CVIndependent

Fri09252020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

SAN FRANCISCO—The walk from the apartment to the doctor’s office and back was so depressing that my husband was ready to pack up and make the 480-mile drive back to Palm Springs that night—even though we’d been in San Francisco for less than 24 hours.

“Most of the things good things about San Francisco are gone,” he said. “And all the bad things, like the homelessness, are far worse.”

Because his work requires a semi-regular presence in the San Francisco-based office when pandemics aren’t raging, my husband has a small—we’re talking 200 square feet, no kitchen, no heating or a/c, no frills at ALL—studio apartment South of Market. We had not set foot in the apartment since Jan. 22, the day after he shattered his kneecap on a rain-soaked sidewalk outside of a grocery store. He came back to Palm Springs to have surgery and recover. Had COVID-19 not showed up, he’d have been back here long before now.

A friend had been picking up his mail every couple of weeks, and did a quick clean on the refrigerator when it became apparent that Garrett’s absence would be lengthier than planned. But still, it was time for us to drive up, check things out, pick up some things, and prepare the apartment for whatever comes next. We drove up Wednesday, arriving around 10 p.m. The next day, we set out—masks on, social distancing maintained—to see what the area looked like, before Garrett’s doctor’s appointment.

What does it look like? While the neighborhoods more on the outskirts seem to be faring slightly better, the word that comes to mind regarding SoMa, Union Square the Financial District is “sad.”

Almost all of the nearby businesses, understandably, are closed. Many of them are closed for good. We went to lunch at Rocco’s, one of our neighborhood favorites. The normally bustling, iconic restaurant had been reduced to two sidewalk tables, plus takeout, open four days a week.

Garrett’s doctor’s office is near Union Square—equidistant, roughly, between the apartment and his currently shuttered office in the Financial District. So many places he knew of, had shopped at and had dined at, along that walk were no more.

The dearth of culture and commerce hit our psyches hard.

We’ve adjusted to the state of things in the Coachella Valley—I won’t say we’ve gotten used to it, because it’s still wrenching to see the pandemic’s toll on life at home. But seeing it here, another place we know and love, took us back to that horror—that pit-in-your-stomach realization that what is happening is unbelievably bad—we all felt back in March and April. Yeah, we knew San Francisco would be devastated, like everywhere else. But there’s a difference between knowing and experiencing.

We didn’t return to Palm Springs that night, but we did decide to cut our visit short. We want to be home in Palm Springs again.

Today’s news links:

• This just in from the Census folks: “An army of census takers will begin fanning out throughout Coachella Valley in Riverside County to make sure that the thousands of area residents who have not yet responded to the 2020 U.S. Census are counted. Just under two-thirds of all California households have responded online, by phone or by mail, but the response rates are significantly lower in many parts of Southern California. On the county level, response rates are only 62.3 percent in Riverside County compared to a 65 percent self-response rate across the state. Because the deadline to respond is Sept. 30, Census Bureau officials are urging households to respond before the census taker comes to your door. You can respond now by completing and mailing back the paper questionnaire you received, by responding online at 2020census.gov, or by phone at (844) 330-2020 for English, and (844) 468-2020 for Spanish. Households can respond in one of 13 languages and find assistance in many more.”

• Our nationwide testing and medical situation is such a steaming mess that it’s delaying potential COVID-19 treatments. Key depressing quote, from The New York Times: Researchers at a dozen clinical trial sites said that testing delays, staffing shortages, space constraints and reluctant patients were complicating their efforts to test monoclonal antibodies, man-made drugs that mimic the molecular soldiers made by the human immune system. As a result, once-ambitious deadlines are slipping. The drug maker Regeneron, which previously said it could have emergency doses of its antibody cocktail ready by the end of summer, has shifted to talking about how “initial data” could be available by the end of September. And Eli Lilly’s chief scientific officer said in June that its antibody treatment might be ready in September, but in an interview this week, he said he now hopes for something before the end of the year.”

• Also in the “national steaming mess” category: that’s what the Trump administration is trying to turn the U.S. Post Office into. Example No. 1. According to CNBC, the USPS has been “warning states that it cannot guarantee all mail-in ballots will arrive in time to be counted in the presidential race.” Example No. 2: The post office is removing sorting machines and either removing or moving all sorts of mailboxes

• Let’s keep the “national steaming mess” theme going! Here’s a lede from The Wall Street Journal: “Public release of hospital data about the coronavirus pandemic has slowed to a crawl, one month after the federal government ordered states to report it directly to the Department of Health and Human Services and bypass the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” Sigh.

