Is it too extreme to speak the truth about gun violence?

personal photo of book

In my last post I wrote about the businesses who have decided to “come out” and tell their customers that they want nothing to do with their openly carried guns in their places of business. This would not have happened a month ago. But after the heinous shooting at an El Paso Walmart, it became obvious that any business could be the next one found in a Wikipedia entry for a mass shooting site. Who wants that to be your legacy?

Now the tide is coming in and it’s turning. A few days ago, 150 chief executives of some of America’s largest companies sent a letter to the Senate telling them that it’s “simply unacceptable” to not act on bills that could stop some of the gun violence that is affecting their customers and their businesses.

This is huge:

The letter — which urges the Republican-controlled Senate to enact bills already introduced in the Democrat-led House of Representatives — is the most concerted effort by the business community to enter the gun debate, one of the most polarizing issues in the nation and one that was long considered off limits.

It’s been “off limits” for far too long. The corporate gun lobby has made it so. And our elected leaders and many influential business leaders and others, for that matter, who could have made a difference decades ago have now decided to weigh in.

The thing is, the public has been ahead of elected leaders for decades now. Look at the latest poll which is just one of many showing the same results over the last few decades. Support is undeniable. But deny does Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump and the Republicans who have run out of excuses.

Why has it taken so long to act? Sometimes this is the way the system works I guess. But it does take bold action and a constant drumbeat of advocacy and also, I guess, one too many mass shootings, before it enters the collective consciousness of a country exhausted by the carnage.

When shootings in Dayton, Ohio, El Paso, Texas and then Odessa, Texas showed how people with AR-15s can inflict so much damage to human bodies in such a short time happened in rapid succession that appeared to be too much even for business leaders.

Let’s be clear. It’s been too much ever since the Columbine shooting became one of the first mass shootings to get the attention of the country. When our kids became the targets and the victims, mothers marched on DC in the Million Mom March in 2000. We were horrified at the shooting at a Jewish Day Care Center in California followed by the Columbine shooting and one brave woman, Donna Dees Thomases, stepped forward to lead the charge.

But that was 20 years ago. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from gunshot injuries needlessly. We let the NRA lead the conversation with the second amendment as their foil to stop any common sense action to stop the next shooting. We let the gun lobby continue to protect gun manufacturer profits over lives. We let our leaders get away with avoiding any discussion about the role guns actually play in gun violence.

We are all to blame for this in a way. The Democrats got scared that if they touched the “third rail” of gun violence they would lose their seats. Never mind that thousands lost their loved ones. We tried. We have held rallies and hundreds of vigils. We have lobbied at the state and federal level. We have sent letters, made phone calls, visited with our leaders, lit candles, rang bells, and demanded action. We have lie-ins and sit-ins and stood up for common sense. We have protested in the streets of our towns and in the nation’s Capitol.

Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot and severely wounded at a Tucson gathering outside of a mall and a group named for her and now called Giffords was formed. After the totally unimaginable happened at Sandy Hook elementary school a new group of mothers and others began- Moms Demand Action and Everytown.

Together, groups who have been working for decades like Brady, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and many independent state groups (States United) have been joined by a host of other groups to demand action. We are making a difference. Congress is now hearing us but the Republicans are not listening.

Even a few months ago, Democrats vying to become our next President would not have touched the issue of gun violence. But something happened after the Parkland shooting. The student survivors fought back and made their voices loud and clear. March For Our Lives joined the others and it was hard to ignore their young and articulate voices.

The tide is changing. At this week’s Democratic debate, candidates tripped all over themselves to be the one with the best plan for preventing gun violence. The loudest voice was that of former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke who represented El Paso. El Paso, the site of the mass shooting at a Walmart that was carried out by a White Supremacist whose rhetoric matched that of our sitting President. O’Rourke suspended his campaign to be with the victims in El Paso and it changed him.

Sitting with those whose sisters, brothers, children, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, cousins and friends have just been shot and killed so suddenly and violently is hard work. Who among us wants to listen to those stories? But we must hear their stories if change is to happen. And it was so clear that the shooter in the El Paso incident should not have had a gun. It was so clear that the Dayton shooter should not have had a gun but they both got them anyway.

And then, the Odessa shooting showed us how, if we had passed a law requiring a background check on every gun sale, we could have prevented the shooting death of 7 innocent people and the permanent disfigurement of the face of a 17 month old baby.

So when Beto O’Rourke described sitting with the mother of a 15 year old girl as she died from the horrendous injuries caused by bullets from an AR-15, it was too much. There were so many injured people because AR-15s can do that- shoot as many people as possible in as short a time as possible, that ambulances couldn’t respond to the mayhem. And so, the 15 year old died as her mother watched her bleed to death.

And now we have the famous statement made by Beto O’Rourke calling for a mandatory buyback of AR-15s and AK-47 assault style weapons originally meant for war. His description of why these weapons have been used and are used by the military was something we have not heard a candidate say before. His passion was genuine and heard loudly and clearly.

Even some Democrats came unglued and are wringing their hands. Oh my- what will happen now? Will we lose voters? Did we make people too angry? Will we lose the Presidency? What should we do about this perceived threat to gun rights? I guess time will tell how this shakes out. At the least it started a very important discussion about weapons designed for war in the hands of civilians.

What Beto O’Rourke did was “accidentally” or on purpose speak the truth. The public knows that it is AR-15s that have been used in many of our mass shootings. The public at large does not want these weapons in circulation so they get into the hands of people who intend mass carnage. Even many gun owners don’t want them, don’t need them, and are willing to give them up.

O’Rourke’s loud call was heard by a sitting Texas state Senator who issued a tweet heard ’round the country.

And this, dear readers, is why we need to act and act soon. When gun rights extremists occupy our state houses and Congress and believe they can own any weapon they want to own with no restrictions and then issue threatening rhetoric at candidates for office, we have turned a very dangerous corner.

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Assault Weapons Ban and the 15th anniversary of its’ death. which was famously allowed to sunset in 2004 after only 10 years of keeping us safer from weapons designed for war. The gun lobby keeps trying to tell us that these weapons don’t kill many people compared to other guns. They tell us that they love them and we hate them because they are scary looking. They tell us that they need them for hunting and sport.

No. When they kill, they kill many at a time and the bullets do much more damage to human tissue. That is why the military likes them.

No. They are not good for hunting.

No. They are not needed by anyone for self defense or sport.

