By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
On Wednesday, U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R) from Alabama joined conservative filibuster efforts on the floor of the Senate to oppose President Barack H. Obama and Senator Dianne Feinstein’s (D) from California unpopular gun control legislation. President Obama has spent months attempting to use the slayings of first graders and their teachers in Newtown Connecticut to convince legislators to further limit American citizens’ Second Amendment rights.
Sen. Shelby said on the floor of the U.S. Senate, “Mr. President, I rise to defend the Second Amendment to our Constitution. Mr. President, recent mass killings, such as those in Connecticut and Colorado, are the impetus for the gun control legislation before the Senate. I mourn the victims of these senseless acts of violence carried out by seriously disturbed individuals. Unfortunately, Mr. President, this legislation would do nothing to prevent such tragedies going forward. The harsh but unavoidable fact is that no amount of government intervention can prevent irrational people from doing terrible things. Therefore, we should not react to these tragedies in an irrational manner that would erode a fundamental right of every citizen.”
Alabama Republican Party Chairman Bill Armistead said afterwards, “I was very pleased to see there are still a few leaders in Washington who are willing to stand up for our 2nd Amendment rights. The Liberal Democrats have tried for years to disarm law-abiding American citizens, but time and time again we have stood our ground and demanded protection of our rights.” “This bill would have unfairly restricted the right to own a firearm for private citizens and limited the private sale or transfer of personal firearms. This is just another example of the government trying to overreach their Constitutional boundaries and turn this country into a ‘police state.’”
Sen. Shelby said, “The Second Amendment states unambiguously: “the right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” It makes plain to criminals that their targets have the right to defend themselves, their families, and their property. Since criminals do not follow the law, new restrictions will hinder only the law-abiding among us. And make no mistake, M. President, this is just the first assault on the Second Amendment. More background checks today, gun registration tomorrow. Who knows what will follow after that. Congress should reject it all now.”
Congresswoman Martha Roby (R) from Montgomery said on Facebook, “I applaud Alabama Senators Jeff Sessions and Richard Shelby for standing against the latest attempt to erode our Second Amendment rights. The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land and our most important governing code. The Second Amendment clearly recognizes an individual’s right to own a firearm, and, as a gun owner myself, I strongly value this fundamental American right. I believe it is our duty to ensure our rights and liberties are maintained for the next generation. I have fought efforts to erode our Second Amendment rights in the past, and rest assured I will continue to fight those efforts now and in the future.”
Sen. Shelby told his fellow Senators that rising gun ownership in recent years has actually corresponded to decreasing crime rates and that studies show there is no correlation between the now-expired assault weapons ban and the decrease in crime rates. Shelby said, “This so-called compromise amendment would do nothing but compromise our Second Amendment rights.” Shelby said that the amendment would allow health care providers to place a patient in the National Instant Criminal Background Check database violating patients’ privacy and removing their Second Amendment rights based on subjective judgments and without any clear guidelines or due process, likely without the patient even being informed of their doctor’s decision to inform on them. Shelby warned that this would only lead to more Americans avoiding mental health services for fear that they would lose their constitutional rights.
Chairman Armistead said, “There is no need for the government to know our every move, including when we sell our gun collection. Those are reasons why we must stop the Democrats and their ‘big government’ ideology. Our freedoms are at risk and America could change forever if we continue to allow this kind of infringement upon our rights. I am confident that Republican leaders will continue to protect our Constitutional rights.”
Sen. Shelby said, “This legislation is just the first step. It would lay the groundwork for even more draconian and ineffective gun control measures. As one of the Justice Department’s leading crime researchers has stated, the government’s ability to implement near universal background checks would rely at least in part on “requiring gun registration.” “Mr/. President, there are as many guns in this country as there are people, according to some estimates. That’s more than 300 million. The bureaucracy already cannot track all of the people illegally residing in this country. Why, then, would anyone believe that the bureaucracy could track all of the guns illegally possessed in this country?”
