*Discussing the prospects of gun control initiatives prompted by the Newtown, Conn. massacre, a former president of the National Rifle Association drew a comparison between attempts to ban guns and racism.
Former NRA president Marion Hammer appearing on an episode of the NRA news show The Daily News on Wednesday.
Host Ginny Simone said toward the end of the segment: “And they even admit this is about banning the ugliest guns, it’s about cosmetics and it has nothing to do about how a firearm works.”
“Well, you know, banning people and things because of the way they look went out a long time ago,” Hammer responded. “But here they are again. The color of a gun. The way it looks. It’s just bad politics.”
Marion Hammer in 1995
By late Friday morning, Hammer’s comments were already being addressed by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) on MSNBC.
“The issue that needs to be discussed is the regulatory power Congress has to regulate assault weapons, regulate magazines and close the loopholes,” Grijalva said on MSNBC Live. “Those are three simple, common sense issues that we need to confront and no amount of trying to equate racism with gun ownership or racism with the ability to carry a weapon passes any muster or has any realm of reality to it.”
Watch Hammer’s comments (“banning people and things” comment comes toward end):
NRA’s top lobbyist Wayne LaPierre announces the creation of the National School Shield program in Washington D.C.
*Several hours after a national moment of silence was observed for those killed in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, the National Rifle Association made its first public comments about the tragedy, suggesting armed faculty and teachers could have prevented the shootings and calling on every school in the nation to have armed police guards stationed on the premises.
The group’s top lobbyist, Wayne LaPierre, said at the Washington news conference, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
LaPierre said the NRA would create the National School Shield program, which will be led by former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.).
“I call on Congress today to act immediately to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every single school in this nation, and to do it now,” LaPierre said. He also blamed the media and video game industry for glorifying violence.
“Because of all the noise and anger directed at us over the past week no one, nobody has addressed the most important pressing and immediate question we face, how do we protect our children right now, starting today, in a way that we know works,” LaPierre said. “Politicians pass laws for gun free school zones. They issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them and in doing so they tell every insane killer in America that schools are the safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.”
LaPierre did not take any questions from the press. He also remained silent as protesters from the female anti-war group Code Pink disrupted the speech twice with banners that read “NRA Killing Our Kids” and shouts against the organization.
The 4.3 million-member National Rifle Association largely disappeared from public debate after the shootings in Newtown, Conn., choosing atypical silence as a strategy as the nation sought answers after the rampage. The NRA took down its Facebook page and kept silent on Twitter, reports the Associated Press.
The group has since re-activated its Facebook account – it has 1.7 million members – and its Twitter feed now warns supporters that “President Obama supports gun control measures, including reinstating an assault weapons ban.” The group also announced that LaPierre planned to appear Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press” program.
This morning at 9:30 ET, a national moment of silence at the urging of Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy was marked in Newtown with church bells chime 26 times, once for each of the victims. President Obama observed the moment of silence privately from Washington.
*One week after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that took the lives of 20 children and six adults, Michelle Obamahas published an open letter addressing the tragedy in Connecticut’s Hartford Courant.
The First Lady writes:
“As a mother of two young daughters, my heart aches for you and your families. Like so many Americans, I wish there were something — anything — I could do or say to ease your anguish,” the First Lady writes in Friday’s edition of the newspaper.
“But I know that I cannot begin to imagine the depths of your grief. I know that for many of you, the pain you are enduring right now seems unbearable; and many of you may be asking yourselves, how can we go on — as families and as a community? But I also know that we have already begun to see the answer to that question in the countless acts of courage, kindness and love here in Newtown and across America.”
“As my husband has said, in the coming weeks, he will use all the powers of his office to engage citizens from across this country to find ways to prevent tragedies like this one. And please know that every minute of every day, we are thinking of you, and praying for you, and holding you and your families in our hearts as you begin the slow and wrenching work of healing and moving forward.”
*Derek Jeter called the mother of Victoria Soto, a young teacher killed while protecting her first-grade students at Sandy Hook Elementary School in last week’s Newtown tragedy.
Jeter telephoned Donna Soto on Wednesday, the same day she buried her daughter, who was a huge fan of the New York Yankees, reports ESPN.com. Carlee Soto, Victoria’s sister, tweeted the family’s excitement about hearing from Jeter.
“Derek Jeter just called my mom!!!!! Thanks Vicki, she needs it thank you @yankees this meant a lot to my mother and all of us,” the tweet read.
James Wiltsie, a cousin of Victoria Soto, told the New York Daily News: “Vicki loved the Yankees — that was part of her eulogy. No one in the family reached out, so (Jeter) must have heard about it and … reached out.”
The Yankees confirmed the phone call, but declined to go into details about the conversation, reports ESPN.
Donna Soto, mother of Victoria Soto, leaves Lordship Community Church after her daughter’s funeral.
