Activist mommies

mommy activistThis morning one of the commenters who reads my blog but rarely gets published called me an “activist Mommie”.  Check it out here:

Why is your only response to post a link and text to an NRA sponsored site? I’ve not proffered anything of the sort….I asked you where is the primary source foundation for the gun control lobby’s assertions, where it regards the 2nd Amendment?

Read any of the Framers debates over the intent and verbiage during the ratification of the 2nd Amendment; then read a bit of at least one of the philosophical influences as directly and explicitly admitted by said Framers. I recommend Algernon Sidney.

Simply playing narratives between the NRA and activist Mommies is lazy.

First of all, this kind of demeaning and misogynistic comment is not rare coming from gun rights extremists. I have been called all kinds of names, including the “c” word, as has my dead sister. They think we are “weak” according to this commenter who calls himself “Constitutional Insurgent”, whatever that means. He believes he knows more about the constitution than the rest of us yet refused to provide any evidence of what he was claiming. He got mad when I provided him with a site supported by the NRA.  Whatever.

We are not going to sit home baking cookies and doing what some think is what women should be doing.

But I did look up something about Algernon Sidney, as “Insurgent” suggested but provided me with no links. Just as I suspected, Sidney, who died in 1683, was a limited government guy :

“Furthermore, Sidney believed that civil government should have limited jurisdiction. He said the, “only ends for which governments are constituted and obedience rendered to them, are the obtaining of justice and protection.” This suggests a limited civil government whose primary purpose is to 1) render legal justice through its court system and 2) provide for the safety of its citizens. We can also conclude from Sidney that, if a government fails to accomplish these basic components, obedience to that government is no longer required.”

So we are supposed to base current gun policy on writings from the 17th century read by our founding fathers? I’m sure they read a lot of scholarly research in forming the Constitution. The Constitution is an incredible document reflecting both limited government and the need for a strong federal government. It was a compromise that has worked pretty well for our country. But as I pointed out in my last post, the  Constitution, in my opinion, can (and has) change with the times. And since guns have changed dramatically, laws need to reflect our current culture and life, not that of those who lived in the 17th century. I like to read about history as well. But I can also see that, while it is important to know what came before us, it is also important that we deal with present problems.

The second amendment and its’ various interpretations, is thrown up as the reason why we can’t do anything about all of the carnage in our country. That is a weak and unsupported argument that has won the argument for far too long. The second amendment does not guarantee a God given right to own whatever gun one wants by anyone who wants to carry anywhere one wants to. If someone can find a reference to guns in the Bible or other early Biblical, Jewish, Muslim or any other religious teachings, let me know. And don’t send me the stuff about taking up swords. That is a nonsensical argument, at best.

This article in The Trace, written by a law scholar, says this about recent second amendment rulings in the Supreme Court:

Assuming that Heller remains on the books, what does it mean for the future of gun rights and gun regulation in the United States? Probably not as much as supporters of gun regulation fear, nor as much as gun rights proponents want. Despite broad claims about its likely impact, the “individual right” interpretation of the Second Amendment has not radically changed the legal landscape. Roughly 95 percent of Second Amendment challenges brought since Heller have failed, and the evolving doctrine leaves ample room for reasonable gun regulations. The primary obstacles to stronger gun laws remain political, not constitutional.

But back to hateful rhetoric, it comes straight from the top. One of the NRA Board members, Ted Nugent, is famous for this offensive , racist, anti-semitic, and rude comments when he “performs” in public or otherwise speaks at NRA events or on NRA radio. There is pushback for an upcoming appearance by Nugent in my state of Minnesota as well there should be.

Yesterday the Republican nominee for President, Mr. Donald J. Trump, intimated that the Muslim mother of a solder killed in Iraq didn’t speak out at the Democratic National Convention when she stood beside her husband, Khizr Kahn because she was Muslim. This, of course, is a typical dog whistle issued by Trump and others like him.

Kahn, speaking at the DNC, took on Trump’s offensive remarks about a Muslim ban in America considering that his own son, a Muslim, signed up to fight in Iraq for his own country of America and was killed in combat. It was a powerful and emotional moment for all of us. But Trump and his ilk don’t like to be challenged by the facts and the truth. So they fight back with offensive lies meant to deflect the truth of the matter. In the process they tear down Muslims, people of color, women and anyone who doesn’t think or look like them.

After the convention, both of the Kahns were interviewed by Lawrence O’Donnel on MSNBC. Mrs. Kahn spoke and spoke powerfully about the pain she has experienced and how hard it is for her to talk about her son. Mr. Kahn said that she was the strong one and helped him write his speech.

If this had not been a Muslim couple on stage and only one person spoke, would Trump have attacked them? We know the answer.

When will this stop? Will someone be shot? I’m just wondering.

This kind of fear mongering and offensive rhetoric is coming straight from the man at the top of the Republican ticket. Why are other Republicans not speaking out against this? That question needs to be answered.

Just as the NRA leadership is not speaking out against Nugents’ offenses and vile remarks, it comes from the top. And it implicates everyone who doesn’t speak out.

So then, why allow these type of comments on articles on the web? Many are too vile to say out loud. Take this attack on Massachusetts Attorney General   who had the nerve to speak out in favor of an assault weapons ban. God forbid! Another activist Mommy in favor of stopping people from getting shot in a mass shooting by an angry young male. Check it out:

“Another [expletive] woman passing laws based off emotional bias this is why woman[sic] should not have leading roles they’re emotionally to [sic] weak,” wrote a grammatically challenged charmer.

They’ve called Healey ugly, her agenda satanic, and taunted her for being gay. One person tweeted that he’d like to hire a homeless man to rape and disembowel the attorney general alive. A commenter on a gun nut blog tracked down her home address and posted it. (…)

They don’t attack only women, of course.

“A day doesn’t go by that I am not called the worst kind of Jew on the planet,” said John Rosenthal, the longtime gun control activist. “I’m ‘a Jew faggot,’ or I ‘should have been killed in an oven.’ It’s disgusting.”

And then the article ended with this cogent assessment:

Oh, good grief, you may be thinking, Can’t you just ignore them? These are just fringe-dwelling fools. They can’t even spell. The thing is, the fringe is wide. And when somebody sends you a note threatening you with rape and murder, it can get to you, even if you’ve grown inured to garden-variety torment.

You’re not supposed to admit this, of course. You’re damned if you call these cretins out — it gives them oxygen, makes you seem like a victim — and damned if you don’t, because they just keep doing it. The world, especially online, is replete with men who straight-up hate women.

For her part, Healey has opted for oxygen deprivation, declining to comment on the torrents of misogyny. She did say she was determined to keep fighting to control the spread of weapons designed to mow down as many people as possible. Which guarantees further abuse.

“I am not going to back down,” she said. “I believe this is right and appropriate and lawful and something we need to do.”

Good for Healey. We need to stand up to these attacks and stand together. But now we have a woman nominee who is likely to win the race for the White House. They will hate her every bit as much as they have hated our first Black President. It won’t be pretty.

I, for one, am proud to be an activist Mommy and Grandmother. There are a lot of us and the majority of men, gun owners and NRA members have joined us in our support of legislation that would stop and prevent some of our daily carnage. If those right wing gun activists oppose that, then the weakness is theirs, not ours. Congress is the weak link here but that is going to change soon.

The Million Mom March, which I attended in 2000 on the Mall in Washington DC was a pivotal moment in the movement to prevent gun violence. It brought mothers and others together as one to oppose the overly powerful and influential gun lobby whose weakening of gun policy and opposition to anything that would save lives had kept our Congress from acting.  Chapters were formed all over the country and are now affiliated with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, named for Jim Brady who was shot in an assassination attempt against President Reagan. The gun nuts hated Sarah Brady. She was regularly attacked and abused by them. She was a strong woman who apparently threatened their world.

After the Sandy Hook shooting, Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America, affiliated with Everytown for Gun Safety has brought millions more into the movement for sanity.

