Bullets are flying

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

Where is common sense?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE:

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

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

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

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

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

 

Shooting anniversaries

Alison ParkerAnniversaries marking the death of a loved one in a heinous shooting are so difficult. Over time it does get easier but the date is always there somewhere, called up at odd moments. August 5th is my day to remember a shooting anniversary.

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the senseless shooting ( aren’t they all?) of journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward on live TV in Roanoke, Virginia. This is one we will remember if are paying attention. No shooting is OK and rarely are they justified. But to watch it happen on live TV as if watching a fiction show was something unusual, even for America.

Thank you to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for the above image.

I remember the day well. August 26th of last year. I remember it because this particular shooting reminded me so viscerally of my own sister’s shooting. I cried when I began hearing the news and know that many other of my friends who have lost loved ones to a shooting felt the same way. Yet one more family had just joined us in the club we didn’t want to belong to in the first place. But Alison and Adams’ deaths happening live on TV was too close to thinking about how it must have been for our own loved ones. We grieved for the friends and relatives of Alison and Adam while we grieved for our own sister, brother, father, mother, daughter, son, niece, nephew, uncle or aunt.

Over the past year, I have met Alison’s parents, Barbara and Andy Parker on several occasions. I have also met and spoken with Chris Hurst, Alison’s fiancé at the time of the shooting. They are all fine and gentle people who have been brave enough to step forward, soon after Alison’s shooting to call for strengthening our gun laws. The pain in their faces is always behind their smiles as they speak of the lovely Alison and her aspiring career as a journalist. Their commitment to gun safety reform is also passionate and fierce.

Alison’s shooting death reminds of us of how vulnerable innocent people can be when someone with a grudge gets his hands on a gun and acts.  It is far too easy in America to act on a grudge and far too easy for a “disturbed” person to get a gun,  as Alison and Adam’s shooter did:

Overton said the gunman was “disturbed in some way.” Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, speaking on WTOP, described Flanagan as a “disgruntled” employee. Jeff Marks, WDBJ’s general manager, said during a live broadcast on the station that Flanagan “was sort of looking out for people to say something he could take offense to.”

Marks said Flanagan was fired after “many incidents of his anger coming to the fore.”

“He did not take that well,” he said.

Why is it so easy? Because our America gun culture has evolved, along with the laws that allow just about anyone to buy a gun, to the point where we do very little to screen out those who should not be able to buy a gun. Because the corporate gun lobby has managed to get their friends in Congress to do their bidding, we have come to assume that anyone can be responsible with a deadly weapon. Because owning a gun is a right in America, we have come to assume that means that right can’t be denied to anyone. Because we have come to think we can’t deny a right to a deadly weapon to anyone, we let anyone get a gun easily.

This video from Real Sports shows how easy it is for a 13 year old to walk into a gun show and legally buy a gun from a private seller with no background check to show that he is not old enough to buy or own that gun. This is ludicrous, dangerous and absolutely why we need to stop the private seller loopholes in our gun laws. You can see it for yourself here:

And we are letting this happen. And we look the other way when people who are considered to be “law abiding” gun owners flip out or get angry over a grudge and shoot someone. The gun lobby says that every case like this is just an anomaly. They claim that only criminals with guns shoot people.

They are wrong. It’s a gun lobby myth that only a good guy with a gun can save us all from bad guys with guns. The gun lobby claim that if only someone had had a gun in situations like this one, when the shooter unexpectedly approached the journalists and the woman they were interviewing is false::

Tragically, a record number of Americans subscribe to some version of this mythology, with 63 percent (67 percent of men polled and 58 percent of women) believing that guns truly do make them safer. The public’s confidence in firearms, however, is woefully misguided: The evidence overwhelmingly shows that guns leave everybody less safe, including their owners.

 

A study from October 2013 analyzed data from 27 developed nations to examine the impact of firearm prevalence on the mortality rate. It found an extremely strong direct relationship between the number of firearms and firearm deaths. The paper concludes: “The current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis that guns make a nation safer.” This finding is bolstered by several previous studies that have revealed a significant link between gun ownership and firearm-related deaths. This international comparison is especially harrowing for women and children, who die from gun violence in America at far higher rates than in other countries.

If only Alison and Adam had been armed……

Sigh.

Where is common sense?

Work place shootings happen far too often in our country. There is a long list of them, at least one of which occurred in my own state of Minnesota when an angry employee showed up at Accent Signage and shot and killed 6 people and left 3 others injured. I also know the Rahamim family and have seen the pain of their grief over the years since that shooting. The anniversary of that shooting is coming on September 27th and I know that that day is so difficult for all of them.

What is it about angry men, guns and the desire to seek revenge or harm someone?  From the article:

One of the most significant findings was the three-way association between individuals who owned multiple guns, carried a gun outside of the home and expressed a pattern of angry, impulsive behavior. Study participants who owned six or more guns were found to be four times more likely to carry guns outside of the home and to be in the high-risk anger group than participants who owned one firearm.

Participants who were considered to have a high risk for impulsive anger responded affirmatively to some or all of the following questions: “I have tantrums or angry outbursts;” “Sometimes I get so angry I break or smash things;” and “I lose my temper and get into physical fights.”

Or suicidal people with guns who shoot others and sometimes themselves?

Every day, on average, 90 Americans die from gunshot injuries, including suicide. The Gun Violence Archive keeps tracks of these shootings. Thank goodness someone is doing this because the denial from the gun lobby that these shootings happen in such high numbers often goes without fact checking. The chart on the site shows an up-to-date accounting of gun deaths, including suicides where that information is possible to gather. You can click on the graph and see where the shootings have happened and more about each incident.

The thing is, these are real people with real families who are grieving for their loved ones every day and reminded of that person on anniversaries, holidays, and special family occasions.

Only in America do we mark anniversaries of mass shootings and very high profile public shootings like that of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. They have become synonymous with an American gun culture that has evolved over time with deadly consequences. We don’t have to shrug our shoulders and say nothing can be done because….rights. We know that we can not only change our gun laws, but we are changing the conversation and we can change the culture. Most gun owners are with us and agree with our proposals.

