May 20, 2022

Baby Formula Shortage: Questions and Answers

An Abbott recall and factory closure have combined with pandemic-era supply chain issues to create a baby formula shortage.

What Happened?

The Shortage. After a bacterial infection from baby formula killed two children, Abbott — America’s largest formula producer — announced a voluntary recall of its products and closed its Michigan factory. The factory was shut down for weeks due to health and safety violations, but once cleared was delayed in the opening by order of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Across the country, retailers have been reporting shortages of vital formulas as the supply chain feels the hit of the factory closure, causing panic among parents.

Questions

What is Baby Formula? Many parents across America use baby formula as an alternative to breast milk. The most common types of formulas are cow milk protein-based, soy-based, and protein hydrolysate-based. Baby formula is packaged in a powdered form, making it accessible for parents. Babies can get the necessary nutrients from the formula. 

The CDC warns against using homemade formulas for infants because each baby’s nutritional needs are specific. Also, homemade formulas could be contaminated, leading to infection or sickness in infants. The CDC also suggests specific criteria for helping parents choose a formula. According to CDC regulations, it is essential that the package is sealed and doesn’t have rust spots, puffy spots, or leaks.

Why Do People Use Formula? For some mothers, breastfeeding may be difficult, so they supplement their child’s diet with formula. Some mothers want to return to work, making it challenging to find the time and equipment needed to breastfeed. In addition, some mothers take medications that could make breastfeeding dangerous. Each type of formula can be used to accommodate the different allergies or dietary restrictions that babies may have. For instance, soy-based formulas are used for babies who have intolerances to milk, and protein hydrolysate formulas are used for babies who have intolerances to both milk and soy.

Who is Impacted by the Shortage? The shortage recently turned into a full-blown crisis as retailers reported nearly 40% of their baby formula is out of stock. With 41.7% of 5-month-old babies using formula, the shortage has caused parents to resort to eBay to feed their children. Democrats have also pointed out that Black families are significantly impacted since 76% breastfed, below the national average of 84%. Republicans have pointed out that rural communities hurt most by supply chain shortages will also suffer disproportionately. 

(CDC)

What Caused the Shortage?

Factory Closes. In February, Abbott, who creates a large quantity of U.S. baby formula, recalled its formula from stores after four infants were hospitalized – and two died – from bacteria in the formula. As a result, the factory in Sturgis, MI, was also shut down.

The FDA delayed the factory’s reopening, causing a shock to the supply chain. On Monday, Abbott agreed with the FDA to reopen the plant in two weeks, but it will take another six to eight weeks for the baby formula to reach store shelves. A current investigation is underway within the FDA to analyze the source of delays.

Fearing a similar buyout to cleaning supplies during the Covid-19 pandemic, retailers like Target and Walgreens have restricted the number of purchasable formula boxes.

Alternative Theory. Although the factory closure has been linked as the leading cause of the shortage, some have suggested that this short-term shock results from government-created monopolies. Abbott, Reckitt Benckiser, and Nestlé dominate 90% of the baby formula industry in the U.S. since they are the only FDA-approved formula providers under the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The federal budget sends portions of money in WIC grants to each state, which is then used to contract from those three companies, creating a monopoly. Some economists have argued that even if the factory gets back online, it will take months for supply to catch up with demand. In addition, any quick fix would not solve the underlying problem of a fragile supply chain.

Next Steps

Defense Production. On Wednesday, President Biden invoked the Defense Production Act (DPA) to deal with the rising crisis. This invocation will provide emergency ingredients to produce supplementary formula in a mission the White House has called “Operation Fly Formula (OFF).” In the past, the DPA has been used to address supply chain shortages during the Covid-19 pandemic.

OFF will be accomplished by authorizing the Department of Defense to use commercial airplanes to pick up formula overseas to store on shelves in the U.S. The White House has also instructed “suppliers to direct resources to infant formula manufacturers before any other customer who may have ordered that good.”

In addition to the White House statements, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has issued a “fact sheet” directing parents to relevant resources.

