Gun rights odds and ends and white terrorism

odd

This post has been edited since first posted.

 Walmart store, allegedly and reportedly in Evanston, Indiana put up a display of rifles touting them as part of their going back to school marketing. How odd. How disturbing. A woman took a photo, it went viral, and voila- we have the gun rights culture out front and center for the bold and clueless treatment of guns. The linked article reports that Walmart apologized and the display was taken down but also wondered if it was a fake photo or doctored in some way. Both cannot be true and the mystery remains.

But why go there at all? The thing is, it’s so believable that there would be a marketing display of this sort that naturally people were upset. In the midst of all of the heinous shootings involving kids and the thought of one’s own child as a victim of a school shooting or the shooter for that matter, why go there?

The answer is… gun rights. What is odd about that display anyway? Isn’t it normal for guns to be marketed like this to increase sales? Never mind that it might be offensive to many.

Many are not only offended but many have experienced gun violence in their lives. Shooting anniversaries come and go and it’s one more year since the death or injury of a loved one. Yet another such shooting anniversary occurred with little notice. In 1999 a White Supremacist with hate in his heart and on his mind decided to shoot at kids and teens at a Jewish Community Center day care in L.A.  Five were wounded after 70 shots were fired. It’s quite amazing that more people weren’t injured or killed. The children of two friends were among the wounded. These are mothers I have met through my network of gun violence prevention advocates. The son of one of them, only of pre-school age has now grown into a wonderful young man with nothing but some physical and emotional scars left. The other was a teen girl who is now happily married and doing fine. But the feelings never go away and the scars and memories are still there. The horror of the phone call that your child has been shot lives just below the surface.

It was this shooting that motivated Donna Dees Thomases to start planning what has become one of the largest marches on the National Mall- the Million Mom March. which took place in May of 2000. And the movement continues. Activists and advocates lobby, march and organize still today for non-violence and common sense solutions to gun violence.

Speaking of common sense solutions to violence, how can we hope that will happen when white supremacists gather together to foment hate, racism and intolerance.  But that is what they will do this week-end in an alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

There are concerns about public safety of course as there will be counter protesters as well. Hopefully no gun carrying or gunshots at these rallies. From the article:

Thomas asked that protesters from both camps to pledge to remain nonviolent.

“I urge groups on both sides to publicly commit to a nonviolent assembly,” he said. “Your commitment may influence the small minority that may seek to jeopardize public safety and will also serve to strengthen bonds throughout our community, reduce a growing cloud of fear, and emotionally disarm those who would delight in provoking others towards violent actions.”

Yet, yesterday, Trump’s deputy assistant and counterterrorism adviser, Sebastian Gorka, ridiculed the idea of lone-wolf terrorists and played down the threat of white supremacist violence.
Lone wolf shootings have become more common in America. They should be rare and odd but they are not. There are angry people fueled by white supremacist leanings, terrorist group leanings, anger over politics, race, a grievance against law enforcement or an organization and loosely associated with such groups who have wrecked havoc on innocent Americans. Take a look at this article:

Lone wolf attacks are rare — there have been perhaps 100 successful politically motivated attacks pulled off by a solo actor in the United States since the 1940s. But they began attracting special attention from the national security community more than a decade ago when Al Qaeda started encouraging them. By 2010, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta declared that lone wolf attacks could pose “the main threat to this country.” The next year, President Barack Obama laid out the problem on CNN: “When you’ve got one person who is deranged or driven by a hateful ideology, they can do a lot of damage, and it’s a lot harder to trace those lone wolf operators.”

Researchers believe lone wolf attackers are fundamentally different than people who participate in organized political violence. In an effort to better understand the phenomenon, the Department of Justice has funded two groups of researchers to compile databases of historic lone wolf attacks, so they can be analyzed for trends, psychological profiles — and, the authorities hope, insight into how to prevent them.

