All for fun gunny tales

red_hood_002Many fairy tales are violent. I admit to that and admit that some of them made me uncomfortable while reading them to my own children. Sometimes we examine what we are doing and what we have done and come to the conclusion that it wasn’t such a good idea after all and that we could do better. Writing non violent tales is one of those ideas whose time has come. Is it just a liberal idea that we should protect children from the violence that befalls children and adults in these fairy tales?  Because in the real world, bad things do actually happen to children.

So the NRA is “making light” of some popular fairly tales by writing their own versions in which children appear to save themselves by defending themselves and sometimes with guns:

That world now exists on the National Rifle Association’s NRA Familywebsite, which partnered with author Amelia Hamilton “to present her twist on those classic tales” — a series that has infuriated gun-control advocates, some of whom called it “disgusting.”

Gun-rights supporters say the stories — which started with “Little Red Riding Hood (Has a Gun)” and continued with “Hansel and Gretel (Have Guns)” — are a more peaceful alternative to the often disturbing fairy tales from childhood.

Which is it?

The idea drew mixed reactions amid the continuing battle between gun-rights advocates holding tight to their Second Amendment rights and gun-control activists concerned with incidents involving children and guns.

And then, the reality of kids and guns is mentioned:

So far in 2016, at least 52 children under age 18 have picked up a firearm and accidentally shot themselves or someone else, according to data from the gun-control group Everytown for Gun Safety.

Gun violence prevention groups (like the Brady Campaign) reacted to this cynical attempt to sell the idea of self defense for children ( from the article):

“Make no mistake, this is a disgusting, morally depraved marketing campaign,” Dan Gross, the organization’s president, said in a statement. “The NRA continues to stoop to new lows in the hopes of shoving guns into America’s youngest hands. If nothing else, this approach demonstrates just how desperate the organization has become to sell more guns — it must now advertise deadly weapons to kids by perverting childhood classics with no regard whatsoever for the real life carnage happening every day.

“To be frank, it’s pathetic.”

Pathetic indeed.

In real life, this just happened:

The father of a 7-year-old San Angelo boy who allegedly shot himself in the leg struck another boy with his truck while attempting to take his son to the hospital, police said.

Andrew Crittenden, 26, told San Angelo police Friday that he had given his son the handgun, which the boy was playing with inside an apartment. Crittenden said he thought the gun had been emptied of live rounds, police said.

So in this case, a father gives his 7 year old a gun to play with and the boy shoots himself and then the father runs over another 5 year old with his car on the way to the hospital with his own son. Is this a fairy tale? Sometimes truth is stranger, or worse, than fiction. The gun lobby can try to create its’ own world of fiction regarding the use of guns for self defense and encouraging children to have guns but reality  blows their fiction out of the water. Or at least it should if we had any common sense regarding the actual risks of guns to children.

This is a real pathetic tale.

Or what about this real story about a 14 year old boy who shot and killed his 13 year old friend with a gun that was left around the house? The 14 year old will be living now in the real world of awful guilt over this terrible and avoidable tragedy and another family will be living with their real grief over the loss of a loved one whose potential will never be reached. That’s no fairy tale.

In the NRA’s ( and corporate gun lobby) world, small concealable guns should look like cell phones because….. why not? Imagine searching through a pocket or purse for your phone and coming up with the gun/cell phone instead. What could possibly go wrong?

In the gun lobby’s world, God gave people their rights to own guns because…….why not use religion to get people to arm themselves?  Let’s look at the above linked article from The Trace:

The bottom line for Wagner, and many gun-carrying Christians, is that it is in fact okay for Christians have guns, and to use them — so long as they do so for the right reasons. Guns should be not be used for vengeance, he says, but for love. “There is a time when the most loving thing you can do is restrain evil.”

“The Bible does say in Matthew 5:9, blessed are the peace makers,” Wagner adds, “and we actually call guys who carry weapons ‘peace officers’ — right? — because they are there to help enforce that which is going to suppress evil and protect the innocent.”

Such talk of blessed peacemaking from the barrel of a sidearm fits perfectly with today’s “good guy with a gun” fantasies. But it likely has another, older parent as well: the aggressively masculine “muscular Christianity” popularized through the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, whose shadow still lingers over much of the evangelical world.

Rationalizing and fictionalizing religious teachings as a reason for carrying guns is absurd and just fiction. We all know that firearms were nowhere in the picture when these teachings were put to print.

But never mind. The article starts with the the Mississippi legislature considering a bill to extend “Stand Your Ground” provisions to houses of worship. You never know when that “big bad wolf” will come walking in with a gun- like at the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston last summer. And in the gun lobby’s fairy tale world, that “bad guy” with a gun could have been stopped if only those 9 people had been carrying in their church.

And last, but certainly not least, the NRA has a Board member who lives in some sort of twisted fairy tale world. The latest from Ted Nugent through Media Matters:

National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent shared a sexist chain letter on social media, which claimed that “men prefer guns over women” because “guns function normally every day of the month.”

Nugent’s post is the latest example of a phenomenon where the NRA increasingly tries to attract women to the organization even as the organization’s leadership engages in sexist and degrading commentary.

Women, of course, are more likely to die in America in gun owning homes than in non gun owning homes.

In the real world,  the majority of gun deaths are due to suicide. In the fictional world of the gun lobby, that doesn’t appear to be a part of their tale.

In the real world 90 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries. Wouldn’t it be nice if the NRA would write a fairy tale about how to prevent some of those gun deaths instead of arming fairy tale figures with guns?

There are two worlds when it comes to guns. The majority of Americans live in the world of common sense and support reasonable laws and measures to keep guns away from those who could be dangerous with them. That is the real world. The minority live in the world of fear, paranoia, deception and fiction when it comes to guns. Many in our Congress and legislatures seem afraid of the wrong world. It’s time for them to step into the real world and not believe in fairy tales. Real lives depend on it.

