MY TAKE ON COLIN KAEPERNICK AND THE NFL

In 2016, Colin Kaepernick engaged in a silent, nonviolent protest by taking a knee during the playing of the National Anthem at NFL games. Colin’s purpose in taking a knee was to raise awareness to the number of minorities that have been beaten or killed at the hands of law enforcement personnel across this country.  As a result of his protest, NFL owners have not hired Kaepernick even though they have employed individuals that have been convicted of serious crimes such as sexual assault or domestic violence; it is not a crime to protest.  Several NFL owners have stated on the record that they refuse to hire Colin because of a fear of sponsors pulling their advertisements at NFL games or that a portion of its fan base would create a backlash (some of that backlash occurred last season).  Although NFL owners acknowledge of the possible backlash from certain of their fan base, they have assumed that there would be no backlash from the African American community even though that community makes up approximately 15% of the NFL’s overall viewership.  In addition, although the NFL owners have decided to arbitrarily silence one player who took a stand under his First Amendment rights for issues that are important to the African American community, the owners also assumed that African Americans will continue to watch NFL games and purchase products that have been endorsed by the NFL.

Kaepernick has filed a grievance against the NFL that its owners colluded to keep him from being hired when he reached free agency status. It has been recently reported that internal team documents reviewed in relation to the grievance shows that teams viewed Kaepernick as a starting quarterback in 2017.  Up to this point, the big dispute has been whether Kaepernick has been unemployed for football-related reasons or because of his controversial protests.  If the decision on the grievance shows that Kaepernick has been blacklisted by the league for his decision to kneel, then he may be entitled to millions of dollars in lost wages and damages.

If, however, his collusion case against the NFL and its team owners fails, Kaepernick may have another option by suing Trump and the NFL for violating his First Amendment rights.  Trump spent much of the past year condemning the protests of predominantly black players to the delight of his political base, and he has repeatedly called on NFL owners to prohibit players from protesting.  Last September in a campaign rally in Alabama, Trump urged team owners to fire any “son of a bitch” player who protested.  Trump’s demagoguery has had an obvious effect on the NFL owners, who recently approved a new policy that requires players to stand for the national anthem if they are on the field before games. (It should also be noted that the NFL receives financial support from US tax payers.)  This past Monday, June 4th, Trump blamed anthem protests for the abrupt cancellation of the Philadelphia Eagles’ visit to the White House even though no members of the team knelt during the 2017 season.  Trump’s actions may have opened him up to claims that he and the NFL violated Kaepernick’s First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceful protest if Trumps threats against the league helped force owners to institute the new policy or influenced their treatment of protesting players.

If Colin Kaepernick is willing to take a knee because of an important issue to people of color, shouldn’t the Black and Brown community and their sympathizers stand with him by refusing to watch NFL games or purchase any product endorsed by the NFL until he is either reinstated as an NFL player or his grievance is satisfactorily resolved, but that’s just my take?

 

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SECOND AMENDMENT AND THE NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION (NRA) FINAL PART

NRA has had presidents whose personal views were less rigid including the one-time movie star Charlton Heston, who served from 1998 to 2003. But Heston is most famous in his role as NRA president for proclaiming: “From my cold dead hands!” at the 2000 NRA convention, as he hoisted a rifle above his head.

“So, as we set out this year to defeat the divisive forces that would take freedom away,” Heston said, trying to rally the membership against Vice President and Democrat Al Gore during the 2000 presidential election. “I want to say those fighting words for everyone within the sound of my voice to hear and to heed, and especially for you, Mr. Gore: ‘From my cold, dead hands!'”

That rallying cry is on NRA bumper stickers and symbolizes the modern-era NRA attitude when it comes to gun restrictions. And since Carter’s hard line, picked up by the subsequent leaders of the organization, the NRA has also seen its membership and funds swell. And when a mass-shooting happens or a Democratic president looks like he or she might win, gun stock prices soar.

That speech also took place after eight years of a Democratic presidency that saw an assault-rifle ban go into effect. Gore, of course, narrowly lost in 2000. Often when there’s momentum in one direction, there is a backlash, and that happened that year.

The NRA experienced setbacks on gun restrictions in the 1990s, stemming from the 1981 attempted assassination of Reagan. It created a new groundswell for gun control and led to the 1993 law known as the Brady Bill (for Reagan’s press secretary Jim Brady, wounded in the attempt on the president’s life).

