02-19-2017  10:41 pm      •     

The loss of American lives in Iraq and Afghanistan has reached 4,000 in the past five years.
Over the same timespan, almost 10 times that number of Americans, many of them young people brimming with the promise of a brighter tomorrow, have senselessly lost their lives on our city streets, in homes and in neighboring communities from handguns, semiautomatics and other firearms. 
Even more startling: For every homicide by firearms, four other Americans are wounded seriously enough to require treatment in emergency rooms. That equals tens of thousands of near-homicides. In most instances it is just a matter of poor aim and happenstance.
Behind the statistics are heart-wrenching stories. In my hometown of Philadelphia, recent news accounts tell of Antoine Rosenbaum, shot in the back at 23 and paralyzed from the chest down in 2006. He survives, struggling every day, courageously, with the help of his young wife, with questions about mobility, medical bills and his future. 
Then just last month, a teenager tossing snowballs was shot and killed on his 16th birthday by an irate neighbor.
In many societies, when disagreements spiral, people resort to fists or other non-lethal means because guns are outlawed and difficult to obtain. In American society too many people reach for a gun to resolve disputes.
Our cities, states and the Congress are grappling with this problem of too many guns, too many killings by trying to legally regulate, limit and even ban handguns. With the rise of deaths due to these types of weapons — which serve no legitimate purpose — the momentum is building; be it ever so slowly.
On March 18, a case will be argued before the United States Supreme Court – Heller v. the District of Columbia – that could kill even this modest momentum.
At issue is Washington D.C.'s law that bans handguns. An appeals court has ruled it unconstitutional under the Second Amendment. This is the first time that the Supreme Court has revisited the Second Amendment since 1939, when it upheld Congress's right to legislate about guns. Since then the Congress has passed, and Presidents have signed, numerous laws that regulate sales, shipment, use and concealment of all kinds of firearms and ammunition. Cities and states have approved and enforced additional regulations.
I have joined with other members of Congress in an amicus brief that urges the Supreme Court to uphold the District's law and reverse the Appeals court. Such a ruling by the high court would be in line with settled precedent, and it would permit the District as well as the Congress and municipalities nationwide to continue reasonable regulation and control of such weapons.
Our brief argues for understanding what the Second Amendment says – and what it doesn't say. Our founding document ties the right to bear arms directly to maintaining a "well regulated militia" – not to unfettered and unregulated ownership of hand guns.
The brief asserts that since the 1939 Miller case, "Congress has legislated actively to regulate or prohibit the use or possession of certain weapons – mindful of any limitations imposed by the Second Amendment."
Ours is not the only brief urging the Supreme Court to uphold regulation of handguns and other firearms. Mayors, historians, advocacy groups, legal scholars, even former attorneys general and other high ranking Justice Department officials have presented equally compelling legal arguments.
As anticipated, powerful special interests are advocating for a broad interpretation that would allow for unrestricted gun ownership. That is an old story, and it has had tragic consequences across our land.
Gun violence, and the proliferation of handguns, is tearing apart our cities, our families, and our national sense of security. Heller places us at the crossroads. The Supreme Court, when it issues its decision later this spring, can be right on the law and right on ensuring that our streets, our homes and our neighborhoods are safer.

Chaka Fattah is a Democratic Representative from Pennsylvania

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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