No matter your age, your background, your ethnicity, or your religious affiliation, there is one thing that we can all agree on: nothing is more important than protecting what you love.
Where we are divided is HOW we protect those things that are most precious to us.
People who ascribe to the anti-gun rhetoric and agenda, and who belong to groups such as Moms Demand Action (MDA), Everytown for Gun Safety, and Giffords Courage to Fight Gun Violence, all proclaim that saving lives is at the core of their mission. We all can applaud and agree on that. Life is precious. And each of us can name at least one life we want to protect.
But protecting what we love sometimes requires that good people stand against predators and murderers with the very tools that MDA, Everytown, and Giffords vilify: guns. People who understand that reality dedicate their own time, money, and energy to training themselves and others to be safe and responsible gun owners. This training and education is truly what will protect those you love.
People who value life and liberty belong to groups like The DC Project: Women dedicated to safeguarding our right to keep and bear arms. Members of the DC Project are the counter-voice to the groups that are solely focused on guns and laws. The DC Project focuses on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness by emphasizing education, not legislation, as the key to keeping our communities and our children safe.
KidSafe Foundation is another organization that loves kids enough to empower them to be safe around guns. KidsSafe has trademarked the phrase “ZERO firearm accidents are the only acceptable goal!!®” and teaches age-appropriate safety training to children to ensure kids know to “Stop, don’t touch, run away and tell an adult!” if they find a gun, or if a friend is playing with a firearm.
Reducing suicide is the goal of Walk The Talk America (WTTA). By building a bridge between mental health professionals and responsible firearms owners in order to reduce suicide and increase the availability of trusted mental health care, WTTA is “paving the way by educating mental health professionals about gun culture and breaking negative stigmas around mental health for gun owners.”
Another solution-focused organization is Hold My Guns (HMG). HMG helps to reduce firearm-related deaths by partnering with local gun stores and ranges to offer safe and voluntary storage of firearms to people and families who want to temporarily remove guns from their homes. As stated on HMG’s website, “While many organizations use ‘gun safety’ as a cover to take away your rights, our focus is to never compromise rights for the sake of ‘safety.’”
The anti-gun groups think that laws will make us safer. Each one of these groups condemns something they call “gun violence” and believes that laws will stop this kind of violence. One can only assume that the people in charge of these organizations are aware that guns, all by themselves, cannot cause violence. Surely, the people in charge of these organizations know that it is people who cause violence. Some use guns, others use knives, and still others harm their fellow humans with cars, bombs, and even clubs and hammers.
Perhaps it’s not as catchy to say that their organizations condemn people who harm other innocent people; sometimes by using guns.
Inherent in the brand names of these groups is the valuation of children, towns, safety, and courage. However, when we take a look at their methods of protecting these things they purport to hold dear, they have but one tool in their toolbox: laws. Laws they naively expect law-breakers to follow. These anti-gun groups believe that laws, more laws, and some as-yet not enacted magical laws will make humans who do not value and respect human life somehow value and respect words on a legal document stating that assault and murder are bad. Extra bad, apparently, if the murderer uses a gun.
Every one of the organizations mentioned is undoubtedly sincere in its mission to save lives and make our communities safer. However, laws piled on top of more laws are not making the difference we all seek. Teaching and training children from their youngest ages to respect firearms and how to be safe around them is as common sense as teaching them to be safe around kitchen knives. Helping people get effective mental health care, free from stigma and judgment, and allowing safe and voluntary storage of firearms for families going through difficult times and emotional turmoil or drug addiction offers real-world solutions for individuals where and when they need it most. And emphasizing education over legislation is how we all truly can protect what we love.
Cheryl Todd has an extensive history of being a Second Amendment Advocate. Along with being a Visiting Fellow for the Independent Women’s Forum, she is the owner of AZFirearms Auctions, Executive Producer & Co-Host of Gun Freedom Radio, the founder of the grassroots movement Polka Dots Are My Camo, and the AZ State Director for the DC Project.
The Arizona Department of Health Services (ADHS) will give $25 gift cards to attendees of an LGBTQ+ “health equity” event on Tuesday.
Attendance was limited to 30 people, or $750 in gift cards. Attendees were required to be at least 18 years old, living in Pima County, and identifying as an LGBTQ+ community member.