The CDC recently updated guidelines to say that people who have recovered coronavirus will likely have immunity for three months. However, as CNN points out, this might not be true for everyone. It’s also true that most recoverees might have immunity for much longer. But nobody knows for sure. Got all that?

You know who’s not struggling during this pandemic? Health insurers! In fact, they’re raking in massive, record profits.

• A new study out of USC shows that in many COVID-19 patients, the symptoms show up in a specific ordera discovery that could help lead to earlier detection of the disease

• MedPage Today reports that concerns over myocarditis—a potentially serious heart condition that is related to COVID-19—was one of the driving factors in some conferences delaying or cancelling the college football season. Key quote: “At a Thursday telebriefing hosted by the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s (NCAA) chief medical officer said he was aware of 12 recent myocarditis cases affecting NCAA athletes.

• OK, let’s switch to better news for a bit: You can probably stop worrying about getting the coronavirus from food or food packaging, according to the World Health Organization.

• Two related stories: First, The Conversation explains how rapid COVID-19 tests—with results given in minutes—could help us solve this damn thing, even if the tests aren’t as accurate. Second, Reuters offers details on a saliva test being developed at an Israeli hospital that would do just that.

• The pandemic’s consequences have affected the way people cope with other diseases. A professor at North Carolina State University, writing for The Conversation, details how it’s affected her battle with bulimia.

The Atlantic did a fascinating story examining the various Wikipedia edits that were made, or were attempted, on Kamala Harris’ page regarding her race. Ugh.

• I was NOT a guest on this week’s episode of the I Love Gay Palm Springs podcast, with hosts Shann Carr, John Taylor and Brad Fuhr. But Nino Eilets, Dr. Laura Rush and writer/director Del Shores were. Check it out.

• The U.S. 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that California’s ban on high-capacity gun magazines is unconstitutional. Wait, isn’t the 9th Circuit supposed to be relentlessly leftist?

• Finally, CNN looks at yet another casualty of the pandemic (and the cheapness of some of the country’s biggest newspaper companies): The newsroom is going the way of the dodo.

That’s the news of the day. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Enjoy life. And please consider becoming a Supporter of the Independent if you have the means and like what we do. Have a great weekend; the Daily Digest will return Monday.

Published in Daily Digest

The whole business began with a backyard barbecue.

Tim Terral, a 50-year-old cable-company worker and recently elected city councilman in Needles, on the rural eastern edge of California, planned a cookout for some buddies who live just over the state line in Arizona.

Nobody wanted to come. Under California law, they couldn’t bring their loaded firearms across the state line, so they all decided to stay home.

“They’re ex-military,” Terral explained. “I guess those guns are like security blankets.”

But for Terral, the incident was more ammunition for simmering resentment among many of the 5,000 residents of the San Bernardino County town that’s 550 miles and an entire political culture away from the state capital in Sacramento.

Like many inland Californians, Needles residents say they’re held hostage by state legislators who are too liberal and want too much control over their lives. They gripe about strict gun laws that, they say, trample their constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

So Terral fought back. He spearheaded a resolution, passed in July by the council, that declared Needles a “Second Amendment Sanctuary,” a place where both California gun owners and those visiting from out of state can expect lenient enforcement on Golden State’s rules governing, for example, ammunition and concealed-carry permits.

Terral even chose wording to take a swipe at Democratic legislators in Sacramento, and in cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles, who have declared “sanctuary” policies limiting the involvement of state and local law enforcement in the pursuit of undocumented immigrants targeted by the Trump administration.

“With the gun resolution, I purposely chose the word ‘sanctuary’ to take a stab at all the liberals,” said Terral. “It was a little jab in the eyes.”

Needles residents insist they don’t want a Wild West city where gunslingers rule. But they do want to make it easier for interstate travelers who pull off U.S. Interstate 40 for food and fuel to avoid a felony arrest if a traffic stop produces a loaded but legally registered gun from outside of California. They also want Sacramento to amend a recently enacted proposition that bans gun owners from bringing ammunition from other states, effectively requiring the state’s gun owners to buy their ammunition in California.

Needles Mayor Jeff Williams, a former San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputy, grumbles: “I have to drive 140 miles to Barstow to buy ammunition when right across the border in Arizona, there are a dozen gun stores.”

