16 seconds with a gun

From the Gun Violence Archive Facebook page

Another teen-ager got his hand on a gun he should not have had and came to his school to shoot some of his classmates. It’s an all too familiar scenario that plays out regularly in America. He shot himself with the gun only after shooting 5 kids and now 2 of those kids are dead. He is in grave condition in the hospital.

For what? Why? Where did he get the gun? He was 15- or I should say that according to media reports he turned 16 today. Happy birthday.

The media reported about the shooting and the usual “experts” were invited to talk about the shooting. Some of them actually mentioned that easy access to guns is one very huge factor in school shootings. But many avoided speaking the word “guns”. It is the guns. Most school shooters get their guns from home but we will find out more about where this teen got his gone as more information becomes available. This article reports that there were guns in the home. The gun was a .45 semi-automatic pistol. From the first article linked above:

A lack of gun safety at home also has played a big role in school shootings. Guns in the home “is a very important element that has been lost in the current debate,” said J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist and FBI consultant. He sees the problem in the combination of a troubled adolescent, unsecured firearms, general disorganization at home, and “then you increase the risk, of course, of him being able to easily access a weapon.

The shooter’s father died 2 years ago presumably leaving his guns behind. We don’t yet have information about how those guns were stored or who was in possession of the guns in the home. But from the article we learn this: ” Law enforcement officials have not shared any information about how the suspected shooter obtained the gun used in Thursday’s assault. The 16-year-old couldn’t have legally bought it himself: In California, licensed dealers cannot sell a firearm to anyone under age 21.”

Safe storage of guns is a no brainer. Making sure kids who may be experiencing problems of some kind can’t access guns is another. Brady’s End Family Fire is a program to highlight the risks of guns in homes:

Family fire is preventable, and that’s exactly what our End Family Fire initiative aims to do. Brady’s End Family Fire initiative is designed to drive social change and save lives, educating and encouraging gun owners about safe gun storage. We believe ending family fire is in our hands to solve. We’re calling on gun owners and non-gun owners alike to unite—to talk about safe storage practices, save lives, and End Family Fire once and for all.

In this case family fire includes a gun allegedly taken from the family home where it was not safely stored and brought somewhere else to shoot people.

One parent in the linked story above said what is always said:” It’s stressful and overwhelming.” That it is. More kids and families grieving. More with PTSD. In the article about the shooter and the guns, here is a quote: “He doesn’t seem like the kind of kid to do this,” Risley said.”

That is often said as well about mass shooters or any shooter. It was said about my now deceased former brother-in-law after he shot and killed my sister.

There is no common sense when it comes to trying to understand these kind of shootings or any shootings actually. One of the things in common is a gun. Easy access to guns. The other is, from the article above:

There have already been at least 30 resulting in death or injury in 2019

I was just made aware this article from the Washington Post that I wanted my readers to see:

The shooting is at least the seventh to take place on U.S. school grounds since the start of the academic year, according to a Washington Post analysis, and the first fatal shooting on a campus since students arrived back at school. More than 233,000 schoolchildren have been exposed to gun violence at their own schools since the shooting at Columbine High in 1999.

More than 233,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine

“We need to say ‘no more.’ This is a tragic event that happens too frequently,” said Capt. Robert Lewis of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. “When are we going to come together as a community … to say ‘no more’?”

The thing is, we have come together to say “no more”. But our leaders are not listening. They refuse to take up meaningful legislation that would save lives. The fact that 90% of Americans agree on this is stunning. We are polarized about just about everything. The fact that our leaders represent the very small group of gun rights advocates and right wing extremists falsely saying that anything we do to save lives from gun violence would take away their rights or their guns is a sham and a travesty. It is am American tragedy.

And one more thing about this shooting that must be said- these type of shootings happen with so much shock, surprise and rapidity that it is almost impossible to respond. The fact that the gun jammed saved lives and the fact that law enforcement was there so quickly also saved lives. But think about the time it took to wreak such deadly havoc:

At an early evening news conference, authorities said just 16 seconds passed from the time the shooter drew his gun and when he shot himself. They said that the shooting was contained to the quad and that they had no information about a connection between the shooter and his victims.

More from the article:

“When I was in the situation, I didn’t feel scared, and that’s the saddest part,” Carzola said. “I felt like everyone was going to go through this at some point and this was my turn.”

When is it your child’s “turn”? Why is it any child’s turn?

Our kids should not have to live like this every day. Nor should their parents or their communities. There is a ripple effect that gets wider and wider as relatives of victims, law enforcement, health care providers, emergency responders and others all feel the awful and devastating effects of just one of these shootings.

UPDATE:

As always happens after mass shootings, the situation is fluid and more information comes forward. We now know that the shooter died of his self inflicted gunshot injuries. We also now know that a teacher used a gunshot injury kit that was in her classroom to likely save the life of one of the injured students. It’s come to this. Rather than protect our precious kids from shooters by preventing easy access to guns we are distributing kits to stem the flow of blood from the bodies of said precious kids. We have it all backwards. Thanks NRA.

