Weekly Sedition: Huguenot Strikes Back

Posted in Weekly Sedition on July 7, 2013 by Kontra


This episode, Huguenot High successfully gets one student advocate fired while attempting to illegally remove young organizers from the school.

(For the original story of how Latino students were segregated and searched, see the previous coverage of this story here.)

We Demand Language Access

Interpretation services must be provided so that every student and parent can communicate with any school official. The services must be professional, competent and neutral. The interpreter should have no role in the conversation except to interpret. It is unfair and unprofessional to have teachers, security guards or other disciplinary figures act as interpreters.

The grievance procedure must be translated into Spanish and distributed to all Spanish-speaking families.

When Spanish speaking parents enter the office, they must be treated with respect, not ignored. If there is not an interpreter immediately available and no faculty or staff who speaks Spanish, then there should be instructions written in Spanish that clearly outline how to request a meeting with interpretation. This interpretation must be provided in a timely fashion.


We Demand the Removal of Ms. Ortiz from the Staff

Ms Ortiz has consistently acted in a hostile and antagonistic manner towards Latino students and their families. It has reached the point that trust and confidence cannot be restored. Her presence undermines the ability of the students to learn. She must resign or be terminated from her position.

We Demand Clearly Defined Authority Structures

It must be clearly communicated what authority is granted to faculty and staff in regards to students. Students and their families have a right to know what disciplinary decisions can be made by teachers or security guards and which must be made by the principal or other administrators. This information must be put into writing and translated into Spanish.

We Demand That All School Personnel Stop Threatening Students With Deportation

No one on staff is trained to interpret or authorized to enforce federal immigration law. These threats are blatant bullying and detract from the ability of students to focus on learning. It must be written into school policy that these threats are prohibited and that disciplinary action will be taken against anyone making them.


We Demand Additional Training for Faculty

Given the climate of fear and hostility that has been created for Latino student, there is a clear and present need for additional staff development. This must include cultural sensitivity training and non-violent conflict resolution training.

We Demand that Faculty and Staff Respect the Privacy of Students

It is not appropriate for faculty or staff to comment on, document or threaten to share information about the private lives of students. This includes who they choose as friends and who they choose to date.

We Demand a Public Apology from Principal Barakat to the Latino Students

Principal Barakat must publicly apologize to the students and their families for the offenses described above and most especially for his actions in searching only Latino students after a recent fight in school, for singling Latino students out to be escorted to the buses in small groups and for threatening Latino students with deportation if they did not comply with his orders.

Salomonsky: Richmond is a “Ghetto of people making $30k-$50k a year”

Posted in Other Media on June 24, 2013 by Kontra

Now here’s an interesting bit of audio.

Louis Salomonsky is the downtown developer who did time in federal prison for conspiracy to commit extortion, along with the Council member he bribed.  He recently laid out in full brazen form for Style how he was skirting taxes the straight-and-narrow way, but was smacked down by the city immediately thereafter.  He has been (and is currently) one of the loudest advocates for a new stadium in Shockoe Bottom, and controls a substantial portion of property in the area.

In a recent interview with Open Source on these tax abatement issues, Salomonsky also openly lamented the city’s “ghetto of people making $30k-50k a year”, citing it as the reason why the city keeps asking developers for more and more luxury condos.

Shortly thereafter, he notes with optimism that “minorities moving to the counties” because of a “declining school system” will finally bring rich, childless empty-nesters into the city, making it richer than the counties.

The fight against those counties for economic supremacy is still ongoing, he reminds us!

Wait, what?

Just to be clear… Citizens making $45k a year are ghettoizing the city?  And the declining educational system (even now closing schools) is a good thing, because the “minority” families that make up this city will be forced to leave to educate their children properly?  And we’re in an economic battle with the counties… why?

How is it possible that people like this say what they think and still get their way?

Amazing Women Reclaim Country Music

Posted in Articles on June 21, 2013 by Kontra

“What kind of music do you like?” is a question that I’ve been asked many times in my life.  Even as a white, southern boy, my response has almost always been something like, “Anything that’s not modern country music.”  I like classic country music, I’ll tell them – Cash, Nelson, Cline, Hank, Dolly – but cannot abide country radio.

Country music, it seems to me, has been going through an identity crisis as the music has become less and less a reflection of the actual stories, lives and experiences of people living in rural areas.  Instead, we get song lyrics that name-drop cultural components associated with the south, but which have very little of substance to share about why those cultural components are important or how they play a role in the lives of the people the music claims to represent.

Male artists are the worst.  Turn on your local country radio station(s) at any time during the day, and you are guaranteed to hear a song like Jason Aldean’s She’s Country, which is basically a laundry list of words that he hopes you’ll think show just how country he is: “cowboy boots”, “prayers”, “born and raised”, “pickup truck”, “backwoods”, “homegrown”, etc.

Or for comparison, try on Blake Shelton’s Boys Round Here, which is essentially the same thing: “boots”, “prayer”, “southern”, “truck”, “backwoods”, “beer”, etc.

These two songs are representative of a large portion of today’s country radio.  The few corporations marketing and distributing mainstream music have essentially packaged up the most superficial aesthetic and cultural components of country music/life and sold them back to the population as culturalist anthems.  It’s like a deep south version of Debord’s Society of the Spectacle.

