Tuesday, January 28, 2014


The Supreme Court's decision to throw out the jury verdict in the Pryde/Peterson trial appears to be a blatant example of politicization of the judiciary. Lawyers for the Pryde and Peterson families had asked the court to reconsider their opinion, but the court rejected the request and let the justices' error-ridden decision stand.

Not only does the Supreme Court ignore evidence, but where the justices do examine facts, they interpret them in the most favorable light for the state and Virginia Tech. Even worse, there is a critical factual error.

Justice Cleo E. Powell, in writing decision, says on the second page, “… the Blacksburg Police Department led the investigation.” That is not true. Blacksburg Police Chief Kim Crannis testified that she was not in charge of the investigation—the Virginia Tech Police Department (Chief Wendell Flinchum) was.  The Supreme Court had that testimony. The factual error in Judge Cleo Powell's decision is VERY disturbing--particularly because it is a unanimous decision. That means all the judges signed off on the error. Does that mean the justices did not read the testimony given to them? Clearly, the mistake over who was in charge of the investigation is evidence of a political agenda—the court had made up its mind regardless of the evidence.

I know it is very fashionable in some circles to talk about the liberal courts and the liberal media. But this decision smacks of far right-wing conservative attitudes that no one is responsible for someone else's actions--ever. How else do you explain this critical error? Did the justices not read the documents? How could an error of this magnitude make it into a unanimous Supreme Court decision?

There are lawyers in my classes at the FBI and CIA. I would fail them for this type of error. I have nearly 50 years of experience in intelligence and crime analysis and I always believed that while judges have liberal or conservative leanings, they would nevertheless be fair, would not be factually correct, and would not ignore facts and evidence to the detriment of one side or the other. Clearly, I have been wrong.

Friday, January 24, 2014



State's Supreme Court declines to rehear Virginia Tech shooting case
The court had earlier overturned a jury award to families of two slain students.


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Posted: Tuesday, January 21, 2014 1:08 pm

Posted on January 21, 2014
                by Tonia Moxley
On Tuesday the Supreme Court of Virginia refused to reconsider whether Virginia Tech officials, and therefore the state, were negligent in handling the April 16, 2007, campus shootings, according to an attorney in the case.
The ruling ends the case in the state court system.
Plaintiff’s attorney Bob Hall issued a statement on behalf of the families of slain students Julia Pryde and Erin Peterson, which read in part: “This case should not have ended this way.”

On Halloween, seven of the court’s justices overturned a combined $8 million jury award for the plaintiffs that was handed down by a Montgomery County Circuit Court jury in 2012. The plaintiffs then filed a petition asking the high court to reconsider its ruling.

On Tuesday, the court denied the request in an order, Hall wrote in an email. The order had not yet been entered on the Supreme Court’s website Tuesday.

The high court’s ruling was a disappointment to the families, following the 2012 victory that they said vindicated their fight on behalf of their daughters.

In March of that year, the circuit court jury ruled that Tech officials were negligent for failing to warn the campus of a shooter on the loose after a fatal early morning shooting in a West Ambler Johnston dormitory room on April 16. Less than three hours later, the same shooter chained shut the doors of Norris Hall and opened fire in second floor classrooms.

An email sent minutes before shots were fired in Norris notified the campus of a “shooting incident,” but assured recipients that police perceived no ongoing threat.

In all, 33 people — including shooter Seung-Hui Cho and Peterson and Pryde — died. More than a dozen other people were injured. The tragedy remains the highest-casualty school shooting in U.S. history.

The multi-million dollar jury award was reduced last year by the lower court to a combined $200,000 under a Virginia law that caps damages against the state. Still, the Peterson and Pryde families said at the time that the jury’s finding of negligence was most important to them.

But the state appealed, asking the state Supreme Court to overturn the jury’s verdict. The appeal alleged that the presiding judge in the case made a handful of erroneous rulings during the trial.

The Supreme Court sided with the defense, saying that Tech officials had no duty under Virginia law to warn Peterson and Pryde of potential third-party criminal acts.

Furthermore, even if a duty to warn had existed, the plaintiffs did not present sufficient evidence to prove their case, the court ruled.

Hall wrote Tuesday that in overturning the verdict, the high court disregarded “well-established principles of appellate review” that entitled the plaintiffs to “have the evidence, and all inferences that might be reasonably drawn from it, viewed in the light most favorable to them.”

“Instead the Court viewed the evidence in the light most favorable to the losing party at trial, made no mention of or citation to significant Plaintiff’s evidence which was contrary to the view the Court took, and ultimately decided the case on the basis that ‘available information after the first shootings indicated the shooter had fled the scene and posed no danger to the campus,’ ” Hall wrote.
“But, there was no such information. That was a fiction floated by the university to deflect attention away from its failure to warn the campus. It had no factual support, but that didn’t keep the Court from making it a center piece of its decision to set aside the verdicts,” Hall wrote.

Tech spokesman Larry Hincker reiterated Tuesday that university officials are pleased with the high court’s rulings.

In a prepared statement released in November, Hincker added that the court’s “actions can never reverse the loss of lives nor the pain experienced by so many families and friends of victims of one person. In the end, the cause of these heinous acts and continuing heartbreak was a troubled and angry young man with easy access to powerful killing weapons.”

Tuesday, January 21, 2014


I am printing the following, poignant commentary from Deadline Hollywood, with the permission of its author, Anita Busch. Ms. Busch is a former New York Times and Los Angeles Times reporter and currently works as a editor for Deadline Hollywood.