As with other public health and safety campaigns, if we change the conversation and the culture, we can save lives by also changing the laws. That is how we got laws requiring seat belts, air bags and other safety features in cars. The result? Reduced deaths and injuries.It is also how we got a massive change in the way we treat tobacco. It’s not OK any more for smokers to smoke inside where non-smokers come to be at risk for health problems.

And it’s not OK for the shootings that take the lives of our loved ones and leave us marking shooting anniversaries to continue without addressing how we can change things to reduce the violence- the deaths- the injuries- the emotional and psychological trauma- the physical after affects of survivors- the cost to our country in the billions- and the pain and the grief.

And while so many are marking anniversaries of shootings, Congress is taking a break from its’ job in the longest recess ever. Why? Good question. But we are not letting them get away with it. Two weeks ago there was a #DisarmHate rally in DC to mark the 2 month anniversary of the Orlando nightclub shooting that took the lives of 49 Americans. And today is the Day of Unity Rally in DC where rally participants will gather at NRA lobbying headquarters in DC to protest that organizations resistance to strong life saving gun laws. We have had activities all over the country to remind Congress members that we expect them to do their jobs and pass life saving measures to keep us safe from the gun violence that is devastating far too many families and communities. While Congress is away, almost 4000 Americans will die from gunshot injuries.

We have had #Enough.

Let’s get to work. Join me and the many people (many of whom are victims and survivors) working on gun safety reform.

My travels with no guns

no guns allowedI posted earlier about a trip I was going to take with my family to Glacier National Park and to Seattle. I also posted about the gun laws in the states we would be traveling through on the Amtrak just as a way of comparison of gun laws. Montana, where we stayed for 4 days, has pretty loose gun laws and a high rate of gun suicides. From this article from The Trace, we find this:

Where the distinctive cause of death is gun suicides, the numbers also show much larger than usual shares of residents owning guns. Researchers led by epidemiologists at Columbia University calculated last year that Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming placed in the top six for state gun-ownership rates. At 62 percent and 57 percent, respectively, Alaska and Idaho are double the national gun ownership rate of 29 percent that the researchers used as a baseline.

The lethality of guns means that people who attempt suicide with them are more likely to succeed than those using other means.

In Montana, many of the gun deaths are suicides which we don’t usually hear about in the news unless it involves others as in mass shootings or domestic homicide/suicide. Of course we heard nothing about gun deaths while traveling but I do need to say that I did not see one gun while on our trip. I looked to see if anyone was open carrying. I suppose there could have been folks carrying concealed and I didn’t see it. But I also know that many of the people we saw were tourists with their families, likely with no interest in carrying a gun around.

While visiting Glacier Park we took a guided hike through the Trail of the Cedars to Avalanche Lake.

Avalanche Lake

It was stunning and amazingly wild. There were signs along the way suggesting what to do if one encountered a Grizzly Bear which some folks we talked to had seen. Our guide was not carrying a gun. They have common sense measures to avoid bears or deal with one if sighted. The National Park Service issues these warnings and safety tips without mentioning carrying a gun. We could have purchased bear spray in many places along our way but didn’t.  In fact, we were disappointed that we did not sight a bear off in the distance.

We did notice however, that our hotel in Whitefish, Montana posted a sign saying that guns were not allowed. And as you can see by the top photo on this post, the famous Mercantile store in Polebridge, Montana, an outpost at the far north end of Glacier Park and very isolated, does not want either guns or bear spray inside.

Mercantile

I can see why. It was crowded inside- lots of tourists and locals go there for provisions as it is the only place around for many miles. It’s historical purpose was to provide explorers and early visitors to the Park with food and other needed items for their trip into the wilderness.

While there we enjoyed the baked goods, sandwiches and Huckleberries we bought before we went into the amazingly beautiful Bowman Lake campground located within Glacier Park showing us another blue-green glacial lake. The day was rainy with low clouds so we did not get the view we hoped for. But it was beautiful nonetheless. Bowman Lake

Seattle, of course, is located in a state where the citizens decided for themselves that they wanted to require background checks on all gun sales. It is a funky and unusual city hosting the Pike Street Market with a sea of humanity, and the Space Needle where tourists gather to wait to go up into the Space Needle for the spectacular view. Guns are not needed there either. One vendor in a wheel chair who promised my granddaughter and I 2 magic tricks for $5 called me a liar in a loud voice when I said “maybe later”. He was right of course. I had no intention of buying his magic tricks. It did not end in any confrontation but I suppose it could have and people have been shot for less in angry confrontations.

At the top of the Space Needle the view was spectacular. This was also a very crowded place with shoulder to shoulder visitors. The beauty was incredible on the clear day we visited. Mount Ranier was showing off for us. It is unimaginable that anyone would want or need to carry a gun there where tourists were crowded in from countries all over the world to see the view from the top.

Mt. Ranier

(By the way, our bags were searched there as well for weapons or other contraband or dangerous items.)

So in the wilderness, the parks and the big cities, I saw no need for a gun. The Amtrak train depot had explicit instructions for declaring any guns and that they had to be packed in stored luggage and not on the train. In small compartments and aisles on trains that are jerking around and coming to sudden stops, one can see why a gun would just not work out well.

In 2009 Congress passed a Credit Card bill necessary for the economic recovery. In the sausage making of the bill and the need for the corporate gun lobby to get its’ fingerprints on just about anything, an amendment was added to the bill to allow guns in our National Parks. It was a bad idea. Most people thought it would not be a problem. But as we know, we are beginning to see the results of our guns everywhere gun culture where “accidental” discharges are happening just about anywhere some person with a gun who doesn’t understand that they are not needed everywhere, drops a gun or a gun drops by itself through carelessness and discharges. Sometimes there are deaths and injuries, other times not.

More guns are not making us safer.

There have been incidents of gun discharges in our National Parks. According to this article, they may be an anomaly but if one person were to be killed we would likely not call it an anomaly.

Last week a careless man carrying a gun into the Old Faithful Lodge, “accidentally” discharged his gun. Guns are not allowed in the Lodge but they are allowed in the Park. The result? A shot rang out where hundreds of tourists were trying to enjoy their vacation. From the article:

Charissa Reid, a spokeswoman for the park, said a maintenance worker reported to park law enforcement Wednesday afternoon that a gun went off inside a men’s bathroom at the Old Faithful Lodge.