ADHS partnered with the Southern Arizona AIDS Foundation (SAAF) to host the event. SAAF confirmed with AZ Free News that there would be about 12 participants. Also helping facilitate the event was Lenartz Consulting — a company owned by Tracy Lenartz, a health planning consultant for ADHS. Recordings from these in-person listening sessions are anonymized and transferred to ADHS for review before being destroyed.
According to ADHS, referencing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “health equity” is defined as the fair and just opportunity for all to achieve the highest level of health. Equity is also at the center of the CDC’s 10 Essential Public Health Services framework, unchanged for 25 years until September 2020 — less than four months after the death of George Floyd, which spurred months of Black Lives Matter (BLM) riots and social justice campaigns across state and local governments.
“To achieve equity, the Essential Public Health Services actively promote policies, systems, and overall community conditions that enable optimal health for all and seek to remove systemic and structural barriers that have resulted in health inequities,” stated the CDC. “Such barriers include poverty, racism, gender discrimination, ableism, and other forms of oppression. Everyone should have a fair and just opportunity to achieve optimal health and well-being.”
ADHS adopted an “equity focus” as one of its core values, and added “advancing health equity” to their strategic map issued last year.
The map noted that “equity focused” meant that ADHS valued and respected diverse life differences. In order to understand its equity focus, ADHS suggested resources for the community such as training modules on social determinants of health and how health inequity is rooted in “powerlessness.”
The ADHS definition of social determinants of health suggests that personal behaviors and clinical care are only a minor part of what determines one’s health. The other, greater factors would be social, economic, and environmental conditions: policies, programs, systems, communities such as transportation options, segregation, housing, discrimination, crime, and poor quality of education.
The concept of powerlessness referenced by ADHS comes from institutions like the World Health Organization (WHO), which theorizes that a lack of social and institutional power inequities results in poorer health in the poor, minorities, and women. The WHO suggested that political interventions must be implemented in order to reverse negative health trends: legal reform, or changes in economic or social relationships.
ADHS also participates in an annual Arizona Health Equity Conference which tackles these issues. This year, they will be joined by Arizona State University (ASU) Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, Arizona Alliance For Community Health Centers, A.T. Still University, Dignity Health, Esperanca, Equality Health, FSL, Honor Health, Mayo Clinic, Mercy Care, and the University of Arizona (UArizona) Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.
Who does not agree with a statement like this? It certainly tugs at the heartstrings, but what we often don’t hear is how many lives are lost or compromised due to what was deemed as a solution.
Last year the Teen Mental Health House Ad Hoc Committee was formed at the Arizona Legislature with this stated purpose:
The Ad Hoc Committee on Teen Mental Health, which will consist of members of the House of Representatives and of the community, is intended to research and review information regarding how substance abuse, depression and mental illness, bullying and social media, and other factors may affect mental health in youth and potential teen suicide. The committee shall work to identify potential solutions and make recommendations to public and private agencies with the goal of addressing teen mental health issues and improving access to mental health care.
Most of the time when governments choose committee members, it is so a pre-determined goal will be achieved. What the public sector continually lacks is the diligence to take a deep dive into issues and critically think about ramifications. Officeholders prefer politically expedient solutions, while education contractors benefit financially via lobbyists who peddle their wares.
The issues surrounding Arizona HB2635 are real and scary, whether one supports the bill or not. Representative Travis Grantham (R-LD14) was the Vice Chair of the Teen Mental Health Committee, and the personal stories he heard clearly moved him. He sponsored HB2635 which would allow local governing boards to provide a mental health app for teens to have on their phones simply for access to a suicide prevention line.
But high schools and colleges are already required by Arizona law to print a suicide hotline number on student IDs. While an app for quick access to a suicide hotline sounds lifesaving, there are long-term risks involved for a product like this that lacks proven results. According to a study conducted by Internet Safety Labs and published December 13, 2022, even apps customized for school districts are less safe compared to generic apps—as 96% of the apps recommended by school districts share personal information with third parties.