The Brady Bill established a waiting period and other restrictions and had the support of NRA member Ronald Reagan. The following year, a Democratic Congress enacted a domestic ban on “assault weapons,” the combat style semiautomatics so common in war zones around the world.  But the NRA managed to insert a 10-year sunset on the law, and when it came due in 2004, the control of Congress had passed to the GOP, which allowed the law to expire.

Over the years, the NRA has also become involved in litigation, such as the lawsuit challenging the personal handgun ban in the District of Columbia. That case eventually reached the Supreme Court, which struck down the law in the landmark Heller decision in 2008.  That decision also preserved the longstanding NRA principle that the Second Amendment right to firearms was meant for a private individual as well as a “well-regulated militia.”  The majority opinion was written by Justice Antonin Scalia, who had been appointed to the court by Reagan, the first president endorsed for the office by the NRA.

This is the NRA we know today, the one to whom lawmakers and the media turn after a firearm massacre such as in Florida.  When this happens, the NRA has a well-established protocol for its response.  First the organization remains silent for a period of days, offering only a message of sympathy for the victims and a request that the tragedy “not be politicized.”  Then it begins to engage, usually through a few officers and spokespersons who have been through this multiple times, such as the chief lobbyist, Chris W. Cox, and its executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre.

LaPierre then makes the rounds of TV talk shows and cable channels, reciting a well-practiced “talking points” defending his faith in guns, their use in self-protection and the NRA view of the Constitution.  That is:

  1. That the Second Amendment guarantees the right to “keep and bear arms,” and the Supreme Court has recently reaffirmed that this right applies to private individuals and not just to organized militias (as referenced in the Constitution), but also to private individual citizens.
  2. The organization lays the blame for gun violence on criminals and the producers of Hollywood movies and video games and the failures of the mental health system.
  3. It reminds that it is not possible to legislate away the evil in the world.

Finally, and repeatedly, the NRA repeats its chant: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

Or, as LaPierre put it recently, “It comes down to … if your glass breaks in the middle of the night, there is not a government authority on the planet that substitutes for your right to own a firearm.”

In the case of the Las Vegas on shooting on October 1, 2017, that took 58 lives and wounded or injured hundreds more, the NRA has deviated only a degree from its pattern. In its original response, the NRA said it was willing to discuss the Las Vegas shooter’s reliance on a weapon modification known as a “bump stock.”

This enables someone holding a semiautomatic weapon to fire many rounds without squeezing the trigger for each. This does not modify the weapon to make it “fully automatic,” but it produces a similar effect.

On the same day the NRA released its statement, a number of Republican legislators, including some from party leadership in the House and Senate, told reporters they could “take a look at” bump stocks.  Shortly thereafter, Trump also said the administration would “take a look at” bump stocks.

Whether or not this was a coordinated strategy, it was a mild concession on the part of the NRA which usually opposes new limitations. It was condemned as such by the Gun Owners of America, a smaller guns-rights group that is often critical of what it calls the NRA’s willingness to compromise and “sell out.”

But it soon became clear that the NRA was not in favor of addressing the bump stock through any actual change in the law. LaPierre and others said it was within the purview of the Bureau of Alcohol and Firearms to regulate bump stocks now. They said repeatedly that ATF should simply “do its job.”  LaPierre wouldn’t agree on legislation, but regulation simply because it is a lot easier to revoke when necessary.

ATF officials, however, contradicted LaPierre’s statement pointing to the language of the relevant laws on the books. They said those laws needed to change for them to ban bump stocks.  While that “he-said, she-said” debate goes forward, LaPierre added recently added that he did not see a need for any gun bill that “would become a Christmas tree” loaded with anti-gun measures. He specifically mentioned the suggestions by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, the Democrat with whom he has clashed since she pushed the assault-weapons ban in 1994. (LaPierre was first made executive vice president in 1991.)

LaPierre’s view is already being championed by many members of Congress. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was seriously wounded when a gunman opened fire in June 2017 on a congressional baseball team practice, has suggested there might be other legislation moving in his chamber that enhanced gun owner rights rather than limiting them in any way.

In my view, NRA will continue to buy members of congress through their grading structure and financial support.  That organization poured $36.3 million into the 2016 election, breaking its own record of $31.7 million from just two years earlier.  NRA continues to be “bad news” for America because that organization is concerned more about gun manufacturers than children, and the only way to change that model is to vote in people who are more concerned about their constituencies that than selling their soul to the NRA.