No one was injured. The shot is believed to have been accidental, based on statements from multiple witnesses, including at least one who was in the bathroom at the time.

Park rangers are investigating but have not been able to identify the man with the gun. He is presumed to have fled after the incident. (…)

People are allowed to carry guns inside Yellowstone National Park. A ban on firearms inside park boundaries was lifted in 2010. But people aren’t allowed to bring guns into any of the park’s buildings or any of the buildings operated by the concessionaire company, like Old Faithful Lodge.

Shooting a gun inside Yellowstone National Park is illegal.

I have a question. If shooting a gun inside of the Parks is illegal, why carry one in the first place? Just asking.

Another place that guns will not be allowed this year is at the Minnesota State Fair. From the article:

No weapons of any sort will be allowed on the fairgrounds, he said. No fireworks — “we have plenty of our own.” Ditto for alcoholic beverages.

No need for guns at a State Fair. Most state fairs do bag searches and require people to go through metal detectors. As it turns out, guns have been banned from the State Fair for a long time now and the gun rights activists don’t like it. But I am guessing they among the small minority who think guns are a good idea at a fair, teaming with people, small kids running around and babies in strollers. We know that loaded guns have been “accidentally” discharged in many public places. This is about public safety and nothing else. The gun rights folks cannot guarantee that everyone with a gun will be safe with that gun while carrying. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill or harm others. There are no reasons to take chances in public places where families and large crowds of people gather.

As more people own and carry guns, it is inevitable that more crazy and dangerous incidents will occur in public places and anywhere, for that matter. It is time to ask serious questions about the need for so many guns in public places and get answers as to why they are necessary. Guns in public places have created a real conundrum. It is not working out as many thought it would. They are not being used for self defense often enough to allow for loaded guns in public places. But rather enough incidents of “accidental” discharges have occurred to make us all wonder why they are allowed to be carried in the first place. And our children are clearly at risk from loaded guns at home and other places.

We are better than this. It’s time for all of us to put our heads together and work out the best way to keep Americans safe from gun violence. Since the majority wants that to happen anyway, it’s our leaders who have the onus to make it happen. It’s up to the rest of us to pressure our leaders, change the conversation and eventually the culture of gun violence that only occurs in America.

We’ve had #Enough.

 

UPDATE:

Speaking of traveling, we did rent a car while visiting Glacier Park. This Tennessee family found a loaded gun in their rental car where 2 small children were sitting. Luckily they found the gun before something tragic occurred. This is just not OK. There are too many careless gun owners out there not thinking about the consequences of their carelessness. There are no excuses for carelessness with guns.

 

Trump’s Second Amendment “gaffe”

Trump remarks

Thank you to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for this meme of the latest remarks by Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump. The Brady Campaign is named for James Brady who was shot and seriously injured in the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.

The question is, were these remarks a gaffe or something else?

A gaffe is when a politician accidentally says what he/she really means instead of couching it in more cautious language. Sometimes gaffes expose good things that someone running for office really means but is afraid to say for fear of some sort of consequence for telling the truth. Sometimes gaffes expose the true nature of a politician’s mind and thought process. From Merriam Webster:

  1. a social or diplomatic blunder

  2. a noticeable mistake

I guess you could call all of the amazingly crude, offensive and ludicrous things Donald Trump says gaffes. They are certainly noticeable mistakes. Were they innocent mistakes or were they intentional? For sure they are blunders and they are happening on a daily basis.

But really, the country is coming to know Trump as someone who is what he says and means what he says and it’s not a pretty picture. Some thought he could overcome his own personality and seem more Presidential. I never thought that. There is nothing Presidential about a man who says what Trump said yesterday.

Sigh.

And so when Trump went off script, or should we say actually stayed on his own script which is basically to say anything that comes to mind, about the second amendment last night, we heard something we’ve never heard before. We heard a Presidential candidate actually suggest that once Hillary was elected those “second amendment” people would just have to do something about her appointing judges who would overturn the second amendment.

He did say that and he meant it no matter what his surrogates are saying. We know what it meant. He was not asking “second amendment” voters to get involved in the election and be active in getting Trump himself elected. That is not what he meant because his words indicated doing something about judges after Hillary is elected.

This was a dangerous moment in our nation’s history. Common sense tells us that Trump is woefully and dangerously unprepared to become the leader of the free world. The fact that he is now the “titular” head of the Republican Party should be an embarrassment and travesty to the party leaders. But they still sit back, hoping against hope that Trump will stop being Trump and act like a normal candidate for President.

Trump claims to be outside of the mainstream and an unusual candidate. That’s for sure. Do his supporters actually believe that someone who knows virtually nothing about running a country should get the job? And do they also believe that what Trump said was just a joke and the rest of us should pretend we didn’t hear the words that came out of his mouth? They heard them. Are they giving him a pass even on this remark?

How far will this go before there is a nut job who takes what he says seriously enough to act on his words? This dangerous and insurrectionist talk is fomenting anger and fear amongst Trump supporters. We should all be afraid of the consequences.

What this election has done is bring the issue of guns and gun rights front and center. Hillary Clinton has asked for strengthening our gun laws so that so many people won’t get shot. That seems like a sensible goal and would be in any other country. But in America we have a group of right wing gun extremists who have taken the second amendment out of context and turned it in to some interpretation that just doesn’t fit with what’s happening in real life. The worst of this is that they have gotten away with their fear mongering and hate talk for far too long.

Not any more. This kind of interpretation of the second amendment, long held by the NRA leaders and lobbyists and the corporate gun lobby is now being challenged by more people who see that the “emperor has no clothes”. The curtain has been pulled aside on Oz and we see this small group of lobbyists and extremists and the leaders who refuse to debunk their myths, for who they are.

If we continue to have incidents like the ones I write about on this blog and will highlight just a few of here, we will see that our world of guns and gun violence is taking an increasing toll on too many citizens. We are also seeing that more guns are leading to more dangerous incidents with guns. How could it not? Guns are designed to kill people. Too many gun owners have cavalier attitudes about guns because…rights.

With rights come responsibilities.

What was the responsibility of this Indiana prosecutor who should have known better when he decided to carry his loaded gun in his pocket?