We know our phones are tracking and listening to us. Apps can be developed to pick up on keywords which may relate to a stressful situation or even just an argument a teen has with his or her parents. Apps are also programmed to pick up certain emojis. Schools could then be notified and intervene based on a narrative which has nothing to do with suicide. Meanwhile, the information the app gathered never goes away. Mental health information gleaned from an app may be a problem later in life when the child is applying for jobs or certain academic programs.
In addition, according to study by Internet Safety Labs, 61% of custom apps send information to Google, while 81% access location information. These apps synchronize with the student’s Chromebooks and other devices. This is especially unnerving in Arizona, which is a leading state for sex trafficking. On top of that, several Arizona school districts recognize that social media is contributing to youth mental health problems, and one is even suing Facebook, YouTube, and TikTok. Why would our legislature support an app which leads students to these platforms?
Representative Grantham has been looking at a similar mental health app used in Utah. The idea started as a pilot program, collected data, and through the data it was deemed necessary to expand the program. Now that the data is documented, the proponents call it “evidence-based.”
Due to pushback, Representative Grantham proposed adding an amendment to provide “guardrails” for the mental health app. Will guardrails tell us who is on the other end of a suicide hotline? Like former Superintendent Kathy Hoffman’s QChat, parents are circumvented while minors are talking with strangers their parents know nothing about.
One of the mental health apps used in Utah is Bark, which has an LGBTQIA+ page. Bark also links students to the Trevor Project, which steers children to gender ideology. At the same time, the child’s data is recorded forever. That is concerning, especially since Bark advertises the CDC as one of its partners. Exactly what is the government doing with the information collected while the minor is tracked?
Children are suffering from a lack of personal interactions with parents, teachers, and friends. Sending them to an app—especially sinister ones like this—only exacerbates the problem. The Arizona Legislature should vote no on HB2635. Gathering data on children is an outright assault on them.
Peggy McClain is a concerned citizen who advocates for accountability in Arizona’s schools. You can follower her on Twitter here.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded $7.3 million to the University of Arizona (UArizona) for a study on “long COVID.” Aiding this research will be the Arizona Department of Health Services and UArizona’s CoVHORT system: a data collection effort launched early in the pandemic that contains over 8,500 participants.
UArizona is one of multiple research facilities throughout the nation examining post-COVID-19 conditions. Temple University, the University of Indiana, and Comagine Health will also conduct studies. UArizona researchers will estimate post-COVID-19 complications based on health care record data, and track the conditions of at least 1,000 individuals over the next two years.
In addition to regular scientific researchers, UArizona included the interim assistant dean of diversity, equity, and inclusion in the multimillion-dollar study: Velia Leybas Nuno.
The remainder of the research team includes Sydney Pettygrove, associate research professor; Leslie Farland, assistant professor and BIO5 Institute member; Felina Cordova-Marks, assistant professor; Kacey Ernst, professor and program director of epidemiology; Elizabeth Jacobs, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics; Pamela Garcia-Filion, College of Medicine-Phoenix associate research professor; Vignesh Subbian, College of Engineering assistant professor and Center for Biomedical Informatics and Biostatistics associate director; and Vern Pilling, Center for Biomedical Informatics and Biostatistics director.
UArizona’s research arises from the Biden administration’s April announcement that it was accelerating research efforts to understand long COVID.
The CDC defines “long COVID,” also called “post-COVID conditions” (PCC), as a vague and varying array of symptoms that could last indefinitely and impact anyone who’s had any degree of COVID-19 infection — in some cases, even those who never tested positive for COVID.
Symptoms include, but aren’t limited to: fatigue, brain fog, labored breathing, headaches, dizziness, heart palpitations, chest pain, cough, joint or muscle pain, depression, anxiety, fever, sleep problems, pins-and-needles, diarrhea, stomach pain, rash, change in menstrual cycles, and change or loss of taste or smell. These symptoms may lead to damage of the lungs, heart, kidneys, neurological system, circulatory system, and mental health.
The CDC didn’t definitively state that unvaccinated individuals had a greater risk of long COVID than the vaccinated. No tests exist to diagnose long COVID.
Concurrent with the rise of “long COVID” is a rise in adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine. Symptoms of the two ailments overlap consistently.
