Parkland

It’s Valentine’s day. It’s the second anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that changed the trajectory of the gun violence prevention movement. Many hearts were broken on Valentine’s Day 2 years ago. They were shattered and remain broken.

The birth of March For Our Lives and young Americans getting involved in the issue of gun violence understanding that they could be next ones shot has changed the movement forever. New gun laws have passed in many states as a result.

Two years ago today changed the lives of yet more parents, more grandparents, more sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and friends. School shootings have become regularized. Our kids are targets. It’s an American tragedy.

And by the way, students involved in March For Our Lives, Brady’s Team Enough and Students Demand Action are not going anywhere. They are still actively involved in pushing for stronger gun laws. Students understand what some adults just can’t get right. Gun laws save lives, not the other way around.

Some adults irresponsibly continue their lies about guns. They continue to tell us that someone surely could have stopped that shooter two years today if only they had had their gun. If only…..

A new video about the myth of guns for self defense came out the other day from GVPedia. Check out the facts:

Thank goodness for facts. The gun rights extremists don’t like them.

Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people. That is why we need to have strong gun laws to stop so many people who can be dangerous with them from getting them in the first place. That is why we need to keep pushing for safe storage of guns ( most school shooters get their guns from home). That is why we need to counter the dangerous myths pushed by gun rights extremists.

Lives depend on it.

We should be celebrating as a country that finally good things are happening that can save lives. Finally organizations are providing facts to shed light on the gun lobby myths. But it’s America, the home of the NRA and the run rights extremists who hate gun laws even if they may save the life of someone in their own family.

A new movement called Second Amendment Sanctuaries is crisscrossing the country as gun extremists have decided that following gun laws is just not for them. In light of all of the mass shootings and everyday shootings, how is this possible? It’s beyond common sense, that’s for sure.

In other states, like New Mexico, it became wide spread.

Now, close to where I live, a northern Minnesota county decided that they, too, would become a sanctuary for guns and rights. What does this mean exactly? From the article:

The motion goes on to resolve that “public funds of the county not be used to restrict the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of Roseau County, or to aid federal or state agencies in the restriction of said rights.”

Roseau County Sheriff Steve Gust said the resolution won’t change local law enforcement’s operations, since one of the resolution’s main intents is to oppose “red flag” gun laws, which allow courts to temporarily remove guns from people who are found to be a risk to themselves or others. Red flag laws have been proposed in Minnesota but not passed.

A template resolution, circulated by members of the New House Republican Caucus over the past few months as they encourage grassroots organization in support of the Second Amendment, specified that a sanctuary designation means that counties can refuse to send law enforcement officers or other county employees to enforce “unconstitutional” laws.

The thing is, gun laws are NOT unconstitutional. The “Red Flag” law, for example, is constitutional in the states where it has passed. Let’s see what the objections are to these laws ( from the article):

Many conservatives oppose all restrictions on access to firearms, arguing that they infringe on the Second Amendment. The National Rifle Association has offered support for the concept of keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous people, but it has opposed state red flag laws in practice, arguing that they go too far by allowing courts to confiscate guns from people who have not committed a crime. The organization has also complained that red flag laws in states like Oregon deny the targets of the protective orders due process of law, by allowing orders to be issued without the target having a chance to be heard. The N.R.A. has not supported any state red flag law that has yet been enacted.

Brady has challenged the idea that gun laws don’t need to be enforced:

“Second Amendment sanctuaries” are built entirely upon a tightly held and inaccurate belief that common-sense gun safety laws are unconstitutional. This movement is a clear backlash orchestrated by the gun lobby in response to recent wins in gun reform. Over recent years, voters across the country have elected lawmakers committed to preventing gun violence by passing common-sense and evidence-based measures like universal background checkssafe storage laws, and extreme risk laws. The extreme gun rights advocates behind so-called “Second Amendment sanctuaries” want to stop these laws before they can go into effect.

THE TRUTH? THESE GUN SAFETY LAWS DON’T INFRINGE ON THE SECOND AMENDMENT

According to these gun rights extremists, common-sense gun safety laws infringe on their Second Amendment rights. But the truth is that the Second Amendment is not under threat — and coordinated efforts to purposefully mislead the public or refuse to enforce public safety laws are dangerous. The gun safety measures that are being denounced by extreme gun rights advocates were passed by democratically elected legislators and were signed into law by state governors. Common-sense gun safety laws do not interfere with the rights of gun owners — but they do keep guns out of the hands of those who cannot or should not possess them.

100 Americans a day are killed by bullets. The school shootings like the one that happened two years ago today that killed 17 people carried out by a young man who should not have had a gun happen because of easy access to guns. It’s the guns. Just maybe, had a Red Flag law been enacted in Florida at the time of the shooting, someone would have reported the shooter to authorities and just maybe, at least temporarily enough to avoid the shooting, his rights to have guns would have been temporarily removed.

Our kids need sanctuaries in their schools from shootings. Our country needs a sanctuary from shootings in malls, places of business, homes, clinics, army bases, colleges, on the streets, in bars and restaurants and Walmart stores.

A documentary about the Parkland shooting is now being shown in some theaters and in selected cities. It is the stories of the victims and their families. We see how the violence that day affected not only the victims and their families but the survivors and the PTSD suffered by so many after witnessing the horrors of the shooting. Two students who survived the Parkland students have now died from gun suicide. The irony and tragedy of this is unspeakable.

In the aftermath of such tragedy, declaring second amendment sanctuaries is just plain nonsensical and ludicrous. For in real life, someone’s daughter, son, mother, father, uncle, friend, sister or brother are shot every day. Second amendment sanctuaries are an insult to the victims and their families. They had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That was taken from them in just seconds.

Their families had the right to watch them grow older and contribute to our cities and counties all over America. They would have gone to college maybe or found a job somewhere and met someone to love and be in a meaningful relationship and maybe have families of their own. Maybe one would have become an astronaut. Maybe another would have become a world renowned scientist. Another- an artist or a dancer. Another a Pediatrician. Another a politician. Endless contributions to society and potential snuffed out by bullets.

