Swiss Vote To Tighten Gun Laws, Safeguard EU Relations

 

The Swiss voted Sunday to toughen their gun laws and bring them in line with EU legislation, heeding warnings that rejecting the move could have threatened relations with the bloc, early results showed.

Exit polls and preliminary results released shortly after polls closed at noon (1000 GMT) indicated that voters overwhelmingly supported reforming Swiss gun laws.

According to projections by the gfs.bern polling institute, the reform received 66-per cent backing in Sunday’s referendum.

A demand from the neighbouring European Union that the Swiss toughen their gun laws has prompted a rare national debate over firearm ownership in the wealthy Alpine nation, which has a deeply-rooted gun culture.

READ ALSO: Huawei Will Not Bow To US Pressure – Founder

While the government has cautioned that the new legislation is crucial to the non-EU country maintaining its treaties with the bloc, the proposal sparked fierce pushback from the gun lobby and shooting enthusiasts, who gathered enough signatures to trigger a vote under Switzerland’s famous direct democratic system.

Brussels changed its own weapons laws two years ago following a wave of deadly terrorist attacks across Europe, slapping bans on certain types of semi-automatic firearms.

While not an EU member, Switzerland is bound to the bloc through an array of intricately connected bilateral agreements.

Bern had cautioned that a “No” vote would lead to Switzerland’s exclusion from the visa-free Schengen travel region and also the Dublin accords regulating Europe’s asylum-seeking process.

This would have far-reaching consequences for security, asylum and even tourism, and would cost the country “several billion Swiss francs each year,” it said.

The shooting enthusiasts behind Sunday’s referendum meanwhile claim the government warnings are “exaggerated”.

“It is a shame that the people fell for the scare-tactics over Schengen,” Olivia de Weck, a Swiss army captain and the vice president of the ProTell gun lobby, told the ATS news agency after the first projections landed.

 ‘Exceptional authorisation’ 

The strong gun culture in Switzerland is partially tied to its tradition of national defence service, as most Swiss men undergo obligatory military service between the ages of 18 and 30 and are allowed to keep their assigned weapon when they are done.

It is difficult to know exactly how many firearms are in circulation in Switzerland since guns are registered regionally and there is no national registry.

But according to a 2017 report by the Small Arms Survey, the country boasts the world’s 16th highest rate of gun ownership, with some 2.3 million firearms in civilian hands — nearly three for every 10 inhabitants.

Under the new gun law, which has already been approved by legislators, semi-automatic weapons with high-capacity magazines would be listed as “banned”.

Collectors and sports shooters could still purchase such weapons, but would need to jump through more hoops to obtain an “exceptional authorisation”.

Another issue put to a national referendum Sunday — a government proposal to overhaul the country’s corporate tax system and pump more cash into its pension system — also appeared to have garnered significant support.

Since most people in Switzerland vote in advance, the final results are usually tallied by mid-afternoon.

AFP

Trump Panel Recommends Guns In Schools To Keep US Students Safe

US President Donald Trump/ AFP

 

A safety panel set up by US President Donald Trump in the wake of numerous school shootings recommended Tuesday that schools consider arming staff, using veterans as guards and reversing Obama-era guidelines.

The Federal Commission on School Safety panel, led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, was set up after the February massacre in Parkland, Florida, when a former student shot dead 17 people, sparking mass gun control protests.

The commission rejected calls to increase the minimum age required for gun purchases, arguing in its 180-page report that most school shooters obtain their weapons from family members or friends.

Instead, it suggested arming staff — even teachers in some circumstances — “for the sake of efficiency and immediately responding to violence.”

School districts where police responses could be slower, such as rural districts, may benefit in particular, the commission said.

It also recommended education authorities hiring military veterans and former police officers who “can also serve as highly effective educators.”

The report pushes for a review of disciplinary guidelines introduced in 2014 under former president Barack Obama, which suggested alternatives to suspension and expulsion to tackle discrimination against black and Latino students.

The commission’s report said the measure has had “a strong negative impact on school discipline and safety.”

