Kentucky Made It Easier To Evade Federal Gun Laws Days Before Louisville Shooting

Less than two weeks before Monday’s mass shooting at a bank in downtown Louisville, the state of Kentucky banned local law enforcement...

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Less than two weeks before Monday’s mass shooting at a bank in downtown Louisville, the state of Kentucky banned local law enforcement agencies from enforcing federal firearm laws.

The bill makes Kentucky a so-called “Second Amendment sanctuary” and prohibits local, state, or campus authorities from enforcing federal bans or regulations related to firearms, ammunition, or firearm accessories. it applies to any laws or regulations enacted since January 1, 2021.

On March 28, the bill became law after the Republican-led House and Senate overwhelmingly pushed it through, and Democratic Governor Andy Beshear neither signed nor vetoed the legislation, allowing the bill to become law.

And on Monday, at least five people were killed and another six injured in a mass shooting.

Kentucky’s law could counter regulations in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, passed in the aftermath of the Buffalo supermarket and Uvalde elementary school shootings. Some of the regulations in that law include: banning people from buying guns if they had committed a disqualifying crime while under the age of 18; banning anyone from buying guns if they were found guilty of a domestic violence charge in a romantic relationship (regardless of marital status); and banning people from buying guns on behalf of criminals, terrorists, drug dealers, or people who are prohibited by law from receiving a gun.

Kentucky’s new law could be weaponized to stop such federal regulations on firearms, as well as any future gun control legislation or executive orders from the Biden administration.

Kentucky Republican Representative Savannah Maddox called the bill blocking even modest federal gun regulation “a step in the right direction,” but added that “there is more work that needs to be done by our Republican Supermajority.”

So-called Second Amendment sanctuary laws have been deemed unconstitutional by numerous courts, most recently by a federal judge who struck down a similar policy in Missouri.

Meanwhile, the Kentucky legislature has been considering a slew of other pro-gun bills.

House Bill 542, also pushed by Representative Maddox, seeks to prevent colleges from passing any policies that ban people 21 years and older from carrying a concealed weapon on campuses. The bill would have overturned standing policy at every public college in Kentucky. Maddox had quietly tried sneaked the proposal into what was originally a bill about “workforce development.” Maddox has conceded the bill likely does not have enough votes for now to advance further, but it may gain future momentum after a similar bill succeeded and became law in West Virginia.

Another bill Maddox helped introduce in January would lower the age requirement for carrying a concealed gun from 21 to 18. And yet another she co-signed seeks to allow people to carry concealed weapons in schools.

Kentucky is not an anomaly. In Tennessee, a mass shooting occurred amid a concerted effort by state Republicans to loosen gun laws. Before a mass shooting left three children and three adults dead at a Nashville school, state Republicans passed a bill allowing people 21 and older to openly carry handguns without permits. Republicans there are now pushing to allow 18- and 19 year-old residents to carry any firearm—including weapons like AR-15s and shotguns—without permits.

The exact motives of the Louisville shooter are not yet clear. But in a society ravaged daily by mass shootings, in every possible segment of the public square, one would hope that there would be at least some movement towards lessening those incidents. Making weapons of killing harder, not easier, to obtain; meaningfully increasing mental health and wellbeing support; creating a society where community and care, not isolation and individualism, are the norm.

But no, even while Monday’s shooting in Louisville marks the 146th mass shooting in 2023, Republicans seem to be rolling full-speed ahead on running those numbers up.

Since the bombshell ruling that could potentially take abortion medication off the market, only a handful of Republicans have commented on it—and some not even directly.

Texas federal Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled Friday that mifepristone, one of the medications used to induce an abortion, had been improperly approved by the FDA and should be yanked from the U.S. market. Two other judges have already filed dueling injunctions to keep the drug available.

Republicans typically like to talk about abortion, with many hailing the reversal of Roe v. Wade last summer. In January, the Republican National Committee passed a resolution instructing GOP lawmakers to “go on offense” against abortion access.

But since Friday, there has been barely a peep out of the Republicans on Capitol Hill. As of Monday, countless Democrats have decried the loss of human rights, with Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez calling on the FDA to ignore the ruling. But only a handful of Republicans have addressed the ruling.

Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith was one of the first to react. On Friday, she called the ruling “a victory for pregnant mothers & their unborn children” and accused the FDA of “recklessly violating the law & jeopardizing patient safety.” More than 100 scientific studies show that mifepristone is safe.

Susan Collins, the only Republican senator who voted against Kacsmaryk’s confirmation, said Monday she “strongly” disagreed with the ruling.

