Gunned down in America

Super Bald Eagle Character - 2America- the land of the free and home of the brave. Also the country of guns, guns, guns. The last few weeks have given us another full frontal view of what it means to “bear arms” in a country with almost as many guns as people. So here are just a few of the things that have happened that we need to think about:

So let’s review. Fewer Americans own the majority of guns in the land of the free. People are open carrying these guns in small numbers but have managed to pass laws to allow people without proper vetting to carry guns in public. And in states where standing your ground is considered to be brave, if a shooting should happen while the “law abiding” shooter claims self defense the shooter does not have to face the usual legal process for killing someone.

More mass shootings happen in the land of the free and home of the brave than in any other country and they have increased in frequency. Some lawmakers are willing to sacrifice common sense for their adherence to a powerful gun lobby that represents a distinct minority of Americans. Follow the money. Conceal and open carry laws allow for the proliferation of guns on our streets and in our neighborhood public places. And we have learned from a study cited in an article above that people who own and carry guns do so in fear of other people. Law enforcement officers can’t tell “good guys” with guns from “bad guys” with guns. And are black men legally carrying guns more likely to be deemed “bad guys” with guns than white guys with guns? I’m just asking.

“Law abiding” gun owners are not locking their guns safely away from being stolen by those who shouldn’t be able to get their hands on guns. We don’t pass laws that include mandatory reporting of lost and stolen guns and we have no laws requiring that guns be locked securely away from ammunition. Guns make it to the streets and the illegal market when they are stolen. Of course the fact that we allow those very same people who are deemed to be prohibited purchasers at a federally licensed firearms dealer to buy those very same guns from private sellers on-line or at gun shows and flea markets is ludicrous and dangerous.

We are free to own and carry guns in America. But we should be free from devastating gun violence as well. We don’t have to sit by and let this happen. The corporate gun lobby, through it’s lapdogs in Congress,  has suppressed research about the causes and effects of gun violence. Luckily for the brave amongst us, there are non-government researchers who are showing us the real problem with guns. They are a risk to those who own and carry them and become a risk to other innocent people as a result. We know, thanks to research and surveys done by credible sources, that fewer Americans own guns but own a lot of them on average. That being the case, how do we get our elected leaders to stop bowing to a very well funded and vocal lobby which represents mostly themselves and not average gun owners in the land of the free?

Maybe exposing their votes and their acceptance of campaign contributions from the gun lobby will help. The Brady Campaign has released a new lapdog scorecard showing who are the lapdogs for the gun lobby in Congress. Check it out. You can click on your own state and find out. The thing is, the majority of Americans, gun owners or not, and even NRA members, support strengthening our gun laws. If this is the land of the free and home of the brave, the brave need to speak out and do the right thing in the name of saving lives.

The model of fear is a bad idea when dealing with deadly weapons. Some in our country have ramped up fear of others, fear of those who don’t look like us, fear of shadows lurking in every corner awaiting a chance to get us. If you don’t believe me, you can look at this new campaign ad made by the NRA about why gun owners should fear Hillary Clinton and vote for Donald Trump. It’s another big lie but it gets people to the gun stores. Follow the money.

Fear is not a good way to make laws and change the conversation. It is counter productive and leads us to fear the wrong things. Why are we not fearful that just about anyone can gain access to a deadly weapon and carry it around in public or use it for bad intentions? Why are we not concerned that those on a no-fly list are not on the no-buy list for guns? Though not a perfect solution, it sure seems like we ought to be able to stop at least some dangerous people from being to get guns.

If you think all of this is insane, please get involved to make the changes we all deserve. That would be changes to gun laws to make them stronger so we can prevent some of the daily carnage. It also means changing the conversation to make people think twice about whether or not a gun for self defense makes sense for them. And if it does, at the least, make sure these folks have good training in using a deadly weapon designed to kill other people and have the common sense to lock up their guns unloaded to avoid stolen guns or someone, like a child or teen, accessing the gun. And make darned sure that dangerous people or those who could become dangerous to themselves or others either can’t get guns or have them removed until the danger is over or permanently, whichever happens first.

We have work to do. But we also have to counter erroneous claims by the corporate gun lobby that have become common talking points in our country. If we are the land of the free and home of the brave, we need to be brave enough to stand up for the truth and against those whose claims about freedom do not reflect reality.

Guns on the campaign trail

boatsinkI’ve been away from my blog for a bit because of a family member with health problems who has needed our care and attention. It wasn’t the controversial pneumonia like Hillary Clinton contracted on the campaign trail. The hyperbolic flap over that was not only ludicrous, it was cynical and deplorable.

But the issue of guns seems to have taken a bit of a back seat in the daily chaos of this Presidential campaign, not ever seen before in American history. The lies are daily. As a Hillary Clinton supporter, I am not talking about her. Believe me.

But last night one of the most frightening things I heard was Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s statement that the guns should be taken away from Hillary Clinton’s secret service agents. Deplorable. From the article:

Trump has long incorrectly suggested his Democratic opponent wants to overturn the Second Amendment and take away Americans’ right to own guns. At a rally in Miami, he again riffed about confiscating the agents’ guns and then went further.

“I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm, right?” Trump asked the crowd. “Take their guns away, she doesn’t want guns. Take their — and let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away. OK, it would be very dangerous.”

Really? See what happens to her?

Deplorable.

Never said before by a Presidential candidate.

