A Weekly Roundup of Politics: More School Shootings, Congress vs. The White House, and Fetal Heartbeat Law

More School Shootings…

The nation was rocked once again this week with news of yet another school shooting, this time in Denver, killing one and injuring eight. Two gunmen, both students, entered STEM School Highlands Ranch and opened fire. Both suspects,18-year-old Devon Erickson, and 16-year-old Maya Elizabeth McKinney (who goes by Alec and uses male pronouns) were arraigned in court on Wednesday. All eight injured students were hospitalized, while Kendrick Castillo, 18, the lone fatality, was said to have rushed one of the gunmen after he drew a gun in an English class. His charge allowed three other classmates to tackle the gunman to prevent further bloodshed. Castillo has been deemed a hero and a martyr and is remembered by his fellow classmates as a friendly, helpful, and intelligent young man who hoped to be an engineer like his father.

His bravery parallels similar actions taken last week at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte when a shooter opened fire and was rushed by student Riley C. Howell, 21. Howell and one other student, Ellis R. Parlier, were both killed in the incident, and four others were injured.

Officials say that without the split-second bravery of these young men the fatality counts would likely be much higher.

In late April, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed into law the Red Flag bill that allows judges to temporarily remove guns from people who are deemed to be a threat to society, or themselves. The bill has divided the state, and various sheriffs have stated they will not enforce it, believing that it is unconstitutional.

While Republican lawmaker Patrick Neville, a Columbine survivor, stated that the shooting reminded everyone of the need to secure our schools, the armed security guard who was on duty during the shooting is currently being investigated for potentially shooting an innocent student and a sheriff’s deputy who was responding to the scene.

Trump Taxes…

Meanwhile, in Washington D.C. the showdown between Congress and the White House continues to inch towards a Constitutional crisis. Attorney General Bill Barr has been held in contempt of Congress for not appearing at a hearing and not releasing the unredacted version of the Mueller Report to Congress. Steven Mnuchin, the Director of the Treasury, has refused to give up Trump’s taxes to which he may also be held in contempt of Congress after breaking Section 6103(f) of the Internal Revenue’s Tax Code which states:

“Upon written request from the chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives… the Secretary shall furnish such committee with any return or return information specified in such request…”

Mnuchin claims that the House Ways and Means Committee “lacks a legitimate legislative purpose” to review Trump’s tax documents.

This comes after a New York Times article published on Monday reports that in the 80’s and 90’s Trump claimed over one billion dollars in losses and didn’t pay a penny of tax for eight consecutive years.

The report offers documentation to a long-running question of Trump’s financial fitness to be President.

The 40-year tradition of Presidents and presidential candidates releasing their taxes to the public has been honored as a sign of good faith that these executive hopefuls are willing to show the American people that they have nothing to hide. Trump bucked tradition in 2016 and never released them although he promised, no less than five times, that he would release them to the public in the run-up to the election.

To add further fuel to the fire, the New York State Senate passed The TRUST Act this week, a bill that allows the N.Y. State Department of Taxation and Finance to release anyone’s tax returns to Congress for any “specific and legitimate purpose.” This language will likely be used in court against Mnuchin’s claim that Congress does not have a legitimate purpose to request Trump’s tax documents. Regardless of the legal battle on the federal level, it is expected that Trump’s state tax returns will show much of the same information as his federal returns because New York is both his home and business headquarters.

The Fetal Heartbeat Bill and Abortion…

In other state government news, Georgia this week joined Ohio, Kentucky, and Mississippi in passing some of the most restrictive measures on abortion in the country.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed a bill deemed the ‘fetal heartbeat’ bill that bans abortions after six weeks after it passed both houses of Congress.

Meanwhile in Alabama the State Senate attempted to pass pro-life legislation. On Thursday, just before a bill that would ban nearly all abortions in the state was to be voted on, a male Republican legislator attempted to remove an amendment that would allow women who are victims of rape or incest to get an abortion. An impressive shouting match ensued, and the vote was delayed until Tuesday. This law would also make performing an abortion a felony with up to 99 years in prison, and 10 years in prison for attempting to perform an abortion. (All of the legislators in the Alabama State Senate are men minus four Democratic women.)

If passed, this legislation would be the most restrictive in the country and is likely to set up a lengthy legal battle up to the US Supreme Court. Since Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the bench last year many view the Court conservative enough to repeal Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that gave women the right to choose what to do with our own bodies.

Ann Lewis is an artist, activist, and writer based in Detroit. Her artwork reflects upon social and environmental justice issues.  

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