TIME Civil Rights

Bloomberg Group Asks Politicians Where They Stand on Guns

Everytown for Gun Safety Logo
Everytown for Gun Safety Logo PRNewsFoto/Everyown for Gun Safety

The former New York mayor's Everytown looks to take on the NRA

Michael Bloomberg’s gun control group began surveying congressmen and candidates on their stances on key gun issues Monday, as it looks to pressure lawmakers in the run-up to the 2014 midterm elections.

Everytown for Gun Safety, which is seeking to counter the influence of the National Rifle Association, is providing politicians with a 10-point questionnaire that asks about stances on policies like background checks for gun buyers and limiting the sale of high-capacity ammunition magazines.

The group plans to use the survey to help rally gun control supporters behind or against candidates in the midterm elections, much as the NRA does with its own respective rating system.

Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York City mayor, has put some $50 million into the gun control movement and has said he would contribute more than double the $20 million the NRA spends each year on political campaigns, according to the Washington Post.

A spokesman for the NRA, Andrew Arulanandam, said it would be an uphill battle for Everytown.

“Money cannot buy the hearts and minds of the American people when it comes to the Second Amendment,” he said to the Washington Post. “Michael Bloomberg is just the latest incarnation of a long line of anti-freedom billionaires who’ve tried to take on the National Rifle Association.”

TIME Law

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie Vetoes Gun Magazine Reduction Bill

Faith And Freedom Coalition Holds Policy Conference
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie addresses the Faith and Freedom Coalition's 'Road to Majority' Policy Conference at the Omni Shoreham hotel on June 20, 2014 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a gun control bill Wednesday that would have banned ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

(NEWARK, N.J.) — Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a gun control bill Wednesday that would have banned ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

In his veto message, the Republican governor rejected the idea that limiting the number of bullets that guns can hold will put an end to mass shootings, calling it a “simplistic” and “trivial” approach. The bill would have reduced the legal ammunition capacity from 15 to 10 rounds.

In the bill’s place, Christie called for a series of reforms to mental illness treatment, including a new standard that would make it easier to commit people involuntarily.

“Mass violence will not end by changing the number of bullets loaded into a gun,” said Christie, whose stance on guns is being watched closely ahead of a potential run for president in 2016.

Supporters of the bill, including parents of children killed in the 2012 Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting, have argued the limit would make mass shootings less deadly by requiring shooters to stop to reload more often, giving police and potential victims more time to react.

Christie signed several firearms bills into law last year, but he issued conditional vetoes of some of the more contentious ones, including a ban on .50-caliber rifles.

Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Louis Greenwald, a lead sponsor of the legislation, slammed the governor’s decision and suggested Christie was pandering to the primary voters he may end up courting.

“The governor’s action today can best be described with the words used in his own veto statement, ‘difficult choices are brushed aside.uncomfortable topics are left unexplored.’ I would imagine this is a very uncomfortable topic to have with conservative voters in Iowa and New Hampshire,” he said.

Added Senate President Steve Sweeney, a Democrat: “This veto sounds like it was geared more for a national audience, rather than crafted for the streets of New Jersey.”

TIME Business

This Brilliant Ad Uses Sex Toys to Promote Gun Safety

Why adults need to lock up their guns

+ READ ARTICLE

As if gun safety wasn’t enough of a conversation starter, an organization called Evolve found a way to promote the reduction of gun violence with, um, dildos.

Using the widely known fact that kids have absolutely zero respect for privacy at all—they will open your not-so-secret drawer and play with your things—the commercial shows two mothers’ conversations rudely getting interrupted by their sons sword fighting with one mom’s sex toys.

Embarrassing, right? But not tragic.

“If they find it, they’ll play with it,” a narrator says. “So always lock up your guns.”

This isn’t the first time gun control has been linked with sex toys. In 2011, an adult store in Alabama had a Valentine’s Day promotion that allowed people to trade their firearms for store credit.

