Lions and gun violence

lion killingWell, I didn’t expect that posting this meme would cause such a heated discussion on my Facebook page- amongst my friends. The killing of Cecil, the lion, by a Minnesota dentist has provoked some amazing emotions. The media is on it. It’s a controversy for sure. And people are demanding action. Great. I think it deserves the attention it is getting and  potential solutions. And it looks like the Minnesota hunter has not exactly been a responsible hunter.

Meanwhile, back to the people who live in our communities, the killings and injury of human Americans continues. A writer in Colorado wonders why parents who leave their loaded guns out for small children to access are treated differently than those who leave their cars running in the cold. From the article:

This is so wrong. The punishment for leaving your car running in Aurora is far more severe than the penalty for leaving a gun lying around — even if a child finds it and shoots another kid with it. (…)

But in Aurora, you can leave a gun and ammunition in a house with kids, tucked out of sight, and rest assured the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s office won’t prosecute you, even if your own kid finds the gun and accidentally shoots himself or someone else with it.

Last week, Arapahoe County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said that office would not file charges against an Aurora man whose 12-year-old son found his father’s gun inside a coat pocket, discovered the bullets elsewhere in the house, got the gun out when he had some pals over and his parents weren’t home, and ended up inadvertently shooting a 7-year-old boy in the head two weeks ago.

The younger boy was critically injured, but his condition nor prognosis aren’t particularly clear, other than he is expected to survive.

Hurlbert said there isn’t enough evidence to charge either the boy who fired the gun while playing with it, nor his father, who said he had no idea that his son even knew there was a gun in the house. (…)

About half of the more than 1 million homes with children and guns in the United States don’t have locked and unloaded weapons. And a report by Everytown for Gun Safety cites an unnerving but hardly surprising Harvard University survey of children in homes with guns. The study reveals that “more than 70 percent of children under age 10 knew where their parents stored their guns — even when they were hidden — and 36 percent of the children reported handling the weapons.”

Even though the Arapahoe County DA considers keeping a gun in a coat pocket good enough security to avoid criminal charges, clearly that strategy isn’t good enough to keep kids from getting injured or killed.

Kids know where guns are “hidden”. My own kids have told me recently that they knew where my husband’s hunting guns were hidden. This was before I got involved in gun violence prevention advocacy. We purchased a gun safe when more awareness about gun violence and the tragic shooting death of my sister caused us to be hyper aware of the dangers of guns in the home. I have provided videos and other information on this blog showing how kids find guns no matter what anyone tells them. They hold them. They play with them. They aim them. And then sometimes they shoot them and kill or injure someone.

Where is common sense? In America is it so lacking that it would be laughable if it weren’t so sad and tragic.

Back to the article above- the writer poses a very good question. Why are gun owners treated differently than others when it comes to negligence? What is wrong with our country? We are outraged and enraged over a man who allegedly shot a lion illegally in Zimbabwe. But when a father irresponsibly leaves his gun out for a child to access leading to a shooting? Not so much. This is the definition of insanity. We have our priorities backwards to say the least.

Last night, my friends Sandy and Lonnie Phillips were on The Rachel Maddow Show talking about the gun industry immunity law or Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms. After their daughter was murdered in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting, they filed a law suit against the on-line ammunition dealers who sold the shooter his thousands of rounds of ammunition, protective body armor, explosives, etc. When the suit came before a judge, it was dismissed and not only that, because of the Colorado law, modeled after the federal law ( brought to us by the corporate gun lobby) they were ordered to pay the costs of the companies to the tune of over $200,000:

[Holmes] bought steel-jacketed ammo that went through the chairs of the theater, went through the walls of the theater into the theater next door. [He] hit my daughter, who was hiding behind a seat…one bullet hit her in the head and created a five-inch hole…and blew her brains out,” Sandy Phillips said.

Phillips questioned why a bullet with such velocity wasn’t more regulated, and why a person ordering 4,000 rounds wasn’t questioned about needing so much ammo. She also said Holmes was not required to show his license to verify that he was of age to legally make those purchases.

This was not a lawsuit about propaganda  ( as the judge proclaimed) or political gain. This was a law suit about our terribly flawed system of gun laws that allow just about anyone to purchase weapons and deadly ammunition on-line ( and in other venues) with no background checks or no questions asked. When profits come before protecting human lives, this is the result. Victims and families of shootings are treated differently because of the ever influential hold on our political system by one powerful industry and the lobbyists who represent them. It’s a uniquely American tragedy.

Once this many Americans are massacred over and over and over, it’s too late really to have the discussion. It’s too late for the Phillips’. It’s too late for the parents of the children who were murdered in cold blood at Sandy Hook elementary school. Now is certainly the time to discuss this controversial issue even if the NRA folks and others in the corporate gun lobby would love to have it go away. It won’t. Here’s why we need to talk about this issue now and after every mass shooting and every other shooting- in other words- every day:

Warren is right. The only deaths in America we must not discuss or address with any urgency are those caused by guns.

We saw this insane sentiment on display last week after the latest mass shooting – this one in Lafayette, La., where a demented 59-year-old drifter shot and killed two young women and injured nine others in a movie theater.

In the immediate aftermath, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal made one thing perfectly clear. “The best thing we can do across Lafayette, across Louisiana, across our country, is come together in thoughts, in love, in prayer,” Jindal said the night of the shooting.

Asked about what this meant for changing his state’s gun laws (among the weakest in the nation), Jindal pushed back hard. “Let’s focus on the victims right now,” he said. “Let’s focus on their recoveries. There’ll be a time, I’m sure folks will want to jump into the politics of this. Now is not the time.”

Jindal is not alone in his desire to stall and procrastinate after a mass shooting. He’s only repeating the standard Republican/NRA mantra after similar tragedies: Now’s not the time. This is a period for mourning and prayer. There will be time to talk about how to address the problem later, but not while people are burying their dead. For now, let’s pray for them and hug our kids.

Again, why are gun deaths treated differently than other national tragedies or incidents that harm others and/or the environment? Our insane gun culture has become a national tragedy in itself. More from the article:

Funny, I don’t recall Jindal suggesting anyone wait a week to start discussing how to address the Deepwater Horizon explosion in April 2010, which killed 11 people (most of them his constituents).

Immediately after that disaster, Jindal demanded immediate action on “three challenges: stopping the leak, protecting the coast and cleaning the coast.” No one suggested that Jindal’s quick call to clean up the Louisiana coast was a “shameful” effort to “score cheap political points.”

Instead of prayers, Jindal demanded prompt action. “Officials at the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority are also working with the state’s oil spill coordinator’s office to monitor any potential environmental impact,” Jindal saidwithin 24 hours of the explosion.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, did anyone suggest we should wait a few weeks to pray and mourn before responding to the terrorists who murdered thousands?

On the night of the attacks, then-President George W. Bush appeared on national television to vow swift action. “I have directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice,” Bush said that night. “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”

Did Jindal or anyone else suggest that Bush was politicizing these murders by vowing to avenge them?

The answer is NO. The answer about delaying the gun violence discussion is also NO.

What we need to discuss for sure and at the least is one of the serious flaws in our background check system. That would be the “default proceed” with a sale of a gun after 3 days even after the background check has not been completed. This is the flaw that led to the Charleston shooter getting his gun. 9 people are dead as a result. Is that enough to get us talking about solutions to the national gun violence epidemic?

So yes, let’s talk about poaching animals and killing wild animals illegally. The people of Zimbabwe are even puzzled over the outrage given all of the pressing problems that exist where they live:

“It’s so cruel, but I don’t understand the whole fuss, there are so many pressing issues in Zimbabwe — we have water shortages, no electricity and no jobs — yet people are making noise about a lion?” said Eunice Vhunise, a Harare resident. “I saw Cecil once when I visited the game park. I will probably miss him. But honestly the attention is just too much.”

An economic meltdown over the last few years has closed many companies and left two thirds of the population working in the informal economy while battling acute water and electricity shortages.

Most people questioned in downtown Harare hadn’t actually heard about the lion and said they were too busy trying to make a living to care about it.

Water shortages, no jobs, an economic meltdown and the killing of a lion. Up to the Lafayette theater shooting, according to the “mass shooting tracker”, there had been 204 mass shootings in 204 days of 2015. Stunning. Even if you use a different definition of mass shootings, there is no question where the outrage should be directed in America. Since the Lafayette shooting occurred one week ago, 626 Americans have died of gunshot injuries and many more than that have been injured by bullets. Where is the outrage?

Let’s also remember that we are the country that let the massacre of 20 first graders happen with no solution to the problem. We moved on. And then more innocent people were killed. What will we tolerate? We don’t like the killing of a beoved lion in a foreign country because the hunter lured the lion out of a reserve that was protecting it and then killed it. How do we feel about shooters opening fire on innocent people in movie theaters  or schools or military bases or college campuses on purpose for no apparent reason other than they could? I know how I feel.

We are better than this. Let’s get to work and have the discussion and pass laws that will make a difference.

I would like to end with this editorial by Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post that I read just after posting:

Since 9/11, the United States has responded aggressively to the danger of terrorism, taking extraordinary measures, invading two countries, launching military operations in many others, and spending more than $800 billion onhomeland security. Americans have accepted an unprecedented expansion of government powers and invasions of their privacy to prevent such attacks. Since 9/11, 74 people have been killed in the United States by terrorists,according to the think tank New America. In that same period, more than 150,000 Americans have been killed in gun homicides, and we have done . . .nothing.

