Connections- shootings and coronavirus deaths

Yes There is a connection. How could there not be? We are a nation of people who have mourned or are mourning the deaths of loved ones who died of gunshot injuries. They are not with us on holidays. They are missed. Their lives were lost in mostly unavoidable senseless acts of violence which take many forms- domestic shootings, gun suicides, urban violence, police violence, unintentional shootings, mass shootings, school shootings and more rarely, random acts of violence.

There was a random act of violence in Nevada the other day- on Thanksgiving. Happy thanksgiving. A couple in Nevada thought, apparently, that driving around shooting innocent people might be a thing to do on the holiday. It’s America. Should we be surprised?:

One person was shot dead and four others injured on Thanksgiving after police in Henderson, Nevada say a man and woman fired at people while driving in the city. 

“It is believed that the suspects were driving around the city randomly shooting at citizens with no apparent motive,” Henderson police said in a news release.

Henderson police officers responding to the Thursday shooting at the 800 block of East Lake Mead Parkway found a 22-year-old man who had died from an apparent gunshot wound, a 23-year-old injured woman, a 18-year-old injured man, a 53-year-old injured man, and a 41-year-old injured man, all suffering from apparent gunshot wounds, according to a news release. 

How is this related to COVID you might ask? As I wrote in my last post, shootings have continued in many forms during the shut downs and restrictions due to the pandemic. Not so many mass shootings because of the fact that the masses are not really gathering in many places as targets for shooters. But nevertheless, people are dying from gunshot injuries.

In El Paso, for example, the numbers of the dead from COVID are staggering. The community is struggling to deal with the bodies and the grief. El Paso was the sight of a heinous hate shooting at a Walmart store targeting Latino citizens a little over a year ago. The community was still reeling from the after effects of that shooting when COVID spread in our country last winter.

This article highlights the pile-on of grief for the victims of the virus on top of still grieving for those lost in August of 2019. How much can one community take? From the article:

The city unified in the face of hatred last year, adopting the “El Paso Strong” ethos after 23 people were killed in an allegedly racist attack at a Walmart. El Paso is now struggling to summon the solidarity to transcend indifference and fatigue as scores of people are dying each day in a persisting pandemic.

“Unfortunately, as human beings, we want to see things for ourselves. We physically watched the shooting and could see the danger,” said Ana Lilia Holman, whose 86-year-old father, William Howard Holman, died of covid-19 on Nov. 12. “But we can’t see this virus, so people tend to doubt how severe it really is.”

We should not doubt that coronavirus is spreading at an uncontrolled pace all across our country. And yet, there are deniers. There are those who don’t believe the virus exists or if it does, they will not be affected. They will not get sick or die. That only happens to others. So they don’t have to wear a mask or social distance because that’s just for other people. They know better.

Certain lawmakers are in denial or believe they can hide from the consequences of their failure to help America in the face of a national emergency. Why? History will look back on this time and wonder how a whole group of politicians chose not to act. Americans died as a result.

Gun violence won’t happen to those deniers either. If we hide in the sand and pretend it’s not happening, then it’s not something we need to address. The same lawmakers who are failing us about the spread of the virus and failing to help us in this national emergency are doing the same about gun violence. They have failed us. They have acquiesced to a rich and powerful gun lobby and a distinct minority of Americans who have conjured up false reasons for not acting on gun violence. They will do anything to keep their fragile control over America to shape it the way they want it to be in spite of public opinion, research and science showing them to be wrong.

People have died. People are dying. People will die. As long as we let these lawmakers get away with their failed policies and their inhumane decisions to let people die, we will also fail.

The connection is unmistakable. We have a national gun violence epidemic in the midst of the worst public health virus pandemic in a century.

We will have to deal with the aftermath and ripple effects of the pandemic and the gun violence epidemic for many years to come.

Where is common sense?

Reflections on shootings past present and future

As I reflected on the beauty of a light snowfall this morning, I was reminded by a news story that today was a day to remember momentous shootings. There are so many that it is too easy to forget what happened on this day in other years. We have paid so much attention to the present chaos over COVID and the 2020 election results which continue hour by hour, that we forget important things. That is the point of a President and a party who don’t want us to remember tragedies and past mistakes so we can learn from them and move forward to better solutions.

Today is the “anniversary” of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The country experienced a shock on November 22nd, 1963 as we watched the repeated video of our young President as he slumped over into his wife’s lap while the car sped away to the hospital where he died of his gunshot injuries. One shooter; one gun; many bullets; one U.S. President’s life snuffed out in seconds; the shooter shot by another unhinged man on live T.V.; the country mourned; stronger gun laws passed:

It had been floating around Congress for several years. [Discussion] really began after the JFK assassination; there was a strong sense that people shouldn’t buy guns through interstate mail, because Lee Harvey Oswald did through an ad that appeared in a NRA magazine. Congress held hearings, but it didn’t really go anywhere. Now in 1968, the country is facing rising urban rioting. In the mid-to-late ’60s, crime begins to increase. There’s greater concern about guns and easy accessibility to guns. Martin Luther King is assassinated in April. In June, Robert Kennedy was assassinated and that was really the final push that brought the law back and got it through Congress.

What are the most important things the law changed?

It banned interstate shipments of firearms and ammunition to private individuals [and] sales of guns to minors, drug addicts and “mental incompetents.” This is the first time you have in law that mentally unbalanced people ought not to be able to get guns — also convicted felons. It also strengthened the licensing and record-keeping requirements for gun dealers, and that was significant because gun dealers were subject to virtually no systematic scrutiny up until this time, although a 1938 federal law did establish a fee they paid to government to be a licensed dealer. It banned importation of foreign-made surplus firearms, except those appropriate for sporting purposes.

Since then, one other important gun violence prevention law passed in 1993 in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on the life of President Ronald Reagan- the Brady Background Check law. The Brady Background check law has prevented over 3 million prohibited people from getting their hands on guns.

As a side note, I recently completed the book-Mrs. Kennedy and Me written by Clint Hill, the security agent assigned to Jacqueline Kennedy. I learned from his reflections, about the horror in the immediate seconds after the President was shot. How can we understand the horror of what a shot person looks like when a bullet tears through their brain, or heart? We can’t. Maybe if we could better understand the consequences we would be quicker to want to prevent shootings.

Today is also the 6th anniversary of the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice. Tamir was walking around with a toy gun when police found him and mistakenly assumed he had a real gun. This is the problem with so many guns around. No one knows who is armed and who is not. But it’s also the problem with the quick response from law enforcement when a black person has a gun or is perceived to have a gun or is perceived to be armed or is just perceived to be trouble. Here is an article written by Tamir’s mother earlier this year as she reflected on the shooting death of her innocent son:

If Tamir was alive, he’d probably be doing something with sports. That little boy was so athletic at an early age. I’m not sure what kind of athlete he would have been. We didn’t really have a chance to have a lot of those conversations. He would be 18 and have graduated high school by now.

That day Tamir was murdered I received a knock at the door and it was a neighborhood kid saying my son had been shot by police. I said, “What are you talking about?” I was in denial and shock.

No parent should have to endure something like this.

As I arrived on the scene, my 14-year-old was in the back of a police car. Tamir was laying on the pavement in a gazebo with police surrounding him. My 16-year-old was surrounded by police officers as well. Basically, police told me to calm down or else they were going to put me in the back of a police car. They gave me an ultimatum to stay at the scene of the crime, or to go with Tamir in the ambulance.