We also now know the names of the shooter ( which I will not post or say) and the victims who died. Say their names.

Dominic Blackwell. Age 14.

Gracie Anne Muehlberger. Age 16

Their images will forever be stopped in time as was my sister’s and they will never grow older or reach their potential.

In memory of Dominic and Gracie.

End Family Fire in Minnesota

It’s hard not to despair every day about the deaths due to firearms. Minnesota has had a rough week but then, who hasn’t when it comes to gun violence? I have been asked how I don’t get too depressed or how do I keep myself healthy emotionally, mentally and even physically faced with the involvement with the gun violence prevention movement?

The last question first- my family, friends, faith community, local community and statewide and national gun violence prevention friends keep each other healthy. We mourn. We ring bells. We act. We support each other and carry on in the names of the victims. For what else can we do? Everyone handles the stresses differently. I immerse myself in photography, exercise, reading books, spending time at our cabin and with our family enjoying watching my grandchildren grow into fun and productive human beings. Their sports activities keep us busy. Their school activities- musical and otherwise are an outlet and provide happiness. Travel is also a great way to forget about the violence and the world’s problems.

Now to the first about Minnesota. This week 2 Minnesota law enforcement officers used guns to kill themselves. Suicide by gun. Not uncommon as it turns out. But 2 in one week- unrelated to each other? From the article:

A study released in September found that police officers are at a higher risk of suicide than any other profession.The rate of 13 out of 100,000 deaths by suicide in the general population rises to 17 out of 100,000 for police officers, with 167 police officers taking their own lives in 2018.

Police officers risk their lives every day on the job. They see the carnage caused by homicides, suicides, domestic abuse, auto accidents and the like. It has to be very stressful to experience this every day on the job. The unexpected happens and officers respond.

Officers also have easy access to guns. When contemplating suicide, if there is an easy way out, a gun is the fastest and most efficient.

So what should we do about this? Police departments are providing officers with ways of handling stress and dealing with their emotional health. It is not enough and more recognition of the serious risks should be discussed more openly. It is difficult for people trained to be tough and authoritative to admit that they have vulnerabilities and difficulties handling their stressful and dangerous jobs.

Brady’s End Family Fire is a program designed for discussion of the risks of guns in the home. No matter who the gun owner happens to me, a better understanding of the actual risks posed when a gun for self protection or used on the job can still cause unintentional or intentional deaths.

So that is the lesson for some Minnesota teens who last week in St. Paul “accidentally” pulled the trigger on a stolen gun and killed a friend. This tragedy was so avoidable in many ways:

The St. Paul Police Department says Jones-Morris was shot Wednesday afternoon at a home on the 100 block of Annapolis Street, near the city’s border with West St. Paul. Police say a 15-year-old boy told investigators he accidentally shot Jones-Morris while playing with a gun that he didn’t know was loaded.

That teen and a 16-year-old boy were charged in the shooting Thursday. The criminal complaint says the 16-year-old admitted to stealing the gun from an SUV last week. Both are being held at the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center.

“So many people are just broken down and shocked,” said friend Alex Hogg.

How many times does “so many people are just broken down and shocked” have to be quoted in an article about the gun death of one of our teens whose life’s potential will never be reached? This young man was a football and basketball star at his school and had many friends. His personality was a happy one- making others laugh.

Let’s talk about some of the precursors of this avoidable death. The teens stole a gun from a car. That was illegal. What about the “responsible” gun owner who left a gun in his/her car easy to steal? What is his/her responsibility here? Every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first pass through the hands of an adult. Teens can’t buy guns. Stealing is one easy way to get one.

Second, teens cannot be responsible with guns. Guns are not toys to be “played with”. Everyone who touches a gun should have some kind of training on how to operate a deadly weapon and the risks of having one in their hands. How often do we hear about people who did not realize there was a bullet in the chamber?

Efforts to safety proof guns have been rebuffed by the corporate gun lobby. Smart guns could save lives and in this case, would have. But the technology is not there yet. My opinion is that if we can create the will and technology to send Americans to the moon and into space, we can develop better guns that will keep us safer.

Safe storage of guns whether in cars or homes would save lives and this case would have. Stronger laws for safe storage and mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns would save lives. But we aren’t passing those laws in many places either.

And it doesn’t have to be a law. It’s just common sense really isn’t it? Responsible gun owners understand that their guns are to be respected and gun safety is key to avoid the gun incidents I have written about here. But even in the hands of responsible gun owners, things go wrong. Combined with anger over just about anything, a domestic abuse, a bad grade in school, despair, depression, drug and alcohol use, or “playing” with a gun and/or cleaning a gun, tragedy and heartbreak can be an unfortunate and deadly outcome.

There was one more incident this week in Oklahoma that I want to talk about. Yet another 3 year old found a gun left carelessly in a bathroom in a public place.:

The restaurant, located near May Avenue and Grand Boulevard, has a sign on the door that reads, “No handguns,” but a customer brought one in anyway and left it behind by mistake.

