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Archive for February, 2018

Ban the Assault Weapons Elephant in the Room

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018

assaultweapons (1)On the same day that Florida House lawmakers’ committee voted to arm  some teachers, a Georgia social studies teacher was arrested for bringing a gun to school, firing it, barricading himself and causing students to run to avoid being stuck and possibly killed.   According to Dalton, Georgia police, the teacher,   Randall Davidson will  face charges of aggravated assault, carrying a weapon on school grounds, terroristic threats, reckless conduct, possession of gun during commission of a crime, and disrupting a public school.  Following the Parkland, Florida school shooting that killed 17 persons, Donald Trump proposed that teachers should be provided with incentives to be armed with guns in the classroom.

Florida House committee responded to the Parkland school shootings by approving a bill that would raise the minimum age to buy any gun, require a three-day waiting period for rifle purchases and create a program that could allow some teachers to carry concealed weapons in the classroom.  Davidson had a concealed weapon and improperly used it.

Davidson points to one reason why teachers should not be armed. There are many reasons for this policy to never reach the light of day. Arming teachers will not solve the gun violence issue in schools.  It will only exasperate it.  Teachers are taught and paid to teach students.  They are not taught or trained to possibly shoot to kill their own students.  They are not trained to be SWAT police or law enforcement.  And even with trained law enforcement, they often get it wrong and kill innocent persons—as the shootings of many unarmed Blacks prove.

The Trump administration, GOP lawmakers and Florida lawmakers, many who get financial support from the NRA, refuse to ban assault rifles and associated ammunition.  Assault weapons are the elephant in the room.  Everyone can see the elephant but no one wants to acknowledge its presence. Short term fixes are like band aids to fix a person bleeding from a fatal gun wound. Until lawmakers begin by banning assault weapons and assorted ammunition, many persons will continue to bleed and die from being shot with assault weapons.

The shooter in the Parkland, Florida school shooting had 150 rounds of ammunition remaining before he chose to leave and walk out of the school.   He could have killed many more persons than the 14 students and three teachers.  If he had not been able to purchase the guns, the incident wouldn’t have happened.  Raising the age to buy guns is a limited fix. A killer like Nikolas Cruz can just wait three more years until he reaches the age requirement to buy a killing machine.  That fix is a temporary one.

Banning assault weapons and related ammunition is the one law that will effectively prevent the type of shootings that occurred in Parkland, Florida, Newtown, Connecticut, Charleston, SC, Aurora, Colorado, Las Vegas, Nevada, Columbine and many other locations. In November, 2017, the Supreme Court refused to hear a challenge to Maryland’s 2013 state ban on assault weapons.  The 4th Circuit federal appeals court in Richmond, Virginia ruled that assault weapons are not protected by the second amendment, as they are weapons of war and not for self-defense.  While banning assault weapons will not cure all that ails this county in terms of gun violence, it is a good start to end mass killings in churches, schools, movie theaters, concerts, shopping centers and everywhere we congregate in crowds.

There is no legal reason preventing us from banning assault weapons of mass destruction—except for our cowardly lawmakers.  And if lawmakers won’t vote to ban assault weapons, it’s time to vote these lawmakers out.

Update:  Tweet From a student at Dalton High School on arming teachers.

my favorite teacher at Dalton high school just blockaded his door and proceeded to shoot. We had to run out The back of the school in the rain. Students were being trampled and screaming. I dare you to tell me arming teachers will make us safe.

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Washington, DC Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former prosecutor.  She is an outspoken gun control advocate.

Donald Trump is the Real “DISGRACEFUL” One

Wednesday, February 28th, 2018
Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump began his early morning tweeting on Wednesday by attacking Attorney General Jeff Sessions calling him “DISGRACEFUL” all caps. Trump tweeted:

Donald J. Trump‏Verified account @realDonaldTrump

 

Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn’t the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!

 

 

 

Apparently, Sessions’ latest Trump problem was doing what Trump requested but not doing it in the manner that Trump deemed appropriate.  Trump asked for an investigation into any potential FISA and surveillance abuse.  Sessions called on the Inspector General to investigate as the independent body that investigates those who enforce the law to make sure they are following the law.  Apparently, according to Trump, calling on the appropriate agency to investigate was “disgraceful.”

