Morning Digest: GOP congressman calls for impeaching judges who redrew his gerrymandered seat

The Daily Kos Elections Morning Digest is compiled by David Nir, Jeff Singer, Stephen Wolf, and Carolyn Fiddler, with additional contributions from David Jarman, Steve Singiser, Daniel Donner, James Lambert, David Beard, and Arjun Jaikumar.

Leading Off

PA-06, PA-09: No member of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation has behaved quite as badly in response to the state’s new map as supposedly “moderate” Republican Rep. Ryan Costello. Costello not called the lines “1,000 percent partisan,” a Democratic gerrymander in “disguise,” and “racist”. But most disturbingly, he threw all pretense at believing in the rule of law out the porthole and declared, “It’s just another reason why these Supreme Court justices should be impeached,” joining a growing chorus of top-ranking state Republicans who have floated the idea.​

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​Costello is miserable, you see, because the new map shifted his 6th District from a seat that Hillary Clinton carried by barely half a point to one she won by a much heftier 53-43 margin. But Little Red Whining Hood does have a way to escape the clutches of Big Bad Governor Wolf: He could instead run in the new 9th District, which is solidly red (Trump won it 65-31), is home to no GOP incumbent, and is made up of about a quarter of his old seat.

About this possibility, Costello says, “I haven’t done any political evaluation,” but hey, we just did it for him. (No need to return the favor.) And the Democrat Costello was most likely to face in the old 6th District, former Air Force officer Chrissy Houlahan, also just gave Costello a nudge by announcing she’d already raised $ 340,000 at the halfway mark of this quarter, so Costello would be wise to take the hint—unless he wants to get eaten.

Daily Kos

Arming Teachers to Stop Gun Violence Is One of the Worst Trump Ideas Yet

The president thinks the solution to school shootings is having more guns in school.

On Wednesday, President Donald Trump endorsed one of the worst ideas to prevent school shootings: Arming teachers.

“If you had a teacher who was adept at firearms, they could very well end the attack very quickly,” Trump said at a “listening session” with survivors of the recent attack in Parkland, Florida.

Every time the country's attention turns to the problem of gun violence, critics of gun control turn to this idea. It never makes any sense.

Here are a few of the many things that could go wrong with teachers having guns at school:

  • A student could gain access to the firearm
  • Someone could discharge the firearm accidentally, which happens all the time
  • The gun could go missing, causing panic
  • A teacher could misuse the weapon for any number of reasons

And these consequences don't even touch on the effects on students, including those struggling with anxiety, who would know their teachers are or might be in possession of a loaded gun. 

Even in cases that defenders of this idea think are ideal, it's far from clear that armed teachers improve the situation. Mother Jones found that there's no credible instance of the mythical “good guy with a gun” actually stopping a mass shooter. And people who try can cause even more problems for cops who are trying to respond to the situation. The armed teachers could identify the wrong person as the shooter, accidentally fire at a bystander, or be mistaken for the shooter themselves. They're almost certainly better off in these horrible situations doing their best to protect students and letting the police do their jobs.

But this idea isn't even really meant to be taken seriously. Trump himself once blasted Hillary Clinton for saying that he wanted “guns brought into the school classroom,” which shows that even he even recognized how bad an idea it is.

The NRA and their allies talk about this idea because they have nothing else to say. They have no actual solutions to reduce gun violence in the United States, and they're absolutely opposed to any of the ideas that would actually work. That's why we're in this mess and keep having this conversation. 

 

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Abbreviated pundit round-up: Why must only one side in gun culture war show respect? Impeach Thomas?

E.J. Dionne Jr. at The Washington Post writes—Why is only one side in the gun culture war required to show respect?

You have perhaps heard the joke about the liberal who is so open-minded that he can’t even take his own side in an argument.

What’s less funny is that on gun control, liberals (and their many allies who are moderate, conservative and nonideological) have been told for years that if they do take their own side in the argument, they will only hurt their cause.

Supporters of even modest restrictions on firearms are regularly instructed that their ardent advocacy turns off Americans in rural areas and small towns. Those in favor of reforming our firearms laws are scolded as horrific elitists who disrespect a valued way of life.