The rights of Americans to live without fear of being shot is the most important right

Please look at the photos of the 17 who died two years ago today- on Valentine’s Day. Look at their faces. Say their names.

In memory:

Traveling with your gun

It seems that the American public is no longer safe no matter where they are. A California shooting on a Greyhound bus may be a first for the scene of a mass shooting– One dead and 5 injured. Until firearms carry laws passed in the early 2000s in many states, there weren’t so many shootings in public places. Shootings took place at home mostly in the form of domestic shootings or suicides. They still do but mass shootings have become a regular happening. The Columbine school shooting was one of the first mass (school) shootings that caught the attention of the public in a big way because so many victims were left dead and they were kids.

Speaking of guns and buses, does anyone remember last winter’s incident involving a school bus driver and a “law abiding” carry holder in Minnesota?:

A Minnesota man who shot and wounded a school bus driver on a Minneapolis freeway during a snowstorm has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison.

Thirty-two-year-old Kenneth Lilly, of St. Paul, pleaded guilty in August to first-degree assault for the February attack that left Thomas Benson deaf in one ear and unable to continue working as a bus driver due to nerve damage in his hand.

Another article about the shooting says this about the shooter:

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office says Lilly was cleared in a previous shooting, in which he shot and killed a 16-year-old armed robbery suspect in 2015. At that time, the county attorney found that no criminal charges were “appropriate.”

It appears that the man, a supposed security guard, has a trigger finger and should not have had that gun on that day. His anger combined with a gun has now left him serving time.

Unfortunately and tragically times are changing. Guns are so easily and readily available to just about anyone. No matter if they can pass a background check- they can get a gun. No matter if they are a domestic abuser- they can get a gun. No matter if they are dangerously mentally ill or a felon, they can get a gun. No matter if they live in a state with strong gun laws, they can get a gun. California is one of those states where gun deaths are actually low compared to some states and were strong gun laws have been passed. But the weak laws in neighboring states allow guns to come into California anyway:

California has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. But the tragedy that played out on Sunday, in which three people were killed and 12 wounded, illustrated a familiar problem for states that have ratcheted up their own gun laws in recent years, only to see them neutralized by neighboring states with more lax rules.

The above article was referring to the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival last July where 3 were shot dead and 17 wounded. Have gun will travel to other states. Have gun will travel on buses and to malls and Congress on your Corner events like the one that killed 6 and left U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and others permanently injured and disabled.

The gun lobby, of course, will tell you that the world is dangerous so you must carry a gun to protect yourself or have one at the ready at home. The opposite is true of course. Many times “law abiding” gun owners and gun carriers are the shooters. “Unintentional shootings” happen far too often. Mistaken identity has left more than a few dead or injured. It happens primarily in America where gun rights advocates insist that the second amendment protects them and allows them to have guns no matter what.

A Super Bowl ad funded by the Michael Bloomberg campaign got it right. Watch the ad for yourself:

Galandrian Kemp who speaks about George, her murdered son, ends with these words: “You have a right to live. No one has a right to take your life and dreams”

Exactly. That is what this is all about. There is no need to travel with a gun. One can’t even compare defensive gun uses to the number of daily gun deaths. Bodies are piling up as I write. They are killed on buses, in cars, in homes, in malls, on the streets, in schools and offices, in hospitals, in every corner of America. But rarely are guns used in self defense. According to the Gun Violence Archive, as of today 3583 Americans have died by firearm. There have been 132 defensive gun uses. Common sense tells us that guns are more often used to kill someone than in self defense.

Yes, some choose to carry firearms. And sometimes they are used in legitimate self defense. Mostly the firearms in homes and carried are never fired to kill or injure another human being and most gun owners are safe with their guns.

We can stipulate to all of that. But given that the number of gun deaths and injuries are the highest in our country of all industrialized democratized countries in the world, it is worth discussing why the minority of gun owners ( more extreme in their positions) resist attempts to prevent and cure our national public health epidemic. Given that we all have the right to our lives and dreams it seems like a no brainer.

There is a responsibility to safely store and handle lethal weapons. With rights come responsibilities. Lives can be saved if gun owners think twice or three times before using a gun in anger, disputes, depression or against themselves. Lives are changed in just an instant when a gun is the weapon.

There is also a responsibility to reign in your rhetoric when you are an elected leader. For example, it’s a pretty dangerous idea for a state lawmaker to say it’s legal to shoot communists. We don’t have to use much imagination to know who he is talking about. (And who, really are communists? We know the right and Trump are going to use that word to describe the Democratic candidate no matter who he or she is. Let’s take a look:

Rep. Rodney Garcia, a state lawmaker in Montana, told a roomful of Republicans he believes the U.S. Constitution says socialists can be jailed or shot simply for being socialists. Garcia initially made the statement at an election event, then he reiterated it to a Billings Gazette reporter. And then, (…) Garcia was not able to say where he finds that in the Constitution, the Billings Gazette reported.

Anthony Johnstone, a law professor at the University of Montana, told The Washington Post that “nothing in the Constitution of the United States authorizes the government to punish socialists or anyone else on the basis of their political beliefs.” In fact, the First Amendment prohibits punishing political speech, and the Constitution of Montana “expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of political beliefs,” Johnstone said. All state lawmakers swear an oath to uphold those doctrines.

Never mind….. rights.

He should get an ethics violation at the least. And does he have a carry permit? I question how he will use it if confronted with a candidate running for office who is in the left position of many Democrats. You don’t get so shoot people with whom you disagree politically. You just don’t.

Unless of course your are Donald Trump who believes he can shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose his supporters.

You can’t make this stuff up.

After experiencing the anger of Minnesotans 2 weeks ago at a hearing that I mentioned in my last post, I get the feeling that we can’t overcome this anger to get to a solution that will move us forward towards saving lives. We are not the enemy as one man told one of the bus riders who traveled to Hibbing, Minnesota to attend a hearing on gun bills. We disagree about how to get to the solution. If those folks are truly law abiding gun owners, they have nothing to fear. But the NRA and right wing extreme talking points have fueled anger, fear, paranoia, misinformation and hyperbole.

