispanic or gay to recite a poem at the ceremonial swearing-in.
"His contributions to the fields of poetry and the arts have already paved a path forward for future generations of writers," Obama said in a statement. "Richard's writing will be wonderfully fitting for an inaugural that will celebrate the strength of the American people and our nation's great diversity."
Obama also gave a nod to the diversity of styles and backgrounds of the musical performers, saying that "their music is often at the heart of the American story and speaks to folks across the country."
Blanco said in the statement that he was "brimming over with excitement, awe, and gratitude" at being selected.
"In many ways, this is the very 'stuff' of the American Dream, which underlies so much of my work and my life's story — America's story, really," he said.
Paperbacks of Blanco's books are out of stock on Amazon.com. They, along with virtually all works of poetry, are not available as e-books because publishers have not figured out how to format poetry properly for a digital device, so the only way to buy them is to find a used print copy.
The announcements are part of the specifics beginning to emerge for the festivities planned over the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend. The swearing-in ceremony is scheduled for Monday, Jan. 21, because inaugurations aren't traditionally held on Sundays. The president will have a private swearing-in ceremony at the White House at noon on Jan. 20, the time the Constitution says his second term begins.
The official celebration will include the swearing-in on the Capitol's west front, followed by a luncheon inside the building's Statuary Hall for 200 including congressional leaders, Cabinet members and Supreme Court justices. Planners said the lunch menu will feature steamed lobster, New England chowder, hickory grilled bison with wild huckleberry reduction and red potato horseradish cake and a dessert of apple pie, ice cream, cheese and honey.
Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, chairman of the congressional committee overseeing events at the Capitol, said wines will be served with each course from his home state. Planners say they are decorating the tables with orange flowers in silver cachepots, "a geometric patterned tablecloth that picks up the copper and bronze tones of Statuary Hall," while the head table will be draped in blue velvet.
Schumer's committee plans to present Obama with a custom hand-cut crystal Lenox vase with an etching of the White House. Vice President Joe Biden will be given one etched with an image of the Capitol. -- (AP)
HOUSTON — The head of the NAACP on Monday likened the group’s fight against conservative-backed voter ID laws that have been passed in several states to the great civil rights battles of the 1960s.
Benjamin Todd Jealous, the CEO and president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said these are “Selma and Montgomery times,” referring to historic Alabama civil rights confrontations. He challenged those attending the NAACP’s annual convention to redouble their efforts to get out the vote in November.
“We must overwhelm the rising tide of voting suppression with the high tide of registration and mobilization and motivation and protection,” he said.
“Simply put, the NAACP will never stand by as any state tries to encode discrimination into law,” Jealous said.
The power to vote will be a key theme of the weeklong 103rd convention, which was expected to host about 8,000 attendees. An appearance by Attorney General Eric Holder was postponed from Monday until Tuesday, and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and Vice President Joe Biden were also expected to speak at some point.
Since 2010, at least 10 states, including Texas, have passed laws requiring people to show a government-issued photo identification card when they go to the polls.
Supporters of voter ID laws, including many conservative Republicans, contend they are necessary to protect against voter fraud. But opponents say instances of such voter fraud are extremely rare and that voter ID laws could suppress turnout among the elderly, poor and some racial minorities who are less likely to have driver’s licenses or passports and who might find it harder to miss work or lose pay to obtain proper ID.
George R. Brown Convention Center was only about half-full for Jealous’ hour-long speech, but by the end he had much of the crowd standing and shouting, “Forward ever, backward never!”
“Our democracy is literally under attack from within. We have wealthy interests seeking to buy elections and when that ain’t enough, suppress the vote,” Jealous said. “There is no battle that is more important or urgent to the NAACP right now than the battle to preserve democracy itself. Let me be very clear, our right to vote is the right upon which our ability to defend every other right is leveraged.”
He cited the group’s 103 years in existence as proof it wouldn’t cede ground on voting rights.
“If you let someone diminish the power of your vote you will already have lost a battle.”
Jealous said with 120 days remaining before the November elections, his organization’s members could allow the election to be stolen from them “or we can double down on democracy and overcome the tide of voter suppression.”
“If we simply accept things as they are and allow those who wish to turn back the clocks and tides of all that we have gained, and block the forward movement of our movement for human rights ... we will have failed in our mission and our calling,” he said. — (AP)
With the seasonal splendor of the “people’s house” of full display, HGTV’s popular coverage of the “White House Christmas 2011” returns on Sunday, December 11 at 8 p.m.