Left Narrative

As a baby formula shortage threatens the United States, especially America’s most marginalized, the Biden administration is making every effort to address the lack of supply — including invoking the Defense Production Act and authorizing flights to import extra formula. Instead of working with President Biden and congressional Democrats to solve this problem and help ease the burden on moms across the country, Republicans prefer to use children’s lives as a political football. Their rhetoric has worsened the problem by encouraging panic buying and price gouging. Democrats will continue their work to address this shortage even if Republicans want to keep it as a talking point.

Lean Left Narrative

Right Narrative

Recalls are conducted consistently without shutting down factories. The FDA caused the crisis by shutting down a crucial plant on top of product recalls and then not warning parents of the ramifications. The Biden administration then waited weeks before responding, amplifying the crisis. On a larger scale, government intervention in the economy has weakened the market, proving free markets are more robust.

Lean Right Narrative

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think there is something that the FDA could have done differently to mitigate the baby formula shortage? Explain your reasoning.
  2. How would you try and prevent future baby formula shortages if you were in Congress? Explain your reasoning.
  3. How would you try and resolve the baby formula shortage if you were in charge of the FDA? Explain your reasoning.
  4. How would you try and resolve the baby formula shortage if you were working at the White House? Explain your reasoning.
  5. How would you try and resolve the baby formula shortage if you were in Congress? Explain your reasoning.
May 20, 2022

A Busy Primary Day

Five states held primaries for the upcoming midterm elections, with significant implications for both parties and the balance of power.

This Tuesday saw the busiest day for primaries yet in this midterm cycle. The highly anticipated elections saw an incumbent lose his seat, Senate primary contests, a test of Trump’s influence, and some notable progressive victories.

Cawthorn is Out

Salon

Riddled with Controversy. While several Tuesday races caught pundits’ eyes, perhaps none was as surprising as the North Carolina 11th Congressional District Republican Primary. Incumbent Congressman Madison Cawthron (R) faced numerous scandals during his reelection bid. The plethora of controversies surrounding Congress’ youngest member solicited a crowded field of primary challengers. Of his opponents, NC State Senator Chuck Edwards emerged as the frontrunner to beat the GOP’s former rising star.

Republicans Turn Against Him. Given the controversy around him, many high-profile Republicans — particularly in the NC establishment — began actively working to unseat Cawthorn. Perhaps most notably, Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC) backed Edwards, and a Tillis-aligned super PAC dropped over $300,000 into the race. Despite his incumbency status (which political analysts consistently view as one of the greatest advantages in a primary), Cawthorn conceded after narrowly losing to Edwards on Tuesday night. The district is deeply red, making Edwards the clear favorite to become the NC-11’s next representative.

Key Senate Competitions

CBS Philly

Starkly Different PA Primaries. While Cawthorn’s loss was the biggest shock of the night, most analysts considered the Pennsylvania Senate primaries the most important. In what is shaping up to be a tough election cycle for Democrats, Senator Pat Toomey (R-PA) is retiring, presenting one of the few chances they have to flip a seat. Progressive Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman easily won the Democratic nomination, besting Congressman Connor Lamb and State Senator Malcolm Kenyatta. Fetterman accepted the nomination from the hospital, where he has been since suffering a stroke last Friday. The Democratic establishment largely favored Lamb, the more centrist candidate, to take on Republicans this fall, worrying the unconventional Fetterman could be too far-left for the swing state. Fetterman has shrugged off those concerns, arguing he is the best candidate for Pennsylvania voters.

The Republican primary, however, has proven to be the complete opposite. Trump-endorsed media personality Dr. Mehmet Oz and businessman Dave McCormick are neck-and-neck for the chance to take on Fetterman. Oz and McCormick have spent most of the race attacking each other, with outside groups pouring obscene amounts of money into the race. McCormick has slammed Oz for “flip-flopping” on abortion and gun control and has attacked Oz’s dual Turkish citizenship, suggesting it presents a security threat. Oz has shrugged off those attacks, touting Trump’s endorsement as proof that he is the only “America First” candidate in the race. He has also repeatedly accused McCormick of “selling out Pennsylvania to China.” A razor-thin margin of around 1,000 votes separates the two, and they could face a mandatory recount if it holds. Given that possibility, we may not know the winner of this contentious primary for weeks. Trump urged Oz to declare victory anyway, saying it “makes it harder for them to cheat,” although he provided no evidence of any potential wrongdoing.

