Halloween fear and paranoia

halloween_zombieWas it a coincidence that the writer of this letter that appeared in my home town newspaper was trying to scare everyone into believing the gun lobby’s lame talking points? I am going to share the entire text of this letter below:

There are some people who feel we should ban all guns in America. They feel that when there is an incident when someone goes out and kills people that the gun manufacturers are responsible. They feel the gun manufacturers should be sued for these incidents.

But if you did that, you wouldn’t be holding the individual who killed the people responsible.

Recently, a 25-year-old woman drove her car into a crowd of people, killing four and injuring 48. Are you going to hold the automobile manufacturer responsible for this accident? Here again, you pick and choose who you want to be held accountable.

Those who go out and cause all of these deaths and incidents are the ones who need to be held accountable, not the manufacturers of cars and guns and knives, etc.

People kill people, and it doesn’t matter what they use to do it.

This lame deception is the scary talk coming from, yes, the corporate gun lobby. I would remind my readers that the gun industry are the ones who are immune from most lawsuits, thanks to the corporate gun lobby. No other industry shares such immunity from accountability for faulty products or practices. The NRA and its’ friends in Congress just love to trick people into believing their false arguments.

And when a car’s design or malfunction causes an accident to happen, more often than not, lawsuits are filed and the manufacturer is held responsible. This is what leads to changes in design and practices of the auto industry. That is how the gun industry is different from most others. When lives are lost or injuries are sustained because of faulty design or practices, the public takes notice, legal action happens and changes will lead to lives saved.

The writer is wrong. Congress has picked and chosen who is responsible and they granted immunity to only one- the gun industry.

And when a person purposely drives a car into a crowd of people, killing innocent people, he/she is held accountable unless it was a faulty design of the vehicle. But let’s go further here with the writer’s reasoning. How many times do we read or hear about the accident he used as an example?

Here’s one- people were injured but not killed.

Here is the example the writer chose. Let’s look at what happened here, from the article:

“I opened the door and asked her how she was doing, what happened, felt her neck,” he said. “She just looked at me and said she was trying to kill herself. I said, ‘What?’ And she said, ‘I was trying to kill myself.’ And I asked her why and she said, ‘to be free,’” Oglesby said. (…)

Four people were killed in the crash, and 47 were hurt. One of those who died was two years old. Eleven of the injured were 13 years old or younger. (…)

Immediately after the crash, Chambers was taken into custody for suspicion of driving under the influence.

She now faces four counts of second-degree murder. She made a court appearance Monday, via closed-circuit video, during which bond was set at $1 million.

Chambers’ attorney, Tony Coleman believes that mental illness may have played a role in the crash.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Much has been made about mental illness as a source for our gun violence problem. It is a deflection about the actual problem which is that when people are severely mentally ill and have access to a gun, bad things happen. The media is replete with way too many examples of this on a regular basis- more regular than the example above. This woman claims to have been suicidal and was under the influence of alcohol. This is a terrible tragedy for all involved.

Let’s now look at how many people actually succeed in killing themselves by bullets when suicidal. The statistics are enough to scare all of us. In 2010, according to this article, over 19,000 people succeeded in committing suicide by gun. More recent data from the Centers for Disease Control show that over 21,000 Americans used firearms to commit suicide. I think we can all agree that suicide by gun takes the lives of exponentially more people than suicide by car.

The same is true with mental illness and alcohol though drunk driving does have a huge toll. In my state of Minnesota alone, drunk driving related deaths took the lives of 1442 people from 2003-2012. This does not include car accident deaths not due to drunk driving of course, which is many more. In approximately that same time period, about 300 ( or more)  gun deaths per year took the lives of Minnesotans leaving us with a toll of about 3150 deaths. 

So do guns kill people? Yes. Do car accidents kill people? Yes. Are cars designed to kill people? No. Are guns designed to kill people? Yes.

What should we be more scared of? Guns or cars? Who should we be more scared of? People with guns or people driving cars? Do more people own cars than own guns? The answer is yes. If the statistics that can be accessed are true, there is about 1 gun per person in the United States but only about 32% of people own these guns.

Guns are lethal weapons that are accountable for 32,000 deaths per year and about 70,000 injuries. Cars, not designed to kill, take the lives of about 33,000 per year. In some states, gun deaths are surpassing automobile accident deaths in young adults.

We have not banned cars as the result of the large number of deaths and injuries caused by automobile accidents. Instead we have reformed the industry and enacted stronger laws. We are not banning guns either. But what we want is the same amount of safety regulations for firearms as we have for automobiles and then we can talk about comparing the two. When firearms are registered like cars and gun owners are licensed like car drivers and the product has safety features designed to reduce injuries and deaths like cars, then we can compare. When we require the same amount of training we require in order to buy a gun as we do for getting a driver’s license, then we can compare the two.

Common sense has prevailed for almost every other cause of death in America. As a country we dig down and try to fix what we know is wrong. Collectively we do care about people dying from natural causes or accidents. That’s who we are. Research is done. Studies are released. We look for causes and effects. We change product design or treatment regimens or try new medications or interventions. That’s who we are.

So why not the same for firearms? We know the answer. The answer is in this letter. The corporate gun lobby is trying to deflect the real problem. It IS guns. People with guns are killing Americans at alarming rates. Bullets from guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them or even people who are law abiding actually do kill people. And those bullets kill more people than any other type of object such as knives, baseball bats or blunt objects. Don’t be tricked into thinking otherwise.

We should be scared. Instead many of our elected leaders are running scared from the gun lobbyists and gun rights extremists.

When victims and survivors are “treated” worse than gun lobbyists, we have a problem. But we will not be tricked any more. Our politicians should not be tricked either. Our mission will be to make sure they are not.

We can better than this. When Mothers Against Drunk Driving was formed, things happened. Our country responded by making changes to our drunk driving laws and over time, campaigns were launched to make sure there was a designated driver when groups were at parties or bars where alcohol is served. Culture change came with law changes or the other way around. Why? Because we decided as a country that we couldn’t tolerate the senseless deaths due to drunk driving.

