A company in Utah that specializes in modifying and customizing firearms has stopped selling a Glock handgun encrusted with LEGOs after the toy company hit it with a cease-and-desist letter.
Culper Precision in Provo drew backlash for its Block19 gun, which had various LEGO pieces superglued on it, making the firearm look like a child’s toy.
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“We have contacted the company and they have agreed to remove the product from their website and not make or sell anything like this in the future,” LEGO said in a statement to Insider.
Culper Precision had described the product as “one of those childhood dreams coming to life” in a recent Instagram post.
“Our business is taking a firearm of known value and transforming it into a personalized invaluable treasure for a fair price,” the company said in a statement on its website. “People have the right to customize their property to make it look like whatever they want. It is our business to assist firearms owners in making their guns better reflect them as a person and individual, our pieces speak to the owner of the gun as they have selected those options from a seemingly infinite range of possibilities.”
The company also said it wants the Block19 to represent “the pure enjoyment of the shooting sports.” Culper Precision went on to say covering the gun in LEGOs was an attempt at “making the 2nd amendment too painful to tread on.” The company added that it hopes guns can be society’s “great unifier.”
Gun policy is one of the most polarizing topics in US politics. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center found that 81% of Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents say gun laws should be stricter than they currently are, while 20% of Republicans and Republican leaners share this view.
“Decorating firearms with one of the most popular children’s toys is a recipe for disaster,” Shannon Watts, founder of gun safety group Moms Demand Action, said in a statement to Insider. “We have already seen tragedies happen when unsecured firearms are around children and they don’t look like toys. Too many children’s lives are cut short by unintentional shootings every year – and in the past year we’ve only seen these tragic instances happen more frequently.”
So far in 2021, there have been at least 174 unintentional shootings by children, leading to 113 injuries and 70 deaths, according to data from Everytown. Last year, despite the coronavirus pandemic, the US had a 20-year-high of gun violence deaths, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.
Three months after the state of Arizona declared itself a Second Amendment sanctuary, officials in the liberal-leaning city of Tuscon say they plan to ignore the so-called declaration, signaling a possible legal battle in the ongoing fight for control over gun rights in the battleground state.
At least 1,200 localities have made similar declarations since 2018, according to The Associated Press, as an ongoing string of high-profile mass shootings elicited calls for stronger protections. While many are only symbolic in nature, some do carry legal weight.
But the city of Tucson, which has long been an oppositional force to Arizona’s bend toward gun leniency, could be headed to court over the matter, and taking the state with it.
Last week, Tucson Mayor Regina Romero and the City Council unanimously passed a resolution proclaiming “federal laws, orders and acts that regulate firearms in a manner that is consistent with the requirements of the United States Constitution” will “remain in full force and effect” within the city limits “regardless of whether those laws, orders or acts are more restrictive or prohibitive than regulations established under the laws of this state.”
Steve Kozachik, the councilman who introduced the resolution last month, said he believes the state’s sanctuary law to be unconstitutional.
The state law says Arizona is not obliged to follow or uphold US gun laws and prohibits any “personnel or financial resources” that would enforce, administer or cooperate with any federal act, law, or order that is “inconsistent” with any firearm regulations in the state.
Mike Rankin, a city attorney who drafted Tucson’s resolution told The Daily Star that the state law is a “symbolic action” meant to send a warning message to the federal government.
Ducey, who called the bill a “proactive” law to protect an “enumerated right” against what could possibly come out of the Biden administration, told the AP via a spokesperson that his office expects every city in Arizona to follow the new order.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mark Arizona as having the 15th highest gun-related mortality rate.
It is still unclear how this issue might play out in court. Charles Heller, communications coordinator for gun rights group the Arizona Citizens Defense League, told outlets he doesn’t think Tucson’s resolution will have an impact on the state law.
“They’re attempting to wave a flag no matter how weak that says they don’t like it,” Heller told The Daily Star.
But advocates of gun control said Ducey’s law was a major step backward toward tightening regulations. Tucson’s resolution, was in turn, a glimmer of hope, they said.
“We’ll see what happens as it plays out in the courts,” Gerry Hills, founder and president of Arizonans for Gun Safety told the Daily Star.
In an announcement before gun control advocacy groups and clergy leaders on Tuesday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a series of executive orders and legislative priorities to reduce gun violence.
Cuomo did not take questions at the event and was light on specifics for much of his PowerPoint presentation. His announcement comes after at least 140 people died in shootings across the United States over the Fourth of July holiday weekend.
