Denial about gun deaths

man escaping realityIn my last post I referenced a “conversation” I had with a gun rights supporter while standing in line for the Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on two bills that would keep guns away from dangerous people.  I want to talk about the denial of the gun rights community about what “universal” background checks actually mean.

I also want to talk about other lies and denials. The same man waiting in line with us to get into the committee hearing actually responded to my comment that I grew up in a hunting family and that my husband owned hunting guns by telling me I was lying to him. Really? Apparently he felt he could say anything and knew my life better than I did. There is no conversing with people like this. For what purpose would this man deny a comment made by someone about their own life and their own truth? It was incomprehensible.

Pretending and denying reality just won’t make the facts go away and doing so for a political purpose or for some unproven fear of rights being taken is disingenuous. And the corporate gun lobby has another reason for this denial- profits. Profits over saving lives is a vision for America that will keep people dying and keep people buying their guns out of fear and paranoia.

Inexcusable.

Some folks think gun violence prevention supporters are lying about everything. The facts and the truth don’t fit with their pre-conceived notions and fear and paranoia served up to them by the far right media and the gun lobby itself in the person of Mr. Wayne LaPierre. I mean, do they really believe this crap? Check out this new ad put out by the NRA after the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs and just before San Bernardino terror shooting:

“Innocents like us,” LaPierre says, addressing his NRA members directly to camera, “will continue to be slaughtered in concert halls, sports stadiums, restaurants and airplanes.”

“They will come to where we worship,” LaPierre warns as ominous music waves over blurred images of American everyday life, “where we educate and where we live.”

“But when evil knocks on our doors, Americans have a power no other people on the planet share,” LaPierre proudly proclaims, touting the Second Amendment. “Let fate decide if mercy is offered to the demons at our door.”

Good grief. Or you can check out this insanity yourself if you want to watch the video of the ad:

The denial and lies were obvious during the Minnesota hearing when the opposition to the two bills heard by the committee called the “universal background check” bill ( which it wasn’t called by the way) the “universal registration bill”. The committee chair and sponsor of the bill, Senator Ron Latz, made it quite clear that there was no registration in the bill. One can’t find that word or even anything that resembles gun registration in the language of the bill. But never mind. Denial and accusations of lies were thrown around copiously by those who testified in opposition to a bill that would be intended to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them. Do they actually want felons, those who are adjudicated mentally ill, domestic abusers and other prohibited people to get their hands on guns? I just can’t wrap my head around such faulty reasoning.

I think it’s time to take a look at this comedy segment from Inside Amy Schumer from her Comedy Central show.

The truth. Thank you Amy Schumer.

But back to the man in line with me who got increasingly angry when I challenged his “facts”. He “explained” to me that all of the gun violence in Minnesota is due to gang shootings. Now admittedly there have been a good number of shootings in the Twin Cities area involving gang activity. But according to Gun Violence Archive, there have been a good number of shootings in greater Minnesota as well in communities all over our state. Avon, Duluth, Waseca, Rochester, Shakopee, Plymouth and many other communities not named.

This man must have conveniently forgotten the recent heinous shooting of a woman in Plymouth, Minnesota as she tried to get away from her fiancee, angry over something that happened in a bar. She was shot to death right on a busy street as people watched. Not a gang shooting.

He must have conveniently forgotten the shooting that happened last week when a husband shot and killed his wife in a domestic shooting in Ramsey, Minnesota and then himself- in front of their young children. Not a gang shooting.

He must have conveniently forgotten the shooting incident last winter at a resort in Tofte, Minnesota when a man with a permit to carry shot and killed another man at a company party. Not a gang shooting.

There are so many more but I don’t room for them here. These gun rights folks also conveniently ( or inconveniently) forget that 80% of gun deaths in Minnesota are suicides. Teens and older men are the most frequent victims of gun suicides. That is an inconvenient truth.

And here is another inconvenient truth. Gang shooting victims are not the majority of gun violence victims. From this article by Evan DeFillipis for Huffington Post:

The most recent Centers for Disease Control study on this subject lends further credence to our claim. It examined five cities that met the criterion for having a high prevalence of gang homicides: Los Angeles, California; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Long Beach, California; Oakland, California; and Newark, New Jersey. In these cities, a total of 856 gang and 2,077 non-gang homicides were identified and included in the analyses. So, even when examining cities with the largest gang problems, gang homicides only accounted for 29 percent of the total for the period under consideration (2003-2008). For the nation as a whole it would be much smaller.

(…) The 80 percent of gang-related gun homicides figure purporting to support Loesch’s claim, then, is not only false, but off by nearly a factor of five. The direct opposite is necessarily true: more than 80 percent of gun homicides are non-gang related. While gang violence is still a serious problem that needs to be addressed, it is disingenuous to assert that the vast majority of our gun problem (even excluding suicides) is caused by gangs.

In spite of this, LaPierre’s proposed solution to gun violence is to “contact every U.S. Attorney and ask them to bring at least 10 cases per month against drug dealers, gang members and other violent felons caught illegally possessing firearms.”