Mothers speak truth to power on many issues, including the gun issue. The Million Mom March has resulted in women and others all over the country pushing for gun safety reform. The newly formed Moms Demand Action for Gunsense is doing the same as is Moms Rising. There are other groups started by women as well that are making a difference. Since we represent millions and the majority who want stronger gun laws, our voices will be heard. We have had #enough of the excuses espoused by this letter writer and the minority of Americans who fight any and all gun safety reform measures using their lame arguments and excuses.

The letter writer would like us to do nothing because his claim that guns don’t kill people is an excuse for doing nothing. That is not how this works or how it should work. It’s time for that to change and change is coming. This man can try to use fear and paranoia as a tactic to scare Americans into buying guns to protect themselves from zombies and other “scary”people out there. But he only needs to look at reality to know that it is not those scary zombies or “the other” killing people with guns. It’s us. It’s toddlers accessing guns they shouldn’t be able to access. It’s teens accessing guns to kill themselves. It’s older men shooting themselves with the guns they own. It’s stray bullets that are discharged by guns that the owner didn’t shoot intentionally or when it drops out of a purse or a pants pocket.

Yes, guns kill people.

On that note- I wish my readers a Happy and safe, gun death free Halloween.

The Brady Campaign on the march

tipping pointI have been away from my blog while attending the Brady Summit in Washington D.C. hosted by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the American Public Health Association. Hundreds of attendees were inspired, saddened, educated and energized by like minded people on a mission. The tide is turning. We can feel it and we know it by the public responses to the recent tragedies. We see the testimonials. We hear the speeches. We watch as the news media is changing what they are saying about the issue and at least some politicians are finally speaking the truth about our national gun violence epidemic. Thank goodness. It’s far far too late for way too many. But it’s a step. And I hope it will be the slippery slope towards common sense.

I wrote in my last post about the article on the CNN website written by Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign. We have reached a tipping point on the issue of gun violence.

A recent shooting in Virginia which ended with the murder of 2 journalists on live TV was a tipping point. At the Brady Summit, one vey inspiring and emotional moment came when Andy and Barbara Parker, parents of Alison Parker, one of the Virginia journalists, spoke to the attendees. Here is a video of Andy Parker’s remarks:

Let’s do this for Sarah and Jim Brady and for Alison. Let’s not let our mission be derailed by those whose interests are in keeping gun industry profits high and keeping gun lobbyists in business. For too long, those voices have drowned out the voices of victims and survivors. Not any more. We will not be silenced.

Meanwhile, as advocates were learning from the experts in public health and safety, suicide prevention, physicians, attorneys, elected officials, victims, state advocates, and others-   these are the things that went on in our country while we weren’t paying attention:

Insanity.

You can read much more about the world of firearm accidents and intentional deaths at several good sites:

Accidents Happen Guns Kill

Ohh shoot blog

Gun Violence Archive

The Daily Kos- Gun Fail

Don’t you find it amazing that there are so many sites reporting on accidental and intentional gun discharges? Only in America. But much of the research and reporting is coming from sites like this. Since the NRA owned Congress members made sure government agencies can’t research the causes and effects of gun violence, it’s good news that others are stepping up.

One of the best sources of information outside of the public health researchers is the on-line publication, The Trace. In one of today’s articles, we learn that the ATF only monitors 7% of gun dealers in a year. That is a crime, actually.

Where are crime guns coming from? Many from “bad apple gun dealers”. You can read more about that in this piece from the New York Times today:

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, has pledged to throw his weight behind the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the country’s most prominent gun control groups, in an as-yet-unannounced effort demanding that the Justice Department more closely scrutinize so-called bad apple gun merchants, according to people familiar with the campaign.

Mr. Cuomo, in an interview about his plans to work with the Brady Campaign, promised that his involvement in national gun politics would continue to deepen. He said he would hit the campaign trail in 2016 to emphasize the issue of gun violence, which he repeatedly called “the big issue” in national politics. (…) To start, Mr. Cuomo will be among the chief signatories of a letter to Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, to be released as early as next week, urging the Justice Department to punish what the Brady Campaign describes as a small fraction of gun dealers who sell an overwhelming share of weapons used to commit crimes. He has promised to lobby other governors around the country to join in the push.

Yes, we can do something about gun trafficking and crime guns and we will.

And you can watch 60 Minutes on Sunday for information about Smart Gun technology that has the potential for saving lives. The gun lobby opposes Smart Gun technology. Why? They need to explain how they can be against new technology that could prevent a toddler from pulling a trigger to kill or hurt themselves or somebody else. They need to explain how they can be opposed to a technology that could keep a teen from accessing a gun to use in a suicide or a school shooting. They need to explain why they oppose technology that could prevent a robber from using a stolen gun in a crime.

But I digressed. I sat at a table with a BBC reporter at the Brady Summit on Tuesday. She was doing a story on America’s fascination with guns and the lack of ability to change the minds of Congress when so many Americans want change. She was stunned at the American gun culture and our seeming tolerance for the carnage. It was unfathomable to her that we have failed to act. These things are just not happening anywhere else in the world. But she was also encouraged that groups were working state by state to change the gun laws that don’t get passed in Congress. That was news to her. As Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy spoke to the summit attendees, she paid attention to his remarks about how hard it was to get new laws passed even in the state where the massacre of 20 small school children occurred.

I explained to her about the insidious corporate gun lobby and the fear of said lobby affecting too many of our elected leaders. The lies and deceptions keep coming as the influence of the gun lobby wanes. You can read about the latest from the NRA’s own Mr. Wayne LaPierre in this Media Matters article:

The NRA’s lie is brazen given widespread reporting explaining how the gun group interferes with ATF operations. As USA Today reported in 2013, “lobbying records and interviews show the [NRA] has worked steadily to weaken existing gun laws and the federal agency charged with enforcing them.”

According to The Washington Post, “the gun lobby has consistently outmaneuvered and hemmed in ATF, using political muscle to intimidate lawmakers and erect barriers to tougher gun laws. Over nearly four decades, the NRA has wielded remarkable influence over Congress, persuading lawmakers to curb ATF’s budget and mission and to call agency officials to account at oversight hearings.”

