Halyna Hutchins, 42, died on October 21, 2021, after being shot by Baldwin
Alec Baldwin was formally charged Tuesday with involuntary manslaughter for shooting dead Halyna Hutchins on the set of their movie Rust in October 2021.
Prosecutors in Santa Fe, New Mexico, stated he was ‘distracted’ during firearm training and shortly after the incident admitted to officers he had fired the weapon – something he would later vehemently deny.
Mary Carmack-Altwies, the Santa Fe district attorney, reported that the Oscar-nominated actor and producer of the film was not present for firearms training prior to the start of filming – and when an hour-long training session was scheduled, he appeared uninterested and was on his cell phone.
Her team found ‘reckless deviation from known standards and practice and protocol’, noting that Hutchins was killed during an unscheduled rehearsal, during which the standard two safety checks were not carried out, and for which a plastic gun should have been used.
‘Today we have taken another important step in securing justice for Halyna Hutchins,’ said Carmack-Altwies in a statement. ‘In New Mexico, no one is above the law and justice will be served.’
Baldwin, pictured on Tuesday outside his New York City home, has vowed to fight the charges
Armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed has also been charged with involuntary manslaughter
Alec Baldwin hit private NYC club Zero Bond hours after being charged
Baldwin has vowed to fight the charges. He has stated repeatedly he never pulled the trigger, and said it was a tragic accident – emphasizing that he relied on the firearms experts hired to be on set.
If convicted, he faces up to five years in prison. Armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed has also been charged.
Among the papers filed on Tuesday is a ten-page probable cause affidavit – divided into two sections. One notes Baldwin’s actions as the lead actor, and another explores his role as the film’s primary producer.
Prosecutors note that Baldwin was absent from an initial firearms training session.
Gutierrez-Reed set up an hour-long subsequent session for Baldwin, but they only completed 30 minutes.
‘According to Reed, Baldwin was distracted and talking on his cell phone to his family during the training,’ the prosecutors stated.
The affidavit claims Baldwin gave ‘inconsistent accounts’ about how the shooting happened – first telling police he ‘fired’ the gun, then insisting he did not pull the trigger.
Prosecutors state that ‘photos and videos clearly show Baldwin, multiple times, with his finger inside the trigger guard and on the trigger.’
They add: ‘Baldwin approached responding deputies on the day of the shooting, wanting to talk to them because he was the one who ‘fired’ the gun.’
Among the documents filed with the court on Tuesday are a ten-page probable cause affidavit that describes Baldwin putting his finger ‘inside of the trigger guard and on the trigger’ on the day of the shooting, and moments beforehand
Baldwin and his wife Hilaria in New York City on Tuesday. He will not have to travel to New Mexico for his first court appearance
Hilaria Baldwin wrote on Instagram: ‘I hope you understand how much your support and kindness to Alec and our children mean,’ before going on to thank Baldwin himself
The impassioned post featured a photo of 64-year-old Alec with the couple’s seven school-aged kids, and accompanied with a heartfelt caption that hailed the A-lister for his parenting
They state: ‘Photo and video evidence from inside the church on the day of the shooting show some of the rehearsal up to and including moments before the shooting.
‘The photos and videos clearly show Baldwin multiple times with his finger inside of the trigger guard and on the trigger, while manipulating the hammer and while drawing, pointing and holstering the revolver.
‘Baldwin knew the first rule of gun safety is to never point a gun at someone you don’t intend on shooting,’ the document continues.
Baldwin claimed in interviews after the shooting that he did not pull the trigger.
He believes the fault lies with the armorer, who he says should have checked the gun was safe before it was handed to him.
Yet the probable cause statement against Baldwin referred to the FBI’s previous analysis of the firearm, which ‘clearly showed that the weapon could not ‘accidentally fire.’
The document also said Baldwin failed to demand ‘at least two (2) safety checks between the armorer and himself’ prior to the shooting.
Prosecutors said: ‘If Baldwin had not pointed the gun at Hutchins and Souza, this tragedy would not have occurred.
‘This reckless deviation from known standards and practice and protocol directly caused the fatal shooting.’
Halyna Hutchins, 42, was shot and killed on the movie set on October 21
Baldwin’s attorney said the decision to charge his client was deeply misguided.
Speaking earlier this month, when the charges were announced, he said: ‘This decision distorts Halyna Hutchins’ tragic death and represents a terrible miscarriage of justice.
‘Mr Baldwin had no reason to believe there was a live bullet in the gun — or anywhere on the movie set.
‘He relied on the professionals with whom he worked, who assured him the gun did not have live rounds. We will fight these charges, and we will win.’
SAG-AFTRA, an organization that represents approximately 160,000 actors and other professional entertainers, also objected to the charges.
‘The death of Halyna Hutchins is a tragedy, and all the more so because of its preventable nature. It is not a failure of duty or a criminal act on the part of any performer,’ the group said in a statement.
‘The prosecutor’s contention that an actor has a duty to ensure the functional and mechanical operation of a firearm on a production set is wrong and uninformed.
‘An actor’s job is not to be a firearms or weapons expert. Firearms are provided for their use under the guidance of multiple expert professionals directly responsible for the safe and accurate operation of that firearm.
‘In addition, the employer is always responsible for providing a safe work environment at all times, including hiring and supervising the work of professionals trained in weapons.’
Mickey Rourke, 70, was among those who sprung to Baldwin’s defense, insisting he should not have been charged.
Mickey Rourke (left) insisted Alec Baldwin (right) should not be charged over the October 2021 shooting of camerawoman Halyna Hutchins
Halyna Hutchins, a 42-year-old married mother of a young son, died in hospital in New Mexico after the accidental shooting
Rourke, who appeared on Baldwin’s podcast in 2016, said it was wrong to prosecute the Oscar-nominated actor.
‘I usually never put my 2 cents in about what happens on someone’s movie set,’ he wrote on Instagram.
‘It’s a terrible tragedy what happened to a cinematographer Halyna Hutchins.
‘But no way in hell actor Alec Baldwin should be charged with any negligence whatsoever.’
Rourke claimed it was wrong to expect Baldwin to manage the gun safety aspects of the set.
The gun from the set of Rust, which was accidentally fired, killing Hutchins
She was shot just moments after the crew entered a church set to rehearse a scene (above)
Alec Baldwin is seen on October 21, 2021, after speaking to investigators about the fatal shooting of Halyna Hutchins. Baldwin’s phone is now being sought by the team probing Hutchins’s death
A devastated Baldwin is pictured bent over outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s office after speaking to investigators
‘Most actors don’t know anything about guns especially if they didn’t grow up around them,’ he continued.
‘Alec didn’t bring the gun to the set from his house or his car, when weapons are involved on a movie set, the guns are supposed to he handled only by the ‘weapon armor’.
‘In some cases the 1st AD might pass a gun to an actor, but most of the time the gun is handed to the actor directly by the ‘gun armor’.
‘There’s what ‘armor’s job is on the set. To have an expert around any type of dangerous weapon.’
Rourke said actors could then either ‘dry fire the gun’ or check the barrel themselves.
He said the decision to charge Baldwin was ‘terribly wrong.’
‘I am sure Alec is already suffering enough over what happened. But to lay a blame on him is terribly terribly wrong.’
The set of Rust, at the Bonanza Creek Ranch outside of Santa Fe
Rust cinematographer Halyna Hutchins (center) died after being shot by Baldwin during a rehearsal on October 21, 2021 in New Mexico
An aerial view of the Bonanza Creek Ranch in Santa Fe, where the movie was being filmed
Alec Baldwin, 63, spoke to George Stephanopoulos for an interview which aired in December 2021
Baldwin in December 2021 gave a televised interview to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, and insisted he was not responsible for Hutchins’ death.
He said that the gun just ‘went off’ while in his hands.
‘I let go of the hammer, bang. The gun goes off. Everyone is horrified. They’re shocked. It’s loud,’ he said.
He also revealed he didn’t know she’d died until hours later at the end of his police interview, when he was photographed in the sheriff’s parking lot in Santa Fe.
And he said that he had been told by people ‘in the know’ that it was ‘highly unlikely’ he would face criminal charges.
‘Someone is responsible for what happened, and I can’t say who it is, but it’s not me,’ he said.