 

As the day progressed, White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who testified before the White House Intelligence panel on investigating the Russian Trump possible collusion, offered her resignation. In testifying before the panel, Hicks admitted to sometimes telling “white lies”  for Trump—while stating that none were major or substantial.  I don’t know how Hicks was raised as a child. In my family, I was taught that a lie was a lie—white or otherwise.  And I was punished for telling little white lies.  I just hope she didn’t tell any “white Lies” when she testified before Special Prosecutor Mueller.  If she did, she might find herself being punished in the same court room as Paul Manafort facing criminal charges. Of course, Twitter folks couldn’t resist with the hashtag #WhiteLiesMatter.

Before Hicks, there was Kellyanne Conway who stated there are alternative facts. Again, there are facts and anything less than a fact is fiction.  The motto of the Trump administration is not I cannot tell a lie but one of lies and alternative facts are key.  Beginning with former Press Secretary Sean Spicer lying about the size of the Trump inauguration size in comparison to President Obama’s inauguration crowd, the Trump administration has no understanding of truth telling.  As the Trump administration continues to falter, here are ten things the Trump administration cannot tell the difference from:

  • Fact versus fantasy
  • Truth versus lies
  • Alternative facts versus reality
  • Disgrace versus honor
  • Witch hunt versus special investigation
  • President versus dictator
  • Democracy versus plutocracy
  • USA versus Russia
  • U. S. government versus private sector
  • Rule of law versus dictatorship

And if Trump cannot distinguish between these ten important issues, then Donald Trump is the real disgrace to our country. And I agree with Trump’s use of all caps—“DISGRACEFUL” but only as it compares to his presidency.  Donald Trump is the real disgraceful one.

Washington, DC  based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal analyst and former prosecutor.

 

 

Here’s How to Fix DACA and Gun Laws

Monday, February 26th, 2018

UnionRallyGroupIn a significant blow to the Trump Administration, the Supreme Court denied, without comment, the administration’s request to leapfrog ahead the system to immediately appeal to the Supreme Court an adverse California federal court ruling on “DACA”- Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals.  Previously, a California federal judge denied the Trump administration’s order to immediately end DACA—stating that the Administration was enjoined nationwide from ending it.  It thereby ensured that almost 700,000 DREAMers may continue to remain in the country—at least for a while longer.   DACA is the program established by President Obama in 2012 which protects against deportation some of those who entered the country illegally as children. Trump sought to end the program in March, 2018.

The current status of the case, in light of the court’s ruling, is the Trump administration must now go through the normal court route and appeal the ruling to the 9th circuit, which hears appeals from California’s lower federal courts.  The Universities of the California filed a lawsuit stating that their lawsuit must be allowed to proceed before a ruling against DACA.  Depending on the ruling in the 9th circuit after hearing oral arguments and filing briefs, the case may still eventually proceed to the Supreme Court.  For now, it is not on the fast track that the Trump administration intended for it.   It could take well over a year to reach the Supreme Court.  By then—we may have a new Congress.

And for now, this puts DACA back in the public spotlight.   With much recent focus on gun legislation in light of the Parklands, Florida school shooting and killing of 17 persons, many other issues have taken a back seat.  It is as if the dyslexic Trump presidency and GOP controlled House and Senate lawmakers cannot focus on more than one issue at a time.  And the issue of gun violence extends far beyond school shootings to violence in our cities and everywhere people go.  Immigration and gun laws need fixing. Neither have been presented with any viable legislative fixes. With November, 2018 in the wings, it is all the more important that the Supreme Court declined to fast track DACA.

In the interim, everyone affected by DACA and this includes DREAMer’s schools, colleges, employers, families, friends and co-workers should register to vote and vote in the November midterm election. The future of over 600,000 persons who are in this country since childhood depends on it.  For now, until November, 2018, their lives hang in the balance.  Today’s Supreme Court decision gave DREAMers a much-needed reprieve.  Perhaps following November, 2018’s midterms election, a change in the GOP party- controlled House will offer a permanent fix to both DACA, immigration and gun laws. If the GOP will not fix either DACA, immigration or gun control laws, we need to fix the GOP by voting them out of office.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal/political commentator and member of the Supreme Court bar.