To make matters worse, the arrangements and chord progressions of mainstream country have increasingly begun to resemble the overproduced rock music that you can purchase from your local Family Christian Store in the strip mall next to Applebee’s.

These are serious problems, and have been for some time.


Over the past year, three all-female country artists have broken through this cultural echo chamber with stunning success.  I’m excited to tell you about them.  Before I talk about them individually, there are two themes that span all of these albums, worthy of mention:

1)  Religion – Two of these artists do not neglect the role of religion in their lives as southern women, and in fact portray its role in a much more realistic context than most artists who talk about their spirituality.  No sappy preaching here.  Only one of these three artists (Kasey Musgrave) seems to actually be questioning her faith, and this too is done tastefully.  As a humanist, it can be hard for me to listen to music with religious references, but these albums never irked me once.

2)  Marijuana – Finally, country is returning to its longstanding outspoken acceptance of  marijuana as a worthy element in its cultural narratives.  Every single album mentions marijuana use at least once, and never inappropriately.  If we want to see the failed and destructive war on marijuana end in our lifetime, we need public figures normalizing responsible use with honest depictions of their lives.

Pistol Annies – Annie Up


I had my doubts.  These gals sang backup on that Blake Shelton song I ragged on a moment ago, so I thought the odds were stacked against them.  Emphatically not the case.  This trio has crafted a country album that is not just listenable from beginning to end, but is both thoughtful and fun to boot.

Here are some women from the working class background that country music derives from, singing the virtues of working class men, marijuana and getting down.  But don’t mistake this for a party album.  Several songs on Annie Up are about complex personal and social issues, all of which are dealt with in a nuanced way.

The first lyrics to really perk up my ears came in Track 3, Being Pretty Ain’t Pretty, in which the band laments the soul-crushing difficulty of maintaining mainstream beauty standards:

Being pretty ain’t pretty, it takes all day long
You spend all your money just to wipe it all off
You spray on your perfume, you spray on your tan
Get up in the morning, do it over again
Being pretty ain’t pretty at all

The strongly reinforced feminine beauty standards that characterize southern culture make this voice no less than feminist, social counterspin.  And I love it.

Trading One Heartbreak For Another might be one of the most poignant songs about divorce ever written, and to my knowledge, is the only one that frames it just so.  The heartbreaks being traded are the kind that comes with a messy divorce, and the kind that comes from seeing a child needing his estranged father:  “I’m finally alive, but it’s killin’ who I’m livin’ for”.  The Annies deal with serious issues of guilt and relief and anxiety here, and deserve credit for writing a truly heartbreaking song.

Other notable songs include a personal struggle with alcoholism (Dear Sobriety) and the blue collar, girl-power track Girls Like Us (Make the World Go Round).

These well-crafted, often insightful songs stray from the country formulas in important ways.  This is a must own for people interested in new country music.

Ashley Monroe – Like a Rose


What splendid use of traditional country stylings!  What classic themes!  And yet, Ashley manages to explore those themes with a meta-consciousness that speaks volumes: “So the man is gone / What a damn cliche”.  This not only imbues the classic themes with new life, but reminds everyone that the themes (like breakup/heartbreak) are cliches because they are a universal experience.

At the same time, the lyrics seem to have been written in a time and place removed from the urban centers where large portions of the country music demographic now live.  Whether songs are talking about taking “the phone off of the hook” (do YOU still have a landline?) or shooting Polaroids (as opposed to Instagraming), the listener has the impression that these songs could have been written any time since the early 70s.

I’m also a sucker for artists with multiple personas, and Ashley offers us one by the name of “Monroe Suede”, a nickname for herself in a possibly-true story about an incident of grand theft auto from her youth.  Songwriting like this is perfectly suited to country music, and serves to boost her mystique both as a person and an artist.

There is no question that Ashley is also representing a working class ethic here, with songs about late rent payments and heavy drinking flanking fun-as-hell stompers like Weed Instead of Roses.  Strongly recommended.

Kacey Musgrave – Same Trailer, Different Park


Of the three albums, this one diverges most from roots and country stylization, but only by a few degrees.  Same Trailer, Different Park certainly has pop influence, but still relies on identifiable country instruments and lyrical elements.

But the thing that really sparks my interest in this woman is the way she actively calls into question the values of the culture that gave birth to her.

If you ain’t got two kids by 21, you’re probably going to die alone
At least that’s what tradition told you
And it don’t matter if you don’t believe
Come Sunday morning you best be there in the front row like you’re supposed to

Songs like these are not only a personal exploration, but also an encouragement for the listener to question for themselves.  If I had a teenage daughter, this is exactly the sort of music I would give her to listen to.  The range of empowering messages for young women on this album cannot be overestimated.  Sometimes they are couched in stories of other working class women, like Blowing Smoke, while others are direct encouragements that reach outside of country’s typical value scheme, like in Follow Your Arrow:

Make lots of noise, Kiss lots of boys
Or kiss lots of girls, If that’s something you’re into
When the straight and narrow gets a little too straight
Roll up a joint, or don’t
Just follow your arrow

Keep Kacey Musgrave on your radar, and snag this album at the first opportunity.