‘Honest to God, if I thought I was responsible I might have killed myself. And I don’t say that lightly.’
Baldwin’s version of on-set tragedy, as told to ABC News
‘I’m just showing. I go, ‘How ’bout that? Does that work? You see that? Do you see that?’
‘And then she goes, ‘Yeah, that’s good.’
‘I let go of the hammer, bang. The gun goes off. Everyone is horrified. They’re shocked. It’s loud. They don’t have their earplugs in.
‘No one was – the gun was supposed to be empty. I was told I was handed an empty gun.
‘If they were cosmetic rounds, nothing with a charge at all, a flash round, nothing.
‘She goes down, I thought to myself, ‘Did she faint?’
‘The notion that there was a live round in that gun did not dawn on me ’till probably 45 minutes to an hour later.’
He added: ‘Well, she’s laying there and I go, ‘Did she hit by wadding? Was there a blank?’
‘I never pulled the trigger. No, no, no. You would never do that.
‘The gun was supposed to be empty. I was told I was handed an empty gun. ‘
Alec Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed will face criminal charges for the October 21, 2021 fatal shooting ofRustcinematographer Halyna Hutchins, the Santa Fe District Attorney said this morning.
Close to 16 months after Baldwin took the life of Hutchins and wounded the movie’s director Joel Souza with a loaded gun on the set of indie western Rust, New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies today has finally unveiled her decision as to who should be charged and not charged in the tragic incident.
“After a thorough review of the evidence and the laws of the state of New Mexico, I have determined that there is sufficient evidence to file criminal charges against Alec Baldwin and other members of the Rust film crew,” Carmack-Altwies said Thursday. “On my watch, no one is above the law, and everyone deserves justice.”
In charges set to be formally filed by the end of the month, Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed will each be charged with two counts of involuntary manslaughter in Hutchins’ death.
Heading towards a hearing before a state judge and then a jury trial, the first charge is a fourth-degree felony with sentencing of up to 18 months in jail and a $5,000 fine. The second charge, which is formally an involuntary manslaughter in the commission of a lawful act charge, is also a fourth-degree felony punishable by up to 18 months in jail and up to a $5000 fine. However, the second charge additionally carries a firearm enhancement. That gives the offense a punishing mandatory five years behind bars if Baldwin and Gutierrez-Reed are found guilty.
Long a key figure in the events surrounding Hutchins’ death, Rust assistant director David Halls reached a plea agreement with prosecutors for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon. The industry vet faces a suspended sentence and six months of probation, the D.A.’s office said today. While Baldwin has in the past vowed to fight any charges, Halls’ plea deal and the cooperation he likely has had with prosecutors could become a major factor for the actor going forward.
“If any one of these three people—Alec Baldwin, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed or David Halls—had done their job, Halyna Hutchins would be alive today. It’s that simple,” stated Andrea Reeb, the special prosecutor assigned to the case. “The evidence clearly shows a pattern of criminal disregard for safety on the ‘Rust’ film set. In New Mexico, there is no room for film sets that don’t take our state’s commitment to gun safety and public safety seriously,” Reeb added.
Over the months, while the Santa Fe Sheriff’s office put the final touches on its wide ranging investigation of the late 2021 shooting at the Bonanza Creek Ranch, the D.A. has been partially planting the seeds for today’s announcement.
An August 30 letter to the New Mexico Board of Finance from Carmack-Altwies revealed the D.A’s possible intentions to prosecute as many as four individuals with criminal and homicide charges related to Rust including “one of the possible defendants” being “well known movie actor Alec Baldwin.” In her ask, Carmack-Altwies was requesting $635,000 for the matter, but was only granted $317,750 by the state.
Much has happened around the Rust tragedy on-screen and in the courts, as many have waited on Carmack-Altwies’ decision.
In an ABC news interview with George Stephanopoulos in December 2021, Baldwin insisted he never actually pulled the trigger of the gun that took Hutchins’ life during a quick-draw rehearsal move in a church location on the set of Rust. Just minutes before the shots that killed Hutchins and wounded Souza, Baldwin was told by Assistant Director Dave Halls that the 1880s Colt prop weapon was a “cold gun, as many witnesses including Hall have asserted. Seemingly indifferent to his own tone, Baldwin also told the Good Morning America co-host in the now infamous sit-down, that he had been told by people who are in the know, in terms of even inside the state, that it’s highly unlikely that I would be charged with anything criminally.”
Just a couple of weeks prior to the anniversary of the tragedy, Baldwin and Rust producers reached a settlement with the Hutchins Estate on October 5, 2022, ending the wrongful death suit brought forth in mid-February against the production and the actor, who also served as a producer on the $7 million budgeted film.
Part of the agreement entailed the DP’s husband Matthew Hutchins becoming an executive producer on the resurrected Rust movie, which was scheduled to start reshooting this month. While the production has been scouting locations in California, such as Simi Valley, Deadline heard, no official word has been given about the Western fully resuming production and where it would actually film. There is also no word if Rust has been able to get insured, a necessary requirement to make a movie.
At the time the deal with the Hutchins estate was made public, the Santa Fe-based District Attorney made sure that there was no perception this was all over. “The proposed settlement announced today in Matthew Hutchins’ wrongful death case against Rust movie producers, including Alec Baldwin, in the death of Halyna Hutchins will have no impact on District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies’ ongoing investigation or her ultimate decision whether to file criminal charges in the case,” her office said in a quickly issued statement.
Staying in the public eye over the last year, Baldwin was set to star in the spy movie Chief of Station, shooting in Budapest, however, the actor had to vacate the role over scheduling issues back on October 31.
As civil lawsuits and that wrongful death action from Hutchins’ family hit court dockets in New Mexico and California over the last year, the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office in late 2022 finally made public the FBI assisted police report which detailed the calamities that ensued before the shooting of Hutchins on October. 21, 2021.
The raw 551-page report cast suspicion on Rust armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, among others on what appeared to be an openly problematic set. Dolly grip Ross Addiego, for instance, claimed to police that the armorer and her crew had issues that involved “negligent discharges”. The armorer was preparing one of six guns and one of the revolvers went off toward her foot. A few minutes later at the cabin set, a discharged gun went off that wasn’t announced, which would have been assistant director Dave Halls’ responsibility to announce, per Addiego.
Besides the live round in the gun in Baldwin’s hand, the FBI found five more rounds of live ammo on the Rust set, the report detailed. Additionally, the report cast doubt on Baldwin’s assertion that he never pulled the trigger. “With the hammer at full cock, the revolver could not be made to fire without a pull of the trigger while the working internal components were intact and functional,” the document stated.
The report also went into detail on other instances of guns going off on Rust.
Reese Price, a key grip, told authorities that “accidental discharge” occurred twice during the course of one day on set. “One of the accidental discharges occurred by ‘armorer girl’ who was messing with a gun,” Price told authorities. Souza, in his interview with the cops, reported there wasn’t any negligence on the set, and didn’t believe the armorer intermingled live rounds with blanks.
While staying in the public eye over the last year, multi-Emmy winner Baldwin hasn’t been in front of the camera much professionally since the Rust shooting. Baldwin was set to star in the spy movie Chief of Station, shooting in Budapest, however, the actor had to vacate the role over scheduling issues back on October 31.
In that vein, in mid-November last year, Baldwin took on the role of plaintiff and hit Rust armorer Gutierrez Reed, first assistant director Halls, property master Sarah Zachry, and weapons and rounds supplier Seth Kenney and his company with a negligence lawsuit.
Filed in LA Superior Court, the action claimed that “Baldwin has also lost numerous job opportunities and associated income” because of what happened on Rust. “For example, he’s been fired from multiple jobs expressly because of the incident on Rust and has been passed over for other opportunities, which is a direct result of the negligence of Cross-Defendants Gutierrez-Reed, Halls, Kenney, PDQ, and Zachry,” stated the cross-complaint paperwork prepared by Quinn Emanuel attorney Luke Nikas for Baldwin.
Along with a much challenged but still enduring suit from Rust‘s script supervisor Mamie Mitchell, that matter remains before the California courts.
_____________________________________________________ Gee thats too bad & here is his possibly future Cellmates. Grumpy
Of course he could pull an OJ as you can never know, right?