Surprisingly Uncontentious NC Races. In North Carolina, Republicans and Democrats competed for the chance to replace retiring Senator Richard Burr (R). What analysts initially expected to be tight competition proved to be relatively uncompetitive. While State Senators Erica Smith and Jeff Jackson initially launched spirited challenges in the Democratic primaries, both dropped out in favor of congressional bids and endorsed former state Chief Justice Cheri Beasley, who trounced her remaining competitors on Tuesday. On the Republican side, Trump notched a big win as his preferred candidate — Congressman Ted Budd — emerged from relative obscurity to cruise to victory over former Governor Pat McCrory and former Congressman Mark Walker. While Beasley has won statewide in the past, she is the underdog against Budd in this election. 

Dueling Governor’s Races

Idaho’s Political Civil War. Elsewhere, Trump’s endorsement brought conflicting results. In Idaho, Trump-endorsed Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin failed in her quest to topple current Governor Brad Little. The two frequently sparred during their time in office, as McGeachin sought to ban mask mandates, prohibit Covid-19 testing and vaccine requirements, and deploy the National Guard to the Southern Border as Acting Governor when Little was out-of-state. Little reversed those orders when he returned, sparking bad blood between the two Republicans. McGeachin’s bid ultimately fizzled out in a dud as Little fended off the challenge from his previous second-in-command.

Butler Eagle

Mastriano Turns Heads. However, Trump’s last-minute endorsement of State Senator Dough Mastriano in Pennsylvania appears to have secured his bid for the GOP’s nomination for governor. Despite an eleventh-hour effort from the Republican establishment to consolidate support around another candidate, Mastriano emerged victorious on Tuesday. Many Republicans express concern that he is too far-right for the state, especially regarding his belief that Democrats stole the 2020 election. Many wonder how Mastriano may act during the next presidential election if he becomes Pennsylvania’s next governor — a role that holds significant election oversight power. Current PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro, who ran unopposed for the Democratic nomination, even boosted him in the campaign’s final stretch, believing he would be the easiest Republican candidate to beat. Still, political analysts expect the race to be competitive.

Progressives Can Celebrate

Booker’s Second Chance. Fetterman’s win in Pennsylvania is not the only cause progressives have to celebrate. In Kentucky, former State Representative Charles Booker breezed to a primary victory to face incumbent Senator Rand Paul (R) this November. An avid progressive, Booker unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination to challenge Senator Mitch McConnell last cycle. 

Some Setbacks, but Potential Wins. Also, despite suffering some setbacks in North Carolina (progressives Erica Smith and Nida Allam lost their primary bids to more centrist candidates), progressives are poised to notch some impressive wins. In Oregon’s Fifth Congressional District, longtime Democratic Congressman Kurt Schrader is losing to progressive challenger Jamie McLeod-Skinner. Schrader carries President Biden’s endorsement, but progressives blame him for blocking several of their key policies and say he is partially responsible for tanking the President’s “Build Back Better” agenda. In Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional District, Summer Lee — a potential member of the “Squad” — is beating more centrist attorney Steve Irwin. While Lee has declared victory in the race, most media outlets say it remains too close to call. Even if the two progressives lose, the Democratic Party’s left wing could still claim some notable victories.

Left Narrative

Lean Left Narrative

Right Narrative

Lean Right Narrative

Discussion Questions

May 18, 2022

Buffalo Shooting: Histories & Perspectives

Historical context and various perspectives emerging from the mass shooting in Buffalo, New York.

History

Recap. Last Saturday, a gunman killed 10 people and injured three others in a racially motivated mass shooting at a Tops grocery store in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York. In a suspected manifesto, the shooter expressed his belief in Replacement Theory, a racist argument claiming the government intentionally dilutes white people’s power by increasing non-white birthrates and encouraging immigration. Authorities say the gunman had extensively researched other white supremacist attacks, like the 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand.

See Civil’s original coverage of the Buffalo mass shooting here.

Troubled History. As new details continue to emerge about the Buffalo gunman, many have noted several instances of concerning behavior in his past. Authorities revealed that the shooter had repeatedly posted racist and violent remarks. Last year, police took him into custody after he threatened violence at his high school. He then underwent a mental health evaluation, though authorities released him two days later. The gunman faced no charges following the incident.

