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Opinion: The NRA isn't the main obstacle in US gun politics anymore – CNN

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Nicole Hemmer is an associate research scholar at Columbia University with the Obama Presidency Oral History Project and the author of “Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics” and the forthcoming “Partisans: The Conservative Revolutionaries Who Remade American Politics in the 1990s.” She cohosts the history podcasts “Past Present” and “This Day in Esoteric Political History.” The views expressed in this commentary are her own. View more opinion on CNN.

(CNN)The National Rifle Association is in trouble.

Last year, the organization attempted to declare bankruptcy in response to a New York state lawsuit investigating alleged financial abuses, but a federal judge dismissed the effort, finding that the NRA had filed in “bad faith” and was trying to use bankruptcy to protect itself from litigation. That came after the Senate Finance Committee released a report finding that the NRA, working closely with Russian agents, acted as a “foreign asset” during the 2016 presidential campaign.
The NRA said in a statement to CNN that it will “continue to explore moving its headquarters” to Texas from Virginia — it had requested to be reincorporated in Texas when it filed for bankruptcy. As for the Senate report, the NRA called it “politically motivated,” and counsel for the organization said, “This report goes to great lengths to … create the false impression that the NRA did not act appropriately. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
Following the horrific massacre of schoolchildren and teachers last week in Uvalde, Texas — which followed the horrific massacre of mostly Black shoppers at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York — the NRA went ahead with its planned annual convention in Houston. The convention reportedly attracted thousands of protesters and repelled a handful of scheduled performers, who withdrew after the killings in Uvalde. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick also backed out, and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott canceled his appearance, doing a pretaped video instead.
That trouble is hardly all-encompassing — major speakers such as former President Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas still appeared before the relatively sparse and intermittently unarmed crowd. But the organization has been noticeably weakened by years of infighting and corruption.
That might sound like good news to gun reform advocates, who have for decades seen the NRA as the primary driver of gun absolutism in the United States. But even if the NRA went away tomorrow, gun politics in the United States would not change. In many ways, the NRA has already won: It has fundamentally transformed the Republican Party, gun jurisprudence and conservative political identity in ways that will continue even if the NRA fades.
The radicalization of the NRA, from its origins as a hunting and marksmanship organization to one that pushes conspiracy-laden messages in support of full gun deregulation, has been well-documented over the years. The right-wing takeover of the group in the mid-1970s turned, by the early 1990s, into an all-out push to reshape the Republican Party into an anti-gun control institution.
That was not an easy sell. As has also been widely documented — we’ve had enough mass shootings and enough GOP indifference to have rehearsed this history frequently over the last few decades — in the early 1990s, leading Republicans supported gun regulation.
Ronald Reagan, who had been receding from public life after leaving office, nonetheless came out forcefully for both the 1993 Brady bill, which mandated background checks and a five-day waiting period for gun purchases by an unlicensed individual, and the 1994 federal assault weapons ban, which prohibited gun manufacturers from creating assault weapons for civilian use and banned large-capacity magazines.
In the early ’90s, the NRA began shifting its funding to Republican candidates, using its endorsements and funds to help defeat Republicans who had voted for gun control and support candidates who took hardline positions.
The language of the NRA became increasingly apocalyptic during this period, in concert with a rapidly growing militia movement fueled by anti-government sentiment and paranoid conspiracy. After two men who moved in militia circles bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995, the NRA did not curb its rhetoric. Instead, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre initially defended a letter warning about “jackbooted government thugs.” The letter led former President George H.W. Bush to resign his membership in the NRA and the reported loss of a half-million members.
But within a few years, the NRA had decided that its initial instincts — to never waver, to never apologize — were politically effective. As was the case with Uvalde, a massacre took place at Columbine High School in 1999, the NRA’s annual convention was just a few days away — and miles from the site of the mass slaughter.
The organization’s senior leadership met to discuss strategy in a series of private conversations that, it turns out, were recorded by a participant and obtained by NPR last year. An NRA spokesperson told NPR when asked for comment, “It is disappointing that anyone would promote an editorial agenda against the NRA by using shadowy sources and ‘mystery tapes’ in order to conjure up the tragic events of over 20 years ago.”
But those tragic events are still repeating themselves. And in those recorded conversations after the Columbine shootings, NRA leaders professed their belief that both the Republican Party and the gun industry would follow their lead, and that any show of regret over the shooting would be an admission of guilt. “If we tuck tail and run,” one official said, explaining why the group shouldn’t cancel its convention, “we’re going to be accepting responsibility for what happened out there.” Another also rejected the idea of canceling the convention, saying, “The message that it will send is that even the NRA was brought to its knees, and the media will have a field day with it.”
The convention went ahead with a now-familiar message that liberals and media outlets were politicizing the shooting, while calling for fewer regulations.
In the decades that followed, the NRA would return to that playbook while broadening its influence on a generation of politicians and judges. Its victory was total: The US Supreme Court radically broadened its interpretation of the Second Amendment in District of Columbia v. Heller in 2008, the Republican Party made gun deregulation a litmus test issue for candidates, and state legislatures began to respond to mass shootings by loosening gun regulation.
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These actions, though shaped by the NRA in the 1990s, were not carried out solely to appease the organization. No, the NRA’s victory was inculcating the idea that an unrestricted right to own and carry weapons of war was the most fundamental right in the United States. Though the NRA does donate heavily to politicians who reflect its views, it is no longer a necessary part of gun politics. In fact, one of the biggest threats to the NRA now is the rise of more radical gun groups.
For those Americans desperate for more gun regulation, a singular focus on the NRA is not enough. Instead, they must work to strengthen and broaden the infrastructure of gun safety and gun regulation organizations, support a judiciary commitment to a narrow reading of the Second Amendment and make clear that the radicalization of the right on guns is not solely about donations from the NRA, but a deeper commitment to the most radical gun absolutism in US history.