Major components of the Cuomo executive orders include:
Declaring a state of emergency that frees up state agencies to spend money more quickly on gun-related programs.
Requiring police departments, including the NYPD, to collect more detailed incident data when responding to shootings.
Forming a New York State Police “special unit” to target gun trafficking, coordinating with New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania to share data on traffic stops.
Ending immunity for gun manufacturers, an exemption created by the Bush administration in the 2005 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act. Cuomo said he will sign a bill later in the day reinstating public nuisance liability for gun manufacturers.
Creating a state partnership with the John Jay College of Criminal Justice to share “best practices” with local police departments on preventing gun violence.
Directing the State Division of Criminal Justice Services to issue new regulations preventing police officers with misconduct records from getting jobs at other departments in the state.
Investing $138.7 million to community gun violence prevention efforts.
Cuomo showed statistics on how shootings are up 38% in the first six months of 2021 compared to 2020, warning that a fear of violence is keeping the business community from bringing more workers back to the office in the Big Apple. The governor’s presentation contradicted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s from earlier in the day, where the mayor cautioned against “fear mongering” and showed NYPD data on shootings being down 20% in June 2021 compared to June 2020.
The executive orders are part of a “disaster emergency” declaration, Cuomo said, touting New York as the first state in the nation to do so.
Cuomo also said he will wage a “border war” to stop the flow of illegal guns into New York from “the South.”
“We announced today a border war, and the border war is we’re going to stop guns coming in through our borders and into our cities,” he said. “We know where they’re coming from. They’re coming from the South, and we’re going to declare a border war to stop it.”
The governor also joked that he would build a wall on the state border with his name on it, apparently mocking former President Donald Trump whose hardline stance on immigration involved a still-incomplete wall along the US-Mexico border.
Lawmakers over the weekend continued to mourn the 49 victims.
“It has been five years but it feels like yesterday,” Rep. Val Demings of Florida said in a statement. “Today I am thinking of the 49 who we lost-49 human beings, 49 dreams, 49 futures, 49 families missing a loved one. I am thinking of the survivors who still need our fullest support as they work through physical and mental wounds.”
The Pulse shooting on June 12, 2016, stands as the second-deadliest mass shooting in US history. Omar Mateen, 29, opened fire inside Pulse, a gay nightclub, killing 49 and injuring dozens of others. Police responding to 911 calls at the club killed Mateen.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said on Twitter that the state “honors the memories of those who were murdered on one of the darkest days in Florida’s history.”
Some lawmakers on Saturday went further than mourning and recognition of the shooting, and reiterated a call for gun reform.
“Today, I remember the lives lost and forever changed, and I again call on the Senate to bring our gun safety legislation to a vote,” Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia wrote on Twitter.
Rep. Scott Peters of California echoed Spanberger’s call for action. “We must continue to condemn all forms of hatred & demand life-saving gun reform,” he said.
Human-rights and anti-gun organizations, however, say lawmakers aren’t doing enough to enact gun control in the wake of the shooting’s anniversary.
“It has been 1,826 days since this tragedy, yet nothing has changed,” the Human Rights Campaign, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing LGBT rights, wrote on Twitter early Saturday.
Despite continued calls from nonprofits like Everytown for Gun Safety, gun control laws in Florida have not been drastically addressed since Pulse, the Orlando Sentinel reported.
A Florida state legislator has brought bills banning assault-style rifles but couldn’t get past the GOP-controlled legislature, for example.
“We’ve got problems in Tallahassee because we appear to be going in the opposite direction,” State Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith told the Sentinel. “We have not been given a single hearing by the majority party, even if symbolic. They refuse to put this issue on the agenda. [But] the issue is not going away.”
Biden in a statement posted Saturday echoed lawmakers’ calls to pass gun reform legislation.
“It is long past time we close the loopholes that allow gun buyers to bypass background checks in this country, and the Senate should start by passing the three House-passed bills which would do exactly that,” he said. “It is long past time we ban assault weapons and high capacity magazines, establish extreme risk protection orders, also known as “red flag” laws, and eliminate gun manufacturers’ immunity from liability.”
Two months ago my column focused on the need to take action to address America’s gun crisis. I was worried mass shootings would speed up as the COVID pandemic slowed down. But none of us could have imagined how tragic the following weeks would be.
