Mesa County residents blocked an armed Islamaphobic uprising from materializing today by gathering at a Grand Junction Islamic Center with enthusiasm, lots of free cookies and plenty of big, handmade signs promoting peace, love and diversity.
The anti-Islamaphobia rally was held to counter the so-called “Global Rally for Humanity,” an armed protest against local Muslin residents that right-wing gun nuts had planned. Similar protests aimed at intimidating U.S. Muslims were planned in 20 cities nationally; Grand Junction’s was to be one of them.
But thanks to strong, organized opposition, the Islam-hating rally pulled it’s Facebook event announcement page and never materialized.
Waves of residents who abhorred the idea of Mesa County being known as a hotbed of Islamaphobia attended the peace rally, which went on all morning and into the early afternoon. They held up signs on I-70B stating a need for a more diverse, loving western Colorado. Many cars honked as they went by and gave a thumbs-up to the event.
In one brief incident, four right-wing Islam-haters did show up, but all they did was make some rude gestures, call the group “delusional,” take a selfie with rally participants and then leave. Otherwise the group was completely successful in blocking the planned armed demonstration of hatred against Muslims that was to take place.
Congratulations, citizens of 21st century Grand Junction. You’ve showed that the culture is at long last really changing here, and it has already changed enough that political sanity can occasionally prevail.
A fringe right-wing Mesa County group that planned an open-carry protest October 10 in front of a Grand Junction mosque was forced to back down after a counter protest that was quickly organized via social media at the same place and time drew far more participants than the Muslim-hater event.
The larger (national) anti-Islamic group “Global Rally for Humanity,” which organized the protest at the mosque, was formed by a combination of the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters*, two radical, militaristic pro-gun, fringe right-wing groups that Mother Jones magazine calls “the Tea Party’s military wing.”
Grand Junction Gun Club members held signs and waved at noon today at 7th Street and Patterson Road to protest the escalating epidemic of gun violence in the U.S. and demand sensible gun regulations, like closing loopholes in the law requiring background checks for gun purchases.
The group turned out in response to Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, which organized similar rallies across the country including in Washington, D.C. today. Stay-at-home mom Shannon Watts founded Moms Demand Action on December 15, 2012, in response to the devastating shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in which 20 elementary school children and 6 school staff members were massacred. Moms Demand Action wants state and federal legislators enact common-sense gun reforms.
Gun Violence Protest in Grand Junction
In Grand Junction, protesters stood on the busy corner in front of St. Mary’s Hospital in clear, sunny 80-degree weather holding signs saying “No More Massacres,” “End Gun Violence,” “Background Checks for Guns” and “Whatever it Takes.” The group got plenty of thumbs-ups and honks of approval from drivers passing by, as well as curious looks and even some middle fingers and angry shouts from drivers who didn’t support their efforts.
In the U.S., nearly 8 children are shot and killed every day, and Colorado has the dubious distinction of now being home to a growing list of notorious gun massacres: The Chuck-Cheese killings in 1993, the Columbine High School mass killing in 1999 and the Aurora Theater Massacre in 2012. And the legacy continues: at the same time protesters were holding their signs in Grand Junction today, yet another juvenile male was shot in Aurora, Colorado, resulting in three schools being locked down.
Have you had enough of gun violence in our country? Want to see the U.S. start doing something to reduce these now-common tragedies? To join the anti gun violence cause locally and get word of upcoming gun sense activities in Grand Junction, go to the Grand Junction Gun Club’s Facebook page.
Grand Junction citizens who support keeping Colorado’s ban on large capacity gun magazines far outnumbered those showing up who want to dump the ban at today’s remote hearing on the measure at Colorado Mesa University (CMU).
Colorado Senate Judiciary Committee members in Denver heard remote testimony from western slope residents on SB 175 (pdf) via a video hookup in the West Ballroom at CMU. If enacted, the measure would repeal a law currently in place that prohibits possession of large capacity ammunition magazines. The legislature enacted the current magazine ban after the Aurora Theater massacre on July 20, 2012.
The crowd showing up to testify on today’s bill wasn’t big, but was remarkable for the fact that gun safety advocates far outnumbered those showing up to support legalizing large capacity ammo magazines. Exactly the opposite had been expected.