The American Civil Liberties Union condemned that proposition.

“The Trump administration is exploiting tragedies to justify rolling back school children’s civil rights protections, despite the lack of any evidence linking school discipline reform to school shootings,” it said in a statement.

Democratic Representative Nancy Pelosi, who will be US House speaker when her party take over the chamber in January, criticized the report saying Trump and DeVos “have reached a new low.”

“Their ‘report’ on school safety puts special interests and the NRA ahead of protecting America’s school children. Students & parents have had #Enough,” Pelosi wrote on Twitter.

She drew a backlash from Ryan Petty, a gun enthusiast and school safety advocate whose 14-year-old daughter was killed in the Parkland massacre.

“Hi @NancyPelosi, it’s easy to be a critic. Harder to create. Would you sit down with Parkland families to discuss the report?,” Petty wrote on Twitter.

“We worked hard to ensure this report addresses top school safety priorities. It’s painful for us when you dismiss it without basis in fact,” he added.

Over 219,000 US students have been involved in a school shooting since the April 1999 Columbine High School massacre, according to figures collated by the Washington Post.

AFP

Trump Considers Rules On Printed Guns

US President Donald Trump                                                                            Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he was “looking into” whether Americans should be able to print their own guns, dipping his toe into the latest contentious debate over the right to bear arms.

“I am looking into 3-D Plastic Guns being sold to the public,” Trump said, appearing to favour curbs, “already spoke to NRA, doesn’t seem to make much sense!”

Trump was referring to the National Rifle Association, the powerful gun lobby that has become an integral part of the Republican political machine.

The technology presents Trump with tough questions about protecting the public, the limits of gun ownership rights and his own political fortunes.

During his 18-month presidency, which has seen a fresh wave of mass shootings at schools and public places, Trump has occasionally seemed to favour tougher gun regulations, before buckling under pressure from his base and donors.

Eight US states on Monday filed a lawsuit to block a Trump administration decision enabling 3D printers to make plastic handguns that opponents say will be almost impossible to control.

After a lengthy legal battle, Trump’s government last month reached a landmark agreement with Cody Wilson, a militant gun rights advocate from Texas.

He successfully argued that the US Constitution’s Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to private gun ownership, should extend to a person’s right to make guns at home — uncontrolled by authorities since they will bear no serial number.

AFP

Florida Passes Bill To Restrict Guns, Arm Some Teachers

Hundreds of high school and middle school students from the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia staged walkouts and gather in front of the White House in support of gun control in the wake of the Florida shooting February 21, 2018 in Washington, DC.
Mandel NGAN / AFP

 

The US state of Florida, scene of America’s latest school shooting, on Wednesday passed bill that raises the minimum age to buy firearms to 21 while funding a program that allows some teachers and school employees to be armed.

The “Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act,” which takes its name from last month’s mass shooting in which 17 people including 14 students were killed, passed the legislature’s lower house a day after clearing the Senate.

It will now be sent to Governor Rick Scott to sign.

The Republican has not indicated whether he would veto the law, but he has previously expressed opposition to US President Donald Trump’s call to arm teachers.

America’s long-moribund gun control debate was revived by survivors of the Parkland shooting, who a day after their school was attacked launched the “Never Again” movement demanding legislative action.

The bill raises the minimum age to purchase all firearms from 18 to 21 – a move opposed by the powerful National Rifle Association lobby group – bans modification devices that make a semi-automatic weapon fully automatic and increases mental health funding.

It also includes a voluntary “guardian program” named after Coach Aaron Feis who was slain in the Parkland attack, which is intended to “aid in the prevention or abatement of active assailant incidents on school premises” by allowing some school employees to be armed.

The program is mainly aimed at staff such as coaches and school personnel, with teachers eligible if they have military or law enforcement experience.

Bringing more guns into school has been a controversial idea, but lawmakers defended the bill.

‘Poison Pill’

“I understand the angst about the guardian program but I can’t help but think about the coaches who literally ran in as shields to protect their students … while guys with guns were standing outside,” said Republican member Chris Latvala.