Here are some facts offered by Brady that were sent out on social media yesterday:

“In shootings with assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, 155% more people are shot and 47% more people are killed. These weapons of war were designed for mass destruction. (…) According to the @nytimes, the federal assault weapon ban — which ran from Sept. 13, 1994 to Sept. 13, 2004 — was associated with a 25% drop in gun massacres and 40% percent drop in fatalities.  (…) On September 13, 2004, Congress let the federal assault weapons ban expire. In the decade after, America saw a 347% increase in fatalities in gun massacres. Enough is enough. Congress: it’s past time to end this bloodshed and #BanAssaultWeapons now! “

Yes. We can save lives if we ban assault weapons. Yes. We can save lives if we pass universal background check and red flag laws. Yes. We can do this. Yes. It’s past time. Yes. Beto O’Rourke said something that people are talking about. Was it too extreme?

Was it to extreme for 53 Americans to be shot in mass shootings just in August?

Is it too extreme that the Republicans have stopped every reasonable gun bill coming their way and let Americans die as a result?

Is it too extreme to let the NRA write our gun bills?

Is ti too extreme that the NRA had help from Russia to get our current President get elected?

Is it too extreme that our President swings like a pendulum whenever a mass shooting happens and then fails to act?

Is the cost of an assault weapons buy-back too extreme?

Is the actual cost in billions of dollars attributed to gun violence and all that happens in the aftermath too extreme?

Is it too extreme that a group of student survivors had to write their own plan, in the absence of action from Congress, to stop gun violence?

Is it too extreme that a book, “If I Don’t Make It, I Love You” was published because children are texting their parents in terror during lock-down drills and during actual shootings? Survivors who wrote in the book are not extreme people. They are average Americans who have experienced the terror of school shootings and survived to tell their stories.

Is it too extreme that our children are the targets of mass shooters?

Is it too extreme that the American Federation of Teachers, March For Our Lives and Brady teamed up to run an ad in Politico showing a student hiding under a desk during a lock-down drill?

Is it too extreme that our schools have been forced to have these drills in the first place because our leaders refuse to act to prevent school shooters from getting guns in the first place?

I know the answers. I own the book pictured above and know some of the people who wrote sections of that book. I understand that even still, decades after shootings, they do not forget the terror. I also know some people affected by mass shootings and “everyday shootings” like my own sister’s. I know the emotional and financial trauma suffered by too many. I have met some of the survivors of these shootings and seen the sadness in their eyes.

You know the answers. The public understands. The Democrats are not afraid anymore. American business leaders are not afraid anymore. Teachers, parents and students are not afraid to speak out. Survivors are not afraid. The stakes are high. Lives are at stake.

The only ones still afraid of the corporate gun lobby are the ones who can make the difference.They are afraid they will lose their power and influence and yes, campaign donations. If they won’t act, we will. We will make sure they are voted out of office and left to wonder what happened and why they refused to act on our nation’s epidemic of gun violence.

#Enough

No to open carry and ammunition

It’s finally happening. The business community and corporate America have decided that they don’t want to deal with guns and ammunition. Can you blame them? Quite a lot of businesses have suffered through horrendous shootings or have had incidents that make them less safe and uncomfortable.

Let’s take the position released by Walmart earlier this week:

Walmart stepped forcefully into the national gun debate on Tuesday, saying it would stop selling ammunition that can be used in military-style assault rifles, would discourage its customers from openly carrying guns in its stores and would call on Congress to increase background checks and consider a new assault rifle ban.
One month ago, a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, a massacre that put pressure on the company to respond to the wave of mass shootings across the country. It is the nation’s biggest retailer, and a large seller of firearms and ammunition.
Walmart said it made the announcement after weeks of discussion and research about how best to respond. The decision is in line with public opinion polls that favor more gun controls, and advocates, gun violence victims and others have increasingly called for action.

Walmart clarified the statement about ammunition magazines:

“Our assortment will remain focused on the needs of hunting and sport shooting enthusiasts,” Garcia told the Washington Free Beacon. “It will include rifles used for deer hunting and shotguns, much of the ammunition they require, as well as hunting and sporting accessories and apparel. In other words, if we sell the firearm, we will sell the ammunition for it unless that ammunition, such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber that, while commonly used in some hunting rifles, can also be used in large-capacity magazines on military-style weapons, and also the .300 Blackout, 7.62×39 and .224 Valkyrie which can also be used in military-style rifles.”

This is exactly what they should have done after the massacre at one of their stores in El Paso, Texas. Who wants to have a mass shooting inside of your store? Not only are your employees at risk, but your customers as well. Let’s just say it’s pretty bad for business not to mention the horrendous loss of life.

In addition, when a class action lawsuit against your business is looming, the incentive is great to prevent another shooting for which you could be liable. See this article:

The move came after survivors of a mass shooting at an El Paso filed a lawsuit against the mega-retailer late last month. 
In the lawsuit, which was brought against Walmart Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Texas LLC, the victims said that they were not seeking monetary compensation but instead the reason as to why the store did not have more adequate security measures in place to prevent the shooting.

Remember that a man armed to the teeth and wearing a protective vest showed up at a Missouri Walmart store days after the El Paso shooting.

Who needs it?

There’s a choice to be made here. Either all businesses and all places where the public gathers install security measures like metal detectors and screening or they prevent the need for this in the first place by denying people carrying guns around in their businesses.

So this week in a matter of a few days a bunch of businesses and corporations decided to stand up to the insanity of our gun culture and say a big fat NO.

Prior to Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods had already taken a stand. It actually helped their business:

More than a year after calls to boycott Dick’s Sporting Goods, the retailer announced that profits increased to their strongest showing since 2016, information that could prove important for America’s largest retailer, Walmart.

This happened after the Parkland shooting. Last week, the local Fleet Farm took a stand. They are no longer advertising assault style rifles and they will not allow a gun to be sold after 3 days if the sale is delayed because the paperwork has not been returned. This is called the default proceed and it is exactly how the shooter of 9 people at a Charleston church got his gun. He was a prohibited purchaser. Why take a chance? The families of the Charleston victims can now sue the government for this loophole in the background check bill that allowed their loved ones to be murdered.

