New Year’s Eve lunacy

BitmojiThis post has been updated to reflect new information.

Every year, New Year’s Eve results in deadly shootings. We live in America where we have come to expect this lunacy. Let’s take a quick look at what happened today before we get more information to flesh out what actually happened. A Sheriff’s deputy was killed and 4 injured in a domestic dispute in Littleton, Colorado. If this city sounds familiar it’s because it is the home of a deadly high school shooting- Columbine.

From the article:

Five deputies were shot, one fatally, after they responded to a report of a domestic disturbance on Sunday morning in a suburb of Denver, officials said.

The gunman was shot by deputies and was “believed to be deceased,” the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook. Two civilians were also shot by the suspect, the Sheriff’s Office said. (…)  Deputies had responded to a call of a domestic disturbance around 5:15 a.m. at the Copper Canyon Apartments on County Line Road in Highlands Ranch, the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Facebook.

Domestic disputes are the cause of many shooting deaths of law enforcement officers. They are among the most dangerous for officers and for women, of course, because they are most often the victims in these types of shootings.

From the above article:

The most dangerous time, the time when we’re getting killed the most often, is in the approach. It’s the ambush. Often they know we’re coming, so we don’t park right out front.

The nature of the crime adds another complication. Domestic violence is about one person’s desire to control another. The police officer who arrives at the scene is taking away some of that control.

Guns provide the ultimate control, of course, and that is the purpose.

Speaking of dangers to women, research shows how often they are threatened, injured and/or killed by partners:

When it comes to gun violence against women, the United States is the most dangerous country in the developed world. Domestic violence affects millions of women across the country, and guns in the hands of domestic abusers can turn abuse into murder. Indeed, the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that the woman will be killed. And the deadly mix of guns and domestic violence is exacerbated by America’s weak gun laws: women in the U.S. are 16 times more likely to be shot and killed than are women in other developed nations.

It’s only common sense that guns should be hard to access for domestic abusers or men who are angry over loss of control in a relationship. That one I know for sure having experienced the death of my sister in a domestic shooting. She hasn’t celebrated New Year’s Eve for decades and we haven’t been able to ring in the new year with her.

And this just came to my attention. A 12 year old girl shot and killed a 16 year old girl with a loaded gun she found in an unlocked car:

Police responded to a shooting call at an apartment at 3:25 a.m. and found several juvenile girls inside along with the 12-year-old’s grandmother, who is the tenant, police said in a news release.

According to a preliminary investigation, the group of juvenile girls snuck out of the apartment without the grandmother’s knowledge, went to a nearby parking lot and began pulling on car door handles, police said.

They found an unlocked vehicle and burglarized it. Police said a loaded semi-automatic pistol was taken during the burglary.

The girls brought the gun back to the apartment where police say the 12-year-old is alleged to have handled it and pointed it at other girls when the gun discharged, killing Wilson.

There is so much wrong with this scenario that I hardly have the words for it.

More guns= more gun deaths. That is the bottom line.

Happy New Year’s eve everyone.

Remember other New Year’s shootings?

Some happen as a result of firing a bullet into the air in celebration of the new year. I will be happy when this year is over for many reasons but I won’t be shooting a gun into the air. For one thing, it’s too frigid to be outside long enough to do that in my neck of the woods.

My friend, Joe Jaskolka, was the victim of one of those celebratory bullets while a child in Philadelphia. He is now a young man who has suffered through numerous surgeries and his life was completely changed as the result of a lunatic thinking that a bullet fired into the air does not come down again. The laws of physics seem to have escaped some folks.

Instead of making us safer the minions of the corporate gun lobby are making moves to make it more dangerous for citizens to be safe. The passage of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity act in the House was such a measure. The public did not come to their representatives and ask for this. It would be forced down the throats of innocent citizens should it become law and pass in the Senate.

Caren and Tom Teves, whose son was massacred in the Colorado theater shooting, should know what dangers come from lunatics with guns. From the above linked article:

The deep sorrow the victims’ families feel knowing they will never see their loved one again is something that we know all too well. We have felt it every single day since our son, Alex, was shot and killed in the 2012 Aurora, Colo., movie theater mass shooting.

The night Alex was murdered, he and his girlfriend were attending a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” When the shooter began spraying bullets into the dark theater, Alex got to the floor but his girlfriend, Amanda, froze. Alex jumped back up and pulled her to safety, but as he did a bullet hit his forehead. (…)

Arizona has experienced firsthand the devastating effects of weakening concealed carry standards. In 2010, Arizona legislators repealed the state’s concealed carry permit requirement — and aggravated assaults committed with a firearm increased by 44 percent in the subsequent six years.

“Concealed carry reciprocity” would force each state to accept this dangerous “permitless carry” standard, even though 81 percent of Americans oppose allowing people to carry concealed guns without a permit, including top Arizona law enforcement officials.

2017 brought us the worst mass shooting in American history in Las Vegas as a lunatic with a gun shot and killed 58 innocent people attending a concert. This year, extra precautions ( at taxpayer expense) will be taken in Las Vegas to assure that this does not happen again.