So far, our lawmakers have provided the usual pablum. The Republicans have, as usual, offered their thoughts and prayers, while offering nothing substantive besides making it easier to obtain a gun. While Democrats from various states have proposed and even passed gun control measures in the wake of these shootings, and Joe Biden has released a list of proposals to help curb the violence, nothing has been done to truly end the epidemic of gun deaths ravaging this country.
What level of tragedy would finally force this country to make real change?
What’s it going to take?
Since the first modern mass shooting at Columbine High School, the US has failed to move in a substantial way on gun safety. While there have been red flag laws passed in some (mostly Democratic) states, just as many states have loosened their firearm laws to allow for open and concealed carry. Federal legislation has gone nowhere, and the Supreme Court has ruled in the District of Columbia vs. Heller that Americans have a fundamental right to possess firearms.
As people across the US have started to get vaccinated against COVID, the veneer of protection against gun deaths is fading and there is no vaccine-like solution on the horizon.
And much like misinformation that drove up the case and death toll during the pandemic, the increase in mass shootings and corresponding inaction of Congress tie directly back to the rise of the extreme right media on cable and social media.
Other countries don’t have the same problem. After a horrific mass shooting in 1996, Australia outlawed assault-style weapons. Despite what Republicans might have you believe, Australia has not turned into a despotic dictatorship over the intervening 25 years. In fact, most every other country on Earth has fewer guns and fewer gun deaths than the United States.
Now or never
President Joe Biden has juggled a number of crises in his short time in office, but he has not prioritized gun safety. He urged Congress to reinstate a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines, which like background checks is very popular with voters. Perhaps he can come up with a different, uniquely American solution to this uniquely American problem.
It is understandable that Joe Biden doesn’t want to lose his frighteningly narrow majorities in Congress, but his party must take action now while they have the opportunity to get it done. The Democrats have the ideas, they have the public’s support, and they have numbers. The only thing, it would seem, that they are missing is the political will to make a change.
After a full year of one kind of devastating tragedy, we have been faced with a month of another. One that in some ways feels more tangible than a virus. In the 100 days since Biden’s inauguration, he has shown he is up to the task of fighting the invisible killer that has been plaguing America for the past year. Now he must step up and fight the killer that has damaged and taken the lives of thousands of Americans for the past 30.
It was the Pulse nightclub shooting for me. I spent hours glued to the news, shaking with anger and fear. That hate crime sent plenty of people in search of more restrictive gun laws, but it sent me and an awful lot of others in the opposite direction. Over the next few years, I started going to shooting ranges more. I took a two-day concealed carry class. Now, like millions of Americans, I’m a gun owner. Importantly, I’m part of what looks like a demographicshift in gun ownership in the US.
I’m a woman in the rural South, and I’m very visibly trans. I unintentionally find myself in the center of a culture war; the way people treat me, in cities or the countryside, has changed dramatically since Trump’s election in 2016. The stares are longer, the sneers more open. Before gender identity became so politicized in the past few years, I was a curiosity. Now, I’m a walking symbol of everything the far-right hates.
Through my activism and my art, I have found myself in the crosshairs of the local far-right. A local news outlet once ran a satanic-panic style story about one of my music videos, and the more overtly fascist groups have sent me pictures of my family alongside my license plate number and home address.
I have always supposed that my safety is something I need to guarantee for myself – that no one else was going to do it for me. Since the people who hate people like me are famously well-armed, I determined I would be as well.
It wasn’t a simple decision, nor one that I would ever recommend anyone take lightly. The risk-benefit analysis of owning a tool like a firearm must always be ongoing. Yet as I’ve become increasingly comfortable with firearms, I’ve also come to realize just how misguided most efforts at gun control truly are.
Biden’s gun control legislation is misguided
Frankly, I believe that Biden’s executive orders and proposed legislation will disproportionately affect marginalized groups, both in terms of enforcement and in terms of access to the tools of self-defense. Because the legislation does not understand the gun community, I also believe the proposed laws are a gift to the far-right’s recruitment efforts.
When people talk about “common sense gun laws,” it sure feels like they mean the opposite. Gun owners are very aware of the labyrinthine laws that surround the ownership and use of guns, how they vary state by state, and what will and won’t bring the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) down on their heads. Many attempts to make laws more “common sense” end up making them even more confusing and contradictory – and can easily criminalize people who are trying to follow the law.