The shooting of a woman sitting Congressman, Gabby Giffords, started a movement formed by Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly- Americans for Responsible Solutions. Her voice is strong and powerful when she speaks and her story resonates. Gun activists don’t like her either.

Other organizations are active and include mommies, daddies, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, grandparents, nieces, nephews and friends of people who have been shot. What the gun rights extremists don’t like about us is that we are the majority and we are changing the conversation that they have had to themselves for far too long. Our influence is now changing the minds and hearts of our elected leaders and a tipping point is upon us.

We are all attacked on a regular basis by those who fear our power to change their small minority of resistance to reasonable changes to gun laws and their fear of tyranny, people not like them, zombies and their own shadows.

This kind of shameful, ludicrous, fact free attack has to be challenged and called out for what it is. Hate. Fear. Sexist. Racist. Offensive. Rude. Unacceptable. Who are the weak ones who are so afraid of the mothers and others who want to do something about the shootings?

Where is common sense?

 

UPDATE:

Since I wrote about Donald Trump demeaning the mother of a Muslim soldier here is her response from an article:

In an opinion piece published Sunday on The Washington Post’s website, Ghazala Khan responded directly to Trump.

“Donald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention. He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart,” she wrote.

She said Trump is “ignorant” when he talks about Islam. Trump has called for banning Muslims from entering the United States.

“If he studied the real Islam and Koran, all the ideas he gets from terrorists would change, because terrorism is a different religion.” she wrote. “Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices. He doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means.”

On Sunday, Khizr Khan defended his wife’s silence at the convention, telling CNN that she is ill, has high blood pressure and cannot keep herself composed when she sees images of her son.

I suggest that the extremists stop their demeaning, misogynistic, rude and offensive comments. But first, those at the top have to stop. Who will stop them?

 

UPDATE #2

In Oregon, a woman Governor can’t support gun laws that will save lives without receiving threats against her life. Remember, the guys with the guns are likely the ones making the threats. This is simply not OK. From the article:

“Instead of voicing passionate opinions or dissent as part of exercising free speech, they express intent to cause her harm, ugly threats of physical violence and death,” said Kristen Grainger, Brown’s communications director. “Potentially dangerous individuals have attempted to breach security perimeters on more than one occasion.”

Grainger and others say Brown’s role in calling for an end to this winter’s armed occupation near Burns, along with her recent backing of three gun-control bills, appear to have ramped up threats.

I will let it speak for itself.

 

Drive by shootings and gun policy

bonnieclydeRemember Bonnie and Clyde? I do. There were a lot of drive-by shootings and road rage shootings committed by the infamous couple who died in their car of multiple bullet wounds at the hands of law enforcement. Those were the “good old days” when bullets were flying and machine guns were easily available to those who shouldn’t have had them. Revenge, gangs, anger, too much alcohol and guns- bad combinations.

Bonnie and Clyde were killed in 1934.

Remember Elliott Ness and Al Capone and the mafia era? The years of prohibition created mayhem on the streets of some of our cities. It was just after this time period that Congress decided that machine guns and silencers should not be available to average citizens without very strict regulations. In 1934, the National Firearms Act was passed:

With the passage of the NFA, these guns immediately faced severe restrictions.  While owning them is still technically legal, they must be registered (which isn’t exactly easy) and they are taxed more heavily ($200 for owning a silencer, for example, or as low as $5 for some smooth bore pistols, like the Serbu Super Shorty pictured earlier).  Anyone wanting to own one or manufacture one has to go through the BATFE for approval. (…) But firearms enthusiasts should look at it from a cautionary perspective, as well.  This was possible.  In fact, it is one of several legislative acts that govern the way we think about firearms.  And the NFA will be the cornerstone on which new restrictions will be built.

Few, if any, crimes are committed with these weapons because so few people own them and those who do go through a long and expensive process to get them. But it could only be a matter of time as the corporate gun lobby is driving by to get laws passed in many of our states to allow people to purchase silencers. When more people own silencers, will they, too, end up in the illegal market? How will they be used? Keep track of this as the push is on to get them into more hands. My own state of Minnesota passed such a law a few years ago:

Anderson, who sometimes carries a weapon to the Capitol, says that he intends to buy silencers for some of his guns. He outlined the process he’ll have to go through: He’ll have to get approval from the Cass County sheriff; pass a state background check; apply to the federal government to possess the silencer, sending $200 along with his application (which needs to include the serial number of the silencer he intends to purchase); go through a federal background check that might take months; and finally, make the purchase of an item that is fairly pricey (upwards of $700).

“It’s ludicrous that we have to go through all of this at the federal level,” Anderson said. “This is an item you should be able to walk into a store and just purchase. We need to work on the federal law. But still, this is a pretty big step.”

Yup. It’s just a matter of time before silencers are available with no background checks from private sellers and on-line just like guns are in most states. That is why we need to stop the drive-by policies of the corporate gun lobby and put the brakes on these bills. What we need is to make sure ALL gun sales, including ammunition and paraphernalia go through Brady background checks.

Why the resistance to this? It’s a minority who oppose it. Their reasons make no sense and aren’t even true. Time to make sure we do the right thing and stop people from getting shot in their cars, in their homes, and anywhere else.

Today, we have more guns than any other democratized country in the world. Over 300 million. We also have the highest number of gun deaths per capita and the weakest gun laws. Other countries don’t have a second amendment or a corporate gun lobby like ours. Sure there are some people in other countries who want to loosen the laws that have been passed. But it isn’t happening because other countries are watching our mass shootings and every day carnage and understand that our loose laws contribute.

The NRA and others in the corporate gun lobby have flown or driven into almost every state of the union and left us with the worst gun policies in the world.  This was done very purposely to drive up profits for the industry and deceive the public into believing that the second amendment includes allowing anyone to buy a gun and carry it everywhere. That is NOT what the founding fathers had in mind when the amendment was written. And, of course, we need to remember why the founding fathers wrote that amendment into our Constitution in the first place. From this Mother Jones article with an interview with author Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center:

MW: Yes. And that might be noteworthy for some. There were plenty of guns. There was the right to defend yourself, which was part of English common law handed down from England. But there were also gun restrictions at the same time. There were many. There were limits, for example, on where you could store gunpowder. You couldn’t have a loaded gun in your house in Boston. There were lots of limits on who could own guns for all different kinds of reasons. There was anexpectation that you should be able to own a gun. But they didn’t think they were writing that expectation into the Constitution with the Second Amendment.

MJ: So then why focus on the Second Amendment and not the English Bill of Rights or other things the framers drew on that more clearly address individual gun ownership?

MW: We are not governed today, in 2014, by British common law. Law evolved, the country evolved. It was a very rural place. There were no cities. There were no police forces. It was a completely different way of living. So gun rights activists turned this into a constitutional crusade. Those who want more guns and fewer restrictions realized they could gain some higher ground if they claimed the Constitution.

Has the world changed since the second amendment was written? Of course. Check this video from States United to Prevent Gun Violence for a graphic image of how much guns have changed since the amendment was written.

I happen to believe that the Constitution is a living document that can change when change is required to keep Americans safe and healthy.

Ever since the 1977 Cincinnati NRA convention revolt (see article above), the gun lobby has changed -transformed itself into a lobby group that doesn’t represent its’ original purpose nor its’ members. They changed to a group that protects and supports the gun industry profits and vice versa. As a result, the landscape changed as well regarding gun policy.

One of the goals of this change  was passing laws in almost all states to allow people to carry guns in their cars and public places. The charade was that people needed guns for self defense everywhere they went. Our legislators bought it because-  rights. Never mind that the second amendment does not mention the right to carry guns for personal protection. These laws had the effect of changing the culture around guns. It became OK for people to have guns with or without a permit on their person.

Former Representative Gabby Giffords spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Her appearance caused a stir in the hall as well it should have. Her speech was simple and short because of her brain injury. Do you remember that her shooter had a gun with no permitting process as is allowed by Arizona law? I do.