“If there are school personnel that want to go to the training to help shield the students and protect them, they should have the opportunity,” he continued.

Meanwhile, Democrat legislators said the guardian program was a “poison pill” in a law otherwise taking necessary steps towards gun control.

“I’m taking and swallowing that poison pill. As much as I don’t want to, I can’t look in the mirror and leave here and think ‘I did nothing to help’,” said Representative Joseph Geller.

African-American representatives also expressed fears that arming black school employees could leave them vulnerable to being mistaken for attackers by police arriving on the scene of a mass shooting.

Florida has seen three mass shootings in under two years – 49 were killed at an Orlando nightclub in 2016, five at Fort Lauderdale’s international airport in 2017, and now 17 in Parkland.

The bill does not ban the sale of the AR-15 assault rifle – the weapon used by Nikolas Cruz – one of the activists’ key demands.

Meanwhile, parents of American children killed in gun violence implored Congress to seize the moment and enact far-reaching gun reform, as the momentum for taking action stalls in politically divided Washington.

With no lawmakers from the controlling Republican Party present, a group of Senate Democrats held a makeshift hearing in the US Capitol to hear testimony from grieving relatives, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, teachers and police officers demanding change to the nation’s laws.

“How many more children are going to need to be slaughtered?” 17-year-old David Hogg asked the senators.

Trump Shocks US Lawmakers By Embracing Gun Control

US President Donald Trump speaks at the White House Opioid Summit in the East Room of the White House on March 1, 2018, in Washington, DC.
MANDEL NGAN / AFP

 

President Donald Trump has surprised lawmakers by embracing gun control measures that are tougher than usually supported by his party, as students returned to the site of America’s latest horrific school shooting.

“We have to do something about it. We have to act,” Trump said, voicing support for expanded background checks, more secure schools, curbs on the ability of the mentally ill to buy firearms and raising to 21 the age for buying certain guns.

“We can’t wait and play games and nothing gets done,” Trump said at a meeting with lawmakers from both parties.

At one point, he turned to a Republican senator and said: “You’re afraid of the NRA,” referring to the National Rifle Association, the premier and powerful US gun lobby.

“He surprised me,” Democratic Senator Chris Murphy later told AFP. “He committed very forcefully and very clearly to comprehensive background checks, raising the age on purchase of assault weapons, and protective orders.”

With tears, fears and defiance, students also made an emotional return Wednesday to their Florida high school where a former classmate went on a shooting rampage two weeks ago, killing 17 people.

Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland were greeted by heavy security and scores of well-wishers as they returned to classes.

Dozens of police officers lined the sidewalks saying “Good morning” to each child and retired officers passed out flowers. Former students, neighbours and their children held banners reading “We Love You,” “You’ve Got This” and “We Are With You.”

“It’s all a little overwhelming,” said one 17-year-old student named William, who shared a classroom with two of the young victims, Nicholas Dworet and Meadow Pollack.

“It was just sad to go back there and not have my friends who were in the class with me anymore.”

Likewise, for Kimberly Miller, the first day back meant confronting the absence of her geography teacher, 35-year-old Scott Beigel.

Beigel was one of three staff killed, along with 14 teenagers, when former student Nikolas Cruz entered the school on Valentine’s Day and opened fire with a semi-automatic rifle.

“It’s pretty upsetting,” said the 14-year-old Miller. “But it was also refreshing to talk to everyone because people don’t really understand how it feels, no matter how much they try to understand.”

While there were few open displays of grief, many students looked sombre, speaking in hushed tones with their eyes downcast.

Jonathan Abramchaev, 15, said it was “very emotional” to see his school again.

“Seeing all the flowers by the gate, that really hurt me,” he told AFP. “Today we were just discussing and talking out our feelings.”

‘What happens when they go?’

Some said they felt reassured — if a little unsettled — by the heavy police presence.

“I’m not scared,” said Stoneman Douglas junior Sean Cummings. “I feel like it’s more protected than any other school at this point.