Then came Krogers, Wegmans, Walgreens and CVS- all in one day:

The retailers are among a growing number of U.S. companies, such as Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) and Bank of America (BAC.N), that are responding to calls for action to help curtail the rash of gun violence that has plagued the nation, risking backlash from powerful gun owners’ groups as politicians consider options.
“We are joining other retailers in asking our customers to no longer openly carry firearms into our stores other than authorized law enforcement officials,” Walgreens said in an emailed statement. (…) CVS Health echoed the sentiment saying, “We join a growing chorus of businesses in requesting that our customers, other than authorized law enforcement personnel, do not bring firearms into our stores.”
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Target stores had already taken a stand in 2014:

As you’ve likely seen in the media, there has been a debate about whether guests in communities that permit “open carry” should be allowed to bring firearms into Target stores. Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course, we will continue to do so. But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law.
We’ve listened carefully to the nuances of this debate and respect the protected rights of everyone involved. In return, we are asking for help in fulfilling our goal to create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting for our guests and team members.
This is a complicated issue, but it boils down to a simple belief: Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Who will be next? We shall see. You can bet that gun violence prevention activists are not sitting still. The slippery slope has gone the way of loose gun laws and it happened quickly as state after state passed concealed carry laws. Many of those laws also allowed for open carrying of guns, including my own state of Minnesota. The bottom line is that customers don’t like seeing people carrying guns around while they are shopping. Let’s take a look at some of the problems with open carry.

It has taken a while but there is evidence that since more permissive carry laws have passed violent crime has increased. It has also become much easier for armed people in public places to shoot someone with whom they have a minor (or major) disagreement.

(I am updating my post to include this incident in West Virginia which proves my point that carrying guns in public is a really dangerous idea):

The wife of a West Virginia pastor is facing charges of reckless endangerment after she allegedly fired a gun during an argument with another pastor’s wife in the parking lot of New Life Apostolic Church in Oak Hill this May.
According to The Register Herald, 44-year-old Melinda Frye Toney pulled out a pistol during the altercation when it accidentally discharged. Toney is married to New Life pastor Earl Toney. The other woman, Lori Haywood, is married to the same church’s youth pastor, David Haywood.

Police say the argument was due to a simmering disagreement, and the women’s husbands suggested that the two get together to hash it out. Details on the dispute are thin and Haywood would only say they “had a disagreement, and when we sat down to talk, I called her out, and she lost it.”
The gun reportedly went off when Earl tried to wrestle the gun out of his wife’s hand after she retrieved it from her car.

Guns are dangerous weapons. The 2 women were lucky that no one was killed. As the article pointed out, there were also children in the parking lot. What if one had been hit by a bullet?

This article was written by a man who decided to do some much needed research into the effectiveness of carrying loaded guns in public. He came to a conclusion not unlike what most people believe:

As I drove from Scottsboro to Atlanta to catch my flight home, I kept turning over what I had seen and learned. Although we do not yet know exactly how guns affect us, the notion that more guns lead to less crime is almost certainly incorrect. The research on guns is not uniform, and we could certainly use more of it. But when all but a few studies point in the same direction, we can feel confident that the arrow is aiming at the truth—which is, in this case, that guns do not inhibit crime and violence but instead make it worse.
The popular gun-advocacy bumper sticker says that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”—and it is, in fact, true. People, all of us, lead complicated lives, misinterpret situations, get angry, make mistakes. And when a mistake involves pulling a trigger, the damage can’t be undone. Unlike my Glock-aided attack on the zombie at the gun range, life is not target practice.

That pretty much sums it up and it’s why businesses are taking a hard look at having customers carrying guns into their stores.

When the debate happened in Minnesota in 2003, I was involved and opposed the “shall issue” law that eventually passed. At the time, the supporters of the bill claimed that gun violence prevention activists were saying that blood would be running in the streets. We didn’t say that. But I would argue that blood is running in our streets. Gun homicides and suicides have increased in Minnesota in recent years.

Just a few days ago, three people were injured when gunfire erupted outside the gates of the State Fair on the last night of the fair:

“Everybody was put at risk,” Linders said. “This was incredibly concerning…shockingly brazen…audacious isn’t even a strong enough word. We’re lucky that more people weren’t injured or killed.” 

When people carry guns in public, this is the result. There are incidents, too numerous to list, of “accidental” discharges of firearms by “law abiding” gun owners in public places that put themselves and others at risk. That is why businesses need to assure that their customers are safe. Here is just one of many:

On September 3, a man wearing a loaded gun in his pants waistband accidentally shot himself in a University City grocery store. The man, who was hit in the leg, survived. A fellow shopper was wounded by debris from the blast.

More guns have not made us safer anywhere.

And while I’m at it, it is of utmost importance that we pass universal background checks and Extreme Risk Protection orders, both of which could have worked in the case of the Odessa shooter. He bought his AR-15 from a private seller because he could not pass a background check. Now authorities believe they have found that private seller. If you were a private seller would you want to be found as the person who sold a mass shooter his gun that killed 7 and injured many more? I think not. Passing these laws is insurance and assurance that everyone who buys a gun from a dealer of any sort can pass a background check.

We can, of course, and I have, talked about other ways people get their guns. But for now, this is #Enough.

We’ve reached a tipping point. Change is coming. Once corporations get involved in the movement of gun violence prevention, everything will change. It already has. We are all sick of the carnage and mayhem. We are sick of mass shooting after mass shooting after mass shooting. We are sick of seeing guns and hearing gun rights activists try to tell us that their guns will make us all safer. We are tired of it all. And the majority is sick that their elected leaders refuse to hear them and deal with our country’s public health epidemic.

We want common sense now. #DoSomething. Our elected leaders who resist passing stronger gun laws are running out of arguments and excuses. There are none.

Back to school with guns

School is starting all over our country. In some school districts, staff can bring their guns to school. This has not worked out as expected in so many places but facts don’t seem to matter when it comes to guns and school safety.

As I always say, there are no “accidents” with guns. Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill animals or humans.

School safety has taken on a whole new definition in the days of school shootings. Since the Columbine shooting in 1999 and now the 20th anniversary, about 700.000 Americans have died from gunshot injuries- a good proportion of them our precious students. Congress has still not acted since Columbine, thus the large toll of human life.

We all remember the Columbine shooting as the marker for our “new normal” where kids are shot up regularly in our schools. It is also a new normal for the victims and the trauma never goes away.

While I was working as a special educator in my local school district, lockdown drills were a part of our routine. Schools are not necessarily made for the type of safety needed from a school shooter. No building is actually. Schools and kids are not bulletproof.

Remember the slaughter of 20 first graders and 6 educators at Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012? That surely is another important marker is school shootings because no one could believe that Congress would DO NOTHING after that heinous shooting. And remember when Wayne LaPierre said “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”? That was , in a way, a new low in NRA opposition to common sense gun laws. The NRA and Republicans and some Democrats stopped support for doing the right thing even though the nation supported action.