Weekly Sedition: The Case of Ashley Williams

Posted in Weekly Sedition on June 19, 2013 by Kontra

A community tries to understand how a Richmond mother could be convicted of the death of her two-year-old son, as the full extent of prosecutorial wrongdoing comes to light.

Weekly Sedition: Huguenot High

Posted in Weekly Sedition on June 19, 2013 by Kontra


This story explores the protest of students and parents at Richmond’s Huguenot High School as they speak out about charges of racial and cultural discrimination.

huguenot3_sm huguenot4_sm huguenot6_sm huguenot9_sm huguenot10_sm huguenot14_sm huguenot15_sm

Cuccinelli “Unethical” But Effective – Board Stalls Regulatory Process

Posted in Uncategorized on June 10, 2013 by Kontra

Departing Board of Health member Jim Edmondson called out Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli for giving “wrong and unethical” advice to the Board during the creation of regulations for Licensure of Abortion Facilities.  Edmondson reflected on his nine years on the Board, citing the two year regulatory process on abortion regulations as forcing the Board “from apolitical to political.”   The statements were made at the close of the June 6th, 2013 Board of Health meeting which also included a nearly 15 minute detailed explanation, by members of OpposeTRAP, of the profound implications of the Attorney General’s position.


Cuccinelli’s strong arm tactics precipitated a seismic shift on whether to grandfather in existing clinics: from a June 2012 vote 7-4 FOR to an 11-2 AGAINST only three months later.  The impact of this political split continues to hinder appropriate regulatory process.  The only two Board members to not change their vote at Cuccinelli’s threats, Edmondson and Anna Jeng, are currently the only members to request a special meeting on a petition for rulemaking for full service hospitals.


The refusal of other Board members, as yet, to discuss amending hospital regulations is striking, given Ken Cuccinelli’s recent statement that these amendments must take place.  The implications of the decision are broad, especially for Board members who are affiliated with the hospital and nursing home industries.  


One member spoke privately of a concern that motioning for a special meeting would be seen as politically motivated in an election cycle.  “Given that it is the Board’s responsibility to discuss petitions for rulemaking, failing to act because it is an election cycle IS a political act,” countered Molly Taylor Vick, of OpposeTRAP.


The legal challenge, yet un-responded to, has received hundreds of comments from citizens and medical professionals over the past month.  A third Board member can still call for a special meeting at any time.

(from 06-10 OpposeTRAP press release)

opposetrap@gmail.com / 804-514-0227 / opposetrapva.com

Pressure Builds For Cuccinelli to Break Silence On Legal Challenge As Hundreds Comment

Posted in Other Media on June 4, 2013 by Kontra

Medical professionals and activists on both sides of the abortion debate are waiting for Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to officially comment, and ‘advise’ the Board of Health, on a legal petition for regulatory action which would require all hospitals to make the same architectural changes being forced on abortion providers.  The legal challenge already has 200 comments from citizens and health professionals.  The Attorney General’s official opinion on the matter, contained in the Board of Health’s June 2012 meeting notes, mysteriously turned up missing last month when activists from OpposeTRAP tried to obtain them via a Freedom of Information Act request.

The lost notes contain the full transcript of the Senior Assistant Attorney General, Allyson Tysinger, advising the Board that the hospital licensure regulations would have to be amended because of inconsistencies with code section 32.12-127.001.*  These notes were requested because the brief abstract of their content indicates that Cuccinelli’s office directly supports the position of the legal petitions: The Board of Health didn’t have the authority to exempt existing hospitals from Guidelines for new construction.  With this position, Cuccinelli stands to find strong opposition among all categories of health care providers, which would be a major hit during an election cycle, as the ruling would necessitate almost every hospital (of all types) in the Commonwealth to make extremely costly architectural upgrades or close their doors.  Cuccinelli’s opinion has already initiated a process which is expected to result in the closing of most abortion clinics in Virginia.


The petition itself is missing from the published agenda for the Board’s annual meeting scheduled for this Thursday, June 6th, 2013.  The meeting, held at the Perimeter Center in Henrico, VA, will be the last annual meeting for board member James Edmondson, a long-time advocate for rational regulations, who has acted as a voice of reason throughout the two-year debate.  OpposeTRAP learned that Mr. Edmondson has requested a special meeting to address the petition specifically, as allowed in Article II, Section 4, of the Board of Health bylaws.  Upon contact, Mr. Edmondson expressed regret that the appropriately apolitical Board of Health has been forced to make judgments between obviously political and obviously public health issues over the last two years, to the detriment of the women of the Commonwealth.

Molly Taylor Vick, an organizer with OpposeTRAP, does not believe that the Attorney General can be consistent and stand by his decision without turning to nonsensical arguments.  Vick, who submitted the Freedom of Information request, was especially interested in the missing notes for more details of Ms. Tysinger’s explanation that all abortion facilities should be considered new facilities because they had not been previously regulated or licensed.   “Of course Cuccinelli can’t afford to shut down hospitals and health care centers – either financially or politically.  He will have to continue with this ridiculous claim that abortion clinics are ‘new’ just because he just started calling them hospitals.  It’s an absurd argument, and one that runs counter to all precedence I’ve identified.”  Oppose TRAP released the following comic this week, which is going viral among abortion rights advocates across the state:

[ Click the comic to zoom in, and to share on Facebook, go here! ]

Cooch Comix #1

Content from a 06/04 Oppose TRAP Press Release.