Representative Tony Gonzalez told CNN on Sunday it was important to have “real discussions on women’s health care, and get off the abortion conversation,” despite the fact that Republican-backed abortion bans have actually created more problems for their health care. Five women are currently suing the state of Texas, saying the state’s abortion restrictions put their lives at risk.

Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz didn’t address the ruling directly, but both slammed Wyden and Ocasio-Cortez for urging the FDA to ignore Kacsmaryk’s decision. Cruz said Democrats “don’t care about undermining the rule of law,” which is rich coming from a guy who tried to overturn the 2020 election results.

Surprisingly, Republican Representative Nancy Mace said she also thinks the FDA should ignore the ruling. “This is an FDA-approved drug. Whether you agree with its usage or not, that’s not your decision. That is the FDA’s decision,” she told CNN Monday.

Mace, however, has a record of trying to have it both ways on abortion. Despite repeatedly urging her Republican colleagues to adopt a more “centrist” approach on the issue, she has also consistently voted for abortion restrictions at the federal level.

The bombshell ruling that could take abortion pills off the national market was based in part on a “study” of anonymous posts on an anti-abortion website.

Texas federal Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled Friday that mifepristone, one of the medications used to induce an abortion, had been improperly approved and should be yanked from the U.S. market. Two other judges have already filed dueling injunctions to keep the drug available.

The lawsuit was filed in November by a coalition of anti-abortion groups and individuals, who specifically chose Kacsmaryk for his history of anti-abortion decisions, arguing that the Food and Drug Administration had improperly approved mifepristone for widespread use more than 20 years ago. More than 100 scientific studies show that mifepristone is safe.

In his ruling, Kacsmaryk cites a study that posits “fourteen percent of women and girls reported having received insufficient information” about the side effects of having an abortion. The study also says that “eighty-three percent of women report that chemical abortion ‘changed’ them—and seventy-seven percent of those women reported a negative change.”

That study analyzed anonymous posts on an anti-abortion website called “Abortion Changes You,” which runs a blog with stories from people who regret having abortions. The sample size is 98 blog posts, but the study authors only analyzed 54 posts and then just cherry-picked quotes from the rest.

“Perhaps this sample might not be reflective of the entire universe of women who have abortions?” suggested legal expert Adam Unikowsky, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, in his Substack “Adam’s Legal Newsletter.”

“This is roughly like reporting a statistic that ‘83% of people are fans of Judge Kacsmaryk’ without mentioning that the entire sample consisted of posters on JudgeKacsmarykFanClub.com.”

What’s even more dangerous is the fact that both the website and the Institute of Reproductive Grief Care, the organization that runs the site, couch themselves in reasonable-sounding language. Founder Michaelene Fredenburg talks repeatedly about the need for a better support system for the men and women grieving pregnancy loss.

This is true. An abortion is a deeply personal choice, and it does not come without an emotional toll. There still seems to be a social taboo about discussing abortions and miscarriages, and people who experience them are often left without a network to support them.

But it should still be a choice. And one man has used a biased study to try to take that away.

A shooting at a bank in downtown Louisville, Kentucky, has left at least five people dead and six wounded.

Calls of shots fired at Old National Bank were reported at around 8:30 a.m. Monday morning. At 10:16 a.m., the Louisville Metro Police Department said there was no longer a threat and that the shooter was “neutralized.”

Police have said that five people have died and another six are injured and have been taken to the hospital; among the injured is reportedly an LMPD officer.

Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear has said he is on his way to Louisville.

The shooting comes weeks after a school shooting in nearby Nashville, Tennessee, left three children and three adults dead, prompting massive protests at the state Capitol and nationwide. Two Tennessee Democrats, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, were expelled from the state House after interrupting House proceedings in solidarity with the protesters.

This is a developing story.

Free-speech warrior Elon Musk is suppressing Substack’s own Twitter account, as well as any links to the newsletter company’s website, including newsletters and posts from prominent independent writers such as Judd Legum, Erin Reed, and even Matt Taibbi, one of a select few journalists to whom Musk gave the so-called Twitter Files.

The move appears to be in retaliation for a new feature Substack announced on Wednesday called Notes, which would let users share posts, comments, images, and links in a timeline-style feed—similar to how Twitter functions. The following day, Twitter began blocking Substack writers from being able to embed tweets in their newsletters. Then, on Friday, Twitter began fully blocking users from being able to distribute links to their Substack pages at all.

Twitter users are still able to post links to Substack newsletters, but other users are unable to like, retweet, or reply to those posts, severely limiting the reach of such posts. Moreover, as of this story’s writing, users are unable to like, retweet, or reply to any posts from Substack’s main Twitter account—whether they include a Substack link or not. The account itself appears to still have the ability to tweet, however.

