U.S. Supreme Court will not shield gun maker from Sandy Hook lawsuit

U.S. Supreme Court will not shield gun maker from Sandy Hook lawsuit
By Andrew Chung

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday dealt a blow to the firearms industry, rejecting Remington Arms Co’s bid to escape a lawsuit by families of victims aiming to hold the gun maker liable for its marketing of the assault-style rifle used in the 2012 Sandy Hook school massacre that killed 20 children and six adults.

The justices turned away Remington’s appeal of a ruling by Connecticut’s top court to let the lawsuit proceed despite a federal law that broadly shields firearms manufacturers from liability when their weapons are used in crimes. The lawsuit will move forward at a time of high passions in the United States over the issue of gun control.

The family members of nine people slain and one survivor of the Sandy Hook massacre filed the lawsuit in 2014. Remington was backed in the case by a number of gun rights groups and lobbying organizations including the powerful National Rifle Association, which is closely aligned with Republicans including President Donald Trump. The NRA called the lawsuit “company-killing.”

The Dec. 14, 2012 rampage was carried out by a 20-year-old gunman named Adam Lanza, who shot his way into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut and fired on the first-graders and adult staff before fatally shooting himself as police closed in.

The United States has experienced a succession of mass shootings in recent decades, including several that have staggered the public such as the 2017 attack at a Las Vegas concert that killed 58 and one at a nightclub in Orlando in 2016 that killed 49. Assault-type rifles have been a recurring feature in many of the massacres.

The U.S. Congress has not enacted new gun control laws in the wake of the mass shootings largely because of Republican opposition.

The plaintiffs have argued that Remington bears some of the blame for the Sandy Hook tragedy. They said the Bushmaster AR-15 gun that Lanza used – a semi-automatic civilian version of the U.S. military’s M-16 – had been illegally marketed by the company to civilians as a combat weapon for waging war and killing human beings.

The plaintiffs said that Connecticut’s consumer protection law forbids advertising that promotes violent, criminal behavior and yet even though these rifles have become the “weapon of choice for mass shooters” Remington’s ads “continued to exploit the fantasy of an all-conquering lone gunman.” One of them, they noted, stated, “Forces of opposition, bow down.”

Remington argued that it should be insulated from the lawsuit by a 2005 federal law known as the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which was aimed at blocking a wave of lawsuits damaging to the firearms industry.

The case hinges on an exception to this shield for claims in which a gun manufacturer knowingly violates the law to sell or market guns. Remington has argued that the Connecticut Supreme Court interpreted the exception too broadly when it decided to let the case go ahead.

Though the case does not directly implicate the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, the NRA told the justices in a filing that the lawsuit could put gun manufacturers out of business, making the right meaningless.

A state trial court initially threw out the claims but the Connecticut Supreme Court revived the lawsuit in March, prompting Remington’s appeal.

The justices already have taken up one important gun rights case in their current term.

They are due to hear arguments on Dec. 2 in a lawsuit by gun owners and the state’s NRA affiliate challenging New York City restrictions on handgun owners transporting firearms outside the home. The city had asked the justices to cancel the arguments because its measure was recently amended, meaning there was no longer any reason to hear the dispute. But the court decided to go ahead with the case.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

Mexico makes arrests in massacre of American women, children – minister

Mexico makes arrests in massacre of American women, children: minister
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Mexico has made an unspecified number of arrests over last week’s massacre of three women and six children of dual U.S-Mexican nationality in the north of the country, Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said on Monday.

“There have been arrests, but it’s not up to us to give information,” Durazo told reporters in Mexico City.

The women and children from families of U.S. Mormon origin who settled in Mexico decades ago were killed last Monday on a remote dirt road in the state of Sonora by suspected drug cartel gunmen, sparking outrage and condemnation in the United States.

Durazo said that prosecutors in Sonora, as well as at the federal level, were in charge of the investigation.

However, a spokeswoman for the state government of Sonora said: “We don’t have that information.”

Mexico’s government has said it believes the victims were caught in the midst of a territorial dispute between an arm of the powerful Sinaloa Cartel and the rival Juarez Cartel.

On Sunday, Mexico’s government said it had asked the FBI to participate in the investigation into the killings.

