Court Upholds Florida Law That Punishes Doctors For Talking About Guns

Tanya’s Comment: Treating gun violence as a public health issue is completely proper given the amount of people who are killed, including accidentally, by guns every year. For the NRA to have the power to prevent the medical community (researchers and doctors) from doing its job is insane. Doctors have a responsibility to their patients, but their hands are tied if they can’t discuss guns with patients they fear may be in danger of hurting themselves or others with a firearm.

The Secular Jurist

Several years ago, the American Medical Association advised doctors to ask their patients about firearms and “educate patients to the dangers of firearms to children” in the name of public health. But doctors in Florida may be suppressed from giving this medical advice, now that a federal appeals court upheld a Florida law that became known as the “physician gag rule” because it punishes doctors for talking about guns.

The ruling could have major implications as policymakers examine gun violence as a public health issue. The National Rifle Association-backed law it upheld imposes severe limits on when doctors can ask their patients about guns or keep records in their patients’ charts about firearm safety. Doctors who are found to have violated the provision risk sanctions or loss of their license.

At least ten medical associations and the American Bar Association argued that the law should be struck down because doctors…

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Victory! Judge Strikes Down Restrictive Voter ID Law In Pennsylvania

Photo courtesy of notenoughgood.com

Photo courtesy of notenoughgood.com

 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has been working to overturn voter ID laws all over the country, and this represents a major victory for them, as they were one of the plaintiffs in the case that challenged the constitutionality of voter ID laws in Pennsylvania and won. This case also represents the change that the public can bring about when we put our thoughts and actions to a cause!

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American Criminal Justice System is a Civil Rights Crisis

Photo courtesy of komonews.com

Photo courtesy of komonews.com

 

From ThinkProgress.org:

The last few months have issued several potent reminders that racism still pervades our criminal justice system, as even some prominent and powerful American black leaders publicly professed that they had to warn their young sons about police profiling.

There is still a sizable group of Americans that say that there is no more racism. They point to our Black president (who is actually half-Black), and note that Blacks aren’t being hanged anymore. But as Blacks and other minority groups know first-hand, there is indeed still racism.

In some cases, it has simply taken a disguised form. For instance, if you are a minority student, it is likely that your teacher assumes your grades won’t be as high as your white counterparts. He or she won’t say it to your face- that kind of blatant racism in no longer as acceptable as it once was. That it is not acceptable to say, however, doesn’t mean it is not thought. And if it’s thought, it’s likely to have an influence on how that teacher grades minority students.

There are some cases in which blatant racism is still allowed, but hushed up in public. Though this racism is more visible, the taboo of verbalizing it allows some White people to escape knowledge of it’s presence. It also allows those who are the perpetrators of it to deny its presence.

The unfortunate result of all this is people not realizing how bad racism still is, especially in the criminal justice system.

The article cited above offers hard data on what goes on in our justice system, hopefully educating and prompting all of society to have more dialogue about racism and its present-day impacts.

From ThinkProgress.org:

The United States imprisons a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid.

Black men born in the United States in 2001 have a one in three chance of being incarcerated at some point in their lifetime, according to Department of Justice statistics.

The New York Police Department city made more stops of young black men in 2011 than there are young black men in the city!

Blacks are four times as likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites, even though they use the drug at similar rates, according to an analysis of federal data by the American Civil Liberties Union published earlier this year.

For more, go to ThinkProgress.org

Black Teen Breaks Academic Records

Photo courtesy of chosenfamilies.org

Photo courtesy of chosenfamilies.org

This story is a perfect example of what a young Black person can achieve when given the opportunity.

According to NewsOne.com, a Black teenage girl named Gabrielle Turnquest became the youngest person to pass the Bar exam of England and Wales at age 18, allowing her to practice law there. A native of Florida, Turnquest previously broke the record for the youngest person to graduate from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., at age 16.

And she’s not stopping there- she plans to return home to the States to tackle the American Bar exam, as well as the Bar of The Bahamas, where her parents were born.

Good News: Charges Against Tremaine McMillian Have Been Dropped!

I was so excited to get this in my email today:

Tremain McMillian - photo courtesy of Change.org

Tremain McMillian – photo courtesy of Change.org

Tremaine McMillian’s mother Maurissa watched as her 14-year-old son was forced to the ground in public by the police as he played with his puppy on the beach. He was choked in a headlock because the police said his body posture was “threatening” — and then charged with a felony.

Maurissa started a petition on Change.org to get the charges dropped against her son. After 186,539 people signed, including you, her petition won! Tremaine won’t be charged with any crimes.