And the article ends with this truth:

Gun advocates’ blind focus on gangs, drugs and violent felons overlooks the larger gun problem facing America. It is irresponsible and disingenuous for some of us to brush off our staggering death toll from firearms merely as the product of gangs or even violent criminals. Recognizing America’s high homicide rate for what it is — a gun problem — is the first step in solving it.

The man in line showed me an article from one of his own conservative sites that made a claim that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that gang deaths were the majority of gun deaths. The article I have quoted is the truth. The CDC has reported no such thing. This man apparently has digested what Mr. Wayne La Pierre and others in the gun lobby are suggesting in denial of the truth.

And this, dear readers, is why we are making little progress in any common sense solutions to our national public health and safety epidemic. It is also why we need very good and credible research on the effects of guns and gun violence in our country. But the gun lobby has cleverly managed to even halt that. This is just not OK. We shouldn’t accept this kind of faulty reasoning when the truth is staring us in the face.

We have a gun problem in America. It is not like in any other democratized country not at war. It is inconvenient to some. It is tragic and devastating to many.

We are better than this.

Violence by bullets

Basic RGBWe live in a violent country.  Unfortunately, violence has always been in human nature. Various ways of committing violence over time have resulted in too many deaths to count. Why are we so violent? The search for answers to that question has been centuries long and will always be with us. But we are living in this time right now and so are dealing with what is front of our faces every day. There is an understanding that purposely killing another human being is violence no matter the method. When people die by bullet(s) their deaths cannot be called anything but violent.

Mike the Gun Guy has written a blog post about suicide by gun and whether or not it should be considered in the category of gun violence. It is important to make this point because most gun deaths in our country are due to suicide. If the gun lobby wants to lower the number of people they believe are killed by bullets, they throw out the numbers of suicides. It doesn’t fit with their idea that a gun for self defense in the home can be used in other ways rather than self defense. I will discuss this later in this post. For now, let’s look at what Mike has to say:

But let’s drop the euphemism and look at reality: “States with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm suicide and overall suicide.  This relationship held for both genders and all age groups.  It remained true after accounting for poverty, urbanization and unemployment.” The link between gun ownership and suicide is particularly evident among teens, according to researchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health, and the fastest-growing age-group prone to suicides are teens. Since 2007, the overall rate of gun suicide has increased by 12%, the gun suicide rate among teens is up by 42%.

First of all, in a paragraph previous to the one above, Mike writes about the National Shooting Sports Foundation actually offering safety tips to gun owners on its’ website and comes close to saying guns are a risk in homes. That’s good news. In a recent blog post, I argued that if people understood the risks of owning guns they would, at the least, be more aware of their responsibilities to keep guns locked up and away from small kids and teens. One of the age groups with high rates of gun suicides are teens.

But then, Mike talks about the use of the word violence to refer to gun suicides:

Don’t think that suicide isn’t gun violence?  Think again.  Here’s how violence is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary: “Behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.” Notice it doesn’t say ‘someone else,’ because that’s a crime called aggravated assault.

Violence means damage and there’s nothing out there that can damage someone as effectively or quickly as a gun, particularly when you don’t even have to aim.  As far as I’m concerned, at least when it comes to suicide, maybe the GVP community should just drop the ‘V.’

I say we don’t drop the “V”. Violence happens every day. But most of the violent deaths are committed with firearms. And most of the firearms deaths are suicides. There are solutions to this kind of violence. I write about them in almost every post. Common sense leads us to the conclusion that, since firearms are the cause of so many deaths and injuries, something should be done about the access to them, who should have them, how they are stored, how the firearms are sold, what sex, race and age group die in the highest numbers, etc. We are already doing some of this research but we need a lot more if we are to deal with gun violence as a public health epidemic.

So now I want to talk about the idea of guns for self defense since that is the reason a lot of people buy guns. The Violence Policy Center has released a new report about guns for self defense. From this press release about the study:

The study finds that in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, there were only 211 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm reported to the SHR. Twenty states reported zero justifiable homicides in 2013. That year, there were 7,838 criminal firearm homicides.

In 2013, for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 37 criminal homicides. This ratio does not even take into account the tens of thousands of lives needlessly lost in gun suicides and unintentional shootings that year.

The study also finds only a tiny fraction of the intended victims of violent crime or property crime employ guns for self-defense. Over a three-year period from 2012 to 2014, less than one percent of victims of attempted or completed violent crimes used a firearm, and only 0.2 percent of victims of attempted or completed property crimes used a firearm.

“Self-defense is the big lie that the firearms industry and gun lobby use to promote gun sales. The fact is that any gun is far more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide, or unintentional killing than in a justifiable homicide,” states VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann. “A gun is far more likely to be stolen than used in self-defense.”

Guns are designed to kill people so if a gun is purchased for self defense isn’t that because the owner intends to use it at some point to kill or injure another human being? If people were warned about the risks like smokers are when they buy a pack of cigarettes, would it make a difference? Maybe. If people had mandatory training before being able to acquire a gun, would it make a difference? Maybe. So why not do these things because they certainly wouldn’t hurt anything and they just might prevent some senseless gun deaths?