The day was very horrific for me. I was enraged by the way he was killed, murdered, assassinated, lynched, whatever they may call it. Nobody bothered to look at this man’s record before he became a Cleveland police officer. He had a horrible report. Nobody in Cleveland did their job, and that’s why I have a dead son today.

No. No parent should have to endure this. No sister. No brother. No mother or father. No child. No one. And yet, over 100 Americans a day die from gun violence. The nation is enduring a public health epidemic now in the midst of an actual public health pandemic.

COVID restrictions have changed our world. Since last March, when the country shut down, many schools have been doing distance learning. This fall, when the school year began again, schools struggled with how to educate our children safely. Some opened completely. Some chose the hybrid model and some chose all distance learning. This largely depended on how the spread of COVID was occurring in the communities where schools are located. My own grandchildren are now learning from home while their parents work from home. It is not the way our kids should be educated but here we are.

There have been no school shootings since COVID started spreading in our country. I came across this report from the Government Accounting Office (GAO) about school shootings that confirms what we really already know:

We examined school shootings and found:

Half were committed by current or former students

Suburban and rural, wealthier, and low-minority schools had more school-targeted shootings; such shootings were the most fatal and most commonly committed by students

Urban, poor, and high-minority schools had more shootings overall and more motivated by disputes; these shootings were often committed by non-students or unknown shooters

More shootings happened outside, but those inside schools were usually more deadly

We found no empirical research from 2009-2019 that directly examined the link between school discipline and school shootings.

There have been few mass shootings in public places either. People aren’t gathering as much in public now. There was one two days ago though in a Milwaukee suburb mall leaving 8 innocent people injured and none dead. Malls are still places where people are allowed to gather in larger numbers. It seems that where people gather in larger numbers, there are opportunities for mass shooters to take out some sort of angry rampage on people they don’t know. And easy access to guns along with weak gun laws lets this all happen.

Don’t get me started on the weak response to the actual pandemic. During the pandemic the sale of guns has gone up. How do we explain this? I don’t think we do. It’s a gun culture that no other country where COVID is also spreading experiences. It’s the weak gun laws.

We are experiencing unprecedented turmoil due to the pandemic. The stress of worry about losing a job, kids being at home, working from home, getting COVID and now the lunacy of a sitting President who refuses to admit he lost the election, is leading to fear and paranoia. It is not a good time to be locked and loaded. It is not a good time to be carrying a gun around in public where there are rallies and protests.

We know how that worked out in Kenosha when there were protests there after the shooting of a black man by police. Two people were shot and killed by a 17 year old who bought his gun in a straw purchase since he was too young to own or carry an AR-15. But carry he did. He was arrested.

The lunacy of what we are experiencing in America is that the said 17 year old shooter has been bailed out by none other than the “pillow guy”- friend to the current occupant of the White House and actor Ricky Schroder.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Where is common sense?

Everyday shootings have continued apace. According to Gun Violence Archive, 38,526 Americans have died from gunshot injuries so far this year. It will likely reach 40,00 before the end of the year.

This number included suicides. An increase in gun suicides in the age of COVID should not surprise us. Access to guns and suicide go together. Gun suicides have been on the rise anyway. But now we are seeing more evidence that times of stress and anxiety can lead to more suicides. Guns make it easy. A New York Times article has this to say:

Ms. Torp has reason to worry. Gun violence kills about 40,000 Americans each year, but while public attention has focused on mass shootings, murders and accidental gun deaths, these account for little more than one-third of the nation’s firearms fatalities. The majority of gun deaths are suicides — and just over half of suicides involve guns.

According to national health statistics, 24,432 Americans used guns to kill themselves in 2018, up from 19,392 in 2010.

People who kill themselves in this way are usually those with ready access to firearms: gun owners and their family members. Gun owners are not more suicidal than people who don’t own guns, but attempts with guns are more likely to be fatal.

Now, nearly a year after the coronavirus pandemic began, unleashing a tide of economic dislocation and despair, experts are bracing for a rise in suicides. Gun sales have risen steadily since March, and as shutdowns aimed at containing the virus have disrupted lives and led to social isolation, studies have shown an increase in anxiety and suicidal ideation.

We are in perilous times now. More deaths from COVID and still rising to numbers that are incomprensible; a feckless, unfit and unhinged President turning his back to the American people; a major party refusing to stand up and insist that we proceed with the transition to the next President Joe Biden; armed people on our streets; conspiracy theories pushed by right wing extremists, including the President that will only make the threats of violence more likely; weak gun laws that allow for so many people to have instant access to guns that could result in a tragedy. Election officials have been threatened as have people who have spoken out against the President’s lunacy.

There is NO VOTER FRAUD. Time to move on to a more peaceful and safe country.

I look forward to President Joe Biden for many reasons. The daily chaos will decrease or disappear. We will have a sane approach to combating COVID and distributing what looks to be a successful vaccine. There is hope that the economy can recover and our kids can get back to school. And there will be a common sense approach to reducing and preventing gun violence.

I look forward to a peaceful and calm, but quiet, Thanksgiving and holiday season as a time of reflection on things past, present and future. I wish we could spend it with our kids and grandkids but not this year. Enjoy your quiet and tune out the loud noises out there.

Ghost guns and goblins

Happy Halloween. There may be fewer ghosts out there today given COVID and the scare about contracting the virus from strangers giving out candy. I don’t think the sacrifice is too great to miss this one year of Halloween. It seems like families are finding creative ways to celebrate the holiday in spite of it all.

But I want to talk about something else scary today. Ghost guns. Just as their name suggests they are sort of invisible guns that fly under the radar. According to Brady:

Ghost guns are unserialized and untraceable firearms that can be bought online and assembled at home. They are often sold through “ghost gun kits,” which include all of the parts and often the equipment necessary to build these weapons at home. These kits are widely available and can be purchased by anyone, including prohibited purchasers, domestic abusers, and gun traffickers — without a background check. As these kits and guns are sold at gun shows and online every day throughout the country, they undermine all of the life-saving policies that state legislatures have fought so hard to put in place.

Ghost guns are:
Designed to avoid all gun laws

Untraceable and unserialized

Available to buy without a background check

This criteria and lack of federal regulation is exactly ghost guns are a growing a weapon of choice among people who are legally prohibited from buying guns.

I think this is scary, and I’m sure my readers would agree with me. This is exactly why we need to elect leaders who will do something to bust ghost guns. As long as they are easy to buy, are unregulated and untraceable they should not be available to anyone.

Common sense would tell us this but the extreme gun lobby is missing a lot of common sense. And most citizens have no idea these kinds of guns are available. That is, unless one of their loved ones was killed or injured in the Saugus High School shooting by a ghost gun. You can see a photo of it in the article if you want to see what it looks like. From the article:

A teen who fatally shot two students and injured three others in Santa Clarita, California, used an unregistered “kit gun” in last week’s shooting, authorities said.

Kit guns, sometimes called “ghost guns” if they do not have a serial number, are self-assembled firearms, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told KABC-TV that the gun used in the shooting at Saugus High School does not have a serial number to track.

“The real concern here is that you have untraceable, unserialized firearms that exist completely outside of the regulatory scheme of federal and state law,” Nick Suplina, managing director for law and policy at gun violence group Everytown, told USA TODAY. “People who are prohibited from owning firearms under federal or state law have ready access to make their own untraceable firearms, and that’s very dangerous.”