And as the mass killings continue, we are urged to be patient and to spend our time listening earnestly to the views of those who see even a smidgen of action to limit access to guns as the first step toward confiscation. Our task is not to fight for laws to protect innocents, but to demonstrate that we really, honestly, truly, cross-our-hearts, positively love gun owners and wouldn’t for an instant think anything ill of them.

What is odd is that those with extreme pro-gun views — those pushing for new laws to allow people to carry just about anytime, anywhere — are never called upon to model similar empathy toward children killed, the mourning parents left behind, people in urban neighborhoods suffering from violence, or the majority of Americans who don’t own guns.

x

Guys, I’m a college professor.I’ve also been shooting guns my entire life and own multiple guns now.I don’t trust myself to be able to capably defend a classroom against a shooter, and I’m a good shot.Why would we expect teachers everywhere to bear this responsibility?

— Josh Grubbs (@JoshuaGrubbsPhD) February 21, 2018
Daily Kos

The Right Wing Has Falsely Accused Activists of Being ‘Paid Protesters’ for 50 Years

The despicable attacks against the Parkland shooting survivors are part of a long tradition of right-wing conspiracy theories.

Right-wing conspiracy theorists are raging against a bunch of teenagers. Even Donald Trump Jr. liked one such tweet on Twitter, and a since-fired aide of Florida State Rep. Shawn Harrison has claimed that the student activists decrying lax gun regulations that allowed a massacre to take place at their high school are actually “actors that travel to various crisis when they happen.” The impact of these outrageous accusations can’t be dismissed; one video claiming 17-year-old David Hogg is a paid actor was the number-one top trending link on YouTube Wednesday and was viewed hundreds of thousands of times before YouTube removed it. As right-winger conspiracy theorists continue to spread their lies, it’s worth noting that the right has used this tactic repeatedly at other divisive moments in history.

As historian Kevin Kruse pointed out on Twitter, in 1967 the NAACP actually had to respond to outrageous accusations that the Little Rock Nine were paid protesters funded by the civil rights advocacy group.

In a response, historian Heather Richardson said the trend goes back much further. “Actually, this trope goes all the way back to Reconstruction,” she wrote on Twitter. “African Americans demanding equal accommodations under the 1875 Civil Rights Act were… you guessed it… paid by agitators trying to cause trouble for law-abiding folks.”

In recent history, some on the right have resorted to this accusation time and time again. This line of attack popped up in 2005 after Cindy Sheehan made headlines for vocally protesting the Iraq war, in which her son, a soldier, had been killed. Conservatives dismissed Sheehan, called her a liar and planted the seed that she was being paid for her activism. The conservative weekly newspaper Human Events called Sheehan a “professional griever” who was “in perpetual mourning for her fallen son.”

We last saw the refrain of “paid protesters” during 2017's healthcare town hall blowups. Breitbart News regularly published articles accusing George Soros of funding the protesters who challenged GOP lawmakers on their efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Family Research Council CEO Tony Perkins claimed, without evidence, that Soros was “shipping” protesters in from out of state. 

It’s a line that fits nicely into the right-wing narrative framing progressive players as “outside agitators” to delegitimize their concerns, and has become a regular conservative talking point in the Trump era. Wayne LaPierre, vice president of the NRA, claimed last year that protesters demonstrating around the time of Trump’s inauguration were paid $ 1,500 per day. Now we can barely go a week without some new nutty theory about a Soros-funded protest. All have been debunked, and spokespeople for Soros’ Open Society Foundations continue to explain that the organization freely and legally invests in progressive activism, but does not pay individuals on the ground for the express purpose of protesting.

The notion that progressives are being paid to protest has inspired many good jokes on the left. But these accusations must be taken seriously and understood in a political-historical context. Conspiracy theorist and provocateur Alex Jones rose to national fame thanks to his outrageous falsehood that the Sandy Hook massacre was a hoax. Since then, he has taken full advantage of his amplified platform to spread more hateful lies. Now other would-be Joneses are trying to mimic his time-tested strategy, and in a climate of widespread antagonism toward credible news agencies that is frequently stoked by Donald Trump, they will undoubtedly garner some believers. 