Contact: Molly Taylor Vick

Phone: (804) 514-0227

Email: opposetrap@gmail.com

Public Record Mysteriously Goes Missing As Public Comments Pour In

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 22, 2013 by Kontra

error An officially filed request to the Virginia Department of Health to amend existing Regulations for Licensure of Hospitals – which is essentially a legal challenge to force all hospitals to make the same architectural changes being forced on abortion providers – has received over 125 public comments in the first two weeks. This is the latest chapter in a long, controversial battle over the regulation of women’s health clinics that is heading into its third year.

Surprisingly, the legal petition appears to be directly supported by a legal opinion from Ken Cuccinelli’s office at the June 2012 State Board of Health meeting, where his Senior Assistant Attorney General, Allyson Tysinger suggested that the same regulation amendments be made. If applied, this would put Cuccinelli in the difficult position of explaining to almost every hospital (of all types) in the state that they must make extremely costly architectural upgrades or close their doors.

Fortunately for the Attorney General’s Office, the official transcription notes from the June meeting have mysteriously disappeared. Pro-choice policy group Oppose TRAP discovered that the notes had gone missing after filing a Freedom of Information Act request. The minutes – which are a public, summarized version of the missing notes – do state that “Ms. Tysinger also advised the Board that the hospital licensure regulation will have to be amended because of inconsistencies with 32.12-127.001,” reflecting Oppose TRAP’s legal challenge almost verbatim.

After the Board of Health voted to grandfather existing abortion clinics into regulations for “designing and constructing new health care facility projects”, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli threatened to withhold legal counsel and representation from the board, claiming they had no authority to do so. When it was pointed out that these are not new facilities, and in some cases have been in safe operation for decades, the Attorney General’s Office declared that they were new hospitals because the 2011 legislation newly defined them as hospitals.

Since that time, a researcher with Oppose TRAP discovered the first Rules and Regulations Governing Licensure of General Hospitals in an unprocessed box of files at an off-site archive of the Library of Virginia; these regulations did grandfather in newly defined hospitals without requiring them to meet the same standards as newly constructed facilities.

Comments by medical professionals on the petition filed by Oppose TRAP (and seemingly supported by the Attorney General’s office) range from concern over credibility of the State to concern over selective application of the law:

“At the present time, the integrity of the Board of Health , the Attorney General , the Governor and the legislature is being called into question… Unless we revisit this issue in an independent way where the BOH can makes it’s decisions free from political pressure, then the BOH as well as the AG’s office will lose all credibility.” – Kenneth Olshansky, M.D. Physician

“There is no legitimate reason to impose a different interpretation of the law, mandating onerous new construction standards on health care facilities that have been shown to safely provide first trimester abortion care to Virginia women for 40 years, especially when no other existing entity is required to meet those standards.” – Wendy Klein, MD, FACP

“No other health care facility has been forced to rebuild its existing structure to comply with these Guidelines, even though Virginia Code § 32.1-127.001 applies to hospitals, nursing homes, hospice centers, and outpatient surgical facilities… Our Governor and Attorney General think that a double standard is okay when it comes to women’s health. Women and the Commonwealth deserve better.” – Ike Koziol, MD

More information can be found with Oppose TRAP:




Pro-Choice Activists Call Cuccinelli’s Bluff: Save Abortion Clinics or Lose Hospitals

Posted in Uncategorized on May 6, 2013 by Kontra

In a move that is provoking concern among some abortion rights advocates, an activist working with Oppose TRAP has submitted a petition calling into question the legality of the current regulations of most Virginia hospitals. Taking Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli at his word, the petition points out the unintended consequences of his position on grandfathering for all other Virginia hospitals.

In 2011 the Virginia General Assembly passed SB924, defining health care facilities that perform first-trimester abortions as hospitals, requiring they be regulated by the Board of Health. Despite a panel of medical experts’ recommendation to grandfather in existing facilities, the regulations as written by Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s office required clinics to undergo extremely costly structural upgrades to parking spaces, hallways widths, awnings, etc. These regulations were expected to permanently close the doors of at least 75% of the abortion clinics in the state. After public protest and outspoken opposition from the medical community made clear the dire consequences of Ken Cuccinelli’s position, the Board passed an amendment that would exempt existing clinics from having to meet the new building codes.

In response, Cuccinelli opined that the Board of Health did not have the authority to grandfather existing clinics. He threatened to withhold future legal counsel from the Board, directing it to pass the legislation as originally written.

The Board of Health capitulated, effectively sentencing the closure of most abortion clinics in the state.

The facility guidelines for hospital construction clearly state they are “intended as minimum standards for designing and constructing new health care facility projects.” When it was pointed out that these are not new facilities, and in some cases have been in safe operation for decades, the Attorney General’s Office declared that they were new hospitals because the 2011 legislation newly defined them as hospitals.

Since that time, reproductive rights activist Molly Taylor Vick researched the legislation which originally defined general hospitals in 1947, just as SB924 defined abortion clinics as hospitals in 2011. After further investigation she discovered the first Rules and Regulations Governing Licensure of General Hospitals in an unprocessed box of files at an off-site archive of the Library of Virginia; these regulations did grandfather in existing hospitals without requiring them to meet the same standards as newly constructed facilities.