Relatives of the shooter have stated he “likely snapped” from isolation caused by the pandemic. Relatives continued, “He was very paranoid about getting Covid — he would wear the hazmat suit [to school]. He went to family functions with a respirator mask on — and then he got Covid.”

Missed Opportunities. As these troubling stories have come to light, many have questioned whether authorities could have acted sooner to prevent this tragedy and how they missed such a long, well-planned attack. Officials revealed that the gunman had planned the shooting for months, including driving to the store to scope it out in March. A manager at the Tops grocery store said the shooter was at the supermarket just one day before the shooting. 

Some also wonder how the teenager acquired a gun in the first place. New York has “red flag” laws that allow a court to temporarily seize someone’s firearms or prevent them from buying firearms if they show they could be a threat to themselves or others. Federal law also bars people from owning guns if a judge determines they have a “mental defect” or involuntarily entered a mental institution. However, a mental health evaluation does not automatically trigger either prohibition. Given the shooter’s troubled past, New York Governor Kathy Hochul said she would launch an investigation to see what authorities could have done to stop the shooter.

Charges. In court shortly after authorities arrested him for the shooting, the gunman pled not guilty to first-degree murder. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole. Local and federal law enforcement are investigating the incident as a hate crime, for which the gunman could face extra related charges, as well as domestic terrorism charges.

Perspectives

What Makes this Shooter Racist. In terms of ideology, the shooter stated that he aligned initially with communism, but he drifted further right over the past few years finally identifying as “Authoritarian Left.” However, he also stated that he liked fascism. These are all radical ideologies typically associated with the far ends of the political spectrum. 

Both communism (the political structure of the USSR) and fascism (the political system of Nazi Germany) can contain racial components whereby national cultural pride is imbued on a specific race. This racial element is best historically illustrated through the horrors of the Holocaust committed by the Nazis and the murder of three million Cambodians by the communist Khmer Rouge. The shooter carried racial hatred, particularly for Black and Jewish people, in line with the components of the radical ideologies he followed. 

It is inherently wrong to judge others based on their characteristics rather than their actions; since actions are voluntary decisions and characteristics are involuntary attributes.

Twitch Takedown. The shooter attempted to live-stream the attack on Twitch, a social media platform for entertainment content. The video was eventually taken down by investigators, but only after the first two minutes were displayed. In its Transparency Report, Twitch explains that it uses machine detection to takedown any “nudity, sexual content, gore, or extreme violence.” This is not the first time horrific events have been streamed on Twitch. In 2019, a suspect streamed a shooting of two victims in a synagogue.

Other social media sites like Facebook have had encounters with violent content being streamed on its platform. In 2019, a white supremacist killed a total of 51 people in two New Zealand mosques. The suspect streamed the event and it took Facebook 17 minutes to take the video down. 

In response to the Buffalo shooting, Governor Hochul called on social media companies to take responsibility for hate speech on their platforms. She is urging companies to heavily monitor hate speech that is “antisemitic, racist, or anti-immigrant.” Hochul says that she will hold these companies accountable. The call for targeting hate speech is often recognized by the Right as a precursor for broadening the scope of “hate speech” to eventually unjustly target conservative thought.” (Read Civil’s Social Media Narratives to learn more.) Hochul plans to have conversations with them about their safety policies in the coming months.

“Guns Save Lives.” Some Americans argue that guns are essential for “self-defense, hunting, and a symbol of their individual freedom,” prompting the slogan “Guns Save Lives.” In a 2021 Gallup survey, 88% of gun owners cited “self-defense” as a reason why they need a gun. Guns are preferred in more right-leaning states like Montana, where 66% of its households own guns, compared to New Jersey, where only 8% own guns. In the past 90 days, 175 defensive gun incidents have been reported across the United States. 

In 2012, Chief Executive Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association (NRA), an influential lobbyist group, proposed the idea of armed guards in schools and other public places. LaPierre explained, “I call on Congress to place armed officers in schools so that children are safe.” The NRA developed “School Shield,” a program focusing on integrating local law enforcement personnel into schools to prevent violent incidents. This program also helps train teachers to defend themselves and their students in an emergency.

