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Good people doing good things November 7, 2014

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“Voters have approved a ballot question that supporters say will give Massachusetts the nation’s strongest requirement for providing paid sick time to workers.” Go state!

“You can see the effect Abbott’s civil disobedience is already having on the Fort Lauderdale police officers. The first time they stopped him from feeding people and took a 90-year-old man away in a police car. Those officers weren’t inclined to do that again, so now they’re just filming from a distance. Why? Because it’s a stupid, unjust law, and enforcing it made them feel stupid and unjust.

“Then she placed the stone on a shelf in the kitchen, and it stayed there as a permanent reminder of the promise she had made to herself at that moment: never violence!” Astrid Lindgren, everybody.

Gorgeous fantasy photographs of adorable tiny girl (maybe 3?). The blurb is all “look how amazing and inspirational this is, she only has one hand” and utterly fails to mention “look how pretty this is, in some of these she has wings.” (Normal!AU Megan Wallaby, y/y?)

[Video] The latest in bionic limbs: a talk presented by a double amputee walking around stage, and ended with a performance by a dancer who lost her leg a year before.

“It’s not that Gus doesn’t understand Siri’s not human. He does — intellectually. But like many autistic people I know, Gus feels that inanimate objects, while maybe not possessing souls, are worthy of our consideration. […] So how much more worthy of his care and affection is Siri, with her soothing voice, puckish humor and capacity for talking about whatever Gus’s current obsession is for hour after hour after bleeding hour?” A like story about a kid & a voice app.

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A bunch of tales of egregious race and gender BS. With studies! August 6, 2014

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“Haven’s inconsistent enforcement of the dress code makes girls ’embarrassed,’ because those who are more developed often get singled out. The experience of 12-year-old Lucy Shapiro supports this. She tells the story of when both she and her friend were dressed in athletic shorts, but only Shapiro was ‘dress-coded.'”

“Allen, now 32, said she was stunned when her supervisor at the Hobby Lobby store in Flowood, Mississippi, told her she would be terminated for taking unpaid time off to have her baby.

“1. Random Stranger: (Takes Rhys’ hand while he’s 1 ft. in front of me)…let’s go find your Mommy!

“When describing a crowd scene, write in the script, ‘A crowd gathers, which is half female.’ That may seem weird, but I promise you, somehow or other on the set that day the crowd will turn out to be 17 percent female otherwise.

“…more often than not, bright girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice.”

A long list of responses to BS MRA arguments, full of numbers and logic and citations.

“And then secondly you have these strangers, for example, coming up to a woman [shopping with a black male friend in a store] and saying, ‘Do you know your husband is black?’

At least 148 women received tubal ligations in violation of prison rules during those five years – and there are perhaps 100 more dating back to the late 1990s, according to state documents and interviews.”

“And they wrote letters saying, I really admire your work. Would you have some time to meet? The letters to the faculty were all identical, but the names of the students were all different.” In an outcome that surprises no one (except possibly certain white men), the letter gets the highest rate of positive responses when it has a white-sounding male name attached.

“A woman who got a 4.0 GPA in high school will only be worth about as much, income-wise, as a man who got a 2.0. A woman with a 2.0 average will make about as much as a man with a 0 GPA.

“Mark Ciavarella Jr, a 61-year old former judge in Pennsylvania, has been sentenced to nearly 30 years in prison for literally selling young juveniles for cash. He was convicted of accepting money in exchange for incarcerating thousands of adults and children into a prison facility owned by a developer who was paying him under the table. […] Some of the juveniles he sentenced were as young as 10-years old.

Researchers avoided using female animals for fear that their reproductive cycles and hormone fluctuations would confound the results of delicately calibrated experiments.” Apparently male animals don’t have hormones! And somehow it never occurred to these scientists that using a non-random sample where half the population has been systematically selected out might also confound their results.

Humans make fun stuff: past through present. April 26, 2014

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Medieval kids’ doodles on birch bark. This is the greatest thing. 13th-century children draw exactly the same way as 21st-century children.