When States United to Prevent Gun Violence set up a phony gun shop in New York City and explained to prospective gun buyers that the type of gun they wanted to buy was used in a recent mass shooting, the buyers changed their minds. Reality hit. Take a look:

Guns do have a history. All guns start out as a legal purchase but get into the illegal market in several ways- sold without a background check to someone who shouldn’t have a gun or to someone who intends to sell the gun without a background check to someone the seller does not know; stealing; straw purchase; trafficked on the street. If a gun doesn’t have its’ own personal history, the type of gun sold does and perversely, after a mass shooting, some Americans rush out to buy the very type of gun used in that mass shooting.

Where is common sense?

I watched  the movie American Gun. It is a movie that traces the history of a gun used to kill a man’s daughter. In the end ( spoiler alert) the gun used to kill his daughter was his own gun that had been stolen. Guns have histories.

Back to talking about the word violence. Many gun violence prevention organizations do use that word for a reason. People who die from gunshot injuries die a violent and usually sudden, unexpected death. There is no way around that. Whether the bullets came from a gun used in a suicide, a homicide or an “accidental” shooting, the bullets cause a violent reaction to a person’s body. And so we have:

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

The Violence Policy Center

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Protect Minnesota, Minnesotans working together to prevent gun violence

States United to Prevent Gun Violence

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

And many more too numerous to list here.

Violence is pervasive in America. Gun violence accounts for much of violence. Our media is littered with reports about shootings and shootings cause violence to the bodies of the victims. It is a violent death for sure. Bullets are designed to do damage to soft tissue inside of a person’s body.

A new study also suggests that gun violence is worse than we thought it was. Vox.com has reported here:

Beyond the implications for policy research, the findings are simply alarming. It’s hard to imagine that America’s gun violence problem is actually worse than we think, given that the country, even after the big drop in crime over the past few decades, still fares much worse than its developed peers. But this study shows that may be the case. At the very least, we’re not counting a lot of shootings as shootings.

How can we not count shootings as shootings? Sometimes when shootings result in only injuries or minor injuries, they are not counted. A shooting is a shooting because it results in less safe communities and a gun culture where too many people become victims of devastating violence that has a ripple effect.

Unless we have the common sense to talk about the issue for what it is, nothing will change. Perhaps if we showed photos taken by law enforcement at shooting scenes our legislators would change their minds about doing nothing about the violence. Perhaps if one of the gun rights extremists who argued with me at the hearing this week in the Minnesota Senate on the background check bill had seen a photo of my sister lying in a pool of blood at the shooting scene, he would have had just a little empathy for why I am trying to prevent gun deaths.

More on this in my next post.

I just know we can do better than this. Not addressing gun violence as encompassing all kinds of gun deaths is putting our heads in the sand. More guns have not made us safer and to the affected families, no matter what the cause of the gun death, it was a shooting that took the life of a loved one in a dramatic, sudden, unexpected and violent way.

 

 

America’s new “OK Corral”

standing_cowboy_393It is becoming more and more difficult to narrow the topic for my blog posts because there are so many shooting incidents to write about. But this article from the St. Paul Pioneer Press gave me pause. From the article:

Jones said someone then threw a punch and “hell broke loose,” the complaint said.

“Jones said it was the OK Corral outside with everyone shooting,” the complaint said. “Jones said people were shooting everywhere.”

OK then. This quote is from a man, Jones, who we learn later in the article, cannot legally possess a firearm but had one anyway. And even though this incident in a local bar reminded him of the OK Corral. He was trying to “protect himself” he said. And so it goes in America. Bullets are flying everywhere and people feel like they need guns to protect themselves from others who have guns to protect themselves. And felons and others who are prohibited purchasers can easily get guns to add to the mayhem.

This is not OK.

Yesterday I attended my Senate district Democratic convention in Duluth. I ran into a man I had met recently at another event who wanted to talk to me about the gun issue. I was wearing my “Minnesotans Against Being Shot” tee shirt from Protect Minnesota which garnered a lot of attention and reaction because- who wants to be shot? Anyway, this man suggested that we write a resolution for next year’s party platform to lower flags to half staff for every mass shooting in our country. Though this is not amusing, it struck me as genius. Because, as we discussed, the flags would be at half staff almost every day.

For example, in the last few days there have been two heinous ( aren’t they all?) mass/spree shootings that have taken the lives of many innocent Americans, including children. The first, in Ohio, left 8 dead and several injured, including infants for goodness’ sake. From the article:

A fourth crime scene with an eighth victim, a 16-year-old boy, was established near Left Fork Road’s intersection with OH 772 in Pike County.

Three small children, a now 5-day-old, a 6-month-old and a 3-year-old survived the shootings. The Pike County Sheriff’s Office and the Ohio Attorney General’s Office have not said who is currently caring for the children.

