picture of an empty seat at the table for Dr. Jones

An Empty Seat at the Table: In Memory of W. Terrell Jones

On Tuesday, August 19, I received a forwarded email from PSU Executive Vice President and Provost Nicholas P. Jones:

It is with deep sorrow that I’m writing to inform you that our colleague and friend, Dr. Terrell Jones, Vice Provost for Educational Equity passed away this morning.  Terrell had been on medical leave the last few months.  He will be greatly missed across the University not only for the impact of his contributions to Penn State, but also for simply the wonderful person that he was.  We will share with you the details regarding funeral arrangements as they become available.  Please keep Carla [Roser-Jones] and Terrell’s children in your thoughts and prayers.

This short note brought tears to my eyes and a great sense of loss. W. Terrell Jones was a civil rights advocate par excellence both in and out of work. He brought humor and caring to everything he did.

picture of Terrell Jones & Carla Roser-Jones

W. Terrell Jones (pictured with his wife Carla Roser-Jones). A Civil Rights advocate in and out of work.

I first met Terrell in the early 1990’s when I attended a meeting of the Centre County Advisory Council to the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission (PHRC). Soon after that, I was appointed to this Council and served with Terrell up until his death. Until March of 2013, Terrell chaired the monthly meeting of the Advisory Council. His passion for low-income students of color, concern for community diversity and acceptance, and a love of knowledge was quite apparent.

He was a teacher, a counselor, a fountain of trivia on people and ethnicities across the country and around the world. And did his work—both paid and unpaid with a sense of humor and dignity. Here’s a sampling of his ability to teach with humor in the classroom; this is one of the many classes on race relations and cultural diversity that he taught over his 35 years of work at the Pennsylvania State University and one year at Lock Haven University.

On Thursday, August 21, I attended the bimonthly meeting of the Inter Agency Task Force on Community Activities and Relations in Harrisburg. According to the PHRC,

The task force is made up of [the] PHRC, the PA Attorney General’s Office and the PA State Police, working in conjunction with other state and federal agencies, community organizations, advocacy groups, local government and law enforcement agencies.  The primary function of the group is to quickly and appropriately address civil tension when conflicts occur, and to promote positive community relations among various groups in order to prevent tension.

The meeting was opened at 10:30 am by Tameka Hatcher, Program Analyst for the PHRC. We usually open these meetings by going around the table and introducing ourselves. This morning was slightly different. Tameka held up Terrell’s name plate and announced that he had passed after a four-month battle with cancer. She asked for a moment of silence and then asked Martin Kearney, Investigative Supervisor at the PHRC and me to say a few words about Terrell. We then placed the name plate at the table to honor our missing comrade.

picture of an empty seat at the table for Dr. Jones

An Empty Seat at the Table: In Memory of Dr. W. Terrell Jones

Here’s some of the accomplishments we talked about:

Local Ordinances

Terrell helped organize a community public forum on discrimination in housing and employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity about 8-9 years ago. Based on the feedback from that forum, the State College Borough decided to review their Fair Housing Ordinance that had passed in 1994 and decided to expand it as well as create an employment anti-discrimination ordinance in 2008. Working with the Centre County Advisory Council, Terrell and I worked with the town council to help craft the new ordinances that now contain the broadest anti-discrimination protections in the state. The employment ordinance includes marital status, familial status, family responsibilities, gender identity, and sexual orientation in addition to the state-level protections found in the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act. The public accommodations and fair housing ordinance includes marital status, familial status, gender identity, sexual orientation, and source of income in addition to the state-level protections of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.

Tension and Hate

Calming down communities when tensions rise due to religious, racial, gender, or LGBTQIA intolerance, vandalism, and/or hate speech was a forte for Terrell. He created trainings on racial equality, worked with groups to figure out how structurally and organically they could improve their communities to be more accepting and tolerant. He did this for the entire Penn State University community at all of the campuses, within Centre County and across the state. Working with Unity groups, the PHRC, and coalitions, he helped bring together people.

Statewide Leadership

At Penn State University

Seen as an expert on race relations and diversity, Terrell was often called upon to lead programs and organizations dealing with these types of issues. When he started his position as Vice Provost of Educational Equity in 1998, he created “A Framework to Foster Diversity.” According to the Centre Daily Times, this document is a regularly updated plan outlining Penn State University’s diversity and equity goals. As part of his leadership in this position, Terrell oversaw many different offices and commissions to achieve his vision of “an inclusive and welcoming environment for all.” These offices and commissions include:

Units and Programs

College Assistance Migrant Program
Educational Opportunity Center (Philadelphia)
Multicultural Resource Center
Office for Disability Services
Office of Veterans Programs
Student Support Services Program
Talent Search
Talent Search York
Upward Bound
Upward Bound Math and Science Program
Upward Bound Migrant

Commissions and Committees

Equal Opportunity Planning Committee
President’s Equity Commissions
Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Equity
Commission on Racial/Ethnic Diversity
Commission for Women

And according to the PSU Office of the President, Terrell led other programs and events throughout his tenure at the University: “He served on the University’s Forum on Black Affairs for many years, and was its president from 1986-87. He also was chair of the Equal Opportunity Planning Committee from 1989-96 and Penn State’s Representative for the Global Sullivan Principles from 2000-2005.”

Community Leadership

As I previously stated, Terrell was appointed to and later led the Centre County Advisory Council to the PA Human Relations Commission for over 20 years. We met 10 out of the 12 months of each year and then held a family picnic for members every August. Our meetings brought together members of the community who act as the “eyes and ears” of diversity in the community. We gathered each month to discuss concerns about injustice and joys of acceptance of people of all backgrounds within Centre County.

Both of us also handled the Blue Pages phone hot line answering questions about unfair treatment and potential discrimination.  As appropriate we gave these individuals information on how to contact the PHRC to file a complaint and/or provided on other resources to assist them in resolving their issues.

Over the years, several different representatives from the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission would attend these meetings so that we could pass on the news – both good and bad – to help the state monitor issues of inclusion and tension throughout the state.

We also had a good time, always looking forward to Terrell’s “main dish” offerings at our picnics. He fed us with fried turkeys, roasted pork, and tons of catfish over the years – all his own handiwork!

Terrell was also active in his local church – the Jacob Albright-Mary McLeod Bethune United Methodist Church. I understand that he was one of the leaders of this church, having served from 1990 until his death as a member of its Administrative Council. At the funeral, Reverend Kathleen Danley described his leadership by telling about her arrival at the church this past January. She said that members of the church seemed very tense or sad about their former preacher’s departure. Until Terrell arrived. She said with his arrival, the tension left the room and everyone felt better and got to work. Having that kind of presence is rare.

Leadership across the Commonwealth

Terrell also brought his wisdom and expertise to all corners of the Commonwealth. I asked Martin Kearney, the Investigative Supervisor for the Harrisburg Regional Office of the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission to put this part of Terrell’s leadership into perspective. Here’s the email he wrote in response:

You asked me about Terrell’s work with PHRC.  I have had the pleasure to have worked with Terrell for nearly a decade when he was Chair of the PHRC Advisory Council for Centre County.  Other colleagues, such as Homer Floyd, Kaaba Brunson, and Ann Van Dyke have known and worked with Dr. Jones for three decades or more.  I am grateful I had the opportunity to learn from him and his work.

Essentially, from the state standpoint, Terrell was key in helping make PSU a more welcoming place for persons of all protected classes, particularly but not exclusively students of color, in his career.  He kept the PHRC apprised of these efforts, especially in regard to academic achievement and safe learning environment for these students.  His work in the vineyard has borne fruit, but as we know, more labors need to be made to make education more accessible and affordable for students in need.

Terrell was active with the Pennsylvania Black Conference on Higher Education (PBCOHE) [he served as its President from 2008-2010], which attempted to get all universities in the Commonwealth, public as well as private, achieve equal education opportunity for students of color.  Our Commission was very active in this initiative as well and Terrell’s work helped to increase the numbers of students of color going to college and successfully graduate.  He was also key in helping to investigate and resolve tension situations related to race and ethnicity not only at PSU but on other campuses as well.  For instance, he led an investigation in 2007 at Bloomsburg University campus involving allegations of excessive force and misconduct by campus police toward African American students.  He conducted this investigation with skill, transparency and thoroughness, recommending better communication between students and police and cultural competency training for campus police.

Terrell’s presence in Centre County was well known, especially in his and the Advisory Council’s efforts in State College Borough’s consideration and passage of the Fair Housing (1994) and Human Relations Ordinances (in 2008), efforts of which you know so well (since you were so key in both of these), which had expansive protections beyond Commonwealth law for sexual orientation, marital status and family responsibilities.  Through the work of Terrell and the Council, relationships were built, to create a constituency that supported these ordinances.  It is notable that when the Fair Housing Ordinance was passed, there was [a large and very] vocal opposition to it.  The opposition to the expanded Human Relations Ordinance over a decade later was not only much smaller but much less vocal.  It was consciousness raising of our growing notions of equality, led by Terrell and the Council, that helped to foster this change.

Finally, Terrell not only knew issues of diversity and equality, he knew this state very well.  He pored over the bias reports that the Commission created, reported incidents of which he knew, but also added a historical perspective of these incidents for our state and nation.  In my dealings with him, I always walked away having learned something of value, lessons I carry in my work to this day and which our Commission carries on as well.

A place at the table for our Commission’s Inter-Agency Task Force is missing.  While none of us can fill this space that he leaves, his spirit and the knowledge he passed on will continue for decades to come.

The Farewell Tribute

At Terrell’s funeral on Saturday, August 23, the love for Terrell showed throughout the church. It was overflowing with people. The vestry was full. The room across the hall from the vestry was full. And those who couldn’t find seats in either of these rooms went downstairs to the reception hall. Fortunately all of us got to see the service since the church provided video access to the full service. I think the “Affirmation of Faith” affirms Terrell’s life-long passion for equity and justice. In part, here’s what was proclaimed

Affirmation of Faith by Canaan Banana (edited by Rev. Grey)

I believe in an almighty God

Maker of all people of every color and hue,

Who does not rank people according to their color or gender,…

Who provide[s] abundant resources for

Equitable distribution among all people….

[Who] overturns the iron rule of injustice.