What was the responsibility of this Florida police officer whose gun still had a bullet in the chamber and ended up killing an innocent citizen who was volunteering to become a citizen patrol member? How was it that someone so experienced with guns made this mistake?

Was this Minnesota gun guy a responsible gun owner when he threatened a cable worker with his shotgun? I think not.

I didn’t make these up. These incidents happen every day and are not myths. This is what we need to be talking about instead of insinuations that “second amendment people”, whoever they are, should get involved in a solution to Hillary Clinton appointing judges who will allegedly abolish the second amendment.

This is the problem with our gun culture. It isn’t what the second amendment extremists claim it is. It is something else. Every day we see the consequences.

And in this great article, Evan Osnos writes in the New Yorker about why Trump’s comments about the second amendment matter to gun owners:

Many gun owners I know, especially those who are most passionate about defending the Second Amendment, take pride in reminding others that they are law-abiding. They are responsible for their conduct and for the safe handling and storage of a firearm; they try not to lose their tempers, and to argue their ideas with facts and civility. Trump, in this sense, is harming them; by suggesting that, to use his phrase, “Second Amendment people” would turn to violence because their favored candidate loses an election is an insult to gun owners everywhere. By feeding a caricature, Trump is effectively advancing the case of those who would seek to curtail access to guns. Truly protecting the Second Amendment means identifying those who are misusing it for their own political purposes.

If anyone thinks those  law abiding gun owners who want the right to own guns for self protection and hunting/recreation believe that those guns should be used the way Trump is suggesting, they are wrong. Most gun owners are safe with their guns but those same gun owners need to get involved and tell the corporate gun lobby and candidates like Trump to stop giving them all a bad name.

In fact, most gun owners want what I want. So do the vast majority of Americans who support sensible gun laws and a sensible gun culture where women are not being shot by their partners in domestic shootings, where children are not shooting themselves and others in “accidental” gun dischargers, where people of color, gay Americans, Sikhs, small children, college students, children at a Jewish day care center, military members, and others are not victims of hate crimes and mass shootings.

Trump’s remarks left an opening for an interpretation of calling for a political assassination.Political assassinations happen, it seems, more frequently in other countries but we have had our share of successful and unsuccessful attempts to change our government through violent means. Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and others. The list is long.

What we don’t need is the anger and violent talk fomented by one of our Presidential candidates to end in another American tragedy.

This is serious business and our next leader needs to be a serious person who knows how to speak publicly without others having to interpret the true meaning of the words. World leaders are watching this wondering what we have become. A few careless and thoughtless words could change the trajectory of world peace. Dangerous remarks made about violence could end in violence.

To say this is unsettling is an under statement. No matter what Trump’s surrogates say about this, they will not convince most voters that this was a joke. As someone who has lost a sister in a domestic shooting, I am not only offended, I am frightened by the rhetoric spewing from the mouth of someone who, if elected our next President, would make us all less safe.

Where is common sense? We are better than this. And we’ve had #Enough of the violent and fear mongering rhetoric. We’ve had #Enough of actual gun violence that takes the lives of 90 Americans a day.

This election is a pivotal time for changing the conversation about guns and gun violence. Hillary Clinton has not said and could not succeed in abolishing  the second amendment. This is hyped up fear talk and it needs to stop. All Hillary wants is to stop some of the shootings. There is nothing more nefarious than that. Any other meaning ascribed to her words is a lie. The linked article states that Trump’s remarks were open to interpretation. Wars and international misunderstandings have resulted when a leader’s remarks were misinterpreted. 

The bottom line is that no candidate for President should be allowed to get away with this kind of talk. If Trump can’t speak without issuing threats or needing to have  his remarks interpreted by his surrogates to cover his ass, then the Republican party needs to seriously think about what their own positions are and reflect on whether this is the man they want representing them.

I leave my readers with these wise and cogent remarks from someone who should know what it means to be targeted as a politician- and lived to tell her story and advocate for reasonable gun laws- former Representative Gabriel Giffords:

“Donald Trump might astound Americans on a routine basis, but we must draw a bright red line between political speech and suggestions of violence,” the statement reads. “Responsible, stable individuals won’t take Trump’s rhetoric to its literal end, but his words may provide a magnet for those seeking infamy. They may provide inspiration or permission for those bent on bloodshed.”

 

 

 

Remembering my sister- victim of gun violence

photo of Barbara(I have edited this post at the encouragement of a reader and also to mention a mass shooting that occurred on this day as well.)

23 years ago today, my sister, Barbara Lund, was shot and killed by her estranged husband during difficult and protracted divorce proceedings. Actually the family learned about the shooting on August 6th after the bodies of my sister and her friend, Kevin, laid in the house of the shooter for 24 hours before he admitted to what he had done to his lawyer.

Barbara was vivacious, beautiful, adventurous, a loving mother, sports minded, an artist, a pilot, and many other things. She was loved by many and made an impact on those who knew her. I admired her and loved her deeply. When she was around, life was never dull.

The memories never go away but over time, the pain becomes weaker. The hole left by her death is one we live around. Her name is mentioned less. But we can see some of her in her grandchildren, who she never met. We can laugh about happy memories. We remember the last time we all saw her. We try not to think about the phone calls and the immediate aftermath of her shooting. We try not to remember the media coverage and how awful it all was at the time. And most of all, I try not to remember the phone call we had to make to my mother who was at her cabin tucked far away on the scenic Gunflint Trail in northern Minnesota.

Many of us have these memories and the pain and the grief. Little things remind us of our loved one or our friend. That can be both good and bad. In July, my sister’s birthday passed us by with little notice but it was always close to my own July birthday.

Over the years, I have met the loved ones of many other people whose memories are strong and painful. There are too many of us. I see and hear their pain and we hug and share our grief.

And we share our resolve to work hard so that other families won’t go through what we all go through. But we are met with strong resistance from a corporate gun lobby who don’t share our pain or our grief. They share in their profits and their way of life that includes having lots of guns and their false belief that the second amendment is under some sort of attack. The gun lobby tells them this. Right wing extremists tell them this. They tell them we are coming for their guns. They tell them Hillary Clinton will take away the second amendment ( which can’t be done without a constitutional amendment to do so).  They tell them their rights will be taken with any common sense measure to keep people from being shot.