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Trump’s family leave plan is far too weak – but there is a better idea | Ellen Bravo

The White House proposal offers too little time and covers too few scenarios. But a bill before Congress offers hope

When her husband was dying of lung cancer, Christine LaVault had to kiss him goodbye each morning and go to work, not sure whether he’d be alive when she returned. Nancy Yarborough stayed by her mother’s side in her final days but had to spend years digging out of debt as a result. And everywhere in the US, children with cancer lie in hospital beds alone because their parents might lose their jobs and health insurance or the ability to pay the rent if they took time to be at the child’s side.

Finally, politicians of all stripes are starting to offer plans for paid leave. But the rejoicing depends on those devilish details.

Continue reading…
US politics | The Guardian

Trump administration again proposes the full elimination of home heating assistance to the poor

Just as it did last year, the Trump administration is targeting home heating assistance for the poor. As in they’re proposing it be completely zeroed out.

The program, known as LIHEAP — Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program — helps families pay their heating bills primarily in the form of a grant that’s sent directly to utility companies or heating fuel vendors.

President Donald Trump tried to eradicate the program last year, but encountered resistance in Congress. In October, he released nearly $ 3 billion, or roughly 90 percent, of the funding.

The assistance is modest, and is meant to keep low-income Americans, including the elderly and those with critical medical needs, from literally freezing to death in their homes. That’s all it does: It keeps people from dying. It helps about 6 million families, and the administration wants to zero it out because they Do Not Care, and because if you’re going to give rich assholes trillion-dollar tax breaks you’ve got to find the money from somewhere. Republican budget makers have been very consistent in targeting the poor as the people to squeeze that money out of; in spite of that, LIHEAP has been begrudgingly tolerated by Republican lawmakers because the images of elderly Americans being carried into hearses after a cold snap is widely suspected, by cold-state Republicans, to be something their voters would absolutely not put up with.

The official Trump administration line is that the program is susceptible to “fraud,” which is the rote claim announced every time conservative burn-it-downers want to cut food aid to the poor, or medical aid to the poor, or any other program that they want to see the end of. Since the time of Reagan they have invented notions of scary undeserving people buying Cadillacs or dining on lobster on the taxpayer dime, every claim used to argue that programs meant to keep poor Americans from dying in the streets or in their homes are a luxury we cannot afford, not when our nation’s wealthy assholes are suffering from a tax burden already less than half of that faced by the ancestors they inherited the money from. (Our modern generation of wealthy assholes are, to be sure, among the more fragile people on the planet.)

Daily Kos

Donald Trump Jr.’s Indian Vacation: The Family Cash-Grab Continues

Don Jr. makes a big overseas trip that’s “strictly business”—selling access in the most blatant way imaginable.

There's a lot going on with the Mueller investigation this week, with a previously unknown Dutch lawyer pleading guilty to lying to the FBI about his phone calls with Trump's deputy campaign manager and shady Ukrainians and all. These latest charges from the special counsel are among the most obscure we've seen yet: They seem to be connected to some ugly episodes that took place in Ukraine in recent years under the direction of Paul Manafort, who later wormed his way into the Trump campaign and is now under indictment. There is no clear indication of exactly where this is going, which is certainly intriguing. Stay tuned for more.

Meanwhile, President Trump is still tweeting away, pretending to care about gun violence (along very careful lines obviously dictated by NRA head Wayne LaPierre) and publicly calling out women who have taken offense to his odious habit of kissing and groping them against their will. Meanwhile, the battles within the White House over the inability of half the staff to qualify for the security clearances they need to do their jobs continue, with everyone wondering whether Trump will grant his son-in-law Jared Kushner a clearance anyway so Kushner can get on with bringing about world peace.

It's a busy time for the president, so it's got to be a relief that the family business is in good hands and he doesn't have to give it his full attention from the Oval Office. After spending the weekend egging on his dad's Twitter rages and advising him strongly not to give an inch on gun control, Donald Trump Jr. immediately jetted off to India to sell condos and access to the highest reaches of the U.S. government in the most blatant way possible:

 

 

The AP reported:

The ads, which have run repeatedly in the past few days, herald the arrival not of the American president but of his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., who is in New Delhi to sell luxury apartments and lavish attention on wealthy Indians who have already bought units in a Trump-branded development outside the Indian capital.

