More kid shootings

kids and starsI have been a writer for the Kid Shootings blog which has now remained silent for a while. Those of us writing could not keep up with all of the shooting incidents along with everything else we were doing. But today I noticed a number of incidents that I wanted to write about.

The first is the shooting of a South Dakota school principal by a student. Luckily for all, the principal only sustained a minor injury. It could have been much worse for all concerned. As more details come out we will learn where the boy got the gun. A good guess is that he got it at home. The Brady Center’s report, The Truth About Kids and Guns found that 2/3 of school shooters get their guns in their own home or the home of a relative. This is not OK. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Kids can’t buy or own guns, thank goodness. They are just not responsible enough to handle guns. Too many adults are irresponsible with their guns- why would we believe kids would be any safer?

The parents of this boy should be having a lot of thoughts right around now. Will they change what they think about gun safety reform? Will common sense happen? Time will tell.

Meanwhile back in Washington state, the father of a 15 year old teen who shot and killed 4 classmates last fall was convicted on gun charges because it was his gun that was used by his son to murder classmates and shoot himself. Why should anyone have been shocked by this verdict? If adults can’t be responsible with deadly weapons, they should be held accountable. Maybe then we will find that parents will either not have guns around when they have young kids and teens or they will make darned sure those guns are completely inaccessible to their kids.

In the Portland, Oregon area a mother shot her own son to death. What is going on? This is beyond tragic. From the article with a quote from the boy’s father:

Jake, he said, was special to his mother. “She loved him more than anything in the world,” Ryan told KOIN 6 News.

The night of the shooting, Ryan said he got some strange texts from Dianne. So he called Jake.

His last words, Ryan said, were, “Dad. Come.”

There was screaming in the background, he said, and he tried to get there – but it was too late.

Too late indeed. It is always too late. The mother was unstable and “broken” according to the father ( they were divorced). This is a case for the passage of a gun violence restraining order law so that family members can make sure people like this mother can’t access guns or can have them taken from her.

We can’t get these lives back. It’s too late. It’s past time to be talking about solutions to our epidemic of gun violence in America. At the least we can make attempts to keep guns away from people who can be dangerous with them and who we know should not have them. There are just some people who should not have guns- period. Until our elected leaders do what they know is right, kids will shoot other kids or teachers or their parents or themselves and parents may even shoot their own kids.

The corporate gun lobby is lying to people when they make claims that guns make them safer. It is simply not true. It’s time to challenge this faulty assertion and call them out for their deceptions in the name of profits for the gun industry. Saving lives comes before making profits.

Our kids are our future. They are future stars- future leaders- future teachers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, Presidents, elected officials, law enforcement officers- and professions we have not even thought about. We will be gone from this world by the time some of these kids are responsible adults. What kind of world do we want for them? What will be our legacy? Will we leave them with safer communities or with the violence that is far too common today? I know what my answer is.

UPDATE:

A 15 year old Indiana high school student was found with a gun in school. Where do we think this gun came from? I think we know.

As I am writing I am hearing about at least 10 dead in a campus shooting in Oregon. I will write more about this next but can hardly think.

Pope Francis on gun violence and Minnesota’s gun carnage

PM Pope imageThe Pope was right when he said in his remarks to Congress that: “We have to ask ourselves why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, we all know, is simply for money, money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood.”

Now some could say these remarks were meant to apply to the trafficking of small arms around the world that result in deadly assaults on masses of people by terrorists and insurrectionists. But we can apply these remarks to what is happening right here in our own country and, as I have written about recently, right in my own state of Minnesota.

When the aim of the gun industry is to sell as many weapons as possible to make a profit, it’s too easy to look the other way when the daily carnage is reported in our media. They must not believe it has anything to do with them or their businesses. And maybe it doesn’t. Selling guns is a business like other businesses. The difference is, what they are selling are deadly weapons designed to kill human beings. One has to wonder what a gun dealer is thinking when someone comes in and buys 2, 3, 4 handguns or an assault rifle at one time. Do they believe this person will be careful and responsible with that gun(s) and not kill themselves or their wife, partner, child or a relative or friend? How can we know?

What if we actually had a much more rigorous process of deciding who should be able to walk out of a gun store with a gun or two? What if we had a waiting period after a gun sale so someone who does mean harm to themselves or someone else can cool down for a while? What if we required a background check on all gun sales to make darned sure that everyone who buys a gun is a legal and responsible person? What if we didn’t allow the sale of multiple guns at a time? What if we cracked down on straw purchasing and gun trafficking by strengthening our laws? What if we had stronger laws about who can actually carry loaded weapons in public- and where they can carry them? What if families could report someone they love to law enforcement because they are pretty sure that person is about to do harm to someone? What if we required smart gun technology and/or trigger locks and safe storage so small children, teens and thieves couldn’t pull the trigger accidentally or on purpose on a gun they shouldn’t have?

What if………?

But, alas, we are living in a country where the headlines look like the ones I am going to highlight below.

