Alabama’s Strip Clubs of Death
A strip club regular in Rialto, California, was so obsessed with a dancer he went to the club for several months specifically to see her. But when she refused to go home with him one night a few weeks ago, he shot her in the face—and then he shot himself in the head.
The stripper survived and is now in stable condition. The man is dead. And this kind of violence isn’t particularly rare. According to various local news reports I’ve been combing through, strip clubs in the US have already seen at least 11 shootings this year, which resulted in nine deaths. And that number doesn’t even include the bouncer at a Tennessee strip club who was shot with an arrow.
Reasons for the shootings vary. Most of the time, it’s the result of a fight between patrons that gets out of hand, or a drunk who’s thrown out of the club and comes back with a gun for revenge. In a few cases, they were robberies gone wrong.
But what causes the violence? Your regular armchair psychologist might say the combination of booze and boobs causes men to revert to a primal state and try to kill each other. Richard McCleary, one of the few criminologists who have studied this subject, claims that violence happens because strip clubs with lax security attract unsavory people who carry weapons and end up causing violent situations.
The truth is probably a combination of the two theories, with a dash of America’s gun-obsessed culture thrown in. At least, that’s how it is in Alabama.
Forget Gun Control—Let’s Ban the Senate.
Above: Seriously, fuck these guys. Photo via Rex USA
By now, you’ve probably already heard that the Senate voted down a gun control proposal yesterday—actually, they voted down a lot of different proposals, but the one that got the most attention was an amendment, proposed by Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, and Pat Toomey, a Republican from Pennsylvania, that would have essentially mandated background checks for everyone who buys a gun.
The argument for the Toomey–Manchin amendment was pretty easy to explain, even to a child: “Well, Timmy, guns might be tools for hunting, they might be collected and handled safely by millions of hobbyists and enthusiasts, but it’s also really, really easy to kill people if you have a gun—it would be a good idea to make sure that the people who were buying guns weren’t crazy or criminals.” [tousles Timmy’s hair playfully] The arguments against the amendment were mostly that criminals wouldn’t obey the law anyway, that background checks wouldn’t have stopped the Newtown massacre, and that the amendment was actuallytoo pro-gun—all of which would seem to indicate that we need more restrictions on gun ownership, not fewer. As many as 91 percent of Americans supported expanded background checks at one point; if anything had a chance to pass through the world’s greatest deliberative body, it was that piece of mild, mostly symbolic legislation.
That it didn’t pass isn’t an example of cowardice on the part of senators who didn’t vote for it, or some fatal flaw on behalf of its sponsors. It’s just another case of the Senate being cripplingly, pathetically gridlockedand unable to do anything for anyone.
It should be pointed out, repeatedly, that most senators voted for the Toomey–Manchin amendment—54 out of 100—but you need 60 votes to pass anything, and the reasons why are much harder to explain to a child than the reasons for the amendment itself: “You see, Timmy, although the Founding Fathers stipulated that bills could pass either house of Congress by a simple majority, they also put this thing in there that let any senator stall a vote by making a speech, and uhhhh, thanks to a series of procedural reforms enacted over the years, now a senator can just stop a bill by saying no once, and it takes 60 votes to overrule that no. This is good because, um. Fuck you, that’s why. Go play your Xbox.”
The People of Guerrero, Mexico, Have Taken Justice Into Their Own Hands
above: Militia members in Cuautepec, Guerrero, where they gathered to take an oath to defend their communities against organized crime. Photos by Carlos Alvarez Montero.
On January 5 in El Potrero, a small town in the Mexican state of Guerrero, a man named Eusebio García Alvarado was kidnapped by a local criminal syndicate. Kidnappings are fairly common in Guerrero—the state, just south of Mexico City, is one of the poorest in the country and the site of some of the worst violence in the ongoing battle between the drug cartels and Mexican authorities. Guerrero’s largest city, Acapulco, is known to Americans as a tourist hot spot. It’s also currently the second most dangerous city in the world, according to a study released by a Mexican think tank in February.
Eusebio’s kidnapping, though, was exceptional. He served as the town commissioner of Rancho Nuevo and was a member of the community activist organization Union of Towns and Organizations of the State of Guerrero (UPOEG), and the brazenness the criminals showed in snatching him up pissed off his neighbors so much that they took matters into their own hands.