Last July, on the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), the Biden administration classified long COVID as a disability. The Health and Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights and DOJ Civil Rights Division devised the long COVID disability guidance.
The ADA prevents discrimination based on disability. This includes additional time on tests for students, accommodations for customers who can’t stand for long periods of time in line, refueling assistance at a gas station for a disabled customer, and even service animal assistance for those who grow dizzy while standing for long periods of time.
The Biden administration also shared that it is looking to identify demographic patterns in long COVID victims in order to achieve equity, the health burdens and financial costs that the phenomenon incurs, and whether COVID vaccines do reduce long COVID.
Two years and nine months after “15 days to slow the spread,” the Arizona Department of Health (AZDH) is again asking Arizonans to mask up.
On Tuesday, AZDHS issued a blog post advising indoor masking due to the high levels of COVID-19 infections in eight counties: Apache, Cochise, Gila, Greenlee, La Paz, Navajo, Pima, and Yuma counties.
AZDHS noted that the remaining seven counties have medium community levels.
The renewed guidance follows several years of scrutiny over the efficacy and safety of prolonged mask wearing.
Last April, State Senator Kelly Townsend (R-Mesa) highlighted studies expressing concern over the safety of the graphene coating present on masks. Some, but not all, masks contain graphene. The presence of the carbon atoms isn’t distinguished by any color or design on a mask, and manufacturer labels don’t always disclose its presence.
This past legislative session, lawmakers passed several bills to prohibit mask mandates. HB2616 requires schools to defer to parents when it comes to children wearing masks in schools. HB2453 prohibits government properties from requiring mask wearing on the premises.
Current COVID-19 case breakdowns are as follows: Maricopa County, over 168,000 cases; Pima County, over 41,800 cases; Pinal County, over 16,300 cases; Yavapai County, over 8,100 cases; Apache County, over 7,700 cases; Navajo County, over 7,300 cases; Mohave County, over 7,100 cases; Coconino County, over 6,300 cases; Yuma County, over 5,800 cases; Cochise County, over 5,300 cases; Gila County, 3,000 cases; Santa Cruz County, over 2,100 cases; La Paz County, over 500 cases; and Greenlee County, over 300 cases.
These case totals are less than the spikes that occurred in June and July. Weekly case totals are about 54 percent of what they were this time last year, and about 41 percent of what they were this time in 2020.
The highest number of cases week-over-week occurred throughout January earlier this year.
There have been over 31,700 deaths attributed to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. That’s about 962 deaths per month. The most deaths occurred between mid-December 2020 and the end of January 2021.
72 percent of all COVID-19 deaths occurred in those over the age of 65. 15 percent of deaths occurred in those between the ages of 55 and 65. Eight percent of deaths occurred in those between the ages of 45 and 54. Five percent of deaths occurred in those between the ages of 20 and 44. Approximately zero percent of deaths, a total of 73 persons, occurred in those under the age of 20.
Compared with pre-pandemic years, Arizonan deaths in 2020 and 2021 increased by an average of 10,600 both years. From 2012 to 2019, Arizona deaths increased every year by an average of over 1,600.
There were 60,100 deaths in 2019, 75,700 deaths in 2020, and over 81,400 deaths in 2021. It appears that this upward trend won’t continue this year. So far, there have been over 60,700 deaths (present data goes through October): a decline of over 5,000 compared with this same time last year. If death counts for November and December amount to the yearlong average of 6,000 deaths every month, then this year’s total deaths would amount to 72,900.
Nationally, the total number of mortalities increased by 17.6 percent in 2020 nationwide. In 2019, there were over 2.8 million deaths; in 2020, there were over 3.3 million deaths.
Deaths attributed to COVID-19 weren’t the sole cause of the spike. Of the near-504,000 difference, COVID-19 deaths accounted for over 345,000. Heart disease deaths increased by over 31,800; unintentional injury deaths increased by over 19,100; stroke deaths increased by about 9,000.
Deaths attributed to chronic lower respiratory diseases, cancer, and suicide decreased by nearly 8,700 altogether. Deaths from chronic lower respiratory diseases accounted for the greatest decline: over 5,300.
Prior to 2020, year-over-year death increases averaged over 35,500 from 2015 to 2019, or about 1.2 percent every year.