 

 

About flying bullets

bullet holesYes, it’s true. There are bullets literally flying around in some of our neighborhoods at will with no end in sight. Eventually they stop but they really don’t know where to stop and sometimes stop in an unintended place. Of course, if bullets stop at an intended target, that is also very bad and often deadly.

The gun rights advocates love to refer to Chicago and all of the gun deaths there to make their case that Chicago ( and Illinois) have strong gun laws, so why all the deaths? That’s a good question.

A recent senseless shooting, as if they all are not, points to the ease with which guns fall into the hands of those who intend harm. A young Chicago area teen who had participated in a campaign to end the violence, was shot in the back by a stray bullet in his neighborhood. The bullet was apparently intended for someone else who could have also been killed or injured. This young boy will never be the same. Nor will his family and friends. He was trying to stop the very thing that happened to him from happening. From the article with a quote from the shot boy- Zarriel Trotter:

In a 2015 public service announcement, Trotter spoke out against gun violence.

“I don’t want to live in my community where I have to keep on hearing of people getting shot and people getting killed,” Trotter said in the video.

Good grief.

Why are so many bullets flying in some of our communities? Where are the guns and bullets coming from?

For one thing, all guns start out as legal purchases. Guns go from manufacturers to licensed gun dealers where they are sold with background checks. Private sellers get their gun collections (hopefully) by undergoing background checks at a federally licensed firearms dealer and then often sell them to people who are not required to undergo a background check in most states. It’s easy. Just like that a transaction is made with no background check and the seller has no idea to whom he/she is selling a deadly weapon.

For some reason, the gun rights extremists love to claim that this does not happen. But in most states, in fact, it does. In Illinois, since I brought it up earlier, all gun sales require background checks or verification of a Firearms Owner Identification card at gun shows-even private sellers. So then, where are the guns coming from that are used in the many shootings in Chicago neighborhoods? Presumably the shooters and those committing crimes are not law abiding gun owners?

Gun trafficking from states with looser gun laws, is, of course, the undeniable answer to the question. This great article from The Trace shows the map of recovered crime guns and from where they enter the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois. A small number even come from my state of Minnesota. Apart from private no background check sales, straw purchasing and allowing illegal sales also provides guns to our streets. So “bad apple” gun shops like Chuck’s Gun Shop and Pistol Range in Riverdale outside of Chicago provide many of the crime guns used to kill innocent people inside the city of Chicago. A small number of gun shops like Chuck’s in states all over our country, knowingly allow straw purchasing or other bad practices that provide guns to those who shouldn’t have them. From the article:

The suit claims that the stores are not forced to be vigilant about sales to minors and to straw purchasers—those who buy guns for others who aren’t allowed to. The stores are immune from lawsuits for the results of their gun sales thanks to a law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, pushed through Congress in October 2005 at the behest of the gun industry. So the plaintiffs are going after the cities where the stores are located to force them to institute common sense rules to prevent improper gun sales. In Illinois, municipal governments, not the state, are responsible for making such laws.

But something can be done about this. So why not? If the gun lobby is correct that criminals can always get guns, why would they object to common sense measures to make sure they don’t get them?  Here are the measures demanded in the above mentioned law suit against the bad apple gun dealers:

The suit suggests several changes in the cities’ gun ordinances. As outlined by the Tribune, they are:

–Mandating background checks for all gun store employees;

–Deterring theft through adequate surveillance and exterior lighting;

–Training managers and employees to identify signs of straw purchasing;

–Requiring dealers to maintain an alphabetical log of all gun sales where the gun was later recovered at a crime;

–Requiring mandatory inspections of a store’s inventory to help detect theft and trafficking of guns, and;

–Requiring video cameras to record the point of sale to discourage buyers who may use false identification.

But in a depressing admission to reality, here is a quote from the article: “The suit will be a tough one to win, according to George Mocsary, a law professor at Southern Illinois University who specializes in firearms law. He told the Tribune that for a civil rights claim to work, there generally has to be an intent to harm a particular individual or community, such as African-Americans.  “I suspect that it will be dismissed,” he said.”

Sigh.

Further, the gun lobby has made sure that the ATF- the agency responsible for monitoring and regulating licensed dealers, is vastly understaffed and underfunded. Why? Good question for which I don’t have an answer. From the article:

“If you want an agency to be small and ineffective at what it does, the ATF is really the model,” says Robert J. Spitzer, author of The Politics of Gun Control. Spitzer, a political science professor at the State University of New York College at Cortland, says the ATF’s critics, in particular the National Rifle Association (NRA), have been “extremely successful at demonizing, belittling and hemming in the ATF as a government regulatory agency.” The result, he says, is an agency with insufficient staff and resources, whose agents are “hamstrung” by laws and rules that make it difficult or impossible to fulfill their mission.

So we have an agency that could make this better but thanks to the ever deceptive gun lobby, they are “hamstrung” in their job. Lives are being lost every day thanks in part to these ludicrous efforts to actually stop us from preventing gun deaths and injuries.

The sad reality is that young people in communities of color in large urban cities are affected by gun violence in greater numbers than their counterparts. This is not OK. We know that gun violence can strike anyone of any race, age, or socioeconomic level. Domestic violence, suicides and homicides occur everywhere. But we also know that we must address the availability of guns in affected communities if we are to be serious about saving at least some lives. In my state of Minnesota, young children of color have been killed by stray bullets flying around in their neighborhoods, leaving families to mourn the lost potential of their children.

One June night of 2012, Terrell Mayes, Jr., 3 years old, of Minneapolis, was hit by a bullet that came through the siding of his home. He died. From the article:

“You keep ’em in, you keep ’em in, but yet and still that bullet, that devil, came right through the wall and took my baby,” said Marsha Mayes,…..”

Babies dying from bullets…..

This article suggests that gunfire is common in the neighborhood where 3 year old Terrell was shot and killed. Are we at war? Gunshots should not be common in any of our communities. Is there any explanation at all for how an 11 year old girl can be shot and killed by a stray bullet while she is sitting in her home doing her homework as happened to Tyesha Edwards of St. Paul in 2002?