It makes no sense. None of it.

Today I read that gun rights extremists won’t adhere to the new California laws passed there requiring registration of assault rifles and restrictions on the size of ammunition magazines sold. They won’t follow the laws on the books. California’s gun death rate is low compared to other states. We don’t have to guess why.

Long Rails Textured

I am leaving for a vacation on a train trip with my family tomorrow. We will board the train in St. Paul and travel to Glacier Park through North Dakota and Montana. And then, after some days at Glacier enjoying the park we will again board the plane for Seattle where we will spend some time before flying home to Minnesota.

 

As I always do when I travel, I explore gun laws in the places we visit. Let’s look at North Dakota first.  From the link ( Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence):

North Dakota does not:

Now let’s look at the gun death rate in North Dakota:

In 2013, North Dakota had the 24th highest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. This represents a significant increase from its position as the state with the 33rd highest gun death rate in 2010. North Dakota had the 35th highest rate of crime gun exports among the states in 2009–meaning that crime guns originally sold in North Dakota were recovered after being used in crimes in other states at the 35th highest rate among the states.

Not so good.

Now for Montana ( also from the Law Center):

Among other things, Montana does not:

And as for gun death rates:

In 2013, Montana had the 5th highest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. Montana also had the 14th highest rate of crime gun exports among the states in 2009–meaning that crime guns originally sold in Montana were recovered after being used in crimes in other states at the 14th highest rate per capita among the states.

Gun suicides are high in Montana:

Suicide is the leading cause of gun-related deaths across the country in recent years. Of the 33,636 firearm deaths in 2013, more than 21,000 were suicides. In fact, suicide accounted for more than half of gun-related deaths in all but one state with the most gun violence. In three states — Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming — suicide accounted for more than 80% of all firearm deaths.

It turns out that the suicide gun death rate in Montana places it in the top 20 states for gun death rates.

At the request of a commenter, I am including Idaho gun law and death information. Our train will also travel through a small area of Idaho on the way to Glacier National Park. Here it is ( from the Law Center):

Idaho does not:

As to gun death rates in Idaho:

In 2013, Idaho had the 14th highest rate of gun deaths per capita among the states. 227 Idahoans died from firearm-related injuries in Idaho that year. Additionally, according to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, in 2009, Idaho supplied the 18th highest number of crime guns to other states per capita, and the state exports more than twice as many crime guns as it imports.

And finally, the state of Washington (from the Law Center again) where a referendum changed the laws there (by 60% approval)to require background checks on all gun sales. From the first link:

Among other things, Washington:

  • Requires a background check prior to the transfer of a firearm between private parties;
  • Requires firearm dealers to obtain a state license, and imposes a background check on all dealer employees;
  • Prohibits certain domestic violence misdemeanants and persons subject to a domestic violence order of protection from purchasing or possessing any firearms; and
  • Requires that all firearms dealers have a state license in order to transfer ammunition.

Gun death rates are lower in Washington:

In 2013, Washington had the 11th lowest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. Washington had the 17th lowest rate of crime gun exports among the states in 2009–meaning that crime guns originally sold in Washington were recovered after being used in crimes in other states at the 17th lowest rate among the states.

Gun laws matter.

In states that require background checks on all gun sales, there are fewer gun homicides, fewer domestic shooting deaths and less gun crime.

Facts matter. Laws matter.

I want to point out that today is also the 4th anniversary of the heinous hate crime that occurred at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin:

On August 5, 2012, a massacre took place at the gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where 40-year-old Wade Michael Page fatally shot six people and wounded four others.[3][4] Page committed suicide by shooting himself in the head after he was shot in the stomach by a responding police officer.

Page was an American white supremacist and Army veteran from Cudahy, Wisconsin. Apart from the shooter, all of the dead were members of theSikh faith.

We have continued to endure mass shootings like this one all over America without doing a thing to stop them. The families of those shot at the Sikh Temple have told their stories. I have heard them. Stories matter. That is why I tell my story and why so many of us who have lost loved ones tell our stories. For if our leaders can’t look at our photos and hear our stories and still refuse to pass stronger gun laws, then who are we as a nation? Who are we if we don’t do whatever we can to stop and prevent devastating gun violence in our families and our communities.

Life goes on for those of us who have lost someone to bullets. It goes on in a different way. I can write about my sister’s death without crying now. I can take trips with my family and not think about her. But gun violence doesn’t take a trip or a vacation. In the 10 days I will be traveling, 900 people will die due to bullets.

We are better than this. Our gun laws have gone “off the rails” thanks to a corporate gun lobby more interested in making profits than in saving lives. There is no excuse for this. We need to get back on track and do the right thing. By the right thing, I mean to change laws, change the conversation, change the culture where we can and stop people from being shot. All of this can be done without taking away the rights of law abiding gun owners.

My purpose is to keep the attention on gun violence and urge support for reasonable measures to prevent families from losing someone in a very sudden and violent death, often avoidable. If we do the right thing, we can lessen the impact of gun violence on more families. We can hear fewer stories and keep our children and families safer.

Let’s get to work in the name of my sister and the other victims. That is the least we can do.

Activist mommies

mommy activistThis morning one of the commenters who reads my blog but rarely gets published called me an “activist Mommie”.  Check it out here:

Why is your only response to post a link and text to an NRA sponsored site? I’ve not proffered anything of the sort….I asked you where is the primary source foundation for the gun control lobby’s assertions, where it regards the 2nd Amendment?

Read any of the Framers debates over the intent and verbiage during the ratification of the 2nd Amendment; then read a bit of at least one of the philosophical influences as directly and explicitly admitted by said Framers. I recommend Algernon Sidney.

Simply playing narratives between the NRA and activist Mommies is lazy.

First of all, this kind of demeaning and misogynistic comment is not rare coming from gun rights extremists. I have been called all kinds of names, including the “c” word, as has my dead sister. They think we are “weak” according to this commenter who calls himself “Constitutional Insurgent”, whatever that means. He believes he knows more about the constitution than the rest of us yet refused to provide any evidence of what he was claiming. He got mad when I provided him with a site supported by the NRA.  Whatever.

We are not going to sit home baking cookies and doing what some think is what women should be doing.