Check out Brady’s podcast about Ghost guns here.

On this Halloween I suggest that we need to know where ghosts are hiding and where they come from. That way we can stop fearing them. Until we get our system under control to stop the sale of ghost gun kits, we should be worried.

And there are certainly goblins out there threatening the safety and peacefulness of our upcoming election. Americans should not feel anxiety about guns at polling places. That is for 3rd world countries where guns are a regular feature of elections. But we are in the midst of the potential for tragedy and violence. It’s scary.

Much has been written about this topic but I found this article in the Washington Post a good summary of the current situation:

“Could the election devolve into civil war? Unlikely,” mused Miller, the founder of a budding network of members-only survivalist camps. “But look at World War I: Some worthless, low-level archduke gets assassinated and things escalate out of control. I’ve got people who are concerned that all it would take is a close election and some cheating.”

In Portland, Ore., where a right-wing armed group plans to show up at ballot drop-off sites on Tuesday with weapons in plain view, some extreme left-wing organizers are preparing to do the same.

“The right is not going to give up their power unless they feel threatened,” said Olivia Katbi Smith, a co-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America in Portland. “People are opening up to the idea that a riot is the language of the unheard. Property destruction is not violence.”

On the eve of a presidential election fraught with tension, warning flares are bursting across American skies. From federal and local law enforcement to analysts who track radical groups, concern is high about the possibility that violence could erupt, especially if the vote count drags on for days without a clear winner.

Happy Halloween. It’s 3 days until the election. That’s scary enough if you support candidates who believe in and support common sense gun laws. And it’s scary considering the threats of violence, shootings, kidnappings and other potentially unsettling and tragic happenings in the next few weeks.

Until we elect people who will stand up to the scary lobbyists from the gun industry, ghost guns will haunt us. Until we deal with armed militia groups things will be scary in our country.

Stay calm. Vote. Be patient. Carry on.

Helpers and Civility

I just finished listening to Fred Guttenberg being interviewed on the Brady podcast, Red, Blue and Brady. For those who are unfamiliar with this podcast, I cannot recommend it highly enough. In fact, the podcast, which has been running for about a year, has been nominated for a Shorty Award. I was one of the first people interviewed for the podcast and was honored to talk about my sister’s story and my decades of advocacy for common sense gun safety reform. The podcast has highlighted many topics related to gun safety reform and has featured guests from a variety of life experiences and expertise.

Brady’s podcast, Red, Blue, and Brady, has been recognized as a finalist for a prestigious Shorty Award after only its first year of production and publication. The Shorty Awards honor the best in production and development for numerous categories of content and social media, including podcast production. Red, Blue, and Brady’s series on racial justice was nominated and is a finalist in the podcast category.

Red, Blue, and Brady” is the first podcast devoted solely to gun violence prevention, and we have now made it the first podcast devoted to gun violence prevention and racial justice. The nomination notes that in just three months, “Red, Blue, and Brady” (RBB) produced 17 podcast episodes devoted to the intersection of gun violence, racial inequality, and racial justice, featuring advocates, activists, academics, politicians, and survivors to speak on the issues.

“Red, Blue, and Brady” consistently placed among the top 200 education podcasts, demonstrating that the public is in need of well researched, passionate, bipartisan conversations on gun violence and race and racism. Episodes attracted listeners from across the U.S., as well as a notable number of listeners from Brazil, India, South Africa, and France. The https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Guttenbergseries garnered over 27,000 listeners and uplifts the work of organizations such as D.C.’s violence interrupters (episodes 45 and 59); a social club of mothers who have lost children to gun violence (episode 60); and youth activists (episodes 43 and 74).

Back to Fred Guttenberg. If you don’t know who he is, you should. Fred has been a vocal advocate for gun violence prevention since his daughter, Jaime, was killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida in 2016. We all know about this shooting don’t we? It was the shooting that started a movement that is still going strong- March For Our Lives.

It is a national tragedy that people have to march for their lives and keep shouting for support for common sense measures to reduce and prevent the daily toll of gun violence. It’s an epidemic and it continues even in the midst of the pandemic. In fact, more guns have been purchased and more gun background checks have been completed than since the years when the gun nuts decided that President Obama was going to take their guns away.

But this year’s sales spike is different because it’s being driven by a rise in first-time gun buyers, especially among African Americans and women.About 40% of gun sales in the first four months of the year were made by first-time buyers — far higher than the annual average of 24% over the past two decades, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association that tracks gun sales and analyzes industry trends.Gun sales among Black Americans are up 58% through September, according to the NSSF. Mark Oliva, the foundation’s director of public affairs, said the rise in Black gun ownership is unprecedented.”We’ve never seen a year-over-year increase that large in African-American gun buyers,” Oliva told CNN Business. “It is the largest demographic increase we’ve seen. People that are buying guns today look a whole lot less like me and a whole lot more like the rest of America,” added Oliva, who is White.

This ludicrous notion is raising its’ ugly head during the 2020 election as President Trump feeds on the fear and anger of those who claim that their rights are under attack and Joe Biden will take away their guns. People are scared in the uncertain times of COVID, racial unrest and job loss during a declining economy. Those fears are real but I maintain that guns will not help but rather have the potential to make things worse and more dangerous. And I am continually mystified at the anger over the life saving measure of mask wearing in public. This is complete and utter nonsense and the armed anti-maskers look like fools. But then, acting in your own best interest is, indeed, foolish. What happened to civility, civil protests and common sense?

Unfortunately not only do many believe guns will make them safer. Guns, of course, are deadly weapons designed to kill. Owning one comes with some risk. But I have written about this many times before.

Some extremists are arming up for a civil war and are engaged with right wing terror groups ready to roll if the results of the election are not to their liking. As I write this, they are getting ready for armed intimidation at polling places, urged on by an increasingly unhinged and desperate President who says he will likely not accept the results of the election.

“Part of the issue we’re seeing is with people congregating, whether it’s for protests or other issues, in cities, is it has basically brought together extremist individuals from all sides in close proximity,” said Seth Jones, the director of the Transnational Threats Project at the center. “We’ve seen people on all sides armed, and it does raise concerns about escalation of violence in U.S. cities.”

The report also linked the threat of violence to the country’s charged politics, the coronavirus pandemic and its financial fallout. It warned that violence could rise after the presidential election because of increasing polarization, growing economic challenges, concerns about racial injustice and the persistence of coronavirus health risks.

It said that if the Democratic presidential candidate, Joseph R. Biden Jr., wins the election, white supremacists could mobilize, with targets likely to be Black people, Latinos, Jews and Muslims. A Republican presidential victory could involve violence emanating out of large-scale demonstrations, the report said.

Minnesota has been at the center of some of action since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. We learned recently that a private Tennessee company intended to hire retired armed military and law enforcement to “guard” polling places. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison was having none of it and pursued legal action. Just yesterday, the company “decided” they would not send armed folks to Minnesota and they will not be allowed to be near our polling places.:

Attorney General Keith Ellison launched a probe into Atlas Aegis on Tuesday, the same day that a pair of local advocacy groups filed federal lawsuits in response to ads placed by the company seeking to hire armed guards for the “protection of election polls” in Minnesota.