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

Family tells how 13-year-old boy hid siblings in Mexico massacre

Family tells how 13-year-old boy hid siblings in Mexico massacre
By Lizbeth Diaz

BAVISPE, Mexico (Reuters) – After watching gunmen shoot dead his mother and two brothers, 13-year-old Devin Langford hid six surviving siblings in nearby bushes and walked for miles in a rugged expanse of northern Mexico to get help.

The harrowing account was given by members of three Mexican-American Mormon families that suffered a brutal attack by suspected drug cartel hitmen on Monday which claimed the lives of three women and six children and sparked outrage and condemnation in the United States.

The families, members of breakaway Mormon communities that settled in northern Mexico decades ago, were set upon as they drove along a remote dirt road in Sonora state.

Following the attack, Devin, who was uninjured, set off alone in rough, mountainous terrain, walking 14 miles (23 km) to look for help, the families said in a statement.

“After witnessing his mother and brothers being shot dead, Dawna (Langford)’s son Devin hid his six other siblings in the bushes and covered them with branches to keep them safe while he went for help,” the account states. For 11 hours, the relatives had no idea about what had happened to their loved ones.

The three mothers and 14 children were in three vehicles that left from a small village in Sonora to meet with relatives in neighboring Chihuahua state and Phoenix, Arizona.

The murders sparked immediate calls from U.S. President Donald Trump for Mexico to join forces with the United States to crack down on drug gangs amid mounting concerns over security after a string of mass killings in the past few weeks.

On the defensive, Mexico has countered by urging the U.S. government to help stop the flow of arms south of the border.

Security Minister Alfonso Durazo stressed that Remington shell casings of U.S. origin were found at the crime scene.

“That’s one of the most relevant details we can give you,” he told reporters at a news conference on Wednesday.

No official explanation has been given for the killings, though the Mexican government said the victims may have been caught in the crossfire of a bloody turf war between an arm of the Sinaloa Cartel and its rival, the Juarez Cartel.

Relatives of the dead have dismissed the notion that the women and children could have been targeted due to mistaken identity in a shooting spree that authorities said left more than 200 military-grade shell casings behind.

The mothers of the Langford, Miller and Johnson families were driving separate SUVs when the gunmen opened fire. All three mothers lost their lives in the slaughter.

The youngest of Devin’s siblings, 9-month old Oliver, was shot in the chest; 8-year-old Cody had bullet wounds to the jaw and the leg, while Xander, 4, had been hit in the back. Brothers Trevor, 11, and Rogan, 2, lay dead.

When Devin failed to return, his 9-year-old sister Mckenzie, who was grazed in the arm, went after him and walked 10 miles before getting lost in the dark. Search parties later found her, the families said. Another sister, Kylie, was shot in the foot, while sibling Ryder was uninjured.

Nearby, the attack on the vehicle transporting the Miller family had claimed five lives; mother Rhonita, and four children, including 8-month old twins Titus and Tiana.

“All shot and burned in their vehicle,” the families’ statement said. “Only ashes and a few bones remain.”

(Reporting by Lizbeth Diaz in Bavispe; Additional reporting by Sharay Angulo in Mexico City; Editing by Dave Graham and Rosalba O’Brien)

Texas gunman fired from job before massacre; victim IDs emerge: media

People gather for a vigil following Saturday's shooting in Odessa, Texas, U.S. September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

By Keith Coffman and Rich McKay

(Reuters) – The man who killed seven people and wounded 22 others in a rolling rampage across West Texas on Saturday was fired from his trucking job hours before the massacre, media and officials reported.

Details about the Labor Day weekend shooting and the names of some of the victims were emerging online and from officials on Sunday and early Monday. Police continued to comb through 15 different crime scenes in neighboring Midland and Odessa, Texas.

The gunman, identified by police as Seth Aaron Ator, 36, of Odessa, had been fired from his truck-driving job in Odessa on Saturday morning, the New York Times and other media reported.

Hours later, Ator was pulled over in Midland by Texas state troopers on Interstate 20 for failing to use a turn signal, police said.

Armed with an AR-type rifle, Ator fired out the back window of his vehicle, injuring one trooper. Then he drove away spraying gunfire indiscriminately, the Texas Department of Public Safety said in a statement.

At one point, Ator abandoned his vehicle and hijacked a U.S. postal van and mortally wounded the postal carrier, identified postal officials as Mary Grandos, 29.

Ator was later cornered by officers in the parking lot of a cinema complex in Odessa. He was shot and killed.