And then came the Parkland school shooting on Feb. 14, 2018. This massacre of 17 high school students changed things forever. This time the students were old enough to fight back and fight back they did. They started a national movement and a huge country wide March For Our Lives. And now, because the adults are doing nothing, they have their own well thought out plan for stopping school shootings and every day shootings.

But companies are making a profit trying to make everything bullet proof. I mean, why not? If we refuse to stop people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them with the result that we are all less safe in public places, why not try to bullet proof people? Thus, there are bullet proof backpacks that make parents feel better about sending their kids to school and making sure they come home again.

I hope everyone understands that backpacks are not with the kids all day. Some are in closets in elementary classrooms and some are in lockers where they will be inaccessible. During some classes, backpacks may not be allowed or usable. Lunch time? Likely not wearing a backpack. Phy Ed class? Not wearing a backpack.

In addition, the company that makes them actually tested whether the backpacks would stop a bullet. Note that the backpack was on the front of the dummy, not the back where kids wear them. And also note that the backpack did not stop bullets from an AR-15, the weapon of choice for mass shooters.

So much for those. They have been pulled from the shelves in some places.

Companies are also profiting on training programs such as ALICE. I have written about this one before. ALICE is mostly to train kids and staff to take measures that could make them less safe from a shooter. It makes some sense on the face of it but in reality often the “countering” techniques like throwing something at the shooter, or interrupting the shooter can work in reverse.

We do hear about people interrupting shooters by hitting them with a chair from behind or tackling them as in the Tucson mall shooting. That does sometimes work.

But we are talking here about kids taking the responsibility for saving themselves instead of the adults who can do something about the gun violence epidemic preventing the easy access to guns in the first place.

Some Colorado school districts have provided buckets of kitty litter and tourniquets so kids can survive from the bleeding from a gunshot wound and go to the bathroom if they are trapped in a classroom for a long time.

The buckets are just one strategy teachers are being taught to respond to lockdowns and school shootings. Lopez says she was also given a Sharpie marker to indicate what time a tourniquet was applied to a bleeding student, and candy to give diabetic students to maintain their blood sugar during a long lockdown.

So it’s come to this.

Where is common sense?

As kids head back to school, it will be inevitable that school shootings will begin again. There are some things that can be done and I’m not sure the above measures are the right ones. Lockdown drills happen regularly and they are scaring our kids:

Over the past two decades, the drills have ramped up in intensity — with some schools going so far as to use fake blood and fire blanks at students. A drill last month at an Indiana school prompted outrage when teachers were shot execution-style with pellet guns, leaving them injured.

At the same time, students’ anxieties have swelled. Some are not told that the lockdowns are just drills, prompting them to send what they believe are final goodbyes over text to their parents or faint or throw up. Others are afraid to go to school in the days following the drills.
As a result, a growing number of schools are experimenting with ways to lessen the toll of the drills while still doing everything possible to keep students safe. For some school districts, that means using age-appropriate language; for others, it involves having guidance counselors or school psychologists available during and after the drills.

In a recently released video, by Brady, “Morning Routine”, the morning routine includes putting a bullet proof vest on a little girl as she goes out the door for her school day. The father watches with a worried look on his face:

So it’s come to this.

We all have PTSD from shootings and the ripple effect has grown so wide that we are all affected by shootings in one way or the other. We are raising a generation of lockdown kids and increasing anxiety about going to school.

We have done little if anything to stop school shootings. There are some things that can be done that don’t require lockdowns or laws.

Parents must store their guns safely at home since most school shooters get their guns from home. Talk about End Family Fire as a way to discuss the risks of guns in the home.

If you see something, say something. In the weeks since the El Paso and Dayton shootings dozens of people have been arrested for threats made to shoot up people in public places. One such threat came from an Albert Lea, Minnesota 15 year old girl who made threats on social media to shoot up a school.

I don’t believe that arming staff is a good way to deal with active shooters either. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to be in the right place during a shooting and also to be able to actually hit a moving human being also shooting at you. There have been many instances of staff members leaving loaded guns in bathrooms or accidentally discharging their guns. In last May’s Colorado STEM school shooting an armed guard accidentally shot one of the students. He should not have had his gun:

In a statement, STEM School Highlands Ranch said it didn’t know the guard was armed until the shooting occurred May 7 on the campus that includes students from kindergarten through high school.
“While it is more common to have armed security personnel at high schools, it is uncommon at elementary schools,” the statement issued Monday said. “Given the diverse population at our school, we made the decision to request an unarmed guard in an effort to balance these different interests.”

There are many reasons that arming staff is not a good idea.

Let’s just say it like it is. Our politicians need to DO SOMETHING to protect us from gun violence. It can be done in conjunction with respecting gun rights. The bottom line is that gun rights in the clothing of the second amendment, has stopped us from protecting the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Since January of 2019 there have been 22 school shootings according to his article. That does not include the beginning of the last school year from September through December. What we want is to reduce that number through new laws, awareness, safety practices, safe storage, and any other method we can use.

This is about saving lives and protecting our children. For the sake of my grandchildren and yours and your children, it’s time to get involved and engage. Let’s get to work.

Schizophrenia about guns and solutions to gun violence

As we could have expected, nothing is happening so far to prevent the next mass shooting which will inevitably come- likely soon. Well, I should take that back. Something is happening- it’s happening minute by minute.

It’s all about the President. Since the El Paso and Dayton shootings he has changed his mind and changed his messaging at least a half dozen times. Background checks are on. We have a strong background check system already. Background checks are off the table. It’s mental illness. That’s what pulls the trigger. And the latest is a ridiculous scheme to detect changes in people’s mental moods that could result in some sort of awful violent event which will kill people.

Here is that scheme, introduced into the public realm just this afternoon:

The White House has been briefed on a proposal to develop a way to identify early signs of changes in people with mental illness that could lead to violent behavior.
Supporters see the plan as a way President Trump could move the ball forward on gun control following recent mass shootings as efforts seem to be flagging to impose harsher restrictions such as background checks on gun purchases.

First of all- gun control? This is about people control. And it’s gun violence prevention. Second, how does one detect early signs of change in people with mental illness? What is mental illness?

The idea that we are blaming mass shootings and the daily gun violence carnage on mental illness has been debunked over and over again. Here is just one article about that myth:

Just 3 to 5 percent of violent acts can be attributed to mental health problems, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, whereas mentally ill people are more than 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than are the general population.
“Social contagion,” or the spread of violent ideas, is another strong contributor to gun violence, according to researchers.
Carla Marie Manly, a Santa Rosa-based psychologist, defines social contagion as “the spread of attitudes, behaviors, or ideas via conformity and imitation,” in an interview with Healthline.
““The shooters become driven to study previous perpetrators to learn their methods and to obtain validation,” she said in the Healthline interview. “Given our society’s media-driven focus, mass shooters seek the infamy that will come with their actions — the same notoriety given to prior shooters.”

