What about the kids?

teamwork_kids002We need to talk. Yesterday was national ASK day when Brady chapters around the country participated in activities to highlight the risks of loaded guns in homes for kids. Many articles revealed some startling information about kids and guns that we can’t avoid talking about. But avoid we do. Just like some of the other important issues of the day, we skirt around the edges of problems we need to tackle but we can’t find agreement. Our polarized nation is becoming even more polarized.

One thing I believe we can agree on is that small children should not be able to access guns and then shoot either themselves or someone else, like a sibling, friend, parent or cousin. It happens almost every day and it’s a national tragedy and health care epidemic. But even about this, common sense does not happen.  Why? Good question.

The ASK campaign encourages parents to ask if their are loaded, unsecured guns in the homes where children play. It is an awkward conversation for sure. But it is a necessary conversation. It is the job of parents to keep their children safe from harm. It is the job of law abiding gun owners to be responsible enough to keep loaded guns out of the hands of small children- or teens who are curious about guns. Kids are naturally curious about guns. They are exposed to them early in play, TV, computers, and movies. Guns are fascinating. They are also the only product on our market that are designed to kill another human being therefore making them a risk to those who own them.

In the information on the above linked website at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, we learn some facts- and they are facts:

  • 1 in 3 homes with children have guns, many unlocked and loaded
  • 1.7 million children live in homes with loaded, unlocked guns
  • 3 of 4 children know where guns are kept in their homes
  • 80% of unintentional shootings of children happen in homes.

And yet, adults expose kids to guns sometimes purposely, ,sometimes not, thinking that nothing could ever happen if only they teach their kids not to touch. That doesn’t work, period. There are both incidents to show the fallacy of that argument oft used by the corporate gun lobby and those who believe that and evidence to show it does not work.

I have included this video from ABC’s 20/20 program many times before about what happens when kids are told not to touch guns by adults but when left alone, they touch and play with real guns. This is just not OK but should not be a surprise to us.

Here are a few of the recent articles about kids and guns that need to be taken seriously.

From the American Psychological Association about why talking about guns in homes is a good idea.

The Dear Abby column giving terrible advice to a young mom who asked about guns in homes where her children will be going to play. I personally made a comment and many others did as well. Hopefully whoever plays the part of Abby will have learned a thing or two about asking about guns and the true risks to children in homes where loaded guns are present.

A Newsweek article showing that death by firearm is the 3rd leading cause of death for children.:

Few stories are more heartbreaking than those involving children who are injured or killed by gunshots. It isn’t hard to find them: In June alone, a 6-year-old accidentally shot and killed a 4-year-old in South Carolina, a father accidentally shot and killed his 9-year-old daughter in Indiana and an 8-year-old Mississippi boy was accidentally shot in the chest. His grandparents drove him to the hospital, but he died 45 minutes later. Sadly, the list of child gun deaths goes on.

Though we constantly see examples in the news, child gun injuries and deaths may be even more prevalent in the United States than we realized. A study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics showed that an average of 5,790 children in the United States receive emergency room treatment for gun-related injuries each year, and around 21 percent of those injuries are unintentional. The study also found that an average of 1,297 children die annually from gun-related injuries, making guns the third-leading cause of death for children in America (behind illnesses and unintentional injuries like drownings or car crashes). The number is based on data taken from 2012–2014 for children up to the age of 17.

From the Today Show on-line site, a mother whose child was senselessly shot in an accidental shooting tells her story:

Who allows their child to keep unlocked guns in their room? Still to this day, I can’t wrap my mind around that. Guilt eats at me night and day. The worst thing that can happen to a mother is for her child to be killed. My child was in the care of others who let him and his family down. Forgiveness is something I struggle with daily.

I am a gun owner. I believe in gun locks and following strict safety procedures around guns. I am always surprised that some folks view my beliefs as being against the right to bear arms. I am not against guns. Noah was raised around guns. He went hunting for the first time when he was 3 years old. The difference between us and a lot of other gun owners is that we understand the power a gun can have when not in the right hands or is handled improperly. Guns should be locked and kept away from curious children. They were definitely not allowed in my son’s room.

But no matter what we instilled in him, none of it saved him that night. He was at the mercy of other people. And, sadly, I never imagined that other parents were not as responsible as I am. I never thought to ask his friend’s parents about how they stored their guns because I naively assumed everyone was like me.

From Forbes magazine an article about how to keep your child safe from gun violence:

There three main steps you can take, expanded upon below. First, remove all firearms from the home. Second, if you are unable or unwilling to remove all guns from the home, stored them unloaded in a locked safe with ammunition locked up elsewhere. Third, ask the household members of every home your child visits whether they have firearms in the home and, if so, whether they are safely stored as above.

From Pediatrics:

Nearly 1300 children die and 5790 are treated for gunshot wounds each year. Boys, older children, and minorities are disproportionately affected. Although unintentional firearm deaths among children declined from 2002 to 2014 and firearm homicides declined from 2007 to 2014, firearm suicides decreased between 2002 and 2007 and then showed a significant upward trend from 2007 to 2014. Rates of firearm homicide among children are higher in many Southern states and parts of the Midwest relative to other parts of the country. Firearm suicides are more dispersed across the United States with some of the highest rates occurring in Western states. Firearm homicides of younger children often occurred in multivictim events and involved intimate partner or family conflict; older children more often died in the context of crime and violence. Firearm suicides were often precipitated by situational and relationship problems. The shooter playing with a gun was the most common circumstance surrounding unintentional firearm deaths of both younger and older children.