By ANITA BUSCH | Monday January 20, 2014 @ 10:10am PST

COMMENTARY: The Weinstein Company’s co-chairman Harvey Weinstein made some bold statements Friday on CNN to Piers Morgan about backing away from violent content.  He spoke about his own children and how he no longer wanted to feel like a hypocrite. “The change starts here,” the man who produced Quentin Tarantino’s violent Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and D’jango Unchained told Morgan. “It has already. For me, I can’t do it. I can’t make one movie and say this is what I want for my kids and then just go out and be a hypocrite.” He added that he would still make a movie like Lone Survivor, which is a violent but accurate portrayal of our American military and their dedication to serving this country. “I’m not going to make some crazy action movie just to blow up people and exploit people just for the sake of making it,” he said. “I can’t do it.” Weinstein’s statements came only days after a fatal shooting of the father of a 3-year old in a Florida theater during a screening of Lone Survivor who was killed while texting his little girl by a supposed “good guy with a gun,” a 71 year-old former police captain.

“The insensitivity that the average person has now because of violence is because people have become so used to it. It’s an obsession as well as almost an addiction. It’s a cheap way of getting an audience, more people shot and more explosions, but it’s at the expense of the story,” said one entertainment marketer with 35 years of experience. “Abject violence has proven successful, and as long as it is, it will be produced because it’s profitable. It’s the accepted way of life rather than asking is this the right thing to do?”
The question is, of course, how Harvey is going to reconcile being in business with Tarantino. The filmmaker has made a lot of money for the company with violent fare. And therein lies the conundrum that all studio heads and TV executives face. I’ve interviewed several executives over the past few weeks and many have said privately that they think the gun violence — especially in video games — has gotten out of control. However, they also say they have an obligation to their shareholders to make a profit and violence sells. There will always be violence in movies, just as there is violence in the Bible and in the plays of William Shakespeare. But, Weinstein is trying to tip the scales; to shift Hollywood from glorifying violence in films, to showing the true human cost and destructiveness of it.
The Weinstein Company did just that when it released Fruitvale Station last year. The film does contain gun violence, but it’s told from the point of view of the victim of gun violence. And that, in itself, is unusual and powerful. When Weinstein said, “The change starts here. It has already for me,” I thought of Fruitvale. Produced by Forest Whitaker and directed by newcomer Ryan Coogler, you come to care about this boy, see him with his little girl, understand him as a father and a son before he is murdered. It was passed over by the Academy this past week for Oscar noms, but it shouldn’t have been. It did win the Producers Guild’s Stanley Kramer Award. Stanley Kramer, of course, was the patron saint of bringing social issues to the foreground with films such as Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner.
Fruitvale was the first film I saw in a theater (a large screening room) after the Aurora, CO shooting where my cousin’s daughter was among many murdered by a gunman at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises on July 20, 2012. During the emergency room scene, I couldn’t bear it. I closed my eyes and sobbed. The film depicts the true face of violence — a very realistic depiction of how gun violence destroys a family. It was made for under $1M and brought in $16.7M at the box office is and still bringing in money in its ancillary markets.
There are other films with a similar theme (and budget) to Fruitvale Station looking for financing now. Building Bridges (roughly a $1M budget) tells the true story of Ron Moore, the father of the 14-year-old boy in the Seattle area who killed Moore’s wife and daughter before shooting himself in the head. Moore’s son had been picked on, relentlessly bullied and was emotionally destroyed when his best friend and protector was killed … in a school shooting, no less. The powerful presentation trailer begins with the words: “The moments that change our lives … are the ones we never see coming.” Screenwriter-actor Cullen Douglas stars with Katie Strickland (Private Practice), Elizabeth Perkins,  and others from the hit ABC show Scandal – Guillermo Diaz, Jeff Perry (who is also producing) and Tom Verica who is directing. When I was first alerted to the presentation video, I thought it was a documentary because Douglas’ acting was so realistic. I thought this has to be the actual father whose family was destroyed.