From henceforth He shall continue to judge hatred, racism, sexism,

And every manner of dehumanizing exclusiveness and arrogance.

I believe in the properly placed spirit of reconciliation,…

The Power that overcomes the poverty, abject ghetto life,

Abject rural life, drug and alcohol addiction,

women and children abuse, and pimping, prostitution, and pushing in all of their forms.

And I believe in the … Resurrection of personhood

And equalizing justice, and equality…

Amen

 

Terrell, we’ll miss you at the table of equality and justice for all. You will be missed greatly. Rest in peace my friend.

 

Addendum: According to the obituary that appeared in the Centre Daily Times on August 21, the family has requested that in lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Albright-Bethune United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 153, State College, PA 16804 or to the Dr. W. Terrell Jones Scholarship Memorial Fund at the Pennsylvania State University, by visiting www.GIveNow.psu.edu/TerrellJonesMemorial.

North Carolina: What Have You Been Drinking?

As a long-time activist, I’ve been watching the news around the country on many different issues.  Climate change. Racial equality. Gender equality. Same-sex marriage. Separation of church and state.  States rights.

Yesterday it really hit me.  What kind of Kool-Aid have the legislators and many of the citizens in North Carolina been drinking?  Whatever it is, it appears to have greatly impaired their view of the world and how we all fit (or don’t fit) together.  Here are three actions taken within the state in the last year that stretch credulity and appear to be sending the state back at least two centuries.

First, on May 8, 2012, the citizens of the state once again added discrimination to their constitution when they approved Amendment One. This amendment denies gays and lesbians the right to marry.  Fortunately it was the last state to do this and is now being questioned in the US Supreme Court in two cases – Hollinsgworth v. Perry and United States v. Windsor.

This is the second time North Carolina has written discrimination into the state constitution. The last time discrimination reared its ugly head was in 1875 when a miscegenation ban was added to the state constitution that made it a crime for people of color and whites to marry each other.  That anti-miscegenation ban lasted until 1967 when the Supreme Court unanimously overturned all anti-miscegenation laws around the country in a case known as Loving v. Virginia.

Then in June 2012, legislators decided that reality doesn’t need to be acknowledged.  Climate change, in their opinion, doesn’t exist and must be publicly denied or ignored.  In this case, scientists within the state are banned from accurately predicting sea-level rise. Replacement House Bill 819 states that scientists would be required to predict sea level rise by just using a linear model based on trends seen since 1900.  This bill  specifically says in section 2, paragraph e:

 “These rates [in sea level rise] shall only be determined using historical data, and these data shall be limited to the time period following the year 1900. Rates of seas-level rise may be extrapolated linearly. …”

Let’s bring this down to something concrete. Say it’s been sunny for the last three weeks with one day of rain and very little wind on two of those 21 days. Using a linear, straight-line model, one would predict that it will continue to be sunny and calm into the foreseeable future.  Even if Doppler radar and satellite pictures show a growing storm with 75 mile-per-hour winds headed in the direction of the NC coast.  This is ludicrous.  Where is the reality here? And where is the reality in North Carolina’s ban on accurate sea level rise predictions?

And now this week, two legislators who sponsored and/or voted for both of these thoughtless actions have taken another poisonous sip.  This time Reps. Carl Ford (R-China Grove) and H. Warren (R-Salisbury)—a co-sponsor of the house companion bill to the senate bill that became Amendment One—have introduced another constitutional amendment proposal.  If they get their way, North Carolina will declare that the state is exempt from the US Constitution and all court rulings regarding establishment of a religion.  The text of this amendment reads:

SECTION 1. The North Carolina General Assembly asserts that the Constitution of the United States of America does not prohibit states or their subsidiaries from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

SECTION 2. The North Carolina General Assembly does not recognize federal court rulings which prohibit and otherwise regulate the State of North Carolina, its public schools, or any political subdivisions of the State from making laws respecting an establishment of religion.

This proposal goes hand-in-hand with another part of the NC Constitution that says that people who do not believe in God cannot hold public office. And that part of their Constitution is unenforceable because of a 1961 Supreme Court decision in Torcaso v. Watkins that bans such prohibitions.  Why? Because such a ban

“unconstitutionally invades [one’s] freedom of belief and religion guaranteed by the First Amendment and protected by the Fourteenth Amendment from infringement by the States.”

So would this newest proposal.

Sounds to me like North Carolina is setting the stage to try once again to secede from the United States of America.

Shades of the 19th Century, the Civil War and Post-Civil War era.  Climate change. Marriage rights. Religious freedom.

North Carolina. Really! What Kool-Aid HAVE you been drinking?!

Powerful UN CSW57 Document on Ending Gender-Based Violence Created

On March 14, I wrote a blog entitled “The “Unholy Alliance” that May Defeat Comprehensive UN Call to End Gender-Based Violence.” I talked about an alliance between the Vatican, Iran, Russia and a couple of other countries that were attempting to eviscerate the comprehensive plan being created at the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57) to end gender-based violence and fully comply with all of the universally agreed-upon agreements (treaties, resolutions, and statements). These previous agreements include the Women’s Rights Treaty (commonly known as CEDAW or the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (1993)) as well as the Beijing Platform for Action (1995), and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000).

I am happy to say that this didn’t happen.  Thanks to the bloggers, news media, Tweeters, NGO’s attending CSW57, and several official Member States, the amendments to the document were voted down on Friday during the final day of the 2-week convention.

Iran was the only country that voted against the final, comprehensive document. The Vatican did not get to vote because of its status as a “Permanent Observer State” rather than as a voting “Member State”. And Russia backed down and voted for the final document along with all of the remaining UN Member States.

People around the world heard about these attempts to deny women and girls safety from all forms of violence.  We spoke out and acted.

As a result, unlike last year, we FINALLY have a strong document that

“condemns in the strongest terms the pervasive violence against women and girls, and calls for increased attention and accelerated action for prevention and response.” (Source)

This document has a strong prevention focus since the best way to end violence against women and children is to stop it BEFORE it happens.  It also addresses inequalities in the political, economic, and social spheres that engender violence. And it takes action to provide services and justice for victims of violence around the world.

Ms. Michelle Bachelet, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women summarized the comprehensive coverage of this powerful statement to end this type of human rights violation in her closing statement of the conference:

During the past two weeks, discussions centred on matters of urgency to people around the world — eliminating all forms of violence against women and girls, ending impunity for perpetrators, fully engaging men and boys, and advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality to prevent and end these human rights violations….

Important and timely matters were addressed — ending child and early forced marriage, protecting the rights of persons with disabilities, and providing justice and critical services for survivors of violence.

There were debates on ending sexual violence in conflict, tackling human trafficking, protecting sexual and reproductive rights, and on the role of culture, religion and the family.

You had many intense late-night negotiations, going over every single word and paragraph, debating long and hard in order to come to [this] strong agreement.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, immediately after CSW57, released a statement showing the commitment of the United Nations to fully implement this new document. It says, in part:

Violence against women is a heinous human rights violation, global menace, a public health threat and a moral outrage.  No matter where she lives, no matter what her culture, no matter what her society, every woman and girl is entitled to live free of fear.  She has the universal human right to be free from all forms of violence so as to fulfill her full potential and dreams for the future.

States have a corresponding responsibility to turn that right into reality.  The Secretary-General hopes that all the partners who came together at this historic session and others around the world will now translate this agreement into concrete action to prevent and end violence against women and girls.  The United Nations system is fully committed to leading this global effort.

So now I say, THANK YOU! Thank you for creating this statement. It is one more step  towards realizing the rights, dignity, and humanity of girls and women throughout the world.

Picture of Joanne Tosti-Vasey standing with sign that says "I AM Ending Violence"

Joanne Tosti-Vasey “Refusing to be Silent” and calling for an end to gender-based violence

The “Unholy Alliance” that May Defeat Comprehensive UN Call to End Gender-Based Violence

Last week, on International Women’s Day (March 8), I participated in the 24-hour Global Tweet-a-Thon to end gender-based violence.  This event was held in conjunction with the 57th session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW57) that is being held in New York City.  The theme of this year’s session is the “Elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.”

I participated as a host for one hour of this event to facilitate the global conversation between people around the world and those attending the unofficial Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) programs at the UN as well as to send a message to the official UN delegation. Our message was that advocates around the world are looking for a strong draft statement calling for the full elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls as directed by the theme of this two-week conference.

Here are a few of the many tweets I sent out that either addresses the situation of violence in countries around the world OR that calls on governments, including the UN, to create best practices to end gender-based violence:

@JoeBiden “40% of all mass shootings started with the murderer targeting their girlfriend, or their wife, or their ex-wife.” #EndVAW #CSW57 #IWD2013

The first sexual experience for 24% of women in rural Peru was forced. #EndVAW #CSW57 #IWD2013

In Latin America & the Caribbean, abused women reported higher incidents of miscarriage and induced abortion. #EndVAW #CSW57 #IWD2013 (Source)

In South Africa, women who were abused by their partners are 48% more likely to be infected with HIV than those who were not. #EndVAW #CSW57 #IWD2013

To #EndVAW, governments must enact legislation that addresses violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. #CSW57 #IWD2013

To #EndVAW governments must fully fund health services for survivors of violence, including #HIV screening & emergency contraception. #CSW57 #IWD2013

To #EndVAW, governments must ensure girls and women have access to abortion in cases of rape and incest. #CSW57 #IWD2013

Providing young people with human rights-based, comprehensive sexual and reproductive health services and information helps #EndVAW. #CSW57 #IWD2013

Respecting, protecting, and fulfilling girls’ and women’s sexual rights can minimize the violence they face. #EndVAW #CSW57 #IWD2013

Promoting girls’ and women’s sexual rights is a key tool to #EndVAW, address women’s inequality, and achieve sustainable development. #CSW57 #IWD2013

Domestic laws to #EndVAW should align with international best practice and reinforce the protections found in #humanrights treaties. #CSW57 #IWD2013

And

There is no country where women and men are equal in all spheres of life. You have the power to can change that! #EndVAW #CSW57 #IWD2013

That last tweet is a call for individuals, organizations, countries, and the United Nations to pull together to create and execute a comprehensive plan to end gender-based violence and fully comply with all of the universally agreed-upon agreements (treaties, resolutions, and statements), including the Women’s Rights Treaty (commonly known as CEDAW or the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (1993)) as well as the Beijing Platform for Action (1995), and UN Security Council Resolution 1325 (2000)

I had hoped the draft document that is supposed to be finalized and signed on March 15 – the final day of the two-week deliberation – would help strengthen these treaties.  Instead on Tuesday, March 12, 2013, I received an email from two NGOs – the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutger’s University and International Women’s Rights Action Watch Asia Pacific (IWRAW Asia Pacific)—indicating that

“the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is wavering in its commitment to advance women’s human rights as demonstrated in the constant negotiation of the language in the outcome document.”

