President Biden announces steps to limit ‘ghost’ guns, plans to tackle assault weapons

By Steve Holland and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden and his Attorney General Merrick Garland announced limited measures to tackle gun violence in the United States on Thursday, in what the White House described as a first step to curb mass shootings, community bloodshed and suicides.

The new measures include plans for the Justice Department to crack down on self-assembled “ghost guns” and make “stabilizing braces” – which effectively turn pistols into rifles – subject to registration under the National Firearms Act.

Biden said he will ask the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to release an annual report on firearms trafficking in the United States, and make it easier for states to adopt “red flag” laws that flag at-risk individuals who own guns.

Biden also outlined more ambitious goals that he needs the support of Congress to accomplish, including reintroducing a ban on assault weapons, lifting an exemption on lawsuits against gun manufacturers, and passing a nationwide red flag law.

The executive orders unveiled on Thursday are not legislative.

“Today we’re taking steps to confront not just the gun crisis, but what is actually a public health crisis,” Biden said, speaking in the Rose Garden to an audience filled with family members of victims of gun violence.

He noted another mass shooting in South Carolina this week.

“This is an epidemic, for God’s sake, and it has to stop,” Biden said.

Biden, a Democrat who has a long history of advocating for gun restrictions, has come under pressure to step up action after recent mass shootings in Colorado and Georgia.

Biden announced the measures alongside Vice President Kamala Harris and Merrick Garland, who Biden said would prioritize gun violence as head of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“We’ve had more tragedy than we can bear,” Harris said. “People on both sides of the aisle want action …. So all that is left is the will and the courage to act.”

The DOJ will issue a proposed rule on ghost guns in 30 days, and proposed rules on stabilizing braces and a model ‘red flag’ law for states within 60 days.

Garland said the department will also be rethinking the way that it analyzes criminal cases and investigations to try learn more about modern gun-trafficking patterns.

“Modern guns are not simply cast or forged anymore, but can also be made of plastic, printed on a 3D printer, or sold in self-assembly kits,” Garland said.

Gun control is a politically divisive subject in the United States, which has experienced a significant number of deadly mass shootings at schools and other public venues for decades.

Most Americans support strengthening U.S. gun laws. An overwhelming majority support expanding background checks and keeping guns from the mentally ill, polls by Reuters and others show.

A series of gun control measures have failed in Congress, however.

“Enough prayers. Time for some action,” Biden said on Thursday, asking Congress to pass a proposed bill requiring background checks at gun shows and online.

The U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, and state attempts to limit who can buy guns or how they can carry them have been challenged in court by pro-gun lobby groups.

“Everything that is being proposed today is totally consistent with the Second Amendment,” Biden said. “And there’s a wide consensus behind the need to take action.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Jeff Mason and Heather Timmons Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Biden defends U.S.-Mexico border policy in first White House news conference

By Jarrett Renshaw and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -President Joe Biden on Thursday defended his policy of providing shelter to unaccompanied children crossing the U.S. border from Mexico at a news conference where he was repeatedly pressed on his handling of immigration issues.

Biden also set a new goal of administering 200 million vaccination shots against COVID-19 in the United States in his first 100 days in office and claimed economic progress as he held his first solo news conference since taking office.

Struggling to contain a surge in border crossings, Biden told reporters that no previous administration had refused care and shelter to children coming over from Mexico – except that of his predecessor, Donald Trump.

“I’m not going to do it,” Biden said, noting he had selected Vice President Kamala Harris to lead diplomatic efforts with Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador aimed at stemming the migration flow.

Appearing in the White House East Room, Biden said his initial goal of administering 100 million vaccination shots in his first 100 days in office was reached last week, 42 days ahead of schedule.

“I know it’s ambitious, twice our original goal, but no other country in the world has even come close,” said Biden.

Biden said a May 1 deadline to withdraw U.S. troops in Afghanistan will be difficult to meet. “It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline,” he said. But he added, “We are not staying a long time” in Afghanistan, site of America’s longest war.

He also claimed economic progress with the news that the number of people claiming unemployment insurance had dropped significantly.

“There are still too many Americans out of work, too many families hurting and still a lot of work to do. But I can say to the American people: Help is here and hope is on the way,” he said.

Biden called for Republicans in the U.S. Congress to help him move forward with his agenda or “continue the politics of division” as he takes on issues like gun control, climate change and immigration reform.

