TIME India

Indian Holy Man Arrested Following Clashes at Ashram

Supporters of Satguru Rampalji Maharaj, a self-styled "godman" take shelter under placards as they are hit by a police water cannon during a protest outside the ashram of Rampal in Hisar
Supporters of Sant Rampal, a self-styled "god-man," take shelter under placards as they are hit by a police water cannon during a protest outside their ashram in Hisar in the northern Indian state of Haryana on Nov. 18, 2014 Stringer India—Reuters

The spiritual leader was taken into custody late Wednesday after a weeklong conflict

A self-proclaimed Indian spiritual guru was arrested Wednesday, putting an end to his protracted efforts to evade the police during which six people died and nearly 200 were injured.

Sixty-three-year-old Sant Rampal was taken into police custody late Wednesday night at his 12-acre ashram near Hisar in the north Indian state of Haryana, the BBC reported.

Rampal, who has ignored 43 court summonses since 2010 citing ill health, was taken to the nearby district of Panchkula and medically examined before being locked up. “We have examined him and his condition, including his blood pressure, is stable,” one of the doctors told the Times of India.

The Punjab and Haryana High Court canceled the religious leader’s bail in a previous murder case on Thursday morning, the Times reported.

Rampal is accused of inciting his followers to open fire on a village in 2006, an incident in which one man died.

A weeklong effort by local police to apprehend him reached a climax on Tuesday, when thousands of his supporters reportedly attacked police surrounding the ashram with acid, petrol bombs and guns while Rampal remained holed up inside.

Four women were found dead at the ashram on Wednesday as thousands of supporters fled the premises, while another woman and an 18-month-old child died later at a hospital.

The “god-man” expressed remorse for the casualties, but denied allegations that he used his followers as a line of defense. “I am sorry about the deaths of my followers, but I didn’t use any as a human shield,” news channel NDTV quoted him as saying at the hospital.

Rampal, who has been charged with sedition along with several supporters, appeared in court Thursday afternoon and was remanded to judicial custody until Nov. 28.

TIME Guns

Massachusetts School Installs Military-Style Shooter-Detection System

The system was developed with the U.S.'s military technology development agency

A technology adapted from a U.S. military “smoke alarm for gunfire” was installed recently in a Massachusetts school, a protective measure implemented weeks after a deadly high school shooting in Washington State.

Authorities fired tester blanks Tuesday in the Methuen, Mass. school, which authorities did not name for security reasons, to demonstrate the Guardian Active Shooter Detection System, which alerts police of gunfire within one second, according to Reuters. Police officers and Democratic congresswoman Niki Tsongas attended the demonstration, but students were not present, as schools were closed for Veteran’s Day.

The technology, which boasts “near zero false alerts,” was developed by Massachusetts-based Shooter Detection Systems, in partnership with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), a U.S. government’s military technology development arm. The company also worked with a major defense contractor that has deployed thousands of similar gunshot detection systems to war zones.

The company, Shooter Detection System, told CNN in October that the technology will soon be installed in one Virginia and one California school as well.

[Reuters]

TIME Guns

Poll Finds 6 in 10 Americans Believe Guns Improve Home Safety

NRA Gathers In Houston For 2013 Annual Meeting
An attendee wears a 2nd amendment shirt while inspecting an assault rifle during the 2013 NRA Annual Meeting and Exhibits at the George R. Brown Convention Center on May 5, 2013 in Houston, Texas. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

The number represents a twofold increase from 2000

More than 60% of Americans say having a gun in the home makes them safer, according to a new Gallup report. That number represents a two-fold increase from 2000, when only 30% of Americans said they felt a gun improved safety.

The responses to the poll diverged greatly along political and geographical lines. Republicans were twice as likely as Democrats to say guns made them safer. Nearly 70% of people in the South say that guns make their homes safer, compared with just under 60% in the West and East.

While a majority of people may believe in keeping a gun for safety reasons, only 42% actually do. That figure has been fairly consistent over the last decade.

