Moms Demand Action voices concerns against Tennessee gun legislation

Tragic stories and deep concern filled the small room in Arnstein Jewish Community Center as members of Moms Demand Action (for Gun Sense in America) shared their reasons to unify and work against gun violence Thursday, Feb. 16. 2017.

The group assembled to discuss potential gun legislation in Tennessee. Members voiced concerns about bills that would extend carry laws into previously gun free zones and legislation that would upend the concealed carry permit process.

HB493 and SB131 would allow firearm owners to carry either concealed or visible weapons without a carry permit. The bill’s current form would also remove provisions maintaining public schools and related areas as prohibited zones for firearm carry.

Similarly, HB884 and SB1341 would allow an individual holding a valid permit to carry at any location in Tennessee. The Tennessee General Assembly website provides a bill summary that identifies the only limitations being for those who are; drinking alcohol, in a judicial proceeding or are on school grounds without notifying the principal.

HB0363 and SB653 would remove the prohibition on carrying in posted locations or places operated by state or local governmental entities unless metal detectors and posted guards surround every public entrance.DSC_0052

These bills would allow for anyone who legally owns a firearm to carry on college campuses.

Such proposed legislation prompted strong reactions from groups against gun violence including Moms Demand Action. Kendra Straub, the local group leader for Moms, explained the organization’s goals and how they operate.

“Our point is not to embattle people in the news; our point is to save lives,” Straub said.

Straub explained though there are 23 bills of concern, this number has fallen from previous years. She emphasized her belief in the existence paths to reduced gun violence in Tennessee.

The group provided instructions on identifying members’ district legislators in an effort to enlighten those in attendance on who would most effectively hear their voices. The group also emphasized the audience’s power to affect change in their constituency.

One member, Ashley Maynor, an assistant professor and digital humanities librarian at the University of Tennessee, spoke about her efforts to inform people about the costs of campus carry in regard to both safety and finance.

“I’ve been compiling research about campus carry,” Maynor said. “All data is taken from the U.S. government, the Clery Act and academic studies. Its not from a partisan group or lobbyist group.”

Maynor hopes the work she is doing will enlighten those unaware of campus carry ramifications.

Straub and the organization share this goal to inform.

“We really want to communicate to students that this is even happening,” Straub said. “There is so much going on right now locally and even nationally that it can be hard to choose an issue to focus on, and it can be hard to even know what issue is most impactful to you. We really want to empower students to make their voices heard.”

Straub hopes students will take initiative on campus.

“We want a student leader,” Straub said. “The best ideas haven’t even been born yet.”

Edited by Lexie Little

Featured images by Ali Kammona

Clinton vs. Trump: Gun Control and the Second Amendment

Written by Samantha Lindsay

The following report is the third in a five-part series presenting a comparative analysis of select legislative proposals presented by the two major candidates in the 2016 presidential election; Democrat (D) Hillary Rodham Clinton and Republican (R), Donald J. Trump. The second article in this series offers a brief introduction to the candidates’ platforms on the issue of the American economy. In this report, I will address the candidates’ positions on the issue of gun control, and the major objections to their proposals. This series is not an endorsement of either candidate.

According to Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post, there were 355 mass shootings in the United States during the year 2015. For reference, a mass shooting is described as “four or more people, including the gunman, were killed or injured by gunfire.” Gun Violence Archive (A national database of police and news reports) has documented approximately 311 mass shootings in the United States as of Oct. 25 of this year.

Information recently released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation indicates that violent crime, including murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault is on the rise; particularly in our major cities. A breakdown of the FBI’s violent crime statistics reveals that, “In 2015, an estimated 1,197,704 violent crimes occurred nationwide, an increase of 3.9 percent from the 2014 estimate…  firearms were used in 71.5 percent of the nation’s murders, 40.8 percent of robberies, and 24.2 percent of aggravated assaults.”

Extensive media coverage of recent riots and violent crimes, as well as information sharing campaigns on social media, has made these statistics broadly available to the general public creating a heightened level of public awareness. The threat to domestic security that these statistics represent has led to increased public anxiety, which is manifest in a recent Gallup Poll, which concluded that “Americans’ level of concern about crime and violence is at its highest point in 15 years.”