“All I know is I was hired to solve problems, not create divisions,” he said.

Biden was repeatedly pressed to defend his migration policy along the U.S. border with Mexico.

Biden said the increase in migration was cyclical.

“It happens every single solitary year. There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months,” he said. “It happens every year.”

He said many migrants were fleeing problems in their home countries and blamed Trump, for dismantling parts of the U.S. immigration system.

Most of Biden’s predecessors had held their first news conference in their first two months in office, but the Democratic incumbent has so far taken few questions.

(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason, Alexandra Alper, Nandita Bose and Andrea Shalal; Editing by Heather Timmons and Alistair Bell)

U.S. House passes two Democratic-backed gun control bills

By Richard Cowan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday approved a pair of gun control bills as Democrats seized upon a shifting political landscape that they said improved chances for enacting new laws after years of failed attempts.

The first measure, which passed the Democratic-led House 227-203, would close a long-standing loophole in gun laws by expanding background checks to those purchasing weapons over the internet, at gun shows and through certain private transactions. Only eight Republicans joined the Democrats in backing the bill.

The second bill, passed 219-210 with only two Republicans supporting it, would give authorities 10 business days for federal background checks to be completed before a gun sale can be licensed. Currently, such sales can proceed if the government cannot complete complicated background checks of prospective buyers within three days.

President Joe Biden is a supporter of expanded gun control measures. The legislation may face a tougher battle in the U.S. Senate, where Biden’s fellow Democrats hold an even slimmer majority than in the House.

The bills follow a series of deadly U.S. mass shootings over the past decade. Gun control is a divisive issue in the United States, which enshrines gun rights in its Constitution. Most Republicans strongly oppose gun restrictions, while most Democrats argue that new laws are needed to curb gun violence.

The House Judiciary Committee’s senior Republican, Jim Jordan, wrote on Twitter that House Democrats were “making it harder for law-abiding citizens to buy a gun.”

Many Democrats want to go further by banning sales of some high-capacity, military-style rifles that can fire ammunition rapidly.

Democratic Representative Mike Thompson, who has spearheaded a drive for expanded gun control for years, said 30 people are killed by gun violence daily in the United States, with that number growing to 100 if suicides and accidental deaths involving firearms are counted. At the same time, Thompson said, 170 felons and 50 domestic abusers are stopped from buying a gun every day.

“It only makes sense that if you expand it you’ll stop even more felons, more domestic abusers,” Thompson said.

Republicans opposing the bills argued that the legislation would not make American streets safer and would infringe upon the right to bear arms guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment.

With Democrats now controlling the White House along with both chambers of Congress, they are seeking to pursue liberal goals thwarted when Republicans led either the House or Senate. Democrats have said their position has been further strengthened by turmoil within the National Rifle Association, the influential gun lobby closely aligned with Republicans.

The Senate’s longstanding filibuster rule makes it so most legislation requires 60 votes to proceed in the 100-seat chamber rather than a simple majority, and Republicans could use the maneuver to try to block gun control measures. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said if that happens, Democrats would “come together as a caucus and we’ll see how we’re going to get this done,” possibly hinting at ending or altering the filibuster rule.

A bipartisan gun control bill in 2013 – proposed after a mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school – failed on a vote of 54-46 in the Senate, short of the needed 60 votes.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. Supreme Court to tackle gay rights, guns, abortion and Trump

By Lawrence Hurley

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court’s new term opens on Monday with the conservative majority in a position to take a more aggressive rightward turn on divisive issues including abortion, gay rights and gun control while also refereeing legal brawls involving President Donald Trump.

The court has moved to the right since Trump took office, with a 5-4 conservative majority that includes two justices he appointed: Brett Kavanaugh in 2018 and Neil Gorsuch in 2017.

“We will likely see the court move further and faster in a rightward direction,” said Irv Gornstein, executive director of Georgetown University Law Center’s Supreme Court Institute.

The justices are due to tackle a larger number of consequential cases than they did in their previous term, and they could end up producing more 5-4 rulings along ideological lines with the conservative justices on the winning end and the four liberal justices in dissent, according to court experts.

There were few such rulings in the term that ended in June. In one of the biggest rulings of the last term, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four liberals in blocking Trump from adding a citizenship question to the 2020 U.S. census that opponents called an effort to intimidate immigrants into not taking part in the decennial population count.

