Teddy Bears, Toy Guns and Real Gun Tragedies
- Category: Commentaries
- Published Date
- Written by by Marian Wright-Edelman
- Hits: 107
Imagine your kindergartner is visiting a new friend’s house. During the hour they are running around together, they’ll pick up and play with all three of the following things, but only two of them have been tested by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) for safety standards. Which one do you want to be sure has been regulated for safety?
The teddy bear sitting on his or her friend’s bed?
The plastic gun with the cowboy costume in the toy box?
The real handgun kept unlocked and loaded in his father’s nightstand?
If you hoped you could count on safety features on the real gun, you’d be making a tragic mistake. Many Americans heed the CPSC and its recalls of dangerous products to help keep their families safe. As the agency describes its job, “CPSC is charged with protecting the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with the use of the thousands of types of consumer products under the agency’s jurisdiction . . . CPSC’s work to ensure the safety of consumer products – such as toys, cribs, power tools, cigarette lighters, and household chemicals – contributed to a decline in the rate of deaths and injuries associated with consumer products over the past 40 years.”
But thanks in large part to the work of the gun lobby, guns are specifically not under the CPSC’s jurisdiction and are the only consumer product not regulated for safety. Instead the CPSC is expressly forbidden from regulating the manufacture and sale of guns, although they are one of the most lethal consumer products. A 1976 amendment to the Consumer Product Safety Act specifically states that the Commission “shall make no ruling or order that restricts the manufacture or sale of guns, guns ammunition, or components of guns ammunition, including black powder or gun powder for guns.” As a result, the CPSC can regulate teddy bears and toy guns but not real guns.
In the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF)’s new report, “Protect Children Not Guns 2013,” we’ve identified consumer safety standards, childproof safety features, and authorized-user identification technology for all guns as three major gaps in our nation’s current gun safety policy where we can do better to protect child lives. Every gun in our country should be childproof. One-third of all households with children have at least one gun in the home, and it’s estimated that nearly 2 million children live in homes with an unlocked and loaded gun. But federal law is silent on gun-related consumer safety standards and child access prevention, and for nearly forty years the CPSC’s hands have been tied even as potentially lifesaving technology has been innovated. As a result, many handguns don’t contain easily installed life-saving safety features.
Many gun tragedies could have been prevented by the use of simple technologies that exist today. Authorized-user identification, or personalized, gun technology encompasses a broad range of manufacturing designs that allow guns to recognize an authorized user and become inoperable when handled by anyone else. One current version is featured in a pistol that communicates with a connected wristwatch via microchips; the watch’s owner enters a personal identification number, and the gun can only be operated when it is located within a certain distance of the watch.
The New Jersey Institute of Technology has been working on developing another form of personalized gun technology, “grip recognition,” which would recognize the palm configuration of authorized users and only operate for them. Research and data suggest this kind of technology would be extremely effective in preventing child and teen deaths. A study of unintentional gun deaths in Maryland and Milwaukee County, Wisconsin found that 37 percent of the deaths would have been preventable with gun personalization technology. This technology would also make it harder for children to commit suicide with their parents’ guns and make stolen guns inoperable. Some lawmakers are finally taking steps to make these kinds of safety measures standard.
New Jersey passed a model law in 2002 requiring that all new handguns sold in the state include authorized-user identification technology within three years of becoming available in the state. At the national level, Rep. John Tierney (D-Mass.) has introduced the Personalized Handgun Safety Act of 2013, which would take a major step forward for gun safety by requiring handguns manufactured in the future to be fitted with personalization technology. This proposed legislation would authorize National Institute of Justice grants for further development of personalized handgun technology and require older guns to be retrofitted with personalization technology before being resold with the retrofitting process paid for by the Department of Justice.
It also would direct the CPSC to create the safety standard for personalized handguns that all newly-manufactured handguns would be required to meet and require that all U.S. manufactured handguns comply with the CPSC standard two years after the date of enactment—finally giving the CPSC the authority to develop safety standards related to guns. Urge your members of Congress to support these common sense safety measures. Congress must subject guns to the same consumer product safety regulations that cover virtually every other consumer product. It’s time for childproof safety features on all guns to save young lives.
GOP must not ignore J.C. Watts
- Category: Commentaries
- Published Date
- Written by Roland Martin, CNN
- Hits: 343
A number of establishment Republicans are privately blasting former Rep. J.C. Watts and his comments about considering a run for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee. They call him arrogant for even suggesting he could do the job, and some have said the talk is more about his ego than a vision for the party.\\
In fact, he has been likened to former RNC Chairman Michael Steele. Both are conservative, but clearly that comparison is based on their skin color and not anything else.
The Republican Party establishment should tread carefully here, because even if members choose not to vote for Watts -- if he decides to even seek the job -- it is his skin color and perspective that is central to the GOP having any sort of presidential future.
We might as well not play footsie: The Republican Party is a group largely composed of and targeting white Americans. Yes, there are minority Republicans. But considering how President Obama was able to destroy Mitt Romney at the ballot box last month with a racial coalition that rolled up massive support among blacks, Hispanics and Asians, the GOP has a problem.
The day has passed when the GOP can win the presidency by focusing on white Americans. Folks, this is simple math. With the nation moving toward becoming a majority-minority country, the Republican Party cannot afford to continue to ignore, alienate and, frankly, tick off minority voters.