Where is common sense?

What about Trump’s own secret service protection? Do they carry guns as well? Does he need protection as well? Would he want to be out there campaigning without that protection?

This is absolutely deplorable and dangerous. Suggesting violence against another candidate is not OK- Period.

Why is Donald Trump getting away with this loose and dangerous talk? He shouldn’t be. But he is held to a lower standard than his opponent. We have come to expect Trump to spew hatred and say dangerous, irresponsible, uninformed, and outright false things. For the life of me, I don’t get why we accept that he can say things like he did early in his campaign about shooting someone on 5th Avenue and not losing his support.

This is not funny. It’s serious business. Does he mean what he says? Or does he say what he means?

Have we actually sunk to this low level of discourse?

Sad and deplorable.

Insanity.

The thing is, real Americans are shot every day. About 90 a day and over 32,000 a year.

So do the gun rights extremists believe this dangerous talk? The answer is yes. Many of them are armed to the teeth and ready to fight their own government. Many of them hated President Obama. Some have threatened his life. All Presidents receive threats against their lives. The internet has made things more complicated for the secret service protection that we must have for our President. Just as candidates should be protected for very obvious reasons.

What we can’t accept is someone running for the Presidency who automatically receives the protection of the Secret Service to be making his own dangerous remarks about his opponent’s protection. Cynical and dangerous talk.

President Obama is our first Black President. Donald Trump has ramped up the fear and hatred of our first Black President by starting a birther movement that has dangerous and bigoted implications. Yesterday he tried to say that he now believed that President Obama was born in America.

To quote from Linus ( Charlie Brown character) in the Great Pumpkin:

Linus: Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He’s gotta pick this one. He’s got to. I don’t see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”

Halloween is coming fairly soon. Let’s not let the candidate who represents fear and would be one of the scariest Presidents, if elected, in American history. We ought to take a lesson from Linus. We need to pick the candidate who is sincere and is not cynical and dangerous when talking to the American public. Pick the candidate who seeks the sincere pumpkin patch and is without hypocrisy.

This is a turning point. It should have been long ago that Americans called Trump out for his lies but maybe now it will finally happen. The media is finally fed up as well they should be and perhaps now they will actually report on the lies of the man who could actually become our next President.

He is lying about Hillary Clinton’s wanting to take guns away. It is simply not true. Period. One can’t find her saying anything of the sort. But the lie has become a thing. Shame on those who believe this.

And this includes some of our own esteemed members of Congress who have been lied to and deceived into this dangerous idea. I wonder if they, too, are as cynical as Donald Trump and don’t really believe the lies from the corporate gun lobby but are using it to gain votes.

While Congress was away on the longest recess in history, over 4500 Americans lost their lives to gunshot injuries. The Brady Campaign and others made it clear that this was not OK. And as a result of actions taken by supporters of common sense gun measures, Congress members are paying attention and some are actually now realizing the truth that their own constituents want them to support Brady background checks for all gun sales. Check out what happened this week as a result of pressure from the Brady Campaign and the realization of the truth about gun violence:

After a one-on-one meeting with Brady Campaign President Dan Gross, Congressman David Jolly (R-FL) officially filed to cosponsor H.R. 1217, a bill to expand Brady background checks to gun sales at gun shows and online.

And guess what, some of their own constituents are also being shot on a daily basis.

In trying to deal with a family illness and thinking about other things in my life, the Presidential campaign has gone off the rails. Actually it went off the rails the minute Donald Trump became the Republican Presidential candidate. He is showing every day why the Republicans made a dangerous mistake in choosing him. If elected, he would be the most unqualified, inexperienced, and clown-like person ever to be elected to become leader of the free world.

Loose lips sink ships. We just can’t let our ship sink.

Please support common sense, reason, qualifications, experience, truth and sanity this fall. Gun violence is an issue of grave national consequence to our public health and safety. It’s time to be serious about the devastation to so many of our families. It’s time to get serious about the person who can lead us and make the changes that are necessary to prevent some of the rampant gun violence while not violating the rights of law abiding citizens to use their guns for legal purposes.

It’s also past time to stop listening to the lies. Donald Trump cannot be allowed to get away with his loose and dangerous statements that imply that something could happen to Hillary Clinton because of her common sense stance on gun violence prevention.

Let’s get to work. We can’t let the ship sink with a dangerous captain on board.

Gun suicide prevention

suicide_20kThis week is National Suicide Prevention Week. We can’t talk suicide without talking about guns. Why? Because suicide by gun is the majority of gun deaths in America.

From this article in The Trace, written for this week of awareness about suicide:

 

In 2014, there were 42,773 suicides, and 21,334 of these were carried out with a gun, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Suicides comprise two-thirds of all gun deaths. The typical victim of a gun homicide is a young, black male. The typical suicide victim is a middle-aged white man. Roughly 80 percent of suicide victims are men, and 83 percent are white.

Young people are also at an elevated risk of gun suicide. Among those aged 10 to 19, there were 2,259 suicides in 2014. Nearly half of those deaths — 41 percent — involved firearms, according to data from the CDC. The only more common cause of death for young people is accidental injuries, a category that includes traffic accidents and drownings.