Williams, who carries a Glock 45 9mm pistol, which he says “will throw a big brick at somebody,” is soliciting support from various state border towns—including Yreka, Truckee, Blythe and Eureka—to support interstate reciprocity with legal gun owners who possess concealed-weapons permits outside of California.

“When Sacramento passes a new law, they look to San Francisco and Los Angeles. They don’t come looking to small towns like us, and it’s time we made our opinions known,” said Williams. ‘We realize changing state law is pretty far-fetched, but you’ve got to start somewhere. You’ve got to stand on principle.”

Assemblyman Jay Obernolte, a Republican representing the largely rural 33rd District that includes Needles, supports the town’s gun-sanctuary declaration. He plans to introduce a bill in December to give more local control to rural gun owners and allow for interstate reciprocity with firearms laws.

Teresa Trujillo, Obernolte’s chief of staff, said her boss supports more local control for the state’s rural residents—even though Republicans are a decided minority in the Capitol, and chances are low that gun-rights proponents will get a carve-out.

“These people have a different culture than what’s in Sacramento,” she said. “They should be able to govern themselves with certain things and make decisions that are best for their community.”

Jim Stanley, a spokesman for Assembly Republicans, agreed that rural residents feel left out of California politics.

“There’s a sense that the bigger cities kind of run things around Sacramento,” he said. “When people feel like they’re not being heard, it’s natural to respond. It’s all about feeling you have a voice in the room.”

And when it comes to hearing voices around Needles, people feel that adjacent states such as Nevada and Arizona better speak their language than Sacramento.

“We’re like an island here in Needles, completely separate from California. The closest city in the state is Blythe, and that’s 100 miles to the south, along a two-lane road,” said Terral. “We feel more of a kinship to Arizona and Nevada. I can walk to Arizona in two minutes. I can see it from my front yard. I can’t see Sacramento.”

California’s state capital lies as far away from politically conservative Needles as Atlanta is from Washington. Nobody can remember the last time a Democrat was elected to any office here in a town that voted for Donald Trump in 2016 by a decided margin.

Two years ago, when many California coastal areas passed their local sanctuary policies on immigration enforcement, Needles took its own stand, declaring that the town was decidedly not a haven for anyone who crosses the U.S. border illegally. At Needles City Hall, pictures show City Council members posed in front of American flags, a nod to the pervading nationalism here. Needles residents like their wide-open spaces. And they like their guns.

At the Wagon Wheel restaurant, which sits across the road from the Giggling Cactus diner along I-40, men in cowboy hats dig into hearty cholesterol-laden breakfasts without asking about gluten content.

Waitress Robbie Tieman, a 15-year food-serving veteran here, is a gun owner who lives in Arizona. She probably wouldn’t bring her gun to work. Still, she doesn’t like anyone saying she can’t do it.

“People should be able to carry their guns wherever they go,” she said, refilling a visitor’s cup with coffee. “I know bad people carry guns, but I think they’d be less likely to rob a liquor store if they knew people inside were packing their own firearms.”

At 55, Mayor Williams is a slender man who dresses in a form-fitting suits. He’s a grandfather of 13 who wants Needles to stick around so his grandkids can enjoy it.

Needles remains a rail town through which 80 freight trains pass each day; it has also become a base for the state’s burgeoning marijuana industry. But Williams has seen his community lose half its population since the 1960s.

To survive, he said, the place needs all the help it can get, and restrictive gun laws are driving visitors—and their money—away from town. “They’re threatening the lifestyle we’ve built here,” he said.

For his part, Terral just wants California to take its mitts off his gun, and his rights.

“They don’t let you live your life,” he said. “Legislators want their finger in every aspect. Given the chance, they’d probably have our paychecks sent directly to Sacramento, and they’d give us back what they thought we needed.”

That pet peeve hit home recently, he said, when he attended a conference in a small beach community south of Los Angeles.

“I walked down the sidewalk and I saw all the signs. You’d couldn’t smoke, ride a skateboard or roller skate. It was all no, no, no,” he said.

He was glad to get back to Needles, “where I wasn’t watching where I walked in case I broke some law I didn’t know anything about.”

CALMatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Politics

California already has 109 laws on the books that regulate the use of firearms—more gun-control rules than any other state.

More, it seems, are on the way.

