Another School Shooting — On National School Walkout Day

Today is National School Walkout Day. Students in schools across the country are planning to walk out of school at 10:00 am (in each time zone) in an effort to draw attention to gun violence reform.

Students at Forest High School in Ocala, Florida were planning to participate in National School Walkout Day, but they never got the opportunity. Instead, students were evacuated from the building after the 20th U.S. school shooting of 2018.

From CNN:

A student was wounded and a suspect is in custody after a shooting Friday morning at a high school in Ocala, Florida, according to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office.

The student was shot in the ankle, said Kevin Christian, Marion Public Schools spokesman. It’s the 20th US school shooting this year.

Authorities asked residents to avoid the area of Forest High School, which was surrounded by emergency vehicles and buses transporting students away from the scene…

…School walkouts were canceled districtwide in Marion County after the Forest High shooting, according to school board member Nancy Stacy.

Today the Washington Post published a database of school shootings in America that already needs to be updated:

The federal government does not track school shootings, so The Post pieced together its numbers from news articles, open-source databases, law enforcement reports and calls to schools and police departments.

The children impacted grew with each round of reporting: from 135,000 studentsin at least 164 primary and secondary schools to more than 187,000 on 193 campuses.

Since March, The Post has taken a closer look at states with fewer local news sources and searched more deeply for less visible public suicides and accidents that led to injury.

The count now stands at more than 206,000 children at 211 schools.

When is it enough?

Today is also the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School shootings.

Robert Mercer is a Volunteer Sheriff in Yuma (No, Really)

UPDATE: Blair Miller of Denver7 catches up with Yuma County Sheriff Chad Day and asks for some clarifications that never come:

In an interview Monday, Day didn’t deny using the LEEF grants or having a volunteer program like the “sheriff’s posse.” But on multiple occasions, he declined to say who worked as volunteers, though he denied having any sort of tit-for-tat arrangement with Mercer or LEEF.

“To be clear, there certainly is no quid pro quo arrangement,” Day told Denver7.

He said a friend of his told him about the LEEF grants, and that he’d applied and been awarded several of the projects he’d applied for. An archived LEEF website notes that its mission is to “help law enforcement officers and agencies in training, equipment, matching funds and family line-of-duty funds grant.”

“They certainly weren’t some sort of trade for volunteer work,” Day said. “[The writer’s] assertion was that I was granting [LEOSA] status in exchange for those things…that’s not true.”

Miller had less luck hearing back from the attorney for the Yuma County Sheriff’s office…

Lees did not respond to a phone message left Monday requesting further clarification the statements attributed to him by Bloomberg.

…or from Mercer:

A spokesperson at Renaissance Technologies, where Mercer is still employed, declined to comment Monday. An email to Mercer requesting comment was not returned. Requests for comment made to the LEEF also went unreturned Monday.

Sheriff day was adamant to Blair that Mercer would or did not receive any “special treatment.”

Oh, and guess who else didn’t have a comment?

Yuma is also home to Colorado’s Republican U.S. Senator, Cory Gardner, whose spokesman said he didn’t know anything about the story aside from what he’d read in Bloomberg. [Pols emphasis]

—–

Billionaire right-wing donor Robert Mercer is apparently a volunteer sheriff’s deputy in Yuma County, Colorado — largely so he can legally carry a gun wherever he goes.

Bloomberg News has a story today about a new “sheriff” in town by the name of Robert Mercer (yes, the very same):

For most of the past six years, Mercer was a volunteer policeman in the tiny town of Lake Arthur, New Mexico, an arrangement that allowed him to carry a concealed weapon in any U.S. state under a law that applies only to law-enforcement officers. As Bloomberg Businessweek reported last month, Mercer gave up his New Mexico badge for undisclosed reasons in September. The mayor of Lake Arthur shut the volunteer program last week.

But the 71-year-old financier is still in the law-enforcement game. Last week, a lawyer for the office of Sheriff Chad Day of Yuma County, Colorado, confirmed that Mercer is a volunteer member of the agency. [Pols emphasis]

“From time to time, he serves in certain roles as designated by the sheriff,” said the lawyer, Robert Lees, who also helped set up the sheriff’s volunteer posse. Yuma is a rural county with a population of about 10,000 that borders Nebraska and Kansas.

You really need to read this entire story for yourself. There are a lot of unanswered questions here that will almost certainly be fodder for future news stories (Vanity Fair has already picked up on the Bloomberg story).