It wasn’t so many years ago that it would have been unusual for guns to be found in cars and used in drive-bys or accidental shootings. Two recent examples in my own state:

Man follows couple on local road and shoots and injures one passenger:

Jesse Jay Bohanon was charged in Carlton County District Court Tuesday with three counts of second-degree attempted murder while committing a drive-by shooting, three counts of second-degree assault, one count of drive-by shooting, one count of dangerous weapons-intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and/or ammunition.

Where did this felon get his gun? It’s easy in our country for that to happen.

Man shot and killed in bar by someone  who allegedly fired shots car at the bar. “The man, yet to be charged, is jailed on suspicion of assault and second-degree murder during a drive-by shooting, suggesting that he fired the shots from a vehicle.”

Many other examples of drive-by shootings exist. The city of Des Moines, Iowa has seen an increase in drive-by shootings as just one example.

Many examples of road rage involving gun violence exist as well with some dead victims.

Here is one. And another. And another. And another.

Common sense suggests that having guns in cars is not a good idea. Small children find them in the glove box or the back seat and shoot them. I have written about more than a few of these recently- a small child shot and injured his own mother, a gun loving person. Another toddler killed his own mom with a gun found in the car.

And then there are the people who get caught for illegal drugs and guns like this case in Daytona, Florida:

Of the 29 people, 18 were arrested on Tuesday. Nine were arrested in the course of the operation.

And police are looking for two others who are targets of the operation: Tiffany Malcom, 33, and Robert Smith, 27. Smith, Chitwood revealed Wednesday, is a person of interest in the murder of Deandre Smith, who was shot to death as he drove his car on the Oakridge Boulevard Bridge on May 10, 2015.

Eleven people were charged with federal firearms violations. Nine were charged with state drug and firearms crimes.

What is it about criminals shooting each other in cars? Don’t they know that stray bullets hit innocent people?  A beloved grandmother was shot and killed by a stray bullet in Minneapolis in May while sitting in her car minding her own business. They don’t care really when they have anger and vengeance on their minds. Bullets don’t know where to stop and there are way too many of them flying from and into cars all over America. And the gun lobby doesn’t seem to care that people like the 29 arrested in Daytona found guns so easily to traffic drugs and kill other people.

Drive-by gun policy comes from the corporate gun lobby who send NRA or other representatives into states to lobby and write bill language. And then they leave us with bad policies that have led to more gun deaths and injuries. Lives are too precious to leave gun policy to those whose interest is in selling their product. Finding new markets for new guns leaves us with too many grieving families and devastated communities.

It takes a while for new policies to change the landscape and become effective. So about 11-12 years after many states passed conceal ( or open) and carry laws, we see how they are working. Most gun permit holders are safe with their guns and do not misuse them. But enough of them have been dangerous- either intentionally or accidentally that an argument could be made that we need to strengthen these laws.

Rather than people needing to use guns for self defense, those guns are being used in shootings- drive-bys or other shootings. Few instances of defensive gun uses make the case for conceal and carry weak.

We are just plain not safer with more guns on our streets, in our cars and in our homes, schools, places of work and where we play. Using guns for hunting and sport shooting is one thing. Having them around in places where we gather or drive our cars makes no common sense. But because the NRA and corporate gun lobby drives by our states and promotes weakening our gun laws, the result has been the devastation in communities all over our country.

Last night I watched Hillary Clinton accept the nomination of the Democratic party to be the first woman to have that honor. It was thrilling to know that I have lived in a time when a woman can be nominated for and hopefully win the Presidency. Among other things she said in her acceptance speech was this ( meme by Brady Campaign):

Hillary and guns

Thank you Hillary. We are just trying to keep people from getting shot by people who shouldn’t have guns. Let’s get to work to make the changes we all deserve.

 

 

A stormy time for the gun lobby

tree damageWe were without power for 3 days following a terrible and violent summer storm in my city of Duluth. We were awakened at 3:30 a.m. on Thursday morning by hurricane force winds, violent thunder and constant and bright lightning. To say it was scary is an understatement. We heard trees cracking along with all of the other noises and were not sure if we would have to seek shelter. The photo here showing one tree down on a wire is minor compared to the destruction that happened all over in my part of town.

A majority of Duluth residents lost their power during the storm due to trees on wires and twisted power poles. Upon waking on Thursday morning, I checked on my friends to make sure all was well. Many had huge Spruce and other old growth trees down in their yards. A friend and I drove around a bit looking for coffee and were stunned at the awful damage done by this storm. Many streets were impassable because of downed trees and wires and debris was all over. Traffic lights were not working causing long lines of cars on the streets.

The city is recovering though many are still without power as I write. Neighbors are helping neighbors and the city has risen to the occasion. We are not used to these kinds of storms in our area. We have blizzards that cause power outages and sometimes downed wires. But this is something most of us have not seen in our lifetimes. The weather has been generally more tumultuous this summer. With many torrential rain falls and severe storms, I am convinced that climate change is real.

Also what is real is the summer of shootings of young black men and police officers. In Minneapolis, shootings have risen to one of the highest levels of recent years. This Star Tribune article revealed a different law enforcement policy to stop some of the straw purchasing that accounts for many crime guns getting into the wrong hands. From the article:

Amid signs of a rise in illegal firearms trafficking, federal prosecutors in Minnesota have hit on a novel strategy to crack down on gun violence and get shooters off the streets. Instead of prosecuting suspects for murder, where convictions can be difficult to obtain, they charge multiple defendants with conspiracy to buy and possess guns illegally.

The strategy is rooted in the successful prosecution of 11 gang members in 2014, after what authorities called an “all-out shooting gang war” in the Twin Cities. Prosecutors built a conspiracy case that produced 10 guilty pleas and a jury trial conviction of the gang’s leader, Veltrez Black, who was sentenced this spring to 15 years in prison.

Now a Minnesota prosecutor has been asked to share the strategy with Chicago authorities, who are grappling with near nightly volleys of gunfire throughout their city.

Such crimes often go unsolved because witnesses refuse to break a code of silence, prosecutors say, but firearms conspiracy cases can be easier to build.

What we know is that crime guns don’t fall from the sky. Guns start out as legal purchases and get into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them in various ways. It’s easy for anyone to buy guns legally or not, by not undergoing a background check at gun shows, flea markets or on-line sites such as Armslist or Facebook.

Straw purchasing is another way that allows the flow of guns into our streets and neighborhoods. We can do something about this if we have the will and think together about how to stop the guns that get used in shootings. Too many people are dying. There should be no excuses for not doing whatever it takes. More from the article:

The strategy is timely, given the recent surge in local gun violence. Minnesota gun deaths hit a 10-year high in 2015, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and represented a greater share of all homicides (61 percent) than in 1995, when Minneapolis was dubbed “Murderapolis.” (…)

And a new federal report shows that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recovered and traced 2,780 firearms in Minnesota last year — up 14 percent from a year before and also a 10-year high. That total doesn’t include all guns recovered by other law enforcement agencies; Minneapolis police inventoried an average of 681 guns as evidence per year from 2013 to 2015.

In the article there was mention of the problem of stolen guns. Some states have passed lost and stolen gun legislation to require people to report a stolen gun(s). We can see why from this: “The office also charged two people with buying up to 10 weapons for others in the group and later reporting the guns as stolen.”

And this, from the article, shows that many gun dealers are doing their jobs well:

At Bill’s Gun Shop & Range, owner John Monson is among the numerous Twin Cities sellers to occasionally find that a straw buyer passed through their doors. Monson said each of his five locations logs suspicious activity from any of the 100,000 customers who visit each year and passes along information to law enforcement agencies when necessary. Investigations can also evolve from mandatory reports to local police and the ATF whenever a customer buys two or more handguns in a week.

“We can’t stop all [straw purchasing],” Monson said. “But we can stop it in conversations in the process that happens before they do buy the gun.”

Prevention is what this is all about. If we can prevent guns from getting into the hands of those who intend harm, we can prevent some of the way too many shootings. Working with gun dealers is an important part of this process.