“But it’s still weird to see everybody here and all these police officers,” said the 16-year-old.

Others — like senior Carly Novell — said they were nervous to return.

“I’m really scared to go in,” said Novell, who like many others wore a maroon T-shirt, the school colours.

Broward County school superintendent Robert Runcie said grief counsellors were on hand for the day.

“We’re going to provide as much support as we can,” Runcie told CNN. “Students are excited. As a family, they’re going to pull through it.”

A 15-year-old named Alan said the shooting left him fearful — even with his school under close watch by police.

“What happens when they go? In a couple of days or weeks when it gets back to normal? It may happen again,” he said.

‘We have to act’

Since the shooting, Stoneman Douglas students have been lobbying politicians for stricter gun controls both in their home state of Florida and in Washington.

Republican lawmakers, with majorities in the US Congress and the Florida state legislature, have been cool on bringing in major reforms on the sales of firearms.

But Trump upped the pressure on lawmakers to get to work, hosting the bipartisan meeting at the White House where he raised eyebrows with his tough stance.

‘Last father of a murdered kid’

Pressure is also growing on businesses.

On Wednesday, Dick’s Sporting Goods, a large chain store, announced it would immediately stop selling assault-style rifles and would not sell guns to anyone under the age of 21.

Dick’s CEO Edward Stack said Cruz had purchased a shotgun at one of his stores in November and although it wasn’t the gun used in the shooting, the chain would no longer sell semi-automatic weapons.

“Our view was if the kids can be brave enough to organize like this, we can be brave enough to take them out of here,” Stack said.

Andrew Pollack — the father of 18-year-old victim Meadow, accompanied by his therapy dog Sunny — said he was determined to be the “face of the last father of a murdered kid.”

“We need to make it that every kid in America, when he goes into a classroom, he knows he’s safe,” he said.

AFP

Republicans Rejects Students’ Call For Tougher Gun Laws

 

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Paul Ryan (Centre) answers questions primarily focused on plans for the House of Representatives to address gun reform legislation during a press conference at the U.S. Capitol February 27, 2018, in Washington, DC. 
WIN MCNAMEE / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AF

 

Republican leaders rebuffed calls for major changes in US gun laws Tuesday, blaming the mass shooting at a Florida high school on a “colossal breakdown” of law enforcement rather than the easy availability of assault rifles.

Student survivors of the assault two weeks ago met with members of Congress to press for curbs on gun sales but found little enthusiasm for legislative action beyond closing gaps in a national system of background checks.

“Let me just say we shouldn’t be banning guns for law-abiding citizens, we should be focusing on making sure citizens who should not get guns in the first place don’t get those guns,” House Speaker Paul Ryan told reporters.

Ryan and other Republican leaders until now have largely been absent from the debate that has raged since a troubled 19-year-old armed with a semi-automatic rifle killed 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Ryan blamed the February 14 rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the failure of local authorities to heed numerous warnings about the shooter, Nikolas Cruz, a former student at the school.

“There was a colossal breakdown in the system locally,” he said, citing lapses by the FBI and a deputy sheriff accused of failing to act when shooting broke out at the school.

Ryan’s argument echoed that of US President Donald Trump who asserted Monday that he would have charged into the school after the shooter, even without a gun.

Trump last week called for raising the minimum age for gun purchases to 21, but has made no mention of that since.

Instead, he has pushed for arming teachers as a first line of defense, an approach favored by the National Rifle Association but widely criticised by teachers themselves as impractical and an unreasonable burden on them.

Trump also has called for building more mental hospitals, a ban on devices known as “bump stocks” to make a semi-automatic weapon fire more rapidly, and better background checks to keep guns out of the hands of “sickos.”

A bipartisan bill currently before Congress would step up state and federal agency reporting to a national database of offenses that would bar an individual from purchasing a firearm.

Closer to home, Florida’s legislature is weighing whether to raise the minimum age for gun purchases to 21 as part of a package of measures sponsored by the state’s Republican governor. But a ban on assault rifles is not part of the package.