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Politics This Morning: Trudeau in Germany for G7 leaders' summit – The Hill Times

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A ‘small army’ of Conservative Party staffers are going through hundreds of thousands of party memberships with ‘rigour and speed’ to weed out fraudulent memberships, says party spokesman Yaroslav Baran.
Even if Pierre Poilievre doesn’t win, Conservative pundits and political analysts believe that whoever does will have to accommodate Poilievre. But if he does win, he’ll need to reach out to his Quebec and Atlantic caucu
When Peter Van Dusen was first hired by CPAC more than 20 years ago, it pretty much covered the House proceedings, but he turned it around. Today, it covers news, leadership conventions, and election campaigns.

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'Pride is a protest' — queer folk voice power amid politics and pandemic – Mission Local

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Missing the Pride Parade was not an option for Emily. 

Though she attended numerous parades in the past as an out lesbian, recent political attacks on the queer community imbued a different sentiment for Sunday’s parade. 

“People think it’s time to have a rager,” Emily said. “But our rights are in danger as we speak.” 

So the 19-year-old threw on her rainbow-striped button-down and, friends in tow, came to San Francisco’s annual LGBTQ Pride Parade determined to counter “the [negative] way Republicans paint us.” How? By celebrating. “Queer joy is really radical right now,” she said. 

On Sunday, the city’s 52nd annual Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Pride Parade kicked off at the Embarcadero and ended in usual fun at Civic Center. Parade participants included local gay politicos State Sen. Scott Wiener and District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman, longtime queer organizations like Dykes on Bikes and San Francisco Bay Times, and any company that could capitalize on the optics. 

But as Emily said, for many spectators it was a few hours of radical joy. 

Take Malaki, a 16-year-old from Fresno. He didn’t know he was going to Pride until yesterday — his very first one — and the gay young man was thrilled. “I was visiting my family, and they asked if I’d like to go. I was like, yeah, Oh my god!” 

It’s been years since Malaki started noticing his feelings toward men had changed, and as a sixth grader, he realized he was gay. Luckily, Malaki’s family is supportive and inclusive, and joined him Sunday. 

“It’s so good to be here,” said Malaki, flashing a huge smile. “I feel so safe. I have a warm feeling that I am not alone, and that I’m able to be who I am. I can be hype!” 

Malaki, 16, enjoys his first Pride Parade. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken June 26, 2022.

It was 13-year-old Bibi’s first Pride Parade too. “I really wanted to go,” he said, waving a transgender flag and holding a stream of colorful balloons. 

The new teen rose at 7 a.m. to make it from Novato on time, and thus he was perfectly positioned in front to collect the tiny flags and beaded necklaces that parade participants threw out.  

Bibi, assigned a female at birth, realized at the age of 10 that he was a transgender boy and bisexual. 

Accompanying him at the parade was his mother, Sol Rocha, who is still learning about how best to support her son. “It hasn’t been easy,” she said. “I’m learning, and it’s a process. But I want to understand. As parents, you have to accept them no matter what. Like when you held them as babies for the first time — unconditional love.”

Bibi, 13, and mom, Sol Rocha at the Pride Parade. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken June 26, 2022.

