Police Chief at New Jim Crow Meeting Dec. 1

Discussions of justice system continue on Dec. 1 at Mother African Union Church

Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings
Wilmington Police Chief Bobby Cummings

The Coalition to Dismantle the New Jim Crow will have Wilmington Chief of Police Bobby Cummings as its guest on Monday, Dec. 1, at 6:00 pm at Mother African Union Church, 812 N. Franklin St. in Wilmington. Chief Cummings will speak about policing in the city and take questions from the audience.

“We have had many productive discussions with state officials and law enforcement officers from New Castle County and look forward to hearing from Chief Cummings,” says Joan Priest, a member of First Unitarian and a leader of the coalition.

Chuck Singleton, co-leader of the coalition, recently joined the board of DeCAGV.

What is “The New Jim Crow?” And what is this Coalition?

New Jim Crow bookAccording to Rev. Paula Maiorano, the New Jim Crow is the latest structural form of racism in the U.S. The term was coined by civil rights attorney and author Michelle Alexander in her 2010 book The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

Slavery and Jim Crow were earlier versions. Mass incarceration disproportionately directed to African American males with the War on Drugs used as the delivery vehicle. The outcome has decimated families and urban neighborhoods.

The Coalition was formed to address this structural racism and bring about change. It began several years ago with an interracial study group that read and discussed Alexander’s book. The study group’s meetings alternated between Mother African Union Church and First Unitarian. It has grown into a broad coalition that seeks reforms across the criminal justice system.

The Dec. 1 meeting is free and open to all. Meetings on the first Monday of every month continue to alternate between the two churches. Last month’s meeting drew more than 40 participants.

Jay Leno: Thanks for Listening

In response to petition, Leno cancels appearance at gun industry trade show.

wikimedia commons
wikimedia commons

The Newtown Action Alliance, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, and Campaign to Unload have applauded comedian Jay Leno’s decision to cancel his appearance at the 2015 Shooting, Hunting, Outdoor Trade Show (SHOT Show), an annual event sponsored by the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), the trade association for the gun industry. Leno’s cancellation comes just hours after the three gun violence prevention groups had launched a petition calling on him to take this action.

Leno personally called Po Murray, the chairman of Newtown Action Alliance, to inform her of the cancellation. He said he was unaware that the NSSF was a pro-gun lobbying group based in Newtown, Connecticut—the site of a tragic mass shooting in December 2012 that claimed the lives of six adults and 20 children ages 6-7. As Leno told Mother Jones magazine in separate remarks, “I understand it’s Newtown, and of course I get it. It’s just, sometimes, mistakes get made.”

“I’m not at all surprised that Jay didn’t understand that the NSSF is part of the gun lobby,” said Murray. “Before the Sandy Hook shootings, I had no idea they existed, and they’re right here in my cimage001ommunity! I am thrilled that Jay changed his mind once he had full information. It is so appreciated by those of us in Newtown.”

Jennifer Fiore, the executive director of the Campaign to Unload, added, “I’m grateful that Jay has seen the NSSF for what it really is: a corporate lobbying group that puts money over morality, no matter how many families are destroyed by its products.”

“We are sincerely grateful to Mr. Leno for making this decision so quickly after it was brought to his attention,” said Josh Horwitz, the executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. “It shows that he cares about all the Americans whose lives have been turned upside down by gun violence. And that speaks to the man’s character.”

Vigil of Mourning and Remembrance

Since the Sandy Hook shooting, more than 60,000 Americans have died from gun violence. To commemorate the second anniversary of that tragic event, a vigil of mourning and remembrance will take place at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on Thursday, December 11, 2014.

George Higgins, acting director of the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence, will travel to Washington for the vigil. To join him, email info@decagv.org. For more information about the vigil, visit http://newtownaction.org/2014-national-vigil/.

 

Violence in Wilmington: Guns at the Center

firearm-409000_1280City ranks third in violent crime among those of comparable size.

According to the Wilmington News-Journal’s recently published study of FBI crime data, during 2013, Wilmington, Delaware, ranked third in violence among 450 cities of comparable size. Only two cities of Wilmington’s size—Saginaw and Flint Michigan—reported more violent crime. Here’s what News-Journal reporters Cris Barrish and Esteban Parra reported on Nov. 13:

Wilmington’s status among about 750 cities with populations of more than 50,000 also got worse in 2013. The city ranked eighth in 2012 but last year it rose to fifth – surpassed in violent crime only by Detroit and the two smaller Michigan municipalities, plus Oakland, California, and Memphis, Tennessee.

The statistics were worse in Wilmington than two larger neighbors with a long-standing reputation as high-crime cities – Baltimore, which ranked 12th among cities with at least 50,000 residents, and Philadelphia at 34th.

