Tag: Security

Gun Safety Advocates Outnumber Gun Nuts at W. Slope Hearing on SB 175

ALL IN FAVOR? - Only two people -- Mesa County Commissioner John Justman and one other person -- showed up to testify in favor of making large-capacity gun magazines legal again in Colorado at today's hearing on SB 175 at CMU

Only two people — Mesa County Commissioner John Justman and one other person — showed up to testify in favor of re-legalizing large-capacity ammunition magazines in Colorado at today’s hearing on SB 175 at CMU

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.

ALL OPPOSED? - Nine western slope residents (including the photographer) showed up to oppose bringing back large capacity gun magazines in Colorado at today's hearing on SB 175

Nine western slope residents (including the photographer and another not yet seated) showed up to oppose bringing back large capacity gun magazines in Colorado at today’s hearing on SB 175

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.

Recipe for Disaster: Colorado Riverfront Trail Users Unprotected from Gunfire

The morning sun glistens on the Colorado River on the Monument View section, where hunters are allowed to shoot at birds in the very same vicinity where paths beckon people to run, walk and bike by to the river.

The morning sun glistens on the Colorado River on the Monument View section, where hunters are allowed to shoot in the same vicinity where people run, walk and bike by the river.

The Colorado Riverfront Trail is a huge asset to Mesa County citizens’ quality of life. It beckons residents and tourist to run, walk and bike amid the beautiful scenery alongside the river.

But frequently gunfire occurs around parts of the paths located outside City limits. Many times the sound of loud gunfire next to the path has reduced my dog to a quivering, drooling mass of fear. He digs in his toenails, shakes uncontrollably, refuses to walk any more and has to be lifted or dragged away from the area. The gunfire turns an otherwise pleasant, enjoyable time on the path into a nightmare for us and our dog, and cuts short the time we usually reserve for our morning walk. We have to drag the dog back to the car, leave the area and find somewhere else to walk where he — and we — don’t feel threatened.

So many of our riverfront walks have been ruined this way, I start to wonder why we ever go back. I have quietly wondered, too, if my dog is justified in being so frightened, and whether I should be a bit more concerned for my own safety.

Based on what I found out, I absolutely should.

On the Monument View section of trail, about 1/2 mile east of the Walker Wildlife parking area, there are two small, ominous signs — one facing in either direction — that say “Active Hunting Area. Please stay on trail and respect hunter’s rights.” But what, exactly, does this mean to people using the trail? The signs don’t say what to do if gunfire comes your way. They give no assurance you will not be hit by errant gunfire while on the trail. It doesn’t say where the hunters are or in what direction they shoot. It doesn’t give the dates of hunting seasons or point to protective barriers or cover.

Why a Fetus is Not a Person

NotADifficultConcept

Updated November 5, 2014

Colorado’s Amendment 67 did not pass, to the relief of most of the state. The measure would have declared unborn human beings as a “person” or a “child” in the Colorado Criminal Code.

It was yet another a personhood measure, but this year Personhood USA, the group pushing these kinds of measures, tried to disguise that fact by calling it the “Brady Amendment,” after a fetus a woman lost in a 2012 drunk driving accident. Naming the measure after a woman’s lost fetus was an attempt to give the measure emotional appeal, because when you can get people to react through emotion, they’ll often bypass their rational thinking.

A fundamentally flawed argument

Coloradans have rejected personhood measures three times now, for good reason. The thinking behind these ballot initiatives is illogical and thus fundamentally flawed.

A fetus is not a person in any legal sense.

Both fertilized eggs and clones represent potential, not actual human beings.

Zygotes, or fertilized eggs, and fetuses lack many of the physical characteristics of human beings. They don’t have brains, skeletons, or internal organs. A fetus cannot engage in human perception or thought. The analogy that fits is that an acorn is not an oak tree and the egg you eat for breakfast is not a chicken.

Fetuses have no social identity, and there is no precedent for giving them such. Names are not legally conferred upon fetuses, only upon babies after birth.  The first legal recognition of a person’s existence is their birth certificate. No government on Earth issues “pre-birth certificates.” The government does not issue death certificates for miscarried or aborted fetuses. The government does not issue social security numbers to fetuses, nor does the government confer any rights of citizenship on upon conception.

Sheriff Candidate Mike Harlow: The Ugliest Face of Mesa County

Mesa County Sheriff write-in candidate Mike Harlow

Mesa County Sheriff write-in candidate Mike Harlow

It’s no surprise that Mesa County’s tea party faction endorsed custom holster-maker and write-in candidate Mike Harlow for sheriff.

What is a surprise, though, and a huge embarrassment for Mesa County citizens, is that Harlow got the endorsement of anyone at all.

