Florida State Senator Starts an AR-15 Giveaway Contest

State Sen. Greg Evers, who is looking to make the jump to U.S. Congress in the First District in the Panhandle, announced today his “Homeland Defender” AR-15 rifle giveaway on Facebook. Anyone can enter by liking and sharing his Facebook status, and Evers will select a winner on the Fourth of July.

“With terrorism incidents on the rise, both at home and abroad, protecting our constitutional rights has never been more important,” Evers said in a prepared statement. “With all that’s happening in the world today, I’ve never felt stronger about the importance of the Second Amendment in protecting our homeland than I do now.”

The rifle was made by a company within the district and has the text of the Second Amendment etched onto its side.

However, you don’t need to be a member of a well-regulated militia to win it. Anyone 18 or older in the district who can pass a background check is eligible to win the grand prize.

Evers, the scion of a famed Florida fertilizer family, has a well-known penchant for guns. In the Florida Senate, he recently coauthored a bill that would have allowed people with concealed-carry permits to bring guns onto Florida college campuses. The bill, controversial even among some fellow Republicans, ended up being defeated in the latest legislative session. He was also behind a successfully passed bill that prevents schools from punishing students who play with simulated weapons. It suffices to say that Evers has a lifetime A+ rating from the National Rifle Association.

Evers’ contest will add one more AR-15 semiautomatic rifle (the civilian version of the military’s fully automatic M16) to the estimated 10 million to 12 million that are already out there in America. Of course, of those millions of civilian assault rifles, not a single one has actually stopped a case of terrorism on American soil.

AR-15-style rifles are powerful weapons capable of shooting off as many rounds a second as the user can pull the trigger (unless, of course, that user has a perfectly legal Bump Fire Stock, which removes the need for repeated trigger pulling). The gun is so powerful it’s shunned by hunting purists and isn’t recommended for amateur home defense unless the user wants to risk shooting through his own walls and even into neighbor’s homes.

Gun control proponents believe that obtaining such a weapon shouldn’t be as easy as it is in a state like Florida. In this case, however, obtaining one can be as simple as clicking a few buttons on Facebook.

The Sunshine States’s superconservative First District was once the stomping grounds of MSNBC host Joe Scarborough. Current officeholder Rep. Jeff Miller is retiring. Evers’ biggest competition in the Republican primary is State Rep. Matt Gaetz. Gaetz also has an NRA-approved track record on guns.

After Orlando Massacre, Rick Scott Wants Police To Monitor Refugees

Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) has spent this week attending the funerals of the victims of the weekend’s massacre at a gay nightclub in Orlando — the deadliest ever committed by a single shooter in U.S. history. But when asked by CNN Friday morning about the role Florida’s lax gun laws played in the murders, he refused to answer. Scott instead called for police surveillance of refugees and other immigrants, despite the fact that the gunman was a U.S. citizen born in Queens, New York.

“When you come into our country, this is our country. Why are you coming here?” he said, stumbling over his words. “Then if we do that to somebody, and allow them in, why not share it with local law enforcement?”

Scott then recounted a recent demand he made of President Obama’s administration that had no connection whatsoever to the attack in Orlando: “If you allow Syrian refugee in my state, will you share that information with me, the background checks? They said no. Come on. I’m responsible for the public. Give me a break.”

Watch:

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“The Second Amendment didn’t kill anybody. This is ISIS. This is evil. This is radical Islam.”

Though Orlando shooter Omar Mateen allegedly pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a 911 call during the shooting, the CIA announced this week that they have found no evidence he had any ties to the terrorist group. Instead, more evidence has surfaced that Mateen was deeply conflicted about his own sexuality; though known for homophobic rants, he had visited the gay nightclub regularly and had profiles on gay dating apps.

Mateen was able to legally buy a gun in Florida just days before the attack, despite having previously been on an FBI terrorist watch list. He was one of thousands of people suspected of terrorism who legally purchased firearms over the past few years alone, thanks to a loophole in federal law.

Yet the fact that Mateen was a U.S. citizen has not stopped many Republicans politicians from blaming immigrants and refugees for putting the country at risk.

Presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump had a similar response to the mass shooting, at first mistakenly calling Mateen an immigrant, then clarifying that his parents were immigrants from Afghanistan. Trump has backed a conspiracy theory that President Obama is intentionally allowing Muslim immigrants into the U.S knowing that they will commit atrocities.

This Is The Gun That Committed The Deadliest Shooting In U.S. History

How was Omar Saddiqui Mateen able to carry out the deadliest massacre by a single gunman in U.S. history? By bringing “America’s gun of choice” into a closed and crowded space.

Orlando police recovered an AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle at Pulse, the gay nightclub that Mateen chose as his target. He reportedly bought the AR-15 and a handgun legally within the last few days.