Many on the Right indicate that if more armed citizens had been at the Tops grocery store, the shooter could have been stopped faster. Additionally, the shooter wrote in his manifesto that he felt at ease citing New York’s “c*** gun laws” and believed no one would shoot back at him.

Gun Regulation. A core tenant of federalism is the responsibility of each state to decide how they will interpret the Second Amendment, resulting in gun restrictions that vary from state to state. 

A recent Supreme Court case in New York raised concerns about states’ abilities to regulate the Second Amendment. The petitioner argued that New York’s denial of his application for a concealed-carry license was unconstitutional. His reason for using a concealed-carry firearm was for self-defense. Under New York State’s gun control law, an individual must have a “special need to defend themselves.” This is because New York State wants to mitigate violent incidents and promote public safety.

Other states like Florida have “Stand Your Ground Laws” which allow individuals to employ the use of force if they feel threatened. There is no clear measure as to what indicates a threat to an individual. Many on the Left indicate that tougher gun legislation is needed. This was evident in 2019 as presidential contenders urged Congress to pass more restrictions on guns. Proponents of gun control point to the red flag law, which was not followed through, as a measure that could have stopped the Buffalo shooter from obtaining a firearm.

Tucker Backlash. The Great Replacement is a theory that immigration and birthrates are intentionally used to eliminate “the white race.” This theory stems primarily from internet subcultures spread through a series of myths, symbols, and codes created into memes by users of sites like 4chan and 8chan. The shooter was a believer in Replacement Theory, shared racially charged memes, and held the false belief that violence against racial groups was an appropriate course of action.

Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson has received backlash from the Left for his promotion of a similar replacement theory. On occasion, Carlson has openly stated replacement is occurring. In a PragerU video and regularly on his program, the host claims that Democrats use illegal immigration to turn the tides of elections and destroy the middle class. When Democrats pointed to Carlson’s promotion of the theory, he outlined two key differences between himself and the theory purported by the shooter:

  1. Carlson does not view replacement as racially driven but rather as the replacement of American workers to destroy the middle class.
  2. Carlson believes Democrats are pushing illegal immigration to gain political power by importing Democratic voters, not to breed out white people.

Some Democrats say that, although not explicitly stated, the rhetoric Carlson engages in has racial undertones reminiscent of Replacement Theory. The White House decided not to name and shame people criticized for amplifying Replacement Theory. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre stated, “People peddling so-called replacement theory “know who they are” and “should be ashamed of themselves.”

Media Narrative. Many on the Right have pointed out double standards within the media, stating that one particular narrative gains more traction than others. This stereotype has become so prominent that even popular television series have mocked the theory. Some on the Right have pointed out that the media was quick to dispel other racially motivated acts of terror when the perpetrator was a black man who hated white people. The Waukesha Christmas Parade Attack and NYC Subway Shooting are examples the Right have been citing as “memory-holed.”

However, the cause of lack of coverage is not necessarily linked to being ideologically driven. While some sources will selectively show statistics or cut portions of interviews, the reason may stem from a desire to get the most views on a given article. Although the same day, the Texas Flea Market Shooting, California Church Shooting, and Chicago Bean Shooting were not as influential and were, therefore, less viewed, promoted, or widely spread. The racially driven components of the Waukesha and NYC Subway stories may not have been reported since media organizations are attempting to sell a product to their viewers at the end of the day. Those elements of the story could potentially drive fewer clicks to the article.

Left Narrative

Lean Left Narrative

Right Narrative

Lean Right Narrative

Discussion Questions

  1. Does this case illustrate a problem with “red flag” laws? Why or why not?
  2. Does this incident highlight an issue with Twitch’s safety policies? Explain your view?
  3. How would you react if you were the judge of the New York Supreme Court case? 
  4. Does Tucker Carlson bear any responsibility for the promotion of Replacement Theory? Why or why not? 
  5. Would you like to see any changes in gun control laws in the future? If so, what would these changes be?
May 16, 2022

Buffalo Shooting

A racially motivated mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, reignited bitter debates around gun violence and race in America.

Facts on the Ground

Supermarket Attack. On Saturday, a gunman killed 10 patrons and injured three others at Tops Supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood of Buffalo, New York. He was wearing tactical gear while a helmet camera live-streamed the attack. Police say a store security guard fired at the suspect, but the gunman was unaffected in his bulletproof vest. The shooter drove over 200 miles to the Buffalo grocery store.