People point to many reasons as to why such violence exists in our society – poor parenting, guns being bought without sufficient background checks, a lack of enforcement of existing gun laws, the media making the shooters into mini-celebs, a lack of efficiency of the country’s mental health system, and the entertainment industry – gun violence in film and TV and video games.
It’s controversial and people disagree vehemently. But what everyone can agree on is that, sadly, Ameria has changed. Since Newtown, we’ve had 32 more school shootings, including at Santa Monica College; school lockdowns across this country are now commonplace; a man even opened fire at LAX, causing some of Hollywood’s own to scramble for cover. (Actress Tatum O’Neal, for instance, saw the shooter and hid in a storage room).
Most of these big-budget Hollywood pictures are full of explosions and shoot-em-ups. One former studio head remembers how he passed on Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. “I didn’t think it was funny to have someone’s head blown off in a car and then picking up pieces of someone’s brain. But when it came out in the theaters, people laughed.
And I think that is an indication of what is happening in our society.” Indeed, Tarantino’s 1994 landmark film was a big box office hit. In the late 1990s, some executives from the DEA came out from D.C. and met with various studio and TV executives around town. They met with journalists, too. I was one of them. Their mission was to end the glorification of drugs and cigarettes in entertainment content. And in large part, it succeeded. Studios lined up and even some directors did. In fact, the filmmakers wouldn’t put smoking in Pearl Harbor, an era where smoking was prevalent. However, one studio chairman said, “taking out smoking isn’t going to hurt the profitability of a film. It’s a different case with violence because it is action.”
Said another studio chairman, “The refrain I hear around town is wait a minute, the content of movies is one thing, but these play all over the world and there’s not the kind of violence that there is here and they bounce the conversation over to video games.”
The evolution of video games from such innocuous beginnings as Pong, Asteroids, and Pac-Man have morphed into detailed 3D scenes where the player becomes part of the game and the winner is measured by killing the most people. Blood squirts out of bodies in real time. Today, the families of the Sandy Hook victims and other gun violence victims are trying to get three websites to take down a video game where the player can go into the Sandy Hook School and start shooting. It even uses the real-life layout of the school. Video games are training grounds. Literally. In many of these shooters’ homes, law enforcement find that these young men have been practicing shooting on video games. Even the military uses video games to train their soldiers.
Many parents and mental health professional believe that children are learning the wrong conflict resolution skills from video games. In many cases, the message these games present to children is that if you perceive something as negative, you just kill it. The video gaming industry, however, counters that a lot of children play violent video games and don’t go out and kill others. This is little comfort to the parents of children who were killed by violent video game-obsessed school shooters. As one parent of a murdered child told me, “My child played with a violent game and it didn’t affect him. However, another child playing the same game did affect my son. That kid took my son’s life.”
A month after the Sandy Hook massacre, President Barack Obama asked Congress to fund a study of the impact of violent video games on young minds. “I will direct the Centers for Disease Control to go ahead and study the best ways to reduce it,” he said. “We don’t benefit from ignorance. We don’t benefit from not knowing the science of this epidemic of violence.” Immediately afterwards, the Entertainment Software Association (the video game arm of the entertainment industry), announced that they would welcome a “national dialogue” about this. I called a source at the ESA just a short time ago and asked whatever happened with that call to action? “Nothing,” he said. “Nothing at all.”
When President Obama came to Hollywood in November of last year, he met privately with the heads of the studios and the TV networks — but according to one of the studio heads who met with him, there was no talk about violent content. When he spoke later at Jeffrey Katzenberg’s DreamWorks Animation, Obama said publicly that Hollywood had a “remarkable legacy,” but also a “big responsibility.” Urging the entertainment industry to “think long and hard” about gun violence messages in movies, the president told an audience at DreamWorks: “We gotta make sure that we’re not glorifying it.” He also said that violence in video games needs to be addressed – which is about the only thing that leaders of the National Rifle Association agree with Obama on.
I spoke to a source at the MPAA ratings and classifications board and learned that after Newtown, the ratings board became more aware of the “rat-a-tat-tat” in movies, but that that awareness subsided as the news stories faded. Faded, perhaps, but not forgotten. Not long ago, Steven Spielberg went to D.C. to talk to the MPAA about the possibility of establishing a PG-15 rating. If adopted, it would scrap the existing PG-13 rating and replace it with one in which parents are “strongly cautioned” that “some material may be inappropriate for children under 15.”  According to one MPAA executive, the question is: “Should there be a PG-15 rating? Are we ready for that now?” Apparently, the nation’s theater owners aren’t. “They don’t want to confuse the public and don’t want to become police officers,” said one executive. “But a 15-year-old today is different than the 15-year-old from the 1970s.”
Then again, so are the movies, which are much more violent today. A recent study of popular movies between 1950 and 2012 found that the level of gun violence has doubled and that gun-related violence in PG-13 movies exceeds that of the most successful R-rated movies. The MPAA rating is but one aspect. The ratings and classifications board has traditionally been light on violence and harder on sex. We’ve come a long way from The Wild Bunch, director Sam Peckinpah’s seminal Western that shocked audiences because of the graphic violence of blood splatter in slow motion after a character was shot. “When I saw The Wild Bunch, I was repulsed by it,” said a former studio chairman. “Sam Peckinpah’s idea was ‘I’m not going to glamorize it. I’m going to show the true side of it.’ That was his intent.
I didn’t think at the time that it was art. I thought it was pretty sick and bothered by it. But society has changed.”
After the Aurora theater shooting where 12 people were killed (including my cousin’s beautiful 23 year-old daughter) and 70 others shot (some kids with brain injuries and permanent paralysis as these were AK-15 bullets that tumbled and turned designed for maximum destruction to the human body), Weinstein said, “Hollywood can’t shirk their responsibility” and said that maybe it was time that some of the top filmmakers that made violent films sit down for a discussion. That never happened. Now, once again, he has single-handedly brought the issue back to the fore.  Last week, I was surprised when Weinstein told Deadline that he was producing The Senator’s Wife with Meryl Streep, a movie that will be no-holds-barred on the NRA and its behind-the-scenes machinations in defeating legislation that would have expanded background checks on all gun sales. That was only one day before he went on CNN to say, “the change starts here.”