Mesa County Commissioner John Justman was one of only two people who supported bringing back large capacity ammo magazines, even though twenty four people had registered to testify for the bill. Nine people showed up to testify in favor of keeping the current ban in place.
Paul Liebe is the owner of NiteLife Billiards at 2882 North Ave. in Grand Junction. “Liebe” means “love” in German, but unfortunately Mr. Liebe does not project a loving front to many area citizens. His business’ slogan is “We Deliver Family Fun,” but Mr. Liebe is far from family-friendly. R-rated is more like it, at a minimum.
Liebe, a gun proponent who bills himself as a “public figure” on his Facebook page, recently made headlines for selling “open carry” T-shirts printed with a realistic-looking handgun in a holster. The shirts come with a dire warning letting people know that actually wearing the shirt can lead to death if the wearer encounters police and they mistakenly think you are wearing a real gun. In short, don’t put these shirts on your kids — they aren’t family-friendly, or friendly in any way at all.
Liebe’s personal attitudes are far from family-friendly, too, and so is his language. On February 13 he posted on his publicly-accessible Facebook page: “If you don’t like what I post, get the FUCK OFF MY PAGES,” and “…I don’t give a shit if your FEELINGS get hurt.”
The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) held its 40th annual meeting earlier this month at the Palmer House Hotel in Chicago, drawing a crowd of about 3,000 protesters. ALEC is a conservative bill mill that masquerades as an educational nonprofit. ALEC holds meetings in tony resorts and at fancy hotels, where it provides corporate lobbyists with face time with thousands of state legislators over dinners, happy hours, tennis, golf and other activities. Corporate representatives draft the “model bills’ they prefer, and at ALEC meetings, hand them off to legislators, who then take them home and introduce the bills in their own state legislatures as if they were their own ideas. The public is not allowed to weigh in during any phase of the drafting of any of ALEC’s so-called “model bills.” The prime sponsor of ALEC’s 40th annual meeting was tobacco giant Reynolds American, who ponied up $100,000 for the honor. $50,000-level sponsors include ExxonMobil, the Cigar Association of America, Inc., Peabody Energy, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, a front group for coal companies. Other sponsors include CenturyLink, UPS, Pharma, Cloud Peak Energy, TransCanada and BNSF Railways. ALEC is responsible for the proliferation of “Stand Your Ground” laws, the type of law that permitted George Zimmerman to kill Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American Florida teen, and get away without any punishment. About two dozen states how have such “shoot first” laws. Many protesters at ALEC’s Chicago meeting wore hoodies and with targets on their chests and backs that said “Stand Your Ground.” Activists unfurled huge banners inside the Palmer hotel that said “ALEC makes For-Profit Prisons,” “Moral Monday – NO to ALEC” and “ALEC Attacks All Workers.” The peaceful protest turned violent after Chicago police rushed into the crowd and started arresting people and beating them to the ground. Photos of the protests can be seen here.
Forget Muslims. In 2013, America’s biggest terrorist threat is from “Patriot” groups, those radical militias and anti-government groups whose members think the federal government is conspiring to take away their guns, destroy their liberties and pave the way for a global “one-world government.” According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the only group that tracks the growth and activities of American domestic hate groups and extremists, the re-election of President Obama coupled with the president’s pursuit of gun control legislation has led to explosive growth in the number of anti-government conspiracy groups, which in turn has dramatically increased threat of domestic terrorism. The number of right wing anti-government groups in the U.S. reached an all-time high in 2012, the fourth year of explosive growth in this increasingly militant sector of the U.S population. In 2012, the SPLC counted 1,360 so-called “Patriot” groups — an increase of 813 percent since just 2008. On March 5, 2013 the SPLC sent a letter to Department of Justice Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano warning of the threat. The SPLC wrote a similar letter in 1994 to then-Attorney General Janet Reno warning of a growing threat of domestic extremism. Just six months later, Timothy McVeigh bombed the Oklahoma City federal building in the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in the nation’s history at that time. SPLC reports that over the last few years, law enforcement officials have discovered and thwarted numerous terrorist plots being formed within the militia subculture, including plans to spread poisonous ricin powder, attack federal installations and murder federal judges and other government officials. The same day it sent its letter to the DOJ and Department of Homeland Security, the SPLC issued its 2012 report on the anti-government movement. The SPLC’s website also has an interactive, state-by-state map of hate groups currently existing throughout the U.S., with their names, locations and the objects of their hatred.