But never mind. The President, in his unhinged and crazy way of thinking keeps right on going. He wants to make it about mental illness, not guns.

There is something else to think about here from the article above:

The Suzanne Wright Foundation re-approached the administration last week and proposed that HARPA include a “Safe Home” — “Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping Overcome Mental Extremes” — project. Officials discussed the proposal at the White House last week, said two people familiar with the discussions. These people and others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the conversations.
The attempt to use volunteer data to identify “neurobehavioral signs” of “someone headed toward a violent explosive act” would be a four-year project costing an estimated $40 million to $60 million, according to Geoffrey Ling, the lead scientific adviser on HARPA and a founding director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office. (…) Mental illness can sometimes be a factor in such violent acts, experts say, but it is rarely a predictor — most studies show that no more than a quarter of mass shooters have a diagnosed mental illness. More commonly shared attributes of mass shooters include a strong sense of resentment, desire for notoriety, obsession with other shooters, a history of domestic violence, narcissism and access to firearms.

Further- this project is being pushed inside the White House without any research or concern that it won’t work. But whatever:

Trump has reacted “very positively” to the HARPA proposal, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions and has been “sold on the concept.” But it’s unclear whether the president has reviewed the new “Safe Home” component of the proposal and creating an entire agency would be a huge lift in Congress. (…) Trump has a close personal relationship with Bob Wright, who founded the Suzanne Wright Foundation after his wife passed away from pancreatic cancer. Wright is the former chair of NBC and was in that job while Trump headlined “The Apprentice.”

Ah yes, here’s the rub. He’s close personal friends with the founder of the foundation that this project is about. Now we understand. But have they thought about hipaa laws? Have they thought about how people won’t “volunteer” this information? Have they thought about mining data on people that is private and could be used to actually harm someone? From the article:

The idea is for the agency to develop a “sensor suite” using advanced artificial intelligence to try to identify changes in mental status that could make an individual more prone to violent behavior. The research would ultimately be opened to the public.
HARPA would develop “breakthrough technologies with high specificity and sensitivity for early diagnosis of neuropsychiatric violence,” says a copy of the proposal. “A multi-modality solution, along with real-time data analytics, is needed to achieve such an accurate diagnosis.” (…)

Those familiar with the project stressed it would not collect sensitive health data about individuals without their permission. The government is simply trying to identify risk factors when it comes to mental health that could indicate violent behavior, they said.
“Privacy must be safeguarded. Profiling must be avoided. Data protection capabilities will be the cornerstone of this effort.”

I don’t believe this for a minute, do you? Facebook and other forms of social media have been collecting data on us for a long time now to target us for political reasons or to market goods to us. What is to stop this silly plan from getting private health data from people and using it to place them in an institution?

Red Flag or Extreme Risk Protection Orders would allow family members o report a family member who could be a danger to themselves or others for whatever reason- severe mental illness, maybe dementia, anger issues, relationship difficulties, domestic violence, etc. This proposed bill, already passed in the House, would deal with easy access to guns by people who should not have them. And, according to the above article, it is working. This is common sense.

Trump and his handlers, enablers and sycophants are avoiding using the word guns at any cost. They don’t want to anger the corporate gun lobby after all. Don’t get Wayne LaPierre angry. The organization he leads is “they who should be obeyed” or else. But the NRA’s Board members are abandoning ship and members are leaving in the face of charges of corruption and financial mismanagement.

Thankfully the House Judiciary Committee is going to come back to Washington early to deal with our public health epidemic. Whether the Senate, controlled by the “grim reaper” will ever take up the bills already passed in the House is unlikely. But the shootings will continue and they will be held accountable for not acting.

Since Congress has not acted beginning after the Columbine shooting, there have been 349 people have died in mass shootings. In “overall” gun deaths, however, using 19 years times an average of 33,000 = 627,000 gun deaths.

Congress must #DO SOMETHING. The country is demanding. Two recent polls show interesting results given who ordered the polls. The first is a Fox news poll showing broad support for the gun measures already passed and proposed in Congress:

A Fox News poll found that “overwhelming and bipartisan majorities of voters” support background checks on gun buyers, as well as taking guns from people who could pose a danger.
The numbers are indeed overwhelming, in the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.

For starters, 90 percent of those surveyed favor criminal background checks on all buyers, and 81 percent want “red flag” laws that allow police to seize guns from people shown to be a danger to themselves or others. (…)

hen we come to the partisan divide. While Democrats most often blame easy access to guns (79 percent), white nationalism (62) and Trump (59), Republicans point to inadequate mental health services (60 percent) and bad parenting (54); just 32 percent fault easy access to guns.
On just about any other issue, 90 percent approval would translate into congressional action. But the politics of gun control have always been treacherous, and as even the most horrendous mass shooting—Las Vegas, Orlando, and so many others—fades into the past, Washington politicians find it easier not to act.

Bad parenting? Good grief.

The second poll by a Republican firm shows more strong support by suburban women for common sense gun laws:

72 percent said they think gun laws should be stricter, compared to four percent who said they should be less strict and 23 percent who said they should be kept as they are now.
55 percent said they think stricter gun laws would help prevent gun violence.
90 percent support requiring universal background checks for gun purchases at gun shows or other private sales, which would require all gun owners to file with a national firearms registry.
88 percent said they would support requiring a 48-hour waiting period between the purchase of a firearm and when the buyer can take possession of that gun.
84 percent back a national red flag law that would permit law enforcement to temporarily retain firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.
76 percent said they would ban the purchase and use of semi-automatic assault-style weapons like the AK-47 and the AR-15.
And 72 percent would support banning the sale and possession of high-capacity or extended ammunition magazines, which allow guns to shoot more than 10 bullets before needing to be reloaded. (…)

“Suburban women have made it clear that they are ready for Congress to address the gun violence epidemic plaguing this country,” said Sarah Chamberlain, the president and chief executive of the Republican Main Street Partnership, in an email. “Our mission is to equip our members of Congress with pertinent information like this polling so that they may best address the needs of their suburban districts by crafting appropriate legislative responses.”

The public is making it clear. But it couldn’t be more muddled. With changes in rhetoric and tweets every few hours, there is no cogent policy ideas, no proposals to save lives, no empathy towards victims, no understanding of the severity of the public health epidemic we are experiencing.