We all know that Donald Trump changed his views about gun policy as he was seeking to be our President. Of course he did. Follow the money and power. As an aside, our President has changed his position on many issues and one doesn’t know what will come out of his mouth at any given moment. Lies, #fakenews, incendiary rhetoric, ramping up war rhetoric, blaming others, bullying others, criticizing his own “friends” and allies, throwing people under the bus for his own expediency and blurting out mistruths that could end us all up in a lot of trouble. It is not only odd but disconcerting and quite scary.

(Maybe I should buy a gun!)   grrr

But I digress. It does no good to ignore or deny that these kinds of attacks take place. The shooters are most often angry men and often known to have mental illness. And they have access to guns because… it’s America where gun rights trump the right of all of us to be safe from attacks by people wielding guns in order to hurt others. Ignoring and denying that these incidents happen gives an excuse for doing nothing about them.

More from the above-linked article:

In the early years, a high percentage of lone wolf attacks employed explosives. But that has changed: “The lone wolf’s preferred weaponry is now a staggering range of high-velocity firearms,” Hamm and Spaaij write.

They attribute this trend to controls on the purchase of bomb-making materials enacted after the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995 and the permissiveness of U.S. gun laws.

“Permissiveness of U.S. gun laws…” This is the truth but the gun rights extremists want our laws to be even more permissive so that anyone can buy and carry guns everywhere. This is not normal. It is odd compared to almost all other democratized countries not at war.

When the commander in chief keeps changing his own mind about guns and gun policy and ramping up fear and paranoia, of course we have more violent and intolerant rhetoric. The gun culture we have is not the gun culture we should have. There is no reason why we can’t all work together to at least try to stop some of the shootings. Changing the conversation and working towards making guns accessible only to those who can reasonably handle them and are not under the category of felons, domestic abusers, known terrorists ( on the terror no-fly list), adjudicated mentally ill, drug abusers, or potentially dangerous to themselves or others would save lives.

That should not be so difficult. It’s all about common sense.

Gun rights to some people seems to mean no responsibility with that deadly weapon. Allowing guns to be accessible to small children is inviting tragedy. Every day in America, guns fall into small hands. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Take one of the latest incidents ending badly:

A Kansas City 5 year old is dead by his own hands when he found a gun in his home and shot himself. Without the kind of discussion, research, common sense measures to prevent shootings and whatever it takes to stop this irresponsible gun behavior we can expect our children to continue to suffer from gunshot injuries and deaths.

A 16 year old Mississippi teen fatally shot his 6 year old brother to “scare” him: 

Craft illegally came into possession of the handgun, according to Gulfport police Chief Leonard Papania. The teen has been charged with manslaughter.

How do 16 year olds access guns? That question must be asked and answered. They should not have guns, period. But this is gun rights in America. Solutions can be found if we have good research into the problem, talk about the risks of guns in homes, attack gun trafficking, lost and stolen guns, straw purchasing and require Brady background checks on all gun sales.

This writer for Forbes has written about this American tragedy and the denial of it in America.:

 

Today, 19 children will die or receive emergency treatment for a gunshot wound in the U.S. And tomorrow, another 19 will. And then another 19 the next day. In fact, 91% of all children who die from firearms in high-income countries across the world come from the United States, and guns are the third leading cause of death for all children between ages 1 and 17. Those are a handful of the sobering statistics reported in a new study on gun violence in Pediatrics.

Yet the myth persists that the freedom to own a gun without a universal requirement of background checks or a legal requirement to store those guns safely and out of children’s reach supersedes the lives of American children. Until the U.S. as a whole decides to recognize and accept what the tremendous cost of current lenient gun laws is, more than 1,000 more children will die next year. And the year after that. (Read here how to reduce your child’s risk.)

Yes. We have gun rights and we also have gun rights myths. Guns are killing us and most especially, our children. This is not OK. It’s odd. It’s not normal. We can do something about it if we stop the denial and raise our voices. It doesn’t have to be this way. Young children should not die from gunshot injuries, robbing them of a future and their families of watching them grow up to contribute to society. Young children dying from gunshot injuries should be rare and odd.