It’s been another deadly few days in Minnesota. There was an officer involved shooting in St. Paul that ended with the death of a man who was seriously mentally ill and had just been released from a hospital:

Philip Quinn knew he needed help. After recently telling St. Paul hospital staff that he planned to kill himself, Quinn tried to get into a long-term treatment program to address his schizophrenia and other mental health difficulties.

But Thursday night in St. Paul’s West End, Quinn’s long struggle with mental illness ended when police, responding to a call of a suicidal man, shot and killed the 30-year-old, who was armed with a screwdriver and had failed to obey police commands. (…)

Quinn had been released from St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul last week after being treated for a mental health concern, Tareeq said. While there, he told medical staff that he had a plan to hurt himself, she said. After returning home, he started telling Tareeq that “things weren’t making sense” to him, she said. (…)

Philip Quinn’s troubles are well-documented.

He floated in and out of the criminal justice system for years — his record includes convictions for auto theft, drugs and possession of a firearm by an ineligible felon, among other offenses. But a 2013 jailhouse letter indicated that he sought help for his demons and hoped to regain a foothold in the civilian world.

“… I’m trying to get my life back on track before I am released,” he wrote, asking a hearing officer to vacate fines in 10 citations for low-level offenses.

Quinn was released from prison in March, with supervision for a 2012 gun conviction.

In that case, Quinn had been arrested during a police investigation into the sale of guns and methamphetamine. He was initially found mentally incompetent to stand trial, but the decision was later reversed. While in prison, his brother said, Quinn once to tried to cut himself.

This was a troubled man who had been arrested and charged with illegal possession of a gun and drugs. Clearly he should have had more help. Some in the gun rights community believe we should do more with our mental health system. They are right. But we shouldn’t just deal with mental health issues and ignore the gun violence issue. And dealing with our mental health system will require all hands on deck and funding. It’s not easy to do. In this case, the man was armed with a screw driver and not a gun. One has to wonder what kind of damage may have been done had he had a gun instead of a screw driver.

There was another domestic related shooting in Minneapolis hat ended in the death of 2 people. Police have not released information about the details or the names but the “father” living in the home surrendered to police.

And finally one is dead and one injured in a shooting in downtown Minneapolis last night:

One man was dead and another was injured late Friday in Minneapolis in a shooting, police said.

The shooting happened about 10:35 p.m., according to authorities, who were alerted by the city’s ShotSpotter system.

When officers arrived, they found the dead man in front of a residence as well as a number of people in the area, police said in a statement early Saturday.

Among that group, the officers found the wounded man, who had been shot in a foot, the statement said. An ambulance took the hurt man to North Memorial Medical Center.

Another 4 dead and one injured in the course of 2 days in the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. This on top of the 9 dead and one injured in the previous week as I wrote about in the above linked previous post on this blog.

Now what? Will we just watch as the shootings continue? Or will we take action and think about the words of the Pope in his visit to our country? We are the only country in the world that allows such awful and devastating carnage to continue unabated without taking immediate action. The gun lobby has an outsized and ludicrous influence on our political system that makes no common sense. It is way past time to act in the name of our moral values, our duty to provide safety, life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” to the citizens of our communities. For the sake of our children and our future as a country, we just have to be better than this. Pope Francis was trying to tell us something and asked an important question.

He has spoken out before on shootings and gun manufacturers after the shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston:

The Pope openly criticized arms manufacturers, referring to Christians who manufacture or invest in weapons as hypocritical. “It makes me think of … people, managers, businessmen who call themselves Christian and they manufacture weapons. That leads to a bit of distrust, doesn’t it?” Pope Francis said at his speech in Turn, Italy, reports Reuters. (…) According to a report conducted by The Guardian, Italy averages 11.9 firearms per 100 people. The United States, on the other hand, has the world’s highest average at 88 guns per 100 people. The number of gun homicides is also relatively low in Italy, with 0.71 per 100,000 people compared to 2.97 per 100,000 people in the U.S. In the U.S., the pope’s negative comments about gun manufacturers might not have been received so warmly.

And finally, from the linked article above regarding the Pope and gun violence:

As Obama mentioned in his recent appearance on Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast, gun sales often spike following tragedies like the one that occurred in South Carolina on June 17.

Ironically, the president mentioned, gun manufacturers benefit from high-profile mass murders due to citizens’ fears that gun rights may be revoked.

In the U.S., despite repeated instances of mass gun violence, it’s unlikely gun control laws will significantly change any time soon. Considering the pope’s influence in nations around the world, his outspoken comments about the violent nature of guns may continue. Perhaps at least the 69.4 million Catholics in the U.S. — 22 percent of the overall population — will heed his words.

The Pope can have a powerful influence and let’s hope his visit here will lead our religious leaders to get more involved and take action. Will we listen to the Pope’s words and will we answer his questions?

