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Ten days after an 18-year-old male, clad in body armor and wielding a semi-automatic weapon, walked into a grocery store in Buffalo and killed 11 people, targeting ten Black patrons, another 18-year-old male, wielding a fully loaded weapon walked into an elementary school in Uvalde Texas and killed 22 people, 19 of them children under the age of 10.
The echoes of the Charleston massacre in 2015 and the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012 are deafening. Yet it just keeps happening.
There was a time when we might have thought that the mass shooting of an elementary school would have been the final straw. Targeting tiny children in their classrooms, randomly gunning them down in front of their friends who had to witness the carnage, the horror endured by the families of the victims would seem to be the sort of thing that would shock the collective conscience. And back in 2012, it did. But just for a little while. There was bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill, law enforcement and right-wing media were in accord, and even the NRA's board understood that this had crossed a line. A teenage boy had obtained a semi-automatic rifle, killed his mother, and gunned down 20 first-graders and six teachers in an elementary school. Something had to be done.
Then Wayne LaPierre, the undisputed leader of the gun rights movement and then the head of the National Rifle Association (NRA), put his foot down. He appeared at a press conference in Washington at which everyone expected him to offer a compromise on the NRA's rigid refusal to contemplate any gun reform measures at all. But he didn't. Instead, he gave a barn burner of a speech in which rather than offering some concessions, he doubled down. He famously proclaimed:
The only way — the only way — to stop a monster from killing our kids is to be personally involved and invested in a plan of absolute protection. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. What if, when Adam Lanza started shooting his way into Sandy Hook elementary school last Friday, he'd been confronted by qualified armed security?
All reforms of the gun laws stalled from that point forward. The right, completely in the clutches of the gun lobby, never engaged in good faith again. Even the horrifying image of grade school kids being sprayed with semi-automatic gunfire didn't move them.
The NRA and LaPierre have since been disgraced in a series of financial scandals but as is so common on the right, their dishonesty and corruption haven't reduced their clout with the GOP. As a matter of fact, they are holding their annual meeting in Texas on Friday:
LaPierre's "good guy with a gun" speech laid down the law that the only acceptable response to mass gun violence was to call for more guns --- arming teachers, armed security in public buildings, arming parishioners in churches etc. And it remains in effect today. They speak of "hardening targets" and recommending open carry laws that allow average "good guys" to be armed and ready at all times to try to stop a committed mass murderer. Yesterday, in the wake of the shooting they all dutifully spouted the party line:
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When asked why people are opposed to this supposed solution, Fox News' Jeanine Pirro said it's because they are "triggered if there is someone with a gun, they are frightened, that is this new narrative. You see a gun, you should be frightened as opposed to appreciating what they are doing for you!" People being afraid of guns. Imagine that.
As it happens, this fatuous "good guy with a gun" nonsense has been fully refuted by the recent mass killings. The murderers in New York and Texas encountered armed police and security guards and were able to thwart them by wearing body armor, one successfully killing the ex-police officer guarding the store in Buffalo, the other injuring several officers with whom he exchanged fire in Uvalde. It took a SWAT team to finally bring Tuesday's shooter down.
One would think that banning body armor for personal use would be a no-brainer but it's widely considered by the gun activists to fall under the 2nd Amendment, so any hope of banning its use is probably also off-limits. Gun proliferation zealots say they need it for when the civil war comes and the snowflake libs come knocking on their door. Breaking a filibuster for any gun-related legislation is impossible and the far-right judiciary probably wouldn't uphold it anyway.
Ever since 2008 when the Supreme Court declared for the first time in District of Columbia v. Heller that the 2nd Amendment provides an individual right to bear arms, Republican-run states have been loosening their gun laws to the point they really don't exist in some places like Texas. The killer apparently went out on his 18th birthday and bought himself two semi-automatic rifles, no muss, no fuss. (The law that had been in place in Texas barring anyone under 21 from owning and possessing firearms was repealed in 2019.) New York doesn't bar 18year olds from buying guns either and for reasons that are unclear, the red flag laws designed to alert authorities to a potential shooter with mental illness didn't work before the Buffalo massacre.
Just this week, a federal three-judge panel ruled that it's unconstitutional to deny 18-year-olds the right to own guns.
"America would not exist without the heroism of the young adults who fought and died in our revolutionary army," Judge Ryan Nelson wrote. "Today we reaffirm that our Constitution still protects the right that enabled their sacrifice: the right of young adults to keep and bear arms."
One can't help but think of another 18-year-old mass killer, Kyle Rittenhouse, last seen hobnobbing at Mar-a-Lago with Donald Trump, feted by everyone on the right for his heroic killing of three unarmed protesters.
As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, the Supreme Court will be handing down a decision backed by the extremist gun rights movement this term that will likely hobble any state that currently has gun restrictions on the books. If the Court goes all the way under a new "text, history and tradition" test, they will declare that public safety is no longer the proper rationale for any gun regulation. You have to wonder if they will take into account whether the American "history and tradition" of young men armed with semi-automatic weapons mowing down masses of innocent people should be considered instead.
