Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Michael A. Memoli, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — The inability to enact new gun safety laws after the Sandy Hook school shooting ranks as “the single failure” of his tenure, Attorney General Eric Holder said in a televised interview.

“The gun lobby simply won, you know?” Holder said in the interview shown Sunday on MSNBC, conducted to mark the end of his time as attorney general.

Holder has called his visit to the site of the December 2012 massacre of 20 first-graders and six educators the worst day he had in office. After the shootings, President Obama appointed Vice President Joe Biden to lead a task force that would make recommendations for how to avoid such attacks.

The shooting spurred an effort in the Senate to enact stricter gun laws, particularly a broader requirement for background checks for gun purchases proposed by Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV), a conservative with a strong gun-rights record, and Senator Patrick J. Toomey (R-PA).

In part because of opposition from the National Rifle Association, the Manchin-Toomey amendment fell five votes short of adoption, leading the Senate’s Democratic leadership to abandon the underlying bill. With Republican majorities leading both the House and the Senate, gun safety legislation is all but impossible on the federal level.

A group of Democrats led by Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and members of the Connecticut delegation introduced a bill last week Thursday to limit high-capacity magazines but said its passage would depend on a major public movement behind further gun control measures that has not happened.

In the interview, Holder was asked if the United States was “a nation of cowards” when it comes to guns, a reference to a statement he made in 2009 that the U.S. was a nation of cowards when it came to discussing race relations.

“I don’t think we are a nation of cowards. But I think that members of Congress need to have a little more backbone and stand up to what is a distinct minority even within, for instance, the NRA, and do the kinds of reasonable things that the American people simply want to have happen,” he said.

Holder downplayed what has been a largely hostile relationship with Republicans, calling his dealings with Congress “interesting” and claiming they had accomplished some things.

The nation has made “remarkable progress” on racial equality, he said, but he added that it was “extremely worrisome” that restrictions on voting have been adopted 50 years after the Voting Rights Act.

“There have certainly been hits that the civil rights movement has taken, but nothing that I think can’t ultimately be overcome,” he said.

Holder will step down as attorney general upon confirmation of his successor. Obama’s nominee to replace him, Loretta Lynch, appears on track to be approved by March.

AFP Photo/Alex Wong

Poll: Most Parents Oppose Rapid School Reopening

Numerous local school systems around the country are plowing ahead with plans to resume in-person instruction despite growing evidence that children are just as capable of spreading the coronavirus as adults.

Classes were set to begin on Monday in Baker County, Florida. Masks for students will be optional, not required. "It looks like it's back to normal this morning, honestly," a local television reporter observed as parents dropped their kids off in the morning. Many students wore no face coverings.

The Trump administration and the GOP have pushed for full reopening of schools for months."Schools in our country should be opened ASAP," Donald Trump tweeted in May. "Much very good information now available."

"SCHOOLS MUST OPEN IN THE FALL!!!" he reiterated on July 6.

"The science and data is clear: children can be safe in schools this fall, and they must be in school this fall," demanded Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) on Aug. 1.

"I believe our schools can, and should rise to the occasion of re-opening for in-person education this fall," agreed Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) two days later.

"The CDC and Academy of Pediatrics agree: We can safely get students back in classrooms," tweeted House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) last Tuesday.

But while Scalise, Mike Pence, and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos have all cited the American Academy of Pediatrics in their arguments for reopening, a new study by the group and the Children's Hospital Association raises red flags about how safe that will be.

Their report found 338,982 reported coronavirus cases in children as of July 30 in the United States. Between July 16 and July 30, the nation saw a 40% increase — 97,078 new infected children.

Last week, a high school student in an Atlanta suburb posted a photo online showing few students wearing masks in a crowded school hallway. Since that time, at least six students and three adult employees in the school have reportedly contracted the coronavirus, and the school temporarily has switched to online classes.

Another Georgia school district has already seen at least 13 students and staff members test positive since reopening a week ago.

A recent study in South Korea found that children aged ten and older spread the coronavirus at the same rates adults do. A separate study in Chicago suggested young kids might also be effective spreaders.

These contradict the false claims made by Trump and his administration that kids have an "amazing" near immunity to COVID-19.

"If you look at children, children are almost — and I would almost say definitely, but almost immune from this disease, so few. They've got stronger, hard to believe, and I don't know how you feel about it, but they have much stronger immune systems than we do somehow for this," Trump told Fox News on Wednesday.

"You got to open the schools. They have a stronger immune system even than you have or I have," he told Barstool Sports on July 23. "It's amazing. You look at the percentage, it's a tiny percentage of one percent. And in that one case, I mean, I looked at a couple of cases. If you have diabetes, if you have, you know, problems with something, but the kids are in great shape." Children have made up nearly nine percent of all cases, even with schools mostly closed.

And DeVos incorrectly said in a July 16 interview, "More and more studies show that kids are actually stoppers of the disease and they don't get it and transmit it themselves."

In early July, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidelines for how schools could operate more safely during the pandemic.

Trump publicly ridiculed the guidelines, dismissing them as "very tough & expensive" and "very impractical."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.