Cory Gardner with Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

Mercer is the hedge-fund billionaire who spent a great deal of money helping to elect Donald Trump, after his initial crush, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, fizzled out. Mercer is thought to be the single-biggest individual donor in the 2016 election cycle, and his money has funded a variety of right-wing interests from Breitbart News to Cambridge Analytica to whatever weird crap Steve Bannon was concocting.

In 2016, Mercer’s foundation bought a brand-new Dodge Ram 1500 Limited pickup truck for the Yuma County Sheriff’s “official use.” Mercer’s “Law Enforcement Education Foundation” has also donated $20,000 worth of tasers to Yuma County, and Yuma Sheriff Chad Day says that he is hopeful that they will receive a grant to buy a bunch of new handguns.

In exchange for this generosity, Yuma County rounded up itself a posse:

Lees confirmed that two Mercer associates, George Wells and Peter Pukish, had also joined the sheriff’s office. Both men had previously volunteered alongside Mercer in New Mexico. Wells is Mercer’s son-in-law, and Pukish is a family friend and longtime employee. Both are officers of the Law Enforcement Education Foundation. Wells and Pukish didn’t respond to requests for comment.

“In addition to whatever donations they made, these people bring certain qualifications to the table,” Lees said of the three men.

The Yuma County posse has about two dozen members, Day said, of whom seven or eight live outside the county. [Pols emphasis] He said some but not all posse members qualify for privileges under the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, the 2004 federal law that allows officers to carry concealed weapons nationwide.

Yuma County Sheriff Chad Day

The Yuma County Sheriff’s office only has about seven 21 employees in total, though the city of Yuma has its own police department. According to Bloomberg, Mercer was connected to Day via Rocky Mountain Gun Owners head honcho Dudley Brown. Reporters Zachary Mider and Zeke Faux apparently didn’t realize — or declined to mention — that Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner just so happens to be from…Yuma, Colorado. It’s no secret that Gardner has been having a hell of a time raising money for the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC); it’s probably a good guess that this little arrangement helps open Mercer’s checkbook. Or, maybe this is all just a really weird coincidence.

This is a pretty incredible tale, and here’s the cherry on top:

Sheriff Day rejected a Bloomberg News request this month under Colorado’s public-records law for documents relating to Mercer and his associates, including information on their qualifications and duties. He said disclosing the names of volunteers could endanger their safety.

“Some of my volunteer resources are directly involved in confidential undercover operations that involve direct ties and associations with the Mexican Cartel which has a presence in my area,” Day wrote in an earlier email. “It would not be safe tactically or personally to identify individuals who serve in association with those types of cases.” [Pols emphasis]

According to the sheriff of Yuma County, billionaire right-wing donor Robert Mercer is a key cog in confidential undercover operations involving the Mexican Cartel, and that’s why he gets to carry a concealed weapon wherever he goes.

Sure thing.

Vermont Takes Action on Gun Violence

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott

As CNN reports, Vermont Republican Gov. Phil Scott has signed his name to legislation with some real proposals for combating gun violence:

As he signed the measures, Scott, a Republican, called himself a Second Amendment supporter who owns guns and has hunted his whole life. But he said continued mass shootings in the United States and a recently foiled school shooting plot at Fair Haven Union High School in Vermont “forced me to do some soul searching.”

“I want every student and every school, every mom and dad, every victim of violence in any form to know that today we stand together as we take steps towards making our community safer for all of us,” Scott said.

Vermont’s new law raises the minimum age for gun buyers to 21; bans bump stocks; requires gun transactions to be facilitated by a licensed dealer who would perform background checks; and limits rifle magazines to 10 rounds.

We’re not holding our breath that either Congress or the Colorado legislature will advance any sort of meaningful gun violence legislation anytime soon, but kudos to Vermont lawmakers for showing that it can be done in a bipartisan manner.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 29)

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► The story of the involvement of Colorado Republicans with much-maligned Cambridge Analytica is only getting worse. Multiple news outlets reported on the latest news about the use of data mined by Cambridge Analytica. Here’s 9News:

Data collected from millions of Facebook users by a British firm could still be available, even after Facebook said steps were taken to ensure that data was deleted.

That includes campaign data from more than 100,000 Coloradans, according to an investigation by ITN Channel 4 News in the United Kingdom, a partner of NBC News.

Channel 4 News did not name the source from Cambridge Analytica that provided that campaign data, but reported that data included personality and psychological information about 136,000 Coloradans.