There is no explanation for this kind of senseless violence. Even passing stronger gun laws will not change some of this. We don’t have throw- away lives. Our children are our future. We must protect them from violent and avoidable deaths.

A gun culture that has been formed over many years’ time and with the help of a corporate gun lobby that wields too much money and influence will be difficult to change. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. It’s past time for far too many. But lives can be saved with common sense and resolve. No one should be afraid to challenge the false notions that we shouldn’t do anything about our national public health epidemic because it won’t work. If that were the case, we wouldn’t try to solve any of our public health and safety problems. Life would be a free for all with no laws or rules for anything. People would be dying from all kinds of preventable diseases and accidents. That is not who we are as Americans.

It’s a ridiculous deception that nothing can change because of the second amendment. The second amendment to our Constitution was written before 90 Americans a day died from gunshot injuries due to homicides, suicides and “accidental” discharges or shootings. It was written before the common sale of semi-automatic assault type guns to average citizens. It was written before there were 300 million plus guns in the hands of Americans. It was written before regular mass shootings in our schools and public places. It was written before some of our leaders decided it was a good idea for just anyone to be able to buy guns without making sure they are people who should be prohibited from having a gun. It was written before the “wisdom” of the corporate gun lobby pushed our state legislators to pass laws to allow people to carry loaded guns around into every nook and cranny of our communities. You get the picture.

We’ve had #Enough of this. Communities and organizations working together can change the conversation and change the culture about guns and gun violence. As long as guns and bullets are so available and seen as “necessary” in some communities, our children will be at risk. Perhaps when children and teens see adults getting serious about addressing the violence epidemic, they will model what they see. For
every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first come through the hands of an adult.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Stand up and demand change.
  • Join an organization working for change.
  • Talk about the risk of guns in the home.
  • ASK if there are guns where your children or teens hang out.
  • Store your guns safely away from children and teens and to keep them from being stolen.
  • Talk to your friends during difficult domestic issues to make sure guns are not readily available.
  • Tell your legislators and Congress members that you expect them to support legislation to require background checks on all gun sales.
  • Support other legislation to make sure guns are not easily accessible to domestic abusers, felons, those adjudicated mentally ill, gang members, and others who should not have guns.

 

Together we can do this.

 

UPDATE:

Of course, it was a holiday week-end but one wouldn’t anticipate that 5 people were shot in Minneapolis over the holiday. It’s true. And some truly stunning facts:

The shooting comes as gun-related violence has risen in Minneapolis — much like in other Midwestern cities, such as Cleveland and Chicago.

Fifty-four people have been shot in Minneapolis through March 21, the last day for which police data were available, an 86 percent increase over the same period last year. In north Minneapolis alone, 43 people were injured in shootings, compared with 15 last year, police records show.

Meanwhile, the city is also coping with a rise in violent crime, which has jumped 5.3 percent compared to this time last year. In downtown, serious crimes like aggravated assaults and rapes have increased 21 percent, while the Second and Third police precincts have seen a sharp rise in the number of robberies, records show.

Bullets flew in Minneapolis last week-end. One dead and 4 injured. It’s time for that to stop.

Florida and guns

 I have been on a family trip to Marco Island, Florida this past week. It has one of the best and most beautiful beaches in the US. There are sea shells everywhere and a wide beach of hard white sand. Some call the state of Florida the “gun shine” state. I was expecting to see people walking around with holstered guns. But I have not seen one person with a gun. In fact, guns are not welcome on the beaches as my photo indicates. Why in God’s name would someone want to bring a gun to this beautiful pristine place?

But never mind all of that. So far at least, Florida remains a state without open carry. And in another modicum of common sense, the legislature failed to pass a campus carry law. It’s always nice to see the gun lobby get turned down in their efforts to get guns into every nook and cranny of our communities. I see more guns carried in public places in Minnesota than I have here in Florida.

Florida is known for looser gun laws and more gun deaths than many states. It is the home to the shootings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis- the shooters of both young black men claimed as self defense. Luckily for the family of Jordan Davis, the shooter did not get away with murder. And we know about what a fine upstanding citizen George Zimmerman is. Florida is a laboratory for the NRA. What we see in Florida often shows up in other states. That is what Stand Your Ground in Florida started. A national trend.

Lately there was an awful shooting here on Dec 31st in Florida when a mother shot her daughter in what she thought was a self defense shooting. Yes. This is more often the case than guns used for actual self defense. All gun deaths are terrible tragedies. But theses kinds of “accidental” shootings are avoidable and totally senseless.

So I am wondering if it’s true that a lot of people carry guns in Florida or if that is just another gun lobby myth and exaggeration?  Politifact found that Florida does, indeed, have the largest number of carry permits in the country. So I could be surrounded by armed people- or not. It wouldn’t be much different than sitting in a legislative hearing room in the Minnesota Capitol.

Common sense tells us, of course, that carrying while enjoying  life with the family isn’t a good idea. And it can’t be much fun to always be worried about danger lurking everywhere. Kids running around playing. People in kayaks, paddle boards, parasailing, sipping Pina Coladas, and all of those relaxing things people do. Having a gun at the ready is just not one of them.

Meanwhile back in Minnesota, gun carriers are shoveling 12 inches of snow.

Tomorrow I will fly back home to deal with whatever bills are proposed in Minnesota. Let’s hope we can pass a background check bill to require that all gun buyers undergo a criminal background check. That is one way to save lives and keep everyone who wants to buy or sell a gun honest and law abiding. There’s nothing wrong with that idea though we know the “registration” and “confiscation” argument has already been raised by the gun lobbyists. It isn’t true. Time for all of us to take a break from the old arguments, relax, and have the reasonable conversation we should be having.

Trump vs. violence

violent manCan we talk more about Donald Trump, guns and violence? Trump has already predicted riots if he does not become the Republican nominee this summer. The last time I checked, America is not a country where elections are decided by violence. This bravado and threatening rhetoric is dangerous and I am not the only one who has noticed. Republicans themselves are speaking out against the way Trump is ramping up violence at rallies and at election time. No less than Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has spoken with Trump about the violent talk:

The Hill reported Monday that McConnell called on Trump to condemn the violence that has erupted when protesters attend his rallies.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has urged Republican front-runner Donald Trump to speak out against the violence that has followed him from rally to rally around the country.