TIME Guns

Gun Control Groups See Future in State Ballot Initiatives

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

A victory in Washington state could be a template for other states in 2016

Despite a Republican takeover of the U.S. Senate, gun control advocates celebrated Wednesday on the heels of a major ballot measure victory in Washington state, which they say offers a new road map for enacting new guns laws around the country.

The new national strategy is to largely bypass Congress, where recent gun control efforts have gotten little traction even in the wake of the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn. Instead, gun control activists say they are redirecting their attention and money to states—and to voters directly. Although votes are still being counted, it appears that a 2014 ballot initiative in Washington state expanding gun sale background checks will pass with a comfortable margin.

Appealing to voters through ballot initiatives has helped advance other progressive causes in recent years, including minimum wage increases and the legalization of medical marijuana. It’s a lesson gun control advocates have taken to heart. “I think it does represent a subtle shift,” says Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California, Los Angeles who favors gun control. “What we’re seeing is a renewed effort by gun control advocates to take this issue to the voters directly.”

Gun rights groups, including the National Rifle Association, have dominated the state-level battlefield for the last decade, outspending gun control groups and successfully lobbying to block a variety of new gun laws proposed in legislatures, including those that have widespread public support. But that too may be changing. Gun control groups outspent gun rights groups 5-1 in Washington state this year, after the National Rifle Association chose not to invest heavily.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has committed $50 million to the group that led the effort, Everytown for Gun Safety, a coalition of gun control groups formed in the wake of the Newtown massacre. In addition, a pro-gun control political action committee launched by former Congresswoman Gaby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly, raised some $20 million in the 2014 election cycle. (Giffords was shot in the head during a 2011 shooting in Arizona that left six others dead.) These cash infusions have changed the playing field, says Winkler. “Newtown did not lead to new national gun legislation, but it led to new money being committed to gun control,” he says.

Ballot initiatives, like the one in Washington, are expensive, says Brian Malte, of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which has been working with Everytown in Washington state. “They require a lot of signature gathering, a plan, a strategy, getting out the vote,” says Malte.

The next test of this news strategy is likely to be in Nevada in 2016, unless the state expands gun sales background checks with legislation in the meantime. “If we can pass it in the legislature, that’s what we’ll do,” says John Feinblatt, president of Everytown. “If we can’t, we will take it to the people.” (The ballot initiative strategy in Washington was launched after efforts to pass expanded background check laws through the state legislature failed.)

This strategy is a throwback to gun control efforts that sprang up in the wake of the 1999 Columbine school shooting in Colorado. The year after the incident, Colorado and Oregon expanded background checks for sales at gun shows by ballot initiative. But in the intervening decade, the strategy was rarely, if ever, used, in part, because gun control groups couldn’t afford it. “The failure of elected officials to do the right thing on this has caused a lot of people in the movement to prevent gun violence to think creatively about how to better match the will of the people to policy outcomes,” says Zach Silk, campaign manager for the background check initiative in Washington.

Of course, a war chest of donations and built-in public support helps make an initiative successful, which is why gun control advocates are starting their new campaign on issues that poll favorably—like expanded background checks, which Gallup surveys have found are favored by as many as 80 to 90 percent of Americans. Restricting or removing the rights of convicted domestic violence abusers is another issue Everytown is already pushing in various state legislatures, along with new laws to regulate ownership of guns by the mentally ill. In the wake of a recent shooting spree in Santa Barbara County, California recently passed a law allowing family members to petition police and courts to take guns away from individuals who may be unstable.

So are gun rights advocates worried? “The difference now is you’ve got [one of the] richest guys in the world on the other side,” says Dave Kopel, a gun rights advocate and associate policy analyst for the Cato Institute, referring to Bloomberg. Unlike efforts to pass laws through Congress or state legislatures, in which politicians may risk their jobs voting for or against gun laws, “You put something on a ballot initiative and you don’t have people worried about displeasing someone else,” says Kopel.

Not all states allow people to vote directly on issues through ballot initiatives or propositions, meaning gun control groups will also have to lobby state legislators to enact their agenda. These days, though, they have the money to do both.