Gun ban

While some Democrats favor more comprehensive gun reform, they hold out little hope for it in a Republican-dominated Congress despite the new momentum created by student survivors of the Florida shooting, and polls showing overwhelming public support for stricter gun laws.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was to meet behind closed doors Tuesday with students from Parkland, where classes will resume on Wednesday, exactly two weeks after tragedy struck.

The students also met Monday evening with Representative Steve Scalise, the number three Republican leader.

Scalise was shot and nearly killed last June at a congressional baseball practice by a heavily armed man.

He said the session with the students was “very emotional.”

“Some of the things that they’ve been through are similar to some of the things that I’ve been through,” he said in an interview with CBS.

But they appear not to have swayed him on the assault rifle ban.

A ban on AR-15s “is not one of the big discussions here,” Scalise said.

“You can talk about any one weapon and if you ban that weapon, does that mean that nothing else is going to happen?”

Scalise later joined Ryan in arguing that existing gun laws needed to be better enforced, rather than overhauled.

“This speaks to bigger questions of our culture. What are we teaching our kids? Look at the violence in our culture,” Ryan said. “There are bigger questions here than a narrow law.”

AFP

Students Turn Up Heat On Trump, Lawmakers Over Gun Control

 

Activists and students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School attend a rally at the Florida State Capitol building to address gun control on February 21, 2018 in Tallahassee, Florida.
Don Juan Moore / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / AFP

 

Angered by a shooting rampage that left 17 people dead at a Florida high school, students staged protests in several US cities on Wednesday to turn up the heat on President Donald Trump and lawmakers to take action on gun control.

Holding signs reading “Never Again” and “Be The Adults, Do Something,” teenagers who survived last week’s mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, rallied in the state capital Tallahassee.

“No longer can I walk the halls I walked millions of times before without fear and sadness,” Stoneman Douglas student Florence Yared told a crowd at the Capitol which included thousands of supporters.

“No longer can I walk the halls without imagining bloodstains and dead bodies,” the 17-year-old junior said. “All because of the damage that a single AR-15 rifle caused.”

Lorenzo Prado, also a junior at Stoneman Douglas, said he was there “to demand change from my government.”

“To let these victims lives be taken without any change in return is an act of treason to our great country,” Prado said, his voice choked with emotion.

Rallying in solidarity and inspired on social media by the activism of their peers, students staged walkouts from other high schools in Florida and elsewhere vowing to make the tragedy a turning point in America’s deadlocked debate on gun control.

Hundreds of students descended on city hall in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and marched in other cities, including Chicago, the midwestern metropolis wracked by gun violence.

“The students were really enthused about making the connection between what happened in Florida, other school shootings, and the gun violence that they experience on a day-to-day basis here in Chicago,” said Kofi Ademola, who works at the Youth Connection Leadership Academy in Chicago.

‘NRA has got to go’

Photo:  Mandel NGAN / AFP

 

In Washington, hundreds of students gathered outside the White House chanting slogans against the National Rifle Association (NRA), the powerful gun lobby, and demanding action from Trump.

“Hey hey, ho ho, the NRA has got to go,” they chanted.

A girl with a megaphone read out the names of the 14 students and three teachers killed at Stoneman Douglas as the crowd of students held their arms up in the air.

Faced with the outpouring of grief and outrage over the Florida shooting, Trump was to meet with parents, students and teachers at the White House on Wednesday.

Students are also planning a march on Washington next month. The “March for Our Lives” is scheduled to take place on March 24, with sister rallies planned across the country.

Trump — who received strong backing from the NRA during his White House run — is showing a new-found willingness to take at least some steps on gun control.

The president threw his support Tuesday behind moves to ban “bump stocks” — an accessory that can turn a semi-automatic weapon into an automatic one.

Calls to ban bump stocks have been mounting since Stephen Paddock, a retired accountant, used them on several of his weapons to kill 58 concertgoers in Las Vegas in October 2017 in the deadliest mass shooting in recent US history.

