REALITY CHECK: REDUCING GUN VIOLENCE

America is Number 1. America has more guns than any other country, more than 300 million guns. That’s 120 for every 100 citizens, compared to Canada, the next closest, with 35 guns per 100 people. “We don’t ban cars, but we work hard to regulate them — and limit access to them — so as to reduce the death toll they cause. This has been spectacularly successful, reducing the death rate per 100 million miles driven by 95 percent since 1921. Use a public health approach instead, using auto safety as a model—constant efforts to make the products safer and to limit access by people who are most likely to misuse them.”

What would a public health approach look like for guns if it were modeled after cars? It would include:

Enforce background checks; 22 percent of guns are obtained without one.

Keep men who are subject to domestic violence protection orders from having guns.

Ban people under 21 purchasing firearms (this is already the case in many states).Require safe storage practices: trigger locks as well as guns and ammunition stored separately, especially when children are in the house.

Enforce laws on straw purchases of weapons, and some limits on how many guns can be purchased in a month.

Experimentation with a one-time background check for anybody buying ammunition.

End immunity for firearm companies. That’s a subsidy to a particular industry.

Ban bump stocks, the kind used in Las Vegas to mimic automatic weapon fire.

Research ‘smart guns’, like those that fire only after a fingerprint or PIN is entered, or if used near a particular bracelet. This would also cut down on the 200,000 annual gun thefts.

Research gun buybacks

Support anti-gang initiatives, such as Cure Violence, that have a good record in reducing shootings. Source: Nicholas Kristof, NYT

One study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine found that a gun in the house was associated with an increased risk of a gun death, particularly by suicide but also by homicide. Fewer guns result in fewer deaths. If we can reduce gun deaths by 1/3, we could save almost 15,000 lives. We can do this. Let’s focus on how to make ourselves and our families safer and keep guns out of the wrong hands.

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REALITY CHECK: MEDICAID EXPANSION

We Should All Support Governor Cooper’s Plan to Expand Medicaid in North Carolina


THE PROBLEM

When Medicaid was first enacted in 1965 under President Johnson, it provided health insurance to lower income people, their children, and people with certain disabilities. It is a means-tested program which places a ceiling on income eligibility tied to the federal poverty line. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted in 2010 under President Obama; it substantially expanded the Medicaid eligibility ceiling and coverage. It covers all citizens up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level including adults without children.

The ACA faced bitter opposition, especially from Republican elected officials. In 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the states were not required to follow this mandated expansion and could retain previous Medicaid coverage. Thus it was up to each state to decide whether to expand Medicaid coverage to the ACA mandated levels. As of this date, all but 12 states have done so. North Carolina has not. The Republican leadership in the North Carolina General Assembly has opposed this Medicaid expansion since 2013. So, the problem is, what to do about it.


THE SOLUTION FOR NORTH CAROLINA

In his latest budget proposal, Governor Roy Cooper has included his long-time priority, Medicaid expansion for 500,000 North Carolinians without health insurance. The stand-off over Medicaid expansion between Cooper and the Republican-led legislature led to Cooper vetoing the state budget in 2019. “Getting more health care coverage to people in North Carolina is certainly a priority,” he said. “Medicaid expansion is the best way to do that.” In the past year countless numbers of North Carolina workers have lost their jobs and their health care coverage. This makes the issue of expansion more urgent in that the probable number of people who would benefit has climbed.
And just in time, another landmark piece of legislation, the American Rescue Plan (ARP), just recently signed into law by President Biden, provides substantial incentives for holdout states to finally expand Medicaid which, for North Carolina would include these, among other, benefits:

After the enactment of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act the government is now paying close to 74 percent of each Medicaid dollar spent in North Carolina. ARP would increase that even more by adding 5 percent. It is estimated that the boost to the bottom line would be about $1.7 billion while the cost to the state would be a 1/2 billion – a net gain of as much as $1.2 billion for the state.
Moreover, ARP would also provide extra coverage for new mothers for one year to fight pregnancy-related illness and deaths. Currently Medicaid only covers the first 60 days after birth.

We urge readers to contact the NC Senate President Phil Berger and the NC House Speaker Tim Moore and encourage them to work with Governor Cooper to expand Medicaid coverage.