Five days old? No words.Who does that? The shooter is still at large and the victims were related. This is likely another domestic shooting where the shooter and the victims knew each other. That is the most common type of homicide in our country- not a stranger shooting where a victim needed a gun for self defense. Most victims need to defend themselves from people they know as it turns out and trying to do so with a gun doesn’t work out well and is rarely done because victims are taken by surprise with little time to react

The next mass/spree shooting took place in Georgia. Five dead and the shooter shot and killed himself as too often happens. From the article:

In Columbia County, investigators say you can count the number of murders in a year on one hand. Although some of those murders have been violent in the past, Captain Andy Shedd says Friday night’s killing spree is something he’s never seen in all his years on the force.

“It is shocking and you try to wrap your head around it and you of course try to maintain your professionalism,” said Shedd.

Five people were killed Friday night by Wayne Hawes before turning the gun on himself.

Investigators are calling it a domestic violence attack involving his estranged wife and her family. Shedd tells News Channel 6 that the last time anything close to this happened within the county was back in the 1980’s.

And surprise, surprise, another shooter who was a prohibited purchaser but was able to get a gun anyway because….. America. From the article:

According to the Columbia County court system, from 1989-2002 Wayne Anthony Hawes had been arrested and charged with Battery, Assault, Several Speeding charges, Shoplifting, Selling Cocaine, 2 DUI charges, Obstruction of Police, Fleeing or Attempting to Allude Police, Reckless Driving.

This is just not happening in countries where gun laws are strong and people who shouldn’t have guns have a very hard time getting them. But in America- no problem. Felon? Go to a private seller and buy one with no background check. Domestic abuser? Use a straw purchase to get someone to buy a gun for you. Adjudicated mentally ill? Steal a gun from a friend, relative, or anyone who has guns unsecured in their homes. Have a grudge with your estranged wife or a family member?  Get a gun and take care of it. That’s the American way. Every day in America is a “shoot out at the OK Corral.”

And back to the OK Corral comment, let’s look at what that was all about in the first place because there are myths about the American wild west and guns that need to be examined. Here is the history of the shooting at the OK Corral:

After years of feuding and mounting tensions, on this day in 1881, the “law and order” Earps and the “cowboy” Clanton-McLaurys engage in their world-famous shoot-out near the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, leaving three men dead and three more wounded.

By today’s standards of mass shootings, 3 dead is not a lot. Sadly that is the truth of the matter. But here’s the truth about guns in the wild western areas of America:

The 1881 gunfight in Tombstone, Ariz., was actually sparked by an effort to enforce the town’s Ordinance No. 9:  “It is hereby declared unlawful to carry in the hand or upon the person or otherwise any deadly weapon within the limits of said city of Tombstone, without first obtaining a permit in writing.”

That’s right, City Marshal Virgil Earp and his brother Wyatt were attempting to enforce a gun-control law that cowboys were evading — a law that was rather common in the West, according to historians.

“Carrying of guns within the city limits of a frontier town was generally prohibited. Laws barring people from carrying weapons were commonplace, from Dodge City to Tombstone,” said Adam Winkler, a professor at UCLA’s School of Law and author of Gunfight: The Battle over the Right to Bear Arms in America. “When Dodge City residents first formed their municipal government, one of the very first laws enacted was a ban on concealed carry. The ban was soon after expanded to open carry, too. The Hollywood image of the gunslinger marching through town with two Colts on his hips is just that — a Hollywood image, created for its dramatic effect.”

…”ban on concealed carry”…. Yikes! That could not happen in today’s America because the corporate gun lobby got its’ way and convinced state legislators that it’s just a peachy idea for anyone to carry loaded guns around just about everywhere. It’s working out well, don’t you think? The American gun culture encourages gun ownership and self defense. And the result? Read what I wrote about above.

I grew up watching cowboy “shoot ’em up” movies. Gun Smoke. Palladin. Roy Rogers. Wyatt Earp. The Lone Ranger. It was mythical and fantasy given that we knew those kinds of incidents were not actually happening in our own communities. But then, something happened in my family to change that idea and I became aware of what was actually happening all over America to families like mine. After my sister was shot and killed in a domestic shooting, I got involved in how to prevent that from happening to other families. Since then we have experienced too many heinous mass shootings to count. This is the real America actually. The “Wild West” was nothing compared to what’s occurring today.

So let’s review shall we? In the last several days or week in America, shooters are shooting up bars like the mythical days of the OK Corral. But in reality, the America of today is more deadly than the America described by a man (who couldn’t legally possess a firearm) who was involved in a bar shooting where bullets were flying everywhere. A spree shooting in Ohio with the shooter still at large, appears to be a domestic shooting leaving behind 8 dead and infants who have somehow survived their gunshot injuries. A Georgia man shot up his family and also himself because of some kind of domestic dispute leaving 6 total dead.

And I am now amending this post because I have seen that there have been 8 mass shootings since Friday taking the lives of 19, injuring 23 according to the Gun Violence Archive- a credible new source for tracking gun incidents.

half staff flagLower the flags to half staff.

Where is common sense?