From USA Today, an article urging what parents should know before their children go to sleep-overs this summer.:

“Is there an unlocked gun where your child plays?”

Each year on June 21, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence encourage parents to ask questions about whether guns are accessible to their children.

It’s a question that should be asked every day, but as we hear all too often, sometimes guns get into the hands of children. Each day, 19 children in the United States are either killed or injured by a firearm. 

And the work isn’t done for parents who are taking the right safety measures, Ashlyn Melton writes in a Today column. Melton’s son was accidentally shot and killed by a friend who had access to loaded guns.

In the column, she notes that parents should feel comfortable asking their children’s friend’s parents about where they store their guns.

I rest my case. This is probably enough for now. Because of my volunteer work, I read regular stories about “accidental” shootings of and by children. What the articles above reveal should be enough for us to get to work, put our noses to the grindstone and do everything we can to prevent and reduce avoidable gun deaths.

In my city of Duluth, young parents will be at local playgrounds on Saturday to talk to other parents about the ASK campaign and changing the conversation about the risks of guns in homes. One of these parents is an Emergency Physician. Another a Psychotherapist, another a Child Service Advocate for the county, another a math teacher at our local university- all with young children and concerns about keeping their children safe from potential harm before something happens that would make it too late. Intervention and prevention is the key to this American public health problem.

#Enough

As more people learn the facts, more people are concerned and more people will demand that something be done legislatively but they will also be the agents of change that must happen before our ubiquitous and deadly gun culture will also change. For the sake of our children and grandchildren we must be involved and we must act.

We should all be on the same team when it comes from protecting our children from harm. We seem to agree about poisons, electrical outlets, household cleaners, child seat belts, safe baby cribs and toys, crossing guards, bike helmets, and many other potential harmful things for our children.

Let’s get to work.

I want to add a graphic from the ASK campaign that is important to how we change the conversation.

ASKtextgraphic

Charleston- another mass shooting anniversary

Charleston shootingIt is difficult to try to remember the dates of all of the mass shootings in America. You see, mass shootings have happened in every month of the year and almost every week of every month. And when we honor and remember the victims of the high profile mass shootings we don’t want to forget or dishonor the victims of “everyday” shootings- about 90 per day as it turns out.

I just wrote a post about the one year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. And then the shooting happened at the baseball practice and left a U.S. Congressman ( and others) critically injured. And then a mass shooting happened in San Francisco at a UPS building. And then the verdict in the Philando Castile case left a community reeling when the officer involved was acquitted. This case highlights the tensions between people of color and law enforcement- something about which we need to deal seriously and purposefully.

When will it end?

The mass shooting at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina was a particularly brutal and heinous shooting because of the fact that a group of Black members of the church welcomed the shooter into their fold as they were innocently praying in the church. And then, he shot them brutally in a heinous and unforgivable hate crime.

Churches should be places where people can gather without fear of being shot. In America no place is a place where people can gather without fear of being shot. Baseball practices, schools, malls, cars, parks, college campuses, workplaces, office buildings and homes are all vulnerable to shooters with anger, hate and revenge in their hearts. And when guns are so easily accessible, it is all too easy.

The shooter of the 9 people that were killed that day two years ago should not have been able to purchase his gun. But because the gun lobby lapdogs in Congress made sure there was a loophole in our gun laws, he got his gun anyway. We know the result. From the article:

Nearly three thousands guns were sold to people with criminal records, mental illnesses or other prohibitive circumstances in 2015, according to the FBI’s latest operations report on background checks, released in late September.

That’s the result of what many see as a flaw in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). At licensed firearm dealers–but not private shows or sales, including those facilitated online–a background check is required to determine the prospective buyer’s eligibility. Data show that roughly 90 percent of these checks come back with an answer immediately, but the remainder are delayed so the FBI can further investigate eligibility.

If three business days pass without a verdict from the FBI, licensed dealers can sell the gun anyway, unless prohibited by local law. If the background check later comes back negative, federal authorities are supposed to retrieve the weapon. (…)

Since 1998, the delayed denial provision has put a total of 58,779 guns in the wrong hands

What are we doing about this? Some members of the South Carolina legislature tried by proposing a bill to close this loophole in gun laws.:

“Lawful gun owners should applaud this legislation. The only people who should fear this legislation are people who are unfit to carry a gun,” said Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, one of the co-sponsors of the bipartisan bill, along with Sen. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster.

Alas, the bill failed. Gun lobby lapdogs won’t even stand up for the victims of one of the worst mass shootings in our country.

Common sense tells us that we must stop this practice and prevent shootings wherever we can. But the NRA defends the indefensible.

What does it mean to honor with action? Passing this bill would be one big action and it should happen in Congress.

But quietly, other actions are taking place to honor the victims. From the linked article above about the second anniversary of the shooting:

Taylor, a retired nurse, once worked in hospice, but, like so many here, still struggles with the heavy yoke of loss that clings to the regal crimson and dark wood sanctuary.

“We’ve just got to face the reality. Death is hard for everybody,” she says. “It’s something you never get over. We all hurt. But we’ve got to move on.”

She tries to heal by honoring those who died.

Before Pinckney’s death, Taylor was helping him launch a new community outreach. Since his death, she has continued to organize what is now called the Clementa C. Pinckney Community Health Fair each year. She also expanded the outreach to include feeding people facing homelessness. Pinckney’s wife and younger daughter, who both survived the shooting by hiding in his secretary’s office, have attended the health fairs along with his father and older daughter.

Now Taylor has eyes on expanding both outreaches. In August, she hopes to hold a health fair for children returning to school. In November, she wants to begin holding the homeless event monthly.