In the end, we ought to be safe traveling on buses and in the mall, and in our homes, and our kids should be safe from shootings in their schools. Arming more people is just not the solution. And allowing easy access to guns for those who clearly should not have them is just plain stupid and dangerous.

Our better angels should prevail. In my city, there will be a Better Angels training to get people on opposite sides of controversial issues to engage and try to get to some place where we can agree. Our country has become so polarized over the last few decades that I wonder if that is even possible. The current occupant of the White House tweets many times a day to foment the polarization. Never before has a President been so demeaning and called so many people names. Never before has a President engaged in hourly lies to misinform the public and cause damage to the national psyche. And never before has a President encouraged violence in tweets or excused it for that matter.

Never before has social media and more mobility been a factor in some of the violence and polarization. People travel with their guns to shoot people, to attend rallies, to attend hearings and they come from out of state and from far away.

Take this article from the Star Tribune about the increasing gang violence in the Twin Cities:

She offered another, simpler explanation: As society becomes more mobile, many young gang members, lacking stable housing, are staying with relatives or girlfriends around the metro area. (…)

Bill Finney, another Ramsey County undersheriff and former St. Paul police chief, suspects that teens feuding online set up meeting spots at transit stations along the light-rail line to settle their differences in person. Last year, he witnessed such an encounter as two boys wielding knives greeted another pair getting off the train. The attack resulted in a stabbing, Finney said.

Before the internet, graffiti was the medium of choice to diss a rival, experts say. The emboldened could, under the cover of darkness, spray paint an anonymous message on an adversary’s property.

But an explosion of social media has accelerated those disputes. Today, teens flock to Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube to disrespect one another through flashy rap videos without ever leaving their homes. The words are not veiled, and neither is the poster. Retribution is swift.

At the end of the above article mention is made about getting the guns off the streets. That is really the main problem here. Easy access to guns allows the violence to increase and results in tragic loss of life. The gun rights extremists often write off gang violence as an excuse to do nothing about the violence. Gang members have families who love them and when they die, their families mourn for them. We can’t just write off a whole group of citizens. Sometimes the violence of gangs harms and kills innocent people like the mother of my friend Bunny Beeks who as sitting in her car when a bullet flying in the street hit her and killed her.

Never before has there been such an outright display of weaponry as we have seen in Virginia and Kentucky in the past few weeks. A meme is going around with a photo of the armed Kentuckians going around the metal detectors at the state Capitol while others, unarmed, had to go through the detectors. And by armed, I mean AR-15s strapped around their shoulders and chests. Check out the photos in the linked articles and tell me if you would feel safer surrounded by these folks. You can’t make this stuff up.

It is not normal nor should it become normal. It will take elected leaders to step up and call out this dangerous and bullying behavior if the rest of us are to feel safe. I have been told by some in the gun rights community that I should not fear being surrounded by people carrying guns. They are, after all, law abiding citizens. My response? If I feel unsafe surrounded by armed citizens then I feel unsafe. They don’t seem to understand that the majority of us do not care to see people carrying guns around in public. And particularly people dressed in masks and military gear.

We are not at war- or not yet anyway. But I fear that with the increased polarization and the increase in armed rallies and citizens ready to engage in civil war, we just may see one.

That would be tragic to say the least.

We are better than this.

UPDATE:

I need to add something to my original post that supports my view that we don’t need armed people everywhere to respond to crises. According to this article. the Greyhound bus driver in the incident where a shooter killed 1 and injured 5 was unarmed. He talked the shooter down without a gun pointed at him:

After the gunman opened fire, the bus driver pulled over to the shoulder and “was able to persuade the shooter” to get off the bus, Sgt. Brian Pennings with the California Highway Patrol said during a news conference Monday morning.

The suspect “voluntarily” got off the bus, leaving a black handgun behind, Pennings said. Officers located him on the shoulder and took him into custody without incident.

The bus driver, who was not injured, “handled the situation professionally and appropriately to minimize any more possible victims,” Pennings said.

Even if the driver had been armed, how was he to respond with a gun while driving the bus and keeping the other passengers safe? This is the myth of the gun lobby suggesting that if only someone had a gun…….

Hostility at gun bill hearings

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

To continue where I left off in my last post, the threats and hostile acts by a minority of angry gun rights extremists continue. We now have information that revealed that one of the organizers of the extremist group “The Base” has lived in Russia and has been directing operations of the group from there:

The FBI has described the group as a “racially motivated violent extremist group” that “seeks to accelerate the downfall of the United States government, incite a race war, and establish a white ethno-state.” (…) One video posted online in March 2019 shows Nazzaro in Russia wearing a T-shirt with Vladimir Putin’s face and the words, “Russia, absolute power.”

“The Base” is considered to be a neo nazi militia group watched by the Southern Poverty Law Center and some of whose members were arrested before the pro gun rally in Virginia last week:

In the days leading up to the rally, the FBI arrested multiple members of “The Base,” a white nationalist group where some members hold neo-Nazi beliefs. Court documents show some members discussed attending the rally in Richmond with the intent of killing people.

The pro gun rally ended without violence, miraculously given the anger, tension and guns that were mixed in with the annual “lobby” day sponsored by the Virginia Citizens Defense League. Prominent on the website of the vcdl is this statement: ” The 2020 Legislative Session started January 8, 2020 and represents the greatest threat to gun rights Virginians have faced in modern times! 

The “funny” thing about “The Base” operations coming from a man living in Russia, who appears to really like Putin, is that we know that the Russians tried to influence the 2016 election by sending one of their own to influence the election through the NRA. Remember Maria Butina? The Russians do understand that gun rights go together with Republicans and that money and power go together. Sowing discord and even violence in America is one of Putin’s aims. Can we say he is succeeding to a certain degree? And can we say that President Trump is helping out by tweeting his support of this movement of violence against Americans?

This is about more than gun rights.

The thing is, there are no threats to gun rights when laws like universal Brady background checks and Extreme Risk Protection Order bills are passed in the name of public safety. Not one of these folks can tell us how this will affect their very own gun rights or those of their friends- at least no reason that makes any sense and is factual.