The NRA’s opposition to the ATF has been extreme. The gun group has threatened to attempt to abolish the agency all together and LaPierre infamously called federal law enforcement agents “jack-booted government thugs” who wear “Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms.”

Sigh.

While lobbying on Wednesday at the Hart Senate office building, a group of us were standing with our”Background Checks Save Lives” stickers on and managed to attract attention and comments from quite a few people. One of them was a Senate staffer who was not American born but worked for a Senator who he said did not agree with us. The thing was- he himself agreed with our views and shook his head as he tried to figure out why America is so gun crazy and so violent. I told him that the majority in his Senator’s state agreed with us and he should go back and check the polling date to share with his boss.

For if our own leaders fail to represent us- the majority and the victims, survivors, experts, researchers, law enforcement, clergy, youth, gun owners, health care providers, educators, hunters, and others who want gun safety reform, what else is there? Congress must act. Our state legislators must act. They are now hearing from the millions who want to get this job done in the name of the victims.

We are marching forward towards saving lives in spite of stiff resistance. We are holding our elected leaders responsible and asking them to commit to measures to keep us all safer in the halls of Congress and state legislatures. The tipping point is here.

We have had #enough. If you have also had enough, check out the #enough campaign on the Brady Campaign’s website.

The gun lobby, once upon a time

HookI think we can safely say that we are living in a fictional fairy-tale like world when it comes to gun deaths and gun safety in our country. Like Peter Pan, we are pretending that the real world is not what it is. We fly around from place to place looking for what’s real but we aren’t landing on the real problem. Captain Hook , Peter Pan’s nemesis, is revengefully presenting evil choices whenever he encounters Peter Pan. Sometimes Hook gets what he deserves but he keeps showing up anyway. Much like the corporate gun lobby and it’s ludicrous fictional fear and paranoia foisted on some unsuspecting political leaders and some in the public who actually believe in the myths expounded by the lobbyists and gun extremists.

Will we ever grow up?

Once upon a time we at least tried to deal with the carnage- when the Brady Law was passed in 1993; when restrictions on assault weapons were seen as reasonable for public safety. When average citizens weren’t carrying loaded guns around in public places.

Once upon a time the corporate gun lobby agreed that requiring background checks on all gun sales was a reasonable and good idea to prevent people who shouldn’t have guns from getting their hands on them. Let’s take a look at the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre on the subject:

Once upon a time the NRA was an organization that supported hunting and shooting sports for the average gun owner- people like my grandfather, my own father, my mother, my uncles, my brother and my husband. They took safety classes and had hunting guns for recreation and family togetherness.

That was then. Now the response to our nation’s mass shootings and every day shootings- arming everyone everywhere, including in schools is this jaw dropping response to the Sandy Hook massacre of 20 first graders by Wayne LaPierre( again); 

Sigh.

But something happened when the extremist gun rights advocates took over the organization in what is now called the “Cincinnati revolt” at a 1977  NRA convention. And what we have now is something very different from the origins of the NRA. From the article:

“We must declare that there are no shades of gray in American freedom. It’s black and white, all or nothing,” Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre said at an NRA annual meeting in 2002, a message that the organization has reiterated at almost every opportunity since.

“You’re with us or against us.”

Once upon a time we could have shades of gray about gun policy. It was a given that we wanted to prevent shootings and save lives and people from both political parties could agree that the problem needed to be addressed. Today it’s black or white according to the NRA’s leadership. The problem with this is that most of their own members agree with the gun policy changes that have been proposed in the wake of the many mass shootings and everyday carnage.

Once upon a time toddlers were not shooting themselves or others in weekly shootings. But now that there are so many guns in circulation owned by people who don’t have any idea how to deal with loaded guns  a toddler is shooting either him/herself or someone else weekly.

Once upon a time, President George H.W. Bush belonged to the NRA. And then a statement was made about “jack booted government thugs” and formerPresident George H.W. Bush resigned his membership with a public statement:

The NRA used the the Oklahoma City bombing and the standoff and siege in Waco, Texas, in order to fundraise for itself in 1993 (while President Clinton was in office). And it denigrated upstanding people who protected the public in order to do it:

“In Clinton’s administration, if you have a badge, you have the government’s go-ahead to harass, intimidate, even murder law-abiding citizens.”
Wayne LaPierre, 1993 NRA fundraising letter

And what’s more, the NRA lost members because of this extreme position and began their deceptive rhetoric about their membership numbers by including members who had died in their membership roles. So who are included in the membership roles of the NRA? Of course, legitimate gun owners who happen to believe in the organization and may or may not know or understand what the organization is really about. But those who like to target shoot at gun ranges must become members of the NRA in order to belong to the gun club or gun range. I have several friends for whom this is true. Their views do not agree with those of the leadership and lobbyists of the NRA. They just like to shoot at the range.

What does this have to do with today’s gun culture and gun policy? When the gun lobby uses ramped up numbers to claim that they represent anywhere from 4-5 million gun owners, elected leaders listen. But then, we also know that only 1 in 10 gun owners belong to the NRA so the fairy tale needs to be exposed in order to loosen the grip the corporate gun lobby has on our gun policy. Requiring NRA membership to join gun clubs has both an upside for the organization and a downside. Some object to having to belong to the NRA because they are concerned with their positions opposing any reasonable changes to our gun laws. But if we follow the money, we can find the upside for the organization. From the linked article above some Connecticut gun club members resigned their gun club membership:

A dozen or so members decided to quit the club rather than join the NRA, he said. Some who left said they disagreed with the group’s uncompromising stance on gun control. Others said they just didn’t want to be told what to do, or objected to paying $25 to the NRA on top of their annual club dues.

89 Americans lose their lives every day because of gunshot injuries from gun homicides, suicides and “accidental” shootings. That is 89 too many. This is not a fairy tale. This is the truth. Dealing with the public health and safety epidemic of gun violence must be based on the truth and the facts. Dealing with it from the point of view of the corporate gun lobby, whose heavy handed influence on our nation’s gun policy is based on fiction and fairy tale-like assertions, is dangerous and appalling.