“There are no definitive answers as to motive or reasons at this point, but we are fairly certain that the subject did act alone,” Odessa Police Chief Michael Gerke said at a news conference.

Online court records showed Ator had convictions in 2002 for criminal trespass and evading arrest. The Midland Reporter-Telegram newspaper quoted a state lawmaker, Rep. Tom Craddick, as saying he had previously failed a background check.

Gerke offered his condolences to their families of the dead and wounded.

A man holds flowers and a candle as people gather for a vigil following Saturday's shooting in Odessa, Texas, U.S. September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

A man holds flowers and a candle as people gather for a vigil following Saturday’s shooting in Odessa, Texas, U.S. September 1, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare

“My heart aches for them all,” he said.

Among the dead was Grandos, who various news media reported was at the end of her shift and on the telephone with her twin sister Rosie Grandos.

“She didn’t deserve this,” a tearful Rosie Grandos said in an interview with CNN late Sunday. “I was talking to her on the phone and she said she heard gunshots but didn’t know where they were coming from.

“I heard her screaming,” she said. “I was hearing her cry and scream for help. I didn’t know what was happening.”

Rosie Grandos said got in her car and drove to her sister. By the time she arrived, she saw her sister lying on the ground, she said.

The Washington Post reported that others among the dead were Edwin Peregrino, 25, who was killed outside of the home he moved into a few weeks ago.

Also killed was Leilah Hernandez, 15, who had just celebrated a coming of age party, the newspaper reported.

Joseph Griffith, 40, was killed as he waited at a traffic light with his wife and two children, the newspaper reported.

Among the wounded was a 17-month-old girl, Anderson Davis, who was shot in the face, according to officials and an online fundraising campaign started by her family.

In numerous media interviews, her family that the child underwent surgery and will recover.

Three police officers were shot and wounded – one from Midland, one from Odessa and one state trooper – and were in stable condition.

It was the second mass shooting in Texas in four weeks. On Aug. 3, a gunman from the Dallas area killed 22 people in another Saturday shooting at a Walmart store about 255 miles (410 km) west of Midland in the city of El Paso, Texas.

President Donald Trump called the Odessa-Midland shooter “a very sick person,” but said background checks on gun buyers would not have prevented recent U.S. gun violence.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman in Denver and Rich McKay in Atlanta; editing by Larry King)

Heading to El Paso, Trump nixes assault weapons ban, supports stronger background checks

A woman kneels at a memorial three days after a mass shooting at a Walmart store in El Paso, Texas, U.S. August 6, 2019. REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare

By Nandita Bose and Jeff Mason

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump dismissed legislation to ban assault rifles as politically unfeasible on Wednesday as he prepared to visit the sites of two deadly mass shootings that shocked the country and drew criticism of his anti-immigrant rhetoric.

As he left the White House, Trump said he wanted to strengthen background checks for gun purchases and make sure mentally ill people did not carry guns. He predicted congressional support for those two measures but not for banning assault rifles.

“I can tell you that there is no political appetite for that at this moment,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “But I will certainly bring that up … There is a great appetite, and I mean a very strong appetite, for background checks.”

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

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

The president faced an uncertain welcome on Wednesday in Dayton, Ohio, where nine people and the suspect were killed in a rampage early on Sunday and in El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were killed at a Walmart store on Saturday before the gunman was taken alive.

The back-to-back massacres, occurring 13 hours apart, have reopened the national debate over gun safety and led protesters in Dayton to heckle Ohio’s Republican governor, Mike DeWine, at a vigil for the shooting victims with chants of “Do something!”

Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, a Democrat, said on Tuesday she would welcome the Republican president, who has said he wants to meet law enforcement, first responders and survivors.

But Whaley said she planned to tell Trump “how unhelpful he’s been” on the issue of gun violence, referring to the speech he gave on Monday focusing on mental health reform, tighter internet regulation and wider use of the death penalty.

Critics have said Trump stokes violence with racially incendiary rhetoric. The El Paso massacre is being investigated as a hate crime and the FBI said the Dayton shooter had explored violent ideologies.

Democrats accuse Trump of hiding behind talk of mental illness and the influence of social media rather than committing to laws they insist are needed to restrict gun ownership and the types of weapons that are legal.

In Iowa, Democratic presidential front-runner Joe Biden planned to say, “We have a president with a toxic tongue who has publicly and unapologetically embraced a political strategy of hate, racism, and division.”