Guns kill people

Killing - Text on Red Puzzles.

Yes they do. Guns are the only product sold to consumers that are not regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They are also in a unique category called deadly weapons that mostly includes guns and certain types of knives. Guns are designed to inflict harm and kill people ( or animals in the case of hunting). I write this often on my blog. When I post actual articles about “accidental” discharges or incidents involving so called “law abiding” gun owners I get the usual remarks from gun rights folks. They agree that these incidents are irresponsible and careless.

Maybe they shouldn’t have had a gun? No, that is usually not mentioned because the goal of the gun lobby and gun rights extremists is for just about anyone to have guns and have them just about anywhere. And so that is the push- selling guns to as many people as possible without apparent regard to whether that person knows even the tiniest thing about a gun before walking away with one.

I am going to digress for a second here because today is the anniversary of the Columbine shooting. I wrote about April anniversaries in my last post. The Columbine shooting was the one that we saw endless video of through media outlets. Who can forget the images of teens walking out of a school building with their hands up or running in some cases or trying to get out of the windows of the building to safety? And images of the memorials and the aftermath of our country’s in a series of heinous school shootings.This was a visual reminder that indeed, guns do kill people. Here is a disturbing video from surveillance cameras in the Columbine High School cafeteria before, during and after the shooting took place. That day, guns killed 13 and injured many others and left an indelible imprint on the American psyche.

When it’s real people and we see it live or almost in real time, it’s different than watching people get shot on TV shows or movies and now, videos and video games. But truth is stranger and more real than fiction. States United to Prevent Gun Violence produced a film about the effect of real shootings called “Gun Crazy“. Watch as film goers sit in the theater with popcorn seeing real shootings rather than a violent movie. When it’s real, it’s too much. When real people have to see the real bodies of a child or a loved one who has been shot and killed by bullets, it’s  unforgettable. Nothing is ever the same.

Yes. Disturbing. We are gun crazy.

Back to guns killing people, why do people buy and own guns and who are they? Some are gun collectors. I know a few of those folks and they are nice people whose passion happens to be collecting guns- some older antique guns, some modern guns. You can really only use one at a time but if you like to handle he guns, work on them, look at them, admire them, take them to the gun range and shoot them or take them hunting, that is one thing. Some are hunters and that is the only reason they own guns. My family falls into that category. Some buy guns for target shooting and sport. And some buy guns for self defense. Still others buy many guns just in case they need them to fight against their own government. And, as it turns out, many of these people support common sense gun laws.

And unfortunately, some buy guns to kill someone they know and even love and that is the only reason they buy or access a gun. Such was the tragic case of a Minnesota man who went out and bought a gun so he could shoot his family and himself in a murder/suicide. He bought that gun one day before the shooting knowing what he was going to do. Without that gun, he must have thought he could not have accomplished this awful thing.

Can we stop incidents like this? Not all of them of course. But we do live in a country abundant with guns at the ready for anyone who wants to shoot someone or his/herself. Some people know exactly what they are going to do with a gun. Others are just careless or irresponsible as has been mentioned. But whatever else we say or don’t say or intimate or excuse, we must say the truth. Guns are dangerous and can kill or otherwise harm someone known to the owner whether or not they intend it.

So when I read this article, it resonated with me. I particularly liked the title: “Guns are designed to kill so why are we shocked when they do?” From the article:

In our national mythology, guns are symbols of liberty and autonomy, self-determination and control. When they harm us and there is no obvious person to blame, we want to believe they only do so “somehow.” Such linguistic tics subtly attribute gun failure and misuse to forces beyond our control, which is more comforting than admitting they are born of the choices we make.

The article ends this way:

Gun accidents happen because we live in close proximity to machines designed to kill; they eventually will do what they were made to do, though perhaps not at a time our choosing. Whenever this happens, the true culprit is obvious: A culture that refuses to learn the lessons of its past.

At a time of our choosing is an important phrase. Some shootings are actually accomplished at times the shooter has chosen and even thought about ahead of time. Many are not. Many are spur of the moment shootings that happen in an instant of anger or in the muddled thinking of depression or having too much alcohol or mishandling a gun or just leaving it sitting somewhere where it can be used at a time not chosen to kill or injure someone. That’s how it is with guns. They kill people. One killed my sister. Or I should say the bullets from that gun- 3 of them- caused internal injuries that killed her almost instantly. The person with that gun that day was angry over a contentious divorce. We don’t know what prompted it since there was not a trial where we could hear from him in his own words why he picked up a gun that day and shot two people. We don’t know if he met them at his door with his gun when they came to deliver some papers and got them inside the house. He killed himself 3 months after the shooting. What we do know is that he shot and killed two people while angry and depressed. Without that gun accessible, two people would not have died that day almost 23 years ago.

