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Before day’s end, 86 Americans who were alive yesterday will be dead from gun violence. One of us dies from a bullet every 17 minutes.

That statistic lends a certain futility to the anguished plea of Richard Martinez: “Not one more!” He made this appeal after losing his only son, Chris, in the shooting rampage last weekend in Santa Barbara, California.

On Tuesday, Martinez led more than 20,000 people chanting “Not one more!” at a memorial rally, and the slogan has since become a trending Twitter hashtag.

But in the three days between his son’s death on Friday and the rally, more than 250 Americans died from bullets. Let me tell you about one. Isaac Sims, 26, died during Memorial Day weekend in my hometown, Kansas City.

Police had been called to his family’s home after Sims fired shots, although he injured nobody. After a five-hour standoff with police, Sims emerged from the house brandishing a rifle and was shot down by police.

Sims’ death might appear utterly unrelated to the mass murder in Santa Barbara, but they do possibly share a common thread: mental illness.

I say “possibly” because there’s a lot we don’t know about Sims. What we do know is grimly familiar. He did two tours in Iraq, and in the week prior to being shot by police, he’d sought help from the local VA for what his family says was PTSD. There wasn’t bed space. He was told to wait 30 days. Treatment had been ordered for Sims through a special court set up for veterans; he’d pleaded guilty to domestic assault.

The circumstances of his death raise the question of whether suicide was a motive. An estimated 22 veterans commit suicide daily. Had the despondent Sims, a trained marksman, wanted to harm someone else, he could have done it. But he was the only one who died that Sunday.

What if, when Sims approached the VA for help, a trained counselor had asked him whether he had firearms at home? What if, based on how he answered that question, he could have qualified for immediate admission to the hospital? Would he be alive today?

What if the sheriff’s deputies sent to visit Elliot Rodger, the Santa Barbara gunman, a month before his shooting spree had asked about his access to firearms? They had been sent to check on his well-being, prompted by the concerns of his mother and his therapist over videos he had posted. But in the 10-minute check, they didn’t watch the videos or enter his apartment.

Would it not have made sense for the deputies to determine what kinds of guns and ammunition he had access to?

Yes, it would have. At the very least, it might have been one way to assess his susceptibility to committing deadly violence. We actually don’t have good measures for predicting who will commit mass violence. That’s a subject that needs to be studied more.

And yet it is the kind of reasonable inquiry that the National Rifle Association conflates with privacy invasion, with an infringement on Second Amendment rights. Twenty years ago, the NRA began fighting to keep Congress from funding studies about gun deaths because initial research showed that having a gun in the home is linked to increased risk of homicide. Now, 19,000 Americans kill themselves with a gun every year. That’s an epidemic. But Congress idles, fearful of an NRA backlash.

Richard Martinez gets it. He understands that something can be done, and one of the signature moral failings of our Congress is that it has done nothing. Out of fear.

“Where is the leadership? Where is the friggin’ politicians that will stand up and say, ‘We need to do this. We’re gonna do something,'” Martinez pleaded to CNN.

He’s right. A few days before his son died, members of Congress waffled on moving forward with a bill that would have made it easier for people to be hospitalized for mental health care, sometimes even against their will.

Yes, each story of a gun-related death is complicated, with its own nuances. Solutions are not simple. But the recurring storylines cannot be ignored. In massacre after massacre, a severely troubled assailant is found to have acquired his guns and ammunition legally.

Solving this problem is not simply a matter of enforcing the laws “already on the books” more rigidly. We need to look deeply, scientifically, at our current gun laws and change them. And get ready, because the NRA will fight to the end to stop us.

(Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. 64108-1413, or via email at msanchez@kcstar.com.)

Photo: brian.ch via Flickr

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Former President Donald Trump, left, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone

On Wednesday evening the House Select Committee investigating the Trump coup plot issued a subpoena to former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, following blockbuster testimony from former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, who said the lawyer had warned of potential criminal activity by former President Donald Trump and his aides.

The committee summons to Cipollone followed long negotiations over his possible appearance and increasing pressure on him to come forward as Hutchinson did. Committee members expect the former counsel’s testimony to advance their investigation, owing to his knowledge of the former president's actions before, during and after the January 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol.

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Mark Meadows

Donald Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows wanted a presidential pardon. He had facilitated key stages of Trump’s attempted 2020 coup, linking the insurrectionists to the highest reaches of the White House and Congress.

But ultimately, Meadows failed to deliver what Trump most wanted, which was convincing others in government to overturn the 2020 election. And then his subordinates, White House security staff, thwarted Trump’s plan to march with a mob into the Capitol.