I know people were shaken after the Aurora shooting, but none more than those of us who experienced it personally. I have never written about this before or talked about the details, but it’s time now. We searched desperately for Micayla for 19 1/2 agonizing hours, only to find out that she was lying dead on a cold theater floor the entire time after being shot in the chest. You wonder if she suffered, how much she suffered, how long she suffered. Her father wonders if she cried out for him. He is haunted by the fact that there was no one there to hold her hand as she struggled to breathe and then passed away. Micayla was a very sweet girl. An exceptionally kind person. She loved Hello Kitty. She was accepting of – and friends with – all races. Three weeks after Micayla was murdered, my cousin and his wife escaped to my house in L.A. for a much-needed change of environment. One night, as we all slept, I was awakened with a jolt. His wife was screaming. I jumped out of bed to see if she was okay only to find that she was completely asleep and shouting, “God help us! God help us!” This is the face of violence that you don’t see after the news media closes shop and moves onto the next grim story.
One of the bravest boys you will ever hear about – who was every bit as courageous as the men depicted in Lone Survivor — was 24 year-old Alex Teves, who died a hero in the Aurora theater. This was a kid who loved superheroes like Spiderman, went to ComicCon, loved movies, grew up on The Lion King, and took care of his little brothers and other kids with disabilities. On that terrible night in the Aurora theater, when Alex saw the deranged gunman coming up the aisle, he covered his girlfriend’s body with his own, whispering words of comfort to her until a bullet hit him in the head. His parents, Tom and Caren Teves, now fight to keep the names of mass shooters out of the media’s coverage so they don’t get the notoriety they so desperately crave.  Caren lost her business and struggles with Parkinson’s disease (which is made worse by stress) and she now tries to help other disadvantaged kids through the Alexander C. Teves Foundation. Seven of the 12 people killed that night were in their 20s. One of the victims, little Veronica Moser-Sullivan, was only six years old, when she was shot in the back as she ran with a brave 13 year-old up the aisle. (Her mother, Ashley, was shot in the neck and abdomen, she was pregnant with her second child and miscarried; she is now paralyzed from the waist down) Veronica’s father is devastated.
The oldest among them, 51-year-old Gordon Cowden, was murdered in front of his children and their mother who must take care of them on one salary, one of which can’t sleep with the lights off anymore. Rebecca Ann Wingo, 32, was a mother of two young girls. She had previously served in the military and was helping foster children. Robert Wingo, a wonderful father, is now on his own with one salary raising his girls. Jonathan Blunk, 26, was a Navyman and Dad to two little ones. That salary for his kids is also gone. John Larimer, 27, was an honorable kid an active duty member of the United States Navy and Jesse Childress, in the Air Force reserves, 29, all died heroes as did Matt McQuinn, 27 who was shot 9 times. Jessica Ghawi, who helped others when the fires broke out in Colorado, was 24. Alex Sullivan, celebrating his birthday that night, was 27. And sweet A.J. Boik who made everyone laugh and whose mother and uncle (a police officer) are among the finest people I’ve ever meet, was only 18. These aren’t just names to us. These are our family members. For some of us, who lost an entire generation of our families that day, there will be no grandchildren.
There will be no one to take care of us when we get old. When this happens to you, once the shock wears off, you realize that your life is nothing you recognize anymore. Your belief system changes. You can no longer watch the same films or TV shows you once loved because they contain so much senseless gun violence – violence that once you never thought about, but which now is abhorrent and disgusting. You question God. You can no longer function and lose your ability to work. You lose your financial security. Your health fails. You fall into despair. Behind the scenes, the Aurora families shoulder the pain for each other. And the pain is severe; unending. Those of us who are able to function do whatever we can because we don’t want another soul to experience the same grief and horror. And then when you speak up after all of this to try to help others, the families get verbal abuse and death threats and stalked by psychos. One grieving mother had to use rubber gloves to open her mail lest she become an anthrax victim. FBI agents have to intervene as so-called “charities” move in to rip off the families behind the scenes (hence we all joined together to establish the victim-based National Compassion Fund via the National Centers for Victims of Crime in D.C). For the siblings amongst us, we lose our best friends, and for grandparents, our lineage. Those who were injured whose families I also came to know will never be the same again. And not one of us thought we’d ever be put in this position. And we all know now that if it happened to our families, it could happen to yours.
After Newtown, where 20 children and six educators were massacred – including the school principal Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung who was shot in the chest and died in the hallway as she bravely confronted the gunman in an effort to save her kids – many celebrities either signed letters or spoke out against gun violence, either through the Brady Campaign or through Mayors Against Illegal Guns. It was a who’s who in entertainment. There were industry executives like Jeffrey Katzenberg and former Fox chair Peter Chernin, talent agents like CAA’s Richard Lovett, actors like Jamie Foxx, Will Ferrell, Peter Dinklage, John Hamm, Jeremy Renner and Mark Ruffalo (whose brother was a victim of gun violence), actresses like Cameron Diaz, Reese Witherspoon, Carey Mulligan, Michelle Williams, Amy Poehler and others like Judd Apatow, former SAG president Melissa Gilbert, Chris Rock, Conan O’Brien and Jim Carrey. The question is now: Who will take the next step and stand openly with Weinstein to start this discussion? Or will he be left standing alone?
This week as we remember Martin Luther King, Jr., a victim of gun violence, I am reminded of something the great civil rights leader once said: “Our lives begin to end the day we remain silent on things that matter.”
Is it time for all of us, no matter what industry we are in, to begin the conversation about what can be done to stem the tide of America’s culture of violence? It’s a national problem; shouldn’t there be a multi-faceted, national resolution? In the wake of the horrors of  Aurora, Oak Creek and Newtown, we must recognize that we all – each and every one of us – have a social responsibility. Isn’t there enough darkness in the world without bringing more into it?
As Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”
As my own father taught me before he died (he received last rites as I held his hand, unbelievably, on the year mark of the Aurora theater shooting), ‘if you don’t stand for something, you stand for nothing.’ My father, who was my Atticus Finch, and I shared the same hero: Martin Luther King, Jr. So, as we celebrate the birth of Dr. King –  most will just see it as another big box office holiday time for the industry — but my family (and I mean my entire family from Columbine, Va Tech, Oak Creek, NIU, Aurora, Newtown and 33 other families that come into the fold every day) will think about this great man of peace whose life was cut short by gun violence. And I am struck by another quote from Dr. King: “By our readiness to allow arms to be purchased at will and fired at whim, by allowing our movie and television screens to teach our children that the hero is one who masters the art of shooting and the technique of killing … we have created an atmosphere in which violence and hatred have become popular pastimes.”
And finally, I must explain something: For the parents of murdered children who have been relentlessly hounded by the media, I allowed them to speak off the record. I couldn’t get any of the power players I spoke with in Hollywood to reveal themselves on the record for this story … and that makes what Harvey Weinstein did in speaking out publicly all the more remarkable.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