Trump has blamed supporters of Democrat Bernie Sanders for the violence.

“I mentioned to him that I thought it would be a good idea for him no matter who starts these violent episodes to condemn it,” McConnell said, according to the Hill.

Never mind. Donald Trump has not taken any responsibility for what is happening at his rallies or his own talk about riots and violence.

A right wing conservative author has threatened folks who are anti-Trump saying his “side” has guns:

On March 16, conservative author Mathew Vadum took to Twitter, and threatened MoveOn.org saying, “Note to MoveOn anti-free speech thugs: Our side has guns, tens of millions of them. Behave yourselves. #tcot.”

Hmmm. Behave yourselves. I suppose he believes that his side, the one with the guns, doesn’t have to behave themselves? So to be clear, armed Americans who make threats like this in a democratic election are threatening democracy itself. They must believe that their rights trump everything else. Be careful out there.

In this article, one of a series for the Washington Post, voters are interviewed about their support for candidates. One man revealed his views on guns and the second amendment which seem to fit with what candidate Trump is ramping up in his own remarks. From the article:

There were swells of buttons on the coats of people all around him: “Bomb the S— Out of Isis,” “Hot Chicks for Trump,” “Hillary for Prison in 2016.” Alexander’s political interests came to him late. His mother told him that all politicians were liars. He had voted once before, for Obama in 2008, but quickly grew to regret it, thinking that Obama had gone too far in seeking gun control. Opposing gun control became Alexander’s first cause. He bought two handguns and an AR-15. He became so obsessed with Second Amendment rights that at one point he drew up a banner and stood on a Highway 20 overpass with it: IMPEACH OBAMA. Then he started listening to his boss and mentor, Rep. Rod Blum, a local congressman, who told him he had to become more reasoned in his political actions.

Reasoned? Do you think? Is this who we are as a nation? I ran across this article that suggests that it is:

I do not mean to suggest that the depiction of violence should not exist in dramas high and low. Violence is an unfortunate fact of life nearly everywhere—but in America it is virtually worshipped. Many of our highest-grossing movies drip with blood. And let’s not even get started on the video games.

Donald Trump, showman that he is, instinctually knows all this. It is a fact inescapable to anyone who watches television ratings as closely as does the likely Republican standard-bearer. (…) With the Trump candidacy, violence is not merely the outcome of a toxic campaign; it’s the show, it’s the game. A feature, not a bug. And a savvy, cynical calculation of the kind of show that turns America on.

Wow. What kind of country are we or do we want to be? We do know that America leads the world in gun deaths per capita and also with the most guns per capita. That should not be something of which to be proud. A minority of Americans subscribe to the views of the corporate gun lobby and manage to grab the headlines to strike fear into the hearts and minds of those who believe them. And some elected leaders not only back away from this powerful lobby but they, themselves, espouse these same views. Over the past 30 years or so, rather than doing the common sense thing to prevent at least some of the lives taken by firearms, we have managed to loosen the laws and change the culture so that now people are carrying loaded guns around in public places and able to stand their ground when they shoot someone perceived to be a danger. We have a violent culture.

Everything we do seems to go back to those inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.… er uh…. God given right to bear arms. Those rights are touted to stop any number of reasonable things in our country. No matter what, the gun lobby gets its’ nose under the tent. Now it’s Supreme Court nominees. Apparently President Obama’s nominee to replace Justice Scalia is a gun grabber. Of course. Let’s look at this article from The Trace:

But until very recently, the kind of broadside attack the group launched on Wednesday against Merrick Garland, President Barack Obama’s nominee to fill the vacant seat on the Supreme Court, simply wouldn’t have happened. That’s because the NRA respected the longstanding tradition that allowed Senators to “advise and consent” on judicial picks without fear of retribution.

There was also this fact: Judges can be particularly difficult to assess, because some never even hear a major gun case, or their involvement in such cases hardly illuminates their judicial opinion on the scope of the Second Amendment.  (…)

Now the NRA says Garland, Obama’s pick to replace Antonin Scalia, does not “respect the individual right to bear arms.” In 2007, Garland, who is viewed as a political moderate, cast a vote in favor of allowing his court to review a crucial opinion by a three-judge panel that had found D.C.’s handgun ban unconstitutional.

Once again, the NRA appears to have overreached. Most legal experts say Garland was not explicitly suggesting he disagreed with the decision to overturn the ban, but rather acknowledging that it broke with longstanding judicial precedent, and therefore merited greater scrutiny.

If Merrick ever appears before the U.S. Senate — itself a question very much in doubt — his record on guns is sure to be at the center of the proceedings. The question is: Which narrative will take hold?

If you do anything that smacks of common sense in the interest of public health and safety the “gun grabber” label is attached and, unfortunately for us, it seems to stick. We must be better than this.

And so, guns and violence are a part of our election talk for 2016. In response to Donald Trump’s statement that he could shoot people on 5th Avenue and still not lose voters, supporters of the Brady Campaign held a protest outside of Trump Tower in New York City.:

Similar to his Republican competitors, Trump touts his support for the Second Amendment and promises to veto President Obama’s recent executive actions on gun control, if he is elected into office on November 8. Among his gun beliefs, Trump thinks arming more Americans with firearms could prevent mass shootings. He is a proud member of the National Rifle Association and publicly has said he owns both a gun and a concealed-carry permit. At the October 28 GOP debate, the billionaire said he carries a gun in New York “sometimes a lot” to be “unpredictable.”

“Trump’s rhetoric and positions on gun violence prevention are deeply troubling,” said Brady Campaign President Dan Gross. “They’re dangerous, misinformed and vile to their core.” The Brady Campaign, which works to expand federal background checks to all firearms sales, has endorsed Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton for president.