Real people are dying every day leaving behind families and friends who are living with the loss of a person they loved. Common sense is fact and based on the truth. We can’t let important national and state level gun policies be based on fiction. Lives depend on knowing the truth and the facts on the ground.

Luckily there are more fact finders than ever before revealing the truth about the corporate gun lobby’s fiction. And because the public is fed up with the gun lobby and daily carnage, the landscape is changing. We have reached a tipping point. Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign wrote this piece for CNN telling the truth about what is happening:

Turns out we have been asking ourselves the wrong questions. No single incident, no matter how horrible, and no statistic, no matter how shocking, is going to change things by itself. What is going to change things — what always does — is when the American public comes together, based on common goals and common values, to say “enough!” And that is exactly what is happening, finally, on the gun violence issue.

(…) Meanwhile, there is also overwhelming public support for change, which only continues to increase. An astounding 93% of the American public, including 90% of Republican voters, more than 80% of gun owners and more than 70% of NRA households support expanding Brady background checks to all gun sales. The disconnect between the American public and the politicians who are supposed to be representing us is becoming increasingly clear. Simply put, pressure is mounting on policymakers to finish the job the Brady Law started. (…)

We’re almost there. The American people have had enough. Enough of the mass shootings, enough of 89 people dying every day, and enough of a small group of craven politicians putting the interests of a corporate lobby ahead of our safety.

We’ve had enough of the fiction promoted by the corporate gun lobby. The public understands that it is guns that are taking the lives of too many Americans no matter what the gun rights extremists would love us to believe. We can’t continue basing our policy decisions on this “Emperor ‘s new clothes” fictional view of what is actually happening in real life everyday.

The gun lobby’s sometimes invisible influence on our politicians is now more visible than ever for public scrutiny. But interestingly enough, according to a new Gallup poll, the NRA is still viewed favorably by the public but the public also wants laws like expanded background checks. This is the result of the fairy tale that the NRA has gotten away with telling for far too long.

There is a disconnect between the public perception of the current NRA and what its’ leaders and lobbyists are doing behind the scenes to oppose the very things their own members and the public want. Let’s hope the “emperor” will be revealed for what “he” is.

The importance of facts about gun background checks

PrintThe gun lobby doesn’t want us to know that 40% of gun sales are made without background checks. It doesn’t fit with their mantra that only law abiding people will follow the laws and criminals won’t. What are we to think, then, when new research confirms older research about how many guns go without a Brady background check? I know what I think. It means that we must expand Brady background checks to make sure that all gun sales require background checks.

Arguments from gun rights extremists include that background checks are already required so we don’t need laws to require them on all gun sales. The public doesn’t believe that all gun sales don’t require background checks. When tabling at a recent conference, many people to whom I spoke were surprised to find out that some gun sales are made without background checks.

The only data we really had to go on until now was a 1994 study that found that about 40% of gun sales came from privates sellers with no background check. This is old because the gun lobby has made sure that the CDC and the NIH could not do research into the causes and effects of gun violence. 

But now, others are doing the research. A new study, highlighted in this article in The Trace, reveals that today, the number remains the same. Approximately 40% of gun sales are going without background checks. From this article:

Amid the controversy, a team of Harvard researchers are fast-tracking a major update to this fundamental gun debate statistic. Pulling data from a forthcoming study on gun ownership conducted by the university’s Injury Control Research Center, the scholars have landed on a figure set to corroborate the earlier finding: Harvard’s Dr. Deborah Azrael tells The Trace that of 2,072 gun owners the researchers surveyed, roughly 40 percent said they’d acquired their most recent firearm (through a sale or transfer) without going through a background check.

Will the gun lobby admit this to be true? If so, they should be pushing for expanding Brady background checks to all gun sales. Why? Because it’s obvious that if no background checks are conducted, sellers don’t know to whom they are selling guns. It could be a domestic abuser, a felon, someone who had been adjudicated mentally ill, a fugitive or others on the prohibited purchasers list who are prevented from buying guns through federally licensed firearms dealers.

If the gun lobby does not admit to this fact, why not? Are they not interested in stopping prohibited purchasers from getting guns? Or is it just too inconvenient to go through a background check for law abiding citizens? If so, why? It seems they are willing to undergo background checks when they buy guns through licensed sellers. And it’s just not true that criminals won’t follow the law and try to buy guns where background checks are required. 2.4 million people have been prevented from buying guns at licensed firearms dealers since the Brady Law was enacted in 1994. That means these purchasers are trying to get their guns this way. So why not stop them at the point of sale in the first place?

We all know that there are other ways for people who shouldn’t have guns to get them anyway. But guns don’t fall from the sky. They all start out as legal purchasers and get into the wrong hands through straw purchasing, stealing them from law abiding gun owners or dealers, or trafficking. Just take a look at how easy for guns to be stolen can be in this article about a UPS employee who stole 2 guns from a package at a Baltimore area facility. And straw purchases can also be stopped at the source if we are tougher on gun dealers who knowingly sell guns to people who shouldn’t have them. The recent case of the Milwaukee Badger Guns dealer found responsible for allowing a straw purchase should be a strong message to gun dealers to do the right thing. Guns sold knowingly to those who shouldn’t have them can result in death as it did in this case when on officer was shot by the gun straw purchased for the shooter.

But where do the guns that are trafficked come from in the first place? Someone bought the gun. Stopping one method of obtaining a dangerous weapon designed to kill another human being will save lives.

We now have facts, graphs, charts and reports indicating that stronger gun laws actually work to save lives. What more do we need? The news is full of stories of domestic shootings, mass shootings, shootings in our streets and homes and in public places, suicides and toddlers shooting themselves or others. What more do we need? These are real people losing their lives or suffering from life long injuries and disabilities and we are turning away from them. Where is our moral compass and our responsibilities as citizens and government to do the right thing?