“There was information about my political views, there was a personality profile, personality characteristic,” said Debra Kooser, who lives in Arvada and was interviewed for the Channel 4 News investigation. “Whether you were introverted or extroverted, whether you were open or closed, whether you were neurotic or not neurotic—I remember that one.”

 

► Lawmakers in Vermont are nearing the finish line on legislation designed to make a real impact on reducing gun violence:

 

► It’s budget debate time in the Colorado legislature. Brian Eason has more for the Denver Post.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Reyher equates guns with scissors and forks and believes young people “don’t understand” what they are marching about

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

A Colorado lawmaker says she can “no longer be silent” about “so many good young people” who “can’t even see reason” and “don’t understand” what they are marching about.

State Rep. Judy Reyher (R-Swink) made the comments on Facebook, where she wondered why protesters aren’t concerned about scissors, forks, steak knives, keys, and the “spike heel on shoes.”

“And every one of those items can cause bodily harm or death,” wrote Reyher. “The spike heel on shoes can cause death if used as a weapon. Yet none of these items are in danger of being banned from use.”

Last week, Reyher shared a Facebook post stating that if the students who are “walking out of school to protest gun violence” would stop bullying “their peers to the point of mental breakdown in the first place, this wouldn’t be happening.”

Reyher’s comments on Facebook (African Americans are “hatred-filled beings.”) and to The Denver Post (Black people “hate white people with a passion.”) generated national media attention last year, prior to her appointment to fill a vacancy seat in the Colorado State House. Reyher insists she is not a racist.

Reyher wrote on Facebook this week that “the protestors have been lied to for so long and can’t even see reason. I will never give up my guns and know many people who feel the same way. I am a Patron Life Member of the National Rifle Association and am a supporter. It makes me very sad that so many Americans are falling for the notion that disarmed is safer.”

On Facebook, Reyher explaind that a  “mom” contacted  Reyher to express the view that it’s “‘cheaper’ to take all of the guns than it would be to pay for school safety measures.”

“To my way of thinking,” wrote Reyher, “that is an odd way to say you want your children safe. But this is just an example of how warped the thinking of these people are who think disarmament is the way to go.

Reyher faces a primary challenge from fellow Republican Don Bendell.

Social Media Helps Bust Coal-Rolling Asshole

As the Steamboat Pilot and Today reports, Saturday’s March for Our Lives demonstration against gun violence in the northwest Colorado ski resort town of Steamboat Springs was marred by a particular form of vehicular belligerence that has been recently outlawed in the state of Colorado, and we’ve discussed in this space a few times–“rolling coal.”

A driver was cited by Steamboat Springs police Sunday after interrupting a peaceful demonstration with an obnoxious cloud of dark exhaust.

The local “March For Our Lives” demonstration was held early Saturday evening on the Routt County Courthouse lawn. It was part of a nationwide movement aimed at raising awareness around gun violence and school safety…

Saturday’s peaceful protest turned hostile when a blue pickup drove by and spewed exhaust at the demonstrators on the sidewalk.

Demonstrators took pictures of the incident, and the truck’s license plate was clearly visible.

CBS Denver reports that one coal-rolling counterprotester in Steamboat Springs was identified from photos taken by demonstrators as Alex Graham, 20-year-old journeyman asshole from Routt County. You’ll notice in the photo above that Graham’s mean machine is a bit of a jalopy–featuring a number of missing parts we assume were cannibalized to keep the trailer Graham lives in from collapsing while he watches The Price is Right and smokes cigarettes in his off-off-white underwear on weekday mornings. CBS also has a photo of a second coal-roller in Steamboat who has yet to be identified:

Who you can also rank among life’s winners!

It’s possible that these fine gentlemen were not aware that the Colorado General Assembly passed a law last year specifically outlawing the practice of “rolling coal,” which has only increased in popularity as right-wing diesel truck owners sought out an appropriate response to the growing demonstrations against guns, groping, and other unsavory ole-boy pastimes since Donald Trump became President.

We’re sorry, but while ignorance can certainly be offensive, ignorance of the law is no defense.

Massive #MarchForOurLives Completes Full Circle From 2013

As the Denver Post reports, though plenty of our readers are still unwinding and resting their feet:

Thousands of protesters filled Civic Center park Saturday afternoon for Denver’s rally and march against gun violence, one among hundreds taking place across America and around the world following last month’s Florida high school shooting that claimed 17 lives…

Demonstrators — their ranks punctuated by schoolchildren and parents and many carrying signs denouncing gun violence in schools — began marching through downtown Denver after a nearly two-hour rally, during which many were crowded shoulder to shoulder.