The next morning, I saw a New York Times editorial called “Unholy Alliance.”  This article clearly lays out what was going on in the official deliberations.  Apparently, the Vatican (which, btw, is a “Permanent Observer,” not a “Member State”), Iran, Russia, and a few other Member States have spent the their entire time at CSW57 trying to eliminate language in the draft communiqué to “duck” their obligations – and thus the obligations agreed to by most of the world – to eliminate all gender-based violence.

Their excuses?  Religion. Custom. Tradition.

What are they objecting to specifically?  Any reference to abortions or contraception.  Any mention of reproductive or sexual health. Any reference to forced sex as rape by either a spouse or other intimate partner.  And even any reference to women’s rights in general from the aforementioned international agreements; in this case, they claim that either religious or cultural traditions must take precedence over ending any form of gender-based violence.

These “reservations,” by the way, are the same reservations raised by essentially the same countries at the 56th session of the CSW conference in 2012.  As a result, that session ended without any agreement and women, once again, were left without a comprehensive UN plan to help improve their lives.

I am appalled. Gender-based violence is a crime against humanity.  Whether that crime is perpetrated by a government (for example, when military units carry out gang rapes and other gender-based war crimes for ethnic intimidation, ethnic cleansing and terrorizing a community).  Or when that crime of violence is perpetrated by individuals.

After learning all of this, I contacted the National Organization for Women (NOW) chapters in Pennsylvania.  Within 24 hours, Pennsylvania NOW along with South Hills NOW (Pittsburgh area), East End NOW (part of Allegheny County just east of Pittsburgh), Northeast Williamsport NOW, Ni-Ta-Nee NOW (my chapter here in Centre County), and Montgomery County NOW all co-signed the letter created by CWGL and IWRAW Asia Pacific.

This letter was signed by 281 organizations from 57 countries and 129 people from around the world and delivered to the conference on March 14.  FYI, since some of the organizations do not include the country of origin in their names, there may be — and probably are — more than 57 countries represented on this letter.

Here’s the letter that we signed.

IWD Statement on Concerns of Women’s Organizations Over Negotiations on CSW 57 Outcome Document 3-14-13

I along with all of these organizations and individuals want to see a comprehensive UN program to end violence against women and girls.  We want to strong enforcement of all international agreements.

Patriarchy has no right to quash human rights.  Let’s hope that the official delegates hear our voice and stop this “unholy alliance.” If allowed, the result will be more, not less gender-based violence.

If not, then I believe that like last year there should be no UN document signed by the United States or any other Member State participating in the 57th CSW conference.  Going forward with a strong plan to end all forms of violence is the best plan.  Going backwards is appalling and should not be condoned.  Better nothing than something that moves us backwards.

Let’s just hope they hear our voice and “do the right thing.”

We Can Do It! Alice Paul and a New White House ERA Petition

If she was alive today, Alice Paul would be 138 years old.  Ms. Paul was born on January 11, 1875. After the 19th Amendment to the US Constitution granting women the right to vote was ratified in 1920, many of the suffragettes thought women’s rights were won.  Alice Paul disagreed, saying that until women were fully written into the US Constitution, our rights would always be at risk and we could (and would) be treated as second-class citizens.  In 1923, Ms. Paul introduced and then continued working for passage of what became known as the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) for the rest of her life.

The ERA passed Congress in 1972. It has not yet been ratified by three-quarters of the state; it needs three more states to sign on.  It is short but to the point:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

In honor of Alice Paul’s birthday, a group of women supporting the Madison Amendment or “three-state” approach for passage of the Equal Rights Amendment started a second petition on the White House petition website.

I recently wrote about the ERA and the first of these petitions. Unfortunately because of the lack of organization surrounding the first petition, it is highly unlikely that it will receive the 25,000 signatures required by its January 17 deadline in order to get a response from the White House.

This new petition, in contrast, looks like it has a much better chance of reaching the 25,000 signature threshold.  In the first 6 days of this petition drive, there have been over 4800 signatures received.  That’s an average of 800 signatures each day.  With 25 days left (deadline is February 10)—and if the momentum keeps up—we could make it.  Between now and then we need to average a total of 840 additional signatures each day.  Your help is needed.

So I am once more asking people to sign on and tell President Obama that you want him to:

Vigorously support women’s rights by fully engaging in efforts to ratify the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment (ERA).

Once you sign the petition, please let your friend, family members, and colleagues know about the petition and ask them to sign as well.  Like the WWII poster says, “WE CAN DO IT!”

We Can Do It poster

“We Can Do It!” poster created by J. Howard Miller for the War Production Co-Ordinating Committee during World War II and later associated with “Rosie the Riveter”

Ideas for a Plan in Response to the Connecticut Shootings: Guest Blog

Marc Brenman is a colleague of mine. He is the former Executive Director of the Washington State Human Rights Commission and co-author of “Planning as if People Matter: Governing for Social Equity.

Marc has compiled a very detailed plan and ideas to deal with gun violence that he believes have at least some value in this discussion regarding a comprehensive gun control, safety, education, medical care, and community responses to the current climate of gun violence here in the United State.  Earlier this month, I linked one of my earlier blogs to one of the groups I am a member of on LinkedIn. After seeing a much shorter version of his thoughts in a comment to my posting, I asked him if he would like to do a guest blog detailing his thoughts on this issue.  The following is what he wrote.

Marc can be contacted directly at mbrenman001@comcast.net

Marc’s Plan in Response to the Mass Shootings in the United States

Here are some elements of a plan in response to the Sandy Hook tragedy and other similar mass murders committed with guns in the US.  Each of these has some value, and together would have great value.  Some elements are derived from others. There are pros and cons to many of these suggestions and initiatives; those aspects are generally not discussed here.

Effective enforcement of gun control laws can deter illegal gun trafficking, but loopholes, high standards of evidence, and weak penalties make it difficult to enforce laws designed to keep guns from prohibited persons. Stronger gun laws will lead to better enforcement of those laws.

Keep the Situation in Perspective

Schools are still among the safest places for our young people to be. Students are 99 times more likely to be victimized in the community—on the streets, at the mall, at movie theaters, in fast food restaurants and other public places—rather than at school.

Reframing the Discussion

Guns are a force multiplier, and make any inclination to violence much more destructive, whatever the cause. Gun use intensifies violence, increasing the case-fatality rate in assaults and “accidents.” Gun violence substantially reduces the standard of living in a community in which it is common, and not just for the immediate victims. “For many social policy applications we either must give up on the goal of evidence-based policy, or develop a broader conception of what counts as evidence.” (U. of Chicago)  “Compared with other common weapons, guns have a peculiar ability to create fear, resulting in a loss of peace of mind together with self-protective distortions in routine activities of work and play. There is no counterpart with other weapons to drive-by shootings and stray bullets.”  (U. of Chicago)

Public Education

Some mistakenly believe that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would prohibit the kinds of legal reforms we believe are warranted. In 2008, in District of Columbia v. Heller, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Second Amendment protected an individual right to own guns, striking down Washington, D.C.’s law banning handgun possession in the home. However, the Heller decision also mentioned numerous types of presumptively valid gun laws, including ―laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.  Since Heller, lower courts have overwhelmingly upheld the constitutionality of a wide range of gun laws other than handgun bans.

Establish a long-term public-education media campaign to change the public’s perception of gun violence. It must be understood that crime is merely the most recognized aspect of the public-health problem posed by firearms. The campaign should also be designed to educate citizens about the risks associated with firearms ownership.

Stakeholder Engagement

There are differences in the problem defining process.  If the problem is not defined well, finding solutions becomes much more difficult.  However, there will not necessarily be consensus in defining the problem.  It would be useful to have the discussion among different parties.

Recruit individuals and organizations not traditionally involved in the debate. Gun-control organizations must reach out to build active, long-term coalitions with organizations whose constituencies are affected by firearms violence, including women’s groups, youth organizations, civil-rights organizations, hospitals, consumer organizations and public-health associations. Support should also be sought from those with economic interests in reducing firearms violence, such as the insurance industry, hospital associations and criminal-justice associations.

“Since all crime is local, the response to emergencies caused by crime should start with a local plan that is linked to the wider community. Universities and colleges should work with their local government partners to improve plans for mutual aid in all areas of crisis response, including that of victim services.”  (Report of the Virginia Tech Review Panel; Office of the Governor of Virginia)

Move Quickly

“[C]riminal misuse usually follows rather quickly after gun acquisition. In other words, the millions of current gun possessors will account for little of the violent crime five years from now. A reasonable goal, then, is to increase the effective price of guns to the high-risk segment of the market.   (U. of Chicago)

Improve School Safety

Every campus should have a series of threat assessment protocols so that school officials can effectively work with mental health and law enforcement professionals in handling circumstances that could result in potential violence or harm.

“Identify whom to call in a crisis. Maintain an updated list of who to call in case of various kinds of crisis. Develop a close working partnership with these emergency responders…Create a close working partnership with mental health professionals who can assist school officials in evaluating and assessing potentially dangerous students who may threaten or intimidate others.  (National School Safety Center).”

Provide ways for students to report rumors or concerns and ensuring that students trust and feel connected to adults at their school. Recent studies by the Secret Service show that in the vast majority of student shootings, other students on the campus were aware of the event before it occurred.

Use tip lines. Tip lines acknowledge the key role that students and community members play in keeping schools safe. They also provide a deterrent effect that may preclude acts of crime and violence from occurring. Advice from educators and law enforcers around the country underscores several key recommendations for successful tip line management:

  • Make the tip line a collaborative, communitywide effort; involve students in planning and managing the tip line; regularly publicize and promote the  tip line;
  • Protect privacy and caller anonymity;
  • Keep callers informed of progress; and
  • Provide incentives or rewards.