 

THE TRUTH ABOUT THE SECOND AMENDMENT AND THE NATIONAL RIFLE ASSOCIATION (NRA) PART 2

Founded in 1871, NRA has about 5 million members.  The power of the organization is legendary, especially the widely published report cards it issues giving A to F grades to lawmakers. The cards have been credited with the election (or defeat) of many candidates including incumbents. Even the nuances of the group’s affection, an A+ over an A grade, for example, can make the difference especially in Republican primaries.

That is why the NRA has anchored the opposition in every major gun-related debate since it altered its main aim from marksmanship to hard-edged political activism. That change came 40 years ago and was related to other shifts in political sentiment, including the departure of Southern rural conservatives from the Democratic Party. All these helped Ronald Reagan to be elected the first presidential candidate to ever be endorsed by the NRA.

So how did the NRA get so much power?  The group’s website offers the following introduction:  “While widely recognized today as a major political force and as America’s foremost defender of Second Amendment rights, the NRA has, since its inception, been the premier firearms education organization in the world.”

The origin of NRA dates back almost to the Civil War when two former Union officers who had despaired over their wartime recruits’ poor shooting skills. Their idea was to educate a new generation of marksmen, whether for war or hunting or recreational target shooting.

Well into the 20th century, NRA was known primarily for promoting the safe and proper use of firearms, often in some form of cooperation with the government. The Army, at times, donated surplus equipment for training, and the state of New York helped NRA purchase its first shooting range.

The idea that people owned and used guns was a given in the early years of America. They were integral to frontier survival and rural life, and inherent in the wider American culture — a feature of folklore and tradition, a symbol of individuality and independence. In time, however, controversy over guns arose.

After Abraham Lincoln, two other presidents were shot by assassins, and Theodore Roosevelt sustained and survived a short-range gunshot wound, people began to talk about the availability of guns and the desirability of some restrictions.  Of course, NRA wanted to be part of that conversation.

The NRA wasn’t always staunchly opposed to gun restrictions.  In fact, the NRA of past generations worked with the federal government to limit the traffic in guns — for example, where ex-convicts or mental patients were involved.  When handguns became the focus, the NRA produced a subgroup devoted to them and supported state-level permit requirements for concealed weapons.

In the Prohibition Era, the conversation changed again with the urban use of shotguns and the fully automatic Thompson gun.  Bank robbers and warring gangsters became a target for lawmakers and as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act of 1938 regulated such guns, banned some buyers and made gun dealers register with the government.

The NRA worked with Congress and the White House on those acts and supported their enforcement. The same was true when these restrictions were extended and tightened following the 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and again by a 1968 gun bill responding to the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Sen. Robert Kennedy.

But in the late 1960s, there was also widespread concern about rising crime rates and the deadly riots that flared in the nation’s major cities. Citizens were concerned about their safety and turned to gun purchases for their personal protection. And many NRA members wanted their organization to get out in front of that.

In 1971, agents of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms killed a NRA member who was hiding a large number of illegal weapons. This stirred a restless reaction within the NRA rank and file. As a result, in 1975, the NRA’s top managers created its first lobbying organ, the Institute for Legislative Action (ILA).  The ILA was headed by a Texas lawyer named Harlon Carter, an immigration hawk who had headed the Border Patrol in the 1950s.

“You don’t stop crime by attacking guns,” he said. “You stop crime by stopping criminals.”  Hard-charging and uncompromising, Carter was soon at odds with the Old Guard of the NRA who downsized his ILA staff. He fought back by organizing an uprising at the annual NRA convention in 1977 and forcing the power struggle into the open.

In the end, Carter won, ascending to NRA’s leadership as its executive vice president. He installed another hard-liner, Neal Knox, to head the ILA. The new marching orders were to oppose all forms of gun control across the board and lobby aggressively for gun owners’ rights in Congress and the legislatures.

This change in mission coincided with a new surge in political money. Decisions by the Federal Election Commission and the Supreme Court had opened the spillway on vast new reservoirs of cash.  Soon, the NRA became a tough force in fundraising and campaign spending at the state and federal level.  This, in turn, gave the group the muscle to move pro-gun legislation as well as to stop efforts at gun control. Carter proclaimed his group would be “so strong and so dedicated that no politician in America, mindful of his political career, would want to challenge our legitimate goals.”  The NRA has followed the path blazed by Carter (who retired in 1985) and Knox.

CONTINUED IN PART 3