Harlow’s smugness and extreme hate-filled views reveal one thing: he is a ticking time bomb waiting to go off.

If his writings are any indication, contempt and hostility ooze from Harlow’s every pore.

Midwife Sounds Alert Over Spike in Stillbirths in Heavily-Drilled Vernal, Utah

Drilling density in the Uintah Basin, where Vernal is located

Drilling density in the Uintah Basin, where Vernal is located

A midwife in Vernal, Utah, has raised a red flag about a spike in the number of stillbirths and neonatal deaths in the small town in 2013. The statistic has emerged alongside explosive growth in drilling and fracking in the area. Energy companies have flocked to Vernal in the last few years to develop the massive oil and gas fields that underlie Uintah County.

The midwife, Donna Young,  who has worked in the Vernal area for 19 years, reported delivering the first stillborn baby she’s seen in all her years of practice in May, 2013. Doctors could not determine any reason for the baby’s death.

While visiting the local cemetery where the parents of that baby had buried their dead child, Young noticed other fresh graves of babies who were stillborn or died shortly after birth.

Young started researching local sources of data on stillbirths and neonatal deaths, like obituaries and mortuary records, and found a large spike in the number of infant deaths occurring in Vernal in recent years. She found 11 other incidents in 2013 where Vernal mothers had given birth to stillborn babies, or whose babies died within a few days of being born.

Vernal’s full-time population is only about 9,800.

The rate of neonatal deaths in Vernal has climbed from about equivalent to the national average in 2010, to six times the national average in 2013.

Along with the surge in oil and gas drilling in the Vernal area over the last few years, the winter time air in the Uintah basin, where Vernal sits, has become dense with industrial smog generated by drilling rigs, pipelines, wells and increased traffic.

“DrillingAhead.com” Gives Inside Look at Problems, Accidents and Worker Behavior in Oil and Gas Field

DrillingAhead.com is a worldwide networking website for employees of the oil and gas field. Rotating news stories on the the site’s front page have headlines like “Fingertip Amputation Hangs Over Chesapeak Energy,” “2 Dead, 9 Injured After Oilfield Explosion Near Orla, Texas,” and “Texas Newspaper Investigation Questions Oilfield Safety; Says 663 Killed in 6 Years.” The latter story discusses the U.S. federal government’s failure to enforce safety standards on drilling rigs.

DrillingAhead.com also lets oil and gas field workers upload videos of what they see  at their worksites. So far workers have uploaded almost 16,000 videos onto the site, with many showing accidents and workers screwing around. One video titled “Directional Drilling Nightmare” shows a drill bit gone awry and surfacing in a nearby field, spewing mud and fluid around the area. Others show workers sleeping on the job, and another shows a gas plant exploding in fire at an unnamed location in Colorado. Another truly incredible video shows drilling rig workers engaging in a pipe-licking contest (video at left), where two men actually try to outdo each other for the length of time they can hold their tongues against an active, circulating vertical section of pipe.

DrillingAhead.com also links to a fascinating Flickr site featuring still photos of “Oilfield Accidents.” Photos show frightened workers clinging desperately to the railing of a severely listing offshore rig, an offshore rig sinking into the water, a truck impaled by oilfield equipment, rigs that have collapsed or caught fire (or both), and rigs completely encased in ice.

DrillingAhead.com gives a detailed inside look at the actual operation of drilling rigs around the world as seen by the workers themselves, and in so doing does plenty to undermine confidence — if there ever was any — in how drilling operations are carried out worldwide.

In fact, DrillingAhead.com provides ample justification to worry mightily about the safety and integrity of oil and gas drilling operations everywhere.

 

Colorado Ballot Initiative Puts Rights of People Over Corporate Rights

corporate_logo_flag_new-500x333Think businesses have too many rights over citizens? Then attend a free informational session Tuesday, April 29 in Grand Junction about the groundbreaking Ballot Initiative #75, the “Right to Local Self-Government,” also known as the “Colorado Community Rights Amendment.” Initiative #75 would amend Colorado’s constitution to make the rights of people superior to corporate rights. It is now moving to the petitioning stage, and if it passes, will give local communities “the power to enact local laws establishing, defining, altering, or eliminating the rights, powers, and duties of corporations and other business entities operating or seeking to operate in the community.” Initiative #75 would bar the state from forcing unwanted for-profit corporate projects onto unwilling communities. It would let communities have the final say in whether they want to allow pursuits like hazardous waste dumps, factory farms, fracking, GMO crops, etc., near houses, schools, playgrounds, etc. Communities would be able to make these decisions freely, without the threat of lawsuits by the state or by corporations or their lobbying groups..