President Biden spoke to the nation last night in his capacity of mourner-in-chief. He's always effective at that. And he asked an important question:
"As a nation we have to ask, 'When in God's name are we going to stand up to the gun lobby? When in God's name do we do what we all know in our gut needs to be done?"
The Democrats are more than willing to stand up to the gun lobby. The question is rightfully asked of Republicans who consistently block all gun safety legislation and are prepared to use the courts to unleash a free-for-all of gun violence in the name of "freedom." If repeated massacres, even of tiny children, automatically evoke calls to put more guns in schools and on the streets I think we know the answer: Never.
I can't think of anything that illustrates Republican nihilism more starkly than that.
Putin is 'out of options' and Russian military realizes it 'picked up a fight with NATO in the wrong place': expert
In an interview with The New Yorker published this Wednesday, Russian investigative journalist Andrei Soldatov discussed Russia's setbacks in its invasion of Ukraine, saying that it's clear that the Russian government "now understands that it’s going to be a long, conventional war, not the small military operation they pretended it would be."
According to Soldatov, Russian President Vladimir Putin is "out of options."
"He’s quite limited. He got himself in a big war, and right now the military is finally quite convinced that they are fighting a really big war, not just some limited conflict," Soldatov said. "So what’s he going to do? He needs to vow to keep going in Ukraine. And he understands that he’s fighting a conventional army, not some group of Nazis."
Soldatov went on to say that the Russian army is "on the losing end, because the Ukrainian Army is a completely mobilized army that actually claims it can call on hundreds of thousands more in reserves." There is also a realization within the Russian military that it "picked up a fight with NATO in the wrong place."
At this point, the most interesting thing about Russia's invasion is that no one really knows what Putin's goals are, Soldatov says.
"The thinking is that, look, we are sustaining heavy casualties and suffering a lot, so the goal of occupying the Donbas cannot be the objective of such a war. We need something a bit more ambitious, and some pro-military channels on Telegram have just conducted polls and asked their subscribers, 'What do you think? When will the objective for this war be achieved?' And only six per cent of people said that it would be achieved with the 'liberation' of the Donbas, while thirty-three per cent said it would be when the whole of Ukraine capitulates unconditionally. People in the military and people close to the military want something much more ambitious than what Putin is saying."
Read the full interview at The New Yorker.
Tuesday night was a disappointment for most of former President Donald Trump’s endorsed Republican candidates in Georgia’s statewide races.
Herschel Walker, a former UGA football star and Trump surrogate in Georgia, ran away with a primary win and is set for general election fight against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock. But Gov. Brian Kemp, the former president’s best frenemy, easily defeated former Sen. David Perdue for the Republican’s right to a rematch with Democrat Stacey Abrams this fall.
Trump is credited with propelling Kemp past then-Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle to secure the Republican nomination in 2018. But Kemp became one of Trump’s favorite targets after he refused to help overturn the 2020 election results.
Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, another major target of Trump ire following the election, dodged a runoff against Trump-backed Jody Hice, a former Republican Congressman who ran on a platform of election conspiracy theories.
Raffensperger, who refused Trump’s request to find additional votes in a now-famous phone call, reportedly received death threats in the aftermath of the 2020 vote, but he is now clear to seek another term against a Democratic challenger who still must survive a runoff.
Attorney General Chris Carr easily fended off a late bid from Trump-backed challenger John Gordon, an attorney involved with Trump’s legal attempts to overturn the 2020 election Joe Biden won. With about 95% of the vote counted, Carr won nearly 75% of the vote and is poised to face Democratic nominee Jen Jordan, an attorney and state senator from Atlanta.
In an exceedingly rare move for a former president, Trump made an endorsement for the state insurance commissioner, backing attorney Patrick Witt against incumbent John King, but King appeared to manage an easy win with more than 70% of votes.
A few hand-picked candidates Trump fared better.
As of early Wednesday, Trump’s favorite for lieutenant governor, state Sen. Burt Jones led fellow Republican state Sen. Butch Miller with 50.1% of the vote to Miller’s 31.1%, but votes were still being counted.
Two Trump favorites for Congress with little political experience face uphill runoffs.
In Congressional District 6, which was newly drawn to favor a Republican candidate, Jake Evans, the son of Trump’s former ambassador to Luxembourg, is set to go to a runoff with former Congressman Rich McCormick, according to the Associated Press. As of midnight, McCormick had about 44.5% of the vote to Evans’ 23%, with half of districts reporting.
Former Democratic state Rep. Vernon Jones, Trump’s pick for east Georgia’s District 10, appears to be in a similar boat. As of midnight, he trailed Mike Collins, the owner of a trucking company, with 89% of precincts reporting, Collins had 25.59% of the vote to Jones’ 21.57%.