In a sign of higher tensions after the shootings, a motorcycle backfiring on Tuesday night in New York’s Times Square sent crowds running for fear of another gun attack. “People are obviously very frightened,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo told CNN.

Authorities in Texas have said they are investigating Saturday’s shooting spree in the predominantly Hispanic west Texas border city of El Paso as a hate crime and an act of domestic terrorism. They cited a racist manifesto posted online shortly before the shooting, which they attributed to the suspect.

An open letter to Trump on Wednesday in the El Paso Times described the border city as having “a deep tradition of racial harmony” whose people came together after the tragedy. It admonished Trump for calling El Paso one of the country’s most dangerous cities in his February State of the Union address.

“The violence that pierced El Paso, drawing you here today, is not of our own community,” wrote editor Tim Archuleta. “An outsider came here to shatter our city, to murder our neighbors. A white man from another Texas city came to target the more than 80% of us who share Hispanic roots.”

‘SINISTER IDEOLOGIES’

Trump, in his televised White House speech on Monday, condemned “sinister ideologies” and hate. His supporters say Democrats unfairly blame him for the behavior of criminals.

Democrats say Trump’s own anti-immigrant, racially charged language at rallies and on Twitter has done much to fan racist, white nationalist sentiments, creating a political climate more conducive to hate-based violence.

U.S. Representative Veronica Escobar, a Democrat whose congressional district includes El Paso, declared that Trump “is not welcome here.”

Trump staged his first political rally of 2019 in El Paso in February.

She said on Twitter on Tuesday she declined a White House invitation to join Trump in El Paso after being told he was too busy to speak with her by phone in advance. “I refuse to be an accessory to his visit,” Escobar later told CNN.

Former Texas congressman and El Paso native Beto O’Rourke, who is seeking the 2020 Democratic nomination for president, said Trump “helped create the hatred that made Saturday’s tragedy possible” and thus “has no place here.”

In an apparent answer to his criticism, Trump said on Twitter late on Tuesday O’Rourke “should respect the victims & law enforcement – & be quiet!”

Not everyone agreed that Trump should stay away.

“This is not a political visit,” El Paso Mayor Dee Margo told reporters. “He is president of the United States. So in that capacity, I will fulfill my obligations as mayor of El Paso to meet with the president and discuss whatever our needs are in this community.”

(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Additional reporting by Rich McKay, Susan Heavey and Doina Chiacu in Washingon, Barbara Goldberg in New York; Editing by Paul Tait and Howard Goller)

In western France, a village remembers D-Day’s ‘secret massacre’

A general view shows remains of the former church at the memorial of Graignes, in Graignes, France May 15, 2019. Picture taken May 15, 2019. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

By Richard Lough

GRAIGNES, France (Reuters) – The lost U.S. paratrooper tapped on the door of the Rigault family’s farmhouse in Normandy, France in the early hours of June 6, 1944, miles south of his intended drop zone and soaking from his landing in the surrounding marshland.

After four years under German occupation, 12-year-old Marthe Rigault, awoken by the roar of aircraft overhead, watched as her parents warmed the foreign soldier with a flask of coffee.

By dawn, dozens of men from the 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment had hunkered down on the Rigault farm outside the village of Graignes. As they did, the distant boom of heavy artillery carried inland as allied forces invaded Europe on the Normandy beaches to drive the Nazis from France.

“They said, ‘Don’t be afraid, we’re you’re friends, the Tommies,'” Rigault, now 86, recalled. “We thought we’d been liberated. We were overjoyed. We didn’t know it that morning, but it would be a month before Graignes was set free.”

Some 170 paratroopers had been involved in one of the worst misdrops of any airborne unit on D-Day. Separated from their comrades in German-occupied territory, the troops dug in.

Marthe Rigault, 87 years old, from Graignes in the Normandy region poses as she attends an interview with Reuters in Graignes, France May 15, 2019. Picture taken May 15, 2019. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Marthe Rigault, 87 years old, from Graignes in the Normandy region poses as she attends an interview with Reuters in Graignes, France May 15, 2019. Picture taken May 15, 2019. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

The inhabitants of Graignes were swift to help, feeding the U.S. troops, relaying intelligence and retrieving their equipment from the marshland. The village would pay a heavy price for offering assistance. It would lead to what they now call the “secret massacre” of D-Day.