The Trump Organization had agreed not to do any “new” deals overseas during Donald Trump's presidency, but it's still working the ones that were in progress and overseeing the existing contracts and properties. This project in India was in the works during the campaign, which may help explain the unusual amount of time and attention Trump paid to the Indian-American community. During the transition, Trump stunned observers by inviting his business partners to meet with him at Trump Tower to chat about the new opportunities available to them. The New York Times reported on it at the time:

“We will see a tremendous jump in valuation in terms of the second tower,” said Pranav R. Bhakta, a consultant who helped Mr. Trump’s organization make inroads into the Indian market five years ago. “To say, ‘I have a Trump flat or residence’ — it’s president-elect branded. It’s that recall value. If they didn’t know Trump before, they definitely know him now.”

 

 

When I wrote about this for Salon back in November of 2016, it seemed absurd to think this might continue once the president took office. But since Trump had done nothing to divest himself of the business before he ran, as other candidates had done before him, it was clear he wouldn't be able to do so in any kind of orderly fashion after he won. Still, at the time it was hard to imagine just how blatantly corrupt the family would be — and how little interest anyone would take in their massive conflicts of interest. After all, Trump had just won the election by tarring his opponent as “crooked.”

When Don Jr. hit India on Tuesday, the first thing he did was pose for photos with Kalpesh Mehta, the same gentleman with whom the president posed back in November of 2016. He immediately stuck his foot in his mouth, as the Los Angeles Times reports:

Asked to compare India with China as a place to invest, President Trump's eldest son — and acting head of his business empire — told journalists: “As a businessman, I feel things here are substantially more aboveboard.”

“I think the mentality of the people is the same,” the Press Trust of India quoted Trump Jr. as saying. “I think there is probably little bit more honesty.”

That might be fine for a businessman flattering his Indian partners, who see themselves as rivals to the Chinese. But the son of the president dissing China for being “dishonest” (as fatuous as that is coming from a Trump) carries a whole different meaning.

Trump Jr. says this is purely a business trip, but he will be giving a big policy address on Friday at an event with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and finance minister Arun Jaitley. Junior's speech is entitled “Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties,” which the State Department insists is just his personal view and has nothing to do with official American policy. You can imagine that the attendees might not understand that. He will speak right after the prime minister.

Oh, and Don Jr. also plans to attend lavish dinners to thank the Trump-brand condo buyers, which some people think looks like selling access to the White House by putting money directly into the family's personal coffers. This is, after all, a regular occurrence in the U.S. Just last weekend, Trump hobnobbed with the members of his exclusive Florida golf resort, asking them about the issues of the day. Those people pay $ 200,000 a year for the privilege of personally telling the president about their concerns. It's just how the Trump family rolls.

As Salon's Matthew Rosza reported on Tuesday, the billionaire scion went out of his way to compliment India for its nice poor people, who he says are very happy, unlike the unpleasantly solemn poor folks elsewhere in the world. It could have been worse. He didn't call India a “shithole,” or at least not yet.

This week The New Yorker published an interesting story by Jeffrey Toobin about the ways the senior Donald Trump used his ownership of the Miss Universe pageant to advantage his business deals in various countries. The pageant didn't get great ratings and wasn't a big moneymaker in its own right, but it served Trump's purposes in other ways. For instance, he unilaterally changed the votes so contestants from nations with whom he wanted to curry favor would win, and would locate the pageant in places where he was trying to make branding deals. That's the Trump business strategy. His family-owned business is doing the same thing today, but rather than using beauty-pageant contestants as bait, it's using the United States of America.

 

 

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We need aid that helps locals, not multinationals and bloated NGOs | Antony Loewenstein

I investigated in Afghanistan, Haiti and PNG. Too often I heard stories of western governments swooping in and dictating terms

Foreign aid has the power to save lives but also to corrupt nations. It’s regularly used as a political football as some argue for more financial support to the world’s most vulnerable people while others believe more money should be spent at home. It’s a false distinction, however, because the key issue is whether western aid is well targeted and empowering people to make their own choices on how to improve their lives, allowing them to eventually become more self-sufficient.

