Tuesday, March 6, 2018

American schools have become combat zones

“I’ve had to make statements like this too many times”. President Barack Obama made this statement after the merciless murders of nine African American members of the Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in South Carolina, June 17, 2015. By this time Obama and Americans had witnessed many mass shootings, resulting in deaths and injuries. Obama did not let himself or Americans evolve into bitter cynics, becoming immune to catastrophic acts of murder. He looked forward, believing that people will avail themselves to their better  nature.
Antoinette Tuff; Michael Hill, 22
Antoinette Tuff, a bookkeeper at Atlanta, Georgia’s Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy, averted a possible massacre August 20, 2013. Michael Hill, a 20-year-old White male, dawning a black outfit, accessorized with an AK-47, broke into the school ready to perpetuate vast acts of terror, mayhem and murder. 

Tuff, mother of a 22-year-old partially blind son, and a woman of faith, has a soft edge. But she was “tuff” August 20 in her determination to saves lives. Her better nature and faith in this troubled would be killer guided her words and actions. Without realizing it Tuff summoned her motherly instincts. Tuff took a big chance on calling out the better side of Hill. He could have quickly flipped the script. She can be heard on the 911 call telling Michael Hill, a deadly weapon still in his hand, “It’s going to all right sweetie. I just want you to know that I love you . . . Okay”? 

No one at the Academy died that day thanks to the cool headed African American mother. Tuff  calmed the young man, verbally disarming his deadly intent. Hill was arrested without incident. I do not know Antoinette Tuff, but I wager she did not go to work that morning thinking she was going to be a hero. On the other hand, Michael Hill woke up knowing that he was going to commit a horrible crime in a matter of minutes when he reached his destiny. The biggest surprise for Tuff was she did not know that President Barack Obama was going to call to compliment her bravery. This time appealing to a potential killer's better nature worked. But that is not always the case.
Brenda Spencer, 16

Historically, young White males have been profiled as school shooters. Out of curiosity I researched the gender of past school shooters. I learned there was a 16-year-old shooter named Brenda Spencer of San Diego, California. Spencer, a high school junior, did like Mondays. She “livened up” one Monday by shooting at students lingering in the parking lot of Grover Cleveland Elementary, January 29, 1979. They were waiting to be let inside the school. Spencer lived across the street from the school. The weapon she used was a semi-automatic .22 caliber rifle with a scope, a Christmas present from her father. That January morning Spencer had 500 rounds of ammunition. 

A child of divorced parents, Spencer lived with her father. On the day of the shootings she told him that she was sick, an excuse to skip school.

Spencer lived across the street from the school. Standing at her gate Spencer fired 30 rounds of bullets from her rifle, taking the lives of the school’s principal and custodian; wounding a police officer and eight children. Spencer had bragged to classmates a week earlier that she was going to “do something big to get on TV”.

During a telephone interview with a San Diego Tribune reporter, Spencer said after the first round of shootings: “I have to go now. I shot a pig, I think, and I want to shoot more”. Her deadly assault  lasted 15 minutes. After a police officer and security guard parked a garbage truck in front of her house, blocking her view, it took a SWAT team seven hours to coax the teenager to surrender. Brenda Spencer was sentenced to 25 years in prison. Her first hearing was in 2009. She was denied parole. She will have another hearing in 2019. (Timeline, March 14, 2017)

Dylann Roof, 22

When Dylann Roof, a 22-year-old White male, committed his murderous act he was a follower of the KKK. He admitted that he wanted to start a race war between Blacks and Whites. His targets and location were planned in advance. He purchased ammunition, and did some target practice. He chose Emmanuel for its location (downtown) and because it was the oldest Black church in South Carolina. The massacre would attract worldwide attention.