“For two or three days, my father, sister and I, and others too, rowed out with the soldiers to recover their munitions and parachutes from the marshes,” Rigault said.

The Americans converted the village boys school into a command center, mined access roads and turned the belfry of Graignes’ 12th century church into an observation post.

Only the church bell tower stands today, a memorial to the U.S. soldiers and civilians killed during the battle for Graignes. The Germans launched their assault on June 11, as Marthe Rigault and her elder sister, Odette, attended mass.

“A woman ran in and told us to hide because the Germans were nearby,” said Rigault. Panic swept through the nave as gunfire erupted outside.

REVENGE

The village has invited both U.S. and German troops to attend a dinner to mark the 75th anniversary of the Normandy landings and the battle for Graignes. President Donald Trump will attend a ceremony at a nearby U.S. war cemetery to honor his country’s forces who took part in the D-Day landings.

In Graignes, the U.S. paratrooopers were outnumbered and outgunned.

For nine hours, Rigault sat huddled with her sister against the church’s stone walls as wounded soldiers and civilians were brought in. As dusk fell and their defenses crumbled, the American soldiers were forced to retreat from Graignes.

The Germans were brutal in their reprisals against the village, Rigault recalled.

Marthe Rigault, 87 years old, from Graignes in the Normandy region poses holding a copy of a photograph taken couple of weeks after the D-Day and showing herself among relatives and U.S. soldiers as she attends an interview with Reuters in Graignes, France May 15, 2019. Picture taken May 15, 2019. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Marthe Rigault, 87 years old, from Graignes in the Normandy region poses holding a copy of a photograph taken couple of weeks after the D-Day and showing herself among relatives and U.S. soldiers as she attends an interview with Reuters in Graignes, France May 15, 2019. Picture taken May 15, 2019. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

The village priest, Father Albert Leblastier, and a Franciscan priest were shot dead and their bodies burned. Homesteads were torched. The maimed paratroopers left behind were split into two groups: some were marched down the road and executed, others were “thrown into the marshes and bayoneted,” Rigault recalled. “We weren’t allowed to pull them out for several days.”

For four decades, Rigault had no news of the U.S. troops she had helped, although word of the villagers’ bravery reached Washington.

Rigault treasures a battered certificate signed by Dwight Eisenhower, in his capacity as the commanding U.S. general in Europe, on behalf of the U.S. president expressing thanks to her father, Gustave, for helping the paratroopers.

Then, in 1984, a small number of U.S. soldiers whose lives had been saved by the villagers returned to Graignes.

“It was tough for them to come back because they felt that in some way they had abandoned the villagers, left them to face the Germans’ revenge,” said Denis Small, mayor of Graignes for the past 22 years. “But the village received them for the liberators that they were.”

Two years later, in 1986, the U.S. government recognized Rigault for her courage in aiding the troops as a young girl with an Award for Distinguished Civilian Service.

Graignes was liberated from the Germans on July 12, 1944.

(Reporting by Richard Lough; Editing by Edmund Blair)

Doves, heartbreak and hope on 20th anniversary of Columbine High massacre

A man looks at a line of crosses commemorating those killed in the Columbine High School shooting on the 20th anniversary of the attack in Littleton, Colorado, U.S., April 20, 2019. REUTERS/Rick Wilking

By Keith Coffman

LITTLETON, Colo. (Reuters) – A week-long series of events commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre culminated on Saturday with a remembrance ceremony celebrating the lives of the 13 victims slain in the rampage.

On April 20, 1999, two Columbine students, just three weeks shy of graduation, stormed the suburban Denver school armed with shotguns and semiautomatic weapons, fatally shooting 12 students and a teacher before committing suicide.

Addressing hundreds of people gathered at Saturday’s service in a park next to the school, Dawn Anna, mother of slain student Lauren Townsend, spoke on behalf of all the families of the victims about their sense of loss.

“Our hearts have huge holes in them, but our hearts are bigger than they were 20 years ago,” Anna said.

Patrick Ireland, whose fall out of a school library window into the arms of firefighters, which became one of the iconic images of the massacre, spoke of his long physical and emotional recovery.

“You’re a victim only if you allow yourself to become one,” Ireland said.

Thirteen doves were released at the end of the ceremony.

