PPP Survey: If Trump Says It, His Supporters Will Believe It

Two and a half months from Election Day, national surveys generally show Hillary Clinton with a steady lead on Donald Trump.

But many Trump supporters don’t believe it – instead they’re insisting that the polls (yes, all of them) are biased.

Earlier this week, some people took that belief to a new level. A website called RealTrueNews claimed to have discovered a secret “internal memo” from Public Policy Polling finding Trump with a 65-point lead on Clinton in Florida (not a typo) and discussing how best to cover up the “truth.” The “memo” is obviously a phony – among other things, it includes an obscenity-laden paragraph about how to obtain “Bernie-grade weed” from other polling outfits – but PPP director Tom Jensen says they spent the day handling tweets and emails from people who actually believed it was true.

“It’s really a commentary on the credulity of Trump supporters that so many think this memo could be real,” PPP said on Twitter.

But Jensen also says it’s not a surprising commentary. In poll after poll, he says, PPP has found that Trump supporters are convinced that most Americans favor their candidate – and that any survey suggesting otherwise must be biased. And all year long, PPP has found that Trump’s supporters are willing to agree with just about anything he says, no matter how extreme.

PPP’s actual survey this week, for instance, looked at voters in Texas – where 71 percent of Trump supporters say that “if Clinton wins the election…it will just be because the election was rigged.” (Specifically, 40 percent of Trump supporters believe the election will be rigged by ACORN – even though that organization no longer exists.)

Tom Jensen discussed the Texas survey – and the fake Florida poll – on WCHL with Aaron Keck.


The bad news for Donald Trump is that even in red-state Texas, he doesn’t have that many supporters – at least not right now. PPP’s survey does show Trump leading Clinton there – but by only six points, 44-38. (Mitt Romney won the state by 16 points in 2012.) And Trump’s lead appears to be limited to senior citizens: he’s up 63-33 on Clinton among seniors, but Texans under the age of 65 favor Clinton, 49-45. (And among voters under 45, Clinton leads Trump 60-35. Jensen says that’s not just the usual generational gap – it suggests Texas may become less of a GOP lock over the next couple decades, particularly considering the state’s growing Latino population.)

More on the presidential race in Texas here.

And PPP’s survey also finds widespread support for progressive/Democratic policies on a variety of issues across party lines: 72 percent favor an increased minimum wage; 63 percent want the Senate to hold Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland; and 83 percent want people on the government’s terror watch list to be banned from buying guns. Considering Texas’ gun-friendly reputation, there’s a surprising level of support for several gun-control policies: 89 percent of Texans also want to see background checks on all gun purchases, and there’s even plurality support for an assault weapons ban (48 percent in favor, 43 percent opposed).

More on PPP’s Texas survey here.



Seems That Gun Control is out of Control

Originally published on February 23, 2016


I have a thing about guns.

I’m talking about handguns, machine guns, automatic guns.  Ordinary citizens walking around with concealed pistols.  Have we become so afraid of our neighbors and the general public that people feel the need to arm themselves?

Land of the free?

We’re not free if we have to live our lives wondering who has a pistol and if we’ll be shot at.  Scary.

In the USA, 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012.  Most of the perpetrators are troubled young people.  Scary.

Daily, we hear of random shootings by persons who have a grudge, hear voices telling them to kill, or shooting just to get a high.

In Chapel Hill, a most desirable place to live, we’ve had our share of tragedies.

Seems to be that gun control is out of control.

And instances of shootings by disturbed, unbalanced people are publicized constantly.

If we don’t want gun crimes to escalate, the government must tighten the gaps on gun control laws.  So, guns are not readily available to the general public.  Then, they should cut down on buying arms and use that money instead to initiate programs for the mentally and troubled youth.

Did the right to bear arms really mean for innocent people to die at the hands of those who should never have access to guns?

It’s tragic to see the lives of children and young people at the brink of their adulthood being cut down all too short and depriving them of the chance to have a life.

— Jane Salemson


Latest Polls Show North Carolina Races Tied

There’s a familiar theme running through North Carolina this election season.

“We’re dead even in the presidential race, dead even in the gubernatorial race, we have a three point senate race,” says Tom Jensen, the director of Public Policy Polling.

“It’s really hard to think of anywhere in the country that’s going to have elections that are as competitive as North Carolina. We will be in the national spotlight for better or worse.”

The tight races begin with the presidential race. Both presumptive nominees have recently campaigned in North Carolina, but that doesn’t seem to have swayed the voters.

“We remain about as closely divided as we can be when it comes to the presidential race. We have Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump exactly tied. They’re each getting 43 percent. Then Libertarian Gary Johnson is at 4 percent, Green Party candidate Jill Stein is at 2 percent and 7 percent of voters are undecided.”

Jensen says these numbers will begin to change as Sanders supporters look to back Clinton.

“If Hillary could win over just half of the Sanders fans right now who aren’t voting for her, she’d go from this 43-43 tie up to leading by five points at 48-43.”