Take the arm brace for example. An arm brace on a pistol allows you to shoot more accurately. In 2014, the ATF ruled that you could stabilize the brace against your shoulder, if you wanted, without the gun being considered a short-barreled rifle, which are more heavily regulated and taxed. Then in 2015, they changed their mind. The exact same legal firearm, owned by millions, would be legal if shot normally, but illegal if shot with the arm brace held against the shoulder – unless the gun owner paid a $200 tax and filed the right paperwork. In 2017, they reversed again. All this because of quibbles over the definition of a rifle, which isn’t legally concealable, whereas a pistol often is.
That is to say, Biden is telling millions of law-abiding Americans that they better pony up hundreds of dollars or else become criminals because of arbitrary distinctions in the length of the barrel of a gun they own. If the goal of legislation is to prevent mass shootings, calling a pistol fitted with an arm brace a rifle – and thus illegal to conceal – is the most unhelpful of legal technicalities. Shooters planning to murder a crowd of people are not concerned with the legality of how they carry their gun.
This type of legislation is a gift to far-right recruitment, which, according to leaked Telegram chats, relies on using gun rights advocacy and the fear of gun confiscation to push people further to the right. One recruitment guide listed gun control as a way to “find common ground” before introducing someone to more fringe ideas. Guns should never have become a right versus left issue.
I grew up largely outside of gun culture. My father is a Marine with a medal for marksmanship, and I shot a .22 at Boy Scout camp in middle school, but guns didn’t play any large role in my life.
When you don’t own a gun, it’s really hard to care about gun law. It doesn’t risk criminalizing you or too many people you know. We live in bubbles in the US. If you own a gun, your friends likely do too. If you don’t, your friends probably don’t.
Most advocates for gun control do not understand firearms, firearm law, or firearm culture. When people tell you what to do, while making it clear they don’t have the first idea what they’re talking about, it is always going to rub you the wrong way.
I own a gun and most of my neighbors own guns. Some of them hunt. Some of them are veterans. Some of them are concerned with self-defense. My neighbors in rural North Carolina, just like my neighbors when I’ve lived in major cities, run the full gamut of political affiliations. None of them operate under the illusion that the police would keep them safe in case of an emergency. Safety comes from knowing your neighbors. Safety comes, sometimes, from being armed.
Gun ownership as a symbol
What I didn’t realize, until I was in the environment I’m in now, is the importance of the gun as a symbol for many communities. A rifle in a safe, or a handgun on a bed stand, says, “I’ll never go hungry, because I can hunt.” It also says, “I will not be a passive victim of a violent attack.” It says: “Me and the people I love are the ones who keep ourselves fed and safe.”
Taking that away from someone, or just making it even more legally complex to own a gun, will never go over well. No amount of statistics will ever outweigh the emotional and symbolic importance of that ability for self-determination. The far-right heavily leverages that symbolic weight for recruitment – perhaps more than anything else.
I’m not advocating for universal gun ownership. I don’t believe an armed society is a polite society. I also recognize that for a lot of people – maybe even most people – gun ownership makes them less safe instead of more safe
There’s a slogan, albeit a cynical one, that people involved in mutual aid organizing use that resonates a lot with me: “We keep us safe.”
There are people who want to hurt me for who I am, and I don’t want to let them. My safety is my responsibility. Maybe it shouldn’t be, in some perfect society, but we don’t live in a perfect society. We live in the USA.
Biden was joined by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga for a wide-ranging news conference following the leaders’ in-person summit which was focused on American-Japanese cooperation in countering China
During the event, Biden and Suga fielded questions about the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, the South China Sea, and Iran. But it was a question about Biden’s legislative progress, or lack thereof, on gun control and police reform that sparked the president’s most impassioned response.
“This has to end,” Biden said. “It’s a national embarrassment…every single day there’s a mass shooting in the United States if you count all those who are killed out on the streets of our cities and our rural areas.”
The president reaffirmed his support for universal background checks and bans on assault weapons. Biden also said upon taking office, he immediately asked the attorney general to investigate the possible executive actions available to him relating to gun control.
But Biden bucked the suggestion he wasn’t prioritizing the issue, noting he doesn’t set the Senate agenda and instead urged Congressional leadership to “step up and act.”
He specifically asked Senate leadership to bring up a House-passed gun control bill as soon as possible.
Last month, the House passed HR 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021 in a 227-203 vote. The bill would extend background check requirements on almost all gun transfers, including between private sellers. It would also require that gun sales between private parties be handled by a licensed firearms dealer, who would take control of the weapon while the background check was in progress.
Around the same time, the House also passed HR 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021, which would increase the amount of time to a minimum of 10 business days that an unlicensed person must wait to receive a completed background check prior to transfer.