Emanuel needs it. The broader community needs it. And Pinckney would have wanted it.

“Everybody knows Clementa Pinckney was a community man,” Taylor says. “That was just his heart. He loved to help people in the community. He was full of love and grace and kindness.”

Taylor wants to ensure that, away from the spotlight, Emanuel lives out that commitment. She isn’t alone.

Away from the spotlight of high profile publicized shootings like that at Mother Emanuel church, people are trying to heal and take action. Their loved ones live on in their hearts leaving a hole that will never be filled.

I have met Clementa Pinckney’s wife who is a quiet beautiful woman trying to raise her children alone after the horror of that day two years ago. I have met others who are working with the Charleston community to prevent gun violence. I honor all of them and grieve with their survivors as they remember and try to forget this day. To the victims:

Rev. Clementa Pinckney

Cynthia Hurd

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

Tywanza Sanders

Myra Thompson

Ethel Lee Lance

Rev. Daniel L. Simmons

Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor

Susie Jackson

 

Baseball and guns

Brady memeGun violence has and does occur in every nook and cranny of America. That is because there are guns in every nook and cranny of America. As many, if not most, of us watched in horror yesterday morning, another mass shooting unfolded almost before our very eyes and ears. Later in the day yesterday video with the audio of the mass shooting was released making it all too real. The sound of constant gunfire reminded us of war.

We are at war with each other. Yesterday’s shooting of U.S. Congressman Steve Scalise got a lot of attention because the victim was someone serving our country as was Rep. Gabby Giffords who was shot while serving in Congress. And here is Gabby Giffords writing about the obvious after yesterday’s shooting:

Why courage? Because the times we are in require it. We owe ourselves, our neighbors and our nation courage.

In the days and weeks to come, I know from personal experience what to expect. As a nation, we will debate violence and honor service — the service of the elected officials and their staff, and of local law enforcement and the U.S. Capitol Police, without whom the carnage could have been so much worse. We will debate the availability and use of guns. And we will wonder about the victims — how they are doing and how we can help them — as we wonder, too, about the shooter. What motivated such violence? What can we do to prevent it?

We know, as always, that no one law could prevent a shooting like this. But we also know that we must acknowledge a problem: an unacceptable rate of gun violence in this country. And we must acknowledge that a deadly problem like this brings a responsibility to find solutions. And that’s where we, as a nation, will need courage in abundance, as my former colleagues find the strength to recover from their wounds — and the bravery to try to make shootings like this one less likely in the future. (…)

My prayer today for my colleagues and their families is that they feel our strength and love as they embark on their recovery. My prayer for my country is that we find the courage I know we possess and use it to work toward a safer world, together.

We are all horrified at the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise and 3 others at yesterday’s baseball practice for a charity ball game to be held tonight in spite of the shooting. We are hoping for a good recovery for Rep. Scalise knowing that he is in critical condition and has a long road to go.

This morning I ran across this article that highlights what I have long thought about the issue of gun violence. We have so much of it in our country that it does seem to beget more of it. It’s like a virus that we can’t control and for which there is no cure. From the article:

The left-wing views of the alleged shooter might be surprising to some, but they shouldn’t be. The gun industry and the National Rifle Association market guns with promises that owning guns will make a customer feel manly and powerful, and that fantasy has a power that can transcend political boundaries. And no one knows better than gun industry leaders how feelings of political frustration caused by seeing your preferred candidate lose an election can be channeled into a pitch to buy more guns. (…) Gun marketing, helped along by the political messaging of the NRA, , is targeted largely at conservatives. That said, the emotional buttons being pushed — the wish to feel powerful, the desire to prove one’s masculinity, the appeal of violence as a political shortcut — cannot be contained by something as pedestrian as political partisanship. Through years of marketing and cultural messaging, the appeal of guns has been crafted into something totemic, even primal — desired by all manner of people who yearn for some kind of cleansing violence to solve their problems.

It is frightening that this is where we are now. We’ve been there for a long time but when the violence affects those who support the efforts of the corporate gun lobby, one would expect a new reaction- that just maybe something will be done about it -this time. But one would be wrong. More from the article:

And when it comes to the Republicans, sadly there is no reason to believe they will react to this dreadful crime by rethinking their resistance to saner gun control laws that could go a long way toward minimizing the amount of damage that people disposed to carrying out violence can do. Despite watching their friends and colleagues running away from a hail of gunfire, Republican politicians and pundits are sticking with the thoughts-and-prayers narrative and not even discussing taking steps to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

Some are demanding the opposite of common sense by suggesting that if only someone had been packing heat this would not have happened. Such ridiculous reasoning is insane and should not be believed or tolerated. But that rhetoric has been around for so many years that some actually believe it regardless of the truth of the matter. Here are some responses on an article posted on a Twitter feed about this very thing:

Yesterday the House was to have had a hearing on a bill to allow for the purchase of gun suppressor ( silencers) without going through the strict process now in place since 1934. Silencers were placed in a special category at that time for good reason. But the gun lobby is forever looking for a way to increase sales and accessories.

After the shooting yesterday morning apparently it was thought that it was not a good time to raise this controversial issue so the hearing was cancelled.:

The measure would make it easier to purchase silencers, transport guns across state lines and ease restrictions on armor-piercing bullets
The draft bill is sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-South Carolina, who was at Wednesday’s practice in Alexandria, Virginia, where Majority Whip Steve Scalise and four others were shot.