On Feb. 4, a Democratic contingent of lawmakers announced plans to send a raft of new gun-related bills to the governor before the end of the legislative session. The 16 lawmakers were joined by former Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, a gun-control advocate and mass-shooting survivor, along with representatives of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

With Democrats now wielding unprecedented political power in Sacramento, including the recent election of Gov. Gavin Newsom, who embraces his role as public enemy of the National Rifle Association, the time seems ripe for a new legislative push.

“We have expanded Democratic majorities in both houses; we have a bright and ambitious new governor with a real track record on this issue,” said Assemblyman Jesse Gabriel of Encino, who helped form the “gun violence working group” with Berkeley Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks. “We have a special opportunity here in California to draft some forward-thinking, meaningful, evidence-based legislation that is going to help end mass shootings and end gun violence.”

Among the legislative proposals introduced:

AB 165, by Gabriel, which would call for standards to be developed to teach police officers how to temporarily remove guns from people a court has decided pose a threat to themselves or others. That may include those charged with domestic violence. After a man shot and killed 12 people at a Thousand Oaks bar last November, it was reported that police had paid a home visit to the shooter prior to the incident, but decided not to seek a “gun violence restraining order” against him.

• A proposal by Wicks (yet to be formally introduced) to boost funding to the California Violence Intervention and Prevention grant program, which funds local programs that strive to reduce gun violence.

• A proposal by Assemblyman Mike Gipson from Carson (yet to be formally introduced) that would regulate certain metal components that can be assembled into firearms. A similar bill of his was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown last year.

“America’s love affair with firearms has got to end,” said Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson from Santa Barbara. “I am hopeful that we are going to take our country back.”

But as lawmakers ramp up gun control legislation in California, the judicial winds seem to be blowing against them.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear a challenge to a New York City law that strictly limits where gun owners can carry their firearms. That decision was widely taken as a sign that the current court may take a more expansive view of the Second Amendment—perhaps at the expense of California’s strict gun control laws.

“We, as a state, have the right to protect our citizens, to protect our kids and to protect our schools and so we think we can accomplish both of those things while being consistent with the second amendment and also doing big things to prevent gun violence,” said Gabriel.

To learn more about gun policy in California, explore CALmatters' in-depth explainer.

CALmatters.org is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

Published in Politics

These days, it’s impossible for an American citizen fortunate enough to have been born with a functioning mind not to worry about guns and the men who love them—and the innocent victims some of those gun-lovers kill. 

National Rifle Association spokesman Wayne LaPierre, who tends to blame school shootings on rap music, has accused the government, aided by the press, of attempting to discredit firearms enthusiasts by issuing propaganda worthy of the Nazis. Then there’s Alex Jones, the conspiracy-theorist host of Infowars, ranting to his radio followers that the Sandy Hook school shooting of 26 people, 20 of them first-graders, was “a giant hoax. … The whole thing was fake.” Jones is now being sued by some of the bereaved families for claiming that the massacre was staged, using actors hired by the government—all part of a plot to set the stage for seizing our guns.

LaPierre strikes me a brazen profiteer—he made more than $5 million in compensation from the NRA in 2015—and Jones is either deranged or evil, or both. Because of such men, too many of us who long for rational gun laws have given up hope, concluding that the legions of gullible citizens influenced by people like LaPierre and Jones carry so much political weight that meaningful legislation has become impossible.

I thought that, too, until a man I’d done a professional favor for invited me to hunt turkeys on a ranch in west Texas.

There were six of us in the hunting party, and on our first morning, we were up well before first light. We ate steak-and-egg breakfasts, and set out, two to a pickup truck, to hunt. My partner was Robert, the man who had invited me. As we bounced along a dirt road bordering the Concho River, he told me the particulars of his brand new full-choke, 12-gauge Remington and the super-magnum shells it fired. Then he asked about my gun, and complimented my sense of family loyalty for choosing to use my grandfather’s 12-gauge Ithaca side-by-side.

“Isn’t this it?” Robert said. 

“What?” I asked.

“Turkey hunting! Guns! The most damn fun it’s possible for a human being to have!”

That morning, we did have fun. I bagged a gobbler. Robert called it in, and at a range of 30 yards, the kill was clean. Two or three miles away and another hour later, Robert called in a pair of gobblers and killed the larger one, a bird well more than 20 pounds and sporting a 10-inch beard.