The sisters of Victoria Soto depart from the Lordship Community Church following her funeral in Stratford, Connecticut.
Victoria was shot to death Dec. 14 as she shielded her students in her classroom. She was 27.
“Nothing is going to fix the fact that [Donna] had to bury her daughter today,” Wiltsie told the Daily News. “But I’m happy that it brought some comfort. … People like Jeter have reached out. It brings some comfort to know that people recognize Vicki as a hero.”
Victoria was shot to death Dec. 14 as she shielded her students in her classroom. She was 27. “Nothing is going to fix the fact that [Donna] had to bury her daughter today,” Wiltsie told the Daily News. “But I’m happy that it brought some comfort. … People like Jeter have reached out. It brings some comfort to know that people recognize Vicki as a hero.”
President Barack Obama pauses as he speaks during an announcement on gun reform in the Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House Dec. 19, 2012 in Washington, DC.
*President Barack Obama this afternoon confirmed that Vice President Joe Biden will lead a panel to combat gun violence in the aftermath of Friday’s mass shooting in Newtown, Conn, and he is calling for proposals to be handed to him by January. [Scroll down to watch.]
“The fact that this problem is complex can no longer be an excuse for doing nothing,” Obama said at the White House. “The fact that we can’t prevent every act of violence doesn’t mean we can’t steadily reduce the violence and prevent the very worst violence.”
The Biden-led working group will produce “concrete proposals” by January that Obama said he “intend[s] to push without delay” and will include them in his State of the Union Address. Biden joined Obama at the announcement but did not speak.
“There’s already a growing consensus for us to build from,” Obama said. “A majority of Americans support banning the sale of military-style assault weapons. A majority of Americans support banning the sale of high-capacity ammunition clips. A majority of American support laws requires background checks before all gun purchases.” The new Congress, he said, should vote on all these measures and prioritize confirming a new leader for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Reminded by ABC’s Jake Tapper that Newtown wasn’t the first mass shooting to take place during his presidency, he asked Obama, “Where have you been?”
“Here’s where I’ve been … I’ve been president of the United States dealing with the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, an auto industry on the verge of collapse, two wars. I don’t think I’ve been on vacation,” Obama said sternly. “I think all of us have to do some reflection on how we prioritize what we do here in Washington.”
Obama’s announcement — in the White House briefing room, named for James Brady, a Reagan press secretary who was wounded by a gunshot in an assassination attempt — was the third time in five days that he addressed the massacre that killed 20 first-graders and six adults at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
“This should be a wake-up call for all of us” that there’s more to be done to keep the country safe.
“If we work harder to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people, there would be fewer atrocities like the one in Newtown, or any of the lesser known tragedies that visit small towns and big cities all across America every day,” he said, listing several fatal shootings that have happened since Friday. “Each one of these Americans was a victim of the everyday gun violence that takes the lives of more than 10,000 Americans every year, violence that we cannot accept as routine.”
But as Obama pledged to take action to combat violence, he toed a narrow line, reaffirming his belief that the Second Amendment “guarantees an individual a right to bear arms” and that the country has “a strong tradition of gun ownership.”
Attorney General Eric Holder, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano will work on the effort, a White House official said, according to Politico.com. Outside groups will be consulted, but the official would not specify which groups will be involved.
Reaction from gun-control advocates to the president’s announcement was positive.
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he spoke to Biden earlier Wednesday and offered “my full support for his efforts.”
*David Sirota, a columnist for Salon.com, insists that those who commit the kind of mass shooting that was carried out at Sandy Hook Elementary School are most often white men – the only group in America that is “not allowed to be profiled.”
Sirota made his comments Sunday on MSNBC”s “Up with Chris Hayes” during a discussion about the possible policy recommendations that could be adopted in the wake of the tragedy which may prevent future shootings.
When the question of profiling came up, Sirota said, if the shooter was any race other than white, the debate over policy measures to prevent these types of events in the future would have been “uglier.”
Hayes said the thought that policy makers in Washington will be moved to do something about this tragedy. He said he could envision lawmakers calling for a more invasive surveillance regime.
Sirota agreed, but said that the political impediment to that was the fact that most mass shooting suspects are white.
“The issue with it will be, politically, I think; the profile is white men,” Sirota said. “That’s a profile that’s not, essentially, in America allowed to be profiled. That’s the one profile in America that’s not allowed to be profiled.”
Sirota said that he thought that, if the shooter belonged to a different demographic, the debate about how to address this mass shooting would be “much uglier.” Hayes agreed.
Sirota closed by wondering if the Republican party would have the same reaction to this event and policy recommendations to address it as they did to a report by the Department of Homeland Security raising question about the threats posed by right-wing militias. “Republicans said, ‘this is a way to demonize white America’ or ‘good, god-fearing America,” Sirota said.