Substack’s founders have said they are “disappointed that Twitter has chosen to restrict writers’ ability to share their work,” adding that writers “deserve the freedom to share links to Substack or anywhere else.”

A statement from our founders:

Any platform that benefits from writers’ and creators’ work but doesn’t give them control over their relationships will inevitably wonder how to respond to the platforms that do.

— Substack (@SubstackInc) April 7, 2023

Musk’s move comes after Twitter welcomed its “2.0” era by releasing much of its source code related to recommendation algorithms, including ones that drive the pitiful “For You” timeline. The code revealed that Twitter had broken down authors into four categories: Elon Musk, “Power User,” Democrat, and Republican; Musk’s posts in particular were being pushed onto Twitter users.

Concurrent to the source code release, Twitter was set to begin phasing out existing verified accounts and welcoming users to obtain blue checks only by paying for them. The plan was set to roll out on April 1 but has yet to come to fruition.

Musk’s attack on Substack is part of pattern, since he bought Twitter in October, to suppress content on an essentially ad hoc basis—from enabling the Indian government to silence dissent to reinstating white nationalists and haphazardly banning journalists.

At the same time, Musk handed over internal company documents to Taibbi and others for a controversial and misleading series of tweet-threads and newsletters about how Twitter was run prior to Musk’s reign. On Friday, Taibbi asked Musk about the apparent attack on Substack and said he did not hear back.

Hours later, Taibbi said he heard from Twitter—likely Musk himself—that Twitter is indeed responding to Substack’s new feature, which it views as a “hostile rival.” Taibbi asked his mysterious source at Twitter how he was supposed to market his work and was given the option to just post his articles on Twitter instead of Substack. In response, Taibbi announced he’s “obviously staying at Substack” and “will be moving to Substack Notes next week.”

A federal appeals court ruled Friday that a public high school teacher in Indiana did not have the right to ignore transgender students’ names and pronouns just because of his religious beliefs.

John Kluge worked as a music teacher at the Brownsburg Community School Corporation for four years. In 2017, he refused to abide by the school’s new policy to use trans students’ chosen names and pronouns, claiming it violated his Christian beliefs. He was initially granted an accommodation to refer to all students by their last names, which distressed both trans and cisgender students because they figured out his reasons. The school withdrew the accommodation, and he resigned at the end of the school year in 2018.

Kluge sued the school that same year for religious discrimination and retaliation. Brownsburg argued in response that he had caused it “undue hardship” by his refusal to use students’ chosen names and pronouns, which made some students feel “targeted and uncomfortable” and ultimately hindered their ability to learn. The school also said Kluge’s stance opened it up to gender discrimination lawsuits.

A district court ruled in Brownsburg’s favor in July 2021, and the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the decision Friday. “Brownsburg was within its rights … to withdraw the requested accommodation when it became apparent that it was not working in practice and was causing harm to students,” the court said in the ruling.

What’s more, the ruling said, Kluge’s retaliation claim “fails as a matter of law because he failed to produce any evidence supporting” his case.

The ruling is an important win for trans rights, which are under attack across the country. Twenty states, such as Florida, Texas, and Montana, have banned trans girls from playing on girls’ sports teams. Most recently, on Wednesday, Kansas’s Republican-controlled legislature overrode Democratic Governor Laura Kelly’s veto of a bill banning trans girls from playing girls’ sports.

But it’s not all bad news: On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that a 12-year-old trans girl in West Virginia must be allowed to compete on her school’s girls’ cross-country and track teams.

West Virginia implemented a law banning trans girls from girls’ teams in 2021, but that law is being challenged in court. The Supreme Court said that the law cannot be enforced until the case is decided.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas thinks he doesn’t have to disclose his vacations funded by a billionaire Republican megadonor because the two of them are “close personal friends.”

The justice has spent decades secretly enjoying opulent getaways courtesy of Harlan Crow—and he disclosed none of them, in violation of a decades-old federal law, ProPublica revealed in a bombshell report Thursday.

But Thomas insisted in a weak statement Friday that he doesn’t think he’s done anything wrong. “Early in my tenure at the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable,” he said.

Statement from Justice Thomas in response to revelations by ProPublica about undisclosed luxury trips: “this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends…was not reportable.” pic.twitter.com/VGftgAaCjV

— Andrew Chung (@andrew_chung_) April 7, 2023

People were not having it.

“What a joke this person is supposed to sit in judgment of anyone else’s adherence to laws,” reporter Laura Rozen tweeted. “Could pick someone out of the phone book at random with more credibility.”