Related: Oxfam apologises to Haiti over sex allegations

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US politics | The Guardian

Austin official says prison blocked him from abused asylum seeker because he might talk to media

Austin City Councilman Greg Casar says T. Don Hutto Residential Center and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials blocked him from visiting Laura Monterrosa, the detained asylum seeker who was allegedly thrown in solitary confinement—this is torture—for 60 hours unless she recanted her allegations that she’s been harassed and sexually abused by a guard for months.

Casar sought to meet with Monterrosa, who has been suicidal in recent weeks, but says that a prison official told him their meeting would not happen because “he was a public official who might talk to the media before or after the visit.” Undeterred, Councilman Casar and advocates are calling for her release.

“In Austin, we strive to welcome refugees and asylum seekers, and our nonprofit community has offered to take care of Ms. Monterrosa as part of our family,” he said. Monterrosa has been detained since last summer, when she fled physical and sexual abuse in El Salvador, only to be again the victim of it in the U.S. at the hands of ICE and CoreCivic, the private prison company that runs Hutto.

Monterrosa has been speaking out for months, but says harassment tactics took a turn when the FBI took over her case after ICE and the sheriff’s office tried to close it. It was then that she was thrown into solitary. “The ICE official went as far as telling her that he expected her to recant her claim to the media,” said Grassroots Leadership, “or else she would be locked up again in solitary confinement indefinitely.”

Jonasu Wagstaff, a candidate running for Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 in Williamson County, called on city commissioners during a meeting to shut down the T. Don Hutto Residential Center, which has been the site of rampant sexual abuse and harassment for years. According to Women’s Refugee Commission, “in the spring of 2007, another guard at Hutto was terminated for having sex with a female detainee in her cell”:

[Wagstaff] said she knew the county had a “vested” interest in the center because a county representative is paid $ 8,000 per month to serve as a liaison to the center.

Commissioners did not comment during the meeting because the issue was not on their agenda.

CoreCivic, which owns and operates the facility, pays the county approximately $ 8,000 per month for the costs and expenses associated with employing a county representative to serve as a liaison between Williamson County, ICE and CoreCivic, said Williamson County spokeswoman Connie Watson.

The county can’t close the facility but it can cancel the contract with CoreCivic and ICE, she said.

Daily Kos

5 Places Hypocritical Republicans Ban Guns for Their Own Personal Safety

Do as they say, not as they do.

After every mass shooting, a portion of this country insists the real problem is that there aren’t enough guns. The group that pushes this absurd lie includes Republican politicians, many of whom fear that admitting otherwise would drive away NRA donor funds. There's been a lot of recent discussion about how GOP legislators do nothing in response to gun massacres, but a 2016 Harvard Business School study proves that's not quite true. In states with overwhelmingly Republican legislative bodies, after mass shootings, “the number of laws passed to loosen gun restrictions [increases] by 75 percent.” Despite being counterintuitive and demonstrably dangerous, more firepower is the GOP's go-to solution because “something something don’t tread on me.”

It's a bad-faith proposition. A party that truly believes guns are the way out of this thing, and that an even more heavily armed populace will ensure American safety, would make different personal choices. In fact, we can gauge GOP disingenuousness on the gun issue just by noting all the places Republican politicians frequent where weapons are banned. Pointing out their hypocrisy has never helped to shame the GOP into decency, but it's worth a review nonetheless.

Here are five places hypocritical Republicans ban guns in order to ensure their own personal safety.

1. The White House

Along with making Mexico pay billions for a wall it opposed and never taking a golfing vacation, Trump promised on the campaign trail to legislate a future in which guns could legally be brought into every kindergarten classroom and nursery. “My first day, it gets signed, okay? My first day,” Trump told supporters in Vermont in 2016. “There’s no more gun-free zones.”

While it’s true no president could unilaterally scrap federal law, it’s also true that Trump’s complicit Republican Congress would probably greenlight any pro-gun horrorshow he could dream up. Yet, in the year since he took office, Trump has not spoken out once—even via his digital bullhorn at Twitter—against the anti-freedom gun ban at the White House. What better way for this president to signify his wholehearted support for gun-based lifestyles than by letting White House visitors from around the world—especially those who live under the tyranny of gun control abroad—bring all the guns they want into the People's House?

Or maybe Trump hasn't brought up the matter because he doesn't actually want strangers bringing guns into the White House, seeing as they can and do kill people at the squeeze of a trigger. 