Officials in New Mexico are set to deliver a decision on Thursday about whether or not they will pursue criminal charges against Alec Baldwin or others in the fatal shooting of a cinematographer on the set of Western movie Rust.
Halyna Hutchins was killed by a live round fired by the gun the actor was holding on October 21, 2021, but the actor insists he didn’t pull the trigger and blames prop managers for not checking if the gun was loaded.
New Mexico First Judicial District Attorney Mary Carmack-Altwies and special prosecutor Andrea Reeb will announce their decision at 9 a.m. Mountain Standard Time, according to a statement issued on Wednesday.
Baldwin is among up to four people who may face criminal charges for the death of the cinematographer, Carmack-Altwies has said.
The ’30 Rock’ and ‘Saturday Night Live’ actor, who also served as a producer on ‘Rust,’ has denied responsibility for the shooting.
Alec Baldwin is among up to four people who may face criminal charges for the shooting death of ‘Rust’ cinematographer Halyna Hutchins who was accidentally killed on the set
Halyna Hutchins, 42, was accidentally shot and killed by Baldwin on the set of the movie ‘Rust’
Baldwin has said he was told the gun was ‘cold,’ an industry term meaning it is safe to use, and that he did not pull the trigger. He has sued crew members for negligence.
An FBI forensic test of the single-action revolver that Baldwin was using found it ‘functioned normally’ and would not fire without the trigger being pulled.
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New Mexico’s Office of the Medical Investigator has ruled the shooting an accident, saying the gun did not appear to have been deliberately loaded with a live round. Authorities have been trying to determine how a real bullet made its way to the movie set.
Hutchins’ family settled a wrongful death lawsuit against Baldwin and other producers last year. Under the agreement, filming on the low-budget movie is set to resume this month with Hutchins’ husband serving as an executive producer.
In police interviews and lawsuit filings, the film’s armorer, first assistant director, prop supplier and prop master all denied culpability for the shooting.
New Mexico’s worker safety agency in April fined the film’s production company the maximum amount possible for what it described as ‘willful’ safety lapses leading to Hutchins’ death.
An FBI report said five live bullets were found on a props trolley and in a bandolier and holster near the movie-set church where Hutchins was shot.
The district attorney’s office previous said it will conduct a ‘thorough review of the information and evidence to make a thoughtful, timely decision about whether to bring charges.’
It is still unclear when and if charges, if any, might be filed.
Baldwin and Hutchins on the set of Rust last year. He maintains he never pulled the trigger
A distraught Alec Baldwin lingers in the parking lot outside the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office in Santa Fe following the October 2021 killing
The anticipated announcement from Santa Fe’s First Judicial District Attorney’s Office is expected on Thursday and comes as part of the ongoing legal saga surrounding the death on set. Pictured: Bonanza Creek Ranch, where Baldwin shot Hutchins
Halyna Hutchins was fatally shot on October 21, 2021 on the set of the movie
In documents released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office were accounts of interviews with witnesses including text messages and emails from crew and cast members, sometimes detailing chaotic and acrimonious conditions on set prior to Hutchins’ death.
The documents still offer no conclusive answers on how live ammunition got onto the movie set and into a replica Colt .45-caliber revolver that was fired by Baldwin and killed Hutchins.
Baldwin was handed the gun during a rehearsal at a ranch outside Santa Fe. A live round hit her and movie director Joel Souza, who survived.
Baldwin has denied responsibility for Hutchins’ death and said live rounds should never have been allowed onto the set of the low-budget movie.
Among others who have been blamed for the shooting are armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who Baldwin claims didn’t check the gun properly, and assistant director Dave Halls, the last person to handle the revolver before Baldwin.
By the time Halyna was killed, many of the film’s crew had walked off set in protest over conditions and pay.
In this image from video released by the Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office, Alec Baldwin stands in costume and speaks with investigators following a fatal shooting last year on the movie set.
In his own lawsuit, Baldwin accuses armorer Hannah Gutierrez-Reed of failing to verify the Colt revolver he was using was safe
Baldwin, serving as a producer and starring actor in the movie, has since avoided criminal charges, even after being ruled partially responsible for the tragedy.
The civil settlement does not affect Santa Fe’s current criminal investigation.
In October, Baldwin filed a lawsuit against four people involved in the film saying they were negligent in providing him with a gun that discharged.
The suit sees Baldwin suing film’s armorer and props assistant, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed; assistant director David Halls; props master Sarah Zachry; and Seth Kenney, who supplied guns and ammunition to the film set.
In his suit, Baldwin accuses Gutierrez-Reed of failing to verify that a Colt revolver he was using in rehearsal was safe.
The suit also states that Halls failed to check the weapon before he declared it safe and handed it to Baldwin, and that Zachry failed to ensure that weapons used on the New Mexico set were safe.
All those named in the suit have denied any culpability.
Baldwin’s complaint follows a suit filed against him and others on the set last year by script supervisor Mamie Mitchell over their alleged role in the shooting that caused her great emotional distress.
Baldwin reached a civil settlement with Hutchins’ family in October.
California Democrats returned to Sacramento this week with a gun-safety agenda following a near-record year for U.S. mass shootings. But their legal obstacles loom higher than ever.
The Supreme Court this summer invalidated one of the state’s longstanding concealed carry requirements, and a federal judge in San Diego has blocked a series of the state’s restrictive gun policies. Meanwhile, Second Amendment groups will sue “anything that walks,” said Democratic Assemblymember Jesse Gabriel, who chairs the Legislature’s Gun Violence Prevention Working Group.
As the challenges mount, it’s up to lawmakers to find a way around them, said Bob Hertzberg, a former California legislator whose bill could be heading to the Supreme Court.
“We have these horrible deaths every year,” Hertzberg said. “How do we as lawmakers try to figure out creative ways that reduce this horrible tragedy?”
A group of Democratic legislators insist they are unfazed by the legal threats as they pursue laws they know other blue states are likely to emulate. They’ve already introduced at least five bills, with more on the way. Here’s what you need to know about California gun safety advocates’ hopes for 2023 — and the obstacles they may face.
This year, advocates hope to tax the gun industry and defy the Supreme Court
Sacramento veterans and newcomers were quick to begin pushing gun laws in the new legislative session, with bills that target gun violence and the firearms industry. Catherine Blakespear, a first-year state senator, submitted one on the day she was sworn in.
Blakespear’s Senate Bill 8 is an open-ended intent bill that will seek to prevent gun violence; the senator plans to fill it in with details in the coming weeks.
Other lawmakers are advocating for do-overs of past legislation. State Sen. Anthony Portantino is back with Senate Bill 2, which is meant to protect the state’s concealed-carry law following the Supreme Court’s Bruen decision in New York. His last effort to do so failed narrowly in the Assembly after some lawmakers questioned whether the bill would hold up in court. And Gabriel is again championing a tax on the sale of firearms and ammunition to fund gun violence prevention initiatives.
Gabriel also has a new bill that would allow Californians to add themselves to a firearms Do Not Sell list, and another that would prohibit those under domestic violence protection orders from owning firearms for three years after their order ends.
Even if the proposals make it out of the Legislature, their long-term fate will hinge on surviving a thorny legal landscape.
“If and when we pass this tax on the sale of guns and ammunition, I have no doubt that it will be challenged in court,” Gabriel said. “But the fact that someone’s going to file a lawsuit … that’s not a reason not to move forward.”
Phil Ting, a Democratic assemblymember from San Francisco, said he expects to see a legislative push this year to make more research on firearms and gun violence publicly available.
“The gun lobby’s pushed very hard to have no information,” Ting said. “They’d like this to be perceived as individual accidents and incidents, when we know that the more guns there are on the street, the more deaths there are.”
States must face reality of a 6-3 conservative Supreme Court majority
Lawmakers in California and elsewhere say they are eager to impose restrictions on guns after nearly 650 mass shootings across the country last year, the second-highest number on record. But the reality is that the legal landscape has never been more hostile to firearm regulations at the state level.
“California is, more than ever before, having a problem defending its gun control laws,” said Adam Winkler, a constitutional law expert at UCLA. “A lot of widely accepted, long-standing rules are now being called into question nationwide.”