I am publishing the following chapter from David Robb’s upcoming book Virginia Tech and the NRA: Putting Guns into the Hands of Children, with the author’s permission. Mr. Robb is a noted journalist and is the author of Operation Hollywood: How the Pentagon Shapes and Censors the Movies, and The Gumshoe and the Shrink: The Secret History of the 1960 Kennedy/Nixon Election.

            Mr. Robb was the chief labor, legal and investigative reporter at Hollywood's trade papers -- Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter -- for 20 years. He has published articles in The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, The Nation, and in numerous other newspapers and magazine.

Virginia Tech and the NRA:
Putting Guns into the Hands of Children

By David Robb

     Virginia Tech, the site of the deadliest school shooting massacre in American history, has designated itself a “gun-free zone,” but that hasn’t stopped the university from putting guns into the hands of thousands of Virginia school children.

     Last year alone, Virginia Tech, in partnership with the National Rifle Association and the state of Virginia’s 4-H program, taught more than 1,000 kids, ages 9-19, how to shoot guns. According to data provided by 4-H, this included 764 children who were trained to shoot .22 caliber rifles; 350 who were taught how to shoot 9mm pistols, and 215 who were shown how to fire shotguns.

    4-H is a federal program of youth development that’s administered by the nation’s 109 land-grant universities under the auspices of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), an agency of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Next year, the National 4-H organization, formed by an act of Congress in 1914, will celebrate its 100th anniversary.

     In Virginia, all 4-H programs – including all 4-H shooting sports activities – are administered by Virginia Tech. Today, there are six 4-H educational centers in Virginia and more some 1,000 4-H clubs – including 38 shooting clubs – serving nearly 200,000 youths. 

     Since the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, the college has helped more than 7,000 children learn how to shoot guns.

          In 2010 – three years after the Virginia Tech massacre – Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell, flanked by NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre, Virginia Tech official John C. Rocovich Jr., and Hokie Bird, the Virginia Tech mascot, took part in a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new $1.3 million indoor shooting sports complex at the W.E. Skelton 4-H Center at Smith Mountain Lake. Rocovich, who serves on the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors, told the audience of 500, which included Virginia Tech president Charles Steger, that the NRA was one of the largest donors to the regional shooting complex.       

    The W.E. Skelton 4-H Center, is named after a former regent of Virginia Tech, and its shooting sports complex is named in honor of Rocovich, a member of Virginia Tech’s governing body, the 14-member Board of Visitors.

     Rocovich, who served as Rector (chairman) of the Board of Visitors from 2002-04, is a longtime member of the NRA and is a member of the NRA’s “Ring of Freedom,” the gun lobby’s premier donor recognition society.

     Speaking at the dedication ceremony, LaPierre said that more people in the U.S. participate in shooting sports than fish, golf or swim. The 4-H center, he said, is a perfect site for the shooting complex, which he said will help teach life skills to young people

    Since its opening three years ago, thousands of school children have been given guns to shoot there.

     Mike Pohle, whose son Mike Jr. was one of the 32 people killed during the Virginia Tech massacre, is shocked that Virginia Tech is arming children, and was appalled at the sight of a high-ranking Virginia Tech official and Hokie Bird standing next to Wayne LaPierre at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for a Virginia Tech-sponsored shooting range.

    “Words are impossible for me to think of that could ever explain the feeling of disgust and hurt that a picture like this creates when I see the that a leader of the same school where my son was brutally murdered acts in such a hypocritical manner and strongly supports an organization that simply wants to encourage young children to become future gun owners,” he said. “I fully expect this behavior from LaPierre and even McDonnell, but for this to be financially supported by Virginia Tech is a travesty. Their actions are simply horrible. How could they?” 

     Virginia Tech provides liability insurance for any 4-H campers who might be accidentally – or intentionally – shot at the shooting range, and in the event of a shooting, the camp’s policy handbook requires that all shooting instructors “will have a two-way radio and first aid kit and will be certified in first aid/CPR.”  The handbook also requires that all accidental shootings and “near-misses” be reported to the Virginia Tech Office of Risk Management.

      Cathy Sutphin, associate director of 4-H in Virginia, said that two or three years ago, a 4-H camper was accidentally shot in the chest at a 4-H shooting sports event in the state. The child was hospitalized, but survived.

     Safety guidelines at a 4-H shooting camp in Tennessee try to prepare their staff and volunteers for the death of a camper on the shooting range.

     “Could it happen? YES!” the Tennessee guidelines state.

     “What would you say when parents come to camp to find out what happened to their dead son or daughter?” the guidelines grimly ask the staff and volunteers. “How would you face them?”

     “Nothing,” the guidelines state, “would ruin a camp and future camps any quicker than serious injury or death at a 4-H camp.”

     Officials at the Airfield 4-H Educational Center in Wakefield, Virginia – which is also overseen by Virginia Tech – have found a legal solution to those troublesome questions.

      At a “4-H/NRA Youth Shooting Camp” held there in 2009, campers and their parents were required to sign a liability release form that read: “We understand that the camp is conducted by volunteers who have the best interest of our child at heart and we hold them blameless for any unforeseen mishaps. Likewise, we hold blameless the Airfield 4-H Education Center, and the National Rifle Association.”

     The NRA, the Fairfax-based gun lobby for more than 5 million gun owners, has played a vital role in funding 4-H shooting sports in Virginia and in all the other 46 states that have 4-H shooting sports programs. Only Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island don’t have gun-shooting activities, and as a result, don’t have to ask the NRA and the firearms industry for money and support.

      On its official website, the NRA even lists the W.E. Skelton 4-H Educational Center as an “NRA Club.” And according to the NRA, the objectives of all NRA Youth Clubs “must be consistent with those of the NRA.”

     The NRA co-sponsors the annual “Virginia 4-H/NRA Shooting Education Camp at Holiday Lake 4-H Center,” and through the NRA Foundation and the Virginia Friends of the NRA, funds dozens of 4-H clubs and educational centers throughout the state.

     On its website, the Freeland 4-H Shooting Club notes that “the NRA is Freeland’s largest financial backer.”