Now, with clinics already closing and only a year remaining until some must come into compliance, Molly Taylor Vick has filed a petition that challenges Ken Cuccinelli to defend the legality of his position. This has proven controversial among some reproductive rights advocates, who feel uncomfortable being associated with a legal process that has the potential to shut down health care facilities. They also worry that it will alienate their allies in the medical community.

Oppose TRAP appreciates their concern. “Access to health care is something we all value very highly, but this is really about whether people believe in equal application of the law. One argument of pro-choice activists has been that abortion clinics cannot be regulated differently than other facilities; that the law must be applied equally. That is exactly what we’re saying. We are merely pointing out the implications of a decision made by Cuccinelli.” Oppose TRAP continues to explain that after due diligence, they also feel confident that the economic, political and social consequences are so severe that there is not a real threat to general hospitals. “That is the whole point. It is absurd. Cuccinelli needs to explain how it isn’t or own up to what he has done.”

Molly Taylor Vick notes that participation in the public comment period does not equal support for the petition. “People are encouraged to use their voices to express their individual concerns, whether they are in support of or strong opposition to the petitions.”

She further contends that this is taking the fight to where Ken Cuccinelli pretends it is – in the legal interpretation and application of law. “He must own this.”

Cuccinelli can not selectively apply the law:

If existing hospitals CANNOT be grandfathered in under new regulations, this brings into question the legal status of every facility built prior to 2005, many of which will now be forced to undergo the same costly architectural renovations as abortion clinics. This could result in hospitals across the state closing their doors.

If existing hospitals CAN be legally grandfathered as they always have been, then they CAN be legally grandfathered today, and Cuccinelli overstepped his legal and professional authority by refusing to certify those approved regulations. He also overstepped ethical boundaries by threatening to withhold representation if the Board of Health was sued.

VDH must either act to amend hospital regulations to require current construction code of existing facilities or readdress the issue of grandfathering as applied to abortion clinic facilities.

(To read or comment on the petition, go here.)

Dear Gun Control Democrats: 6 Ways to Make a Better Argument

Posted in Articles on April 20, 2013 by Kontra

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks next to Vice President Joe Biden on commonsense measures to reduce gun violence, in Washington

Dear Gun Control Democrats:

It’s been less than a week since national gun control in America died. No “assault weapons” ban. No “high-capacity” magazine ban. Not even the Manchin-Toomey background check compromise that, according to Senator Mark Kirk, was reached by getting drunk on a 54-foot mega-yacht named Black Tie, which is part-owned by Manchin.

Over the last several days, I’ve watched Democratic politicians, lobbyists and Facebook meme-sharers calling down shame on the senators who voted against every single gun control measure proposed in the Senate. Yes, it’s true that none of the measures would have passed the Republican-controlled House anyway, but to have lost in the Democrat-controlled senate was to truly be trounced. I have seen the Democratic pundits all over the nation looking across their podiums and well-lit television studio desks with stunned expressions. “How could this have happened,” they all ask? Only four months after Newtown?

I write this letter as someone who is politically far left of center. You and I have a lot in common, though you may not want to admit it by the end of this article. I think it’s time we had a talk.

I live in the state of Virginia, a place where it’s not easy to be a leftist. Just last week, our State Board of Health voted to approve TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) regulations that would close most abortion clinics in the state. It was a devastating loss for myself and other organizers, and it will be even more devastating to the women of Virginia, most of whom will not have access to safe, legal abortions for years to come. I mention this not only so that you have context for the sort of political work I’m involved in, but because I want you to know that *I do know*, from very recent experience, what it’s like to feel powerless as you watch a group of people vote for social policy that you think is absolutely insane.

But I’ll be honest with you: I watched the Senate votes live on Wednesday, and when these gun-related bills were defeated, I literally celebrated. Obviously, you and I have a lot in common, but plenty to differ on. And that’s kind of what I want to talk to you about.

I’ve owned guns since childhood, and it’s an issue that I’ve thought and written a lot about. It’s very difficult for me to communicate with the mainstream Democratic establishment about guns. But because I know how painful it sometimes is to listen to Republican and other Right-leaning people talk about things that we on the Left care strongly about, I thought I would try to help you out.

There are are a few things that you can do to improve your game in the gun control debate, and I thought it would only be fair to point out what they are. So here’s my best shot. Here are the things that you MUST keep in mind if you wish to further the dialogue on gun policy in America.

1. Stop Sending Mixed Messages

I wish I had a dollar for every Democratic politician and commentator that has looked into a television camera over the past few months and said, “No one is trying to take your guns away!”

Allow me this humble suggestion: The best way to convince the American public that you’re not interested in taking guns away is to stop talking about taking guns away.

Firstly, when your politicians are asked, “Do you support state legislation to ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns?” as Obama was in his 1996 Senate campaign, you should never answer “Yes,” as Obama did. Publicly advocating a ban on all handguns is not the way to convince people that you’re not interested in banning guns. Furthermore, when you are campaigning for president, never say the phrase “I continue to support a [federal] ban on concealed carry,” as Obama did in 2004. This gives people the impression that your intention is to prevent the states from setting reasonable guidlelines on who can defend themselves outside of their home.