On June 17, 2015 several church members were partaking in a Bible study. They welcomed Dylann Roof, a stranger, with open arms. After sitting with the members for 40 minutes he pulled out a .45 caliber Glock. He fired 75 bullets, shooting the victims repeatedly, reloading the gun seven times. Roof shot down the parishioners like they were dangerous criminals hiding out in a community church. He believed that Black men were raping White women, and Black people were taking over the world. 

President Obama delivers a stirring eulogy and message
Two women survived. Roof told Polly Sheppard to tell what she had witnessed. He wanted his evilness to be recorded for the world to hear. Roof was arrested the next day without incident. In fact, the arresting officer bought him a hamburger because he was hungry. Dylann Roof is sitting on death row, awaiting to die for the lives he took.

June 29 President Obama delivered a heart-tugging eulogy for Emanuel’s pastor Clementa Pickney,  also a state senator. Although this was not a school shooting, the impact of the massacre was tear-jerking dramatic. President Obama, employing the cadence of a seasoned preacher, brought home the tragedy in an unexpected way. He sang a short version of “Amazing Grace”, and called out the names of the victims.

President Obama is overcome with emotions
President Obama’s message, after a tragedy, was never one of hate and division. He made a speech January 5, 2016, remembering the day 20 children and six adults killed at Sandy Hook. The massacre was still fresh on his mind. That was the first time Americans and the world had seen President Obama react emotionally in public. “Every time I think about those kids, I get mad”, he said. He wiped away tears when he talked the senseless massacre. He reminded everyone that gun violence happened every day on the streets of Chicago.

On the day of confessed love, roses, chocolates and Valentine cards--February 14, 2018—a deadly ambush occurred in America that left lifeless and wounded bodies in the hallways and classrooms of another American school. Nikolas Cruz, 19, erased the lives of 17 students and faculty at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where he was a former student.

Mitchell Johnson, 13; Andrew Golden, 11
Nikolas Cruz, 19
In addition to the deceased, 14 other students and faculty were injured enough to be hospitalized. It took Cruz less than 10 minutes to carry out the murders. His anger demanded that he act; that he commit wholesale slaughter to satisfy its aggression. Cruz was methodical as he fired bullets at fleeing victims, all of whom were caught off guard. His carefully plotted plan turned the victims into easy targets. Cruz triggered the school’s fire alarm, and as students scrambled out of classrooms he used the hallways for his personal shooting range.
In a small community in Jonesboro, Arkansas two boys Mitchell Johnson, 13 and  Andrew Golden, 11, both students at Westside Middle School, planned and executed a mass shooting at their school. A March 18, 1998 issue of the Los Angeles Times reported: “The boys lured their classmates to the parking lot with a false fire alarm, then wielded stolen weapons, and for five minutes rained bullets upon the trapped teachers and students".

At the funeral of a fallen teacher her pastor sent a message of encouragement to surviving teachers: “Do your job. Be the teacher you are to be. There is going to be pain and there is going to be struggle. But you will honor the memory of Shannon Wright if you enter that classroom Monday, carrying with you a reaffirmation passion to teach”. Wright was shielding children from gun fire when she met her death at the hands of  two murderous children.

Had Barack Obama been president in 2018 guns and ammunition sales would have immediately swelled, continuing to balloon for weeks, if not months. He was good for business. The NRA would have repeated its rallying hoorah meme: "Obama is trying to take away our Second Amendment rights to own guns to protect our families. He wants to take our guns." Throwing this panic bomb to the gullible led to panic buying.

Parents of Sandy Hook victims sued Remington but they lost the lawsuit. The shooter used a Bushmaster to mowed down a combined 26 children and staff.  After the lawsuit Remington Outdoors Corp filed a prepackaged reorganization plan with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court pf Delaware under the Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code. Reportedly, gun sales have gone down since Trump was elected president.

“Last year marked a record year for gun sales. The surge was driven by fears that then President Obama and candidate Hillary Clinton would implement gun controls amid a series of deadly mass shootings. Sales dropped industry-wide after the unexpected victory of Donald Trump, a Republican endorsed by the National Rifle Association.