A new approach to preventing the proliferation of weapons onto our streets is needed given that many of our elected leaders are so beholden to the corporate gun lobby causing inaction in passing new laws or strengthening the ones we have. But we are seeing a new boldness amongst our politicians who are willing to speak out against the gun lobby publicly. One such statement was made by Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine on Saturday at his introductory speech. He spoke out and has spoken out before on the need for passing reasonable gun laws and has won all of his elections anyway.

The gun lobby is going to experience a stormy time now that their hypocrisy and rhetoric of fear are coming back to haunt them. Talk has turned to the nonsensical idea that citizens should openly carry assault rifles at public events and rallies such as the Dallas Black Lives Matter rally that turned violent. Others are wondering about conceal carry policies and how they work to protect people given that Philando Castile was armed with a legal gun when he was shot. There is some confusion over this confirmed by a local police officer at a meeting I attended about community safety. There are some interesting comments in the above linked article:

Thoughts on concealed carry: “If you’re a concealed-carry permit holder and you’re carrying, you assume some risk, you know? Things happen. Whether it’s on accident or intentional—you’re carrying a firearm. You’re assuming some risk in carrying a firearm. You have to assume some risk—it’s just like when you drive a car.”

How the Philando Castile situation will affect his work: “Will we change the way we do the training? No, because we believe we’re teaching it correctly. Will we emphasize this part of the training more? Yes. Will it come up for discussion? Guaranteed.”

It is undeniable that risk is involved when someone chooses to own and carry a gun. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill others.

 

There is a perfect storm coming. More and more people are getting involved. This latest action to get in the way of Crossfit Reebok giving away Glock pistols to the winner of the  annual Crossfit games worked to call attention to the idea that gun giveaways are just not a good idea and obviously promote gun company profits. After the Orlando shooting, the GLBTQ community is not going to sit back and be silent. From the article:

“It is an outrage that an organization like CrossFit Reebok, who purport to be about health and fitness, are giving away a weapon of death and destruction as a prize,” said New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Executive Director Leah Gunn Barrett.

Why give guns away? Promotion of weapons of death just does not fit with exercising.

A new AP poll shows, again, consistent support from gun owners and non gun owners alike for universal background checks and stronger regulation of assault weapons.

From the above article:

Nearly two-thirds of respondents expressed support for stricter laws, with majorities favoring nationwide bans on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons such as the AR-15 and on the sale of high-capacity magazines holding 10 or more bullets.

The percentage of Americans who want such laws is the highest since the AP-GfK poll started asking the question in 2013, a survey taken about 10 months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six educators.

High-profile shootings also appear to have taken a toll on Americans’ sense of safety. Strong majorities of those polled expressed some degree of concern that they or a relative will be a victim of gun violence or a mass shooting.

What I love about this poll is that it reveals that public opinion has not changed regarding support for doing something about the proliferation of guns in America. And when politicians and the public are in no mood for the increase in mass and every day shootings, things are going to change. The gun lobby may experience some stormy times and it would be past time for that to happen.

As my friend and writer, Sam Cook, wrote for the Duluth News Tribune, there is a hole in the sky left by the fallen trees.

But guns are not falling through that hole.

The public has shown over and over again over many years that they want our leaders to act to prevent at least some of the heinous shootings. More guns are clearly not making us safer.

I leave you with the latest mass shooting at another nightclub in Florida where teens were gathered for a pool party.  Two killed and 17 injured.

Teens should be able to attend a pool party without being shot and killed.  Guns make every situation more likely to end badly. They make for the perfect storm.

#Enough. We are better than this.

Gun lobby conundrum

Brady Campaign memeIt’s really hard to keep up with all of the shootings and the articles written about the American gun culture as it is revealed in front of our very eyes. Our leaders are abandoning their citizens.

Actually most of us woke up long ago. It’s those who are afraid who are sleeping at the helm of public health and safety.  It’s those who can do something about it who have allowed themselves to be placed in the pocket of a group that doesn’t seem to care about all of the shootings. For if they did, they would start supporting common sense measures- or, as one person I read recently said, just plain laws to keep us safe.

Why do we have to say common sense when it should be an unspoken truth that our leaders will do all they can to protect us from things that can kill and injure us. They can’t protect all of us and they can’t stop all shootings but they sure as heck can get to work to stop some of the killings and act like adults instead of being led around by the nose by the ultra conservatives, the gun extremists and the gun lobby.

What does the corporate gun lobby (NRA)  say about shootings of and by police, of GLBTQ Americans, women and children?  Action is not on their calendar or their radar.  Instead, Congress took a 7 week vacation while people continue to die. The Brady Campaign has it right in the meme I have included here. How many more people will die while our Congress doesn’t do their jobs?

The Gun Violence Archive tells us that 2016 has been bloody. Our streets and homes have seen blood running in them. A speaker at a local Black Lives Matter event I attended on Friday and at which I spoke, stated the obvious. Everyone’s blood is red. Black people, brown people, white people and all people bleed red. toll of gun deaths

The gun lobby doesn’t want us to think about any of this. Nor do they want us to do research about any of it. The likely findings will be that too many Americans are shot to death every day and it’s because of the easy access to guns and lax gun laws that allow for this to happen.

It’s about a culture. It’s about guns. When will it stop? And when will we do something about it to get it to stop?

Here is an excerpt of my remarks at the vigil in my city on Friday night:

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said this: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”
He was right. We are living now in a country full of fear- fear of each other; fear of those who don’t look like us; fear of law enforcement; fear of black people; fear of white people; fear of the government; fear that if you don’t have a gun and someone else does, you are going to be at risk; fear that everyone is armed so then everyone needs to be armed to protect themselves from others who are armed.

Police officers fear that everyone could be armed. Too many are and the result is senseless death by bullets.Bullets are flying in some of our neighborhoods. Innocent people like Birdell Beeks, a beloved grandmother was shot and killed by a stray bullet while sitting in her car in Northeast Minneapolis. Last week, after the tragic and heinous shooting of Philander Castile, 2 babies were shot in their father’s car when bullets were fired in North Minneapolis. A 2 year old died and a 15 month old was injured. (…)

The gun lobby is profiting off of our fears. They are encouraging, to the tune of over $14 billion dollars a year, the arming of America. They are promoting fear of “the other” to get people to buy guns. And the result is an armed society where no one knows who is the good guy with a gun and who is a bad guy with a gun anymore. An armed society is not a polite society.

One of the officers who attended this event told me during a conversation that the police department has to have more guns and more high caliber weapons like assault rifles now to keep up with what citizens have. Indeed, in Duluth, a man was arrested after making threats with an AR-15 on Friday night:

Police executed a search warrant at Davis’ residence and found a loaded Hi-Point brand 9 mm assault rifle between the mattress and box spring of his bed, the complaint said. Officers said the serial number had been scratched off the weapon, which appeared to be fully automatic and fully functional.

Fully automatic? Luckily that did not result in a shooting but it easily could have.

Everyone is afraid of everyone else. They have good reason. I just learned of the shooting death of 3 Baton Rouge, LA police officers. A man apparently walking around with an assault style rifle opened fire on the officers. A bystander called to report this person. How did she know the difference between a good guy with a gun and a bad guy with a gun? More on this later but several days ago, Baton Rouge police were put on alert when there was a threat of a shooting of officers. People were arrested after they had stolen guns:

Authorities in Baton Rouge said this week that a teenager accused of stealing guns during a burglary told investigators that he and others involved were seeking bullets to shoot officers there. Officials said that they deemed this threat to be so credible that it shaped their response to protests over the death of Alton Sterling.

Police say that they arrested three people related to the theft, which occurred early Saturday morning at a pawn shop more than 2 miles from the food mart where Sterling was fatally shot by officers four days earlier.

These are our nation’s young people. What is happening in our country? Teens and guns are not a good mix.

People have had #Enough. It’s past time to do something.

A high school freshman wrote this one. Please read it and listen to the voices of our children. They know more than many of the adults in the country. From her letter:

We shouldn’t ban guns totally, as that would jeopardize the basic need of self-defense, but we should not give unlimited access to all sorts of guns in the name of the Constitution. Our neighbor Canada has restricted certain guns from civilian use. In the past year Canada had 172 deaths related to firearms, whereas the United States had 12,236 firearms-related deaths. We ought to follow our neighbor in restricting certain assault rifles and administering appropriate background checks. This way we can ensure the safety of our people and respect our constitutional right.