REALITY‌ ‌CHECK‌: ‌ ‌Voter‌ ‌Suppression‌

By Diane Lemieux

How‌ ‌do‌ ‌the‌ ‌For‌ ‌the‌ ‌People‌ ‌Act‌ ‌(H.R.1/S.1)‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌John‌ ‌Lewis‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Act‌ ‌(H.R.4)‌ ‌restore‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights?‌ ‌

H.R.1‌ ‌has‌ ‌already‌ ‌been‌ ‌passed‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌House,‌ ‌and‌ ‌ ‌

●Guarantees‌ ‌Universal‌ ‌Vote‑By‑Mail‌ ‌

●Guarantees‌ ‌Automatic‌ ‌Voter‌ ‌Registration‌ ‌

●Makes‌ ‌absentee‌ ‌voting‌ ‌easier‌ ‌

●Restores‌ ‌the‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Act‌ ‌

●Limits‌ ‌the‌ ‌influence‌ ‌of‌ ‌dark‌ ‌money‌ ‌in‌ ‌politics‌ ‌

●Stops‌ ‌partisan‌ ‌gerrymandering‌ ‌by‌ ‌requiring‌ ‌independent,‌ ‌balanced‌ ‌citizen‌ ‌redistricting‌ ‌commissions.‌ ‌

Maps‌ ‌would‌ ‌have‌ ‌to‌ ‌be‌ ‌approved‌ ‌by‌ ‌a‌ ‌portion‌ ‌of‌ ‌each‌ ‌party.‌ ‌The‌ ‌rules‌ ‌for‌ ‌drawing‌ ‌maps‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌the‌ ‌same‌ ‌across‌ ‌the‌ ‌country‌ ‌and‌ ‌would‌ ‌avoid‌ ‌the‌ ‌unnecessary‌ ‌division‌ ‌of‌ ‌communities,‌ ‌etc..‌ ‌Communities‌ ‌of‌ ‌color‌ ‌also‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌protected‌ ‌to‌ ‌ensure‌ ‌that‌ ‌their‌ ‌political‌ ‌power‌ ‌is‌ ‌not‌ ‌undermined‌ ‌by‌ ‌map‌ ‌makers.‌ ‌Map‌ ‌drawers‌ ‌also‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌required‌ ‌to‌ ‌issue‌ ‌written‌ ‌reports‌ ‌evaluating‌ ‌proposed‌ ‌maps’‌ ‌compliance‌ ‌with‌ ‌these‌ ‌rules‌ ‌before‌ ‌any‌ ‌voting‌ ‌on‌ ‌maps‌ ‌could‌ ‌begin.‌ ‌Maps‌ ‌and‌ ‌data‌ ‌would‌ ‌be‌ ‌posted‌ ‌for‌ ‌30‌ ‌days‌ ‌of‌ ‌public‌ ‌comment‌ ‌and‌ ‌map‌ ‌challenges‌ ‌will‌ ‌be‌ ‌expedited.‌ ‌ ‌

The‌ ‌Senate‌ ‌version,‌ ‌S.1,‌ ‌mirrors‌ ‌H.R.1‌ ‌and‌ ‌complies‌ ‌with‌ ‌the‌ ‌Constitution’s‌ ‌requirement‌ ‌that‌ ‌it‌ ‌use‌ ‌its‌ ‌right,‌ ‌power‌ ‌and‌ ‌authority‌ ‌to‌ ‌set‌ ‌a‌ ‌national‌ ‌standard‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌“times,‌ ‌places,‌ ‌and‌ ‌manner”‌ ‌of‌ ‌federal‌ ‌elections.‌ ‌It‌ ‌would‌ ‌ensure‌ ‌access‌ ‌to‌ ‌vote‌ ‌by‌ ‌mail‌ ‌and‌ ‌early‌ ‌voting‌ ‌and‌ ‌restore‌ ‌voting‌ ‌rights‌ ‌to‌ ‌those‌ ‌returning‌ ‌from‌ ‌incarceration.

The‌ ‌good‌ ‌news‌ ‌is‌ ‌that‌ ‌there‌ ‌are‌ ‌also‌ ‌843‌ ‌measures‌ ‌being‌ ‌proposed‌ ‌in‌ ‌47‌ ‌states‌ ‌to‌ ‌expand‌ ‌voting‌ ‌rights.‌ ‌ ‌S.1‌ ‌could‌ ‌bring‌ ‌to‌ ‌a‌ ‌grinding‌ ‌halt‌ ‌the‌ ‌current‌ ‌voter‌ ‌suppression‌ ‌laws‌ ‌being‌ ‌proposed/passed.‌ ‌As‌ ‌of‌ ‌April‌ ‌1,‌ ‌361‌ ‌bills‌ ‌in‌ ‌47‌ ‌states‌ ‌call‌ ‌for‌ ‌voting‌ ‌restrictions.‌ ‌The‌ ‌bill‌ ‌passed‌ ‌in‌ ‌Georgia‌ ‌has‌ ‌received‌ ‌considerable‌ ‌pushback‌ ‌and‌ ‌is‌ ‌being‌ ‌called‌ ‌discriminatory‌ ‌by‌ ‌critics‌ ‌for‌ ‌its‌ ‌efforts‌ ‌to‌ ‌discount‌ ‌black‌ ‌and‌ ‌brown,‌ ‌young‌ ‌and‌ ‌poor‌ ‌voters.‌ ‌ ‌ ‌