     In 2009 alone, records of the Virginia Friends of the NRA show that it gave $3,700 to the Smith Mountain Lake 4-H Camp; $6,489 to the Holiday Lake 4-H Summer Shooting Camp; $4,923 to the Southeast 4-H Camp; $2,000 to the Virginia 4-H Shooting Education Council; $2,341 to the Virginia 4-H Shotgun Team; $3,285 to the Fauquier Junior 4-H Gun Club; $1,810 to the Virginia 4-H Small-bore Rifle Team, $1,000 to the Goochland 4-H Shooting Education Club, and $20,000 more to eight other 4-H shooting clubs around the state.

     In May of 2006, Virginia Friends of the NRA was honored by the Virginia Cooperative Extension – the agency that connects Virginia’s two land-grant universities, Virginia Tech and the Virginia State University, to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture – for “its ongoing support of the Virginia Cooperative Extension.”

     NRA, Virginia 4-H, and Virginia Cooperative Extension websites are replete with reports of NRA funding, support and co-sponsorship of Virginia 4-H shooting programs. 
     In 2011, Jennifer Bowen, a Virginia Tech employee and Extension Agent for 4-H Youth Development, wrote in a quarterly report that “the Prince Edward 4-H Shooting Education Club received a grant from the NRA for $1,174 to expand from air rifles to .22 rifles.” Earlier this year she wrote: “The Prince Edward 4-H Shooting Education Club received a grant from the NRA Foundation for $1,761.08 to support the shotgun program.”

     In its 2012 annual report, the NRA Foundation, disclosed that it had helped fund the shooting sports programs that year at more than 370 4-H Clubs around the country, including 20 in Virginia.

     The NRA and 4-H share a history dating back to the mid-1970s, when 4-H first started its national shooting program.

     The alliance began in Texas, when Tom Davison, an NRA member and a past Assistant Director of Extension at 4-H, developed a youth shooting program there.

     Hearing about the program, Bill Stevens, an executive at the Federal Cartridge Company – a manufacturer of shotgun shells and bullets – called Wayne Sheets, director of the NRA’s Education and Training Division, and asked him to come to Texas to have a look. Impressed with what he saw, Sheets agreed to help expand Davison’s program. A team of NRA volunteers was organized to take the shooting program state-wide.

     In 1979, using the Texas program as a model, the NRA hosted an organizational meeting to expand the 4-H shooting program nationwide. In attendance were 4-H representatives from Texas, Minnesota, New York, Minnesota, Washington and Maryland. A top USDA official – Kemp Swiney, the USDA’s Program Leader for 4-H and Youth – was also on hand.

     Representing the NRA were Wayne Sheets; Jim Norine, director of the NRA’s Hunter Services, and Joe Nava, an NRA-Certified shooting instructor who’d had the name of his street in Fairbanks, Alaska, officially changed to NRA Lane.

     One of the many organizational recommendations coming out of this initial meeting was “that the program should have a hard-hitting, saleable title – 4-H Shooting Sports” – so that the program could garner the “private sector support” needed to fund it.

     Much of that private funding would end up coming from the NRA, from gun manufacturers, and from the firearms industry’s trade association, the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF), which is based in Newtown, Connecticut, just a few miles from the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre. Like the NRA, the NSSF is stridently opposed to gun control efforts.

     Today, the 4-H shooting sports program is one of the largest youth shooting sports programs in the United States.

    Minutes of annual National 4-H Shootings Sports Committee meetings show that in the early days of the program, NRA officials were frequently in attendance at committee meetings, and that NRA officials even sat as members of the committee, including Sandra Froman, the NRA’s 2nd vice president and future president, and Matt Szramoski, the NRA’s manager of Youth Development.

     Some years later, a non-profit organization was formed to help fund 4-H shooting sports clubs around the country. It was called the National 4-H Shooting Sports Foundation – the same as the gun manufacturing lobby, only with ‘4-H’ added.

     And like its namesake, the board of directors of the 4-H Shooting Sports Foundation was dominated by representatives from the firearms industry, including Sandy Froman, vice president and future president of the NRA; Doug Painter, president of the NSSF; Eric Johanson, vice president of the NRA Foundation; and David Kulivan, the NRA’s program coordinator for Youth Programs, who in 2002 wrote a column that appeared in the second issue of the National 4-H Shooting Sports Newsletter touting the NRA’s support of 4-H shooting programs.

     “The NRA has been the largest single financial contributor to 4-H Shooting Sports,” he wrote, “and we anticipate more productive years of cooperative efforts between our organizations. At both the national and local level, the NRA and 4-H are a winning combination. Through the NRA Foundation, we have provided over $2 million in support of 4-H educational programs and continue to contribute more money to local 4-H groups than any other organization. For the year 2001 alone, 4-H was awarded more than $600,000 in grants through the NRA Foundation.”

     Also serving on the National 4-H Shooting Sports Foundation’s board were G. Patrick McDonald, Beretta USA’s vice president of sales and marketing; Bill Stevens of the Federal Cartridge Company; Margaret Hornady-David, vice president of Hornady Manufacturing, makers of “accurate, deadly and dependable” ammunition, and Rob Coburn, president and CEO of Savage Sports, a firearms manufacturing company.

      In 2005, Coburn, who was the chairman of the Foundation’s board, attended the NRA board of directors meeting in Houston to present them with a “special recognition award” for their support of 4-H shooting programs.

     “The NRA and 4-H have teamed for over 25 years to give youngsters the opportunity to grow in the shooting sports," he said. “Today, more than 300,000 youths and 40,000-plus instructors participate in 4-H shooting sports across the U.S. This amazing success could not have been achieved without the help of the National Rifle Association and The NRA Foundation.”

     Commenting on the award, NRA President Sandra Froman, who was also the immediate past President of the 4-H Shooting Sports Foundation, said, “I’m pleased that the NRA, its Board of Directors and staff have been involved with 4-H shooting sports from the very beginning. They have a lot to be proud of, and NRA is honoured by their recognition."

