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

As President Barack Obama prepares to announce his plans to fight gun violence, Representative Steve Stockman (R-TX) is warning that he will move to impeach the president if Obama issues executive orders that regulate guns. Stockman’s concern may be one of self-interest, however; due to his checkered past and criminal record, stricter gun laws could impact Stockman’s own ability to purchase a firearm.

Although the most commonly discussed gun safety measures (such as renewing the assault weapons ban or limiting high-capacity magazines) must be enacted by Congress, President Obama can take several important steps on his own. These measures could include strengthening the database that the FBI uses to conduct background checks, or restoring funding for gun safety research.

To Stockman, these moves would represent a criminal offense.

“The White House’s recent announcement they will use executive orders and executive actions to infringe on our Constitutionally-protected right to keep and bear arms is an unconstitutional and unconscionable attack on the very founding principles of this republic,” Stockman said in a statement. “I will seek to thwart this action by any means necessary, including but not limited to eliminating funding for implementation, defunding the White House, and even filing articles of impeachment.”

It’s hardly surprising that Stockman — who claims to be “100 percent pro-gun, 100 percent of the time,” is backed by the NRA, Gun Owners of America, and Texas State Rifle Association, and has sponsored legislation banning all background checks, waiting periods, and registration of firearms — would be outraged by Obama’s gun control efforts. But his impeachment threat may not just be a continuation of the GOP’s Clinton-era political strategies (or of Ron Paul’s legacy of launching absurd conspiracy theories from Texas’ 36th District.) It could also be an attempt to preserve his own ability to buy a gun.

According to a July 23, 1995 Houston Chronicle article by Richard Stewart (which is currently behind a pay wall), in 1977 Stockman was charged with a felony for drug possession. Stockman claims that when he reported to prison to serve a two day sentence on a driving violation — something that happened “more than once” — his girlfriend stuck three Valium tablets in his pants. The charge was eventually reduced, and Stockman served probation.

Under current Texas law, Stockman can legally purchase and own a firearm; even felons have their gun rights restored after a five-year waiting period in the Lone Star State. In the unlikely scenario that Congress comprehensively reforms gun-buying laws, however, Stockman could be at risk. And in any case, his close call may have informed his strong opinion on helping criminals get access to deadly weapons.

There are other incidents in Stockman’s past which should raise questions about his extremist views on guns. The same Houston Chronicle article notes that in 1980 Stockman was homeless for a full year, during which time he briefly partnered with a homeless Vietnam veteran for protection.

“He was always seeing things in the trees. It scared me, so I got away from him,” Stockman said. Although Stockman was too afraid to be near the mentally disturbed man then, he is adamant that the man should be able buy whatever weapon he wants now, with absolutely no background check or oversight necessary.

Then again, Stockman himself is no stranger to paranoia; in 1995, he put forth a loony theory that the Waco siege was a backdoor plot by the Clinton administration to ban assault weapons. “The Branch Davidians were executed … because they owned guns that the government did not wish them to have,” he warned in Guns and Ammo magazine.

If the president and Congress step up mental health screening of gun buyers, then Stockman’s right to bear arms may be in jeopardy after all.

Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com

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.