The‌ ‌John‌ ‌Lewis‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Advancement‌ ‌Act‌ ‌(H.R.4)‌ ‌returns‌ ‌the‌ ‌1965‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Act‌ ‌to‌ ‌its‌ ‌full‌ ‌strength‌ ‌and‌ ‌even‌ ‌improves‌ ‌upon‌ ‌the‌ ‌1965‌ ‌law.‌ ‌The‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Act‌ ‌of‌ ‌1965‌ ‌(VRA)‌ ‌was‌ ‌enacted‌ ‌to‌ ‌insure‌ ‌that‌ ‌the‌ ‌15th‌ ‌Amendment‌ ‌to‌ ‌the‌ ‌U.S.‌ ‌Constitution‌ ‌was‌ ‌enforced‌ ‌and‌ ‌that‌ ‌no‌ ‌official,‌ ‌whether‌ ‌in‌ ‌federal,‌ ‌state‌ ‌or‌ ‌local‌ ‌government‌ ‌may‌ ‌in‌ ‌any‌ ‌way‌ ‌impede‌ ‌people‌ ‌from‌ ‌registering‌ ‌to‌ ‌vote‌ ‌or‌ ‌voting‌ ‌because‌ ‌of‌ ‌their‌ ‌race‌ ‌or‌ ‌ethnicity.‌ ‌ ‌ ‌This‌ ‌act‌ ‌restores‌ ‌the‌ ‌requirement‌ ‌that‌ ‌certain‌ ‌states‌ ‌and‌ ‌localities‌ ‌with‌ ‌a‌ ‌history‌ ‌of‌ ‌voting‌ ‌discrimination‌ ‌obtain‌ ‌prior‌ ‌federal‌ ‌approval‌ ‌—‌ ‌or‌ ‌“preclearance”‌ ‌—‌ ‌for‌ ‌both‌ ‌current‌ ‌and‌ ‌proposed‌ ‌changes‌ ‌to‌ ‌their‌ ‌voting‌ ‌rules‌ ‌and‌ ‌practices‌ ‌to‌ ‌make‌ ‌sure‌ ‌that‌ ‌they‌ ‌are‌ ‌not‌ ‌discriminatory.‌ ‌ ‌

Call‌ ‌your‌ ‌senators‌ ‌today‌ ‌and‌ ‌tell‌ ‌them‌ ‌you‌ ‌support‌ ‌‌For‌ ‌the‌ ‌People‌ ‌Act‌ ‌(H.R.1/S.1)‌ ‌and‌ ‌the‌ ‌John‌ ‌Lewis‌ ‌Voting‌ ‌Rights‌ ‌Act‌ ‌(H.R.4).‌ ‌ ‌

Sen.‌ ‌Richard‌ ‌Burr‌202-224-3154‌ ‌

Sen.‌ ‌Thom‌ ‌Tillis‌202-224-6342‌ ‌

In North Carolina, we need to protect everyone’s freedom to vote

04.26.2021 / BY BOB PHILLIPS

RALEIGH – Voting is the right by which all our other rights are protected, to paraphrase Thomas Paine. Equal access to the ballot box is the bedrock foundation of our democracy and vital to the health of our nation.

It’s a simple, powerful concept – every American’s voice should be heard and their vote counted. Yet it’s been a struggle to achieve that vision, even now.

We know the shameful history of voter suppression that still reverberates today. We remember Black and Brown heroes who have courageously stood up against racist policies that withheld voting rights from people of color. We remember brave women who broke down barriers to the ballot. We recall the young people who advocated to lower the voting age, recognizing the injustice it was for 18-year-olds to fight for our country, but be deprived a say in our elections.

As more Americans have participated at the polls, our democracy has grown stronger. And the evidence is clear: when voting is made more accessible, more people participate. That benefits everyone. We saw that in 2020 when North Carolina had record high voter turnout, reaching 75%.

Our state’s historic climb in turnout is due in large part to important policies enacted in the early 2000s, like no-excuse absentee voting, expanded early voting and same-day voter registration. These pro-voter innovations survived attacks by partisan politicians in recent years thanks to North Carolinians standing together to defend broad access to the polls. As shown last fall, making voting more convenient has helped all voters – Democrats, Republicans and independents alike.

Now, we’re at a crossroads. There are some politicians who want to take us backward, who want to impose unnecessary and discriminatory barriers that would undercut our freedom to vote, especially for Black and Brown voters and young people. We see that with the more than 250 anti-voter bills that have cropped up like weeds around the nation, including here in North Carolina.