It’s true. 90 Americans a day die from firearms injuries. That is what Donald Trump should be concerned about.  More from one of the protesters:

Coney Cinco, of Brooklyn, says she hadn’t demonstrated prior to Wednesday, but joined to help spread the Brady Campaign’s message.

“Thinking he can shoot anybody without repercussions, it’s scary. That could be me he shoots at,” she says.

Robin Frank, of New York City, also participated and says “enough is enough.” “The violent rhetoric of his campaign is abhorrent. We can’t have a man running for president who speaks so glibly about shooting people in the street,” she says. “I’m just sick of hearing all of the violent rhetoric from his campaign. It’s frightening.”

Frightening indeed.

I am adding to this post to include some photos of the protest/”die-in” in front of Trump Towers courtesy of (and with permission of) photographer Joe Quint:

Brady protest

die-in

This is what should be frightening.

On Tuesday night, after the Illinois polls closed a thunder storm hit Chicago. Lightning struck the Trump Tower building. Poetic justice?  One is more likely to be shot than be hit by lightning. 

#Enough #EnoughTrump

The truth about gun registration

Truth on Display of Vending Machine.

It’s that season again. You know- the Presidential election where myths and lies are being spouted as the truth. We are witnessing the dumbing down of American politics where one of the candidates is actually fomenting violence at his rallies- that would be one Donald Trump of course. Here is a comment that should be frightening to us all from an article I read this morning:

Several Trump fans vowed that the next time, they would come armed. Some warned that if Trump was not chosen by Republicans, a militia would rise up to take him to power. When an evicted protester appeared at the doors of the Peabody, it was like a scene out of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery: gazing down at a sea of rage, the demonstrator descended the stairs and the crowd tensed to pounce.

American history is filled with ordinary people doing unspeakable things: a country where wholesome families treated lynchings as social occasions and witch trials as spectacles. As the voice of a demagogue blared from a theater, protesters were beaten and his supporters laughed, cheered and cheered. Trump proclaimed it good.

Extraordinary fury was unleashed by the ordinary, in plain sight, in the midday sun, and political darkness rose.

Yup. This sounds about right for some Trump fans who are ramped up by their candidate’s violent rhetoric and allowing violent protests at his rallies so he can make demeaning and racist comments about the protesters. This is just not OK.  Armed citizens at rallies or forming an angry militia for their candidate is not only dangerous and speaks of insurrection, it is ludicrous and should be alarming to us all.

Let’s make America nice again ( I have seen caps with this slogan on them).

What I wrote above is about a real situation and a possible threat and not a myth. But let’s talk about the oft promoted myth by the gun lobbyists that closing the private seller loophole in our gun laws will just inevitably and certainly lead to gun registration followed by, of course, confiscation of their guns. Check, for example, this article in City Pages, a Minnesota publication,  about the criminal background check bill introduced in the Minnesota legislature last week. A comment from the article goes like this:

At the same time that Latz and Schoen introduced their bill, the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus launched the predictable shrieking in opposition.

“Senator Latz and Representative Schoen have unveiled a gun control bill that is being portrayed as a comprehensive gun safety measure. In fact, this bill is nothing more than a gun owner registration bill, requiring law-abiding citizens to submit government paperwork for any purchase or transfer of a firearm,” said executive director Bryan Strawser.

Yes. Predictable and wrong. Since 1994, federally licensed dealers have been required to perform Brady background checks on sales of guns. There was a provision in that bill that protected private sellers from requiring these criminal background checks because it was thought that collectors and occasional sellers should not need to go through the bother of the paper work ( which takes about 3 minutes).

But things have changed since 1994. There are many many more private sellers selling the same guns as federally licensed dealers without asking sellers to go through background checks. That allows for people to slip through the cracks who could be domestic abusers, felons, adjudicated mentally ill or other prohibited categories for gun buyers. Sellers have no idea to whom they are selling guns without that background check.

Further, the system now in place for over 20 years has not resulted in gun confiscation. That is the nonsensical part of this mythical argument. It hasn’t happened yet and it won’t happen under the new laws. It is not happening in the states that have passed laws requiring background checks on all gun sales. So why keep saying it? Because they have gotten away with it in the past. But we know better and we are telling people the truth.

The truth matters just as lives matter. In fact, the truth matters to save lives. Look at the photo in the article of 3 people who are friends of mine. They have all lost loved ones to bullets just as I have. There is a club of survivors that has a membership based on the devastation loss of a brother, daughter, sister, aunt, mother, father, child. The membership dues are high.

There is no doubt, based on facts, that background checks and other gun laws can save lives. Just this morning on CBS Sunday Morning, there was an interview with the former Prime Minister of Australia who changed the gun laws in his country just 6 weeks after the heinous mass shooting in Port Arthur,Tasmania. Since that time, there have been ZERO mass shootings and the gun homicide and suicide rates have gone down measurably and accountably.

Also on the CBS Sunday Morning show, there was an interview with the parents and boyfriend (Chris Hurst) of Alison Parker, the Virginia journalist who was shot on live TV. Alison’s shooting and that of cameraman Adam Ward, was a violent and live shooting that affected many Americans but most especially and tragically their family and friends. This is why we need to change something in our country. Where else do citizens watch shootings on live TV?  I have met Andy and Barbara Parker and Chris Hurst and admire them very much for their advocacy on behalf of the many victims of gun violence in America.

But back to gun registration….In the proposed federal background check law that passed in the U.S. Senate in 2013 ( 54 votes should be passage but because we need 60 votes to get anything done in the Senate, the bill failed to go forward) there was a provision specifically stating that there would be no registration of guns:

“If your private gun transaction is covered by Toomey-Schumer-Manchin (and virtually all will be) … you can assume you will be part of a national gun registry,” the lobbying group Gun Owners of America said. (The group added the name of Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y, one of the co-sponsors.)

Actually, the amendment outlawed any such registry. In fact, a registry was alreadyoutlawed, and the amendment extra outlawed it.