Without the semiautomatic rifle, which allows a shooter to fire off many rounds at once without reloading, it would have been harder to inflict quite as much damage in such a short period of time.

The AR-15 is the most popular rifle in the U.S.; there are an estimated 9 million in circulation as of 2014.

It was also the gun of choice for the massacres in San Bernardino, California, where 16 people at a holiday party were gunned down, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, where 26 children and staffers were murdered, and at the movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, where twelve were killed.

The rifle is a favorite in part because it’s highly customizable, the NRA blog notes. It also accommodates high capacity magazines that can fire off 100 rounds or more within minutes.

Another contributing factor to its popularity is the gun lobby’s fearmongering after every mass shooting. Though the federal government has never attempted to mass-confiscate guns, the NRA and other groups often warn that the government will respond to each shooting by cracking down. As a result, assault rifle sales skyrocket in the wake of each attack.

The NRA claims the rifle is primarily used for hunting, but hunters find the rifles sloppy and controversial. The model is actually marketed more toward civilians who want to play war. Colt’s first AR-15 model in the 1960s was inspired by civilian interest in the automatic version of the rifle the company had sold to the U.S. military as the M16.

AR-15 style rifles were once illegal under the federal assault weapons ban, which expired in 2004. Evidence is mixed on how effective the ban was at reducing gun violence. However, as a Center for American Progress report pointed out, assault weapons like the AR-15 were significantly less regulated than handguns after the ban expired. Since the federal ban expired, some states and cities have taken it upon themselves to ban semiautomatic and automatic weapons, though Florida has not.

Parents of some of the children killed in Newtown recently advanced a lawsuit against the manufacturers of the AR-15, arguing that the companies are liable for their loved ones’ deathsbecause they market the gun as a military grade weapon “engineered to deliver maximum carnage with extreme efficiency.”

Why Can Florida Adults With Mental Illness Still Buy Guns?

After every tragic, gun-related suicide the question inevitably arises: Why, in a country that purportedly mandates background checks and champions mental health, was a suicidal person permitted to purchase a firearm? Now, a new study in Health Affairs sheds light on the loopholes in our background check system, which allow people with serious mental illness in Florida to legally purchase guns—even after involuntary mental health examinations and hospitalizations.

“Our federal gun regulations pertaining to mental illness prohibit lots of people from accessing firearms who are not violent, and never will be,” coauthor Jeffrey W. Swanson of Duke University said in a press statement. “At the same time, they fail to identify some people who will be violent or suicidal. With these data, we can improve criteria for restrictions that might actually reduce gun violence, but also carefully balance risk and rights.”

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Gun violence and suicide are growing problems in the United States. Studies have shown that states with higher rates of gun ownership also have higher rates of gun-related suicides, and one report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that there were at least 21,175 firearm suicides in 2013, alone—accounting for nearly half of all suicides that year.

Unfortunately, politics make it tricky to study this phenomenon without raising the ire of the gun lobby and Congress is still actively preventing the CDC from conducting meaningful gun violence research. And that’s a shame, because independent studies have consistently proven that a scientific approach—rather than a hotheaded political one—could reduce these tragedies without sacrificing individual freedoms.

Regardless, as long as Congress continues to prevent the CDC from performing robust research, privately funded studies will continue to be our best resource for preventing gun violence. For this particular study, researchers examined gun use, violent crime, and suicide among 81,704 people diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression in Florida between 2002 and 2012. During the study period, they found that 254 study subjects had committed suicide and that 50 of them had used a gun to kill themselves.

Shockingly, a full 72 percent were legally eligible to buy guns—despite their clear diagnoses of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, or major depression.

This loophole was based in a (now, thankfully defunct) Florida law that stated only mental health patients who had been involuntarily committed were prohibited from purchasing firearms. In other words, a schizophrenia, bipolar, or depression patient who had been involuntarily examined and even hospitalized for his or her own safety could still buy a gun in Florida as of 2012, as long as he or she had never been involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital by court order. And even though Florida has since tightened up these lax laws, officials are still not permitted to seize a patient’s guns after he or she has been diagnosed with a serious psychiatric disorder. So as long as someone buys a small arsenal before receiving a diagnosis, he or she can keep the weapons!

The authors suggest that many gun-related suicides could be prevented if states would prohibit people who have been involuntarily held during any mental health crisis—regardless of whether they were formally committed to a psychiatric hospital—from buying firearms from federally licensed dealers. “These individuals have already been identified during a previous mental health crisis,” Swanson says. “They haven’t been committed, but we know they’re at increased risk of harming themselves or others. This is a lost public health opportunity in many states.”