The nine justices on Tuesday will hear their first major case: on whether gay and transgender people are protected by a landmark federal civil rights law that bars employment discrimination.

On Nov. 12, they will weigh the legality of Trump’s move to end a program created by his Democratic predecessor Barack Obama that protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants – mostly Hispanic young adults – who were brought into the United States illegally as children.

The court has arguments scheduled for Dec. 2 in the first major gun rights case in decade, although the justices potentially could dismiss it because the New York City law being challenged by gun rights advocates has been amended since the litigation began. Other gun-related cases wait in the wings for possible action by the justices.

‘A VEHICLE TO OVERRULE’

The court could announce as soon as this week whether it will take up two appeals regarding Republican-backed abortion restrictions enacted in Louisiana and Indiana. If the court were to take either or both of those cases, it would raise the possibility of a ruling that curbs abortion rights, as hoped for by anti-abortion activists.

The Louisiana case concerns a challenge by an abortion clinic to state requirements that doctors who perform the procedure have a difficult-to-obtain arrangement known as “admitting privileges” with local hospitals. It is similar to a Texas law that the Supreme Court struck down in 2016, when conservative Justice Anthony Kennedy sided with the court’s liberals. Kennedy, who defended abortion rights in some pivotal rulings, retired last year and was replaced by Kavanaugh.

“If they take up the case they could use it as a vehicle to overrule their precedent from three years ago. That would be extraordinary. The only thing that’s different is the composition of the court,” said Julie Rikelman, a lawyer at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which supports abortion rights.

The court during its new term also may be called upon to intervene on issues concerning Trump’s personal conduct in office, including potential legal fights over congressional subpoenas for material in the ongoing impeachment drama in the Democratic-led House of Representatives.

In 1974, the Supreme Court played a decisive role in the investigation into President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal, ruling 8-0 that Nixon had to hand over audio tapes recorded in the Oval Office. Facing impeachment, Nixon resigned days later.

Other disputes percolating in lower courts include lawsuits accusing Trump of violating anti-corruption provisions in the U.S. Constitution relating to his business interests. Two appeals courts have ruled on the issue so far, with one ruling for Trump and one against.

Trump is also fighting congressional subpoenas seeking his financial records from accounting firm Mazars LLP and two banks: Deutsche Bank AG and Capital One Financial Group.

Some legal experts have said that Trump, who has prevailed at the Supreme Court on issues such as his travel ban on people entering the United States from several Muslim-majority countries, may not fare so well on cases focusing on his personal activities.

In the House approves articles of impeachment – formal charges against Trump – Roberts would assume a daunting responsibility. As required under the Constitution, the chief justice would preside over a trial in the Senate on whether to remove Trump from office.

The health of the court’s oldest justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, also could be an issue in the court’s nine-month term, which will culminate with a flurry of major rulings next June during the heat of the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign.

The 86-year-old Ginsburg, a justice since 1993, underwent radiation therapy in August to treat a cancerous tumor on her pancreas after having two cancerous nodules in her left lung removed last December. Ginsburg has made public appearances since her latest treatment and has said she is “on my way to being very well.”

Ginsburg’s health concerns raise the possibility of Trump making another appointment to the Supreme Court. In addition, another liberal justice, Stephen Breyer, turned 81 in August.

“I can safely predict that the new term will have a fair share of closely watched cases and I look forward to the challenges ahead,” Ginsburg said during a Sept. 12 appearance in Washington.

(Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Will Dunham)

Dozens of CEOs call on Senate to tackle gun violence: reports

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – More than 100 chief executives of some of the nation’s most well-known companies on Thursday called on the U.S. Senate to take action to tackle gun violence, including expanding background checks and strengthening so-called red flag laws, according to media reports.

In a letter to lawmakers, 145 company heads urged meaningful action following a string of mass shootings across the United States that have most recently left communities reeling in Texas, Ohio, Nevada and South Carolina.

“Doing nothing about America’s gun violence crisis is simply unacceptable and it is time to stand with the American public on gun safety,” the letter to the Republican-led U.S. Senate said, according to the New York Times, which first reported the correspondence.

Those signing the missive include the heads of Gap Inc, Levi Strauss & Co, and Dick’s Sporting Goods Inc. They also included Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd, Uber Technologies Inc, Twitter Inc, and Amalgamated Bank, among others.