It declared that nothing in the legislation should be construed to “allow the establishment, directly or indirectly, of a federal firearms registry

But never mind. The NRA and others in the gun lobby got busy and opposed a law that could have saved lives because…..rights? Since the Sandy Hook school shooting which prompted this common sense bill, over 100,000 Americans have been shot and killed by bullets. Where were the rights of all of those people to the freedom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

No one on my side of this debate about saving lives believes that passing a background check bill would save all lives. What we are advocating is to save as many as is possible with background check laws, safe storage of guns, awareness about the risks of guns in homes for children and vulnerable or dangerous adults, suicide awareness, or whatever else it takes. But we are NOT pushing for gun registration. Though some would say that registration would work to save even more lives. Most other democratized countries not at war do require licensing and registration and other measures for the sake of public health and safety. And the result? Far far fewer gun deaths and injuries. And people are still allowed to own guns for hunting and sport shooting.

So let’s talk the truth. The majority of Minnesotans (82%) and Americans (90%+) want background checks on all gun sales. We have been held hostage by the corporate gun lobby. Or rather I should say that our legislators and Congress members have bought into the myths. Why? Follow the money and influence. It’s the American system at its’ worst. It not only leads to needless and avoidable gun deaths it leads to mythical thinking about other important issues of our day. As Minnesota Representative Dan Schoen said from the above linked article:

“You can’t lose faith that there’s an opportunity for people to see the wisdom in doing the right thing,” Schoen says. “Rep. Cornish and I actually have a really good working relationship on many issues. He has what he puts out in public, and we all know where that’s at. We have to convince legislators that their citizens will send them back to the state Capitol and they won’t be targeted because of their vote, that the outside interests’ money shouldn’t be the issue.”

Exactly. Thanks to Representative Schoen for speaking the truth. It’s time to hold our leaders and candidates responsible and accountable for their words and their actions. If they vote in favor of laws that allow dangerous people to be able to get their hands on guns, they should be called out. If they stand with victims and survivors they should be congratulated and voted back into office.

We have had #Enough. Lies, deceptions, myths, promotion of violence and dissembling can’t be the way we run our country. We are better than this.

 

 

Guns in schools?

school lockdownThe corporate gun lobby loves to think that teachers or others should be allowed to have guns in our schools to protect children from insidious and tragic assaults by dangerous people with guns. Proclamations and myths about “gun free” zones being more dangerous than places where guns are allowed are the mantra of the gun rights extremists. And, stupidly, many of our politicians parrot these dangerous talking points. They are not based on fact or reality. Most gun deaths and injuries actually occur in “guns allowed” zones, like homes, on our streets and many public places where guns are allowed. Police officers are shot on a regular basis even though they are armed and those who shoot them know they are armed. It’s a myth.

One of the myths is that teachers will be safe with guns in our schools and will be prepared to confront a shooter.  This South Dakota elementary teacher was dangerous to himself when the gun he had in his coat pocket discharged as the coat was put on the floor:

An elementary teacher at Wagner Community School is expected to make a full recovery after accidentally shooting himself in his home, law enforcement said.
Travis Barthel, a third-grade teacher at Wagner Community School, took a bullet from an accidental discharge of a 9 mm pistol on Feb. 26 in his home on the outskirts of Avon, according to Bon Homme County Sheriff Lenny Gramkow. Barthel declined to comment on the matter Monday.

According to Gramkow, Barthel had the pistol in his coat pocket. At about 6:20 p.m., the coat fell to the floor after Barthel took it off, and the pistol fired one bullet upward into Barthel’s stomach and through the back of his left shoulder.

Why would we think this teacher would be any safer in a classroom with that gun? There are other examples of “accidental” discharges in schools by gun carriers that, luckily, did not result in death. I have written about them many times in this blog. Remember that these are the people the gun lobby wants carrying guns or having guns somewhere in our schools to keep our children safe.

Remember when a Utah elementary school teacher ( where guns are allowed in schools) “accidentally” discharged her gun in a school bathroom?

There was a time when gun permits were only granted to those who showed a need to carry a gun ( for work or under conditions of necessary self defense) and law enforcement was given the authority to decide who, in their communities, should be granted a permit to carry a loaded gun around. All of that changed in 1987 when Florida, the laboratory for the gun lobby, passed a “shall issue” carry law. A few other states had passed such laws before that but Florida is a laboratory for the gun lobby so what happens in Florida can be expected to show up in state legislatures all over the country. Every state now has some version of a law allowing private citizens to carry guns in public.

But the slippery slope has moved the needle in favor of more guns in public, thanks to our bought and paid for politicians, ever ready to do business with the corporate gun lobby. So, again in Florida, the first Stand Your Ground law was passed in 2005 , signed by Governor Jeb Bush. So now gun permit holders in states with this law can shoot someone and claim self defense, getting away with murder. From the article:

“Our study finds that, that homicides go up by 7 to 9 percent in states that pass the laws, relative to states that didn’t pass the laws over the same time period,” he says.

As to whether the laws reduce crime — by creating a deterrence for criminals — he says, “we find no evidence of any deterrence effect over that same time period.” (…)

Hoekstra obtained this result by comparing the homicide rate in states before and after they passed the laws. He also compared states with the laws to states without the laws.

“We find that there are 500 to 700 more homicides per year across the 23 states as a result of the laws,” he said. There are about 14,000 homicides annually in the United States as a whole. (…)

Still, based on the available data, it appears that crafters of these laws sought to give good guys more latitude to defend themselves against bad guys. But what Hoekstra’s data suggest is that in real-life conflicts, both sides think of the other guy as the bad guy. Both believe the law gives them the right to shoot.

In a separate analysis of death certificates before and after stand your ground laws were passed in different states, economists at Georgia State University also found that states that passed the laws ended up with a higher homicide rate.