Meanwhile, Swanson and his team recognize that their results are limited to a specific population, and not necessarily applicable to other states and situations. But they hope that their study will nonetheless help guide federal and state efforts to reduce gun violence in meaningful ways. “The study in Florida is one piece of the puzzle, and we want to continue to build evidence from different states to draw a better picture of how these laws work under different conditions,” Swanson says.

“We live in a country where private gun ownership is cherished, constitutionally protected, and very prevalent. Gun violence is a challenging problem in the U.S., and one that requires a lot of careful thinking and research to bring evidence to bear for these policies.”

American Cops Shot and Killed More Than 900 People in 2015

As the nation continues to grapple with a daunting police brutality crisis, the latest statistics once again prove that widespread police reform can’t come soon enough. Citing the 2015 rate of police killings by firearm as “well more than double” the average number reported annually by the FBI over the past ten years, the Washington Post revealed their final tally on Wednesday.

With the fatal shooting of 23-year-old Keith Childress Jr. on New Year’s Eve in Las Vegas, the United States marked its 984th (and final) police killing by firearm in 2015. Though the “vast majority” of those shot and killed during these 12 months were reportedly armed and half of them were white, black people were fatally shot by cops at a rate three times higher than that of white citizens (when adjusted for population).​ 40 percent of those shot and killed while unarmed were black men, although the group accounts for just six percent of the country’s total population.

These figures, though startling, are in line with the Guardian‘s recently revealed 2015 statistics on the total number of police killings. Though most of these incidents of police brutality would appear to involve a firearm, the Guardian‘s figures also revealed seemingly high numbers for Taser-involved deaths.

“They just gunned him down,” Childress’ mother, Jacqueline Lawrence, tells thePost of her son’s death . “They said he had a gun, but he had a cellphone in his hand.” The family is reportedly planning a wrongful death lawsuit. Thus far, as many as 11 people have been fatally shot by police in 2016.

President Barack Obama Reveals Executive Actions on Gun Control During Emotional Press Conference

After weeks of speculation surrounding the possibility of President Barack Obama issuing executive actions on the nation’s dire need for a stronger focus on gun control, Obama revealed his plans to help reduce the prevalence of gun-related violence across the country. Ahead of the announcement, so-called gun rights activists immediately started to stir up controversy surrounding the possibility of stricter background checks for those wishing to purchase firearms. Obama, however, pushed forward with his initiative before ultimately revealing his plan during a White House press conference on Tuesday.

Mark Barden, the father of Sandy Hook victim Daniel Barden, introduced Obama and Vice President Joe Biden by reminding the nation that Obama previously “made a promise” that he would do “everything in his power” to keep the nation safe from preventable gun violence. “I still remember the first time we met,” Obama said to Barden when taking the podium. “That changed me that day and my hope earnestly has been that it would change the country.”

“Too many,” Obama said after recounting the recent outburst of mass shooting in the United States. “Every single year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns. Suicides, domestic violence, gang shoot-outs, accidents. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters or buried their own children. Many have had to learn to live with a disability [or] without the love of their life. A number of those people are here today. They can tell you some stories. In this room right here, there are a lot of stories.”

“We are the only advanced country on Earth that sees that kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency,” Obama added, pointing to the notion that violence is not a uniquely American problem. “We start thinking this is normal.” Speaking directly to conspiracy theorists that continue to perpetuate the notion that Obama is somehow planning to do away with the Second Amendment outright, Obama hesitated very little in rebuking such falsities. “I taught constitutional law,” Obama quipped. “I know a little about this.”

Though background checks are required at designated “gun stores,” some gun sellers are not required to operate under the same set of quite reasonable rules. “Everyone should have to abide by the same rules,” Obama said. The POTUS even referenced some Republican rivals’ previous statements in apparent accord with the expansion of background check requirements, including two particularly unlikely sources: George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

“I reject that thinking,” Obama said in response to the “Why bother?” argument proposed by pacifists. “At the same time that Sandy Hook happened, a disturbed person in China took a knife and tried to kill a bunch of children,” Obama reminded the nation, “but most of them survived because he didn’t have access to a powerful weapon.”

Until Congress acts appropriately on the issue of gun law reform, Obama is confident his decision to use his legal authority of executive action to expand background checks to all forms of gun purchases (digital and physical) will help move gun control in the right direction in the years ahead. “We’re also taking steps to making the background check system more efficient,” Obama added. “We’re going to bring an outdated background check system into the 21st century.”

“If we can do it for your iPad,” Obama said of the ability to track a stolen iPad with ease from the comfort of one’s home, “[then] we can do it with a stolen gun.” Adding that some retailers have already “stepped up” to support these proposals, Obama asks all retailers to take the task of gun safety seriously. “Every time I think about those kids, it gets me mad,” Obama said of the horrific Sandy Hook massacre. “And, by the way, it happens on the streets of Chicago every day.”