In June, the Supreme Court didn’t just strike down a New York law that restricted concealed-carry permits in the state. The majority opinion in the Bruen case, backed by the 6-3 conservative majority on the high court, opened the door to challenges on a wide range of Second Amendment policies that restrict firearms. Gun rights advocates have already taken up the invitation, bringing challenges across the nation that are likely to prevail under the newly established framework set by the Supreme Court.
Just about any new legislation in California faces a likely challenge from advocates such as the Second Amendment Foundation.
“California and other states need to repeal anti-gun rights laws, not pass new ones, or we beat them in court,” said Alan Gottlieb, the organization’s executive vice president.
First up may be Senate Bill 1327, a bill modeled after a Texas law that allows private lawsuits against those who receive or help provide abortions. Newsom signed SB 1327 into law last year, with the express intent of inviting a legal challenge. As expected, California’s new law has already been overturned in federal court, and Hertzberg said he expects it to make its way to the Supreme Court.
Newsom versus Benitez — again.
California’s efforts to tighten gun restrictions have hit a wall with federal Judge Roger Benitez, an appointee of former President George W. Bush who overturned the state’s assault weapons ban in 2021. Benitez has earned a reputation for making controversial statements about gun policy, including the false claim that vaccines have killed more Americans than mass shootings.
For gun safety advocates, Benitez is a scary figure: Second Amendment groups have strategically filed lawsuits in his district, they say, because they know he will likely hand them a favorable ruling. He lurks in the minds of lawmakers, too: Gabriel said Benitez is “a great example of an extremely activist judge with views that are far outside of the mainstream.”
Several of Benitez’s rulings overturning state gun laws were under appeal before Bruen. Now, they’ve been sent back to him. “Years of litigation … and we’re right back down to square one with the same judge whose opinions were already overturned by the Ninth Circuit,” said Ari Freilich, Gifford Law Center’s State Policy Director.
When Benitez struck down SB 1327, it was déjà vu for both himself and Newsom, who have publicly antagonized each other. The governor blasted the judge after he initially overturned the assault weapons ban, calling him a “wholly-owned subsidiary of the gun lobby and the National Rifle Association.”
“We need to call this federal judge out,” Newsom said at a June 2021 news conference. “He will continue to do damage. Mark my words.”
Rethinking a century of gun policy
While lawmakers wait for the Supreme Court to clarify its interpretation of the Second Amendment, Benitez is already forcing state lawyers to defend California’s slate of restrictions. Last month, he asked lawyers to draft a 97-year history of gun restrictions in the state — beginning with the ratification of the Second Amendment and ending 20 years after the ratification of the 14th.
The request emerged from the Supreme Court’s ruling in Bruen, which stated that judges must employ an interpretation “rooted in the Second Amendment’s text, as informed by history.”
The judge will use this history to aid his analysis — and to help determine the fate of gun safety laws in California, new and old.
Bruen has forced attorneys across the country to spend valuable time doing historical research on Second Amendment law, Winkler said. He called the surge in litigation a “huge burden” for state DOJs across the country.
The California DOJ declined to answer questions regarding the agency’s workload. But in a statement to POLITICO, a department spokesperson confirmed that the Supreme Court’s decision triggered a range of lawsuits.
For state justice departments across the country, Winkler said, more lawsuits mean more work.
“They have limited resources, and they have to expend those resources defending this gun law, rather than pursuing other cases,” Winkler said. “There’s only so many people you have working in the office.”
U.S.A. –-(AmmoLand.com)- For more than 50 years, the Southern Poverty Law Center, Inc. battled segregationists, challenged Jim Crow laws, and bankrupted the Ku Klux Klan and other violent extremist groups. But ever since 2019, when the SPLC fired its co-founder and media frontman, Morris Dees, after accusations of sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and racism surfaced, the nonprofit quietly shifted its focus. Now, rather than advocating for civil rights, the SPLC is fighting against civil rights, specifically those protected by the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Today, SPLC’s press releases, position papers, and rhetoric make it nearly indistinguishable from any traditional gun control group, like Brady, Everytown or Giffords, with whom the SPLC has partnered on several occasions. But there are two major differences: The SPLC is flush with cash – far more than all other gun-control groups combined – and it still wields a powerful cudgel, its Hatewatch list, which it uses to publicly shame anyone – including members of the gun-rights community – who disagrees with its principles.
Although their numbers are dwindling, some members of the legacy media still regard the Hatewatch list as gospel, even though it is nearly always wielded against conservative groups rather than progressive ones like Antifa, which the SPLC defines as a “broad, community-based movement composed of individuals organizing against racial and economic injustice.”
It has become relatively easy for SPLC to marginalize gun owners and gun-rights advocates.
If someone opposes the government infringing upon their Second Amendment rights, they’re opposed to the government, which makes them antigovernment, in SPLC’s view. The nonprofit always adds extremist to any negative label like a dose of seasoning, so now the victim is transformed into an antigovernment extremist. Once labeled, SPLC quickly adds them to their Hatewatch list and publicly compares them to real antigovernment extremists. Within minutes the poor victim is associated with Klansman, Nazis, and actual terrorists, such as Timothy McVeigh. This process is lightyears worse than the tactics used by other gun control groups, which may call someone out on Twitter or in a position paper. This is professional character assassination, pure and simple, and it works. If you don’t think it can happen, ask Cody Wilson. The SPLC hit that poor young man like a freight train.
If you’ve ever wondered how the Biden-Harris administration can claim with a straight face that domestic terrorism and white supremacy are on the rise, take a look at the statements and testimony the SPLC provided them and their Jan. 6 Committee. The SPLC and the Biden-Harris administration have formed a symbiotic relationship. Each group buttresses the other’s spurious claims.
To be clear, SPLC’s newfound gun-control focus does not bode well for those who value their constitutional rights. The SPLC is the wealthiest civil rights charity in the country. Dees was well known as a wealth hoarder. In 2019, one nonprofit watchdog gave his group an “F” grade because it had amassed more than six years of assets, which were held in reserve. As a result, the nonprofit now has more than $800 million in net assets, offices in five southern states and approximately 250 employees, including 80 attorneys who have already started filing anti-gun litigation.
While SPLC dabbled a bit during Dees’ tenure, it did not fully embrace gun control until after he was fired. Why the group pivoted so quickly is not fully known. Some say it’s like any other progressive group that suddenly becomes leaderless, rudderless and in search of a purpose. When times are tough, default to guns. Others have speculated it is a carryover from Dees’ leadership style – he always sought sensational cases that would garner media attention, such as filing suit over a copy of the Ten Commandments displayed in a county courthouse, rather than using SPLC’s massive financial strength to combat more immediate problems such as homelessness, joblessness or crime, which are ravaging the minority communities the nonprofit claims to champion.
In addition, the group’s powerful lobbying arm, the SPLC Action Fund, spent more than $2 million last year lobbying in Washington, D.C. and state houses across the country.
As a result, SPLC has more financial and political power than all other gun-control groups combined, and it poses an extreme threat to Second Amendment rights.
Officially, gun control is not part of the SPLC’s mission, which states that the group “is a catalyst for racial justice in the South and beyond, working in partnership with communities to dismantle white supremacy, strengthen intersectional movements, and advance the human rights of all people.” The term appears nowhere in SPLC’s most recent annual report, nor is it listed as a “program service accomplishment” on its 2021 IRS form 990.
Instead, the group has four “impact areas” and gun control is not among them: “protecting democracy, combating the incarceration and criminalization of communities of color, eradicating poverty and fighting extremism and white supremacy.”
Still, SPLC’s gun control platform mirrors that of most traditional gun control groups. In other words, they touch all the usual bases.
Stand Your Ground Laws
The SPLC partnered with the Giffords Law Center to produce a report condemning “Stand Your Ground” laws, which the two groups claim, “fuel racist, lethal violence” and cause “30-50 homicides every month.”
“Highlighting the systemic racism and sexism perpetuated by Stand Your Ground laws, the report calls for the repeal of Stand Your Ground laws in the 27 states where they are enacted and for laws to be passed overturning harmful court decisions that have imposed Stand Your Ground standards on eight other states,” the report states.
In reality, all Stand Your Ground laws do is eliminate a victim’s duty to retreat. The law allows the threat of deadly force to be met with deadly force, instead of legally requiring the victim to run away and possibly get shot in the back.
In Florida, rather than fueling “racist” violence, the law has been used more often by defendants of color than by white defendants.
