Search results for: San Bernardino

San Bernardino Shooting Victim’s Widow Says Husband Was Targeted Because He Was Jewish

LOS ANGELES — The widow of a man killed in last week’s rampage in San Bernardino said Monday that she believed the two shooters targeted her husband, and possibly other victims, because of their divergent religious beliefs. Jennifer Thalasinos told Sean Hannity on his Fox News show “Hannity” that her husband was a devout Messianic Jew… Read More

Never Forget What July 4th Is Really About

By Christopher Kelly

As we pause to celebrate the anniversary of our nation’s independence, it seems appropriate to consider the vital role played by the American military in the creation of our nation and its transformation of our world.

We are not a militaristic nation, but we are a nation that is deeply proud of its military. We are not a perfect people.

We have made many mistakes. We have not always lived up to our noble ideals.

It is important to remember what happened at Wounded Knee, My Lai, and Abu Ghraib. But it is also important to remember the amazing things that the US military has done in our world.

On April 19, 1775, British soldiers marched from Boston to Lexington and Concord to seize a cache of arms.

They were confronted on the Lexington Green by citizen soldiers who were farmers, merchants, and tradesmen.

The “shot heard round the world,” so named by Ralph Waldo Emerson in his poem “Concord Hymn,” was fired later that day on the Old North Bridge.

Liberty was not a gift of the English crown; she had to be taken by force by an armed rebel populace.

Later that year, American forces invaded British Canada.

My own ancestor, James Van Rensselaer, was a citizen soldier in the siege of Quebec, and his commanding officer was Benedict Arnold.

The American Revolution is often portrayed in rosy colors due to its remoteness and patriotic outcome.

Photo Credit: Vinoth Chandar/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Vinoth Chandar/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

It was, in fact, a horrendously bloody conflict. Recent scholarship has placed the total number of Americans killed in the American Revolution at around 25,000, out of a total population of the thirteen colonies in 1775 of 2.4 million.

Thus, over one percent of the population was killed over the course of the war’s nearly eight and half years.

After the American Revolution, we would fight Britain again in the War of 1812. We also fought our way westward across the continent, engaging in many brutal wars against the Native Americans.

In 1846, President Polk launched a war against Mexico.

This was and remains a controversial chapter in American history.

Congressman Abraham Lincoln opposed the war. Henry David Thoreau refused to pay taxes to support the war and was briefly jailed.

Even Ulysses Grant, who fought in the war, condemned its prosecution in his memoirs.

But without the Mexican-American War, the states of California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and New Mexico would never have been added to the Union.

Without the Mexican-American War, the United States might never have become a coast-to-coast superpower.

Imagine for a moment what World War II might have been like had Polk not fought the Mexican-American War.

It is unlikely that an American naval base would have been built at Pearl Harbor without Polk.

If there had been a Pacific base, the Japanese would never have sunk the Arizona to start the war, because the state we call Arizona would have belonged to Mexico.

If there had not been Alamogordo in New Mexico where the atomic bomb could be tested, would we have been able to drop an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, thereby ending the war?

Without Polk’s war in the nineteenth century, the United States might not have been strong enough to deal with the challenges of fascism and communism in the twentieth century.

Nearly a hundred years ago in 1917, America citizen soldiers went “Over There” with the American Expeditionary Force to fight the Central Powers in World War I.

By 1918, German Kaiser William II would abdicate.

In 1941, American citizens would get the call to combat Hitler and Imperial Japan.

Just over seventy-one years ago, American soldiers liberated the Nazi concentration camps, such as Buchenwald and Dachau, thereby helping to end the Holocaust.

Without American invasions at places like the beaches of Omaha and Anzio, the world would undoubtedly be a darker place.

After World War II, American forces remained engaged with Europe, joining NATO and garrisoning the nations of former adversaries during the Cold War. The Cold War was won without a shot being fired.

Today we face the threat of global terror networks that have perpetrated horrors in Brussels, Paris, San Bernardino, California, and, most recently, Orlando, Florida.