Our attitude seems to be one of fatalism. Another day, another mass shooting. Which is almost literally true. The Web site shootingtracker.com documents that in the first 207 days of 2015, the nation had 207 mass shootings. After one of these takes place now, everyone goes through a ritual of shock and horror, and then moves on, aware that nothing will change, accepting that this is just one of those quirks of American life. But it is 150,000 deaths. Almost three Vietnams.

And more from the editorial piece:

It is not an act of fate that has caused 150,000 Americans to die over the past 14 years. It is a product of laws, court decisions, lobbying and pandering politicians. We can change it.

And Timothy Egan writing for the New York Times agrees:

The waves of mass shootings continue to roll over the United States like surf on the ship of state’s prow. Every few weeks now we get hit with a jolt of cold water. We shake and shudder, and then brace ourselves for the next one.

So we beat on — a nation whose people are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of most other developed countries. The only thing extraordinary about mass shootings in America is how ordinary the killing grounds are — elementary schools, high schools, colleges, military recruitment centers, theaters, parks, churches.Is no place safe? Actually, several places are. You want protection in a country that allows a deranged man to get an assault weapon to hunt down innocent people in a public space? Go to the airport — that bubble of gun-free security. Or go to a major-league baseball game, or a stadium in the National Football League. (…)

What we’re moving toward, then, are regions that are safer than others, and public spaces that are safer than others, led by private enterprise, shunning the gun crazies who want everyone armed. The new reality comes with the inconvenience and hassle of screening and pat-downs similar to the routines at airports — enforced gun-free zones, not mere suggestions.

As a way to make everyday life seem less frightening, the new reality is absurd. But that’s the cost, apparently, of an extreme interpretation of a constitutional amendment designed to fend off British tyranny, a freedom that has become a tyranny in itself.

Why background checks on all gun sales are essential

Let's leave our guns in the lobbyUnless you have been living under a rock, on a vacation with no news available or just plain in denial, you know that our nation has been experiencing an epidemic of gun violence that is really not new. This time, however, there seems to be more talk about it and even politicians are being pressed by the media and constituents to talk turkey about gun violence and what to do about it. It’s a topic that most want to avoid. Why? Because if they say what they really know to be true in their heart of hearts, it will p#$$ off the corporate gun lobby and the gun extremists and no one wants to go there. If it p&^%es off the rest of us? Apparently we don’t count and we are the majority. We are the 92% of even gun owners who want our politicians to pass a law to require background checks on all gun sales. I guess we don’t count.

So let’s look at the past month or so.  The shooter of the 9 Black Charleston residents at Mother Emanuel church should not have had a gun. How did he get it? He bought his gun from a licensed dealer after an incomplete background check. This was admitted to the public by the FBI Director:

Comey said the FBI made the error due to a breakdown in the background check system and confusion with paperwork between the FBI, local police departments and county jurisdictions.

Due to Roof’s admission during an arrest in late February that he was in possession of drugs, he should not have been permitted to buy the gun he used in the massacre. However, an agent working for the FBI’s background check system who was performing the review on Roof failed to contact the Columbia, South Carolina, police department which arrested Roof, in part because of a clerical error in records listing the wrong agency.

Because Roof’s background check took longer than three days to complete, the gun shop owner was allowed to sell the gun to Roof. The law permits gun sellers to sell guns if a background check takes longer than three days to complete.

Houston, we have a problem. Lives depend on our fixing this flaw in the background check system brought to us by the corporate gun lobby. This great article in The Trace explains how this happened in the first place:

It was called House Amendment 390, and it radically altered the implementation of the Brady background check bill. It was backed by the NRA. Twenty days later, it was the law. And 22 years later, one of its elements allowed Dylann Roof to get a gun.

Last week, Jim Clyburn, a Democratic Congressman from South Carolina, filed legislation that would close the so-called “default proceed loophole,” which allows federally licensed firearms dealers to proceed with a sale if a background check — as in Roof’s case — takes more than three business days to complete. Connecticut Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal echoed the call, urging President Obama to take executive action to extend the window that federal examiners have for making a determination on a purchaser.

Here is more from this article about how this provision to proceed with a sale after 3 days even without a record of a background check made it into law:

His amendment was initially rejected, but when he tweaked it slightly and requested a floor vote on November 10, 1993, it passed the House 238 to 192, with 122 Republicans and 84 Democrats voting “aye.” The full Brady bill passed the House later that day. When the Senate took up the legislation, lawmakers were faced with Gekas’s one-business-day time limit, which would go into effect five years after Brady’s enactment, along with the instant check system. But after further maneuvering in the Senate, the investigation period was raised to three days.

On the night of November 20, 1993, the Brady Act passed the Senate 63 to 36, with 47 Democrats and 16 Republicans voting yes. President Bill Clintonsigned it into law on November 30.

Charles Schumer, who shepherded the legislation in the House, would later testify about the “tortuous negotiations” necessary to get the Brady bill to Clinton’s desk. Though he called  the instant check provision (which would come to be known as the National Instant Criminal Background System, or NICS) “unworkable,” he conceded that “it was a necessary compromise to pass the most  important gun control legislation since 1968.”

Five days before the bill signing, Wayne LaPierre gave his own assessment of the outcome, reiterating his group’s stance: “The waiting period is unfair to honest, law-abiding people. The criminals won’t wait.” But in actuality, the group had triumphed. It managed to maintain political cover with supporters by fighting an unflinching war against the bill in the public arena while simultaneously watering it down from within. And more than ever before, it proved that it could mobilize its three-million-strong membership in the process.

Ten months before NICS was scheduled to go online, Clinton floated the idea of indefinitely extending the five-day investigation period used by the interim manual background check system. But the Republicans who had taken over control of Congress proved inhospitable to any further alterations.

And so 9 people are dead because of the corporate gun lobby’s totally irrational fear about “law abiding” citizens having to wait to get their guns. What’s the rush I ask?

Regarding the shooting in Chattanooga, there’s so much it’s hard to know where to start. The shooter obtained some guns “legally” whatever that means given his alleged problems with drugs and mental illness. One of the guns was purchased at the on-line site called Armslist.com that connects shooters  buyers with sellers. And yes, this is legal because we have not made it illegal. Until states and the federal government pass laws requiring background checks on all gun sales we will have more of these shootings. Do we care?

( To deflect the real problem of easy access to guns, some state Governors have issued orders for our at home military to be armed. Of course, we now know that at least one of the victims of the Chattanooga shooting was likely armed. Never mind. Armed citizens are showing up at military centers to “guard” our military. I wrote about this one in my last post. It’s not going well so far.)

Every time another of these shootings occur, a whole population of Americans have flash backs and PTSD. It happens. A friend wrote this article about her own experience with gun violence and why the shootings cause her to experience PTSD:

I started working as an activist to prevent gun violence in December 2012 after the devastating shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary school in which a 20-year-old man shot and killed 20 children and six adult staff. I felt I could no longer sit idly by as this epidemic ravaged my country — especially after my own experience more than a decade earlier. My PTSD-fueled visions were turning into nightmares of guns pointing at my own children’s heads. And that’s when I knew I had to do something.

What makes my job so damn hard — aside from the powerful and greedy gun lobby — is that I’m caught in what seems a never-ending cycle of gun-related violence, and it seems I can’t do it. I am caught in a perpetual state of drop-everything-and-rapidly-respond to another shooting.

My typical response, like many I know, is to feel a rush of anger at yet another shooting. Our legislators need to recognize that our system is bleeding — quite literally shot to hell. (…)

But this time, I am not angry. And that scares me. This time I feel helpless and I want to run away. Maybe it’s because I’m hosting a friend from New Zealand where they don’t have the epidemic of gun-related violence like we have here.

It has made me think about moving, about leaving the country.

Imagine what life would be like not having to worry whenever I take my kids to see a movie or send them off to school.

Imagine life without gun violence.

“Imagine a life without gun violence.”

Sigh.

But I digress. I got to thinking about the victims, PTSD, violence, epidemics, hapless politicians, the poisonous corporate gun lobby, my sister, families of victims of domestic violence who I know, families of victims of mass shootings who I know, families of victims of gun suicides who I know……

Where was I?

Oh yes,- the Lafayette theater shooting. The shooter was a prohibited purchaser but supposedly bought his gun legally. What does that mean? Let’s look at this article:

In between, Houser assembled a file that will tell one of two important policy stories when the still ongoing investigations are incomplete. Either Houser will stand as a case study in how far a person can go without being barred from gun ownership — or become the latest reminder of the missing records that hobble the federal background check system. (…)

But on its own, the emergency petition that led to H0user’s stay at West Central would not necessarily prohibit him from gun ownership under the federal law that regards involuntary psychiatric commitments as grounds for banning someone from possessing firearms. For that to happen, a judge must take the next step and order extended hospital time. And for Houser, the records trail (at last for now) goes cold at that critical juncture. The relevant probate records are sealed and cannot be made public by the court.

While Houser’s family was asking that he be committed for psychiatric care, they were also seeking a temporary protective order barring him from any contact with them. That court filing cites “various acts of family violence” and states that Houser’s wife had “become so worried about the defendant’s volatile mental state that she has removed all guns and/or weapons from their marital residence.”  A subsequent, handwritten court record indicates that the temporary protective order was lifted on May 8, 2008. 

