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Why this moment for gun politics is different – POLITICO

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If fallout from the nation’s two most recent mass shootings runs to form, calls for stricter gun laws on the left will meet resistance from the right. Washington will gridlock, and the media will move on.

But the current debate is taking place under an uncommon alignment of the political stars, creating a unique moment in the arc of gun politics. Democrats control the White House and both houses of Congress for the first time since 2011. Public polling reflects widespread support for background checks and other gun measures, while the National Rifle Association — a traditional power in Republican Party politics — has been crippled by financial problems and infighting.

For the gun reform movement — a centerpiece of the Democratic Party’s agenda for at least a quarter century — the question this week has become, if not now, when?

“This is the moment,” said Shannon Watts, founder of the advocacy group Moms Demand Action. “The NRA is sidelined by bankruptcy, and we have a gun-sense trifecta in the White House, the Senate and the House.”

The shootings in Boulder, Colo., on Monday and in Georgia last week did not just restart America’s on-again, off-again hostilities over guns. The November election tilted the field in Democrats’ favor. More than after any shooting in the past decade, the party’s response to the killings in Colorado and Georgia will serve as a measure of how much Democrats can achieve when they occupy the commanding heights.

It’s a pivotal moment for gun politics. The history of midterm elections suggests Democrats are at risk of losing the House next year, shrinking their window for legislative victories.

“The time is definitely now,” said Peter Ambler, executive director of the gun-control group Giffords. “We can’t wait.”

It’s in no small part due to the changing demographics and voting behavior of Georgia and Colorado that gun reform is on the table in Washington at all. It was the January runoff elections in Georgia, only recently a solidly Republican state, that gave Democrats their functional majority in the Senate.

Colorado, now reliably Democratic after years as a swing state, sent John Hickenlooper to the Senate in November, defeating the Republican incumbent, Cory Gardner, by nearly 10 percentage points. And in Colorado, in particular, there are reasons for Democrats to find optimism in the gun reform movement. Nowhere near a bastion of far-left politics, lawmakers there nevertheless have enacted stricter gun laws in recent years. So had the city of Boulder, where a locally passed assault weapons ban was blocked by a judge earlier this month. Lawmakers are discussing potential legislation in response — to allow cities to enact more stringent gun laws than the state.

Tom Sullivan, a Colorado state lawmaker who sought elected office after his son, Alex, was killed in the Aurora theater shooting in 2012, said the climate surrounding gun legislation has “obviously” shifted — as evidenced by his own election and those of other survivors of victims of gun violence, including Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia, whose teenage son was shot to death in 2012. Gun control was a winning issue for Democrats in some congressional swing districts nationally in the midterm elections in 2018.

“We can run on this issue, and we can win elections on this issue,” Sullivan said. “Quite obviously, the tone has changed.”

Democrats, of course, lack a filibuster-proof majority. And at least one Senate Democrat, West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, hails from one of the most pro-gun states in the nation. But even if legislation ultimately fails in Washington, holding a vote on a major gun reform bill could be politically significant ahead of the midterm elections next year. For Democrats, said Floyd Ciruli, a Denver-based pollster, such legislation “would be, at least to some extent, to get a vote on it and be able to use it in suburban districts” in Colorado and across the country.

Still, Colorado is also the state of Lauren Boebert, the gun-toting congresswoman who said after the Boulder shooting that she would not “blame society at large for the sick actions of one man and I will not allow lawbreakers to dictate the rights of law-abiding citizens.” And she is far from alone in her conference. While Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has said he will force a vote on background checks, the legislation’s prospects of drawing the 60 votes necessary to overcome a filibuster appear dim.

In Colorado as it is nationally, said Dick Wadhams, a former Colorado Republican Party chair and longtime party strategist, “It’s a complicated issue for both parties.”

“It’s a thorny issue in the suburbs for Republicans,” he said. “It’s a thorny issue for Democrats in the rural areas.”

Gun control, like almost everything else, took a back seat in last year’s elections to concerns about the coronavirus pandemic and then-President Donald Trump’s handling of it. With fewer people gathering, public mass shootings were down last year, too, according to The Associated Press.

But as people have begun to reemerge in public, a gunman killed eight people at three Atlanta-area spas last week. On Monday, a shooter killed 10 people at a grocery store in Boulder — including at least one person who was in line for a vaccine. And for the first time in a decade, advocates of stricter gun laws had a Democratic president and a Democratic-controlled Congress — though narrowly in the Senate — to turn to.

“As we begin to emerge from Covid, there is this emerging sense of foreboding now among Americans … that what we’re going to return to is going to be constant headlines about gun violence,” Ambler said. “We can’t let that be the American experience. That can’t be how we as a nation emerge from the trauma of Covid. We can’t go reeling from pandemic to epidemic.”

He said, “In some way, shape or form, the Senate as an institution needs to respond to this crisis.”

Mathew Littman, a Democratic strategist and executive director of the gun reform group 97 Percent, said of universal background checks that “it’s ridiculous that it hasn’t happened. Absolutely ridiculous.”