“I got a call from my daughter, and she was quite alarmed.” Dennis Pealor said.

Pealor told KOCO 5 that his daughter’s family was eating brunch Sunday at La Baguette when his son-in-law escorted their 3-year-old to the bathroom.

“Immediately, she points to this item on the toilet paper holder and says, ‘Daddy. What’s that?'” Pealor said.

According to a police report, a semi-automatic handgun was found in the stall. The report states that a 77-year-old man from Duncan used the restroom and left the restaurant, forgetting the weapon was in there.

No handguns allowed but someone who thought he could ignore the law brought his gun in anyway? Why? What is so dangerous about a restaurant? And then he leaves the gun in the toilet stall? Good grief. This is what happens when more people carry guns around in public. We are not safer.

These incidents have become too common place but also had the owners understood the risks of guns by applying the End Family Fire tenets, carelessness that could have led to an awful outcome would be avoided.

And my last concern is about the irresponsible United States Senate for its’ failure to pass the Violence Against Women Act. This has never happened before. Too many women and children lose their lives to domestic violence- and most to firearms. This is national disgrace:

The bill would eliminate the so-called boyfriend loophole by expanding a current ban on firearm purchases for spouses or formerly married partners convicted of abuse or under a restraining order to include dating partners who were never legally married.

More than 30 House Republicans voted for the measure. But the opposition from most House Republicans, as well as the NRA, made it unlikely it would pass the GOP-controlled Senate.

Of course. The NRA.

For 30 years, Minnesota has been keeping track of the numbers of people who have died from domestic violence:

Known for years as the annual Femicide Report, it started in 1989 as a way to fill in a gap in reporting gender-bias violence against women and girls. There was no other state or national group collecting this kind of data at the time, and to this day no state agency collects comparable data.

“Every month or so a woman, and or her children, and or her partner or mother or neighbor got killed, and it was like a flash in the pan,” said Julie Tilley, who first decided to start collecting the names as a staffer at the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

“One of our goals was not only to honor the victims of this horrendous violence but to make this violence visible. It was so clear to us at that time that people weren’t seeing what was happening all around us.”

The Clothesline Project is a visual display of tee shirts designed by family or friends of a victim of domestic or sexual violence. We must make the violence visible. I once found my sister’s name on a tee shirt at a display by the project. It was a very emotional moment for me as I held on to the shirt with her name as the clothesline stretched out with the many other names.

We must say their names and see their faces. It’s the stories of the victims that should change the conversation. That is why I do this advocacy.

Today I remember Minnesotans:

Da’Qwan Jones-Morris, 17

South St. Paul PD Officer Cory Slifko

Rogers PD Officer Blake Neumann

We all remember the many victims of mass shootings that have occurred in November- Thousand Oaks, CA one year ago on Nov. 7 leaving 12 dead, Sutherland Springs,Texas church shooting 2 years ago on Nov. 5 leaving 26 dead and 20 wounded ( for just 2). Minnesota has seen an upsurge in shooting deaths this year. What will we do about it? That remains to be seen but we have to #dosomething. It’s in our hands to make our kids, teens and communities safer.

We are better than this.

Halloween 2019 was deadly

It was a scary Halloween this year. 4 are dead and more injured at a Halloween party at an Airbnb. Who brings guns to a Halloween party and why?:

“The killings shocked neighbors and residents in Orinda, where homicides are especially rare. The last killing in the small East Bay city about 15 miles east of San Francisco was in 2012, when a man hacked his girlfriend to death with a machete. Before that, the city’s only other homicide this century was in 2002, when Susan Polk killed her estranged psychotherapist husband.

Now that is ghoulish.

But this was yet another mass shooting. It may have been domestic in nature but we don’t know that yet. The thing is, after shootings like this, it is often noted that the community is a quiet community where shootings and violence don’t happen. We can’t say that anymore because shootings happen anywhere there are people who decide to bring guns with them or where people have guns in their homes. More guns means more shootings and we have more guns than ever now which means we have more shootings and more deaths than ever.

In another Halloween shooting a little 7 year old girl dressed in a bumblebee costume was shot by a “stray” bullet meant for someone else as she was trick or treating in the Chicago area. Don’t people with guns know that there are small kids out and about on the streets on Halloween Eve when they decide to bring their guns to the streets to do whatever they do with them? Also if the person who shot the gun was a “responsible” gun owner, why shoot bullets when you know they very well may not hit their target? And why have a target anyway? Why do people want to kill each other with bullets? What’s all the anger about? Why should Americans have to experience this level of violence in their neighborhoods? Why aren’t we doing anything about it?

From the article:

“Obviously the little girl wasn’t the target. We think two gangs were having a dispute and one of them shot at the other,” Johnson told reporters Friday morning. “She just was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

She was actually in the right place at the right time. It was the shooter(s) who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They always are. And further, from the article:

“Those involved don’t deserve to be in our city,” he said. “I’m disgusted but committed to doing everything we can to find the cowards that would engage in a gun battle during the early evening hours while children are trick or treating.”