Sen. Shelby said that the legislation would cost taxpayers an estimated $100 million and wondered whether gun owners would be subject to even more fees or taxes simply to exercise their Second Amendment rights. Shelby said that instead of gun control the government should increase penalties on people who commit violent crimes, while addressing the deficiencies in our mental health system, accepting that government can not prevent all bad things, and looking at the impact of violence in entertainment (video games, music, TV, and movies) on violent crime in the nation.
Shelby said, “Common sense says that gloried violence can distort impressionable minds – particularly those afflicted with mental illness. Still, many in Hollywood defend the First Amendment to the Constitution with the same wild-eyed zeal that they trash the Second.”
Sen. Shelby said, “My constituents are deeply concerned about any infringement of their Second Amendment rights.” “Mr. President, this is a legislative misfire. I have outlined what I believe would constitute a clear-eyed response to the situation at hand. I will continue to vigorously oppose gun control legislation. I will continue to stand firm in defense of the Second Amendment.”
Efforts to end the filibuster by Shelby and the other pro-Second Amendment Senators came six votes short of the 60 needed to expand background checks. Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s ban on citizens owning so-called assault weapons was defeated by a margin of 60 to 40. A controversial effort to limit the size of gun magazines also went down by a similarly large margin. This effectively ended President Obama’s legislative efforts to limit Americans Second Amendment rights.
An angry Obama later said, “The fact is most of these senators could not offer any good reason why we wouldn’t want to make it harder for criminals and those with severe mental illnesses to buy a gun. There were no coherent arguments as to why we wouldn’t do this. It came down to politics — the worry that that vocal minority of gun owners would come after them in future elections.”
Trump Truck and boat parades this weekend
As Election Day draws near, Alabama Republicans are excited about promoting the re-election of Donald J. Trump as President and the election of Tommy Tuberville for U.S. Senate. This weekend two pro-President Trump events are happening in the state. There will be a truck parade from Ashland to Phenix City on Saturday sponsored by the Clay County Republican Party, while there will also be a boat parade on Wilson Lake in the Shoals sponsored by the Colbert County Republican Party on Sunday.
The pickup trucks will assemble at the Ashland Industrial Park in Clay County, 8240 Hwy 9, Ashland. There is a pre-departure rally at 10:00 a.m. central standard time. The trucks will depart at 11:00 a.m. and then proceed on a parade route that will take them into the bitterly contested swing state of Georgia. The Trump Pickup Parade will wind through east Alabama and West Georgia traveling through LaGrange and Columbus before concluding near the Alabama/Georgia line in Phenix City, 332 Woodland Drive, Phenix City at approximately 2:00 p.m. central time. Speakers will begin at 3:00. Trump flags will be on sale at the event.
The Phenix Motorsports Park will be hosting what sponsor hope could possibly the world’s largest Pickup Tuck parade in U.S. history that is routing over 50 mile through Georgia in effort to “pickup” President Trump’s numbers in GA.
A number dignitaries have been invited to address the Phenix City rally, including Coach Tuberville. Former State Sen. Shadrack McGill, Trump Victory Finance Committee member former State Rep. Perry O. Hooper Jr., and Paul Wellborn, the President and CEO of the largest Family owned Kitchen Cabinet manufacture in the USA are among the featured speakers who have committed to speak at the event.
Entertainment will be provided by: Charity Bowden, an up and coming country music singer who was the runner up on “The Voice”. Charity will sing ‘I am Proud to be an American’ as well as songs from her Voice performances. The McGill Girls will also perform. The three beautiful and talented sisters will be singing patriotic songs in three part harmony. Geoff Carlisle, a professional DJ will be keeping the crowd pumped with music and entertainment.
Following the speakers and the entertainment there will Trump truck-vs- Joe Bidden truck races down the drag strip for the finale.
The Northwest Alabama boat parade will be on Sunday. The boats will gather at 2:00 p.m. near Turtle Point and then the flotilla will parade around the open waters of Wilson Lake til 3_00 p.m.. There will be a contest for best decorated Trump boats.
Trump supporters have held a number of large boat parades across the state to show their support for the re-election of Pres. Trump.
Boat parade sponsors say that this parade will be: pro-American, pro-law enforcement, pro-military.