If you then win the election, do not go on to fully support gun bans in two US cities – Chicago and D.C. – in which law-abiding citizens are disarmed, citing them as models for gun policy while trying to convince the rest of the country that you really aren’t interested in banning their guns. (Guess which two US cities you’re most likely to be killed by a gun in.)

It has become almost cliché for smirking Democrats to attempt to ridicule people like myself by crooning, “Obama wants to take our guns!” in a stereotyped hillbilly drawl – something particularly offensive to some folks here in the south – when in fact, Obama has said exactly that.

Some of you will argue that regardless of the President’s conflicted/dishonest assertions, the legislation that died in Senate earlier this week had nothing to do with taking anything. But let us not forget the “assault weapons” ban, which enacted slow confiscation over a generation. I wouldn’t have to immediately surrender any firearms, but because of the angle of the grip on the shotgun I own, it would be a felony offense to pass it on to a family member (or anyone else) upon my death. It would instead be confiscated by the government and presumably destroyed.

The same would happen to tens of millions of firearms all over the country, including more than 3 million of just one single model, the AR-15. In this case, gun control advocates literally want to pry the most popular rifle in the country from every owner’s cold dead hands. “We’re not taking any guns away from you, just all future generations.” Needless to say, this is not the way to convince people that no one is interested in taking guns away.

This sort of message and legislation has come not just from the president, but on down the chain of command. We have known that the ideal scenario (and presumably ultimate goal) for Dianne Feinstein – sponsor of the assault weapons ban and most outspoken advocate for all of the defeated legislation – has always been a total, door-to-door confiscation of firearms. She told us so in a 60 Minutes interview.

    ”If I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them – ‘Mr. and Mrs. America, turn ’em all in!’ – I would have done it. I could not do that.”

But it’s not just the Democratic leadership. Cultural icons of the Left have also joined the fray. On Real Time with Bill Maher, the host wanted to know why Democratic leaders are pretending that they believe in the second amendment, when they ought to just come out and say what they mean:

    “Everyone on the left is so afraid to say what should be said, which is the Second Amendment is bullshit. Why doesn’t anyone go at the core of it?”

Every episode of the show is watched by 1 – 1.5 million (almost entirely Democratic) viewers, and the studio audience cheered his comment. Chilling. The followup comment is that the ballot box is our guarantee of liberty. Ask Germany (and countless others) how that worked out for them.

It is important to note that according to the Supreme Court (and most Americans), the views espoused by Obama, Feinstein, Maher, et all are unconstitutional. Is it really so difficult to understand why some folks might think that Democrats are just being politicians by giving lip-service to the second amendment while pushing new legislation? Taken collectively, these and many other open confessions by party members are more than probable cause for suspicion of intent. Constitutional voters don’t have to be ignorant or fearful to sound the alarm about these people. They just have to take them at their word and actions.

You can either tell people that you’re not interested in taking guns and stop thinking of ways to take them, or try to abolish the second amendment (good luck). But you cannot do both.

2. You Have To Understand What You’re Regulating

This is common sense for any sort of regulation, but especially when you’re dealing with something specifically protected in the Bill of Rights. Unfortunately, it has not been the case.

New rule: If you don’t know how guns work, you don’t get to craft legislation about them. There is nothing so embarrassing as watching a Democratic politician who has never held a gun in their life attempt to talk about why and how they should be regulated.

This is not a new problem. I included this classic video in my article on the assault weapons ban, which shows how a senator doesn't even understand what's in her own legislation.

Added to the list over the past several months has been die-hard gun control advocate New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg not understanding the difference between automatic and semi-automatic firearms.

    ”Pistols are different. You have to pull the trigger each time. With an assault weapon you basically hold it down and it goes ::machine gun noise::”

This is a man that has built a cornerstone of his career on gun control legislation. He has headed and commissioned panels on guns. He runs a whole group of pro-gun-control mayors. This is an issue he has supposedly been devoted to for a long time.

He doesn’t know how guns operate. He doesn’t understand basic terminology. He doesn’t know what an “assault weapon” is, even though he supposedly was involved in drafting legislation. How is this possible? And how is it possible that we who actually understand the topic are supposed to cede to his judgment on it?

He’s not alone in his utter baffledness about this. Obama recently told donors at a Democratic Congressional Campaign committee meeting that students at Sandy Hook were gunned down by a “fully automatic weapon”. From the White House transcript:

    ”I just came from Denver, where the issue of gun violence is something that has haunted families for way too long, and it is possible for us to create common-sense gun safety measures that respect the traditions of gun ownership in this country and hunters and sportsmen, but also make sure that we don’t have another 20 children in a classroom gunned down by a semiautomatic weapon – by a fully automatic weapon in that case, sadly.”

This is the President of the United States, who has been personally touring the country pretending to understand the issue of how guns function in society. This person has had entire panels and committees at his disposal specifically to educate him on this topic (so we’re told). There is no excuse for ignorance of this magnitude to be centered around conversations involving civil rights specifically enshrined in the constitution. (It is either astounding ignorance or dishonesty. I’m being generous and assuming the former.)

But the award for atomic facepalm goes squarely to Democratic representative Dianne DeGette of Colorado. During one of the many public forums on gun control that took place across the country recently, Dianne explained to the panel and a stunned audience that magazines and ammunition were the same thing, and therefore all the “high-capacity” magazines would soon be used up.