‘We’re serious’

More than 100 students from Stoneman Douglas travelled eight hours in buses to meet with state legislators and demand action on gun laws.

“My classmates and I are probably the most determined group of people you will ever meet,” said student Sofie Whitney.

“People are talking about how we aren’t serious because we’re children, but… we’re serious.”

The students’ push for change hit a hurdle on Tuesday when the Republican-dominated Florida House of Representatives declined to debate legislation that would have banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines.

The US Congress is also deadlocked on the gun debate, accomplishing nothing despite a spate of mass shootings and polls showing that Americans support stricter gun laws by a two-to-one margin.

A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday found that Americans back tougher gun control laws by 66 percent to 31 percent — “the highest level of support” since its first surveys in 2008.

Besides banning bump stocks, Trump said Tuesday he was looking for “evidence-based solutions and security measures that actually work.”

“This includes implementing common sense security measures and addressing mental health issues,” he said, “including better coordination between federal and state law enforcement to take swift action when there are warning signs.”

Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz, 19, had a history of troubling behavior and a person close to him warned the FBI five weeks before the shooting that he was a threat — but no action was taken.

Cruz legally bought the gun he used in the attack — an AR-15-style semi-automatic rifle — and the White House said Tuesday it would consider raising the age for such purchases.

AFP

Trump Backs Improved Background Checks On Gun Purchase

 

United States President, Donald Trump /AFP Photo

 

United States President Donald signalled support Monday for improving background gun checks amid mounting pressure for reform in the wake of the Florida school shooting, as the accused gunman appeared in court.

Nikolas Cruz, charged with killing 17 people, sat silently with his head bowed during a procedural hearing in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, in what is expected to be a lengthy and emotional prosecution.

Wednesday’s rampage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in nearby Parkland, Florida has ignited protests by students who survived the onslaught and renewed calls for changes in US gun laws.

Cruz, 19, was able to legally buy an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle despite numerous red flags that nonetheless failed to prompt action by state and federal agencies.

The White House indicated that Trump is receptive to a bipartisan proposal that would require more prompt reporting to a national database of offenses that would bar an individual from buying a firearm.

“While discussions are ongoing and revisions are being considered, the president is supportive of efforts to improve the federal background check system,” White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

The legislation, however, does not address the broader, divisive issue of permissive gun laws under the Second Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects the right to bear arms.

Student protests

Chanting “Shame on you, Shame on you,” about 100 students from area high schools gathered outside the White House and staged a “lie-in” to press demands for change.

“More Guns, More Murder,” read one of the signs carried by demonstrators.

Maya Smith, 15, said she fears for her life when she walks into school “because the government won’t decide that my life matters as much as the right to bear arms matters.”

“We as students shouldn’t be worrying about being shot in our school,” said high school junior Juneau Wang.

“Students should be worrying about a bad test grade, not the fact that someone could walk in with an AR-15 any time during the school day.”

After earlier mass shootings, Trump has said little about guns, focusing instead on the mental health of shooters. Following the October 1 attack in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead, he said only that “we’ll be talking about gun laws as time goes by.”

After the Parkland shooting, he emphasized the need to deal with mental-health issues, while castigating the FBI for missing warning signs about the shooter.

The president initially made no mention of guns, drawing an angry reaction from Democrats and angry Floridians. Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic minority leader, noted that Trump’s proposed 2019 budget would actually cut spending on the background check program.

Even one of the most shocking mass shootings of recent years — the 2012 attack on a Connecticut elementary school that left 20 young children and six adults dead — brought little legal change, though Connecticut and a handful of other states toughened their gun laws.

‘A real, genuine effort’

But there are some indications that the limited steps Trump backs might succeed.

The NRA says it has “long supported the inclusion of all legitimate records in the National Instant Criminal Background Check System.”

Gun control advocates also back the bill sponsored by Senators Joh Cornyn, a Republican, and Chris Murphy, a Democrat. They came together after a gunman killed 26 people at a Texas church in November.