In this article there is a video of Senator Rand Paul, an avid support of second amendment rights and “freedom” stating that the incident yesterday would have been a massacre had capitol police officers not been there to take down the shooter. Paul was at the baseball practice and sounded truly frightened and shaken when interviewed. I am just wondering if he thought how much more deadly the shooting could have been had the shooter purchased a suppressor and attached it to his rifle. But I guess hypocrisy and warped thinking runs into the facts when it comes to justifying arming more people in more places for “self defense”.

Consider if the Congress members were packing heat at that practice or the game scheduled for tonight as some have suggested. Really? More warped thinking. What about sliding into third base? What about jumping up to catch a fly ball? What about a collision at home base between the catcher and a runner? What about just running around the bases with a loaded gun on your hip?

All of this defies common sense but it is being raised. Remember that the shooting took over 2 minutes according to a home video taken on an observer’s iPhone that many of us have now seen and heard. No one knew where to go, where to run, at first where the shots were coming from. Panic ensued. The instinct to run for your life and take cover or protect someone else by laying on top of him/her. Representative Scalise was a sitting duck out on the field as was the staffer who was injured. How could they have defended themselves with a loaded gun on their bodies? How could the other Congressmen have shot at a shooter not having any idea where he was? And what if more police came onto the scene, as happened, and saw a person with a loaded gun? Who is the good guy and who is the bad guy?

No. These are ludicrous and warped ideas.

There is one more issue that has surfaced after the shooting at the baseball field- more protection for Congress members who do receive death threats and face angry constituents at town halls meetings and other places. I will go on record as saying I am all in favor of this. But doesn’t it seem ridiculous that one of the first solutions to come up is more protection instead of looking for ways to tighten access to guns and trying to stop shootings in the first place? Who is going to protect the children? Who will protect the vulnerable women in domestic disputes? Who will protect us all at parks, movie theaters, malls and other public gathering places? We all need more protection. But let’s also look at ways to prevent and reduce the shootings.

Further, though the shooter had some past problems with domestic incidents and shooting his gun into the trees in his back yard prompting complaints from neighbors to law enforcement, he was a legal purchaser of guns and did so from a licensed dealer. This is actually often the case. Legal gun owners are law abiding until suddenly they are not. The thing is, guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people and a risk to families, friends, and innocent people if something goes awry. It only takes an instant for a gun to do the damage we saw and heard yesterday. That’s why guns are the weapon of choice when someone intends to do harm and go on a rampage.

And weapons like assault type rifles and semi-automatic pistols, intended for use in war but altered slightly for civilian use, are often the ones used in these kinds of rampages. There are no limits to how many of these Americans can buy, either with or without a background check and no limits as to how many rounds can be in a magazine. Shooters who plan ahead understand perfectly well that a lot of people can be shot and killed if they use an AR-15 or AK 47 or the like. There are so many shootings with these types of weapons in America that we just move on to the next shooting, knowing it will come.

Once upon a time we banned certain types of assault type rifles. It lasted 10 years before we had time to know if it made a difference. But since that time, we know for a fact that many of the banned weapons have been used to kill Americans.

But I digress. When will the next mass shooting come? Where will it come?  As to when it is important to note that so far there have been 154 mass shootings in 2017. Yes. It’s true. We can quibble about the definition of “mass”.  What difference does it make? Lots of people are dead or injured. There was another mass shooting just hours after the shooting at the baseball field in Alexandria. This one- a workplace shooting where an alleged UPS worker took out his anger and frustrations on some of his fellow workers at a UPS facility in San Francisco. 6 shot. 3 dead plus the shooter who shot himself as he was about to be apprehended. All in a day’s work in America.

As this article states, baseball and gun violence are as American as apple pie:

And gun violence is our national shame, as American as apple pie and, yes, baseball.

The Wednesday attack on the Republican team’s final practice before the game by a shooter reportedly armed with an assault rifle was a chilling reminder of the 2011 attempt on Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ life, which left six dead and 13 wounded. It raises serious concerns about ensuring the security of our elected officials and their staff.

For many parents, such concerns are a part of everyday life. In communities across the country, parents cannot safely send their children to school, to parks or to baseball practice for fear of gunfire. (…)

While the epidemic of gun violence in this country and the maddening politics around the issue can make this feel like an intractable problem, nothing could be further from the truth. There is a growing body of research showing that states that have enacted common sense measures — such as universal background checks, limits on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and restricting gun access by domestic abusers — have significantly lower rates of gun violence than permissive states.  (…)

In addition to high levels of support for policies like universal background checks — support that is shared among Republicans and Democrats, gun owners and non-gun owners — a new poll conducted by Penn Schoen Berland found that 54% of voters feel there should be fewer guns in circulation in America’s neighborhoods.

Since the start of this baseball season, approximately 3,120 people have been killed with guns in this country — more than four times as many people as the active Major League Baseball roster. Perhaps, at long last, the bipartisan spirit of baseball that imbues the annual congressional game will stay with the members as they return to Capitol Hill, and they will finally take action to address this epidemic nationwide.

Is there hope that we can address the issue- a national pastime- shooting other people? It’s sick, warped, deadly, despicable and shameful that we haven’t yet even after the shooting of 20 six and seven year olds.

What makes sense is trying our hardest to make it harder for everyone to get guns instead of easier. This shooter had his problems but they didn’t get addressed as perhaps they should have been. He appeared to be angry over the last election. He had some prior domestic incidents which almost always point to future violent problems. He had been shooting off his gun in his yard at home until his neighbors reported him to law enforcement who told him he had to stop. Did anyone realize that this was a man who should not have had a gun in the first place?

