It's early Sunday morning. It's drizzling outside and I really should still be asleep. Instead I am up prepping for my shoot (and I use this word in reference to a video camera) at the Crossroads of the West Gun Show at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. As a journalist I often find myself spending the day in an unusual, often unexpected way, and I know this to be true today.
I have never been to a gun show before. There's a first time for everything. And this isn't just any gun show. The promoters of Crossroads of the West boast on its website that this show attracts more customers than any other in the country. And this isn't just any weekend to attend a gun show. Less than 36 hours earlier news broke of a mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., the second worst in our country's history. The bodies of 20 children and seven adults, including the mother of the shooter, haven't even been buried, yet hundreds of people have gathered at the fairgrounds to buy, sell, and talk guns. And I am here to talk guns with them.
As it turns out, my crew and I didn't get too far. The show's promoter, Rob Templeton, wouldn't allow us inside with our cameras, saying there were safety concerns. What safety concerns, I asked. "Your safety," Templeton replied. He went on to say that there are a large number of people inside who are leery of the media (that's being polite -- an attendee on his way out at one point spit on the ground close to our camera's lens as our videographer was down low filming people's feet) and there are also a large number of guns inside. Enough said. We set up camp outside the chain link fence and started looking for people to talk to.
I found Valek Sykes, a former marine, just as he was leaving the show. Sykes was pulling a cart loaded with ammunition.
Sykes told me that he believes "everyone should own more guns," and that being at a gun show is probably one of the safest places to be.
"The truth of the matter is, somebody pulls out a gun -- let me put it this way, nobody is going to pull out a gun at a gun show, OK?" Sykes said. "Because there's a lot of guns floating around and everybody knows not to try something stupid here because they wouldn't get two steps." A woman behind me let out a loud holler of approval.
Turns out, Diana Rodriguez was a vendor at the show, selling Native American artifacts. She owns a small caliber gun and, like Sykes, believes more guns, not fewer, is the way to keep people safe.
"More guns, more guns," she said with tears welling up in her eyes. "If any one of those people over there at that school would have been taught to use a weapon of any kind, that tragedy wouldn't have occurred."
Teachers with guns? Everybody with guns? "Yes and yes" is the answer I heard over and over again after talking to a handful of gun advocates.
Rodriguez continued, "Owning a gun is not a privilege. It's a right" given to us by the Second Amendment. I can't help but wonder if when the right to keep and bear arms was adopted in 1791 our forefathers ever imagined a Bushmaster .223 caliber assault rifle with a 30 round magazine -- the high-powered weapon used by the gunman in Newtown.
"Why do you think someone needs a semi-automatic rifle?" I asked Rodriguez.
"It's just a right," she said. "If they want a semi-automatic, fine. If they want an automatic, fine. In Connecticut, the laws are extremely strict on gun ownership, and look what happened." With that she politely ended the interview and went inside, where our cameras were not allowed.
Hear more from Sykes, Rodriguez and others in the gun control debate tonight at 5:30 and 10 as we explore the issues raised in the aftermath of the Newtown shootings.
In the Control Room, our thoughts -- like yours -- are with the people of Newtown, Conn.
We're working on stories and interviews we hope will add context to this horrific event.
For now, we just want to remind you that as of Monday, Dec. 17, "SoCal Connected" airs at two new times every weekday evening: 5:30 p.m. and 10:00 p.m. on KCET (here's how to find KCET's channel number on your cable or satellite system). You can replay individual stories or entire episodes anytime right here on the website.
President Obama addressed the nation regarding the tragic events at a Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn. earlier today. "Our hearts are broken," he said, wiping his tears.
The father of two young girls himself, Obama was visibly shaken. He continued, "This evening, Michelle and I will do what every parent in America will do -- hug our children a little tighter and tell them that we love them."
The shooter was a identified as Adam Lanza of New Jersey, according to early reports. Law enforcement officials have confirmed 26 dead at the scene, 20 of them children. Among the adults killed is Lanza's mother, a kindergarten teacher whose entire classroom fell victim.
You can watch the president's full address below from our partners at CNN:
A gunman opened fire at at a Connecticut elementary school on Friday in one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, CNN reported today.
Nearly 30 people were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School, more than half of them children. The suspected shooter himself was found dead in a classroom. His mother was also among the dead at the school, and his brother was found dead in Hoboken, New Jersey, CNN reported.
CNN's Meredith Artley had the following story:
Masked behind drawn blinds and a closed door, David Pickup - a licensed marriage and family therapist - assists clients who, in his words, struggle with "unwanted homosexual feelings." Pickup grappled with same sex attraction as well, and believes reparative therapy "saved" his life.