Training every staff member to look for signs of “off behavior,” even subtle ones, from people who come into school buildings, is critical.

Ensure that classroom doors can be locked.

Control access to school buildings and grounds during school hours. “Minimize the number of campus entrance and exit points used daily. Access points to school grounds should be limited and supervised on a regular basis by individuals who are familiar with the student body.

  • Campus traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, should flow through areas that can be easily and naturally supervised.
  • Delivery entrances used by vendors also should be checked regularly.
  • Parking lots often have multiple entrances and exits, which contribute to the vandalism and defacement of vehicles and school property.
  • Vehicular and pedestrian access should be carefully controlled. Perimeter fencing should be considered.
  • Bus lots should be secured and monitored. \Infrequently used rooms and closets should be locked.
  • Access to utilities, roofs, cleaning closets should be secured.”  (National School Safety Center)

Require faculty to wear badges or photo identification.  “All school employees should be advised to greet visitors or any unidentified person and direct them to the main office to ensure that these persons have legitimate business at the school. Teachers and staff should be trained to courteously challenge all visitors.”  (National School Safety Center)

Use security cameras.

Equip individual classrooms with telephones.  “Establish an Emergency Operation Communication System. In addition to campus intercoms and two-way radios, it is important for school officials to be able to communicate with law enforcement and outside telephone providers. This includes the use of cell phones.”  (National School Safety Center)

Have lockdown and Code Blue procedures, practices, and drills.

Use Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED).  These theories hold that law enforcement officers, architects, city planners, landscape and interior designers, and volunteers can create a climate of safety in a community. CPTED’s goal is to prevent crime by designing a physical environment that positively influences human behavior. The theory is based on four principles: natural access control, natural surveillance, territoriality, and maintenance.

Youth Gun Violence

[O]ne way to prevent youth gun violence is to make the incentives that youth face to engage in prosocial activities (particularly schooling) and avoid risky behaviors (such as gun involvement) more swift, certain, and salient.  (Gun Violence Among School-Age Youth in Chicago; Crime Lab; University of Chicago).”

“Address root issues, such as poverty, social inequality, and school failure.  Gun availability has multiplier effects when combined with such risk factors for youth violence involvement as mental health problems, alcohol or drug abuse, and school failure or disengagement. “The lethality of guns means it is important to try to keep guns away from youth who are engaged in violence as an independent goal, above and beyond trying to reduce youth involvement with violent events.”  (U. of Chicago)

“[Y]oung people, criminally involved young adults, and even drug-selling street gangs respond to police pressure against illegal gun carrying and use.’ “[D]eliver a credible threat to…gangs that using guns was not going to be tolerated, and that the entire gang would suffer when any one member of the gang used a gun. The hope was to provide gang leaders with an incentive to limit gun use by the members, for fear of a police crackdown.” (U. of Chicago)

Suicide Prevention

Many people commit suicide using a gun.

“[I]t is reasonable to suppose that a policy that made it more difficult for those who consider it to use their preferred means of ending their lives (often, a gunshot) would cause some to desist (U. of Chicago).”

Gun suicides are more common among whites than blacks, and more common among the old than among young or middle-aged adults (Cook & Ludwig, 2000). Men are vastly overrepresented in all categories.

Background Checks and Record Keeping

Ensure state compliance with requirements to post appropriate mental health records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System

Establish clear reporting guidelines for when and how mental health records are required to be posted in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System so that states can be held accountable for compliance

Close the gun show loophole.  Require a full background check in all gun transactions, including private sales at gun shows and online purchases. Presently, only seventeen states regulate private firearm sales at gun shows. An advocate for closing the private sale loophole once likened current federal gun policy to an airline security system which offers passengers a choice between submitting oneself to our current screening system, or side-stepping it, and boarding with whatever you would like to bring on board.  Approximately 40% of the guns acquired in the U.S. annually come from unlicensed sellers, who are not required by federal law to run background checks on potential gun purchasers.

If an individual privately sells guns to anyone, he or she must first report it to local authorities.

Fully fund state technology efforts to comply with the federal background check system requirements.

Require states to comply fully with the protocols of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System or threatening to take away their federal funding.

Require states to rerun background checks more often (a minimum of every other year) to prevent otherwise ineligible individuals from continuing to possess weapons.

Mandate federal compliance with a presidential executive order directing all agencies to submit records to this instant background check system.

Mandate that gun dealers take yearly inventories and report any lost or stolen guns and/or ammunition.

Change the Congressionally mandated Tiahrt Amendments to make it easier to trace weapons and prosecute violators. These amendments have weakened the federal gun laws by amending the Gun Control Act.  One provision of the Tiahrt Amendments requires the FBI to destroy all approved gun purchaser records within twenty-four hours of approval, making it extremely difficult for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) to quickly trace crime guns or to retrieve firearms from prohibited individuals.  In other words, there is no searchable paper trail.  The Tiahrt Amendments also prohibit the ATF from requiring gun dealers to submit inventories so that the 50,000 gun dealers currently operating in the United States are not mandated to report the loss or theft of guns. State and local law enforcement are still prohibited from using trace data in civil proceedings to suspend or revoke the license of a gun dealer who has sold weapons illegally.

ATF should be empowered to operate as a health and safety agency with the ability to:

  • Set safety standards for firearms, monitor compliance with such standards and issue recalls of defective firearms. The U.S. General Accounting Office has estimated that 31% of unintentional deaths caused by firearms might be prevented by the addition of two devices: a child-proof safety lock (8%) and a loading indicator (23%)  (U.S. General Accounting Office, Accidental Shootings: Many Deaths and Injuries Caused by Firearms Could Be Prevented).
  • Restrict the availability of specific firearms, classes of firearms and firearm products when appropriate, i.e., where the products present an unreasonable risk of death or injury and no feasible safety standard would adequately reduce the risk.
  • Take immediate action to stop the sale and distribution of firearms or firearms products found to be “imminent hazards.”

Close loopholes.  Criminals who have been convicted of misdemeanors other than domestic violence are not usually banned from gun possession under the current laws.  This loophole must be closed because research has shown that one previous misdemeanor (violent or not) may be a future indicator for further violence involving a firearm. Another study revealed that individuals convicted of violent misdemeanors were eight times more likely to be charged with subsequent violent crimes, including crimes involving firearms, and that one out of every three violent misdemeanants seeking to purchase a handgun was arrested for newly committed crimes within three years of acquiring that handgun.

The best solution to the limitations of running a background check is to perform both federal and state checks before allowing a gun to be sold.

Manufacture and Sale of Guns

Prohibit the manufacture, sale and purchase of assault weapons and outlawing high-capacity bullet magazines, very large amounts of ammunition, bullets that have the sole purpose of causing great bodily injury, and aftermarket kits to convert certain firearms from semi-automatic to fully-automatic.  Define “assault weapons” better and more specifically.  Include fully automatic rifles and semi-automatic rifles and semi-automatic handguns.  One in five law enforcement officers slain in the line of duty was killed with an assault weapon.  Gun shooting victims were more likely to die in larger-caliber shootings, again suggesting that the intrinsic lethality of the weapon affected the outcome (Cook, 1991).  The obvious partial solution is to restrict very large caliber gun manufacture, sales, and possession.

Prohibitions and Restrictions on Gun Ownership

Firearms Prohibitions for High-Risk Persons Should be Broadened. Our current laws permit many people who have been convicted of crimes—most misdemeanor crimes adjudicated in adult court and felony crimes handled in juvenile court—to possess firearms. Data from two studies of individuals who have committed the most serious crimes indicate that prior to committing these crimes, the perpetrators were not prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law. Many suspects charged with felony crimes are convicted of lesser charges as a result of a plea agreement. Research has shown that misdemeanants who were legally able to purchase handguns committed crimes involving violence following those purchases at a rate two to ten times higher than that of handgun purchasers with no prior convictions. Handgun purchasers with a history of arrest but no convictions have an equally high or higher risk of committing violent crimes following handgun purchases as do misdemeanants who legally purchased a handgun.

The number of drug abusers prohibited from possessing firearms might be increased significantly by revamping these regulations to, for example, expand the period following a drug conviction for which a person is prohibited from possessing firearms.

More Restrictions on Youth Purchases. Restrictions on youths’ ability to purchase and possess firearms should be broadened. Although federal law and most state law allows youth 18 to 20 years of age to legally possess a handgun, youth of these ages have some of the highest rates of homicide offending. Age-specific homicide offending rates rise sharply in the late teens and peak at age 20.  An analogy is to graduated driver’s licensing.

There should be more federal control over gun policy, particularly because the federal government is going to better internalize cross-state spillovers in gun trafficking.  In an article from Brown University in Science Daily on October 24, 2011 titled “Gun traffickers exploit differences in state laws, economist says,”

  1. Trafficking flows respond to gun regulations, with guns flowing from states with weak gun laws into nearby states with strict laws.

  2. Proximity matters: Trafficking flows are more significant between two nearby states than between two distant states. Thus, a weakening of gun laws has a more significant effect in nearby states.

  3. The fraction of crimes involving a gun tends to be higher in states exposed to weak gun laws.

Raise the Price and Increase the Cost of Illegal Gun Acquisition.

“Transaction costs in underground gun markets are substantial: prices are high relative to the legal gun market; wait times are considerable; mistrust is common between buyers and sellers; and many transaction attempts go unfulfilled, even by people who are well-connected in the underground economy (Cook, Ludwig, Venkatesh, and Braga, 2007).”

The underground market seems to work far less smoothly for guns than for drugs, perhaps in part because guns, unlike drugs, are durable goods, so the number of market transactions is lower and exchange becomes more difficult to manage. These patterns suggest opportunities for enforcement efforts that disrupt the illicit gun market. Measures such as buy-and-bust operations or efforts to incentivize arrestees to provide information about buyers and sellers in the gun market may prove more effective than those directed at illegal drugs.” (U. of Chicago)  “Diverting high-risk buyers from the primary to the secondary market (by, for example, improving background checks or cracking down on rogue dealers) would further increase prices in the latter by increasing demand (Cook & Leitzel, 1996).”

