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Activist urges proper gun storage after grandson’s death

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A Louisville gun safety activist is encouraging gun owners to use gun locks and safely store their guns, an issue he’s taken all the more seriously since his grandson was fatally shot in January 2016.

Luther Brown, a retired construction worker and avid church goer, found his calling advocating gun safety after his neighbor was killed and her 2-year-old daughter severely wounded and blinded in one eye from a shooting in May 2006, the Lexington Herald Leader reported.

His research into gun violence in Louisville led him to start the nonprofit educational program Little Hands Little Feet, which warns children to stay away from guns and urges adult gun owners to use gun locks and practice safe gun storage in order to prevent accidental shootings.

Brown has given away more than 500 gun locks at events around the West Louisville community where he resides, and hopes to get a gun lock in every house.

“Not every dope dealer is gonna want to use a gun lock,” Brown said. “But the mamas of the dope dealers sometimes insist on it. They know there are children in the house; they know how children are curious. It’s the mamas who come back to me sometimes and ask for a lock. If we can get locks on even a few of the guns out there, then you know what? At least that’s something.”

Brown knows all too well what it’s like for a family member to be killed in an accidental shooting. On Jan. 9, 2016, his 8-year-old grandson Andre O’Neal Jr. was accidentally shot and killed at a family barbecue.

The man responsible for the shooting, 21-year-old Elgin Anders, allegedly dropped the gun by accident when it fired and struck the child.

“We was grilling and everything. I came out to the grill. I had barbecue sauce on my fingers. I licked the sauce off my fingers. It just slipped right out of my fingers,” Anders told WDRB-TV.

Anders has been charged with reckless homicide and the case is still ongoing. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison, but Brown doubts Anders will stay in prison for even that long.

“That man might go to prison for a year for killing Baby Dre,” he said.

“The problem is, we don’t take these deaths seriously. People leave their guns out, bam, a child is dead, but it’s just an accident. People drop their guns, bam, a child is dead, but it’s just an accident. You were careless and now a child is dead, but hey, we won’t charge you with a crime, we think you’ve suffered enough. If we charge you with anything, maybe you get a year.”

After his grandson’s death, Brown continued his gun safety programs, and was even invited to attend the funeral of another boy who had been shot and killed by his 11-year-old brother when playing with a loaded handgun left unlocked in their home.

At the funeral, Brown handed out gun locks and gun safety pamphlets, a day he said he would take with him to his grave.

While Brown has vowed to keep up his efforts in Louisville, other gun safety programs are also trying to make a difference around the country.

One such program — Project ChildSafe, sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation — recently teamed up with the San Angelo Police Department in Texas to raise awareness about safe gun ownership in the community.

According to an SAPD news release, free gun locks and safety kits will be available for pickup at Police Headquarters from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Tennessee cities comply with new law allowing guns on buses

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Tennessee cities are working to implement a new law that allows handgun permit holders in the state to carry their firearms onto public transportation.

The Associated Press reported that Tennessee’s four major cities — Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga and Memphis — intend to comply with the law, which took effect July 1, but have so far posted vaguely worded rules that may leave riders confused as to what the policy actually is.

Transit authorities in Nashville, Knoxville, Chattanooga put the onus on riders to educate themselves on who’s allowed to carry guns, while Memphis authorities are still revising the wording of their policies but have begun allowing permit holders to carry firearms.

Nashville has changed its transit system’s code of conduct to only ban weapons that are “unauthorized,” but does not mention the new law.

Chattanooga’s revised transit policy mentions the law without explaining what it actually means in practice, while Knoxville signs were changed with similarly vague wording.

Lisa Maragnano, Chattanooga Area Regional Transportation Authority executive director, implied such wording was purposeful.

“We will comply with the law, we won’t encourage it,” she said in an email.

The new law, backed strongly by the National Rifle Association and signed by Gov. Bill Haslam in May, calls for cities and counties to either install metal detectors and post security guards at public facilities or allow lawful gun owners with handgun permits to carry their firearms.