I had this “discussion” this week- on Tuesday- when the Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on 4 gun bills in Hibbing, Minnesota, home of Bob Dylan located 1.5 hours to the north of my city of Duluth. The Republican leaders opined that holding the hearing in Hibbing would give rural folks a chance to speak up about gun issues:

Senate Republican leaders said they opted to hold the hearing after years of “dogging” from all sides of the issue and they chose Hibbing because they wanted rural constituents to have a stronger voice in the debate.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that it just isn’t true. I have been going to hearings at the Minnesota state Capitol for many years. There are just as many rural and urban gun owners and leaders there as the people like myself speaking for common sense gun legislation. People travel to wherever the hearings are held to make their viewpoints known.

Metropolitan gun lobbyists traveled to Hibbing to testify. Very few local gun owners testified. Instead, they brought in a lobbyist from NRA headquarters to speak on behalf of gun rights. Two men from the Twin Cities area testified on behalf of the gun owners of Minnesota. Some rented hotel rooms so they could make it to Hibbing for the hearing. Only two speakers on the side of gun violence prevention were from outside of northern Minnesota. One was state Public Safety commissioner John Harrington and the other was a woman whose father was shot 3 years ago. She lives in a small town north of the Twin Cities.

So when one of the gun rights “extremists” in the room asked why the Duluth Police Chief was there to testify, the answer is that he is at least from close by. Why was an NRA national spokesperson at the hearing?

The Hibbing hearing, unfortunately, magnified a stereotype about gun owners that most gun owners hate and don’t fit into. There were hundreds of angry men and women, some armed, in a smallish standing room only room brandishing their anger and bullying tactics from the beginning. One man interjected himself into a press conference held by the Democratic Senator (Ron Latz) who was bringing the background check and extreme risk protection order bills to the committee. This man yelled out questions and comments often yelling over the press. He did the same as I was being interviewed by a local T.V. reporter. Did I have to answer his questions just because he was there to bully and intimidate? No. But he insisted on a “conversation” with me about the hackneyed “slippery slope” argument.

At the beginning of the hearing, a man sitting in front of me yelled, “Where is the flag? No flag no respect. I’m outa here.” And he got up and left.

Nice.

I’m sure these folks are regular people with families they love just like I do and my friends do. They go to work and send their kids to school. Unfortunately the area where they live is economically depressed with many mining jobs lost leaving lots of anger and frustration. But something seems to happen to them whenever guns and gun safety reform come up. At the hearing, many insisted on being loud and interrupting and not listening. The others applauded their uncivil behavior. Our very own President has given “permission” for this kind of behavior. He is modeling it whenever he speaks. So what can we expect?

When any of us ( there were about 50 of us from the Duluth and Iron Range area in orange Protect Minnesota shirts and red Moms Demand Action shirts) were engaged by them, they mostly tried to shout over us.

I was on a bus that took many who had never attended a hearing before or never been in a roomful of angry armed people. Some were quite intimidated and worried about this. I can’t blame them. The crowd was racaus, rude, belligerent, and boorish as they interrupted the proceedings, yelled out comments and questions, insisted on answers, and several came close to being ejected. The Democratic Senator Ron Latz was personally verbally attacked by many.

The chair of the committee, Senator Limmer, lost control at the outset and never regained it. Here is my letter to the editor about that:

Sen. Limmer and the Republican Senate were under pressure to hear the bills, given that gun-safety reform is at the top of the list of concerns for Minnesotans and Americans; 84% of Minnesotans support requiring background checks on all gun sales. The group of angry folks who came to the Hibbing hearing reflected a minority of Minnesotans and gun owners.

Their angry voices reflected fear of losing something. Our fear is of losing lives to senseless gun violence.

As I said in my letter, one of our supporters was poked in the back by a man behind her who kept asking what she thought of comments made by one of his own. This is physical harassment. One man clapped his hands right next to the ears of a friend of mine sitting in front of her. Others booed at victims and even at the Chief of Police. They had no compunction about doing this-so sure were they that they deserved their rights to intimidate and bully others.

I am a League of Women Voters debate and forum moderator. We practice the Speak Your Peace Rules of Civility Project and state them at the beginning of every event. This hearing was the total opposite of peace and civility.

What is this fear and anger really about? As I have said probably thousands of times in this blog and in other places, if these people are law abiding citizens they will not have to worry about a thing. If they believe it is inconvenient to show a permit to purchase a gun at a licensed dealer and also to a private seller, I wonder how they feel when they stand in line at the license bureau to renew their driver’s license or their car license plate?

It’s inconvenient to bury a loved one who was shot. It’s inconvenient to read about your family in the newspaper and have reporters surround your family to take photos. It’s inconvenient to go to court where the killers of your loved ones stand trial and you have to re-live the trauma. It’s inconvenient to have to go through the personal effects of your loved one and decide how to part with their things. It’s inconvenient to have to speak with your back to a hostile crowd in a hearing room of armed people and know their anger over perceived loss of rights extends to you.

It took me several days to recover from the day at the hearing. The righteous and obnoxious folks we encountered at the hearing have no empathy for what it feels like to be surrounded by people with misplaced anger and hostility. We are not the enemy. We disagree about how to approach public safety. But we know the majority happens to be with us. We wish them no harm or ill will. We are not angry with them except when they verbally attack one of us. We do not want their guns. Their rights will not be taken away.

But too many of our loved ones are.

There is no need for them to threaten us or bully us. It’s not necessary. They will have their guns if they go through background checks. If they, in a moment of anger or mental anguish, may harm themselves or someone else, they may have guns temporarily removed for their own safety. Because if one of those “law abiding” gun owners shoots someone in a moment of anger, they will never be the same. Their lives will be as upended as the victim but killing another human being is a very serious thing and an awesome responsibility.

They don’t have to argue with us about defensive gun uses, or tell us that people kill themselves with knives too, (but check the lethality of guns compared to knives- apples to oranges) or about the Dickey Amendment or about the myth about the slippery slope as they did last Tuesday. Those are side issues and deflect from the bottom line. And we do have facts that are not being considered by those who insist we are wrong and the enemy.