Some gun rights advocates deny these statistics, or I should say, ignore them. To them, suicide by guns don’t matter. I have heard in comments on my blog and in other places from some of these folks that if people want to kill themselves we should let them. This Philadelphia father (Farid Naib) would totally disagree with that:

The video, which coincides with National Suicide Prevention Week, highlights how quickly things can go wrong for kids, who lack the perspective to realize things are not as dire as they seem. Farid and his two children had just returned from a ski trip, and “life was about as good as it could be.” But after Cayman received an email from school saying he was failing a course, he found the gun, took it to a remote section of the family’s large property and killed himself. “This was in the space of 20 or 30 minutes,” says Farid, who’d always believed there’d be warning signs if a child was contemplating suicide. “There were none. Kids get upset. And they make bad decisions when they’re upset. Having a gun in house that they can access, you give them the ability to make that bad decision permanent.”
Read more at http://www.phillymag.com/news/2015/09/11/cayman-naib-father-brady-campaign-video/#EeE5Faq7t23YMw5s.99

Farid Naib has told this story very poignantly because, as you can imagine, the pain is almost unbearable. It was his own gun that he had for self protection. And now his son, Cayman is dead over a momentary bad day. I have seen Mr. Naib speak at a conference and heard him tell his story. It was not easy but he knew that telling his story may help others understand the risk of guns in their homes and the tragic results that could occur as a result.

As part of my work to prevent gun violence, I have met people from all over America who have lost loved ones to gun suicide. It is a violent death. And it is often avoidable. Suicides by gun count in the total number of gun deaths in America. Why would they not?

Mental health is certainly a public health and safety problem. Easy access to guns is also a public health and safety problem. The combination is lethal.

Please read this blog post by a young woman who lives with a mental health disorder and why she knows a gun would be a terrible idea for her. From the writings of Bryan Barks who works for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:

Now, after years of therapy and the right combination of medications, I have my bachelor’s degree, live in DC, and have been able to pursue a career in a field I am passionate about — gun violence prevention. I lead a normal life, though I am aware of my bipolar disorder every day and struggle with my moods often — even in periods of relative stability.

While I try not to relive the most painful parts of my past, every time I think of the lives lost to suicide by firearms — nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths — I think about how different my story could have been if guns were involved. (…)

I know there are responsible, law-abiding individuals who have personal reasons for owning guns. But when someone in a household is in crisis, temporarily removing the quickest, most effective means of suicide can be life-saving. To call suicide inevitable is to give up on people with mental illness — people who could be successful, happy, full of life with the right treatment plan. Retrieving guns after the worst has passed is easy. Retrieving a life lost in a moment of desperation is impossible.

Guns matter. If family members and friends recognize some of the signs or understand that having a gun around during times of depression, crisis, family problems and other problems, lives could be saved. The image at the top shows the truth of the matter. Many people who survive suicide attempts don’t try to kill themselves again. A gun is much more lethal than other methods and ends in death more efficiently and quickly.

My brother-in-law committed suicide by jumping off a very high bridge. He knew it would be fatal and it was an awful event in the lives of our family. He was my husband’s only sibling. Between us we have each lost a sibling- one to suicide, one to homicide. We understand how devastating this loss of a loved one can be. We have handled our grief in different ways. My husband is more quiet and pensive and thinks about things we maybe could have done differently to recognize his brother’s depressed state and intentions. That’s typical when someone commits suicide.

Another brother-in-law , my sister’s first husband, had undiagnosed bi-polar disorder and could be angry and volatile. It was difficult to raise a family and deal with his ups and downs. He never owned guns for which we were all thankful. It was her second husband, with depression and a lot of anger who used his gun ( he owned many) and shot and killed her.

My brother, who served in the Viet Nam war has PTSD along with Parkinsons disease, depression and is now a former alcoholic. He owns many guns, even his service pistol. When we realized that his mental, emotional and physical status was such that he could become a danger to himself, we took the guns away and they have not yet been returned to him. He gave us permission to do this. Other families can do the same.

Which brings me to the issue of military suicides:

With nearly half of all suicides in the military having been committed with privately owned firearms, the Pentagon and Congress are moving to establish policies intended to separate at-risk service members from their personal weapons.

The issue is a thorny one for the Pentagon. Gun rights advocates and many service members fiercely oppose any policies that could be construed as limiting the private ownership of firearms.

But as suicides continue to rise this year, senior Defense Department officials are developing a suicide prevention campaign that will encourage friends and families of potentially suicidal service members to safely store or voluntarily remove personal firearms from their homes.

This is a serious public health and safety problem and guns cannot be ignored as part of the problem and the solution. But it is not something we can’t work to solve.

My path has been to get involved in ways to reduce gun deaths of all kinds by educating people, lobbying, learning about the issue, being involved in my local Brady Campaign chapter and the independent state group, Protect Minnesota as well as serving on the Board of Trustees of the Brady Campaign. I have traveled to Washington DC for meetings and conferences and meetings with my Congressional delegation many times. I have spoken to groups large and small, written OpEd pieces, testified at the state legislature, organized events, and many other things. It’s been a path of some victories and many challenges.

Because of the people I have met who have lost loved ones, I am determined to continue what I am doing to make a difference. Telling stories about the risks of guns to families is important. Many gun suicides are unreported in the media so we don’t often hear about them. Families are bereft, may feel “guilty” about a family suicide or reluctant to speak about it. But more family members are speaking out. And, as it turns out, laws can matter.