In a settlement reached Friday, Atlas Aegis agreed that it will not provide security services in Minnesota around the time of the election — effectively through Jan. 1. The company also agreed to provide public notification that it was wrong to suggest that it was recruiting armed guards at Minnesota polling places, which would have violated the state’s election laws.

“Minnesotans should expect that our elections will run as safely, smoothly, and securely as they always have,” Ellison said in a statement. “One of the reasons is that my office and our partners are actively enforcing our laws against threatening, frightening, or intimidating voters.”

Also in Minnesota, a member of the Boogaloo Bois, who was involved in firing at a police officer during the George Floyd protests, was charged with a crime.:

A sworn affidavit by the FBI underlying the complaint reveals new details about a far-right anti-government group’s coordinated role in the violence that roiled through civil unrest over Floyd’s death while in police custody.

Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old from Boerne, Texas, is charged with one count of interstate travel to incite a riot for his alleged role in ramping up violence during the protests in Minneapolis on May 27 and 28. According to charges, Hunter, wearing a skull mask and tactical gear, shot 13 rounds at the south Minneapolis police headquarters while people were inside. He also looted and helped set the building ablaze, according to the complaint, which was filed Monday under seal.

Unrest flared throughout Minneapolis following Floyd’s death, which was captured on a bystander’s cellphone video, causing Gov. Tim Walz to activate the Minnesota National Guard. As police clashed with protesters, Hunter and other members of the Boogaloo Bois discussed in private Facebook messages their plans to travel to Minneapolis and rally at the Cub Foods near the Third Precinct building, according to federal court documents. One of the people Hunter coordinated with posted publicly to social media: “Lock and load boys. Boog flags are in the air, and the national network is going off,” the complaint states.

And of course, there is the plot to kidnap, put on trial and kill Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

These are very real and fomented by our very own President who is making things worse instead of helping to calm the situation. I don’t recall this much violence or threats of violence during an election in my lifetime. We are living in dangerous and unpredictable times.

So many things about this are wrong and inexplicable. Brady is working hard to make sure elections are safe and that voters do not have their rights infringed. You can get involved by checking out the website. Make sure you know that efforts to intimidate voters at polling places with guns are illegal.

You can be a helper, as Fred Guttenberg is encouraging you and others to be in his new book, Find the Helpers. Fred spoke so passionately and eloquently in the podcast, about those who stepped in to help him and his family as they grieved the sudden violent and unexpected shock of the shooting death of their daughter. That is how he is getting through his loss. Helpers. I hope you will read his book to hear more about his story.

That is how I got through it after my sister was shot and killed in a domestic shooting during a contentious divorce. My friends, my church and many I did not know were there for me when I needed to talk and vent and cry. Like Fred, I decided not to sit back and do nothing but there were not many ways to be involved in 1992. It was the opportunity to go to the Million Mom March in 2000 that finally allowed me to be engaged and to use my grief to change things. I found my voice.

Fred has found his voice. Sometimes, as he admits, it gets a little loud and also inappropriate. But when the elected leaders do nothing on purpose, the frustration builds up and voices need to be loud. When they know there are solutions and they fail to solve them on purpose, it is hard to sit by. When they espouse fealty to a corrupt and failing NRA, voices need to be heard.

Gun Violence/Mass Shooting Awareness Orange Small Ribbon Pin. March for Our Lives Pin in a Bag

Fred and his family started a charitable organization called Orange Ribbons for Jaime that will give scholarships to selected students in the name of Jaime. The orange ribbons, of course, are for gun violence prevention. Our Northland Brady Chapter and Protect Minnesota have been bringing orange ribbons to events for years now to depict victims of gun violence. Orange ribbons remind us that we are here to help victims and survivors of gun violence.

Your voice needs to be heard. Be a helper. Do something. Be watchful during the election and in the weeks and months after because it is going to be a bumpy and rocky road. Be prepared. Stay calm. Carry on and be a voice for common sense.

What is patriotism?

I have not written a post here for a long time. My life has been taken over by family visits and moving to our lake place. But in the meantime I have been posting on my own Facebook page, listening to convention speeches, reading articles, and watching how the country is changing before my eyes.

First of all, of course, there is the pandemic. It appears that some of the Trump supporters believe that patriotism is not wearing a mask even when required by state and local mandates.

Patriotism is wearing a mask, social distancing, washing hands and making sure not to expose oneself to others in a large crowd or a bar. But at the GOP convention, the opposite occurred as if the coronavirus was not a thing any more. If Trump and his supporters believe this was a sign of their patriotism to America they are dead wrong. And I mean that in the literal and figurative sense. Defying the public health and safety of the community, of family, friends and of the country is sheer stupidity and irresponsibility. Super spreader events like the GOP convention will begin infecting people all over the country, spreading the disease to those who are vulnerable, putting pressure on our healthcare system and health care workers and endangering lives. It’s already started from those who attended the Charlotte opening last Monday. In addition, as long as the virus is in the community spread mode, schools and businesses will end up closing, causing more economic pain. That is not patriotism.

Second, the protests have become a distinct line between patriots and would- be patriots railing against Black Lives Matters protesters all over the country. There are good reasons for Black, brown and indigenous people to be protesting police brutality and systemic racism. It’s all boiled over after George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer. Had we had a leader who was not a racist himself and could handle national security and safety, we would have had someone who could address the nation to calm us all and seek common sense solutions. Alas, that is not who we have. Instead we have a leader who is throwing matches on the kerosene and encouraging armed protesters:

Heidi Beirich, the chief strategy officer at the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said she was unsurprised when she woke up to the news of violence in Kenosha Wednesday morning. The summer of 2020 has already seen the targeting of Black Lives Matter protesters with a bomb plot in Nevada, the targeted killing of a federal court security officer and the murder of a sheriff’s deputy by a suspected right-wing extremist in California, and a Ku Klux Klan leader driving his car into a crowd of police brutality protesters in Virginia.

“As we’re approaching the election and Trump is hyping fear over the protests and ginning these people on with all this of law order stuff, it’s going to get worse,” Beirich told The Intercept. “I don’t expect this, unfortunately, to be the end of it.”

This is not patriotism. That is domestic terrorism and extremism leading to potential national chaos.

We have a leader ready to spread chaos and then use it to get himself elected. For when there is chaos, it is easy for an authoritarian leader to take over the country and rule by fiat- as if a King or Emperor. The Emperor has no clothes, however.

Concerning elections, we now have a leader who is intending to cheat in the election to force the country into a state we won’t recognize as democracy. The worst of it is that he is gaslighting the country by claiming that the election will be rigged ( in the event he loses of course) while he himself is rigging the election in his favor:

We can no longer trust that our federal government will oversee fair elections this November. The repeated statements and actions of the president, his attorney general and leaders in the Republican Party have demonstrated that not only will they seek to cheat to ensure their “victory,” they will do so in multiple ways as part of a massive, systematic effort to defraud the American people and undermine our democracy. 

All of this is happening of course while Republicans and Trump sycophants stand by and let it happen. This could be considered treason in most circles. It is a felony to interfere with federal elections. But, as Trump has said in the last election, he can shoot someone on 5th Avenue and his supporters won’t abandon him. Is this patriotism? We know the answer.

I am a Patriot. I will make sure to do whatever I can do to get people to the polls so they can cast their votes for people who will not cheat or attempt a hostile take-over of our democracy.