Missouri Governor Meets #MeToo and Ferguson Movements

Monday, February 26th, 2018
Creative Commons

Creative Commons

In an interesting twist of the #MeToo and Ferguson movements, Missouri Governor Eric Greitens  was indicted last week by a St. Louis grand jury on one felony charge of invasion of privacy  stemming from  a 2015  consensual extramarital affair but allegedly nonconsensual taking of nude photos for transmittal.

Newly sworn in St. Louis City chief prosecutor Kimberly Gardner, the first Black to hold the position, expressed that St. Louis must have confidence in their political leaders.  Kimberly Gardner was elected in 2017, in the aftermath of the Ferguson uprising of 2014 following the killing of Michael Brown. Upon being sworn in, Gardner stated that since the uprising of Ferguson, the public has a new expectation for the role of prosecutor.

While the main focus of the #MeToo movement has been on sexual harassment and sexual misconduct in the workplace, Greitens’ case fits within the larger picture of how powerful men sexually exploit women.  If allegations are proven true, Governor Greitens intended to use the explicit photograph of the partially nude woman to prevent any derailment to his career.

And like many other incidents involving other men, Governor Greitens’ past sexual misconduct was kept secret.  Greitens’ 2015 affair was apparently known to many politicians, presumably male politicians.  As with many powerful men, Greitens was allowed to advance politically without so much as a whisper in public of any sexual wrongdoings.  Greitens ran in 2016 on a platform of morality as  a family man, proud father  and husband.  Since Harvey Weinstein and a host of other powerful men, who used their positions of power to sexually demean women in various ways, we are just being made aware of their past actions.  And the public has a right to know about alleged sexual misconduct and wrongdoings, particularly of any politicians.

 

With the #MeToo movement and the sheer extraordinary numbers of women running for office this year, we may be seeing more charges brought against men in positions of power who abuse their power.  In the past, a male prosecutor may have declined to present the Greitens case before the grand jury.  Having chief women prosecutors at the helm helps to ensure that cases involving criminal sexual transgressions, particularly against women will not be overlooked.  And Gardner, as with other women in similar positions, will not be reluctant to pursue controversial cases.  As a former Baltimore prosecutor, I know that women prosecutors review cases with a different eye than that of their male counterparts.

 

While Greitens admits to the affair, he denies any other wrongdoing such as  blackmailing the woman to stay quiet. His attorneys state the charge does not apply to consensual sexual activity.  In Missouri, the charge is a 4th degree felony and Greitens faces a maximum of 4 years in jail.  While an indictment is the initial step in a felony criminal case, it is a start in the road towards justice. Greitens is due back in court on March 16.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, frequent legal/political commentator and former Baltimore prosecutor.  She is a contributor to the Women’s Media Center.

 

Celebrating Presidents Day with a Fake President in Office

Monday, February 19th, 2018
Donald Trump, Public Domain

Donald Trump, Public Domain

With everything going on with the Russian interference with our November, 2016 presidential election, some question the legitimacy of the current person holding the title and office of president.  On Friday, indictments were handed down against Russian individuals and entities for engaging in unlawful activities to undermine the 2016 election and to favor Donald Trump.  It begs the question that if a person holding the office of president won the office through the influence by the Russians, is President’s day still a legitimate holiday in 2018.

Monday, February 19, 2018 is President’s day.  Most local, state and federal offices are closed.  President’s day is celebrated on the third Monday of February.  When I was in school, it was celebrated as Washington’s birthday in honor of our first president.  It was changed throughout time to celebrate Presidents Washington and Lincoln and then all presidents including the present president in office.

If Robert Mueller’s investigation determines that Donald Trump’s campaign engaged in collusion or in overt activity with the Russians to undermine our election process in November, 2016, then the person presently holding the office is a sham or a fake.  Even with the lack of any present indictments showing a combined effort by the Trump campaign to engage in a conspiracy with a foreign adversary, this so-called president has already shown an unwillingness to actually occupy the office.