COVID-19 hospitalizations, new cases continue to rise
The number of rising hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Alabama is a concerning sign of a possible coming surge of the disease, state health experts said Friday. Alabama hospitals were caring for 888 coronavirus patients Friday, the highest number since Sept 9.
UAB Hospital was caring for around 80 COVID-19 inpatients Friday afternoon, said Dr. Rachael Lee, an infectious disease specialist at UAB, speaking to reporters Friday. UAB Hospital hasn’t had that many coronavirus inpatients since Aug. 18, when the disease was surging statewide.
“We have been dealing with this since March, and I think it’s easy for us to drop our guard,” Lee said.
Alabama added 3,852 new coronavirus cases on Friday, but 1,287 of them were older positive antigen tests, conducted in June through October and submitted to ADPH by a facility in Mobile, according to the department. Still, Alabama’s daily case count has been increasing, concerning health officials already worried that as the weather turns colder and the flu season ramps up, Alabama could see a surge like the state had in July.
Alabama’s 14-day average of new daily cases was 1,247 on Friday, the highest it’s been since Sept 4. Over the last 14 days, Alabama has added 17,451 new COVID-19 cases.
Friday’s inclusion of those older positive test results throws off the day’s percent positivity, by Thursday the state’s percent of tests that were positive was nearly 16 percent. Public health officials say it should be at or below five percent or cases are going undetected.
The state added 16 COVID-19 deaths on Friday, bringing to total confirmed deaths statewide to 2,859. Over the last two weeks, 206 deaths were reported in the state. Alabama’s 14-day average of new daily deaths on Friday was 15.
Alabama state health officer Dr. Scott Harris told APR by phone Friday called the rising new cases and hospitalizations “worrisome.”
Harris noted the data dump of older confirmed cases in Friday’s data, but said “but nevertheless, I think it’s clear our numbers are going up.”
Harris said it’s not yet clear what’s causing the continued spread, but said it may be due at least in part to larger private gatherings. ADPH staff has mentioned a few outbreaks association with such gatherings, but Harris said it’s hard to know for certain if that’s the major driver in the state’s rising numbers.
“It’s football season and the holidays are coming up and school is back in session,” Harris said. “I think people are just not being as safe as they were.”
Harris noted that on ADPH’s color-coded, risk indicator dashboard, red counties, which denotes counties with rising cases and percent positivity, the 17 red counties on Friday were distributed across the state.
“So there’s not one event, or even a handful of events. It seems like there’s just a lot of things happening in a lot of places,” Harris said.
Alabama’s rising numbers are mirrored in many states. The U.S. reported more than 71,600 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, nearing the country’s record highs, set in July.
Birmingham approves $1.3 million contract for real-time crime center technology
Woodfin repeated that facial recognition capabilities will not be used in accordance with the contract.
The Birmingham City Council approved a five-year, $1.3 million contract with Motorola this week to provide new technology for the police department’s real-time crime center amid unease and public concern over the potential use of facial recognition software within the new systems.
Mayor Randall Woodfin insisted in his remarks made before the council that the new technology is meant to integrate existing hardware and technology inside the real-time crime center. “You’re not buying any additional new equipment,” he said, “You’re buying something to integrate all those systems.”
The software suite includes Motorola Solutions’s CommandCentral Aware, a system that aggregates video, image and other data information into one interface, and BriefCam, a “video synopsis” system that will further integrate and analyze information from Birmingham’s ShotSpotter systems, public cameras and police body cameras.
Briefcam offers facial recognition capabilities, which was the main concern of community members speaking before the council, and the risk that use of the technology could disproportionately affect Black people. Facial recognition technology has a record of racial bias and misidentifies Black people at rates five to 10 times higher than white people.
“Despite assurances that there will not be facial recognition implemented at this phase that does not prevent it from being implemented in the future,” said Joseph Baker, Founder of I Believe in Birmingham and one of the Birmingham residents voicing concern on the proposal. “I believe that this software, if fully implemented, can easily lead to violations of unreasonable searches.”