In states with strong gun laws and less gun ownership gun suicides are lower than in other states. A Harvard School of Public Heath study reflects the facts:

The lesson? Many lives would likely be saved if people disposed of their firearms, kept them locked away, or stored them outside the home. Says HSPH Professor of Health Policy David Hemenway, the ICRC’s director: “Studies show that most attempters act on impulse, in moments of panic or despair. Once the acute feelings ease, 90 percent do not go on to die by suicide.”

But few can survive a gun blast. That’s why the ICRC’s Catherine Barber has launched Means Matter, a campaign that asks the public to help prevent suicide deaths by adopting practices and policies that keep guns out of the hands of vulnerable adults and children. For details, visit www.meansmatter.org.

The Violence Policy Center confirms what the Harvard School of Public Health reported about the rate of gun ownership and the rate of gun deaths:

“Year after year, the evidence is clear that states with fewer guns and strong gun laws have far lower rates of gun death,” says VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand. “States with strong gun violence prevention laws consistently have the lowest gun death rates in the nation. In states with weak gun laws and easy availability of guns, the rates of death by gunfire are far higher.”

And far too often murders are also suicides in progress. Suicidal people with guns seem to want to take others with them. Their angry or depressed states of mind seek a final solution for their own problems by taking the lives of others. From this article:

What can we do to stop the killing? Murder-suicides are nearly always committed with a gun, and it is critical to stop potential killers from having easy access to firearms. One important step would be to restrict access to guns for individuals who have a history of domestic violence or have threatened suicide. Policymakers at the state and federal levels should pass stronger domestic violence prevention legislation to help keep guns away from domestic abusers. States should also establish domestic violence task forces. In addition, we need aggressive enforcement of laws that prohibit individuals with a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction or who are the subject of a restraining order for domestic violence from purchasing or possessing a firearm.

Finally, we should establish a comprehensive, nationwide database to track murder-suicides, in order to fully understand the scope of this problem and how we can stop it.

Suicide is commonly misperceived as a solitary, desperate act. Yet our research shows that murder-suicides claim the lives of spouses, intimate partners, and children — and nearly always involve a gun. We must immediately take steps to help prevent this especially horrific form of domestic violence.

As we study the issues of gun violence, we can learn more about the causes and effects and some are drawing a line from suicidal people to mass shootings. From this article:

Mass murder is a form of suicide in that the perpetrator of such atrocities is often an enraged and fatalistic individual who intends to die at the scene of the massacre. From this perspective, the increase in mass shootings over the last ten years is very consistent with the increase in suicide.

To sum this up, guns matter for those considering suicide. Gun suicides account for the majority of our country’s gun deaths. We don’t have to accept this nor should we. As a country we don’t sit back and accept the rate of death from auto accidents or smoking. We dig in and do something about reducing the chances of death and injury. Gun suicides are preventable. The fact that we are doing little to stop them is a sad commentary on our American gun culture. If we but do some common sense things and have the necessary national discussion we can save lives.

It’s past time to deal with the tragedy of suicide and gun suicides in particular. Let’s get to work. Join an organization working on gun violence prevention and get involved. The organization with which I am involved is the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and also the state independent group, Protect Minnesota. They can use your help, your energy, your financial donations and your talents.

 

 

 

 

Minnesotans and background checks

state-fair
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Minnesota State Fair attendees, a pretty good cross section of Minnesotans from all over the state, have once again confirmed that requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales is something that ought to happen. From the report released after the Fair closed:

 

2. Should criminal background checks be required on all gun sales, including private transactions and at gun shows? Yes…………………………………………… 86.2%……………… (5,556) No……………………………………………. 11.5%………………… (739) Undecided/No Opinion ………………. 2.3%………………….. (150)

These poll results are consistent with all other polls taken about this issue both in Minnesota and nationally. Not once have a clear majority of Minnesotans said they don’t want background checks on all gun sales. That being the case, what has been the response of our Minnesota legislators?

Sigh.

In 2013 the Minnesota legislature had an opportunity to pass a law to require background checks on all sales at gun shows and on-line. In spite of several polls showing strong support from Minnesotans taken by the Star Tribune and by KSTP news network, the bill never got a vote in the House.

Aren’t we better than this? A small minority of Minnesotans think, apparently, that felons, domestic abusers, those adjudicated mentally ill, fugitives and others who definitely should not have guns should be able to buy them anyway- and buy them legally. Or, is this denial? Or is it something else? What could it be?

Selling guns without background checks is not illegal if one is a private seller. Why? Because we have allowed our legislature to be bullied by the gun lobbyists and leaders who make false claims that requiring the very same background checks now performed by federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs)extended to private sellers would lead to gun registration and confiscation. This kind of ludicrous claim should not be accepted by our legislators any more.

Why have they believed it before? Fear. Fear of whom? Money? Influence? Fear of losing? The small minority of noisy gun owners who have drunk the kool aid of the far right have kept up this mantra of fear and paranoia for so many years that it is hard to break through it with the truth.

The truth is that Brady background checks will save lives if applied to all gun sales. The gun lobby hates the fact that over 2 million gun buyers have been prohibited from purchasing from federally licensed dealers since the Brady law took effect in 1994. What don’t they like? They have made false claims that those who have been denied shouldn’t have been. But this article from The Trace highlights the numbers and the reasons why someone was denied purchasing a firearm. Felons, fugitives, domestic abusers, illegal aliens, someone under indictment, unlawful users of controlled substances, and others have not been able to purchase guns from FFLs.