Guns, puppies and other stupid and dangerous stuff

dog122There really aren’t adequate words for the stupidity of some of our gun owning Americans. It seems that we are beyond being able to legislate common sense for some “law abiding gun owners.” Even changing the conversation may not be enough to stop some of the stupid and dangerous things that happen with guns. There are over 300 million guns circulating or sitting around in this country. It is inevitable that bad things will happen with so many weapons designed to kill people ( or animals when used for legal hunting purposes) in the hands of so many people. We lack adequate training and the accompanying respect that should come with the awesome responsibility of owning and/or using a gun for any purpose. Instead, our insane gun culture results in the daily carnage that takes the lives of human beings. And it comes with unbelievable incidents with guns that just shouldn’t be happening and don’t happen anywhere else in the world without “second amendment rights.”

With rights come responsibilities. Too often that is forgotten once a gun is in hand. And things happen quickly without the lack of respect and responsibility that should be automatic. With lax gun laws and a corporate gun lobby encouraging anyone and everyone to own a gun with few restrictions and no training, too  many people lack the common sense that comes with other potentially dangerous products. Driving a car comes with mandatory training, a permit, a licensing test, registration of the vehicle, traffic laws, following safety laws like wearing seat belts, penalties for not following the law and being able to have the money to buy a car.

Not so with guns. But let’s get to the point of this post.

A story from Arkansas where a police chief resigned because of fear for his young family highlights what happens when extremists show disdain for law enforcement and are not afraid to let them know. From the article:

Bald Knob Police Chief Erek Balentine is resigning, saying he feels that doing so will better the safety of his family.

His announcement of resignation comes just days after his truck was vandalized overnight. The phrase “2 Amendment” was written in spray paint on the sides of the vehicle.

The gun rights advocates believe they should be able to carry their guns anywhere and the carry laws (often written by the gun lobby) are obtuse and vague purposely. As a result, the gun rights extremists challenge laws all over our country to make a point. And officers of the law and the public are left to try to interpret the laws the best they can. In Arkansas, because of the case of the arrest of a man open carrying in a McDonald’s, there is still confusion over the law. Until we figure out how to tell a “good guy” with a gun from a “bad guy” with a gun, this will continue. Can we tell the difference? Shootings happen in public places often enough that it’s natural for the public, business owners and law enforcement officers to assume the worst. That is the problem with allowing carrying of guns in public places. The second amendment was written at a time that did not anticipate this kind of use of guns.

When someone goes so far as burning the truck of a police chief because they disagree with him on gun rights we have a serious problem- it’s called insurrectionism. It’s dangerous and more than stupid.

And then there’s the idea that shooting puppies is one way to get rid of them. But the last laugh on this stupid Florida gun owner came from the puppy:

A man who tried to shoot seven puppies was shot himself when one of the dogs put its paw on the revolver’s trigger. Jerry Allen Bradford, 37, was being treated at a hospital for a gunshot wound to his wrist.

Bradford said he decided to shoot the 3-month-old shepherd-mix dogs in the head because he couldn’t find them a home, according to the sheriff’s office.

On Monday, Bradford was holding two puppies — one in his arms and another in his left hand — when the dog in his hand wiggled and put its paw on the trigger of the .38-caliber revolver. The gun then discharged, the sheriff’s report said.

First of all, couldn’t the guy find a home from these puppies? Why shoot them at all? But- guns. As someone remarked on my Facebook page, ” Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad puppy with a gun.” Ludicrous stuff. Another comment on this article on Facebook was, “Guns don’t kill people, puppies do.”

Along the line of stupid people with guns and dogs, a Texas woman asked for some of her Facebook friends to shoot her dog because….. well- she couldn’t take care of it. How about finding a home for the dog? A dog shelter maybe? What is wrong with us? And who wants to shoot a dog when they shoot back?

I don’t spend time at gun ranges. I have some friends who do and talk about how safety comes first and people have to follow the safety rules or will not be allowed to shoot at the range. But more often than they should by all rights be happening, there are serious accidents that sometimes result in death or serious injury at gun ranges. One such happened recently at a range in North Carolina when a military veteran was killed after a gun misfired. I don’t understand this. When guns misfire, should there be some responsibility assigned? Was it the fault of the man who fired the gun? Or was it a manufacturing flaw? And even if it was, there is no recourse because the gun lobby made sure that the gun industry is immune from legal action that could hold them responsible if negligence is found.

To wrap this up, what I’m writing here is that too many things can go wrong when guns are present. Every day, too many people die from gunshot injuries- most of them totally avoidable and senseless. But since our gun culture is so embedded in our political system, we just can’t seem to loosen the hold the gun lobby has.  When that happens, I expect that we will, at long last, do the right thing and pass laws to prevent at least some of our gun injuries and deaths.

Also, I’m just wondering why I so often write about incidents that happen in Florida and Texas, home to some of the most lax gun laws and high number of gun owners in the country.

Where is common sense?