It’s sad. More than that, it’s maddening and it’s causing chaos and exhaustion not to mention depression. Oops, I should be careful if I say that because the new agency being pushed by the foundation that has the President’s attention might put me into some category of mental illness requiring an institution or whatever they propose to do with people who show early signs of mental illness. I might become violent.

We are experiencing national PTSD and schizophrenia. The person who is talking about mental illness linked to gun violence is becoming increasingly erratic and it should concern us all.

Excuses for no gun safety reform

Yesterday a group from our Northland Brady chapter associated also with Protect Minnesota stood on a busy corner near our Congressman’s district office. We were there as part of Brady’s and other national gun violence prevention groups’ Week-end of Action. The actions were to demand that the Senate come back early from their summer break to pass the laws that the House passed in February- namely the universal background check and Charleston loophole bills. My Congressman Pete Stauber voted against these 2 life saving measures.

Thus we were there, after gathering only one and half weeks ago in a local rally against hate and violence which was a well attended plea for action and to ask our leaders to #DOSOMETHING about the carnage. Several mass shootings in a row have changed the conversation ( again) and more of the public are demanding action.

But now, the House Judiciary Committee will be coming back from recess early to consider several common sense gun bills. The Extreme Risk Protection Order bill and perhaps an Assault Weapons Ban and/or restrictions on the size of ammunition magazines will be discussed.

After standing with our signs on the corner and getting mostly positive honks and waves, we went to Congressman Stauber’s office with a packet of information and a letter stating what we wanted him to do. We ended up having an impromptu meeting with his staffer. It was a good meeting- informative and revealing.

We spoke about all kinds of things as victims, a veteran, a clergy member, several health care providers, a woman of color, grandparents, parents and concerned citizens expressed our frustration and outrage over the do nothing Senate and the lack of votes in favor of bills that would make a difference. In the discussion we made it clear that we don’t believe that any one of these measures on their own will “cure” the epidemic of gun violence. But the fact that we have done nothing for decades has fueled the current epidemic and made it more lethal.

And then we heard some of the usual Republican and gun lobby excuses for why these bills won’t work or why the Congressman doesn’t believe the bills before him are the right ones ( in spite of research showing the effectiveness of them and the overwhelming public support for the measures that passed in the House). The first of these is the idea that we can’t deal with the gun problem until we deal with mental illness. President Trump himself said that mental illness pulled the trigger in the latest mass shooting, not the guns. That is absurd on its’ face but it is also patently not true. It’s not mental illness. It’s mostly angry white men who have access to guns they should not have.

Here’s the truth about mental illness and shootings:

In response, mental health experts repeated what they have said after previous mass shootings: Most people with mental illness are not violent, they are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators, and access to firearms is a big part of the problem.
“Until we begin to have our political leaders speaking more accurately to these issues, it’s up to us to put the facts out there,” said Arthur Evans, chief executive officer of the American Psychological Association.
Evans agreed that red flag laws , also known as extreme risk protection orders, are a worthwhile step. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have such laws, according to the nonprofit Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and some have used the laws to temporarily disarm people who have threatened violence.
But Evans and others said terms like “monsters” add to stigma that keeps people from getting treatment. (…)

A country’s rate of gun ownership is a far better predictor of public mass shootings than indicators of mental illness, said Adam Lankford, a University of Alabama criminologist who published a 2016 analysis of data from 171 countries.
“If mental illness were the driving factor, we would expect the countries with highest suicide rates to have higher rates of public mass shootings. That’s not what we see,” Lankford said.
Instead, Lankford found, gun ownership per person is the best predictor.
Lankford called Trump’s emphasis on mental illness “too simplistic.”

It’s the guns.

Since our rally last week, another mass shooting occurred in Philadelphia where 6 officers were injured by one man with an assault rifle ( again). The shooter was a man who should not have had a gun in the first place given numerous firearms charges against him. So how did he get that gun? From the article:

The suspect was identified by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner as Maurice Hill, 36. Krasner said Hill had an extensive criminal history, including drug, gun and robbery charges. Krasner said Hill should not have been on the streets but stopped short of saying there was any specific failure by law enforcement.

My Congressman is a former police officer. He, of all people, should be more concerned that officers are at great risk when they are outgunned on the streets. This year alone 31 officers have been killed by shooters. 175 have been injured. And yesterday yet another officer shooting occurred where 2 Missouri officers were shot while delivering eviction papers.

And aren’t you tired of other lame and shameful excuses or blaming from Republicans to deflect the reality of our national public health epidemic? They even have memos showing how to respond to constituents such as this one, blaming the left, when we know that most of the politically motivated shootings have come from people with far right political views. In fact, Trump has been mentioned by criminals as a reason for their crimes:

But a nationwide review conducted by ABC News has identified at least 36 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.
In nine cases, perpetrators hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically attacking innocent victims. In another 10 cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. And in another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant’s violent or threatening behavior.

White supremacy, hate crimes and other acts of political violence are American terrorism. We have to face that reality. There is no excuse for not doing anything about this.

And yes, we can stop some of these shooters from getting guns in the first place. If we close some loopholes making it easier for them to buy guns themselves or get them from others who may buy them legally ( and private sales with no background checks are legal in many states, including my own) we can stop some sales. If we enforce straw purchasing laws more stringently, we can stop some guns from going where they shouldn’t. If gun owners safely store their guns, we can stop some of the guns from being stolen and ending up where they shouldn’t. If we pass Red Flag laws, we can temporarily remove guns from people who could be dangerous to themselves or others. If we pass restrictions on ammunition magazines, we can, at the least, prevent shooters from taking dozens of lives at a time in a short time period. If we make sure the ATF can do their job properly with adequate funding and personnel, gun dealers will be held more accountable for bad behavior. If we litigate cases where gun dealers have sold guns knowingly to those who shouldn’t have them, we can stop some shootings.

It’s a package and it needs to be. But as we discussed at our meeting yesterday, we can’t say criminals won’t follow the laws anyway as an excuse not to pass laws. If that is the case, why have laws at all? People do wear their seat belts for the most part. It’s the law. People don’t smoke in public places. It’s the law. People stop on red lights because it’s the law. If you don’t follow the law, you may become a felon. But we are not a lawless society. That’s no excuse.

And then there was this given as an excuse. We all must work hard to keep illegal guns from coming into our country from the Canadian and Mexican borders. I had to ask again if that is what I heard. This is an excuse. We don’t need to do anything about our own country’s gun laws because the guns are coming across the borders into our country?