"The firearms industry is still suffering from continued malaise in retail sell-through due to the Trump slump," said Rommel Dionisio, a gun industry analyst for Aegis Capital Corp. He said manufacturers and retailers are still dealing with an inventory backlog, because they stocked up prior to the election expecting stronger sales”. (CNN Money 2017)

After each public school massacre Republicans and red state Democrats zippered their mouths and sat on their brains; but their hands were open to receive hefty donations from the NRA and special interest groups. Their inaction suggested, and still suggests today that they are not ready to slap the hands that feeds their campaigns. Their political careers are more important than saving the lives of teenagers and children. 

Since 1999 American schools have been elevated to combat zones, replete with “just in case of a shooting” drills as revealed February 14 by students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

There are no laws, policies or legislation to stop an individual or individuals bent on effectuating a fatal bloodbath in their homes or in public places. These troubled adults and teenagers will get the weapons they need to wreak havoc and grief. Teenagers have access to guns and ammunition in their parents’ homes. In Florida an 18 year old can legally purchase an AR-15 semi-automatic assault rifle, but cannot frequent a bar, purchase alcohol or hand guns. The FBI received a number of warning calls about Cruz. Local police had calls to his mother’s home more than30 times; students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas complained about Cruz and the potential danger he presented.

President Obama was tireless in his effort to curb gun violence. He was especially angered when the wanton massacres involved children. He and First Lady Michelle Obama are the parents of two  daughters still in school. But not enough Washington politicians shared Obama’s heartache, anger and concern. The NRA was, and remains their boss.

On December 14, 2012, Adam Lanza, 20, killed his mother in their home before heading to Sandy
Adam Lanza in 2005
Hook Elementary. The school’s security system had been recently upgraded. Doors were locked by 9:30 a.m. after all staff and students were inside the building. Visitors were required to show a picture ID that was viewed via a monitor in the principal's office. Lanza shot out a glass panel to grain entrance into the school. He had a Bushmaster XM15-E2S, a variant of the AR-15, and two hand guns. It was 9:35 a.m.  Lanza massacred 20 children and six educators. After the bloody slaughter Lanza committed suicide, acting as his own judge, jury and executioner. All the guns he had with him was purchased by his mother.
Grieving parents assumed that children getting bullet butchered in classrooms would soften the hearts of the hardest politician. They went to Capitol Hill to ask politicians to author sensible gun legislation that included stricter background checks. None of them demanded that gun owners relinquish their guns, or their right to buy guns. Washington politicians played their roles to the hilt. TV cameras rolled, recording their hypocrisy and pretentiousness. The press savvy politicians looked grieving parents in their eyes, even held their hands, and promised they would do whatever they could. The promises were shelved soon as the parents left the offices.

Eric Harris, 18; Dylan Klebol, 17
There have been other school shootings this year that did not attract media attention because they were not on the scale of wholesale slaughter. The Parkland, Florida shooting has been compared to the Columbine High School massacre that occurred April 20, 1999. The teenage shooters, Eric Harris, 18 and Dylan Klebold, 17, were seniors at the school. They killed 15 students, teachers and administrators, injuring 24, three of whom injured themselves when they climbed out windows to escape the carnage. The boys committed suicide amid a shootout with police. It was not their intention to be taken alive.  

Conspirators of the worst kind said the 2012 shooting murders at Sandy Hook was a hoax perpetrated by Democrats. They said the massacre was staged by child actors. Alex Jones, maddog host of Infowars, spearheaded the rumor. Like s snowball rolling downhill the Republican mouth piece gathered human moss. Conspiracy-minded rectum dwellers maliciously attacked Sandy Hook parents online, offline. They suggested the parents had their own children killed; or sold them to sex traffickers; or they had no children.