Some states have laws that command persons subjected to a protective order to relinquish their guns while the order is in place. Georgia, the state where Houser’s family lives and the order was filed, is not one of them, according to a 2014 report from the Center for American Progress. Houser’s home state of Alabama has a similar lack of restrictions. In 2014, the Louisiana State Legislature passed a law prohibiting the possession of firearms “by persons who are the subject of protective orders or permanent injunctions involving domestic violence.” However, the law only applies to cohabitating spouses and permanent restraining orders. Houser, who was estranged from (but allegedly sometimes stalked) his family and had only a temporary order against him, would not have been affected.

The shooter was denied an Alabama permit to carry a gun in 2006. But:

With the 2013 passage of legislation backed by the National Rifle Association, Alabama went from a “may issue” to a “shall issue” system for concealed carry permits, taking away some of sheriffs’ discretion. And none of the behaviors that led the sheriff’s office to reject his bid for a pistol permit would have caused him to fail a federal background check before buying a gun.

What might — might — have was a judge’s order of involuntary psychiatric commitment, which brings the events of April 2008 back to the fore.

If the judge in the case didn’t order more hospital time, that could explain Houser’s legal gun purchase in 2014. The other possibility: The involuntary commitment was ordered, but the record never made it into the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Georgia is among the worst performing states when it comes to forwarding mental health records to the federal database, according to an analysis by Everytown for Gun Safety. (Everytown is a seed donor to The Trace.)

2 are dead and at least 7 injured as a result of a fatal flaw in our background check system.

Where is common sense?

Governor Jindal?

Congress?

That’s what I thought. Silence. Denial. Pandering.

Disgusting and shameful.

We are better than this.

Here is what LouisianaGovernor Bobby Jindal, Republican candidate for President, said about gun laws and the loopholes that allowed for the shooter to get his gun:

Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana called for tougher gun laws in other states on Sunday, breaking his silence on the issue three days after a gunman with a history of mental illness and violence opened fire in a movie theater in the state’s fourth-largest city.

Gun control has become a prominent subject on the presidential campaign trail after the shooting on Thursday in Lafayette became the third mass shooting in six weeks in the United States. Mr. Jindal, who received an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association, is one of 16 candidates seeking the Republican nomination for 2016. (…)

Until Sunday, Mr. Jindal and most of his Republican rivals had deflected questions in recent days over whether the killings reflected a need for tighter gun control laws. On CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Mr. Jindal called for states to adopt laws similar to Louisiana’s that feed information about mental illness into a federal background check system for potential gun buyers.

“I think every state should strengthen their laws,” he said. “Every state should make sure this information is being reported in the background system. We need to make sure that background system is working. Absolutely, in this instance, this man never should have been able to buy a gun.”

Hmmm, OK. We could give Governor Jindal credit for at least attempting to say the right thing under pressure. What he didn’t say might be more important to the discussion. Clearly the Lafayette shooting exposes the flaws in our system brought to us by gun lobby bought and paid for politicians like Jindal. Does he really think we will turn the other cheek and pretend he didn’t just sign into law some of the weakest gun laws in the country? Does he think we don’t know that Louisiana has one of the highest gun homicide and gun death rates in the country? From the linked article above:

The state doesn’t require background checks on private sales, even for assault weapons; doesn’t require gun owners to register their firearms; and doesn’t have a limit on the number of firearms that can be purchased at one time, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. As for gun violence, the state has the second-highest gun death rate in the nation, according to an analysis of the latest National Vital Statistics report. Louisiana’s lax oversight also enables firearms trafficking to other states, in which it ranks fifteenth in the nation, and 28 percent of guns wind up in criminals’ hands within two years of sale—almost six points above the national average.

Jindal has worked to weaken the state’s already lax gun control by signing a wave of bills in 2013 and 2014. He broadened the “Stand Your Ground” law to protect shooters who hurt, but don’t kill, someone they feel is threatening. He allowed concealed weapons in places that serve alcohol. He banned public access to the personal information of concealed handgun permit owners. He approved guns in churches. And he allowed Louisianans to apply for lifetime concealed-carry permits.

The hypocrisy oozes out of his mouth. Will he get away with it or will the public and the media keep asking questions and keep making politicians responsible for their own actions.

The time is NOW to talk about our gun violence epidemic. We don’t need lying and pandering. We need action. But of course the gun lobby and its’ bought and paid for politicians think we will believe them when they say the time to talk about gun violence is not after a wave of gun violence. A Washington Post article talks about why now is the time:

There are good reasons for legislative restraint in the aftermath of emotional tragedies. You probably don’t want lawmakers drafting bad legislation in a panic to do something, anything, in response to a public outcry.

On the other hand, as the shootings continue and the body count rises, the inevitable counter-argument becomes: if not now, when? Jindal didn’t want to talk gun laws last month, after Charleston. He doesn’t want to talk about them this month, after Lafayette. It’s only a matter of time before the next national tragedy strikes and sets the national gun clock back to zero again. And it will likely happen sooner than you think.

The Mass Shootings Tracker, a crowd-sourced tally of mass shootings maintained by the GunsAreCool subreddit, shows that we haven’t gone more than eight days without a mass shooting in the U.S. since the start of 2015 — that doesn’t leave a lot of time to grieve and regroup between shootings. We’ve averaged exactly one mass shooting per day since the start of the year. Forty eight days saw more than one mass shooting take place. On 18 days there were at least 3 shootings. On three days this year — April 18, June 13 and July 15 — there have been five shootings. (…) In the end, it often seems that the goal is to put off the conversation about the role of guns in America or quibble about methodology while the number of people killed or injured by guns rises. On the other hand, some people, like the Telegraph’s Dan Hodges, argue that we’ve already had the conversation, and that it’s already over. They may be right.

Here is what Dan Hodges tweeted that got the attention of the writer of the article above:

Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 12.12.30 PM

Indeed. Have we decided that the massacre of 20 small school children is bearable. What have we become in order to satisfy a well funded corporate gun lobby’s appetite for power, influence and sales of weapons? Have we become the country reflected in the cartoon at the top of this post? The question has to be asked and answered. For what we do about this epidemic of gun violence reflects our values and who we are as a country.

We just have to decide what the price is for our insane gun culture as this writer is wondering: 

How much is one innocent life worth? Ten gun buyers waiting a few minutes longer to purchase a firearm? 25 buyers? 100?

I’m not going to tell you about how other countries have faced similar crises and collectively made the decision to enact reform. We aren’t other countries. As Americans we deal with issues at our own rate based on our own values.

Instead, I’ll point to an issue that the South just tackled: the Confederate flag. Since revisionist historians started to recast the role of the South in the Civil War in the late 1800s, it was pretty much an accepted fact that people were too divided over the flag for anything to ever change.

…and then it did. In a matter of weeks, the Confederate flag was relegated to the dustbin of history in South Carolina and companies that understood its harmful symbolism to so many Americans began pulling products from their shelves.

The change came at the cost of nine more innocent lives, but it happened. (…)

Our lack of action as a country suggests that we don’t value the lives of innocent Americans over the minutes of inconvenience that potential gun buyers might face. So unless we are willing to start telling our elected leaders to pass background check reform, we might as well continue to just haggle over the price of innocent lives.

Lives matter. Laws matter. Background checks or lack thereof matter. The proof is screaming at us. Are we listening?

We could listen to the voices of the victims. How about the video of one of the Lafayette shooting victims, Jillian Johnson, singing with her group in this lovely and moving tribute to her and her life. The victims have names. They have families. They had jobs, husbands, aspirations, opinions….. until suddenly they don’t.

We just have to be better than this.

Once a week….shootings

tiredmomAmerica is fatigued. One mass shooting a week- or at least that gets media attention. First Charleston. Then Chattanooga and now Lafayette, Louisiana. 3 are dead ( the gunman shot himself) and 9 injured in yet another theater shooting. The dust hasn’t settled yet on the trial of the other theater mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado yet and we are having flashbacks of the 12 killed and 70 injured in that shooting.

From the above linked article:

They described the shooter as a 58-year-old “lone white male” with a criminal history but did not immediately disclose his name. Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said the gunman was by himself and started the rampage by shooting the two people sitting in front of him.

At least one theatergoer described the attack, saying an older man stood up about 20 minutes into the 7:10 p.m. showing of the movie “Trainwreck” at the Grand 16 theater in Lafayette and began shooting.

Sound familiar? A lone white male. Someone with a criminal history who had a gun.

Sigh.

Yawn.

Congress?

Louisiana has the highest rate of gun deaths in the country:

An analysis of the data published Wednesday (June 18) by the Violence Policy Center found high rates gun deaths in Louisiana and other states correlates with weak gun protection laws and high gun ownership. The VPC, which bills itself as a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury, also found states with stronger gun control laws and less gun ownership had lower rates of gun deaths. (…) In an unusual move for Louisiana, the state Legislature and Jindal have agreed to enact one new gun restriction. Domestic abusers under a legal protective order will be prevented from owning a gun for 10 years under a new law that will go into effect Aug. 1.

This happened in 2014.

Guns matter. Laws matter.