Jones originally was a candidate for governor, but decided to run for Congress, reportedly at Trump’s request to make room for Perdue to run for governor against Kemp.
Republican voters at Georgia’s polling places had mixed feelings about the former president.
Rural Gordon County is the type of place where Republican candidates hope to have a solid base of support – it’s represented by conservative stalwart Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and gave Trump more than 80% of the vote in 2020.
But voters at the Soronaville Community Center outside Calhoun said Trump’s endorsement isn’t everything.
Keith Cochran, who works in city government, said he voted for Kemp because he likes the way he’s run the state over the last four years, citing the recent fuel tax cut and school COVID-19 policies. He’s also a dyed-in-the-wool fan of Greene.
“Oh, I just love her. I wish she’d run for president,” he said. “She’s honest. And she’s for the people.”
Trump’s endorsement matters, but not more than what he’s seen with his own eyes.
“(Trump) is a nut, but I think he’s for the people also,” he said. “On the other hand, Biden, he’s giving money away, so we like that, but somebody’s got to pay the price.”
“I take what he says with a grain of salt,” he added.
Others said they have grown disillusioned with Trump following his presidency.
“His endorsement don’t mean nothing to me,” said truck driver Greg Hendrix. “I mean, Trump done good while he was president, but from the election on, he showed us what type of person he was, and I don’t need nobody like that representing our country.”
Hendrix also cast his ballot for Raffensperger, who he credited with standing up to Trump’s “bullying” after the election, and for Herschel Walker, albeit reluctantly. He said Agriculture Commissioner Gary Black would have been his first choice, but he felt Walker’s star power gives him a better shot at beating Sen. Raphael Warnock.
Terry Trivette, an insurance salesman and pastor, acknowledged he is in the minority in his community, but said he is fed up with the Trump wing of his party, adding that he would “write in Mary Poppins” before voting for Greene.
“I’m a conservative,” he said. “I’m a libertarian in a lot of ways, but I’m a conservative when it comes to policy, I’m conservative, I’m just not what this is. This is not conservatism. This is populism, and I don’t like it. It’s brainwashing. So I went with Miss (Jennifer) Strahan, who I think is a sensible candidate, but I don’t know. This woman’s got a stronghold on us too.”
“If you said God and guns enough,” he added with a shrug.
About 80 miles to the southeast, some Gwinnett Republicans expressed similar concerns.
Loganville resident Doug Hall says he was a reliable GOP voter before the 2020 election, when he cast his ballot for President Joe Biden. But he pulled a Republican ballot Tuesday and sought out the candidates who had not received Trump’s blessing, including Black.
Hall said he hopes Georgia voters send a message during a primary that has been closely watched as a referendum on Trump’s lingering power over the national GOP.
“He is not the Republican Party that I want to be affiliated with – at all,” Hall said after voting at the South Gwinnett Baptist Church. “He’s eroded our sense of democracy.”
“I’m not happy with what (Biden’s) done, but we couldn’t keep going down that road (with Trump),” Hall said. “We just couldn’t, so now I’m back to the Republican Party and trying to weed this cancer out of it. Because that’s what it is to me.”
Another Loganville resident who typically votes Republican, Holly Eck, also said she mostly steered clear of Trump-endorsed candidates like Jones.
“I just think he’s an idiot, to say it plainly,” Eck said of Trump.
Looking to November
A voter’s personal opinion appears to be more important than the Trump seal of approval in Georgia, said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock.
“What it suggests is that Trump’s influence is going to be muted by a person who has a record,” Bullock said. “And Kemp, with his four years as governor and everything that has been passed by his administration, that counts for something, whereas an open seat, which Kemp was running for four years ago, the Trump endorsement did make a lot of impact there.”
Trump also issued several endorsements for incumbent Republicans including Greene who were nearly certainly set to win regardless, including some who had no primary opponents.
“Of course, he’ll take full credit for it and brag about it,” Bullock said. “But in reality, what we’re seeing, at least in Georgia, is that simply because Trump smiles at you and gives you his backing, it’s not the be-all-end-all.”
In his concession speech, Perdue pledged to give Kemp his full support against Abrams, but whether Trump does the same is another question. Many blame Trump and his claims of election fraud for depressing Republican turnout in the January 2021 runoffs that sent Democrats Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff to the Senate, tipping the balance of power to their party.
“I think Trump may well do that, because Trump is not really interested in building the Republican Party, he’s interested in building a Trump party,” Bullock said. “Therefore, I’m not sure he’ll ever get behind Kemp. If Trump follows that pattern it could cost Kemp, and cost him dearly, potentially, in that it might induce enough Republicans to – not that they would vote for Stacey Abrams – but to skip over Kemp, in which case, you might see a replay of that January 2021 federal election, where I think Trump probably went a long way toward costing Republicans those two senate seats.”
Georgia Recorder Deputy Editor contributed to this report.
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