     The National 4-H Shooting Sports Foundation was dissolved in 2007 by Cathann Kress, 4-H director of Youth Development and 4-H, and the USDA’s liaison to the National 4-H Shootings Sports Foundation.

     Margaret Hornady, the National 4-H Shooting Sports Foundation’s first president, said that it was dissolved, not because it was dominated by representatives of the firearms industry, but after its executive director, John “Johnny K” Kvasnicka, had gotten into a heated dispute with Kress.

     “They quarreled,” she said. “Kress dissolved us among a bunch of sturm and drang (storm and stress). There were some misunderstandings. We were using the 4-H logo without what she considered adequate permission. We were also using National 4-H’s 501c3. That might have been part of the issue.”

     Kress declined comment, as did Lisa Lauxman, her replacement at the USDA.

     After the foundation was dissolved, the National 4-H Council was named to be “the primary facilitator of resource development for 4-H at the national level, including soliciting, maintaining and disbursing funds in support of 4-H programs.”

      Unlike its predecessor, the National 4-H Council is not dominated by representatives of the firearms industry, although it still seeks their support.

     In its 2008 annual report, the Council noted that the NRA and the NSSF – the trade association for America’s gun-makers and distributors – had each donated “up to $24,999”  to 4-H shooting sports that year. The NSSF was listed in the Council’s “Honor Roll” in 2009, 2010, and 2012 for having donated $50,000-$99,999 in each of those years.

     Finding money to fund its shooting sports activities is a top priority for the 4-H shooting program in Virginia. To do that, Virginia Tech is constantly reaching out to the NRA and to the firearms industry for support, and alerting its 4-H clubs of approaching application deadlines for NRA grants.

     Virginia Tech also has faculty and staff who are familiar with cajoling money from the NRA. One such faculty member is Jason Fisher, who has served on the faculty of Virginia Tech since 2002. In that capacity, he serves as an Extension Agent and Unit Coordinator of 4-H Youth Development in Halifax County, a position he has held since 2003. From 2002-03, he was Extension Agent and Acting Unit Coordinator of 4-H Youth Development in Halifax County, and from 1996-2002, he was Associate Extension for 4-H Youth Development in Halifax County.

     During this time, he also served on the state grant allocations committee of the Virginia Friends of the National Rifle Association (2000-2005), and from 1999-2001, served as the chair of the southern region of the Virginia Friends of the NRA.

    By law, 4-H is a non-political federal program of youth development, but many of its leaders share similar views on guns and gun control as NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre.

     After mass killings at Virginia Tech, Columbine and Sandy Hook, LaPierre repeatedly argued that easy access to guns was not the cause of school shootings.

     The National 4-H Shooting Sports Committee agrees.

     In a position statement titled “Kids ‘n’ Guns,” the 4-H committee concluded that “easy access to firearms” is not one of the reasons for “the violent behavior we’ve seen in Columbine and other shooting accidents.”

     “Access is not the issue,” the committee argued. “The safest location for a responsible gun owner to store a firearm is the secure environment of his or her home.”

     In fact, the vast majority of all guns used by children under the age of 16 in accidental or intentional shootings are obtained from the home of a parent, friend or relative.

     The committee also concluded that “America has a peaceful gun culture” – a claim belied by the fact that more than 31,000 Americans were killed and another 73,000 injured by guns in 2010; that firearms were used in more than 11,000 homicides in the U.S. that year; and that on average, 33 Americans are killed every day by firearms, which are the third-leading cause of injury-related deaths, after poisoning and motor vehicle accidents.

     Like LaPierre, the National 4-H Shooting Sports Committee also believes that “hunting is an ideal and common family practice,” and that “a well-placed shot by a skilled marksman is a more humane cause of death than natural causes experienced by wildlife” – a claim that is disputed by many wildlife and conservation groups.

     LaPierre’s claim that the United Nations is “a club of global thugs” bent on “a campaign to establish a permanent system to disarm and subjugate citizens,” is also echoed in the views expressed recently by Sam Lionberger Jr., vice president of facilities at the Skelton 4-H Center, in an August 28, 2013, letter he wrote to the Franklin News-Post.

    After the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty, Lionberger wrote: “The bill had been pushed hard by the Obama Administration and would have effectively placed a global ban on the import and export of small firearms. It also contained language that would have implemented an international gun registry on all privately owned guns and ammunition.

    The NRA led the effort to defeat this treaty; however, our two Virginia Senators, (Mark) Warner and (Tom) Kaine, voted in favor of the bill – and against our 4th Amendment rights granted in our Constitution. Something to remember the next time they are up for re-election.”

     In 2011, LaPierre wrote that “over the past three years, the Obama administration and its anti-gun allies have been engaged in a silent but sophisticated long-term conspiracy to... prosecute a full-scale, sustained, all-out campaign to excise the Second Amendment from our Bill of Rights.”

      If true, this would violate the President’s oath to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States – a treasonable offense.

      Former President George H.W. Bush, on the other hand, was so outraged by comments that LaPierre made in 1995 – about federal law enforcement agents being “jackbooted thugs...wearing Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms – that he resigned his membership in the NRA in protest.

     But still the USDA and its boss, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, continued to allow 4-H to accept money and support from the NRA. And Virginia Tech and the Virginia 4-H program kept receiving it.

     “Since its beginnings in 1993, the Friends of the NRA program has given $400,000 in support of Virginia 4-H Shooting Education programs,” stated an article in the fall 2006 issue of Connections, a publication of Virginia Tech’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

     Over the years, LaPierre has outraged many parents of the victims of mass school shootings with his incendiary opposition to common sense gun control measures like universal background checks and limits on the number of bullets in semi-automatic pistol and rifle magazines. His response is always the same: “We should put armed security in every school.”

      And when his calls for more guns at schools are met with resistance from teachers and school administrators across the country, he blames them for putting children’s lives at risk from future shooters.