“We are writing to you because we have a responsibility and obligation to stand up for the safety of our employees, customers and all Americans in the communities we serve across the country,” they said, according to the Times. The Washington Post also reported the letter.

Lawmakers have struggled to address gun violence after the 2012 killing of 26 people, including 20 children, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut stoked the debate over gun control in America.

More mass shootings followed, including at a church in South Carolina, a music festival in Las Vegas and a high school in Florida. This summer, shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas – including in a Walmart – sparked fresh debate.

Walmart Inc and other stores have since called on patrons not to openly carry firearms in their stores, prompting protests from opponents who object to curbing gun rights.

The U.S. House of Representatives, led by Democrats, quickly took up measures addressing gun violence as lawmakers returned to Washington this week. These include three bills that seek to remove guns from people deemed a risk, ban high-capacity ammunition magazines and prohibit people convicted of violent hate crime misdemeanors from possessing firearms.

The Senate, led by President Donald Trump’s fellow Republicans, has so far stayed on the sidelines, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell looking to the White House for guidance.

On Wednesday, a bipartisan group of U.S. senators said they wanted to revive a failed 2013 bill to close loopholes in the law requiring gun sale background checks, but it remained unclear whether Trump would support it.

Polls have shown that nearly half of all Americans expect another mass shooting to happen soon in the United States.

(Writing by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

Trump says he will push to close background check loopholes for gun buys

FILE PHOTO: A prospective buyer examines an AR-15 at the "Ready Gunner" gun store In Provo, Utah, U.S. in Provo, Utah, U.S., June 21, 2016. REUTERS/George Frey/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump said on Wednesday his administration would seek to close background check loopholes for gun purchases after Democrats accused him of reversing course on gun control measures.

Trump spoke with the leader of the National Rifle Association lobbying group, Wayne LaPierre, on Tuesday, a White House official said. Speaking to reporters outside the White House, Trump said he did not tell LaPierre, whose group strongly opposes increased gun restrictions, that he would avoid pursuing measures on background checks.

Trump, who was endorsed by the NRA in the 2016 presidential race, said he views the number of U.S. gun deaths as a public health emergency and reiterated his belief that people who are mentally ill should not be allowed to buy guns.

“We’re working on background checks. There are things we can do. But we already have very serious background checks. We have strong background checks. We can close up the gaps. We can do things that are very good and things that frankly gun owners want to have done,” Trump said.

“We have background checks but there are loopholes in the background checks. And that’s what I spoke to the NRA about yesterday. They want to get rid of the loopholes as well as I do. At the same time, I don’t want to take away people’s Second Amendment rights,” Trump added later.

On Tuesday, Trump, a Republican, said his administration was engaged in meaningful talks with Democrats, who control the U.S. House of Representatives, about gun legislation after gunmen in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, killed 31 people using semi-automatic rifles and high-volume magazines earlier this month.

Congressional aides, however, said the discussions have been low-level and generally unproductive.

(Reporting by Jeff Mason; Writing by Makini Brice; Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Paul Simao)

Parkland massacre survivors unveil sweeping U.S. gun-control plan ahead of 2020 election

FILE PHOTO: David Hogg, a student at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, site of a February mass shooting which left 17 people dead in Parkland, Florida, thrusts his fist in the air as he speaks during the "March for Our Lives" event demanding gun control after recent school shootings at a rally in Washington, U.S., March 24, 2018. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein/File Photo

By Gabriella Borter

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Survivors of the Parkland, Florida, high school massacre on Wednesday released a sweeping gun-control plan that would ban assault-style rifles and take other steps in hopes of halving U.S. firearms deaths and injuries.

The proposal included a measure to register more young voters, and the group’s leaders addressed it to 2020 candidates seeking the presidential nomination, urging them to make gun control a top priority.

“We urge them to take a look at this agenda,” Tyah Amoy-Roberts, a former student who survived the shooting, said in a statement. “We cannot allow mass shootings in grocery stores, churches, shopping malls, and schools to be the new normal.”

The former Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students have worked to inspire a sense of urgency about gun violence since they started the national campaign “March for Our Lives” after a former student massacred 17 people with an assault rifle at their high school on Feb. 14, 2018.

Their plan comes the same month that saw 31 people killed in back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, within 24 hours.