Another resident who spoke against the resolution was Byron Lagrone, director of engineering at medical software solutions company Abel Healthcare Enterprises. Lagrone pointed to IBM and Amazon as examples of companies that have halted or abandoned facial recognition and object tracking software altogether over racial bias concerns.
“The prevailing attitude, among technical people is this technology is not effective, and it causes high amounts of harm for next to no gain,” Lagrone said.
Woodfin repeated that facial recognition capabilities will not be used in accordance with the contract.
“It’s explicit in this contract that facial recognition will not be used,” Woodfin said, “[If] facial recognition wants to be used in the future of this city. It would have to be approved by this body. … The mayor’s office or the police department doesn’t have unilateral power to use facial recognition. That is not part of what our contractual relationship is with Motorola.”
Woodfin also clarified that the total $1.3 million price of the contract will not be paid as a lump sum but spread out over the five-year commitment.
The city council voted 8 to 1 to approve the contract, with District 8 Councilman Steven Hoyt speaking in favor of the use of facial recognition capabilities.
“You can’t say, ‘I’m going to build a house but I’m not going to use the restroom,’” Hoyt said. “If it’s in the house, you’re going to use the restroom. … If it has the capability of facial recognition, guess what’s going to happen? You’re going to use it. I’m going to vote for it because I know we’ve got to have every tool we can garner to fight crime, because it’s out of hand.”
Hoyt also suggested a review of the information collected by the new system apparatus.
“I do think, for the public’s sake, we need to have some way we review that and see how it’s being used,” Hoyt said. “We need that to go along with this.”
District 3 Councilwoman Valerie A. Abbott — who said she was the victim of a burglary the day before the vote — echoed the mayor’s insistence that the facial recognition capabilities would not be deployed unless authorized by the city council, reading a letter from Motorola stating “in order to enable facial recognition, Motorola will require an addendum or change order to the contract,” which would have to come before a public meeting of the city council.
“I too would not want facial recognition,” Abbot said, “I’m voting in favor of this because the majority of my constituents are telling me they want more and better policing, capture of criminals, prevention of crime.”
District 5 Councilman Darrell O’Quinn was the lone no vote among the near-unanimous city council, stating that he had “some reservations about how we’re doing this and will vote my conscience.” Later, O’Quinn was quoted in BirminghamWatch, saying his vote reflected his concerns about “taking on a new debt obligation in the midst of a projected $63 million shortfall in revenue.”
Opinion | Doug Jones’s pathway to victory: Substance over lies
Jones said his work in the Senate should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity.
Alabama Sen. Doug Jones believes voters will ultimately see through Tommy Tuberville’s lazy campaign and lies, and that enough of them will be moved by his work over the last two years to send him back to D.C.
Jones’ comments came during a lengthy interview on the Alabama Politics This Week podcast. He also discussed his plans to address some of Alabama’s most pressing issues and also praised Sen. Richard Shelby, an Alabama Republican.
But it was Jones’ comments about Alabama voters — and whether too many of them are incapable of moving away from the Republican Party — that were most interesting. Jones still believes there are open-minded voters in the state, and that there isn’t enough attention being paid to polls showing a growing dissatisfaction in Alabama with President Donald Trump.
“There are a number of things that Donald Trump has done that people (in Alabama) don’t agree with,” Jones said. “There are a number of things that he’s done that’s hurt Alabama and that they’re not OK with. That’s where I come in.”
Jones said his work in the Senate, where he’s sponsored the most bipartisan legislation over the last two years, should prove to the people of the state that party matters less than productivity.
“I tell everyone, you owe it to yourself to look at every candidate and every issue,” Jones said. “I do that. I’ve been a Democrat all my life but I don’t think that I have ever pulled a straight lever. Because I look at every issue. I will tell you that there have been times that I didn’t vote for people who are Democrats for whatever reason — I just couldn’t do it. I think we owe it to ourselves to do that.”
Jones had the perfect example to drive the point home.
“Y’all all know our state auditor, Jim Zeigler? Jim wasn’t always a Republican. Jim’s first runs for office were as a Democrat.
“I rest my case.”
You can listen to the full interview at the Alabama Politics This Week website, or you can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.