Changing the tone of the conversation about gun violence prevention

Congress and guns

Isn’t this a sad image? The fact that someone made this political cartoon says all we need to know about the tone of the gun culture in America. For Congress has failed to act to save lives repeatedly. The corporate gun lobby has Congress firmly in it’s grasp. What is it about strengthening gun laws? Why is the gun lobby so resistant? It’s about fear. It’s about paranoia. It’s about profits for the gun industry. It’s about holding on to a culture that has changed since our own fathers and grandfathers joined the NRA. The gun lobby opposes measures that can save lives. Even though these measures won’t affect their rights to own guns for hunting, self defense and recreation, they stand against them.

It makes even less sense after a string of mass shootings in our country ending with the shooting of 9 innocent black Americans at a Charleston church. This won’t be the last of these and the gun lobby continues to foment the fear, hatred and paranoia that can influence the (mostly) young white males who have committed these heinous shootings. What’s happening is not President Obama’s fault. He has not taken people’s rights or guns away. Blaming everything but the proliferation of guns- the easy access to guns- the lax gun laws that allow easy access- the cavalier attitude towards guns and gun safety- the lack of responsibility exhibited by some gun owners- the lack of our elected leaders to deal with public health and safety measures against gun violence-the lack of an American discussion about the role of guns and gun violence…… is what is leading to the carnage.

By all rights we ought to all be fed up with this insanity. President Obama clearly is and has said so in many eulogies delivered since he took office.

President Obama delivered an amazing eulogy at the funeral of Rev./Senator Clementa Pinckney on Friday. It was, itself, full of grace and poignancy. By now you have seen it. Among the beautiful and powerful remarks made at the eulogy on Friday were these about gun violence prevention:

“We’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation,” Mr Obama said at the funeral.

“The vast majority of Americans, the majority of gun owners, want to do something about this.” (…)

“Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete. But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again,” he said.

Right from his many references to grace and then the singing of Amazing Grace at the eulogy, the words ring true:

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

We do need to stop being blinded by the outdated ideas of the corporate gun lobby. They just don’t fit with what is going on in real life every day. What we need is sanity. What we have now is insane. And even gun owners can agree that the gun carnage just can’t continue without our doing something about it.

An article written about gun laws and the gun culture in Japan is instructive about what citizens in other countries think about the insanity here.  You can read about the strict regulations of guns and their owners in this article which highlights why laws matter. Japanese citizens who want to own and shoot guns must take classes, register their guns, prove that their guns are stored safely in their homes and go through stringent checks by law enforcement for their mental and physical ability to be safe with a gun. At the end of the article, the man interviewed for the piece said this:

“You should have a reason for having a gun, and if you don’t have a reason, you shouldn’t be allowed to have a gun,” he said while he prepared his rifle for his next round of practice.

Indeed, further along the range, Yanagida seemed a bit puzzled when asked about using his guns in self-defense: “I never thought about using my guns to protect myself.”

If only that was the case in our own country. How many people would still be alive today? How many parents would have their children to love or their parents or siblings? How many communities would not be talking about the violence that took the lives of their citizens?

Australia passed significant new laws after the massacre of 1996 that killed 35 people. The American gun lobby loves to pass off what happened in Australia as something it wasn’t and isn’t. Here’s an article to counter the deceptions of the gun lobby and why we, too, should pass stronger laws to stop the carnage.

And unrelated to the Charleston shooting there are some great quotes from people in articles about some of the many every day shootings and insane gun incidents that speak to our need for common sense and common ground about gun violence prevention. This one comes from a Police Chief in Mississippi after the Walmart incident in which a man bought a rifle, loaded it and carried it around in the store. I wrote about it before because at the time of the incident, the man was not arrested. It seemed that law enforcement had to grant him deference because he was a white guy with gun rights after all.  But upon further review, the man and his friend were arrested for disturbing the public peace. Check out what the Sheriff said about the incident:

“The possession, carrying and use of firearms require not only training and skill, but intelligence and responsibility. When persons act with deficiency in intelligence and responsibility, it can be both dangerous and unlawful.” Chief Leonard Papania stated.

Intelligence and responsibility are both needed but way too often are deficient. We can all agree to that and we should be able to put our heads together to fix it.

And the wisdom of a young mother who was shot in the leg by a gang member who thought that just because he had a gun he could shoot it at a passing car with a rival gang member inside. He missed. That happens. And the bullet hit a young mother walking her young child across the street. The 15 month old was hospitalized and now may have life long difficulties. Here is what the mother said:

“There’s a better way to solve your problems than shooting guns. … A lot of power is in a gun. You can’t always control it,” Spielman said.

Too true. When guns are available, they will and do get used to solve problems. And they are powerful and can’t always be controlled. What about this don’t we get in our country? Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill others. It should be difficult to get one and difficult to use one. We make it far too easy and people who can’t be responsible with a deadly weapon are able to get one anyway. That is the problem with our gun culture. It’s not sane.

As I write often here, we can and must change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our country. We can change the tone and set the tone of the conversation by passing stronger laws and having a common sense and civil conversation. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut knows that Congress can set that tone and change the conversation:

“The question for political leaders is whether we can live with ourselves if we continue our thundering silence in the face of these seemingly endless tragedies. Whatever you think the answer is – changing firearms laws, fixing our mental health system, increasing resources for law enforcement – the time to act was long before today. The excuse that legislative action is not a guarantee that tragedy won’t strike again is just a mask for cowardice or cold-heartedness. I shudder to think what it says about us as a nation if we don’t even try to make a good faith attempt to end this carnage.”

Senator Murphy gets to the heart of the matter. We aren’t even trying to stop the carnage. What does that say about us?

And of course, as I write constantly here, the majority of gun owners not only do not belong to the NRA or another gun lobby organization, they actually don’t like the NRA and are in favor of common sense gun measures and changing the conversation about gun violence and gun safety reform. Read this great article written in the Washington Post by just one of these reasonable gun owners:

I agree with the NRA on one point: Tightening controls on gun ownership will not eliminate gun violence. And it may not do much to address the psychopathology of young men who commit mass murder. Timothy McVeigh and the Tsarnaev brothers committed their crimes with bombs, while Adam Lanza, with no criminal record, inexplicably stole his mother’s guns, murdered her, and headed off to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

But by filtering out at least some people who are poor candidates for responsible ownership, gun control will reduce the steady bloodletting of everyday life in our cities, a pervasive environment of danger that police departments around the country have decried, calling for greater handgun controls.

Rather than being our American birthright, gun ownership should be a privilege earned after thorough examination and training, like driving a car. But in 21st-century America, arms-bearing is an inalienable right, thanks to 27 anachronistic words of a constitution ratified in an 18th-century world of slow-loading muskets. (…) The Charleston massacre probably won’t result in gun reform, but its survivors have challenged the NRA’s bleak, seething worldview by suggesting that kindness can be the dominant mood of our public life. By offering perhaps premature forgiveness to the young man who killed their loved ones with a legally purchased Glock semiautomatic, they have shown us the possibility of living a more open, less timid existence. They imagine a world of joy, community and shelter, not fear, hatred and violence.

We can imagine a world less fearful and more safe from devastating gun violence but it will only come to fruition when our elected leaders realize they can stop being afraid of the corporate gun lobby. It is a minority of gun owners and a minority of Americans. It is the job of our elected leaders to do what’s right and best for the majority of their constituents. They have not done this with gun policy. It’s time for that to change.

There should be no excuses for what happened in Charleston or no blaming the victims. That is tawdry, unseemly and offensive to all. But the gun lobby and its’ minions have a way of blaming the victims as an excuse for why we shouldn’t do anything about the easy access to guns and the promotion of guns in every nook and cranny or our country, including churches. Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence wrote this piece today about why blaming the victims is insane:

The nine innocent Americans murdered in Charleston were exercising their fundamental freedom to worship in a manner of their own choosing. Because they chose to pray without weapons does not mean they were “waiting for it.” It means that they were trying to live their lives as the Constitution envisions — in “domestic tranquility.”

The reality is that blaming the victim is deplorable, no matter the circumstances, and is a strategy to avoid dealing with tough problems. But as we have seen with the epidemic of sexual assault, domestic violence and gun violence, avoidance just ensures that the violence continues. One way to honor those killed in Charleston is to make sure that we as a country refuse to tolerate a “they asked for it” mentality for one more second.