North Carolina’s gubernatorial race tells a similar story. The latest polls show incumbent Pat McCrory tied with challenger Roy Cooper at 41 percent each. Libertarian Lon Cecil trails at 6 percent with 13 percent of voters undecided.

“I really don’t think it’s a race where we’ll ever see anybody break away from the field. I think were in for a tight one till the very end.”

The contest for Lieutenant Governor is also tied with Republican incumbent Dan Forest and Democratic challenger Linda Coleman each at 37 percent. Libertarian J.J. Summerell stands at 4 percent and 22 percent of voters are undecided.

The North Carolina senate race is also close this year.

“We find that the Senate race continues to be very competitive, I think really surprisingly compared to what people maybe six months ago would have expected it to be.”

Richard Burr is in the lead right now, polling at 40 percent, which is only three points higher than democrat challenger Deborah Ross who stands at 37 percent. Libertarian candidate Sean Haugh trails at 5 percent.

Jensen says rumors that Burr being considered for Trump’s vice president, isn’t helping the party’s numbers. The same goes for polls that team up Elizabeth Warren with Clinton.

“What we’ve been finding when polling different running mates it doesn’t make a very big difference.”

Some of the most surprising poll numbers, Jensen says, come from the gun control debate.

“What’s really striking in our gun polling is how bipartisan some of the support for some of the measures that democrats are trying to support are.”

91 percent of independents, 84 percent of democrats and 82 percent of republicans are in favor of expanding background checks before allowing the purchase of guns.

“We talk so often about how polarized the country is right now and it is, and that’s why it’s so remarkable when you look at these issues to see over 75 percent support on both of them from democrats, republican and independents alike.”

Similar numbers are reflected in favor of banning those on the “no fly list” from purchasing guns with 89 percent of independents, 79 percent of republicans and 78 percent of democrats.

“It’s definitely a rare issue where there’s pretty strong consensus in the public about what they want to see happen. Democrats are on the right side of public opinion on this one.”

The race for control of North Carolina’s Supreme Court shows incumbent Bob Edmunds leading challenger Mike Morgan just 28 to 24, with 48 percent of voters undecided in the nonpartisan contest.

The General Assembly remains unpopular, with only 18 percent of voters approving of the job it’s doing and 57 percent who don’t.

Voters also disapprove of HB 2, with 32 percent of North Carolina supporting the bill while 43 percent are opposed. An overwhelming 50 percent of voters say it’s having a negative impact on the state’s reputation opposed to 19 the percent who say it’s improved.

As one of the largest democratic counties, Jensen says Orange County, will have great impact on the upcoming elections.

“A heavy turnout from Orange County or not could make the difference in terms of how some of these races turn out. I think this is an election I think that nobody is going to want to sit out.”

You can see the full survey results here.


We Get What We Tolerate With Guns

Will we ever get real gun control in Orange County and the United States?

This week 68 House Democrats were sitting in the House of Representatives chambers.  Georgia’s long-term House member John Lewis, a leader in the sit-in, said, “we have been too quiet for too long.  There comes a time when you have to say something. You have to make a little noise. You have to move your feet. This is the time.  Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more.”

Our area representatives, David Price and GK Butterfield, were in this sit-in.

But, meanwhile House Speaker Ryan had adjourned the House chambers until the Fourth of July.  This shuts the chamber officially down and Speaker Ryan says that this was nothing but a publicity stunt and I believe in one sense he is right and wrong at the same time.

Where will this go?

I always say when someone asks, “How are you, Wes?” I say that I am hopeful.

I wish I could really be hopeful on effective and real restriction on the gun issue after continuing killing.  But, I’m not.

A Republican Rep. said, “I’m going to go home and buy a new gun.”

I hear that there are more guns than people in the United States.  What the people will tolerate is what we will get.


— Wes Hare


Public Policy Polling Finds Dead Heat Presidential Race in North Carolina

North Carolina has been a close race in the past two Presidential and that trend is continuing.

Public Policy Polling found in a survey released Thursday that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton remain dead even at 43 percent, with Libertarian Gary Johnson at four percent, Green Party candidate Jill Stein at two  percent and seven percent undecided.

Trump leads Clinton 48 percent to 46 percent in a head to head match up and Republicans lead 47 percent to 45 percent on the generic Presidential ballot. Johnson, even at four percent, is clearly hurting Trump.  Sixty-four percent of Johnson supporters say they would choose Trump over Clinton if they had to choose between the two.

There is not a lot of evidence that Republican voters in North Carolina have any desire to dump Trump. He currently has a 72 percent favorability rating among voters in his party.  He leads Clinton 85 percent to six percent among GOP voters in the full field compared to the 89 percent to six percent advantage a generic Republican Candidate has among GOP voters in the state.

According to the results of the polls, Clinton may have more work to do in unifying the party in North Carolina. Clinton leads 79 percent to 12 percent among Democrats where Trump has an 85 percent to 6 percent lead in his party.