Lawyer Joyce Vance pointed out that “personal hospitality is a nice dinner or maybe a weekend visit at a close friend’s lake house. It’s not persistent travel where you rub shoulders with conservative folks with litigation interests before SCOTUS on an at-least-annual basis.”

Some people were shocked that Thomas’s main defense was essentially, “Oops!”

“I asked some of my judge buddies and they said they do this shit all the time” is maybe not the defense he thinks it is https://t.co/k2iRAWH856

— Christopher Ingraham (@_cingraham) April 7, 2023

Man with literal *Supreme Court Justice level* legal knowledge tries “Was that wrong? Should I not have done that? I was told by people that it was not wrong” defense.

https://t.co/cHlDsz9WTT

— Free Agent Fly on Some Wall (@FlyOnSomeWall) April 7, 2023

Clarence Thomas basically said pic.twitter.com/wTFgoU9vQg

— philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) April 7, 2023

Thomas and his wife, Ginni, have come under increased scrutiny for their fuzzy ethics. Ginni Thomas was closely involved in efforts to overturn the 2020 election. In January 2022, her husband was the only justice to vote against the release of communications that ultimately revealed her involvement.

Part of the problem is that the Supreme Court is largely self-policing, and some of them are doing a very bad job of it.

Read more about Thomas’s wrongdoing here.

Just days after being arrested on criminal fraud charges and attacking the family of the Manhattan judge hearing his case, former President Donald Trump reportedly is now looking to hire far-right Islamophobe Laura Loomer.

The New York Times reports that Trump recently met with Loomer, a two-time loser for the U.S. House of Representatives, and told advisers to bring her onto his 2024 campaign. Loomer on Tuesday attended Trump’s post-arraignment speech at Mar-a-Lago.

“Out of respect for President Trump, I’m not going to comment on private conversations that I had with the president,” Loomer told the Times. “The president knows I have always been a Trump loyalist,” she continued, “and that I’m committed to helping him win re-election in 2024. He likes me very much.”

Marjorie Taylor Greene, who endorsed Loomer’s failed 2022 bid in Florida’s 11th congressional district, now has a different opinion of her:

Laura Loomer is mentally unstable and a documented liar.

She can not be trusted.

She spent months lying about me and attacking me just because I supported Kevin McCarthy for Speaker and after I had refused to endorse her last election cycle.

She loves the alleged FBI… pic.twitter.com/1D78hU59Z0

— Marjorie Taylor Greene 🇺🇸 (@mtgreenee) April 7, 2023

Loomer, a self-proclaimed “#proudislamaphobe,” has described Islam as a “cancer” and has celebrated the deaths of Muslim refugees, hoping for “more.”

In 2018, Loomer was banned from Twitter after tweeting that Representative Ilhan Omar was “anti Jewish,” “pro-Sharia,” and part of a religion in which “homosexuals are oppressed” and “women are abused” and “forced to wear the hijab.” After Loomer’s banning, she handcuffed herself to the doors of Twitter in protest, but perhaps not in a very efficacious manner:

I don’t want it to be lost in today’s discourse that Loomer handcuffed herself to one side of a pair of double doors at Twitter HQ in 2018. So they remained usable throughout the protest. https://t.co/C3rihGpfrF pic.twitter.com/7xEJexHBxV

— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) April 7, 2023

Loomer later called Omar a “bitch” and “despicable human being” and said, “Muslims should not be allowed to seek positions of political office in this country.” After Elon Musk bought Twitter, she was allowed back on the platform.

Loomer was also banned from using Uber and Lyft after she made anti-Muslim remarks: “Someone needs to create a non Islamic form of Uber or Lyft because I never want to support another Islamic immigrant driver.”

On a podcast called Nationalist Public Radio, Loomer explained why she is “pro–white nationalism,” saying that “immigration” and “diversity” are “starting to destroy this country.”

Fear not, Loomer’s actions are as loud as her words. In 2017, Loomer was arrested for disorderly conduct and criminal trespassing after disrupting a Shakespeare in the Park presentation of Julius Caesar in New York City. In 2019, she was arrested again after jumping over the wall of California Governor Gavin Newsom’s mansion while wearing a serape and sombrero.

The far-right malefactor has also said she doesn’t care about the mass murder of 51 people in the Christchurch, New Zealand, shooting and has spread conspiracy theories surrounding other shootings, including that those in Parkland, Florida, and Santa Fe, Texas, were staged and that the shooter in the 2017 Las Vegas shootings was connected to ISIS.

Loomer herself told the Times that she is not “some kind of fringe person,” by virtue of having been supported by Trump in her previous failed congressional bids and because she worked for Project Veritas.