Safety Training

Mandatory Training on Gun Safety for Gun Owners and Users.  Tie this requirement to federal funding of states.  If there is no such training, then a withdrawal or deferral of federal funding occurs. Life, health and homeowner insurance companies deny any injury or liability claims caused by unregistered weapons/ammo owned by the claimant, or if the gun owner failed to take the requisite training.

Require any person seeking to own, possess, purchase or otherwise acquire a firearm to obtain a firearm safety certificate, which obligates the applicant to successfully complete a safety training course that includes live firing, a safe-handling demonstration and a written test of firearm laws.

Require Training for Concealed Carry.  There is a critical lack of accountability required for gun ownership, especially for carrying a gun in public.  For example, one does not have to be a trained marksman to own a gun or carry a concealed weapon in many states; a course is required for concealed carry in most, but not all, states, most notably in the states that do not require permits for CCW.  Require periodic recertification.

 Reporting loss or theft of weapon

Require any firearm owner or possessor to report the loss or theft of his or her firearm to law enforcement within 48 hours of the time he or she knew or reasonably should have known of the loss or theft.

Detection of Incidents

Install Gunfire Detection Systems. Such systems help law enforcement detect the physical location of the gunfire, review video of the location, and dispatch an appropriate response. Gunfire detection systems have been shown to produce safer communities, produce 80% more arrests, and provide evidence for court.

Storage, Safes and Trigger Locks

Mandatory trigger locks and gun safes for gun owners. Installation of gun cabinets may improve gun and ammunition storage practices.  Financial assistance to gun owners, such as tax incentives, can be provided to gun owners for this purpose.

Child access prevention (CAP) laws require gun owners to store their firearms so that children and teens cannot easily access firearms unsupervised. Studies have found CAP laws to be effective in reducing accidental shootings of children by as much as 23%, and suicides of adolescents by 8%. Keeping firearms locked, unloaded, and storing ammunition in a locked location separate from firearms may assist in reducing youth suicide and unintentional injury in homes with children and teenagers where guns are stored (David C. Grossman et al., Gun Storage Practices and Risk of Youth Suicide and Unintentional Firearm Injuries, 293 JAMA 707, 711-13 (Feb. 2005).

Require trigger locks.

Retrieve weapons from ineligible individuals.

Policies regulating the retrieval of weapons from ineligible individuals are also seriously inadequate.  For example, if a crime is committed after the purchase of a gun, it remains unclear in several states which law enforcement agencies must be notified, if any, and which procedure law enforcement must follow to retrieve weapons from the person accused or convicted of a crime.  Moreover, laws often do not mandate that stolen guns be reported to law enforcement officials, so a stolen gun could easily be used to commit violent crimes

Alcohol Use

Expanding firearm prohibitions to include persons who are alcoholics or problem drinkers could potentially reduce alcohol-related violence.  Substance abuse is associated with a significant increase in violent behavior. It’s a much more significant risk factor than mental illness.  Therefore, create and make more severe the penalties for using a gun while drinking alcohol, as well as for using a gun while on certain medications known by medical experts to cause agitated or aggressive behavior. Federal firearm laws do not prohibit alcoholics from possessing firearms, and only 16 states have statutes prohibiting alcohol abusers from possessing firearms. Furthermore, some states with gun prohibitions for alcohol abusers lack regulations to allow authorities to enforce the prohibition.

Trafficking

Make gun trafficking a federal crime, with stiff penalties for those who arm criminals.

Mental Health Services

Fully Fund Mental Health Services.  Fund these services through a special tax on guns, ammunition, and permits dedicated to mental health screening, counseling, and services. Instituting and expanding programs that work through schools to identify and help students with issues, helping families with at risk children, and adults with crisis counseling might help create a safer environment.

  • Ensure access to mental health care, including treatment and medication.
  • Establish 24/7 walk-in crisis centers.
  • Provide annual mental health screenings in schools, as is often done for vision, hearing, and dental issues.  Maintain confidentiality as necessary, but don’t let confidentiality requirements interfere with provision of necessary services.
  • Conduct screenings in pediatricians’ and doctor’s offices for boys and young men with a history of a traumatic event of many types.  Screening can also be done by school counselors and school nurses.  Include in the screening probing for a history of acting on threats or of having violent or destructive behavior.  Other screening factors include self-loathing, rage, social marginalization, family problems, work or school problems, and precipitating crisis events.  Substantial evidence indicates that perpetrators of murder–suicide share many of the following characteristics: (1) they had troubled childhoods, (2) they lived in oppressive social environments, (3) they suffered from low self-esteem, (4) they were triggered by a personal crisis, (5) they were seeking revenge, and (6) they were seeking fame and glory.  Many suffered grotesque physical and /or psychological abuse during childhood, including injury in the company of their caregivers.
  • Under the IDEA, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, students with emotional disorders are supposed to receive free and appropriate services in K-12 schools so that they can remain in school and succeed in life. However due to the high cost of these services, school budgetary cuts, resistance by some school districts, and the lack of knowledge by parents that these programs are mandated, but not fully implemented, many young people drop out or do not receive the services they need.  These Acts should be fully funded and enforced.
  • Expand the Australian concept of Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) training. The idea behind MHFA is no different than that of traditional first aid: to create an environment where people know how to help someone in an emergency situation. Not only does the course increase mental health literacy, according to studies of the Australian model, but it’s also shown to improve the mental health of those taking the training, making them more confident in dealing with people who have a mental health illness. Participants learn how to detect a number of mental illnesses — including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, psychosis, substance use disorders, depression, anxiety and eating disorders — and how to respond to people who have them. Their response is guided by a five-step action plan, termed “ALGEE,” which stands for:
    • Assess for risk of suicide or harm.
    • Listen nonjudgmentally.
    • Give reassurance and information.
    • Encourage appropriate professional help.
    • Encourage self-help and other support strategies.

One of the program’s main goals is to erase the stigma associated with mental health illnesses.

Remove the requirement that youth under age 18 must consent to mental health treatment.  Instead, make provisions in case this is not possible: require that a parent/ guardian must consent to the treatment and a mental health professional that has knowledge of the case and an unrelated professional such as a teacher, pediatrician, etc. For example, a 13-year-old mentally-ill person may or may not consent to treatment. However, they are still likely living with a parent/ guardian.

Provide other options for mentally ill youth and adults who are returning to the community (often to a parent or relative’s home) after in-treatment or institutionalized care.

Provide more opportunities for respite for parents of children with mental illness. Include insurance coverage for this type of care.  Help provide infrastructure, care and support to maintain the mental health of the parent/ guardian caring for the child.

Medical Services

End medical gag laws.  Some states, such as Florida, have passed laws that prohibit doctors from asking their patients about gun ownership, even though studies clearly show that gun ownership is a health risk factor for the owner and his family. A group of Florida doctors and physician groups soon filed a lawsuit, arguing that the outrageous law interfered with their free speech rights under the First Amendment, as well as their ability to care for their patients by warning them about the dangers of firearm ownership. The district court agreed, finding that “[t]he law chills practitioners’ speech in a way that impairs the provision of medical care and may ultimately harm the patient.” The court’s order prohibited the state from enforcing the law.  The American Bar Association has also spoken out against “medical gag laws.” At its annual meeting the ABA adopted a resolution expressing strong opposition to such laws. The accompanying report stated,

For medical practitioners to meet their preventive care and safety counseling responsibilities, they must be able to discuss a broad range of topics with their patients related to known risk factors. This unfettered access allows doctors to adequately assess and address these factors with their patients. Risk factors that may be discussed vary depending on the age of the patient, but for adults often include alcohol consumption, illicit drug use, smoking, diet, and exercise; pediatricians often discuss wearing seat belts and bicycle helmets, the potential dangers of backyard swimming pools, and the need to securely store household cleaners and toxins. Firearms in the home are another known risk factor that doctors may choose to discuss with their patients or the parents of young patients.

Threat Assessment

Use a threat assessment approach.  Look at the person’s personal risk factors and ask,

  • “Do they have a history of mental illness?”
  • If students, what kinds of behavioral problems have they had? What are their relationships like?

Also look at protective factors:

  • Do they have someone they can talk to?
  • Are there guns in the home?  Are they locked up?
  • Are there signs such as social withdrawal, irritability, and a change in habits?

The best predictor of future behavior is past behaviors. A history of violence towards family members, toward others, towards animals is a warning sign.  A common pattern for school shooters is being male, having a history of loss or a perceived failure or rejection, and having access to firearms.

For example, despite being rejected by the military because of a history of illicit drug use and being kicked out of a community college for repeated incidents of threatening and bizarre behavior, Jared Loughner, the Tucson, Arizona, mass gun murderer, legally purchased a semi-automatic pistol with a magazine capable of holding 30 rounds of ammunition.

“Some warning signs carry more weight than others.  For instance, a fascination with, and possession of, firearms are more significant than being a loner, because possession of firearms gives one the capacity to carry out an attack.”