I will make sure true patriots are elected. Those would be lawmakers who care about people dying from coronavirus, insisting on masks and other safety measures to keep the spread down and save lives and jobs. I will make sure we elect candidates who care about the environment and saving the planet from ourselves. I will make sure people are elected who actually care that many seniors rely solely on Social Security and Medicare to stay alive and live in security that the deserve as they grow older.

I will elect people who will keep us safe from the epidemic of gun violence in the midst of the pandemic. These patriots will not allow 17 year olds to access an AR-15 and walk down the streets of our communities killing protesters. Patriotism is making sure everyone who carries or owns a gun can do so legally and will also make sure America understands the risks of owning guns. Patriotism is protecting our children and women from being shot either unintentionally or on purpose. Patriotism is going after the source of all of the weapons on the street to protect urban communities from the violence of young folks feeling the need for a gun to protect themselves or to use in retaliation for some wrong. We need to make safer streets and homes for all communities. Patriotism is recognizing that the majority of gun deaths are suicides so safe storage of guns is essential. Patriotism is knowing that domestic abusers should not have guns., Patriotism is protecting our communities from shooters with assault rifles only needed ( wanted) to kill as many people as possible in a very short time. Patriotism is understanding that requiring a background check on every gun sale is to protect us all from people who should not have guns.

Patriots are the majority of Americans, including gun owners, who want common sense gun laws passed by their lawmakers.

This post started when I took a photo of a car (at end of the post) in a local park displaying a very large American flag and a thin blue line flag which is meant to show support for our police officers. Unfortunately the meaning has been co-opted by white supremacists after the protests during and after the murder of George Floyd.

“We’ve seen trucks riding around with big old versions,” said Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter, about the protests in recent days. “It feels akin to a Confederate flag.” She has also noticed the flag’s image on police and other government-owned vehicles, and she sees this as evidence that even self-described liberal officials are not doing enough to combat white supremacy. “The supposed ‘liberal’ answer to Donald Trump has not been as critical of police violence as it should be,” she said.

Police officers themselves are also not speaking uniformly about the flag. Last month, San Francisco’s chief of police Bill Scott banned his officers from wearing face masks emblazoned with the thin blue line flag, worrying they would be seen as “divisive and disrespectful.” The masks had been distributed by the local police union, which accused the department of failing to provide masks. “We did it as a morale booster for each other,” union president Tony Montoya said, “not as a political statement.”

Photo from above linked article

I had never seen one of these flags flown before but I am now living in rural America where I feel like there is an alternate set of norms and lifestyle than that in most urban areas. I am still not sure how that happened but happen it did. There is a not so thin line between the two and the polarization is real and dangerous.

I asked myself as I have done many times before, what it actually means for this “in your face” display of flags. The American flag on the car I photographed was so large that it looked like it would hit the ground when the car was being driven around. How is that patriotism? And of course, I support our local police department. They have done a good job of policing in my community and there when I have needed them. And I also am outraged at shootings of officers and the hatred of police by so many. Some of the ambushes of officers, like that in Dallas in 2016, have been horrendous to say the least. That shooter was angry with police for the shootings of Black people so his solution was to shoot officers.

More guns = public safety.

I am white. I don’t know how it feels to be Black in America with outright racism coming from law enforcement. We White folks cannot possibly understand. We can provide support to our Black and brown brothers and sisters and listen to them and their experiences.

It is possible to support police while recognizing that policing must change and be reformed. Far too often, even now after George Floyd’s death, officers are doing the same thing. Shooting a black man , Jacob Blake, 7 times in the back during a domestic abuse situation which has still not been adequately explained, is just wrong. Diffusing tense situations is dangerous and stressful for all concerned. Officers are afraid that almost anyone can have a gun because our loose gun laws have made that possible. So yes, they are afraid of armed citizens and especially in volatile situations when anger, fear and/or acute mental illness are involved.

The converse of course is that Black, brown and indigenous people fear police- for very good reason. We have come a ways since now deceased Rep. John Lewis was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge but it’s obvious that we have not come nearly far enough.

Being a patriot is being like John Lewis. Being a patriot is protecting our elections and assuring that every registered voter can vote. Being a patriot is doing whatever is necessary to stop the spread of a deadly coronavirus. Being a patriot is making sure our schools and our businesses will re-open only after we have taken herculean steps to stop the spread of COVID. Being a patriot is making sure those on unemployment are getting the money they need to survive and feed their families. Being a patriot is doing whatever is necessary to protect Social Security and Medicare for our seniors and providing healthcare to all Americans.

As deceased Senator Paul Wellstone ( my Senator) , a true American patriot, said “We all do better when we all do better.”

I don’t believe that Trump and his sycophantic followers are true patriots. They believe in the lies and conspiracy theories thrown out by our very own President every hour of every day. By believing in Trump, they are doing exactly the wrong things to protect Americans from the virus, from gun violence, from racial injustice, from right wing extremists, from fair and free elections, from providing for our families and communities.

Stand up and show your patriotism. Vote for those who will actually take care of us and our country. I know we can do better and we will but everyone needs to go to the polls or get an absentee ballot and then actually put in the mail or a drop box. Don’t let anyone take that right away from you.

Fight for it. VOTE. Vote for honest and caring candidates who will be clear and transparent about their agenda and be open about their reasons for running. I will vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. They are true patriots.

Happy 4th week-end

I have been changing things up lately because there is so much going on in the world around us that writing on a blog may not make as much sense. I am now posting shorter stories and comments on my Commongunsense Facebook page . It is easier to read shorter stories and comments there. I have been writing about the protests, about the dangerous gun carriers who are threatening black people and black protesters- all very concerning. These are just a few of the topics of importance before us now. Let’s start with the danger of loaded guns in public.

A Michigan woman pulled out her handgun in a Michigan parking lot and aimed it at a black woman and her daughter just because.

Have gun, will use it. We are clearly not safer. And black people are clearly much less safe from gun toting white people who have upped the instances of threats since the protests after George Floyd’s murder happened all over the country.

The startling confrontation in Oakland County, Mich., which was partly caught on camera Wednesday afternoon, quickly went viral overnight. As of Thursday afternoon, video of the confrontation had been viewed about 12 million times on Twitter.

“I am deeply disturbed by an incident last night where a woman pointed a cocked gun at another woman during an argument. This behavior is unacceptable,” Oakland County Executive David Coulter said in a statement Thursday. (…) The married couple held Michigan concealed pistol licenses. Both the man and woman were armed. The sheriff said he did not know whether the man also pointed his handgun.

Hill said the dangerous confrontation, which took place on the edge between the communities of Orion Township and Auburn Hills, left her and her three daughters traumatized.

Six people, including bystanders and those involved in the confrontation, called 911 as the incident unfolded. When deputies arrived in the parking lot, they “were presented with two very different stories” in which both sides claimed “they felt extremely threatened,” Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard told reporters Thursday afternoon. The sheriff’s department has reviewed two videos of the incident.

Our conceal and carry laws need to be re-examined. There is no need for armed people on our streets.

And, of course, on July 4th, there will not be many fireworks displays because of the fear of spreading coronavirus. The spread is growing. When over 50,000 Americans a day contract the disease we have a serious problem. Don’t even get me started on Trump’s anemic, irresponsible and dangerous response to the pandemic that is worse because of his lack of understanding, empathy and the ability to govern.

He insists on having 2 super spreaders today and tomorrow. As someone said this morning on MSNBC- ” make America sick again.”