Video of Tremaine being attacked on the beach quickly spread online, but after the initial media attention and outrage faded, Maurissa was afraid that her son would be convicted. That’s why it was so important that you and thousands of others signed her petition: she was able to show the Florida State Attorney that people still cared about what happened to Tremaine.

People like Tremaine’s mom are starting petitions on Change.org every day and winning. What do you want to change? Click here to start your own petition now in just three easy steps.

Thanks for being a change-maker,

The Change.org team

I posted this petition on my blog from Change.org after hearing about this case in the news. For everyone that signed it, Thank You! We can make a difference, we did make a difference. Let’s keep doing it! 😀

Stand Your Ground: An Explanation of the Law

Image courtesy of wtxl.com

Image courtesy of wtxl.com

 

The Stand Your Ground law (specifically the version used in Florida, location of the Zimmerman trial) has been talked about and referred to a lot in recent weeks, and especially after George Zimmerman’s not guilty verdict. The problem, though, is that many news outlets have not adequately defined and described the law. In order to fully understand the events that led up to the trial, the crime itself, and the verdict, one needs to understand that law. So, this post is to help explain the law for readers.

According to usnews.nbcnews.com:

Normally, a citizen has a duty to retreat when confronted with what they perceive to be deadly force. The Stand Your Ground doctrine mostly removes that, meaning citizens who feel threatened are no longer required to try to quell a situation first before having the right to use deadly force in self-defense.

There are three parts to Florida’s Stand Your Ground law:

  1. It states that a person is presumed to have reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm when using defensive force if an intruder has broken into his or her home or vehicle and is justified in using force.
  2. It states that a person does not have a duty to retreat if he or she believes death or bodily harm is imminent.
  3. It provides immunity from criminal prosecution and civil action for justifiable use of force.

The parts of the law that directly apply to the Zimmerman case are the 2nd and 3rd. In the time period immediately after Trayvon Martin’s death, Zimmerman was initially not charged with a crime because he was deemed, based on his description of the altercation and shooting of Trayvon, to be innocent of any crime. He claimed that he felt so threatened by Trayvon (although he is older and much larger in stature than Trayvon) that, after trying to fight back, he simply had to shoot Trayvon to death. Under the 2nd part of the Stand Your Ground law, this is permissible. Therefore, based on the 3rd part of the law, he was immune to a criminal prosecution of Trayvon’s death. He was only charged with a crime after the outpouring of public frustration and anger over the law.

It is very interesting to note that while Zimmerman’s defense team never used Stand Your Ground as a criminal defense in court, the judge instructed the jury to keep the law in mind anyway, causing at least one juror’s decision to be swayed by it. If that doesn’t constitute injustice, I don’t know what does.

Also important to note: this law was enacted with copious amounts of support from the National Rifle Association under a Republican-dominated state legislature in Florida. Florida was the first state to enact the law in 2005. In all, 22 states have since enacted this kind of legislation, according to CNN.com.

In any event, this “shoot first, ask questions later” law is unjust and should be removed from the books immediately.

Gun Rights? What About Our Constitutional Rights?

Courtesy of DallasNews.com

Photo courtesy of DallasNews.com

 

The blog youngprogressivevoices.com just posted an article about a town that canceled their 4th of July parade for this year. Why? Because residents expressed fears of a pro-gun march planned to take place during the day’s festivities. The Tea Party-affiliated Southern Colorado Patriots Club planned on protesting gun regulation measures by marching through the town with as many as 300 armed people.

Which leads to my question- why is there so much outrage, energy and activism being put into a potential reduction of gun rights when we are already losing, and in certain ways have already lost, many of our basic rights? Where’s the outrage over that?

The right to own a gun affords the owner the ability to: accidentally shoot someone, including a loved one; shoot a suspect, then later realize he/she was unarmed (police); shoot an unarmed suspect and get away with little or no legal repercussions if the person shot was a minority (police); commit crime in the inner-city, perpetuating the cycle of poverty and violence; shoot a school full of innocent kids; etc., etc.

Our basic, constitutional rights afford us the ability: to not have our homes be searched without a warrant signed by a judge; to not be arrested without a proper police investigation; to have out rights read to us while being arrested; to not have our phones tapped without a warrant signed by a judge; to not have our emails read without a warrant signed by a judge; etc., etc.

So where are our priorities?

Help Get the “Restore Our Privacy Act” Passed- petition

US Supreme Court - by Mark Fischer

US Supreme Court – by Mark Fischer

 

I found this petition on digger666.com’s blog.

From Sanders.Senate.gov:

Sen. Bernie Sanders introduced the Restore Our Privacy Act to put strict limits on sweeping powers used by the National Security Agency and Federal Bureau of Investigation to secretly track telephone calls by millions of innocent Americans who are not suspected of any wrongdoing.