Gun free zones? Much is talked about recently because of the Chattanooga shooting at 2 military establishments that were “gun free” zones. And yet, according to new reports, one of the military members shot back at the shooter:

At a news conference here, the F.B.I. confirmed that at least one service member shot at the attacker, but did not say whether he had managed to wound the gunman, Mohammod Abdulazeez, who was killed minutes later in a shootout with the Chattanooga police.

“A service member from inside the facility observed him and opened fire on him, firing several rounds at him,” said Edward W. Reinhold, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Knoxville office. Two guns belonging to service members were recovered from the scene, he said, and “at least one of those weapons had been discharged.”

So much for the argument that the Chattanooga military facilities were gun free zones. But armed citizens have taken it upon themselves to “protect” these “gun free zones”. It hasn’t gone well so far. An Ohio “good guy” with a gun “accidentally shot off his AR-15 while “guarding” a military facility there. So much for more guns making us safer. From the article:

A police report said 28-year-old Christopher Reed was holding the rifle outside the recruiting station near the River Valley Mall in Lancaster, about 40 miles southeast of Columbus, at about noon when someone asked to look at the weapon. While Reed was clearing the ammunition from the rifle, he accidentally fired a shot into the pavement.

Reed was given a summons to appear in court on a misdemeanor charge of discharging a firearm within the city limits. A call to a number listed for him in the police report rang unanswered.

Sigh.

The military is treating these armed folks as potential danger. I wonder why?

So far the gun extremists are yelling that the Louisiana theater was a “gun free zone”. Not sure about that. If theaters have policies not allowing guns, they do so for a reason. Allowing people with guns inside a dark and crowded theater is just not a good idea. Small children and families go to movies. Why the need for a gun? Could someone really have stopped this shooter once he took everyone by surprise when he stood up and started firing? What does the average person do when hearing a gunshot and observing a shooter? Run to get away. That’s the natural and usual response. Firing back in a crowded dark theater with people running around? Ludicrous. But in addition, this Florida concealed carry permit holder shot an innocent young father over texting and popcorn at a movie theater. Tragic. The “good guy” with a gun didn’t do so well in this case, did he?

So yes, let’s allow those “good guys” with guns in our theaters. Clearly those folks will stop shooters and protect themselves and others.

Meanwhile, the shootings that don’t make national news?

Michigan boy shoots and kills brother.

10 year old Louisiana boy shot and killed himself with gun he accessed at home.

14 year old Kansas teen shoots and injures another teen.

A weird California case resulted in law enforcement finding 1200 guns stashed in a dead man’s home.

In Georgia a man killed his wife, her 2 children and himself.

Where do the guns come from? Why do kids and teens have such easy access to guns? Why do domestic disputes too often end in death by firearm? Why does anyone “need” 1200 guns?

There are many more where these came from. But I’m tired of this. Aren’t you? Shouldn’t we be addressing our nation’s serious epidemic of shootings by talking about strengthening our laws? Shouldn’t we be changing the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in a country at war with itself? More than 80 Americans a day are dying from gunshot injuries including homicide, suicide and accidents. This is a uniquely American tragedy. It’s a gun culture brought to us by the corporate gun lobby and their bought and paid for politicians.

We’re tired of the daily news about shootings. We are fatigued and battle weary with the media coverage and breaking news. That doesn’t mean we are worn down however. What it means is that we need to wake up and do something. We need to demand change.

This shooting left 2 more families grieving for a loved one shot in a senseless act of violence not seen in any other democratized country not at war. It left the injured with life long memories and maybe life long disabilities. It left those in the theater traumatized by the idea that they could have been one of the victims. It has left us all with a feeling of dread.

We don’t need more guns in more places as a “solution” to our problem of too many shootings. We need to keep guns away from those who shouldn’t have them in the first place and consider the actual problem that too many guns in too many places is posing for the public health and safety of Americans. We are not helpless to solve the problem. Only our elected leaders are in that position. And they are in the position to change things as well. The rest of us need to be pro-active in changing the conversation and demanding change.

We are better than this.

Where is common sense?

UPDATE:

A father , Peter Read, who lost his daughter in the Virginia Tech shooting has written a great blog about “gun free zones”.  From the blog post:

Now it’s routine for gun lobby commentators and politicians to blame mass shootings on the existence of so-called “gun-free zones.” This is a red herring, pushed by the gun lobby to advance a “guns everywhere” agenda, which insults the dead and mocks the living by reducing tragedy to a mere trope.

It’s past time to lay this fallacy to rest.

In our case, Virginia Tech had routine police presence in and around campus, which the gunman even accounted for in his planning. It’s pointless to debate what hypothetically could have happened if a student or teacher carried a concealed firearm in Norris Hall that day, because nobody will ever know. But such a debate misses the main point: Mary, and everyone else, would have been far safer if the shooter had been unable to obtain a gun in the first place.

In Chattanooga, everyone at the recruiting center, the first attack scene, survived despite a hail of rapid long gun fire, because the combat veterans present followed their active shooter training and helped others to shelter and to evacuate the building. In their case, effective training and quick thinking, not the presence of a gun, made the difference. Only time will tell what exactly happened at the second scene, but official accounts so far indicate our service members’ brave actions and teamwork probably saved lives.

“So-called ‘gun-free zones’ are not the problem, and victim-blaming is not a solution.”

So-called “gun-free zones” do not make people more vulnerable to gun violence. The fact is, 86% of mass shootings – which the FBI defines as four or more murders – occur elsewhere, such as at home, in the streets, or in workplaces, according to research byEverytown for Gun Safety. Many of these shootings relate to domestic violence, and more than half the victims of mass shootings are women. Many of these mass shootings never grab national headlines. You may not know this, but a mass shooting that killed two adults and two teenagers, and left an eight-year-old boy fighting for his life, happened just this month in a private home in Holly Hill, South Carolina.

So-called “gun-free zones” are not the problem, and victim-blaming is not a solution. Dangerous people’s continued access to guns is the problem, largely due to the gun lobby’s extreme agenda which harms everyone, including law-abiding gun owners, military members, and law enforcement. So let’s work on the real problem, together.

The solution is to strengthen our common-sense gun violence prevention laws, like legislation pending in Congress right now to ensure background checks occur on all gun sales. It won’t prevent every tragedy – nothing will – but it would go a long way toward making Americans safer.

The aftermath of the Chattanooga mass shooting

puzzle piecesAs always, after mass shootings, people on both sides start offering solutions. The most common sense solution to come from this particular shooting is to expand our background check system to require background checks on all gun sales. Why? It’s just a good idea in general. But the Chattanooga shooter got many of his guns through the Internet site, Armslist.com where buyers and sellers can be connected to make gun sales.

You can check what guns are available for sale in your own state or city by clicking on the site and going to your state. Then you can click on private party and see that many, if not most, of the guns sold on this site are sold by private parties where background checks are not required. That’s just crazy. I checked on my own state of Minnesota for today and here is what I found. There are 6 handguns listed for sale for today, all from private parties.

Clearly we have a problem. The interesting thing about Internet sales is that the gun rights extremists are in denial about how they work. They make claims that all guns purchased on the Internet have to be picked up at a federally licensed firearms dealer. That, of course, is only for those purchased at a gun dealer on-line. The sites like Armslist are for connecting buyers with sellers and so have no requirement that background checks will be required. This is a dangerous market place for selling guns and we know that other shooters have bought guns from this site. If we don’t do anything about this, more dangerous people will purchase guns this way and it will be legal because we have not made it illegal. That is unacceptable. Lives can be saved. Not to do so by stopping these kinds of sales is not only irresponsible, it is negligent.

It’s vitally important to look towards background checks to save lives. The Charleston shooter who massacred 9 innocent black people in a church, should not have been able to purchase his gun. But an error in our FBI NICS system allowed the sale to go through. Had he been unable to get that gun at the gun dealer, he could easily have used a private sale on an Internet site or found a private seller at a gun show or other venue. This is not a puzzle. It’s solvable. Let’s put the pieces together.

Instead, the other solution now in the news is to arm all state side military members so they can protect themselves. There are many reasons why this is NOT a good idea. This article from The Trace explains it”:

Most service members — 99 percent of airmen, 88 percent of sailors, and about two-thirds of soldiers and Marines — are not in direct combat roles, but instead are technical workers whose specialties support those “tip of the spear” troops. These include navigators, supply clerks, water purification specialists, and camera crews. Roughly the same breakdown applies to the backgrounds of recruiters and reservists. Practically speaking, this means that your average military member’s firearms experience may only go as far as some boot camp familiarization with a service rifle on a “static range,” plinking at paper targets to qualify for a marksmanship ribbon. Some servicesare more stringent than others — “every Marine is a rifleman,” the old saw goes, but even most Marines only qualify annually in the narrow realm of target marksmanship, not tactical handgunning or law enforcement uses of firearms. Civilians may believe that all members of the military are “stone-cold killer weapons experts,” as former Army Special Forces officer and Pentagon official Steven P. Bucci told the Boston Globe, but their files say otherwise.

The upshot is that your average service member is more qualified than most civilians to handle guns, but no more qualified to neutralize an active shooter than the average professional mechanic is to race the Daytona 500.