President Donald Trump’s July Fourth celebration on the National Mall will feature one of the largest fireworks displays ever and as many as 300,000 face masks will be given away to those who want them — but despite health concerns from D.C.’s mayor, no one apparently will be required to wear them

And he insists on tying up traffic at Mt. Rushmore National Park in a fireworks display many officials did not want to have. Those who know better and have some common sense are worried about safety, wildfires, the environmental impact of the fireworks and possible protests. But, nevertheless, he persits. The South Dakota governor even touted the fact that no social distancing or mask wearing will be required. Unimaginable.

On July 3, Mr. Trump will be at Mount Rushmore for a celebration and fireworks display, and on the Fourth he will be back in Washington to host events that will include multiple flyovers by military aircraft and a 35-minute fireworks display over the Mall. Most localities have scrapped their traditional festivities, coming up with imaginative replacements such as virtual fireworks or on-screen festivals as they urge people to stay home and stay safe. But nothing — not health experts’ concerns about large gatherings, not alarming spikes in recent days in virus case levels, not pleas from worried D.C. and Washington-area officials — gives pause to Mr. Trump about going ahead with these potentially dangerous events. 

What could possibly go right?

Earlier this week, Trump tweeted the video of a Missouri couple threatening black protesters in their neighborhood with a pistol and an assault type rifle. You can’t make this stuff up. How can the leader of a country even consider that this is OK and further, to tweet it. It’s not the first time Trump has tweeted about dangerous, violent or conspiracy theory comments.

And again, as I do every year, I warn about incidents of “accidental” shootings when people stupidly shoot their guns into the air not thinking about where bullets come down- because they always come down- and too often, the find a target in another innocent and unsuspecting human being. There is nothing celebratory about this kind of gunfire.

Bullets fired into the air usually fall back with terminal velocities much lower than their muzzle velocity when they leave the barrel of a firearm. Nevertheless, people can be injured, sometimes fatally, when bullets discharged into the air fall back down to the ground. Bullets fired at angles less than vertical are more dangerous as the bullet maintains its angular ballistic trajectory and is far less likely to engage in tumbling motion; it therefore travels at speeds much higher than a bullet in free fall.

A study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 80% of celebratory gunfire-related injuries are to the head, feet, and shoulders.[6] In Puerto Rico, about seven people have died from celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve in the last 20 years. The last one was in 2012.[7] Between the years 1985 and 1992, doctors at the King/Drew Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, treated some 118 people for random falling-bullet injuries. Thirty-eight of them died.[8]

Don’t shoot your guns into the air to celebrate. My friend Joe Jaskolka was shot in the head at age 11 during a New Year’s eve celebration in Philadelphia. The damage suffered from the bullet wound to his head altered his life forever.

There is a drought in many areas of the country. We have had protests all over the country. We are in the midst of a pandemic and economic disaster. But it is the celebration of our country’s birthday so families should be together watching Hamilton streaming as we will do. And be careful with personal fireworks which are also a safety hazard and a fire danger in a drought.

There is hope if we all do the right thing and stay safe. Wear masks. Social distance. Don’t gather in crowded places. Be careful with fireworks. Be nice to others. Celebrate that our founding “fathers” wanted us to be a democracy, not an autocracy as the current White House occupant seems to want it to be. They knew we could weather a lot of storms together and make sure the Rule of Law is not violated as is happening in plain sight. This is the day to make sure we pay attention to what Hamilton, Washington, Jefferson, Adams and others wanted for our country.

Being patriotic is celebrating our democracy and the rule of law. It is not all about flag waving and fireworks. It’s not about guns either. It’s about caring about each other in times of national disaster and pandemics. It’s about being free of gun violence in our communities. It’s about being free of community spread of the coronavirus. It’s about freedom for Black and brown people to have the same lives as white people have. Black Lives Matter. It’s about white people understanding systemic racism. It’s about being free to wear masks to protect us all.

I will leave you with this parody of mask wearing to the tune of Hamilton music.

Happy 4th.

Cure the virus of violence

image created by anonymous artists of Minneapolis and St. Paul

I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m outraged. I’m almost speechless;. I’m hurting for my state and for George Floyd’s family. I’m concerned. I’m worried about the boogaloo movement that foments violence and hopes for Civil War. Were they involved in the protests? We don’t yet know who the people are who came from the outside to promote violence, looting and burning of buildings. We need to find that out.

I’m afraid of the eruption of violence over the murder of George Floyd by a white officer while other officers stood by and let it happen. I’m inspired by the passionate activism of so many people who want justice for George Floyd. I am a white woman of privilege. I can’t really understand how it feels to be black, brown or indigenous in America. But I can see the reactions in Minneapolis and all over the country. We have all seen the demands for justice that are about more than George Floyd. They are about racism, racial and social injustice and inequality, discrimination in housing and jobs, lack of educational opportunities and violence against them perpetrated over the decades.

There are now many viruses spreading all over America. In the midst of our country’s worst pandemic in many decades, the virus of violence has been spreading from person to person and from community to community all over our country. The murder of George Floyd set it off. But that murder was the symptom of an underlying virus that has been lurking under the surface and often above the surface making America sick.

And to make matters worse, because of the protest the spread of coronavirus may increase now and could affect even more people of color. Clearly we have a long ways to go before that virus is controlled. And clearly we have a long ways to go to control the viruses of racial injustice and gun violence.

We have not been paying attention to what has been right in front of us. Communities of color have been hurting and angry for 400 years. A civil war was fought over slavery and tore our country apart. Even after the Civil War ended, there was not a solution to racial injustice.

In fact, if anything, the situation was worse after slaves were free to look for jobs, go to schools, live in houses in our neighborhoods, become professionals, work in our communities, vote in our communities and participate in our society. Because of the color of their skin, they have not been able to do any of those things without fighting and struggling to be treated just like everyone else.

Long after the Civil War, protesters in some places, Trump supporters and pro gun activists bring the Confederate flag with them as a statement of their racism. We know what that means.

Why have we allowed angry anti-government people to carry Confederate and Don’t Tread on Me (Gadsden) flags? Yes. It’s their first amendment right but it’s also an indication of racism and violence that is now taking center stage. It’s abhorrent and offensive. These may be the same people criticizing the protests and crying out for more arrests and more force against protesters.

Our own President seems to be encouraging violence in some of his recent tweets, especially mentioning shooting the looters. His tweets are stoking the tension and the violence. It’s unfathomable that our leader is not leading during our epidemics.

Pivoting to gun violence as a virus and public health epidemic, men and boys of color are 2.5 times more at risk of being shot by law enforcement than white men and boys. This article from the Washington Post shows us the number of police shootings so far this year along with the number of black victims:

Although half of the people shot and killed by police are white, black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans. Hispanic Americans are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate.

The time was ripe. We are in the midst of a pandemic that has taken over 100,000 lives, a disproportionate number of which have been people of color. The shut down of the economy has been disastrous for the economy and for low income people in particular. Many have no access to affordable health care. Many are unemployed and in despair. No wonder the country erupted.

Scientists, meanwhile, are increasingly studying police violence as a public health problem whose long-term harms radiate far beyond the original victim.

“It can have these toxic effects on communities, in terms of both their physical and mental health,” Edwards said.

A study published in the Lancet last year found that police killings of unarmed black men were associated with an increase in mental health problems such as depression and emotional issues for black people living in the state where the killing took place.