The measure will also provide lawful gun owners with a private cause of action to challenge local firearms rules they feel are not being implemented properly.

While gun control advocates claim it could endanger the lives of commuters, gun rights advocates argue the law will have just the opposite effect by letting lawful gun owners carry their firearms as protection against those with criminal intentions.

Tanika Mallory Blast NRA over Philando Castile shooting

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NRA spokeswoman comments on Philando Castile shooting (VIDEO)

A National Rifle Association spokeswoman said the comments she made this week on the death of Philando Castile, a black man killed by police after disclosing he had legal concealed weapon during a traffic stop, was the organization’s official stance.

“ILoesch made the appearance to defend comments she made in an NRA membership video against critic Tamika Mallory, president of the Women’s March, who appeared alongside her on CNN. Mallory had penned a letter asking the NRA to retract Loesch’s video because it “appear(s) to be a direct endorsement of violence” against people, especially those of color, for exercising their right to free speech. She also requested the NRA, as a civil rights organization, defend Castile’s Second Amendment rights and demand justice for him.

Shortly after the incident last July, the NRA as an organization released an official statement calling Castile’s death “troubling” and that it would “have more to say once all the facts are known.” Loesch has been the only NRA representative to give an official statement since then.

Yanez said he thought Castile was a robbery suspect when he stopped the vehicle. Castile informed Yanez that he had a legal concealed weapon and began reaching for his wallet, but Yanez mistakenly thought Castile was reaching for a gun, so he opened fire.

 

National concealed reciprocity bill

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Legislation to treat concealed carry permits like drivers’ licenses nationwide is gaining steam in Congress while opponents dig in.

Introduced by U.S. Rep. Richard Hudson, R-NC, on the first day of session in the new House, the bill now enjoys the support of Hudson and 199 co-sponsors from 42 states. The bill is largely Republican, with three Democrats crossing the aisle, and is currently one of the top 10 most-viewed bills in Congress.

“Your driver’s license works in every state, so why doesn’t your concealed carry permit?” says a backgrounder on the bill circulated by Hudson’s office. “Just like your privilege to drive, your Second Amendment right does not disappear when you cross state lines. However, conflicting state codes have created a confusing patchwork of reciprocity agreements for concealed carry permit holders.”

Hudson’s bill would amend federal law to allow those eligible to possess a firearm to have a concealed handgun in any state that allows individuals to carry a pistol or revolver. Those who do so would have to carry a valid permit with them as well as a photo ID. The bill also applies to nonresident permit holders.

A companion measure, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s S.446, has 37 co-sponsors, all Republican.

While Second Amendment groups large and small support the legislation, gun control advocates have drawn a line in the sand to stop the bill, with former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown organization pledging as much as $25 million to derail the campaign.

Astronaut and Navy Capt. Mark Kelly, co-founder with his wife– former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords — of Americans for Responsible Solutions, has often argued that national reciprocity violates states’ rights and constitutes a public safety threat, going on to describe it simply as “bad legislation” when speaking recently in the aftermath of an attack on House Republicans at a charity baseball practice.

The measure has been referred to the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations, but is not scheduled for a hearing.

Permitless concealed carry bills find approval in 2 state houses

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Measures that would let the Constitution serve as a concealed carry permit were given the green light Wednesday by lawmakers in two states.

In Michigan, a four-pack of bills to allow law-abiding residents to carry concealed handguns without a permit was approved by a Republican-heavy majority and now proceeds to the state Senate.

“My question is, why are law abiding citizens paying expensive fees for courses and permits to exercise their constitutional right to bear arms?” asked Rep. Michelle Hoitenga, R-Manton, in lengthy testimony before lawmakers earlier this month.

The bills would repeal a host of Michigan’s laws that require training and a state-issued permit to carry a concealed firearm. They do not eliminate the state’s permitting system for those who wish to obtain a $105 license to carry to take advantage of existing out-of-state reciprocity agreements. Those currently unable to possess a firearm by law would still be barred from carrying.