“An Austrian collector has found what may be the oldest globe, dated 1504, to depict the New World, engraved with immaculate detail on two conjoined halves of ostrich eggs.” (It has most of South America down correctly, but above that is ocean, with a couple of scattered islands where you would expect North America to be. Someone needs to write an AU in that universe.)

“Modern GIFs may make the Internet a more animated place, but they’re no match for the sublime weirdness of 19th-century animations.

“The girl who is standing in the photo is the one who is dead.

Isaac Asimov in 1964, predicting what the world will be like in 2014. He’s close to the Internet, way off when it comes to hovercars, and, as you would hope, right-on about robots.

Apple II emulator, with tons of games! In the name of nostalgia, I had to play a round of Oregon Trail, and then may have lost a couple of days rediscovering Lemmings.

Like every visual artist ever, Osamu Tezuka had a clandestine stash of personally-drawn porn. Specifically, sexy anthro mouse porn.

Virtual planet maker! Impressively shiny.

Hacking together your own solar chargers, suitable for powering your USB devices or whatever else you’re in the mood for.

Some feel-good stories for the end of the year December 29, 2013

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“‘She runs to my arms and said, “I need to see my mommy,“‘ Boggs said.”

“Principal fires security guards to hire art teachers — and transforms elementary school.”

“Today, the high school graduation rate for Tangelo Park is 100 percent. And no, that is not a typo.

“Galimberti explores the universality of being a kid amidst the diversity of the countless corners of the world; saying, ‘at their age, they are pretty all much the same; they just want to play.’

China has self-service libraries in the subway. And we don’t. America, I am disappointed in you.

Although we did a pretty good job turning this abandoned Wal-Mart into a library.

The octopus – now nicknamed Jock the janitor – took up tidying after watching staff at Loch Lomond Aquarium wipe his glass.”

“They exchanged the rings that they had been wearing for 20 years, but now they can legally call them wedding rings.

A year since Newtown, and… December 13, 2013

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Slate’s ongoing tally of (reported) gun deaths in America since Newtown, through December 13.

And what they’ve learned from the process. “You can’t point to any disease that kills this many people. There’d be an enormous outcry if we only spent $10 million on cancer in children, for example. This is the way the conversation needs to go.”

It’s the first time someone has been killed by armed police in Iceland since it became an independent republic in 1944.”

Gerardo I. Hernandez [was] the first Transportation Security Agency officer killed in the line of duty since TSA’s founding after 9/11” — and it wasn’t anything to do with a foreign terrorist, it was domestic gun violence.

Unarmed woman shot to death while driving in a car with her infant child. Good job, police! Way to go.

Unarmed teenager shot in the back of the head after knocking on someone’s door, then getting no answer and turning to go. Apparently she had been in a car accident, and her cell phone died. Apparently the shooter claimed “self-defense.”

Another guy claims “self-defense” after pulling a gun on a mom and her four kids who weren’t moving fast enough for him in a parking lot.

Lucas’s father, Joshua Heagren, had tried to teach the 3-year-old to respect firearms.” You can guess how this story ends. Gun accidents are the ninth-leading cause of unintentional deaths among children ages 1 to 14, and an NYT investigation suggests the numbers may be badly undercounted.

“Two North Carolina parents are facing multiple charges after police said that one 3-year-old child accidentally shot another 3-year-old child near Asheboro this week.

“The FBI also estimates that, in states where a background check is required for every handgun sale, 38 percent fewer women are shot and killed by abusive partners.”

Psychology: schizophrenia, bipolar, trauma, care June 21, 2013

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“After interviewing many people with this illness the scientists compiled a short clip of what a schizophrenic might hear during an episode, or just day to day. I listened to this from my laptop speakers, not the recommended head phone approach (Which I’m glad that I did!)”

“Results of a preliminary trial, announced today at the Wellcome Trust in London, demonstrated how people with schizophrenia could overcome their auditory hallucinations by conversing with an avatar representation of the voice in their head.