Try ASKing if there are loaded unsecured guns where your children play and make sure you, yourself lock your guns away, unloaded, from curious hands or from theft.

And speaking of young children being shot, this awful incident happened in Cleveland when a road rage incident ended with the shooting of a 4 year old:

A 4-year-old boy is in serious condition after he was shot in the head in an apparent road rage incident overnight in Cleveland, Ohio, the Cleveland Police Department said.

Police said the shooting happened while a mother was driving her 4-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter.

After the mother honked her horn to pass another car blocking the road, that car allegedly followed the mother onto the freeway and fired shots into the woman’s car, police said.

What is wrong with us? Why are people driving on our roads armed? What is so dangerous out there to warrant this kind of behavior? This is a gun culture gone wrong.

A friend posted a photo on her Facebook page of a man open carrying at a dog park to which she took her dog. She had never seen someone open carrying a loaded gun before and found it odd. It is. It’s not normal. Others on her Facebook page were not aware that people can open carry guns in many states and were upset and disgusted to see this photo. People don’t like seeing armed citizens around where they go to work, play, learn, worship and hang out.

Commenters on her page wondered what is so dangerous at a dog park? Will the man have to shoot another dog? Will a dog owner make him angry? Will that gun “accidentally” fall off of his belt  (not sure how gun is attached to belt)  when he leans over or chases the dog? There are no “accidental gun discharges but nevertheless they happen. I write about these incidents too often and they should be odd. Why aren’t they?

I have posted this photo with permission from my friend.

man at dog park

Should this be normal? A minority of Americans practice their gun rights by carrying concealed or openly. So far instances of having to use carried guns for self defense are rare compared to the risk of having guns around in the home. But the reason given by many gun rights activists is that they must own and carry their guns for self defense.

( This was added after I first posted) And then stuff like this happens.:

A pistol-packing senior tried to reserve a parking space in Queens Wednesday by firing off a few rounds.

Yvonne Cosby, 76, let off two gunshots from the window of her Brookville home because she was angry that a man had parked outside her house, cops said.

Miraculously, Cosby missed her target. Police were eventually able to calm her down and take her into custody, cops said.

It’s very clear that some people should not have guns. We need to re-think the idea that just anybody can pack heat and have a gun for “self defense”. This woman’s family will now hopefully understand that she is dangerous to herself or others and should have her gun removed from her home.

There is something wrong with a gun culture where there are almost more guns than people. And to make it worse gun ownership has gone down and now fewer people own more guns per person. Normal? There is something wrong when gun deaths happen at such a rate as to be a national public health epidemic that we ignore and deny at our peril. There is something wrong with idolizing guns and gun rights to the point that we dare not challenge it or those who believe in the myths.

Gun rights and gun responsibility along with sensible gun laws can go hand in hand. They are not mutually exclusive. Since most gun owners agree with this, we ought to be on our way to sensible solutions, right?

haha

There is nothing funny about it. In the end, this is about saving lives and need not set gun rights against the right to be free from devastating gun violence.

 

UPDATE:

Sadly, as predicted, violence has broken out at the “alt-right neo-nazi rally in Charlottesville, VA. The Governor has declared a state of emergency.

 

This is not who we are as a country and what is happening is truly frightening. From an article posted last night:

A group of three dozen self-described “militia” – men who were wearing full camouflage and were armed with long guns – said they were there to help keep the peace, but they also did not break up the fights.

There were vicious clashes on Market Street in front of Emancipation Park, where the rally was to begin at noon. A large contingent of white nationalist rallygoers holding shields and swinging wooden clubs rushed through a line of counterprotesters. (..,)

Tensions began Friday night, as several hundred white supremacists chanted “White lives matter!” “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” as they carried torches marched in a parade through the University of Virginia campus.