Nobody asks for gun violence. Nobody wants to be shot. Everybody is against that idea and everybody should have a desire to do something about it. The gun lobby and gun extremists can look on from a distance and make these insane excuses and claims. But gun violence is affecting more and more of us every day and the circle of grief is getting wider as I wrote in my last post. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can change the conversation and the tone of the conversation away from rights to responsibilities and to tolerance, love and keeping our fellow Americans safe from devastating gun violence.

Look what has happened in the past week or so. America is having a different conversation about the Confederate flag, about racism, about forgiveness, about health care, about marriage equality and yes, about gun violence prevention. Laws do matter as we have seen with the need for the South Carolina legislature to act to take down the Confederate flag at their capitol. The Affordable Care Act is the law of our country and the Supreme Court upheld this in their ruling this past week. Marriage Equality is now the law of the land. Though the conversations about racism and the flag are extremely important, so is the conversation about stronger gun laws. Stronger gun laws can also become the law of the land.

UPDATE:

I want to include this great post from a blogger writing for Huffington Post. From the article by Steve Nelson:

If the rest of us concede the unimpeded right for you to have an arsenal at the ready, will you stop open carry legislation? Will you reverse the idiotic laws that allow guns on college campuses? Will you stop parading your rifles around parking lots and playgrounds full of small children? Will you agree that reasonable regulations that keep weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill or career felons might be good for all of us?

Yes, I know that Dylann Roof’s gun purchase was legal. Perhaps no regulation would have prevented him from attaining a weapon. But is it possible that this disturbed young man felt entitled to take things into his own hands because of our gun culture? Was his irrational fear and hatred of black folks fueled by others who arm themselves against largely imaginary threats? Can any reasonable person deny that such tragedies are more likely when the surrounding culture screams, “Arm yourself! Stand your ground! Danger is all around!”?

Just what would it take to convince you to bring the United States into the civilized world?

Love, justice and the rule of law win

pebbleIn the days leading up to the funerals of the 9 victims of the Charleston shooting at Mother Emanuel church, there aren’t many people who have not noticed the forgiveness and the grace of the families of the victims. Today, President Obama delivers the eulogy for Rev. Clemanta Pinckney, the much loved pastor of the Mother Emanuel church. He was loved by his congregation, by his family, by his constituents and by his fellow legislators from both sides of the aisle. He was so loved that his colleagues led the movement to remove the confederate flag from the state house in Columbia, South Carolina.

This is about the victims and about love and respect. When someone close to you personally, as with Rev. Pinkney, is killed in a heinous shooting, it makes a difference. It’s not just a random name or face of someone not known. It’s not just a gang member who some believe are disposable Americans. It’s not someone else’s friend or someone else’s sister, mother, brother or father. Now it’s yours.

Gun violence is affecting more and more people in America. With the increase in the number of guns in the country, it is inevitable that more families and friends will experience the violence from gunshots. The circle widens.

Just as with the issue of marriage equality, almost everyone can say they know someone who is gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgendered. That is, in part, why the marriage equality bills have passed in so many states and why the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. Love won. Justice won. And the rule of law makes a difference.

Personally, my family has been affected by gun violence. We have friends and family members who are gay or lesbian. Several members of my family are health care providers and family members have suffered from health conditions that, had they not had health insurance, would have led to severe financial problems and stress and further health problems. I am not unique. I am amongst many of my fellow Americans.

Americans also won yesterday when the Court decided in favor of the Affordable Care Act. When millions of Americans are able to now get health insurance with no pre-existing conditions for less money, we all win. When more people are in the insurance pool, we all do or will eventually pay less for our health care. We win when people are kept healthier and out of our emergency rooms where the care is more expensive. We win when “kids” stay on their family’s health insurance and don’t have to worry about paying expensive premiums as they start out in new jobs and are paying back college loans. We win when women with breast cancer are not turned away from health insurance and left to go into bankruptcy or die.

As my former Senator Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better when we all do better.”

And that is true when we change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in America. It’s a public health and safety epidemic. The conversation is changing as it must. “Google” searches after the Charleston shooting, according to the linked article, changed to “gun control” from “gun shop”:

Google has released data on how Search users reacted to the violence on June 17. Itsnewly revamped Trends tool has a rundown of the kinds of topics people queried the search engine about in the days after the tragedy. One of the most interesting things the data show is that searches for “gun control” surpassed those for “gun shop” across the United States.

Searches for “gun shop” are usually more popular than “gun control,” according to data Google Trends averaged from the past year. But in the 72 hours following the Charleston shooting, “gun control” was the more popular search term in 45 states.

The ripple effect of a heinous racially motivated shooting.

If we care for our fellow citizens, no matter their sexual orientation, their color, their race or their age, and for justice, we understand that we need to stand up for doing something about the devastating violence that so affects our communities and our friends. Charleston will never be the same. Those families, those friends, those legislators, those community members will never be the same. My family has never been quite the same after my sister’s tragic death that took her life well before she should have died.

It’s time for love, justice and the law that often changes according to changing times. That has been true for the issue of marriage equality and now with health care. It hasn’t been as true for gun violence prevention. But that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t change.

President Obama spoke today about the ripple effects of individual actions on the whole. A quote from the Dalai Lama is pictured above. Social change is happening. It can be frightening for some but energizing and exciting for others.

As people tell their personal stories about the gun violence that has affected them, they will be heard by more and more people. As the mass shootings and “everyday” shootings continue, more of us will be horrified that someone we knew experienced the terror of a crazed or angry gunman ( they are almost always men) as he pointed a gun at them and, in seconds, snuffed out a life. It’s hard to imagine this happening to someone you knew, respected and loved. But happen it did and does to far too many.

And wisdom wins over insanity and nonsense. After Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee issued a statement, coming directly from the corporate gun lobby play book ,saying that the victims in Mother Emanuel church could have saved themselves had they been carrying a gun, the Charleston Mayor reacted with words of wisdom and common sense:

The Charleston mayor was left nearly speechless on Wednesday when asked to respond to Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s (R) comments that the victims in the Charleston shooting may have been able to stop the attack if they had been carrying handguns.

“That is so ridiculous,” Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley told Fox News radio host Alan Colmes. “I mean, I knew these people. I’m looking that their pictures right now in front of me. They weren’t going to be carrying handguns. You want an 87-year old retired lady or you want a minister to be carrying a handgun or a 78-year old retired lady that used to work for the city of Charleston? That is so insane. You want those elderly people carrying handguns? Is that the best we can do in America?”

No. We can and must do better. Wisdom and facts win. Love wins. Justice wins. Common sense wins.

That is why we need to keep working on those common sense solutions to the violence that has affected so many of us. Because, in the end, we all win when fewer of us are being shot to death in our public places and in our homes.

It may come about as a result of a changed law. It may come about as a changed heart or a changed mind. It may come about as a changed conversation and a changed view of the problem. It will start with individuals and groups who are working to make these changes.

Today, love, justice and the rule of law win over injustice, hatred, fear, paranoia, intolerance, violence and refusal to change in the face of facts and real human consequences if we do nothing.

The numbing and silencing of America

DSC_0196On Monday my chapter of the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence ( also affiliated with Protect Minnesota) organized and held a bell ringing in memory of the 9 victims of the Charleston Mother Emanuel church shooting. It was well attended and very powerful. There were 3 local clergy from different faith persuasions giving remarks as well as the pastor of the local AME church where we held the event. Another community activist involved in the community of color also made remarks. As is our tradition, we had 9 people from those gathered come to the front of the church and hold a photo of each of the 9 victims. When they said their names, our bell was rung. We finished by ringing the bell for all other victims and survivors and joined in a hopeful song.

We are numb in this country. We hardly know how to respond any more to these kinds of shootings. But this one seemed different. 9 people were targeted because of the color of their skin. I have not seen this much activity on-line, on social media, in the American media, in media from around the world in events held, in comments made- ever since I have been involved in the issue of gun violence prevention. It has stunned me. People want to talk about it. A friend stopped me in the grocery store. She wanted to talk about it. People saw me on TV as I was interviewed about the bell ringing. The public is outraged and numb.