A woman once asked me why I didn’t think they ( my sister and her friend) could have been killed as easily with a knife. Maybe she was thinking of the now famous case where O.J. Simpson was on trial for killing his ex-wife and another man with a knife. He was not found guilty as we know but someone killed those two people and we are not sure how it was managed. Most knives are not really designed to kill people but they do kill. At a much lower rate than guns in spite of the nonsensical arguments that come from the other side about that. There have been “mass knifings” which have most often injured the people who were attacked but not killed them. One such happened in China on the same day as the Sandy Hook shooting that killed 26 innocent people. In China, 23 were injured and none killed.

And the answer is “no” to the woman who asked me, by the way. My now deceased brother-in-law was able to threaten and intimidate two people with a gun because it’s hard to run away from someone with a gun. A gun can be shot from close up or far away. Bullets have long trajectories. That is why they are so effective.

I’m writing and talking about common sense solutions to our gun violence epidemic. One of the things that has to be talked about is the risk of guns to their owners and others in the vicinity. I have asked whether guns are accessible when I hear of someone in a contentious divorce or domestic situation. At least some of our leaders recognize that domestic abusers certain should not have guns. In Minnesota and a handful of other states recent laws were passed to allow law enforcement to take guns away from domestic abusers who have exhibited behaviors that resulted in a restraining order and/or order for protection. Even the gun friendly legislators supported these laws and came together to make women and children safer from those who should not have guns. Hopefully that is a realization that guns can be a risk and can become deadly quickly in domestic disputes.

There are many ways we can deal with our gun violence epidemic if we treat it as the public health problem that it is. Passing laws requiring background checks on all gun sales is one. Requiring and encouraging safe storage of guns. Stopping bad apple gun dealers and stopping gun trafficking is another. Education about the risks of guns, of course, would help. Asking if there are unsecured loaded guns in the homes where your children play. Suicide awareness programs recognizing that access to guns can result in a senseless avoidable death. And this is not just about the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program which was the subject of a recent segment of Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal show.

I hope you will join me in supporting solutions that will stop the proliferation of guns in our communities and the devastating gun violence that is taking too many lives.

 

April- shooting anniversaries and an important birthday

April foolEvery April, some families have to stop what they are doing and remember an awful anniversary. The country also remembers certain April dates as those of mass shootings and violent events that we can’t forget:

April 13- Thomas Jefferson’s birthday

April 15- Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent shooting of one of the perpetrators and eventual capture and shooting of the other

April 16- Virginia Tech shooting

April 19- Oklahoma City bombing by gun rights extremist

April 20- Columbine shooting

April is a cruel month according to poet T.S. Eliot:

 

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
This of course refers to the spring weather which has been particularly cruel in Minnesota this year. We are one day wearing winter coats and boots and shoveling and the next sitting outside in short sleeves and enjoying the spring sun.
But for the victims of these now famous shootings and attacks, April is unforgettable. How can we forget the 32 shot dead at Virginia Tech? How can we forget the first big school shooting that left 12 dead and the country reeling? How can we forget the Oklahoma bombing that left 168 innocent people dead. The man who committed this heinous act was a gun extremist and had anti-government sentiments. The Boston Marathon Bombing did end with shootings and left 3 people there to watch the finish of the race dead.
And what does Thomas Jefferson’s birthday have to do with any of this? Let’s take a look at this article that dispels the myths associated with some of his quotes that are used by gun extremists and far right political extremists:
Saul Cornell, a professor at Fordham University, said some quotations may need context, especially those from the “losing side” of debates. He added that he believes both sides of the gun conversation tend to oversimplify the Founding Fathers’ historical intent.
“Without being too professorial about it,” he said, “depending on what theory of the Constitution we use, you can get very different interpretations of the Second Amendment.”
Cornell, who is the Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History at the school, said the Constitution incorporates lessons learned while the nation was under the Articles of Confederation. He said the turmoil of Shays’ Rebellion stirred up fears of mob rule among many leaders.
He also compared the militias of early America to a form of taxation, saying that citizens had what Jefferson referred to as a “right and duty” to be armed. That is, they were required to buy weapons in addition to being allowed to possess them. Militia membership was often compulsory, Cornell said.
He questions whether the Founding Fathers would have welcomed the idea of people taking up arms against their newly hatched constitutional government instead of using governmental procedure to settle differences, which sometimes is referred to as the “ballots vs. bullets” debate.
The quote that has sometimes been used by extremists is: ” The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” So what does that mean? From this article in the Huffington Post by Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:
Those who hold the belief that the Second Amendment gives them an individual right to take violent action against our government should it lapse into “tyranny” have isolated Jefferson’s “tree of liberty” quote in order to justify a radical ideology. The truth is that Jefferson’s views on private rebellion were far more thoughtful and nuanced. While scholars like Saul Cornell have acknowledged that Jefferson affirmed an individual right to keep arms for private purposes, he never described disorganized or spontaneous insurrection as a right. Jefferson instead envisioned“a universally armed citizenry organized into well-regulated militia units based on a system of ‘ward republics’” as a deterrent against “usurpers” and a key guarantor of a healthy republic.
In today’s hyperbolic and sometimes even violence-prone political environment it is important to understand that armed Americans ready to fight against their own government or for a particular candidate is not a democracy. We use ballots- not bullets- and hopefully common sense, to change our leaders. Our Founding Fathers wanted it that way. I doubt that they envisioned armed Americans ready to fight their own government or use their guns to intimidate and bully other Americans.