A woman with bipolar disorder tells the story of her life, achievements, and struggles: well-written and moving, and makes you wish everyone could have the kind of financial security she did while trying to recover.

“Lincoln High School in Walla Walla, WA, tries new approach to school discipline — suspensions drop 85%.” This miraculous new approach boils down to “pull aside the kids who blow up, and ask them how they’re feeling and if there’s anything stressing them out.”

“In the wake of last December’s shooting massacre in Newtown, CT, many conservative lawmakers and state leaders called for strengthening America’s broken mental health care system. But now, the GOP’s stubborn opposition to Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion is preventing 1.2 million poor and mentally ill Americans from getting basic mental services, according to an analysis by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).”

More gun deaths. Lots of preventable ones. June 14, 2013

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(N.B. all of these are heartbreaking, and many of them involve children.)

Slate’s ongoing tally of gun deaths in America since Newtown.

Hey, you know how we have laws against marketing some products, such as cigarettes, to children? Maybe we could have some of those for guns. You know, to forestall things like a 5-year-old accidentally shooting and killing his 2-year-old sister with a “My First Rifle”.

“If a mother from the inner-city of, say, Philadelphia did that, and the kid subsequently shot his sister to death, Fox News never would stop yelling about the crisis in African American communities and the Culture Of Death, and rap music, too. If your culture is telling you that children who have only recently emerged from toddlerhood should have their own guns, then your culture is deadly and dangerous and that should concern you, too.

More: “…the mother left the two children in the car while she went into the house to get something at about 4:15 p.m. on Tuesday. While she was in the house, the 3-year-old toddler found a loaded pistol in the car and shot the infant in the left cheek near the mouth.

Ka’Nard Allen, 10, is healing from a bullet graze wound on his cheek from the Mother’s Day shooting. In October 2012 Allen also lost his father, Bernard Washington, to violence. His 5-year-old cousin, Briana Allen, was fatally shot and a bullet hit Ka’Nard in the neck during his birthday party last May 29.”

“At the same time that investigators were in the midst of a high-profile manhunt for the marathon bombers that ended on Friday evening, 38 more Americans – with little fanfare – died from gun violence. One was a 22-year old resident of Boston. They are a tiny percentage of the 3,531 Americans killed by guns in the past four months – a total that surpasses the number of Americans who died on 9/11 and is one fewer than the number of US soldiers who lost their lives in combat operations in Iraq.”

And, since that last one: “U.S. Gun Deaths Since Newtown Now Exceed Number Of American Troops Killed In Iraq

“It did not appear to anyone — including me — that residing within my family’s weapons cache might affect my life. Together, my three brothers own at least a dozen weapons and have yet to harm anyone with them. […] As for me, I have three guns, one inherited and two gifts, and I’m hardly a zealot. In fact I never had much interest in guns. Yet it is I who killed a man.

A short list of reasons why legally mandated gun safety features are a good idea April 9, 2013

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Slate’s tally of gun deaths in America since Newtown.

Including some from the following accidental gun shots, none of which happened earlier than this February:

Ukranian child shot in the head by his American adoptive father. Who was “teaching the boy to shoot” at the time.

“The [Texas] school district was sponsoring the class as part of its program to arm teachers and other school employees, in response to the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre and the NRA’s call for America to arm its schools. […] You can guess what happened next.

“A school district in New York has put a program to put armed officers in schools on hold after a policeman’s handgun went off at Highland High School.

“A Massachusetts police dog was digging in a snow bank early Saturday morning found what he was looking for: not only did police canine Ivan discover a stolen handgun, he fired it too.

“A 3-year-old boy from Manchester, Tennessee was left in critical condition over the weekend after being shot while handling a small gun that an adult left sitting on a nearby counter-top.

“Family and friends in Michigan are mourning the death of a 4-year-old Jackson County deputy’s son, who accidentally shot and killed himself over the weekend.

A 6-year-old Toms River boy was shot in the head with a .22 caliber rifle early tonight while in the yard of a 4-year-old neighbor, police said. […] He said police were investigating whether the 4-year-old boy pulled the trigger or the rifle accidentally discharged.”