The fast-paced march was made up almost exclusively of men in their 20s and 30s, though there were some who looked to be in their mid-teens.

Very frightening. Where do we live? This is America but then again, this is not America.

 

ANOTHER UPDATE:

There is enough material here for a new post but I will add to this one instead. The NRA has decided to continue its’ offensive, rude, threatening and dangerous rhetoric by suggesting that North Korea should bomb California instead of Guam. The NRA has become an extremist group that supports violence and they are the “good guys with the guns”?   From the article:

Stinchfield later deleted the tweet and then apologized.

“It was meant as a joke and I regret it,” he told the New York Daily News. “What’s going on with North Korea is no laughing matter.”

 NO. It was not meant as a joke. He got caught. He meant it and it’s NOT FUNNY. Just as President Trump claimed that it was a good thing that Putin cut all of those embassy jobs because they were trying to cut the State Department budget and later tried to claim that it was satire. NO. It was NOT SATIRE. He meant it. Apparently he also told the Governor of Guam that this tough talk would be good for tourism there as well. NOT SATIRE. Stupid and dangerous talk.
Words matter. Words often lead to actions. We are seeing it play out in real time in Charlottesville, Virginia. No Mr. LaPierre, “the guys with the guns make the rules”-
NOT.  We’ve had it with this hate, intolerance, paranoia and threats of violence. This is not who we are.

 

 

 

 

25 years later- unhappy anniversary

crying womanThis will be a long post. But then again, 25 years is a long time since the death of my sister. It’s a long time to have worked on gun violence prevention. It’s a long time living with the fact that we seem to be febile in the face of the gun lobby influence and have allowed lapdog politicians to do their bidding. And while the fight to prevent gun violence continues so do the deaths due to firearms injuries.

Too many families  mark the anniversaries of the death of a loved one to gun violence. What an unhappy anniversary. It brings back the memories of the phone call and/or the visit from law enforcement announcing that a shooting had taken the life of your child, parent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, grandchild or grandparent or a good friend. Gun violence has a ripple effect so the broader community and sometimes the entire country is affected by heinous shootings. It is in our consciousness and our collective memories and our collective culture.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the shooting death of my sister, Barbara. She was a beautiful lively, talented artist and pilot. She was a biker, a very good downhill skier, a tennis player, a beauty queen, a mother and step-mother, very involved in her community and a world traveler. In high school her friends called her Bugs. I still am not sure why. Because she grew up in Duluth, some of her friends still live here and I run into them occasionally. They always have fond memories to share of her as she was loved by many.

In spite of the fact that her estranged husband ( 2nd husband) killed her, the adult children from her first marriage and adult child from her second marriage along with the adult children from his first marriage remain close to each other. His first wife has taken on the role of grandmother to the grandchildren my sister never met. My husband, my children and I all remain close with all of them. It was because of my sister’s ability to love and draw people together that we have remained a close family.

We could have been angry and divorced ourselves from his family, but my mother was forgiving to a fault and kept them all close. The thing is, we loved them all and had no idea that my soon to be ex brother-in-law was capable of shooting and killing two people. That is how it often is. Family members are surprised proclaiming that the shooter was such a nice person or a quiet guy or the family seemed to be so happy. What went wrong? It was so unexpected. That is the risk of having a gun so accessible in situations of anger and domestic disputes.:

DID YOU KNOW?  Keeping a gun in the home raises the risk of homicide.

    • States with the highest levels of gun ownership have 114 percent higher firearm homicide rates and 60 percent higher homicide rates than states with the lowest gun ownership (Miller, Hemenway, and Azrael, 2007, pp. 659, 660).
    • The risk of homicide is three times higher in homes with firearms (Kellermann, 1993, p. 1084).
  • Higher gun ownership puts both men and women at a higher risk for homicide, particularly gun homicide (Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Injury Control Research Center, 2009).

Stunning.