It’s the guns. These gang members could have had a fist fight and it would not have ended in this kind of tragedy. Even a knife fight would not have ended this way. But they have chosen guns because they know that guns kill. Where is common sense?

The answer is simple. Guns kill people. They are designed to kill people and kill they do at an alarming rate. When Americans are convinced that they need their guns for self protection ( since that seems to be the reason) this is the consequence. A gun bought ( or stolen or bought in a straw purchase or on the streets) is more likely to be used in a shooting of someone you know or love than to be used for self protection.

Unfortunately for that 7 year old who is in critical condition and for the 4 killed in an Airbnb senselessly it’s too late to have this discussion. And until we do something about the shootings it will be too late for thousands of Americans.

But it’s not too late for us to demand that our leaders #DoSomething about gun violence. Apparently President Trump has given up any pretense ( and it was pretense all along) of any further progress towards stemming the tide of gun violence. Shame on him and the Republicans who refuse to deal with the daily carnage.:

“A lot of the people who put me where I am are strong believers in the 2nd Amendment, and I am also,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.Then he argued that any efforts to restrict gun sales would inevitably lead to confiscation of privately owned weapons from law-abiding citizens, although no one has proposed that drastic remedy on Capitol Hill.“They call it the slippery slope,” he said. “And all of a sudden everything gets taken away. We’re not going to let that happen.”

Wrong. This is such nonsense and gun lobby lying and paranoia. What is taken away are people’s lives. And if does not want to alienate his base, what about the loved ones of gun violence victims? Why doesn’t he care if he alienates them? Because……. NRA……. money………he’s a chicken.

The gun advocates often criticize gang gun violence and Chicago for all of the shootings. Yes. Chicago has shootings but their crime rate and gun death rate are down. Other cities are experiencing a lot of gun violence like Minneapolis and St Paul. The thing is, what are these critics willing to do about all of the violence? Don’t they really care that when gang members get guns they kill not only themselves but often innocent victims? They are chickens.

The gang members who shot the bullet that ended in the neck of a 7 year old are chickens. They don’t have a way to solve their problems without hiding behind a gun? Trump can’t deal with gun violence without hiding behind lies and gun lobby deceptions? What are these people afraid of? They have no courage or common sense. They are hiding behind their masks of cowardice and complicity with a small minority of voters, a corrupt NRA and the gun manufacturers. They think they are protecting themselves and their own election chances and reputations. They should be protecting us from daily shootings.

Our voices need to be loud and clear about who are the brave ones and who are the bullies and the chickens. We must call them out for their profiles in cowardice.

Remembering the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting

Today is the anniversary of one of our nation’s ugliest hate crimes- the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh one year ago today. It is yet one more anniversary of a heinous mass shooting where Americans are reminded of the easy access to guns to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. Only in America does this happen on an almost daily basis. In fact there really isn’t one day of the year when there is not an anniversary of a mass shooting.

But I digress. A hate crime against one group, one religion, one political group, one group based on sexual preference, etc. is un American and our own brand of terrorism. That day one year ago, it was Jews who were the target of a gunman:

Mr. Leger was the most visibly wounded that morning of Oct. 27, 2018, when a gunman killed 11 Jews and wounded other worshipers and police officers at the Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha synagogue building in Squirrel Hill. Among the dead were members of all three congregations sharing the building — New Light, Tree of Life and Mr. Leger’s own Dor Hadash.

The victims were Tree of Life members Rose Mallinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill, husband and wife Sylvan Simon, 86, and Bernice Simon, 84, of Wilkinsburg, Joyce Fineberg, 75, of Oakland, Irving Younger, 69, of Mount Washington, brothers Cecil Rosenthal, 59, of Squirrel Hill and David Rosenthal, 54, of Squirrel Hill; New Light Congregation members Melvin Wax, 87, of Squirrel Hill, Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill, Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross; and Congregation Dor Hadash member Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood.

There were several memorials in Duluth after this shooting- one outdoors with the community and a bell ringing naming each victim. The other took place a few days later at our local synagogue with an interdenominational service in the small space crammed with community members and leaders. Both were touching reminders of how the Jewish community is affected by hate and threats to their existence.