And they don’t need to be, because most military sites have dedicated baseDepartment of Defense police and military members like MPs and masters-at-arms who specialize in armed law enforcement. (…) The result of all of the above: Hardly any military office meets the definition of a “gun-free zone,” but every military office does observe strict discipline on gun use. “Arming DoD personnel with firearms shall be limited and controlled,” the policy states, limiting armaments to “qualified personnel” — those who apply and qualify to carry weapons, then undergo special training — “when required for assigned duties and there is reasonable expectation that DoD installations, property, or personnel lives or DoD assets will be jeopardized if personnel are not armed.” When determining if those conditions are met, commanders are required to consider “the possible consequences of accidental or indiscriminate use of those arms.”

And more about why arming all military as a bad idea just as arming all citizens is ( from the article):

That’s to say nothing of other shootings — such as the 2013 Navy Yard murders or multiple fatal killings at Fort Bragg, home of the Army’s airborne and special forces — perpetrated by the very same uniformed and civilian military personnel that conservatives seek to arm. Dating back to 1994, there had been 20 shootings on or around military installations before the Chattanooga tragedy. All of them were committed by disgruntled uniformed or civilian military workers. As one Navy training brief on active-shooter situations points out: “Most attackers had no history of prior violent or criminal behavior.”

Beyond the practical concerns about an increase in accidents and criminal killings, military planners have another reason to be sanguine about arming service members en masse: It poses an inherent risk to civil liberties in the United States. Since the late 1800s, the Posse Comitatus Act has limited the federal government’s ability to use military members to carry out domestic law enforcement duties. It originated in the rollback of Reconstruction-era policing of the South, but since then, the law has been widely praised as a safeguard against federal martial law on the streets of America. Second Amendment advocates who often defend personal firearms ownership as a check against government abuse and tyranny would likely be among the first Americans to criticize arming domestic military members wholesale in the name of “security.”

Isn’t this exactly what the gun rights extremists are afraid of? A heavily armed government is going to come for their guns. There will be tyranny so they prepare themselves by arming up. Perhaps the “solution” to arm all military who serve in non combat roles in our own country will give the gun nuts even more fuel for their crazy and paranoid ideas about the government surely out to get them. This will drive up gun sales yet again. It’s a vicious circle for sure.

And the article ends with the obvious:

But arming all military workers everywhere is not one of those sensible new measures. At best, it’s the gut feeling of a car repairman in Connecticut and the political stumpers that pander to him; at worst, it’s the xenophobic expression of pathos by conservative chickenhawks. One of their more ornery (or, possibly, more honest) spokesmen, actor and right-wing activist James Woods, displayed the latter sensibility on Twitter last week. “Chattanooga exposes AGAIN several liberal fallacies,” he wrote. “‘Gun free zones’ are ‘safe’; military shouldn’t be armed; POTUS cares about military.”

This is a particular gun-loving, Islam-fearing ideology taken to its logical conclusion. By this logic, every inch of public space in America is an active battleground, and every American who opposes the militarization of that space (including war-worn Army brass like Odierno) hates America and its troops. It is precisely the sort of emotional argument for a perpetual combat footing that shouldn’t be mixed with lethal weaponry, proffered by precisely the sort of sideline sitters who would never take part in the war. Actual military security experts know better.

Having an armed American is just not going to make us safer. We need to come up with other solutions to the problem of armed people who shouldn’t be on the ready to attack military facilities, movie theaters, schools, shopping malls, and churches.

This does not have to be a puzzle. The pieces fit if we make them and have the will to work on it. But so far, even after the recent mass shootings in Charleston and now Chattanooga, we are not doing what needs to be done for public health and safety.

Proactive and preventative measures, like background checks for all guns sales,  have the most chance of saving lives. It’s time for us to get to work to stop the next mass shooting and the next domestic shooting and the next time someone shoots a disabled veteran with his own gun while he is guarding sea turtle nests. Our insane gun culture, thanks to the corporate gun lobby and its’ bought and paid for politicians, is coming home to roost. It’s time for a change. Let’s get to work for we are better than this.

And I would be remiss if I did not ask for a moment to think about the victims of the Aurora theater shooting, 3 years ago today. The shooter was just found guilty by a jury just last week so the families have had some sense of relief. But today, they remember the 12 of their loved ones who were shot dead by a young man who should not have had access to guns and ammunition. And 70 more were wounded.

Breaking news- mass shootings and gun insanity as far as the eye can see.

Latest News - Gold 3D Words on Digital Background.

On Thursday of this week, the breaking news was all about mass shootings. One could not look at any news media without the interrupted programming reporting about the shooting of Marines at a Naval recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. And today, the news is that another victim has died of the injuries sustained in Thursday’s mass shooting. Also on that day, the jury of the Aurora theater shooting trial returned a guilty verdict. Common sense happened. In addition, there was news about the upcoming trial of the Charleston church mass shooter. America was consumed by mass shooting.

What we didn’t hear about that day was that 80 other Americans died from gunshot injuries and hundreds more sustained injuries. What the news media did’t talk about was a spree shooting in Maine that killed 2 and injured 5. How did this guy get his gun, by the way?

Will there be a day when we won’t be talking about another mass shooting? When will we do something about all of this? Congress took a break from their work while families were grieving and people were being shot. This statement from the Brady Campaign is perfect:

The two stories dominating news headlines across the country both center on the issue of gun violence – an epidemic that kills 89 people in America every day, and injures hundreds more. Congress’ response to a grieving nation: another three-day weekend.

“Today marks one month from the Charleston church shooting, while just yesterday four Marines were killed while serving their country on US soil and the Aurora movie theater shooter was convicted for murdering twelve people. Gun violence leads the news today in every congressional district in America, and this doesn’t count local shooting incidents that fail to make national news,” said Brady Campaign President Dan Gross. “The issue of gun violence is very much on the public’s mind and the last thing Congress should be doing is taking another break. Our elected leaders should make it a priority to take immediate action to keep guns out of the wrong hands and that starts by taking a vote on H.R. 1217.”

Isn’t it time for them to get to work on solving one of our country’s most pressing public health and safety problems? When 32,000 Americans die in one year from gun injuries, isn’t it time to break out common sense, put our collective heads together and start working on solutions? For there are solutions and we are ignoring them.

I write often about, at the least, requiring background checks for all gun sales. 92% of Americans, and yes, even gun owners, favor this solution. Why is this not the solution? Why would we even think about allowing anyone who purchases a deadly weapon to not go through a background check? It’s insane.

A group of faith leaders has written about another solution and is imploring President Obama to use it in this New York Times piece:

For more than a year, we and fellow religious leaders across the nation have worked to persuade President Obama to use what we believe is the most powerful tool government has in this area: its purchasing power. The federal government is the nation’s top gun buyer. It purchases more than a quarter of the guns and ammunition sold legally in the United States. State and local law enforcement agencies also purchase a large share. Major gun manufacturers depend on these taxpayer-funded purchases. For the government to keep buying guns from these companies — purchases meant to ensure public safety — without making demands for change is to squander its leverage.

Some of the leading brands of handguns purchased by the government — Glock, Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer, Beretta, Colt, Sturm, Ruger & Company — are also leading brands used in crimes. Among the brands of handguns recovered by the Chicago Police Department at crime scenes between January 2012 and October 2013, all six of these companies ranked in the top 11. When police officers carrying Glocks are recovering Glocks at crime scenes on a regular basis, shouldn’t this prompt questions about whether the police department could use its influence to reduce the number of guns that end up in the hands of criminals? When Smith & Wessons turn up frequently in the hands of criminals, shouldn’t questions be asked when Smith & Wesson seeks a contract with the federal government?

There are specific suggestions made by these faith leaders that could lead to safer practices of selling guns to make sure guns don’t fall into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. Why would we not require these gun dealers to more accountable for what they are doing? They are selling deadly weapons designed to kill people.

Along the line of common sense solutions suggested in the above linked piece is another article that highlights the gun sale policies of Walmart, the nation’s largest seller of guns:

Current federal guidelines offer dealers a degree of discretion in the small percentage of cases where background checks don’t clear within two hours and are placed under review, after which many retailers will opt to proceed with the sale even if an approval or denial hasn’t been issued when the three-day mark passes. Walmart’s own background check policies have surpassed federal requirements since 2002, when the company decided that it would no longer sell guns to customers without a completed approval from NICS. The company refuses to sell a gun without a concrete all-clear from the federal system.

“The fact is, a gun dealer is not required to sell a gun to anybody,” Jonathan Lowy, director of the Legal Action Project of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, tells The Trace. In default proceed sales, he argues, it’s safer not to. In a 2000 FBI study, the agency found that a person whose background check takes over 24 hours to complete is also 20 times more likely to be a prohibited purchaser. “Walmart realized that it’s just not good practice as a responsible corporate citizen to supply guns to those people,” says Lowy.

Walmart, the nation’s largest gun retailer, sells rifles, shotguns, and ammunition in some 1,700 outlets. (It doesn’t offer handguns, except in the state of Alaska.) In 2008, the company adopted even more rigorous standards by implementing a 10-point code of conduct as part of a partnership with the gun safety group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. In addition to refusing default proceed sales, Walmart agreed to videotape all firearm transactions, require background checks for all employees handling or selling guns, and create a system to trace guns sold by the company that are later linked to crimes, among other measures. (Mayors Against Illegal Guns is an earlier iteration of Everytown for Gun Safety, a seed donor of The Trace.)

Other gun dealers need to follow these simple good practices when selling guns. Lives depend on it.