And living in a state of constant fear can lead to chronic stress, Edwards said. He referred to “the talk,” a conversation that many African American parents have with their children — especially boys — about how to interact with police to avoid being harmed.

All things considered, isn’t it surprising that there have not been more mass eruptions of anger and protests over the police killings of people of color? And over economic disparities? And over housing disparities? And over our healthcare crisis? And over gun violence?

Gun violence prevention organizations have talked about but never fully embraced this intersection of gun violence with racial injustice. We could have done better. We should have done better.

In incident after incident the country has watched the shootings of black men and boys by police when other options were better. Many organizations have made statements of solidarity with the protesters. We all care. We all want to help. We all need to step up and do more and do better. Brady made this statement about George Floyd:

This reality and the fact that Black Americans face disproportionate rates of gun violence result from the same racist policies and structures that drive inequality and disparity for minority communities across numerous outcomes. To speak to police violence requires acknowledging systemic racism in our country. To seek to end police violence requires addressing systemic racism. They are inseparable.

I get that law enforcement officers fear for their lives every day. Their jobs are dangerous by necessity. They are armed which gives them power over others. And they also recognize that citizens are more armed now than ever before. Made possible by the NRA and other gun rights organization, gun carry laws have passed in most states of the nation. Now police can’t tell the difference between “good guys” with guns and “bad guys” with guns.

And they can tell the difference between a black person with a gun ( or not) and a white person with a gun. Too often police have wrongly assumed that a black person is armed and they shoot first and ask questions later. Too often police officers who are charged and arrested are not found guilty of murder. That is what must be addressed if anything is going to change.

While we are at if, let us not forget the groups of armed white people who showed up in state capitols to protest the stay at home orders of Governors to stop the spread of COVID-19. What happened to those folks displaying assault weapons, including a rocket launcher? Nothing. No arrests. No police actions. We get the difference. If those armed men had been black, they would have been arrested- or worse. This is the problem isn’t it? One group is not like the other.

There is a virus of gun violence within the virus of the protests within the virus of COVID-19 turning to rioting and violence. We all need to breathe. George Floyd couldn’t breathe because of police action and he is now dead. Coronavirus victims have trouble breathing because the virus attacks the lungs. Some have died. Protesters can’t breathe when tear gas is lobbed their way. The nation can’t breathe now because of the violence and because of rampant racism. We need a cure.

And my last point has to do with the guns carried by protesters or used against protesters in the last few days. It’s bad enough without loaded weapons that take the breath away from the victims of the bullets. In Louisville, Kentucky several instances of deadly shootings have occured as the result of the protests. Here – 7 dead. Here- 1 shot dead by law enforcement.

In Omaha, Nebraska a white man shot and killed a black protester. The shooter had a history of gun arrests, including felonies. Why did he have access to a gun? Laws matter.

Here are just a few names of people of color shot by police:

Ahmaud Arbery

Breonna Taylor

Tamir Rice

Walter Scott

Michael Brown

Philando Castile

Jamar Clark

Just a few of the names of black people shot by armed citizens:

Trayvon Martin

Jordan Davis

Birdell Beeks

Tyesha Edwards

Nizeal Banks

I just watched an impromptu memorial to George Floyd in Minneapolis. George’s 2 brothers asked for peaceful protests to make the change that is needed. We all hope that common sense happens so we can get to work on solutions and systemic changes.

At the memorial there were several chants: “Peace on the left; justice on the right.” and “What’s his name?” “George Floyd.

George Floyd.

Safe Memorial Day celebrations

Memorial Day is about honoring and remembering our war veterans for their service and for those who were killed in the line of duty. The photo is one I took when we visited the American cemetery at Normandy. I will never forget seeing all of those crosses and the reverence felt while visitors walked amongst the graves of the soldiers whose lives were lost during the D-Day invasion that was the beginning of the end of World War ll.

My dad was a World War ll veteran who served in North Africa and Italy. His PTSD became noticed by my brother and me as we grew old enough to understand what those middle of the night panic attacks meant. Neither my mom or my dad mentioned the attacks to us as if we couldn’t hear him struggling to breathe in the quiet of the night. Today I remember him and his service to the country when it called. He enlisted in his 30s and risked his life for the cause.

My dad was a hunter and avid outdoorsman. He taught me how to shoot at targets when I was a teen-ager. I think he really wanted me to hunt with him and my mom, also an avid hunter. But I didn’t really like the feel of shooting a gun so I never did hunt with them.

My brother, on the other hand, became the hunter that I was not. He spent a lot of time with my mom and dad walking the woods partridge and deer hunting. There was a deer shack somewhere in the woods of northern Minnesota that hosted my family and their friends. They had fond memories of those days.

My brother is a veteran of the VietNam war and now lives with Parkinson’s Disease, loss of vision and PTSD, among other things, at a Veterans’ home in Minnesota. He never got over what he experienced in VietNam. When we sold the house where he lived with my mother, we discovered his collection of hunting guns and one pistol. Given his difficulties with panic attacks, alcoholism and PTSD, we decided to keep his guns at our home, locked and unloaded. There is no question in my mind that he would have used one of those guns on himself if they had been available to him.

Since our older sister had been shot and killed in a domestic shooting, certainly the last thing we needed was another family member killed by a bullet. He knew we had the guns and agreed that we should have them. After we moved from our own home, his guns were given to a friend where they are stored safely. I asked that he not sell them or give them to anyone without a background check, and given that he has common sense, he said he would comply with my request.

On this Memorial Day, I honor the service of Americans whose lives were taken in the line of duty. War left many, including my own family, with the mental scars that affected their lives forever. Neither my brother or my dad were interested in guns for self defense. They were hunters and it did not occur to them that they should have guns around the house for self defense. But neither of them stored their guns in a safe either. That was not thought of much in those days but now we know more about how easily guns are accessed by kids and teens who use guns for suicide or in unintentional shootings. And we know personally how guns can be used in domestic disputes.

Veterans commit gun suicides with alarmingly high frequency. And guns are the most often used method. From Giffords:

Today more than 6,000 American veterans die by suicide each year, and nearly 70% of these deaths involve firearms. From 2005 to 2017, the veteran suicide rate increased by nearly 41%. We must do more to protect the veterans who risked their lives to protect us.

Our factsheet outlines ways in which we as a nation can do better. 

Research suggests that having a gun in the home triples a person’s overall risk of suicide, and nearly half of all veterans own firearms. Because 85% of gun suicide attempts end in death, when individuals in crisis reach for a gun, they rarely

Easy access to guns is clearly a risk factor.

Over this week-end there is no doubt that more people will lose their lives to bullets. Two Miami area teens were killed in “accidental” gun discharges. There are no accidents with guns. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. From the article:

“This is a tragedy that should not happen and cannot happen again,” Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said. “Please be mindful of weapons in your house, the fact that the kids are home, they’re being schooled at home, they don’t have a lot of extra activities to be doing, they become curious and these are the things that can happen.”

Yes, these things can and do happen. Responsible gun owners keep their guns stored safely away from the hands of kids and teens and others who could be a danger to themselves or others. And, of course, storing guns in a safe prevents stolen guns from being used in a gun crime or shooting.

Please stay safe on this Memorial Day and also stay healthy from the spread of coronavirus. Remember to practice gun safety, social distancing and wearing masks. What we do individually is also for the common good. And common sense will save lives.