It's a controversial form of therapy, one that employs different monikers to avoid negative connotations: conversion, reorientation, "authentic" reparative, or even ex-gay therapy. But no matter how you label it, the therapy is meant to guide clients back to their "authentic" heterosexual selves.
The controversy, in fact, has developed into a legal war between a tiny vocal group of therapists and the State of California, backed by the larger medical establishment. The turf is the therapists' offices, and the battle is over the vulnerable psyches of minors who these therapists say are struggling with same-sex attraction.
Pickup believes he is helping those who struggle with their sexual orientation discover a way to shed the same-sex attraction that makes them so uncomfortable. Reparative therapists don't believe those homosexual feelings necessarily mean that their clients are gay.
A gay identity is what 36-year-old Aaron Bitzer struggled with as well. He says conversion therapy addressed his childhood wounds and helped him "de-sexualize" his feelings toward other men. Now he's studying to become a conversion therapist himself.
David Pickup described reparative therapy as "highly psycho-dynamic, deeply emotional work and techniques that heal or address, resolve the wounds that have created for some men and women the emotional issues that have caused their "homosexual feelings." He says this therapy "helps them transform their sexuality and maximize their heterosexual potential."
It's phrases like "authentic reparative therapy" and "maximize heterosexual potential" that have the vast majority of the psychiatric and psychological establishments shaking their heads.
"If there is a cure for my being Asian, then there's a cure for being gay," says Dr. Terry Gock, a clinical psychologist and former president of the American Psychological Association's Division 44, the Society for the Psychological Study of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Issues.
Since homosexuality was removed as a disorder from the DSM in 1973, a number of medical organizations have publicly discredited this type of therapy as ineffectual and potentially harmful -- particularly for children.
And that's where the California Legislature picks up the ball -- with a law signed in late September that bans the use of the reparative therapy for minors. As a result, Pickup and Bitzer recently became plaintiffs in two different lawsuits against the state to stop the ban. Those suits produced two different rulings in two different federal courts last week.
In our segment tonight, we go behind the labels to expose what conversion therapy is -- juxtaposing those who feel it's been successful for them, and those who have undergone other horrifying attempts to steer them away from being gay. Correspondent Jennifer London also discusses the result of last week's lawsuit rulings with Val Zavala.
FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Dr. Terry Gock as the former president of the American Psychological Association. The story has been updated with Gock's correct position as former president of the APA's Division 44.
In the latest development to a story we've been following for four years, the state's Second Court of Appeals ruled today to void a 2006 settlement between the L.A. City Council and Clear Channel, CBS Outdoor, and Regency.
The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Friday to consider two key cases in the on-going debate over whether same-sex couples should have the right to marry.
One of the cases involves California's Proposition 8, an initiative constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage that was passed by voters in 2008. That amendment was later ruled unconstitutional in federal courts. If the justices decide to make a ruling, it could affect whether states have the right to ban same-sex marriage in the first place.
The other case involves the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman. A key provision of DOMA prevents the federal government from recognizing same-sex marriages even when they were made legal at the state level.
Also, the SCOTUS blog has published a brief analysis of the court's decision. And the Supreme Court's decision is posted online here (the DOMA case is called U.S. v. Windsor, the Prop 8 case Hollingsworth v. Perry).
We'll keep following this story and bringing you updates.
New photos taken from space show a nighttime view of Earth in stunning detail.
Taken by the Suomi National Polar-orbiting Partnership satellite, which was launched by NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA), and the Department of Defense in 2011, the images show a "black marble" sparkling from afar. But that's just the wide-angle portrait (which was stitched together from extremely high-resolution photos of the planet's surface). The low-light cameras aboard the satellite are sensitive enough to capture closeup stills of the light from cities, wildfires, even boats afloat on the sea.
These images "show the glow of natural and human-built phenomena across the planet in greater detail than ever before," according to a statement on NASA's website, where you can read more about the satellite and how the images were captured, download high-res photos, and explore a pretty mesmerizing interactive map.
Not everyone is seeing the light, though.
"The new 'Black Marble' images of our Earth show that there is still much work that needs to be done in tackling the problems of light pollution," said Bob Parks, executive director of the International Dark-Sky Association, in a statement released online.
The IDA is a nonprofit advocating to reduce light pollution around the world. Parks raises an interesting point (whether or not he may be simply exploiting the moment). Should these images be sparking a conversation about light pollution, as well, or at least keeping that conversation going?
We've met activists who think light pollution has become a serious environmental concern, especially in densely populated regions like Southern California. Check out our report, "Bright Lights, Big City," which we re-aired tonight, to find out more about the causes and consequences of light pollution.