According to Roger Depue in the Virginia Tech Review Panel Report, the “following are some warning signs (indicators and red flags) associated with school shootings in the United States.  Schools, places of employment, and other entities that are creating a threat assessment capability may want to be aware of these red flags:

  • Violent fantasy content –   Writings (Stories, essays, compositions),
  • Drawings (Artwork depicting violence),
  • Reading and viewing materials (Preference for books, magazines, television, video tapes and discs, movies, music, websites, and chat rooms with violent themes and degrading subject matter), and role playing acts of violence and degradation.
  • Anger problems –   Difficulty controlling anger, loss of temper, impulsivity,
  • Making threats
  • Fascination with weapons and accoutrements –  Especially those designed and most often used to kill people (such as machine guns, semiautomatic pistols, snub nose revolvers, stilettos, bayonets, daggers, brass knuckles, special ammunition and explosives)
  • Boasting and practicing of fighting and combat proficiency –
  • Military and sharpshooter training, martial arts, use of garrotes, and knife fighting
  • Loner –  Isolated and socially withdrawn, misfit, prefers own company to the company of others
  • Suicidal ideation –
  • Depressed and expresses hopelessness and despair
  • Reveals suicidal preparatory behavior
  • Homicidal ideation –
  • Expresses contempt for other(s)
  • Makes comments and/or gestures indicating violent aggression
  • Stalking – Follows, harasses, surveils, attempts to contact regardless of the victim’s expressed annoyance and demands to cease and desist
  • Non-compliance and disciplinary problems –  Refusal to abide by written and/or verbal rules
  • Imitation of other murderers –
  • Appearance, dress, grooming, possessions like those of violent shooters in past episodes (e.g. long black trench coats)
  • Interest in previous shooting situations –  Drawn toward media, books, entertainment, conversations dealing with past murders
  • Victim/martyr self-concept –  Fantasy that some day he will represent the oppressed and wreak vengeance on the oppressors
  • Strangeness and aberrant behavior –   Actions and words that cause people around him to become fearful and suspicious
  • Paranoia –   Belief that he is being singled out for unfair treatment and/or abuse; feeling persecuted.
  • Violence and cruelty –   A history of using violence to solve problems (fighting, hitting, etc.), abusing animals or weaker individuals
  • Inappropriate affect –   Enjoying cruel behavior and/or being able to view cruelty without being disturbed
  • Acting out –  Expressing disproportionate anger or humor in situations not warranting it, attacking surrogate targets
  • Police contact –   A history of contact with police for anger, stalking, disorderly conduct;
  • Past temporary restraining orders (or similar court orders),
  • A jail/prison record for aggressive crimes
  • Mental health history related to dangerousness – A history of referral or commitments to mental health facilities for aggressive/destructive behavior
  • Expressionless face/anhedonia – An inability to express and/or experience joy and pleasure
  • Unusual interest in police, military, terrorist activities and materials
  • Vehicles resembling police cars, military vehicles, surveillance equipment, handcuffs, weapons, clothing (camouflage, ski masks, etc.)
  • Use of alcohol/drugs –  Alcohol/drugs are used to reduce inhibitions so that aggressive behaviors are more easily expressed”

National success in reducing injuries from car crashes can serve as a model for reducing firearm injury.  Just as speeding or distracted driving escalates risks on an unsafe road, misuse of firearms in the wrong places and at inappropriate times can intensify risks for violent injury and death. A patient’s firearm risks should be examined in the context of his or her environment, their household, and their history of risk-taking behaviors.

Patient Safety

The military, the Veterans Health Administration, and the wider medical community should create a trusted mechanism for safely removing and temporarily storing firearms on a patient’s behalf with his/her consent.

Suicide Prevention

The issue of guns should be linked to the issue of suicide prevention. Access to firearms is a risk factor for suicide.  Firearms used in youth suicide usually belong to a parent.

Reducing access to lethal means saves lives. The best generally available proxy for gun prevalence is the fraction of suicides that involve a firearm (FSS), which is highly correlated with survey-based measures of gun ownership rates in cross-section data (at both the state and county level), and also tracks movements over time at the regional and state levels (Azrael, Cook, & Miller, 2004; Kleck, 2004; Cook & Ludwig, 2006). “[S]tates with relatively high gun ownership rates also have a higher ratio of male-to-female suicides compared with states with fewer guns. These findings are consistent with the idea that guns increase the lethality of suicide attempts. (U. of Chicago)

Lethal Means Counseling

Nurses and other emergency department personnel in hospital emergency rooms should provide “Lethal means counseling.”  This means:

  • Assessing whether a person at risk for suicide has access to a firearm or other lethal means, and
  • Working with them and their family and support system to limit their access until they are no longer feeling suicidal.  Psychiatrists should also provide such counseling in their practices. Among families of high risk youth, those who received the counseling were significantly more likely than those who had not to remove or secure the dangerous items.  Others who come into contact with suicidal people should also provide such counseling.

Emergency departments and trauma centers offer the opportunity to reduce repeat or retaliatory violence in injured youth.  Addressing distress and mood disorders, providing relationship therapy, brief interventions for at‐risk drinkers, nutritional supplements, and encouraging help-seeking can lower risks for future violence.

Social Safety Net

Improve the social safety net generally, so that fewer people fall through the cracks.

Mandatory Reporters. Tighten rules for mandatory reporters, so that more people with violent potential come to the attention of law enforcement.

Community Oriented Policing. Restore funding for the Community Oriented Policing (COPS) program, to put more police back in communities. Directed police patrol against illicit carrying has promise for reducing gun violence.

Use other targeted harm reduction strategies, analogous to those used for illegal drugsHarm reduction is a pragmatic, public-health approach to dealing with drug-related issues that focuses on minimizing the negative consequences of drug use and drug laws and policies. Providing an alternative to the U.S. prohibition-based abstinence model, harm reduction favors effective and low-cost approaches like needle exchange and methadone treatment. These approaches are legal in New York State, and have successfully reduced drug use, crime, and the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Gun Owner and Retailer Responsibility.  Gun enthusiasts should police other gun enthusiasts, and learn to notice and act on signs of potential violence.  For example, firearm retailers and range owners can help prevent suicide by

Use guidelines with gun store/firing range owners about how to avoid selling or renting a firearm to a suicidal customer

Encourage gun stores and firing ranges to display and distribute suicide, anger, and violence prevention materials tailored to their customers, including materials, resources, and hotline telephone numbers and websites.

Experience has shown that higher-yield interventions include third-party reporting of concerns or leaked intent.

James Knoll:  “An open and fearless heart seeks to take responsibility for its own anger. It does so by learning how not to externalize blame, being willing to examine itself, and cultivating responsibility.”

Media Coverage.  The media, in covering a mass murder shooting, should ensure that the perpetrator is neither glorified nor demonized.  Avoiding much emphasis on the perpetrator is a good general rule. Rather, media should emphasize victim and community recovery efforts.

Product Liability Laws

Firearms are the only consumer product not regulated by a federal agency for health and safety. This unique exemption has been exploited by the gun industry as it has moved to embrace increased lethality as the foundation of its design, manufacturing, and marketing efforts in the wake of the long-term decline in household gun ownership.

Apply the decades-long lessons of consumer product safety regulation and injury prevention to the gun industry and its products. Strengthen product liability laws, so that gun manufacturers have at least some liability for the damage that their guns do. Congress enacted a law in 2005 that gives gun manufacturers and dealers broad immunity from being sued. The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act (PLCAA) shields the gun industry.  This law should be rescinded. Before the PLCAA, lawsuits were starting to prod the gun industry to act more responsibly. In 2000, Smith & Wesson, the nation’s largest handgun manufacturer, agreed to a variety of safety conditions to end lawsuits that threatened to put it in bankruptcy. Among other things, Smith & Wesson agreed to put a second, hidden set of serial numbers on all of its new guns to make it harder for criminals to scratch away the identifying markings.  But the PLCAA took away the pressure to work on safety.

Consumer Product Regulation and Safety Devices

The nation has decided to regulate the design of numerous consumer products, such as cribs and small, high-powered magnets, in order to prevent far fewer deaths than could be prevented with a ban of large capacity magazines for example.  We need a holistic approach to protecting children.

Safety Disconnect Devices.  Although unintentional or accidental shootings account for a small share of firearm-related mortality and morbidity, these deaths and injuries are highly preventable through proper design of firearms. Some of these incidents occur because inexperienced gun handlers, often children, do not realize that a gun is loaded, or that a pistol can have a round loaded in the chamber to fire even after the ammunition clip is removed. Unintentional shootings of this type can be prevented by magazine safety disconnect devices and loaded chamber indicators, relatively inexpensive safety features already available on some handguns.

Biometrics. Technological fixes so that only the registered owner can shoot the gun. Guns can be designed so that they cannot be fired by unauthorized users, and thus, prevent unintentional and self-inflicted shootings by underage youth, as well as some crimes committed with stolen guns  (Teret SP, Webster DW. Reducing gun deaths in the United States: personalized guns would help – and would be achievable. British Medical Journal 1999:318:1160-1161).

Safer gun technology exists, but most manufacturers, not required by law to incorporate safety into their designs, have been reluctant to make use of it.  The technology to manufacture child-resistant handguns has existed since the late 1800s when Smith & Wesson produced a handgun with a safety grip, and claimed that “no ordinary child under eight years of age [could] possibly discharge it.”

Also, technology exists to “personalize” a gun so that only the authorized user can operate it.  Methods for personalization include low-technology devices such as combination locks and high-technology electric, radio frequency, or magnetic sensory devices.  Colt’s Manufacturing Company, Inc. (Colt) has developed working prototypes of a personalized gun which use radio frequency technology.  In 1996, Sandia National Laboratories released a report of its work on personalized gun technologies.

Liability Insurance

Gun holders should be required to purchase additional liability insurance to cover gun incidents that cause harm to themselves and other. Proof of insurance should be provided as a condition to purchase a gun.  The analogy is to car insurance.

Divestment

Institutional and other investors should divest from gun manufacturers. For example, the father of Stephen Feinberg, founder of Cerberus, the private-equity firm that owns gunmaker Freedom Group Inc., lives in the town where a Freedom Group-made rifle was usedto kill 20 children in Newtown, Connecticut’s elementary school. Martin Feinberg is a resident of Liberty at Newtown, a community for people 55 and older that’s about 6 miles from Sandy Hook elementary school. Cerberus today announced on December 18, 2012 that it will sell Freedom Group.

Advertising

In the absence of rules governing the design of firearms, regulating the way guns are advertised may be a useful public health intervention. Some gun advertisements include messages suggesting that bringing a handgun into the home is generally protective for the occupants of the home. The best available scientific information contradicts this message. Given this disjunction, regulating those advertisements may be an appropriate response.

Under federal law, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has authority to prohibit advertisements that are “deceptive” or “unfair.” Under the FTC’s deception analysis, the focus is on whether consumers are misled by an advertisement. For a finding of unfairness, the FTC looks for advertisements that may cause substantial injury to consumers. Under either analysis, a strong argument can be made that firearm advertisements promising home protection are unlawful.

The Prevalence of Evil People rather than Demonizing the Mentally Ill

Broaden the discussion beyond mental health to include evil people, and learn to recognize the signs of evil.  James Scully, MD, CEO of the American Psychiatric Association has stated, “The idea that mental illness and evil are one and the same thing is simply a relic of the past and has no place in our public dialogue.  People who are clearly not mentally ill commit violent crimes every day.”

