Political MoJo

The Gun Violence Chart Obama Asked For

| Fri Oct. 2, 2015 11:58 AM EDT

When President Barack Obama took the podium on Thursday night to speak about the mass shooting at Oregon's Umpqua Community College, he blasted Congress for its inaction on gun safety legislation. "Our thoughts and prayers are not enough," he said, visibly angry.

He also had a request for the media: "Have news organizations tally up the number of Americans who have been killed through terrorist attacks over the last decade and the number of Americans who have been killed by gun violence, and post those side by side on your news reports."

Wish granted, Mr. President. We compared gun deaths with other highly publicized causes of death in the chart below. (Note that about two-thirds of American gun deaths are suicides.) The numbers come from 2013—the most recent year that data is available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Here Are the NRA's Tweets Since the Oregon Shooting

| Fri Oct. 2, 2015 9:54 AM EDT

On Thursday morning, a gunman opened fire inside a community college in Roseburg, Oregon, killing 10 people and injuring 7 others. The massacre is the latest mass shooting to take place in the United States—and the 45th school shooting in 2015 alone, according to the gun safety coalition Everytown.

A visibly frustrated President Barack Obama noted hours after the rampage that Americans have come to view mass shootings as a "routine" experience—with news of senseless killings taking place only months, and sometimes days, apart. He exclaimed in frustration, "It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun." As for the biggest foe of gun control, the National Rifle Association, here's how it reacted to the tragedy via its Twitter feed…Actually, it did not react. The NRA's usually active Twitter feed was silent. Nada. Not a peep. No condolences to the families of those killed or any statement of concern for those injured.

But the NRA has recently been busy tweeting about other gun matters.

Note the time stamps. Its tweets on Thursday halted around the time that news of the shooting emerged. This has become S.O.P. for the gun industry-backed group. When gun massacres occur, it tends to duck and cover—and wait for the expressions of outrage and calls for gun control to pass. Then it's back to the business of opposing any efforts to enact new gun safety measures.

Update, 12:52 p.m. EST: After more than a day of silence, the NRA finally weighed in on Twitter with information about a kid's gun program.

Vatican Clarifies Pope's Meeting with Kim Davis: "Should Not Be Considered Support"

| Fri Oct. 2, 2015 8:58 AM EDT

On Friday, the Vatican sought to provide a few more details concerning Pope Francis' meeting last week with Kim Davis, the defiant Kentucky clerk who was jailed for her refusal to issue gay marriage licenses in Rowan County.

"The pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis, and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects," official Vatican spokesman the Reverand Federico Lombardi said in a statement.

The clarification follows a wave of controversy this week after Kim Davis revealed she had a private meeting with the pope during his historic visit to Washington, and claimed Francis gave her and her husband rosaries and told her to "stay strong."

"Just knowing that the pope is on track with what we're doing and agreeing, you know, it kind of validates everything," Davis said in an interview with ABC.

Days of speculation followed over whether the meeting in fact occurred, and if so, whether it put into question how truly progressive some believed the pope was. Some on social media professed to be shocked that the leader of the Catholic Church might endorse the politics of Davis and not support same-sex marriage, despite the church's clear stance opposing the issue. 

Eventually the Vatican confirmed the encounter, but with scant detail. Friday's statement appeared to downplay the importance of their meeting.

"Pope Francis met with several dozen persons who had been invited by the Nunciature to greet him as he prepared to leave Washington for New York City," Lombardi said.

This Chart Shows How the "Unequal States of America" Compares to the World

| Fri Oct. 2, 2015 5:00 AM EDT

A new report finds that the state of economic inequality in the United States is far more drastic than in other developed countries. The report, published by the German financial services company Allianz, even dubs us the "Unequal States of America."

The company's latest Global Wealth Report calculates 55 countries' Gini coefficient, a measure of the distribution of wealth in which zero means total equality and 100 means total inequality. The average for all developed countries is 65. The United States' score is nearly 81.

Allianz/Global Wealth Report 2015

Michael Heise, the chief economist at Allianz, described the situation in the United States as "worrying." "Our calculations indicate that developments have not been quite as dramatic in the other countries," he said. "As usual, the US represents more the exception than the rule among market economies." The report's authors note the country's lackluster recovery from the financial crisis has "caused a dramatic deterioration in wealth distribution." While the United States amassed nearly 42 percent of the world's private wealth in 2014 ($63.5 trillion), the top 10 percent of Americans control more than two-thirds of the country's net wealth.

The United States leads the pack, but it's not alone. Much of the world's developed nations saw "exceptionally large gaps" in the wealth gulf between the rich and the poor during since 2000, according to the report. Over the past decade and a half, it found, the number of countries that closed their wealth gaps was roughly the same as the number that grew more unequal.

Angry Obama Blasts Congress for Failing America on Guns

| Thu Oct. 1, 2015 5:59 PM EDT

At a press conference Thursday, President Barack Obama was visibly frustrated with a lack of action from Congress to prevent mass shootings like the one that happened today at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

"It cannot be this easy for somebody who wants to inflict harm on other people to get his or her hands on a gun," Obama said.

He recalled an interview in which he said that America is the only country on Earth that sees these kinds of mass shootings regularly. Hours later, there were reports of a shooting at a Lafayette, Louisiana, movie theater.

He continued: "We spend over $1 trillion on preventing terrorism…yet we have a Congress that prevents us from even collecting data on how to reduce gun deaths."

Alabama Just Made It Even Harder for Black People to Vote

| Thu Oct. 1, 2015 5:38 PM EDT

In Alabama, you need a driver's license or other form of photo ID to vote. But getting that ID just got a lot harder, especially in the state's majority-black counties.