It only makes common sense that we would stop the supply of guns into the pool that could become illegal. Turning off the faucet and draining the pool of illegal guns will keep our communities safer from the devastation of gun violence. Isn’t that what this is all about? Saving lives and public health and safety should be at the top of our priority list. The fact that gun safety reform isn’t at the top of the priority list for our Congress and many state legislatures is a national tragedy. It’s time for that to change. The public is now very engaged and in favor of stronger gun laws but yet, some of our elected leaders support the views of a small minority of Americans.

89 Americans a day are dying from gunshot injuries. 33,000 Americans a year are dying from gunshot injuries.

We are better than this.

Guns dropping. Bullets flying. Kids dying. Parents and guns don’t go together.

droppingAs a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I need to write something. Armed Americans are dangerous. What is wrong with parents carrying guns around with them wherever they go or leaving guns out for kids and teens to find them? Guns in public places are proving to be quite dangerous to the health and well being of our kids and communities. And guns dropping are much more dangerous than dropping a rock on your foot. Recent news backs up my assertion.

How in the world can a mother be holding a gun or having a gun on her person while braiding her daughter’s hair? Yes, you guessed it. The gun dropped to the floor and killed the 8 year old daughter of the gun owner. This is so outrageous on so many levels and highlights the craziness of our insane gun culture. More from the article:

Marsha Lynch said she was braiding her daughter’s hair when a handgun fell to the floor and fired, striking her in the leg and then shooting her 8-year-old daughter in the head.

Sharia Lynch died from the gunshot wound before she could be airlifted to an area hospital.

“She was a precious little girl, she made everybody laugh — she was the kind of kid in class everybody loved,” said Ann Arnold, principal of Sara Ragsdale Elementary School. “Our hearts are just broke. We’ve got a lot of tears going on, of course. We’re in shock right now.”

The Paulding County Sheriff’s Office is investigating whether the gun belonged to Lynch or her adult son, and authorities also want to know why the .9 mm handgun fired when it was dropped.

A firearms expert said a standard safety feature should have prevented the accidental firing unless the gun had been altered to give it a shorter trigger pull.

All of our children are precious. Why expose them to loaded guns and take a chance that a bullet could kill them in their own home? They are too precious to be shot and killed in our schools and on our streets. They are too precious for this kind of careless and cavalier attitude towards guns. They are too precious for us to be ignoring stronger gun laws just because some of us are afraid of the gun lobby.

Please read this report from the Brady Campaign- The Truth about Kids and Guns if you don’t believe me. 1,700,000 children live with unlocked, loaded guns in their homes.

The corporate gun lobby and gun extremists are so intent on selling guns and making people feel afraid of their own shadows that people have been duped into believing having a gun in the home will make them safer. The facts and the actual incidents happening every day do not bear that out. Many folks who walk out of gun stores or permit to carry classes ( if they are even required) do so with absolutely no knowledge of guns or shooting or gun safety. If we want to keep our homes safe from shooting our children in stupid and dangerous “accidents” like this one, we need to mandate training classes and make sure people pass them with an A. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people. Allowing just anyone to buy one or carry one around without the respect and seriousness it deserves is a national tragedy.

It was just a matter of time before our loose gun laws played out in our homes, in public places and on our streets.

And while I am on the topic of carelessness with guns, I must ask why anyone needs a gun in the doctor’s office? This Texas woman’s mother must have thought her doctor’s office would be a dangerous place when she herself was the one who caused the danger to herself and others. The gun found in the purse dropped causing a bullet to go through the wall of an office, striking a patient in the thigh.

Good grief. People sometimes get bad news from their health care providers. What they don’t need is a bullet flying around in the office. If they have a serious disease that could take their life or that of a loved one, getting hit and injured or killed by a bullet would be the height of irony. This is just plain ludicrous and an example of our gun culture gone awry.

Wouldn’t it be better to treat gun violence like the public health epidemic it is? Many reports and editorials have been written by public health providers. This latest one implores us to do something about the crisis of our kids dying from bullets in large numbers.

Gun violence is a public health issue that profoundly affects children and families. Firearm injuries are among the top three killers of kids.

As a pediatrician, I have a duty to protect children. And the data is clear: strong gun laws positively impact families and lower accidental gun deaths, homicides, and suicides in youth.

I firmly support the American Academy of Pediatrics’ stance that Congress needs to find a way forward on gun safety legislation that improves the background-check system (including the elimination of gun show loopholes), reduces gun trafficking, requires safe firearm storage, bans all high-capacity magazines, passes stronger handgun regulations, enacts a strong, effective ban on assault weapons, and supports research to generate effective approaches to prevention and healing.

If you aren’t concerned about the above incidents and what I write about here regularly, you should be. You can be part of the solution by demanding changes to our laws that make common sense. (…) 

We cannot afford to be silent on gun violence. I strongly encourage action on this issue, with appropriate legislation passed, research supported, and families able to access bolstered mental health services to heal those who are already victims of schoolyard killings, drive-by shootings, or accidental gun-related injuries in the home. Call your congresspeople. Take action to help be the change we need.

I hope that we can all agree that reducing gun violence would be good for America. Certainly, there is no simple, overnight solution. It took the better part of four decades to improve traffic safety. Let’s hope it won’t take that long to improve gun safety.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is spot on. Don’t listen to what the gun lobby says about this. They are dead wrong. And I mean that metaphorically and literally. Remember that the Florida legislature passed a law penalizing health care providers for talking to parents about the risks of guns in their homes. 

Ludicrous.

Pay attention to what is going on in your state’s legislature. What happens in Florida and Texas often shows up in legislatures all over our country. The gun lobby is foaming at the mouth to loosen our gun laws to make it easier for dangerous people to get guns and to have virtually no laws about who can carry guns in public and where they can carry them. This is the virtual slippery slope towards towards lawlessness and anarchy. And that is what the corporate gun lobby seems to want.