“[W]hy can’t we come up with a technology that would keep a gun from going off when it is being held by a child? […] It turns out — why is this not a surprise? — that such technologies already exist. […] Why aren’t these lifesaving technologies in widespread use? No surprise here, either: The usual irrational opposition from the National Rifle Association and gun absolutists, who claim, absurdly, that a gun that only can be fired by its owner somehow violates the Second Amendment.”

Gun control statistics. Lots of them. January 17, 2013

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First, let’s get one thing straight: the people who want to sell more guns don’t want anyone else looking too closely at the effects of selling more guns. It’s Big Tobacco all over again.

Paul D. Thacker for Slate, “How Congress Blocked Research on Gun Violence: The ugly campaign by the NRA to shut down studies at the CDC

PT: About as many people in the United States are killed in auto accidents as by firearms. How does the amount of research and number of scientists in auto safety compare to firearm safety?

GW: I believe that 2012 will turn out to be the first year in which the United States has more deaths from firearm violence than motor vehicles.

An entire federal agency, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has as its mission the understanding and prevention of death and injury on our roads and highways. It reports fiscal year 2012 funding of $62.4 million overall for research and analysis: $35.5 million for vehicle safety and $26.9 million for highway safety.

These funds are well spent. For nearly 50 years, this agency has worked to reduce death and injury. And it has succeeded. […]

PT: Have you experienced personal attempts at intimidation for your research? How about colleagues?

GW: I won’t speak for colleagues. The president of one of the largest handgun manufacturers in the country once told me, face to face, how much money he had committed to an intimidation effort and advised me to keep my life insurance paid up. There was a time when federal law enforcement agents recommended that I wear a ballistic vest.

And now, on to a whole lot of people who’ve come up with numbers anyway.

Wiebe DJ, 2003, via PubMed, “Homicide and suicide risks associated with firearms in the home: a national case-control study

CONCLUSION:

Having a gun at home is a risk factor for adults to be shot fatally (gun homicide) or commit suicide with a firearm. Physicians should continue to discuss with patients the implications of keeping guns at home. Additional studies are warranted to address study limitations and to better understand the implications of firearm ownership.

Charles Blow for the New York Times, “On Guns, America Stands Out

Sometimes I think the best argument is raw data. This is one of those times.

In the wake of the horrible school shooting in Connecticut and on the heels of politicians finally being smoked out into the open to talk seriously about sensible gun control policies, it’s important that we understand just how anomalous America is on the issues of guns and violence among developed countries. This table shows how shamefully we measure up against other countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Among the O.E.C.D. countries that the World Bank groups as “high income,” America has the highest gun homicide rate, the highest number of guns per capita and the highest rate of deaths due to assault. In fact, America has more homicides by gun than all of the other high-income O.E.C.D. countries combined.

The editors of the New York Times, “In Other Countries, Laws Are Strict and Work

Australia is an excellent example. In 1996, a “pathetic social misfit,” as a judge described the lone gunman, killed 35 people with a spray of bullets from semiautomatic weapons. Within weeks, the Australian government was working on gun reform laws that banned assault weapons and shotguns, tightened licensing and financed gun amnesty and buyback programs.

At the time, the prime minister, John Howard, said, “We do not want the American disease imported into Australia.” The laws have worked. The American Journal of Law and Economics reported in 2010 that firearm homicides in Australia dropped 59 percent between 1995 and 2006. In the 18 years before the 1996 laws, there were 13 gun massacres resulting in 102 deaths, according to Harvard researchers, with none in that category since.

Research from the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, on the links between gun control and gun homicide:

Our review of the academic literature found that a broad array of evidence indicates that gun availability is a risk factor for homicide, both in the United States and across high-income countries. Case-control studies, ecological time-series and cross-sectional studies indicate that in homes, cities, states and regions in the US, where there are more guns, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide.

Nicholas Kristof for the New York Times, “Looking for Lessons in Newtown

If you were at home at night and heard creaking downstairs, wouldn’t you want a Glock in your night stand?