The shooter used the weapon of choice for mass shootings- an AR-15, was anti-Semitic and had posted on a social media site about his hate for Jews. From this entry in Wikipedia:

The immediate rise in the months of August to October was connected to the 2018 US midterm elections,[35] with a similar rise having occurred during the 2016 US election,[30] with the midterms being a “rallying point” for far-right extremists to organize efforts to spread antisemitism among the populace online.[31] The intervening years between 2016 and 2018 saw rising indicators of antisemitism in American public life, including a 57% rise in antisemitic incidents in 2017[33][32] in context of rising hate crimes against other groups including Muslims and African Americans as reported by the FBI,[33] a wave of vandalizations of hundreds of Jewish gravestones in Pennsylvania and Missouri,[31] and a doubling of antisemitic incidents on university campuses.[34] In 2017, the widely publicized Charlottesville riots featured Nazi symbolssalutes, and the slogan “Blood and Soil“,[34] amid explicit and implicitly racist and antisemitic rhetoric. Online, the reports found a large proportion of the antisemitic material was spread through the medium of conspiracy theories concerning wealthy Jewish individuals including billionaire George Soros, with Columbia University’s Jon Albright claiming these represented the “worst sample” of all the hate speech he had seen on Instagram.[30]

Do I have to remind my readers that the 2020 election is about one year away? Do I have to remind my readers that our very own President engages in the language of hate and violence in general and demeans his opponents, the media, anyone who disagrees with him, calling them names and intimating that violence might just be OK? And so, some of his followers actually may take action. Pray for a peaceful and safe election.

One such recent example came from a major league baseball umpire – one of Trump’s followers, who made a threat on social media about using his gun to shoot people if Trump should be impeached:

Drake posted this message to Twitter on Tuesday: “I will be buying an AR-15 tomorrow, because if you impeach MY PRESIDENT this way, YOU WILL HAVE ANOTHER CIVAL WAR!!! #MAGA2020”

Drake later deleted the post.

In a series of tweets Thursday, Drake apologized to victims of gun violence, fellow umpires and his family, and acknowledged he had caused a controversy for MLB.

His apology seemed insincere to me. It’s too late once those words have been written. We understand exactly what he meant. An AR-15 is the weapon of choice for mass shooters. He just may have done this had he not been called out publicly and he should be watched closely just in case. Now he has tainted his own career and reputation and also his own family and the umpires’ league.

This- all because of hate of others. This- all because we have no common sense when it comes to restricting the sale of assault rifles or checking to make sure that everyone can pass a background check. This- America the violent.

And of course, there was another mass shooting last night at a party to celebrate the homecoming at Texas A&M. “Only” 2 are dead but 12 injured. Good grief. Young adults and teens can’t celebrate parties without gunfire and death? From the article:

Authorities believe the shooter may have been targeting just one person at the party of about 750 people outside Greenville, 15 miles (24 kilometers) southwest of a satellite campus of the Texas A&M University System, and that others may have been shot at random, Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said. Authorities were still looking for the suspect, Meeks said, and had not yet identified him.

This happens far too often as it did in my sister’s shooting- one person was the target but often others are also shot just because they happened to be there and because it can be done so easily with guns as the weapon.

Today we remember the victims of one hate crime. Others followed including the shooting at Poway Synagogue in April of 2019 leaving one dead and three injured. Take a guess at the weapon used. If you guessed an AR-15 you are right.

And this, dear readers, is why many of us want an assault weapons ban. It is getting harder and harder to defend the use of these types of guns for any purpose other than killing many people at a time.

I will leave you with this- we are better than this. It is in our hands to stop the carnage. So let’s do something about this and demand that our leaders do the same. I don’t know how many more will be killed before we get this right and neither do you. It can and does happen anywhere.

Hate crimes are on the rise. Domestic terrorist shootings are on the rise:

It’s time to dismantle the artificial legal wall between domestic and international terrorism. Violent ideology that’s headed toward violent action and facilitated by websites, blogs, chat rooms, or other forums needs to be addressed regardless of its origins in racism, hate, religion and left or right-wing extremism. Let’s have one law that treats all violent ideologies the same and makes acting on those ideologies a crime.

This is the United States of America. We can’t let this continue as is. What is happening to our country? Please join me in doing everything you can do to stop and prevent hate crimes, domestic terrorism, domestic shootings, suicides, “accidental” shootings that occur in large numbers in America.

And remember the victims and survivors on this mournful day of remembrance. Say their names. None of them or their families and the community will ever be the same.

Podcasts about gun violence

Brady has started a podcast to highlight the voices and the programs of gun violence prevention. It’s a good way to get the word out to those who support changing the law and the conversation around the role of guns and gun violence in our society. I was honored to be one of the first voices to be able to speak about my story and my experiences over the years. There have been many. You can listen to my voice here.

But let me summarize a bit of what I said:

  1. I have a story to tell and so do the thousands and thousands of other victims and survivors. Domestic shootings take the lives of too many women every day so my story is the story of many.
  2. Telling our stories is important because it makes the deceased victims come “alive” and “tell their stories” so that the public and politicians can better understand the devastation to families and communities from gun violence.
  3. Understanding how devastating it is for families to experience the sudden, unexpected and violent death of a loved one from bullets will lead to the changes we deserve to keep us all safer.
  4. Many of us in the movement of gun violence prevention have worked for decades to stop bad bills promoted by the corporate gun lobby, advocate for bills to prevent some of the shootings and in many cases to help pass common sense bills that save lives. We know they save lives because we have the numbers to show it.
  5. After the Sandy Hook shooting, other groups formed and helped to advocate for sensible gun laws and have added their voices and visibility in state houses and Congress.
  6. What seems to have made the biggest change is what happened with the student voices after the shooting in Parkland, Florida. Those kids have been relentless and powerful and have given those of us involved for so many years new ways to talk about gun violence prevention. I admire those youthful voices and have come to know them well in my own community.
  7. In Minnesota we have had ups and downs since our chapter formed in 2000 after the Million Mom March. After the passage of the conceal and carry law in Minnesota and the federal sunsetting of the assault weapons ban in 2004 in close proximity, some of the air went out of our balloons. But we have picked up and carried on and stopped some bad bills. We now have new focus after our House passed the background check and Extreme Risk and Protection Order bills in the last session. We will push hard to get them passed in the state Senate in the upcoming session. Senators will have to explain why they would be against bills that would not take away the rights of “law abiding” gun owners. Gun rights and gun violence prevention are not mutually exclusive.
  8. Our country is suffering from PTSD from all of the mass shootings taking place on a regular basis. Our kids certainly are negatively affected by the shootings and sometimes get killed by school shooters. School active shooter drills are causing more distress and anxiety for our kids. We should question some of the programs used and focus on where the shooters get their guns so we can stop them. In the majority of school shootings, the guns come from the home of the shooter. It’a a no brainer to lock guns away safely from the hands of kids, teens and those who might steal them to be used in a gun crime.
  9. One of my heroes in the movement is Sarah Brady who served on the Brady board for part of my terms as a board member. She was a feisty woman whose opinions were made known at meetings. She worked hard with her husband Jim to get the Brady background check bill passed and for that, we are all safer.
  10. What I hope to see in a world where the best will happen is that all purchasers of a gun of any kind must first pass a background check. There is no reason not to do this that makes any sense at all. In addition, we can save lives if we pay attention to the risks of guns for people who could be a danger to themselves or others and make sure that their guns can be temporarily removed while the danger passes. Too many shootings are spur of the moment shootings that happen while someone is under stress, angry over a difficult situation like a contentious divorce that caused my now deceased brother-in-law to shoot my sister. We can make a difference and save lives.

I would encourage my readers to listen to the RedBlue & Brady podcasts. I believe they will provide a lot of insight into the issues and the people who are involved. The stories will make a difference and change the conversation as we must do if we are to make progress.

It is so clear that the majority of Americans want change to happen. The only way the majority will be represented in the halls of state capitols and in Congress is for the voices of those who believe we can save lives with stronger gun laws are louder than the voices of the corporate gun lobby. Remember that the NRA and corporate gun lobby represent a very small minority of Americans and gun owners.

So speak up and speak out. Listen to how we can make change. Get involved and take action, not sides. It’s in our hands to make change happen. Let’s do this.

Gun laws in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia

I will be on a river cruise on the Danube river for the next few weeks. I wrote before about a previous Danube river cruise and the gun laws in the countries along the way. Three of those countries (Austria, Hungary and Croatia) we will visit again on this trip. But now I want to write about the other countries that I have not visited before- Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia.

Let’s start with Serbia which has experienced a lot of violence in various wars over the decades and centuries. It turns out that there are a lot of legal and illegal guns in Serbia according to this article:

No one knows just how many illegal weapons Serbians are hiding in their homes. Even authorities give vague estimates, ranging anywhere from 200,000 to 900,000. Experts suggest that those numbers are conservative. The weapons concerned are handguns, assault rifles, bombs – even anti-tank grenades. Add to that another 1 million legally registered sport and hunting firearms, as well as yet another 1 million weapons in the hands of the army, police and private security companies. The internet portal gunpolicy.org estimates that the United States is the only country in the world that has more guns per capita than Serbia.

Most of the weapons are leftovers from the bloody wars that raged in the 1990s after the fall of Yugoslavia – in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Not even the regular armies bothered to bureaucratically administer the inventories of their arsenals back then. When violence erupted, mercenaries and those with a desire to fight arrived on the scene, and no questions were asked. After the wars, some 4 million illegal guns were said to have remained in circulation in the seven republics of the former Yugoslavia – most of them in Serbia.

And more about the culture of guns in Serbia:

A poll conducted by another Belgrade NGO, the Public Policy Research Center, found that 70 percent of Serbs in fact felt safe in their homeland. Not because they believed the country’s institutions or security apparatus would protect them, but because they felt that they themselves, neighbors or friends could. “Of course people should be able to have guns, too bad we can’t have more of them. Do you want an unarmed and defenseless citizenry, so you can do whatever you want with them?” read a recent comment from a reader at DW’s Serbian Facebook page. Hundreds more comments were of a similar opinion.

Yet the news tells a different story: One searches in vain to find examples of people successfully fending off attackers or stopping crimes with handguns. Rather, one sees daily tabloid headlines and lots of stories about murders and occasional shooting sprees. In July, an incident in the northern Serbian village of Zitiste shocked the nation: A jealous husband killed his ex-wife and four others in a bar, injuring another 22 people in the process. Had he not had an illegal firearm at home, the night certainly would not have been so gruesome. But he did – and that firearm was an AK-47 assault rifle.