Is this what you want? Is this the kind of country you want for your children and your families? Do you want to be sitting in your doctor’s office with armed citizens who aren’t properly trained to carry guns and know little about them? Do you want your kids to play in a home where a mother needs her gun with her at all times, including when she is braiding her daughter’s hair? Do you want a world where bullets are flying on our streets taking the lives of innocent people? Do you want a world where gangs and people who shouldn’t have guns are having wars in our streets because of easy access to guns? Do you want a country where easy access to guns is killing our kids on a daily basis in “accidents”, suicides and homicides?

If not, join a gun violence prevention group and get active. Ask your candidates what they intend to do about this shameful and ludicrous public health and safety problem. Demand that your elected officials have a position on how to prevent the shootings. Don’t let them get away with the deceptive gun lobby arguments. Challenge them to stand with the victims to make sure we are safe from the gun violence that is devastating our communities.

We are better than this.

Armed America- not polite at all

polite?An armed society is a polite society? Anyone with common sense knows this to be untrue. Let’s look at an article in “The Truth About Guns” about this oft used statement:

The accuracy of that image of an “armed/polite” society in the 19th Century West is not only debatable, it’s irrelevant: There are plenty of “armed societies” in the modern-day world, and most of them can be described as anything but “polite.” (…)

But there’s another problem with the “Armed society=Polite society” equation. Assume arguendo that the saying is true. Ignore the above evidence to the contrary and say, for the moment, that people are more polite when they know there’s lots of heat being packed.

What does that say about us, as gun owners? After all, the tiresome refrain of all anti-concealed-carry arguments is that if more ‘ordinary’ people are packing pistols, they will whip them out and start firing on the flimsiest pretext. Cut me off in traffic? BLAM! Take the last drop of half-and-half at Starbucks? BLAM! Look at me funny? BLAM!

Gun owners [rightly] view this assumption as dangerous nonsense, that the vast majority of people jumping through all the hoops necessary to obtain a CCW permit are sober, rational, and caring adults who would never allow their emotions to take hold of them and cause them to use deadly force inappropriately. Even when they’re not sober, rational or caring.

But doesn’t that Heinlein aphorism say otherwise? Doesn’t it imply, at least on its face, that the whole reason an armed society is a polite society is that in an armed society, the penalty for “impoliteness” might be summary execution?

So this gun owning blogger believes that the statement is generally wrong but he offers a qualifier:

If anything, the saying is backwards. Being “polite”—having a shared set of values that includes placing a high value on peaceful civic discourse—is a necessary pre-condition for the arming of a society. Arms in a “polite” society remain the tools of good citizens to defend themselves against bad ones. But arming a society without those shared values is a recipe for chaos, for violence for, well, Somalia, Beirut, Pakistan et al.

“An armed society is a polite society” sounds cute. It sounds witty and cool.  It impresses all the gun enthusiasts on the bulletin boards. It makes for a great t-shirt to wear at the gun show. But it’s just not true and if it was, it would be a bigger argument against arming ordinary citizens than anything the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence could possibly devise.

Hmmmm. So the problem with the writer’s logic is that everyone in America who has a permit to carry a gun has shared values. The arguments are mounting every day in our country against this argument. It’s not just the Brady Campaign “devising” the arguments. The public has had #enough. And the writer ignores the fact that the gun rights extremists are pushing for permit less carry in many states and some already have this dangerous law. The public is not clamoring for these laws. It’s the corporate gun lobby who represents an decreasing minority of gun owners who push these laws in state legislatures:

Given its high profile, it’s easy to assume that the NRA represents the voice of American gun owners. But in fact, the organization’s membership numbers and survey data point a different picture. Only a small fraction of the nation’s gun owners are NRA members. Even among NRA members, there is widespread dissent from some key points of the organization’s orthodoxy. And on many gun control issues, the majority of gun owners who aren’taffiliated with the NRA hold opinions closer to those of non-gun owners than to those of NRA members.

Let’s start with the membership numbers. In recent years the NRA has said it has 5 million dues-paying members. There’s some reason to be skeptical of this figure, but let’s assume 5 million is right.  Those 5 million members only comprise somewhere between 6 and 7 percent of American gun owners. That would imply that the overwhelming majority of American gun owners — over 90 percent of them — do not belong to the NRA.

1 in 10 gun owners belong to the NRA. Amazing. Take note elected leaders. As I spent time at a table at a local conference attended by 2600 people, I spent some time talking to gun owners who agreed with the literature we were passing out and our views on the issue of gun violence prevention. None of the people we talked to belonged to the NRA and, in fact, they said they don’t like the organization at all. One man told me that the gun rights extremists, like open carriers, are ruining it for the rest of the law abiding gun owners and hunters who just want to use their guns for hunting and sport. They believe in safety and saving lives before they pledge allegiance to an organization that does not represent them.

But I digress.

Let’s take a look at the last week of the American armed and impolite society.

The Minneapolis- St. Paul area have seen at least 5 gun deaths in the last week. That was before the most recent week-end shootings:

And if that was not enough, an Aitken area Sheriff’s deputy was shot and killed by a suspect who had terrorized his wife days before. The man had been hospitalized because of concern about his behavior. More from the story:

A week before he killed an Aitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy at the St. Cloud Hospital, felon Danny L. Hammond, 50, terrorized his wife and threatened to kill her after she told him she wanted to leave their marriage of 12 years, authorities said.

Korena Hammond told authorities that her husband went into a rage on Oct. 10 after she told him her plans. He held her hostage at their home overnight, pointing a 9-millimeter pistol at her head, forcing her to eat food that he said was poisoned and capturing her when she managed to flee the locked house. The next morning she went to her father’s house after Hammond agreed to let her go, according to a criminal complaint released Monday. (…)

A week later, Hammond was at St. Cloud Hospital early Sunday morning. He was not in custody at the time, and was being treated for medical reasons related to a domestic incident, according to authorities. Hammond was being supervised by law enforcement at the request of hospital staff.

According to the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office, Hammond got out of bed and then struggled with Aitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Steven M. Sandberg, 60. He somehow took control of Sandberg’s gun and fired several shots. Sandberg was fatally struck by at least one bullet. A St. Cloud Hospital security guard shot Hammond with a Taser. Hammond fell unconscious as a result and despite lifesaving efforts died in the hospital.