Our enemies must know that Americans do not love war for war’s sake. To do so is the definition of fascism. We are and always have been reluctant warriors. But when provoked, we know how to fight, and we will endure until victory and a lasting peace is won.

Thanks to the courage and sacrifice of those American patriots who have served in our military and those that serve today, we are able to celebrate the Fourth of July and to confront the challenges that face us around the world.

Christopher Kelly is the co-author of America Invades: How We’ve Invaded or Been Militarily Involved with almost Every Country on Earth and Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World. His newest book, An Adventure in 1914, will be published this fall. For more information, visit and

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Kevin Muncie/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Here’s Why Memorial Day Really Matters This Election Year

By Christopher Kelly

Memorial Day this year calls on all Americans with particular significance. It requires us to look backward at our past and forward to our future as our nation considers its choices for its next commander in chief.

Just last year we celebrated the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II, the worst war in human history. Americans like Lieutenant Dick Winters of the 101st Airborne parachuted into Normandy seventy-two years ago, in 1944, in Operation Overlord.

In the spring of 1945, American soldiers discovered the horrors of the Nazi concentration camps. After Eisenhower visited Ohrdruf concentration camp, which had been liberated by American troops on April 4, he declared: “We are told that the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for. Now at least he will know what he is fighting against.”

Over the course of just under four years, over sixteen million American men and women had served in some capacity in the war. Today in 2016, fewer than one million WWII vets are still alive.

Just over 400,000 Americans, most of them young, never returned from their duties in World War II. On Memorial Day, Americans will visit cemeteries such as Arlington in Virginia, as well as many more around the nation. Many Americans who paid the ultimate price are, however, buried overseas, in twenty-four different cemeteries in eleven different countries.

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Throughout its history, Europe has been a blood-soaked continent. Two World Wars scarred the twentieth century. The Napoleonic Wars raged on and off for over fifteen years. The Hundred Years’ War between France and England actually lasted for 116 years.

After World War II ended, American servicemen and women stayed in bases across Europe. The Marshall Plan helped to rebuild the shattered economies of postwar Europe. In 1946, Winston Churchill warned of an “Iron Curtain” that had descended on Eastern Europe. NATO was founded in 1949 to confront the challenge of Communism.

In 1989, the Cold War finally ended and the Berlin Wall came down. The defeat of Fascism and Communism was due in large part to the sacrifice of the American servicemen and women that we honor on Memorial Day.

Since 1945, Europe has enjoyed a period of peace, interrupted only by the breakup of Yugoslavia, that is unprecedented in its history. America as well as Europe have benefitted from this long peace.

Simultaneously, though, Americans have been fighting a war of unprecedented duration.

On September 11, 2001, our world suddenly changed. Since the autumn of 2001, American troops have been engaged in Afghanistan fighting Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

There are soldiers serving today in Afghanistan who were toddlers when the Twin Towers in New York were struck by hijacked commercial airliners.

Americans in 2016 confront many dangers. In the Middle East, we must face the challenge posed by ruthless ISIS operatives who have waged a war against diverse people in different countries, and even against history itself.

The Syrian civil war has claimed over 100,000 lives and has created the worst refugee crisis since World War II. Recent attacks in Paris, Brussels, and San Bernardino, California, remind us that terrorism remains a threat around the world.

This year, Americans will select a new commander in chief. As we go to the polls in November, we should reflect upon the need for sound, mature judgment in all of our leaders, and particularly in our president.

Americans must consider that they are choosing an individual who controls the most powerful military in the world and who has the power to end life as we know it.

Memorial Day imposes a duty on all Americans to remember the sacrifice of our fallen heroes and to reflect prayerfully on how best we should steer a course through our dangerous and turbulent world.