Designer Genevieve Gorder will offer viewers an insider’s look at how more than 130 volunteers work with the White House staff to implement this year’s décor theme, “Shine, Give, Share,” as well as an exclusive look at the decorations in the official residence of Vice President Joe Biden.
“HGTV is privileged to continue its longtime tradition of sharing the special holiday décor and festivities of the White House with the American people,” said Freddy James, senior vice president, program development and production, HGTV.
HGTV fans who have enjoyed seeing the holiday traditions at the White House come to life for more than 12 years, will be “inspired” by the tour of the 2011 décor and festivities. According to the network, the one-hour special features President Barack Obama and his family lighting the National Christmas Tree and highlights the work of 136 volunteers as they adorn the White House in only a few days.
During the special, Gorder chats with volunteers and White House staff about how they interpreted the décor theme. Many of this year’s decorations feature “First Dog” Bo, including a life-size replica and additional miniature figurines interwoven throughout the majestic mansion. Also, new this year is a Gold Star tree, designed to honor the service men and women who have fallen while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the kitchen, Executive Chef Cris Comerford showcases the holiday menu, while Executive Pastry Chef Bill Yosses displays a magnificent white chocolate replica of the White House and other holiday pastries.
President Barack Obama’s lackluster debate performance against Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney brings increased urgency for Vice President Joe Biden to expose Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan’s radical proposals.
In the vice presidential debate on Thursday Oct. 11, Biden can’t afford to repeat the same mistake that the president made in not challenging his opponents extremist positions.
Biden and Ryan will square off at Centre College, Danville, Ky.
Biden’s job is to expose the House Budget Committee chairman’s far-right record.
Despite his calm, genial demeanor, Paul Ryan is no moderate politician.
The Wisconsin congressman is a radical right-winger. He is an admirer of the novelist and libertarian philosopher Ayn Rand who advocated selfishness and unfettered capitalism. Ryan was such an admirer of Rand he used to give her books out to his staff.
Ryan’s Path to Prosperity budget proposal is a fiscal blueprint that would radically reshape federal spending and taxing policies in favor of the rich.
The measure, which the Republican-controlled House passed this year, called for major changes to Medicare, deep cuts in safety-net programs such as food stamps and Medicaid, repeal of the new health-care law, and lower taxes for the wealthy and corporations. Fortunately, the Democratic-controlled Senate rejected the measure.
The Ryan plan, endorsed by Romney, would change Medicare, the federal health care program for retirees, from a “defined benefit” into a voucher program to buy insurance.
Under the plan those under 55 would face a dramatically different Medicare system. They would get a voucher that independent analysts say would likely increase future out-of-pocket expenses because it can’t keep pace with healthcare expenses.
During the Republican primary Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the House in the 1990s, called the Ryan plan to drastically overhaul Medicare “too radical,” and referred to Ryan’s proposals as “right-wing social engineering.”
Medicare is not the only social net program Ryan wants to radically overhaul.
In 2004, Ryan advocated a plan to privatize Social Security. The next year, President George W. Bush pushed a similar idea. Republicans lost control of the House in 2006.
In 2010, Ryan proposed a “Roadmap for America’s Future,” a plan to cut the deficit with deep cuts to social programs while lowering taxes for the rich and corporations.
Ryan calls for making the Bush-era tax cuts permanent while slashing spending on education, the environment, housing, transportation and other domestic programs, as well as most regulatory functions.
Romney says he is in agreement with most of Ryan’s plans.
In the upcoming debate Thursday night, Biden should not allow Ryan to soften or sidestep from his far-right record.
The other day Vice President Joseph Biden said in an interview that “The Taliban is not our enemy.” We have been in Afghanistan since 2001 and everyday we have been fighting the Taliban along with al-Qaida. If the fighting Taliban is not our enemy than who is? Fortunately, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama know much better. This brings up a very important point. It is crucial to our national security to have a solid strategy and observation when it comes to foreign affairs. That, plus a strong defense, is essential to America remaining strong and free. Let’s take a look at a few examples that historically got us into serious trouble.
After World War I, we became isolationist. We wanted no part of any conflict in the world and our policy became laissez-faire. Also, we put little money in our Department of Defense. As a result Germany and Japan saw an opening to conquer the entire world. Germany invaded nation after nation and we just sat there as if they would never look our way. Japanese spies visited our army bases and saw our troops having fighting drills with broom sticks because there was no money to buy our troops rifles. They reported back to their superiors that we were totally weak and would immediately surrender under fierce attacks. Thus, one morning we woke up to the bombing of Pearl Harbor and the invasion of friendly nations throughout Asia and the Pacific. Germany was now warring with all of our allies in Europe and we would be next. World War II had begun because of our sloppy foreign policy.