Among Democrats and Independents who have a favorable opinion of Bernie Sanders she is getting 74 percent of the vote to 11 percent for Trump, five percent for Stein, four percent for Johnson and four percent are undecided.

If Clinton could win over just half of those holdout Sanders fans it would take her from the current 43 percent to 43 percent tie to a 48 percent to 43 percent lead in North Carolina.

Trump recently talked about how voters do not want a third Obama term, but in North Carolina (where Obama won in 2008 and lost in 2012) Obama leads Trump 49 percent to 48 percent in a head-to-head match up asking voters who they would rather have as President.

The same question was asked in Virginia last week and Obama had a 52 percent to 41 percent lead over Trump.

Testing for potential running mates for Clinton and Trump the poll continues to find that the Vice President pick has little bearing on the race.

The poll found that if Clinton picked Elizabeth Warren as her running mate, Trump leads 48 percent to 46 percent head-to-head. If Trump were to pick Richard Burr as his running mate, Trump leads 47 percent to 46 percent. Neither hypothetical moves the needle by more than a point.

Looking at the US Senate race, the poll finds Richard Burr with a narrow lead over Deborah Ross 40 percent to 37 percent, with libertarian Sean Haugh at five percent.

The poll finds that Burr is unpopular with only 30 percent approving of the job he’s doing compared to 40 percent who disapprove. However, Ross is an unknown with 62 percent of voters not having any opinion about her.

Voters of North Carolina appear open to the idea of replacing Burr but do not know enough about Ross yet to decide if she is the correct choice.

The poll also surveyed the public on the gun issues that the senate voted on this past week. 85 percent of voters in the state support background checks on all gun purchases, to only nine percent who oppose it.

For Republicans 82 percent support expanded background checks, 91 percent for independents and 84 for Democrats.

On the issue of barring those on the terror watch list from purchasing guns, 81 percent of voters support the legislation compared to nine percent oppose. There’s 89 percent support from Independents, 79 percent support from Republicans and 78 percent support from Democrats.

PPP director Tom Jensen wrote that he believes these issues play well for Ross along with the Supreme Court Vacancy.

According to the poll, 56 percent of voters in North Carolina think there should be hearings on Merrick Garland’s nomination, to only 24 percent who are opposed.

There’s strong support from Democrats where 69 percent are in favor compared to nine percent opposed and for Independents where 56 percent are in favor compared to 25 percent opposed.

Republicans are more divided where 39 percent of Republicans are in favor and 42 percent are opposed.

The poll found that voters, by a 19-point margin, are less likely to vote for a Senate candidate opposed to hearings on Garland’s nomination.

The poll also asked voters on increasing the minimum wage to at least $10 an hour. It found that 73 percent of voters support a minimum wage increase, compared to the 14 percent who think the wage is acceptable and nine percent who think it should be eliminated altogether.

There is 87 percent support from Democrats, 74 percent from Independents and 53 percent from Republicans on this issue.

See the full results.


Congressman David Price Calls for Gun Reform During House Sit-In

The 25 hour sit-in on the House floor ended Thursday afternoon and hosted a variety of passionate speeches from House and Senate Democrats. Among the speakers was Congressman David Price of North Carolina, who on Wednesday night, demanded “common-sense gun reforms.”

“This is an extraordinary thing that’s happened here on the floor of the House today, but extraordinary situations call for extraordinary measures,” Price said. “Arguably, we should have done this long ago. But something has changed.”

That something, he said, was the loss of “49 innocent individuals who were taken from us all too soon. And we’re here in determination to prevent future massacres.”

House Democrats were demanding a vote on measures to expand background checks and block gun purchases by people on the FBI’s terror watch list. They were demanding that Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan keep the House in session during its planned week-long recess next week to debate and vote on gun legislation.

“What we haven’t heard much of from our Republican friends is reasonable solutions to the threats we receive as a nation from those who are intent on manipulating loopholes in our law to kill innocent Americans.”

Price supports an amendment to the Homeland Security Appropriations bill that would prevent gun sales to suspected terrorists, much like the shooter in Orlando who was questioned twice by the FBI. He said the actions of the “deranged and self-proclaimed ISIS sympathizer” should be cause for action.

“He legally had gotten his hands on a weapon that has no place outside the battlefield. It shouldn’t certainly be in the hands of a potential terrorist.”

Price reassured the crowd that new gun control legislation would not infringe on the nation’s Second Amendment rights.

“This amendment is not threatened by anything we’ve proposed no matter how you interpret the Second Amendment… There’s nothing in the Second Amendment that says we can’t protect our communities or that we can’t keep weapons out of the hands of those who’ve vowed to destroy us.”

Price then returned his focus to the victims of the Orlando shooting, particularly two from North Carolina. He mentioned Shane Tomlinson, an East Carolina University graduate, and Kevin Crosby, a resident of Statesville, who both lost their lives in the shooting.