An older gentleman, known to me, wrote this one, with equal reasonable arguments in favor of gun safety reform and gun violence prevention:

How much, we need to ask ourselves, was Johnson responsible for these killings? And how much are our laws, our militarism and our elected officials responsible? If the United States is “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” does this mean we are free to shoot one another: white police shooting young blacks, unbalanced blacks shooting white police, husbands and boyfriends shooting wives and girlfriends, so many people shooting so many other people — and so freely? Not bravely, certainly, but cowardly.

The New York Times quoted the police chief of Milwaukee on July 8: “We’re the most heavily armed violent society in the history of Western civilization.”

Who is responsible for that?

Indeed. Who is responsible? Not the over 90% who want reasonable gun laws. How about our leaders? How about the gun lobby? How about our culture of guns?

They are right. They make more common sense than our own leaders. Why aren’t they saying things like this? Good question. Apparently they don’t have the backbone to stand for what is right.

Here is a short list of some of the latest shootings for your perusal:

One woman killed and others injured in separate events in Minneapolis last night.

12 shot and injured near Cleveland in one night. Yes, you read that right. Cleveland where the Republican Convention starts tomorrow.

2 people are dead from gunshot injuries in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Teens playing the latest game to hit American culture, Pokemon Go, sitting in their car playing the game experience shots fired by a man who got suspicious. Does one just shoot off one’s gun if one has even a little suspicion that something could be wrong before finding out or calling 911? When a gun is present, the potential is there for something bad to happen.

What does the gun lobby have to say about these?

What does the gun lobby say about the armed citizens in Dallas who were mistaken for perpetrators when gunfire began, leaving 5 officers dead?

What does the gun lobby say about the fact that a black man, Philando Castile, had a legal permit to carry a gun and when he told this to the Falcon Heights, MN officer. Who knows what that officer was thinking when he shot and killed Castile? We do know that officers assume that just about anyone could be armed when they make a traffic stop.  At this point, there are many unanswered questions but one is why the gun lobby did not stand up to defend this shooting of a legal gun permit holder?

And while we are on the topic of permits to carry, I have been talking to quite a few people about the fact that they get their permits to carry but they choose not to carry those guns around with them. Many of them said they like the training they get and they get their permits just in case they decide to carry. But for many reasons, they don’t want to carry- guns are heavy, they are hot, they get cold in cold weather, it’s inconvenient, it’s an awesome responsibility, and other reasons. So try as the gun lobby does to get everyone armed, they have not succeeded. It is about 4-5% of our population who have their permits to carry but many of them don’t carry a gun.

The gun lobby is caught in a conundrum of their own making. When lies and deceptions have been foisted on us about the safety of all gun owners and how guns will protect us from harm and then they don’t, what is their answer?

When people carry guns to protect themselves from others with guns, and get shot anyway, what is their answer? When police officers assume everyone is armed and then shoot someone who is armed for one reason or another (or potentially no good reason) what is their answer? When an otherwise supposedly legal gun carrier has access to military style weapons and targets and kills officers after the shootings of 2 black men, what is their answer?

When the political party conventions coming up allow for people to open carry guns in the second layer of security and now everyone is worried about what could happen, what is their answer? The Cleveland Police union has asked for Open Carry in Ohio to be suspended during the Republican National Convention. Now we are seeing the results of what our corporate gun lobby has done to our country.  Who can blame the officers?

The head of one of Cleveland’s largest police unions is calling on Ohio Gov. John Kasich to temporarily restrict the state’s open carry gun laws during this week’s Republican National Convention following Sunday’s shooting in Louisiana that killed three officers and wounded at least three others.

“We are sending a letter to Gov. Kasich requesting assistance from him. He could very easily do some kind of executive order or something — I don’t care if it’s constitutional or not at this point,” Stephen Loomis, president of Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, told CNN. “They can fight about it after the RNC or they can lift it after the RNC, but I want him to absolutely outlaw open-carry in Cuyahoga County until this RNC is over.”
Governor Kasich says he doesn’t have the power to protect the officers and citizens by suspending Open Carry or even concealed carry at that ( which officers actually fear more) for the duration of the convention. Of course not. Even suspending the rights of some people ( a distinct minority) in order to save lives is not possible. Governors have tried to restrict voting laws, also Constitutional, and rights of women to exercise their Constitutional right to choose abortion, but guns? Not so much.
Let common sense win. Officers lives are at risk. Was the Baton Rouge shooting an ambush? Are we at war?
(Speaking of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, does anyone find it ludicrous that real guns can be carried but tennis balls and toy guns are banned in the perimeter of the convention area? )
Everyone’s lives are at risk. This is the insanity of our American gun culture. Why should anyone carry assault rifles around in public wearing fatigues or dressed all in black? Who are they or who do they think they are? And body armor was apparently found on one of the suspects in Baton Rouge. Why is body armor available to citizens? There is no reason to buy it or wear it than to know you are going to need it in a shooting.
Our country is experiencing a very bloody time right now. What are we going to do? Nothing is not an option. What will the gun lobby do now? Please don’t let them bring forth their tired old arguments about more guns making us safer or leading to a polite society or only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns or passing any law will lead directly to gun confiscation. Please.
We just have to be better than this. It’s time to #DisarmHate and demand a safe society for our families, our children, our grandchildren, people of all colors, races, religions, sexual preference, law enforcement officers, women…..
We are weary of the news reports. We are tired of the shootings, the grief, the press conferences, the statements from politicians, the 24/7 news coverage, and we are afraid of the next national gun tragedy.

Comment storm about gun incident

Print

A few posts ago I wrote about active shooters and how we use the term. Little did I know that gun rights advocates would come so unglued about a post on the Protect Minnesota Facebook page that used the term active shooter because of a gun incident in a small town in Minnesota that was initially described that way. 

In the last few weeks, we have had far too  many instances of active shooters and shootings taking the lives of many. I guess some folks only consider active shootings to be mass shootings. In my previous blog post, I suggested that every shooting is an active shooter incident since by  their very nature, they involve the action of someone with a lethal weapon that shoots bullets from a gun, often at another human being.

So the post of the gun incident on the Facebook page of concern was one where a man went outside of his house, shot 2 shots from his gun into the ground and then went back inside. Of course, there was a report of shots fired. No one was sure what happened. Was it inside of the home? What was it about? Was anyone at risk? Who knew? Every day in America people are shot inside and outside of their homes. And hearing gunshots has become the new normal but also a reason for people who hear them to fear the worst.

In the end, the man was found asleep and drunk during the morning hours after the gun discharge and  was charged with a domestic disturbance. A 7 week old baby was inside.

Gunshots were, of course, fired recently in Minnesota leading to the death of a young black man named Philando Castile. Because of this shooting, protests have been happening all over America and now, as I write, there is a service in Dallas to honor the 5 police officers shot by a lone gunman who was upset by the shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. The news is full of stories about all of this and I have written before about them. There is so much to say and it is being written about and talked about every day all over our country.

But was the news full of the incidents like the one in north Minneapolis after the shooting of Philando Castile, when 2 babies were shot and one died? A 2 year old is dead and a 15 month old is injured. Another active shooting. More gunshots. More death.

There was some mention on the news of the shooting in a Michigan court house when an inmate grabbed an officer’s gun and shot and killed 2 bailiffs. In the ensuing gunfire, the shooter was also shot. Another active shooting. More gunshots. 3 more dead.

Whether or not the gun rights advocates object to the idea that shootings are active events is no matter really. The shooting incident n the small town of Elko in Minnesota could easily have ended in injury or death. When a gun is available in domestic situations, when someone has been drinking, when someone is angry, when someone wants to “solve a problem”, it often ends badly.