Sounds familiar.

The annual rate of gun deaths in Serbia according to gunpolicy.org is 3.23 per 100,000 ( 2015) The total number of gun deaths in 2015 was 232- 154 of which were suicides. Regulations are strict, including registration and restrictions on private ownership of automatic and semi-automatic guns. But according to the article above, there are many illegally owned and unregistered guns in Serbia.

Now let’s move to Romania. The laws are very restrictive not allowing private ownership of handguns. Only long guns for hunting are legal in Romania. There were 27 gun deaths in 2016 which is a rate of .13 per 100,000. So two countries as close as Serbia and Romania have very different laws and very different outcomes. Of he 27 deaths, 12 were suicides.

And now, Bulgaria. From the same source as the above link, in 2014 there were 108 gun deaths, with a rate of 1.51 per 100,000. 53 of the total number of gun deaths in Bulgaria in 2014 were suicides. Licensing is required for all guns owned, including automatic, semi-automatic and handguns. In order to get a license to buy and own a gun, the purchaser must provide a reason for needing a gun.

In the U.S. the rate of gun deaths per 100,000 is 12.21. We know that compared to almost all other democratized countries not at war, our gun death rate is right at the top. Our laws are right at the bottom.

When I compare the gun laws in other countries as I travel, what I find is that inevitably where there are more guns and looser laws, there are more gun deaths. This should come as no surprise to anyone. More guns do not make people safer. The opposite happens to be true. The corporate gun lobby loves to tell us that we all need guns to keep us safer. Why would they not? We know that the gun industry benefits when people are paranoid and filled with fear. If people are led to believe that guns will make them safer, they may just go and buy one, or two or many. Unfortunately, too many people suffer death and injury as a result and we end up being one of the deadliest countries in the world.

Who else has the rate of mass shootings that we have experienced in America? The link here points to the deadly phenomenon of American mass shootings since 1966 noting that the rate has increased in the past decade. The age of the shooters has become younger. From the article:

Although the data goes back to 1966, nearly a third of the 1,196 total victims have died since Charleston, and the two deadliest shootings in U.S. history fall into that time frame.

In October 2017, a 64-year-old gambler with a cache of high-powered rifles fired from his Las Vegas hotel room window and shot 480 people in a country music festival below. Fifty-eight of them died.

Less than 15 months earlier, a security company employee killed 49 and wounded 53 in a gay nightclub in Orlando, the second-highest toll.

The 169 shooters ranged in age from 11 to 73, but they were mostly young to middle-aged men, and they have trended still younger recently. Shooters before Charleston averaged just under 34 years old; from Charleston to the present, they have averaged 32 years old. (…)

While there may be trends in the types of places targeted, the geography remains unpredictable. Mass shootings have occurred all over the country, in red and blue and purple states, in huge metropolises, medium-sized cities and tiny rural towns.

I just know we will be safer in the countries we will be visiting- at least from bullets. Travel is always risky. But I know that since we are doing little or nothing to keep people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them another 1000 plus Americans will die from gunshot injuries while I am gone.

It’s hard to ignore what is going on back home while traveling and a lot is going on right now. But hopefully we can enjoy this area of southeast Europe and the history of the countries we will visit. Many of the countries along the Danube have experienced mass deaths and violence in the wars that have ravaged their countries over the decades. It’s hard to forget the early 1990s when the area in what was Yugoslavia left millions dead. And certainly the 2 world wars affected Romania and Bulgaria in ways it is hard for us to understand here.

It is a complicated area with a lot of interesting and controversial history.

We have a lot of work to do in the U.S. regarding gun safety reform and keeping our democracy safe from an authoritarian leaning President in the midst of an impeachment investigation. We should all be alarmed that our own President is threatening armed insurrection when he tweeted that there will be a Civil War if he is impeached. We all know what that means. And we get a view into his twisted mind when he suggested that immigrants should be shot in the legs to slow them down.

We have our own complicated problems and our history books will in the decades to come have chapters about our mass shootings and a President who used violent rhetoric to foment his base.

We are better than this.

The NRA- again

A screenshot of image taken at House Judiciary Committee hearing

In the last year or so I have written plenty about what is going on at NRA headquarters in Virginia. It is not pretty. In fact, it is downright ugly. The organization is in what I would call meltdown mode. The IRS 501 C3 status is in question. Russians have infiltrated the organization in what appears now to be to aid in the election of President Trump in 2016. In fact, before 2016 the Russians were palling around with the NRA in a new article revealing what many of us have long suspected:

The report pulls back the curtain on the cozy relationship Russian agents had with the NRA by focusing in part on a 2015 trip gun group leaders took to Moscow. Russian agent Maria Butina, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison earlier this year after pleading guilty to conspiring against the U.S., worked in tandem with former Russian government official Alexander Torshin to get NRA officials to Russia. (…)

In a January 2015 email to David Keene, Butina bragged that Torshin’s appointment to the Central Bank of Russia was “the result of a ‘big game’ in which he has a very important role,” and said the new role would allow Torshin to travel to the U.S. more often to meet with NRA leadership.