Christopher Kelly is the co-author of America Invades: How We’ve Invaded or Been Militarily Involved with almost Every Country on Earth and Italy Invades: How Italians Conquered the World. For more information, visit and

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Patrick Emerson/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Apple Has Learned The Lessons Of Eisenhower In Their Fight Against The FBI

Apple and the FBI have captured the public’s attention by battling over unlocking the San Bernardino shooter’s phone, but this is about more than one terrorist attack. This is a power struggle over the future of digital communication.

Encryption seems opaque and impossibly complex, and that’s the point. Even though it has only recently entered the popular lexicon, humans have been using encryption to keep secrets hidden since ancient Greece.

Now it’s an essential component to everyone’s electronic communication, and the United States security apparatus is essentially demanding unilateral power over its on/off switch.

A judge ordered Apple to provide “reasonable technical assistance” to help the FBI unlock San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook’s iPhone 5c, which seems like a reasonable request.

After all, it has the word reasonable in it.

But like many vague government directives, its request is far from the definition of the word it uses. What the FBI really wants Apple to do can best be explained by the world’s most notorious hacker.

Granted, there are so many layers to the Snowden story that you have to take everything he says with infinite grains of salt, but the man clearly knows his tech.

He’s pretty much stuck where he is for the rest of his life, so it’s hard to see how criticizing the FBI benefits him in any way (unless you believe that he’s a Russian operative, but that’s a discussion for another day).

This isn’t just about hacking into this one phone. The FBI wants Apple to build them a cyber weapon that bypasses encryption on iPhones around the world.

Encryption has been a central debate in the intelligence community for quite some time, and lines have clearly been drawn between civil cabinets and law enforcement, as the Obama administration has offered conflicting messages on this topic.

Photo Credit: Hernán Piñera/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Photo Credit: Hernán Piñera/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Leslie Cald­well, the head of the Justice De­part­ment’s Crim­in­al Di­vi­sion alluded to the need to bypass encryption at a technology policy conference earlier this year:

“The De­part­ment of Justice is completely com­mit­ted to seek­ing and ob­tain­ing ju­di­cial au­thor­iz­a­tion for elec­tron­ic evid­ence col­lec­tion in all ap­pro­pri­ate cir­cum­stances. But once that au­thor­iz­a­tion is ob­tained, we need to be able to act on it if we are to keep our com­munit­ies safe and our coun­try se­cure.”

Ironically enough, the very next person to speak at that conference was another top Obama official at the Federal Trade Commission, Terrell McSweeny, and he offered a diametrically opposite opinion:

“As a per­son charged with think­ing about con­sumer pro­tec­tion, I deeply worry about things like man­dat­ory back­doors. We need to be very mind­ful of con­sumer data se­cur­ity, and we should be very, very care­ful about any­thing that un­der­mines that data se­cur­ity.”

James Comey, the director of the FBI, is one of the chief architects of the case against encryption, as he laid out in his famous 2014 “going dark” speech:

And if the challenges of real-time interception threaten to leave us in the dark, encryption threatens to lead all of us to a very dark place.

You can see this schism in on the campaign trail too. Here’s the child of the former head of the CIA Jeb Bush’s take:

“If you create encryption, it makes it harder for the American government to do its job — while protecting civil liberties — to make sure that evildoers aren’t in our midst. We need to find a new arrangement with Silicon Valley in this regard because I think this is a very dangerous kind of situation.” 

Compare that to former HP CEO/former Presidential candidate/future Fox News analyst Carly Fiorina:

“I certainly support that we need to tear down cyber walls, not on a mass basis, but on a targeted basis. I do not believe that we need to wholesale destroy every American citizen’s privacy in order to go after those that we know are suspect or are already a problem. But yes, there is more collaboration required.”

So why is the private sector so concerned with protecting encryption? Apple’s stance doesn’t seem to be based on firm principle since they have unlocked iPhones for the feds at least 70 times before.

This is a high-profile case, so what Apple does or does not do will be scrutinized infinitely more than those 70 instances combined, and the public has never been more sensitive to the security state than it is right now.

Apple doesn’t want to hurt their brand. Plus, what the FBI is demanding is unprecedented. They’re ordering Apple to build a backdoor into its seminal product.