The SPLC has targeted homemade firearms and castigated Defense Distributed owner Cody Wilson, who released 3D printable gun files on his personal website. The group labeled Wilson an “antigovernment wunderkind.”
“Wilson stops short of direct incitement to violence, though he doesn’t voice opposition to mounting calls for violent reprisal against the state in antigovernment circles,” the report states.
The SPLC quickly added Wilson to its Hatewatch list, describing his ideology as “Antigovernment movement.”
UN Arms Control Treaty
Anyone opposed to the United Nation’s Arms treaty is a conspiracy theorist with twisted panties, the SPLC claims.
“Nothing spooks antigovernment conspiracy theorists like the United Nations and its international treaties – particularly when it comes to perceived threats to their right to bear arms,” the report states. “So naturally, far-right paranoiacs really have their panties in a twist over the proposed Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), which would establish standards for the international trade of weapons.”
Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act
The PLCAA protects gun manufacturers and gun dealers by barring most lawsuits based on “the criminal or unlawful misuse of a [firearm] by [a] person or a third party, 15 U.S.C. § 7903(5)(A).” It is often misunderstood and mischaracterized. It does not bar a lawsuit if a product is defective.
In a 2009 story, the SPLC admitted that a recent appeals court ruling upheld the PLCAA but added: “When hate criminals and others who shouldn’t have guns get their hands on them, it puts everyone at risk.”
Second Amendment Sanctuaries
More than half of the counties in the United States are now Second Amendment Sanctuaries and the list is growing, according to SanctuaryCounties.com, which tracks the nationwide movement. The movement is growing so quickly that the website’s owner, Noah Davis, has trouble keeping it updated. More than a dozen states have declared themselves sanctuary states.
These counties and states are “legally problematic and threaten to override the very democratic systems upon which the country was built,” the SPLC claims, adding that the sanctuaries are popular among “antigovernment extremists.”
“This wave of proposals is the direct result of hysteria around potential new federal and state gun laws and age-old conspiracies about Democrats’ desire to confiscate guns,” the report states. “These are the same fears antigovernment extremists have used to fuel and unify their movement for decades.”
Even Joe Biden disagrees. Biden has never kept his confiscatory plans secret.
“Our work continues to limit the number of bullets that can be in a cartridge, the type of weapons that can be purchased and sold … attempt to ban assault weapons, a whole range of things,” Biden said last month.
Dees himself castigated gun shows in a 1996 book. He claimed, “militia leaders use gun shows to disseminate their anti-government strategy. Dees also notes that in its efforts to take its anti-government and anti-law enforcement message to Middle America, the National Rifle Association utilized gun shows as a key communications conduit. Dees writes that “amid tables laden with Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatic rifles, Mossberg shotguns, and Beretta 9mm pistols, and piled high with holsters, military ponchos, and camouflage uniforms, they peddle the idea of militias as a defense against a tyrannical government.”
While the SPLC has checked all the boxes on the most common gun control issues, it reserves its most extreme vitriol for gun-rights rallies and armed teachers.
Opposed to Freedom of Assembly
All gun owners are racist, Nazis, militia members, violent antigovernment extremists or all of the above, the SPLC would have the public believe, because at pro-gun rallies attended by thousands of people, one or two individuals may have a pin, a patch or a tattoo from one of these groups. It is the ultimate in guilt by association and it defies belief. The SPLC never mentions the thousands of law-abiding Americans who peaceably assemble in support of their Second Amendment rights. If there’s a Confederate flag or a III-Percenter tattoo anywhere in the crowd, the SPLC labels the entire group as extremists.
“Recent nationwide gun rallies tied to far-right extremists and attract hate groups,” one SPLC headline screamed.
“Gun-rights activists and antigovernment extremists are planning a protest in Richmond, Virginia, on Monday fueled by antigovernment conspiracy theories and accompanied by online calls for violence,” read the secondary headline on another SPLC story.
Whenever the SPLC is actually able to identify an extremist group, it usually has only a mere handful of members and no one has ever heard of it, but that never stops the nonprofit from ramping up the group’s potential for violence. Overhype has always been SPLC’s mainstay.
Another tactic is to make bold claims without supporting evidence or attribution. “The Lobby Day event, organized by the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL), has drawn the interest of at least 33 militia groups from across the country,” the Richmond protest story claimed. Not one of the militia groups was identified by name, nor was the source of the information cited.
In a follow-up story, an SPLC report claimed, “At least 18 militias and 34 hate and extremist groups tracked by Hatewatch turned out for the protests that day, with some pledging violence in the face of proposed gun regulation by the Virginia General Assembly.” Of course, no evidence or attribution to bolster these claims was provided. Readers were left wondering: How do they know this?
Opposed to safeguarding students
One of the recommendations of the multidisciplinary commission that investigated the 2018 Valentine’s Day massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida was to arm teachers.
The 16-member commission was comprised of sheriffs, a chief of police, educators, child advocates, school board members, mental health professionals, a state senator and the fathers of two of the shooting victims.
In its 439-page report, the commission recommended that the state legislature should expand Florida’s School Guardian program to allow teachers who volunteer to receive training from their local sheriff on how to carry concealed firearms. But evidently, the SPLC knew better.
“Some elected officials are proposing common-sense solutions to create safe and supportive school environments. But in multiple Southern states, spurred on by the most toxic voices of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and President Trump, legislators are recommending a misguided and harmful approach that would turn teachers into police forces by allowing or asking them to carry guns,” the statement reads. “Having teachers bring firearms into their schools would make classrooms more dangerous, and would increase the chance of more innocent lives being lost. There are many steps we must take to make our schools safer and stronger, but putting guns into classrooms is not a serious – or safe – solution. Our children deserve better.”
Instead of arming teachers, SPLC said in a report five months after the killings and before the commission’s 439-page report was released that “the commission should focus on evidence-based approaches to discipline like Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, restorative justice, and social and emotional learning.”
“Placing more counselors, nurses and mental health professionals in schools, and conducting school climate assessments and behavioral health interventions, are additional and essential measures school districts can take to create the kind of welcoming and safe schools that foster learning and growth,” SPLC said.
Three months later, the SPLC and Giffords Law Center sued the Trump administration for “records detailing how it has unlawfully permitted the use of federal funds to arm teachers with guns in classrooms across America.”
“Turning teachers into armed guards is both reckless and insulting to the millions of American children and parents who want to see their schools become more safe – not less,” Adam Skaggs, chief counsel for the Giffords Law Center is quoted as saying in an SPLC press release.
In November 2018, the SPLC and Giffords sued the Duval County (Florida) Public Schools and the Duval County School Board over their decision to arm staff. The lawsuit claimed Florida state law prohibits anyone from carrying firearms on school property unless they are a law enforcement officer. The suit also states that while state law “requires every school to hire a ‘safe-school officer,’ it does not require those officers to be armed with guns.”
Florida is not the only state to be sued by the SPLC over armed teachers. Just five months ago, the nonprofit sued the Cobb County (Georgia) School Board over their decision to allow select personnel to carry concealed firearms on campus, on school busses and at school events.
“These school board members routinely enact school policies that are ineffective for the stated goals. To be clear, more guns, more police, and more punishment do not make schools safer. The new policy is not rooted in data, community input, or evidence-based solutions. And, not surprisingly, it will endanger lives and disproportionately impact students of color and students with disabilities who are already subjected to discriminatory discipline and over-policing in the district,” Mike Tafelski, SPLC’s senior supervising attorney said in a press release announcing the lawsuit.
According to the charity watchdog Guidestar, SPLC has more than $801 million in assets. The assets of Everytown, Giffords and Brady – combined – total $31 million, or around 3% of what SPLC has amassed.
SPLC’s most recent IRS form 990 confirms that the nonprofit is swimming in money, but the form raises more questions than it answers. The names of the nonprofit’s donors and the amount of their contributions are “restricted.” And there are very suspicious investments.
“The Center has ownership in several foreign corporations. However, the Center’s ownership percentage in these corporations does not rise to the level of reporting on the Form 5471,” the document states.
The nonprofit’s endowment fund is staggering. It has total assets worth more than $731 million. It was started shortly after SPLC was founded to ensure “that the SPLC has the financial strength to address, over the long haul, the entrenched problems our country faces.” Its assets consist of $10 million in cash plus bonds and an assortment of public and private equity funds.