But some of the commenters on the Protect Minnesota Facebook page thought it was just another small town incident that should be ignored. Really? Should we ignore a drunk person who could have just as easily have injured or killed family members with that gun? Then what would we have called the incident?

Shootings are not passive. They are active.There is action when a bullet is activated by the gun trigger. The trigger pulled by someone who is actively pulling it causes the action of the bullet rapidly moving through the gun barrel in order to find its’ target.

I suggest that if someone does not like the idea of active shootings referring to all shooting incidents, they ought to consider, as many of them say, that guns don’t kill people. People kill people. They sure do. People with guns have taken action far too many times to kill others.

A little common sense, or a lot for that matter, will go a long way to making sure people aren’t being shot on a daily basis. There are no excuses for anyone shooting off a gun recklessly.

When I read some of the ugly comments made by some of the commenters it was pretty clear that they wanted to shout out their views and they were angry. Many were deleted by the page administrators for good reason. Who needs that kind of attack? That hatred? That kind of language? That anger? The untruths expressed with no facts to back them up? The attempt to take over the discussion as is often the case on blogs, Facebook pages and articles about gun violence prevention is common. And it is almost always ugly and offensive.

This is no way to stop the shootings. It only adds to the divisiveness of any reasonable discussion about how to save lives and prevent shootings.

Comments and discussion are one thing if they are meant to openly discuss differences and come to solutions to our national gun violence epidemic. We are not just talking about a small problem here. We are talking about 90 Americans a day dying from gunshot injuries. We are talking about young black men being killed by officers and by other young black men. We are talking about police officers being killed by black men, white men, inmates and others. We are talking about domestic disputes that often end in death. We are talking about the thousands of people who take their own lives with guns every year. We are talking about our toddlers and children shooting others or themselves. We are talking about intolerant and angry young men shooting gay people, young children, theater goers and college students and shoppers with guns, often easily obtained. We are talking about people on known terror watch lists being able to access guns without our being able to stop them. We are talking about felons, domestic abusers, those who are dangerously mentally ill, fugitives and others who can buy guns every day with no background checks. We are talking about what should be peaceful protests over shootings turning violent themselves. We are talking about our police officers being outgunned on the streets and fearing for their own lives. We are talking about the fact that officers understand that almost anyone they encounter could be armed. We are talking about the fact that too many people have armed themselves out of fear of the government and/or law enforcement. We are talking about fear and paranoia and mistrust of others. We are talking about open carriers walking around during the Dallas protest with assault rifles over the shoulders confusing police when the shooting began. 

Who are the good guys with guns any more?

We have a serious problem. That is what comments should be about. How can we solve this problem together?

And speaking of action, there has been little of it in Congress regarding gun violence. Action is needed and needed immediately.

We are better than this. Americans are nearing a tipping point and becoming more and more impatient with the leaders at the state and federal level who could do something about our national crisis of active shootings but instead have become passive out of fear of the corporate gun lobby.

In fact, over 1 million petitions to Congress to act on a new ban on assault type rifles  were delivered today to Congress members on the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Here is a tweet and photo of the petition delivery from MoveOn.org.

Americans are fed up. They want a change to the laws, a change to our gun culture, a change to our conversation and a change to the every day shootings.

#Enough.

#DisArmHate

It’s about the guns

little boyThe last few days have been difficult and heart-breaking to say the least. In my home state of Minnesota of course, a black man was shot to death by a police officer after being stopped for allegedly having a broken tail light. Really? So much to say here that I can hardly say it all. The victim had a legal permit to carry a gun around. He announced that he had that permit. Why? He didn’t have to according to Minnesota law. But he was a black man with a gun. Perhaps he was afraid that if he was found with a gun on his person, things would get hairy for him. He was right.

Would he have been alive had he not had that permit to carry and announced that he did to the officer? We don’t know. I’m just thinking out loud.

Philando Castile was his name. He was a beloved cafeteria worker in a St. Paul Montessori School. A role model to children.

Now he is dead.

So many unanswered questions. We don’t know why he kept saying that he had this permit to carry, or so his girlfriend said he was saying.

The gun lobby has been working hard to arm every American just in case….. Castile must have thought his gun and his legal permit would protect him from harm. It didn’t.

Where is the gun lobby’s outrage over these shootings? Are they standing with the Black Lives Matters protest in St. Paul because a man with a legal permit to carry was shot to death by an officer? Nope.

We don’t know why the officer fired his gun when Philando allegedly moved his hand towards his pocket for his ID.

We just don’t know everything. People react to situations in many different ways.

We do know that when a gun is present, things often go wrong.

We do also know that more guns are not making us safer.

We understand that there is racism abounding in our American communities fomented by fear and paranoia of “others”. We do know that the gun lobby is making it worse.

We do know that one Presidential candidate in the name of Mr. Donald Trump has said that the Orlando tragic shooting could have been lessened or averted if only someone had been armed.

Ludicrous.

And then came Dallas last night. Armed officers were gunned down by a couple of citizens ( or that is what we know so far) who seemed to have been upset by the peaceful Black Lives Matters protest over the Minnesota and Louisiana shootings of black men.

Four guys with assault style weapons and high capacity magazines were like snipers gunning down officers on purpose- armed officers.

We know that it is easy to get assault rifles and high capacity magazines in America- far too easy. We have made it easy. We allowed the Assault Weapons Ban to expire. What has happened since? Numerous shootings of innocent school children, movie goers, military members, officers, LGBTQ citizens, and others. That’s what our lack of common sense has done.

And, as a reminder to my readers, most of these guns were legally obtained by otherwise “law abiding” gun owners.

Hypocrisy.

Good guys with guns are as bad as bad guys with guns.

The least we can do is to keep guns away from the “bad guys”. But what do we do about the good guys?

Only in America. It’s about the guns. It’s about a gun culture and a culture of fear and hatred that, when combined, leads to tragic shootings and senseless loss of lives. From this editorial in the Baltimore Sun:

We are in the deep end, my fellow Americans, drowning in anger and frustration, guns and violence. I don’t know about you, but when I woke up this morning and read the news from Dallas, I felt like the country had tipped toward anarchy.

The U.S. is an exceptional country, all right. Exceptional for its political, social and racial polarization. Exceptional in its acceptance of gun ownership.

You can feel despondent. You can feel hopeless.

I am despondent but not feeling hopeless. As someone who has lost a sister in a domestic shooting, I have been re-traumatized by these latest shootings. I watched the now viral video taken by the girlfriend of Philando Castile. I watched the blood ooze from his shirt. I heard his dying moans and breaths. What if there was a video of my sister’s last moans and breaths? What if?

What if this was your loved one as President Obama said in a speech given last night before the Dallas shooting. What if? What if our elected leaders were made to watch videos and see photos of the victims’ last dying breaths? What if this was one of theirs?

And who will protect the children as I asked in my last post? There was a 4 year old girl in the back seat of Philando Castile’s car who saw him shot and watched him die. How can we forget the children who witness such awful murder in their young lives?

What if Congress just straight up passed stronger gun laws without pandering to the corporate gun lobby as House Speaker Paul Ryan just did:

“We’re not going to rush it,” the Wisconsin Republican said at a news conference. “We’re going to get it right. And that’s what we’re working on with our members.”

No rush. Every day 90 Americans die from gunshot injuries.

No rush. 5 officers were just gunned down in Dallas.

No rush. 49 LGBTQ Americans were just gunned down at a nightclub in Orlando.

No rush, Speaker Ryan.

Shame.

Heartbreak.

Outrage.

Tears.

Sorrow.