What if a friend or relative had sensed rightly that he could be a danger to himself or others and asked law enforcement to take his guns away as is possible with Gun Violence Protection Orders?

What if violence begets violence and in America, people see guns as a way to “solve their problems” rather than a final solution that takes the lives of loved ones, innocent people, sometimes themselves, and causes devastation to many?

Some say we can’t talk about gun violence after a terrible incident of gun violence. Why not? That is the time to talk about it. Some want our voices to be silent until……?  Every day 90 Americans die from gun violence due to suicide, homicide and “accidental” shootings. The corporate gun lobby and its’ lapdogs in elected office want us to be silent and not bring up the obvious. We have a public health epidemic and a serious problem with gun violence in America. Our voices will not be silenced. We will follow Gabby’s lead and be courageous and demand changes to gun laws, to the gun culture and to the conversation we cannot avoid.

I have volunteered with the Brady Campaign and Protect Minnesota for many years now.  Most of us have seen it all and tried everything and anything to make a dent in the resistance to doing the right thing. The meme above says it all though. At the very least we ought to be able to go to baseball practice, to school, to work, a movie or shopping without fear that someone who feels angry, vindictive, is seriously mentally ill, etc. gets his or her hands on a gun and massacres innocent Americans. We ought to know that a child will not have access to a loaded gun and shoot someone or him/herself. We ought to be able to make it much harder for our teens or older citizens to take their own lives and leave behind the grief and devastation for their survivors.

We ought to be safe from gun violence. We ought not to live in fear of gun violence wherever we gather or even in our homes. What’s happening in America is backwards. We are not doing nearly enough to keep Americans safe in their communities.

#Enough.

Can you feel The Pulse?

Disarm_Hate_logo_insertv2

 

Can you feel the pain, the grief, the loss? One year ago today, the news of yet another mass shooting started crawling across TV screens, becoming the subject of Tweets, 24/7 news shows interrupting regular programming to cover the shooting death of 49 Americans. These Americans were members of the GLBTQ community gathered at The Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida for an evening of dancing and a good time. The  shooter, a young security guard with hate in his heart mowed down more people than any other mass shooting in our country and was considered to be a terrorist attack.

From the article above:

The attack is the deadliest mass shooting by a single shooter in United States history;[82][83][84] the deadliest incident of violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people in the history of the United States—surpassing the 1973 UpStairs Lounge arson attack[85]—and the deadliest terrorist attack in the United States since the September 11 attacks in 2001.[24][86][87]

49 died and 53 were left injured.

The names of the dead:

  • Stanley Almodovar III, age 23
  • Amanda Alvear, 25
  • Oscar A. Aracena-Montero, 26
  • Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala, 33
  • Alejandro Barrios Martinez, 21
  • Martin Benitez Torres, 33
  • Antonio D. Brown, 30
  • Darryl R. Burt II, 29
  • Jonathan A. Camuy Vega, 24
  • Angel L. Candelario-Padro, 28
  • Simon A. Carrillo Fernandez, 31
  • Juan Chevez-Martinez, 25
  • Luis D. Conde, 39
  • Cory J. Connell, 21
  • Tevin E. Crosby, 25
  • Franky J. Dejesus Velazquez, 50
  • Deonka D. Drayton, 32
  • Mercedez M. Flores, 26
  • Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz, 22
  • Juan R. Guerrero, 22
  • Paul T. Henry, 41
  • Frank Hernandez, 27
  • Miguel A. Honorato, 30
  • Javier Jorge-Reyes, 40
  • Jason B. Josaphat, 19
  • Eddie J. Justice, 30
  • Anthony L. Laureano Disla, 25
  • Christopher A. Leinonen, 32
  • Brenda L. Marquez McCool, 49
  • Jean C. Mendez Perez, 35
  • Akyra Monet Murray, 18
  • Kimberly Morris, 37
  • Jean C. Nieves Rodriguez, 27
  • Luis O. Ocasio-Capo, 20
  • Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez, 25
  • Eric I. Ortiz-Rivera, 36
  • Joel Rayon Paniagua, 32
  • Enrique L. Rios Jr., 25
  • Juan P. Rivera Velazquez, 37
  • Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan, 24
  • Christopher J. Sanfeliz, 24
  • Xavier E. Serrano Rosado, 35
  • Gilberto R. Silva Menendez, 25
  • Edward Sotomayor Jr., 34
  • Shane E. Tomlinson, 33
  • Leroy Valentin Fernandez, 25
  • Luis S. Vielma, 22
  • Luis D. Wilson-Leon, 37
  • Jerald A. Wright, 31

Their pulses are no longer felt. Their voices are no longer heard. Their places at family dinners and events are no longer there and their faces have become memories. The devastation was wide-spread affecting the entire city of Orlando and the country.

But we move on and tend to forget about the victims and the devastation because these shootings keep happening all over our wonderful country. We hear the news. We mourn for a while with the families of the victims. We shake our heads in disbelief. And then collectively we let our leaders get away with doing nothing. A young man with two semi-automatic weapons he shouldn’t have had, with hate inside of him,  thinking he can take revenge on a group of Americans and then claiming it was revenge for bombing his country.