The bureau’s latest annual report shows that overall violence did decrease in Wilmington, from 1,703 violent crimes per 100,000 to 1,624 per 100,000 residents. The decrease, however, was not enough to give Wilmington a better national ranking.

Gun crime is a major factor in these statistics.

Among cities of comparable size, Wilmington ranked second in robberies, fourth in aggravated assault, and seventh in homicides. Robbery is a “key component of the FBI’s violent crime rate,” the News-Journal reported. And most shootings that do not result in the victim’s death are classified as aggravated assault.

During 2013, 154 people were shot in Delaware’s largest city. Eighteen died. To date in 2014, Wilmington has seen 25 homicides, 21 of which involved guns. The city’s worst year for homicides is 27, set in 2010.

In October, Mayor Dennis Williams—a former city detective—announced the formation of a homicide uniting the Wilmington Police Department. The announcement came after significant public pressure to make arrests in the city’s homicides. Of 25 such crimes this year, there have been just five arrests. Last week, again according to the News-Journal, the homicide unit made its first arrest in a bicycle robbery that resulted in a shooting death of 57-year-old Donald Smith.

No Surgeon General in the Ebola Fight?

Frieden
Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control, leaves a White House news conference.

Blame the Gun Lobby.

In recent months, the public face of the U.S. government’s response to the Ebola epidemic has been Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control.

Writing in Health Affairs, J. Stephen Morrison calls Frieden “invaluable,” reporting that “though he may have erred on occasion, [Frieden’s] statements to the American public were overwhelmingly lucid, consistent, powerful, and closely echoed by the President and other senior officials.”

Although it makes sense that the director of the CDC should be out front in talking about the epidemic, there is powerful voice missing from the public discussion: the Surgeon General of the United States. The fact is that, since July 2013, the United States has not had a Surgeon General.

Why? The nomination of Dr. Vivek Murthy for that position has been held up by the gun lobby. That’s right: The NRA and its allies have opposed confirmation of a well-qualified public health expert to the position because they think he might want to frame gun violence as a public health issue.

Writing in The Nation, Zoë Carpenter points out that:

This isn’t the first time the NRA has held up a nominee: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives went without a director for seven years because of opposition from the gun lobby. But never before has the group set itself so strongly against a surgeon general nominee. So why now? The NRA said Murthy’s ‘blatant activism on behalf of gun control’ attracted their attention.

But the gun lobby’s campaign against Murthy isn’t really about his record, or him at all. His positions on guns are hardly radical or even activist and his views are consistent with those of the majority of Americans. Polling indicates that the public is far more supportive of new gun control laws than members of Congress or, certainly, the NRA.

Furthermore, Murthy’s views represent a consensus among medical professionals that gun violence is a major public health issue. Gun violence, including suicide, kills some 30,000 Americans every year, about the same number as car accidents. Cars are highly regulated for health and safety; guns, barely. Accordingly, the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among many others, have called for stronger gun safety laws. It would be surprising if, as a doctor, Murthy did not have concerns about gun violence and the strength of current regulations.

With public health professionals engaging more forcefully on the gun issue, the NRA has a pressing interest in muting their calls for stronger policy. Really, the campaign against Murthy is the continuation of a longstanding effort to make discussion of gun violence taboo. For years the NRA has worked to bury information about gun violence and its public health implications.

 Take Action

Delaware Senators Tom Carper and Chris Coons have already expressed support for Dr. Murthy’s nomination. But in the wake of the mid-term elections, there’s a strong possibility that the NRA will push for its members to make anti-Murthy calls to the Senate. Members of DeCAGV are urged to do two things:

  1. Call or send email to Senators Carper and Coons to thank them for their support of Vivek Murthy and for a sensible public-health approach to gun violence. Their contact information is here.
  2. Stand with Vivek Murthy. Sign the national petition.
  3. Learn more about the epidemic of violence at the National Physicians Network.

 

Progress for Gun Violence Prevention in 2014 Election

A candlelight vigil follows the Virginia Tech mass shooting in 2007.
A candlelight vigil follows the Virginia Tech mass shooting in 2007.

In addition to the victory for universal background checks in the Washington State initiative, there were other bright spots for gun violence prevention in the recent mid-term elections. According to Tim Daly at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, supporters of sensible gun policies won both large and small victories. Here’s part of Daly’s recap:

Gun Safety Groups Took A Giant Leap Towards Political Power Parity with the NRA in 2014.

The NRA will have spent more than $31 million on this year’s federal elections, far exceeding their roughly $8 million 2010 spending – where they out-spent gun safety groups by more than 5-to-1.