That’s not something that can only be controlled by one party; once a backdoor exists, anyone with the wherewithal can access it.

The second the FBI uses this new software to bypass encryption, the race will be on to reverse engineer it, and if/when this type of technology falls into the wrong hands, a huge chunk of mankind’s digital infrastructure would be compromised (not to mention the horrors authoritarian regimes around the world would inflict on their people with this weapon).

Given that our security state already looks like a Orwellian fever dream, we should heed President Dwight Eisenhower’s prescient warning from his farewell address and support Apple in this fight:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Cover Photo Credit: Sean MacEntee/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Congress Sneakily Passes Provision To Discriminate Against Iranians, Sudanese And Others

The visa waiver program has undergone major changes in the US after Congress quietly passed a controversial provision that was included in an unrelated massive bill, triggering protests from civil liberties groups, minority groups and the European Union.

The legislation was tucked away in the massive omnibus spending bill passed by Congress, and it received bi-partisan support, a rarity in this Congress. President Obama signed it into law on Friday.

However, it didn’t go through without criticism. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has slammed the legislation in a letter, saying it is not only “discriminatory, it is arbitrary.”

The new law means that dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan who are also a citizen of a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program are required to go to a consulate interview overseas to obtain a visa before travelling to the US for 90 days. It also means that an individual who has traveled to those countries in the last five years has to get a visa.

“This is discriminatory. It is not based on individuals’ decisions, but on parentage,” Abdi told Rise News. “It’s taking us down a dangerous path, setting a precedent that you will be treated differently because of your dual nationality.”

The changes gained traction soon after the Paris attacks, and even more so after the December 2nd shooting in San Bernardino which killed 14 people.

Syed Farook was a US citizen raised in a Pakistani household. His wife came to the US on a K1 fiancée visa granted by the US Embassy in Pakistan after clearing a background check. This was not under the Visa Waiver Program, and critics say the new law doesn’t target real threats.

Iranian dual nationals, some of the most vocal in opposition to the legislation, ask why Pakistan and Saudi Arabia are not included in the list of countries the legislation has zeroed in on.

Read More: Kim Badawi-The Stories Behind The Lens

The National Iranian American Council (NIAC), is strongly opposed to the legislation. Jamal Abdi, the director of NIAC Action, said the legislation could place Iranian Americans “In a separate category to their fellow citizens.”

He expressed his concern on what the EU response will be, as the Visa Waiver Program is reciprocity. The EU will be reviewing the program in April.

“This is discriminatory. It is not based on individuals’ decisions, but on parentage,” Abdi told RISE NEWS. “It’s taking us down a dangerous path, setting a precedent that you will be treated differently because of your dual nationality.”

Under Iranian law, a child born to an Iranian citizen father is automatically an Iranian citizen, whether they are born there or not. This is the same for all four countries deemed as dangerous in the legislation. Renouncing citizenship is also a long and complicated process, according to critics.

The legislation has also angered European diplomats, and 29 European Union ambassadors, representing member states and the EU itself, signed an editorial directed at US lawmakers, arguing against the changes.

The diplomats warned this new regulation represented “the de facto introduction of a visa regime in all but name”.

They added in the letter:, “such indiscriminate action against the more than 13 million European citizens who travel to the US each year would be counterproductive, could trigger legally mandated reciprocal measures, and would do nothing to increase security while instead hurting economies on both sides of the Atlantic.”

The legislation also would not differentiate between those that travel to these countries for business, humanitarian efforts or familial reasons.

Thus it means that journalists and aid workers will be penalized while foreign fighters could just lie about having travelled there, as accessing if someone has travelled to Iraq or Syria is difficult because their borders are insecure.

There are also concerns that the new legislation could violate the Iran nuclear deal, or that this is even an attempt to undermine it.

Senior Obama administration officials have expressed concerns.

Stephen Mull, the State Department official in charge of implementing the deal had warned the Senate Foreign Relations Committee late last week that this “could have a very negative impact on the deal.”