CBS Denver:

James McDermott, a senior at Jefferson County Open High School, said Saturday’s rally and march is part of a larger movement for student safety. He told CBS4 he got involved in the organization of the event because he believes a change in laws to protect students like him is long overdue.

“Quite frankly I’d like to just see some action and some legislation. It’s been 20 years without much legislation and with the dogs that died on airlines — a tragedy in itself — it took days for Congressmen to say enough is enough with that, and how many school shootings does there have to be before they realize that student lives are important,” McDermott said.

We haven’t seen an estimate of the crowd that turned out yesterday to march in support of stronger gun control laws, but from the aerial video you can see above the crowd was quite massive–easily the biggest such event since the Women’s March in January. Since the school shooting in Parkland, Florida in February, the movement for stronger gun laws in America has exploded into the popular consciousness in much the same way the treatment of women in the workplace was catalyzed into a broadly unifying issue by President Donald Trump’s election. The public is speaking out en masse to create space for change that the politicians heretofore have not shown the courage to get behind.

Former Colorado Senators John Morse and Angela Giron (D-Vindicated).

Except in Colorado. In 2013, following another terrible mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora the previous year, Colorado’s Democratic-controlled legislature took the lead on this issue with new laws addressing background checks as well as the magazine capacity of semiautomatic weapons–both key to reducing the number and severity of mass shootings.

Democrats in Colorado paid a heavy price for their foresight, with two state senators recalled before 2013 ended and a third who chose to resign rather than suffer the same fate. For a little while, before Democrats retook all of those seats in the next two elections, it seemed like Colorado’s experience with gun control might be a cautionary tale rather than a model.

In the streets of Denver and across the nation yesterday, that question was put to rest forever.

The Big Budget Deal, Guns, and Gardner

Trump sign bill, but Trump still mad!

After briefly threatening a veto — and randomly asking Congress to give him line item veto powers (and eliminating the filibuster) — President Trump today signed a massive $1.3 trillion spending deal that includes changes to background checks for gun purchases that Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) opposed to the very end. If that sentence seems complicated…well, it is. There’s no easy way to unpack the giant omnibus spending bill rammed through by Congress early this morning.

Let’s start things off with the Washington Post reporting from the White House:

Just hours after threatening a veto, President Trump said Friday afternoon that he had signed a “ridiculous” $1.3 trillion spending bill passed by Congress early Friday and averted a government shutdown…

…But speaking to reporters at the White House about four hours later, Trump said he had decided to sign the bill despite his reservations, arguing that it provides much-needed funding for the military, including a pay increase for troops and new equipment.

In his remarks to the media today, Trump was in full angry old man mode. From the New York Times:

In a rambling and disjointed 20-minute statement from the Diplomatic Reception Room, Mr. Trump denigrated the bill, which was rushed through the House and the Senate by members of his own Republican Party, as “crazy” and vowed to never “sign another bill like this again.”

“Nobody read it,” Mr. Trump said of the sweeping funding measure drawn up by Republican leaders in the House and the Senate. Echoing criticism from those who voted against the measure, Mr. Trump added, “It’s only hours old.”

Trump specifically addressed his anger about the 2,322-page spending bill that lawmakers could not have possibly even begun to have read before voting on the measure. The House version of the bill made it to the floor on Thursday after just 16 hours of debate; all four Colorado Republican members of Congress voted to end discussion, moving things along with a narrow 211-207 result. Colorado Reps. Mike Coffman (R-Aurora) and Ken Buck (R-Greeley) were ultimately able to vote “YES” and “NO” on the proposal (Coffman and Buck voted YES on the procedural move before pressing the “NO” button on the final vote).

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

Over in the Senate, the spending bill passed with 62 votes; Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Denver) voted “YES” and Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) was a “NO.” Gardner’s vote is particularly interesting because the bill included the “Fix NICS” background check provision that Gardner had been blocking for weeks. The next time Gardner pretends to be concerned about gun violence, remember that he prevented the popular background fix measure from being debated in the Senate and ultimately voted against its final approval.

What else do we know about the giant omnibus spending bill? As CNN’s Gregory Krieg explains, it’s important to consider everything that was NOT bundled into the legislation, such as: 1) DACA and immigration reform, 2) Billions of dollars for Trump’s border wall, and 3) Serious attempts at preventing gun violence, including no new limits on gun purchases.