The world is beautiful and scary

gooseberryLast Sunday, my minister said that the world is both beautiful and scary in a sermon relating to one of the readings of the day. She is so right. Most of the time, I find the world to be beautiful. In spite of my family’s having dealt with the domestic shooting of my sister, we have all moved on the best we could living around the hole left by my sister’s death. Life seems beautiful and we are lucky for that.

But then something happens to bring the grief and sadness to the surface again. Recent shootings, especially the very public shooting of 2 reporters in Virginia, brought those scary feelings back instantly. Gun violence is so unexpected and violent. Thoughts of a loved one experiencing that horror, pain, violence and fear are hard to push back down again. People die from auto accidents, household accidents, diseases, and sometimes by homicide. But gun deaths for the most part are so senseless and preventable.

So maybe we should all put our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not happening. We could roll ourselves up in a ball and move on. But many of us have not done that. We have made ourselves advocates for preventing the awful effects of gun violence on other families. So I read. I act. I write. I talk.

The daily news of gun incidents is hard to ignore. But it’s important to keep writing and talking. Most people become numbed to the issue and just want to live their lives without thinking about gun violence. But just as with auto accidents, diseases and other causes of injury and death the majority of parents do what they can to keep their families safe and healthy. Gun safety reform and awareness of the dangers of guns should be a part of the safe and healthy life styles that we all practice . We, as adults, will not be here forever. Our children will be around longer than us and  we owe it to them to keep them safe and teach them healthy habits. We should do #WhatEverItTakes. When 8 children a day are dying from gun homicides, suicides or accidents, we can’t take it lightly. And many more are injured and suffer life long disabilities and/or emotional distress.

Given that, how can a parent shoot a one month old child? Now that is downright scary. A man brought a gun to a church in Selma, Alabama on Sunday but was noticed before he could get off a lot of shots. He wounded his wife, his one month old son, and a man who tried to get the gun away from him. This was yet another case of a domestic dispute gone terribly wrong. From the article:

Earl Carswell said Sunday’s incident could have been much worse.

“If (Minter) had been aiming, and wasn’t somebody pulling on him, he could have killed three, four or five folks,” Carswell said. “But thank the Lord he got pulled off. As soon as that gun appeared, they grabbed a hold of it.”

Despite struggling with several churchgoers, Carswell said Minter was able to squeeze off seven rounds.

“Bullets don’t got any sense, they just go whichever way,” he said. “It could have been a hairy thing quick, I mean sure enough.”

(…) “When I think about it (today), I get jittery,” he said.

Jackson said he believes residents “are still in shock that something like this could happen in Selma.

This is probably the first church shooting we have had, but unfortunately this is the world we live in now,” he continued. “Church used to be off limits, even to the worst criminals, as far as committing a crime in the church. Now times have changed.”

Carswell said he has lived in Selma for 61 years and many churchgoers have been known to carry guns into worship service. Carswell said himself carried one into church for 10 years.

“This is the first time anyone has ever pulled it and even showed it,” he said.

“…. but unfortunately this is the world we live in now.”” Yes. It’s unfortunate but not inevitable. It’s hard to believe that this is the first time there has been a problem with guns in worship services in Selma given that people have been carrying guns into churches for years. Why? Why are guns needed during church services? What are people scared of in church? Church services are mostly beautiful and peaceful or joyous. If we are scared of people with guns coming into churches, it’s because we, as a country, have allowed our laws to be weakened to the point of allowing guns in our churches.

And why is that when people “snap” it’s a gun that they turn to to “solve” their problems?

Our gun culture encourages almost everyone to own and carry guns and we don’t make serious attempts to stop people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them. When someone like the man in the Selma church “snaps” a gun changes everything in an instant from normal, beautiful, calm, happy,…. to scary. The shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston was scary not only because 9 people were shot but because of the shooter’s motives. He was associated with white supremacists and had racist sentiments. The recent fomenting of racism and anti-Muslim statements made by Republican Presidential candidates is making our world scarier. Combined with people who shouldn’t be able to own guns, we have a potential “perfect storm”.

Part of this is the consequence of a culture of guns that is based on fear of others who are not like us and fear of others with guns. It’s a vicious circle.

Bullets don’t have any sense of course as is mentioned in the above linked article. That’s the point.  They have trajectories that can be predictable or not. Guns with bullets in them are dangerous and people who carry guns and own them can become dangerous in a split second.

Speaking of becoming dangerous in a split second, we really do need to have a very serious discussion immediately about kids bringing guns to school. Going to school should be a positive experience. We all know that is not the case for all children given their race, religion, home life experiences, intellect, etc. Many factors can make learning difficult for some. But school, at least, is supposed to be a safe place. Not so any more. From this article in The Trace, we learn that:

Since the school year began roughly one month ago, there have been at least 29 incidents in which elementary, middle school, and high school students were caught bringing firearms to school, according to a survey of media reports. Most have involved teenagers.