Gonzalo Torres, also known as G-1, the leader of the UPOEG militia in Ayulta.
The day after Eusebio was abducted, hundreds of people from the nearby towns of Ayutla de los Libres and Tecoanapa decided that they could do a better job policing their communities than the local authorities. They grabbed whatever weapons they had—mostly hunting rifles and shotguns—set up checkpoints at entrances to their villages, and patrolled the roads in pickup trucks, often hiding their faces with ski masks and bandanas. Overnight, UPOEG transformed from an organization of advocates for better roads and infrastructure into a group of armed vigilantes operating without the endorsement of any branch of the government. The kidnappers released Eusebio that day, but UPOEG’s checkpoints and patrols didn’t disappear with his return. In fact, there was a groundswell of support. Five municipalities in the surrounding Costa Chica region followed suit and established their own militias. Soon, armed and masked citizens ensured that travelers and strangers weren’t allowed to enter any of their towns uninvited.
These militias captured 54 people whom they alleged to be involved in organized crime (including two minors and four women), imprisoning them inside a house that became an improvised jail. On January 31, the communities gathered on an outdoor basketball court in the village of El Meson to publicly try their detainees. The charges ran the gamut from kidnapping, extortion, drug trafficking, and homicide to smoking weed. More than 500 people attended, and the trial was covered by media outlets all over the world.
The Former Civil Rights Activist Who Created the Right to Bear Arms
The first time I saw a gun was in high school, when a stoned friend of mine decided it would be funny to point one at my head.
Five very long seconds later, he put the gun down, laughed his ass off, and I didn’t end up on the local news that night. But with the state of the debate over guns the way it is, I can’t help but think that if I had been killed like that, gun rights advocates would use the case to prove their point that we need more guns, not fewer. They would have said that my death just proves that crazy people on drugs need to be put in jail so they don’t shoot people. Or they’d say that somebody else with a gun should have been around to shoot my friend before he shot me.
I’ve been having trouble understanding these lines of reasoning, so I called up Don Kates—one of the men responsible for the progun rhetoric of today.
Kates is a Yale-educated lawyer who started his legal career fighting for civil rights in the South during the 1960s. A few years later, however, he ended up at the NRA, crafting legal arguments and publishing academic papers that defended the Second Amendment and inspiring many of the gun rights mantras people use today. His work has been used over the years by lawyers on behalf of gun rights and was an important factor in Justice Antonin Scalia’s decision in DC v. Heller, the Supreme Court case that ruled individuals, as opposed to militias, have a constitutional right to own and use a gun.
That case is a big reason you hear a lot of people these days saying, “What part of ‘shall not be infringed’ don’t you understand?” And Kates is a big reason gun rights proponents are so confident they are right.
VICE: You describe yourself as a long-time liberal Democrat. So how did you become a gun rights scholar who worked for the NRA?
Don Kates: From my teenage years, I had always had an affection for guns. And when I was a law student, I became a civil rights worker with the Law Students Civil Rights Defense Council, an organization that’s probably been defunct for decades.
As a civil rights worker in the South, I carried various guns—as did many other whites in the movement—for protection. And Southern black civil rights activists were almost all armed, since they were largely rural Southerners. I recall one night when I sat watch outside the home of a black teacher who had been threatened along with five or six blacks. I was underarmed since what I had was the ineffectual M1 carbine. I didn’t know any better. The blacks with whom I was sitting watch all had shotguns or battle rifles.
The image of gun-toting civil rights activists is one that’s rarely depicted, especially given their reputation of nonviolence. But there were guns around. Even Martin Luther King, Jr. allegedly had an “arsenal” in his home. Why do you think it’s not talked about very often?
I assume that is because it would contradict the pacifist image of civil rights activists. The publicity we received came from journalists who were themselves quasi pacifist and antigun, so self-defense and gun ownership were not things they were attuned to, much less what they wanted to portray.
Meet the Ladies of the Free Syrian Army – They Have Guns, Dead Families, and Nothing to Lose
An all-female FSA brigade gathers inside Auntie Mahmoud’s house in Atmeh, Syria. Photos by Andreas Stahl.