We have been numbed down and dumbed down after years of these kind of shootings. But this time, things are happening. In a surprise move, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina made an unexpected statement yesterday with her support for taking down the confederate flag from the Capitol area. She was given accolades. I ask what took so long?  Black Americans have had to endure the insult of the flag that represents so much historical pain and suffering for too many years. It’s inexcusable.  And, what’s worse, politicians have supported it- some out of ignorance, some say it’s out of respect for history ( which ignores a big chunk of that history) some out of fear of those on the far right who seem to be still fighting the Civil War.

(As an aside, we need to also understand that Governor Haley has signed some of the country’s weakest gun laws. As a result South Carolina has among the country’s highest number of gun deaths.)

Along with removing the Confederate flag, Governor Hailey should also be looking at some changes to her state’s gun laws.

Regarding the Confederate flag, though, quickly Walmart, Sears, Amazon and now Ebay are removing any confederate stuff from their stores or on-line site. Guns, not so much. They will still sell guns- the instrument of the terror and White Supremacist act that occurred last week in Charleston. Shouldn’t we wonder why they were selling this stuff in the first place? Why did it take a heinous race based shooting to begin a national discussion that should have happened long ago?

What I want to know is whether those same items representing the Confederacy will still be sold at gun shows across the country? Will we still see photos of guys like this, strutting around with the hateful flag plus their AR-15s? How offensive can you get? Or remember the prom goers posing for a photo with their guns and that flag? Or this “good guy” with a gun who pulled his gun out and pointed it at young kids who made fun of the Confederate flag image on his truck?

Offensive stuff for sure.

It’s been a week now. And the country has been reeling with the uproar caused by this shooting. The Charleston community has reacted with grace and peacefully, even using the word forgiveness and sometimes hope. That is what we heard at our bell ringing event on Monday.

Maybe this time there is hope. Adam Gopnik wrote this for the New Yorker:

Against this, of course, was the suggestion, by a board member of the National Rifle Association, that responsibility for the massacre lay with the clergyman within the church, for opposing laws that would allow “concealed carry” in places of worship. Had he not taken that stand, the argument runs, there would have been a pitched gun battle in the church—a better thing, apparently, even though it would have only fulfilled the gunman’s mad fantasies of race war. Pitched gun battles in a Charleston church or a Connecticut elementary school, of the sort that some in the N.R.A. apparently dream of, would more likely be horrific blood baths, with crossfire and injured bystanders, not some well-tuned and well-timed action-movie scenario.
The reason that we have gun massacres in numbers wildly out of proportion to any other rich country is because we have too many guns. When gun massacres have happened elsewhere—as they sometimes have, in Canada and Scotland and Australia and elsewhere—the common-sense response has been to change the laws, and, almost always, after the laws are changed the massacres end. In the United States, they continue. It seems like a good bet that changing the law here would change that.

In the areas of gun crime where there has been extended study, we know for certain that serious gun control works to end, or at least limit, gun violence. It is as robust a correlation as any in the social sciences, as sure a thing, as I’ve written before, as knowing that antibiotics act to limit and end infections. You go looking for sane counterarguments in favor of overarmed America and find that none exist. Guns don’t protect anyone from anything. Their presence simply increases the odds of domestic tragedy, of a domestic altercation turning into a homicide (or a suicide). The data confirms what common sense suggests: not even the most desperately paranoid among us could possibly be perpetually prepared for an actual home invasion—as very rare as such incidents actually are. The fantasy of the armed homeowner bravely repelling the evil armed intruder is just that. The number of justified homicides is overwhelmed by the number of gun tragedies. In 2012, thirteen states, including New Jersey and New York, reported no justifiable homicides at all. Not one. The notion that gun possession could stop, rather than increase, the number of casualties in the home is another fantasy created by violent movies and television programs, and is only possible in them. (Violent crime is dropping under the gun-control regimes in Europe and Canada as well, just as it has in the States. We’re still the only country that has gun massacres so routinely that our leader has to figure out what new thing he can say each time out.)

Gopnik goes on to write about the Confederate flag and why people who still pledge allegiance to it and to their own gun fetishes and fear and paranoia are so dangerous:

Another, parallel claim—what might be called the insurrectionist one—insists that guns are necessary to enforce a constitutional right to threaten and subvert the duly elected government as gun owners might see fit. This is a view that one Abraham Lincoln rather fiercely resisted, and put an end to in the eighteen-sixties. Amid the arguments over the Confederate battle flag flying in Charleston, the one that insists that the flag represents, above all, an effort to make slavery a permanent state for black people is probably the most relevant. But it’s also worth remembering that the defeat of the Confederacy involved exactly the defeat of the notion that the threat of insurrection was ever to be regarded as an acceptable political act. As Lincoln said, in his first inaugural, “No government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.” You can’t say you need to have a gun to threaten the government.

Gopnik finishes with things I have written here many times before:

On most public issues, there are two reasonable views, even when one view seems, to put it mildly, cruel—the view, say, that poor people should be left without medical insurance. But on gun control there aren’t. All the facts are in; all the social science is long settled; the constitutional positions are clear, if contested, and the wiser way known and shared by mankind. On one side are facts, truth, and common sense. On the other, an obsession with dark fantasies of individual autonomy and power—the sheer fetishistic thrill of owning lethal weapons. On one side is the sanity and common sense shared by the entire world; on the other, murder and madness and a strange ongoing American mania. If we don’t change, then, well—it will happen again, again. And then again.

Will we choose sanity and common sense or will we choose madness?

A friend from Missouri, Stacey Newman, a state legislator, wrote this about the response from our political leaders:

Who is ultimately responsible for dozens of gun lobby sponsored bills advancing not just in Missouri each year but in other conservative legislatures? We are. Who is responsible for the many legislators who remain silent during floor debate, even though their districts suffer the most gun violence in the state? We are.

Who is responsible for a Congress which continually fails to advance policies like universal background checks even though 90 percent of us, including gun owners and NRA members, overwhelmingly support these common sense measures? We are.

Who is responsible for re-electing a Congress which ignores majority opinion in favor of standing with the gun lobby? We are. Who is responsible for the myth that one can’t get elected if they stand up to the profiteering of gun manufacturers? We are.

In our silence, we have forgotten that we hold the power to save lives.

Our power is our vote — the power that the majority of Americans don’t utilize unless it’s a sexy presidential election year. Most Americans have no clue who represents them in state houses (where most gun laws are being passed) or even in Congress, which is exactly how the NRA wants it. On top of that, the NRA knows exactly who votes and who doesn’t because voting records are public and available to anyone. (…)

Our silence on election days is increasing the carnage and suffering. We cannot afford more silence. Please help.

Silence is killing us.

Don’t be silent. Don’t be numb. Wake up. Stand up. Raise your voices. Make noise so your elected leaders hear you. Demand that they listen to the voices of reason whose concern is for the victims.

We have been dumbed down as well by the myths and illogical arguments foisted on our leaders and too many Americans by the corporate gun lobby. They have succeeded for too long now but the latest carnage in Charleston, South Carolina is pushing the country to speak out and speak the truths that have been too long ignored. We need the courage of conviction on the gun issue as is starting to happen on the flag issue. There is a right about some things in our culture that, when evil exposes the terrible wrong, just has to be acknowledged. There really is such a thing as common sense.

But instead of standing up for common sense, our legislators and Congress have left with us with a mess. What just happened in Mississippi where police can’t arrest a guy with a gun in a Walmart store who terrorizes the public points out how insane we have become when it comes to gun rights. And if that isn’t enough, Iowa has passed a law allowing blind people to carry guns in public because- rights…… Insane. It’s a mess.

These kinds of stories represent what’s gone terribly wrong about rights. These things shouldn’t be normal. The people don’t want this kind of behavior to be normal.

But we can fix what’s wrong. Our leaders have also been touched by the Charleston shootings in a way that perhaps they weren’t even touched after the Sandy Hook shooting. It’s a national shame that the corporate gun lobby stopped the country from acting according its’ conscience after the Sandy Hook shooting. Maybe this time the organization whose board member tried to blame the victims for the shooting will have to sit down and be quiet for a change. Senators Manchin and Toomey have admitted that they are willing to pursue gun safety reform legislation of some kind. Is there hope?

There just has to be change and there just has to be hope for our country. This family surely lost hope in a hurry on Father’s Day when a father who had a gun decided to shoot his children, his wife and himself for reasons we may never know. This. This is why we just have to change the conversation about guns and gun violence in our country.