The same rectum dwellers have begun attacking surviving Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students, staff and parents. Outspoken students, all demanding that politicians make changes to gun laws are labeled “crisis actors.” The articulate, politically astute students are not interested in yapping politicians, shade throwing and front row critics. They want action, not bullshit. These grew up in an age of school shootings. They do not want to see more of this wanton carnage.

President Obama did not stop trying to work with Republicans and Democrats to create sensible gun control, and tougher background checks. As usual, he was rebuffed by both parties. He vowed to continue his fight for changes, which he did until he left office. The President supported the 2013 Manchin-Toomer bill aimed at expanding background checks for those who purchase guns. The bill did not survive the Senate.

“President Barack Obama announced Wednesday that the White House would submit new gun control proposals to Congress next month and pledged to use all the powers of this office to identify and promote new policies to address the scourge of gun violence. Obama tapped Vice President Joe Biden to head up a task force of cabinet members of Congress and outside organizations, which will comb through existing gun control proposals, devise news ones and submit a specific set of proposals to Congress in January”. (Time, 12/19/2012)

According to a January 4, 2016 White House press release President Obama “revealed a plan to address gun violence. The initiative consists of 23 executive orders and three presidential memoranda, most of which will require Congressional approval. Many parts of the plan may have significant effects on states”.

Keep guns out of the wrong hands through background checks (excerpt)

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is making clear that it doesn’t matter where you conduct your business—from a store, at gun shows, or over the Internet: If you’re in the business of selling firearms, you must get a license and conduct background checks.

ATF is finalizing a rule to require background checks for people trying to buy some of the most dangerous weapons and other items through a trust, corporation, or other legal entity. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch has sent a letter to States highlighting the importance of receiving complete criminal history records and criminal dispositions, information on persons disqualified because of a mental illness, and qualifying crimes of domestic violence.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is overhauling the background check system to make it more effective and efficient. The envisioned improvements include processing background checks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and improving notification of local authorities when certain prohibited persons unlawfully attempt to buy a gun. The FBI will hire more than 230 additional examiners and other staff to help process these background checks.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is overhauling the background check system to make it more effective and efficient. The envisioned improvements include processing background checks 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and improving notification of local authorities when certain prohibited persons unlawfully attempt to buy a gun. The FBI will hire more than 230 additional examiners and other staff to help process these background checks.

Other proposals included: Make our communities safer from gun violence; Increase mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system; Shape the future of gun safety technology.

“The Administration is proposing a new $500 million investment to increase access to mental health care. The Social Security Administration has indicated that it will began the rule making process to include information in the background check system about beneficiaries who are prohibited from processing a firearm for mental health reasons.

“The Department of Health and Human Services is finalizing a rule to remove unnecessary legal barriers preventing states from reporting relevant information about people prohibited from processing a gun for specific mental health issues”.
When Donald Trump won the presidency he immediately uprooted executive orders initiated and signed by President Obama. One of executive order related to Obama’s goal to curb gun violence.

“President Donald Trump quietly signed a bill into law Tuesday rolling back an Obama-era regulation that made it harder for people with mental illnesses to purchase a gun. The rule, which was finalized in December, added people receiving Social Security checks for mental illnesses and people deemed unfit to handle their own financial affairs to the national background check database. Had the rule fully taken effect, the Obama administration predicted it would have added about 75,000 names to that database.

“President Barack Obama recommended the now-nullified regulation in a 2013 memo following the mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, which left 20 first graders and six others dead. The measure sought to block some people with severe mental health problems from buying guns”. (NBC News, 2/28/2017)

Republicans in both Houses—14 of whom vowed January 20, 2009 they would never deliver President Obama a victory--signed onto negating all proposed legislation. They kept the promise for eight years. The NRA was happy to see that its multi-million dollar investments in Trump, the Senate and Congress paid off. Oddly, Trump did not sign the Obama-era executive order with his usual made for TV flair. He signed it behind closed doors.