For the relatives of those killed, April 20 evokes a mix of emotions from sorrow and anguish to fond memories of loved ones.

Betty Shoels, the aunt of murdered student Isaiah Shoels, said her 18-year-old nephew was a fun-loving athlete who was always smiling, despite feeling out of place as one of the school’s few African-American students.

“What I miss most is his laugh,” Shoels told Reuters. ”He was just a great kid who loved to joke.”

This year’s remembrances were marred this week when a Florida teenager, who authorities said was “obsessed” with Columbine, traveled to Colorado where she died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot.

Evan Todd was a sophomore at Columbine two decades ago when he was wounded in the school library, where 10 of the students were killed. He said whenever he hears of school shootings or other tragedies somehow linked to Columbine, it reminds him that he was “part of something so gruesome and so public.”

He often recalls his football teammate Matt Kechter, who was shot dead just a few feet away from him.

“Sometimes I wonder what Matt would be doing now, what is life would be like,” said Todd, 35, who is the father of a one-year-old son.

He credits his family and Christian faith for getting him through the months following the tragedy.

“I’m just thankful that I survived,” he said.

(Reporting by Keith Coffman; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Chizu Nomiyama)

Connecticut school evacuated for bomb threat on sixth anniversary of massacre

FILE PHOTO: The sign for the new Sandy Hook Elementary School at the end of the drive leading to the school is pictured in Newtown, Connecticut, U.S. July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Michelle McLoughlin/File Photo

By Gabriella Borter

(Reuters) – A bomb threat prompted the evacuation of a Connecticut elementary school on the site of the deadliest public-school shooting in U.S. history on Friday, the sixth anniversary of the massacre, police said.

Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, where 26 children and educators were killed in 2012, received a threatening phone call around 9 a.m. EST, said police Lieutenant Aaron Bahamonde.

“It was a bomb threat over the phone,” Bahamonde said. About 400 people were evacuated, he said. No bomb was found.

Bahamonde said the threat was unrelated to a Thursday incident in which hundreds of schools, businesses and buildings across the United States and Canada receive email bomb threats demanding payment in cryptocurrency. Authorities dismissed those threats as a hoax.

On Dec. 14, 2012, a 21-year-old gunman killed 20 young children and six educators at Sandy Hook before taking his own life. The building where the massacre took place was torn down, and Sandy Hook students now attend classes in a new facility.

The mass shooting inflamed the long-running U.S. debate on gun rights, which are protected by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

The United States has experienced a string of deadly mass shootings since that attack, including one at a high school in Parkland, Florida, in February that left 17 people dead.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in New York; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)

Turkey calls for ceasefire in Syria’s Idlib, Russia opposes

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with his Turkish counterpart Tayyip Erdogan in Tehran, Iran September 7, 2018. Kirill Kudryavtsev/Pool via REUTERS

By Babak Dehghanpisheh

(Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called for a ceasefire in the rebel-held region of Idlib in northwest Syria on Friday and said an anticipated government assault on insurgents there could result in a massacre.

But Russia’s President Vladimir Putin said Moscow opposed a truce, and Iranian leader Hassan Rouhani said Syria must regain control over all its territory.

The three presidents, whose countries’ are key foreign players in Syria’s long civil war, were speaking at a summit in Tehran aimed at charting a way to end the conflict.

The situation in Idlib, the insurgents’ only remaining major stronghold, is an immediate issue as President Bashar al-Assad’s forces, backed by Russia and Iran, prepare for what could be the conflict’s last decisive battle.

The United Nations has warned a full-scale assault could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe.

But as the leaders gathered in Tehran, Russian and Syrian government warplanes hit rebel-held parts of Idlib, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said.

Tehran and Moscow have helped Assad turn the course of the war against an array of opponents ranging from Western-backed rebels to Islamist militants, while Turkey is a leading opposition supporter and has troops in the country.

Their discussions in Tehran mark a crucial point in a seven-year-old war which has killed more than half a million people and forced 11 million to flee their homes.

Erdogan called on Putin and Rouhani to agree to a ceasefire in Idlib, saying such an accord would be a “victory” of their summit. Turkey could no longer take in any more refugees from any new assault in Idlib, he said.

However, Putin responded that he opposed a ceasefire because Nusra Front and Islamic State militants located there were not part of peace talks. Syria should regain control of all its territory, he said.