Is the Charleston Mother Emanuel church shooting the one that was one too many? Is this the one? Are the other mass shootings that occurred on the week-end after the Charleston shooting too many for us? Is the murder/suicide of a young family ( just one of many that occur regularly) enough for us?

Will we decide we won’t continue to be numb and we refuse to be dumbed down and numbed by the gun lobby?

This article ends with a great quote that fits with everything I have written in this post about our political leaders and the need to have them stand up to the gun lobby:

Despite the assertion that pro-gun forces are winning the battle for public opinion, support for reasonable gun laws remains strong. According to a poll by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, 83 percent favored background checks for all gun sales, while 80 percent supported prohibiting anyone with a temporary domestic restraining order from buying a gun.

“It’s noteworthy that attitudes among gun owners were well over a majority for a whole range of different measures to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals,” said Johns Hopkins associate professor Colleen Barry.

This fight isn’t lost, then. Far from it.

It’s time to speak up and speak out.

To fight fog with facts.

And to be every bit as determined as the other side.

It’s been foggy. It’s been numbing. It’s been void of the facts for far too long. But things are changing. We may be coming out of our numbness and our fog.

Most people have. Everytown for Gun Safety produced this video. Watch it. We can now add “Charleston”. Time to stop being numb.

ASK about guns on Father’s Day

ASK

Today is national ASK day- a day to call attention to the fact that too many children have easy access to loaded guns. Children are curious and will touch guns even if adults have told them not to. It’s the adults who are responsible to secure their guns safely from children and teens. Kids should not be made responsible for this as toddlers. Yes, toddlers do find guns and shoot others or themselves with guns they find in their homes. If you want your own child or grandchildren to be safe from gun violence, asking about unsecured guns is your job. More on this at the end of this post.

Just as it is an adult’s responsibility to understand that an adult child or friend who has serious problems should not have a gun. And it is the country’s responsibility to make sure seriously troubled individuals, felons, adjudicated mentally ill people, those with restraining orders for domestic abuse, drug abusers, terrorists and others who could be dangerous with guns should not have them. It should be difficult to obtain a gun since they are weapons designed to kill people. Guns are unique in this way and need to be treated differently from other products on the market. There is no right to do whatever you want to do with a gun or to have one if you shouldn’t.

In the midst of national ASK day, long planned by the Brady Campaign, we are dealing with the after effects of one of our nation’s most heinous shootings. It’s hard to say that because they are all heinous and they all leave families bereft and the nation reeling. But this one feels worse. The victims were targeted specifically for their skin color by a white man who hated them for their skin color.

The nation is grieving for the 9 victims of the Charleston “Mother Emanuel” church shooting. The nation is asking why. The dust won’t settle for quite some time. There will be funerals. There will be attempts at healing. There will be community gatherings. There will be discussions- or there should be discussions about the role of guns and gun violence and about racism and the ugliness that caused the shooter to kill 9 people with no remorse. There will be a very public and emotional trial which will re-victimize the survivors. It’s an ugly picture of America. The gun rights folks are trying to change the subject blaming it on anti-depressants ( even though there is no evidence that the shooter was on them), religion, and even the victims themselves have been blamed by at least one NRA member. Shameful. Offensive. Insensitive. Ugly.

The truth of the matter is that the shooter was a racist with white supremacist views. He set out to kill black people and he chose the Mother Emanuel church on purpose for its’ historical significance to the black community. He was a school drop-out with no job. He appeared to be a troubled young man.  He actually talked about this kind of violence with his room mate and a girlfriend and his room mate took his gun from him at one point because of his talk about violence. But his girlfriend got the friend to give it back. She just has to be re-thinking that decision and agonizing over it. This is why gun violence restraining orders are a good idea. They can prevent shootings like this.

There is talk about whether or not the shooter could have passed a background check. Apparently he bought the gun from a gun dealer but then we heard his father gave him the gun. Did he have a pending felony charge making him a prohibited purchaser? We don’t have all the facts yet. It will take a while to sort out. We do know though that in South Carolina it wouldn’t matter if he had been charged with a felony because he could easily buy a gun from a private seller on-line ( Armslist.com) or at a gun show with no background check. That’s why requiring background checks on all gun sales can make a difference.

And elected leaders are either running towards the discussion about the need to change gun laws or running way away from it. As just one ridiculous example, former Governor Rick Perry, Republican presidential candidate, suggested that the Charleston shooting was an “accident”. Come on. This should be a hot topic in the upcoming election. If it’s not, there’s something wrong with us. I guess we already know that. Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, as always, did a great job of talking about our fetish with guns and the results of it in a recent show. Watch Stewart below:

Can we move on after this horrific shooting? We will. But for goodness sake, let us not move on and ignore the elephant in the country. What about gun violence? What are we going to do about it? Will we let the corporate gun lobby hold us hostage again like they did after the Sandy Hook shooting?  Will our leaders at long last decide they don’t need to be afraid of the gun lobby’s threats and money? For that would be a great day in America. The rest of the world would cheer for us since now they can only wonder why we allow these kinds of shootings over and over and over again:

“We don’t understand America’s need for guns,” said Philip Alpers, director of the University of Sydney’s GunPolicy.org project that compares gun laws across the world. “It is very puzzling for non-Americans.”

A frontier nation like the U.S., Australia had a similar attitude toward firearms prior to a 1996 mass shooting that killed 35. Soon after, tight restrictions on gun ownership were imposed and no such incidents have been reported since.

A similar effect has been seen elsewhere.

“The USA is completely out of step with the rest of the world. We’ve tightened our gun laws and have seen a reduction,” said Claire Taylor, the director of media and public relations at Gun Free South Africa.

Ahmad Syafi’i Maarif, a prominent Indonesian intellectual and former leader of Muhammadiyah, one of the country’s largest Muslim organizations, said the church shooting shocked many.

“People all over the world believed that racism had gone from the U.S. when Barack Obama was elected to lead the superpower, twice,” he said. “But the Charleston shooting has reminded us that in fact, the seeds of racism still remain and were embedded in the hearts of small communities there, and can explode at any time, like a terrorist act by an individual.”

America is awash with guns as President Obama stated in remarks about the Charleston shooting. Take a look at these graphs in a Vox.com article showing the proliferation of guns in a country that can’t seem to get together to stop the shootings:

Despite signs of decline in gun ownership, the US still has a huge number of private guns. In 2012, Americans owned an estimated 270 million guns, almost 42 percent of the total number of civilian-owned guns on the entire planet:

gun_violence_graphic1

In developed countries, there is a strong correlation between the number of guns and incidences of gun violence. In 2012, the US, which has the most guns per capita, also had the most firearm-related homicides of developed countries. Japan, which has the lowest rate of gun ownership, had the least:

When there are so many guns, there will be so many shootings. Period.

And while we move on, there are things we can do aside from passing stronger gun laws like ever popular universal background check requirement.

We can get parents and grandparents to ASK if there are unsecured guns in the homes where their kids/grandkids play and hang out. Why? Because that is a way to reduce gun deaths and injuries. There are plenty of stories to tell about parents who didn’t ask and now are living with the memory of their deceased children. Take this family, for example. Their daughter was shot by a friend when the children found a gun in the friend’s home. It doesn’t have go be this way. We actually can prevent gun deaths and injuries. Guns need to be stored securely away from kids and teens to avoid “accidental” gun deaths and suicides.

Check out the website of the ASK campaign for more information about how to ask along with materials and some videos about the awkward conversation that parents must ask to protect their children from an avoidable and senseless death. It’s just common sense, of course. Check it out:

The conversation might be awkward but not nearly as awkward as the conversation will be if your child or a friend’s child finds a loaded gun and fires it accidentally- killing or hurting someone else.

It’s Father’s Day. Fathers and mothers should be asking this question. No father wants to have to talk about his daughter like the Brooklyn father in the article above. He won’t be getting a father’s day hug or gift from his daughter this father’s day.

Some families in Charleston will be missing their fathers on this day. And some fathers won’t have their sons or daughters to wish them a happy father’s day on this day. These families will never be the same. The community and the church will never be the same. The violent and unexpected nature of gun deaths never goes away for the families who experience it. I know that from personal experience. It feels like the family has been violated.

The reaction of the families of the shooting victims is an example of grace and forgiveness in the face of tragedy. These are real people with real emotions who loved their family members and who will miss them and grieve for them. The shooter took someone away from them. Do shooters ever think about that when they fire their guns? Shooters rarely think about those who will be left behind with the holes left in their hearts and their lives that survivors will live around as they try to come to grips with their losses.