Despite the massive shootings under his watch Trump has not addressed sensible gun control, tougher background checks, appropriate age to buy guns, or how to curtail gun violence. Hosting a meeting at the White House on February 28, 2018 Trump called together Democrats and Republicans to brainstorm, and to share solutions they have regarding school and other kinds of gun violence.

Trump was not on the same page as the bipartisan group 25-30. He declared that anyone deemed mentally ill should have their guns taken from them by police without question. He said due process comes in second. Trump was saying to these politicians--many of whom are attorneys--that police have the right to overlook the Constitution. He talked more about mental illness than sensible gun control and background checks. He implied that no president before him had made an effort to curb gun violence. It is no secret that he was talking about President Obama.

Had Trump’s staff prepared him for the meeting he would have been informed about President Obama’s proposals, and red flag laws first implemented in California. Four other states adopted the law: Washington, Oregon, Indiana and Connecticut. Eighteen more states are thinking of jumping aboard. There are lawful rules that states have to follow before confiscating an individual’s weapons due to mental illness.

“In 2014, California became the first state to let family members ask a judge to remove firearms from a relative who appears to pose a threat. Its legislature took action after a mentally ill man, Elliot Rodger, killed six students and wounded 13 others near the University of California, Santa Barbara, before killing himself.

“California's law also empowers police to petition for the protective orders, which can require authorities to remove firearms for up to one year. Connecticut, Indiana, Oregon and Washington also have some version of a red flag law”. (ABC News, 21/2018)

Republicans Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan said there will be no debates about gun control; no up and down voting. Nothing. Nothing. Noting. Promises that Donald Trump made at the meeting were deleted from his mind after he invited a few NRA members to the White House the next day. He walked back some of the things he said in the meeting. In the meeting he said he was going to write an executive order regarding bump stocks.; therefore, they should not concern themselves with that issue.  Republicans and Democrats are left empty handed, wondering what happened.

President Donald Trump
Donald Trump wants teachers to be armed when they enter classrooms. He called it “hardening schools”. No more of those “gun free zones.” He thinks that in addition to teaching, being  disciplinarians, counselors,  controlling classrooms, and unruly students--teachers should be able to stop shooters before they kill students and faculty. He has not thought of the consequences, or the added danger that can occur.

When cops enter a school where there is frantic movement and chaos, and they see individuals with guns, they won’t know who the bad guy is; who the good guy is. Police won’t have time to pick and choose who to take out. A Marjory Stoneman student said on February 14 he was so scared he attempted to run down a flight of stairs to escape danger. He was stopped on the stairs by a SWAT team. He said all five pointed their weapons at him. He was wearing a sweater the same color as Cruz. Police said he fit the description of the shooter. The student said had he made a move they would have shot him. To escape undetected Cruz abandoned his weapons, blended with the students, and walked out of the building. He was caught hours later.

Trump said he has no doubt he would have gone into the building to take out the shooter. No weapon verses a semi-automatic weapon? Trump convinced himself that he would come out the winner.

“I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon. And I think most of the people in this room would have done that too”. Trump was holding as meeting at the White House with 39 governors when he made this statement. He chided the deputy sheriffs at the scene for not entering the building to save lives.

Monday, October 16, 2017

'We've seen tragedies like this too many times'

July 7, 2016 ---President Obama addressed in a speech the fatal shootings of two African American men: Alton Sterling, 37, of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, shot to death in a Triple S Food Mart parking lot while selling bootleg CDs. An anonymous 911 call reported that Sterling had a gun, and was threatening someone in the parking lot. 

Two White cops arrived on the scene. Sterling was tackled to the sidewalk. One was kneed Sterling left side; the other cop held pinned down his legs. Sterling was lying on his back on the ground when he was shot multiple times in the back  and chest. Known as the "CD Man", Sterling died from the gunshot wounds.