SPLC’s salary structure is massive. As its critics have said, the nonprofit’s senior staff is extremely well compensated. SPLC’s interim president/CEO Karen Baynes Dunning received a salary and benefits package worth more than $386,000. The man she replaced, outgoing president/CEO Richard Cohen, received more than $413,000 in salary and benefits. The nonprofits chief fundraiser was paid more than $260,000. Its “director of teaching tolerance” made more than $200,000.
The average household income in Montgomery, Alabama, where SPLC’s headquarters is located, is $68,149 with a poverty rate of 24.24%.
The salaries of the nonprofit’s support staff, who voted to form a union shortly after Dees’ firing and successfully unionized last month, are not addressed in the IRS form.
“The SPLC’s work is supported primarily through donor contributions. No government funds are received or used for its efforts,” the nonprofit’s website states. “The SPLC is proud of the stewardship of its resources.”
Morris Seligman Dees Jr., 86, may be the only nonprofit chief whose life and career inspired two Hollywood movies.
Corbin Bernson played Dees in the 1991 made-for-TV movie “Line of Fire: The Morris Dees Story.” Wayne Rogers of M*A*S*H fame played Dees in “Ghosts of Mississippi,” which was released in 1996.
Dees has been described as charismatic and has received dozens of accolades and professional awards, but he has also been the subject of many serious complaints. For decades the legacy media ignored any criticism, even when the complaints came from members of Dees’ own staff. Things changed in the early 1990s, when his hometown newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser, launched an investigation into SPLC’s finances and how Dees and other senior managers treated their predominantly Black support staff.
Jim Tharpe, the Advertiser’s former managing editor, recounted the details of his newspaper’s investigation in a column he wrote for the Washington Post, which was published shortly after Dees was fired.
“SPLC leaders threatened legal action on several occasions, and at one point openly attacked the newspaper’s investigation in a mass mailing to Montgomery lawyers and judges. Then they slammed the door,” Tharpe wrote.
After three years of investigative reporting, the Advertiser published an eight-part series titled: “Rising Fortunes: Morris Dees and the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
The journalists uncovered a plethora of problems inside the nonprofit, including “a deeply troubled history with its relatively few black employees, some of whom reported hearing the use of racial slurs by the organization’s staff and others who ‘likened the center to a plantation’; misleading donors with aggressive direct-mail tactics; exaggerating its accomplishments; spending most of its money not on programs but on raising more money; and paying its top lavish salaries.”
Dees and his staff denied all wrongdoing, launched an aggressive damage-control campaign and condemned the series. It’s an age-old tactic: when someone can’t handle the message, they attack the messenger. It didn’t work. In 1995, the series was named as a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.
In his Washington Post column, Tharpe calls on the IRS and the U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division to investigate the SPLC.
“Any investigation should take a close look at the SPLC’s finances. It should look at what the center has told donors in its mail solicitations over the years. And it should take a close look at how that donor money has been spent. Investigators should also look at how SPLC staffers have been treated over the years. Where was the center’s board when this mistreatment was going on? And why did no one step up sooner?” Tharpe wrote.
Tharpe was not alone in his criticism of the nonprofit. Bob Moser, who worked as a staff writer at SPLC from 2001 to 2004, recounted similar concerns in a column he wrote for The New Yorker, which was published shortly after his former boss was shown the door.
“For those of us who’ve worked in the Poverty Palace, putting it all into perspective isn’t easy, even to ourselves. We were working with a group of dedicated and talented people, fighting all kinds of good fights, making life miserable for the bad guys,” Moser wrote. “And yet, all the time, dark shadows hung over everything: the racial and gender disparities, the whispers about sexual harassment, the abuses that stemmed from the top-down management, and the guilt you couldn’t help feeling about the legions of donors who believed that their money was being used, faithfully and well, to do the Lord’s work in the heart of Dixie. We were part of the con, and we knew it.
“It wasn’t funny then. At this moment, it seems even grimmer. The firing of Dees has flushed up all the uncomfortable questions again. Were we complicit, by taking our paychecks and staying silent, in ripping off donors on behalf of an organization that never lived up to the values it espoused? Did we enable racial discrimination and sexual harassment by failing to speak out? ‘Of course we did,’ a former colleague told me, as we parsed the news over the phone,” Moser wrote.
At the time, the SPLC did not publicly address the reasons for Dees’ firing. Then-president/CEO Richard Cohen issued a short statement shortly before Dee’s bio was scrubbed from the SPLC website.
“As a civil rights organization, the SPLC is committed to ensuring that the conduct of our staff reflects the mission of the organization and the values we hope to instill in the world,” Cohen’s statement reads. “When one of our own fails to meet those standards, no matter his or her role in the organization, we take it seriously and must take appropriate action.”
Shortly after Dees’ firing, the Alabama Political Reporter and several other local news sites obtained copies of an internal SPLC email, which was signed by numerous employees.
“Specifically, the employees’ email alleged multiple instances of sexual harassment by Dees, and it alleges that reports of his conduct were ignored or covered up by SPLC leadership. A subsequent letter from other SPLC employees demands an investigation into the alleged coverup of Dees’ alleged harassment,” the APR story states. “The emails noted that multiple female SPLC employees had resigned over the years due to the harassment and/or the subsequent retaliation by SPLC leadership when they reported the incidents.”
Dees, according to these news sources, denied any wrongdoing.
The SPLC has never been able to achieve its stated goal of nonpartisanship. It is a far left-leaning organization from the top down.
According to his personal campaign donations, Dees has a long history of supporting Democratic candidates, including John Edwards, John Kerry and Bill Clinton. Earlier in his career, he served as finance director for George McGovern’s, Jimmy Carter’s and Edward Kennedy’s presidential campaigns.
Dees denied that he founded the group – The Association for Responsible Gun Ownership (TARGO) – but admitted he did support the group’s goals. He told the newspaper he joined another anti-gun group and was asked to help with TARGO.
Dees said he did not know what tactics the groups would use against the NRA. “We’ll fight them any way we can,” he told the newspaper. “We’ll work closely with other gun control groups.”
On Aug.15, 2012, Jessica Prol Smith was working as a writer and editor at the Christian nonprofit Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., when her office was suddenly locked down because of a security threat.
An armed assailant, who was later convicted of terrorism and other crimes, entered the building with the intent to kill as many staffers as he could. He later admitted he brought 15 Chick-fil-A sandwiches, which he intended to smear on his victims’ faces as a political statement. He had chosen the Family Research Council because the SPLC listed it as a hate group.
Thankfully, an unarmed security guard managed to subdue the assailant and hold him until police arrived, but he was shot once in the arm during the takedown.
Ms. Prol Smith agreed to answer questions about the SPLC. Here is the exchange:
How dangerous is SPLC’s Hatewatch label?
“The SPLC’s Hatewatch label is deceptive and profoundly dangerous. The group did some good work decades ago, when it fought segregation in the South. But for years, now, the SPLC has chosen to smear its political opponents and lump mainstream conservatives together with violent neo-Nazis and the KKK.
That’s obviously an effective fundraising strategy but it destroys our ability to get along with neighbors, friends, or family who don’t share our identical beliefs.
The SPLC also doesn’t appear to show any remorse over the reality that their ‘hate’ label has inspired violence. Back in 2012, a troubled young man took a cue from the SPLC hate list, packed his backpack with ammo and Chick-fil-A sandwiches and decided to target the Christian nonprofit where I worked. He planned to shoot the place up and smear sandwiches on our lifeless faces.
When I reflected on the incident and told my story in 2019, the SPLC responded by repeating their smear and fundraising off of it.”
Do you have any advice for people who find themselves on the Hatewatch list?
“It’s uncomfortable to be smeared as a hater and a bigot, but I think it’s possible to care too much what others think of you and your convictions. My Christian faith has taught me that it’s possible to be thoroughly loving and meticulously civil—but still face irrational abuse for speaking truth. If you’re the praying sort of person, I’d suggest praying that the SPLC’s leaders benefit from a redemptive, Damascus-road experience.
It’s reassuring to know that federal courts, former SPLC employees, and even some reluctant progressive advocates have been dismissing the SPLC’s Hatewatch label as subjective and, in some cases, a total scam.