The steady drumbeat of shootings has provoked limited federal action. Days after the twin massacres, President Donald Trump publicly mulled backing stronger background checks for gun buyers but by this week Congressional Democrats were accusing him of backtracking after a meeting with the National Rifle Association gun lobby.

The NRA and gun-rights supporters say the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution blocks most restrictions on gun ownership. NRA officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

The Parkland student’s plan calls for several hard-line gun control measures, including a national gun buy-back and disposal program, a federal system of gun licensing that requires background checks and annual renewals, and it urges politicians to declare a national emergency around gun violence.

The plan also calls on the government to automatically register all U.S. citizens to vote when they turn 18, a measure that March for Our Lives has pushed in an effort to turn out the youth vote and sway elections to yield tighter gun policies.

March for Our Lives and ally Giffords are planning an Oct. 2 forum for 2020 candidates to discuss gun violence.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Scott Malone and David Gregorio)

Between gun massacres, a routine, deadly seven days of U.S. shootings

FILE PHOTO: A man walks down a street past a handmade sign posted in the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois, United States, July 29, 2015. REUTERS/Jim Young/File Photo

By Jonathan Allen and Joseph Ax

(Reuters) – A boy accidentally killed by his father during a fishing trip in Montana. A woman dead and her husband behind bars after a single gunshot in a Dallas hotel room. A teenager cut down on his porch on a warm day in Washington state.

During the week bookended by mass shootings in Gilroy, California; El Paso, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio, in which gunmen killed 34 people, hundreds of others were shot to death across 47 U.S. states, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit group that uses local news and police reports to track gun incidents.

The deaths were the sort of everyday murders, suicides and accidents that may not grab the headlines of mass shootings, but in many ways show the true toll of the gun violence endemic to the United States.

FILE PHOTO: A man places an American flag in the pile of flowers that has gathered a day after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 4, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: A man places an American flag in the pile of flowers that has gathered a day after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 4, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare/File Photo

More than 36,000 people are shot to death every year on average in America, according to U.S. government data compiled by the gun-control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety. That works out to about 100 a day, or one every 14-1/2 minutes. Suicides account for more than 60 percent of those deaths. Slightly more than a third are homicides.

Here are some of the victims of deadly shootings during the week between the attack in Gilroy and the attack in Dayton:

SUNDAY, JULY 28

Soon after a gunman opened fire at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, Steven Parsons was sitting in a parked car with two other people 1,500 miles away in an alley in Kansas City, Missouri.

The 27-year-old died there along with another man, Montae Robinson, shot by a gunman who is still at large, police said. The third person in the car is being sought by police for questioning but is not a suspect.

“I have a wedding dress in my closet that I will never wear,” Marissa Tantillo said during Parsons’ funeral service on Wednesday evening at a chapel in Blue Springs, near Kansas City.

They had two daughters together and planned to marry in a few months. She urged mourners never to take their loved ones for granted. “All I want you to do is hold your husband a little closer, hold your wife a little tighter,” she said.

Tantillo recalled a romance that began when she and Parsons were barely teenagers.

“So many of us don’t believe in love anymore,” Tantillo told the gathering. “In Steven, I knew I found my soul mate.”

Parsons had a sense of adventure as a boy, his father, Steve Parsons, said at the service. “We’d be cruising along in the old white van and he’d say, ‘What’s that way?’ and so we’d turn and go that way,” Parsons said.

People should remember the years his son lived, not the day he died, he said. “Do not let the last day destroy all the good days you had with him.”

MONDAY, JULY 29

Guests at the Hotel ZaZa in Dallas heard a commotion and screams from the room where Jacqueline Rose Parguian and her husband, Peter Nicholas, were staying on Monday night.

When hotel security staff knocked on the door, no one answered. Paramedics, responding to a 911 call about a woman loudly in distress and a report of a possible drug overdose, listened to the commotion outside as they waited for police to arrive, per department rules. A noisy hour passed. A gunshot rang out. The arguing stopped. Parguian was dead.

“Jackie had a passion for beauty,” an obituary published by Parguian’s family said. She pursued a degree in cosmetology and graduated from a Dallas beauty school in 2016.

She loved ’90s pop music, especially the boy band NSYNC, and collected concert tickets in a box of memories. One of six children, she was known for checking in frequently with her younger siblings.

She was 32. Her sons are 2 and 8.