We are broken. We are Charleston. We are Mother Emanuel. We stand with the victims and survivors. We need to change our country.

Let’s do some common sense things this father’s day. Stand with the families of the Charleston shooting victims and support their healing. Demand that our leaders get to work and pass stronger gun laws and stop being afraid of the corporate gun lobby.  Demand a change to the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in America- the only country that experiences such carnage. Think about being a responsible gun owner if you are one and store your guns safely. If you are a parent, think twice about giving your troubled young adult child a gun. The Charleston shooter’s father will be having a terrible father’s day today.

And ASK about unsecured guns in places where your child plays. We can save lives if we all get together and talk about the epidemic of gun violence and solve this problem together for the sake of our children and our families.

Happy Father’s Day.

In remembrance- church shootings and access to guns

In remembranceI was planning to write about something else today. But I can’t. I hardly know where to begin. I spent most of yesterday trying to carry out my life while watching the news, sharing Facebook posts, Tweeting and making phone calls about the heinous shooting at the Charleston AME church. We are all saddened to sickness. We are again, in America, in shock over yet another mass shooting. And we are numb. But we should not stay numb. Lives are lost every day. This time it was 9 innocent black Americans praying in their church. This time it appears to be a hate crime carried out by a young man who, according to some reports and photos on Facebook, has sympathies to the White Supremacist movement.

It’s unimaginable. It’s about race. It’s about guns. It’s about hate. It’s about intolerance. It’s about domestic terrorism. Racial injustice is among us and it’s evil and hateful.

There is so much to say. There is nothing to say.

The conversation about race in America is too important to ignore. The conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in America is too important to ignore. One of the commenters on a news show this morning said that if you can’t be black while attending church, where can you be black? Good question.

It is an evil act. It’s the act of a “lone wolf” or is it? It was perpetrated by someone who should not have had a gun. His roommate said he had been planning this for a while. Why didn’t the roommate say or do something in time to stop him? Do we just shrug our shoulders when people talk like this and we know they have guns? What is wrong with us? From the above article:

Meek said Roof recently used his birthday money to buy a Glock pistol. When the two of them were drinking together a few weeks ago, Roof began railing about black people and remarked that he had “a plan,” Meek said. He did not say what the plan was, but Meek said it scared him enough that he took the gun out of Roof’s car and hid it in his house until the next day.

What is wrong with our country when young people express those kind of sentiments?

What is wrong with our leaders? President Obama held a press conference today and commented with resignation. He knows we need to do something but he knows we won’t. He knows our leaders have no spine. He knows our leaders run the other way when the issue of doing something about gun violence comes up. He understands and he doesn’t.

The world thinks we are crazed and a dangerous place to live. We can’t go to church to pray without a gunman shooting innocent people. We can’t go to movie theaters without a gunman shooting innocent movie goers. We can’t send our kids to school in the morning knowing they will come home alive in the afternoon. We can’t send our kids to college without fear of a mentally ill student with a gun shooting up the campus and maybe, just maybe, our child will be one of the victims. We can’t even work on an American military base without fear of a gunman shooting up people who have given their lives to protecting us from harm. We can’t go to a spa without a domestic abuser who gets his gun on line with no background check shooting up his ex wife and many innocent others. We can’t go to a Sikh Temple without a gunman who doesn’t like people who are not like him shooting them in his hatred. We can’t go to shopping malls without a deranged gunman shooting people for no apparent reason. We can’t work in a police station without an anti government nut case shooting up the station hoping to kill those he hates. We can’t sit in a restaurant without fear of someone shooting us up or accidentally dropping his gun ending in the body of a patron just out to eat. We can’t be at home without fear of young children getting their hands on a gun and shooting themselves or a sibling. We can’t walk down the street in some neighborhoods without fear of being shot by a stray bullet. For that matter, we can’t even sleep at home without fear of a stray bullet making a hole in the house walls and shooting a sleeping child. We can’t be in a city hall without a gunman who got a gun through a straw purchase shooting at police officers in the building. We can’t be at gun ranges either or gun shops without fear of people getting shot “accidentally.”

Why? Why? Why did this shooter have a gun? He got it as a gift from his father. Was that a good idea given that he may have had some problems? He had been arrested twice in recent months. Why did he have a gun? He had been expressing white supremacist and racist sentiments.

I say it’s crazy. I say it’s time for our leaders to stop crying and whining and saying they are sorry. If they are so sorry why aren’t they doing something about it? For they can if they want to. Why don’t they want to? Questions have to be asked.

We can do better. For God’s sake- in the name of these latest 9 victims and the many others who have gone before them to their early deaths, stop the violence. We are tired of this. Enough now. Common sense needs to happen in order to save lives. Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign has some heart felt sentiments along with some concrete solutions to at least some of our senseless gun violence:

When we talk about solutions, we don’t spend enough time talking about the real things we can do to keep guns out of the hands of the people who commit these crimes. Solutions that almost everybody supports, like:

  • Expanding Brady background checks to all gun sales, so that felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill can’t walk into gun shows or go online and buy guns with no questions asked.
  • Shutting down the 5 percent of “bad apple” gun dealers that knowingly do business with gun traffickers and straw purchasers and supply almost all crime guns in our nation.
  • Educating parents about the risks of unsafe access to guns in the home, knowing that nine kids are shot unintentionally in America every day and in more than two-thirds of school shootings, the gun comes from the home of the attacker or a relative — including the shooting at Sandy Hook.

We need to educate America that guns are dangerous weapons. Not everyone should have a gun. Indeed, there are plenty in our country who shouldn’t for various reasons. But they have them anyway.

It’s not just about laws. It’s about a culture of guns that is unique to America. It’s about thinking differently about guns.

We need to stop being insensitive to the real problem of gun violence in our country. When the Charleston Post and Courier newspaper ran the story about the shooting in the morning paper, they also included a sticker above the headline advertising a gun sale. Really? Cognitive dissonance. The two worlds of guns and gun violence in America. This is the problem with our gun culture. There’s a world of guns out there that doesn’t include the idea that people can get killed by them apparently. Here’s an image of the newspaper. sticker on newspaper ad

So let’s get this straight. When the corporate gun lobby stops all reasonable measures to stop some of the shootings, we have daily carnage on our streets, in our churches, in our homes and everywhere else. And when our leaders subscribe to the idea that they can’t stand up for the victims, the carnage continues unabated. And when we don’t make it difficult for people to get guns or use those guns once they get them, we see regular mass shootings and shootings every day that take the lives of 80 Americans.

As President Obama said, “it is in our power to do something about it.”

“We do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun,” Obama said at the White House. “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this kind of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. It is in our power to do something about it.”

Let’s do something.

Enough.

We grieve with the families and the Charleston community.

In memory of the victims. Let us pause to remember the lives lost. Let us remember the people whose families and friends are grieving and will miss them forever:

Rev. Clementa Pinckney

Susie Jackson

Rev. Daniel Simmons

Cynthia Hurd

Sharon Singelton

Myra Thompson

Tywanza Sanders

Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor

Ethel Lance

UPDATE:

This article just published by the New York Times is showing evidence that, indeed, this was a hate crime and one of racism. It’s time for those who are in denial, like one of my commenters here, to admit what this is really all about. From the article:

“I have no choice,’’ it reads. “I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”

In one picture, Mr. Roof is shown posing with wax figures of slaves. In others, he posed with a handgun. He is alone in all the photos, which appear to have been taken at a slave plantation, Sullivan Island, S.C., and at the Museum and Library of Confederate History.

The website links to several pages of long racist rants. Some describe Hispanics as enemies and say that “Negroes” have lower I.Q.s and low-impulse control. The writings are not signed.

Should we be afraid of the gun extremists?

zombieThis will be a long read because there is so much going on in the insane gun world that it takes a lot of space to write about it. And write about it is what many are doing. It’s hard to deny that our gun culture is so out of whack and so out of tune with what Americans want that it is becoming a tragic and deadly joke to the rest of the world. The fact that it is not lighting a fire under the pants of our elected leaders is a national shame.