Price ended his speech by reading the tragic text messages from Orlando victim, Eddie Justice. Justice texted his mother during the shooting, writing, “Mommy I love you,” and “He’s coming. I’m gonna die.”

“How can anybody hear those texts from a terrified son and still not be compelled to act?” Price said. “How can we continue to harden our hearts? Please, let’s move these bills.”

Watch Price’s speech here:


Want To Honor Orlando? Fight Homophobia.

Last Friday was the 1-year anniversary of the shooting in Charleston, South Carolina. A white punk walked into an historic black church and killed nine people, because he was a racist.

Last week, we remembered that day. All over the country, there were ceremonies and there were speeches. It was a somber occasion.

But this week, I want to remember a different anniversary.

Listen to Aaron’s commentary:


This isn’t just the 1-year anniversary of a senseless massacre. This is also the 1-year anniversary of something positive: a national conversation that we all had, together, as a people, about racism, why it still exists, and what we can do to eradicate it. What we can do to make the world a slightly better place.

One year ago, in the face of hatred, we sat down together and we had that conversation.

And we did something. We looked all over the South and we saw our governments still flying the banner of racism, the Confederate battle flag. We went all over the South and we pulled that banner down. We did it to send a message: this country is not going to tolerate racism. We’re not going to treat racism as a valid argument. We’re not going to give it a microphone. And we’re sure as hell not going to fly its victory banner over our state house lawns.

What did that accomplish?

Did it end racism forever? No.

Did it bring back the nine people who died? No.

Is there anything we could have done that would have ended racism forever or bring back the nine people who died? No.

But we had that national conversation anyway. Why? Because it was the right thing to do.

And we tore down that victory banner anyway. Why? Because it was the right message to send.

It made our world a slightly better place.

Ten days ago, a man walked into a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, and opened fire on the crowd. Forty-nine people were killed. Dozens more were injured. And if you think there were only 100 victims of this attack, you are wrong: all over the country, LGBT people everywhere are still hurting.

This was an attack of hatred, and this was an attack of homophobia. We know that this is the case. There isn’t any doubt or debate.

One year ago, we responded to a murdering racist by having a national conversation on racism.

Where is the national conversation on homophobia today?

Read the news reports about Orlando. Read the speeches. People are going out of their way to avoid talking about Orlando as an act of homophobic violence. The silence is conspicuous.

It’s not just conservatives. Our own Congressman, David Price, has always been a vocal advocate for the LGBT community. But today he made a statement when he went to join the sit-in on the House floor: a whole page of words about Orlando, and not even one hint of a mention of who was targeted. He’s not even close to being the only one. It’s been standard operating procedure, for nearly two weeks.

Imagine talking about Charleston without mentioning racism.

Which isn’t to say we’re not talking about Orlando. We’re sure having a big ol’ fight about guns. Democratic Senators are staging filibusters, Democratic House members are holding a sit-in. We need to talk about guns, they say. On the other side of the aisle, Republicans say no, it’s Muslims we ought to be talking about. Ban the guns. Ban the Muslims. Ban the guns.

Who is talking about homophobia right now?

Everyone’s excited because Democrats are trying to stop the haters from getting guns.

Who is talking about how we can stop there from being hate in the first place?

Nobody. Instead we’re making excuses.

“Gosh, we can’t ever eliminate hatred, so I guess there’s just nothing we can do.”


It’s true, we can’t ever eliminate hatred.

But we can fight it.

We can strike back.

We can make it clear, with our words, with our actions, and with our laws, that this country will not tolerate homophobia.

And in doing so we can make the world a slightly better place.

Aaron Keck spoke Wednesday with Chapel Hill writer Steven Petrow, who writes the “Civilities” column for the Washington Post.


I know we can do it because we’ve done it before. This week is the one-year anniversary. This week we celebrate the one-year anniversary of a national conversation on racism, a conversation that led to action and real change. Last year people who spent years waving the Confederate flag were apologizing. They had contributed to a culture. They helped make it seem okay to be a racist. They changed. People changed.

Who is apologizing today?

Who is searching their souls?

Who is asking themselves, did I do enough? Did I contribute to a hateful culture? Have my words or my actions made it seem okay to hate on gay people? Have I told my kids I love them no matter what? Have I supported laws designed to make it harder to be gay? Have I supported laws designed to make it easier to be a homophobe?

Read Steven Petrow’s column on “straight-washing” this week in the Washington Post.

Last year we tore down the Confederate flag because it was the symbol of racism.

What is the symbol of homophobia?

Democrats are in Washington talking about guns. And hey, that’s great – but that’s not the symbol. That’s not fighting back against homophobia.

You want to fight back against homophobia? You want to honor the victims of Orlando?

Forget the gun control. Forget the gun rights. Forget immigration. And for God’s sake forget Muslims.

You want to fight back, here’s what you can do:

Add the four words.

“Sexual,” “orientation,” “gender,” and “identity.”

Amend our federal and state anti-discrimination laws to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected categories.