TIME 2014 Election

Washington Votes on Dueling Gun Control Measures 11 Days After Deadly School Shooting

Washington Marysville Shooting Gun Violence
Students grieve beside a makeshift memorial at Marysville-Pilchuck High School in Marysville, Wash. David Ryder—Getty Images

Gun control is a charged topic in any election, but the issue has taken on extra weight in Washington as voters are being asked to decide on two competing firearms measures on the Nov. 4 ballot just 11 days after a school shooting in the rural city of Marysville left three teenagers dead and three others wounded.

Initiative 594 would expand the state’s background check requirements to cover gun transfers or sales, including those that take place at gun shows or online. The other, Initiative 591, is backed by gun rights advocates and would prohibit the state from requiring background checks that are stricter than those imposed by the federal government. Far more money is behind the measure expanding background checks, and polls show it has more support. Aided by six-figure donations from Bill and Melinda Gates and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, the committees dedicated to passing the expanded background checks initiative have spent more than $10 million promoting it, dwarfing the nearly $2 million spent by groups opposing the measure or pushing the competing one.

A poll conducted by the nonpartisan Elway Research group in early October found that 60 percent of registered voters backed I-594, down from 72 percent in April, while support for the competing measure fell during the same period from 55 percent in April to 39 percent in October. Elway pollsters attributed the declines to voters learning more about the proposals, pointing out that in April 40 percent said they would vote for both measures, which fell to 22 percent in October. (In the unlikely event that both measures pass, effectively canceling each other out, courts would likely decide the final outcome.)

No polls measuring public opinion on the initiatives have been released since the Oct. 24 shooting, but University of Washington political scientist Matt Barreto told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the Marysville incident might erode support for the measure that would limit background checks..“The spate of unconscionable school shootings across the country, and now here in Marysville, has left voters ready to take responsible action on gun issues,” Barreto said. “We saw the same thing in 2012-2013 following the Newtown killings.”

Recent high-profile shooting incidents have not always led to tighter gun laws. If anything, getting permission to carry guns in more public spaces is easier than it has been in decades. President Obama’s attempt to harness outrage over the 2012 Newtown, Conn. school massacre into a federal ban on assault weapons went nowhere. States adopted 109 new gun measures in the year after Newtown, according to Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a gun control organization. Seventy of these laws loosened restrictions on guns and gun ownership, in some cases extending the right to carry to school grounds. Such measures were adopted on the belief that more guns in public might prevent future school shootings.

In Washington, supporters of the background check measure acknowledge that the Marysville shooting would likely have happened even if the proposal had been law. Police said the shooter, a 14-year-old high school freshman, used a gun that was legally registered to a family member. But advocates believe that it can help their cause. School shootings, says Zach Silk, the campaign manager for the Washington Alliance for Gun Responsibility, “are very crystalizing for voters. They focus peoples’ minds.”

If so, it’s not clear how many voters will actually be swayed. Residents cast ballots by mail in Washington and many already sent theirs in before the Marysville shooting. “I’m not sure just how much that will have an influence,” says Dave Workman, a spokesman for a citizen’s committee working for the anti-background check measure. “I think we’re just going to see how it shakes out Tuesday night when the ballots come in.”

TIME Guns

Nebraska School OKs ‘Tasteful’ Senior Portraits With Guns

The school board unanimously passed the rule

A rural Nebraska school district decided Monday to allow graduating high school seniors to pose with guns in their senior portraits, the Omaha World-Herald reports.

Broken Bow school board members voted 6-0 to approve the rule, which permits only the “tasteful and appropriate” display of firearms, and prohibits pointing the weapons at the camera or displaying a hunted animal in distress, according to the policy.

“The board, I believe, felt they wanted to give students who are involved in those kinds of things the opportunity to take a senior picture with their hobby, with their sport, just like anybody with any other hobby or sport,” superintendent Mark Sievering told the World-Herald.

Nebraska has no age minimum for hunting, although hunters below 12 must be supervised by a licensed hunter, according to state law. It is illegal under Nebraska law to possess a firearm on school grounds, unless the holder is in an exempt category, such as the police force.