The slippery slope continues today as more and more states are now following the path of the gun lobby’s agenda in passing laws that will let citizens carry those loaded guns around in public places with no permit or training. Common sense? The Governor of West Virginia thought not when his legislature passed this stupid and dangerous bill which he vetoed. But never mind public safety. The lapdog politicians went along with this really bad idea and overrode his veto.  From the linked article written for The Trace:

Collectively, the bills seek to upend a concealed carry system that the National Rifle Association spent the past four decades building, and which now stands at the center of American gun culture and commerce. Under that system, permit applicants in most states must pass a background check and pay a fee to the state; there can also be mandatory training courses and tests, often administered by NRA-licensed instructors.

The push for permitless carry is part of the larger movement that seeks to establish new norms for the carrying of handguns in American society, wherein the ideal is a country that places no restrictions on gun owners. Proponents believe the mere existence of the Second Amendment nullifies the necessity for a permit requirement. “People don’t want to pay a fee to the state for a right that is guaranteed by the constitution,” Mike Mosher, a police officer in Kansas who owns a firearms training company called Tactical Simulations Solutions, tells The Trace.

The gun rights extremists want us to believe that the new normal is seeing people with holstered (or not) guns in public and we should not “wet our pants” about it. When that person could be anyone- with no training or even a permit with a background check requirement- we are supposed to trust this person to be safe in public? I don’t think so. Why would any reasonable person believe this is a good idea?

I saw a man just the other day outside of a McDonald’s restaurant where I was sitting with my grandchildren and some friends. Needless to say, the boys noticed immediately that the man was carrying a gun openly and were fascinated by the gun. Our children don’t need to observe adults carrying guns around in public. It is NOT normal.

The thing is, gun use for self defense is so minimal as to be hardly on the radar. The incidents of someone using a gun for legitimate self defense are just not making the news. Or at least not as often as mass shootings, domestic shootings, “accidental” discharges and other gun incidents. They aren’t making the news because they are so infrequent comparatively.

So back to the incident of the school teacher whose gun discharged and injured himself- this happens far too often in our country. I write about these incidents frequently. In fact, my news feed and Twitter feed are littered with articles about kids finding guns and shooting themselves or someone else or “law abiding” citizens shooting a loved one(s) , themselves or someone else by “accident” or in a dispute that would not end in death if a gun was not at the ready.

Mandatory training, background checks, permits and even licensing and registration are required for so many other every day things Americans do. The idea that because gun rights are deemed to be sacrosanct by the gun lobby there should be  absolutely no accountability is ludicrous. And dangerous.

Guns in schools will not lead to safer children unless they are carried by law enforcement or legitimate security personnel. Or not. Check this out. And this. It’s important to think through what we are doing to keep our children safe from gun violence. The most important thing we can do is to prevent shooters from gaining access to guns in the first place. That will not stop all shootings, of course. But the fact that we aren’t really trying is a national shame.

Satire is often needed to make the point that America is doing virtually nothing to address its’ public health and safety epidemic. Check out comedian Samantha Bee’s video about school shootings and the corporate gun lobby.  As always, the language is ripe and provocative. But the message is clear. What are we teaching our children about safety in schools? And why are children exposed to lock down drills and ways to stop shooters? They are children. They are in school to learn. Parents should expect that their children will come home alive after school every day.

Americans have had #Enough. Changing laws, changing the conversation and changing the gun culture will lead to safer communities and fewer gun deaths and injuries. Education, awareness, training, proper storage of guns and common sense is what is needed to keep families and communities from the devastation of insidious gun violence.

 

 

 

Hillary derangement syndrome

derangedSome people hate Hillary Clinton. They hate her with a fervor that is unreasonable and over the top. Often there is no reasoning with these folks, many of them Bernie Sanders supporters. I just can’t figure out that kind of hatred. I don’t hate Bernie Sanders. I don’t hate Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or Donald Trump. I vehemently disagree with their policies and their tactics. And I am actually fearful for our country if Donald Trump were to be elected our President. It is beyond my capability to comprehend that this could happen.

I happen to support Hillary Clinton. Her positions fall into line with mine, for the most part. Especially her views about guns and gun violence. There are a few things on which I will disagree with her. No politician is pure. They disappoint us because we want them to represent everything we believe. We want to trust them. And then reality happens. Debate happens. Compromise happens. And soon enough, we are not happy.

Wayne LaPierre and the gun rights extremists have had Obama derangement syndrome since the day he was elected ( or before). Claims of gun confiscation and hysteria over gun rights have been flung around for 8 years. Interestingly, guns have not been confiscated nor have rights been taken from anyone but those who should not have guns.

I wrote in my last post about some people who should not have guns- domestic abusers. There are too many deaths of American (mostly) women every day because an angry, deranged, suicidal, depressed, drunk or otherwise spouse, partner, ex spouse, ex partner, sibling or other family member had access to a gun. Tragedies are happening all around us. And we are turning our heads. Actually most people feel helpless to do anything until we educate them and they realize that guns in the home are more dangerous for homicide, suicide and accidental shootings than for self defense. This new article from The Trace confirms this:

A recent study published in The Journal of Preventive Medicine offers new support for the argument that owning a gun does not make you safer. The study, led by David Hemenway, Ph.D., of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, examines data from the National Crime Victimization Survey — an annual survey of 90,000 households — and shows not only that so-called “defensive gun use” (DGU) rarely protects a person from harm, but also that such incidents are much more rare than gun advocates claim.

A 2014 Gallup poll suggests that Americans increasingly perceive owning firearms as an effective means of self-defense — having a gun makes one less likely to become a victim of a crime. But as Hemenway’s study demonstrates, this belief is not supported by crime statistics. Contrary to what many gun advocates argue, the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) data reveals that having a gun provides no statistically significant benefit to a would-be victim during a criminal confrontation.

Perception is not reality. Facts matter as it turns out and can save lives. More from the article:

In his new NCVS study, Hemenway also found that defensive gun use is exceedingly infrequent. While smaller private surveys estimated that there are up to 2.5 million DGUs on an annual basis, the NCVS data indicates that victims used guns defensively in less than 1 percent of attempted or completed crimes, with an annual total of less than 70,000. (…)

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

This being the case, why take the chance that something like this awful tragedy in Minnesota could happen to your family. From the story:

Everyone in the community is struggling to explain what would cause the 17-year-old boy, David Cunningham to do this. His father, Tom Cunningham, didn’t want to speak on camera. But he gave us some clues about his son’s growing despondence.