(Don’t buy the “religious freedom” argument – truth is, that argument’s always been complete BS. We already ban discrimination on the basis of religion.)

This is long overdue. We should have done it years ago. The fact that we haven’t done it yet is unconscionable. The fact that people are still opposing it is ridiculous.

Let’s do it now. In the wake of Orlando, let’s do it now.

I want one bill introduced in Congress to add the four words to our federal anti-discrimination law.

I want Chris Murphy to filibuster until it gets a vote.

I want John Lewis to sit on the House floor and refuse to budge until it gets passed.

In Raleigh, I want our state legislators to introduce a bill adding sexual orientation and gender identity to our state-wide anti-discrimination law.

And make Republicans get in front of the cameras and the microphones and explain to the American people why they don’t want to fight back against the hatred that fueled the murder of 49 people.

Conservatives have been saying this all week: “We don’t have a gun problem, we have a people problem!”

Of course they’re only saying that because they don’t want to talk about guns. They have zero intention of discussing the “people problem,” they have zero intention of addressing the “people problem” – and when it comes to anti-gay hatred, the sad truth is a lot of conservatives don’t even really believe we have a people problem.

But you know what, they’re right.

We do have a people problem. We have a really, really big people problem.

But it’s not enough to just say it and move on with your day.

It’s not enough to sigh and say “what are you gonna do?”

It’s not enough to offer “thoughts and prayers” for the victims of an anti-gay massacre, then go on demonizing LGBT people as sinful and twisted and evil.

Let’s make conservatives put their money where their mouth is.

And while we’re at it, let’s put our money where our mouth is too.

Yes, we have a people problem.

What are we going to do about it?

It’s time for a national conversation on homophobia. It’s time to act. Not just to keep guns away from the haters – we need to strike back against hate in the first place.

Repeal House Bill 2.

Add the four words to our anti-discrimination law.

You personally are not a state legislator? Fine. Be a vocal ally. Speak out against anti-gay hate. Tell your kids you love them no matter what. Tell your kids you love everybody no matter what.

One year ago this week, we fought back against hatred. Let’s do the same thing this week.

We’re not going to fix the problem. We’re not going to cure the whole world.

But let’s do what we can, today and every day, to make this world a slightly better place.


How Do We Change After Orlando?

Throughout our history, it has always been standard practice to demonize minority groups as a danger to public safety. We said black people were going to attack your wives and daughters. Immigrants were going to bring crime and disease. Gay people were all pedophiles. Muslims were all terrorists.

The truth of the matter is, minority groups have not been the perpetrators. Minority groups have been the VICTIMS. We stoked up fear of black people by claiming they were going to attack your wives and daughters…and at the same time we were slaughtering black people by the hundreds for trying to cast a vote or own a business. We cheated immigrants out of their wages so badly they were forced to live in dirty slums, then we pointed at the dirty slums and said, “See? That’s how immigrants live.” Muslims get harassed and targeted every time they step out the door, but whenever we see a Muslim we start worrying about…OUR safety.

Listen to Aaron Keck’s commentary


In North Carolina we just passed a big ol’ law to keep transgender people out of the bathrooms. Transgender people don’t commit attacks in bathrooms. Transgender people GET ATTACKED in bathrooms. Sixty-eight percent of transgender people say they’ve been verbally harassed in public restrooms. This is a survey from the Williams Institute. Nine percent say they’ve been physically assaulted. Calls to suicide hotlines have skyrocketed. We are literally harassing innocent people to the point of suicide because we’ve got it in our heads that THEY might be threatening US.

In Orlando, it was the gay community. Let’s talk about the room where this happened. Pulse is a gay nightclub. When Omar Whatshisname walked into that club, he was going in there to shoot up a room full of gays. This was a homophobic attack. I have to repeat this: this was a homophobic attack. I feel like I have to repeat this, because if you looked at the front page of USA Today this morning, you had to scour all over before you found any reference whatsoever to the fact that this was an act of terror that targeted LGBT people. If you go on Fox News, you’ll have to wait a while before anyone acknowledges the fact that this was a homophobic act. My friends on Facebook are going on and on about this attack and a lot of THEM are going WAY out of their way to avoid mentioning homophobia. It’s despicable. I see people on Facebook who say they’re angry because now politicians are talking about gun control…as if THAT’S the thing to be angry about, when 50 people are lying dead in Orlando. “Don’t care about four dozen dead people, the worst thing is that this might slightly inconvenience ME.” Now THAT’s truly despicable. But from liberals, people who should be allies, THEY’re going around in circles to avoid saying homophobia too. I don’t get it. In England a gay commentator just walked off the  set of a live TV show because the two people he was on with – both of them liberals! they were talking about gun control – just refused to acknowledge homophobia. I don’t understand it.