We were the first pickup back to the ranch house. The second vehicle arrived a half-hour later; one of the hunters had killed a gobbler, while the other had missed a difficult shot. The third truck soon came in; nobody in it had seen or heard a turkey.

In mid-morning, after the three bagged birds had been dressed and plucked, two six-packs of beer came out of the ranch house, along with six .22 rifles. For three hours, behind a large barn, we shot at paper targets fastened to bales of straw.

After lunch, we drove in two trucks to the river, with five revolvers and plenty of ammunition. We parked on a streamside meadow where the Concho ran deep and slow, and the afternoon routine was simple: One man at a time was stationed upstream to throw sticks of driftwood into the water while the rest sat in the shade of cottonwoods, blazing away at the sticks as they floated by, cheering hits and scoffing at misses. From a distance, it must have sounded like a war zone.

I spent three days and nights at the ranch and talked at length with my companions about ethical hunting, politics, spectator sports, law, medicine and, of course, guns. We spent many hours shooting at paper targets, drift wood and empty cans, using up at least as much ammunition as all the Clint Eastwood movies ever made. Yet none of these gun-lovers had a single positive word to say about either the NRA or self-serving demagogues like LaPierre and Jones. They were intelligent, articulate and not afraid of stating their views—and there have to be tens of thousands of people like them in the West.

A week later, a school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas, ended with eight students and two teachers dead. Unlike the aftermath of the horrific shooting at Parkland High School in Florida, public outrage seemed almost muted. Then on May 25, it happened again, this time in Indiana: A middle-school student shot two people, including the teacher who bravely tackled him before he could shoot more.

Please, fellow hunters: Summon the courage to speak up. Make yourselves known. If enough of you do, common sense might just stand a chance.

Michael Baughman is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the opinion service of High Country News. He writes in Oregon.

Published in Community Voices

As the West’s elected officials wrestle with how to protect us from gun violence in the aftermath of the Las Vegas nightmare and the Texas church shooting, a truth comes to mind: These leaders are not actually wrestling with the issue of how to protect us from gun violence. If they were, the solution would be as clear as a mountain stream: Treat people more like fish.

Here in the West, fish get far more protection than people. If you’re an adult, you need a license to fish. In Colorado and other states, that license limits you to two fishing rods at a time. Keeping fish is often forbidden, and barbless hooks are often required to boost the odds that your catch-and-release gem lives to see another day.

Live bait is frequently illegal, and hook size and the fishing season itself are often limited. There are restrictions on the size of kept fish and “bag limits” on how many a caster can keep. All of these rules are in place for one true-West reason: “Fish deserve a fighting chance.”

The safeguards don’t stop there. Heard of the zebra mussel? Our states spend a fortune to fight the threat a tiny invasive mollusk presents to the safety of our finned friends. In California, you can’t possess a gaffe, a spear or even a long-handled net within 100 yards of a body of water

To prove they’re serious about enforcing piscine protections, hard-working government employees walk shores to make sure you and I are giving brookies and bluegills their fair shot. Good things, these measures. They’re very reasonable and welcomed by sportsmen and women across the West. Even our political leaders praise these common-sense policies that “protect a valuable resource” and wisely maintain a treasured part of life.

Better still, any U.S. senators who give a crap about crappies are unlikely to face a political backlash or high-dollar effort to drive them from office. No politicians have lost their seats for being pro-Power Bait or anti-nightcrawler. We don’t rant on Twitter about jackboots and slippery slopes caused by fishing licenses. No well-funded politically charged campaign declares: “Spinning Rods Don’t Kill Fish. People Do.”

More astounding: Westerners don’t fear these restrictions, even when their right to bear fishing poles isn’t secured for eternity in the Constitution. But when it comes to the right to bear arms, the reasonable limitations of fishing are swept downstream with sanity. Uncle Sam doesn't require a license to buy a deadly weapon. At some gun stores, he’s fine with you buying a 500-rounds-a-minute semi-automatic weapon.

In the West, you can possess a militia-sized arsenal well within 100 yards of a body of people, along with the deadliest ammunition, in any size and amount. Many politicians refuse to limit this dangerous status quo “in any fashion” … while holding anglers to just two rods and artificial bait.

Meanwhile, it’s open season on humans, and there’s no effort to reduce the bag limit or limit places where our loved ones get taken out. We stop large-caliper hooks, but do nothing about large-caliber weapons. Schools of fish get hearty government backup. Schools of children and teachers do not.