In America, we shoot too many of our own. Too many of our own die by gun suicide. We want to change that and, contrary to NRA hype, it can be done without interfering with rights and gun ownership.

Too many of our own are shot “accidentally” ( 4 year Indiana old boy dies when shot by father’s gun while wrestling) What law owning and carrying father intends for that to happen? But seriously, what was he thinking? If you refuse to listen to those of us just trying to tell you that guns are a risk and needed to be treated as a threat to your own safety or that of your family, perhaps these regular incidents would not happen and more children would be alive. If a gun carrier is so cavalier about safety that he carries his gun in his pants ( without a holster apparently?) bad things happen. What gun carrier wrestles with is little boy wearing a gun?

He must be devastated. How tragic this is and my heart goes out to all of them. This will be their nightmare for the rest of their lives.

Where is common sense?

That is all we are asking.

I tried to tell one of the angry men about the Gun Violence Archive and that he should look at it to see how many people have died from gun violence compared to defensive uses of guns. He talked over me and didn’t want to hear it but I am going to leave you with this just in case.

He told me I should join the NRA after I tried to tell him the truth. I told him I would not do that and that my sister had been shot to death in a domestic shooting. He did not know what to do with this information but sometimes one must be blunt to get the point across.

Insurrection on MLK day

quote taken from Goodreads

In my last post I wrote about the state of Virginia passing new gun safety laws after the 2019 election turned the state Democratic. Democrats believe in the safety of their constituents and understand that passing stronger gun laws is part of that concern for the lives of Virginians. It’s pretty simple actually.

But, of course, the gun extremists, who some call gundamentalists, have taken it upon themselves to misconstrue and purposely misrepresent what these new laws mean. Ramping up the fear and paranoia, they have invited insurgents from out of state, some of whom were arrested for their connections to neo-nazis, to come to Virginia on Monday for the annual presentation of arms outside of the Virginia Capitol building. From the above article:

The unease increased after the F.B.I. announced the arrest on Thursday of three armed men suspected of being members of a neo-Nazi hate group, including a former Canadian Army reservist, who had obtained weapons and discussed participating in the Richmond rally. The men were linked to the Base, a group that aims to create a white ethnostate, according to the F.B.I.

Where do we live again?

But a temporary injunction was passed to ban guns at the Capitol buildings. To say this is going to be interesting is an understatement.

A state of emergency has been called for Monday anticipating trouble:

But Northam said officials have heard reports of “out-of-state militia groups and hate groups planning to travel from across the country to disrupt our democratic process with acts of violence.” He said they “are coming to intimidate and to cause harm.”

Northam is raising concerns about a reprise of the deadly violence surrounding the white supremacist march in Charlottesville in August 2017. He said state intelligence analysts have identified threats and rhetoric online that mirror the chatter they were picking up around that time.

Our very own President Donald Trump has been ramping up the fear and the potential for violence on Monday in Richmond in a tweet where he wrote:

Your 2nd Amendment is under very serious attack in the Great Commonwealth of Virginia. That’s what happens when you vote for Democrats, they will take your guns away. Republicans will win Virginia in 2020. Thank you Dems!

I don’t know about you but I don’t think this is something a President of the United States should be tweeting or saying.

Speaking of our President, will he be making a tribute to Martin Luther King on Monday like he did last year? If so, the irony of his tweet will be obvious and concerning.

Sadly, the group of gun violence prevention advocates who have gathered at the Virginia Capitol in Richmond for their annual vigil for gun violence victims have decided to cancel their event for the first time ever. Their concern was not only for safety but for the re-traumatizing of victims of gun violence. The organizers of the event, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence said this in a statement:

“The individuals who seek to turn a day which is traditionally about citizens exercising their First Amendment rights and participating in the democratic process into a platform for political violence are trying to destroy our democracy. They refuse to accept the results of the 2019 election in Virginia — in which the people of the Commonwealth voted for stronger gun laws — and they are promoting the message that ‘the people with the guns make the rules.’ They have amplified and fanned the flames of insurrectionism and civil war in a way that is irresponsible and dangerous. Now, citizens who represent the overwhelming majority of Virginians are prevented from lobbying their officials because of credible threats to their safety. This is a full scale rejection of our democratic elections. This is mob rule. It is a grave threat to our democracy.  

“Given the serious concerns about possible violence on Monday, we recognize that we can not guarantee the safety of the brave gun violence prevention activists and survivors who have fought so hard for this day. We are an organization that strives to promote public health and safety, and we cannot in good faith lead our supporters — some of whom are children and teenagers — into a violent, dangerous situation. We refuse to engage with those who seek to physically harm us.

Where is common sense? On the holiday celebrating Martin Luther King’s birthday, violence and armed militia and insurgency groups could destroy the peaceful celebration of a man who advocated for peace. One article mentioned none other than the NRA is passing out 30 round ammunition magazines to those who will attend:

As part of its “legislative day of action” at the Virginia state capitol, the National Rifle Association was handing out 30-round ammunition magazines to members who showed up to protest a new slate of gun control initiatives being considered in the state.

Virginia Democrats, who hold a majority of both houses of the state government as well as the governorship, have proposed a broad new set of gun control policies since taking office, including extensive bans on large classes of weapons and restricting the number of guns that law-abiding citizens can purchase per month.

What irony is this? Are these “law abiding gun owners”? If not, why do they need 30 rounds in their guns? What do they intend to do with these high capacity magazines? We already know what mass shooters do with them.

These are sad and tumultuous times in America. What we need now is peaceful solutions to our nation’s divisions. Bringing arms to an event on Martin Luther King day is cynical and dangerous. They know that but they don’t care.

90% or more of Americans, including Republicans and gun owners, support universal background checks and there is majority support for most other common sense gun laws. These folks represent a small minority of Americans and it’s getting smaller.