But while the ‘hate’ labels harm dialogue and hold far too much influence in politics and corporate America, I’m optimistic that the SPLC’s strategy of abuse and deception isn’t ultimately a winning one.”
What is your reaction that the SPLC has now shifted to gun control?
“The SPLC has shown an appetite for fundraising off of the fears of liberals so it’s hardly surprising that they’ve expanded their portfolio to include gun control. Passions understandably run high when American citizens debate gun policy and I have very little confidence that the SPLC will help this debate be more constructive.”
In your opinion, will Dees’ firing change the SPLC, or will it continue on unchanged?
“As long as they are alive, people and their organizations can change, but I’m hardly optimistic that the SPLC will improve because Dees is gone. Mr. Dees may have contributed to the corruption and discrimination, but the SPLC is making a financial killing by fanning the culture wars in an aggressive and uncivil manner. Just a brief glance over recent blog posts lead me to believe that—at least for now—they’re going to paint ‘HATE’ in big red letters over anyone and anything they don’t like.”
Dees may be gone, but his legacy still permeates throughout the nonprofit he co-founded 51 years ago, because he hired many of SPLC’s senior staff. The nonprofit’s future is uncertain. Will the SPLC continue with Dees’ style of partisan attacks on Second Amendment supporters, or will it chart a new course or resume its original mandate? It’s not clear. The SPLC did not respond to requests seeking their comments for this story.
It is hoped that the once-vaunted nonprofit will return to its original mission.
“During its formative years, the Southern Poverty Law Center did some great work. They took on the Klan, Nazis and the Aryan Nation, but nowadays they seem hellbent on conflating law-abiding gun owners with these hate groups,” said Alan M. Gottlieb, founder and executive vice president of the Second Amendment Foundation. “This needs to stop, and quite frankly they should be ashamed. The SPLC should return to its roots and its original core values. This country can always use another true civil-rights watchdog. We don’t need another gun-control group. We’ve got more than enough of those already.”
This story is presented by the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and wouldn’t be possible without you. Please click here to make a tax-deductible donation to support more pro-gun stories like this.
About Lee Williams
Lee Williams, who is also known as “The Gun Writer,” is the chief editor of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project. Until recently, he was also an editor for a daily newspaper in Florida. Before becoming an editor, Lee was an investigative reporter at newspapers in three states and a U.S. Territory. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a police officer. Before becoming a cop, Lee served in the Army. He’s earned more than a dozen national journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. Lee is an avid tactical shooter.
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen, together with 17 other state attorneys general, are asking shipping companies UPS and FedEx to explain their newly implemented policies to track and record Americans’ firearms purchases and disclose whether these policies have been coordinated with the Biden administration.
In letters sent on Nov. 29 to FedEx CEO Raj Subramaniam and UPS CEO Carol B. Tomé, Knudsen and his co-signers wrote that the shipping companies’ policies “allow your company to track firearm sales with unprecedented specificity and bypass warrant requirements to share that information with federal agencies.”
“What both of these companies are saying is that they’re doing this so they can better cooperate with law enforcement,” Knudsen told The Epoch Times. “That’s all fine and well, until you find out that that’s a violation of federal law.”
Based on reports from gun stores, Knudsen’s letter states, FedEx and UPS are now requiring federal firearms license holders to provide details of each shipment to the shipping companies, including the contents and recipient, allowing them “to create a database of American gun purchasers and determine exactly what items they purchased.
Citing the new policies, the letter states: “Perhaps most concerning, your policies allegedly allow FedEx [and UPS] to ‘comply with … requests from applicable law enforcement or other governmental authorities’ even when those requests are ‘inconsistent or contrary to any applicable law, rule, regulation, or order.’ In doing so you—perhaps inadvertently—give federal agencies a workaround to federal law, which has long prevented federal agencies from using gun sales to create gun registries.”
“The ATF [Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives] is hoping they’re not going to have a warrant problem,” Knudsen said. “They could just go get this information from UPS and FedEx.”
FedEx and UPS’s new gun-tracking policies follow efforts by Visa, Mastercard, and American Express to also monitor purchases from gun stores, with the intention of handing that information over to federal law enforcement. The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the federal government from conducting searches of U.S. citizens without a warrant and “probable cause” that a crime was committed.
Increasingly, however, banks, credit card companies, and now shipping companies are conducting those searches on the government’s behalf.
The letter demands that the shipping companies respond within 30 days, clarifying their policies and explaining whether or not they acted in coordination with the ATF or any other government agency. It also asks them to clarify a reported “gag order” under which they directed gun shops not to disclose the terms of this policy to the public.
The two letters to UPS and FedEx were virtually identical because the policies the companies implemented appear to be strikingly similar, raising the additional issue of possible collusion between companies that hold an oligopolistic position in shipping. Collusion in restraint of trade has long been illegal under U.S. antitrust laws, including the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.
“It’s either collusion, they’re working together, or what I suspect is, it’s probably originating out of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, or the Biden administration,” Knudsen said. His letter recommends that the shipping companies “consider taking actions to limit potential liability moving forward, including the immediate cessation of any existing warrantless information sharing with federal agencies about gun shipments.”
If the shipping companies don’t answer his questions within 30 days, Knudsen said, “I’ll probably start with an actual formal civil investigative demand where we’ll ask for some documentation. That’s short of a subpoena and an actual lawsuit, but, ultimately, if they don’t want to cooperate, a lawsuit is where we’re going to end up.”
In response to the letter, FedEx told The Epoch Times in a statement that “FedEx is aware of the letter from the state attorneys general. We are committed to the lawful and safe movement of regulated items through our network.”
UPS responded that it “has not bypassed any laws to provide customer information to the Biden administration or federal agencies related to the shipment of firearms. UPS will only provide information about our customers or shipments when required to do so by law, such as in response to a subpoena or a warrant.”
UPS “will respond to the letter sent by several state attorneys general to answer their questions and clarify misinformation. UPS will continue to abide by all applicable laws in providing service for firearm shipments,” it stated.
“The policies set forth by FedEx and UPS are troubling, to say the least,” Mark Oliva, public affairs director of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, told The Epoch Times. “They carry with them serious risk of privacy concerns for law-abiding gun owners, and Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is correct to be wary of how this information is to be used.
“We know that pressure was applied to these common carriers by antigun Democratic senators and the result was these new policies. It does seem rather coincidental that the Biden administration and certain elected officials that have been frustrated in instituting extreme gun control measures are suddenly and curiously seeing big businesses doing exactly what they are not allowed to do by law.”
Knudsen was asked why the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which is tasked with protecting consumers against corporate collusion, is taking no action against what appears to be a coordinated effort by the shipping companies to target the firearms industry.
“I think there’s probably pressure from the White House to not do that, which is why you’re seeing AGs in states like Montana that have joined me to push back on this. If the federal government isn’t going to do their job, we’ll step in and make them do it.”
He said that gun shops are being targeted not only by credit card and shipping companies but by insurers as well.
“I’m aware of a number of FFL brick-and-mortar gun shops, and also some retailers that are just middlemen in Montana, that have been denied property-casualty insurance on their business property simply because they’re in the firearms industry.”
Kevin Stocklin is a writer, film producer, and former investment banker. He wrote and produced “We All Fall Down: The American Mortgage Crisis,” a 2008 documentary on the collapse of the U.S. mortgage finance system.
Any discussion involving manipulation between the sexes—however harmless—must be approached with fear and trembling. Creating a humorous piece on the same subject is even more dangerous, so if you never see my name in print again, it will be apparent that someone significant took exception to these lines. Please bow your head and observe a moment of silence, should that become the case.
Wives and Firearms
One of life’s greatest tragedies comes to light when a person utters the words “I’d love to buy that new (insert firearm of your choice), but my wife doesn’t think I should. She thinks (insert any number between two and 2,000) guns is enough.” (Hold on, I need to grab my hankie… Okay, I can see the keyboard again. Thanks for waiting.)
So, here’s the thing: the aforementioned tragedy is completely avoidable. It need not happen at all, to you or any of your buddies. Here’s how to prevent a firearm famine from bleeding your soul dry of the sweet scent of gun oil.