“This is a real, genuine effort from people who couldn’t be further from each other on the other side of the aisle,” a Coalition to Stop Gun Violence official told The Atlantic magazine.

And the impassioned calls for change from Parkland shooting survivors — photogenic young people who say they can no longer put up with the inaction of older generations — have kept the issue alive.

“We need to do something,” 17-year-old David Hogg, a shooting survivor, told CNN. “Congress needs to get over their political bias with each other and work toward saving children’s lives.”

CNN is holding a town hall meeting on Wednesday with the victims’ classmates, parents, community members and Florida politicians.

The students’ cries for action would appear to enjoy broad support.

A Quinnipiac University opinion survey in November found that support for universal background checks had reached an all-time high, with 95 percent of voters favouring such checks.

AFP

Florida Shooting Survivors To March On Washington

In this file photo taken on February 17, 2018 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student Emma Gonzalez reacts during her speech at a rally for gun control at the Broward County Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. PHOTO: RHONA WISE / AFP

 

Students who survived a mass shooting at their Florida school on Sunday announced plans to march on Washington in a bid to “shame” lawmakers into reforming laws that make powerful firearms readily available.

The “March for our Lives” will take place on March 24, with sister marches planned across the country, a group of students told ABC News, vowing to make Wednesday’s shooting a turning point in America’s deadlocked debate on gun control.

Nineteen-year-old Nikolas Cruz, a former student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, has confessed to killing 17 people with a legally-purchased AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, the latest such atrocity in a country plagued by gun violence.

Among the students announcing the march was Emma Gonzalez, who captured worldwide attention with a powerful speech in which she assailed President Donald Trump over the multi-million-dollar support his campaign received from the gun lobby, and vowed Stoneman Douglas would be “the last mass shooting.”

On Sunday, the 18-year-old Gonzalez urged politicians to join a conversation about gun control — citing Trump as well as Florida Senator Marco Rubio and Governor Rick Scott, who are fellow Republicans.

“We want to give them the opportunity to be on the right side of this,” she said, as she and her four classmates called on students nationwide to help push the message across.

Singling out the links between politicians and the powerful National Rifle Association, fellow student Cameron Kasky said any politician “who is taking money from the NRA is responsible for events like this.”

“This isn’t about the GOP,” he said, referring to the Republican Party. “This isn’t about the Democrats.”

Accusing the NRA of “fostering and promoting this gun culture,” Kasky said the students sought to “create a new normal where there’s a badge of shame on any politician who’s accepting money from the NRA.”

“People keep asking us, what about the Stoneman Douglas shooting is going to be different because this has happened before and change hasn’t come?” said Kasky.

“This is it.”

AFP

Gun Control: US Democrats Occupy Congress

Gun Control, US CongressA mild drama has taken place at the U.S. Senate where democrats staged a sit-in on the floor of the lower house to demand tighter gun control.

This comes after a man claiming allegiance to the Islamic State group, Omar Mateen, killed 49 people at the pulse nightclub in Orlando, in the deadliest shooting in modern US history.

Although the 16-hour sit-in at the US House of Representatives failed to force a vote on tougher laws, members of the centre-left Democratic Party said they will keep fighting for gun control

Unlike the Senate, there is no formal mechanism for lawmakers in the House to hold the floor indefinitely.

One congressman, John Lewis, told his colleagues to never give up.

“How many more mothers, how many more fathers need to shed tears of grief before we do something? We were elected to lead, Mr Speaker,” Lewis said during the sit-in.

However, Republican speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, dismissed the protest as a publicity stunt.

“This bill was already defeated in the United States Senate,” the Speaker of the House said, justifying Republican opposition to the bill by adding: “We are not going to take away a citizen’s constitutional rights to due process.”

Ryan further denied that the issue was gun control, but rather terrorism.

“Let’s find out what we need to do to prevent future terrorist attacks. And if a person is on a terror watch list and they go try to buy a gun, we have procedures in place to deal with that,” he told CNN.