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives reports that the manufacturing and sale of firearms have nearly doubled over the past five years as public concern has prompted a sharp spike in the gun market due to more Americans purchasing guns for self-defense. According to Gun Violence Archives, there have been 1,461 cases of self-defense involving the use of a gun this year.

Nevertheless, support for regulatory reform has also risen and according to a survey conducted by PewResearchCenter, “… large majorities of both Democrats (90%) and Republicans (75%) have favored making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks.” Similarly, a majority of voters from both parties support barring gun sales to people with mental illness and people on “no-fly” or terror watch lists.

In response to public concerns about violent crime, both Clinton and Trump have presented similar proposals that reflect general bipartisan support among the electorate. Both candidates recommend a federal background check intended to close the gun show and internet sales loopholes, thereby making it more difficult for people with criminal intent to purchase weapons and ammunition. While Clinton specifically mentions barring domestic abusers from purchasing guns and Trump focuses on violent gang members and drug dealers, the platforms of both candidates include stronger enforcement of existing law prohibiting people who suffer severe mental illness and those convicted of a violent crime from purchasing firearms. Nevertheless, there are clear distinctions in their platforms that raise strong objections from their individual opponents.

 

(D) Hillary Rodham Clinton

Clinton’s  platform includes a proposal to repeal the “Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA).” According to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the PLCAA is “… a federal statute which provides broad immunity to gun manufacturers and dealers in federal and state court.” A repeal of this law would make it easier for victims of violent crime to file negligence charges against the manufacturers of firearms under tort law and receive compensation for their injury or loss.

Objections

When cases are brought to court against manufacturers of any product under tort law, the plaintiff is required to demonstrate that the maker of the product had a legal obligation, that they failed to meet that legal obligation and the plaintiff suffered injury or loss as a direct result.

For example, auto companies have legal obligations to meet safety standards, which include quality brakes. If a company sells a car with defective brakes, and the buyer is injured in an accident because their brakes were defective, the auto company can be held liable for the injury. However, if an auto company meets all legal obligations in the manufacturing and sale of a vehicle, but the buyer then uses the car in the commission of a crime, the auto company cannot be held liable.

PLCAA specifically defines the limitations of tort law regarding gun manufacturers. As with tort law covering other industries, it does not provide immunity if a manufacturer sells a defective weapon, or if they violate sales regulations. It is legal for gun manufacturers to make and sell certain types of firearms within specified limitations to qualifying individuals in the United States. Under PLCAA, as long as gun manufacturers meet all legal obligations, they cannot be held liable for the actions of the buyer.

The primary objection to Clinton’s proposal is that a repeal of PLCAA would potentially lead to a multitude of tort litigation that would ultimately make the manufacturing of firearms too expensive to maintain, thereby perhaps leading to a de facto ban on the sale of firearms in the United States. It is argued that this would be an indirect violation of the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which (according to this Gallup Poll) 73% of the public believes guarantees American citizens the right to own guns.

 

(R) Donald J. Trump

Trump’s platform includes a proposal to enact a “national right to carry” law that would permit anyone with a concealed or open carry license to legally carry a firearm in all 50 states. The rationale for this proposal is that the vast majority of licensed gun owners are armed for the purpose of self-defense and the “right of self-defense” does not have natural borders. Therefore, it is argued, the right to carry for self-defense should not have legal borders within the United States.

Objections

Unless a federal “right to carry” permit required everyone seeking a permit to receive high-quality standardized training in all 50 states before being issued a license, the level of training required would vary from state to state, which might put the public at risk of an increase in accidental shootings.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence argues that “Allowing untrained, or under-trained, persons to carry loaded, hidden handguns in public puts people at risk of being killed or injured, intentionally and unintentionally.” In addition, the campaign argues that “It also makes it harder for law enforcement to identify the real perpetrators during a shooting… Almost every major law enforcement organization…thinks law enforcement should have discretion over the carrying of concealed handguns in public.”

The needs of law enforcement vary from town to town, city to city, and state to state. While “right to carry” permits may be acceptable, perhaps even preferable, in small cities and rural areas of our country, there may be an unacceptable risk involved in allowing such permits in densely populated cities; particularly in areas with an already existing high crime rate.

Edited by Ben Webb

Featured image by DonkeyHotey on Flickr, obtained using creativecommons.org

CBS Sports airs Zaevion Dobson video before Super Bowl 50

[title_box title=”CBS Sports airs Zaevion Dobson video before Super Bowl 50″]

“Now, to a tragedy in Tennessee making headlines this evening,” an audio clip from a December news report plays. “A 15-year-old high school football player risking his life to protect three young girls.”