Fortunately, we got out of this big jam through our industrial might. We converted our massive auto industry into a military machine. We put out 2,000 ships per year along with 9,000 planes along with other military essentials. We supplied our troops as well as the troops of England and the Soviet Union all at the same time. In the end, we got out of this and became a world power.
A few years after the war, we would repeat the same mistake. The communist powers, China and the Soviet Union, had its eyes on the Korean Peninsula. Korea was divided into a communist North and a quasi- democracy South. We felt the North would never become aggressive and forbade the South from adequately building up its army and started to decrease the funding of our own defense. All the while, the Soviet Union was stocking the North in preparation of invasion. Soon, they invaded the South and the Korean War was on. We miscalculated China coming in and slaying many of our troops. We settled the conflict with an armistice. For the second time in our history we had a war without victory but a settlement (the first was the War of 1812). Today, the tension on the Korean Peninsula remains the same.
Then came the debacle of Vietnam. It started back in the 1920s. The hero of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, approached President Woodrow Wilson to mediate between the people of Vietnam and the French colonialist. Wilson was a bona fide racist and would not give five minutes to the upcoming hero as he was brown and Asian. In fact, no European nation paid him any attention. He finally got attention from the Soviet Union. Thus, the future liberator became a recipient of communist funding and had to sing their “song.” Vietnam ran the invading Japanese troops out at the end of World War II; overthrew the French colonialists and eventually would defeat the mighty United States. It was our first and only defeat in history. We left Vietnam on the run.
We haven’t learned much from the above errors. The Middle East and lower Mediterranean are starting to boil. We don’t know how to get out of Afghanistan and probably left Iraq too hurriedly. Iraq is about to go into civil war; Afghanistan will as soon as we leave there; and we don’t know where Egypt, Libya, Syria and others are headed. All the while, Iran who hates us immensely based on our foreign policy against them for decades is fanning the “flames” whenever it can. We need a sound foreign policy.
One last thing. We have a CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) that is out of control and hurts our foreign policy. The movie, “Colombiana,” illustrates just how out of control the CIA is. Remember, there wasn’t an opium poppy growing in Afghanistan when we went in. Today, the nation is the drug capital of the world. It isn’t a coincidence. It needs to be checked.
Organizers and volunteers eager to participate in community activities honoring Martin Luther King Jr., gathered at Girard College on Monday for the 17th annual Greater Philadelphia Martin Luther King Day of Service.
The organizers at Girard College hosted 150 projects and workshops with more than 4,000 volunteers determined to serve and impact the community. The event kicked off with the opening of the MLK365 Civic Engagement Expo and Health and Wellness Fair, followed by entertainment. As the crowd settled, the opening ceremony began with the introduction of guests Vice President Joe Biden, Dr. Jill Biden, Mayor Michael Nutter, former Pennsylvania Sen. Harris Wofford and Girard College President Autumn Graves. Biden discussed the importance of the Martin Luther King holiday and reflected on the day he learned of King’s assassination and the impact it had on him.
Maria J. Walker, project manager for Freedom Rings Partnership and a volunteer organizer for the event, was pleased with the turnout and with the overall enthusiasm of the participants to conduct community service.
“This is definitely the most exciting event because of the presence of the vice president and the fact that they’re tying an economic aspect to it − with the digital job fair, and the actual job fair,” Walker said.
In an effort to empower the community economically, the event held its first-ever Jobs and Opportunity Fair, featuring 20 local employers and representatives of several AmeriCorps national service programs. The purpose of the fair was to provide more than 500 prospective employees with skills in resume writing and interviewing techniques, give information on restoring credit, offer tips for dressing for success, and providie paths to work for ex-offenders.
“They also assist people in setting up email addresses, which is appropriate to bridge the digital gap in Philadelphia,” Walker said.
Another significant project was for the volunteers to package up to 100,000 meals through a partnership with the international relief program, Stop Hunger Now. Volunteers and organizers joined to put together care packages.
One of the many workshops was held by the Cecil B. Moore Philadelphia Freedom Fighters, a group of civil rights activists who fought for integration with King at Girard College and for civil rights throughout the nation. One of those civil rights activists was Karen Jordan. Jordan brought her parents to take part in the day of service and to reflect on the past.
“We were the original demonstrators here at Girard College, so it is a wonderful experience being here today,” she said. “There’s so many volunteers out here, and I love seeing so many kids involved.”
With a combination of various workshops, expositions, a kids’ carnival and job fairs, the participants and volunteers were active in honoring King.