This person is making laws about the very thing she is completely ignorant of. How can people who actually understand the issue be brought to the table and expect to have productive, meaningful conversation when the people sitting across from them are this clueless?

These are a few selected, higher-profile incidents that represent a vast culture of ignorance in the mainstream Democratic left when it comes to even the basics of gun use and policy. I shouldn’t have to say it, but: Until people know what they’re talking about, none of us should care what they have to say.

3. Stop Using Children

It was the dead children of Newtown that were intoned as the push for gun control legislation began. As I have just evidenced, it was the dead children intoned during the drumming up of support. And it was the dead children intoned in Obama’s “concession” speech as every gun control measure in the Senate failed.

And let’s not forget ads like this one:


Fortunately for America, the FBI says that citizens of all ages are literally more likely to be struck by lightning than to be killed with a rifle of any kind – not just “assault” rifles. In fact, you are more than twice as likely to be killed be hands and feet than rifles of any kind, and about 5 times more likely to be killed by a knife.

What about unintentional firearms deaths? Fortunately for children, the National Safety Council says that they are less likely to be accidentally killed by any firearm than most other causes of death. Children ages 0-19 (which technically includes two years of life that aren’t childhood) are about 8 times more likely to drown or be poisoned, 4 times as likely to be killed by smoke or fire and almost 50 times more likely to be killed in a car accident.

No wonder the Left’s alarmist warnings had no effect on the people of Newtown, who voted for the NRA’s suggestion to put armed guards in schools.

Aside from the fact that a statistically insignificant number of children die from firearms, not a single person who advocated these gun control measures has suggested a way in which any of the proposed legislation could possibly have prevented the massacre in Newtown. (None of it would have.) Which could make someone wonder, “What’s with all the talk about kids?”

Children are no longer just pawns in the gun control story. They are now integral players. Sometimes the stories play out like Obama’s photo-op above. Sometimes they were never supposed to be stories in the first place.

A father in Florida was furious recently when his fourth grade son brought home this colorful page:

The teacher seemed to gotten the idea of this little gem from Democratic Attorney General Eric Holder, who asked for all schools nationwide to advocate an “anti-gun message” every single day. “Every day, every school at every level… We need to do this every day of the week and really brainwash people into thinking about guns in a vastly different way.”

Such an anti-gun fever pitch has been reached that very young children are now being suspended and expelled from school for pointing fingers and saying “pow” on the playground, chewing a Pop-Tart into the shape of a gun, pretending a chicken nugget was a gun and shooting bubbles from a Hello Kitty bubble gun.

As I’m writing this, news has broken of a middle school student suspended and arrested for wearing an NRA t-shirt to school.

Recently a man’s house was raided after he posted a photo of his 11-year-old son – who had a hunting license – safely handling a .22 rifle. The father was a certified firearms instructor, an NRA range safety officer, and a New Jersey hunter education instructor. His house was raided without a warrant and the state threatened to take his children away.

04/23/13 Edit: I have been asked – reasonably, I think – not to refer what happened as a raid. A whole group of police and Dept. Children and Families officials showed up at Moore’s house, demanded to be let in to see his gun safe, threatened to take his child away, but did not enter without a warrant. Moore was told that by asking for a warrant he was acting suspiciously (specifically counter to a ruling by the Supreme Court – exercising rights is never cause for suspicion), and they threatened to find a way to get one. He told them they were welcome to do so. They ended up leaving.

How far we have come.

In some areas of the country, children are not props in a game of political football, but are giving testimony before their state legislatures about why new gun control measures are a terrible idea, like this 15-year-old who shoots those evil AR-15s every day.

In some areas of the country, children are given proper handling and safety training the way I was as a child, and are capable of safely handling rifles and “assault weapons” to defend their homes and family.

Most Americans know when they’re being emotionally played for political gain, and so do the senators who voted against the barrage of legislation that went down in flames this week. Until you can stop marching children around as your cause celeb for no apparent logical reason, and until you propose legislation that at least has something to do with protecting them, no one is going to listen.

4. Stop Pretending Background Checks Don’t Already Exist.

Yes, it’s true that 90% of Americans like background checks for firearms purchases. Well it’s a good thing we have them!

04/21/13 Edit: Four months after the shooting rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School, USA TODAY Poll finds backing for any new gun control legislation has slipped below 50%. The “90% approval for new background check legislation” has turned out to be very false indeed.

If you go to a sporting goods store and buy any firearm, you have to get a background check done. If you buy a gun from almost any table at a gun show, you have to have a background check. If you buy a gun across state lines on the internet, it has to go through a licensed FFL dealer who runs a background check. The same goes for Wal-Mart, flea market dealers, and everywhere else.

The “gun show loophole” you’ve heard so much about simply means that private individuals can sell a gun to each other without asking the federal government for permission. Which is to say that I don’t have to pay $150 (the cost for a check in D.C.) to ask the FBI whether a family member or friend to whom I would like to lend my shotgun for a hunting trip is a convicted felon.

Background checks are a relatively new priority for Obama’s Justice Department, which only prosecuted 44 of the 48,000 felons and fugitives that submitted background checks to purchase a firearm (and were denied because of the functioning system) in 2012. When the NRA pointed out this out to Biden, the Vice President explained that they “simply don’t have the time or manpower to prosecute everybody who lies on a form”.