We should be thankful and relieved that these prohibited purchasers who tried to buy guns were denied. But they are NOT denied if buying from a private seller at a gun show, an on-line site, classified newspaper ad or flea market.

This is stupid, dangerous and ludicrous. It makes no common sense.

No one is saying that requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales will lead to no gun deaths. We know better. There are many ways for prohibited people to get guns. This is but one way to cut off an easy market for those who shouldn’t have guns. Not closing down this “loophole” is insanity at the least and dangerous and irresponsible at the most. And, of course, requiring background checks IS constitutional and has been for over 20 years.

It’s time for a change. The public understands this issue very well. Some in our Congress and legislatures are in denial and in the pockets of the corporate gun lobby and those who believe their gun rights include the potential need to overthrow their own government. These are strong views believed by some and they can have these views whether or not we require background checks on all gun sales. But they should not prevent us from passing laws that will save lives and change a culture that has included allowing easy access to guns by people who should not have it.

If we but follow the money we also see the influence of the gun manufacturers on the gun lobby and vice versa. If sales of guns are important enough to prevent our passing laws that will save lives, we need a change in the conversation, the culture and policy. There is no proof that gun sales will go down if background checks are required on all sales. Is there proof that law abiding gun buyers will stop buying guns from private sellers if they have to undergo a background check identical to the one they undergo at an FFL?

Questions need to be asked and answered. We’ve had #Enough.

Scared to death of the dentist

Dentist2Has anyone seen “Little Shop of Horrors”? The mocking and funny musical about a sadistic dentist is amusing and a bit of the truth. Note that a gun was not used as intended because Seymour ( character in the play) could not bring himself to shoot Orin. Instead he killed him with nitrous oxide.

But back to dentists and the fear of them. People don’t seem to like to go to the dentist. Often it involves pain. And there’s a bit of humiliation as one sits in the chair, captive to a drill or a clamp. Having someone fool around with your mouth is disconcerting.

Apparently some gun carrying Americans feel unusually afraid of dentists to the point of packing heat while sitting in the chair. Nothing really good can come of carrying a gun around everywhere one goes and then, either forgetting the gun is in your pocket or knowingly carrying one around unholstered out of “necessity”  or fear. So one Ohio man found out the horror of packing while under the influence of  nitrous oxide. You can’t make this stuff up. From the article:

James White, 72, apparently thought he heard his cellphone ring, and when he went to answer it, he somehow fired his gun.

In a 911 call obtained by the station, an employee at New Carlisle Dental Group can be heard saying, “we have a patient here who accidentally shot himself with a gun.”

Big oops.

And more:

White has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, but now it looks like the dentist office is going to have a stricter policy about allowing weapons in the building.

Video shows fatal abuse by Oklahoma dentist, prosecutors say

“Going into a doctor’s office where you might be placed under some kind of medication, you might not want to carry a weapon in there,” Sgt. Christina Evans-Fisher of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office told WCMH. “Think of your safety and the safety of those around you.”

Too many legal gun carriers don’t think about safety. Why not? They think they are thinking about safety but they aren’t really doing that. They are exercising their right to be stupid and dangerous with a deadly weapon.

Where is common sense?

I have written about “accidental” gun discharges happening in many places in our country but a dentist’s office is not one of them- until now. “Law abiding” gun owners have carelessly discharged guns in bathrooms, Starbucks stores, hospitals, schools, stores, cars, at work, bars, restaurants, apartments, homes, on the streets, military recruiting centers,  and almost everywhere families gather to spend time together. Small children have killed siblings, themselves and others with guns found left loaded and within easy reach of children. Some idiots even post their “accidental” discharges on YouTube videos.

Now some of my readers will make comments about these folks being stupid with their guns and that they are the exception. Though that has a grain of truth to it, it seems to me that we ought to be doing whatever we can to make sure those “exceptions” ,which happen far too often, don’t become the rule. There should be no exceptions with guns. They are deadly weapons designed to kill and harm people.

I write often about instances like this one. It is simply not true that guns everywhere make us safer and protect us from harm. What is true is that many people with guns are carrying loaded deadly weapons around with them without thought to the risk to themselves or others. This dangerous behavior is promoted by the American corporate gun lobby and supported by our politicians.

These things don’t happen in other civilized countries. Why? People in other countries don’t consider that carrying guns around is a thing. It’s also not a right as the gun extremists claim it is here. Other countries also don’t have the high rate of gun deaths that we experience in America nor the mass shootings that occur way too often here.

Some have distorted the right to bear arms into the right to carry them everywhere regardless of the public’s right to be safe from armed citizens. What is required of the rest of us,who understand that loaded weapons everywhere are a risk to public safety, is to change the conversation and change the culture that has led to the current situation.

LWe’ve had #enough. The careless Ohio man who confused his phone for a gun only shot himself and the injuries were not serious. They could have been. Or the dentist working on his teeth could have been the true victim of the horror of a gun death.