Peaceful celebrations will happen all over the country as they should, to honor a great man in our history. Putting a stain on the day will only serve to validate what we already know. A dwindling group of NRA minions and gun rights extremists are trying desperately to deliver a “dead” message. Passing strong gun laws is not unconstitutional. Strong gun laws and the second amendment are not mutually exclusive. If these gun rights folks want support from the public and some of our lapdog leaders, they would do the right thing and at least come unarmed to their event.

Monday will be a test for peace and justice. Times are changing in Virginia and states all over the country. But the change should not include violence at state Capitols after legislators pass strong gun laws.

The reason we are celebrating this day is, of course, the assassination of a great American man, Martin Luther King, who espoused peace but died violently, shot by a hateful man who definitely should not have had access to a gun.

Stay safe everyone wherever you are on Monday.

I really must add something to my original post since it verifies the dangerous hyperbole about the gun rights and far right extremist agenda. Take a look at these comments made on Fox recently:

“The only difference between these gun control Democrats is how quickly they want to take your guns,” Lahren said. “Some want to chip away at your rights and others want to trick you into thinking that you’ll be happy with just a few more laws and regulations. Either way, it’s a trap.”

Lahren finished her segment by cautioning that a civil war could break out if Democrats do not heed her warning. She said she doesn’t advocate in favor of gun demonstrations becoming “anything other than peaceful,” but emphasized that violence was the inevitable result of politicians “encroaching” on gun rights.

Blaming any violence on the Democrats, gun safety reform advocates, the Virginia legislature or Governor Northam should fall on deaf ears. It is a cynical, projecting, and twisted way to try to shift the blame onto others in the face of the criticism, the declaration of an emergency and the concern for safety.

And to be clear, no one is going to go door to door collecting anyone’s guns. This NRA myth is dead. It’s another conspiracy theory made up out of false information fear and anger.

This is their own creation. It is their own anger. It is dangerous. If anything happens, we all know who to blame.

Blue Virginia offers hope to the nation

Yes, Virginia, there is hope. After the 2019 elections when gun violence prevention was the top issue and the reason the state turned “blue” the Virginia legislature is taking up long neglected gun safety reform bills.

The first bill passed was to ban guns at the Capitol complex. The question is why anyone feels the need to carry a loaded gun while at a hearing for a gun bill- or for any bill for that matter. If the reason is intimidation, they have failed. The gun safety reform groups are unarmed and unafraid and will not be bullied and intimidated by the “gun guys.”

From the above article:

The policy, which was set to take effect at midnight Friday, pointedly applies not just to visitors, who until now have been allowed to bring weapons into the building if they have a concealed-carry permit. The ban also applies to senators and delegates — even those who are law enforcement officers.

But as a practical matter, Capitol Police Col. Steve Pike said, the policy will not be enforced with lawmakers. Requiring them to pass through metal detectors would probably slow them down as they travel between the Capitol and the adjacent Pocahontas Building, which the ban also covers. In addition, he said, legislators are immune from prosecution during the session, under a law intended to ensure their performance of the people’s business is not impeded.

A practical matter? It seems pretty impractical to me to allow lawmakers to remain armed. For what possible reasons should they be armed now that their constituents are not. “Accidents” have happened. Take this one in Kentucky:

Democratic Kentucky State Rep. Leslie Combs doesn’t think her accidental discharge of a firearm in the state’s capitol building Tuesday afternoon was a big deal. “I am a gun owner, it happens,” Combs told reporters after the incident. 

Combs was apparently in the process of unloading her Ruger 380 semi-automatic handgun when it fired into the floor of the Capitol annex. No one was harmed by the gunshot, so she reported the incident to state police about two hours later. the lawmaker told the Courier-Journal that she has a concealed carry permit, and often brings the gun to work in her purse.  Here’s more from Combs: 

“I was purposely disarming it to put it up because I didn’t like it and I didn’t want to use it any more… I had had it in my purse I carry usually, and I thought I’m going to put that sucker away.”

I say put those “suckers” away permanently. We know what else happens but I will not use the word here. And “it” happens far too often when so called law abiding gun owners are irresponsible with their guns. Even when they think they are responsible, guns are deadly weapons and things go wrong. That seems like a good reason to practice common sense and just not carry the “sucker” around with you everywhere you go.

Sometimes these “accidental” gun discharges end with death or severe injury. I have written about incidents like this many times in this blog. A relative tries to get in the house and a loved one shoots them thinking they are an intruder. Just today a man discharged his gun in a crowded restaurant injuring an 80 year old woman. You can’t make this stuff up. A woman lives to age of 80 and gets shot in a restaurant by a reckless and irresponsible gun carrier. She was lucky and so was the gun owner. What if he had killed the woman? Does anyone want to live with the reality that they killed an innocent person in a totally avoidable situation?

But I digress. A 3 year old finds his brother’s loaded gun in a restaurant and shoots it off. The man was charged with several crimes. A gun fired from a woman’s purse and shot and killed her in a North Carolina restaurant.

The list is endless. Look them up for yourself. These don’t get a lot of attention but they should. Guns carried around loaded in public places are dangerous and should be re-considered. It’s time to change the conversation about the role of guns in public places.

So it was a good first step for Virginia to ban guns in the Capitol buildings in the name of public safety. Next up, other bills concerning public safety and gun safety reform. Today 4 bills passed out of the Virginia Senate. This is cause for celebration and I’m sure my Virginia friends are ecstatic right now as well they should be.

Elections matter.

Let’s take a look at the Virginia Senate bills ( from the above linked article):

The bills now headed for the full Senate would require background checks on all firearms purchases, allow law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from individuals deemed a risk to themselves or others, let localities ban weapons from certain events and government buildings, and cap handgun purchases at one per month.

All common sense measures and all supported by the majority of voters in Virginia. The majority in the country and in almost all states want to make the country safer from gun violence and one very important way to do that is to pass stronger gun laws. It’s going to happen state by state and it will happen in the country as soon as we vote out those who oppose the public.