Step 1: You must establish the fact that “X” new firearm is not for you, it is for her (or for him, if you happen to be one of those incredible women who finds firearms fascinating, scintillating and therapeutic, but has a husband who is a cold fish). Here’s a simple example of how this might sound: “Honey, I’ve been thinking… Hey! You’ve done something different with… your hair looks awesome! Anyway, I was thinking we should get you a shotgun. What? Oh, something simple, like a Winchester SX4.”
Step 2: Now that you’ve planted the seed that this new toy–I mean—tool, is for her, you should introduce a need for it: “Yeah, that shotgun could work pretty well as a home-defense firearm, especially if we get it in 12-gauge. And it could double as a duck gun for me, if necessary.” (You’re appealing to her superior multi-tasking prowess here, as well as planting another seed—one that will establish the idea it’s okay for you to use it, too).
Step 3: Ask her how she would like the gun configured. It’s always flattering for a wife to be asked such a question, especially when she knows the biggest rival for her husband’s affection is his infatuation with firearms. Many of our better halves don’t know much about Winchester SX4s, so this is your chance to come gallantly to the rescue, explaining the various attributes and features, detailing why she should order her new gun configured just how you want it, and why pink is a terrible color for firearms. If you play your cards just right, there will soon be a shiny new shotgun resting in the corner. Best of all, for some unfathomable reason, most ladies seem to have about the same memory for guns as I do for designer handbags. Roughly ninety days later, the shotgun will be forgotten, and can be safely transferred to join your other treasures in the gun safe.
Yup, it’s time.
“Honey, I was thinking; a woman as good a shot as you are should have a good self-defense handgun around…”
Better Halves and Hunting
The best hunters I know have wives who send them off with a smile and a kiss for good luck anytime they want to go hunting (if they aren’t hunters themselves). No stern reprimands, withering accusations or invitations to sleep on the couch for these lucky blokes. Nope, their wives actually like their man going hunting. Did they love his hunting addiction from the beginning? Not likely. Usually it’s a learned behavior. For women, it’s a simple matter of logistics.
If you’re the kinda guy who leaves the grass uncut to go hunting, spends money you don’t have on new gear and leaves your dirty camo lying on the floor, you probably have a wife who is more deadly with her glances than you are with your bow or rifle. On the flip side, if you make sure your sweetheart’s “honey-do” list is taken care of, work a little overtime to cover hunting costs, and make a practice of leaving a rose on her pillow, sending love notes to her on the back of a Topo map or taking her out for a romantic date upon your return from a hunting trip, she probably has grown to appreciate your habit. Try it for a season. You might even tell her, “Darlin’, I’m gonna spend some money on this hunt I’ve been dreaming about—why don’t you take a little money, too, and go spend it on yourself.”
She’ll be begging you to go hunting more often.
How to Protect Your Cave Man
A list of sage advice would be remiss if it didn’t include some recommendations for the wives. Here’s the thing, ladies; we guys may be all bluff and manliness on the exterior, but deep down we’re just a bunch of little boys. Things that go bump in the night can make us accidentally swallow our chew of Levi Garrett. In fact, it’s not uncommon for us to hang around the campfire late into the night, simply because there might be a monster hiding under our sleeping bag.
Now, if you’re one of those most awesome creatures on Earth (a girl who likes to hunt), but by some unfortunate twist of fate you fell in love with a man (Can I even call him that?) who doesn’t like to hunt or camp, don’t despair. Here’s what to do to convince your non-hunting husband that you can keep him safe in the woods.
First, demonstrate you can shoot better than him. Many guys are insecure about their ability to make a good shot on a monster, especially when it’s dark. If you prove to him that you can bust more clays, outshoot him with pistols on a dueling tree, and beat the socks off him in a friendly 3-gun match, he’ll feel a lot safer going camping and hunting with you. Especially if you draw little stick-figure monsters on the clays before you load them into the target launcher. Witnessing you blow monsters to bits (even stick figure ones) will calm his nerves considerably.
Second, demonstrate your mastery of the wilderness. As soon as you arrive in the woods, build a fire, start a pot of coffee and set up a tarp shelter for extra gear. Whip out a comfortable camp and get your hunting stuff ready. Be cognizant of the need to demonstrate to your guy that you’re more capable in all things bushcraft than he is, or he won’t feel safe and protected.
Lastly, let him hold your hand when you’re hiking, and cuddle up while you’re sitting around the campfire. He’ll try to make you believe this desire has roots in romanticism, and likely there’s some truth to that. But his primary, primal reasons for holding onto you are safety and protection. I know it’s inconvenient when you’d much rather polish your rifle with a clean, oiled cloth or put a tape on that big buck you just killed, but humor him. He needs you.
I hope you will benefit from the words of wisdom contained herein. It’s been hard-won on the front lines of feminine wiles and manly maneuvers. I’m one of those lucky guys whose wife wishes him good luck when he goes hunting. I’m also the fortunate fellow with a wife who can occasionally outshoot or out-hike him. Best of all, I’m that blessed man with a wife who buys him more new guns than he buys himself.
She even holds my hand and snuggles when we go camping.
The bodies of four men retrieved from an Oklahoma river have now been identified. According to CNN, Mark Chastain, 32; Billy Chastain, 30; Mike Sparks, 32; and Alex Stevens, 29, were recovered on Oct. 14 from a river in Okmulgee, Oklahoma. Their remains were found shot and dismembered.
According to BuzzFeed News, Okmulgee Police Chief Joe Prentice held a press conference in which he stated that the men were last seen leaving Billy Chastain’s house around 8 p.m. on bicycles “pulling trailers.” The men, whom police described as close friends, might have been up to no good when they went missing on Oct. 9.
Based on a witness’s information provided to the police, the victims planned to commit “some type of criminal act” when they left the house. The witness told investigators that the men were planning to “‘hit a lick’ big enough for all of them,” Prentice said, BuzzFeed News reports.
“That is common terminology for engaging in some type of criminal behavior, but we do not know what they were planning or where they planned to do it,” he said, according to CNN.
Although police were unsure what the men were planning to do, investigators were able to trace their movements to a salvage yard and a local gas station. They traced the men by using data provided by an app on Mark Chastain’s wife’s phone. The men left the station and then visited a second scrapyard located south of Okmulgee, and Chastain’s phone then turned off. Police said they believe a violent event on a nearby property led to the men’s deaths.
The four bodies were found on Oct. 14 after a passerby called the police about seeing something suspicious only partly submerged in the river.
Authorities identified human remains and recovered the men’s bodies. Due to the state of the remains, the bodies were not confirmed to belong to the missing men until Sunday night.
“I’ve worked over 80 murders in my career. I have worked murders involving multiple victims. I have worked dismemberments, but this case involves the highest number of victims, and it’s a very violent event,” Prentice said. “So I can’t say that I’ve never worked anything like it, but it’s right up there at the top.”
Prentice went on to reveal that the cause and manner of death is still pending, however each victim had gunshot wounds and all four bodies were dismembered before being dumped in the river.
“That is what caused difficulty in determining identity, and that’s why it took so long,” Prentice said, according to BuzzFeed News.
The owner of the two salvage yards, Joe Kennedy, was named a person of interest in the killings, and went missing shortly after his initial interrogation. Investigators spoke with Kennedy on Oct. 14, when the men’s remains were discovered in a nearby river but were not yet positively identified.
Prentice said that Kennedy “appeared to be cooperative” and “was not antagonistic.”
Shortly after the announcement that the bodies had been identified, police located Kennedy’s vehicle but not Kennedy himself. His blue PT Cruiser was found abandoned in Morris, Oklahoma, and police were unsure how it arrived there.
On Oct. 18, Kennedy, 67, was arrested in Florida after driving a vehicle that was reported stolen on Monday. He was booked into Volusia County Branch Jail on charges of grand theft of a motor vehicle, where he is being held without bond. He’s also being held on a warrant from Okmulgee County related to a different shooting in 2012. Kennedy is set to appear before a Volusia County judge on Wednesday.
“The District Attorney and the Sheriff will begin the process of getting Kennedy back to Okmulgee County. … The murder investigation is ongoing and investigators continue to follow leads every day,” police said in a statement, according to CNN.—————————————————————————————-
The local Cops probably have a good clue on who did it. So they either have no proof or they figure that somebody did the world a good days work. Grumpy the Cynical