And the guns make it so so easy to do. There are no excuses.  The shooter was a complicated, socially awkward, confused, angry man who was clearly someone who should not have been allowed to get his hands on guns:

From October 2006 until April 2007, Mateen trained to be a prison guard for the Florida Department of Corrections. As a probationary employee, he received an “administrative termination (not involving misconduct)”[98] upon a warden’s recommendation after Mateen joked about bringing a gun to school.[99]Mateen unsuccessfully pursued a career in law enforcement, failing to become a Florida state trooper in 2011 and to gain admission to a police academy in 2015.[98]According to a police academy classmate, Mateen threatened to shoot his classmates at a cookout in 2007 “after his hamburger touched pork” in violation of Islamic dietary laws.[100][101][102][103]

Since 2007, he had been a security guard for G4S Secure Solutions.[104][105] The company said two screenings—one conducted upon hiring and the other in 2013—had raised no red flags.[106]Mateen held an active statewide firearms license and an active security officer license,[107][108] had passed a psychological test, and had no criminal record.[109]

(crossed out letters mine)

I dedicate this post to those whose lives were taken so suddenly and violently and to the survivors who will never forget or be the same. Please read this article about the after effects one year later.:

“I might still be in shock,” Leinonen said. “I know I’m often in denial. It’s as if you know rationally that this massacre happened, but the brain cannot comprehend it, or I should say the heart. The heart and soul cannot comprehend that level of evil.” (…)

“Even though I’m a victim, or a survivor – whatever the case may be – I still try to live as normal, be as normal as possible. People get depressed. Of course, I’m going to get depressed, I’m going to have my moments. I’ve got scars and stuff up and down my body, and stuff now that I continue to look at … a lot of stuff. I’m going to get depressed here and there, you know what I’m saying?”

“At the end of the day, I’ve got to move on, I’ve got to push forward, because nobody else can do it for me. I can’t just give up.”

We are not going to give up. And yes, we do move on. But what does that mean? For this individual it means trying to get his life back together but he will never forget. For the survivors it means eventually not crying regularly and being able to live on with the memories. For the country though, does it mean forgetting and moving on as if these mass shootings don’t happen on a regular basis? Or does it mean we will stand up and do something about it?

On this day an article from The Trace connects us to a man who cares and just can’t get over the deadly massacre. So many people are affected by one shooting. Here is how one man, a cemetery caretaker, is dealing with what happened one year ago today:

Price is 49 years old, a sturdy man with a graying goatee and consoling blue eyes. Among his 20-some tattoos is a quotation from Ernest Hemingway inked on the back of his right calf. “The world breaks everyone,” it reads. “And afterward, many are stronger at the broken places.” He has been Greenwood’s sexton for 15 years, and has seen death come in many ways. But the plot in the northwest corner is different. When he recalls the night of the attack — June 12, 2016, the worst mass shooting in modern American history — he looks dumbfounded and says, “I mean, these were kids who just wanted to dance.”

They were just kids who wanted to dance and now they are dead. Price cares about the graves of those lost and cares about those who come to “visit” the victims and the memories that are stored at the gravesites. And though some of the victims were not considered to be kids by their stated ages, they were all someone’s kids who will never grow old and never live out their dreams.

Do we all care enough to do something about the daily carnage? We don’t need to be dumbfounded. We do need to be brave and courageous against a corporate gun lobby that prevents us from dealing with a serious public health and safety epidemic.

We can prevent and reduce these kinds of shootings and the shootings that take the lives of 90 Americans every day. With a change in the conversation, a culture of guns that leads to arming those who should not have guns, a change to our gun laws and speaking out loudly and clearly to our elected leaders, we can save lives.

In the name of common sense the fight for what we know is right continues and will continue. If we can’t change the conversation about making it easier rather than harder for just about anyone to get a gun after the deadly Pulse nightclub massacre , what will it take?

Update:

After I posted, I was made aware of this video from CAP Action Guns. Please watch as survivors share their stories:

Terror in the workplace

person_climbing_140648Terror attacks all over the globe have made travelers and citizens uneasy and frightened. All over Europe terror attacks have been on the increase. Cable news is all over these attacks, dropping all other news to cover them for the remainder of the day’s news cycles. We watch in horror as video clips are repeatedly shown to us and talking heads examine what it all means.

Several of the recent attacks have involved vehicles mowing people down- the latest in ISIS strategy to terrorize us all. Some have involved knifes and some guns. European gun laws are typically much stronger than American gun laws making it much more difficult for terrorists, felons, domestic abusers and those adjudicated mentally ill people to get their hands on guns.

Our own President saw fit in one of his tweet storms to speak the gun lobby nonsense after the recent London terror attack and used it as an opportunity to try to turn the gun debate in American upside down. Many of us in the gun violence prevention community took issue with that cynical tweet, including Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut:

Sen. Chris Murphy, who has been a longtime advocate for strict gun-violence-prevention laws, said Trump “clearly doesn’t read his own intelligence reports.’’

“As we speak, terrorist recruiters are telling terrorists to buy assault rifles online or at gun shows because it’s so easy to do,’’ Murphy said. “We need to keep guns away from criminals and terrorists, and President Trump should be working with Congress to do so.’’

It’s easy to get guns in America for anyone, including terrorists. And we sit back and do nothing about this?

In America, we have terror attacks almost every day. A few have been actual terror attacks perpetrated by those whose sympathies lie with terror organizations but not actually directed by those organizations. The San Bernardino shooting was one of these attacks:

According to the FBI’s investigation, the perpetrators were “homegrown violent extremists” inspired by foreign terrorist groups. They were not directed by such groups and were not part of any terrorist cell or network. FBI investigators have said that Farook and Malik had become radicalized over several years prior to the attack, consuming “poison on the internet” and expressing a commitment to jihadism and martyrdom in private messages to each other. Farook and Malik had traveled to Saudi Arabia in the years before the attack. The couple had amassed a large stockpile of weapons, ammunition, and bomb-making equipment in their home.