I was astounded at this one because it is the exact opposite of what is true. The guns flowing into Mexico and Canada are coming mainly from the U.S because our gun laws are so much weaker than theirs. Check out this article in the Christian Science Monitor about what is actually happening:

American guns bought from vendors in the U.S. and then smuggled illegally abroad are a fact of life across the Americas. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, using data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), some 70% of guns recovered by law enforcement in Mexico and sent to the ATF for tracing between 2011 and 2016 were originally purchased from a licensed dealer in the U.S. Some estimates put the number of U.S. weapons smuggled from the U.S. into Mexico at over 200,000 a year.
Mexican officials, in their fight against drug violence, have long pleaded with the U.S. to stem the southward flow of guns. Former President Felipe Calderón famously had a billboard erected in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, that read “No More Weapons,” spelled out with confiscated, destroyed weapons. (…)

That is also despite research showing that when the U.S. assault weapon ban expired in 2004, Mexican municipalities on the border with the U.S. saw a spike in homicides, he says.

“I do see some recognition now that this is beyond drugs, and that guns play a major, major role,” Mr. Weigend says. That includes think tanks, students, and civil society groups speaking out more against the implications of U.S. gun flows to Mexico. (…)

Weaker gun regulations in the U.S. have long undermined Canada’s much stricter rules, as guns get trafficked north. Last week Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair said Canada could reduce violence with more money towards stopping guns from the U.S., which he called “the greatest arsenal in the world.”

So no. We don’t have a problem with illegal guns coming into our country from the nations who share our border. It is the other way around. And further, the fact that so many guns make into Mexico and other Central American countries have caused violence there which many are trying to flee to get into our country. And then if they get into our country their lives are at risk here because of the hate and racist rhetoric against people of color fomented right from the top.

It is also part and parcel of our illegal drug problem.

These are flimsy excuses designed as cop-outs. What our Congress members who are beholden to the NRA, as mine is, are trying to do is to deflect the conversation away from the truth. We have a problem with guns in America. Such easy access makes it easier for just about anybody to get a gun.

Minnesotans and Americans ( and this includes Republicans and gun owners by the way) support stronger gun laws. We want our Congress members to represent the majority of people in their districts. Just because the gun rights advocates make more noise does not mean they are the majority. In fact they are a small minority of the constituents all over the country.

There are no excuses. There never have been but now, more than ever, we are sick and tired of the carnage affecting almost all of us.

#DO DOMETHING.

AR-15s are popular

Senator Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, issued a new excuse for why the Senate should not take up a bill to ban assault rifles and ammunition- because they are popular. From the article:

On Fox News on Tuesday, Toomey shared his renewed push for legislation for background checks for gun show and online purchases, but when asked about a ban to assault weapons, he rejected the idea because the firearms were too popular. 

“They’re extremely popular, and so to ban an extremely popular firearm, I’m not going to support that,” said Toomey of assault weapons. “That would be an infringement on the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

On Fox News, @SenToomey says he’s not in favor of additional regulations on military-style weapons because “they’re extremely popular, and so to ban an extremely popular firearm — I’m not gong to support that.”

And while assault-style weapons like the AR-15 may be popular with gun enthusiasts, a majority of Pennsylvanians actually want them banned. According to a March 2018 poll from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., 68 percent of registered voters support banning assault-style weapons in the state. 

Of that group, 61 percent strongly support such measures. Comparatively, the 2018 poll said that 27 percent oppose a ban in Pennsylvania. A March 2019 poll from F&M showed that 62 percent of Pennsylvanians support creating more laws that regulate gun ownership, while 35 percent oppose those laws. 

They are popular. They are popular for mass shootings and have been used in many of the recent ones. Isn”t it amazing that we even separate older mass shootings and more recent ones? From the article:

But in all of the latest incidents – Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012; San Bernardino, California, in 2015; Orlando, Florida, in 2016; Las Vegas, 2017; Sutherland Springs, Texas, 2017 -the attackers primarily used AR-15 semi-automatic rifles.

If not an AR-15 than and AK-47 or similar type of semi-automatic rifle that can fire off a bullet a second with every pull of the trigger. More people can be killed with these firearms in a shorter period of time. That is the point.

We had a ban on certain types of assault weapons but Congress unwisely let it lapse in 2004 when it sunsetted before it had a chance to really work. I believe that is why we are seeing mass shootings with assault rifles. There is no check on them at all. Just about anyone can buy one- background check or not.

They may be popular amongst those who just like to shoot them for sport. Some people get pleasure out of this kind of sport. Whatever. Maybe they can just shoot them at a gun range and not own one. Why own one of these ( or more as many in America do, actually)? To be ready for an insurrection against the government of course. Or to go out and kill as many people as possible in a short time.

Another mass shooting appeared to have been averted when a young white male ( as it almost always is) showed up at a Walmart ( again) in Missouri all set to go with body armour, an assault rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition:

Police in Springfield, Mo., arrested a 20-year-old man wearing body armor and carrying a loaded rifle — and more than 100 rounds of ammunition — at a Walmart store Thursday. Formal charges of making a terrorist threat in the first degree are now pending against Dmitriy Andreychenko, police say.

He thought he could “fool” people by walking around like this in the store? Not any more. We are all hyper aware and nervous when we see anyone carrying these guns around.

What about at least raising the age for purchase of these kinds of guns to 21? That would save lives.

In Texas people can walk around on the streets with AR-15s hanging from their bodies. Why? No one needs one of these. How do we know if the person means harm or not? We don’t of course.

This is insanity. What have we come to in America? Why have we let the influence of the corporate gun lobby do so much harm to the gun culture and to actual human beings. This is not the America we want. This is not how we should have to live.

In New York City, a motorcycle backfired near Times Square and everyone panicked and started running. Good grief. This is NOT NORMAL.

Well now, the pressure is on. The House is considering coming back into session to pass some stronger gun laws. They passed 2 background check bills last winter but the Senate refused to even have hearings. Until now. When over 10,000 calls get patched through to Mitch McConnell’s office in just a few days by Brady the pressure is on. Other organizations have also been patching calls through. If McConnell does anything about gun safety reform it won’t be because he wants to, it will be because he can’t not do what’s right and what the vast majority of Americans support.

This morning the President boasted about having a good relationship with the NRA:

“They’re really good people,” Trump said. “They’re great patriots. They love our country. They love our country so much. And frankly, I really think they’re going to get on board.”

Great patriots? No.

The way things are going with the NRA I don’t think that was a wise thing to say. But he is, after all, Donald Trump.