I wrote a recent post about gun free zones in which I took issue with the corporate gun lobby’s specious claim that shooters look for gun free zones when they want to shoot people. It is, of course, a lie. This nonsensical and hypocritical claim has led the gun extremists to pushing for guns everywhere as they have convinced lawmakers that it will only be them- the “good guys” with guns who show up in places where guns are not allowed to save the rest of us from certain death.

I had an exchange with one of my readers on my last post about how he believes his children are not safe in their schools ( gun free zones) which is why he has chosen to carry a gun at his child’s school which he says he has worked out with administrators in the school. It is concealed so others don’t know he is carrying. I countered with the facts. Children are actually more safe in their schools than they are in their homes. This great and extensive report by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, “The Truth About Kids and Guns points out that 87% of firearms deaths for children 10 and under happen in their own homes- not considered to be gun free zones, by the way.

Let’s look again at the gun free zones nonsense. I pointed out how police officers are frequently attacked by guys with guns. It’s a fact. So the idea that someone with a gun is looking only for gun free zones for their attacks is disproven by the facts. And another example of this has played out in Dallas, Texas where an armed and angry “good guy” with a gun opened fire at a police station where we can presume those inside are armed:

Mr Brown told a news conference that the shoot-out began at about 12.30am local time, when the suspects parked in front of the building and began firing.

He said at least one suspect fled the scene in a van which rammed a police cruiser before leading officers on a chase that ended in an ongoing stand-off at a car park in the city of Hutchins, where more gunfire was exchanged.

Mr Brown said the suspect driving the van told officers that he blames police for losing custody of his son and “accusing him of being a terrorist”. The gunman also said he had explosives in the van, which appeared to be fitted with gun ports in the sides.

Let’s read this again: “”accusing him of being a terrorist””. Hmmm. An angry armed guy in an armored van with possible explosives. What should we call him? Is this what the Texas legislature had in mind when they just passed the law allowing for open carry of any kind of gun on the streets of their cities?

And did you know you could order a Zombie Apocalypse Assault Vehicle and Troop Transport.” vehicle through Facebook? The now deceased attacker had mental illness and anger issues according to his family and clearly had a fascination with guns. He had had prior problems with the law when he tried to choke his own mother but charges were dropped. Where did he get his guns? I think this statement needs more explanation actually ( from the above linked article):

The police report said he was then reported on the same day to be in Paris,Texas, about 100 miles away, where he grabbed weapons and body armour and talked about “shooting up schools and churches”. Andrew Boulware and his father, Jim, confirmed the incident.

So many red flags here. This is why laws such as the recently passed Gun Violence Restraining Order in California are so important. Family members know if a relative has mental illness and shouldn’t have guns. Laws such as this one in addition to requiring background checks on all gun sales can save lives. In this case, only the suspect died but all were lucky that many others were not injured or killed based on the mental state and bad intentions of the attacker. People with mental illness and anger issues such as this man had should not have access to guns.

And seriously, do people actually believe in zombies? Is there an alternate universe that I don’t know about?

Dear God.

But, according to this article, it’s really easy to become a terrorist like this guy in our own country. We talk a lot about those ISIS and other foreign terrorists attacking us. Let’s talk about our own home grown terrorists. I think that is what the guy in the zombie apocalypse van can be called. Check out this article from the Daily Beast about the ease of getting armored vehicles, clothing and guns, of course, right here in our own communities.

Where is common sense? We will see more of this because we are doing absolutely nothing to stop it. This one was in Dallas. The next one could be in your community. And that is not fear and paranoia. That is real. We are not talking about the zombies so feared by the gun extremists. We are talking about severely mentally ill people without the support they need to keep themselves and others safe from harm. We are talking about people with anger issues with guns. We are talking about the gun extremists themselves.

And almost at the same time that this incident was taking place the Governor of Texas was signing the new Open Carry and Guns on Campus bills into law. He signed the bills at a gun range. You just can’t make this stuff up. I’ve talked about Open Carry a lot so won’t get into that in this post.

Today my home town newspaper ran this editorial piece about guns on college campuses:

There has been no major demand on college campuses from students who want to bring guns to school. Instead, pro-gun laws have been foisted on colleges and universities that don’t want them. Why? Because of the power of the gun lobby.

But students don’t desire firearms. A 2013 poll published in the Journal of American College Health found that 78 percent of students at 15 Midwestern colleges and universities rejected guns on their campuses. Almost 80 percent of students said they would not feel safe if faculty, students and visitors carried concealed weapons on campus, and 66 percent said they did not feel that carrying a gun would make them less likely to be threatened by others. The American Association of State Colleges and Universities and more than 420 colleges and universities in 42 states have joined the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus to fight pro-gun laws.

And they are right. Guns do not belong on campuses any more than they belong at schools or in places of worship or in hospitals. College campuses are supposed to be sites of learning, lively debate, quiet contemplation and study. (…)

We don’t need vigilantes. We have professional law enforcement, which sometimes has problems, but is still accountable to us.

As powerful as the gun lobby is, this year so far has not been a complete triumph for the gun rights movement. It lost a battle to get the Florida Legislature to approve a law allowing guns on campuses. And even though Texas passed its gun law, some pro-gun groups saw the law as a defeat because legislators amended it to permit university presidents to set limits on the buildings into which students can bring guns.

Let’s hope that the defeat in Florida and the amendment to the Texas law are just the beginning of a pushback against the gun lobby’s excesses. The last thing we need is more armed students on college campuses.

Gun lobby excesses is the right wording. There are so many examples in every day America of the excesses of the gun lobby and it’s followers. Why isn’t the message getting to the people we have elected to serve the majority and protect the public health and safety? Oh right- corporate gun lobby.

As just another example of a gun extremist acting out his rights as a “good guy” with a gun, let’s look at this heinous shooting at an Iowa shopping mall:

Iowa mall cop — with a Facebook account loaded with open-carry and right-wing memes and photos of multiple weapons — is under arrest for shooting and killing a fellow mall worker because she filed sexual harassment complaints against him.

According to The Gazette, Alex Kozak was taken into custody after shooting 20-year-old Andrea Farrington three times in the back while she was at work at the Iowa Children’s Museum in the Coral Ridge Mall in Coralville, Iowa.

Police say that the 22-year-old Kozak left the mall and went to his home and retrieved a 9mm Glock handgun before retuning and shooting Farrington late Friday night..

KCJJ reports that a cousin of Farrington’s said that Kozak had been harassing the victim for at least six weeks and that she had complained to his superiors about unwanted advances he had made toward her. (…) Kozak — who is currently being held on $10 million bail — is married to Kellie Kozak, who recently posted pictures on her Facebook page of a visit to Costco where her husband can be seen carrying a sidearm. According to his father-in-law, Kozak didn’t always carry a weapon, saying, “If circumstances were that it’d be best not to have a weapon present, he didn’t have a problem with that.”

You really ought to check out the Facebook screen captures ( in the article) from the page of the shooter’s wife. Dare to speak out against gun insanity and meet with this in your face behavior. The staff at the Costco store the shooter and his wife visited were perhaps prescient. Even though these 2 tried to force their open carry behavior on the clerks and customers, they didn’t want it. Did they sense this guy could be a killer with that gun he carried so proudly and arrogantly?

The shooter had a legal permit to carry that gun. No comment.

The thing is, the majority of us don’t want openly carried or concealed carried guns in public places. Yes,people have a right to own guns but where is the line drawn between civility and harassment and being in the faces and spaces of others?

New York Times columnist Gail Collins wrote this column about the in your face nonsense of open gun carriers. From her column:

We’ve moved from the right to bear arms to the right to flaunt arms.

While the airport setting gives the incident a particular flair, this kind of thing has been happening quite a bit. In Michigan, the City of Grand Rapids has been in a legal battle with a man who took umbrage when police stopped him while he was walking down a residential street on a Sunday morning wearing camouflage, with a pistol strapped to his leg and singing “Hakuna Matata” from “The Lion King.”

Very few states have flat-out rules against openly carrying guns in public. It’s just something that never came up. “It’s not a practical thing to do,” said Laura Cutilletta of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. But it turns out that anyone with the legal right to carry a concealed weapon — which, in some states, doesn’t even require a permit — generally also has the legal right to walk into a McDonald’s with a gun sticking out of his waistband. (…)

The open display of weaponry freaks out average citizens, especially the ones with children. It outrages police. At one point, even the National Rifle Association said the open carry demonstrations were “downright weird.” But the organization quickly backtracked, apologized, blamed the post on an errant staffer, and averred that “our job is not to criticize the lawful behavior of fellow gun owners.”