Gun control advocates argue the measures and those adopted like them in a dozen other states are a threat to public safety.

“The states that have eliminated the permit requirement are basically making it easier to carry a gun in public than drive a car,” said Hannah Shearer, with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

The legislation now heads to Senate for committee assignment. A positive floor vote there without amendment would send the package to the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder who, though a Republican, has a mixed record of signing pro-gun reforms.

North Carolina

In the Tar Heel State, lawmakers gave tentative 65-54 approval to House Bill 746, an omnibus measure that includes retaining the current permitting system for purposes of reciprocity with other states while removing the requirement to have a license to carry inside the state. Further, it keeps the state’s sometimes-controversial pistol purchase permit requirement intact.

“It is reasonable to allow law-abiding citizens to conceal carry in areas where open carry is currently allowed,” said state Rep. Jon Hardister, R-Greensboro, as reported by the Winston-Salem Journal.

Democrats, who counted eight GOP House members as crossing the aisle to poll with them against the bill this week, said the proposal is a mistake.

“I think it’s going in the wrong direction for preventing gun violence in our state,” said state Rep. Pricey Harrison, D-Greensboro, who tried unsuccessfully to attach a magazine capacity limit to the bill.

A final vote is scheduled for Thursday, which, if successful, would send the bill to the North Carolina Senate for review.

New Jersey Assembly passes bill to regulate toy guns

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Lawmakers in the New Jersey Assembly have passed a bill that would prohibit the sale of toy guns that look too realistic.

The Observer reported the legislation was passed Thursday on a 57-16 vote and will now head to the New Jersey Senate for consideration.

As currently written, the bill would require that toy guns no longer be colored black, blue, silver or aluminum. The toy firearms would also have to be marked with an orange strip along each side of the toy’s barrel and must have barrels of at least 1 inch in diameter.

The bill was inspired by the death of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old Cleveland boy who was fatally shot by police in 2014 while playing with a BB gun in a park. The police officer reportedly mistook the toy gun for a real firearm.

“The death of Tamir Rice was a tragic wake-up that realistic looking toy guns can prove just as great of a threat as a real one,” said Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, D-Hudson, a co-sponsor of the bill. “For the sake of children in all of our communities, we need to eliminate any ambiguities that could threaten their safety.”

Supporters of the bill say the added regulations on toy guns will help law enforcement better distinguish between them and the real thing and could save lives in the process.

“Unfortunately, when a law enforcement officer is called to a scene and has to make a split-second decision, it can be difficult to differentiate between a real weapon and an imitation,” co-sponsor Assemblywoman Sheila Oliver, D-Essex/Passaic, said in a statement. “If the officer is wrong in assuming that a toy is a real weapon, it can result in tragedy for a child at play. If the officer hesitates, believing that a real weapon is a toy, it can result in tragedy for the officer. By putting restrictions on the sale of replica weapons, we can get to the root of this disturbing problem.”

If passed in the Senate, it remains unclear if Gov. Chris Christie would sign the bill, as he has been reluctant in the past to sign legislation relating to gun control.

gang boss pleads guilty to sharing gun range trip on Instagram

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A former gang boss and convicted felon in Chicago pleaded guilty Thursday to federal weapons charges after he fired a gun at a suburban shooting range and bragged about it on social media.

Labar Spann, 38, fired a Glock 19 at Midwest Sporting Goods in Lyons, Illinois in September 2014, according to a press release from the U.S. attorney’s office.

Spann, also known as “Bro Man,” used to lead the Four Corner Hustlers on Chicago’s West Side. Prosecutors say he went to the gun range in 2014 with two other people and posted a number of photos and videos to social media.

“(Spann) posted one photograph of a shooting target depicting the silhouette of a person with holes in the head and chest,” his plea agreement says. “(He) posted a caption related to the photograph that read: ‘y’all know I had to go first just to show my bitch how this shit work lmao I do this shis.’”