This bears repeating- “…there have been at least 29 incidents in which elementary, middle school, and high school students were caught bringing firearms to school....” Very frightening. What are we going to do to keep our kids and students safe? Every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first pass through the hands of an adult. What in the world are adult gun owners thinking? The problem appears to be that people have such a cavalier attitude towards guns that they don’t seem to realize how dangerous they are. Guns are mostly not used for self defense. When will we get this into our collective heads? When will we stop listening to the gun lobby who tells people the opposite?

Scary to say the least. And the problem comes from easy access to guns. We now have more guns around than ever before. It is inevitable that they will make it into the wrong hands. There is just no common sense to our gun culture and our gun laws.

Yesterday I took a little time away from the cares of the world and this blog and gun violence prevention. I drove up along the North Shore of Lake Superior on a gorgeous day to enjoy the beauty of the nature around me. I was not scared of anyone or anything. I saw no guns. I saw no one who looked like they were scared about some idiot with a gun in the parking lot or along the trail. What I saw was people enjoying the beautiful day with cameras carried instead of guns. Thanks goodness most people don’t carry guns or feel the need to own them. At least not where I live. And not the people with whom I am friends. And if they do have guns, they use them mostly for hunting in the beautiful woods that are all around my area of northern Minnesota. Not only do people hunt, they love the beauty of the woods in the fall and the sport of hunting.

Until we get to the point of of a serious national discussion about the dangers of guns, even for “law abiding” gun owners, the incidents I read and write about will continue. The corporate gun lobby is aiding and abetting our insane gun culture to boost sales and preserve a narrative that is just not based on the truth. Maybe some of those folks should take a walk in the woods and enjoy the beauty around them instead of thinking of ways to sell guns.

Minneapolis shootings highlights access to guns

Basic RGBThe Minneapolis Star Tribune wrote an editorial that appeared in today’s version of the paper. The editorial focused on the latest round of shootings in downtown Minneapolis that left 9 people injured and one dead last week-end. I wrote about this in a previous post. From the editorial piece:

That’s a different kind of crime-fighting challenge, city officials said during a City Council Public Safety Committee this week. And, as one pointed out, combating it involves a strong focus on gun access — using current laws to prevent violent criminals from getting guns, prosecuting them to the maximum when they possess and use guns, and expanding efforts to take more firearms out of circulation.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman and downtown police Inspector Mike Kjos said they are looking at additional traffic-flow and business-hour changes, understanding that those strategies only go so far. Therefore, doubling down on access to firearms can make a difference. It’s far too easy for those who intend to inflict harm to get guns. And once caught and convicted on gun charges, too many of them are back on the streets too soon. As Freeman noted, his office, the various law enforcement agencies and downtown stakeholders must continue to work together to bring brazen offenders to justice.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There is an answer staring us in the face but our leaders are ignoring it. It’s clear that easy access to guns in our communities is causing senseless shootings and deaths and injuries. There really is no argument about it. Preventing easy access to guns has to be a solution. In an interesting article that came to may attention, Chicago criminals serving time were asked where they got their crime guns. From the article:

A survey of inmates in Chicago suggests most criminals don’t steal guns. Instead they get them from family or people they know.

“There are a number of myths about how criminals get their guns, such as most of them are stolen or come from dirty dealers. We didn’t find that to be the case,” says Philip J. Cook, a professor of public policy, economics and sociology at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy.

What the study found is that at least these criminals got their guns from their friends. (Where did their friends get their guns?) They didn’t try to buy them from a gun dealer. Why? They would likely not pass a background check and would be turned away. They didn’t steal them, though many crime guns do come from thefts of guns of law abiding gun owners. Though some of the guns come from straw purchases, many of the guns in the Chicago area came from out of state from someone who was able to get guns and bring them in to sell on the street. More from this article:

“This research demonstrates that current federal and local regulations are having a big effect on the availability of guns to criminals in Chicago,” he adds. “They can’t buy their guns from stores, the way most people do, and are instead largely constrained to making private deals with acquaintances, who may or may not be willing and able to provide what they want.

“Other studies we have done have found that in many cases criminals go without guns because they don’t know how to get one. We conclude that current enforcement is somewhat effective, and devoting more resources to enforcement would further constrain gun access by dangerous people.”

There’s a theme here. When there is easy access to guns for those who shouldn’t have them, shootings will likely happen. Crime will happen. People will die. Our streets will be less safe.

And laws matter. Just as laws matter for speeding, access to tobacco products, drunk driving and other public health and safety matters, gun laws do matter. But we need to expand the laws we have to include requiring background checks on ALL gun sales. Why wouldn’t we? Speeding laws include everyone. No one is immune. Everyone is required to wear a seatbelt. Access to tobacco products includes everyone. No one is excluded. Safety laws for baby cribs don’t exclude certain companies. Everyone has to go through the TSA screening before boarding a plane. No one is excluded. There is not a separate line for some people. All medicine containers now have safety caps that make it hard for kids to open. Even adults have problems opening these bottles.  Not one is exempt. All are included. If people or companies don’t follow the laws, there are penalties and responsibilities for breaking them.