But I did look up something about Algernon Sidney, as “Insurgent” suggested but provided me with no links. Just as I suspected, Sidney, who died in 1683, was a limited government guy :

“Furthermore, Sidney believed that civil government should have limited jurisdiction. He said the, “only ends for which governments are constituted and obedience rendered to them, are the obtaining of justice and protection.” This suggests a limited civil government whose primary purpose is to 1) render legal justice through its court system and 2) provide for the safety of its citizens. We can also conclude from Sidney that, if a government fails to accomplish these basic components, obedience to that government is no longer required.”

So we are supposed to base current gun policy on writings from the 17th century read by our founding fathers? I’m sure they read a lot of scholarly research in forming the Constitution. The Constitution is an incredible document reflecting both limited government and the need for a strong federal government. It was a compromise that has worked pretty well for our country. But as I pointed out in my last post, the  Constitution, in my opinion, can (and has) change with the times. And since guns have changed dramatically, laws need to reflect our current culture and life, not that of those who lived in the 17th century. I like to read about history as well. But I can also see that, while it is important to know what came before us, it is also important that we deal with present problems.

The second amendment and its’ various interpretations, is thrown up as the reason why we can’t do anything about all of the carnage in our country. That is a weak and unsupported argument that has won the argument for far too long. The second amendment does not guarantee a God given right to own whatever gun one wants by anyone who wants to carry anywhere one wants to. If someone can find a reference to guns in the Bible or other early Biblical, Jewish, Muslim or any other religious teachings, let me know. And don’t send me the stuff about taking up swords. That is a nonsensical argument, at best.

This article in The Trace, written by a law scholar, says this about recent second amendment rulings in the Supreme Court:

Assuming that Heller remains on the books, what does it mean for the future of gun rights and gun regulation in the United States? Probably not as much as supporters of gun regulation fear, nor as much as gun rights proponents want. Despite broad claims about its likely impact, the “individual right” interpretation of the Second Amendment has not radically changed the legal landscape. Roughly 95 percent of Second Amendment challenges brought since Heller have failed, and the evolving doctrine leaves ample room for reasonable gun regulations. The primary obstacles to stronger gun laws remain political, not constitutional.

But back to hateful rhetoric, it comes straight from the top. One of the NRA Board members, Ted Nugent, is famous for this offensive , racist, anti-semitic, and rude comments when he “performs” in public or otherwise speaks at NRA events or on NRA radio. There is pushback for an upcoming appearance by Nugent in my state of Minnesota as well there should be.

Yesterday the Republican nominee for President, Mr. Donald J. Trump, intimated that the Muslim mother of a solder killed in Iraq didn’t speak out at the Democratic National Convention when she stood beside her husband, Khizr Kahn because she was Muslim. This, of course, is a typical dog whistle issued by Trump and others like him.

Kahn, speaking at the DNC, took on Trump’s offensive remarks about a Muslim ban in America considering that his own son, a Muslim, signed up to fight in Iraq for his own country of America and was killed in combat. It was a powerful and emotional moment for all of us. But Trump and his ilk don’t like to be challenged by the facts and the truth. So they fight back with offensive lies meant to deflect the truth of the matter. In the process they tear down Muslims, people of color, women and anyone who doesn’t think or look like them.

After the convention, both of the Kahns were interviewed by Lawrence O’Donnel on MSNBC. Mrs. Kahn spoke and spoke powerfully about the pain she has experienced and how hard it is for her to talk about her son. Mr. Kahn said that she was the strong one and helped him write his speech.

If this had not been a Muslim couple on stage and only one person spoke, would Trump have attacked them? We know the answer.

When will this stop? Will someone be shot? I’m just wondering.

This kind of fear mongering and offensive rhetoric is coming straight from the man at the top of the Republican ticket. Why are other Republicans not speaking out against this? That question needs to be answered.

Just as the NRA leadership is not speaking out against Nugents’ offenses and vile remarks, it comes from the top. And it implicates everyone who doesn’t speak out.

So then, why allow these type of comments on articles on the web? Many are too vile to say out loud. Take this attack on Massachusetts Attorney General   who had the nerve to speak out in favor of an assault weapons ban. God forbid! Another activist Mommy in favor of stopping people from getting shot in a mass shooting by an angry young male. Check it out:

“Another [expletive] woman passing laws based off emotional bias this is why woman[sic] should not have leading roles they’re emotionally to [sic] weak,” wrote a grammatically challenged charmer.

They’ve called Healey ugly, her agenda satanic, and taunted her for being gay. One person tweeted that he’d like to hire a homeless man to rape and disembowel the attorney general alive. A commenter on a gun nut blog tracked down her home address and posted it. (…)

They don’t attack only women, of course.

“A day doesn’t go by that I am not called the worst kind of Jew on the planet,” said John Rosenthal, the longtime gun control activist. “I’m ‘a Jew faggot,’ or I ‘should have been killed in an oven.’ It’s disgusting.”

And then the article ended with this cogent assessment:

Oh, good grief, you may be thinking, Can’t you just ignore them? These are just fringe-dwelling fools. They can’t even spell. The thing is, the fringe is wide. And when somebody sends you a note threatening you with rape and murder, it can get to you, even if you’ve grown inured to garden-variety torment.

You’re not supposed to admit this, of course. You’re damned if you call these cretins out — it gives them oxygen, makes you seem like a victim — and damned if you don’t, because they just keep doing it. The world, especially online, is replete with men who straight-up hate women.

For her part, Healey has opted for oxygen deprivation, declining to comment on the torrents of misogyny. She did say she was determined to keep fighting to control the spread of weapons designed to mow down as many people as possible. Which guarantees further abuse.

“I am not going to back down,” she said. “I believe this is right and appropriate and lawful and something we need to do.”

Good for Healey. We need to stand up to these attacks and stand together. But now we have a woman nominee who is likely to win the race for the White House. They will hate her every bit as much as they have hated our first Black President. It won’t be pretty.

I, for one, am proud to be an activist Mommy and Grandmother. There are a lot of us and the majority of men, gun owners and NRA members have joined us in our support of legislation that would stop and prevent some of our daily carnage. If those right wing gun activists oppose that, then the weakness is theirs, not ours. Congress is the weak link here but that is going to change soon.

