Our national failure to honor gun violence vicims with action

we failed themThis past week gun violence prevention groups, the religious community and others attracted thousands of supporters in vigils, marches, bell ringings, protests and other activities. The gun violence prevention community is strong and getting stronger. Newtown Action Alliance and Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence have for 3 years now organized people around the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. Yesterday was the 3rd anniversary of the nation’s most heinous school shooting. We all know about it, right?

And yet, in spite of all of this and in spite of overwhelming public support to change our gun laws, our Congress has turned their backs on the American people for years. That is going to change. We can not be ignored any longer.

In my city of Duluth we held a bell ringing to honor the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting and the many many others of mass shootings in 2015 and “every day ” shootings. 70 attended on a cold, blustery day to support our efforts. Local clergy, law enforcement, community activists and elected leaders joined us to ring our bell in memory of lost loved ones. I got a note after the event from one of the police officers who rang the bell. Here is what he said:

I just wanted to say thank you for organizing and asking us to be part of today’s bell ringing.  My heart was broken as I listened to people tell of all the losses due to gun violence.  Thanks to both of you for being strong and sharing with us.  A few years back I was involved in an incident where a violent suspect we were trying to arrest broke into a house and shot a 21 year old girl as he was trying to evade us.   The girl survived, I often think of her and wonder how she is doing, she experienced something many of us only see when we watch a horror movie.  I know she has had huge struggles at times.  I thought of her today during the ringing.

Thanks again for working so hard on this, you are so appreciated.

I know that some of my readers are gun rights enthusiasts and don’t appreciate anything I do. So be it. But the fact is, the nation wants change. The national gun violence prevention events started with a vigil at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church on Capitol Hill to which many victims of gun violence were invited to speak. Candles were lit. Tears fell. Victims gathered together for support, ready to go out into the country to change things.

Everytown  posted about marches all over the country last week-end with hundreds in attendance at each. The Brady Campaign has posted photos of the march in DC with activists there and in other places in the country. Moms Demand Action held many orange walks with hundreds of participants. We’ve had #enough. Thousands are texting to call and calling our Representatives and Senators. Independent state groups have held events with hundreds in attendance in good weather and bad. Over 300 people marched in Denver, for example. Children carried candles in Pennsylvania. North Carolina activists lit candles as well. Folks have made cards for victims, posted photos of why they are acting on web pages and Facebook and Twitter. Faith groups rang bells, had events, included litany in services and preached about gun violence. This has not happened before. 350 people protested outside of the NRA headquarters yesterday. The public is engaged.

We are acting and we will honor the victims with our actions. The gun lobby is acting in its’ own self interest and making profits while doing it. There is no common sense to any of this.

The Center for American Progress has released a great report with actions that can be taken by the state executives. If Congress fails to act, we will get state executives to act. Whatever it takes is what we will do. It’s all hands on deck. We’ve had enough. We want action. Thoughts and prayers are nice and fine but they don’t get Congress to do anything. It’s an American tragedy that we have turned our backs on the victims of gun violence and have done virtually nothing.

We should have acted after Columbine. But we didn’t. We should have acted after Virginia Tech but we didn’t. We should have acted after the Aurora theater shooting or after the Tucson shooting when one of their own, Representative Gabby Giffords, was shot and seriously injured in a public meeting with constituents. But we didn’t. And we didn’t act after the Umpqua community college shooting, nor the Charleston shooting of 9 innocent black people, nor the Fort Hood shooting or the Navy Yard shooting or the Tamir Rice shooting, or Trayvon Martin, or for goodness sake, the shooting on live TV of 2 young Roanoke, Virginia journalists.

We should be acting every day to keep 89 Americans from being shot in domestic homicides, homicides committed in anger or fear, suicides or children “accidentally” shooting themselves or others with guns they have accessed and shouldn’t have. We have failed to act. We have failed the victims.

How can we keep ignoring this? It’s the question that should be asked at all presidential debates and all candidate debates going forward. Our politicians need to know that if they don’t change, we will change them. They have failed us. They have failed to do their jobs. We’ve had enough and we are ready for action. Let’s get to work.

In my sister’s name and her memory, I will not let this inaction continue. I can’t fail to do something about her senseless and tragic shooting death. I will not let my elected leaders ignore my voice or the voice of the many victims we honored in the past week.


17 thoughts on “Our national failure to honor gun violence vicims with action

  1. “I know that some of my readers are gun rights enthusiasts and don’t appreciate anything I do.”