What J.C. Watts is trying to do is to get party leaders to understand that as a former college football legend at the University of Oklahoma, he knows when a failed game plan needs to be thrown out. In football, if you lose, you often get rid of the coach and find someone who can recruit better players to put you on the path to winning.
Does that mean the GOP should throw out RNC chairman Reince Priebus? Not necessarily. But it is abundantly clear that the modern-day GOP had better find a new game plan or it is going to be on the outside of the Oval Office for quite some time.
J.C. Watts is no stranger to this discussion. When he served in the leadership of the House Republican Conference as a member of Congress from Oklahoma, he often tried to quietly address these issues within the party, and his comments often fell on deaf ears.
Now Watts can look to his Republican buddies and say, "Didn't I tell you? Now are y'all ready to pay attention?"
But as long as guys like Mitt Romney surrogate John Sununu, a former New Hampshire governor and chief of staff to President George H.W. Bush, continue to assert that people voted for President Obama because of handouts, the GOP will resemble that old, drunk uncle you hate to invite over for family dinners because he manages to make everyone look foolish.
The Republican Party's problem isn't that its members have to better explain its policies to minorities. No. It's that they all need to shut up and listen.
Yes, listen. Because every time top GOP officials open their mouths, all they seem to do is insult the very people they need to vote for them.
This is about relationships. It is about having a dialogue. It's about listening to what Americans desire and seeing where there is agreement, whether it's education, the environment, entrepreneurship, sentencing reform, immigration or a host of other issues. Too often, the GOP is afraid to talk to minorities, especially black folks, and that results in turning them off in a huge way.
And just saying, "Look! We have elected some minorities to office" ain't gonna cut it. How did having a Hispanic governor in New Mexico and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio help Mitt Romney in the last election?
J.C. Watts understands that being able to commuincate with Black, Hispanic and Asian business owners about issues other than taxes is going to make a difference. Sorry, GOP, just touting smaller government and fewer taxes won't cut it. The discussion must be broad and touch upon the issues that affect these voters every day.
And the only way a Priebus can even understand how to talk to and work with Black folks is having a relationship with the likes of J.C. Watts, Colin Powell, Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams, Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, South Carolina Rep. Tim Scott, former Citigroup and Time Warner chairman Richard Parsons and so many others and say, "Please, take the time to educate me on the issues and concerns resonating among Black folks, and how our agenda can appeal to them."
Then you sit back, shut up and take notes.
The same needs to happen with other constituencies that the Democratic Party has dominated. This is the only effective way the GOP will come to grips with the enormous problems it has in these communities. The party first must know why there is so much resistance, and then go about methodically addressing the issues.
And that will mean having an extraordinary outreach program that must be funded and staffed. The fact is, the massive outreach effort that is needed may not pay off for the GOP in 2016. But laying the groundwork today could mean seeing the fruits of that labor then and beyond.
But I can guarantee the GOP one thing: If it ignores minority constituents and dismisses them, it will get destroyed at the ballot box. The only way for fruits to grow is if the seed is planted, cultivated and tended to. The GOP has been unwilling to get its hands dirty and do the hard work when it comes to minority voters. Keep it up and it will starve to death. I guarantee.
(Editor's note: Roland Martin is a syndicated columnist and author of "The First: President Barack Obama's Road to the White House." He is a commentator for the TV One cable network and host/managing editor of its Sunday morning news show, "Washington Watch with Roland Martin.")
'The Loving Story'
- Category: Commentaries
- Published Date
- Written by Kam Williams, Special to The New Tri-State Defender
- Hits: 261
Soon after Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving tied the knot in Washington, DC on June 2, 1958, they decided to move back to their tiny hometown of Central Point, Virginia to settle down and start a family. The groom, a bricklayer by trade, even purchased a plot of land where he promised to build his bride a house.
However, Virginia was one of 24 states where interracial marriage was still illegal because of racist laws designed to rob minorities of their dignity and to keep them in a lower social and economic status. Since Richard was white and Mildred was a mix of black and Native-American, it was just a matter of time before the local sheriff would catch wind of their illicit liaison and crack down on the felons like a ton of bricks.
And in the middle of the night, he and a posse broke down the door, dragging the newlyweds off to jail while threatening to rape Mildred. Given that this was Virginia during the disgraceful days of Jim Crow, the Lovings were, of course, ultimately found guilty and each given a one-year sentence for the crime of marrying across the color line.
As their appeal dragged on, Mildred wrote to then Attorney General Bobby Kennedy for help avoiding incarceration. He declined, but suggested she approach the American Civil Liberties Union, which did decide to take the case.
"Just tell the Supreme Court I love my wife," Richard directed the ACLU attorneys as they prepared to argue before Chief Justice Warren and his associates. In the historic Loving v. Virginia decision handed down on June 12, 1967, the Lovings' convictions were overturned and their union finally garnered the blessing and government protection that had so eluded them for almost a decade.
All of the above is recounted in heartbreaking fashion in The Loving Story, a combination biopic and courtroom drama directed by Nancy Buirski. What makes the film so touching are the reams of archival footage of the unfortunate couple at the center of the controversy.
For the lovebirds are so young and so innocent, it's hard to fathom why anyone would even seek to separate let alone imprison them. A moving, must-see documentary about the Lovings' belated vindication and the elimination of one of the last vestiges of segregation.
Could it be more fitting that the litigants in the landmark case eradicating the crime of loving a person of a different color would be named Loving!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 77 minutes
Distributor: Icarus Films
To see a trailer for "The Loving Story," visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h62ZBiHNJoM