The organization is as corrupt as Trump himself. They are all about themselves and not about the public health crisis of gun violence. They don’t care a whit about the shootings as long as they maintain their base and their power and control.

Remember when President Trump told the victims of The Parkland shooting that he would pass a background check bill after that horrific shooting? Remember when the President talked to the NRA the next day? Remember when nothing happened?

Yes, Senator Toomey, AR-15s are popular. So what? As long as that is your attitude, Americans will continue to be killed in large numbers. If you had any common sense at all, you would stand up at long last and do the right thing. We can give you credit for trying after the Sandy Hook shooting. It didn’t work out so well when the NRA said NO. You should have learned your lesson then. What difference does it make what the NRA and its’ small number of gun owners want and threaten to do? They represent a scintilla of Americans.

It’s time for that to change. It’s time for all in Congress to stand against the weak and mythical arguments of the gun lobby. The time is past to publicly recognize that even gun owners and most NRA members want you to act.

Do something.

A “memoraversary”

The last week has been a difficult one for the entire country. For victims and survivors it has been worse than difficult. High profile shootings bring back too many memories. The press coverage, the constant conversation about the guns, bullets, the victims, the injuries…

PTSD is what I call it. I believe the entire country is experiencing PTSD after the last week of mass shootings. The nonsensical talk about video games, lack of praying in school, mental illness and every other excuse offered by those who refuse to talk about the root of the problem is enough to make us sick. We know what the problem is. We have experienced it.

It’s the guns stupid. Plain and simply it’s easy access to guns. The hate shooting in El Paso was a horrendous act of violence directed at immigrants, people of color, hispanic people- the “other”. An assault rifle. Premeditated murder. Unrepentant killer. A legal gun purchase.

We’ve heard it ad nauseum before- hundreds of times.

The shooting in Dayton appears to be a domestic related shooting but the premeditation involving body armour, an assault rifle with a 100 round drum magazine is inexplicable. Why?

In talking about the high profile mass shootings, we often forget about the “everyday” shootings happening regularly. Over 100 a day. The domestic homicides. The suicides. The unintentional shootings by kids, officer involved shootings. They are all around us every day. They leave victims and survivors in their wake. They leave a ripple effect going wider and wider. With all of the shootings, there are few of us remaining who have not been affected by a shooting.

I am one of those people feeling the PTSD in the past week. Thoughts of my own family dealing with the domestic shooting of my sister came back. The phone call came back. It brought back the days between the shooting and the funeral and the days following dealing with the after effects and grief and moving forward.

Moving forward for me was getting involved and working with Brady and Protect Minnesota to prevent shootings in any form. It has been a long and frustrating journey. We go round and round and make small steps towards progress because we are swimming upstream against a formidable force of opposition and a culture of guns that stops us from doing what almost everyone knows is the right thing to do.

Today is the anniversary of the shooting death of my sister, Barbara Lund. What should we call the anniversary of the death of a loved one? That question was asked recently in a group of Brady chapter leaders. Anniversary seems like not quite the right word. Every year on this date I write about my sister, who was murdered by her estranged husband on Aug. 5, 1992.

It’s been a long time but we miss her still. I can still hear her voice and remember her vivacious personality at family events. She was a force. She was a beauty queen. She was a skier, an artist, a mother, a sister, a wife, an ex-wife, a step-mom, a tennis player, a pilot, an entertainer, politically active, and an all around adventurous person. People never forgot her once they met her.

She would have been a fierce advocate for doing the right thing in my memory had I died before her by some untimely violent death. She would have worked for background checks on all gun sales and the many issues that have been in the forefront in the decades since her death.

But a stronger background check system would not have stopped my sister’s shooting. Her estranged husband was a legal gun owner. Perhaps an Extreme Risk Protection Order law however could have prevented what happened that day in August in 1992. There had been a restraining order. He was becoming aggressive with phone messages to her. He was becoming, in general, more resistant to the divorce proceedings even being in contempt of court for refusing to comply with the proceedings. They were separated by then and she told friends she was worried about his guns.

But using his guns to kill her and her friend because he was angry? Why? Where is common sense?

Others have similar stories with somewhat different details. Some women survive the bullets. Many do not. Domestic murders often involve more than one person and most often happen when a woman is trying to leave the relationship- whether marriage or not. Sometimes it takes a half dozen times to actually leave. When children, money and pets are involved, it’s difficult to leave.

I have learned a lot since Aug. 5, 1992. Now we all know more and we all know that we can do something about this carnage. If there is a difficulty in the relationship and the man ( for it is almost always the man) owns guns, we must think differently. We must be hyper aware. If there is a threat to the gun owners’ self or others, if Extreme Risk Protection Orders are law, guns can be removed, at least temporarily.

A woman is 5 times more likely to be killed in intimate violence situations when a gun is present. In my sister’s case there was no physical violence but rather increasing signs of anger and depression over his losing control of money and control.

If there is a difficult relationship between domestic partners or spouses, a gun can make it deadly instantly. Getting away from the relationship or getting guns away from the person who could be a danger to themselves or others is of utmost importance.

End Family Fire is a new campaign to highlight the risks of guns in the home. These risks are for suicide, domestic homicide, school shootings (most school shooters get their guns from their own homes) or “accidental gun discharges”. Considering the risks there is no reason not to be more cautious about guns in the home. At the very least they need to be stored safely ( in a metal gun case) and/or with a trigger lock and away from ammunition.

Too many gun owners think their loaded guns must be at the ready at home just in case. This flawed thinking leads to way too many avoidable deaths and injuries. A gun is much more likely to be used against you or someone in the home than in self defense.

You may think that something like this can never happen in your family or your community. You may be right. But if I were you I would err on the side of safety and caution to prevent personal tragedy. None of the families of the tragic and deadly mass shootings and “everyday” shootings ever thought it would happen to them either. My last post was about the rash of mass shootings in the last week. Since I wrote that post, dozens more have died of gunshot injuries.

We don’t have to live like this. But we do have to demand that our leaders make sure our lives are safe from preventable gun violence. Our personal responsibility is to be aware, be safe, be sensible around guns, and don’t do anything stupid or dangerous. Lives depend on getting this right.

Our leaders’ responsibility is to pass laws to make it less easy for people who should not have guns to get them. It is to make it harder to get guns. It should be. Guns are lethal weapons and they are responsible for horrendous carnage. This is national public health emergency and we must do something.

In memory of my sister and the many thousands of Americans who have died from gunshot injuries since her death and before, I demand action. I honor the lives lost with action.