This is a public health and safety problem that needs serious attention and study. My guess is that if there was a CDC study about the risks of gun carriers in public, it would reveal that they are actually not saving lives or preventing crime but increasing public health and safety risks. The Violence Policy Center has studied the numbers of justifiable self defense shootings compared to the number of gun deaths by suicide, homicide or unintentional. Here is the conclusion from data gathered of actual incidents:

The reality of self-defense gun use bears no resemblance to the exaggerated claims of the gun lobby and gun industry. The number of justifiable homicides that occur in our nation each year pale in comparison to criminal homicides, let alone gun suicides and fatal unintentional shootings. And contrary to the common stereotype promulgated by the gun lobby, those killed in justifiable homicide incidents don’t always fit the expected profile of an attack by a stranger: in 35.5 percent of the justifiable homicides that occurred in 2012 the persons shot were known to the shooter. The devastation guns inflict on our nation each and every year is clear: more than 33,000 dead, more than 81,000 wounded, and an untold number of lives traumatized and communities shattered. Unexamined claims of the efficacy and frequency of the self-defense use of firearms are the default rationale offered by the gun lobby and gun industry for this unceasing, bloody toll. The idea that firearms are frequently used in self-defense is the primary argument that the gun lobby and firearms industry use to expand the carrying of firearms into an ever-increasing number of public spaces and even to prevent the regulation of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Yet this argument is hollow and the assertions false. When analyzing the most reliable data available, what is most striking is that in a nation of more than 300 million guns, how rarely firearms are used in self-defense.14

Conclusion? Guns carried and owned for self defense get used more often to shoot someone intentionally, unintentionally, in a domestic shooting, suicide, by kids and by others who shouldn’t have guns in the first place. If we change the conversation, change the culture and have a serious discussion about how passing stronger laws can also send a message that, in America, we care about the lives of our citizens too much to let the carnage by bullets continue.

We are better than this.

 

 

On-line gun sales

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A new market place has opened up for gun sales since the Brady law took effect in 1994. Like everything else, guns can be purchased on-line. Unlike anything else, no other item for sale on-line rises to the definition of a deadly weapon. I buy a lot of things on-line and I like that convenience. I don’t think any other item I buy on-line requires a background check because a sweater, a pair of shoes, a camera or a rug do not kill people. Guns do.

Armslist.com sells guns on line. I checked out what was available today in Minnesota. Many handguns, hunting rifles and also AR-15s are there for people who choose to purchase guns this way. Some sellers do say they will only ship to an FFL and one must have a Minnesota permit to purchase or carry. That’s good news. But many are sold by private sellers with no background check required. When these kinds of gun sales became available , those in the gun violence prevention movement raised concerns about this new market place for guns. Many gun rights extremists claimed that guns could not be bought on line with no background check. What they thought, or said, was that all guns sold on-line went through sites like Gander Mountain, for example, which has strict policies about shipping the purchased guns to a federally licensed firearms dealer for pick-up. There a background check would be required.

Were these folks in denial, lying or didn’t they realize that sites like Armslist.com allowed private sellers to post their wares and sell with no background checks just as they do at gun shows?  Someone I know once spoke with a reporter from the Star Tribune who said that some of the gun folks told him we were lying when we said this was possible. She directed him to Armslist.com and while on the phone call and asked him to click on Minnesota and then take a look at what was available. He admitted that we were right and the gun folks were wrong.

Radcliffe Haughton bought his gun from Armslist.com with no background check. He was a prohibited purchaser. Soon after the purchase, his estranged wife and 2 other people were dead after he shot them all in a fit of rage over a separation. Several others were injured. From the article:

Haughton was able to buy a gun despite a Milwaukee County judge issuing a restraining order against him just three days before the shooting. The restraining order barred him under federal law from owning a firearm or buying one from a gun dealer.

Haughton sidestepped the federal law by purchasing the gun privately.

Private sellers are not required to run background checks and do not have to follow a 48-hour waiting period, required at the time of the shooting for gun dealers in Wisconsin. The waiting period was intended, in part, as a cooling-off period in domestic violence cases. That waiting period was eliminated in a bill passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Scott Walker over summer.

The lawsuit says Armslist, and its owners, were liable because they created the marketplace that could facilitate such a transaction.

Facebook allows private groups to buy and sell guns to each other. No background checks are required. The transactions are made, as they are on Armslist.com when the seller and buyer choose a place to make the transaction and the cash is exchanged for the gun(s).

It was just a matter of time before people started getting caught trafficking in guns bought and sold on-line. This Minnesota man is one of them.  From the article:

“Feldman’s actions in this case put firearms in the hands of criminals in the Twin Cities and jeopardized public safety,” said James Modzelewski, special agent in charge of the St. Paul field division for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF). “[The] ATF is committed to working with local police and prosecutors to identify illegal sources of firearms, and hold them accountable. If we’re going to impact gun violence in our communities, we all need to work together to prevent criminals from getting guns.” (…)

The ATF found evidence linking Feldman’s sales to several handguns used in serious crimes.

The indictment said Feldman regularly bought firearms — mostly handguns — from licensed out-of-state sellers using an online auction site, had the weapons transferred to a Burnsville gun shop where he received them, and then quickly advertised them for sale on another website that facilitates gun sales without criminal background checks.

The allegations span two years, with Feldman’s last sale (of more than 50) coming in January at a shopping mall parking lot to an undercover officer used by the ATF.

His indictment came soon after Obama announced that the U.S. Department of Justice would toughen federal gun control efforts, including a warning that “a person can be [considered to be] engaged in the business of dealing in firearms” even if they conduct transactions only at gun shows or online. Those doing so, Obama said, must be licensed, just like dealers who run their businesses out of a traditional storefront.