Hate Crime. The incident is the city’s worst mass shooting ever. Eleven of the 13 victims were Black. Authorities are investigating the incident as a hate crime after several officials — including FBI personnel, the Erie County Sheriff, and the regional U.S. Attorney — said the shooting was racially motivated. The gunman has pleaded not guilty to murder in the first degree. He faces a maximum penalty of life in prison without parole.

Racist Motivations

Race Replacement. According to his suspected manifesto, he specifically targeted the supermarket as it was in a zip code with a high density of Black residents. The shooter’s calls for violence against Black and Jewish people arose from his belief in Replacement Theory, a racist argument claiming the government intentionally dilutes white people’s power by increasing non-white birthrates and encouraging immigration. 

In-Justification. Authorities say the gunman had extensively researched other white supremacist attacks, like the 2019 mosque shootings in Christchurch, New Zealand. The shooter cited a series of racially motivated statistics and racially essentialist theories used to paint Black people and Jews as inferior. These selectively edited statistics fail to account for secondary factors influencing the outcome of the stat. The various memes and images the shooter sourced from 4chan are commonly cited misconceptions by white supremacists. 

To learn more about how online message boards like 4chan can influence politics, view Civil’s coverage here.

Gun Control

Making a Point. According to the 18-year-old’s manifesto, the shooting was meant to illustrate the ineffectiveness of gun control laws in preventing an act of terror. To this end, he used the Bushmaster rifle manufactured during the federal Assault Weapons Ban, illegally modified his gun to exceed New York’s 10-bullet limit, and used a hunting rifle commonly exempted from gun control laws. While officials say the gun was purchased legally, New York prohibits selling the magazines he used.

Reactions

Mayor Responds. Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown (D) called on Congress to pass gun reform and regulate hate speech on social media sites. He said those “on one side of the aisle” who continuously block such legislation seemingly “believe owning a gun is more precious than the sanctity of human life.”

Federal Inaction. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said congressional Democrats and the Biden administration remain committed to gun law reform but blamed Republican opposition and the Senate’s 60-vote filibuster threshold for federal inaction.

Tech’s Responsibility? New York Governor Kathy Hochul (D) echoed her fellow Democrats’ calls for gun reform. She also slammed social media platforms, arguing that the live-streaming of the attack proved these outlets do not sufficiently monitor extremist content on their sites. A Twitch spokesperson said the platform took down the video two minutes after the shooting began and highlighted its “zero-tolerance policy” against violence.

Rising Crime. Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY), who is running against Hochul to become governor, tweeted a statement of grief and suggested the shooting exemplified a broader rise in hate and violent crime in the state. Some Republicans have further argued that hate crimes from the Waukesha Christmas Attack to the NYC Subway Shooter have shown a broader pattern of racially motivated attacks.

Left Narrative

This hate-filled act of domestic terrorism demands quick action from state and federal leaders. The ease with which someone espousing such a vile, dangerous theory could acquire a firearm highlights the gaping loopholes in our gun laws. Americans should not have to fear they will be a victim of a mass shooting while grocery shopping. We must enact commonsense, comprehensive gun reform to prevent more of these tragic events. Right-wing propagandists like Tucker Carlson have repeatedly pushed the same Replacement Theory nonsense as this gunman. As someone who millions look to for their “news,” he — and other Republicans — must be held responsible for the dangerous, racist rhetoric they employ to whip up their base.

Lean Left Narrative

Right Narrative

The fact of this case is that a radicalized white supremacist circumvented all gun control measures to commit an act of terror. In order to prevent tragedies like this, the source of the ideology must be targeted. Identity politics, including the theory of white replacement, must be combated in our schools. If we are to prevent senseless killing, the media must also give equal credence to the racial motivations of other terrorists, such as the Waukesha Christmas Parade attacker and the NYC Subway Shooter. Additionally, a brave security guard managed to return fire, hitting the shooter. If more law-abiding gun owners had their firearms at the scene, it would have stopped the shooter far sooner. Lastly, the FBI should follow up on potential shooting threats to prevent future violence.