A few days ago, a workplace shooting in Orlando terrorized people and killed 5 and then himself:

“We have no indication that this subject is a participant in any type of terror organization,” Demings told reporters Monday morning. “What this is at this point is likely a workplace violence incident.” 

The sheriff did not say why the company fired Neumann, but he noted that about three years ago, deputies responded to an incident at the business in which Neumann was accused of battering another employee. Deputies did not file charges in the incident, Demings said.

Neumann, a U.S. Army veteran who was honorably discharged in 1999, had a criminal history that included a DUI and minor drug possession, Demings said. The sheriff said Neumann did not have a concealed-weapons permit.

The shooter had a criminal history. He did not have a concealed weapons permit but he did have a gun. Thanks to our weak gun laws and the lapdog politicians for the corporate gun lobby, this is possible in America. This tape re-runs many times a year in our country. In fact, these kinds of shootings are happening with increasing frequency. Sometimes workplace shootings are the result of domestic difficulties. Let’s take a look at the above article that documents what is going on in our country that we don’t seem to be paying enough attention to:

The most recent records by the Bureau of Labor Statistics say workplace homicides rose by 2 percent to 417 cases in 2015, with shootings increasing by 15 percent. The 354 shootings in 2015 represent the first increase since 2012. (…)

There’s a change in some quarters on how to react.

“‘See something, say something’ is kind of tiresome,” said active shooter prevention expert and author Chris Grollnek. “You see out-of-ordinary behavior, make a quick note. And if you’re in a bad situation, it’s get up, get out. There is no more hiding under a desk.”

In America we need to know how to react to active shooters in the workplace, at schools, malls, and wherever people gather in large numbers. Not to mention in the home where active shootings take place every day.

So we can build walls to keep out potential “terrorists” on our borders. But where are the walls to keep people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them, no matter who they are? Where are the walls against men ( for it is mostly men) shooting women during domestic disputes? Where are the walls to keep people from shooting innocent people at airports? Where are the walls to keep children from getting their hands on guns and shooting themselves, a friend or a family member? Where are the walls to keep us from discussing gun violence as a public health epidemic?

The wall that stands in the way of common sense is a high one in America. This invisible wall comes from lack of courage and conviction. It comes from power and control and, of course, money. It all comes down to money in the end. The profits of the firearms industry are more important to some of our elected leaders than the lives of their constituents.

We need a different kind of invisible wall in our country. Breaking down the barriers to common sense when it comes to gun laws, a sensible conversation filled with facts rather than rhetoric, a gun culture that has moved from guns in the home for hunting and sport to guns at the ready for a zombie apocalypse. When just a small minority of Americans own most of the guns in circulation according to statistics that are collectible but not inclusive, we have a serious problem. From the linked article:

Half of those guns belong to just 3% of the adult population. These super-owners have anywhere between eight and 140 guns each, with the group average being 17, according to the study.

Overall, there are an estimated 55 million gun owners in the U.S.: Most have an average of three guns; half own one or two guns; and the number of guns owned by Americans has gone up by 70 million over that same time period.

Meanwhile the number of Americans who own guns has decreased from 25% to 22% since 1994. And the study also found that there has been a dramatic increase in gun theft, nearly doubling from 230,000 per year to 400,000 per year.

This is the story of the American gun culture. It’s past time for a change. Certainly understanding that we have our very own problem with home-grown terrorists is key to changing how we talk about the issue of gun violence and how we can prevent and reduce it.

We have some high walls to climb. The barriers in our way are artificial and invisible but they are there.

Why I #wearorange

Orange-square

I wear orange for the children. I wear orange for the victims of gun suicides. I wear orange for the women who didn’t realize how unsafe they would be in their homes with a loaded gun sitting around. I wear orange for the victims of school shootings, mall shootings, airport shootings, warehouse shootings, shootings in driveways and cars, shootings of innocent people from stray bullets. I wear orange from terror related shootings from those caused by mentally unstable young men, racist and intolerant men, indefensible self defense shootings, shootings of and by officers, shootings of kids and teens carrying “fake” guns, shootings of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, children, grandchildren, grandparents, cousins and friends.

I wear orange because we have a looney tunes gun culture that encourages people who have no business doing so, to buy, carry and own guns. I wear orange because our country’s gun laws are amazingly and dangerously lax. I wear orange because some of our elected leaders and the corporate gun lobby have no common sense. It’s all about power, control and profit over human lives and safe communities.

I wear orange for my sister, Barbara, who was shot and killed in a domestic shooting during a difficult and contentious divorce. I wear orange for Carin, for Shelly, Hadiya, Ben, Reema,  Carolyn,  Daniel,  Alison,  Jordan,  Christopher, Veronika, Jesse, Sam, Reuven, Daryl, Alicia, Neva, Jamar, Cindy, Matt, Laura, Jan, Alex, Michael,…………

Tomorrow my Brady Campaign chapter along with Protect Minnesota will hold a bell ringing at our Memorial Bell Garden, the only garden dedicated to victims of gun violence in the country. Our Mayor will issue a proclamation making it Gun Violence Victims awareness day in Duluth. There will be speakers representing clergy, health care, educators, parents of young children, gun owners and gay/lesbian people. We will ring the bell for victims of gun violence including the 49 victims of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting marking the upcoming one year anniversary on June 12th.

One of our landmarks will be lit orange tomorrow evening in honor of gun violence victims.

Enger Tower

We honor victims and survivors. We remember them. We will not forget and we will demand the change that will make our communities and families safe from gun violence. Orange calls attention to us. It is bright and loud and not easily missed.