How did this all happen so quickly? As Sarah Binder writes for the Washington Post, this was Republican strategerie at work:

One of the reasons GOP leaders were keen to rush the bill to a vote is that they didn’t want their partisan base to notice that it both funds innumerable Democratic priorities and blocks the Trump administration from doing such things as expanding detention of immigrants, defunding sanctuary cities, and ending federal funding for the arts, to name a few. [Pols emphasis] The Trump White House and many conservatives wanted deep cuts to domestic programs. Party leaders ignored that. The more quickly the two chambers vote, the less time potential opponents have to unearth details that could outrage the GOP base, who might pressure their representatives to vote against the deal.

To summarize, Congressional Republicans rammed through a humongous spending bill that they didn’t read and didn’t really like that does very little to address their political vulnerabilities on gun violence and immigration reform…and will also likely anger their base of supporters.

Fix NICS: Cory Gardner Clings To Hope That You’re Stupid

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma).

Denver7’s Blair Miller follows up on a big story we’ve been trying to get more information on since it broke over a week ago–an appearance on CBS’ Face the Nation by Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, in which Gardner was unexpectedly questioned about a secret hold he allegedly has placed on a bill to strengthen background checks on gun purchases.

Apparently Gardner really doesn’t want to cop to this one:

Many Senate bills often pass by unanimous consent so they don’t have to undergo dozens of hours of hearings and markups before a possible roll call vote. As such, some wondered how a bill that has a veto-proof number of cosponsors in the Senate was held up from being pushed through via unanimous consent, and whether the NRA was behind the hold. Fortune reported last month, citing the Center for Responsive Politics and the New York Times, that Gardner and his associated committees have received about $3.8 million from the NRA during his time in Congress.

ThinkProgress reported that Gardner was behind the hold, but did not cite any sources.

On CBS’s Face the Nation on March 11, Gardner was asked about the Fix NICS bill and said there were “some” senators talking about “due process issues in the bill and legislation.”

“I’ve talked to Sen. Cornyn and I hope that Sen. Cornyn will realize that we need to work this due process matter out. This isn’t an issue of whether you like this or not, it’s a question of constitutional rights and protecting the people of this country, protecting them from harm,” he said…

As for an honest admission from Gardner one way or the other, it’s not forthcoming:

Denver7 asked Gardner repeatedly over the past week whether he was indeed holding up the bill. Our news partners at The Denver Post asked as well, but did not receive a response. [Pols emphasis]

Tuesday evening, when asked about the prospects of Fix NICS being put into the omnibus bill, Gardner’s spokesman, Casey Contres, referred Denver7 back to Gardner’s Face the Nation comments, adding that, “Gardner supports this bill coming to the floor for a robust and open debate.”

Presumably Gardner’s spokesperson is referring to the omnibus spending bill the Fix NICS language was attached to, though it’s left unclear–and we strongly suspect that is Sen. Gardner’s deliberate choice. The fact is, Gardner’s refusal to confirm or deny that he placed a hold on the legislation makes it quite likely that, as all of these news reports suggest, he is. If Gardner was not the originator of the secret hold, by now it would have been far less damaging politically to simply say so.

We haven’t heard the specific reason why Fix NICS was bundled into this larger omnibus spending bill, but it’s reasonable to speculate it was done in order to bypass Gardner’s hold on the bill. At any point, Gardner and the gun lobby which prevailed upon him to take this action could decide that it is not worth the damage and relent.

One thing is for sure, at least two separate media outlets reporting that Gardner was the Senator behind this secret hold on a very popular bill most likely didn’t make it up. Combine that with Gardner’s refusal to clarify that he didn’t do it…

And you mostly likely know all you need to know.

Get More Smarter on Tuesday (March 20)

Hello, Springtime! It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The suspect in a school shooting in Maryland is believed to be dead, but not before he was able to seriously wound two students at a rural high school in the southern part of the state. CNN has more on the 17th school shooting of 2018.

Here in Colorado, Senate Republicans continue to fight against any effort at reducing gun violence. On Monday a Senate committee defeated legislation to ban “bump stocks.”

 

► New revenue forecasts for the State of Colorado have lawmakers on both sides of the aisle writing checks in their minds. As Brian Eason reports for the Denver Post:

The two quarterly revenue forecasts released Monday by the governor’s office and the Colorado Legislative Council both project a significant boost to tax collections this fiscal year and next, leaving the state with more than $500 million more to spend than economists expected during the most recent forecasts three months ago.

The March forecasts take on special significance, because they are the numbers that state lawmakers will use in crafting the 2018-19 state budget, which the Joint Budget Committee is expected to finish drafting as soon as this week.