At the same time, we have an opportunity to enact pro-democracy solutions that protect voting rights, encourage participation in elections and put people above politics.

That’s the choice: do we want to suppress voting, or do we want to promote voting?

The answer should be easy – we want to protect everyone’s freedom to vote. Any politician who feels differently, who wants to stop people from voting, should take a long look at themselves and ask why they dread being held accountable by the people they are supposed to serve.

Here’s some good news. The For the People Act has passed the U.S. House and awaits consideration by the U.S. Senate. This common-sense proposal would protect crucial election reforms like early voting, and it would implement proven, pro-voter policies such as automatic voter registration. We need Senators Tillis and Burr to step up for all North Carolinians and support the For the People Act.

In our state legislature, there have also been several pro-democracy bills introduced that deserve the support of lawmakers. The Fair Maps Act (House Bill 437) would end gerrymandering for good by establishing a citizens redistricting commission, making sure voters have a voice in choosing their representatives.

House Bill 446 (Safeguarding Voting Rights) would help voter registration, bolster early voting, improve accessibility for voting by mail and make Election Day a state holiday. House Bill 542 and Senate Bill 716 (Fix Our Democracy) would increase voting access, limit the influence of big money in politics and boost transparency in government. The legislature should pass these bills.

A year ago, North Carolina Republican and Democratic lawmakers worked together to enact legislation that made voting by mail more accessible amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather than imposing new barriers to casting a ballot, legislative leadership should build on the success of last year’s election and support pro-voting proposals.

We must not turn back the clock on voting rights. Instead, let’s move forward, ensuring that every voter is able to fully participate in our elections. And when more people participate, our democracy wins.


Bob Phillips is executive director of Common Cause NC, a nonpartisan, grassroots organization dedicated to upholding the core values of American democracy.

Fighting for Black Lives After the Chauvin Trial

sheets with sign black lives matter on wall

Two weeks ago, when Derek Chauvin was convicted on three counts of murdering George Floyd, I was both surprised and grateful: Maybe we’d finally start holding police accountable for violence against Black people. But my momentary hope was tempered by my memories of similar hopes for tackling gun violence after Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Pulse, and Las Vegas. Almost two decades past Sandy Hook, there’s been little progress despite tremendous efforts by many people and organizations.

The Chauvin conviction was bracketed by the police shooting Adam Toledo in Chicago not a week earlier, by the police shooting Ma’Khia Bryant in Columbus, Ohio, on the day of Chauvin’s conviction, and by the police shooting of Andrew Brown, Jr., right here in North Carolina. This is nothing new: Police violence against Blacks has been ongoing for centuries. Indeed, as the historian Jill Lepore explains in her article “The Invention of the Police” (The New Yorker, July 20, 2020 issue), police violence has been a constant of American life starting with enforcement of slavery, evolving to union busting, enforcement of Jim Crow, and controlling immigration. The history is long and sordid.

What makes Derek Chauvin’s case almost unique is that the overwhelming video evidence showing him murdering George Floyd came to light at the same time that the Black Lives Matters movement has made stark the depths of our national racism. Without the vivid video evidence, the heated political environment, and police chief Medaria Arradondo’s testimony against Chauvin, Floyd’s murder would likely have been swept under the rug like so many before it.

But in the Brown case in Elizabeth City, the only video evidence comes from police body and dash cams. So far, that evidence has been suppressed using the 2016 law signed by then-governor (and now Senate candidate Pat McCrory) that prohibits release of such video without a judge’s consent, which Superior Court Judge Jeff Foster has delayed for 30-45 days.

Sweeping police violence against Black people under the rug is the norm. Besides suppressing evidence, we’ve seen authorities and police union leaders around the nation sidestep accountability by blaming the victim and by blatantly lying. The Supreme Court’s doctrine of qualified immunity makes convictions, even with evidence, nearly impossible. Vivid, disturbing, in-your-face video footage seems to be the only game changer, much like television broadcasts of the 1965 Bloody Sunday on the Edmund Pettus Bridge made the Voting Rights Act possible.

While video evidence of unjustified police violence against Black people will help in the fight to reform policing policy and accountability, I fear that this, too, like the fight to control guns, will be a decades-long fight. 

There’s no easy answer. The BLM movement is an essential part of the fight and we, as Progressives, support it wholeheartedly. We must also fight to change the national context. This fight is not just about police violence but about all of the forces in our society that keep people “in their places”, suppressing human dignity and economic opportunity with underfunded public education, sub-subsistence minimum wages, lack of affordable housing, healthcare and child care, and unjustified levels of incarceration.

Fighting these battles is what Progressives are all about. Please join us in the work.

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