Frankly, at that moment, I might. And then I might creep downstairs and fire at a furtive figure in the darkened kitchen — perhaps my son returning from college to surprise the family. Or, God forbid, somebody who lives in the house might use the Glock to commit suicide.

The gun lobby often cites the work of John Lott, who argued that more guns mean less crime, but scholars have since thoroughly debunked Lott’s arguments. Published research makes it clear that having a gun in the home simply makes it more likely that you will be shot — by your partner or by yourself. Americans are safer if they rely on 911 for protection rather than on a gun.

Medical statistics from Mercer University in Georgia, hosted on University of Utah web space: “Gun Control Issues, Public Health, and Safety

A study of 626 shootings in or around a residence in three U.S. cities revealed that, for every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides (Kellermann et al, 1998). Over 50% of all households in the U.S. admit to having firearms (Nelson et al, 1987). In another study, regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and suicide in the home (Dahlberg, Ikeda and Kresnow, 2004).

[…] Individuals in possession of a gun at the time of an assault are 4.46 times more likely to be shot in the assault than persons not in possession (Branas et al, 2009). It would appear that, rather than being used for defense, most of these weapons inflict injuries on the owners and their families.

Elisabeth Rosenthal for the New York Times, “More Guns = More Killing

I recently visited some Latin American countries that mesh with the N.R.A.’s vision of the promised land, where guards with guns grace every office lobby, storefront, A.T.M., restaurant and gas station. It has not made those countries safer or saner.

Despite the ubiquitous presence of “good guys” with guns, countries like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela have some of the highest homicide rates in the world. […]

In Guatemala, riding a public bus is a risky business. More than 500 bus drivers have been killed in robberies since 2007, leading InSight Crime, which tracks organized crime in the Americas, to call it “the most dangerous profession on the planet.” And when bullets start flying, everyone is vulnerable: in 2010 the onboard tally included 155 drivers, 54 bus assistants, 71 passengers and 14 presumed criminals. Some were killed by the robbers’ bullets and some by gun-carrying passengers.

Meg at Cognitive Dissonance, “On “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”

In 2009, the latest year for which the Center for Disease Control has national statistics, there were 16,799 deaths from homicide in the U.S. — of those, 11,493 were committed with a firearm. That means of the homicides committed in the U.S., 32% used something other than a firearm. According to the Department of Justice, the likelihood of surviving a violent attack increases dramatically without the presence of a firearm by either civilian or criminal.

[…] In conclusion, it was harder and more arduous to adopt my cat than to purchase a gun. I’m glad it’s tough to adopt. It’s fucked that it’s harder than buying the guns.

Researchers for the Children’s Defense Foundation, “Protect Children, Not Guns 2012

In 2008, 2,947 children and teens died from guns in the United States and 2,793 died in 2009 for a total of 5,740—one child or teen every three hours, eight every day, 55 every week for two years. Six times as many children and teens—34,387—suffered nonfatal gun injuries as gun deaths in 2008 and 2009. This is equal to one child or teen every 31 minutes, 47 every day, and 331 children and teens every week.

On gun control in America. December 18, 2012

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I was going to do the usual one-line-each link roundup, but decided there was too much worth quoting. Paragraphs ahead. More to come.

Nicholas D. Kristof for the New York Times, “Do We Have the Courage to Stop This?

Children ages 5 to 14 in America are 13 times as likely to be murdered with guns as children in other industrialized countries, according to David Hemenway, a public health specialist at Harvard who has written an excellent book on gun violence.

So let’s treat firearms rationally as the center of a public health crisis that claims one life every 20 minutes. The United States realistically isn’t going to ban guns, but we can take steps to reduce the carnage.

American schoolchildren are protected by building codes that govern stairways and windows. School buses must meet safety standards, and the bus drivers have to pass tests. Cafeteria food is regulated for safety. The only things we seem lax about are the things most likely to kill. […]

As one of my Facebook followers wrote after I posted about the shooting, “It is more difficult to adopt a pet than it is to buy a gun.”