The Million Mom March, which I attended in 2000 on the Mall in Washington DC was a pivotal moment in the movement to prevent gun violence. It brought mothers and others together as one to oppose the overly powerful and influential gun lobby whose weakening of gun policy and opposition to anything that would save lives had kept our Congress from acting.  Chapters were formed all over the country and are now affiliated with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, named for Jim Brady who was shot in an assassination attempt against President Reagan. The gun nuts hated Sarah Brady. She was regularly attacked and abused by them. She was a strong woman who apparently threatened their world.

After the Sandy Hook shooting, Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America, affiliated with Everytown for Gun Safety has brought millions more into the movement for sanity.

The shooting of a woman sitting Congressman, Gabby Giffords, started a movement formed by Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly- Americans for Responsible Solutions. Her voice is strong and powerful when she speaks and her story resonates. Gun activists don’t like her either.

Other organizations are active and include mommies, daddies, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, grandparents, nieces, nephews and friends of people who have been shot. What the gun rights extremists don’t like about us is that we are the majority and we are changing the conversation that they have had to themselves for far too long. Our influence is now changing the minds and hearts of our elected leaders and a tipping point is upon us.

We are all attacked on a regular basis by those who fear our power to change their small minority of resistance to reasonable changes to gun laws and their fear of tyranny, people not like them, zombies and their own shadows.

This kind of shameful, ludicrous, fact free attack has to be challenged and called out for what it is. Hate. Fear. Sexist. Racist. Offensive. Rude. Unacceptable. Who are the weak ones who are so afraid of the mothers and others who want to do something about the shootings?

Where is common sense?

 

UPDATE:

Since I wrote about Donald Trump demeaning the mother of a Muslim soldier here is her response from an article:

In an opinion piece published Sunday on The Washington Post’s website, Ghazala Khan responded directly to Trump.

“Donald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention. He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart,” she wrote.

She said Trump is “ignorant” when he talks about Islam. Trump has called for banning Muslims from entering the United States.

“If he studied the real Islam and Koran, all the ideas he gets from terrorists would change, because terrorism is a different religion.” she wrote. “Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices. He doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means.”

On Sunday, Khizr Khan defended his wife’s silence at the convention, telling CNN that she is ill, has high blood pressure and cannot keep herself composed when she sees images of her son.

I suggest that the extremists stop their demeaning, misogynistic, rude and offensive comments. But first, those at the top have to stop. Who will stop them?

 

UPDATE #2

In Oregon, a woman Governor can’t support gun laws that will save lives without receiving threats against her life. Remember, the guys with the guns are likely the ones making the threats. This is simply not OK. From the article:

“Instead of voicing passionate opinions or dissent as part of exercising free speech, they express intent to cause her harm, ugly threats of physical violence and death,” said Kristen Grainger, Brown’s communications director. “Potentially dangerous individuals have attempted to breach security perimeters on more than one occasion.”

Grainger and others say Brown’s role in calling for an end to this winter’s armed occupation near Burns, along with her recent backing of three gun-control bills, appear to have ramped up threats.

I will let it speak for itself.

 

Drive by shootings and gun policy

bonnieclydeRemember Bonnie and Clyde? I do. There were a lot of drive-by shootings and road rage shootings committed by the infamous couple who died in their car of multiple bullet wounds at the hands of law enforcement. Those were the “good old days” when bullets were flying and machine guns were easily available to those who shouldn’t have had them. Revenge, gangs, anger, too much alcohol and guns- bad combinations.

Bonnie and Clyde were killed in 1934.

Remember Elliott Ness and Al Capone and the mafia era? The years of prohibition created mayhem on the streets of some of our cities. It was just after this time period that Congress decided that machine guns and silencers should not be available to average citizens without very strict regulations. In 1934, the National Firearms Act was passed:

With the passage of the NFA, these guns immediately faced severe restrictions.  While owning them is still technically legal, they must be registered (which isn’t exactly easy) and they are taxed more heavily ($200 for owning a silencer, for example, or as low as $5 for some smooth bore pistols, like the Serbu Super Shorty pictured earlier).  Anyone wanting to own one or manufacture one has to go through the BATFE for approval. (…) But firearms enthusiasts should look at it from a cautionary perspective, as well.  This was possible.  In fact, it is one of several legislative acts that govern the way we think about firearms.  And the NFA will be the cornerstone on which new restrictions will be built.

Few, if any, crimes are committed with these weapons because so few people own them and those who do go through a long and expensive process to get them. But it could only be a matter of time as the corporate gun lobby is driving by to get laws passed in many of our states to allow people to purchase silencers. When more people own silencers, will they, too, end up in the illegal market? How will they be used? Keep track of this as the push is on to get them into more hands. My own state of Minnesota passed such a law a few years ago:

Anderson, who sometimes carries a weapon to the Capitol, says that he intends to buy silencers for some of his guns. He outlined the process he’ll have to go through: He’ll have to get approval from the Cass County sheriff; pass a state background check; apply to the federal government to possess the silencer, sending $200 along with his application (which needs to include the serial number of the silencer he intends to purchase); go through a federal background check that might take months; and finally, make the purchase of an item that is fairly pricey (upwards of $700).

“It’s ludicrous that we have to go through all of this at the federal level,” Anderson said. “This is an item you should be able to walk into a store and just purchase. We need to work on the federal law. But still, this is a pretty big step.”

Yup. It’s just a matter of time before silencers are available with no background checks from private sellers and on-line just like guns are in most states. That is why we need to stop the drive-by policies of the corporate gun lobby and put the brakes on these bills. What we need is to make sure ALL gun sales, including ammunition and paraphernalia go through Brady background checks.

Why the resistance to this? It’s a minority who oppose it. Their reasons make no sense and aren’t even true. Time to make sure we do the right thing and stop people from getting shot in their cars, in their homes, and anywhere else.

Today, we have more guns than any other democratized country in the world. Over 300 million. We also have the highest number of gun deaths per capita and the weakest gun laws. Other countries don’t have a second amendment or a corporate gun lobby like ours. Sure there are some people in other countries who want to loosen the laws that have been passed. But it isn’t happening because other countries are watching our mass shootings and every day carnage and understand that our loose laws contribute.