Main Source: Southern Poverty Law Center, Letter to the U.S. Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security, March 5, 2013
Magpul Industries of Erie, Colorado, which makes and sells high-capacity ammunition magazines, has declared war on Colorado over a gun safety bill currently moving through the state’s legislature. HB 1224, currently in Colorado’s House of Representatives, would limit high-capacity magazines to 15 rounds, and add a more restrictive 8-round limit for shotguns. Magpul makes 30-round magazines. Magpul threatened to move its business out of state if the bill passes. The House then voted to amend HB 1224 to allow Magpul to keep making its high-capacity magazines and selling them in other states, but that wasn’t enough for the company. Magpul launched an Internet-based campaign to flood the state with high-capacity, military-grade magazines and weaponry in advance of a vote on the bill. Magpul posted a cold-war style ad on its Facebook page announcing that the company will sell up to ten 30-round AR or M4 ammunition magazines per customer directly to Colorado residents, and will expedite shipping for a discounted price of just $5.00. The ad shows a little girl with pigtails, smiling and reaching up to catch 30-round gun magazines as they are dropped, airlift-style, from an airplane. The copy reads, “In the battle for Colorado Freedoms, support for second amendment rights is being delivered by Magpul Industries Corporation. Fielded in the millions by US and its allies since 2007, the PMAG is the magazine of choice for those defending freedom and democracy around the world…Now, with the ability of Coloradans to purchase new standard capacity magazines in jeopardy, Magpul Industries is working to supply as many as possible to the good people of Colorado. Similar to the Berlin Airlift, the Boulder Airlift will bring much-needed gun supplies to freedom-loving residents trapped inside occupied territory.” In addition to high-capacity magazines, Magpul also makes rifle grips, buttstocks, rifle sights, gun mounts and other gun-related parts and accessories. Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper has said he will sign the bill if it makes it to his desk. Colorado has a history of gun massacres, including the Aurora Theater massacre in 2012, the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, and the Chuck E. Cheese massacre in 1993, also in Aurora, Colorado, in which a gunman killed four restaurant employees.
With lightening speed for a state legislature, New York became the first state to pass a comprehensive gun safety bill since the massacre December 14, 2012 at Newtown, Connecticut. New York’s gun control bill, passed and signed today, is the toughest in the nation. It expands the definition of “assault weapon” to include semiautomatic weapons to include those with just one feature commonly associated with military weapons, like a bayonet mount, flash suppressor or pistol grip. Previously the definition required two features. New York’s bill also revokes or suspends gun licenses held by people whom mental health experts determine to be a danger to society. The new law limits magazines to just seven rounds of ammunition instead of ten, and provides for enhanced monitoring of ammunition purchases to flag high-volume buyers. Gun licenses must be re-certified every five years. (They used to never expire.) The law increases penalties for illegal gun possession and for using a gun against emergency responders. “Common sense can win,” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo as he signed the bill, less than an hour the New York State Assembly passed it by a vote of 104 to 43 . “You can overpower extremists with intelligence and with reason and common sense,” Cuomo said. The National Rifle Association called the law “draconian,” and said it was passed “under a veil of secrecy in the dark of night.” The bill passed on the second day of New York state’s 2013 legislative session.
Main source: Los Angeles Times, August 15, 2012
The National Rifle Association (NRA) posted a 35 second Internet ad called “Stand and Fight” that takes aim at President Obama’s children over the issue of gun safety regulations. The ad accuses President Obama of being an “elitist hypocrite” for accepting armed secret service protection for his children, Sasha, age 11, and Malia, age 14, while other children attend school without armed guards. The voiceover in the ad asks “Are the president’s kids more important that yours? Then why is he skeptical about putting armed security in our schools when HIS kids are protected by armed guards at THEIR school? Mr. Obama demands the wealthy pay their fair share of taxes, but he’s just another elitist hypocrite when it comes to a fair share of security. Protection for their kids and gun-free zones for ours.” There were reports on MSNBC that the NRA pulled the ad almost as quickly as they posted it, but as of this evening the ad was still visible at the NRA’s new website, NRAStandandFight.com.