Voting with the NRA and the gun lobby is a losing proposition right now. The public is far ahead of some of our elected leaders who are still dinosaurs as far as gun laws go. There is still nonsensical talk about gun registration and gun confiscation as well as taking away rights. But in Virginia as in many states, there have been several high profile mass shootings and other shootings that have called attention to the lax gun laws and the devastation from bullets. The Virginia Tech shooting resulted in the death of 32 and others injured. The shooting of a young Richmond T.V. reporter Alison Parker on live T.V. was horrendous and unspeakable. And the latest was the mass shooting at Virginia Beach killing 12. Virginians just don’t want to get shot nor do they want their loved ones and friends to be shot. They want laws that will prevent and reduce some of the shootings.

And if the NRA and any other gun rights advocate can say how these stronger gun laws will affect their lifestyle, have at it. If they can tell us how doing nothing is saving lives, tell us about it. If they can claim that we are safer now after allowing so many guns to be carried in public places, give us some facts to show that. If they can tell us why they object to everyone getting a background check before purchasing a gun, tell us about it. If they can tell us why the background check system already in place has inconvenienced them and caused terrible consequences for themselves or their families, please step up. I may even print the answers and examine the logic.

I am excited about what’s happening in Virginia. The Minnesota Senate is going to hold hearings on several bills as well:

But the hearing will be held on Republicans’ terms: no votes will be cast and the meeting will be held in gun-friendly Hibbing.

The chair of the Senate Public Safety and Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Dec. 19, announced that he would take the panel on the road next month to talk about the plans to require background checks at the time of transfer of a firearm and to allow law enforcement to remove a person’s firearms if they are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others.

“Gun friendly Hibbing.” We know where Hibbing is and it is not all gun friendly. We have many Minnesotans for common sense gun legislation living in northern Minnesota and they will be there. But nice try. Sneaking around in small towns to get the “gun guys” out in large numbers is so obvious as to be suspect to say the least.

Criminal background check and Extreme Risk Protection Order bilsl are life saving bills favored by the majority of Minnesotans. 97% of Minnesotans want universal background checks. That is almost unanimous and includes the gun owners in Hibbing, Mn. Of those 75% were Republicans. The Senate Republicans are on the wrong side of the isse.

2020, as I wrote in a recent post, has started out as violent as 2019 ended. Just check out the Gun Violence Archive for the latest information about shootings.

There is hope. There is a change in the issue of gun violence. The NRA is weak, pathetic and corrupt. Our leaders are finally catching up to the public. So I look forward to more progress in 2020 and making elected leaders accountable for their actions. We are not having their excuses any more.

What is "gunnormal" in 2020?

Screen shot from Gun Violence Archive Twitter Feed

2020 is off to a violent start. I just saw the Twitter feed from Gun Violence Archive showing us the current states since the start of this year. It’s Jan. 6th folks. We’re off to the races so to speak. 6 mass shootings in 6 days. What other country endures a mass shooting a day? What other country does nothing about something as tragic and insane as our own gun violence epidemic?

Will 2020 be a banner year for gun violence? If this keeps up, maybe it will be. That would be the new normal.

Is this the new normal? Gun rights extremists gathering en masse locked and loaded outside of the Virginia state house to make a point? What point? Look at us. We are armed and dangerous and we will intimidate the legislature into voting against common sense gun legislation. What could possibly go wrong? From the article:

What began as a handful of rural Virginia counties declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” has jumped the state’s borders and become an Internet phenomenon. Far-right websites and commenters are declaring that Virginia is the place to take a stand against what they see as a national trend of weakening gun rights.

Now they are coming from out of state with their guns. They sure are exercised about the probability that at long last, Virginia is likely to join other states who have passed stronger gun laws. And gun rights still exist.

And so a Nevada-based group called the Oath Keepers said it’s sending training teams to help form posses and militia in Virginia. The leader of a Georgia militia called Three Percent Security Force has posted videos and calls to arms on Facebook, urging “patriots” to converge on Richmond. The right-wing YouTuber “American Joe Show” warned without evidence that Virginia will cut the power grid to stop the army of protesters — one of a host of false and exaggerated rumors spreading online.

Remember Charlottesville?

Fear and paranoia abound. Fake news and outright lies are ramping up the anger that could be a dangerous combination with guns. Hatred of those who they believe are going to take something from them is in there as well. It is unfounded but real to them. Showing up en masse armed and angry will not solve their hatred and fears. The reality is that this is not normal. I think it will not turn out well for the armed ersatz militia in Virginia. Even the NRA is distancing itself from this insane movement:

Response to that agenda has become so heated that the nation’s most visible gun-rights group, the National Rifle Association, is taking an intentionally lower-key approach. It will sponsor town halls in three rural locations around Virginia in the coming weeks, aimed at explaining proposed legislation.

The majority of the public nationally and in Virginia want stronger gun laws. It was the biggest issue of the 2019 election that turned Virginia blue. The public will not side with these extremists. Let’s hope there is no violence. And also let’s hope this is not a trend when other legislators consider laws to keep us safer.

And speaking of keeping us safer, let’s talk about our children in schools all over America in the year 2020. Some schools have gone so far in their school safety plan as to have “poop buckets” delivered to classrooms to be used as children are hunkering down during an active shooting.

No more words for this one. It is not normal. The majority want to see our leaders pass measures to keep guns away from school shooters. In a far simpler and common sense way to do this, parents who are gun owners must store their guns safely so a troubled or angry kid can’t get a gun to shoot up his schoolmates. Most school shooters get their guns from their own homes.

Check out End Family Fire to see how curious kids are and how easy it is for kids and teens to find a gun to use in an unintentional shooting, a school shooting or a suicide.

I have an idea- or maybe several for that matter. Regarding the “poop buckets”, I think we ought to have them delivered to state legislators and Congress members just in case they have a lock down drill and an active shooter. Then they can experience what it’s like to be a kid in school in 2020.

Another idea is for our leaders to speak up using the right language to talk about why it’s a good idea to pass stronger gun laws. There is enough proof that strong gun laws mean fewer deaths and injuries. And it’s not gun control. It is gun violence prevention or gun safety reform. Groups working to prevent gun violence are trying to take away the risk of guns to innocent people. They actually do want to either take away or keep away guns from people who have already been deemed to be prohibited to purchase one.