The political fight that lies ahead is unlike any that lawmakers have encountered since before the Great Recession. After years of difficult decisions on what public services to cut, budget writers this year instead have to decide which item on their wish list gets the biggest boost. And lawmakers and interest groups wasted no time Monday offering their two cents on how the money should be spent.

 

► House Speaker Paul Ryan says that he has received “assurances” that President Trump won’t try to fire special counsel Robert Mueller.

 

► Colorado Senate Republicans have taken a ridiculous new step in their ongoing efforts to ignore sexual harassment problems in their own caucus. Republican State Senator Beth Martinez Humenik filed an official complaint against Democratic Senator Daniel Kagan alleging that Kagan used an unmarked women’s restroom in the State Capitol.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Senate Republicans Talk Selves Out of Banning Bump Stocks

As the Pueblo Chieftain’s Peter Roper reports, the widening gulf between politicians beholden to the National Rifle Association and still more radical gun-rights groups like the local Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, and the rest of America increasingly demanding action to reduce the death toll in mass shootings was on full display yesterday in the Colorado Senate State Affairs Committee:

A proposed ban on bump stocks that make semi-automatic rifles shoot like machine guns was rejected by Republicans on a state Senate committee Monday after hours of emotional testimony.

The measure, Senate Bill 51, was one of many drafted nationally after the mass shooting in Las Vegas last year in which the killer used bump stocks on a dozen AR-15 rifles to fire more than 1,100 rounds at a concert audience, killing 51 and wounding more than 420…

Sen. Owen Hill, R-El Paso County, seemed to speak for Republicans on the panel in saying the issue boiled down to each lawmaker’s philosophy of government.

“Government can rarely make a big impact on these issues,” he said. “Freedom is the side I come down on today.”

He was joined by GOP Sens Vickie Marbles [sic-Pols] of Fort Collins and Jerry Sonnenberg of Sterling in rejecting the bill. Hill was the only Republican to explain his vote.

Most Americans had never even heard of “bump stocks” before the Las Vegas mass shooting in October of last year. Simply described, a bump stock allows the bulk of a semiautomatic assault rifle to slide freely within the stock, and by resting one’s trigger finger on the bump stock allows the gun’s recoil to operate the trigger at a far faster rate of fire than one can achieve pulling the trigger conventionally. While not quite matching the rate of fire of a fully-automatic machine gun, the multiple bump stocks used by the Las Vegas shooter are what enabled him to kill and wound an unprecedented number of concertgoers at the Route 91 Harvest music festival.

Just after the Las Vegas shooting, Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners referred to bump stocks dismissively as a “poor man’s machine gun,” and opposed banning them for the usual boilerplate reasons gun nuts offer against any restrictions whatsoever on gun ownership. This is another opportunity to remind our readers that Dudley Brown, who holds sway over a large number of Republican lawmakers in the Colorado General Assembly, has a literalist view of gun rights that rejects gun regulation including the type of firearm or disqualifying criminal records. Brown claimed that most people who own bump stocks “just want to go to a range and try to see what automatic fire sounds like.”

As you can imagine, a survivor of the Las Vegas shooting would feel differently about that sound.

Back in reality, a ban on bump stocks is so overwhelmingly popular that even President Donald Trump has paid lip service to doing it. Support in public polling for banning bump stocks has been consistent at around 80% since the Las Vegas shooting. Despite this, Republicans in Colorado are accustomed to not paying any political price for stonewalling on guns, and if anything are still feeling arrogant empowered from the 2013 recalls.

With this vote, Democrats have been given powerful ammunition–to help relieve the Senate GOP of their majority.

Con Man Chaps Interviews CD6 candidate Roger Edwards

Roger Edwards, Colorado Polster and candidate for Congressional District 6, was recently interviewed on Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt’s Pray in Jesus Name online “news” program.

Screenshot, Pray in Jesus Name program 12/21/17

Edwards should be more careful about the people he associates with; Chaps is a known nutcase, homophobe, and a con man who has made millions by exploiting the hopes and fears of his gullible subscribers.

Klingenschmitt’s nonprofit, “Persuade the World Ministries” declared income of $1,362,548 in 2016, while making no charitable grants whatsoever. (2016 990 form, from Propublica Nonprofit Explorer) In 2016, Klingenschmitt was still employed as the Representative for HD15, and attempted to run for Senate District 16.  And he wasn’t too fussy about keeping his political and religious finances separate.