Come on, folks: Let’s act rationally and fix this. Please, no more talk of prying guns out of people’s “cold, dead hands.” There were 58 pairs of those hands in Las Vegas. They belonged to brave cops, EMTs, security guards and everyday heroes who risked their lives to help bleeding strangers. They belonged to fathers, mothers, siblings, sons, daughters and friends who paid the worst price for simply going out to have a good time.

Those people; their families; the 500-plus others who were injured; and the thousands of others who escaped physical injury but live with terrible memories of the trauma deserved way more protection than we provided. In a real game of war, on people, the odds were stacked against them.

Isn’t a human life as valuable as that of a trout?

Marty Jones is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the opinion service of High Country News. He writes in Denver.

Published in Community Voices

On this week's off-script weekly Independent comics page: Jen Sorenson looks at Trump's words on protesters; This Modern World assesses threats to the nation; The K Chronicles shares a true coming-of-age story; Apoca Clips listens in on a conversation between O.J. and Trumpy; and Red Meat accepts a delivery.

Published in Comics

On this week's tumultously transitional weekly Independent comics page: Red Meat enjoys the holiday; Jen Sorenson examines unhelpful post-election declarations; The K Chronicles ponders what's next for the National Rifle Association; and This Modern World heads over a cliff.

Published in Comics

Gun safety is, and has always been, an LGBT-rights issue.

Granted, some of the most prominent cases of anti-LGBT hate crimes have not involved guns; the deaths of Matthew Shepard and Sakia Gunn were not due to firearms. Even so, the LGBT community is plagued by gun violence.

On May 13, 1988, Rebecca Wight and Claudia Brenner were shot while hiking the Appalachian Trail, because their murderer was enraged by their lesbianism. Wight died from her wounds.

On Oct. 15, 1999, Sissy “Charles” Boden was shot dead in Savannah, Ga., for being gay.

On July 23, 2003, Nireah Johnson and Brandie Coleman were shot to death in Indianapolis after their assailant learned Nireah was transgender.

On Feb. 12, 2008, 15-year-old Lawrence “Larry” King was shot twice by a classmate in Oxnard because of his sexual orientation. He later died.

Gun safety has always been an issue with the LGBT community. According to FBI data, nearly 21 percent of all hate crimes reported in the U.S. have been due to the victims’ real or perceived sexual orientation. However, our major LGBT organizations historically have not taken a significant stand on the controversial issue of gun violence.

But on June 12, 2016, 49 individuals died because of their sexual orientation, or because of their support of the LGBT community, at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla. This was a pivotal moment: A community has had enough—a community that is well-organized due to decades of fighting for civil and human rights. Our right to live without fear of dying at the hands of gun violence is now being fully embraced and is considered of paramount importance. Make no mistake: These are not special rights. These are not gay rights. These are human rights—and now this is our fight.

On Saturday, June 18, Equality California (EQCA) launched its new #SafeAndEqual campaign, not only to raise awareness that gun violence is an LGBT issue, but to declare that gun safety is an LGBT right and now a major policy priority. EQCA has signed on to numerous statewide bills and is proud to join other organizations, like the Human Rights Campaign, on federal efforts that will prohibit military-style assault weapons and large-capacity ammunition magazines; close gun-show and Internet-sales loopholes on background checks; and strengthen background checks and waiting periods to keep guns out of dangerous hands. EQCA will bring the full force of our lobbying efforts to pass them.

This is deeply personal. Pulse nightclub could easily have been Hunters or Chill Bar on Arenas, or Micky’s in West Hollywood. Those 49 people are sons and daughters, siblings, parents and young people with what should have been very bright futures. Most of them were LGBT people. They could have been me and you and 47 people we know here in the Coachella Valley. It’s difficult to remember in such an affirming community as Palm Springs, but the more visible we are as an LGBT community, the more vulnerable to violence and hatred we become.

As EQCA’s executive director, Rick Zbur, said: “Ending gun violence is also an LGBT issue, because LGBT people are disproportionately impacted by gun violence. Transgender women face epidemic rates of murder and violent crime. Hate crimes are on the rise throughout the United States, and members of communities of color suffer the highest rates of gun violence. In the weeks and months ahead, Equality California will relentlessly work in Washington, D.C., and in Sacramento, and mobilize our 800,000 members and the LGBT community to support legislation to keep our community—and everyone—safe.”