Now, to add insult to injury, it looks like the NRA is willing to get involved in the 2020 election as well in what could be an illegal quid pro quo with the President. How could it possibly be anything else when we learned yesterday that the President met with the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre to allegedly ask him for help funding his impeachment defense? And by help, I mean in dollars, not sense. In return, apparently, according to the article, LaPierre wanted something – for the President to drop any talk of working to stem the epidemic of gun violence in the country he leads.

From the article ( in case you think I am making this up):

President Trump met in the White House on Friday with Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the National Rifle Association, and discussed prospective gun legislation and whether the N.R.A. could provide support for the president as he faces impeachment and a more difficult re-election campaign, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

During the meeting, Mr. LaPierre asked that the White House “stop the games” over gun control legislation, people familiar with the meeting said. It was not clear whether Mr. Trump asked Mr. LaPierre for his support, or what that support would look like.

Of course La Pierre denied that he wanted something in return but in observing his behavior for decades now, we all understand that LaPierre would like nothing better than to stop any talk of background checks, or Extreme Risk Protection Orders, or assault weapons, or funding research into the causes and effects of gun violence, or any gun measures that would reduce gun violence.

Why is the word “game” used so often here? The fact that 100 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries is not a game. The fact that American lives are being snuffed out almost weekly in mass shootings is not a game. The fact that our children are slaughtered regularly in their schools is not a game. The fact that Americans have such easy access to guns that daily suicides and homicides occur all over our country is not a game.

More and more this is like reading a spy novel. It is happening right in front of us in broad daylight. The victims are now the entire country, the rule of law, honesty, national security, American lives, extortion, shakedowns of foreign leaders, resignations of people involved with the President, truth, gaslighting of America, and other ramifications of this corrupt behavior.

This past week I traveled to Washington D.C. for a meeting and then attended the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the assault weapons ban. Listening to the testimony was sobering. Even more sobering and disturbing was the lengths to which some Republican members of the committee went to distort the truth about what banning certain types of assault weapons would mean. It was stunning to hear one of the witnesses called to the hearing by the Republicans on the committee proclaim that she and other women loved their AR-15s so much that taking away these guns from women would be taking away a woman’s right to choose. We all knew what that line meant.

Another line made for quoting was a woman who was an ex-police officer proclaim she would not comply with any law to ban assault style rifles. What happened to law abiding citizens and officers of the law? And more to the point, what does that really mean? I think we understand the not so veiled inference that people will keep those guns and be ready to use them.

Representative Buck of Colorado even had a photo of himself with former Representative Trey Gowdy flashed on the screen in the room showing the two of them fondling an AR-15 with an American flag design on it. The purpose of the photo was to ask one of the pro gun witnesses if that looked scary to her. This line of reasoning is losing its’ relevance given the rash of mass shootings in our country. Of course AR-15s and the like are scary weapons. It is not just the design. It’s the damage done by them and the loss of human life that we should all be scared of.

One of the witnesses was a trauma surgeon from El Paso who was called to the hospital to attend to the gunshot victims of the El Paso Walmart shooting. His testimony was hard to hear as he described the injuries to the victims. The father of one of the Parkland students was in the room. A survivor of the Las Vegas shooting was in the room. Other victims were there. They understand full well what those injuries mean. They mean death and severe injuries. When you listen to the surgeon describe the injuries and how different they are from handgun bullet injuries, you know that assault style weapons are, indeed, scary. He noted that he this was like a war zone scene rather than a hospital because of the number of victims, the amount of blood and the types of injuries.

You can watch the graphic video here:

Stunning. This is an American tragedy that has left a trail of carnage and NRA lapdogs in Congress do nothing about it and have done nothing about it for decades. We were there to let them know we wanted them to #DoSomething.

Sitting next to Dr. Tovar is Dayton, Ohio Mayor Nan Whaley who testified about the smell of bleach at the scene of the mass shooting in Dayton as clean-up efforts began. This is what stuck with her and this is the ripple effect of gun violence and the memories that never go away.

After the hearing we attended the rally to #endgunviolence on the Capitol lawn where hundreds of victims and survivors were there to listen to speeches from Congressional leaders who actually care about ending gun violence. Following the rally another smaller group walked into the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. This group stayed for 90 minutes with a staffer who heard their stories and wondered why McConnell has refused action on an issue of grave national importance and urgency.

So now we know that our efforts have been fruitful in bringing the issue of gun violence prevention to the forefront of election issues. But we also know that our very own President will make a deal with the NRA to stop any more discussion because of his corrupt behavior and possible impeachment. What a sad state of affairs. Common sense is nowhere to be found amongst the Republicans and the NRA.

All I know is that something is changing. The waves of support are strong and getting stronger. Common sense will prevail in the end.