After 10 months federal prosecutors and investigators concluded that there was not evidence enough to charge Blane Salamoni and Howie Lake ll with violating Sterling's civil rights. The case was turned over the Louisiana attorney general. The investigation revealed that Salamoni pulled his gun, pointed it Sterling's head, and told him "I'll shot you, bitch". The cops said Sterling did not comply with orders to lay on the ground.

Philando Castile, 32, St. Paul, Minnesota, was shot to death July6, 2016 by Officer Jeronimo Yanez. Castile was licensed to carry a gun. He told  Yanez that he had a gun on him. The prosecutor said the cop was nervous the day of the shooting, and lost control of the traffic stop. Castile’s girlfriend taped the incident after realizing something untowards was about to happen. The world saw what happened. Castile calmly told Yanez that he had a gun and was licensed to carry it. A permit to legally pack a gun does not count when it comes to African Americans.

Yanez said when he stopped Castile he smelled marijuana in the car. At this point he suddenly "feared for his life." He reasoned that if Castile smoked marijuana with his young daughter in the back seat, he wondered what Castile would do to him. Yanez was not prosecuted for the shooting death of Castile, who died sitting in the front seat of his car as his young daughter and girl friend watched life ebb from his body.

It is these kinds of wanton police shootings that pushed San Francisco 49ers Colin Kaepernick to kneel in protest while the national anthem is being played.

Starting as a lone protester, Kaepernick delivered a clear statement as to why he is staging a protest. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that opposes Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my
A fellow supporter joins Colin Kaepernick in protest during the playing of national anthem.
part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave, and getting away with murder”. The 49ers coach, Chap Kelly, said Kaepernick has a right not to stand for the national anthem, but he reserved the right to tell him to stand.

For his efforts to bring attention to the deadly shootings of African American men, the quarterback is no longer employed. He has become too political for team owners to touch. He has been thoroughly blackballed by the NFL. For now he lecturing at his “Know Your Rights Camp.” Teens and children their taught 10 basic rights when they come in contact with police. The camp is free. 

Kaepernick explained his stance: "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.

"This is not something that I am going to run by anybody. I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. ... If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right”. (NFL Media Report, 2016)

Americans watched President Barack Obama say these words at a press conference when the media asked about a noted professor getting arrested. “I don’t know, not having been there and not seeing all the facts, what role race played,” the president said at the time. “But I think it’s fair to say, No. 1, any of us would be pretty angry; No. 2, that the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting somebody when there was already proof that they were in their own home; and, No. 3 ... that there’s a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately”.  

Jiminey Cricket! All hell broke loose! This innocuous statement was made in 2009 after Harvard Professor Henry Gates, an African American, was accused by police of breaking into his own home. He was cuffed and arrested by Cambridge officer James Crowley. 

Returning home from China July 16, Gates discovered the door to his home was jammed. He asked his drive to help him open it. A near-by witness called 911, and reported that two Black men with backpacks were burglarizing the home. Crowley arrived on the scene thinking a burglary was in progress. The witness repeated to Crowley what she saw. She later recanted, saying she did not tell Crowley what he reported. Gates was charged with “disorderly conduct.” The charge was dropped July 21.

Professor Henry Gates cuffed and arrested
The media and pundits kidnapped the incident and ran with it, turning it into national news. Law enforcement accused the President of being antipolice. The media and pundits demanded that President Obama apologize to Cowley, which did not happen. They did not demand that Crowley apologize to Professor Gates for false arrest. The media created brouhaha ended with President Obama inviting the cop and the professor the White House for a “Beer Summit.”

President Obama, VP Joe Biden host "Beer Summit" at White for Gates and Crowley
On July 7, 2016 when President Barack Obama made speech on the shooting deaths of Black men he was branded by the media and White critics. He was jacketed as a racist who hated White people when he declared that if he had a son he would look like Travon Martin, 18. Martin was shot to death in Florida, February 26, 2012 by Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman. He was found not guilty. Zimmerman claimed self-defense.