Feldman advertised on Armslist.com to sell guns he had earlier bought from licensed dealers online. He first had the firearms transferred to L.E. Gun Sales in Burnsville, where he would receive them after completing required paperwork and submitting to a background check.

So much for the “law abiding” gun owner. He was able to purchase the guns legally, going through a background check himself but then turned around and sold them with no background checks. He was acting as a gun dealer and not requiring background checks. This is why we need background checks on all gun sales. These kinds of transactions help provide crime guns. And we need to enforce these laws, already on the books.

Why do some people believe that it’s OK to sell guns with no background checks? How do they know who is on the other end of the transaction? They don’t. It could be an ex-felon who can’t have guns. It could be a domestic abuser or someone who had been adjudicated mentally ill at some point. It could be a fugitive or a terrorist ( who can buy guns legally in the U.S. and we can’t stop them from doing so, thanks to our lax gun laws.)

This just makes no common sense. The corporate gun lobby continues to resist measures to require background checks on all gun sales. Why? They claim that these kinds of sales will lead to gun registration and confiscation even though the very same background checks that have been in place for over 20 years now have not done this.

The gun lobby is wrong of course. But some of our leaders seem to believe them and the minority of gun rights activists in league with the gun lobby cry wolf any time proposed bills come up.

The times are changing however as more Americans are now educated as to the fact that some gun sales do go without background checks. In fact, about 40% do. So the analogy that seems to work best is to think about going through the TSA checkpoints when traveling by plane. And then think about 40% of people who can just walk through without having their bags checked or going through the metal detector. And this analogy becomes even more scary considering how many guns are found in carry-on bags by the TSA.

So the long and short of it is- in order to protect the public from at least some of the daily shootings, the very least we can do is to require background checks on all gun sales and do what the majority of Americans have agreed is the right thing to do. Why not treat every sale the same? Just like all on-line sales of books, cosmetics, clothing, toys, etc. are treated the same for all, sales of guns should be uniform. No one can buy Sudafed without asking the pharmacist- there are no exceptions.  Many states require controlling the substance contained in Sudafed:

Pharmacy is one of the most highly regulated professions.3 Pharmacists are the gatekeepers of dangerous drugs. As such we are in a position to control access to one of the most dangerous of the drugs of abuse. We are at the end of the protected, closed loop of drug distribution. When it comes to protecting society from the illegal traffic in harmful drugs, we can make a difference. In so doing, pharmacists not only follow the law but fulfill our duty to protect society.

Hmmmm. This is a strong statement. Why doesn’t it apply to gun dealers- even private sellers?

Sales of tobacco products require an ID if a young person appears to be below the age of 18 and sellers can be fined for selling to a minor. Selling alcohol to a minor can result in severe fines as well as jail time. We all know that drugs are illegally bought and sold all over the world and that that is a huge problem in our country. The penalties are stiff if someone is caught and we have put a lot of resources into the efforts to stop drug trafficking but it is still happening.  It’s not easy to stop illegal activity like this but the fact that we are putting up no obstacles to dealing with the sales of guns to people who shouldn’t have them is ludicrous and dangerous.

There are exceptions for selling guns to those who can’t legally own them. It’s called legal private sales with no background checks. Gun dealers are required to be licensed but are not monitored as they should be, by design of the corporate gun lobby.

We are talking about allowing deadly weapons to fall into the hands of people who can’t buy them legally from licensed dealers.

This is the opposite of protecting Americans from public health and safety problems.

As Congress finally comes back from its’ longest break ever, lots of important things will be on their plates but little will happen because it’s an election year and they are afraid of their own shadows. We won’t expect much. But we will be watching to see how Congress will avoid dealing with a public health and safety crisis of gun violence not seen in any other country.

Congress needs to act. Ask them to act. If they don’t ask them why not? And keep the pressure on. We can’t let them ignore the fact that over 30,000 Americans die each year from gunshot injuries. Too many families are devastated daily by the carnage. It’s time for that to change.

#Enough.

Bullets are flying

flying_bulletYes they are. It’s getting more difficult to explain the gun culture in America. When there is an auto accident and the one at fault gets out of his rolled car and shoots and kills the woman in the other car, we have to wonder what in the h#$% is going on? I just can’t wrap my head around this kind of violence and stupidity. Why did this happen? The accident was enough wasn’t it? Maybe alcohol? Maybe a whole lot of anger directed at the wrong person? Maybe just a gun at the ready to use just in case one causes an accident and needs to get rid of the evidence?

Where is common sense?

But even worse than this is the shooting death of a young mother in Chicago while bullets were flying intended for others:

Nykea Aldridge, 32, a mother of four, was pushing a baby stroller Friday afternoon on Chicago’s South Side when she was shot. Police said she was not the intended target of the shooting. Aldridge’s child was not struck by the gunfire.

Police said the two men charged with murder — Darwin Sorells, 26, and Derren Sorells, 22 — were both on parole and affiliated with the Gangster Disciples gang. They appeared in court Sunday and were ordered held without bail.

This is such an awful tragedy. I watched a news show with an interview of the woman’s mother who talked with tears streaming down her cheeks.

It’s insanity. Yes, the shooters were gang members. Yes a lot of gang members are armed. And yes, they shoot other people. Why? How do they get their guns? Legally? From people who sell guns from the trunk of their cars like these opportunistic gun buyers at a Minneapolis gun buyback?