Due to budget cuts, Alabama is closing 31 satellite DMVs across the state. The biggest impact will be in rural, largely black counties that voted for President Obama in 2008 and 2012. Alabama Media Group columnist John Archibald put it this way:

Take a look at the 10 Alabama counties with the highest percentage of non-white registered voters. That's Macon, Greene, Sumter, Lowndes, Bullock, Perry, Wilcox, Dallas, Hale, and Montgomery, according to the Alabama Secretary of State's office. Alabama, thanks to its budgetary insanity and inanity, just opted to close driver license bureaus in eight of them. All but Dallas and Montgomery will be closed.

Closed. In a state in which driver licenses or special photo IDs are a requirement for voting…

Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed. Every one.

Archibald predicted the move would invite a Justice Department investigation, as did his fellow columnist, Kyle Whitmire:

But put these two things together—Voter ID and 29 counties without a place where you can get one—and Voter ID becomes what the Democrats always said it was.

A civil rights lawsuit isn't a probability. It's a certainty.

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Oregon Sheriff Handling Massacre Fought the White House on Gun Control After Newtown

| Thu Oct. 1, 2015 5:33 PM EDT

As the sheriff in Douglas County, Oregon, John Hanlin was front and center following Thursday's shooting at Umpqua Community College, which left 10 dead and 7 others wounded.

Two years ago, Hanlin was one of hundreds of sheriffs around the country to vow to stand against new gun control legislation. In a January 15, 2013, letter to Vice President Joe Biden, he wrote, "Gun control is NOT the answer to preventing heinous crimes like school shootings."

Read more below:


An Overwhelming Majority of Americans Still Support Universal Background Checks

| Thu Oct. 1, 2015 5:13 PM EDT
Students, staff, and faculty are evacuated from Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, after a mass shooting on October 1, 2015.

Following today's mass shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said that President Obama wants to see "sensible steps" to prevent gun violence, including expanding background checks to all gun purchases. While Congress has repeatedly punted on that proposal, a large majority of Americans say they are on board with it. According to a poll taken just last week by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, 93 percent of registered voters said they would support universal background checks for all gun buyers—even as nearly half said they oppose stricter gun control laws.


Shooting at Oregon Community College Leaves 10 Dead, 7 Wounded

| Thu Oct. 1, 2015 1:44 PM EDT

Update, 8:15 p.m. EDT: Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin says the fatalities are less than originally reported by the attorney general— there are 10 fatalities and 7 injured. There are still no details on the shooter.

Update, 5:03 p.m. EDT: Oregon Gov. Kate Brown confirms that the shooter was a 20-year-old male. "I know I am joined by my fellow Oregonians and Americans in profound dismay and heartbreak at this tragedy at Umpqua Community College," Brown said.

Update, 4:52 p.m. EDT: Douglas County Sheriff John Hanlin confirms that the shooter is dead. "I couldn't be happier [with the officer response today]," Hanlin said.

Hanlin said the scene is still active and being investigated.

Update, 4:08 p.m. EDT: Oregon's attorney general confirms that at least 13 people were killed and 20 people wounded in today's shooting.

In response to the shooting, the White House repeated its call for increased gun control laws. "The issue of sensible steps that can be taken to protect our communities from gun violence continues to be a top priority of this administration," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said on Thursday.


Multiple media outlets are reporting a shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.

On MSNBC, Brian Williams interviewed a local firefighter who said he had been on the scene and witnessed "multiple deceased" and "multiple" injured people who were transported for emergency care. He said the campus had been evacuated.


Emergency responders are in the process of clearing buildings at Umpqua Community College now. Students are being escorted now to get off campus. Wayne Crooch building has just been secured.

Posted by Umpqua Community College Mainstream Newspaper on Thursday, October 1, 2015

As news of the shooting first broke, a student tweeted the following:

According to the gun safety coalition Everytown, today's shooting marks the 45th school shooting in 2015 alone.

This is a breaking news post. We will update as more news becomes available.

As His Rivals Tout Big Fundraising Numbers, O'Malley Vows to Take On Dark Money

| Thu Oct. 1, 2015 11:37 AM EDT

As the other Democratic candidates release their third quarter fundraising numbers—$28 million for Hillary Clinton, $26 million for Bernie Sanders—Martin O'Malley has remained mum. But the former Maryland governor has seized the occasion of fundraising disclosures to put forward a campaign finance plan that seeks to rein in runaway political spending.

Like his two main Democratic rivals, O'Malley wants to overturn the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision that ushered in an era of unlimited political donations, increase disclosure rules, and set up a public campaign financing system. But O'Malley goes further in calling for an overhaul of the Federal Election Commission, the agency that is intended to regulate election spending but is instead so mired in dysfunction that it barely managed to organize its own 40th anniversary party earlier this year. "The likelihood of the laws being enforced is slim," the chairwoman of the agency, Ann Ravel, told the New York Times. "People think the F.E.C. is dysfunctional. It’s worse than dysfunctional.”

Because of the FEC's structure, with an equal number of Republican and Democratic commissioners, the agency is deadlocked. One of the things that the FEC is supposed to be doing is cracking down on illegal coordination between super-PACs, political nonprofits, and campaigns. As president, O'Malley says, he would push to reorganize the agency so that it is led by one independent administrator "serving a term independent from the president who appoints them." His plan would also increase the FEC's power to punish groups that break campaign finance laws.

O'Malley's plan is unlikely to boost his barely registering poll numbers. If a strong campaign finance reform agenda were the golden ticket to success, then Larry Lessig's single-issue campaign would be atop the polls. (It's not.) But at least O'Malley can tout his plan in two weeks at the first Democratic debate—and find something to promote on a day when his rivals are showing off their big hauls.