You can check out wearorange.com for more information about the origin of the day and watch the video on the website. We are turning America orange. Join us. Post a photo of yourself on Facebook wearing orange. Attend a local event marking the day and the week-end. Contribute your time, talent and money to a gun violence prevention group of your choice in the name of a friend, survivor or loved one.

The only way change will happen is to work together with others to make it happen.

Make it happen.

Just one bullet

Bullet gun copperJust one bullet killed an innocent Alaska woman and left a suicidal man with a life forever changed:

A trial date has been set for a 21-year-old Alaska man accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend when he tried to kill himself and the bullet struck the woman after passing through his head. (…)

Chelsea Hartman, Haag’s sister, told KTVA that the pair, who were high school sweethearts, “always seemed so happy.”

“I think a lot of it is still hard to grasp of how is it just one bullet, you know? And how does it go through one person and then the other person and kill the second person? It’s just not fair,” Hartman said.

Yes, that is all it takes. One bullet and instant death. Accident, suicide, unintentional, homicide, terror attack….. Just one bullet.

Guns and alcohol don’t go together.

A South Carolina family is lucky one of them was not killed by this man’s bullets. In this case, it started with one bullet and one angry man. It then escalated quickly to many bullets. From the article:

Frustrated by young children playing in his Goose Creek-area neighborhood, a man shot their grandparents and fired at two others, including a 1-year-old girl, investigators said Tuesday. (…)

Before 5 p.m. Monday, the children played in the road near Merritt’s house. One was an 8-year-old boy, the other a 1-year-old girl, said Mark Peper, an attorney for the children and their parents.

Merritt emerged from his home and told them to be quiet.

The grandparents, who were watching the children after school, learned about the encounter. They told Merritt not to yell at their grandchildren.

“Merritt got upset and … retrieved a .22-caliber pistol,” the sheriff’s statement said.

He confronted the grandparents and the children’s mother, telling the woman that she and the baby she was holding were going to die.

He started shooting at several people there and followed them a short distance as they scattered.

The grandfather was hit in the left chest, an arm and an ear. He had tried to shield his family from the gunfire, Peper said.

A bullet struck his wife in the chest.

You can’t make this stuff up. Children playing? That deserves a bullet?

Anger and guns don’t go together.

The thing is, when the gun lobby wants to arm anyone and everyone and allow people with no permit, no training and absolutely no common sense to have guns loaded with deadly bullets around everywhere, this is the result.

But I digress. It took just one bullet for this 4 year old Virginia boy to find at his daycare center, carelessly and irresponsibly left accessible to children. He shot and killed himself with it:

This incident occurred at a child care provider that is also the residence of a Stafford County Sheriff’s Office recruit, according to officials. The recruit was not at home at the time of the incident.

Aren’t children supposed to be safe at child care centers? A woman I know said she was asked if there were guns in the home before she was licensed as a home daycare provider. The cavalier attitude towards guns that is shown by some gun owners is a national public health and safety problem.

Children and guns don’t go together.

I could go on and on because incidents like the above happen every day and every hour of every day. All it takes is one bullet. It took one bullet to injure my sister, one to kill her and one for “good measure.”

The owner of the bullets used to shoot others are the ones who have to be responsible and careful because bullets are deadly and don’t know where to stop. Often enough, however, bullets are very intentionally aimed at an innocent person resulting in instant tragedy. The “good guy” with the gun who shot at grandparents and children because of noisy playing is a poster boy for all that is wrong with the American gun culture. He represents what the corporate gun lobby wants. The “good guy” with a gun who shot my sister became an instant “bad guy” with a gun.

Domestic disputes and guns don’t go together.

What should we do about this state of affairs?

We should educate people about the risks of loaded guns to their owners and those around them.

We should insist on laws that prevent those who should not have guns from getting them legally or illegally. Yes, it is legal for prohibited purchasers to buy guns legally with no background checks in case you were thinking of arguing about this fact.

We should pass safe storage laws and insist that all guns are locked up, unloaded, away from small hands, teens and others who could be dangerous to themselves or others.

We should strengthen our gun trafficking and straw purchase laws.

We should pass mandatory lost and stolen gun laws.

We should pass laws to hold parents responsible when their gun is used in an “accidental” shooting by their own child.

We should pass gun violence protection order laws so that families can report a person who could be dangerous to him/herself or others to law enforcement so the guns could be removed from their hands.

We should insist that all gun buyers have training before walking out of a gun store with a deadly weapon.

We should make sure that if someone wants to carry a loaded gun in public, they are vetted carefully and have training in how to carry that gun.

We should agree that an armed society is not a polite society nor a safe society.

We should ASK if there are loaded guns in the homes where children hang out and play.

We should not let ads for products that depict guns and bullets cavalierly without asking why. Check out Azzaro Cologne as just one example:

In both smell and presentation, this cologne draws out the rebel in every man with striking aromas and a gleaming gun cylinder bottle.

What? What do mens’ cologne and bullets have in common? Maybe manliness, or being a rebel? What does that mean? The not so subtle intimation that only a rebel with bullets and Azzaro cologne can be real men?

Where is common sense?

Real bullets kill people.

All it takes is one bullet.

All it takes are elected leaders who will stand up to the corporate gun lobby.

All it takes are Americans making more noise, raise their voices against our gun violence epidemic and get involved to save lives.

Like the voice of this little boy who tells it like it is. He doesn’t want a bullet to take his life. He just wants to go to school to learn his numbers.

All it takes is just one bullet to change the lives of innocent people forever. This little boy knows that. Our leaders should listen to his voice and do something about it.

Where is common sense?