We all cope with tragedies differently. After the Orlando shooting, some of us attended vigils that doubled as rallies. Many of us were angry or sad. Many of us cried … a lot. I am a person of faith, and I’ve prayed for those who have passed and hold them in my thoughts every day. However, my tears and prayers alone will not change the culture in which we live. They will not bring 49 dear souls back to us. They will not remove killing machines from the hands of dangerous people.

However, 800,000 Californians, organized in lockstep with millions of others across this country pushing for real reform, will make a difference. It will require all of us to do our part and work together, but we can and will become #SafeAndEqual. I encourage you to start by adding your name at eqca.org/safe.

Darrell L. Tucci is a Palm Springs resident and a board member of Equality California.

Published in Community Voices

I grew up with guns. I never had one as a toy—I did not have the BB or pellet guns that the other boys got for Christmas or birthdays. I had deadly, violent and powerful guns, for hunting. We were taught that there’s no such thing as an empty gun, and that you never, ever point a gun at anything you don’t intend to kill.

My first rifle was a 20-gauge shotgun, single-shot, break-open, and its barrel was a cold swirl of metal. I carried it proudly through the deep sagebrush of the Wyoming prairie, following my stepfather and his black Lab, hunting grouse; or through the willows of the river bottoms, hunting ducks. We hunted to eat, and sometimes at dinner, you’d bite on a chunk of birdshot still lodged in the breast of some fowl.

My stepfather had seen plenty of violence in Vietnam, and he loved guns. To him, a well-crafted gun, which he defined as one that could fire repeatedly without jamming, was maybe the most beautiful thing in the world. He had a collection of guns, including an old-fashioned muzzle-loader.

Once a year, he would grow a beard and dress in buckskin as a mountain man for a local pageant, where he would enter the shooting contest. He once brought home a card he had shot in half—the ace of spades. I envied his skill and his confidence with these machines, with their dark oil and smoke.

In my family, everyone got a hunting license, and everybody hunted big game. It was the best way to keep the deepfreeze stocked over the winter. Elk, deer, antelope—whatever you could get, and as much as you could get.

When I was 14, my grandfather, a banjo-playing hunter, trapper and outfitter, among many other things, gave me one of his old rifles. It was a .264 Winchester Magnum with a long barrel and a polished scope. It had been my uncle’s, and its stock carried a crosshatch pattern he’d carved himself. I was small for my age and struggled to haul the rifle through the cold woods of autumn when hunting season came.

One day, it was my turn to sit in the aspens and wait. Somewhere down the mountain, my mother and stepfather walked through the timber, driving the deer. I sat on a cold, shaded hillside, trying not to fidget, knowing my foot was falling asleep. Then a branch snapped—and a buck deer appeared, maybe 50 yards below me, breathing heavy from running uphill, but slowing to a trot, then a walk.

I set my rifle across a fallen tree and peered through the scope. The buck was beautiful, his silver coat shimmering with each breath, ears cocked, black eyes dark, like obsidian. I placed the dot of the scope on his neck. Inhaled. Exhaled. Squeezed the trigger.

Killed instantly, he dropped to the ground, and my heart heaved. There was a certain thrill with having made the shot, and a sudden dread of what that implied, of what I’d so easily taken.

I’ve been thinking about that deer these past days. I think of the weight I felt in killing it, of the debt it left me with. That old rifle is in my closet, thrumming with power, as I write this.

I know we as a nation must do more to control the violence guns bring into the world. I know, too, that many people like me think that gun ownership is a part of our American tradition, especially here in the West. That may be true, but guns have also become part of something terrible that happens again and again in a cycle of senseless murder. I am beginning to think that as a society, we are not responsible enough to be trusted with them. Their power has come to outstrip our collective moral capabilities. Something has to change.

Of course, some families like mine prided themselves on using guns responsibly. But there’s no guarantee. Not even my grandfather, who lived with guns his whole life, was in full control over his weapons. On a day in November, a few years ago, newly divorced and hurting, my grandfather sat on the porch with his favorite pistol. Then he shot and killed himself. Another life, so easily taken.

Brian Calvert is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a column service of High Country News.

Published in Community Voices

On this week's breezy Independent comics page: The K Chronicles looks at all the chalk; This Modern World has the same ol' debate; Jen Sorenson examines the problem that is loose bazoombas; and Red Meat takes in a movie.

Published in Comics

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