I will always remember the night of the phone call about my sister’s death- actually on August 6 because her body and that of her friend were not discovered until the next day. When my nephew told me that my sister had died I assumed it was a plane crash since she was a pilot. Or anything else besides a shooting. How can one imagine that happening to a loved one? The violence. I often wonder how it would have been for her in the seconds before death after 1,2 and then a third bullet entered her body. Unimaginable. I can’t go there.photo of Barbara

Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill people. I won’t repeat the figures here again but we know that a lot of people die needlessly from firearm injuries. We also know that we are NOT helpless to change the trajectory of the number of gun deaths. More guns means more gun deaths. That is just a common sense fact.

We are not dealing in common sense though. Tragically we are dealing with a powerful and well funded corporate gun lobby that has become an arm of the extreme right wing of our nation. They use the second amendment as cover for their ever increasingly extreme agenda, aimed at arming anyone everywhere. We will not be safer as a country.

On this 25th anniversary of my sister’s death, I want to also remember the 5 year anniversary of the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin,   6 died that day because of a hate filled white supremacist who killed just because. That is the American tragedy playing out regularly every day, week, month and year.

This shooting was just one of the very many mass shootings in America. Only in America is this a regular part of a nation’s culture. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I have some suggestions:

Stop making this about the second amendment. It is about preventing gun deaths and injuries.

Stop the ludicrous assertion that passing a universal background check to require Brady background checks for all gun sales will inevitably lead to gun confiscation. That is a lie.

Challenge the NRA and other extreme gun rights groups when they cross over a line and stoke up lies and fear. Take this latest from Dana Loesch of NRA TV, for just one example:

Dana Loesch, spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, is yet again making headlines for controversial reasons. On Friday, during an interview with Grant Stichfield on the NRA TV channel, Loesch equated penalizing gun owners with shaming rape victims. Her comments were in response to a study conducted by the Center for American Progress indicating an increased rate of gun thefts in Southern states — with most of the stolen firearms ending up illegally trafficked and utilized in robberies and violent crimes. Texas, Georgia, and Florida topped the list with over 8,100 thefts of licensed firearms between 2012 and 2016. The Center for American Progress suggested implementing laws enforcing stricter storage guidelines for gun owners.

Loesch argued that focusing on gun owners rather than on those stealing the guns is analogous to shaming victims of sexual assault:

Good grief. What nonsense. No wonder some gun owners are moving away from this organization.

So we should encourage more reasonable gun owners who generally agree with the gun violence prevention groups to raise their voices. Many believe the NRA has become too extreme for them and have left the organization. Here is just one who wrote about his displeasure with the NRA:

As a gun owner and defender of the Second Amendment, I’m here to tell you the NRA has lost its ever-loving mind.

The nation’s largest firearms organization began its slide into moral degeneracy as late as the early 2000s, when actor Charlton Heston became its five-term president (a feat for which the NRA’s rules had to be changed to allow him to serve longer), before going public with his battle with Alzheimer’s disease and retiring. Under Heston’s firebrand leadership, the NRA’s rhetoric shifted its focus from working with lawmakers across the country to defend Second Amendment rights, to recasting the group as the front-line warrior in a crusade against the entire progressive movement in a culture war that they claimed had engulfed the country. (…)

A responsible NRA would be working for, not against, universal background checks on all firearms sales. As a responsible gun owner, it’s my job to ensure anyone I transfer a weapon to is in fact legally permitted to possess one. That’s the bare minimum due diligence that should be expected of me, and the vast majority of Americans and even gun owners agree. But not the NRA.

Pass the law to close the gap with Brady background checks that now allows private sellers to sell guns without knowing whether the buyer is a felon, a domestic abuser or someone dangerously mentally ill.

Pass laws to require safe storage of guns.

Strengthen gun trafficking laws.