Just a few hundred meters from the Turkey-Syria border lies Atmeh, a once quiet farm town that, in recent months, has become a safe haven for the Free Syrian Army. Fifteen thousand Syrians roam freely, displaced by the civil war, along with various brigades and Islamic militants. There’s also Auntie Mahmoud’s house—a meeting place for a local all-female unit of FSA fighters.
Auntie Mahmoud is a tough old broad who’s happy to shake your hand, even while other Syrian women in town naturally shy away. She lives in a small house across the street from a FSA base and makes it her business to know everything that goes on around her. Her living room is carpeted with thin mattresses, and when we visited her recently, we found eight women, draped in black hijabs and seated with Kalashnikovs resting on their laps. These brave women are members of the FSA who are ready to plunge into intense urban firefights alongside their male counterparts, if needed. Though they originally hail from cities like Aleppo, Hama, and Idlib, many of them now live in the camp near Atmeh and share strikingly similar backgrounds: each of their husbands was killed or imprisoned while fighting Assad’s regime, their homes were leveled by shelling and other attacks, and over the course of two years of Syria’s civil war, they all grew tired of sitting on the sidelines and waiting for a favorable outcome to the conflict.
Am Ar’ou, a 37-year-old former law student from Aleppo, is the leader of the brigade. Wearing a military vest and with her face completely veiled in niqab, she stroked her rifle as she recounted how her husband was arrested only because he had a beard and prayed five times a day. She worked closely with the FSA when the war began, storing weapons and supplies in her home until the cache was discovered, shelled, and destroyed. After the attack, she spent three months in the hospital with jaw, hand, and back injuries. Once discharged, she had no home to return to and became a refugee in her own country. She traveled to the camp in Atmeh and soon found other women who also had nothing but one another, sad stories, and some guns.
Safa, who has been involved with the revolution against Assad from the beginning, walks through the streets of Atmeh.
The women in Am’s brigade have declared jihad against President Assad in the name of freedom, democracy, and women’s rights in an overwhelmingly male-dominated society. But they’re also wary of some of their allies because Atmeh is a hotbed of rebel activity and home to hard-line Salafist Islamic groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra (one of the best-known Islamic groups fighting in Syria today, who were recently added to the US’s list of terrorist organizations), the al-Farouq Brigade, al Qaeda, and various other foreign mujahideen fighters. This has made Am and her comrades’ mission particularly difficult to execute. Jabhat al-Nusra, for example, support the women in theory but refuse to fight alongside them or allow them to carry their weapons openly. Even though they’re all opposed to Assad, the Islamic rebel groups are determined to create an Islamic state in Syria, while most Syrians are opposed to this idea. Am and her brigade are devout Muslims, too, but they don’t want an Islamic state; they want a democracy.
Cody R Wilson, the star of our new documentary about 3D printed guns, is doing a reddit AMA right now.
Kimani Gray and Two Weeks of Struggle in Flatbush, Brooklyn
“This is about Kimani Gray!” interrupted Fatimah Shakur, the most vocal of a loose network of organizers who have been holding nightly demonstrations in the Flatbush neighborhood of Brooklyn since the 16-year-old boy was murdered by the NYPD on March 9th. A representative from the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) was attempting to tie Gray’s shooting into a larger context of police repression and economic exploitation, making the case for revolution in the United States. Shakur was not having it. “Revolution is alright,” she conceded, getting on the microphone, “but this is about Kimani Gray!” RCP members jeered. This was the impassioned tone of Sunday’s daytime demonstration—a march down Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn— which was attended by around 75 protestors, 25 reporters, and literally a thousand cops.
Daily demonstrations in the neighborhood began two weeks ago, after Kimani Gray was gunned down by two plainclothes cops with lengthy histories of misconduct, who ambushed the young man on the street. The cops jumped out of a vehicle and discharged seven shots, three into his back. The NYPD maintains Gray brandished a weapon. Many friends and neighbors, including an eyewitness, dispute this claim. The NYPD has attempted to smear Gray by portraying him as a gang member with a criminal record. Meanwhile, Gray’s school principal wrote his parents a heartfelt letter, portraying the boy as a bright, motivated student and a sweet young man. These are the kinds of discussions that follow when the police “kill you twice,” as the saying goes: once in body, once in reputation. The shooting of a young, black male by the NYPD is an occurrence so common in New York City that few could have predicted what happened next.