The U.S. government has invested billions to determine the causes behind traffic fatalities and used that information to make policies that have markedly reduce traffic deaths in the United States. Government research on traffic safety has led to the widespread use of seat belts, front and side impact air bags, child safety seats and other advances that have greatly advanced road safety and reduced vehicular deaths for Americans. The number of deaths annually from firearms in the U.S. closely approximates the number of traffic fatalities — roughly 30,000 deaths per year from each. Yet there has been little research into, or advances made in reducing gun deaths. Why? Because the National Rifle Association (NRA) has long worked behind the scenes to block laws allowing the collection and dissemination of data about the impact of gun ownership on Americans’ safety. The NRA quietly pushed a provision that was inserted into the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) restricting the data doctors can collect from their patients about their ownership and use of firearms. From 1986 and 1996, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control conducted peer-reviewed research into the impact of the presence of guns in people’s homes. While there is a widespread belief among gun owners that the presence of guns in their homes makes them safer, the CDC found the opposite — that having a gun in the home creates a 2.7 times greater risk of homicide and a 4.8 greater risk of suicide for the occupants. The NRA took action to prevent CDC from publicizing these results, and blocked continued funding of government research into the impact of firearms on citizen safety.
In keeping with his track record of tackling tough political issues during his time in office, President Obama today took steps today to address what he and many others are recognizing as an epidemic of gun violence in the United States. The mass slaughter of innocent people, including 20 six and seven year old children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last Friday has spurred President Obama to make addressing gun violence a top priority for his second term in office. In lightening-quick time by Washington, D.C. standards, the President established an interagency task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden that is is charged with immediately developing a comprehensive strategy to reduce gun violence and address mental health care issues in the U.S. Mr. Obama also said he supports efforts in Congress to revive the lapsed ban on military-style assault weapons and enact restrictions on high-volume ammunition clips, noting a majority of Americans support these policies. In giving his talk, President Obama listed off all the gun deaths that have happened across the U.S. just since the Sandy Hook incident on Friday, noting that 10,000 Americans each year die from gun violence. He sought the help of the American people, including responsible gun owners, to help him change things in the U.S. for the better, challenging lawmakers to summon a fraction of the courage that the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary summoned last Friday as they tried to protect their students.
The National Rifle Association has gone dark, shutting down its Facebook page, going silent on Twitter and staying silent on it’s blog as it hunkers down in face of anti-gun protesters marching on its Washington, D.C. headquarters in the wake of the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. WalMart, one of the world’s largest sellers of both guns and kids’ toys, announced it is pulling Bushmaster rifles off its shelves nationwide. And another large gun seller, Dick’s Sporting Goods, tastefully removed all guns from view at its store closest to Newtown, Connecticut, where the mass killing took place last Friday, and announced it will stop selling “modern sporting rifles” at stores nationwide. The California state treasurer is considering purging the state’s pension investment funds of stock in companies that manufacture guns, and Cerberus Capital Management, a big investment firm, divested itself of holdings in Freedom Group, which makes Bushmaster rifles like the one the shooter used at Sandy Hook. The California State Teachers’ Retirement Fund is also looking to divest itself of funds invested in Freedom Group. Meanwhile, online petitions demanding legislators move quickly to better regulate guns and gun purchases are gathering signatures at phenomenal rates. One petition we’ve been following on SignOn.org — the biggest one so far — continues to gather hundreds of signatures every hour and is currently up to almost 380,000 signors. Another petition on the White House’s “We the People” petition website that sprang up demanding the Obama administration take immediate action to limit access to guns has gathered 184,202 signatures. It needed just 25,000 signatures to get serious consideration by the Obama administration.
Last Thursday, ironically just one day before the latest tragic school massacre in Connecticut, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper became a lone voice of political sanity on gun issues in the U.S. when he said it’s finally time to have an open discussion about guns and gun control in Colorado. Hickenlooper said he wanted to wait until a few months had passed after the Aurora Theater massacre to raise the issue, and no sooner did he mention it than yet another horrific mass shooting took place in an elementary school in Connecticut, killing 20 very young children and seven adults. Today, on the day of that tragic massacre, President Obama backed up Hickenlooper. Obama, reacting at a White House briefing as many of us do to such shootings, with great sadness, uttered a statement that it is finally time for action to be taken to reduce gun violence in the U.S.:
“As a country we have been through this too many times. Whether it is an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children. We’re going to have to come together to meaningful action on this, regardless of the politics,” Obama said.