“Today was really about connecting the importance of economic empowerment as a civil rights issue.”
When Adam Lanza blasted round after round of high velocity bullets into the 26 victims at the Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday, his demented actions touched off a national outrage and a call for stricter gun laws.
What was unexpected was the overwhelming number of Americans — not only on the grassroots level, but federal, state and local lawmakers — stepping up to have their voices heard. Included in that number are those who have noted that the national outrage was sparked by the deaths of mostly white children — not the almost daily shooting deaths of hundreds of young Black and Hispanic men, women and children from coast to coast.
“Those are the victims whose voices have gone unheard,” said Bilal Qayyum, Executive Director of the Father’s Day Rally Committee. “Everyone is understandably angry and heartbroken over the mass murders at the Sandy Hook School, but since it happened, ten people were shot in Chicago. I think the timing to push for this will never be better. Let white America push through these laws, because God works in mysterious ways — and maybe the murders in Newtown, Connecticut are a message to white America that gun violence is not a Black American problem, but an American problem. It’s often said that when white America gets a cold, Black America gets pneumonia. White America has pneumonia now, but all of America will benefit from these senseless deaths in the form of stronger gun laws.”
Qayyum said the shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords wasn’t enough; or the hundreds of courageous police officers, or the hundreds of young Black males who are gunned down in America’s cities everyday, or even the Black mothers and children caught in thugs’ crossfire. Mass shootings in movie theatres or shopping malls or college campuses or even high schools wasn’t enough bloodshed to produce the national outrage to spur the American people to finally say enough — the gun violence is going to stop.
Lanza, 20, who killed himself after murdering his mother, Nancy, and then 26 children and adults inside the Sandy Hook Elementary School, used a semiautomatic .223 caliber assault rifle to kill his victims. Investigators said he carried several high-capacity clips for the military-grade weapon. Police also recovered a shotgun and two handguns at the scene.
Since the mass murders, federal, state and local lawmakers have seized the opportunity to not just talk about what has been termed “common sense gun laws,” but to do so with a sense of urgency, knowing that serious action has to be taken. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has promised to introduce a bill to reauthorize the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, a President Bill Clinton era legislation that was allowed to lapse in 2004.
Chad Dion Lassiter, MSW, president of Black Men at Penn, said that despite the continuing rising body count of Blacks and Hispanics due to gun violence; the inclusion of those deaths into the call for sensible gun laws didn’t register because it brings to the forefront issues about which America is not ready to have a meaningful discussion.
“Our nation prides itself on creating narratives or dialogs that are safe. The dialog of Black males being shot to death calls America to the carpet about white supremacy and racism and the way people of color have been treated in this nation. That’s a narrative America is not comfortable with,” Lassiter said. “Now, you take the massacres at Columbine, or Aurora and there is a ready dialog over the mental health issues of the white males who committed these crimes. But what about the mental health issues of Black males who have been abandoned by their fathers, or who suffered abuse and neglect while growing up and lack the coping skills needed to step beyond pulling out a gun to solve their problems? Those lives aren’t seen in the same light.”
Lawmakers have called for three major gun laws to be pushed to the front of the ongoing talks over the issue. A ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, the need to strengthen the national background checking system and eliminate the loopholes, and enforcing stiffer penalties for straw purchasers. On Wednesday, President Barack Obama gave his administration a January deadline to create solid proposals to reduce gun violence. Tasking Vice President Joe Biden, who has long championed the cause for stronger gun laws, the president has ordered the creation of a special panel to spearhead the effort. Philadelphia Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey will be a part of that panel.
Judge Renee Cardwell Hughes, who spent thirteen years on the bench trying murder cases, said she thinks Obama’s decision to have Ramsey on the panel is a brilliant move. Hughes, who is now CEO of the American Red Cross of Southeastern PA, spoke to the Tribune in her capacity as a former judge with the Court of Common Pleas, and a law professor who teaches at Drexel University and Villanova Law School.
“I think putting Commissioner Ramsey on the panel is a brilliant decision by President Obama and I am so grateful that he’s taking decisive action on this,” said Hughes who was appointed to the bench in 1995. “I have witnessed the devastation caused by assault weapons. I’ve seen the devastation caused by people who lack good judgment and use firearms to resolve conflicts. I founded Philadelphia’s Mental Health Court and I know the senselessness of gun violence. This is not about the right to bear arms, but the right of Americans to be safe — to not be afraid of people with mental health issues or other emotional issues with guns. I’ve seen what happens when our police officers are slaughtered and people are murdered because we did not have the backbone to stand up and say we do not need these weapons on our streets.”