Senators are pushing for a compromise, with top Democratic senator Harry Reid, supporting a Republican proposal that would stop gun sales to a limited number of people on some terrorism watch lists.

US Democratic Senators Stage Gun Control Filibuster

Chris Murphy, Filibuster, Gun ControlUS democratic senators, led by Senator Chris Murphy, are conducting a filibuster in an attempt to force a vote on gun control legislation.

This follows the shooting at an Orlando nightclub that left 49 people dead.

Senator Chris Murphy began the filibuster which is prolonged speaking on the floor to interrupt other business and he was still standing several hours later, although addressing a largely empty chamber.

Murphy and other Democratic senators took turns demanding the Senate take up a variety of gun control measures, though it is not clear any of them would have the votes to pass.

He is from Connecticut where 26 people died in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

“I can’t tell you how hard it is to look into the eyes of the families of those little boys and girls who were killed in Sandy Hook and tell them that almost four years later, we’ve done nothing, nothing at all to reduce the likelihood that that will happen again to another family,” Murphy said.

“I am prepared to stand on the Senate floor and talk about the need to prevent gun violence for as long as I can. I’ve had #Enough,” he tweeted.

The move finally started yielding results as the Senate is set to eventually vote on a bill to implement universal background checks and bar suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms.

“This is one step. The fight is far from over,” Murphy again tweeted. “But there are millions of voices calling for change. And we cannot stop pushing.”

Meanwhile, the first wakes have been held for victims of the Orlando shooting.

It was the worst mass shooting in modern US history. Dozens of people remain in hospital, some in a critical condition.

 

U.S. Democratic Candidates Debate Gun Control, Healthcare Policies

SandersUS democratic presidential contenders, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have clashed on gun control and healthcare in a live television debate.

Clinton raised questions about the self-styled democratic socialist’s positions on Wall Street reform, healthcare and gun control.

Sanders pushed back painting Clinton as a defender of the status quo who accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in speaking fees as a former secretary of state from Wall Street backers.

“I don’t take money from big banks. I don’t get personal speaking fees from Goldman Sachs,” the U.S. senator from Vermont said, adding, “I have huge doubts when people receive money from Wall Street.”

Clinton accused Sanders of voting to deregulate the financial market in 2000 in a way that led to the central causes of the financial collapse of 2008 that pitched the U.S. economy into a deep recession.

Clinton tried to undercut Sanders’ support among supporters of Obama, who remains a popular figure in the Democratic Party.

“He’s criticized President Obama for taking donations from Wall Street. And President Obama has led our country out of the Great Recession,” she said.

“Senator Sanders called him weak, disappointing, he even in 2011 publicly sought someone to run in a primary against President Obama.”

Before the debate in South Carolina, Mr Sanders unveiled a healthcare plan for all American citizens.

Mr Sanders’ universal healthcare plan, announced two hours before the debate started, would see citizens pay what he called “a 2.2% income-based premium”.

Towards healthcare, companies would pay an extra 6.2% of an employee’s income towards the plan.

But Mrs Clinton attacked him saying the move risks derailing healthcare legislation introduced under President Obama.

The debate was held across the street from the Charleston church where a white gunman killed nine black worshippers in June, and Clinton made reference to the incident while accusing Sanders of being weak on gun control.

She welcomed his decision on Saturday night to back a bill in Congress rescinding portions of a law giving gunmakers immunity from lawsuits, but said his record showed a more lenient attitude toward the demands of the powerful National Rifle Association (NRA) gun lobby.

Sanders defended himself, saying he has a strong record on trying to prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands and standing up to the NRA.

While Hillary Clinton leads the polls nationwide, she is facing a threat from Vermont senator Bernie Sanders in key states.

Sanders cast himself as the outsider who would lead a political revolution, while Clinton touted her experience and embraced President Barack Obama’s legacy.

This was the final democratic debate before Iowa caucuses launch the nominating race on February 1.

The debate followed a week of rising tension between the two leading candidates.