    “Of all the places where good people are denied the right to protect themselves against bad people,” he said, “probably the most tragic results have come at the hands of the academic ruling class at our schools and colleges.”

     Despite this, Virginia 4-H and Virginia Tech continued to accept the NRA’s funding and support.

     Eleven days after the 1999 Columbine shootings in Colorado, LaPierre took to the stage at an NRA convention a few miles away in Denver and declared, to the outrage of many of the family members of the murder victims, that more guns was the answer to gun violence.

    “A lawful, properly-permitted citizen who chooses to carry a concealed firearm not only deserves that right, but is a deterrent to crime,” he said.

     In 2012, three days after a gunman, armed with a semi-automatic assault rifle with a 100-round magazine, a shotgun, and two semiautomatic pistols, killed 12 and wounded 70 others at a theater in Aurora, Colorado, LaPierre sent out a fundraising letter saying that President Obama’s re-election would result in the “confiscation of our firearms” and potentially lead to a “ban on semi-automatic weapons.”

     That same year, after the mass killing at Sandy Hook Elementary School that took the lives of 20 first-graders and six adults, LaPierre blamed “a callous, corrupt and corrupting shadow industry that sells and sows violence against its own people.” He wasn’t talking about the NRA and the gun industry – he was talking about the video game industry.

     He blamed Hollywood for “bringing an ever-more-toxic mix of reckless behavior and criminal cruelty into our homes.”

     And he blamed politicians who “pass laws for gun-free school zones. They issue press releases bragging about them. They post signs advertising them. And in so doing, they tell every insane killer in America that schools are their safest place to inflict maximum mayhem with minimum risk.”

     Hundreds of millions of guns and gun owners who allow their children easy access to firearms were not the problem; the answer, he said, was more guns. “I call on Congress today to act immediately,” he said, “to appropriate whatever is necessary to put armed police officers in every school.”

     Perhaps stationing armed police at every school in the country would reduce the number of school shootings and lower the body-counts. But there is no shortage of other soft targets for deranged gunmen to choose from. There are movie theaters (gunman kills 12, wounds 70 in Aurora theater); houses of worship (gunman kills six at Sikh temple in Wisconsin; gunman kills seven, wounds four at the Living Church of God in Wisconsin); diners (gunman kills 23, wounds 27 at Luby’s Cafeteria in Texas); fast-food restaurants (gunman kills 21, wounds 19 at a McDonald’s in San Ysidro, Ca.); hair and nail salons (gunman kills eight at beauty parlor in Seal Beach, Ca.); rest homes (gunman kills eight at nursing home in North Carolina); motels (gunman kills nine at a Howard Johnson motel in New Orleans); law offices (gunman kills eight at San Francisco  law firm), department stores (gunman kills eight shoppers at Westroads Mall in Omaha), and post offices (gunman kills 14 at post office in Oklahoma; gunman kills four at post office in Michigan).

     There have been mass shootings in offices, factories, warehouses, hospitals and bars. There have been mass shootings in barber shops, pawn shops, gas stations, convenience stores and spas. There have been mass shootings in playgrounds, night clubs, parking lots, toy stores and zoos. There have been mass shootings in hospitals, funeral parlors, pool rooms, bowling alleys, casinos and gyms. There have been mass shootings at rock concerts, county fairs, rifle ranges, bus stops, and parades.

     To protect them all with armed police and security guards would create the type of “jack-booted” police state that LaPierre professes to hate.

     For LaPierre, gun control is not the answer, nor is limiting the magazine-size of semiautomatic rifles and pistols.

   In 2011, after a gunman armed with a 9mm semi-automatic pistol killed six and gravely wounded Rep. Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Arizona, LaPierre said: “When they tell you that a government ban on certain firearms or magazines will somehow make you safer, don’t buy it, not for one second.”

     He said the same thing after the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting, in which a gunman brought two semi-automatic pistols and a backpack full of 10- and 15-round magazines and nearly 400 rounds of ammunition to the school campus that day.

     “Whether (the shooter) carried five 10s (10-round magazines] or 10 fives, does it really make a difference? Anybody who thinks that’s the issue is kidding themselves.”

     And through it all, Virginia Tech and the 4-H program it administers has continued its association with the NRA.

   Amy McCune, NIFA’s National Program Leader in the Division of Youth and 4-H, sees nothing wrong with the 4-H program’s long association with the NRA.

     “I did not find any reference to 4-H on the NRA website that would indicate any formal relationship between the two organizations or any indication that either organization was endorsing the other,” she said.

     In fact, a Texas 4-H club’s website urged its members to “please join the NRA,” echoing Wayne LaPierre’s plea: “Join the NRA, America!”

     The NRA has also used the 4-H name and emblem to show an affiliation of the two groups.  
     On one Friends of the NRA website, for instance, the 4-H name and emblem appear directly under the Missouri Friends of the NRA name and emblem.
      The 4-H name and emblem – a green four-leaf clover – are protected under federal statute Title 18, U.S. Code 707, which affords the 4-H name and emblem the same protection as the Seal of the President of the United States.

     McCune also found nothing wrong with the NRA website listing over 100 4-H organizations – including four in Virginia – as NRA Clubs, even though stewardship of the 4-H name and emblem is given, by law, to her boss – the Secretary of Agriculture.

     “The 4-H name and emblem is known and recognized the world over,” NIFA states on its website. “The popularity and reputation of the 4-H name and emblem makes it a desirable target for exploitation by commercial vendors, web sites, organizations, etc.”

     NIFA’s list of entities that have received approval from USDA to use the 4-H name and emblem includes nearly 100 companies and organizations. The National Rifle Association, which is listed on 4-H and Virginia Tech websites as a co-sponsor of numerous 4-H shooting activities, is not one of them.