Before the Dallas shootings but after the Minnesota shooting, the words of Protect Minnesota’s Executive Director Rev. Nancy Nord Bence, were sent out to supporters. She was urging us to look at the Philando Castile shooting from many perspectives. But in the end, it’s all about the guns. Here is the email sent out last night titled “Thoughts on the death of Philando Castile:

 July 7, 2016
Posted by Rev. Nancy Nord Bence, Executive Director

“Another terrible tragedy occurred last night, this time in our own backyard, when Philando Castile was shot dead by a police officer in Falcon Heights. Philando was a much loved 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor at a St. Paul Montessori school who was black. According to police reports, he was pulled over for a tail light violation and a handgun was “recovered at the scene.” According to his girlfriend, the officer shot Philando as he reached for his identification as per the officer’s request. Philando was armed, but had clearly announced that he had a permit to carry a handgun. His girlfriend, sitting next to him in the car with her young child in the backseat, streamed a video of Philando as he slumped over, bleeding, having been shot four times point blank. The video allows us to hear the officer yell at her and then handcuff and detain her, while she narrates, weeps and prays that Philando will survive. It is difficult to watch.

Because this awful incident involved gun violence, Protect Minnesota is expected to make a definitive statement and “take sides” on the issue. At this time, with so much still unknown, I am not prepared to do either. But I do have some thoughts to share. What follows isn’t short and pithy–I’m a pastor after all!– but I hope you’ll find it helpful.

1. On Racism
This was the second questionable shooting of a black man by police in the U.S. in as many days. According to the Washington Post, there have been 509 police killings in America so far this year, with African Americans being killed at a rate 2-1/2 times greater than whites. President Obama today said that African Americans are 30% more likely than whites to be pulled over and three times more likely to be searched by the police. Whatever other particulars arise, racism cannot be discounted as a key element of this tragedy. Often-hidden but always present, racism is like a strand of barbed wire woven into the fabric of our society. Its barbs catch, tear and hold back every institution, organization and individual as we strive to move forward towards justice. Since it would be naive to think that law enforcement does not reflect the racist attitudes that permeate our culture, this incident cries out for a full investigation by the Department of Justice. But nothing is black and white: according to Philando’s girlfriend in the video, the officer was Asian American. It’s safe to assume that he also experiences racial discrimination on a regular basis. At this time we cannot know how that factors into the equation.

2. On Police
There are approximately 1 million working police officers and law enforcement professionals in the United States, the vast majority of whom honorably serve and protect their communities. The risks they face have increased in recent years due to the ubiquity of firearms. More guns are being carried around in public now than at any time in our history, including during frontier times and the days of the “wild west”. Police officers now have to assume that anyone they detain may be carrying a gun and present a threat to their life. And the threat is real. According the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, shooting deaths of members of the U.S. law-enforcement community have increased significantly in recent years. For the first time in 2014, shootings comprised the leading cause of death for law enforcement personnel on the job, with ambush-style shooting attacks increasing the most. According to a 2010 press release issued by the San Mateo County, California, Sheriff’s Office,

“the law enforcement response is one of ‘hypervigilant urgency’… Should the gun carrying person fail to comply with a law enforcement instruction or move in a way that could be construed as threatening, the police are forced to respond in kind for their own protection. It’s well and good in hindsight to say the gun carrier was simply “exercising their rights” but the result could be deadly.”

That is a perfect description of what appears to have happened last night. Philando Castile was exercising his right to carry a firearm in Minnesota with a legal permit. He was totally within his rights and fully complying with both the law and the officer’s instructions when he was shot. The officer seems to have reacted with lethal “hypervigilant urgency” when he heard Philando announce that he had a permit to carry. Sadly, this is not unusual in the circumstance. According to gun violence expert David Hemenway in his book Private Guns, Public Health,

“Police officers, who receive large amounts of training, are still often inadequately prepared to handle ambiguous but potentially dangerous situations. Intense stress, confusion and fear are inherent in most possible shooting situations. Heart rates skyrocket, and it’s difficult to think clearly and to act deliberately. Not surprisingly, even police make serious mistakes.”

So even as we demand justice for the killing of Philando Castile, we can have compassion for the frightened officer who shot him.

3. On the NRA and the gun lobby.
In its continuing efforts to arm America in order to generate more profits for the gun industry, the gun lobby has done much to perpetuate two distructive myths that I believe may have played a role in Philando Castile’s tragic death.

Myth number 1: Gun violence is really just a “black on black” violence problem.
The NRA loves to quote statistics about how many black people kill other black people. Why? Because it feeds the fear that blacks are dangerous so we must carry guns to protect ourselves against them. In reality, according to FBI’s most recent statistics, 84% of white murder victims are killed by white people, compared to 90% of black murder victims who are killed by black people. Whites are six times more likely to be murdered by another white person as by a black person. And here’s the kicker: 82% of gun deaths in Minnesota are suicides, an overwhelmingly white phenomenon. Unfortunately, we never hear about the epidemic of “white on white” gun violence, but the “black on black” myth has been swallowed whole by the media. The image of the scary black man with a gun has become a psychological meme in white America–and the gun lobby seems to be fine with that. How do I know? Listen to their deafening silence in response to Philando’s shooting. A permit-holding, law abiding American who was exercising his 2nd Amendment right was shot point blank by a police officer for no other reason than stating that he had a permit to carry. Where is the NRA’s outrage? Have they joined the Black Lives Matter protesters outside the Governor’s mansion?

Myth number 2: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
We hear the NRA trumpet that after every terrible shooting. Well, this time it was a “good guy” with a gun who did the terrible shooting. If a licensed police officer who has completed many hours of firearms training and testing on justified and unjustified shootings could over-react to such deadly effect, how can we expect untrained “amateurs” to respond with measured self-control when faced with a real or imagined threat? This is the aspect of Philando Castile’s death that falls within the missional scope of Protect Minnesota. Our task is to counter the myth that more guns equal more safety. They don’t. More guns equal more gun tragedies. More gun crimes. More mass shootings. More domestic gun murders. More black on black gun violence. More white on white gun violence. More gun suicides. More unintentional gun deaths of children. And yes, more police shootings. The common denominator is the gun.

We at Protect Minnesota join President Obama, Governor Dayton and the larger gun violence prevention community in expressing our deepest condolences to the family of Philando Castile. We grieve at the senseless loss of a good man who was loved by the children at the school where he worked. We weep at the thought of the trauma that his girlfriend and her young child have experienced and will relive every time the video is played. Our prayers are with all people of color in our community who have been wounded by yet another apparently unjustified shooting of a black man by law enforcement. Our hearts are open as well for the dedicated and honorable police officers throughout our state and nation who will now face greater suspicion and increased risks.

There is no easy, definitive statement to make except this: In the wake of this tragedy, we will continue to do our job. We will counter the false claims of the gun lobby. We will build a statewide network of people and organizations who support sensible gun legislation. We will speak out against and work to prevent gun violence in Minnesota. I invite you to join us.”

The false claims of the gun lobby have us in this position. How do officers deal with armed citizens? Often they are outgunned by people on the streets. How do communities deal with more heavily armed young men in their communities? How do the young men in affected communities get their guns so easily and why do they feel like they need them? Why are officers so quick to stop people of color for minor traffic violations? Why are officers more afraid of black people with guns than white people with guns?

Governor Mark Dayton boldly said it like it is in his press conference yesterday:

“Would this have happened if … the driver and passenger were white?” he asked. “I don’t think it would’ve. So I’m forced to confront and I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront that this kind of racism exists.”

Today, President Obama said it like it is in his statement:

“Let me just say, even as yesterday I spoke about our need to be concerned, as all Americans, about racial discrimination in our criminal justice system. I also said our police have an extremely difficult job and the vast majority do their job in outstanding fashion,” he continued. “We also know when people are armed with powerful weapons, unfortunately it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic. And in the days ahead we are going to have to consider those realities as well.”

Realities. More guns are NOT making us safer. The gun lobby is dead wrong.

This is about racism. This is about intolerance. This is about fear. And this is, at the least, about guns.

 

UPDATE:

We now know that there was a single gunman in Dallas. He had served in the military. He had lots of guns. He claimed he wanted to shoot white people ( he was black). One lone man with extreme  and out of the mainstream ideas( and a loner according to neighbors) could do this much damage because he could buy an assault style rifle with many rounds of high capacity magazines. He knew what he was doing. He knew he could inflict a lot of damage on a lot of people. From the article above:

Micah Xavier Johnson didn’t have a criminal record and apparently acted alone in the carefully planned ambush during a march downtown, a law enforcement official, who was not authorized to comment publicly, told USA TODAY earlier Friday. Seven other officers and two civilians were also wounded.