But Schumer, who is in charge of setting the Senate agenda as majority leader, has been waiting to bring gun control legislation to the floor, in part, because Democrats and Republicans in the chamber are trying to find a bipartisan compromise on the issue, according to PBS correspondent Lisa Desjardins.
The calls for increased gun control come on the heels of yet another mass shooting Thursday at a FedEx in Indianapolis that left eight dead.
More than one-in-10 US gun owners have purchased a firearm without undergoing a federal background check, a loophole available to unlicensed private sellers that President Joe Biden wants to close.
“Most people don’t know, you walk into a store and you buy a gun, you have a background check. But you go to a gun show, you can buy whatever you want and no background check,” Biden said Thursday in an address from the White House Rose Garden.
But that is not exactly true: commercial dealers at gun shows are subject to the same background-check requirements as elsewhere. Only those private sellers – people hawking guns they personally own – can currently evade this in most of the country, with just 16 states requiring all gun sales be accompanied by an investigation into the purchaser, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.
Conservative media pounced on Biden’s generalization. “Biden Falsely Claims Background Checks Aren’t Required At Gun Shows,” stated the Daily Caller, a far-right website.
“Joe Biden Lied About Gun Shows,” declared the National Review.
But “lied,” while making for a salacious headline, is a bit too strong, as the conservative magazine conceded in the body of another post on the controversy. “[P]rivate transfers,” including those at gun shows, “only require background checks in certain states,” it noted.
A 2009 paper released by the UC Davis School of Medicine drives this point home. A licensed retailer must ask someone purchasing a firearm for identification, ensure that the firearm is for personal use, record the sale, and submit the buyer’s information to the federal government. By contrast, “a private party, such as an unlicensed vendor or individual attendee at a gun show, can sell you that same gun – or as many guns as you want – and none of these federal safeguards will be in place.”
Little has changed: Gun shows remain a major forum for private sales, which continue to be largely exempt from background checks. Just now there is the internet, where no-question firearm purchases can be made from the comfort of one’s home.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, pressed on whether Biden’s statement was intended to be as sweeping as interpreted, pivoted to legislation the president supports. “He believes that background checks should be universal,” she said.
A bill currently before the US Senate would make that happen. But it would require 60 votes to pass, including the support of 10 Republicans; the “gun-show loophole,” at least at the federal level, is unlikely to be closed anytime soon.
Over 43,000 Americans were killed by guns in 2020, a majority suicides, the highest number in more than 20 years.
“President Biden is reiterating his call for Congress to pass legislation to reduce gun violence,” the statement said. “But this Administration will not wait for Congress to act to take its own steps – fully within the Administration’s authority and the Second Amendment – to save lives.”
The actions, which do not have to go through Congress, include tackling “ghost guns,” drafting model “red flag” laws, and a firearms-trafficking report.
“Ghost guns” are firearms that are built at home by buying individual parts or kits that contain the parts. They are fully functioning guns that do not have a serial number or other identifying information, making them difficult to trace when recovered after a crime.
Biden is giving the Justice Department 30 days to draft a proposed rule that would “help stop the proliferation of these firearms.”
The Justice Department also has 60 days to draft model “red flag” legislation for states. Red flag laws allow family members or friends to alert authorities and seek a court order against someone obtaining a gun if they believe them to be a danger to themselves or others. Biden is encouraging Congress to pass a federal red flag law but wants model legislation for states working to pass their own laws.
Another action includes directing the Justice Department to issue a “new, comprehensive report on firearms trafficking and annual updates” that lawmakers can use when addressing gun trafficking. According to the statement, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms issued a firearms-trafficking report in 2000 that lawmakers still use today to draft policy.
The announcement also outlined multiple ways the administration plans to invest in “evidence-based community violence interventions,” including a $5 billion investment in Biden’s American Jobs Plan.
“Community violence interventions are proven strategies for reducing gun violence in urban communities through tools other than incarceration,” the statement said.
The Justice Department will also devise a rule within 60 days that determines when a pistol equipped with a stabilizing brace is more like a rifle, and thus falls under the National Firearms Act. The statement says the suspected shooter at the grocery store in Colorado last month “appears to have used a pistol with an arm brace, which can make a firearm more stable and accurate while still being concealable.”
The White House also named David Chipman as Biden’s nomination for Director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Chipman worked in the bureau for decades and currently works as an adviser to a gun control advocacy group.