This year, however, gun safety groups – Washington Gun Responsibility, Americans for Responsible Solutions, Everytown Action Fund (WA), and Independence USA PAC — nearly matched the NRA’s spending, allotting more than $30 million to pass the successful ballot measure and support gun safety candidates around the country.

 In Governors and US Senate Races, Background Checks Helped Supporters.

Incumbent governors who signed the nation’s most sweeping post-Sandy Hook gun laws all won reelection. The strongest laws passed after Sandy Hook, were Colorado, Connecticut, New York’s. In all three states incumbent Democratic governors appear to have won reelection. In Colorado, Governor Hickenlooper appear to have overcome a challenging wave in his state outperforming Senator Udall by 4 points. In Connecticut, Governor Malloy was reelected, in a race where both gun lobby and gun safety groups spent seven figures.

Senators who voted for background checks won about as many races as those who voted No. Despite an unfavorable map and a wave election, Senators who voted yes on Manchin-Toomey performed well. 26 of this year’s Senate races featured incumbent Senators who were in office in April 2013 and voted on the Manchin-Toomey measure: 13 Yes votes and 13 No votes. 10 the 13 Senators who voted Yes were reelected, and that may become 11 if Sen. Landrieu wins a run-off election; meanwhile 11 of the 13 Senators who voted No. Meanwhile, pre-election surveys showed that background checks vote helped Senators who voted Yes.

In 2016, Geography and Demographics will be Much More Favorable for Supporters of Strong Gun Laws.

Voters of Color. Voter turnout among African-American, Latino and other voters of color is generally lower in midterm elections. This year, 75% of the electorate was made up of white, non-Hispanic voters, up from a 28% share in 2012. However, 2016 is likely to be the first election in American history where white, non-Hispanic voters are expected to make up less than 70% of the electorate. Support for common sense gun laws is strong among non-white voters: a 2013 poll of Latino voters found that 85% of respondents supported universal background checks. Among African American voters, recent polls show that 84% support universal background checks.

Single Women. Since 2000, the share of single women voting in elections has been growing. This year single women made up 22% of voters, up from 21% in 2010. Participation by single women is higher in Presidential years and in 2016, single women about a quarter of voters in 2016. Polls show that women care about the gun issue: in fact, almost all (93%) women support background checks for all gun purchases.

Young voters. Millenial voters are projected to increase by 4 million per year until 2018. By 2016, millenials are projected to represent one-third of all eligible voters. The gun issue is a key one to help drive turnout of millennial voters: according to a 2013 poll, 70% of respondents under the age of 30 agreed that “the gun culture in our society has gotten out of control” and 92% supported background checks for all gun sales.

DeCAGV Supports Culture of Peace

DeCAGV acting director George Higgins at a recent anti-violence panel sponsored by Delaware's Movement for a Culture of Peace.
DeCAGV acting director George Higgins (right) at a recent anti-violence panel sponsored by Delaware’s Movement for a Culture of Peace. DeCAGV has been at the table with this movement since it began in August.

Wilmington’s new Movement for a Culture of Peace is strongly supported by the Delaware Coalition Against Gun Violence. The grass-roots anti-violence movement grew out of the Sept. 27, March for a Culture of Peace, which DeCAGV helped to organize. Both the march and the new movement have received national attention through Campaign Nonviolence (CNV). DeCAGV acting director George Higgins (right) was on a panel with other local activists at a recent forum held by the Movement for a Culture of Peace. Here’s a report on Wilmington from the Campaign Nonviolence website:

National Attention for Wilmington’s Movement for a Culture of Peace

Votes for Gun Safety

victory in WA DE copyDepending on your party or politics, yesterday’s election results can be viewed in a variety of different lights. But if you care about responsible solutions to gun violence, one thing is clear:

When given a choice, voters favor sensible gun safety laws.

That’s what happened in Washington State when ballot initiative I-594, expanding background checks to all gun sales, passed by a comfortable margin. The initiative movement started after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings—and gained steam when Washington state legislators failed to act to close the gun-show loophole. Despite (or perhaps because of) fierce NRA opposition, Washington voters took matters into their own hands and won a huge victory.

What does this show us?

  • I-594 was the only up-or-down vote on background checks this election cycle – and proved  that when Americans vote on common-sense public safety measures, gun safety wins.

  • The win in Washington shows elected officials in DC that if they don’t take action to prevent gun violence, Americans will take matters into their own hands. 

  • It also proves that while the gun lobby can bully politicians, they can’t bully the American people. 

It’s worth noting that Delaware’s legislature did not fail to act. It passed universal background checks and required reporting of lost or stolen guns during the 2013 session. DeCAVG will be active in the next legislative session, seeking additional common-sense approaches to the problem of gun violence in Delaware.