Ali Larijani, the speaker of Iran’s parliament, said the changes “are aimed at harassment” and that they “blatantly violate the nuclear agreement” according to comments carried by the Iranian state-controlled press.

A portion of the Iran nuclear deal dictates that the US can not take any action that could harm Iran’s economic relationship with other countries, and since the legislations mandates that any travel to Iran for citizens in the 38 countries participating in the visa waiver program would have to obtain a visa to enter the US, there are concerns this could make businesses reluctant to travel to Iran.

Iranian officials maintain that these new restrictions violate this part of the deal.

Secretary of State John Kerry reached out to his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, to calm the stormy waters in a December 19th letter.

He stated that the US will find ways to make sure that changes to the visa waiver program will not interfere with “legitimate business interests.”

Kerry also assured Zarif that the U.S. government “remain[s] fully committed to the sanctions lifting provided for under the JCPOA.”

The head of Iran’s tourism body, Morteza Rahmani-Movahed, said Tehran would lodge a complaint to the U.N.’s tourism body, the World Tourism Organization. He told a press conference Sunday that some of the 38 VWP countries were Iranian “tourism targets.”

However, according to Fox News, Republicans have responded badly to the suggestion that they are “bending over backwards to placate the Iranian regime.”

The NIAC has committed to continuing to the fight the changes, saying on their website that they are in discussions with members of Congress “to take legislative action early next year.”

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 Cover Photo Credit: U.S. Department of Agriculture/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Here’s The Email That Shut Down LA’s Schools

The email that led to the controversial closing of all Los Angeles public schools has been obtained by multiple media organizations including KTLA and KABC.

According to Vice News, the email was sent from a user using the address, [email protected].

READ: Email that shut down LA schools. 


I am emailing you to inform you of the happenings on Tuesday, 12/15/15.

Something big is going down. Something very big. It will make national headlines. Perhaps, even international ones. You see, my last 4 years here at one of the district high schools has been absolute hell. Pure, unmitigated, agony. The bullying, the loneliness, the rejection… it is never-ending. And for what? Just because I’m ‘different’?

No. No more. I am a devout Muslim, and was once against violence, but I have teamed up with a local jihadist cell as it is the only way I’ll be able to accomplish my massacre the correct way. I would not be able to do it alone. Me, and my 32 comrades, will die tomorrow in the name of Allah. Every school in the L.A. Unified district is being targeted. We have bombs hidden in lockers already at several schools. They are strategically placed and are meant to crumble the foundations of the very buildings that monger so much hate and discrimination. They are pressure cooker bombs, hidden in backpacks around the schools. They are loaded with 20 lbs. of gunpowder, for maximum damage. They will be detonated via Cell Phone. Not only are there bombs, but there are nerve gas agents set to go off at a specific time: during lunch hour. To top it off, my brothers in Allah and I have Kalashnikov rifles, Glock 18 Machine pistols, and multiple handheld grenades. The students at every school in the L.A. Unified district will be massacred, mercilessly. And there is nothing you can do to stop it.

If you do end up trying to, by perhaps, beefing up security, or canceling classes for the day, it won’t matter. Your security will not be able to stop us. We are an army of Allah. If you cancel classes, the bombings will take place regardless, and we will bring our guns to the streets and offices of Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Bakersfield, and San Diego.

I wish you the best luck. It is time to pray to allah, as this may be your last day.”

Have a news tip? Send it to [email protected]. Like to write? You can become a Rise News contributor.  

Cover Photo Credit: torbakhopper/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Homeland Security Department Announces New Terrorism Alert System

Boston, San Bernardino, Chattanooga and Seattle.

These are only a small sampling of the cities that have seen terror attacks since 9/11. The list of plots disrupted since then is much longer, and far less widely known.

When the Department of Homeland Security was created, part of its core mission was to notify the public “by providing timely, detailed information to the public, government agencies, first responders, airports and other transportation hubs, and the private sector” about terrorist threats. The original, color coded alerts were replaced in 2011, but in the wake of the San Bernardino attack, a new alert system has been ordered by DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson.