Most mass shooters have not had a mental illness but instead were very angry and/or seeking vengeance. According to the psychiatrist James Knoll,

“The majority of research indicates that there are factors common to mass murderers, such as extreme feelings of anger and revenge, the lack of an accomplice (in adult mass murder), feelings of social alienation, and planning/organizing the offense. In a detailed case study of 5 mass murderers who were caught before they were killed, a number of common traits and historical factors were found.  The subjects had all been bullied or isolated as children, turning into loners who felt despair over being socially excluded. They were described as suspicious, resentful, grudge-holders who demonstrated obsessive and inflexible thinking. Not surprisingly, they were also narcissistic and coped with personal problems by blaming others. Their worldview was characterized by seeing most others as rejecting and uncaring. As a result, they spent a great deal of time nurturing their resentment and ruminating on past humiliations. The ruminations evolved into fantasies of violent revenge. They did not see their own violent death as a deterrent, particularly because they perceived it as bringing them fame with an aura of power.” Besides access to a gun, other factors often found in killing of family members (familicide) include the presence of a stepchild, substance abuse by the perpetrator, domestic violence, jealousy, and economic stress.  In familicide cases, studies have found that 91–95% of the time the perpetrator is a man.

“Rampage shooters are generally assumed to be mentally unbalanced, while suicide bombers are seen as extreme, but rational, political actors. However, this review explores the possibility that the primary differences between the two types of killers are cultural, not individual, and that in terms of their underlying psychology and motivation, they are actually quite similar.”  (Adam Lankford and Nayab Hakim; From Columbine to Palestine: A comparative analysis of rampage shooters in the United States and volunteer suicide bombers in the Middle East in Aggression and Violent Behavior; Volume 16, Issue 2, March–April 2011, Pages 98–107)

It can be argued that the evil does not lie within the shooter, but within the society that permits the shooter. Barrister John Mortimore clearly stated this realization: ‘If this man was allowed to have handguns under license it is not demonic evil but a failure of resistance’ (Mortimore, cited by Squires, 131).  (Squires, Peter. Gun Culture or Gun Control?  Firearms, Violence and Society. Routledge: New York, 2000)

Concealed Carry

Tighten the rules on concealed carry of a gun. Concealed weapons are defined as “weapons, especially handguns, which are kept hidden on one’s person, or under one’s control.”  Under one’s control can also mean a gun that is easily accessed in places such as a glove compartment or under the seat of one’s car while driving.

Violence against Women

According to the Violence Policy Center’s report, When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2007 Homicide Data, 91% of murdered women were killed by someone they knew.  Because guns increase the probability of death in incidents of domestic violence, the carrying of concealed weapons (CCW) is especially problematic.

Incidence. Federal law does not prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons by private citizens, nor does it provide rules for concealed weapons permits or licenses by private citizens.  From the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (“WISQARS”) Leading Causes of Death Reports database for women’s violence-related deaths in the United States:

  • For females aged 15 to 34, homicide-by-firearm was the leading cause of death from 1999 to 2007.
  • For women aged 35 to 64, homicide-by-firearm was the third leading cause of violence-related death from 1999 to 2007.
  • Moreover, suicide-by-firearm also ranked in the top five causes of violence-related deaths for women of all ages from 1999 to 2007 with the rate increasing with age after age 35.
  • For women aged 15 to 34, the rank was third, and for women aged 35 to 64, it rose to the second leading cause of violence-related death.

A study by Harvard School of Public Health researchers analyzed gun use at home and concluded that “hostile gun displays against family members may be more common than gun use in self-defense, and that hostile gun displays are often acts of domestic violence directed against women.”

Thanks to the high level of state reciprocity, concealed weapons permits are often valid across state lines.  These policies should be ended. The correlation between carrying concealed weapons and violence against women deserves heightened research.

Reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.  VAWA authorizes the government to investigate and prosecute those responsible for violent crime against women, increases the duration of pre-trial detention of accused batterers, imposes automatic and mandatory restitution on those convicted, and allows civil redress in cases that prosecutors chose not to pursue.

Fully fund these additional acts:

  • The Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) as extended by the Department of Health and Human Services Appropriations Act in 2010 provides dedicated federal funding for domestic violence shelters, emergency shelters, crisis hotlines, counseling services, and victim assistance programs for the underserved.  FVPSA also funds initiatives for teen dating violence and children who witness violence.
  • Additionally, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) intervenes in child abuse, neglect, and sexual violence and improves services for both victims of child abuse and families that are experiencing domestic violence and child maltreatment.
  • Strengthen the Domestic Violence Misdemeanor Gun Ban, prohibiting anyone convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence or of child abuse from purchasing or possessing a gun.  While well-intentioned, the Domestic Violence Misdemeanor Gun Ban has some serious limitations.  First, the law does not apply to people who are dating unless the couple has at some point cohabitated and/or have a child together.  However, there is a documented risk of domestic violence being committed by a dating partner. California has addressed this gap in federal law by enacting more stringent state laws encompassing a more comprehensive list of persons subject to firearm prohibitions due to domestic violence, including persons convicted of Intimate Partner Violence against someone they are or were dating, regardless of sexual orientation.

Improve State Laws Dealing with Interpersonal Violence. State laws should require removal of firearms from abusers to help ensure that the abusers will not have continued access to firearms to threaten or harm their victims. Twenty-three states do not have a court-ordered removal law or a police gun removal law in place.  The following elements should be included in state gun removal legislation:

  • Mandatory “shall-remove” laws are preferable to discretionary “may-remove” laws. “Shall-remove” laws limit discretion and facilitate consistent implementation in removal of guns from the abuser.
  • Requirements that guns have been used as an instrument of abuse prior to removal should be eliminated as such conditions limit the preventive potential of these laws to reduce the risk of severe and lethal abuse.
  • Laws that condition gun removal on arrest of the alleged batterer impose a link between two interpersonal violence response options that need not be connected, and they may needlessly complicate law enforcement officers’ decisions about how and when to use arrest and gun removal to achieve maximum benefit.
  • Laws that require the presence or potential risk of danger associated with the gun as a condition of police removal may be too subjective for consistent, effective implementation, and therefore this requirement is not recommended.
  • Court authority to remove guns from protective order respondents during both the temporary and permanent stages of the order are more comprehensive than laws that restrict court removal authority to the permanent order stage. Offering this protection when respondents first learn of the order is advisable, given the heightened danger for the protected party at this time.
  • Responsibility for removing surrendered guns should rest with law enforcement.
  • Relying on respondents to comply with the court’s order may result in decreased compliance with the law.
  • In general, laws that specify clear procedures for the mechanism, immediacy, and duration of gun removal and provide funding to train law enforcement and the courts in implementing these laws will increase the likelihood that these laws will positively impact victim safety.  Good laws require effective implementation and enforcement.  Advocates and policy makers in states where these laws exist can assess how law enforcement and the courts are using these laws to increase available protections for interpersonal violence victims.
  • Working with state and local officials to support efforts to ensure that these laws are effectively used is important.
  • There is a need for research that informs how these laws are being implemented, and how their implementation impacts victim, law enforcement, and community safety.

Privacy Rights

Increase the understanding of school and college officials, so that they don’t hide behind the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) in mistakenly thinking they can’t do anything about potentially violent students.

Similarly, increase the understanding of HIPAA (the health care privacy act), so that practitioners understand that it doesn’t mean that potentially violent patients can be ignored or hidden.  Currently, if the threat does not seem imminent, current confidentiality rules and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) prohibit clinicians from acting on these measures, lest they set themselves up to be sued.  Therefore, a legal safe harbor should be created to protect clinicians who warn a potential victim and law enforcement authorities.

Research

Establish a National Institute of Violence Prevention at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to research root causes and community solutions. We should fund the Centers for Disease Control to develop its infrastructure so it can track, assess and develop strategies to prevent gun violence, just as we do with tainted spinach and influenza.  Currently NIH is prohibited by statute from covering gun violence as a public health problem.

Revise the charter of the US Institute on Peace to allow it to work on domestic US conflict issues, such as gun violence.

Political Contributions

Overturn the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, so that the influence of big donors will be decreased in politics.  This will reduce the influence of the NRA and arms manufacturers, which are distorting the possibility of good legislation, and make possible a more even playing field for public policy and political discussions, deliberations, and decisions.

Public Health Emphasis and Approach

Shift to more of a public health emphasis, and encourage passive safety elements, similarly to the way car safety has been approached.  People still have lots and lots of cars, but each car is much safer. Public health provides a useful framework to address firearm injury because it seeks to prevent harm to both individuals and the community.  This approach is informed by epidemiology, “the study of the distribution and determinants of health-related states or events in specified populations and the application of this study to control of health problems.”  Specifically, this approach looks for practical prevention and intervention points that occur prior to, during, or after an injury event, and can operate by addressing the agent, the host, and environment.

The prevention of firearm suicides—which outnumber firearm homicides and are not crimes—is often viewed as the responsibility the healthcare system and providers. Healthcare providers have a vital role in preventing intentional and unintentional firearm injuries and their impact on patients, families and communities.

Buy-Back Programs

Use buy-back programs for guns. “Gun “buyback” programs may seem to offer another opportunity to learn more about the effects of gun prevalence on crime. In practice, American buyback programs have had little effect on prevalence because they are brief and voluntary, and leave open the possibility of owners buying new guns to replace those they turn in.  Further, the sellers in these buyback programs have been shown to be people at low risk for criminal offending, and the guns that are turned in are often broken or quite different from those that are used in crime (U. of Chicago).  This argues for evidence-based programs.

Police Enforcement, Security Guards, and Surveillance of Potentially Dangerous People and Groups

Treat mass gun murderers as domestic terrorists.   There are burgeoning sales of 50 caliber sniper rifles—military-bred weapons that can down helicopters and penetrate armor plating, yet are easier to purchase than a standard handgun.  A study by the Violence Policy Center revealed that the Al Qaeda network had purchased at least 25 of the weapons in the United States.