The gun control debate has put more pressure on Democrats to abandon the legislative filibuster in the Senate, broadening the range of constituencies lobbying for the change. Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter was killed in Aurora and who now advocates on behalf of survivors of gun violence, said, “The best thing that can happen right now — the one thing I would give everything up for — is get rid of the filibuster so we can pass some laws.”

But Phillips and other gun control advocates are frustrated not only with the Senate, but with President Joe Biden, who has yet to fulfill a campaign promise to take unilateral action on gun violence. Phillips’ wife, Sandy, said that “we were so hopeful that the president would follow through on his promises on Day One. And that hasn’t happened.”

A first-hand witness to political difficulties surrounding the issue, Biden was an author of the now-expired assault weapons ban while in the Senate in 1994. Later, as vice president, he assumed an instrumental role in a major push for gun control legislation following the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012, the failure of which in the Senate marked one of the most significant defeats of President Barack Obama’s second term.

Biden said Tuesday that he does not want to “wait another minute” to address gun violence, calling on Congress to act while his administration considers measures he could take on his own.

If Democrats seizing control of Washington raised the expectations of gun reform advocates, it will also make any defeat that much more painful.

Looking back over 12 years of disappointment on the issue, Lonnie Phillips said, “Obama couldn’t get it done, and of course, Trump made it worse, if that’s possible,” adding that Biden “hasn’t lived up to his promise.”

“Yeah,” he said. “We’re at a frustrating point.”

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Prince Philip took a keen interest in Canada, but stayed above politics, former GGs and PM say

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When former Canadian prime minister Jean Chrétien met the late Prince Philip for the first time, he told him that for an Englishman, his French was very good.

“He said ‘I’m not English and I’ve spoken French since before you were born,’” Chrétien told the Star Friday, commenting on his many encounters over 50 years with the Duke of Edinburgh.

“He was not dull, let me put it that way,” Chrétien said. “He had some strong views. Sometimes he had to show discipline to not speak up more than he would have wished.”

Philip, born in Greece in 1921 and husband to Queen Elizabeth II for over 73 years, died at the age of 99 on Friday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who said he first met Philip when he was a little boy, described him as “a man of great purpose and conviction, who was motivated by a sense of duty to others.”

Former prime ministers and governors general spoke of a man who understood his role and knew not to get involved in politics, but who was very knowledgeable about Canada and took a keen interest in the country’s success.

“I was always impressed by their knowledge,” Chrétien said of Philip and the Queen, Canada’s head of state.

He said he can recall Philip asking about the prospect of Quebec separating from the rest of the country. “Not in a very political fashion, just in terms of interest. Of course he was interested to not see Canada break up. He would certainly say that to me.”

 

Statements from former prime ministers Paul Martin and Stephen Harper highlighted Philip’s devotion to the Canadian armed forces and charitable organizations, as well as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award, an international self-development program for young people.

Former governors general David Johnston and Michaëlle Jean, through their role as the Queen’s representative in Canada, were also able to get to know Philip more intimately, particularly at the Queen’s Balmoral Castle estate in Scotland.

Jean recalls being “overwhelmed” by all the protocol recommendations ahead of a Balmoral visit with her husband and six-year-old daughter prior to taking office in 2005, only to find Philip and the Queen greeting them at the door, with Philip paying special attention to her daughter.

“The memory I keep of Prince Philip is that of an affable, caring, elegant and warm man,” Jean told the Star, adding he was a man who was very attentive to detail.

She recalled attending a barbecue on the Balmoral estate, just the four of them, and Philip telling her, “Don’t forget to congratulate Her Majesty for her salad dressing, because she made it herself.”

What Jean also saw was a man sometimes hampered by the limitations of his role, like when he talked about one of his favourite topics, the environment.

“He said ‘I do a lot about it, I raise awareness, I take actions…I feel that whatever I do, no one cares,’” Jean recounted. “What I got from that is how lonely he felt…There was a sense of not feeling appreciated in proportion to his contributions, a feeling of being misunderstood.”

Johnston, who succeeded Jean, said Canada’s constitutional monarchy — where the head of state is politically neutral and separate from elected office — is an “important and precious” form of government, and Philip was key to making it work.

Philip showed leadership as a servant, Johnston said, “not taking centre stage, but by ensuring that the Queen and the monarchy were front row and centre.

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“He played such an important structural role, and did that with great diligence and commitment. He was selfless in that respect,” Johnston said in an interview.

For Matthew Rowe, who works on the Royal Family’s charitable endeavours in Canada, the Duke of Edinburgh’s political value to Canada was precisely that he was not political — that he, along with the rest of the monarchy, provided a stabilizing force outside of the partisan fray.

He was dynamic, irascible, exasperating, intriguing. And he was always three steps behind his wife, Queen Elizabeth, who utterly adored him throughout their 73-year marriage, flaws, faux pas and all.

“His presence, and the role of Her Majesty and other members of the Royal Family, has been to be able to represent the nation, to represent Canadian interests, and commemorate Canadian achievements without being tied to a particular political ideology or regional faction,” Rowe, who met Philip at a ceremony at Rideau Hall in 2010, said in an interview.