Then how, pray tell, is adding to that number thousands of private transaction between individuals (who are already inherently law-abiding by filing the paperwork) going to help?

Aside from practicality and enforceability concerns, there are the ever-present privacy concerns. The Democratic left got a rude awakening from allies on this topic when the ACLU came out against universal background checks, citing the record keeping on law-abiding citizens as a “significant” privacy concern:

    “We think that that kind of record-keeping requirement could result in keeping long-term detailed records of purchases and creation of a new government database.”

    “And they come to use databases for all sorts of different purposes. For example, the National Counterterrorism Center recently gave itself the authority to collect all kinds of existing federal databases and performed terrorism related searches regarding those databases. They essentially exempted themselves from a lot of existing Privacy Act protections.”

The Deputy Director of the National Institute of Justice noted in a recent internal memo that the effectiveness of universal background checks would “require gun registration”. (It also went on to note that “gun buybacks are ineffective”, that a high-capacity magazine ban wouldn’t have any discernible effect, that “assault weapons are not a major contributor to gun crime”, and that even a complete elimination of all “assault” weapons “would not have a large impact on gun homicides”.)

When your own Department of Justice thinks your ideas are bad ones, it’s time to move on.

But the ACLU and Department of Justice are not alone in their rejection of universal background checks. Recently, the most comprehensive survey ever conducted on the views of 15,000 law enforcement professionals asked about the relationship between recently-dead legislation proposals and violent crime. 79.6% of them said that expanded background checks would do nothing to reduce violent crime. Here are three other questions and their responses:




These figures speak for themselves. When the nation’s police force, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Justice Department aren’t on board, you might want to rethink your strategy.

No wonder only 4% of Americans think that gun control is an important political issue.

5. Treat the NRA As What They Are: Other American Citizens


The story from the media – and certainly from your Democratic leadership – is that the “powerful corporate lobby” of the NRA is so indomitable that they single-handedly bought and scared off politicians from supporting legislation that they actually believed was going to do some good. But aside from the questionable legislation, this narrative still falls short.

After gun control legislation was defeated this week, I opened a friend’s Facebook link to an unrelated article on thinkprogress.org, a popular leftist news and opinion site. The full screen poll that popped up before I could read the article asked: “DOES THE NRA CONTROL CONGRESS?” along with an urgent call to sign up for their mailing list to email-shame politicians.

The problem here is the complete dissociation of the NRA as an entity and its membership base. As someone who participated wholeheartedly in the Occupy movement and in the national campaign to expose ALEC – the group of Right-wing politicians and corporate lobbyists who write laws together – I have no love for the influence of money on politics. But by making this narrative the dominant one, the Democratic left has missed a very, very important fact: the power of the NRA lies not in corporations, but in its membership.

The NRA definitely receives some contributions from the firearms manufacturers whose interests are tied up with their own. Of course they do. That’s how lobbying works: you pay people to take the time to represent your interests well to lawmakers, whether you’re a gunmaker contributing to the NRA or a high school teacher’s union paying The American Federation of Teachers lobbyists.

What you’re missing is that the vast portion of the NRA’s funds come not through corporate donors, but through contributions from average Americans. It was not a coincidence that between December 2012 and January 2013 the NRA grew 10,000 members every day, adding a full quarter-million new contributors to their roster since gun control reappeared in the national discussion last year. That’s just what happens when a populace that cares a lot about something gets mobilized. But the NRA – by which the Democratic party should mean “the American citizens who comprise the NRA because they believe in gun rights” – has consistently been characterized as the heartless, monolithic boogeyman.

I have already mentioned the young man who was just this week suspended and arrested for wearing an NRA t-shirt to school. How is this possible? How can the demonization of 5 million Americans engaged in strictly legal activity literally put a child in jail in 2013?

I hope that one thing this latest loss has taught you is that you cannot advance the discussion on gun policy by treating the NRA as if they were something other than the citizens who intentionally pay for them to do exactly what they do. (Even if members do have to grit their teeth at brash methods sometimes.) Your opponent is not the corporate profits of Ruger or Beretta, it is the beliefs and ideas and the resulting money of other citizens just like yourself. Speaking of which…

6. Don’t Forget About Us!

Gun policy is not really as partisan a debate as mainstream media would suggest. There are plenty of left-leaning citizens and Democratic voters who love our guns. Some of us are in the south, some of us are out in Colorado, and some of us are right in the middle of New York City. Some of us not only like the process of shooting guns, but actually think that it’s important to know how. Some of us hunt to supplement food/income. Some of us believe that the safety of our selves, families, communities and yes, even our nation are our own responsibility as citizens. It’s not such a radical thought.

And don’t forget that we are the swing voices in this debate. After the mass shooting in Aurora, I posted an article on why the “assault weapons” ban should not be renewed. Much to my surprise, it garnered a half million reads. This was not because I’m a great writer. This was because it spoke to other leftist people with gun-interests in a way that an NRA newsletter was not going to. And those people shared it with their leftist friends, and so on.

You cannot pretend that we don’t exist, and you cannot be surprised when we let our representatives know that we do not support gun control legislation.