After 2011, not one alert was issued by DHS, in large part because the threshold for doing so was set so high, none of the plots being investigated reached the ceiling for triggering a public alert.

“We need a system that informs the public at large of what we are seeing,” DHSSecretary Jeh Johnson said during a recent national security forum. “Removing some of the mystery about the global terrorist threat, what we are doing about it and what we are asking the public to do.”

Today, DHS announced a modification to the National Terrorism Advisory System they’re calling bulletins. Bulletins will inform the public of more general threats, or trends, related to terrorist activity, versus an alert, which will trigger either an “elevated” or “imminent” notification to the public, informing of a specific threat and steps to take “to mitigate, prevent or respond to the threat.”

“This action is not in response to a specific, credible threat to the homeland, but is a prudent measure to ensure that Americans are better prepared and aware of the evolving terrorist threats,” the DHS press release read.

Immediately following the announcement of the changes to the NTAS, DHS released a bulletin, warning “we are concerned about the “self-radicalized” actor(s) who could strike with little or no notice.

Recent attacks and attempted attacks internationally and in the homeland warrant increased security, as well as increased public vigilance and awareness.”

The announcement was broadcast on the NTAS website, and Twitter, which was the first time the system has been used since it was created in 2011.

Have a news tip? Send it to [email protected]. Like to write? You can become a Rise News contributor.  

Cover Photo Credit: MINEX GUATEMALA/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

Pro Gun Groups Plan To Hold Fake “Mass Shooting” Near University Of Texas Campus

By Tony R. Myhre

A college campus. The sound of gunfire. Screams. Bodies strewn about, covered in blood.

What has all too frequently come flashing across our Twitter streams and TV screens in this case is not another actual campus shooting, but a planned demonstration at the University of Texas, Austin.

This Saturday at noon local time, two gun rights groups, Come and Take It Texas and plan to conduct a “crisis performance” after marching through Austin openly carrying loaded rifles and other weapons according to Matthew Short, a spokesman for the organizations.

Once near the university, “crisis actors” will use props made of cardboard and fake blood while the sound of gunfire rings out from bullhorns to perform a mock mass shooting incident, complete with pretend armed heroes who will apparently end the fake carnage with cardboard weapons of their own.

The groups intend to highlight their positions regarding “gun free zones”, like the UT Austin campus.

“Gun free zones are killing us,”A statement on the event’s Facebook page reads. “These target rich environments are letting our children be murdered by evil people. Now is the time to stand up, take a walk, and put pressure on politicians to ban Gun Free Zones.”

UT Austin is the site of two campus shootings, the Tower shooting in 1966, in which 14 people were killed and 32 wounded by student Charles Whitman. Whitman was killed by police, ending his siege.

In 1990, student Colton Tooley fired shots on campus from an AK-47, before ending his own life in the main library.

Initially, organizers endeavored to hold the event on campus, however this was met by threats of criminal charges by the Board of Regents. Organizers now intend to hold the event on a public right of way, using the university as a backdrop.

June 1, 2015 marked the passage of S.B. 11, the so called ‘campus carry law’, which Governor Greg Abbott signed in to law.

The law gives concealed carry permit holders legal authority to carry their weapons on campus beginning August 1, 2016.

In response to this, UT Texas has set up an advisory board, will hold two public forums and has also set up a survey to explore how the University intends to comply with the statute, while maintaining public safety.

Given the recent terror attack in San Bernardino and the shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado, some feel that this event is in bad taste, and could be potentially dangerous.

Ralph Fisk, the CEO of Fisk Consultants in Hutto, TX, and a published Emergency Management professional with expertise in Active Shooters, Counter-Terrorism and Physical Security, has heard a great deal about this event from his local law enforcement and other campus contacts.