This is yet another case of domestic abuse that could have ended with the shooting of this man’s wife but instead tragically ended with the shooting of a law enforcement officer. And the old myth of an armed person being able to protect him/herself is proven wrong over and over again by incidents such as this one. The officer got into a fight with the suspect but the suspect got his hands on the deputy’s gun and was able to shoot him. It’s not the first time this has happened. Being armed does not guarantee that one can keep oneself safe.

It’s not only Minnesota. These kinds of incidents are happening everywhere. You can’t make some of them up because they point to the risk of guns in public places and in homes.

I am adding this one which just crossed my “desk”. A new gun permit holder shot himself in the leg while attending a movie in a Kansas theater:

A man was transported to Salina Regional Health Center on Friday night after he apparently accidentally shot himself in the leg midway through a movie at Central Mall.

Salina Police Department watch commander Sean Furbeck said the incident remains under investigation, but the gunshot wound likely was self-inflicted. He said police were not seeking anyone else in connection with the incident, which occurred at about 8:30 p.m. in one of the small theaters behind the ticket sales area. (…) “I feel really sorry that guy shot himself, but at least he didn’t shoot someone else,” Myers said. “That would have been 10 times worse.”

10 times worse. We have had 10 times worse actually. Remember the Aurora theater shooting?

Let’s start with a shooting at a ZombieCon event in Florida– Florida again which has some of the loosest gun laws in the country. From the article:

Chaos broke out at a zombie-themed street festival in downtown Fort Myers, Florida, after shooting left one man dead and five other people wounded.

Crowds of festivalgoers fled screaming through the streets after the shots rang out late Saturday at ZombiCon.

“It cleared out fast and cop cars and ambulances came,” said Savannah Holden, who watched the panic unfold from a hotel balcony.

One man died of a gunshot wound at the scene, police said, and five other people suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Four of them were taken to Lee Memorial Hospital for treatment.

Seriously. This is ludicrous. Notice that what most people did was to run away rather than try to shoot the shooter. Why? They were taken by surprise. They had no idea from where the shots came and their first reaction was to flee.

On another note, remember that gun extremists love to shoot at zombies on the gun range. They have zombies that are the faces and bodies of famous people like President Obama. Check out this site called Bleeding Zombies. There are the torsos of football players, terrorists, Nazis, etc. Why? What do shooters imagine while shooting at these targets? I think we know. This is our American gun culture gone totally out of whack.

Follow the money.

And then there was this shooting at the historical Tombstone, Arizona site:

Two people were shot in Tombstone, Arizona, during a gunfight reenactment when one of the actors allegedly used real bullets.

One of the actors, Tom Carter, was late to the performance and his weapon wasn’t checked, according to News 4 Tucson. During the shootout, he allegedly hit actor Ken Curtis with a real bullet.

Both were members of the Tombstone Vigilantes performance group.

“The Vigilantes immediately stopped the show and Tom was relieved of his weapon,” Bob Randall, the city’s marshall, said in a statement cited by the Tucson Sentinel. “During inspection of his weapon, it was discovered that there was one live round in the cylinder withfive expended casings indicating the gun had held six live rounds prior to the skit.” (…) Mayor Dusty Escapule told the Sentinel that the Vigilantes won’t be allowed to perform reenactments “until it can be determined all weapons are safely loaded with blank ammunition as required.”

Right. Guns are dangerous. When will that simple fact become part of our everyday language? Until it does, zombies- real or not and cowboys- real or not- will be shot every day.

And let’s get our history straight. The re-enactment of a shooting at the historical town of Tombstone is most likely a myth. Here’s the truth about guns and the “Wild West”.

This article in Politico after the shooting of Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Arizona written by historian Katherine Benton-Cohen sheds light on what really happened in Tombstone:

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, during a press conference about the Tucson shootings, called Arizona “the Tombstone of the United States.”

Some journalists gave the word a lowercase “t,” but the sheriff was clearly referring to the infamous silver-mining town 70 miles from Tucson — site of the shootout at the OK Corral. (…)

The irony of Dupnik’s remark is that Tombstone lawmakers in the 1880s did more to combat gun violence than the Arizona government does today.

For all the talk of the “Wild West,” the policymakers of 1880 Tombstone—and many other Western towns—were ardent supporters of gun control. When people now compare things to the “shootout at the OK Corral,” they mean vigilante violence by gunfire. But this is exactly what the Tombstone town council had been trying to avoid.

In late 1880, as regional violence ratcheted up, Tombstone strengthened its existing ban on concealed weapons to outlaw the carrying of any deadly weapons within the town limits. The Earps (who were Republicans) and Doc Holliday maintained that they were acting as law officers—not citizen vigilantes—when they shot their opponents. That is to say, they were sworn officers whose jobs included enforcement of Tombstone’s gun laws.

Today, in contrast, Arizonans can legally buy guns without licenses, and are able to carry concealed weapons without a permit. The state bans cities from passing their own, stricter laws. The legislature will consider a bill this session that would force schools to allow guns on campus — like Pima Community College, which the alleged shooter attended. (…) Arizonans, myself included, love to tout their vaunted independence and Western values. But when we perpetuate the idea that Arizona is some unchanging Wild West, we fall into the trap of a myth that only serves to embolden those who refuse to support commonsense restrictions on purchasing firearms.

Thanks to Arizona’s lax permit to carry laws, the Tucson shooter could carry his gun with little or no training. What shared values are involved in not requiring Brady background checks or some kind of knowledge of guns and how to shoot them before allowing people to carry guns around in public places? Carrying a gun in public places is an awesome and dangerous responsibility. This is the opposite of common sense. 

Just like the myth of an armed society being a polite society, so is the myth of gun wielding cowboys in the American western frontier. Yes, shootings happened. But there were also laws to address where and who could carry guns in towns. What are Western values?  Are they any different than the values held dear by the majority of Americans who know that keeping their children and communities safe from the devastation of gun violence is more important to an insane adherence to the second amendment.