FBI documents obtained by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) under the  Freedom of Information Act show that from its inception, the FBI treated the Occupy movement as a potential criminal and terrorist threat even though the agency acknowledges in documents that organizers explicitly called for peaceful protest and did “not condone the use of violence” at occupy protests.  Using similar criteria, extreme gun enthusiasts could be similarly surveilled, monitored, and reported on.  In fact, extreme gun enthusiasts, because they possess guns, espouse a willingness to use them, and give as a reason protection from an allegedly oppressive government, provide even greater reasons for FBI scrutiny of them.  This would help provide early warning of potential mass murders using guns.

Undercover stings of suspect gun dealers, coupled with prosecutions and publicity about the effort, can lead to substantial reductions in the number of new guns diverted to criminals.  Using this strategy, Chicago and Detroit saw reductions in the diversion of recently purchased guns from in-state dealers to criminals of 62% and 36%, respectively. States that have and enforce (through regular compliance inspections) comprehensive regulations on gun dealers have fewer guns sold by in-state gun stores that are diverted to criminals soon after retail sale.  Currently, the FBI conducts such stings of suspected terrorists.  Reframing the idea of gun violence as a form of domestic terrorist would enable similar tactics to be used against gun violence enablers.

Gun Carrying Suppression Units.  Many shootings result from spontaneous conflicts involving an individual who is illegally carrying a gun.  Some cities deploy special police units to detect and deter illegal gun carrying at times and places where shootings are common. This strategy has reduced shootings in several cities by 30% to 70% without causing the violence to spill over to nearby areas.

Call-In Meetings. Offenders in target areas with the most violent criminal histories are instructed to attend a “call in” meeting.  Law enforcement officials tell offenders at these meetings that they will be under surveillance, and will face federal prosecution if they are involved in any violence or firearm offenses.  Offenders are also offered assistance, including substance abuse treatment and job training to help them change their lifestyles.

Community leaders and family members sometimes attend to encourage positive change. This strategy is associated with substantial reductions in gun violence in Boston and Indianapolis.

CeaseFire Programs. Chicago’s CeaseFire program is a public health initiative involving outreach to high-risk youth in neighborhoods with high levels of guns violence, mediation of disputes, and efforts to promote social norms that stay away from violence.  Street outreach workers—who are typically former gang members—develop  relationships with high-risk youth, steer those youth to resources to reduce their risk (e.g., job training), and serve as positive role models.  Outreach workers also place themselves in settings where shootings tend to occur, and seek out information about conflicts that could escalate to gunfire.  When disputes arise, outreach workers (sometimes with the assistance of “violence interrupters”) help the individuals involved to appreciate the negative consequences of using violence, and offer nonviolent resolutions to the conflict.  An evaluation of CeaseFire found shootings declined in 6 of 7 intervention neighborhoods, and that the program was associated with significant reductions in shootings and retaliatory homicides in 4 of 7 neighborhoods studied.  When program implementation was interrupted as a result of funding cuts, shootings increased in the affected areas. Baltimore’s replication of the program has demonstrated significant reductions in homicides in two intervention communities.

Armed security guards in schools.  There are about 132,400 elementary and secondary schools in the US.  If each had one guard, at a loaded cost of about $100,000 per year (loaded cost means salary and benefits and overhead, etc.) then the cost for the nation would be about $13,230,000,000 per year.  Where is this $13 billion going to come from?  A special tax or surcharge on guns, perhaps?  On ammunition?  Both?

(With thanks to Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Gun Policy and Research)

Finally, Getting Ready for New Challenges

3-D printing of guns. We can easily envision a future in which 3-D printers are affordable and patterns abound for products both benign and malicious, and that cut out the manufacturing sector completely.

We should be prepared to respond to this development or any other new challenge in the future.

 

Meeting in New Delhi January 10, 2013 on Preventing Violence against Women

I have received a few emails from a friend in the last couple of weeks following the gang rape and death of the 23-year old female medical student in New Dehli. These emails have been a joint announcement with updates from PUCL-CFD – the People’s Union for Civil Liberties and Citizens for Democracy—about a planning meeting to discuss what needs to be done to prevent rape and other forms of violence against women in New Delhi and throughout India. Here’s the latest update for tomorrow’s first meeting.

Film Show on ‘Rape’ at PUCL-CFD meeting on 10th Jan.2013 and discussion how to prevent violence against women.

Dear friends,
PUCL (Delhi), in association with Citizens For Democracy, has organized a meeting on the subject “How to Prevent Rape and other forms of violence against women” to be held on 10thJanuary, 2013.

A film ‘NOW, I WILL SPEAK’ on RAPE shall be shown in the beginning. ‘Now, I Will Speak’ produced and directed by writer, film-maker and social activist, Sagari Chhabra is a documentary on rape. It deals with rape as a tool of political oppression, used by the police to displace villagers whose village is going under water, in the wake of a dam. It deals with Child rape and custodial rape. The film is a testimony of courage and encourages the survivors to speak out. It has been awarded by the International Association of Women In Radio and Television, and the NIFA ‘Award Of Excellence’ in production and direction. It is 40 minutes long and has a commentary in English with subtitles.
Discussion will follow the film to find out ways and means as how to achieve gender equality and justice for women.

Dr. Gopa Joshi, Shri Sanjay Parikh, Advocate, Ms.Shabnam Hashmi, Dr. Jugal Kishore and Ms. Sagari Chhabra form the panel of speakers. Justice Rajinder Sachhar and Shri Kuldip Nayar shall also contribute.

Programme is as follows:
Time & Date: 2 to 5 PM, Thursday, 10th January, 2013
Venue: Gandhi Peace Foundation, 223, Deen Dayal Upadyay Marg,
New Delhi-110002 (Ph.011-23237491, 23237493)

You are requested to make it convenient to attend.

Satyendra Ranjan
Secretary, CFD
(M) 9811999269

Shivakant
Secretary, PUCL (Delhi)
(M) 9868505324, 9811099532

White House Petition for the ERA

The Equal Rights Amendment was originally proposed by Alice Paul in 1923 after the 20th Amendment giving women the right to vote.  It has not yet become part of the US Constitution. It is time to put pressure on the White House to help get women included in our premiere document of rights.

What is the full text of the ERA? Here it is:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.
Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.
Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

What does the ERA do? Basically, it clarifies the legal status of sex discrimination in the courts and would raise women’s legal status to the same level of constitutional protection that men and people of color receive.

The ERA was introduced into Congress every session since 1923 until it passed in 1972.  Amendments to the Constitution require three-fourths of all states to ratify the amendment before it becomes part of the US Constitution.  It currently sits three states shy of reaching this threshold and has been at that point since June 30, 1982, the date by which Congress said all state ratification had to occur.

Since 1982, the ERA has been reintroduced in every session of Congress. In the 112th Congress (2011-2012), two sets of ERA ratification bills were introduced. S.J.Res. 21 (lead sponsor, Senator Robert Menendez, D-NJ) and H.J.Res. 69 (lead sponsors, Representative Carolyn Maloney, D-NY, and Representative Judy Biggert, R-IL) is the bill  that would have started the process all over from the beginning.

A second bill introduced by Representative, now Senator, Tammy Baldwin (D-WI)—H.J.Res. 47—is a much simpler bill. It would remove the ERA’s ratification deadline and make it part of the Constitution when three more states ratify. There are 15 states that have not ratified the ERA. They are Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and Virginia.

This route, often called the Madison amendment route or the three-state process, follows the 203 year route taken by the 27th amendment. That amendment was originally introduced by James Madison in 1789 as part of package of the proposed Bill of Rights amendments. There was no time limit placed on passage and in 1992 this amendment became the 27th amendment to the US Constitution.

Legal opinion supports the conclusion that the Constitution does not impose a time limit for ratification of amendments because states only ratify the text of the amendment, not any proposing clauses.  The time limit placed into the ERA bill passed in 1972 and the extension passed in 1979 was one of the proposing clauses. The other proposing clause states that the amendment goes into effect two years after the ERA is ratified by three-quarters’ of the states. With the passage of the Madison Amendment 203 years after it was first proposed, this argument against sun-setting an amendment was strengthened.

Both sets of ERA bills failed to pass once again in the 112th Congress and are expected to be reintroduced in the 113th Congress. As I previously said, getting three more states to ratify the ERA using the Madison amendment route is a shorter and somewhat easier route to place women in the Constitution and to afford them the constitutional protections that men and people of color receive.  President Obama, using his bully pulpit can help make this happen.

President Obama has created a petition on the White House website. He has said that he will respond to any petition that receives 25,000 or more signatures within a one-month period. There is currently a petition on the website calling on President Obama to “Support and Advance the Equal Rights Amendment, originally introduced in 1972.” The petition deadline is January 17,2013.

Here is the link to the petition. Please click, sign in to the website (you will need to create an account if this is your first time here), and then add your name to the petition.

https://petitions.whitehouse.gov/petition/support-and-advance-equal-rights-amendment-originally-introduced-1972/JPFwT541

And once you sign the petition, ask your friends, family, and colleagues to sign as well. If we can get this to go viral, then President Obama will respond.

Thanks.

Petition to End Rape Immunity in India

Avaaz is organizing a global petition to help reduce the incidence of rape in India following the rape and death of the 23-year old medical student in New Delhi. According to their website Avaaz “is a global web movement to bring people-powered politics to decision-making everywhere.”

This international human rights organization has created a petition that will be delivered to Indian Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde. Mr. Shinde will be meeting with other government officials on January 4 to discuss the issue of India’s rampant rape crisis. There is some fear that without global pressure—as well as the internal pressure—little may come from this meeting. Here’s what the petition says:

For too long, violent criminals have attacked India’s women and girls with no fear of consequences. It is time to bring an end to the war on women. We call on you to take immediate action to set up fast-track courts for victims of sexual violence across the country, and take every step necessary to protect India’s women and ensure justice is done.

As of 11:25 am Eastern Standard Time, 37,342 people from around the world have signed on to this call for reform. If you are interested in joining this global chorus, please go to the Avaaz petition site and sign on.

Thanks.

The Indian Gang Rape-Murder Just Scratched the Surface

This is a great summary of the history of gender-cleansing in India in the wake of the gang rape and murder of the 23-year old female medical student in New Delhi, India.  It was written by feminist Phyllis Chesler, Emerita Professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies at City University of New York. Thought I’d share her thoughts with you.

The Indian Gang Rape-Murder Just Scratched the Surface.