“The fact is that there are no representatives of the armed opposition here around this table. And more still, there are no representatives of Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS or the Syrian army,” Putin said.

“I think in general the Turkish president is right. It would be good. But I can’t speak for them, and even more so can’t talk for terrorists from Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS that they will stop shooting or stop using drones with bombs.”

FINAL MAJOR BATTLE

Rouhani also said the battle in Syria would continue until militants were pushed out of the whole country, especially in Idlib, but he added that any military operations should avoid hurting civilians.

He called on all militants in Syria to disarm and seek a peaceful end to the conflict.

“The fight against terrorism in Idlib is an indispensable part of the mission to return peace and stability to Syria, but this fight should not harm civilians and lead to a “scorched-earth” policy,” Rouhani said.

Erdogan also said Turkey no longer had the capacity to take in any more refugees from Syria should the government offensive in Idlib go ahead. Turkey has accepted 3.5 million refugees from Syria since the start of the war in 2011.

“Whatever reason there is an attack that has been made or will be made will result in disaster, massacre and humanitarian drama,” he said. “Millions will be coming to Turkey’s borders because they have nowhere to go. Turkey has filled its capacity to host refugees.”

The Assad government was not directly represented at the summit, nor was the United States or other Western powers.

Widely abhorred internationality for the brutal conduct of the war, Assad has largely reclaimed most of Syrian territory though much of it is ravaged.

As the conflict approaches its endgame, Iran, Turkey and Russia are seeking to safeguard their own interests after investing heavily militarily and diplomatically in Syria.

Meanwhile, the fate of Idlib hung in the balance.

“The battle for Idlib is going to be the final major battle,” said Hilal Khashan, a political science professor at the American University of Beirut, told Reuters before the summit.

“It will be waged irrespective of civilian casualties, even though they will make an effort to minimize it.”

(Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; additional reporting by Laila Bassam in Beirut and Dominic Evans in Istanbul, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Multiple fatalities in shooting at video game tournament in Florida

The Landing - Jacksonville, Florida

By Suzannah Gonzales and Devika Krishna Kumar

(Reuters) – A shooter killed four people and wounded at least 10 others on Sunday at a video game tournament that was being streamed online from a restaurant in Jacksonville, Florida, local media said citing police sources.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said a suspect was dead at the scene. “Searches are being conducted,” it said on Twitter.

Emergency crews and law enforcement flooded into The Jacksonville Landing, a waterfront dining, entertainment, and shopping site in the city’s downtown.

The shooting took place during a regional qualifier for the Madden 19 online game tournament at the GLHF Game Bar inside a Chicago Pizza restaurant, according to the venue’s website.

It was livestreaming the tournament when several shots rang out, according to video of the stream shared on social media. In the video, players can be seen reacting to the gunfire and cries can be heard before the footage cuts off.

One Twitter user, Drini Gjoka, said he was in the tournament and was shot in the thumb.

“Worst day of my life,” Gjoka wrote on Twitter. “I will never take anything for granted ever again. Life can be cut short in a second.”

The Los Angeles Times reported the shooter was a gamer who was competing in the tournament and lost. Citing messages from another player in the room, the Times said the gunman appeared to target several victims before killing himself. Reuters could not immediately confirm that account of events.

The Florida shooting occurs amid a debate about U.S. gun laws that was given fresh impetus by the massacre in February of 17 people at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

Two years ago a gunman killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

The sheriff’s office said many people were transported to the hospital, and its deputies were finding many people hiding in locked areas at The Landing.

“We ask you to stay calm, stay where you are hiding. SWAT is doing a methodical search,” it said on Twitter. “We will get to you. Please don’t come running out.”

A spokesman for Jacksonville’s Memorial Hospital, Peter Moberg, said it was treating three victims, all of whom were in stable condition.

Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican who is challenging longtime Democratic Senator Bill Nelson in November’s election, said he had offered to provide local authorities with any state resources they might need.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio said both the FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were coordinating with local authorities to provide assistance.

President Donald Trump has been briefed and is monitoring the situation in Jacksonville, the White House said.

Reacting to news of the shooting during the tournament involving its video game, Madden 19 maker Electronic Arts Inc said it was working with authorities to gather facts.

“This is a horrible situation, and our deepest sympathies go out to all involved,” the company said on Twitter.

(Reporting by Suzannah Gonzales, Devika Krishna Kumar and Maria Caspani; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Chris Reese)