Lean Right Narrative

Discussion Questions

  1. What measures could be taken to prevent future attacks? Why?
  2. How would you balance public safety and Second Amendment rights?
  3. How could authorities prevent radicalization online? Would that infringe on First Amendment rights?
  4. Does excessive media coverage inspire future shootings?
  5. How do fringe political ideologies from both sides influence radicalization?
May 13, 2022

California Gun Ban Unconstitutional

A 9th Circuit Court panel overturned a California ban on selling semiautomatic weapons to adults under 21.

Court Strikes Down Gun Sales Ban

Ban Struck Down. In a 2-1 decision on Wednesday, a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals panel said a California law prohibiting the sale of semiautomatic weapons to adults under 21 is unconstitutional. The court sided with the Firearms Policy Coalition, which argued the ban infringed on 18 to 20-year-olds’ Second Amendment rights. California Attorney General Rob Bonta (D) will review the decision and could appeal.

California Gun Laws. California passed a law in 2018 that requires a hunting license for adults under 21 — who are not in the military or law enforcement — to purchase rifles or shotguns. In April 2019, a 19-year-old bought a semiautomatic rifle with a hunting license and shot four people at a synagogue in San Diego County. After that event, the Legislature acted to address what they viewed as a loophole, enacting the ban on selling semiautomatic rifles to anyone under 21.

Lawsuit. Matthew Jones, a 20-year-old at the time, sued the state, arguing that he wanted a gun but did not want to obtain a hunting license. While his legal team sued before the under-age ban, they later amended his lawsuit to challenge it. 

9th Circuit Panel and Response

Opinion. Judge Ryan Nelson wrote the majority opinion in the case, joined by Judge Kenneth Lee. Former President Trump appointed both to the court during his tenure. Nelson said the California law amounts to “an almost total ban” on these firearms for young adults. He continued that the decision reaffirms that the Constitution still protects the right of young adults to keep and bear arms. Judge Sidney Stein, a Bill Clinton appointee, dissented. However, they upheld the hunting license requirement, saying it increased public safety through “sensible firearm control.” 

Bills’ Author Reacts. State Senator Anthony Portantino (D), who wrote both laws, said he was disappointed in the court’s decision to strike down the ban but was glad it upheld the hunting license requirement. Portantino continued, “I remain committed to keeping deadly weapons out of the wrong hands.”

Left Narrative

California has long served as a model state for enacting reasonable gun restrictions that ensure public safety without infringing on people’s Second Amendment rights. This Trump-packed panel has wrongly overturned a commonsense regulation keeping deadly weapons out of the hands of those who are not developmentally prepared to handle them — a rationale the court has no problem with for alcohol, tobacco, and cannabis consumption.

Lean Left Narrative

Right Narrative

18-year-olds can vote, fight for their country, and are subject to other constitutional rights, yet California is attempting to limit their right to bear arms. This law has done nothing to prevent gun violence in the streets of San Diego or any other city in California. The court made the right decision to strike down this unconstitutional law.

Lean Right Narrative

Discussion Questions

  1. Would you have repealed the gun ban? Why or why not?
  2. Do you think the gun ban violated the Constitution? Why or why not?
  3. Was raising the gun age to 21 a reasonable measure following the San Diego shooting?
  4. Would a prohibition on guns for people under 21 prevent gun violence? Why or why not?
  5. Do you believe the Supreme Court should examine this case?
May 13, 2022

Senate Roe Vote Fails

Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined Senate Republicans to block an abortion bill introduced after the leaked SCOTUS draft opinion.

Women’s Health Protection Act

An Expected Block. After a draft opinion leaked last week showing the Supreme Court is likely to overturn the Roe and Casey abortion decisions, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) promised the Senate would vote on enshrining those protections in federal law. On Wednesday, the Senate failed to advance the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), a bill Democrats argue is necessary to codify those landmark abortion cases in federal law. Supporters and opponents alike widely expected the bill to fail, as it needed 60 votes to overcome the chamber’s filibuster threshold. Democrats acknowledged the vote was largely symbolic and hope it will propel voters to support Democratic candidates in the upcoming midterm elections.