And it’s not like this is an isolated incident. This isn’t the first mass homicide at a gay club. 1973, New Orleans, a place called the UpStairs Lounge. Thirty-two people died. Have you ever heard of this? Thirty-two people died. It didn’t make the news. They were all gay people. Nobody cared. The local papers mentioned it, but they carefully avoided saying it was a gay club. One minister held a small worship service to remember the victims; he got hate mail for doing even that. It happened on the last day of Pride Weekend. June 24, 1973. We’re coming up on the 33rd anniversary.

And that’s just the biggest one. I don’t have enough time to list all the police raids, all the random attacks of gays and lesbians just outside gay clubs. And those are gay clubs. In gay neighborhoods, usually. These are safe places for gays and lesbians. In many cases, just about the only safe places out there.

Dave Holmes just wrote this in Esquire, and thanks to Mark McCurry for finding it. I’m going to quote it:

“The FBI defines terrorism as ‘violent acts or acts dangerous to human life…that appear to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population.’ LGBT people around the world have been intimidated and coerced all our lives. Each one of us has moved to kiss our boyfriend on the cheek in public, or reached for our wife’s hand as we walked down the street, and each one of us has pulled back.

We have all needed to read the room, to think about how we present ourselves to the world, to determine how much of ourselves we are free to express. Each one of us, at least once, has worried whether we were coming off too gay.

Too many of us have been terrorized by actual violent acts, but each of us—when we are called names, when we hear a gay joke and nobody speaks up, when we watch a dozen presidential hopefuls from one of our country’s two political parties promise to amend the Constitution to steal our civil rights—has been subject to an act that is dangerous to human life. We all have scars on our souls from it. All of us.”

Every one of those words is true. We live in a homophobic society. This is a real problem in Islam…and we need to call out the fact that Islam has a problem with homophobia, and we need to be praising and supporting and standing up for those Muslim organizations that are out there right now working WITHIN Islam to promote tolerance and acceptance for LGBT people, because they’re out there and they’re doing everything they can. But it’s not just Islam. It’s a culture of masculinity that sees LGBT people as a threat. It’s fundamentalists in EVERY religion, and the politicians who pander to them. It’s even liberals who won’t talk about this as an attack on LGBT people. I don’t get why.

Let me be angry for two seconds. First of all, some people on social media have said this already, but I want to reiterate: after what happened in Orlando, I don’t want to hear another word about gays or lesbians or transgender people being some kind of threat to public safety. We’re done with that debate.  If after this weekend it isn’t blindingly obvious who is and who isn’t a threat to public safety, there’s no point in talking any more.

And one more thing. After what happened in Orlando, I also don’t want to hear any more about how Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are two sides of the same coin and they’re completely indistinguishable from each other. We’re done with that too. One of those two candidates has gone out of his way to attack minority groups and stir up fear of minorities and hatred of minorities, and the other candidate has not done that. If you still think there is absolutely no difference whatsoever between those two candidates, after Orlando, then you do not care about gay people. Period.

And I’m going to be angry for one more second, if you’ll indulge me: if you’re wondering what you can do to respond to this tragedy, the Red Cross blood donation center is located at 4737 University Drive in Durham. Visit RedCross.org for hours of operation.

And hey, give an extra pint for me, because I’m not allowed to donate blood.

Okay, I’m done being angry.

Bello, Bella, Bellx: On Love And Orlando

Let’s talk about guns.

Now, I’m not a big supporter of gun control. There are people who think gun control will solve all our problems, and I’m not one of them. Whenever a mass shooting happens, there are people who immediately start posting on Facebook about gun control, and I always roll my eyes about that. Here are some relevant statistics: whatever we’re doing in this country to prevent crime, it’s actually working. The violent crime rate in the US has been dropping steadily since the late 60s. The murder rate in the US has been dropping steadily for even longer. Statistically, we are safer now than we have been for multiple generations. So whenever you hear some politician or some media talking head going on about crime, and you think, “oh God, there’s so much crime out there, it’s getting worse every day, we’ve got to DO something” – that’s BS. We’re actually not doing too bad.

Another relevant statistic about guns: what actually increases or decreases the crime rate? Does gun control make us safer? Are we safer if there are MORE guns? There are a lot of factors that affect the crime rate, so it’s not easy to tell. But last year there was a massive international study of gun laws, different gun laws from around the world, and here’s what it found: gun control laws CAN reduce the crime rate… but in order to make a difference, it’s got to be really strict gun control. I’m talking banning guns altogether, like they did in the UK or Australia. THAT level of gun control will reduce the crime rate, because then there won’t be any guns around to commit crimes with. “Oh, if guns are outlawed, then only outlaws will have guns!” No, if guns are outlawed, then even the outlaws won’t have guns, because they’ll be almost impossible to come by. Every gun that’s out there in society was legally manufactured and legally purchased somewhere along the way. This guy in Orlando legally purchased all his weapons. Next time there’s a mass shooting, maybe they’ll be stolen weapons, but they’ll have been stolen from someone who bought them legally. And that happens pretty frequently. We get the crime report from the Orange County Sheriff’s office every day. Lots of times there aren’t any crimes to report, it’s very nice. But whenever there’s a breaking and entering, whenever there’s a robbery, more often than not, it’s the guns that get stolen. Guns and electronics and hardware. That’s how criminals get guns. Either they buy them legally or they steal them from other people who did. Ban the legal sale, you take the guns off the market; you take the guns off the market, then criminals will have no way of obtaining them, at least not without going through really extreme channels. You won’t eliminate gun crime, but you’ll reduce it. Gun rights advocates point to the Paris attacks and say “look! Gun control doesn’t work!” But that’s one incident. You don’t look at one incident, you look at the overall numbers. Yes, the Paris attacks still happened, but the overall rate of gun crime in France is way way lower than it is in the US.