Some wonder if April has some significance when it comes to violence. This article explores that idea and comes to the conclusion that in America, at least, mass shootings occur in any and every month and we know that shootings happen every day of every month to the tune of 90 a day.

For my family August was a cruel month. For others it was December when 20 first graders and 6 educators were shot dead by a young angry mentally disturbed man who should not have had access to guns.

Gun violence is cruel and devastating. In American it is particularly and uniquely so.It doesn’t have to be that way. We shouldn’t be thinking about certain months or certain dates in light of violent events that took place then. Too many families hate the anniversaries of the shooting deaths of their loved ones or friends.

It’s past time to change the conversation and do something. Today a petition with 200,000 signatures to ask Congress to repeal the PLCAA law was delivered. A protest outside of the hotel where the NSSF was meeting also happened. The National Shooting Sports Foundation opposed the Senate background check bill in 2013 much to the great consternation of gun violence prevention activists and victims. It is located in Newtown, Connecticut where the Sandy Hook shooting took place.

April is a busy month for activists whose mission it is to call attention to our American public health epidemic and ask our leaders to do something about it. The month starts out with April Fools’ Day. We will not be fooled by the false and deceptive rhetoric of the corporate gun lobby. And we can’t let our elected leaders be fooled either. It is no joke to have a loved one’s life cut short by a bullet. And that is why we are acting today, this month and every month.

Check out the Facebook page of Newtown Action Alliance and the Twitter feed of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for photos showing the activists working for victims. This is what change looks like. Let’s keep going and make it happen.

More anger in Minnesota

angry_manIn my last post I wrote about a road rage incident that left an innocent woman with gunshot injuries just because she honked her horn at another car. The shooter has still not been apprehended though I suspect that will eventually happen since there is a photo of the car now on the internet.

Since that last post, there was another shooting in Minnesota- a fatal shooting at a St. Paul law office involving an angry man who decided to “settle” his differences with his lawyer by shooting the law clerk sitting in the office. He was apparently so angry that he didn’t realize he allegedly shot the wrong person. But never mind. When people who shouldn’t have guns use them in the heat of an angry moment, nothing matters to them. I know that from personal experience.

The shooter in this case was  prohibited purchaser. From the article linked above:

Petersen has a lengthy and violent criminal past that includes convictions for drive-by shooting, second-degree assault, carrying a pistol without a permit, first-degree damage to property, aiding and abetting in the sale of narcotics, fleeing police in a motor vehicle, drunken driving and disorderly conduct, court records show.

Where did he get the gun and the ammunition given that he couldn’t buy it from a licensed dealer? There are many ways. From a private seller on-line or at a gun show. From a friend through a straw purchase. He could have stolen it. Or maybe someone who didn’t know his violent and criminal past just gave it to him? Or he bought it on the street from someone else who may have come by it illegally or legally, for that matter.

It is important to know these things if we are to prevent at least some of the daily shootings in America. Anger and guns don’t mix. A violent criminal past and guns don’t mix. Alcohol and guns don’t mix. Dangerous mental illness and guns don’t mix. But too often, this is the mix that ends in death.

A study was done recently about guns and anger. From the article:

Angry people with ready access to guns are typically young or middle-aged men, who at times lose their temper, smash and break things, or get into physical fights, according to the study co-authored by scientists at Duke, Harvard, and Columbia universities.

Study participants who owned six or more firearms were also far more likely than people with only one or two firearms to carry guns outside the home and to have a history of impulsive, angry behavior.

“As we try to balance constitutional rights and public safety regarding people with mental illness, the traditional legal approach has been to prohibit firearms from involuntarily-committed psychiatric patients,” said Jeffrey Swanson, Ph.D., professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke Medicine and lead author of the study. “But now we have more evidence that current laws don’t necessarily keep firearms out of the hands of a lot of potentially dangerous individuals.” (…)

Kessler, Swanson and co-authors reason that looking at a prospective gun buyer’s history of misdemeanor convictions, including violent offenses and multiple convictions for impaired driving, could be more effective at preventing gun violence in the U.S. than screening based on mental health treatment history.

As for those who already own or have access to firearms, the researchers suggest the data could support “dangerous persons” gun removal laws, like those in Connecticut and Indiana, or a “gun violence restraining order” law like California recently enacted. Such laws give family members and law enforcement a legal tool to immediately seize guns and prevent gun or ammunition purchases by people who show warning signs of impending violence.

We should heed the results. One of the problems with our gun violence epidemic is that we don’t have enough data to show us who has the guns, how they got them, when they use them, if they carry them, why they use them, and who they shoot. Medical groups and some common sense Congress members are trying to fix that but, of course, the gun lobby will have none of it. Even though they claim that criminals should not have guns but will get them anyway, they do nothing to make sure they don’t get them in the first place.

Sigh.