Just a few people over, Courtney, Ash, and Trystan whooped at the roller skaters and pocketed Planned Parenthood condoms. 

“I wanted to go to Pride in 2019, but the pandemic happened,” Courtney said, who uses she/they pronouns. This was their first one “out” as a bisexual. “With everything going on, I wanted to support everyone. People want to take away our rights,” they said. 

Relatives on Courtney’s mother’s side rejected her after coming out, but after her mother passed, she cares less what her family thinks. And “if they think that I should stay in the closet, I don’t want to be in that family.”

Their friend Ash came from Willows, a small town near Chico. In that environment, Ash said he doesn’t correct people when they misgender him for “safety reasons.” But the parade is a relief, and a nice place to be with “like-minded people.” ​​

Trystan agreed. “Pride has always been a big thing for me until Covid-19 stopped that. This is my first as an adult. I can dress up more,” they said, pointing out the rainbow sequins on her face and the yellow, black, blue, and pink striped jersey. 

Trystan, Ash and Courtney grab their spots before the Pride Parade. Photo by
Annika Hom. Taken June 26, 2022.

Other parade veterans celebrated the post-pandemic party as well. Oakland resident Greg Cabiness, 66, and San Franciscan Sam Kaufman, 59, said “it was good to be out.” The pair have been partners for 10 years, and after some typical couple back-and-forth, figured out they had marched in it twice. 

“It’s nice. We may go to Civic Center after this. That’s where the party is at,” Cabiness said. “It seems like a more diverse crowd. A lot more allies and acceptance is good to see,” Kaufman added. 

Greg Cabiness and Sam Kaufman watch another Pride Parade. They’ve marched in two. Photo by Annika Hom. Taken June 26, 2022.

And Emily, the 19-year-old in the rainbow button-down, brought along plenty of allies from home. One of Emily’s friends Isaiah noted he was adopted by gay parents. He’s been at Pride for years, and it’s a joy to return. His other friends stressed the importance of love at Sunday’s parade in the face of politics.

“When there’s so much shit happening with Roe v. Wade, it’s important to stick together and show there’s resistance,” said Matt, a Lower Haight resident. “People want to think of Pride as a party. It’s a protest.”

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How much influence should politicians have over police? – CBC.ca

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Controversy erupted this week when allegations came to light that the Liberal government may have tried to interfere in the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) investigation into the 2020 Nova Scotia mass shooting where 17 people were killed.

According to RCMP Supt. Darren Campbell’s notes, RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki said in a phone call that she had promised the Prime Minister’s Office and then-Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair that the RCMP would publicly release information about the weapons the gunman used. Lucki was reportedly angry when the RCMP did not do so.

The Liberal government is alleged to have wanted the information made public to further their gun control agenda. Critics and opposition politicians have accused the government of attempting to use the tragedy for political gain. Lucki, Blair and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have denied that there was interference in the investigation.

But how and when — if ever — should those who make laws be able to boss around those who enforce them? When has police interference taken place, and to what consequences did it lead?

CBC News spoke to some experts in an attempt to explain the tense, legally fuzzy and often controversial relationship between police and policymakers in Canada.

Why is policing supposed to be separate from politics?

The Supreme Court of Canada cites the Rule of Law as the founding principle of Canada’s democracy. It’s considered important to our constitutional order that no one, even the most powerful politicians in the country, can think of themselves as above the law.

But there’s another reason for police independence — in our democracy the government is supposed to be accountable to the people, which means people aren’t suppose to fear police going after them on the orders of the government.

“I think what we want to do is avoid a ‘police state,'” Kent Roach, a professor in the University of Toronto’s faculty of law, said. “And by that, I mean we want to avoid politicians telling the police who to investigate and who not to investigate.”

In states where the government can tell police what to do, experts say a pattern quickly emerges of government critics and opponents ending up in jail.

For those reasons, police autonomy in enforcing the law and protecting the public is a key ingredient in most well-functioning liberal democracies.

“Political leaders are not supposed to micromanage police services, that is antithetical to the very idea of democracy,” Temitope Oriola, a professor of criminology and sociology at the University of Alberta, said.

What does the law say?

While those principles seem like part of a basic civics lesson they’re ones Roach says many people, including police officers and politicians, often don’t understand well.

But there may be a reasonable excuse — the law itself isn’t clear.

“I think part of the problem here is that the lines of legitimate government direction to the police and illegitimate government direction are very vague.” he said.

While police independence from government is important in our democracy, Roach says it’s a principle that’s not always reflected in our laws.

