Tim Murphy

Tim Murphy


Tim Murphy is a senior reporter in MoJo's DC bureau. His writing has been featured in Slate and the Washington Monthly. Email him with tips and insights at tmurphy [at] motherjones [dot] com.

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The NRA Unveils Its School Safety Plan: More Guns

| Tue Apr. 2, 2013 1:11 PM EDT
NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre announced his school safety task force last December.

On Tuesday morning, former Rep. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) unveiled a 225-page report, commissioned by the National Rifle Association, on how best to prevent gun violence in schools. His task force's conclusions: Put an armed security guard (teachers or administrations would also be acceptable) in every public school in the country, and put them through a 40–60-hour training course to give them the tools to take out a shooter. Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Hutchinson called for more funding to help schools hire security officers and announced that the NRA would create a centralized portal to help schools develop and institute their defense plans. Hutchinson, who in December had proposed encouraging armed volunteers to stand watch at schools, said he'd concluded that was "not the best solution" after speaking with school superintendents.

Hutchinson's shining example of school safety, which he returned to multiple times during his remarks Tuesday, was a 1997 shooting at Pearl High School in Mississippi. In that case, the school principal, who was also an Army reservist, disarmed the shooter after picking up a gun from his car. But as my colleague Mark Follman explained, the shooting had already stopped at that point.

(The report doesn't offer specific advice as to which type of weapon might work best for school guards, but Hutchinson suggested that either a shotgun or an AR-15 would be acceptable, in addition to a more manageable handgun.)

When pressed by reporters, Hutchinson insisted that legislation currently being considered in Congress to make background checks universal for private gun sales and halt the manufacture of high-capacity magazines was irrelevant to the issue of school safety. The sweeping gun-control legislation on the verge of being signed into law in Connecticut in response to the December massacre in Newtown was, by his estimation, "totally inadequate."

But Hutchinson only mentioned in passing one of the biggest consequence of his proposals, should they actually be adopted. A 2011 study by the Justice Policy Institute found that the evidence that school resource officers are a deterrent to crime was flimsy at best. But that didn't mean the officers don't have an impact. Students at schools with SROs were 2.9 times more likely to be arrested—and 4.7 times more likely to end up being charged with disorderly conduct. "All of these negative effects set youth on a track to drop out of school and put them at greater risk of becoming involved in the justice system later on, all at tremendous costs for taxpayers as well the youth themselves and their communities," the report concluded:

Justice Policy Institute

Hutchinson alluded to the concerns over increased criminal charges in schools with SROs, but suggested the problem could be fixed at the local level: "This is an internal issue as to how you manage your SROs, and so you need to have clear understandings reflected in a memorandum of understanding between the school and the law enforcement agency." But schools have always had the ability to set the terms of conduct with law enforcement, and the results haven't been pretty. The report states briefly that "The objective of the SRO is not to increase juvenile arrests within a school."

At the Conservative Political Action Conference last month, I watched NRA president David Keene moderate a panel on how to fix America's criminal justice system. The conclusion among the panelists, Keene included, was we lock too many people up, and for too long. But the proposals unveiled on Tuesday, like those pushed by the NRA in the 1990s, probably wouldn't do anything to reverse that trend; if the past is any indication, they'd just make it worse.

Read the report for yourself:



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Fla. State Senator: We Need to "Vaccinate" Against Shariah

| Fri Mar. 29, 2013 1:15 PM EDT

As I reported in a piece for the print magazine last summer, Florida has emerged as sort of the Thunderdome of the anti-Shariah movement, with a host of lawmakers at the municipal, state, and federal level working hand-in-hand with a dedicated group of activists to combat the invisble spectre of Islamic law. Shariah isn't coming to South Florida, but that hasn't stopped the state legislature from trying—again—to ban it from being used in state courts.

On Friday, the South Florida chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations blasted out this video, in which state Sen. Alan Hays, the bill's Republican sponsor, compares stopping Shariah to getting a polio vaccination:

When you were a child, did your parents have you vaccinated against different diseases? That was a preemptive gesture on their part for which I would hope you're very thankful. And this is very similar to that. Your mom and dad would not want you to get sick from one of those dreadful diseases, and I don't want any American to be in a Florida courtroom and have their constitutional rights violated by any foreign law. That's it. It's not that complicated.

By all accounts, Hays considers the threat posed by Islamic law quite dire. The Miami Herald reported earlier in March that the senator had distributed anti-Shariah literature in the halls of the state capitol. Per the Herald, the fliers "present Islam as a threat to the United States," and invoke lawmakers to pass legislation to "save us from an internal attack" and "protect our freedom."

That is, if the pythons don't get us first.

Read more here: http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2012/03/anti-sharia-flyers-circulate-senate-hallways.html#storylink=cpy

No Joke: North Dakota Named Freest State in the Country

| Thu Mar. 28, 2013 10:18 AM EDT

On Tuesday, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple (R) signed into law three of the nation's strictest anti-abortion laws, banning all procedures after six weeks, prohibiting abortions due to genetic abnormalities, and adding more hoops for doctors working at the state's one abortion clinic. On Wednesday, the libertarian-leaning Mercatus Center at George Mason University unveiled its annual "Freedom in the 50 States" report, ranking each state's fiscal, regulatory, and personal "freedom."

Guess who's number one?

spirit of america/Shutterstock

The Center's rankings are quite thorough—you can see where each stands based on dozens of variables, including taxation, tort reform, fireworks laws, same-sex partnerships, happy hour regulations, the legality of raw milk, and whether or not the state bans salvia. But one thing is pointedly happy from the methodology, despite its seemingly obvious consequences for individual and economic liberty: reproductive rights.

Congratulations, North Dakota. This award will look nice up on the mantle next to the anti-choice March Madness championship trophy.

Ashley Judd: I'm Not Running

| Wed Mar. 27, 2013 5:49 PM EDT

So much for that.

On Wednesday, actress and public health activist Ashley Judd ended months of public speculation about her political future and announced she would not challenge Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) next fall. Judd, who lives outside Nashville and would have had to establish residency in the Commonwealth, cited family commitments in an announcement on Twitter:

The case for Judd, on its surface, was pretty straightforward. She is young; capable of raising vast sums of money; and sufficiently beloved in the Bluegrass that Steve Beshear, the state's Democratic governor, calls her "Kentucky’s first daughter." McConnell, a fifth-term Republican, is the least popular senator in a chamber that currently includes Robert Menendez. His approach to legislating often seems like a manifestation of his own tortoise-like features—a plodding process that reached its apotheosis last December when he filibustered his own bill.

After hinting in January that she was seriously considering entering the race, Judd quickly became a conservative target. Karl Rove's American Crossroads launched a web ad mocking her Tennessee residency and liberal views, and Republican organizations touted her previous statements on mountain-top removal coal mining and the human rights abuses associated with Apple products. Judd, a three-time rape survivor whose international work deals with victims of sexual abuse, also became a subject of conservative mockery for her frequent discussion of rape—a cautious reminder that, a year after Todd Akin, Republicans still have trouble keeping their feet out of their mouths when they talk about the issue.

With Judd out of the picture, Democrats' best hope may be Kentucky secretary of state Alison Lundergan Grimes, a 34-year-old first-term officeholder with close ties to the Clintons. (The former president has reportedly encouraged Lundergan Grimes to consider running.)

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