“How do we explain to those little angels that their parents are both not going to be there anymore, ya know?” Parguian’s mother said in an interview. Friends and relatives had soon pledged more than $25,000 in donations to a GoFundMe fundraiser in support of the boys’ uncertain future.

When their father, known to some Dallas music fans as DJ Pete Mash, opened the hotel room door on Monday night to police, he had blood on him and an extension cord wrapped around his neck, according to the Dallas Police Department.

Police said he seemed high on drugs and that they had to subdue him with a stun gun after he began screaming and fighting. They found a handgun in a backpack in the room near Parguian’s body.

Explaining the delayed response, police later said officers were responding to higher-priority calls that night before reports of a gunshot came through.

Nicholas, 30, was arrested and charged with his wife’s murder. He was later released on a $250,000 bond. An attorney for Nicholas did not respond to a request for comment.

“Peter is a nice young man,” Parguian’s mother, Tess Parguian, told a local ABC television affiliate. “He’s very polite, and that’s why I cannot believe he could do such a thing.”

TUESDAY, JULY 30

It was a warm day in Tacoma, Washington, and Jamone Pratt was out on a friend’s front porch when he was shot in the head. Witnesses told police they saw at least two cars speeding away. Pratt was 16 years old.

Police have made no arrests. Jamone’s mother, Kyndal Pierce, has filled her Facebook page with anguished posts, saying she’s finding it hard to go on without her eldest son, a “tall and skinny” kid the family called Junior and who was inseparable from his sister.

“He made some bad choices, you know, got involved with the wrong people,” Pierce said in an interview with a local news channel. “I don’t know what happened, but I know my baby didn’t deserve this.”

A schoolmate of Jamone’s who makes music under the name KiingCalebb recorded a rap tribute to his friend called “MonesWrld.” The lyrics include oblique references to gang rivalries.

“Thought you were going to make it to 18,” the lyrics went. “All you wanted were your dreams / but now you fly high.”

WEDNESDAY, JULY 31

Growing up in the Miami area as a black transgender woman, Kiki Fantroy faced a lot of bullying – but that never altered her natural inclination to trust and forgive other people, her mother said.

Fantroy, 21, was shot several times early in the morning after leaving a house party, becoming the 13th black transgender woman killed in the United States this year, activists say.

The killing prompted several events in her memory, including a “Take Back the Night” event held by a local transgender women’s group and a candlelight vigil.

In an interview, Fantroy’s mother, Rhonda Comer, switched back and forth between using her daughter’s preferred name, Kiki, and her birth name, Marquis, and between masculine and feminine pronouns.

Comer said she supported Fantroy’s decision to begin transitioning as a teenager.

Fantroy always had a flair for fashion, Comer said.

“He would make clothes, he would tell me what to wear, what he wanted to wear, and he would always put his twist on things,” said Comer, 44. “Kiki could take a shirt and a skirt and make it a whole different outfit; you can’t ask me her favorite color because, honey, she wore it all.”

Fantroy loved and trusted people implicitly, Comer said, a trait that sometimes worried her – especially after Fantroy was sexually assaulted and “dumped in a tomato field” at age 16 by someone she had met online.

Fantroy had just left a house party with a friend, another transgender woman, and Comer said she was convinced they were deliberately targeted. Police in Miami-Dade County have declined to call the shooting a hate crime.

Police later arrested a 17-year-old boy and charged him with murder after a witness picked him out of a lineup.

THURSDAY, AUGUST 1

Caden Lacunza, 11, had finished cleaning one fish and was just starting on the second one he had caught near Crow Creek Falls in rural Montana when he was shot in the head.

His father, Cadet, dropped the .357 revolver he had just fired, sprinted toward his fallen son and began yelling for his wife.

Hours later, he was under arrest for negligent homicide.

The details of the incident, laid out in a Broadwater County Sheriff’s Office report, indicate Cadet Lacunza didn’t intend any harm when he shot off a round in the direction of the river.

He had seen his family, including his wife, his son and his daughter, near the campfire, and decided to shoot his pistol, according to the report. While he was retrieving the gun from his pickup truck, however, Caden made his way to the river to clean the fish he had snared.

Lacunza’s lawyer, Greg Beebe, said his client was innocent of any criminal wrongdoing.

“This was just a tragic accident, and not a negligent homicide,” Beebe said. “At the center of this, we have a family who’s been devastated.”