TIME

It’s Time For Businesses To Take a Real Stand Against Open-Carry

Gun control activists march across Brooklyn Bridge
Gun control activists march across Brooklyn Bridge Spencer Platt—Getty Images

As an Army vet, as someone on campus during a school shooting, and as a father, I think it's time to tell retailers we won't shop where there might be guns.

I came home from Afghanistan in the spring of 2008, left the Army a couple months later, and started college in Alabama a couple months after that. College was going to be a safe place where I could reintegrate, focus on learning and get a degree that would help me support my family. I wouldn’t have to carry fellow students in flag-draped coffins, or worry about rocket propelled grenades flying over my head as I slept, both things that had happened in the previous year.

That illusion was shattered on February 12, 2010. That day, Amy Bishop, who had previously been investigated in multiple violent crimes, sat calmly through half a biology faculty meeting before standing up and shooting six of her colleagues, killing three.

Bishop opened fire as I sat in a club meeting in a nearby building. She was probably forced out of the room by the survivors as I left the building for my truck. I drove by the scene of the crime just as campus was locked down behind me and dozens of patrol cars zoomed towards Shelby Hall where shell casings littered the floor of a conference room.

School was no longer a safe place. It certainly wasn’t as dangerous as Afghanistan, but it was still clear that the utopia of safety I had imagined was a fantasy.

I was a gun owner then. I had multiple pistols of various calibers. I even owned the same model that George Zimmerman used to kill Trayvon Martin. I loved going to a local indoor range on Fridays after class and decompressing until the palm of my hand was bruised.

But as my own daughter grew to school age and campus shootings like the one I experienced mounted, I could no longer justify keeping them. Unceremoniously, I boxed them up, took them to a gun show, and sold them to the first person who offered me half of what I paid for them.

“Open carry” activists have dealt with gun violence differently. Rather than feeling, as the great majority of Americans do, that something must be done to limit access to firearms, they’ve chosen this moment to tote weapons that have no practical purpose beyond killing into retailers across the country, daring the establishments to turn them away. When I encounter their stories, I think of the two gun deaths that have occurred across from and in the street in front of my daughter’s school, just this year.

Many of these retailers decline to take a stance either way, claiming that they do not wish to involve themselves in “contentious political issues.” As we approach Father’s Day this weekend, when many of our families will purchase cards or take us to dinner at such “neutral” establishments, the indignant voice in my head tells me the worth of that excuse has long expired.

There was a time in America when companies made the same excuse when pressed on gay rights. But some time between then and when Bud Light made a logo that advocated for marriage equality and Oreo created rainbow cream, that ceased to be acceptable. As a country, we decided that businesses that discriminated against the LGBTQ community didn’t deserve our dollars.

One retailer certain to have a special interest in Father’s Day sales figures is Hallmark, a company that, according to the National Gun Victims Action Council, bans weapons in its corporate headquarters, yet doesn’t have the same policy for its Gold Crown Stores. This stance has lead NGVAC and other groups to call for a boycott against Hallmark this Father’s Day. And I think that coalition is onto something—I’ve requested that my family consider this when making shopping and dining pans for Sunday.

But this issue goes farther than taking the common-sense step of not letting people carry rifles while shopping for greeting cards. By attempting to stay above the fray, businesses like Hallmark are choosing—or being forced to choose, really, by the gun-toters—the side of irresponsibility. And to be irresponsible themselves. When children are being shot almost once a week in their schools, these companies need to look to Bud Light for some guiding principles.

It’s time for these companies to get in the game of making sure our kids are safe. I’d be ecstatic if this Father’s Day, people and corporations started doing more to make sure I get to keep being a dad.

Richard Allen Smith is a former Army sergeant. He served five years on active duty, including a deployment to Afghanistan with the 82nd Airborne Division from February of 2007 to April of 2008. Smith is currently a graduate student in writing at Johns Hopkins University.