Now, having said that, should we impose strict gun control here? I don’t think we should. That international study says we won’t actually make much of a dent in gun crime unless we do something really drastic, like banning handguns altogether. Would that be a good public policy move? Maybe, maybe not…but in this country it doesn’t matter, because I think we can mostly agree that that level of gun control would be unconstitutional. The second amendment does protect the individual right to bear arms. It does NOT mean we can’t have any gun control at all…we CAN have reasonable gun control policies, that doesn’t conflict with the Second Amendment…but it would definitely conflict with the second amendment if we tried enacting the level of gun control we would need to enact in order to have a big impact on the crime rate. So in general, I think gun control is a red herring.

Having said that: we need to ban the AR-15. We need to do it now. NOT because banning the AR-15 will reduce the overall crime rate – because it won’t – but because banning the AR-15 will make it a hell of a lot harder for domestic terrorists to kill dozens of people in one go. And I say this NOT because I disagree with the National Rifle Association, but precisely because I AGREE with them.

Remember the line that Wayne LaPierre’s PR people came up with after Sandy Hook: “The only thing that can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” Which is an awfully pessimistic worldview, first off, because it assumes we’re always inevitably going to be surrounded by bad guys with guns. I don’t believe that. I think rather than focusing on how to stop bad guys with guns, we ought to be focused on how to PREVENT there from BEING bad guys with guns in the first place. But more on that in a minute. Suppose we have a bad guy with a gun. And suppose the NRA is right. The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun! Well, if that’s the case, the problem with the AR-15 (and weapons like it) is that the bad guy can get off dozens of rounds before the good guy even has a chance to react! 800 rounds a minute, by the way, that’s the potential speed of an AR-15. Bad guy can fire 10 rounds in a single second before the good guy even notices anything’s gone wrong. Good guy notices, that’s another second, another 10 rounds. Good guy reaches for his gun, that’s another second, another 10 rounds. Good guy pulls out his gun, that’s another second, another 10 rounds. Good guy fires, one more second, another 10 rounds. Supposing the good guy is an action-movie hero and he’s able to hit the bad guy and completely neutralize him in one shot, that’s 50 rounds he’s already fired in five seconds…and we’re assuming none of those 50 shots hit the good guy.

So yes, I think we ought to ban the AR-15…and I say this as someone who does NOT believe gun control is the answer. Now, there are people who are worried about tyranny. There are people who worry that government will run amok and start trying to terrorize us, and in that case the Second Amendment is our last line of defense. But here’s the thing: that ship has sailed. The same people who run around yelling about how we need the Second Amendment to defend ourselves against government thugs, those are all the same people who have gone out of their way to give the government as much money as possible to buy nuclear weapons, chemical weapons, biological weapons, conventional weapons, smart bombs, stealth fighters, surveillance technology, drones, guns, tanks, tear gas, riot gear, sniper rifles, training for special ops, and military bases all over the country. These are the same people who yell and scream whenever anyone even suggests we THINK about cutting any of this funding. And these are the same people who think their Second Amendment is going to protect them against government tyranny. That may once have been the case. But believe me, if the government ever decides to turn tyrannical – when they show up on your doorstep at 3 in the morning with a hundred thousand troops and tanks and guns and drones and gas and everything else, trust me, your little gun is not going to do squat against that. And if you don’t believe me, get on a plane, fly up to Idaho, go to Ruby Ridge, and ask Randy how he’s doing.

I hate to break it to you, but the Second Amendment isn’t going to protect us against government tyranny. There’s only one thing…there’s only ONE THING… that can protect us from government tyranny. And that is education. Civics education. Values education. Teaching our kids values from the beginning, so when they grow up and take over positions of power, they’ll have the moral capacity NOT to abuse it. We need to teach EVERYBODY… every child…to respect human beings. To respect human decency. To care about human rights. To care about the Constitution. To see each other as HUMAN BEINGS…rather than objects.

WEB DuBois, in “The Souls of Black Folk,” talked about how people never saw him as a human being. They saw him as a Problem. Whenever they talked to him about race or asked him about race, it was always the same underlying question: “How does it feel to be a problem?”