A European newspaper “The Guardian” began publishing the shooting deaths in America after the shooting death of Michael Brown, 18, by Daren Wilson, a White cop is Ferguson, Missouri. Brown’s death sparked months of rioting in Ferguson and nationwide. The papers stats show that in 2015 from January to December, of the 1146 people killed by police, 307 were Black men, women and boys. The dead ranged in age from13 to 72. Stats also showed that 5.49 were Native American; 3.49 Hispanic/Latino; 2.95 White, 1.34 Asia/Pacific Islander. In 2016 of the 1093 killed by police in the U.S. 266 were Black men, women and boys, ranging ages from 15 to 77. Stats shows that 10.13 are Native American; 6.16 Black; 3.23 Hispanic/Latino; 2.9 White, 1.17 Asian/Pacific Islander.

Speech made by President Barack Obama  

“Good evening everybody. I know that we’ve been on a long flight, but given the extraordinary interest in the shootings that took place in Louisiana and Minnesota, I thought it would be important for me to address all of you directly. And I want to begin by expressing my condolences for the families of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. As I said in the statement that I posted on Facebook we have seen tragedies like this too many times. The Justice Department has opened a civil rights investigation in Baton Rouge, and the governor of Minnesota has called for an investigation there as well.

 As is my practice, given my institutional role, I can’t comment on the specific facts of these cases; and I have confidence in the Department of Justice. But what I can say is that all of us as Americans should be troubled by the shootings. These are not isolated incidents. They’re symptomatic of a broader set of racial disparities that exist in our criminal justice system. And I just want to give people a few statistics to try to put in context why emotions are so raw around these issues. According to various studies, not just one, but a wide range of studies that have been carried out over a number of years, African Americans are 30 percent more likely than Whites to be pulled over.

President Obama
After being pulled over, African Americans and Hispanics are three times more likely to be searched. Last year African Americans were shot by police at more than twice the rate of Whites. African Americans are arrested at twice the rate of whites; African Americans defendants are 75 percent more likely to be charged with offenses carrying mandatory minimums. They receive sentences that are almost ten percent longer than comparable whites arrested for the same crime. So that if you add it all up, the African American and Hispanic population, who make up only 30 percent of the general population, make up more than half of the incarcerated population.

These are facts. And when incidents like this occur, there’s a big chunk of our fellow citizenry that feels as if because of the color of their skin they are not being treated the same. And that hurts. And that should trouble all of us. This is not just a Black issue. It’s not just a Hispanic issue. This is an American issue that we should all care about; all fair minded people should be concerned. Now let me just say that we have extraordinary appreciation and respect for the vast majority of police officers who put their line on the lives every day. They have a dangerous job. It is a tough job. And as I’ve said before, they have a right to go home to their families, just like anybody else on the job.

And there are gonna be circumstances where they’re gonna have to make split second decisions. We understand that. But when we see data that indicates disparities in how African Americans and Latinos may be treated in various jurisdictions around the country, then it’s incumbent on all of us to say we are better than this. We are better than this. And to not have it to degenerate into the usual political scrum, we should be able to step back, reflect and ask ourselves what can we do better so that everybody feels as if they’re equal under the law.

Now the good news is that there are practices that we can institute that will make a difference. Last year, we put together a task force that was comprised of civil rights activists and community leaders; but also law enforcement officials. Police captains, sheriffs. And they sat around the table and they looked at the data and looked at best practices. And they came up with specific recommendations and steps that could ensure that the trust between trust between communities and police departments were rebuilt and incidents like this would be less likely to occur.

And there’s some jurisdictions out there that have adopted these recommendations. But there are a whole bunch that have not. And if anything good comes out of these tragedies, my hope is that communities around the country take a look and say, how can we implement these recommendations? And that the overwhelming majority of police officers, who are doing a great job every single day and are doing their job without regard to race, that they encourage their leadership and organizations that represent them to get behind these recommendations. Because ultimately, if you can rebuild trust between communities and the police departments that serve them, that helps us solve crime problems.