Making sure kids and teens don’t access guns can also save lives. The ASK campaign is all about asking if there are loaded, unsecured guns in the homes where your kids play and hang out. Making sure if you are gun owners yourself, you do the same, is crucial.

The solution is not more guns, by the way. There is absolutely no evidence that works. In fact the opposite is likely true. For example, this Georgia navy recruiter accidentally shot himself in the leg with his personal weapon carried into a recruiting center. But now, of course, Republican Presidential candidates and gun rights activists are suggesting that if only those Chattanooga victims would have had guns, they could have protected themselves.

Pandering.

How would that have worked? The shooter shot from a distance spraying the buildings with bullets and it happened by surprise as these events always do. Perhaps military members working in these facilities should be armed but armed and trained. But even then, it may not stop the next armed attacker from spraying bullets from a distance. Like in any situation where a gunman shows up, chaos ensues and more guns do not ensure more safety and fewer deaths.

Even armed officers and law enforcement are shot and killed or injured in “guns allowed” zones. One of the first victims in Chattanooga was an armed police officer who was injured and couldn’t stop the shooter. I have written often about the shootings of armed officers in Tacoma, Washington, Pittsburgh, New York and other places.

Arming more people is not the answer. The answer is to have fewer armed citizens. There are far too many guns circulating in America. There are far too many people who shouldn’t be abel to have guns who can access them far too easily. The evidence is mounting that in America we make it easy for shooters like the Aurora shooter, the Columbine shooters, the Charleston shooter, the Chattanooga shooter, the Sandy Hook shooter and all of the others to gain access to deadly weapons.

A new study that draws the same conclusion as others, finds that guns for self defense are used very infrequently and that, indeed, do not actually make much difference and could make things worse for the gun owners. From the article in The Trace:

Despite these advantages, even the NCVS is almost certainly overestimating defensive gun use. The fact is that defensive gun use is an inherently rare phenomenon: Any survey, no matter how well designed, will produce a final estimate that is much higher than its true incidence because of false positives. Not only is this a well-established statistical phenomenon, it’s also supported by new data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) — the most comprehensive and systematic effort to catalog every publicly available defensive gun use report — which finds that there were fewer than 1,600 verified DGUs in 2014.

In response to GVA data, pro-gun advocates have been forced to argue that the reason researchers can barely find .064 percent of the 2.5 million DGUs a year claimed by Kleck and Gertz is because virtually nobody reports their defensive gun use to the police. This argument is problematic. For starters, it would seem to imply that the vast majority of people using guns in self-defense are irresponsible citizens who use their firearm to ward off an attempted crime, and then, perhaps uncertain about the legality of their action, are leery of interacting with the police. It would also imply that while these citizens ostensibly stopped a crime serious enough to justify brandishing a firearm, they aren’t at all concerned about informing the police about a criminal who remains on the street.

The only thing we can know for sure is what we have empirical data on: Namely, that there is a reliable floor for defensive gun use estimates at around 1,600 a year. In addition, according to the most recent data on defensive gun use, we have reliable evidence showing that owning a firearm does not give individuals any significant advantage in a criminal confrontation, and they are no less likely to lose property or be injured by using a gun in self defense.

Facts matter. We need to re-think our insane gun culture and the claims made by the corporate gun lobby. For saving lives is the most important thing we can do and if the facts point to stronger gun laws and discussing the role of guns and gun violence in our communities that don’t fit with the claims made otherwise, it’s time to change the conversation.

As if to punctuate the evidence about our daily news and breaking news reports about shootings, Everytown for Gun Safety has a new report about the trends in mass shootings and other shootings. It is not a pretty picture. You can read the facts for yourself but surely the report reveals that more guns and more easy access to guns had made our country far less safe. Let’s look at just one fact, though, considering the shootings of the past few weeks:

Here’s some further evidence to support this point. Last year, Media Matters noted that response rates to mass shootings are generally within minutes of the first shot fired. During the September 2013 Navy Yard shooting which claimed 13 lives, for example, local police arrived within two to three minutes and members of the Yard’s armed security force had already fired at the shooter but failed to stop him. In 2012, Mother Jones found absolutely no evidence that even a single mass shooter had considered whether someone in the area could legally be carrying a firearm. Instead, shooters choose locations based on their personal connection to the site — and don’t seem to care much about whether someone might be firing back at them. Perhaps that’s because many mass shooters are suicidal; Everytown says that in 42% of incidents, the shooter killed themselves.

Facts matter. We can’t let this trend continue.

Today is my birthday. I have much to be thankful for. So today I will celebrate with the usual cards, birthday cake, time with friends, calls from family and time at our beloved cabin on a lake.

Too many people will not be celebrating birthdays. Too many families will not be able to celebrate the birthdays of their loved ones, killed by gun violence. It’s all around us.

We are better than this.

UPDATE:

This article about an Oregon felon arrested with guns and ammunition is the poster child for everything that’s wrong with our American gun culture:

Broke told police that he had the gun “out of concern for his safety because of all the guns on the street,” court documents state.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Gun odds and ends

odditiesThere are so many articles and incidents every day that I really don’t know where to begin most of the time when deciding on a topic for a post. So today I am going to just write about odds and ends. Because the American gun issue is so complicated and full of controversies and oddities, it seems appropriate to write about the oddities and then also about the ends that can help change the oddities in our gun laws and our unique gun culture.

Let’s start with police shootings in other countries, most especially Norway as written in this article:

Police in Norway fired their guns only twice last year – and no one was hurt – new statistics which reveal the country’s low level of gun use have shown.

Norwegian officers drew their weapons just 42 times in 2014, the lowest number of times in the last 12 years. Only two people were killed in police shootings in the same period.

The majority of Norway’s police, like forces in Britain, Ireland and Iceland, patrol unarmed and carry guns only under special circumstances.

In the US, where officers are armed at all times, 547 people have been killed by police during the first six months of 2015 alone, 503 of them by gunshot.

Why isn’t this proof that more guns have not made us safer? It is, of course but the gun lobby can’t deal with this truth. No other country has the insane culture of that of the U.S., thank goodness. And more, about officers themselves being shot:

US police are faced with greater day-to-day violence than most developed countries. In 2013, 30 officers were fatally shot while on duty.

The last time a British officer was killed by gunshot was in 2012 when two female police constables were shot in Manchester.

Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said in a statement at the time, “Sadly we know from the experience in America and other countries that having armed officers certainly does not mean, sadly, that police officers do not end up getting shot.”

So there’s that oddity. But the post hasn’t ended. Now I want to talk about “good guys” with guns in my neck of the woods. The following article is a caution to anyone who wants to mow their lawn too early in the morning:

A 57-year-old Ely man was charged July 6 in State District Court in Virginia after admitting to police that he pointed a shotgun at another man mowing a lawn.

James Brobin was arrested July 2 in Ely after a victim and another witness said Brobin raised a shotgun at the man mowing grass on the corner of Central Avenue and East Harvey Street in Ely. (…)

Jason Carlson told Ely police that Brobin came within approximately 20 yards of Carlson and raised the gun for approximately 20 seconds. Carlson and his brother began cutting grass at a residence at approximately 7 a.m.

After he lowered the gun, said the complaint, Brobin “made a slashing motion across his neck with his right hand.” He then walked back across the street and into his home at 13 West Harvey St., said the complaint.

Be careful out there and don’t mow your lawn at 7:00 a.m. We can safely say that this was another “good guy” with a gun until suddenly he wasn’t. I have written about other incidents involving lawnmowers. In this one, also in Minnesota, a woman got hurt over a lawn mower incident:

A Minnesota man ambushed his 17-year-old neighbor, shooting her three times, hours after she asked him to not ride his lawn mower through her yard, prosecutors say.

Chad Pickering, 40, told investigators the teen was “a bitch” who “threatened him” Monday afternoon, before he “went over to (her house) and knelt down by a pine tree … and ‘I waited, and I waited and I waited,’” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.

Apparently lawn mowing can cause enough anger to armed “good guys” with guns that they actually believe they can shoot someone over that anger.

Under the category of “you just can’t make this stuff up” here, now, is a machine gun lawn mower.Let’s take a look:

No words.

It’s hard not to make a comment about this oddity insanity taking place in the state of Texas concerning a military operation. You’ve just got to love the photo of these paranoid armed Texans ready to take on the government. By the way, are these “good guys” with guns? From the article:

Eric Johnston is a retired firefighter and police officer from Arizona currently residing in the Texas Hills region. Johnston decries paranoia, saying “We are not far-wing, ‘Oh God, arm ourselves, get in camouflage, block the streets. We’re doing more of a neighborhood watch kind of thing. We are going to find a central location and set up an area and just cruise the streets, drive up and down the highway through Bastrop…most of us are legal concealed-carry folks, but we’re not going to be running up and down the street with automatic rifles.” This mentality ascends all the way to the governor’s office – as Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor Jade Helm 15 back in April.

Can we think about the “mentality” of even the Governor of Texas?

And speaking of the odd mentality of some people, can we talk about why some people pack guns in their camping gear? This couple found out what a bad idea that was:

The woman, 38, was camping with her boyfriend in Box Elder Canyon of the Stansbury Mountains west of Grantsville when the boyfriend tried to instruct her in firearms use, said Tooele County sheriff’s Lt. Ron Johnson. The woman first tried shooting a BB gun and then moved to a .22-caliber rifle, Johnson said.

