News Round-Up: June 23, 2021

Out Olympian Gus Kenworthy
Out Olympian Gus Kenworthy
Gus Kenworthy (image via Instagram)

Some news items you might have missed:

OK Magazine: Out Olympian Gus Kenworthy (above) tells the gossip mag that the 2022 Winter Olympics will be his last after which he’ll turn his focus to acting and TV hosting gigs.

The Advocate: Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has vetoed a bill that would have banned transgender girls and women from competing in school sports designated for females calling it “a solution in search of a problem.” Edwards, a moderate Democrat, said in an online statement. “Even the author of the bill acknowledged throughout the legislative session that there wasn’t a single case where this was an issue.”

Boy Culture: Britney Spears had her day in court, wants her life back, and Matt Rettenmund has her full (explosive) statement to the court. This is a wild ride, folks. I’m not a Britney fan, but I think folks should give her her life back and let the chips fall where they may.

International pop star Britney Spears
International pop star Britney Spears (image via Instagram)

Raw Story: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation requiring students, faculty and staff at Florida’s public universities and colleges to register their political views with the state as a way to encourage “intellectual diversity.”

New York Times: Graydon Young, of Sarasota, Fla., admitted to conspiring to breach the U. S. Capitol building as part of a military-style “stack” made up of members of the Oath Keepers militia and disrupt the certification of the Electoral College vote. As part of his deal with the government, Mr. Young agreed to cooperate with prosecutors — the second member of the Oath Keepers to provide assistance to investigators. He faces an estimated 63 to 78 months in prison.

Mediaite: Former NRA president David Keene accepted an invitation to address what he thought was going to be its graduating class of 2021. Instead, the 3,044 chairs in the audience were left completely unoccupied. And not because it was a dress rehearsal as Keene was told, but to represent all of the should-have-been 2021 high school graduates who were killed by gun violence, “The Lost Class.”

On The 5th Anniversary Of The Pulse Nightclub Massacre

The 49 victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting

In the five years since the deadly Pulse Nightclub shooting massacre, there have been a LOT of prayers and thoughts sent out for those affected by gun violence.

Unfortunately, that’s close to all we’ve gotten.

In a country that polls show support commonsense gun legislation (background checks, no guns for those on the ‘no-fly’ list) to the tune of almost 90 percent, politicians are still afraid of the 3 million-member National Rifle Association.

Five years ago today, 49 innocent people lost their lives in what was, at the time, the deadliest shooting massacre in the history of the country. Additionally, 53 more were injured.

On that night, a gay nightclub, one of our safe spaces, became a war zone and an emergency room.

One of the most chilling reports to emerge during the aftermath of the attack came from CNN which noted that first responders and investigators had to force themselves to tune out the cacophony of ringing phones coming from the 49 bodies. Clearly, their loved ones were trying to see if they were alright. “All those people, their phones kept ringing,” said the reporter.

I remember that grim detail hitting me like a dagger.

But on October 1, 2017, my town of Las Vegas became the target of the new ‘deadliest’ gun massacre in U.S. history. I was home watching TV with my husband and suddenly my phone began ringing and pinging, over and over. People from all over the country were checking in on me.

I suddenly remembered that CNN report from Pulse Nightclub. And I felt an even deeper visceral chill.

As I reported earlier this week, Congress has approved designating the site of Pulse Nightclub a national monument and President Biden will sign that action into law when he returns from abroad.

Since the Pulse shooting, there have been more mass shootings and more unnecessary deaths.

And still we wait for any meaningful gun legislation.

There will be a streaming remembrance ceremony today at 7 pm ET/4 pm PT. You can watch below via YouTube.

DNC Chair Jaime Harrison, DNC Secretary Jason Rae and DNC LGBTQ Caucus Chair Earl Fowlkes released the following statement:

“Five years ago, our nation wept as 49 lives were taken in a senseless act of violence. We lost siblings and children, cousins and friends. But we turned our mourning into a vibrant movement for reform. Gun safety is an LGBTQ issue, plain and simple. President Biden and Democrats know we must honor those lost at Pulse with action and pass gun safety legislation to finally put an end to mass shootings across our nation.

“We must also finally address the growing epidemic of violence that leaves countless transgender and gender non-conforming people afraid of losing their lives. In 2021, we have already lost 28 transgender and gender non-conforming people, almost entirely transgender women of color, putting us on track for the deadliest year on record. President Biden is committed to ending the violence, achieving equality and protecting the LGBTQ community. Today, we renew our commitment to making possible a world where LGBTQ people, including LGBTQ people of color, are valued, loved and safe.”