“I understand the right to exercise your first and second amendment rights, as in this case, however that planned demonstration in my opinion is over the top,” Fisk said. “Having a mock ‘active shooter’ incident is better saved for those that exercise these incidents in preparation for an actual attack. As an Open Carry Supporter, I feel this is not something that I personally could support.”

Joan Neuberger, a UT Austin Professor and advocate with the campus organization Gun Free UT, told the Statesman that staging, “a mass shooting during an anxious time for students – finals week – not only breaks rules but shows real disrespect for the feelings of students, faculty and staff who don’t want to have guns around them in the first place, but will be forced to put up with guns in public places in 2016.”

Cover Photo Credit: Derek Key/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

When It Comes To Mass Shootings, Your “Thoughts And Prayers” Are Meaningless

The following is the opinion of the writer of this piece and not necessarily of Rise News.

It happened again Wednesday. Another community was shaken to the core by violence and the ubiquitous sound of gunfire.

This time, it was San Bernardino, CA. As the full facts of the incident are still being sorted out, this will not be a rant about terrorism.

Instead, this is about the reactions. According to the Boston Globe, there have been 355 mass shootings in 2015. Note that, as of yesterday, there have been 336 days in 2015.

Here’s a pause to let that sink in.

The United States of America, the “free” country that champions “liberty” is the site of more than one mass shooting a day.

And if you think that number will taper off as the year draws to a close, you are delusional. There will be more.

But again, this isn’t about what could be done to stop this, or what should be done. This is about the people who actually have the power to make changes, and yet do nothing.

Every time a tragedy like this occurs, people jump on social media to send condolences to the victims. This ranges from Mr. and Mrs. Doe to the President.

And with many of these posts, a common phrase is typed. A phrase which has become the default for grief; “My thoughts and prayers”.

This phrase, and variations thereof, is absolutely meaningless. It is just as meaningless no matter who says it, but it is particularly nauseous to read when it is spouted by the very people who should be doing something.

Allow me to break down why it’s meaningless in a rational sense before the political discourse starts.

Thoughts do not get anything done. Words do not get anything done. Actions get things done. And until there are actions taken, nothing will change.

It is up to normal human beings to create change.

The New York Daily News hit this on the nose with cover that ran on Thursday.

You will notice that all (save for House Speaker Paul Ryan) of the Twitter posts the headline highlights are from present contenders for the GOP presidential nomination. You might also notice that they are all Congressmen.

These very men, along with many others of course, have the power to enact new laws. They could put into place stricter gun regulations, or alter conceal-carry laws, or something. But they don’t. And they won’t.

The simple reason: gun violence gets them paid. We all know about the NRA, the National Rifle Association.

While not all gun-owners are registered members, the NRA makes up the largest gun lobby in Washington. As a lobby, they dole out money in the form of campaign contributions to various elected officials.

Of course, this is with the understanding that said officials will work for the benefit of the NRA by either passing or blocking certain bills in either state or national Congress.

So do you want to know how much the NRA is putting in politician’s pockets? Well the numbers are sometimes sketchy, but you can look here and here to start.

Igor Volsky the Director of Video at Think Progress sent out a series of Tweets yesterday, along with an article detailing how much money certain members of Congress received from the NRA.

The common ground between all these politicians listed? They all sent out Tweets yesterday with some version of “thoughts and prayers”.

To sum this all up, look at a Tweet posted yesterday by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT):

This is poignant because of where Murphy is from.

In 2012, he was the Representative for Connecticut’s Fifth District, which included Newtown, the site of the Sandy Hook massacre. He has seen his constituents killed, and he is tired of seeing the same ever-repeating platitudes said with no substance to back them up.

It is time for America and Americans to open their eyes. These are not one-off incidents of lunatics. This is terror enabled by the very people who should be doing their best to keep Americans safe.

It is time to stop gun violence. And it is time to call out those who put the almighty dollar above safety and security.

This will happen again. And when it does, there will be no time for your “thoughts and prayers.”

Cover Photo Credit: Ben Townsend/Flickr (CC 2.0)

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