We must give our intelligence and law enforcement agencies all of the tools that they need to combat terrorism but we must do so in a way that protects our freedom and respects the Constitution’s ban on unreasonable searches.

To sign this petition, go to Sanders.Senate.gov.

26 Senators Now Questioning the NSA About Spying (FINALLY!)

26 U.S. senators have sent a formal letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper asking whether its spy programs “essentially relied for years on a secret body of law,” according to Slate.com.

Among the questions:

– How long has the NSA used PATRIOT Act authorities to engage in bulk collection of Americans’ records? Was this collection underway when the law was reauthorized in 2006?

– Has the NSA used USA PATRIOT Act authorities to conduct bulk collection of any other types of records pertaining to Americans, beyond phone records?

– Has the NSA collected or made any plans to collect Americans’ cell-site location data in bulk?

– Have there been any violations of the court orders permitting this bulk collection, or of the rules governing access to these records? If so, please describe these violations.

– Please identify any specific examples of instances in which intelligence gained by reviewing phone records obtained through Section 215 bulk collection proved useful in thwarting a particular terrorist plot.

Here’s a refresher on what the PATRIOT Act is: Very soon after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Congress passed the PATRIOT Act, a set of surveillance laws, according to ACLU.org. The act was meant to avert future attacks by aggressively monitoring communications between possible terrorists. Unfortunately for average American citizens, that monitoring has become so aggressive that everyone’s information can be collected and analyzed. What’s particularly disturbing is that much of what we are hearing now through Edward Snowden’s recent revelations is not brand new- the government’s been engaging in mass surveillance since the PATRIOT Act took hold. PRISM, the spy program Snowden was a small player in, is just a more muscular and recent addition to an already existing set of programs and policies.

Even more disturbing is the fact that both the PATRIOT Act and PRISM have many aspects to them that are top-secret, which makes it difficult to even know what’s going on, much less do something about it.

Personally, I am glad that these senators are finally doing their jobs- serving the people. It’s a shame that only 26 of them are doing this, but at least it’s happening. They are demanding answers to the questions we all want to know. They are demanding accountability. I wonder, though, if these senators are really so unaware of the far-reaching power that both spy programs afford the government (mind you, without any real court authorization)? Under the PATRIOT Act alone, the feds can, according to ACLU.org:

-Search your home and not even tell you. The Act allows law enforcement to conduct secret “sneak and peek” searches of your home. Investigators can enter your home or office, take pictures and seize items without informing you that a warrant was issued for a very long time – if ever.

– Collect information on what books you read, what you study, your purchases, your medical history and your personal finances. The Act gives law enforcement broad access to any types of records – educational, medical, financial, sales, library, etc. – without probable cause of a crime. It also prohibits the holders of this information, like librarians, from disclosing that they have produced such records, under the threat of jail time. While a court order is required to obtain the information, the Act requires that a judge rubber stamp such orders.

– Spy on innocent Americans. The Act permits a vast array of information gathering on U.S. citizens to be collected and shared with the CIA (and other non-law enforcement officials) without proper judicial oversight or other safeguards. This law effectively puts the CIA back in the business of spying on Americans.

And more.

At least these senators are doing something. As the public, we need to make sure we keep an eye on Washington so that both programs are either dismantled completely, or at least brought under the scrutiny of the Constitution.

Constitutional rights were created specifically to protect us from unfair or overzealous police and government prosecution and persecution. Need an example of what happens when a person’s rights are violated? Look no further than death penalty states in which (at least) dozens of people, mostly black men, have languished on death row due to ineffective counsel, corruption in the courts, or other factors often due to racism. Some of these men, many of whom are already dead, were innocent. In fact, there are lawyers who work for little or nothing specifically to help death row inmates get a second chance at a fair trial. They have proven that, at least in some cases, death row inmates were innocent. In the best case scenarios, these inmates live to walk out of prison as free men. In the worst cases, they die waiting for someone to hear them.

What do you think would happen to you if you were labeled a terrorist? Without rights, the government has free rein over your life once it charges you with an act of terrorism. And it won’t matter that you don’t having anything incriminating in your possession or your background- you don’t have rights, remember? There was no search warrant, no judge. And if you beg and cry and say it’s not fair and ask why, they’ll just say, “That’s classified.”

GUNS: The Cold Hard Facts

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

The debate about guns in the U.S. has reached fever pitch. Recent massacres, especially that which took place at Sandy Hook Elementary School, are some of the worst in American history. These events have spurred a new round of debate on how to prevent future gun violence.

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