Repeat Bill. The WHPA is nearly identical to a House bill of the same name from last year. Last September, the House passed it in an almost strictly party-line 218-211 vote (one Democrat joined all Republicans to oppose the measure). Like the Wednesday vote, the Senate failed to advance that legislation back in February when Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) joined Republicans and blocked it.

Codifying Roe. Democrats say the WHPA would codify the Roe and Casey cases, banning abortion regulations before fetal viability — generally considered around 24 weeks. They also stated the legislation would prevent states from imposing unfair restrictions (or an “undue burden”) on those seeking an abortion, prohibiting so-called TRAP (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws. Republicans, meanwhile, slammed the bill as a product of the far-left. In his floor speech, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said, “Democrats could not have written more extreme legislation.”

Two Key Democrats Split

Manchin and Casey. Once Schumer announced the Senate would take up the WHPA again, all eyes turned to two Democratic Senators: Joe Manchin and Bob Casey Jr. (PA). Observers generally regard Manchin and Casey — both of whom identify as “pro-life” — as the two most conservative Democratic Senators on abortion. While the bill was almost certain to fail regardless, many observers viewed the vote as a significant indicator of their stances.

Manchin Votes No — Again. In February, Manchin was the only Democratic Senator to oppose advancing the WHPA. On Wednesday, he announced he would again oppose the procedural motion. While Manchin said he would “vote for a Roe v. Wade codification if it was today,” he argued that the existing bill goes beyond that and “expands abortion.”

Family Legacy. Casey also has a mixed record on the issue. His father, Bob Casey Sr., was the Governor of Pennsylvania that signed abortion restrictions landing Planned Parenthood v. Casey at the Supreme Court. However, Casey released a statement saying that the circumstances had changed, referencing comments from Senator McConnell (R-KY) that a national abortion ban is “possible” (though McConnell has walked back those remarks). Casey said he has not and will not ever support a “categorical ban” on abortion and supported the WHPA on Wednesday.

Two Key Republicans Promote Alternative

Pro-Choice Republicans. On the Republican side, many observers focused on two Senators: Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK). Both Senators call themselves “pro-choice” and say they support codifying Roe and Casey. However, Collins and Murkowski voted against the motion to advance the WHPA, arguing that they had proposed a narrowly tailored alternative bill to enshrine abortion protections in federal law — the Reproductive Choice Act. Some pro-choice advocates claim that this version is insufficient and fails to specify what restrictions create an “undue burden” on those seeking abortions.

WHPA Criticisms. Collins characterized the legislation as a “partisan bill designed to fail.” She criticized the WHPA as overly broad, saying its language would infringe on religious liberty. Collins also said it would strike down what she considers reasonable state restrictions, such as those prohibiting sex-based abortions or requiring parental/guardian notification if a minor intends to have an abortion. Murkowski echoed that sentiment, saying the WHPA would nullify “state and religious freedom laws across the country” and fails to prevent taxpayer-funded abortion — a stipulation commonly included in abortion-related legislation known as the Hyde Amendment.

Left Narrative

As an extremist majority on the Supreme Court prepares to throw out nearly 50 years of precedent, Republicans (along with obstructionist Joe Manchin) have again blocked a bill that codifies Roe v. Wade and protects women’s reproductive healthcare. Despite some Republican Senators claiming to be pro-choice, it is clear that the entire GOP supports the Supreme Court’s efforts to strip women of their constitutionally protected rights. We must elect pro-choice legislators up and down the ballot and ensure they enact abortion protections at the state and federal levels.

Lean Left Narrative

Right Narrative

The Women’s Health “Protection” Act does little to protect women and is far more extreme than Roe v. Wade. This bill crushes state rights and permits abortion throughout the entire pregnancy. Democrats are happy to sign a bill that allows a fully formed baby to be brutally killed well beyond the viability standard of Roe. This radical bill failing is a great victory for the rights of the unborn. Congress should work to establish reasonable abortion restrictions which most Americans prefer.

Lean Right Narrative

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you think the bill was designed to fail? If yes, how would you have written a bill designed to pass?
  2. Should Congress make a federal law on abortion, or should the states decide?
  3. How does either side frame their view on the bill?
  4. What differences are there between Republican and Democratic reasoning against the WHPA?
  5. Would you support or oppose the WHPA? Why?