TIME

Gun Control Demonstrators Take to the Streets in NYC

Hundreds of demonstrators march across the Brooklyn Bridge to call for tougher gun control laws, Saturday, June 14, 2014, in New York.
Hundreds of demonstrators march across the Brooklyn Bridge to call for tougher gun control laws, Saturday, June 14, 2014, in New York. John Minchillo—AP

Demonstrators plan to march across a major New York City bridge Saturday, urging stricter measures on guns after a spate of mass killings

Hundreds of demonstrators will walk across New York City’s Brooklyn Bridge Saturday in a call for stricter gun control laws in the wake of mass shootings across the country.

Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg is underwriting the march, which will lead from downtown Brooklyn to City Hall in lower Manhattan, and include the relatives of some of the 26 victims of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.

Organizers told the Associated Press that they will hold a demonstration outside the City Hall’s gates and chant “Not one more,” a protest uttered by the father of shooting victim Christopher Martinez, after his son was killed in Santa Barbara, Calif., last month.

Bloomberg is a major advocate of gun control laws, and has spent millions of dollars helping support groups including Moms Demand Action, Everytown For Gun Safety and Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

Seven people were killed in Santa Barbara on May 23, including the shooter. Two people, including the shooter, were killed Tuesday at an Oregon high school, the second school shooting within a week.

[AP]
TIME Crime

Loaded Gun Found in South Carolina Target’s Toys Section

Police are investigating how the firearm ended up in the aisle

A worker at a Target in South Carolina found a loaded gun in a toy aisle.

The employee at the Target in Myrtle Beach, S.C. told police that he saw the 9mm handgun on the shelf and at first thought it was a toy, before realizing it was fully loaded, The State reports. He said had seen a suspicious man walking around the toy section, though it’s unclear if he was the one who left the weapon.

Police are investigating and checking surveillance video to determine how the gun ended up there, according to The State. The gun has not been reported stolen.

[The State]

TIME Crime

Fully-Loaded Gun Found in Toy Aisle at Target

After Target Lowers Sales Forecast, Shares Plummet
Scott Olson / Getty Images

An employee found the weapon sitting in plain view

A real, loaded gun was found in the toy aisle of a Target in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, last Friday night. A worker happened upon the weapon, which was loaded with live ammo, resting on top of a superhero Playskool toy box, NBC affiliate WMBF reports.

According to a police report, a suspicious male was seen on surveillance video wandering up and down the toy aisles, including the aisle where the gun was later found. Target plans to release that footage to the public.

A Target rep sent WMBF the following statement:

The safety and security of our team members and guests is a top priority for Target. We take these matters very seriously and we are partnering with local law enforcement on this incident. Because this matter is under active investigation, we are unable to share additional information.

The incident came just a few days before activists launched a petition calling for Target to ban people from carrying firearms in its stores.

TIME politics

This Country Proves That National Gun Buybacks Reduce Mass Shootings

San Francisco Holds Gun Buyback Event
Surrendered firearms sit on a table during a gun buyback event on August 8, 2013 in San Francisco, California. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

In the decade and a half since Australia initiated the policy, the number of firearms per person has stayed constant, and gun deaths have remained low.

Sometimes a tragedy is so awful that it changes the national debate. The 1996 Dunblane school shooting in Scotland and the 2011 Norwegian gun massacre all prompted an outpouring of anguish and a demand for changes in law. In Australia, that moment was the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, in which a gunman killed 35 people at a tourist attraction in Tasmania.

As the U.S. reels over yet another mass shooting – this one involving a man who killed six students at UC Santa Barbara and shot himself – it’s worth taking a look at what happened in my country after that mass shooting – and at what has happened since.

As a nation that won its independence from Britain by consent rather than revolution, Australia’s Constitution does not contain a right to bear arms. But firearms are a part of rural life (used, for example, to cull kangaroos). Our police officers carry a firearm when they’re on patrol. Shooting ranges are common.

That’s the backdrop for the Port Arthur massacre, which took place a month after a conservative government had been elected. After the shooting, the new Prime Minister, John Howard, immediately came under pressure from elements of his party to leave gun laws unchanged.

But he didn’t. Supported by Tim Fisher, leader of the rural-based National Party (with which Howard’s party was in coalition), Howard tightened laws around access to firearms, particularly rifles and shotguns. The government also announced a buyback, with owners being compensated for their weapons at market prices. More than 650,000 guns were handed in.