Gun violence prevention and gun rights are not mutually exclusive. The gun rights extremists have made the argument for decades now that they are. They are wrong. We can have both. All that law abiding gun owners need to do is go through a background check for each gun sale- simple and short and not inconvenient. Then they need to be sure they are trained to operate their deadly weapon because not doing so can result in tragedy.

Locking up their guns should be mandatory but if not, at least strongly recommended for many obvious reasons. And finally let’s hope that the many law abiding gun owners out there won’t decide to use their gun(s) in an argument, in moments of anger, despair, during a difficult relationship separation, while drinking alcohol or to get even with someone.

Simple. Common sense. Normal in most other places in the world.

To shoot or not to shoot, that is the question

After the shooting at the church in White Settlement, Texas there has been a lot of discussion, misinformation, tweeting and assertions made about how the shooter was shot. We know now that a trained security guard shot the shooter. We also know that it appears that there were other armed parishioners at the ready. We don’t know if the victims were actually armed though one article suggested that one of them was a member of security “force” used in that particular church. The man who shot the shooter actually trained the others and was an ex law enforcement officer who knew what he was doing.

Had police officers come to the scene, they would have done the same. And yes, we have to admit that the security guard did something good. Can we say that he was skilled and maybe also lucky? He took one shot and aimed at the head of the shooter, according to some reports. He hit the target and stopped the shooter from doing more damage, if that is what he intended..

We know that after the Sutherland Springs church shooting Texas passed a law allowing guns in churches. Texas has other gun laws- looser rather than stronger.

And we know now that the shooter was a prohibited purchaser. But Texas has not passed a universal background check or Extreme Risk Protection Order to stop people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them anyway and shooting up churches and schools and malls and Walmarts and other places of businesses.

But that’s the way it is. This article explains what I have been thinking about and highlights the controversy over arming people in churches and everywhere else for that matter. From the article:

The reality of Wilson’s heroism is a lot more complex. He wasn’t just an ordinary parishioner, as gun advocates may want you to believe. The church’s volunteer security team member is a firearms instructor, gun range owner and former reserve deputy with a local sheriff’s department, according to a New York Times detailed account.  

In other words, he’s exactly the kind of man you want around with a firearm. But we know nothing about the at least six other parishioners who also appeared to draw their handguns at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas. (…) And that’s terrifying.

Why is it terrifying? Because anyone can carry a gun into churches now and other places. How do we know if they are “good guys” with guns or bad guys with guns? If the man who shot those parishioners carried a gun inside the church and intended harm, no one would have said a thing because….. rights:

But have we really reached a point when each of us need to carry a firearm anywhere we go? Gun advocates certainly think so. They point to Wilson and the new Texas law that allows him and others to carry firearms inside the church.

And of course our very own President tweeted about the heroism of Jack Smith. He tweeted the NRA line. The President likes heroes and tough guys. He has made that clear many times over the past 3 years. He, and the corporate gun lobby, would rather there be a hero saving the day, though not stopping the shooting in the first place as they claim armed citizens will do, than to pass laws to stop shooters from getting a gun in the first place.

We will wait to see if he invites Smith the White House or invites him to one of his campaign rallies to showcase his tough guys, heroes, and pardoned Navy Seals.

The shooter was a prohibited purchaser. Where did he get the gun?:

The gunman at West Freeway Church of Christ, 43-year-old Keith Thomas Kinnunen, apparently had a long criminal history, including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Authorities say they’re still investigating the motive of Sunday’s shooting, and there were no immediate details about how he got the firearm he used at the church.

And this, from the article, is the main point of it all isn’t it?:

We know firearms are readily available to anyone who wants one, really. And that’s part of the problem. Sunday’s shooting isn’t just about Jack Wilson’s heroism. It’s about how Kinnunen got a hold of a weapon in the first place, given his criminal record.

The shooter was also mentally unstable and had been ordered to receive treatment as well as having a restraining order against him from his former wife.

These are all reasons this man should not have been able to get a gun in the first place. Why aren’t we talking about that? We must talk about that. Because if we don’t the shootings will continue unabated and continue to end in senseless gun deaths and injuries.

Texas gun laws changed to take the state and common sense backwards:

Texas also doesn’t require gun owners to obtain a license or register their firearms. Law enforcement in the state does not have any discretion to deny a concealed carry permit.

In addition, if a Texas gun purchaser already has a concealed carry permit, a background check is not required. Like many other states, Texas does not require a background check for private sales or sales at gun shows.

Research has generally shown that states with higher levels of gun ownership experience higher numbers of gun homicides and suicides.

Texas currently ranks in the middle in terms of firearm mortality according to the CDC.

In addition, recent research from Columbia University finds states with more permissive gun laws experience higher numbers of mass shootings.

Gun laws matter.

I also want to talk about why so many shooters are angry men? It’s the combination of anger and easy access to guns.

Common sense tells us that we don’t want everyone to be armed. Imagine the chaos if everyone was shooting at everyone else at the church, as they almost did according to reports. This is insanity itself.

We have failed the country by not dealing with the causes of our national epidemic of gun violence before the shootings rather than during the shootings.

To shoot or not to shoot. We have choices to make as a country. Are we going to allow the corporate gun lobby to decide how our country will be or are we going to follow the wishes of the majority and do something about our gun culture and lack of gun laws in order to save us from senseless and avoidable shootings?

My post would not be complete without reporting on the usual and totally avoidable shootings of innocent people in celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve. A 61 year old woman ( and, according to the article-one toddler injured and a 31 year old woman also killed) was shot by a bullet that someone made a deadly decision to shoot out of his gun to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Why do people do this? Aren’t these the good guys with guns we were talking about earlier?

2020 is picking up where 2019 left off with shootings already listed in the Gun Violence Archive charts– 91 deaths so far and the day is not over yet.

Stop the shootings. Make a decision. Do the right thing elected leaders.

( I have struck through the name of the shooter because we should not be naming the shooters )

Let us remember the names of the two victims: Anton “Tony” Wallace, 64, and Richard White, 67.