We remember:

Stanley Almodovar III, 23 years old

Amanda L. Alvear, 25 years old

Oscar A. Aracena Montero, 26 years old

Rodolfo Ayala Ayala, 33 years old

Antonio Davon Brown, 29 years old

Darryl Roman Burt II, 29 years old

Angel Candelario-Padro, 28 years old

Juan Chavez Martinez, 25 years old

Luis Daniel Conde, 39 years old

Cory James Connell, 21 years old

Tevin Eugene Crosby, 25 years old

Deonka Deidra Drayton, 32 years old

Simón Adrian Carrillo Fernández, 31 years old

Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25 years old

Mercedez Marisol Flores, 26 years old

Peter Ommy Gonzalez Cruz, 22 years old

Juan Ramon Guerrero, 22 years old

Paul Terrell Henry, 41 years old

Frank Hernandez, 27 years old

Miguel Angel Honorato, 30 years old

Javier Jorge Reyes, 40 years old

Jason Benjamin Josaphat, 19 years old

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice, 30 years old

Anthony Luis Laureano Disla, 25 years old

Christopher Andrew Leinonen, 32 years old

Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21 years old

Brenda Marquez McCool, 49 years old

Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25 years old

Kimberly Jean Morris, 37 years old

Akyra Monet Murray, 18 years old

Luis Omar Ocasio Capo, 20 years old

Geraldo A. Ortiz Jimenez, 25 years old

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera, 36 years old

Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32 years old

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez, 35 years old

Enrique L. Rios, Jr., 25 years old

Jean Carlos Nieves Rodríguez, 27 years old

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano-Rosado, 35 years old

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz, 24 years old

Yilmary Rodríguez Solivan, 24 years old

Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34 years old

Shane Evan Tomlinson, 33 years old

Martin Benitez Torres, 33 years old

Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24 years old

Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez, 37 years old

Luis Sergio Vielma, 22 years old

Franky Jimmy DeJesus Velázquez, 50 years old

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon, 37 years old

Jerald Arthur Wright, 31 years old

Biden Announces Modest Actions On Guns

President Joe Biden announces modest steps intended to curb gun violence

President Joe Biden announces modest steps intended to curb gun violence
President Biden announced a series of modest steps today aimed at curbing gun violence.

“Gun violence in this country is an epidemic, and it’s an international embarrassment,” said Biden during his announcement.

From the New York Times:

Mr. Biden said the Justice Department would issue a proposed rule to curb the proliferation of so-called ghost guns — kits that allow a gun to be assembled from pieces with no serial numbers. The intention of the rule would be to require that the components in the kits have serial numbers that would allow them to be traced and for the weapons to be legally classified as firearms, with the buyers subjected to background checks.

Mr. Biden also said he would require that when a device marketed as a stabilizing brace transforms a pistol into a short-barrel rifle, that weapon is subject to the requirements of the National Firearms Act. The gunman in the Boulder, Colo., shooting last month used a pistol with an arm brace, making it more stable and accurate, he said.

Mr. Biden said the Justice Department would also publish model “red flag” legislation for states. The measure would allow police officers and family members to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from people who may present a danger to themselves or others.

With no serial numbers, ghost guns are virtually untraceable making them appealing to criminals and extremists who want weapons that don’t require background checks.

Biden can’t unilaterally pass a red flag law without Congress approving it first. But providing a blueprint for such legislation might help pass such laws in states that want to enact similar laws.

And speaking of Congress, the president did urge the lawmakers to pass a number of reforms including banning assault rifles, requiring background checks for guns purchased at gun shows and more.

Read the full article here.

Biden To Announce Executive Actions On Guns

President Joe Biden at the White House
President Joe Biden at the White House
President Joe Biden at the White House (photo: Flickr/WhiteHouse – public domain)

Politico is reporting President Joe Biden will announce a set of executive actions to help curb gun violence on Thursday.

Biden will direct the administration to begin the process of requiring buyers of so-called ghost guns — homemade or makeshift firearms that lack serial numbers — to undergo background checks, according to three people who have spoken to the White House about the plans. He is expected to be joined at the event by Attorney General Merrick Garland.

Other executive actions remain unclear. But stakeholders have speculated that the president could announce regulations on concealed assault-style firearms; prohibitions on firearm purchases for those convicted of domestic violence against their partners; and federal guidance on home storage safety measures.

Read the full article here.

17-Year-Old Charged With Murder Of Wisconsin Protesters

Kyle Rittenhouse (image via Twitter)

Kyle Rittenhouse, 17,  has been arrested and charged with first-degree murder after opening fire on a group during protests in Kenosha, Wisconsin last night, killing two people and injuring a third.

From CBS News:

The post did not name the 17-year-old, who they said is an Antioch resident. But the Lake County, Illinois State’s Attorney’s office said Kyle Rittenhouse was in bond court this morning regarding being a fugitive from justice in Wisconsin, and is being held on no bond. He was due back in court for an extradition hearing on Friday.

Cellphone video that circulated on social media showed what appeared to be a White man with a semi-automatic rifle opening fire on a group of people during demonstrations over the police shooting of Jacob Blake. The man with the gun is then seen walking toward responding police vehicles, at times with his hands in the air, as some police vehicles drive past him.

Sheriff David Beth said one victim was shot in the head and another in the chest, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The third victim’s wounds were not believed to life-threatening.