Lacunza’s wife, Victoria, told Reuters in a Facebook message that the shooting was an accident but declined to comment further.

At the scene, officers retrieved Lacunza’s revolver, the cylinder still loaded except for a single spent round. In the river, about 10 feet from where Caden collapsed, they found a cleaned fish; the other fish was on the ground where the boy had dropped it, a small cut in its belly and a knife lying nearby.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 2

Deante Strickland came running out of his grandparents’ house in Portland, Oregon, in mid-afternoon, bleeding from the chest.

“I don’t want to die,” he said, according to a construction worker who was at a site nearby. “My sister shot me.”

Strickland, 22, died near his home despite efforts to save his life. His sister, Tamena Strickland, has been charged with his murder, as well as with wounding her grandmother and aunt.

Authorities have not offered a motive for the shooting. Tamena Strickland’s defense lawyer, Robert Crow, said it was still too early to know exactly what had happened.

“Everybody is of the belief that this isn’t who Tamena is,” he said, adding that many family members attended her initial court appearance on Monday in support of both her and her brother. Tamena Strickland has not entered a plea and remains in custody in the Multnomah County Detention Center.

Crow said neither sibling had a criminal record, and there was no outward sign of any dispute between them.

“That’s part of what makes it such a mystery to people,” he said.

Strickland was a standout basketball and football player in high school. He spent two years at a junior college in Wyoming before transferring to his hometown school Portland State University, where he played on the basketball team.

He was entering graduate school at PSU in the fall and planned to play for the football team.

Friends and teammates flooded social media with remembrances of “Strick,” praising his devotion to Portland, his near-permanent smile and his love for basketball.

In a video he filmed shortly before graduation this year, Strickland said, “My advice to you: Don’t take the time for granted. It goes by fast, so try to enjoy every moment.”

SATURDAY, AUGUST 3

It was a cheerful summer Saturday afternoon in Denise Wimberly’s house in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.

As music filled her home, the 61-year-old mother of four relaxed on her couch with her niece as her son Calvin Seay got ready for an afternoon basketball game.

“He came back in the house to lay his clothes out because he was a neat freak,” she said. “Then he left to go down the street to show the neighbors the phone he just got.”

Moments after the 23-year-old left, police officers responded to an alert from the department’s gunshot-detection system.

They found Seay, a father of one, lying on the sidewalk steps from his home. He had been shot once in the head and once in the chest.

“My other son ran down the street, saying Calvin got shot,” Wimberly said. She jumped up and threw down her cigarette. “I almost set my couch on fire.”

“He was my baby,” she said. “They need to stop the shooting, because they are shooting people that they don’t need to be.” No suspects have been arrested.

Seay’s slaying was part of a bloody weekend in Chicago in which seven people were killed and at least 45 others were wounded, including a 5-year-old boy.

“What will it take for people to become sick and tired at the level of gun violence in this country?” Chicago Superintendent of Police Eddie Johnson asked at a news conference.

Seay, whose daughter turned 6 last week, loved to draw and play basketball and had just gotten a job with the Chicago Park District, where he was working with children at a summer camp.

“He was no person to go hang out on the street. He wasn’t like that at all,” Wimberly said. “He said that since he got the job, he was going to send me on vacation. That’s how he was.”

Less than 12 hours after Seay’s death, a gunman opened fire on the street in downtown Dayton, killing nine people.

Another week of gun violence in America was drawing to an end.

(Additional reporting and writing by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City, Zachary Fagenson in Miami and Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Editing by Paul Thomasch and Kari Howard)

Trump says ‘common sense things can be done’ on guns, wants NRA input

FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to reporters as he departs on travel to Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas following back-to-back mass shootings in the cities, on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, U.S., August 7, 2019. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque/File Photo

By Susan Heavey and Humeyra Pamuk

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump on Friday called for “common sense” solutions to address gun violence without mentioning what specific measures he would support and saying the views of powerful National Rifle Association lobbyists should be considered.

Thirty-one people were killed in two weekend shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, in attacks that shook the country and reopened a national debate on gun safety as Americans grapple with yet another mass shooting.

A week later, it remains unclear what, if any, specific steps the Republican president would back. Democrats are trying to galvanize public support for legislative action over what has been a contentious issue for years, even before Trump’s administration.