And sometimes the end result of not following the laws is senseless deaths and injuries. That is why we, as a country, do as much as we can to prevent that from happening. But gun laws are the exception. It’s simply not true that criminals just don’t follow gun laws as a rationale for not bothering to pass any. That is a flawed and false argument.

It’s way past time to address the problem of easy access to guns. It takes the shooting of 10 people in one night in downtown Minneapolis for the public’s and law enforcement’s attention to focus on the problem of guns. There are other things that contribute to the problem. But the guns must be addressed. It’s the only common sense argument.

We can do much better than this if we focus on the real problem and not let the gun lobby distract us or scare us into thinking that guns are not the problem. They certainly are. At the national level we can Finish the Job started when the Brady law was passed and expand background checks to all sales. We can, if we have the will, require reporting of lost and stolen guns. We can strengthen straw purchasing and gun trafficking laws. We can make sure people who are a danger to themselves or others don’t have guns. Some states have passed laws to do just that. (California’s Gun Violence Restraining Order) We can remove guns from domestic abusers. Some states, including Minnesota, have done just that. We can hold bad apple gun dealers accountable. (The Brady Campaign is working on that) Revoking state pre-emption laws that keep cities from passing strong gun laws would help with easy access to guns in, especially, large urban cities. From the linked article from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence:

At the urging of the gun lobby, however, most states have explicitly removed authority from local governments to regulate guns and ammunition, thereby creating a dangerous exception to the traditional rule of local authority.

State preemption statutes threaten public safety because they prevent local governments from implementing customized solutions to gun violence in their communities and impede their ability to fill regulatory gaps created by inaction at the state and federal level.  Moreover, by mandating a one-size-fits-all approach to firearms regulation, preemption statutes deprive the public of a critical problem-solving resource:  local innovation.

The gun lobby has managed to stop local communities from exercising local control- something they like for anything else ( as mostly conservatives). But when it comes to guns, not so much.

We can, as the article about where criminals get their guns, make sure young people in affected communities of color have more to do than wander our streets with guns.

In other words, we can do this. It is beyond unreasonable and ludicrous that we haven’t already tried to stop at least some of the 33,000 gun deaths a year in America.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo made a statement after one of his staffers died from gunshot injuries sustained in a random shooting on the streets of New York:

“This is not any Second Amendment fight, it’s not for the soul of the country,” Cuomo said. “That’s a lot of baloney. Nobody’s trying to take anybody’s gun. I am a gun owner. I have been a gun owner. I’m not anti-gun. I’m anti-gun for mentally ill people. I’m anti-gun for criminals.” (…)

Cuomo called on federal elected officials to summon the “guts and courage” to pass strict laws on the national level because of the guns that have flooded into New York from other states.

“The federal officials in my opinion are afraid of the political downside,” he said.

And he acknowledged he took a hit in popularity for the SAFE Act, passed in the wake of an elementary school shooting in Connecticut. The measure has angered gun-rights supporters and Republicans, especially upstate, and Cuomo’s popularity there has struggled to rebound.

“I paid the price. When I passed the law in New York, the people who were against any gun control got very, very angry at me and the don’t like me and they don’t vote for me,” Cuomo said. “I understand that. But, I was elected to do the right thing. The right thing is this nation needs a federal gun control policy.”

Thank you to Governor Cuomo for doing and saying the right thing. He does have the political courage to do the right thing in the face of strong resistance. That is what it will take in order to save lives. He gets it. Too many of our elected leaders don’t or won’t.

Shame on them all.

Strong laws, community responses to this concerning epidemic, public education and awareness about the risks of guns, enforcing the laws already on the books( which doesn’t preclude passing new ones), holding gun owners responsible for their own behavior, and many other measures, can make a difference. They have already made a difference in the states that have taken action and passes strong gun laws. The evidence is already in front of us.

Do we want to make a difference and make change happen? Or do we want to just have the status quo and let the corporate gun lobby be the deciding group in these important decisions? Do we want our elected leaders to listen to the majority of us who are concerned about our national public health and safety epidemic or will we let them get away with publicly announcing their adherence to the gun lobby’s view of the second amendment?

It’s time to do something and stand with the families of the 33,ooo victims of gunshot injuries. Who are we as a country if we fail our children and our communities in such a tragic way? We need to do #WhatEverItTakes.

America, Presidential debates, the fact free political system and bogus gun arguments

What would president do?Let’s ask our politicians to answer some serious questions about gun violence prevention. Then we can find out who is on the side of public health and safety and who is spouting the bogus arguments of the corporate gun lobby. Avoiding this serious epidemic should not be allowed by the media or the public. It’s time to stand up and ask the questions and get the answers the families of the many gun violence victims deserve.

It’s past time to look at ourselves in the mirror to see the insanity of our American gun culture. Looking carefully reveals all of the hypocrisy and misleading arguments presented to us by the corporate gun lobby and the gun rights extremists. How did this happen? Good question. We are experiencing an interesting time in our country. Take the Donald Trump phenomenon. The linked article likens Trump to a wrestler while everyone else is boxing. Interesting. As we know, professional wrestling has a lot of drama and fakiness to it compared to boxing. I can only be reminded of former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura  and what that conjures up for this Minnesotan who lived through his term in office. In the linked article Ventura actually thinks about running again and maybe with Donald Trump. You just can’t make this stuff up.