“He handed it to her, and she placed it between her legs,” Johnson said. “When she went to stand, she grabbed it around the trigger guard. It discharged into her chin and exited through the bridge of her nose.”

Oops. Clearly we are not safer when there are more guns around. There are way too many irresponsible people handling guns out there. I would say the other campers are lucky that bullet didn’t end anywhere else. If this man was teaching his girlfriend gun safety one has to wonder how responsible he is himself as a gun owner. And we all know that alcohol and guns just don’t mix. Unfortunately this is not an oddity. It’s a normal, almost every day occurrence in our country.

And can we talk about where some of our crime guns come from? An Arizona gun show provided 26 guns to a group of teens who broke into the show venue during the night and stole the guns:

Investigators said about a dozen teens were able to cut through a chain at the east gate of the Central Florida Fairgrounds and make their way into the Orlando Gun Show expo building, smashing through a window with a brick. They walked out with 26 guns.

Oops. Only in America do we have the odd problem practice of thousands of guns being exhibited at large gun shows. Stolen guns end up as crime guns. Obviously this is another one of those things we need to work on to improve gun safety and improve the overall safety of our communities. To that end, I suggest we put our heads together to figure out how to keep guns from being stolen from gun shows, gun shops, homes, cars,etc. When we are awash with guns, this is a serious problem.

Aside from these inanities about people with guns, “accidental” shootings, lawn mowers, Jade Helm, stolen guns and others, let’s look at a real tragedy that could have possibly been averted if we had stronger gun laws. The Charleston shooter should not have been able to get his gun legally from a federally licensed firearms dealer. But here is how he could have been stopped from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence:

  • State Reporting Improvements: Many states fail to report essential information like criminal history, mental health status, domestic violence records, and, especially important in the Charleston case, illicitdrug abuse records to the agencies that perform background checks. Increasing NICS funding and changing federal law to require states to report relevant records to the NICS system will close this dangerous gap in the background checks system.
  • Universal Background Checks: The best way to save lives from gun violence is require background checks on all private sales, including online and at gun shows. South Carolina has abysmal gun laws (we gave them an F on our 2014 Gun Law State Scorecard), and had the Charleston shooter failed his background check at the gun shop (as he should have), he still would have easily been able to purchase a gun through a private sale, where no background check is required. Eighteen states currently have some form of private sale background checks, but until we pass this smart gun law everywhere, we cannot act surprised when dangerous criminals get their hands on deadly weapons so easily.

Dan Gross of the the Brady Campaign has made a similar statement regarding the Charleston shooter’s access to a gun he should not have had in the first place:

“Dylann Roof’s arrest on a drug charge, combined with his admission of prior drug use, should have prevented him from buying a gun, and it’s a tragedy that is not what happened. This news underscores the urgency of the message that Charleston families and the Brady Campaign took to Capitol Hill this week: Congress must vote now on H.R. 1217.

Yes. We can actually do something about the oddities and the insanity of our gun culture.

This editorial in the Washington Post gets right to the point with their title-The argument against common sense gun control crumbles:

Mr. Comey’s revelation should, first, inspire a lot of soul-searching among federal law enforcement. They aren’t responsible for Mr. Roof’s virulent racism, but they failed in the narrow area of responsibility that the nation entrusted to them. Congress has stifled the study of gun violence and theenforcement of gun laws in the past. But this appears to be a the fault of a poorly operating database.

Mr. Comey’s admission should also drive home what should be an obvious point: A tightened, functional background-check system and other simple measures would erect real and practical barriers to people attempting to buy guns for nefarious purposes. If the system had worked correctly in this case, Mr. Roof would have been turned away at the gun store counter. If Congress had tightened up the system’s rules years ago, he would have had a harder time looking elsewhere, such as at gun shows. If federal and state lawmakers weren’t so in thrall to the pro-gun fringe, friends, family members and other potential sources would have faced clear and high penalties for giving Mr. Roof a weapon without taking him to a gun store to get checked out first.

It’s entirely appropriate to talk about imposing basic gun laws in the wake of any mass shooting. All of them underline the fact that guns are shockingly efficient killing machines that no responsible government would ignore. Even if better gun laws wouldn’t prevent every rampage or end street crime, they would certainly cut down on gun deaths from all sorts of causes by making it tougher to obtain and use firearms illegally. (…) But in the case of Mr. Roof, gun activists now can’t easily fall back on the argument that better gun laws couldn’t have helped. Maybe Mr. Roof would have been so determined to start a race war that he would have eventually found a gun. Maybe not. What’s clear is that it didn’t have to be so simple for him. The country should have tried harder to stop him — and should be trying harder to stop the other Dylann Roofs still out there. That means law enforcement can’t be asleep at the switch. And it means that Congress should finally pass more common-sense gun limits that would make it harder to skirt the system.

9 Black men and women are dead. Our background check system has a serious flaw. People who shouldn’t get guns get them anyway. Congress does nothing. People continue to die. And we have a broken system of gun laws fostered by the corporate gun lobby and our own elected leaders. This is not only insane but totally unacceptable and should be at odds with our American values. We just have to be better than this.

UPDATE:

Sadly, I did not think I would have to add one more mass shooting to my list of “odds and ends”. But 5 more Americans are dead, including the shooter, in a shooting in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Here is the statement, in its’ entirety, from the Brady Campaign about the shooting:

“We are shocked and saddened by today’s acts of domestic terrorism at a Navy Reserve center and a military recruitment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. As information continues to unfold, our thoughts are with the victims who are reportedly members of the military and law enforcement, as well as their families and the Chattanooga community.”

“We do not yet know how the shooter obtained his firearm. As the details continue to unfold in Tennessee, it is already clear that this is another reminder of the work that needs to be done to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. We owe it to the men and women at our military installations, in our communities, and to the 89 people killed every day by guns to take action now.”

This has to end.

Law suits and the gun lobby

??????

In 2005 Congress passed a law opposed by many, including the gun violence prevention organizations around the country. It was difficult for the general public and Congress to really grasp. But when the “guys with the guns make the rules” that is often the case. This law is the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms law, aka the Immunity Law ( Gun Industry Immunity). Here is what this law does:

In the years before passage of the act, victims of firearms violence in the United States had successfully sued manufacturers and dealers for negligence on the grounds that they should have foreseen that their products would be diverted to criminal use.[2] The purpose of the act is to prevent firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for negligence when crimes have been committed with their products. However, both manufacturers and dealers can still be held liable for damages resulting from defective products, breach of contract, criminal misconduct, and other actions for which they are directly responsible in much the same manner that any U.S. based manufacturer of consumer products (i.e. automobiles, appliances, power tools, etc.) are held responsible.

Here is more about the law:

While opponents of the measure said it singles out the gun industry for special protection, Mr. LaPierre said the protection is necessary because, unlike auto manufacturers or pharmaceutical companies, American firearms makers “don’t have deep pockets,” and the industry would be at risk simply from the cost of fighting the lawsuits.

But opponents called the bill shameful — “bought and paid for by the N.R.A.,” in the words of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, whose constituents include victims of the 2002 sniper shootings in Washington and its suburbs, called the measure “a cruel hoax” on victims of gun violence.

“I went to a lot of memorial services during that period of time,” Mr. Van Hollen said. “I’ve met with family members. To tell them that their cases were frivolous is, I think, to add insult to injury.”

Eight of the sniper victims or their relatives won a $2.5 million legal settlement from the manufacturer of the gun used in the shootings and the dealer in Washington State who sold it. Mr. LaPierre said that suit would have been permitted under the law passed Thursday. But the lawyer who brought it, Dennis Henigan of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, disagreed.

Mr. Henigan said that while the dealer had violated federal law, the bill would have prevented the suit nonetheless because the violations did not pertain directly to the weapon used in the sniper shootings. He said he intended to challenge the bill on constitutional grounds, arguing that it deprives states of their right to legislate and deprives victims of their right to sue.

As our country is experiencing more, not fewer, gun deaths and injuries and as the mass shootings keep piling up, this Media Matters article wonders why we aren’t paying more attention to this gun lobby law. From the article:

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act favors an industry that, at best, turns a blind eye to business practices that place profit over victims. As Forbes admits, the result is that “gun manufacturers have won double-barreled protection from Congress against the type of lawsuits that bedevil the makers of everything from toys to tractor-trailers.” Although legal experts like Andrew Cohen, posting in The Atlantic, are starting to highlight this unnecessary and unprecedented immunity for the gun industry, further attention would better inform current calls to hold gun companies accountable in court. As leaders of Congress state that “every idea should be on the table” in attempting to prevent another tragedy like the Newtown massacre, major news outlets should investigate why the gun industry remains shielded by law from the consequences of its irresponsible business practices in a way that other industries are not.

For example, the same type of gun used in the Newtown shooting was used by the 2002 Washington, D.C., snipers to shoot more than a dozen people. But if it had been in effect at the time, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act would have blocked the lawsuit filed by the victims against the gun maker and dealer, and prevented the settlement they received. On this point, the questions of Denise Johnson, the widow of one of the snipers’ victims, are still relevant:

I’m confident that the criminal justice system will work to punish the people who killed my husband. But the civil justice system must also be allowed to work. Those who share responsibility for my husband’s death must also be held accountable.