Spann, who uses a wheelchair after being wounded in a shooting, has felony convictions dating back to 1996. In 2003, he was acquitted of the murder of a Latin King gang member.

He pleaded guilty to one count of illegal possession of a firearm by a felon, three counts of obstruction of justice, and one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute, “namely, a quantity of a mixture and substance containing a detectable amount of cocaine base.”

As a felon, Spann was not lawfully allowed to possess a firearm.

The obstruction charges stem from Spann’s efforts to impede witness testimony. Initially, a witness told law enforcement that Spann had handled and fired the gun at the range. Later, the witness, Ladonah Hampton, said she didn’t recall seeing Spann firing the gun, according to court records.

He’s scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 5, and faces up to 70 years in prison.

Lawmakers move to close national ‘hate crime loophole’

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Democrats on Capitol Hill introduced legislation Thursday backed by gun control groups to strip Second Amendment rights from those who commit misdemeanor hate crimes.

The measure, termed the Disarm Hate Act, comes near the anniversaries of the mass killings at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and Emanuel AME Church in Charleston and would ban the sale of firearms to those convicted of vandalizing a place of worship or assaulting someone based on their perceived race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

“If you commit a hate crime, you shouldn’t be allowed to own a gun. Period,” said sponsor, U.S. Rep. David N. Cicilline, a Rhode Island Democrat. “There is a clear link between these horrific hate crimes and gun violence. We know that those who commit hate crimes become increasingly violent as time goes on. No American family should have to suffer because of this loophole.”

Introduced Thursday as H.R.2841 in the House with 18 co-sponsors, and S.1324 in the Senate by Pennsylvania Democrat Bob Casey with 10 co-sponsors, the legislation would make convictions of misdemeanor hate crimes under state, federal or tribal laws sufficient to deem an individual a prohibited firearms possessor in the eyes of the federal government. The bill goes on to define such an offense as any that came about because of a victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

The proposal has the early support of several anti-gun groups including Sandy Hook Promise, the Brady Campaign, Everytown and Moms Demand Action.

“A year ago, a man filled with hate was able to get his hands on a gun and unleash tragic violence in Orlando’s Pulse nightclub,” said Brady President Dan Gross. “We have to do better than the world that made it so easy for him, and so many other dangerous people, to get guns.

Casey’s measure has been referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. In the House, Cicilline’s bill, a carbon copy of one he introduced without success last session, has been referred to the Committee on the Judiciary. None have a Republican co-sponsor, which does not bode well in chambers under GOP control.

Black Prosecutor Found Dead On Florida Beach

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Police are investigating the mysterious death of a federal prosecutor whose body was found washed up on a beach in Hollywood, Fla., Wednesday, May 24.

Police identified the deceased man as 37-year-old Beranton Whisenant Jr., who authorities said might have suffered a head wound caused by a gun shot or other type of trauma, the Miami Herald reported. His death is being investigated as a crime.

“The investigation is still very preliminary,” Hollywood Police Department spokeswoman Miranda Grossman told reporters, adding that detectives and Broward County’s medical examiner’s office are “still looking at it.”

Whisenant, a graduate of the University of Florida’s law school, joined the major crimes unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami earlier this year, according to the newspaper. Court documents showed that he’d been working on visa and passport fraud cases before his death and taught a paralegal program at the University of Miami.

Colleagues, family and friends were shocked to hear of the prosecutor’s passing.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office family was deeply saddened and shocked to learn of Beranton’s death,” Acting U.S. Attorney Benjamin Greenberg said. “He was a great lawyer and wonderful colleague, and we will miss him deeply. Our thoughts are with Beranton’s family and friends.”

Lawyer Michael Feiler, a friend of Whisenant, described his pal as the “epitome of a gentleman and possessed an exceptional legal mind.” Feiler added that the husband and father of two was motivated by public service and planned to become a judge someday.

The exact cause of the prosecutor’s death is still being investigated.

 

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