It’s the fear and paranoia of government that is fueling the political system right now. The fact that Donald Trump, who has never held public office, has no experience with foreign policy or governing anything is surging in the polls should bring us up short. Do we really want someone running for President whose only platform is that he is the greatest and everyone else is stupid?

And what does this have to do with our gun culture? The extreme view of the second amendment that espouses the need for guns to protect oneself from the government and being ready to fight the government has been fueled by the gun lobby for decades. We now have Americans who are heavily armed and ready to fight against their own government. These people believe that their rights extend to allowing them and just about anyone for that matter, to carry their guns openly displayed and loaded, in public. They believe that they should be able to own as many guns as they want and any kind they want, including military style assault rifles.

And this view of the gun culture presents us with many fallacies and false arguments about the second amendment. I have written a lot about Mr. Wayne LaPierre’s lies about the right to bear arms:

For starters, the motto for this year’s convention was: “If they can ban one, they can ban them all.” So fear was the very slogan. Then, the NRA’s Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre upped the fear factor by telling the attendees:“There’s no telling how far President Obama will go to dismantle our freedoms and reshape America into an America that you and I will not even recognize.” Now even assuming Obama wanted to somehow “dismantle our freedoms,” as LaPierre claims, how could Obama do that in the final 18 months of his presidency when the Republicans control the Senate, the House, and the Supreme Court?

He can’t, and the NRA knows that. But facts don’t matter when you are trying to scare people (and get their money). In fact, they often get in the way.

Now scaring people (aka lying) about Obama is nothing new for the NRA. It started even before he took office. While Obama was campaigning for president in 2008 he stated that the Second Amendment bestowed a personal right to own guns and that he “will protect the rights of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, own, transport, and use guns.”

Pretty clear, right?  But the NRA publicly claimed that Obama wanted to “ban use of firearms for home self defense” and “ban the manufacture, sale and possession of handguns.” That was simply and utterly a fabrication by the NRA.

But no matter. Lies seem to be OK with certain Americans.

I came across an article about one of the gun rights extremists’ latest lies that I want to write about. Their claim that the Swiss can carry guns and own a lot of guns and yet, their gun death rate is low is bogus. An article in Salon exposes the false claims about guns in Switzerland.

Let’s take a look at what’s actually likely to be going on in that picture. Switzerland’s high rate of gun ownership is tied to the fact that it does not have a standing army so virtually every male citizen is conscripted into the militia where they receive comprehensive weapons training. Since they are a militia, they keep their government issued weapons (without ammunition) at home. Therefore, many of the guns in Swiss homes were issued to them by the government and most Swiss gun owners are highly trained in gun safety. This is in contrast to many untrained American yahoos who hang around Starbucks with loaded AR-15s leaning dangerously against the table top while they sip their mocha frappucino.

When Swiss militia members complete their service they are allowed to keep their weapon once they’ve been approved for an acquisition permit and can prove they have justification for having it. Private ownership of guns, along with ammunition, is also allowed under an acquisition permit with certain restrictions, including against those with criminal records and history of addiction and psychiatric problems. And with a law worthy of Orwell’s worst nightmare, every gun in Switzerland is registered by the government.

The rate of gun deaths in the US doesn’t come anywhere close by comparison to that of Switzerland  where the gun death rate is .77 per 100,000 compared to the U.S. at 2.97 even though there is a large gun ownership percentage.

And what’s more, the Swiss are having some interesting debates about “gun control” and new restrictions after some shootings there. They are not immune to the American gun culture apparently and since there is high gun ownership, they do have some conundrums presented by that fact.

One of the many other bogus arguments concerns women and guns. Again, Mike the Gun Guy gets this analogy right:

If you’re a die-hard, red-meat internet trawler of course you’ve heard of Dana Loesch.  She’s been a helpmate of Glenn Beck, hosts her own radio show and tweets away to a responsive and raucous crew.  Of course she has all the right credentials to promote guns: makes sure you see that little Christian icon that she wears around her neck (stole the idea I suspect from Laura Ingraham), never lets you forget that she’s a good ol’ Southern gal and, in case you thought there was any chance she would let the slightest, liberal influence into her home life, she home-schooled her kids.  It’s a masterful image, made expressly for red-meat consumption, and it figures that sooner or later she’d wind up pimping for the NRA. (…) As for Dana’s comments that she needs a gun to protect her family and her home, a bit of research reveals some facts that negate everything she says.  A survey of 14,000 crime victims reveals that in less than 1% of the criminal attacks did the victim protect themselves with a gun.  And when they did defend themselves, the number of victims who were injured was the same whether or not they had a gun.  Want to know the real reason the ‘media’ doesn’t report all those home invasions where a woman defends her life and sacred honor with a gun?  Because they account for less than 2% of all home invasions, that’s why.