Perhaps Trump is all the more eager to hire her because she has accused Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and his wife, Casey, who previously had breast cancer, of playing the “cancer survivor” card to avoid criticism.

Not a full day has passed since the Republican-led Tennessee House’s shameless expulsion of Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, and already it looks like the Democratic representatives have a path to regaining their seats.

Jones, Pearson, and their colleague Gloria Johnson were targeted by Republicans for disrupting House proceedings last week in solidarity with the thousands of children, teachers, and parents protesting against gun violence outside the Capitol. The protests erupted after a Nashville school shooting left three children and three adults dead.

The House charged the trio with breaking “decorum” and voted Thursday to expel Jones and Pearson, both of whom are Black and represent Nashville and Memphis, respectively. Johnson, who is white, survived expulsion by just one vote.

But now, at least 24 of 40 members of Nashville’s Metro Council have expressed their plan to reappoint Jones to the state House; only a simple majority is needed to do so. A special council was scheduled for Monday. Typically, electing an interim representative would take at least four weeks, but members of the council are looking to suspend the rules and hold a vote to nominate Jones. If events unfold accordingly, Jones could be back in the House before the sun sets on Monday.

Nashville Mayor John Cooper, a Democrat, echoed the calls.

The people of @brotherjones_ and @Justinjpearson’s districts were disenfranchised today. I’m proud that Metro Council is meeting Monday to fill the vacancy left in Nashville by today’s vote, & I believe they’ll send @brotherjones_ right back to continue serving his constituents.

— Mayor John Cooper (@JohnCooper4Nash) April 7, 2023

Meanwhile, in Shelby County, home to Memphis, the County Commission is considering reappointing Pearson to his seat. Chairman Mickell Lowery had said last week that if Pearson were expelled, he would call a special meeting to vote on an interim representative and inquire whether Pearson could be legally reappointed. The county’s assistant attorney told The Commercial Appeal that she saw no reason why he couldn’t. The 13-person commission has a nine-member Democratic supermajority, and one Democrat, Britney Thornton, has already said she supports the move.

“As a fellow millennial elected to serve, I believe it’s crucial for my generation to be represented,” Thornton told The Commercial Appeal. “I stand with Representative Pearson and his fellow colleagues—all of whom are unfairly being mislabeled and othered. Wholeheartedly will I support his reappointment.”

As it turns out, California cannot cut ties with pharmacy chain Walgreens.

Governor Gavin Newsom announced last month that his state would cease to do business with Walgreens because the pharmacy chain decided not to dispense abortion pills in nearly half of U.S. states following pressure from Republican attorneys general. Medication abortions make up more than half of all abortions in the United States and are considered a crucial tool in maintaining access to the procedure since Roe v. Wade was overturned.

But California legally has to maintain ties with Walgreens because of the state’s Medicaid program, Kaiser Health News reported Thursday, citing health law experts.

Medi-Cal provides health coverage for about 15 million people. Federal law states that patients can get their Medicaid-covered prescriptions at any approved pharmacy. Had California abruptly stopped covering Medi-Cal prescriptions filled at Walgreens locations, it would have broken federal law. This also would also have contradicted a key part of Newsom’s platform: to expand Medi-Cal as much as possible.

The Newsom administration said it will “continue to comply” with federal law by keeping its partnership with Walgreens. Gubernatorial spokesperson Anthony York said Newsom will not “take any action that hurts people who need access to care.”

Walgreens had said in January that it would offer mifepristone, one of the medications used to induce an abortion. The Food and Drug Administration changed its rules to allow pharmacies in states that still allow abortion to dispense the drug. Pharmacies would need to get certified to do so because the FDA currently classifies mifepristone as a high-risk drug, despite the fact that there is no data backing that decision up.

Walgreens and CVS, two of the biggest U.S. pharmacy chains, said they would seek certification. But in March, following intense pressure from Republican attorneys general in 20 states, Walgreens announced it wouldn’t dispense mifepristone in those states—and threw Kansas in there for good measure, too.

The chain has said it will dispense mifepristone “in any jurisdiction where it is legally permissible to do so.” Abortion is still legal in more than half of the states where Walgreens will no longer offer the drug, but the company said in a statement to TNR that some of those states don’t allow pharmacists to dispense mifepristone. “Failure to follow these state laws could result in individual pharmacists facing very real and serious legal risk, including criminal charges that could lead to jail time, steep fines and the loss of their license by state boards of pharmacy,” the company said.

In February, Newsom slammed Walgreens for its decision and said the chain “cowers to extremists and puts women’s lives at risk.” He said California was “done” with Walgreens but did not clarify what he meant. It now appears that was never an option.

This article has been updated to clarify Walgreens’ position.

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