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I think you have a great deal of passion for this issue, and that is something that can be respected. But while you opine about what you claim is ignored or about inaction…it would be important to remind that tackling serious reform of a Constitutionally protected right, requires far more scrutiny [in the jurisprudence sense] than what I see recognized by the gun control lobby. One cannot treat proposals to limit [further] Amendment to the Constitution with the same gravitas as a traffic law…and expect federal legislation to pass.

    1. Actually thank you for your comment. We can go back and forth about whether measures to prevent gun violence violate constitutional rights. Justice Scalia made it clear in the Heller decision that they did not and ensuing court cases to challenge gun laws have come down on the side of saying that gun laws are constitutional. The Brady Law is constitutional. Straw purchasing laws are constitutional. Requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales would be constitutional because we already require them from licensed dealers. That process would not be unconstitutional if extended to private sales and, indeed, states have managed to do this within the law. No one is talking about limiting an amendment but amendments actually do have some limitations, as in the first.

      1. You might be correct…dependent upon judicial review, and ensuring that it’s not an onerous burden on the citizen. But since “universal background checks” are realistically unenforceable at the point-of-purchase for private transactions, I think you’d agree that there will be the call for a “next step”. That “next step” will very likely be rendered un-Constitutional from the start.

      2. I don’t think so. Many states require all sales to go through background checks. It is not onerous actually and is working. And it won’t be unconstitutional to require them since the Brady law is not unconstitutional. You may recall that when that law was written it was anticipated that private sales would be only occasional sellers. That is not true today. Private sellers offer the same products at gun shows as licensed dealers. An on line sales through private transactions have changed the situation greatly. Armslist.com is a market place for private sellers to connect with private buyers. The Constitution did not envision this at all about which you must be able to agree.

  2. Well sure…to a degree. The Constitution likewise didn’t anticipate the internet either, but you would advocate for 1st Amendment protections for internet based speech, no?

    Again, I’m not arguing that background checks may be found Constitutional [and I don’t have a philosophical issue with them as they pertain to gun shows]…..I’m saying that it will be largely ineffective towards any goal, and that the gun control lobby isn’t likely to rest upon it’s laurels, should such a law pass. It is the next step, required for any enforcement of background checks, that I believe is…and would be found, un-Constitutional.

      1. That’s a question I would pose to the gun control lobby. I have my suspicion of what it will be…..but since UBC’s are unenforceable at the point of private transaction…this will either be quickly known, or pushing for UBC’s is merely part of the strategy.

        So I would ask you, if/when UBC passes both legislative and judicial muster, and the overt realization of unenforceability is widely communicated…..what will the gun control lobby pursue to “rectify” that?

      2. Well first of all, they are NOT unenforceable. I guess we’ll just have to start confiscating your guns since that is what you all are so convinced we are up to. Happy Holidays.

  3. J. Edwards says:

    Expanding the background check requirement is not the same as actually compelling people to perform background checks for private gun transfers. Many gun owners will balk at the inconvenience and expense of paying a licensed dealer to facilitate a transaction. In Oregon, which expanded its background-check requirement in August, some local sheriffs have publicly stated they do not plan to enforce the new rule, either because they do not have the resources or because they view it as an unconstitutional intrusion.
    The Oregonian notes that “there is no centralized registry of guns in Oregon…that could be used to track a gun found in a criminal’s possession.” The federal government has no such registry either, so how can it possibly hope to track transfers and make sure background checks are performed? Even with hefty criminal penalties, widespread noncompliance is a certainty. Consider: Does the prospect of a 10-year prison sentence deter gun owners from smoking pot or pot smokers from owning guns?

    1. Why do licensed dealers follow the laws and do background checks? I have an idea. Let’s not have any laws and see what happens. By your logic, that would be a good idea. What does pot smoking have to do with owning guns by the way?

      1. “Why do licensed dealers follow the laws and do background checks?”

        Because firearms manufacturers have a record of what items by serial number, are shipped to FFL dealers, and FFL dealers are required by law to maintain a record of commercial sales on a Firearms Transaction Record, [Form 4473] for 20 years.

        That is how Brady background checks are enforceable. Falsely filling out Form 4473 is punishable by up to five years imprisonment; with similar fines or incarceration for violations by the FFL dealer.

        No such apparatus exists to enforce private transfers between citizens; which begs the obvious question, of what the next goal [after UBC] will be, from the gun control lobby. I’m not certain why you appear to get defensive on this issue, when asked about enforcement of UBC…or get dismissive to the point of introducing hypothetical binary extremes.