From 2008 to 2010, while working as an economics professor at the Australian National University, I teamed up with Wilfrid Laurier University’s Christine Neill to study how the Australian gun buyback affected the firearms homicide and suicide rate. Whichever way you cut the data, it seemed clear that the national gun buyback reduced gun deaths. In the decade prior to the buyback, there was an average of one mass shooting (five or more victims) every year. In the decade after the buyback, there were no mass shootings. Overall, the firearms homicide and firearms suicide rates had been trending steadily downwards through the 1980s and early 1990s, but the fall accelerated after the buyback. Analyzing variations in the amount of guns turned in for buyback between states, we again found the same result: in states where more firearms were bought back, there was a bigger drop in gun deaths.

Although the policy was aimed at reducing gun homicides, we found that its effect was mostly to reduce the gun suicide rate, with most of the 200 lives saved being averted suicides. This makes sense once you realize that the ratio of firearms suicides to homicides is around 4 to 1 in Australia.

In the decade and a half since the Australian gun buyback, the number of firearms per person has stayed constant, and gun deaths have remained thankfully low.

When I studied the effect of the policy, I was a professor. Since then, I have entered federal politics, representing the Australian Labor Party. So one lesson is to recognize courage when you see it in your political opponents. Howard and Fisher could have squibbed the chance to change Australia’s gun laws, but they didn’t. Both believed that gun laws needed to change, and set about building a political movement for reform. They probably paid a political price at the 1998 election.

Another lesson is the value of a bold package of reforms in changing culture. When U.S. researchers have studied the impact of U.S. gun buybacks on crime, they typically find no effect. Most likely, it’s because these buybacks are conducted at the city level, and are not accompanied by a general tightening in ownership laws.

In my parliamentary district, most see firm gun laws as supporting the ability of law-abiding shooters to enjoy their sports. This was the philosophy adopted by America’s National Rifle Association in the 1960s, when it backed a crackdown on cheap handguns (“Saturday night specials”) because, as they said at the time, they had “no sporting purpose.”

Yet since 1977, when Harlan Carter and Wayne LaPierre took over the organization, the NRA has taken progressively more hardline positions: opposing bans on armor-piercing bullets, describing federal agents as “jack-booted thugs.” Australia’s gun lobbies have never been as well resourced, connected or politically extreme.

Much as we’d like to believe the “Dirty Harry” fantasy that guns are used to defend goodies from baddies, the world doesn’t work like that. Gun deaths are more likely to occur when a depressed teen finds dad’s gun, when an angry spouse turns a rifle on their cheating partner, or when a young boy opens the bedside drawer and starts playing with the a loaded pistol inside. That’s why the most careful U.S. studies point to the same conclusion: more guns, more crime.

Andrew Leigh is the assistant treasury spokesperson for the Labor Opposition in Australia and was an economics professor at the Australian National University in Canberra. He serves in the House of Representatives, for the seat of Fraser. His website is www.andrewleigh.com. This piece originally appeared at Zocalo Public Square.

TIME Companies

Another Restaurant Asks Customers to Leave Guns at Home

Sonic said open carriers were making diners uncomfortable, following a slew of chains to restrict guns, including Chipotle and Starbucks

In a move making it the latest national food chain to restrict guns in its establishments, Chili’s Grill & Bar has asked customers not to openly carry firearms into its restaurants.

“We recognize that the open carry of firearms in restaurants creates an uncomfortable atmosphere and is not permitted under many local liquor laws,” Ashley Johnson, a Chili’s spokeswoman, said in a statement. “So, we kindly ask that guests refrain from openly carrying firearms into our restaurants and we will continue to follow state and local laws on this issue.”

Chili’s said that recent open carry events held at its restaurants had raised complaints from customers. Two open carry advocates were denied service at two Texas Chili’s locations after they carried long guns into the restaurants.

In a video posted by the open carry proponents and obtained by Mother Jones, a woman offers a sharp retort to the gun toters. “There’s children here,” the woman says, “and you’re a dumbass.”