Look, I grew up on an Oregon farm where guns were a part of life; and my dad gave me a .22 rifle for my 12th birthday. I understand: shooting is fun! But so is driving, and we accept that we must wear seat belts, use headlights at night, and fill out forms to buy a car. Why can’t we be equally adult about regulating guns?

Cliff Schecter for AlterNet, “5 Issues That Divide Gun Owners and NRA Leadership

So whether the NRA is working to restore gun rights to violent felons , protect the ability of terrorists, drug kingpins and serial domestic abusers to purchase high-capacity clips at gun shows, or fighting for military style weapons to be available to the Jared Loughners, John Patrick Bedells and James Holmes’ of the world, you can bet that whatever comes out of LaPierre’s mouth, his only interest is protecting the real clients of today’s NRA: arms dealers .

This is made crystal-clear by the fact that the NRA’s own membership, many of whom joined only because of an outdated understanding of what the leadership of this organization actually stands for, agree with most Americans that our gun laws should protect our families, and not the financial interests of a clique of craven elites.

[…]

2. Terror Gap

If you are put on the U.S. terror watch list you cannot board an airplane. You can, however, still purchase guns and explosives. According to the Government Accountability Office , “From February 2004 through February 2010, 1,228 individuals on the watch list underwent background checks to purchase firearms or explosives; 1,119, or 91 percent, of these transactions were approved.”

NRA members understand this even if their leadership stubbornly tries to protect the gun-ownership rights of terrorists (but they’re patriots, I tell you!). Eighty-two percent of NRA members think this gap should be closed.

Mark Follman, Gavin Aronsen, and Deanna Pan for Jezebel, “A Guide to Mass Shootings in America

It’s perhaps too easy to forget how many times this has happened. The horrific mass murder at a movie theater in Colorado on July 20, another at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on August 5, another at a manufacturer in Minneapolis on September 27—and now the unthinkable nightmare at a Connecticut elementary school on December 14—are the latest in an epidemic of such gun violence over the last three decades. Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass murders* carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii. We’ve mapped them below, including details on the shooters’ identities, the types of weapons they used, and the number of victims they injured and killed.

Weapons: Of the 142 guns possessed by the killers, more than three quarters were obtained legally. The arsenal included dozens of assault weapons and semiautomatic handguns. (See charts below.) Just as Jeffrey Weise used a .40-caliber Glock to slaughter students in Red Lake, Minnesota, in 2005, so too did James Holmes, along with an AR-15 assault rifle, when blasting away at his victims in a darkened movie theater. In Newtown, Connecticut, Adam Lanza wielded two handguns and a .223 Bushmaster semiautomatic assault rifle as he massacred 20 school children and six adults.

Ezra Klein for the Washington Post, “Twelve facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States

When we first collected much of this data, it was after the Aurora, Colo. shootings, and the air was thick with calls to avoid “politicizing” the tragedy. That is code, essentially, for “don’t talk about reforming our gun control laws.”

Let’s be clear: That is a form of politicization. When political actors construct a political argument that threatens political consequences if other political actors pursue a certain political outcome, that is, almost by definition, a politicization of the issue. It’s just a form of politicization favoring those who prefer the status quo to stricter gun control laws.

[…]

2. Eleven of the 20 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place in the United States.

Time has the full list here. In second place is Finland, with two entries.

Mark Landler and Peter Baker for the New York Times, “‘These Tragedies Must End,’ Obama Says

“No single law, no set of laws can eliminate evil from the world or prevent every senseless act of violence in our society,” he said. “But that can’t be an excuse for inaction.” He added that “in the coming weeks I’ll use whatever power this office holds” in an effort “aimed at preventing more tragedies like this.”

“Because what choice do we have?” he added. “We can’t accept events like this as routine. Are we really prepared to say that we’re powerless in the face of such carnage? That the politics are too hard? Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?”

The relevant WhiteHouse.gov petition is still open, and will be for several more weeks.