    1. Partisan links? They are based on facts. All we know is that the laws are working in the states that have passed them. Not everyone follows the law. If they are caught, there are consequences. Isn’t that how laws work? How do you know if traffic laws work? Sometimes people don’t follow those laws. They are often picked up for speeding or arrested for driving while under the influence of alcohol. If they get picked up often enough, a license is revoked. If they cause an accident, they may be charged with a crime. And sometimes people who are not following the driving and traffic laws cause an accident leading to death. The consequences are pretty severe, including the loss of a loved one. That is how laws work- to keep us safe and protect us from those who could be dangerous or irresponsible. But I’m sure you know that.

  4. Partisan links? They are based on facts.

    So you’d give due deference to fact based piece from NRA-ILA?

    How do you know if traffic laws work?

    Violations of traffic laws occur largely in the public eye; violations are tangible and overt. Violations of a UBC are not visible to law enforcement, even if a crime or accident with an gun occurs, there is no verifiable trail of custody to check against ownership nor background check.

    Even the current Administration, through a National Institute of Justice study agrees with this:

    Click to access nij-gun-policy-memo.pdf

    A perfect universal background check system can address the gun shows and might deter many unregulated private sellers. However, this does not address the largest sources (straw purchasers and theft), which would most likely become larger if background checks at gun shows and private sellers were addressed. The secondary market is the primary source of crime guns. Ludwig and Cook (2000) compared states that introduced Brady checks to those states that already had background checks and found no effect of the new background checks. They hypothesized that the background checks simply shifted to the secondary market those offenders who normally purchased in the primary market.

    Such a process can discourage a normally law-abiding citizen to spend the time and money to properly transfer his or her firearm to another. To be effective, requiring all transfers to occur at an FFL needs to be coupled with all the necessary incentives (or at least no disincentives) for unlicensed sellers to follow the law. Sanctions and threats of penalties are insufficient.

    To achieve any degree of success, the “universal” background check system would require universal gun registration. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) has already acknowledged this, which doomed the bill before it was drafted. Despite denials by some politicians, registration has already led to gun confiscation in the United States – in New York, California, Chicago, District of Columbia. Voters are wary of repeating the same process in their home towns. National registration to support “universal” background checks is almost universally repugnant. This is the insurmountable hill representatives and senators face.


    1. No, I wouldn’t actually. There is a motive to sell guns and keep the fear of gun registration and confiscation out there thought it isn’t the case. And if this article believes that straw purchasing will increase, we need to make our straw purchasing laws stronger. There are consequences for gun dealers who engage in straw purchasing. It’s a federal law but needs to be strengthened. As long as bad apple gun dealers get away with selling guns knowingly to people who shouldn’t have them, we will have a problem. But we are working on this angle as well. Irresponsibility by dealers, sellers, private or otherwise, can result in death. Many crimes occur “under the radar” or are not as visible. Does that mean we shouldn’t do something about them? There has so far been no registration under our current system of Brady background checks. It would be no different for private sellers. Apparently you just don’t believe that the states who have passed the laws have done so pretty successfully. It’s not perfect. No law is. But doing nothing is leading to devastating gun violence. Background checks are just one way to stop dangerous or irresponsible people from getting guns. If you, as a law abiding gun owner, are so afraid to go through a background check while buying from a private seller, I have to wonder why. This will not affect you or your rights but it might affect the “right” of a felon, terrorist, domestic abuser or someone adjudicated mentally ill to get a gun. Do you care about that?

      By the way, I think we have pretty much exhausted the argument here don’t you think? We are apparently not going to agree and I won’t convince you. But I am not sure I need to convince you. 92% of Americans are convinced that I am right and know that I am right. If our lawmakers start doing what 92% of Americans want them to do, that’s all I care about. If you are in the 8%, well sorry. So far your minority of a minority has managed to win this one. But not for long.

  5. I don’t doubt that we’ll see a FEDERAL, quasi-universal background check law in the not-too-distant future. But if a lot of people are concerned about any attendant paper trail from it, it could be set up like a “permit to acquire” law where a prospective buyer merely flashes their permit card to the seller & they’re good-fer-go. Given human nature, I’m confident that most sellers will follow any reasonably written BC law. And that’s probably adequate to reduce the flow of guns to the illicit market, such that the authorities’ confiscation efforts can have an effect.
    But,as mentioned above, the next thing is tackling gun theft! That will be tougher.

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