The NRA and others in the corporate gun lobby have flown or driven into almost every state of the union and left us with the worst gun policies in the world.  This was done very purposely to drive up profits for the industry and deceive the public into believing that the second amendment includes allowing anyone to buy a gun and carry it everywhere. That is NOT what the founding fathers had in mind when the amendment was written. And, of course, we need to remember why the founding fathers wrote that amendment into our Constitution in the first place. From this Mother Jones article with an interview with author Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center:

MW: Yes. And that might be noteworthy for some. There were plenty of guns. There was the right to defend yourself, which was part of English common law handed down from England. But there were also gun restrictions at the same time. There were many. There were limits, for example, on where you could store gunpowder. You couldn’t have a loaded gun in your house in Boston. There were lots of limits on who could own guns for all different kinds of reasons. There was anexpectation that you should be able to own a gun. But they didn’t think they were writing that expectation into the Constitution with the Second Amendment.

MJ: So then why focus on the Second Amendment and not the English Bill of Rights or other things the framers drew on that more clearly address individual gun ownership?

MW: We are not governed today, in 2014, by British common law. Law evolved, the country evolved. It was a very rural place. There were no cities. There were no police forces. It was a completely different way of living. So gun rights activists turned this into a constitutional crusade. Those who want more guns and fewer restrictions realized they could gain some higher ground if they claimed the Constitution.

Has the world changed since the second amendment was written? Of course. Check this video from States United to Prevent Gun Violence for a graphic image of how much guns have changed since the amendment was written.

I happen to believe that the Constitution is a living document that can change when change is required to keep Americans safe and healthy.

Ever since the 1977 Cincinnati NRA convention revolt (see article above), the gun lobby has changed -transformed itself into a lobby group that doesn’t represent its’ original purpose nor its’ members. They changed to a group that protects and supports the gun industry profits and vice versa. As a result, the landscape changed as well regarding gun policy.

One of the goals of this change  was passing laws in almost all states to allow people to carry guns in their cars and public places. The charade was that people needed guns for self defense everywhere they went. Our legislators bought it because-  rights. Never mind that the second amendment does not mention the right to carry guns for personal protection. These laws had the effect of changing the culture around guns. It became OK for people to have guns with or without a permit on their person.

Former Representative Gabby Giffords spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Her appearance caused a stir in the hall as well it should have. Her speech was simple and short because of her brain injury. Do you remember that her shooter had a gun with no permitting process as is allowed by Arizona law? I do.

It wasn’t so many years ago that it would have been unusual for guns to be found in cars and used in drive-bys or accidental shootings. Two recent examples in my own state:

Man follows couple on local road and shoots and injures one passenger:

Jesse Jay Bohanon was charged in Carlton County District Court Tuesday with three counts of second-degree attempted murder while committing a drive-by shooting, three counts of second-degree assault, one count of drive-by shooting, one count of dangerous weapons-intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and/or ammunition.

Where did this felon get his gun? It’s easy in our country for that to happen.

Man shot and killed in bar by someone  who allegedly fired shots car at the bar. “The man, yet to be charged, is jailed on suspicion of assault and second-degree murder during a drive-by shooting, suggesting that he fired the shots from a vehicle.”

Many other examples of drive-by shootings exist. The city of Des Moines, Iowa has seen an increase in drive-by shootings as just one example.

Many examples of road rage involving gun violence exist as well with some dead victims.

Here is one. And another. And another. And another.

Common sense suggests that having guns in cars is not a good idea. Small children find them in the glove box or the back seat and shoot them. I have written about more than a few of these recently- a small child shot and injured his own mother, a gun loving person. Another toddler killed his own mom with a gun found in the car.

And then there are the people who get caught for illegal drugs and guns like this case in Daytona, Florida:

Of the 29 people, 18 were arrested on Tuesday. Nine were arrested in the course of the operation.

And police are looking for two others who are targets of the operation: Tiffany Malcom, 33, and Robert Smith, 27. Smith, Chitwood revealed Wednesday, is a person of interest in the murder of Deandre Smith, who was shot to death as he drove his car on the Oakridge Boulevard Bridge on May 10, 2015.

Eleven people were charged with federal firearms violations. Nine were charged with state drug and firearms crimes.

What is it about criminals shooting each other in cars? Don’t they know that stray bullets hit innocent people?  A beloved grandmother was shot and killed by a stray bullet in Minneapolis in May while sitting in her car minding her own business. They don’t care really when they have anger and vengeance on their minds. Bullets don’t know where to stop and there are way too many of them flying from and into cars all over America. And the gun lobby doesn’t seem to care that people like the 29 arrested in Daytona found guns so easily to traffic drugs and kill other people.

Drive-by gun policy comes from the corporate gun lobby who send NRA or other representatives into states to lobby and write bill language. And then they leave us with bad policies that have led to more gun deaths and injuries. Lives are too precious to leave gun policy to those whose interest is in selling their product. Finding new markets for new guns leaves us with too many grieving families and devastated communities.

It takes a while for new policies to change the landscape and become effective. So about 11-12 years after many states passed conceal ( or open) and carry laws, we see how they are working. Most gun permit holders are safe with their guns and do not misuse them. But enough of them have been dangerous- either intentionally or accidentally that an argument could be made that we need to strengthen these laws.

Rather than people needing to use guns for self defense, those guns are being used in shootings- drive-bys or other shootings. Few instances of defensive gun uses make the case for conceal and carry weak.

We are just plain not safer with more guns on our streets, in our cars and in our homes, schools, places of work and where we play. Using guns for hunting and sport shooting is one thing. Having them around in places where we gather or drive our cars makes no common sense. But because the NRA and corporate gun lobby drives by our states and promotes weakening our gun laws, the result has been the devastation in communities all over our country.

Last night I watched Hillary Clinton accept the nomination of the Democratic party to be the first woman to have that honor. It was thrilling to know that I have lived in a time when a woman can be nominated for and hopefully win the Presidency. Among other things she said in her acceptance speech was this ( meme by Brady Campaign):

Hillary and guns

Thank you Hillary. We are just trying to keep people from getting shot by people who shouldn’t have guns. Let’s get to work to make the changes we all deserve.