Zaevion Dobson is now known nationwide as the Fulton High School football player from Knoxville who lost his life due to gang violence after protecting three girls during a shooting. During live coverage leading up to Super Bowl 50, CBS Sports aired a special video sharing Dobson’s story. The video aired around 3:30 p.m. and lasted for seven minutes.

New York Jets wide receiver Brandon Marshall did not realize how extraordinary Zaevion Dobson was until he arrived in Knoxville to help film this story. After spending time in Knoxville, he learned that Dobson “wasn’t only a hero when he laid his life down to save three.”

“When I got to Knoxville, and I got on the ground, I went to the high school. I spent time with his family, his mother, his brothers. I walked the streets. I was in his neighborhood, and the most disturbing and saddest part was this kid was a great kid, and he was in the right place when he saved three girls’ lives,” Marshall said.

The video featured interviews from Zenobia Dobson, his mother; Zack Dobson, his brother; Rob Black, his football coach; and a short statement from Knoxville Police Chief David Rausch, who officially announced Dobson’s death in December. The video also included President Barack Obama addressing Dobson while discussing gun control.

Dobson’s older brother Zack mentioned that the two stayed focused on having a football career to avoid gang violence, which is a serious issue in his neighborhood.

“I just told Zaevion, ‘We better (not) do that. We better stay strong, and we’ve got to do what we started. We’ve got to finish and make it out of here.”

Fulton High School head coach Rob Black remembers Dobson as an unselfish kid who made all the right choices. Zack laughed, also remembering how teammates would surround Dobson’s locker just to talk to him.

“You know, most of the guys on a football team that are 15 years old, it’s all about them. I describe him as a fun kid. His locker was one of those places where teammates flocked to,” Black said.

Zack remembers running immediately after hearing gun shots and returning to his motionless brother. His mother said that she heard the gunshots and hoped that her children were safe. However, Zack told her that “his brother is gone” when she arrived to the scene.

“’Wow. I just thought about everything. Everything about my child. Wow,” she cried. However, Zenobia remembering her son’s laugh is what helps her through the pain.

While his family stills mourns his loss, they remain proud of the fact that Dobson’s death has had significant  momentum in promoting gun control movements.

“It was sad, but just knowing what he stood for makes me very proud of him,” his mother said.

“I just want to tell him that I love him, and that I’m going to make it,” Zack said.

To watch the full video, click here.

Info for this article and featured image obtained via video clip originally shown by CBS Sports

Edited by Jessica Carr

Gun control event debates different experiences, viewpoints

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Experts Juan Pacheco and Robert Farago debate the issue of gun control.

When it comes to discussing gun control, you can expect a few loaded questions.

University of Tennessee students experienced a night of firearms education and debate on Wednesday as experts Juan Pacheco and Robert Farago discussed the issue of gun control in the Cox Auditorium of the Alumni Memorial Building. Pacheco, a former gang member and gun control advocate, exchanged ideas with Farago, a National Rifle Association member and firearms blogger, during the Issues Committee organized event.

“I’m not okay with our rights being taken away, but I’m also not ok with losing young people,” said Pacheco, drawing attention to the gun violence that frequently ravages underprivileged youth in America.

Admitting that he was “not a lawyer,” Pacheco cited statistics that related high levels of gun ownership to increased crime, murder and domestic abuse instances across the country in an effort to convey his point.

For Farago, the issue of gun violence was not one to pin on lawful gun owners. Despite a past gun-related suicide of a close friend, Farago chose to never “’blame his (friend’s) father for legally owning a firearm, nor did I blame the tool that my friend chose to end his own life.”

Robert argued that if Americans could “transform the debate (of gun control) away from the tool” and towards the underlying issues behind violence, the problem of gun violence could easily be resolved.

Meg Landon, a sophomore in neuroscience and secretary of the Issues Committee, sees the event as an opportunity for students to experience two very differing viewpoints in a respectful fashion.

“We see a lot of gun related violence, and I think people on both sides of the argument would agree that this violence is a problem,” Landon said. “They have different solutions in mind, so it is important to open a civil dialogue in order to come to the best solution.”

For more information on Issues Committee events, click here.

Edited by Jessica Carr