[…]

I and families of other sniper victims have sued these gun sellers. I hope that by holding them accountable, we can cause others to behave more responsibly, and that future tragedies such as mine will be prevented. I understood when I filed the case that I was not guaranteed victory, but that’s OK. All I wanted was my day in court. But if [the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act] is enacted, the courthouse door will be slammed in my face.

No other industry enjoys the protections that the gun industry is seeking. Gun sellers and manufacturers shouldn’t be above the law. If any other product injured my husband and irresponsible sellers played a part, I would be able to bring a case in court. But because Conrad was shot with a gun, my lawsuit would not be allowed. Those who sell guns that are sought by criminals need to be more careful than sellers of other products, not less careful.

I call on Congress to protect my rights and the rights of other victims of gun violence. There’s nothing frivolous about how bad gun dealers behave. And there’s nothing frivolous about my case.

The gun industry does not need to be more protected than any other industry. If victims file law suits, the courts can sort it out like they do for other industries who are sometimes sued by victims who are harmed by a product. The tobacco industry was found to be liable for deleterious health effects caused by their products. The same with the auto industry. Why does Congress treat the gun industry differently?  The corporate gun lobby may complain that they don’t have deep pockets but that is really not the case. The gun industry seems to be thriving thanks in part to the protections it has received from our own elected leaders who are afraid to stand up for the victims. And also thanks to the fear and paranoia sold to some in America that fuels the sale of firearms. And in a sick twist, many of these firearm sales increase after high profile mass shootings.

At some level, our elected leaders must know and understand this information. Do they also know how much gun deaths and injuries cost Americans?  Our leaders need to know it all in order to make informed decisions. There has been controversy in the past week or so about one such leader who happens to be running for President- Senator Bernie Sanders.  Sanders voted in favor of the 2005 law that protects the gun industry and has been having problems because of it. He also voted against the Brady Bill.

The 2005 law has come to the forefront in a recent lawsuit filed by the parents of one of the Aurora theater shooting victims against an ammunition company.  From the article:

A federal judge ordered the parents of a Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting victim to pay court costs and attorney fees as a result of a lawsuit filed last year, and the defendants in the case say the family owes around a quarter of a million dollars. (…)

The lawsuit was part a larger effort by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to expose unscrupulous gun dealers that ignore obvious warning signs and sell to customers with malicious intentions.

The plaintiffs, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter, 24-year-old Jessica Ghawi, was killed in the shooting, filed suit in September, but a senior district judge dismissed the claims last month.

The judge cited the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in the ruling, a law passed in 2005 to shield gun makers and retailers from liability for injuries caused by a third party with their products.

On-line purchases like this are way too easy and come with no background checks:

“We’re different than other cultures,” said Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, which advocates for firearms owners’ rights. “We do allow Americans to possess the accoutrements that our military generally has.”

Gun rights activists like Brown celebrate that freedom, but even some involved in the trade are troubled by how easily Holmes stocked up for his alleged rampage.

Chad Weinman runs TacticalGear.com, which caters to police officers looking to augment their equipment, members of the military who don’t want to wait on permission from the bureaucracy for new combat gear, and hobbyists like survivalists and paintballers. The site receives “thousands” of orders daily, sometimes from entire platoons that are about to deploy to war zones.

On July 2, Holmes placed a $306 order with the site for a combat vest, magazine holders and a knife, paying extra for expedited two-day shipping to his Aurora apartment. The order, Weinman said, didn’t stand out.

“There’s a whole range of consumers who have an appetite for these products, and 99.9 percent of them are law-abiding citizens,” Weinman said. But he said that “it makes me sick” that Holmes bought material from him. He added that he doesn’t sell guns or ammunition and that he was “shocked” at the amount of bullets that Holmes allegedly bought online.

Authorities say all of Holmes’ purchases were legal – and there is no official system to track whether people are stockpiling vast amounts of firepower.

This statement ( above) should concern us: “”There’s a whole range of consumers who have an appetite for these products, and 99.9 percent of them are law-abiding citizens,””. Law abiding or not, why is there an appetite for these products in the first place? Doesn’t that tell us something about our insane American gun culture? Who needs these kinds of products? And if you are law abiding and want them, a background check or further scrutiny should not be a bother to you. But…rights.

Sandy and Lonnie Phillips lost her daughter, Jessica, that night in a movie theater. Her right to live was taken from her in just seconds by a man who could buy hundreds of rounds of ammunition on-line because- rights:

That’s right. Not only does U.S. federal law protect gun makers and sellers from being held responsible for selling arms to nutcases, terrorists and murderers, but the state of Colorado requires plaintiffs to pay them court costs for having the nerve to sue them! (…) The other problem, which Sachs does not specifically mention is that our nation’s lax gun laws — along with laws protecting gun makers and sellers — allow no recourse to victims of the weapons industries and the NRA gun lobby.

Americans can buy anything they want on-line no matter who they are. Guns and ammunition should be treated differently than other products because they are the only product designed to kill people. Why can’t we get this right? High profile shootings often highlight our weak gun laws. The recent Charleston shooting has exposed a flaw in the FBI’s national instant check system:

That is something that should outrage all Americans, black or white, gun owner or non-owner. Polls show voters overwhelming support a background check system that prevents serious criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from owning firearms. Yet the NICS isn’t getting the job done — failing about 228,000 times per year based on the latest FBI numbers. And that’s not even counting the sales from private sellers to private buyers (including those conducted in conjunction with gun shows) that, while restricted in Maryland, are unrestricted in 33 states by last count. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, background checks only cover about 60 percent of gun sales. (…)

As troubling as the Confederate flag may be as a symbol of racism and oppression, a gun in the hands of a criminal or a dangerous psychotic poses a far more imminent danger. Fixing the background check — and closing the private sale loophole on a national basis — is no assault on Second Amendment rights. Rather, it would be a case of making existing law, one that’s been on the books for 22 years, function in the way that Congress intended. And qualified gun owners would have nothing to fear as they’d face no additional burden beyond a meaningful criminal background check while gaining the comfort that terrible armed rampages like the one that took place in South Carolina might be made less frequent.

Sometimes overlooked in discussions of this nation’s falling violent crime rate (and it’s fallen every year since 1994 on a per capita basis) is the role of Brady background checks that have denied guns to 2.4 million prospective buyers who were either convicted of felonies, were fugitives from the law or were determined to be dangerously mentally ill. Surely fixing the system will yield even better results, making it just a bit more difficult to walk into a church and kill six women and three men gathered for a Bible study. As important as taking down the Confederate flag may be on a symbolic level as a repudiation of the kind of white supremacy that Mr. Roof embraced, fixing the leaky background check system would save lives of all kinds and likely in large numbers.

Background checks on all gun sales can save lives.

We need to Finish the Job and require background checks on all gun sales. It’s the bullets and ammunition that actually kill.

Back to the gun lobby and lawsuits. Some lawsuits have worked in spite of the 2005 law. This Kansas lawsuit  puts gun sellers on notice that they need to make sure those who are buying their guns can pass a background check. From the article:

The owners of Baxter Gun and Pawn say they didn’t know Graham was a felon, and that they were convinced the grandmother was buying the gun as a gift for young Zeus. She filled out the form and passed the mandatory federal background check, as Graham waited.

“He paid cash for the gun, he carried out the gun, and he purchased the ammo,” Shirley says.

And just hours later, he used it to kill the boy, and himself.

“I lost my son,” Shirley says. “At the time, my only child. At the age of eight.”

She filed a negligence suit against the gun shop, and the Kanas Supreme Court eventually ruled that gun dealers must exercise the “highest standard of reasonable care” to keep weapons away from felons. That’s higher standard than had been in place.

She recently settled with the gun shop owners for $132,000.

“This case is hugely important,” says Jonathan Lowy with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

He argues that gun control advocates face a veritable brick wall in Washington, where he says powerful gun rights lobbying groups consistently block gun control legislation. Civil litigation, he says, offers a chance to move the needle on restricting sales.

And more from the article: ” “Gun dealers can be held accountable when they irresponsibly supply a dangerous person. That is a powerful message,” he says.”

And what follows is a comment from a gun dealer about how this is not the norm and most gun dealers are responsible. It is only about 5% of gun dealers who are responsible for 90% of the crime guns. But that 5% comes with innocent victims losing their lives. There should be no tolerance for “bad apple” gun dealers. Clearly stopping these dealers from careless and dangerous business practices can save lives. It won’t bring the ones who were shot back and it won’t stop their families and friends from grieving for them, but if it will stop another family or more than one family from experiencing the devastation of gun violence, it is important and worth doing.

Lawsuits matter.

Reasonable people can agree that we need to keep people from being shot in any way we can. That being the case, our laws need to be stronger, not weaker. And our conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities needs to involve a discussion about everything we can do to stop the senseless violence that is devastating our communities. Common sense tells us we must have that conversation.

The thing is, we shouldn’t have to beg for our leaders to pass laws that can save lives. We shouldn’t have to sue bad apple gun dealers to get them to do the right thing. We shouldn’t have to remind gun owners to keep their guns locked away, unloaded, from kids and teens so they can’t “accidentally” shoot someone or themselves. (According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 994 “accidental shootings since January of this year; 371 children killed/injured in the same time period; 1269 teens (12-17) killed or injured since January.) Something has to change.

We are better than this.

Other countries have managed to get it right. We can too if we have the will and if our leaders do what they know is right in the face of a well funded and fierce corporate gun lobby.