Klingenschmitt: You, Too, Can Discern Demons

How did Klingenschmitt make 1.3 million dollars?  By selling such gems as his $99 “Discern the Spirits” program.

Screenshot – Youtube video of PJIN program

That’s right, for only $99, Chaps will teach you how to see demons and angels. This would be just another laughable claim by a religious fanatic –  if not for the political applications of Chaps “discernment”. He famously tried to exorcise a demon from President Obama, and claimed that gay and transgender people were inhabited by demons.

Also possessed by demons, according to Chaps: Zales ad execs, and anyone who criticizes him.

On the same 40 minute PJIN progam, at 19:11, Chaps promotes his petition to protect the altars of military chapels from the “desecration” of being used for “homosexual wedding ceremonies”. Because, of course, this is a legit national security concern.

Chaps Facebook page is a compendium of conspiracy theories (How Planned Parenthood Killed Toys R Us!!), Trumpism, and fundraising appeals for his various campaigns against gays and abortion, Mexican and Muslim immigrants, etc.  This is how he has become a millionaire. People donate to his “ministry”. A lot.

Edwards: Gays OK to keep their jobs

Chaps’ interview with candidate Roger Edwards starts with the standard biographical questions. Then the two proceed to check the right boxes: Anti-abortion / Pro Personhood? Check. Pro Concealed Carry? Check. Trump voter? Check.

When Chaps probes to find out what policies Edwards is for, the best Edwards can say is that he is “Not Mike Coffman”. There are no specific policies on Edwards’ campaign website, either. Sample: We must recognize that evil exists in the world. 

To Edwards’ credit, at 25:11,  Edwards  declines to denounce the ENDA (Employment Non Discrimination Act), which protects gay people from employment discrimination. Edwards refuses Chaps’ request to get on the homophobic bandwagon against ENDA, and says that gay people should be able to keep their jobs. Edwards says:

I believe in religious freedom, but I also believe that, if you’re a gay person,. . .that you should have equal opportunity to have a job and work a career that you want to work in.

I’m sorry that we live in a world in which we should be grateful that an aspiring politician declines to discriminate against a tenth of the population. Edwards does say that he thinks that Jack Phillips, the baker who wouldn’t make the gay cake, probably did the right thing for “artistic freedom”. So he checked that box for Chaps.

Roger Edwards is trying to establish himself as a legitimate, electable candidate in CD6, a diverse district. The Adams County Republicans endorsed his candidacy over Coffman’s. It does not serve Edwards well to associate with opportunistic right wing hucksters like Dr. Chaps.

In the unlikely event that Edwards defeats Coffman in the primary, Dr. Chaps’ blessing of Edwards will serve the likely CD6 Democratic candidate, Jason Crow, very well, indeed.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (March 15)

Read this and then you can get back to pretending you aren’t watching March Madness. It’s time to Get More Smarter. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example). If you are more of a visual learner, check out The Get More Smarter Show.

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

Thousands of Colorado students joined their peers across the country in walking out of school on Wednesday as a protest of inaction from elected officials on gun violence; the Wall Street Journal estimates that more than 1 million students took part nationwide. CNN ponders the next steps in the movement to stop gun violence.

In the middle of Wednesday’s #NationalStudentWalkout, the NRA responded with this nonsense:


► Students and others who wonder why Congress won’t do anything about gun violence need look no further than Sen. Cory Gardner (R-Yuma). This story is only going to get worse for Gardner.

 

► The Trump administration announced new sanctions against Russia over meddling in the 2016 election that President Trump won’t really admit actually happened. From the Washington Post:

The Trump administration on Thursday imposed fresh financial sanctions on Russian government hackers and spy agencies to punish Moscow for interfering in the 2016 presidential election, and for a cyberattack against Ukraine and other countries last year that officials have characterized as “the most destructive and costly” in history.

Sanctions also were imposed on individuals known as “trolls” and the Russian organizations that supported their efforts to undermine the election. Additionally, the administration alerted the public that Russia is targeting the U.S. energy grid with computer malware that could sabotage the systems.

Taken together, the moves represent the administration’s most significant actions to date against Russia for its aggression against the United States. They are intended to deter tampering with this year’s midterm elections while signaling to Russia that Washington will not allow its attacks to go unchallenged, officials said.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Gardner’s Secret Background Check Block: NRA Pet Tricks

Salon’s Amanda Marcotte  posted a story yesterday that follows up on last Sunday’s revealing appearance by Sen. Cory Gardner on CBS’ Face the Nation–in which Gardner was confronted about a secret hold he has placed on legislation from a fellow Republican Senator to improve background checks on gun purchases.