Meadows’ role has become clearer with each January 6 hearing. Earlier hearings traced how his attempted Justice Department takeover failed. The fake Electoral College slates that Meadows had pushed were not accepted by Congress. The calls by Trump to state officials that he had orchestrated to “find votes” did not work. Nor could Meadows convince Vice-President Mike Pence to ignore the official Electoral College results and count pro-Trump forgeries.

And as January 6 approached and the insurrection began, new and riveting details emerged about Meadow’s pivotal role at the eye of this storm, according to testimony on Tuesday by his top White House aide, Cassidy Hutchinson.

Meadows had been repeatedly told that threats of violence were real. Yet he repeatedly ignored calls from the Secret Service, Capitol police, White House lawyers and military chiefs to protect the Capitol, Hutchinson told the committee under oath. And then Meadows, or, at least White House staff under him, failed Trump a final time – although in a surprising way.

After Trump told supporters at a January 6 rally that he would walk with them to the Capitol, Meadows’ staff, which oversaw Trump’s transportation, refused to drive him there. Trump was furious. He grabbed at the limousine’s steering wheel. He assaulted the Secret Service deputy, who was in the car, and had told Trump that it was not safe to go, Hutchinson testified.

“He said, ‘I’m the f-ing president. Take me up to the Capitol now,’” she said, describing what was told to her a short while later by those in the limousine. And Trump blamed Meadows.

“Later in the day, it had been relayed to me via Mark that the president wasn’t happy that Bobby [Engel, the driver] didn’t pull it off for him, and that Mark didn’t work hard enough to get the movement on the books [Trump’s schedule].”

Hutchinson’s testimony was the latest revelations to emerge from hearings that have traced in great detail how Trump and his allies plotted and intended to overturn the election. Her eye-witness account provided an unprecedented view of a raging president.

Hutchinson’s testimony was compared to John Dean, the star witness of the Watergate hearings a half-century ago that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his aides’ efforts to spy on and smear Democrats during the 1972 presidential campaign.

“She IS the John Dean of the hearings,” tweeted the Brooking Institution’s Norman Eisen, who has written legal analyses on prosecuting Trump. “Trump fighting with his security, throwing plates at the wall, but above all the WH knowing that violence was coming on 1/6. The plates & the fighting are not crimes, but they will color the prosecution devastatingly.”

Meadows’ presence has hovered over the coup plot and insurrection. Though he has refused to testify before the January 6 committee, his pivotal role increasingly has come into view.

Under oath, Hutchinson described links between Meadows and communication channels to the armed mob that had assembled. She was backstage at the Trump’s midday January 6 rally and described Trump’s anger that the crowd was not big enough. The Secret Service told him that many people were armed and did not want to go through security and give up their weapons.

Trump, she recounted, said “something to the effect of, ‘I don’t f-ing care that they have weapons. They’re not here to hurt me. Take the mags [metal detectors] away. Let the people in. They can march to the Capitol from here.

As the day progressed and the Capitol was breached, Hutchison described the scene at the White House from her cubicle outside the Oval Office. She repeatedly went into Meadows’ office, where he had isolated himself. When Secret Service officials urged her to get Meadows to urge Trump to tell his supporters to stand down and leave, he sat listless.

“He [Meadows] needs to snap out of it,” she said that she told others who pressed her to get Meadows to act. Later, she heard Meadows repeatedly tell other White House officials that Trump “doesn’t think they [insurrectionists] are doing anything wrong.” Trump said Pence deserved to be hung as a traitor, she said.

Immediately after January 6, Hutchinson said that Trump’s cabinet discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to remove a sitting president but did not do so. She also said that Meadows sought a pardon for his January 6-related actions.

Today, Meadows is championing many of the same election falsehoods that he pushed for Trump as a senior partner at the Conservative Partnership Institute (CPI), a right-wing think tank whose 2021 annual report boasts of “changing the way conservatives fight.”

His colleagues include Cleta Mitchell, a lawyer who pushed for Trump to use every means to overturn the election and leads CPI’s “election integrity network,” and other Republicans who have been attacking elections as illegitimate where their candidates lose.

Hutchinson’s testimony may impede Meadows’ future political role, as it exposes him to possible criminal prosecution. But the election-denying movement that he nurtured has not gone away. CPI said it is targeting elections in national battleground states for 2022’s midterms, including Arizona, Georgia, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

Trump did not give Meadows a pardon. But in July 2021, Trump’s “Save America” PAC gave CPI $1 million.

Steven Rosenfeld is the editor and chief correspondent of Voting Booth, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He has reported for National Public Radio, Marketplace, and Christian Science Monitor Radio, as well as a wide range of progressive publications including Salon, AlterNet, The American Prospect, and many others.

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