What: Informational session on Ballot Initiative #75
When: Tuesday, April 29 at 6:00 p.m.
Where: Mesa County Public Library, Central branch (5th St. and Grand Ave.)
Who: By the ballot initiative’s main listed proponent, Cliff Willmeng, a registered nurse from Lafayette, CO.

America’s Biggest Terrorist Threat? “Patriotic” Americans

Chart showing the growth of militant "patriot," anti-government groups in the U.S.

Chart showing the growth of militant “patriot” anti-government groups in the U.S.

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

Gun Maker Freaks Out, Retaliates Against Colorado Gun Safety Bill

Magpul's Internet Ad

Magpul’s Internet Ad

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.

They Said It Couldn’t Be Done: NY State Passes Comprehensive Gun Safety Bill

Sandy Hook victims

Sandy Hook victims

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

NRA Puts President Obama’s Kids in the Political Crosshairs

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.

NRA Blocks Data Collection on Public Health Impact of Guns

stopsignbulletholesThe 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.

Obama Takes on America’s Gun Violence Epidemic

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.

Gun Backlash Gathers Steam

Protesters mass in Washington, D.C. to demand action against  gun slaughter (Credit:Fox News, D.C.)

Protesters mass in Washington, D.C. to demand action against gun slaughter (Credit:Fox News, D.C.)

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.

Gun Laws Determined by Those Who Participate in Democracy

Guest post by Ken Gordon, former Majority Leader of the Colorado Senate

Former Colorado Senate Majority Leader Ken Gordon

It would take you less than an hour to drive from Columbine High School to the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora. Both venues are in the suburbs of Denver and subject to the laws created by the Colorado Legislature.

Few politicians have mentioned laws when talking about the shooting in Aurora. The following story will help explain this reluctance.

I was the Minority Leader in the Colorado House when the Columbine shooting occurred.

Most of the guns used at Columbine were bought at the Tanner Gun Show in Adams County. Robyn Anderson, a friend of the Columbine shooters, Harris and Klebold, went with them to the show, and helped them buy the guns. She testified in a House hearing that they purposefully bought guns at tables that were not federally licensed dealers, because they did not want to give their names and addresses for a background check.

Following Columbine, I sponsored the legislation to require background checks for any purchase at a gun show. We referred to it as “closing the gun show loophole.”

Family of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. Files $21 Million Civil Rights Lawsuit Against White Plains Police

Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr.’s family (Screen capture from Democracy Now! video)

The family of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. has filed a $21 million civil rights lawsuit against the City White Plains, New York and the White Plains Police Department. Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr., 68, was shot dead inside his own home in the early morning on November 19, 2011 by White Plains police after he accidentally set off his life aid medical alert pendant while sleeping. Police arrived at his apartment, but responded as though a crime was in progress instead of as if responding to potential medical emergency. The police knocked in Chamberlain’s door and demanded he open it. Chamberlain told the police he was okay, and didn’t need their help, but the police continued to pound on Chamberlain’s door, yelling racial slurs and demanding Chamberlain open the door.  Afraid, Chamberlain refused. Police then broke down Chamberlain’s door, shot him with a taser, then fired beanbags at him. Finally, White Plains Police Officer Anthony Carelli shot Chamberlain dead. Police claimed Chamberlain tried to attack them with a knife. Video from a camera on the taser gun surfaced in May, showing police breaking down Chamberlain’s door and shooting him with the taser. Chamberlain is seen standing inside his apartment, shirtless and wearing boxer shorts. The family filed the lawsuit just under two months after a Westchester County grand jury refused to indict Police Officer Anthony Carelli for the shooting.

Source: Democracy Now! July 2, 2012

TSA Complaints Reveal Travelers’ Humiliation and Torment

It took four years, but the Transportation Security Administration finally fulfilled a 2008 Freedom-of-Information-Act (FOIA) request by the investigative journalism group ProPublica for documents detailing complaints against the agency. The information ProPublica received revealed some extraordinarily intrusive searches that caused the subjects substantial humiliation, pain, and in some cases physical injury. In one case, a female traveler complained that a TSA screener asked her to remove her prosthetic breast so they could swab her for explosives. Another traveler accompanying her wheelchair-bound mother reported that TSA screeners made her mother get out of the wheelchair and walk during security screening. As a result, the woman fell and was injured. Another traveler reported packing a full bottle of Jack Daniels whiskey in his luggage, only to arrive to find the bottle almost empty. Other travelers complained that after TSA searches they were were missing money, jewelry and laptop computers. When ProPublica asked TSA why it took four years for them to send the documents, they received an apology and were told the agency gets 800 requests a year for similar information. TSA also blamed the volume of records they had to review to fulfill the request, even though their total response turned out to be only 87 pages long.

Source: ProPublica, May 4, 2012