2. The Republican National Convention

The quadrennial gathering of this country’s most dedicated Republicans should be a place where GOPers can briefly escape oppressive gun-free “safe spaces” and live on their own gun-riddled terms. Attendees should be permitted—nay, required—to come armed to the teeth. Downtime convention activities should be strictly gun-focused. (Think ball pits, only filled with guns. Cocktail hours, only the drinks are all guns.) At the very end, instead of confetti, the audience should be showered in loose ammo.

But instead of a three-day orgy of gun lust and ammosexuality, the Republican National Convention is a gun-free zone. Guns were banned at the RNC in 20082012 and 2016, and that’s not for lack of trying by those who bothered to petition for bringing guns to the party. For some strange reason, the RNC keeps choosing venues that explicitly ban guns, almost as if it was looking for a convenient excuse. The Secret Service keeps banning guns from the events, almost as if it knows the whole “good guy with a gun” claim is a just a myth. And not a single Republican politician has raised their voice to demand guns be allowed on the convention floor, almost like they're tacitly admitting to being iffy on the whole “responsible gun owners” thing.

3. Mar-a-Lago

A staffer told ABC News back in 2016 that guns were banned from Trump’s Palm Beach golf property, where the president spends so much time it's hard to know when he’s doing the actual job of presidenting. That policy appears to still be in place, according to a Politico report from late last year. “Pocket knives, laser pointers, pepper spray, and any other items deemed to be a safety hazard are not permitted on property,” a letter the club sent to members cautioned. “Any items surrendered will not be returned.”

4. The U.S. Capitol Building

Surely, a Congress that has steadfastly refused to pass gun legislation is cool with guns in the Capitol building, if only to make a patriotic point. Why not let the Senate and House galleries double as shooting galleries, since guns are such a national point of pride? When are the gun-loving legislators of Congress, who believe that murdered 6-year-olds are just the price of freedom, going to change the rules so the U.S. Capitol building can become the guntopia it’s meant to be?

The short answer is never. Guns are banned on the Capitol grounds and inside the building itself, which includes the House and Senate galleries. Visitors are also warned against bringing “black jacks, slingshots, sand clubs, sandbags, knuckles, electric stun guns, knives (longer than 3”), martial arts weapons or devices…razors, box cutters, knives, knitting needles, letter openers…mace and pepper spray.”

Which all raises the question: what kind of heartless, cruel and immoral people consistently vote against gun control for most Americans’ work lives, but cynically keep guns far away from their own place of business?

5. Republican Town Halls

In early 2017, when Republican legislators realized that angry crowds were showing up in town halls to speak against repeals of the Affordable Care Act, they found two ways to avoid those meetings. The first was to label their own constituents “paid protesters.” The second was to demonize civically engaged voters as violent mobs. It was all for show, of course. In fact, as Talking Points Memo notes, “guns are frequently prohibited at GOP congressional town hall meetings, especially after the shooting of former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011. Even stalwart conservatives like Rep. Paul Ryan and former Rep. Allen West opted to ban firearms at their town halls.”

Texas Republican Louie Gohmert even went so far as to invoke Giffords as a political prop to get out of being berated by the people he supposedly serves.

“At this time there are groups from the more violent strains of the leftist ideology, some even being paid, who are preying on public town halls to wreak havoc and threaten public safety,” Gohmert claimed in a statement. “The House Sergeant at Arms advised us after former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot at a public appearance, that civilian attendees at Congressional public events stand the most chance of being harmed or killed—just as happened there.”

Giffords, incredibly, had to release a statement encouraging Republicans to do their damn jobs.

“To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this: Have some courage,” Giffords' message said. “Many of the members of Congress who are refusing to hold town halls and listen to their constituents’ concerns are the very same politicians that have opposed common-sense gun violence prevention policies and have allowed the Washington gun lobby to threaten the safety of law enforcement and everyday citizens in our schools, businesses, places of worship, airports, and movie theaters.”

In an interview later, Giffords stated, “If you don’t have the guts to face your constituents, then you shouldn’t be in the United States Congress.”

And maybe, if you don’t have the guts to deal with the laws you force the rest of us to live under, you for sure shouldn’t be involved in making them.

 

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