In fact, American women are much more likely to be killed by a gun in homes where a gun is present. I happen to know that one from personal experience after my sister was shot and killed in a domestic dispute. Women in other countries are safer from gun violence ( at least in countries not at war) than women in the U.S. What a sad and tragic reality. And it is reality.

I am pretty tired of fact free arguments and the sad fact that so many people are gullible enough to believe them. Either that, or they are paranoid and fearful enough to believe bogus arguments. We are being dumbed down. The fact that Donald Trump is so far ahead of his opponents is frightening and of great concern.

Donald Trump happens to believe in the bogus corporate gun lobby arguments. Trump waa asked about our gun culture after the horrific shooting of 2 Virginia journalists on live TV. He deflected the question by answering that we have to deal with our mental health system. He’s right about that one. But he offered no solutions nor do those who make this claim want to pony up the funding to actually do something about our broken mental health system. But in the end, that is the bogus argument to get people like Trump and other gun rights extremists off the hook when it comes to actually talking about the gun problem in the U.S. And Trump is singing the same tune as all of the Presidential candidates.

Bogus and shameful.

Trump makes up other stuff or just ignores the facts and spends his time attacking and complaining about an America we once had and can get back again. How will we “get America back” if we are ignoring one of our most serious public health and safety epidemics? Health care professionals are offering us the facts and the research but the bogus arguments from the right are drowning out the facts.

Bogus and shameful.

At least the Democratic candidates are not afraid to talk about the issue. Hillary Clinton is strong on the gun issue as is Martin O’Malley. Bernie Sanders’ position is more complicated and more nuanced for which he has taken some heat.

All I know is that common sense is seriously lacking in today’s world of politics in America. The facts are that 88 Americans a day are dying from gunshot injuries and we’re talking about sending Mexicans back to Mexico and keeping America great. What’s so great about a country that is allowing 32,000 plus Americans die from gun injuries?

I want an America where we talk openly and honestly about our problems and then try to solve them in a reasonable manner with research to back up the problems and the solutions. We don’t have that now, thanks to the far right and gun lobby resistance to dealing with the facts. In fact, attempts to do serious research on important issues of our time like the environment, health care, gun violence and others, is going backwards thanks to the far right according to this article. That really does have to change. I hope you will join with me and join one of the many organizations working on gun violence prevention and gun safety reform and make the changes we all deserve to be safe in our homes and our communities.

There is a Republican presidential primary debate tonight. Any bets on whether the issue of guns and what to do about all of the shootings comes up? If it does, take notes.

A deadly week-end in Minnesota

warning signWarning- guns are hazardous to your health and safety. What about this have we failed to recognize or understand? It’s a conundrum but I do believe the public at least is beginning to pay attention. And if I and others keep alerting the public and our politicians about the dangers of guns and lax gun laws, something just has to change, doesn’t it? One thing I know is that we can work to change the politicians if they don’t change their resistance to gun safety reform measures. In just Minnesota alone in the past few days, we have had carnage and mayhem in our homes and streets.

In my last post, I wrote about the murder/suicide of a 5 member family in a suburb of the Twin Cities of Minnesota. This incident is much talked about, as you can imagine. Not only is it a domestic shooting, it is a murder/suicide and it is a mass shooting. 5 are dead. The Gun Violence Archive site is keeping track of these incidents. Thank goodness somebody is doing this because the corporate gun lobby doesn’t want the public or politicians to have a real understanding of the scope of the gun violence in our country.

According to someone at that site who posted on a page of which I am a member, there have been 400 murder/suicides in 2015. That’s more than one per day. If this isn’t enough to make your hair stand on end, I don’t know what is.

And then, over the week-end 10 people were involved in shootings in 2 separate places in Minneapolis. One is dead, the others injured. If that wasn’t enough there was another murder/suicide in western Minnesota involving two men.

And we’re not done yet. A man in his 90s shot and killed his own son in a Twin Cities suburb. More details are coming but the man is being held in jail at this time.

Shots were fired in Rochester, MN over the week-end and after a brawl in downtown Duluth..The police didn’t buy the shooter’s claim of self defense. Guns and alcohol don’t mix.

By my count, that’s 9 dead, 9 injured and 2 incidents of gun fire where no one got hurt. And that’s all in a few days’ time. Stunning and total lunacy.

So, what’s the solution to this public health and safety epidemic? We should begin with common sense. And we need to fight the mistaken and misleading assertions by the corporate gun lobby. It’s time to be strong and fight back with the facts, tell real stories about gun violence and expose the nonsensical arguments of the NRA and others in the gun lobby. A blog post from Mike the Gun Guy encourages those involved in gun violence prevention to take off the gloves. When lives are at stake and shootings are taking the lives of so many people, being polite about it doesn’t change anything. We need to be noisy and insist that our voices are heard. Time to get to work. Are you with me?