Tom Cunningham is trying desperately to cope with the horrifying scene. Returning from town, he saw the family’s German shepherd dead on the back step. Inside lay the bodies of his two teenage children.

“No, we have no motive at this point,” Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze said.

Two teens are dead. A 17 year old boy was despondent. He had access to a gun. More investigation will reveal what kind of gun it was and where it came from. And now another family and community are devastated. Guns are dangerous. They are designed to kill. And kill they do. Yes, a gun by itself doesn’t kill  unless there is some sort of discharge of a gun that ends up killing some by accident like this one where an Iowa Veteran dropped a gun that discharged and the bullet killed him. This is only one of many like this. People with guns kill many people and themselves every day in our country. They are not killing people very often with knives, hammers, clubs, chairs, or other heavy items. It’s the guns.

And I can’t leave this topic until I write about the one of the Washington man taking a selfie with a gun who ended up dead as a result.  Uffda. Be careful out there.

So what does any of this have to do with Hillary derangement syndrome? Mr. Wayne LaPierre, Executive VP of the NRA is at it again. He delivered yet another speech at this year’s CPAC conference making old, tired and false claims about Hillary Clinton coming for your guns. Let’s take a look at what he said:

The trigger-happy head of the National Rifle Association warned women Thursday that they face a dangerous future should Hillary Clinton wind up in the White House.

“All of America’s women, you aren’t free if you aren’t free to defend yourself,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said during a rambling speech Thursday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. “If President Obama, Hillary Clinton or anyone else denies you that right, they don’t really care about you at all.”

Good grief. Is he serious? Women in America are more likely to be shot and killed by a partner than in any other democratized country in the world. But never mind. Common sense is not one of LaPierre’s strong suits. More from the article:

LaPierre, speaking at a conference hall where weapons were banned, took aim at Clinton, telling the Democratic front-runner to “bring it on” in the fight over gun control.

“All of America’s women, you aren’t free if you aren’t free to defend yourself,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said during a rambling speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

“All of America’s women, you aren’t free if you aren’t free to defend yourself,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said during a rambling speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

“Mrs. Clinton, if you want to come after the NRA, and if you want to fight over the God-given rights of America’s 100 million gun owners, if you want to turn this election into a bare-knuckled brawl for the survival of our constitutional freedoms, bring it on,” LaPierre said. “We aren’t going anywhere, and we aren’t hard to find.”

Is this a challenge? And God-given? Find me a place in the Bible or other religious writings about guns being given to people by God. This is stupid and dangerous rhetoric and also ludicrous. LaPierre just can’t fathom that people who want to pass laws to prevent shootings aren’t coming for his guns. American women should be very afraid when Wayne LaPierre ramps up fear and paranoia as he does when he speaks.

In another article about LaPierre’s speech, Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence says it all:

Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said: “It’s the same populist, fear-mongering speech. It’s amazing to me that Wayne LaPierre has been making the same speech for 25 years. We have a complex problem of gun violence in America and the only come to the table with: ‘We need more freedom.’ It sounds more hollow every time he says it.”

More reaction from his speech addresses the reality of gun violence in American and the total obstruction of the gun lobby to do anything real about it:

LaPierre’s remarks were condemned by the Newtown Action Alliance, a gun control pressure group formed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook killings. It’s chairperson, Po Murray, said: “Wayne LaPierre supported universal background checks until the NRA decided to pursue an extreme agenda of arming anyone, anywhere and everywhere. He will say and do anything to elect a president who will promote the gun lobby’s efforts to put guns everywhere in a greedy pursuit of corporate profits for the gun industry. His job is to fire up the NRA supporters with fear, lies and rhetoric.

“Currently, Hillary Clinton is the only presidential candidate who stands with the families and communities impacted by gun violence. She is pushing for sensible gun laws. Justice Antonin Scalia stated, ‘Like most rights, the right secured by the second amendment is not unlimited …’ and Connecticut passed the second strongest gun laws after the Sandy Hook tragedy.”

Murray added: “Meanwhile, the NRA is aggressively pursuing an agenda to put guns on campuses and allowing anyone to carry guns without permits. In an era of increased mass shootings, voters have a clear choice this November. We choose Hillary Clinton.”

Since the Sandy Hook shooting, rather than armed security guards protecting children from a shooter, which has not happened once since that shooting, this has happened instead:

A gun of a security guard was left in a school bathroom.

An officer’s gun discharged in a school.

But never mind. LaPierre said this about children and school shootings:

Recalling the shooting of 20 young children and six of their adult carers at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut in 2012, LaPierre said the NRA was unfairly attacked and blamed. “I simply and honestly proposed that our schools, our children, should be protected at least as much as our jewellery stores or banks or stadiums, and maybe the Oscars in Hollywood the other night. The national news media savaged me. What parent wouldn’t feel safer dropping their kids off at school with a police car parked out front? (…) He went on: “As a result, millions of our children go to school today, no longer the sitting ducks of the worst and most dangerous of all lies – gun-free zones. The news media, protected by their own armed security, will never admit it, but today, millions of children are safer for one reason: the NRA. The overwhelming majority of Americans agree with the simple truth that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. The politicians and the media be damned!”

Thousands of children have died of gunshot injuries in their own homes since the Sandy Hook shooting because LaPierre and the gun lobby has convinced them that guns in the home will protect them from evil lurking around every corner. LaPierre’s claims that the media savaged him is ridiculous. If they criticized him, it was for good reason. His words ring false.

You just can’t make this stuff up. The overwhelming majority of Americans actually do NOT agree that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” In fact the majority of Americans agree that we should require background checks on all gun sales to prevent some of our shootings.

We can only guess at what LaPierre meant by the last line in the highlighted paragraph above- more of the same angry rhetoric that means nothing.

We are better than this and we’ve had #enough of the ugly lying rhetoric. This is about saving lives.