October is Domestic Abuse Awareness month

3d Concept diagram wordcloud illustration of domestic violence

Domestic violence takes the lives of many every day. Domestic abuse that leads to loss of life can be prevented if we attempt to prohibit domestic abusers from getting their hands on guns since the majority of domestic deaths are by bullet. Domestic abusers by federal law are prohibited from buying guns. In 1997 the Lautenberg amendment added domestic violence misdemeanors to the category of prohibited gun purchasers.

But these purchases only apply for licensed dealers as was written into law in the Brady law. There are plenty of places where domestic abusers with intent to harm a partner, spouse, dating partner to get guns. These would be from private sellers at gun shows, flea markets and on-line sites like armslist.com which allow for gun purchases with no background checks. Do these sellers know anything about the buyers? Do they care? If no background check is required, how would a seller know whether the person to whom they are selling means to kill someone with their lethal product?

When Radcliffe Haughton bought his gun on Armslist.com, did the private seller know anything about this prohibited purchaser? Did the seller know that Haughton’s intent with that gun was to shoot his wife and in the process kill 3 others at a spa near Milwaukee? 

Women in America are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in other high income countries. Why do we tolerate this?

Our nation’s lax gun laws contribute to the ease with which domestic abusers can acquire the weapon used to kill someone they know, love or loved previously. A gun is the ultimate power and control. We can do something about this and some states are. Minnesota is one of the states that passed a law two years ago to make it possible to take guns from  known domestic abusers with orders for protection, restraining orders or stalking. From the linked article:

Around three U.S. women a day are killed by intimate partners, according to several domestic violence advocacy groups, including the National Network To End Domestic Violence. Experts on the topic say that women are in the most danger when leaving a relationship — and that’s why it’s imperative that authorities prioritize disarming abusers once a restraining order is granted.

“Often times, when she takes out that order of protection, she’s testing the relationship to find out if she can safely leave, and she’s testing the system to find out if they honor and respect what she says she needs help with,” said Kit Gruelle, an advocate who has worked with domestic violence survivors for 30 years. “Unfortunately, for some women these pieces of paper do become their last will and testament.”

There are no national statistics on the percentage of domestic homicide victims who had restraining orders against their killers at their time of death, but research has indicated that restraining orders are violated around 40 percent of the time. There’s also some evidence that strengthening gun laws for abusers may save lives: According to one study, states that restrict abusers subject to restraining orders from accessing guns have been associated with reduced rates of domestic homicides. (…)

“Having interviewed killers about this, there’s a moment of time and a window of opportunity for them to kill,” he said. “Many of the killers said something to the effect of ‘24 hours before the incident, I couldn’t stop thinking about her, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat,’ really obsessed. If they have a gun during that opportunity and access to her, it was going happen. If they didn’t have a gun, that moment may have forever passed.”

One study found that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes itfive times more likely a woman will be murdered by her abuser. Over half of all women killed by intimate partners between 2001 to 2012 were killed using a gun, according to the Center for American Progress.

Why would we make it easy for those who mean harm to be able to get guns? Good question. One has to wonder what the gun lobby and gun extremists are thinking about when they strongly resist laws to require Brady background checks on all gun sales? Are they actually thinking about the potential for the loss of human life? Or is making money more important? I think we know the answer. Any common sense suggestions about keeping guns away from those who shouldn’t have them ends with abject rejection and no middle ground possible.

Two days ago I spoke at an Americans for Responsible Solutions titled: “Harnessing the Advocacy of Women for the Safety of Women.” Women understand that when a gun is in the home, they are less safe. Day after day we are “treated” to stories about men who, in a moment of anger, jealousy, rage or depression, kill women, children, aunts, uncles, boyfriends, spouses, ex spouses, ex girlfriends, ex boyfriends and other sometimes innocent people who happen to be in the vicinity of the shooter.

My panel was about telling stories. I told the story of my sister’s shooting in a domestic dispute over a contentious divorce. My remarks started with one of my favorite sections of Anne Tyler’s book, the Accidental Tourist. Here is what I said:

Stories are important. Without them, I’m not sure the public would believe what goes on inside the homes of so many Americans. I often think of the scene in Anne Tyler’s book- The Accidental Tourist, when the protagonist, Macon Leary, a travel agent who hates to travel, goes on a business trip. Macon is lonely and wants every place he visits to feel like home. As he looks out the window of his plane taking him out of his comfort zone, Macon remarks that he can see the little houses below and wonders what is going on inside of those houses. He then concludes that we can never know what is happening in the privacy of people’s homes even while we are looking.

Macon’s son was also shot in a fast food restaurant and his marriage disintegrated as a result. This book mirrors real life even though fiction.

The other story tellers were Lucia McBath, whose son, Jordan Davis, was shot in Florida after a permit to carry holder decided he didn’t like the loud music coming from a car full of kids so he shot at the car and killed Jordan. So incredibly senseless and tragic. The shooter was unable to get off on a Stand Your Ground law and was convicted. Lucia is a beautiful composed woman who is a spokesperson for Everytown for Gun Safety. Following Lucy was Barbara Parker whose daughter Alison was shot and killed in Roanoke ,Virginia on live TV. Amazingly this mother could stand in front of a room full of people and speak with grace and dignity about this heinous shooting. And next was Ruth Glenn, Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She was shot twice in the head by her husband- her abuser- and survived. Her son observed the shooting. Six months later, he shot and killed himself.

Since women are the majority of Americans at the moment and are affected greatly by domestic abuse and domestic violence, activating that group will change the way we are doing things. The gun lobby understands this about women. And that is why they are deceiving some into thinking buying a gun will allow them to defend themselves against a man who intends harm. They are wrong. Few, if any, examples of this occur. But we do know that many examples of women being abused and killed by guns are in the news every day.

We’ve all had #enough. It’s time for action.

Join me and the organizations working on the issue of domestic violence, domestic abuse and gun violence to make the changes we deserve. Saving lives is the bottom line.

National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs

Americans for Responsible Solutions

Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

Everytown for Gun Safety

Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

Violence Policy Center

Center for American Progress

And the many many others in states and cities all over America. Together we can make a difference.