Protecting your potatoes

We have hit a new marker in the President’s dog whistles to potential supporters. Today, in a meeting with farmers, he brought up the second amendment. Why? It’s a dog whistle and used to ramp up fear and paranoia so those farmers will certainly vote for him. I mean if I thought my potatoes were at risk during this pandemic or any other time, I would certainly think about my guns and gun rights. Wouldn’t you?

From this article:

Said Trump: “We’re going after Virginia, with your crazy governor, we’re going after Virginia.”

He then made a reference to gun rights to the farmers present: “They want to take your Second Amendment away. You’ll have nobody guarding your potatoes.”

Yes. He said that. You can’t make this stuff up.

What does it mean that Trump links ” going after Virginia” with second amendment rights? Not too subtle. Is this a threat?

Here’s the thing. Do you need to guard your potatoes? Of course it’s total nonsense to use the tired old meme about taking away your second amendment rights. After the Democrats took the House and Senate in Virginia, the first thing they did was to pass common sense gun laws. The last time I looked, no one’s guns or gun rights were taken away from them. Instead, the citizens of Virginia just got a whole lot safer and less likely to die from shootings.

Isn’t that a good thing?

This election season is already becoming insane but with the second amendment “hanging in the balance” it may just turn deadly as well. The worry is those folks who are openly carrying their guns around ostensibly guarding ….? What are they guarding? That’s what I don’t get. They claim to be guarding some sort of right to be free or die. But what they are really doing is causing the spread of the coronavirus around to their friends, families and strangers. From the article:

Thus do right-wing extremists exploit America’s lax gun laws for political gain. Of course, the open carrying of rifles or handguns is a recipe for intimidation and potentially deadly confusion, even when not politically motivated. If shots ring out on a street full of armed pedestrians, how are the police supposed to identify the culprit? (…) The lesson is that armed political movements of any ideology can endanger democracy, and that a consistent, rational reading of the Constitution would empower states to rein them in.

What about our rights to be safe from these guardians of insanity? Generally speaking the public does not like seeing people strut around with assault rifles and rocket launchers strapped around their chests.

It’s armed insurrection. It’s domestic terrorism.

And generally speaking the public does not want the coronavirus spreading to them or those close to them. When close to 100,000 Americans have died from one cause in the course of 2 months, wouldn’t you think we could be together in our efforts to stop the spread of the disease so more of us don’t succombe to a deadly novel virus? Wouldn’t you think these guys with the guns who think they are making the rules would join with the governors of their states and do whatever they could to make sure we can keep people from ending up on a ventilator? Wouldn’t you think these folks would want to keep our health care providers and front line workers safe from getting sick so they can take care of all of us- serve food, pack groceries, fill prescriptions, sell plants and building materials?

Wouldn’t you think?

UPDATE:

I am not the only one wondering what the President meant by guarding your potatoes. This parody from the Washington Post highlights how ludicrous Trump’s statement was ( see above):

I got a call from an old friend from potato guardian training. He washed out; people were always taking potatoes from under his nose, and he was a laughingstock among us. Now he works in finance. He asked if I had heard the news about the governor and what he was planning to do. I said I hadn’t, so he told me. I can’t believe the governor would come for our Second Amendment rights. No potato will be safe then. It’s monstrous.

Exactly. Nothing is safe without those second amendment rights. Not even potatoes.

20 years of activism

your Profile Photo, Image may contain: possible text that says 'Salute MILLION MOM MARCHERS 20 YEARS OF SAVING LIVES'

Today is the 20th anniversary of the Million Mom March. That day changed my life. It was Mother’s Day of 2000. A friend asked me in November of 1999 if I wanted to go to this march organized by a woman named Donna Dees-Thomases. I knew nothing but of course I said yes. It didn’t take long for some friends and members of the local League of Women Voters to hold a meeting about how we could do a local event and get local people to the Capitol in DC for the march. It was an exhilarating time. Many meetings were held and we raised enough money to fund a bus full of local women to get on a bus and take a very long trip to DC to march with 750,000 mothers and others. We had no idea that so many people would come to the event. It was pretty overwhelming for the organizers but iw demonstrated the pent up frustration of so many people that nothing was happening to stem the epidemic of gun violence that had only just begun at that time.

It was because of the shooting incident at the Jewish Daycare Center in Los Angeles that Donna Dees-Thomases decided that something had to be done about shootings involving small children. And then the Columbine shooting happened. The country watched in horror as 12 innocent people were gunned down by 2 young teens who got their guns through a friend who bought the guns at a gunshow in Colorado with no background check.

I flew to DC with a group who went ahead to go to a reception and to the office of he organizers. There we met Donna and a few others of the women who made this all happened. Some groups were invited to a speech on the White House lawn and ours was one of them. We scrambled to call the bus riders to get their information for the secret service so we could all get into the event at the White House before the march. President and Mrs. Clinton both spoke on a stage full of children and others who had been affected by gun violence. It was a thrill to hear the common sense words of our President about his desire to do something about gun violence. I met the President as he walked off the stage into the crowd to chat.

It was a very hot humid day as the march began. Our group was overwhelmed by the crowds and eventually met up with the bus full of people from the Twin Cities as well. We marched with our own Minnesota sign and with now deceased Senator Paul Wellstone. I value the photo I have of me with him as he joined us that day.

It’s so hard to describe that day. Seeing so many people with tee shirts, hats and signs with the names of loved ones was very emotional and affirming for me. It’s so easy to feel alone after a loved one has been shot and killed and then not knowing how you can do something about it. The march was my inspiration. I connected with women from all over the country but most importantly I connected with many women from my community who have become my friends and co-leaders in the movement to end gun violence.

After returning home we formed a local chapter of the Million Mom March and began our journey to becoming an active, vibrant group that made connections with local elected leaders, law enforcement and other organizations. We held meetings; we held vigils; we dedicated a memorial bell garden above the Lakewalk on Lake Superior- the only one in the

No photo description available.

country dedicated to victims of gun violence; we marched; we organized; we went to the state capitol for meetings and lobby days; we testified; we held signs and rang bells; we raised money; we published editorials and letters to the editor and over time, we tabled at local festivals and other events, we learned how to talk to the media and become thought leaders about the issue of gun violence prevention.

We attended national meetings in D.C. where we learned even more about how to organize and speak about gun violence. At these meetings we met victims of gun violence who became our friends and confidantes. We pushed for national legislation to renew the assault weapons ban, to expand background checks, to stop the gun industry immunity bill and the Tiahrt Amendment. We lost many battles but we were there. Our voices were and are still strong.

Now we are a Brady chapter in concert with Protect Minnesota. We work with many other national and state groups to make our voices heard. We are still strong and we are a force.

Today I received a thank you bouquet for the work I have done. It was a recognition of the fact that I and many others around me have persisted. We are mothers, grandmothers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, friends and others who support keeping our communities safe from gun violence. We are supported by the majority of Americans who agree with us. Along with many others, we will prevail.

Since Mother’s Day of 2000, 700,000 Americans have died from gun violence due to suicides, homicides or unintentional shootings. That is why I and my fellow marchers keep marching.

Happy anniversary Million Mom March. I am proud to be a member. Thanks for making my journey a meaningful one in the name of my sister and all victims of gun violence.

Image may contain: flower, cloud, sky, plant, nature and outdoor