You’d think that lawmakers would move quickly to make it illegal, but with a few exceptions, there’s more enabling going on than anything else. After a Kalamazoo man walked into the public library’s summer reading party for children with a 9-millimeter gun strapped to his waist, worried officials asked the State Legislature to add libraries to a very small list of gun-free zones. The Legislature did nothing.

“Look, I got a gun!” yelled a man who walked into a park where kids were playing baseball in — yes! — Georgia. “There’s nothing you can do about it.” The police, who were summoned, determined he was absolutely right.

There’s nothing we can do about it because our state legislators have enabled the corporate gun lobby and gun extremists and left the rest of us with this kind of uncouth and impolite behavior. They ought to be ashamed or embarrassed. Are they? Not so far but if this kind of public display of bravado with loaded guns continues, they will eventually have to take responsibility for allowing themselves to be duped by the gun lobby and fix the problem. It’s already too late but they could at least try. “Better late than never.”

Some people think this is the answer. It has merit and if the insanity continues, who knows? But for some who have been hiding behind the second amendment for opposition to common sense measures to stop the shootings, these are “fighting” words. More on this another time.

I could go on and on and on. The result of our American gun culture brought to us by the corporate gun lobby is that more people are now dying of gunshot injuries and more are surviving thanks to modern medical techniques. I will list a few more but just know I’ll be back to talk about how we can stop at least some of our nation’s senseless gun deaths.

Can we prevent all shootings? Of course not. But we surely have to practice some common sense and do a much better job of keeping guns away from those who shouldn’t have them. But further, we need a serious national discussion about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities. Too many people are dying in preventable shootings. More guns everywhere is proving to be deadly to our fellow citizens. The gun extremists are afraid of zombies and certain trouble in every nook and cranny of our communities. We should be afraid of those who are afraid of the zombies.

UPDATE:

Remember the man in the zombie van who shot up a Dallas police department? I wrote about it above and wondered how he got his guns. Well they were “legal” guns which were taken from him but returned after charges were dropped in an incident where he tried to choke his own mother:

Lamar County authorities say the weapons found on James Boulware, the man killed by Dallas police following a weekend attack on police headquarters, match guns and ammo confiscated then returned to Boulware two years ago:

A long range hunting rifle with scope. A 12 gauge shotgun. A Ruger rifle. A 45-revolver. A 9-millimeter, semi-automatic pistol. A camouflage flak jacket and body armor and hundreds of rounds of ammunition.

That’s just some of the arsenal of weapons confiscated by Lamar County Sheriff’s deputies in May of 2013 after arresting James Boulware on assault charges out of Dallas.

An arsenal of weapons was confiscated then returned after charges against James Boulware were dropped in a 2013 assault. Brett Shipp investigates.

Seems like a pretty #badidea to me. But when our gun laws are so lax that law enforcement and judges can’t do a thing about removing guns from those who clearly should not have them, this is the result. There are some people who should not have guns. We can do something about this if we make changes to strengthen our laws.

UPDATE#2:

So I want to add another article about that “zombie apocalypse” van used by the attacker of the Dallas police station. There are other folks in our country who feel a need to own one of these vehicles. From the article:

Why does he own it? Mr. Funicello, who runs a mixed martial arts gym called the Spartan Academy, said the question should be: Why not?

“This is America,” he said. “I should be able to have a howitzer or a bazooka if I want one. If I wanted to buy a fire truck, I could.”

Yup. This is America……

Gun insanity reigns

Open CarryThe political cartoon I have used here is going around on social media. It is a pretty good depiction of what most people think about the guys who openly carry their assault rifles in public to make some kind of point that eludes the sane majority. And it also points to the insanity of our gun culture. Just as gun deaths are going up, so are the attempts to weaken gun laws and “normalize” gun carrying in public. It’s antithetical to the real problem of gun violence in our communities and definitely not what we need.

What we need in our country is a serious national discussion about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities- not the insanity taking place in communities across America. Why is it happening? The answer is important. What or who are these guys afraid of? Their behavior makes no sense given that crime is going down in our country for many reasons. And President Obama has not taken away anyone’s guns during his two terms. The gun lobby has made claims about why we need an armed America but they are specious- not supported by the facts.

On the other hand gun deaths are going up for many reasons. And most of the deaths are suicides or homicides among people who know each other rather than random acts of violence by “the  (feared) other”. People like themselves ( “good guys with guns”) are shooting people on a regular basis intentionally or not (accidents). Shouldn’t we examine what is going on here and then deal with this national public health epidemic in ways that will affect lives and make us safer?

In America I thought we rolled up our sleeves and worked together on things that kill our children, sisters, brothers and friends. Why? Because we don’t want our loved ones dying from something preventable.  Or we engage and rally supporters and the public to educate them about the causes and effects of serious problems and then ask our elected leaders to make changes to laws, if that is what’s needed. Or maybe it’s not a law. Maybe it’s awareness that will lead to changes in behavior that can also save lives or prevent injuries. But the gun lobby has seen fit to prevent research about saving lives due to gun violence. And that is insane and troubling to say the least.

Certainly that is what happened when MADD called attention to the insanity of drunk drivers being responsible for the deaths of their children. Recent changes to our acceptance of same sex couples have led to changes in our marriage laws to allow people to marry who they love. We now recognize that second hand smoke can cause health problems. Public health campaigns encourage cancer screening tests which can save lives. Some of these efforts resulted in laws, others not.

Something interesting is happening with awareness about gun deaths and injuries, much of which changed after the shooting of 20 small children at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. The public is far more engaged on this issue and new polling has shown continued and mostly unchanged support for changes in laws that could save lives. With more groups and organizations pushing for change, it is inevitable that change will happen. But there’s an opposite push by a minority of well funded and increasingly bold gun extremists that makes no sense given the facts. Rather than trying to prevent gun injuries and deaths by highlighting the risks of guns, these zealots are exposing America to an underbelly of extremism that is potentially dangerous and certainly not in the mainstream or the interest of public health and safety.

Meanwhile things are getting crazier and crazier in gun world. What is the deal with the open carry activists anyway? They are pretty much making fools of themselves while also calling attention to the potential dangerous result of laws that have made it possible for gun extremists to carry any kind of gun they want to carry in public places. Our legislators should be re-thinking their favoring of the corporate gun lobby’s nonsensical notion that openly ( or concealed) carrying loaded guns in public places is a good idea. The “proof is in the pudding”.

I don’t have to give all of the examples of permit to carry holders having problems with their guns in public places do I? It’s been written about by me and many others repeatedly. But further, in a civil society not at war citizens don’t carry loaded guns around in public. I’ve traveled in countries where armed military are on the runways at airports or in public places because of unrest and potential violence. Is that us?

Take this confrontation with law enforcement in Abeline, Texas by open carriers. From the article:

Grisham tells officers that he is within his rights to loiter roadside with high-powered weapons. “This is public property,” Grisham says. The cop, however, informs Grisham that he has actually been standing on private property, and that he and his cohorts are guilty of criminal trespassing.

Grisham asks why cops felt compelled to give a warning armed with AR-15s. When police pointed out Grisham too was in possession of a large weapon, he dismissed the concern since the gun was “on [his] back.”

“I’m a law-abiding citizen. I’m minding my own business,” Grisham complains to police. “Do you know why I’m feeling this way right now?”

“I feel threatened,” Grisham explains loudly, “because you are a police officer and you have people with rifles here that are threatening me.”

Grisham and his partners in crime elected to leave rather than escalate their dispute with law enforcement. But when he gets to his car — a silver minivan with an Open Carry Texas logo on the front driver’s side door — Grisham turns back toward cops to shout at them first before getting in. “You guys wanna come up on us like we’re some sorta terrorists, then I’m gonna respond in kind,” Grisham yells toward police, before exchanging a few more tense words, and driving off.