When we fail to see each other’s humanity, that’s when we start to kill. When you look at a transgender person and see not a PERSON but a THREAT…when you look at a Muslim and see not a PERSON but a THREAT. Or maybe not even a threat. When you look at a woman and see not a PERSON but a GENDER. When you look at a gay man and see not a PERSON but a SEXUAL ORIENTATION. We OBJECTIFY each other. It’s common. We do it all the time. We identify each other with the thing that sets us apart. We think of Barack Obama as BLACK before we think of him as MALE, and we think of Hillary Clinton as FEMALE before we think of her as WHITE. Why? Because in the group of presidential hopefuls, it’s mostly white men. Obama stands out because he’s…black. Clinton stands out because she’s…a woman. We do this with each other all the time.

But when we fail to see past the distinction…when the distinction is all we see…that’s when we stop seeing other people as PEOPLE and start seeing them as OBJECTS. This terrorist who walked into Pulse on Saturday night, he didn’t think he was walking into a room full of people. He believed he was walking into a room full of GAY. And he believed there was a fundamental distinction. That’s why he bought the gun. That’s why he walked into the club. That’s why he killed fifty people.

And at the end of the day, THAT is the thing we have to fight, first before anything. This is not about guns. This is not about Muslims. This isn’t even about gays and lesbians. Before anything else, this is about us…looking at each other and failing to see humanity. This is about us looking at each other and seeing not people, but objects and categories. This is about us being so afraid of each other that we feel the need to arm ourselves whenever we walk out the door. This is about us looking at a foreign person and seeing a FOREIGNER rather than a person. This is about us looking at a gay person and seeing a GAY rather than a person. This is about us looking at a black person and seeing a BLACK rather than a person.

This is that we’ve got to change.

How do we change it?

We change it by getting involved in our world. We change it by joining local organizations, volunteering, helping other people who are different from ourselves. We change it by teaching our kids about human decency and human rights. We change it by teaching our kids to love. We change it by being loving ourselves. We change it by speaking out whenever we see people trying to divide us into categories and stoking fear from one category to the other.

I said this on Facebook earlier, but I’m going to repeat it here:

Here’s the bad news:

You, as an individual, are not going to fix the world’s problems.

This world is too big for any one person to step outside and wave a magic wand and make all the bad things go away. You can work, and work, and try, and try, and all the problems will still be there.

And that fact can be frustrating. It can be overwhelming. It can make you want to give up.

But here’s the good news:

*We* can fix the world’s problems.

Together. A little at a time.

When you go out tomorrow, do one thing to make the world a slightly better place. Pick up one piece of trash. Smile at one stranger. Volunteer for one hour, for one organization. Walk to work. Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Buy the local food instead of the brand name. Call your family. Call your friends. Don’t fear. Don’t hate. Don’t judge. Be an example for others.

If you do that, and I do that, and we do that…there’s no telling what we can do.


Orange County Names Eight To Firearm Safety Committee

The Board of Orange County Commissioners has approved eight members of the community to make up the newly-formed Orange County Firearm Safety Committee.

Close to 50 applied for the committee that will advise the board on possible firearm regulations.

“We hardly ever get applications,” said board chairman Earl McKee. “And they were good applications.”

The commissioners requested the creation of the committee after receiving public backlash towards a regulation that was proposed in February.

Commissioner Renee Price nominated one applicant with Native American heritage, saying he was the only non-white applicant.

Chairman Earl McKee said that while racial diversity is important, he had objections to Price’s nomination because the applicant shined a laser at board members during a meeting in February.

“We do need ethnic diversity on all of our boards,” he said. “But in this case that was the only person who applied that was not Caucasian and that would be my objection.”

McKee, along with county staff, Sherriff Charles Blackwood and a representative from the North Carolina Wildlife commission will advise the committee.


Gun Control is Out of Control

I have a thing about guns.

I’m talking about handguns, machine guns, automatic guns.  Ordinary citizens walking around with concealed pistols.  Have we become so afraid of our neighbors and the general public that people feel the need to arm themselves?

Land of the free?

Jane Salemson

Jane Salemson

We’re not free if we have to live our lives wondering who has a pistol and if we’ll be shot at.  Scary.

In the USA, 74 school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre in 2012.  Most of the perpetrators are troubled young people.  Scary.

Daily, we hear of random shootings by persons who have a grudge, hear voices telling them to kill, or shooting just to get a high.

In Chapel Hill, a most desirable place to live, we’ve had our share of tragedies.

Seems to be that gun control is out of control.

Listen to Jane Salemson’s Commentary

And instances of shootings by disturbed, unbalanced people are publicized constantly.

If we don’t want gun crimes to escalate, the government must tighten the gaps on gun control laws.  So, guns are not readily available to the general public.  Then, they should cut down on buying arms and use that money instead to initiate programs for the mentally and troubled youth.

Did the right to bear arms really mean for innocent people to die at the hands of those who should never have access to guns?

It’s tragic to see the lives of children and young people at the brink of their adulthood being cut down all too short and depriving them of the chance to have a life.

— Jane Salemson