That will make life easier for police officers. They will have more cooperation. They will be safer. They will be more likely to come home. So it would be good for crime fighting and it will avert tragedy. And I’m encouraged by the fact that the majority of leadership in police departments around the country recognize this, but change has been too slow, and we have to have a greater sense of urgency about this. I’m also encouraged, by the way, that we have bipartisan support for criminal justice reform working its way through Congress. It has stalled, and lost some momentum over the past couple of months, in part, because Congress is having difficulty, generally, moving legislation forward and we’re in a political season.

But there are people of goodwill on the Republican side and the Democratic side who I’ve seen want to get something done here. That too, would help provide greater assurance across the country that those in power, those in authority are taking these issues seriously. So, this should be a spur to action to get that done, to get that across the finish line. Because I know there are a lot of people who want to get it done. So let me just make a couple of final comments. I mentioned in my Facebook statement that I hope we don’t fall into typical patterns that occur after these kinds of incidents occur; where right away there’s a lot of political rhetoric, and it starts dividing people instead of bringing folks together.

To be concerned about these issues is not to be against law enforcement. There are times when these incidents occur and you see protests and you see vigils, and I get letters, well-meaning letters sometimes from law enforcement saying, how come we’re under attack? How come not as much emphasis is made when police officers are shot? So to all of law enforcement, I want to be very clear: we know you have a tough job. We mourn those in uniform who are protecting us who lose their lives. On a regular basis, I have joined with families in front of Capitol Hill to commemorate the incredible heroism that they’ve displayed. I’ve hugged family members who’ve lost loved ones doing the right thing. I know how much it hurts.

On a regular basis, we bring in those who’ve done heroic work in law enforcement and have survived. Sometimes they’ve been injured, sometimes they’ve risked their lives in remarkable ways. And we applaud them and appreciate them. Because they’re doing a really tough job really well. There is no contradiction between us supporting law enforcement, making sure they have the equipment they need, making sure they’re collective bargaining rights are recognized, making sure they’re adequately staffed, making sure that they are respected, making sure that their families are supported. And also saying that there are problems across our criminal justice system. There are biases, some conscious and unconscious that have to be rooted out. That’s not an attack on law enforcement. That is reflective of the values that the vast majority of law enforcement bring to the job

But I repeat, if communities are mistrustful of the police, that makes those law enforcement officers who are doing a great job, and are doing the right thing, it makes their lives harder. So, when people say ‘black lives matter,’ it doesn’t mean ‘blue lives’ don’t matter, it just means all lives matter. But right now, the big concern is the fact that data shows black folks are more vulnerable to these kinds of incidents. This isn’t a matter of us comparing the value of lives, this is recognizing that there is a particular burden being placed on a group of our fellow citizens. And we should care about that. We can’t dismiss it. We can’t dismiss it.

So let me just end by saying I actually, genuinely, truly believe that the vast majority of the American people see this as a problem that we should all care about. And I would just ask those who question the sincerity or legitimacy of protests and vigils and expressions of outrage who somehow label those expressions of outrage as quote unquote political correctness, I just ask folks to step back and think: what if this happened to someone in your family? How would you feel? To be concerned about these issues is not political correctness, it’s just being American and wanting to live up to our best and highest ideals.

And it’s to recognize the reality that we’ve got some tough history and we haven’t gotten through all of that history yet. And we don’t expect that in my lifetime maybe not in my children’s lifetimes that all the vestiges of that past will have been cured, will have been solved. But we can do better. People of goodwill can do better. And doing better involves not just addressing potential bias in the criminal justice system, it’s recognizing that too often we’re asking police to man the barricades in communities that have been forgotten by all of us for way too long. In terms of substandard schools, inadequate jobs and a lack of opportunity. We’ve gotta tackle those things. We can do better. And I believe we will do better.

Thanks very much, everybody.