More Mass Killings In 2019 Than Any Year Going Back To 1970s

(photo: Maurício Mascaro/Pexels)

From Axios: A database compiled by AP, USA Today and Northeastern University finds more mass killings in 2019 than any year dating back to at least the 1970s, AP’s Lisa Marie Pane reports.

There were 41 mass killings — defined as four or more killed, excluding the perpetrator. (33 were shootings.)

James Densley, a criminologist and professor at Metropolitan State University in Minnesota, believes it’s partially a byproduct of an “angry and frustrated time” that we are living in: “This seems to be the age of mass shootings.”

Most of the mass killings barely became national news, failing to resonate among the general public because they didn’t spill into public places like massacres in El Paso and Odessa, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Jersey City, New Jersey.

Research going back to the 1970s shows no other year with as many mass slayings. The second-most killings in a year prior to 2019 was 38 in 2006.

The 211 people killed in this year’s cases is eclipsed by the 224 victims killed in 2017 — when Vegas had the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Teen Arrested After Making Threats To Shoot Gay Bar & Federal Agents

An Ohio teen

From ABC News:

An Ohio teenager threatened to shoot federal agents, a Planned Parenthood and a gay bar and was found at a residence that had a gun vault and around 10,000 rounds of ammunition, according to police and court documents.

Justin Olsen, 18, was the moderator of an online chat where he made light of mass shootings and made the threats against all federal agents, the nonprofit, and an undisclosed gay bar, according to a police report from the Boardman Police Department.

After searching his father’s house in Boardman, a suburb south of Youngstown, FBI agents seized 15 rifles and 10 semi-automatic pistols, according to a criminal complaint. Investigators also observed an estimated 10,000 rounds of ammunition in one room and another 300 rounds of ammunition on the stairway leading to the second floor, according to the complaint.

When Olsen turned 18 in May, he apparently bragged online that he couldn’t “wait to start stockpiling weapons,” according to the police report.

He also wrote that he was planning on buying an AR-15 parts kit after posting a photo of it, the police report said.

The case began in February, when the FBI received a complaint about Olsen in Anchorage, Alaska, and traced his computer information back to Olsen’s address.

Olsen is charged with aggravated menacing.

He admitted the threats to the police, but said it was all a joke.

House Committee To Consider 3 Gun Control Measures

(stock image via Unsplash)

Members of the House Judiciary Committee plan to return from their summer break early to consider three gun control bills in response to the latest rash of mass shootings.

Via Roll Call:

The committee announced Friday it will mark up a bill to outlaw large capacity magazines and other ammunition feeding devices, along with a bill that would prevent people who have been convicted of a misdemeanor hate crime from owning a weapon.

And the committee also will consider a bill that would establish a grant program to encourage states to adopt laws that allow courts to take firearms away from people suspected of being a danger to the public, so-called red flag laws. That bill also would incorporate provisions from a similar bill that would allow federal courts to issue such protective orders.

Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., announced the panel also would hold a hearing on “military-style assault weapons” on September 25.

Even if the gun bills make it out of the House, don’t expect Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to bring any of the measures to the floor of the Senate any time soon without Trump’s clear support.

Although the Donald has indicated he might get behind “red flag” laws in the aftermath of recent gun violence.

Hannity Wants Armed Guards Surrounding Schools & Shopping Malls

Fox News pundit Sean Hannity says the answer to gun violence is to have retired police, secret service or military service members surround schools and shopping malls.
Fox News pundit Sean Hannity

Fox News pundit Sean Hannity says the answer to gun violence is to have retired police, secret service or military service members surround schools and shopping malls.

“I’d like to see the perimeter of every school in America surrounded, secured by retired police — which you are — retired Secret Service — which you are — military, and I want guys to donate 15 hours,” Hannity told guest Dan Bongino last night. “I think we could cover every school, every hour, every day. Add a metal detector, and I think we’re going to have safer schools.

“Have one armed guard on every floor of every school, all over every mall, the perimeter, and inside every hall of every mall,” he explained. “Now, that gives us an instant response opportunity that we normally wouldn’t have.”

Obama On Recent Shootings: “No Other Developed Nation Tolerates Levels Of Gun Violence That We Do”

President Obama issued a statement today regarding the twin mass shootings that occurred over the weekend.

President Obama issued a statement today regarding the twin mass shootings that occurred over the weekend.

After sharing condolences from his family for the victims of the attacks, Obama wrote, “No other nation on Earth comes close to experiencing the frequency of mass shootings that we see in the United State. No other developed nation tolerates the levels of gun violence that we do.”

He also called out those who say “tougher gun laws won’t stop all murders” because “the evidence shows that they can stop some killings.”

The former president also wrote of the accused El Paso shooter: “Troubled individuals who embrace racist ideologies and themselves obligated to act violently to preserve white supremacy.”

“We should soundly reject language coming of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racists sentiments; leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people,” said Obama in closing.

You can read the full statement below.