Today’s story explains in detail a duplicitous strategy long employed by the National Rifle Association and their Republican allies in Congress in which they pretend to support limited reforms like the Fix NICS bill, while stalling even these small-scale measures behind closed doors–exactly what Gardner was caught having done on national television at the beginning of this week:

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, seemingly took the NRA’s comments at face value and introduced the Fix NICS Act of 2017, which is supposed to help improve recordkeeping and stop people like Dylann Roof and Devin Patrick Kelley — two mass shooters who should have failed to pass a background check, but didn’t — from getting guns. He introduced the bill in November, with the public support of the NRA. Mysteriously, the bill has gone nowhere in Congress.

The entire saga of the Fix NICS Act offers an important glimpse into the labyrinthine politics of gun control. It’s a system where the NRA proposes “compromise” bills that allow Republicans to look sensible about gun control, and then the organization goes out of its way to undermine even those minor reforms. The result, intended or otherwise, is that the NRA and Republican legislators can claim to care about keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people, while doing little or nothing toward accomplishing that goal.

Which brings us to Sen. Gardner’s secret hold on the bill:

…[E]ven this weak bill seems to have no momentum in Congress, which suggests that something weirder and darker is going on. A hint as to why emerged over the weekend, when it was reported that Sen. Cory Gardner, R-Colo., had put a hold on the bill, keeping it from leaving committee. When asked why on “Face the Nation” last Sunday, Gardner didn’t quite admit to blocking the bill, but said, “I think there are some of us who are talking about due process issues in the bill and legislation.”

Salon reached out twice to Gardner’s office, asking for clarification about these “due process” concerns, and received no answer. Gardner ranks No. 5 on the Senate list of recipients of NRA funding, having accepted more than $3.8 million in campaign funds from the organization during his political career. [Pols emphasis]

“The background check system has been upheld by the Supreme Court when people have challenged whether it’s an appropriate system,” said the Brady Campaign’s Avery Gardiner. “I don’t understand his due process concerns.”

Cory Gardner with gun-rights hardcore Dudley Brown of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners.

Gardner refused to clarify the nature of his “due process concerns” with the bill on Face the Nation. It was apparent in Gardner’s fumbling response to the questions from Face the Nation’s Margaret Brennan that he did not expect them, which makes sense given that the secret hold he has placed on the Fix NICS bill had not been previously reported. The question of who leaked the existence and propriety of this hold to CBS has not yet been answered, but speculation ranges from Democrats to the bill’s Republican sponsor Sen. John Cornyn himself. Cornyn is under consider pressure to pass this legislation, having introduced it in response to the Sutherland Springs shooting that killed 26 people and could have been prevented.

Gardner’s refusal to explain his concerns with the bill most likely mean he doesn’t have defensible concerns, and is blocking this legislation supported by over 90% of the public purely in deference to the NRA and its duplicitous political strategy of stalling even small reforms–reforms they pay lip service in public to supporting. The NRA claims credit for the original federal background check system, but in truth the gun movement in America is deeply divided over any restrictions on gun ownership including criminal convictions.

Last week’s ambush on Face the Nation was a stunning revelation of a massive problem in American politics, a problem that explains the disconnect between the American public’s growing support for tougher gun laws and the frustrating political inability to make that a reality. As mass shootings with military-style weapons take ever-greater tolls of American civilians while nothing happens in Washington, the American people demand to know why.

And now we know the reason. The reason is Cory Gardner.

Huge Student Walkouts Push for Action on Gun Violence

UPDATE #2: It’s getting a bit crowded at the State Capitol:

Image via Denver7

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UPDATE:


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As Colorado Public Radio reports:

Students are taking up the call in a variety of ways. Some planned roadside rallies to honor shooting victims and protest violence. Others were to hold demonstrations in school gyms or on football fields. In Denver, at East High School students there will meet up with students from the nearby Denver School of the Arts to honor the 17 lives lost in Florida. Many students will then march to the state Capitol, while others return to class or participate in events at the school.

There will be a 17-minute “sit in” at Denver’s Merrill Middle School and a “sit out,” where students will ring the perimeter of the Denver Center of International Studies Baker School. At Westminster High School, students have been encouraged to wear silver and burgundy, the colors of Stoneman Douglas HS, for a group photo that will be sent to the school. JeffCo students will hold a county wide rally in the evening so as to not disrupt classes.

 

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