It appears that an awful lot of shootings are done in moments of anger.

When I’m angry, I do feel like I want to do something to the person with whom I am angry or the person who wronged me. But what I want to do is to get them to stop what they are doing or apologize if an apology is due. Or I want them so suffer some consequence. But do I want them dead? No. If I had a gun, could I use it in an angry situation? Possibly.

Angry confrontations should not result in death. But too often they do. Guns happen to be the most effective weapon when it comes to killing or injuring others. When a gun is at the ready, it just may be used in the wrong way. Most gun owners are responsible with their guns and their guns. But since others are not, it’s time for all of us to get together and do something about this uniquely American problem where there is about one gun per person.

One of the things, aside from legislation, that can fix some of our problems with gun violence is education and awareness. Where are friends and family members when they know someone should not have a gun but has one anyway? Where are friends and family members when they see violent tendencies in someone they know and love and also know that person has a gun? Doing whatever is necessary to make sure guns are not in the hands of a person like this can save lives. Gun violence protection orders like the one introduced in the Minnesota legislature and other states as well, can help.

This is all about common sense and public health and safety. Anyone who thinks there are other motives needs to think about what has happened in Minnesota in the past week. It’s not OK and we’ve had #Enough of senseless shootings that devastate our families and our communities.

Road rage in Minnesota

RoadrageIt’s happened again. Someone decided to take out their anger over a traffic problem with a gun. Why do people carry guns in their cars? That is the question. Let’s look at what happened in Minneapolis yesterday:

 

A 39-year-old woman who honked at a vehicle that cut her off was shot four times in rush-hour traffic on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis Tuesday.

Police spokesman John Elder said the woman was southbound near Groveland Avenue at 5 p.m. when she was cut off by a beige four-door Jeep Cherokee with tinted windows.

She honked at the car, which then slowed down next to her driver side, and a passenger shot at her multiple times with a black handgun, Elder said. The victim, who was shot three times in the arm and once in the stomach, drove several blocks and called 911. She is hospitalized and expected to survive her injuries, police said.

The shooter has not been found yet but no doubt he will be. When he is, many questions need to be asked. Was he a law abiding permit holder? Was the gun legally obtained or illegally obtained. How did he get the gun? And the biggest question- why shoot someone over a honk?

This is not the first time road rage incidents have ended in injury or death by gun and not the first time in Minnesota. Five women were shot at in January as they were being driven on a freeway in an Uber car- just in January of this year. The shooter has not yet been found.

I could list many more in Minnesota and in states all over the country but you get the picture.

So shouldn’t we be able to drive on roads and freeways without fear of being shot? I say the answer is a resounding YES. So why allow guns in cars in the first place? Before Minnesota passed a law in 2005 to allow “law abiding” gun owners to carry guns around with them wherever they go, this was just not happening. Or if it was, it was pretty rare. Sure, some who have illegal guns have likely been carrying guns around all along. But now we have made it part of our every day culture as if it is normal. It’s not.

Further, we have not even discussed children finding guns in their parents’ cars or permit holders shooting themselves while fiddling with guns in their cars. It happens often and I have written about this before. Most recently a Florida child found his mother’s gun in her car and shot it off “accidentally” sending a bullet flying through the front seat, injuring his gun loving mother in the back.

Senseless.

If you look at the image in this post, you can see a man shaking his fist. No one died or was injured as a result. But when a gun is there at the ready, the result is very different. And that is the problem with allowing guns everywhere we play, drive, live, learn, work, eat and walk.

No wonder 141 public health institutions, including the Minnesota Public Health Association, have signed a letter to Congress asking for an end to the funding prohibition for the Centers for Disease Control to study the causes and effects of gun violence. It is the health care providers who treat the injured and deal with the deaths. They understand perfectly well that bullets cause death and injury. They deal with health risks every day and they want some answers. They also understand that, like other public health epidemics, we can do something about it if we understand how it is caused. That is the American way. It’s all about common sense. We all deserve the questions and the answers and most importantly, the victims deserve a chance at live so their families will not be left with a large hole in their lives due to the shooting of a loved one.

If you believe its normal for people to be shooting at innocent drivers and passengers while they are going about their daily business, you are part of the problem. But since I know that most of you agree with me, the time is now to express your frustration and concern over a public health and safety issue that many of our leaders have chosen to ignore. Lives can be saved. And lives are taken every day in senseless avoidable incidents like the ones above.

If you’ve had #Enough of this craziness, let your legislators and Congress members know that you expect them to stand up for the victims and not the gun lobby whose interest lies in profits over saving lives. Get involved. Speak up. Write letters. Send emails. Make phone calls. Join a gun violence prevention group. That is how change will happen. A bill to require background checks on all gun sales is sitting in the Minnesota legislature waiting for a hearing. Protect Minnesota supports this legislation and is asking legislators to sign on and bring it to a hearing. It won’t get a hearing if you don’t make some noise. Similar background check bills are sitting in Congress waiting for enough co-sponsors to bring them to committee hearings. That won’t happen if you don’t make noise.