That last utterance from Grisham pretty much says it all doesn’t it? What kind of sane person who doesn’t want to call attention to himself or who isn’t looking for a confrontation does this? Grisham has had his problems with the law. When the new carry law is enacted in Texas will he even be able to carry a pistol legally? From the article:

That being said, it seems like Mr. Watkins and Open Carry Texas leader CJ Grisham, two men who’ve dedicated much of their adult lives to being radical anti-government wackos fighting for gun rights in Texas, might finally be getting their wish as a current proposal would pave the way for Texans to openly carry handguns. There’s just one slight catch – neither man would qualify to do so under the proposed law. Under current laws anyone convicted of a Class A or B misdemeanor is prohibited from carrying concealed handguns for 5 years, and anyone arrested on either of those charges loses their concealed license until the case is resolved. Well it just so happens that Grisham was arrested during a hike carrying an AR-15 and charged with interfering with an officer’s duties, while Watkins was arrested this past September while he and his group of anti-government activists were out harassing police officers in Arlington, Texas. It’s believed that the requirements under this new proposal would mirror the state’s current laws concerning concealed handgun licenses, which means that if convicted, neither Grisham or Watkins would be allowed to openly carry handguns for at least 5 years. Naturally, neither man believes that any form of license should be required to carry guns. As always they’ll cite the “shall not be infringed” fragment of the Second Amendment – while completely ignoring the whole “well regulated” part at the very beginning.

These are the “law abiding” “good guys” with guns who are promoting ever more lax gun laws so that they can do whatever they want with their guns. People can’t do whatever they want with anything in our country. We have laws for a reason. That’s a democracy in action.

The Open Carry nonsense is gaining traction- but not for the reasons the Open Carry folks want. Check out this parody about Open Carry on a recent Daily Show segment. The Texas pool party incident that has everyone talking took on a different meaning looking at it through the lens of satire about Open Carry. And can we talk about the totally different reaction by one set of Texas police officers towards mostly black teens in a disturbance at a swimming pool and another set of Texas police officers towards a bunch of insane men carrying assault rifles and yelling at and harassing the officers?

Something is wrong in America.

Here’s another “law abiding” good guy with a gun waiting to break a law. I thought that was just for criminals. Remember another gun lobby myth- that if we make stronger gun laws, the criminals won’t follow them anyway. Based on that mythical analysis we should not have any laws I guess. But I digress. An Open Carry Missouri activist, looking all “svelt” decked out in his finest, decided that the law about not allowing people with guns in his local zoo was just not for him:

In April, Open Carry activists marched on the Ohio State university campus to ‘educate’ kids attending school there. When a man named John informed the group that children as young as 5-years-old will be attending dance classes nearby, and politely requested that those participating leave their weapons in their vehicles until right before the walk, Jeffry Smith declined.

He said, “If children are scared, then it is because they’ve been socialized to be so.”

“It’s a zoo, not an amusement park. It’s a zoological institution. The difference between the zoo and Six Flags is that the zoo is public,” Smith said.

Under Missouri law, guns are prohibited in amusement parks, but Smith questions if the zoo is actually categorized as one. (…) The St. Louis Zoo said that it bans all weapons.

I guess when you are a white guy with an AR-15 and a pistol on your hip,you can do anything you dang well please with that gun. And why do people need guns in zoos? Maybe a peacock will get out of control and attack? Or a lion could escape I suppose. Or worse- a bear. I mean, we have bears and deer in my  back yard regularly where I live but I don’t need my gun to get rid of them nor would I use it that way. Or armed at an amusement park? You just never know when you might get stuck at the top of the ferris wheel and need to shoot yourself to safety. Insanity.

No, this guy is just strutting and showing off because he thinks he can. He mistakenly believes that his second amendment rights include doing anything he wants with his guns. And he believes that we should just socialize everyone to love having people like him around everywhere we go. And as for the kids, they will learn that we are a country at war with ourselves over gun rights- a war not seen anywhere else in the world. Wars in other parts of the world are where people actually get killed with those AR-15s or loaded guns in public. Oh right……..Sandy Hook. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Gabby Giffords. Aurora Theater…………..

Or there’s the NRA’s own Ted Nugent exclaiming on his Facebook page that President Obama should be assassinated. He’s done this before, of course, and got the attention of the Secret Service. One day, his rantings just may result in a tragedy. Do these folks actually think through what they are saying or is the fear and paranoia real? Hard to tell. Nugent is a performer- and a bad one at that.

So how to counter this insanity? Here’s an idea from a University of North Dakota professor that is worth considering. Refusing to enter an eating establishment or other business that allows folks with openly carried weapons inside is one thing. Walking out without paying may work, it may not. The businesses are stuck with the laws in their states but most could post signs that say guns are not allowed or welcomed inside. But the gun rights extremists say they can and will ignore those signs and carry anyway. The laws are not meant for them. Insanity reigns.

The thing is, a civil society is a society where people help each other and care about each other enough to not to harm or inflict violence on others. Certainly having guns openly carried discourages the idea of civility. How can one have a serious conversation with someone displaying an AR-15 over their shoulder? And why an assault rifle? There is a clear message sent by the carrier of these guns. Don’t mess with me. “Molon Labe”- come and take it. We get the message. It’s flawed and full of potential problems. Our message is that we don’t want you carrying these guns around with you in places where our families hang out. Leave them at home where you can use them for self defense, or um,  for whatever people think they need them. 

As I said before, we need a serious national discussion that is beginning to happen in spite of efforts to stop it ( by the corporate gun lobby). There are films and plays in the works. There are publications and studies. There are protests. There are blogs and new web sites. There are Tweets and Facebook pages and new studies showing consistent support for common sense when it comes to stronger gun laws.

June is gun violence awareness month. June 21st is ASK day encouraging parents to ask about loaded unsecured guns in homes where their children play. We have had more than enough incidents of kids “accidentally” killing kids to know how important it is to ASK. On June 22nd, HBO will run a documentary about gun violence victims. titled “Requiem for the Dead”.  The film is full of incidents taken from news media reports and Facebook and Twitter links to actual deaths of real people. As long as real people die every day, these kinds of films will be important as a documentation of the facts.

Please join me in efforts to take the insanity out of our gun culture and gun laws. Too many people are dying every day. What we need are cool, sane, calm and reasonable voices with the facts at hand if we are to influence the decisions made about gun policy. Lives depend on our getting this right.

UPDATE:

I am updating this post to include this blog post by Mike the Gun Guy. It’s all about the appearance of Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign on Sean Hannity’s FOX news show the other night. From the blog:

But nice-sounding platitudes aside, I find it interesting that someone as pro-gun as Hannity would give Dan Gross an opportunity to appear before a large Fox audience to prove, if nothing else, that he’s not Lucifer in disguise.  Because although Hannity threw in a couple of red-meat comments that are de rigueur on Fox when anyone mentions guns, such as his fear of the ‘slippery slope’ of gun control, he basically let Dan tell the audience how much gun owners had in common with supporters of the Brady Campaign, which is entirely contrary to what usually erupts from the NRA.

Ever since the Brady law was voted in 1994, the NRA and other pro-gun groups have kept up a steady drumbeat of anti-Brady commentary designed to convince gun owners that any expansion of background checks is nothing short of a conspiracy to take away all guns.  Here’s a typical comment from the NRA in 2013 after Brady mounted a video to mark the 20th anniversary of the original background-check law:  “The Brady Campaign’s proposed expansion of federal background checks would force even many family and friends to get government permission for firearm transfers amongst each other and subject all lawful gun transfers to federal paperwork and recordkeeping requirements, the prerequisites for a national registry.”  Of course this statement is simply untrue, but it plays directly into the old slippery-slope gun control nonsense that Hannity found necessary to mention on the show.

I have been saying recently that the smartest thing Brady and Everytown have done is to move into the safety space which until now was owned lock, stock and barrel (pardon the pun) by the NRA. But while everyone’s in favor of safety, there’s one safety issue which puts the two sides as far apart as the Brand Canyon’s rims, and Hannity gave it away when he said that no matter how many laws were passed to prevent guns from getting into the ‘wrong hands,’ criminals wouldn’t obey laws anyway, so what was the point of passing more laws?

The pro-gun community falls back on this argument every time that any new measure is proposed that would increase regulation of guns.  The problem is that if we only passed laws that criminals would obey, there wouldn’t be any laws at all. Which is actually what the pro-gun community would prefer as regards gun ownership, particularly when a Democrat happens to be renting living space at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

You may remember that I wrote something very similar earlier in this post. It’s true. Another gun lobby myth that doesn’t hold water. It’s time, as I have said before, to de-mythify the gun lobby arguments so we can deal with the facts when dealing with saving lives.