“For example, the police cannot lay hate propaganda charges without prior approval of the attorney general,” he said.

“So there’s kind of no absolutes.”

Kent Roach, law professor at the University of Toronto, said Canadian law is very vague when it comes to inappropriate government direction of law enforcement. (Oliver Salathiel)

In Lucki’s case, the RCMP Act states the Commissioner “has the control and management of the force and all matters connected with the force” but “under the direction of the minister.”

Roach said the law is confusing because it doesn’t go into details about what direction means, including what type of direction is appropriate for a minister to give to an RCMP Commissioner. It also doesn’t say whether a direction has to be in writing or can be given orally.

“It’s utterly vague, right?” Roach said. 

Roach would like to see the RCMP Act amended to clarify what types of orders the government can legally give RCMP leadership. 

He said there is a clear divide between directions that set rules for police generally, which are acceptable in a democracy, and directions for police to act in a particular way in a specific case, or to take action against a particular person, which are not.

He says a legitimate government directive to police might be guidelines on what information the police are allowed make public, or ordering the police to stop using a particular technique or practice.

But a directive that would not be acceptable would be directing police to charge someone with a crime.

During the 1997 APEC Summit in Vancouver, the government was found to have interfered with RCMP operations by directing how the Mounties protected then Indonesian president Suharto. In a public inquiry report on the summit, Justice Ted Hughes concluded that the government twice tried to interfere with police operations by attempting to get police to keep protestors away from Suharto.

Hughes recommended the government amend the RCMP Act to legally clarify police independence from government. To date, no government has taken up the recommendation.

Roach says there may be a reason for the lack of action and clarity.

 “I suspect that in some ways both the police and the politicians like to kind of keep the status quo, which is quite vague and murky,” he said. “I think that is unfortunate.”

What happens when politicians try to be police?

Politicians aren’t supposed to tell police what to do, but sometimes they can’t resist. While some politicians do come from a law enforcement background, most don’t — and it can show when they try to interfere with police work.

“They don’t have the the skill, the knowledge, the expertise, the lived experience, to make operational decisions,” Laura Huey, a professor of sociology at Western University, said.

She cited the 1997 APEC Suharto controversy as an example, but there are more recent ones too.

Huey says Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson’s attempt to negotiate with the freedom convoy protestors earlier this year comes to mind — a move critical incident command experts told her made a bad situation worse.

Ottawa mayor Jim Watson attempted to negotiate with Freedom Convoy protestors during the occupation of Ottawa earlier this year. Western University professor Laura Suey says the incident is a good example of why it’s a bad idea for politicians to take over law enforcement’s responsibilities. (Giacomo Panico/CBC)

“Most police services that deal with public order have people that are highly experienced, highly trained professionals that specialize in negotiating in situations like that,” she said.

“So do we want the mayor going down and mucking around on something of which he knows absolutely nothing and had zero effect anyway?”

Roach says his favourite example involves former RCMP Commissioner Leonard Nicholson, the most decorated Mountie in history whose name the RCMP headquarters bears.

In 1959, the John Diefenbaker government told Nicholson to send more officers to police a labour dispute in Newfoundland. Nicholson chose to resign instead of comply with the order.

“So that kind of shows that this idea that the RCMP doesn’t like political direction … is built into the RCMP’s DNA,” Roach said.

Is there a better way?

If too much political interference in policing is an issue, there are also perils in too little.

Voters don’t elect police officers but do elect politicians, so they have a role acting as a check on police.

“Society also cannot afford to have a police service that is not accountable to anybody,” Oriola said.

A section of the Liberal’s 2021 campaign platform is dedicated to changes to the RCMP, in particular making the Mounties more accountable.

Oriola calls the government-police relationship a “delicate” one that requires “a fine balance” and one where intentions should be considered.

“Are you giving directions to the police service to punish political opponents, or are you giving direction … in order that we might have a better society, and improved society based on the policy priorities that you campaigned on?” he said.

Huey says more training for police services boards, who hire police chiefs, may allow them to make better hiring decisions, which in turn could inspire more confidence in police leadership and result in less political interference.

“I think that if we hire highly competent people, we need to give them the space to make the decisions,” she said. 

Roach says a potential solution, on top of more legal clarity on interference, is a law requiring any government ministers who direct police to do so in writing — including a requirement that the direction be public.

He thinks the RCMP Act could be amended with this requirement, and to permit it only outside of individual cases.

“It seems to me, in a democracy, citizens have a right to know what the minister is doing,” Roach said. “I think that that directive system could not only promote transparency, but could avoid all of these controversies.”

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