Instead of bringing the country together, Trump has consistently engaged in a pattern and practice of dividing the country.  It’s like it’s him and his staunch supporters and the rest of the country in a battle.  When opportunities arise to console and comfort a grieving country, he takes every opportunity to further ignite divisive sparks.   Charlottesville, VA showed the president’s true colors in supporting the Neo-Nazi’s during the summer rally where one individual was killed.  And this past weekend, after visiting first responders in Parkland, FL, he headed to a party at his nearby Florida resort, in the wake of 17 persons killed at Douglas High school.

Trump’s attacks on women and support of men who are known sexual and domestic abusers further shows his division among gender.  And then there’s the race divide with Trump going against the NFL players’ right to silently protest the police brutality against blacks. He forcefully spoke against the players’ constitutional rights to address racism.  And many whites sided with the president and missed the point of the protests.  And Trump rarely misses an opportunity to attack Hispanics, Muslims and African Americans but often remains neutral in criminal actions by whites such as the Las Vegas killer and Charlottesville rally of KKK and white supremacists.

While there is no job description for the office of president, it appears that at a minimum, a president should unite the American people—or at least make genuine efforts to do so.  The Trump administrations does the exact opposite.  Sowing seeds of division may win votes with the weak Trump base.  However, it undermines the office of the president and disserves the e American people.

 

With possible further indictments in the wing on the Trump campaign and the president’s non-presidential actions in year one, do we really have reason to celebrate President’s day this year? I suggest we use President’s day 2018 to make a donation online to an organization that is upholding the constitution and democracy.  We don’t appear to have a president that honors either one.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer, legal and political commentator and former Baltimore prosecutor.

Why is it Easier to Kill Kids than Change Gun Laws?

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

assaultweapons (1)Last Wednesday as I sat in a hospital family waiting room awaiting the surgical outcome for my brother, a breaking news alert flashed across the TV screen. Another school shooting had occurred.  This time the shooter took aim in Parkland, Florida at Douglas High school-killing 17 persons including students, one teacher, wrestling coach and football coach.  At first, I couldn’t bear to watch under my present circumstances at the time. As the day ended and the next day arrived, I saw students speaking out on TV about the shooting and their fervent plea for changes to our gun laws.

Having once debated  former NRA president David Keene on gun rights, I know the NRA opposes any restrictions which take away gun rights.    However, I also know we need to prioritize life over death; people over profits; actions over silence; laws over prayers and kids over guns. While the second amendment grants the rights to bear arms, the Declaration of Independence states we are “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  These words suggest at a minimum that these are the values that our society holds dear.  Unequivocally we honor and value life over death in all circumstances except when it comes to demands of the NRA and the acquiescence of many lawmakers who accept their donations and then do their bidding.

 

We turn our attention to the shooters and look for their pattern.  We go to great lengths to see patterns and ways to have prevented mass shootings like Douglas.  We say prayers and thoughts for the victims when we need action and prevention.   Last year was called the deadliest year in mass shooting. 2018 is off to a running start to take the lead.  In 1999, the year of Columbine shooting at a Colorado high school, 12 students and one teacher were shot. By 2017, Columbine no longer makes the list for the top ten mass shootings.

As we look for patterns of these mass shooters, we overlook the one common thread.  We want to blame mass shootings on Muslims, the mentally ill and persons with mental health issues. While mental health issues may be one component of some mass shootings, the Trump administration blocked efforts by the Social Security Administration from supplying names of mentally impaired receiving benefits to the national gun database.  The sole culprit in all mass shootings are guns. Many involve assault type weapons that can execute a multitude of victims at a time.  Assault weapons are weapons of war. They should be banned for recreational use.  And assault weapons account for a majority of mass shootings. Assault weapons are the common denominator  in mass shootings.   From 1982 to 2012,  half of all mass shooters used assault weapons, high capacity magazines or both.

 

Until we pass gun legislation that bans weapons that allows a shooter to fire a large number of bullets without reloading, we will continue to see mass shootings.  It seems like a no brainer to value our children over guns.  In our morally bankrupt society, guns are valued over the lives of children and everyone else.

In November, 2018, we have an opportunity to elect lawmakers who will address changing gun laws.  While we cannot change the hearts of those opposed to sensible gun laws, we can change those lawmakers from representing our children’s lives.  Our children’s lives are more important than guns.

 

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a trial lawyer,  legal/political commentator and former Baltimore City prosecutor.