In a statement Friday afternoon, Dallas police confirmed the identity of the gunman and said he was described as a loner by some who knew him. Detectives were in the process of analyzing the information in the journal, the statement said. (…)

Johnson’s Facebook account included the names Fahed Hassen and Richard GRIFFIN or Professor Griff, the Dallas Police Department said in the statement. GRIFFIN, who embraces a “radical form of Afrocentrism,” police said, also authored a book titled A Warrior’s Tapestry.

Extremism of any kind and guns and ammunition are a lethal mix. We have proof of that over and over again. But we are still waiting to act.

Why?

 

 

July 4, 2016- Who will protect the children?

Happy 4th of July Card, Traditional American Banner

On this Independence Day, I will again remind my readers that what goes up must come down. My friend Joe Jaskolka knows this all too well. His story is told here by my friend who writes the New Trajectory blog. Joe survived the bullet that lodged in his brain that New Years’ Eve of 1999 when he was just 11 years old. Someone celebrating their second amendment rights changed Joe’s life forever. I have met Joe and his father. I know how his life is now. Who protected him that night from someone with a gun? No one could have predicted this.

As The Trace wrote last New Years, the odds are low of being hit by a bullet fired into the air:

But if the odds of being hit by celebratory gunfire are indeed low, so too are the odds of ever being caught for engaging in it in the U.S. Cases where authorities can precisely pinpoint the location of the gun — let alone identify the shooter — are incredibly rare. The legal consequences for those who do get caught are mixed, with charges ranging from the misdemeanor to felony level and fines ranging widely.

And why do people do this in the first place? On one level, the answer is the obvious one: It’s recklessness, frequently abetted by drunkenness.

People may actually not realize that the bullets they launch into the air will inevitably land somewhere, with potentially disastrous results. But on another level, there are basic economics at work.

Many municipalities ban outright the sale of another New Year’s staple: fireworks. That means residents have to be able to afford to travel outside city limits or even cross state lines in order to buy them. Meanwhile, ammunition can be plentiful, already at hand, and, in many cases, simply cheaper.

But when guns, celebration and possibly alcohol are mixed together with people whose rights don’t come with responsibilities, these kinds of shootings happen often enough that we should be very concerned that your child or grandchild could be affected next.

Anyone with common sense should understand that bullets shot into the air do come down somewhere. What are they thinking? Not much apparently. Those guns bought for self protection more often than not end up harming or killing some other innocent American citizen. 

So my purpose in writing about this is that, before I met Joe Jaskolka, I never thought about the possibility that someone would be injured or killed by celebratory gunfire. I want others to know that this is possible and to make sure there are not armed people nearby celebrating on our national holidays by shooting bullets into the air.

Fireworks also injure people every year. Interestingly, this article reveals some statistics about fireworks injuries:

As states have relaxed laws related to fireworks sales over the past decade, emergency doctors saw an increase in both the number and severity of fireworks-related injuries among young people, the data show.
They determined that the number of patients under age 21 treated and released by emergency departments between 2006 and 2012 rose modestly: from 4.28 per 100,000 people in 2006 to 5.12 in 2012. Significantly larger increases were seen in injuries requiring inpatient hospital admission, which skyrocketed (if you’ll pardon the pun) from 29% of cases in 2006 to 50% in 2012.

Laws matter as it turns out and are there for good reason- to protect children from avoidable injuries and death.

Rights come with responsibilities. On this day when we celebrate freedom, independence and love of country, we should take our responsibilities very seriously.

A few days ago, a story circulated about a 3 year old Kansas child who was visiting a home in Tennessee with his parents. Unfortunately and tragically for all concerned, the boy found a loaded gun in the home, not stored away from small hands, and he shot himself in the face.

He died.

What caught my attention on the news story video was the sign in front of the house that promoted the owner’s second amendment rights with the saying: “protected by the second amendment”.

Who was there to protect that child from the owner’s second amendment rights?

The second amendment does not, according to the gun lobby, guarantee the right of the rest of us to be safe from those who promote it with no restrictions, regulations or moderation.

This is not acceptable and should not be accepted as fact.

Who will protect our children from those who are not practicing their second amendment rights responsibly? Most gun owners are safe and responsible. But many of them refuse to participate in efforts to make sure all are responsible.

What can we do?

Pass safe storage laws so guns must be stored safely or there will be a penalty.

Pass Child Access Prevention Laws and enforce them to make adults responsible for leaving loaded guns within easy reach of children.

Make sure all gun sales come with a Brady background check.

Pass laws to make sure domestic abusers don’t have guns. Children ( and women) are often shot during domestic shootings.

ASK  if there are unsecured, loaded guns in the homes where your children play.

Require everyone who buys a gun to have training with a firearm before walking out of the gun store or gun show with said gun.

Restrict the number of rounds allowed to be used with firearms.

Restrict the features that can be added to assault type rifles to turn them into weapons of mass destruction.

Charge gun owners whose guns are used by children to kill themselves or others.

Contact your elected leaders and demand that they act to save the children.

Join an organization working to prevent gun violence. It’s about prevention.

Understand that any restrictions on firearms does not lead to confiscation of guns or taking away second amendment rights. Remember that these are myths promoted by the corporate gun lobby.

Report anyone using a gun irresponsibly at a celebratory community or family event.

Don’t assume anything. Take irresponsible gun use seriously. With rights come responsibilities.

Change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in America.

On this day of national celebration, please remember that we are better than this and must act to keep our children safe from devastating gun violence.

A new NRA website called sharethesafety.org is promoting the purchase of guns for others who can’t “afford” them. This is the exact opposite of everything we know about gun safety. A brazen attempt to arm people in neighborhoods where supposedly people can’t afford guns is a ludicrous and dangerous promotion of gun sales to make a profit off of death and injury. We already know that our young people of color in these kinds of neighborhoods are already quite heavily armed and causing death and mayhem every day in inner city urban neighborhoods.

Minneapolis has seen an increase in shootings in affected neighborhoods this year. Recently a beloved woman, Birdell Beeks, was shot by a stray bullet in her neighborhood. All we need are more guns legally or illegally owned  killing innocent people.

Please read the Violence Policy Center’s “Blood Money” if you don’t believe me.

It’s not sharing the safety. It’s sharing the death.

This is the American we have. Is this the America we deserve to have or want? I think not.

Remember that more people have died from gunshot injuries in American than all Americans who have died in wars. Is this patriotic and love of country?

Only in American, the nation we are celebrating today, do shootings of and by toddlers take more lives than terrorists do:

In the US in 2015, more people were shot and killed by toddlers than by terrorists. In 2013, the New York Times reported on children shot by other children: “Children shot accidentally – usually by other children – are collateral casualties of the accessibility of guns in America, their deaths all the more devastating for being eminently preventable.”

Children and innocent Americans should not be collateral damage. If we take this seriously like we do death by any other cause,  we will do something about it. If we love our country and are patriotic, we will do whatever it takes to save our children from a country dripping in guns and bleeding from gun deaths and injuries like no other country not at war.

#Enough.

Be safe out there today and Happy Fourth of July.

 

UPDATE:

Disclaimer- It turns out that the website, sharethesafety.com is a hoax and a parody about the NRA.  Sometimes parodies reflect the truth and in this case, we can all believe that the NRA would promote the buying of guns for people who can’t afford them because they often use that myth as a way to complain about gun restrictions. What I also find interesting is that low-income Americans can barely afford clothing, food and the necessities of life. It’s likely they won’t need a gun to live their daily lives. The other point is that there are young people who don’t have a lot of money to afford guns but can easily get them on the streets cheaply. Easy access to guns for those who shouldn’t be able to get them is a serious public health and safety problem in our country. Guns are weapons designed to kill other people. They should be expensive and more difficult to access.

According to the above article, the NRA has filed an official complaint about the men who launched this hoax website. It hit too close to home apparently.