Or from this guy who was trafficking guns from Indiana into Chicago. Indiana has lax gun laws. Illinois’ laws are stronger. And this man was supplying guns to gangs. From the article:

A suburban Chicago man has been sentenced to nearly 17 years in federal prison for buying hundreds of firearms and high-capacity magazines from gun shows in Indiana and selling them illegally in Chicago. (…) The 24-year-old is from South Holland. He was convicted of dealing firearms without a federal license, illegally transporting firearms across state lines and interstate travel to sell guns without a license.

The woman was doing what she was supposed to be doing on a week-end day- walking a baby in a stroller. Mothers walking their babies in strollers should be safe from stray bullets flying in their neighborhoods.

And let’s address the real problem- guns and the easy access to them. But Presidential candidate Donald Trump doesn’t want to talk about the guns. It’s all about himself and not the victims. He wants votes and thinks he can get them by letting people know that he predicted things like this would happen. He says he can protect people from being shot but he doesn’t say how. Nothing but empty rhetoric seemingly addressed at people of color in neighborhoods like this one in Chicago and in large urban cities all over America.

What about the guns Mr. Trump? What will you do about the guns and the bullets? How will you protect young mothers walking their babies? This great article from the Star Tribune quotes the Chicago Police Chief asking Mr. Trump what his plan is ,if he has one, to stop the killings:

On Monday morning, Trump posted on Twitter about crime in inner cities “reaching record levels,” which is untrue. While killings have increased in major cities across the country this year — as they did last year — crime rates still remain far below what they were just a few decades ago.

Facts matter. Yes we have crime but the rates are lower than they have been for many years. Conflating crime rates with shooting rates is an old trick of the corporate gun lobby used to deflect the real problem with guns and bullets in our country. Shootings are not just about criminals with guns. Some of the gun rights advocates who read my blog tried to tell me that my ex brother-in-law was a criminal because he shot and killed my sister. He was not a criminal until he pulled the trigger and the bullets ended up in my sister’s body. People who commit suicide by gun are not criminals. Small children who find their parents’ guns and shoot their siblings like this incident ( for just one of many) are not criminals. Domestic shootings like my sister’s are not often committed by criminals but by angry, jealous mostly men upset with a spouse or partner trying to leave the relationship.

How will we all protect anyone from an angry divorced guy who decides to shoot bullets into the air in mid-day in the Minneapolis suburb of Eagan? How?  He was shot and killed by police. How do we protect our families from crazies with guns? Why do so many people think they can do things like this in the first place? Without the gun, what would have happened? He would be alive most likely. Was this a suicide by cop? We don’t know. He endangered the lives of many innocent people while shooting those bullets around near the apartment building.

Where are our values when it comes to the ease with which people take another human life and we do nothing about it? Isn’t this something that rises to the top of our agenda? If not, why not?

The fact that I am writing about this and these incidents even happened shows the serious public health and safety problem we are facing. And these are only just a few of thousands happening every year everywhere in America. Note that the apartment tenants in Eagan, Minnesota were surprised that this could have happened in their neighborhood. Don’t people know that with over 300 million guns in America things like this are inevitable? From the article about the Eagan shooting ( above):

The incident shocked residents in what some described as a peaceful neighborhood.

“I am a lifelong Eaganite, and we rarely have an incident like this,” said Jim Carlson, the state senator for District 51, which includes Eagan. Carlson was knocking on doors with a group of volunteers when the shooting erupted nearby.

And yes, those volunteers could have been injured or worse by flying bullets.

When will the gun lobby help out with this? Why do they convince just about everyone that owning a guns is an OK thing without making sure everyone has a background check and proper training to operate a deadly weapon? Why do we have such a cavalier attitude towards deadly weapons? Rights? Why are we not discussing the inherent risk of owning a deadly weapon and making sure they are not only stored safely but that those who have them can be responsible with them? We legislate safety with cars so that everyone has to be trained properly and take a test to get a license. Cars are registered and when transferred to a new owner, paper work is required by the state and kept on file.

What we need is to break down the resistance to sensible measures to make sure we are safe from devastating gun violence in our neighborhoods; and that people who shouldn’t have guns aren’t shooting bullets off with them on the streets in our neighborhoods. I think we can do this. We have done it with many other things we deem to be potentially dangerous to our safety or our health. We sent people to the moon and into outer space. We can figure this out.

Let’s get to work. We’ve had #Enough of the denial and inaction.

UPDATE:

Just after I posted this I saw this article from The Trace which gives us some hope:

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry’s top trade group, is partnering for the first time with the leading suicide prevention nonprofit organization in the U.S. The ambitious goal of the collaboration: averting nearly 10,000 deaths over the next decade.

The program, initiated by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, will strive to educate people on the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, and provide guidance on how best to talk to someone who may be considering trying to end his or her own life, says Robert Gebbia, the chief executive of AFSP.

Notably, the program will also recommend blocking family members who are suicidal from accessing firearms by, for example, emphasizing the importance of securely locking guns away. It is not clear whether the AFSP guidance will include specific suggestions about how to remove weapons from potentially suicidal people. The NSSF, which represents thousands of gun dealers and manufacturers, provided input into the program and is also promoting it.

It is past time for this to happen but acknowledging the public health problem of gun suicides is a big step forward from this gun industry leader. We can hope that the corporate gun lobby will follow this group and get involved in reducing and preventing gun deaths. Common sense may just be breaking out.