 

Philip’s role meant he could speak more frankly than the Queen in public, and spoke “quite thoughtfully” about the constitutional monarchy in Canada, said University of Toronto history instructor Carolyn Harris.

At a press conference in Ottawa in 1969, Philip famously said that the monarchy doesn’t exist “in the interests of the monarch…It exists solely in the interest of the people. We don’t come here for our health. We can think of other ways of enjoying ourselves.”

Philip had a good, joking relationship with Johnston’s wife, Sharon. He recounted how the two joined the Queen and Prince Philip at Balmoral in August 2010, prior to Johnston’s swearing-in later that year.

One evening, they were returning to the castle from a barbecue at a renovated shepherd’s hut on the estate — just the four of them, the Queen driving with Johnston in one land rover, and Philip driving with Sharon in the other ahead of them on narrow, highland roads.

“We were coming home at about 10 p.m., as black as could be, he and Sharon were ahead, kind of weaving, and we could hear these gales of laughter coming out. They were cracking jokes at one another,” Johnston said.

“I had a vision of him going over the edge and down half a mile into the valley, and my first thought is: Do the Queen and I rustle down to rescue them?”

Chrétien said “it must be terrible” for the Queen to now find herself alone after a marriage that lasted for more than 70 years. He noted it’s been almost seven months to the day since he lost his wife, Aline.

 

“It’s a big change in life but she’s an extremely courageous person and she will face the situation with the strength that she has been able to show to the world for the almost 70 years she’s been queen,” Chrétien said.

With files from Alex Boutilier and Kieran Leavitt

 

 

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After warning, McConnell softens posture on corporations’ taking political stances

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., softened his stance on corporations’ getting involved in politics Wednesday, a day after he warned companies not to weigh in on hot button issues.

“I didn’t say that very artfully yesterday. They’re certainly entitled to be involved in politics. They are,” McConnell told reporters. “My principal complaint is they didn’t read the darn bill.

“They got intimidated into adopting an interpretation … given by the Georgia Democrats in order to help get their way,” he said.

McConnell was referring to a controversial voting law recently passed in Georgia, which came about in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the election result in the state last fall.

The law led the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola — which are based in Atlanta — to condemn the measure. And last week, Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest. The game will, instead, be played in Colorado.

In recent weeks, McConnell has excoriated corporate America for boycotting states over various GOP-led bills. He said Tuesday that it is “stupid” for corporations to take positions on divisive political issues but noted that his criticism did not extend to their donations.

“So my warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell said in Louisville, Kentucky. “It’s not what you’re designed for. And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates.”

Major League Baseball’s decision drew the most outrage from Republicans, as Trump called for a boycott of baseball and other companies that spoke out against the Georgia law. McConnell said Tuesday that the latest moves are “irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans.”

McConnell, long a champion of big money in politics, however, noted Tuesday that corporations “have a right to participate in a political process” but said they should do so without alienating “an awful lot of people.”

“I’m not talking about political contributions,” he said. “I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state because you don’t like a particular law that passed. I just think it’s stupid.”

Source:- NBC News

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Facebook Removes 1,000 Fake Accounts Seeking to Sway Global Politics

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(Bloomberg) — Facebook Inc. said it removed 14 networks representing more than 1,000 accounts seeking to sway politics around the world, including in Iran and El Salvador, while misleading the public about their identity.

Most of the removed networks were in the early stages of building their audiences, the Menlo Park, California-based company said Tuesday. Facebook’s announcement on Tuesday, part of its monthly reporting on efforts to rid its platforms of fake accounts, represents one of the larger crack downs by the company in recent months.

“We have been growing this program for several years,” said David Agranovich, Facebook’s global threat disruption lead. “I would expect to see this drum beat of take downs to continue.”

In one example, the company removed a network of more than 300 accounts, pages and groups on Facebook and the photo-sharing app Instagram that appear to be run by a years-old troll farm located in Albania and operated by the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq opposition group. The group appeared to target Iran, but also other audiences with content about Iran, according to a report released by Facebook.

The group was most active in 2017, but increased its activity again in the latter half of 2020. It was one of a handful of the influence campaigns that likely used machine learning technologies capable of creating realistic profile photos to the naked eye, Facebook said in the report.

The company also removed 118 accounts, eight pages and 10 Instagram accounts based in Spain and El Salvador for violating the company’s foreign interference policy. The group amplified criticism of Henry Flores, a mayoral candidate in Santa Tecla, El Savador and supportive commentary of his rivals, the company said.

The social media giant also took down a network of 29 Facebook accounts, two pages, one group and 10 Instagram accounts based in Iran that was targeting Israel. The people behind the network posed as locals and posted criticism about Isreali prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to Facebook. The company also took down networks based in Argentina, Mexico, Egypt and other nations.

Nathaniel Gleicher, Facebook’s head of security policy, said the company has improved its ability to identify inauthentic accounts, but said bad actors continue to change their strategies to avoid Facebook’s detection.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

Source:- BNN

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