Trump earlier this week initially appeared to back background checks but then did not mention them in a public address on Monday that focused on mental illness and media culture. He later predicted congressional support for those background checks and blocking gun access to the mentally ill, but not for any effort to ban assault rifles.

He had promised to take action in early 2018 after 17 people were killed at a Parkland, Florida, high school but backed down after the NRA, a key financial donor to Republican politicians, weighed in.

On Friday, he appeared to want to balance any congressional action with the NRA’s views.

“I am the biggest Second Amendment person there is, but we all must work together for the good and safety of our Country,” he wrote. “Common sense things can be done that are good for everyone.”

Trump said he had “been speaking to the NRA, and others, so that their very strong views can be fully represented and respected.” The NRA, in a statement on Thursday, indicated it opposed further gun restrictions.

Congress is in recess but Trump said leaders of the House of Representatives and Senate were discussing expanding background checks for guns sales.

Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell on Thursday rejected a plea from more than 200 mayors to call the Senate back early to consider gun legislation.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said they had each spoken separately to Trump and that he had assured them he would review legislation that has already passed the Democratic-majority House.

The White House had said it would hold also a meeting with representatives from the technology industry on Friday to discuss violent extremism online. Trump is not scheduled to be at the White House for most of the day as he attends a fundraiser in the Hamptons in New York for his 2020 re-election campaign.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; Writing by Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Bill Trott)

Petition by Walmart employee to protest gun sales gathers over 45,000 signatures

A police officer stands next to a police cordon after a mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso,Texas, U.S. August 3, 2019. REUTERS/Jose Luis Gonzalez

By Nandita Bose

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A petition started by a junior Walmart Inc <WMT.N> worker in California to protest the retailer’s sale of firearms, following two mass shootings over the weekend left 31 people dead in Texas and Ohio, has gathered more than 45,000 signatures.

Thomas Marshall, a 23-year-old category manager in San Bruno began his protest by emailing fellow employees and asking them to call in sick on Tuesday, leave work early on Wednesday, and to sign a Change.org petition.

The petition https://www.change.org/p/doug-mcmillon-stop-the-sale-of-guns-at-walmart-stores?utm_content=bandit-starter_cl_share_content_en-us%3Av4&recruited_by_id=fc7b5740-b810-11e9-be8a-6fbcafd3c27d&recruiter=989859201&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition, which is open to the public, is steadily approaching its goal of 50,000 signatures.

“In light of these recent tragedies — a mere snapshot of the gun violence epidemic plaguing the United States — and in response to Corporate’s inaction, we as employees are organizing several days of action, to protest Walmart’s profit from the sale of firearms and ammunition,” the petition says.

Marshall told Reuters he and other organizers would send the petition to the company’s Chief Executive Doug McMillon after it reaches its target.

Marshall said he was shut out of the company’s email and messaging networks temporarily earlier this week after he started the protest, but that he has since been granted access.

Employees in San Bruno and in Portland, Oregon had walked out on Wednesday in protest of the company’s policy of selling firearms, Marshall said, adding that some Walmart employees in New York also held a minute of silence that day.

Walmart said 40 employees in San Bruno protested by walking out but did not confirm the other details.

“A lot more employees have been reaching out to me to express their support but a majority of those employees are very afraid of retaliation from the company,” he said.

NO CHANGE IN GUN SALE POLICY

Earlier this week, Walmart told Reuters there had been no change in its policy on gun sales after the recent mass shootings, one of which took place in a Walmart store.

Years of public pressure led Walmart, the largest U.S arms retailer, to end assault-rifle sales in 2015 and to raise the minimum age for gun purchases to 21 in 2018.

Some gun control activists and Walmart customers now want the retailer to drop sales of guns and ammunition altogether.

Walmart spokesman Randy Hargrove said on Thursday the company continued to feel there were more appropriate ways for employees to engage with the retailer, including through discussions with top leadership.

He said the company’s policy on selling firearms had not changed.

“We have worked very hard to be a responsible firearms retailer…Walmart does more in the area of background checks than what the federal law requires,” Hargrove added.

The retailer’s Chief Executive Doug McMillon sent a message to employees on social media late on Tuesday, assuring them the company was listening to their concerns.

“We will be thoughtful and deliberate in our responses, and we will act in a way that reflects the best values and ideals of our company,” McMillon said.

(Reporting by Nandita Bose in Washington; Editing by Bernadette Baum)