Crack down on straw purchasing. The Brady Center won a settlement against a Florida gun dealer and announced it today. The message from the gun dealer who sold a gun through a straw purchase which was used in a fatal shooting:

“We must exercise great caution and due diligence with great responsibility in preventing firearms from getting in the wrong hands of people who seek to harm us all. I support laws that protect our Second Amendment and the laws that protect our society from criminal elements who would abuse that right to the detriment of others. I encourage all gun dealers, including the new owner of my gun shop, to implement such measures.”

Hold every gun dealer and every gun owner responsible for being safe with guns and business practices. Lives can be saved.

Educate parents about ASKing if there are loaded, unsecured guns in homes where their children play. One big question could save a life.

Form coalitions of like minded people who are interested in keeping people from shooting themselves or others such as faith groups, gun owners, law enforcement, mental health organizations, domestic violence associations, health care providers, communities of color, LGBTQ community, educators, parents, business leaders and other gun violence prevention groups.

Crack down on irresponsible gun dealers. (See above article about the Brady Center settlement against an irresponsible gun dealer)

Don’t loosen gun carry permit laws. New research suggests that the passage of the conceal (and open) carry laws have led to more gun violence.

Change the conversation about the risks of guns to families and communities. Push back when bad advice or faulty information is in the public domain like the recent Dear Abby column about kids and guns. After the Brady Campaign and other organizations and volunteers weighed in Abby wrote a column with new advice and changed her mind. 

Remember the victims and survivors and make sure their stories are told. They are the voices of the movement to prevent shootings.

Stop saying our thoughts and prayers are with you and do something about the gun violence epidemic. TAKE ACTION.

Join one of the many gun violence prevention groups working to end gun violence at the local, state and national level. Join them in sending emails, postcards, making phone calls, lobbying at offices, tabling, speaking out, going to rallies, bell ringings, other events. They need you.

Work together for common sense.

I will end by suggesting that the current culture of incivility, sometimes including our own friends, on social media is disturbing. It starts from the top. With a President who has mentioned violence at rallies and said that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue without losing supporters, we have hit some new lows in civility. With trolls making rude and offensive comments when they disagree with someone, how can we have a civil society? It’s a frightening trend.

With members of both parties attacking each other and then the other party, how can we expect civility? With more armed people walking around with loaded guns in public, can we expect civility?

Social media allows a platform for organizing and promoting causes as well as keeping in touch with each other. But when it also becomes a platform for open criticism of even other friendly organizations or candidates or friends and family members, how can we expect people to settle disputes peacefully and without use of force? With the wide gap between Americans politically, the fear and paranoia is real. What we don’t need is ramping it up to include the idea of violence against each other and particularly with guns. Gun rights and the second amendment go only so far. The NRA’s leaders and lobbyists and other gun rights organizations have increasingly associated themselves with one political party in our country. The rhetoric has become more violent and suggestive of “second amendment remedies”. Why? The question should be asked and answered.

We are better than this. I am sure we all want to leave our country and the world a better and safer place for our children and grandchildren. That is what my sister would have wanted and that is why I am persisting. In her name I carry on. I stand on the legacy and lost lives of the 825,000 Americans who have died from gunshot injuries since 1992. That’s right. 25 multiplied by 33,000 is that much. In 1992 when my sister was shot and killed gun deaths were actually higher than 33,000 per year.

And last, I want to pay tribute to Jim Brady who died 3 years ago yesterday. I met him once and immediately was taken by his sense of humor and engaging personality even as he suffered from the decades long firearm injuries he suffered in the assassination attempt on the life of President Reagan. Jim and his wife Sarah persisted in spite of the terrible situation in which they found themselves, and got the Brady Law passed. Lives have been saved as a result.

I honor all victims of gun violence on this anniversary of my sister’s shooting death. Many things have changed since her death but one thing has not- gun violence is a thing. It’s a thing that needs fixing.

Shed a tear. Ring the bell. Light a candle. Pick a flower. Think for a minute the horror of losing a loved one in a shooting. And then take action and do something about it.