Chili’s move follows Chipotle, which said earlier this month that guns are no longer welcome inside its stores. Starbucks asked customers not to bring firearms inside their shops after the Newtown shooting last year.

Fast food chain Sonic said Friday it had reviewed its policies and is also asking customers not to bring guns into its dining areas, MSNBC reports.

TIME politics

Sandy Hook Father on Gun Violence: ‘It’s Not Too Late to Protect Your Children’

UCSB Holds Memorial Service For Shooting Victims At Harder Stadium
Students mourn at a public memorial service on the Day of Mourning and Reflection for the victims of a killing spree at University of California, Santa Barbara on May 27, 2014 in Isla Vista, California. David McNew—Getty Images

Last week in Santa Barbara, six more families joined that terrible club of parents who have lost children to shootings.

When each of my three children were born, I held them in my arms and imagined who they would one day become. Even at birth, James, Natalie and Daniel each had very distinct and unique personalities, and I thought their futures would be limitless. It was unimaginable that sweet little Daniel’s future would be violently cut short by a rampaging young man whose brain was clearly broken. But it happened. I can still feel the softness of his 7-year-old cheek when I kissed him and put him on the school bus to go to Sandy Hook Elementary School on December 14, 2012, never to see him alive again.

My story, my anguish is shared by more parents than you can imagine. Not just those who lost children and loved ones at Sandy Hook Elementary, but the tens and hundreds of thousands of parents who have lost children to gun violence before and since, families across the country whose grief is no less because their tragedy didn’t make headlines. Last week in Santa Barbara, six more families joined that terrible club. I don’t personally know Richard Martinez, but when he said in an interview “you never think it can happen to you,” I hung my head and cried.

We all have to make our peace with the dangerous realities in our lives. And sometimes it’s just easier to look the other way and go about your routine. But just as I buckled my children into their car seats and taught them to look both ways before crossing the street, there are things we can do to make our children safe. And if we can agree that safety for our children is just common sense, then we must agree to come together, put aside petty political differences and do the things we all say we agree on.

We can’t look to Washington to solve all our problems, but two things are happening in Congress this week that can make a real difference in the lives of our children. I pray that we have the strength to accomplish them both.

What use is a law without adequate resources to enforce it? The House votes Thursday on appropriations proposed by Congressmen Pete King and Mike Thompson that would add more money to the National Instant Criminal Background Checks System (NICS) to ensure that the felons, domestic abusers and the seriously mentally ill who are legally prohibited from owning firearms are registered in NICS and prohibited from purchasing firearms from authorized dealers. It’s unbelievable that some seriously mentally ill people pass the NICS check because states can’t afford to keep their NICS list updated. Who doesn’t want to ensure that firearms are kept out of the hands of the severely mentally ill? This is already a bi-partisan bill and should have overwhelming bi-partisan support.

Another bill being introduced just this week, the Promoting Healthy Minds for Safer Communities Act, would reduce gun violence both by keeping guns out of the hands of the dangerously mentally ill and providing access to treatment for those with mental illness across the country. This bill would strengthen provisions already in the law that keep firearms out of the hands of those who have been determined to be a danger to themselves or others. The law now says that you can’t purchase a firearm if you’ve been involuntary committed to a mental institution, but it doesn’t include people who have been involuntarily committed to outpatient treatment. If people are a danger to themselves and others, they should be prohibited from purchasing guns whether they have been committed to a formal institution or not.

Despite my pain and grief, I have great faith we can find a way through this terrible morass with enough voices joined together: voices from the political left and the right, voices of gun owners and those who don’t own guns, millions of parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles around the country who look at their children and think, there is something I can do to protect you. We don’t risk any of our freedoms or values. We do it in the shared belief that America is a stronger country when we make common sense choices to protect our innocent children. It’s too late for my sweet little Daniel or for Christopher Michaels-Martinez, or the hundreds of thousands of children already gone, but it’s not too late to protect your children and the children that you love. Please join us.

Mark Barden is the Advocacy Director at Sandy Hook Promise.

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