The issue of having guns in or around schools has been especially salient after the Dec. 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting, an event that prompted policymakers to question whether adequate gun safety laws were in place. Since that shooting, several organizations have argued that several gaps in gun laws still exist despite many states tightening background checks for firearm purchases. Yet Nebraska’s overall gun policies still lag behind other states, according to the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, whose 2013 Gun Laws Scorecard gave the state a D.

[Omaha World-Herald]

TIME Crime

See Pictures of the Weekend of Protests Around St. Louis

More acts of civil disobedience are planned beginning on Monday

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in and around St. Louis over the weekend, calling for justice after two racially charged police shootings since August.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that several days of demonstrations called “Ferguson October,” which marked just over two months since unarmed black teenager Michael Brown was shot and killed by a white police officer, gave way to a sit-in at St. Louis University during a rally for Vonderrit Myers Jr., another black teenager who was fatally shot on Oct. 8. Police say Myers fired at them first, but his family insists he was unarmed. Additional acts of civil disobedience are planned beginning on Monday.

[St. Louis Post-Dispatch]

TIME Guns

California Law Allows Family Members to Remove Relative’s Guns for Safety

California Legalizes Bitcoin
California Gov. Jerry Brown looks on during a news conference at Google headquarters on September 25, 2012. Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

First law of its kind in the U.S.

California residents can now petition a judge to temporarily remove a close relative’s firearms if they fear their family member will commit gun violence, thanks to a new safety measure signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

Under the “Gun Violence Restraining Order” law, a successful petition would allow a judge to remove the close relative’s guns for at least 21 days, with the option to extend that period to a year, pending an additional hearing, according to Reuters. The law is the first of its kind in the U.S., and will be an extension of existing legislation that temporarily prohibits people with domestic violence restraining orders from owning firearms.

“If it can save one life, one family from that agony, it will be worth it,” said Democratic California Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson, during the bill’s debate. Many Republic state senators argued that the law would infringe upon the Second Amendment, and that there were already sufficient regulations in place.

The new law was introduced after Santa Barbara police in May were legally unable to confiscate the weapons of a man who later went on a shooting spree that killed six people, despite his family’s having expressed concerns to authorities that he would become violent.

TIME Guns

Louisiana Restaurant Owner Gives a Discount to Gun Owners

"I just need to see a weapon"

A local restaurant owner in Louisiana will give a 10 percent discount to any customers that show him their guns—and not the arm muscle kind.

Kevin Cox, owner of Bergeron’s Restaurant in Port Allen, is bucking a corporate trend by encouraging, rather than banning, firearms in his Cajun food establishment. Cox said he’s frustrated with chains like Target, which requested in July that customers not bring their weapons into stores, NBC33 reports.

“I keep hearing so much about people banning guns,” Cox told NBC33. “Target’s banning guns and these people are banning guns. Don’t they realize that that’s where people with guns are going to go? I want to take the opposite approach. How can I make my place safer?”

Cox said some 15 to 20 people take him up on the discount offer every day.

“I just need to see a weapon. I need you to be carrying a gun,” he told NBC33.

[NBC33]

TIME Guns

Texas’ Plan to Allow Alcohol Sales at Gun Shows Gets Shot Down

US-POLITICS-GUNS-NRA
Convention goers check out handguns equipped with Crimson Trace laser sights at the143rd NRA Annual Meetings and Exhibits at the Indiana Convention Center in Indianapolis, Indiana on April 25, 2014. Karen Bleier —AFP/Getty Images

Gun show operators felt the combination of booze and bullets was unsafe

The Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) withdrew Tuesday a proposal to allow sales of alcohol at some gun shows after receiving a barrage of public comments against the plan.

The plan would have enforced strict conditions, including a ban on live ammunition and requiring the show’s venue to have a liquor license, the Associated Press reports. Still, many critics, including gun show operators, felt that mixing guns and alcohol was dangerous.

“I am a licensed gun dealer. I think the sale of alcohol at gun shows is unwise,” wrote one person commenting on the plan. “As an industry, we are already under a microscope. From a safety view point, the sale of alcohol at gun shows is pure folly. I am against this.”

Under current laws, a liquor-licensed venue hosting a gun show is forbidden to sell alcohol during the show as well as during the set up and take down processes, according to the TABC website.

[AP]

 

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