Snipers on New Year’s Eve. Are we at war?

New York City will be taking similar precautions.

When lunatics with guns can fire off enough bullets to kill dozens at a time, this is what America is all about at the end of 2017.

Only in America.

Lunacy.

Check out what Utah is up to regarding gun rights as just one example of Red state legislators beholden to the NRA and the gun lobby. From the article:

The state lawmaker behind Utah’s .05 percent DUI threshold is preparing tweaks to the law that pertain not just to driving but also to carrying and firing a gun while intoxicated.

Rep. Norm Thurston seeks to carve out an exemption for people who are under the influence but use a weapon to defend themselves or someone else, he said Wednesday. (…)  “We’re looking at modifying it to say that there is an overriding feature that if you are using that dangerous weapon to defend yourself, or your home, or a family member, or another person, (then) that’s justifiable — that even if you’ve been drinking, you still have the right to defend yourself,” Thurston said.

Good grief. This is absolute lunacy. What could possibly go wrong? If there is any common sense left in Utah, this provision will not make it into the law or be removed if it does by people who have some sense and care about public safety

Americans are dying in increasing numbers every year from gunshot injuries. This is not normal. It is not acceptable. It is not inevitable. The new year can bring some better safety measures for all of us if we put our heads together and do what’s right and sensible. This is not about the second amendment or gun rights. This is about the rights of all of us to be safe from gun violence.

The Gun Violence Archive tells us that that 15,466 gun homicides and according to all other years, approximately 22,000 gun suicides. That makes over 37,000 Americans killed by guns.

I say good riddance to 2017. It was a particularly violent and tragic year.

Let’s make 2018 the year of making America safe again and raising our voices to demand action on strengthening, not loosening, gun laws. We have a serious public health epidemic that we have ignored for far too long.

We are dying as a result.

Happy New Year.

Stay safe out there.

 

UPDATE:

Another tragic shooting involving another teen accessing a gun he should not have had has left 4 people dead on New Year’s Eve:

A 16-year-old New Jersey boy armed with a semi-automatic rifle shot and killed his parents, sister and a family friend inside the home where they lived, authorities said Monday. Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni said Monday that the teen will be charged with four counts of murder and a weapons offense stemming from the shooting that occurred late Sunday night, less than 20 minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve in the shore town of Long Branch.

A possible motive for the shooting has not been disclosed. The rifle used in the shooting was legally registered to a resident of the house, Gramiccioni said.

Sigh.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Lock up those guns everyone.

Abrogation of duty

Card File with Inscription High Priority.Our priorities are all screwed up. I could use another word here because that is how I really feel.

It turns out that the Department of Defense has been abrogating their duty when it comes to sending the names of military members who have become prohibited gun purchasers to the FBI’s instant check system. And Congress has been sitting on their butts doing nothing about the increase in gun deaths in America. So 3 cities decided to take matters into their own hands by suing the Department of Defense. That seems to be the way things get done in this country. Rather than doing what makes common sense our leaders are waiting for an order from on high ( NRA and Wayne LaPierre) before they can do the right thing for public health and safety.

From the article:

New York, San Francisco and Philadelphia said in court papers that the military’s broken system for relaying such information helped spur the massacre of 26 people inside a Texas church last month.

“This failure on behalf of the Department of Defense has led to the loss of innocent lives by putting guns in the hands of criminals and those who wish to cause immeasurable harm,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “New York City is joining Philadelphia and San Francisco to stand up to the Department of Defense and demand they comply with the law and repair their drastically flawed system.” (…)

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Alexandria, Va., seeks an injunction and judicial oversight to ensure ongoing compliance with the Defense Department’s obligation to submit records.(…)

Earlier this month, the Pentagon’s watchdog agency said it found a “troubling” number of failures this year by the military services to alert the FBI to criminal history information. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has ordered a review of the FBI database.

Troubling? Tragic.

There is no reason why insisting that the military branches send these records to the database so people can be denied gun purchases should be a problem. It would only be enacting laws already on the books. This is not an issue of the second amendment or gun rights. Yet, somehow it feels like it might be. It really is past time to do what’s right for the American people. 26 people were killed in Sutherland, Texas while attending church one day in early November. If the military had followed the rules and sent the criminal records of the shooter to the FBI database, it is likely the shooting would not have happened. But then again, there is that gap in the law that would have allowed the shooter to go to a gun show or on-line site to buy guns with no Brady background check. But we can’t go there.

If we don’t go there, we can expect the carnage to continue. If one of your family members or friends had been shot by someone who could have been stopped, you would be pretty angry. Congress should be angry. Are they? There is no evidence that they are. Mass shooting after mass shooting continue unabated with no action from our leaders. it is an American tragedy and a refusal of Congress to keep us safe from harm. Where does it say anywhere that people have a right to shoot other people with no reason? I haven’t seen that anywhere.

And can someone please tell me why the totally reasonable common sense legislation to ban bump stocks after the Las Vegas shooting didn’t go anywhere?

Only Congress can explain this. Please ask them to do so.

More than troubling. Total abrogation of a duty to keep us safe from harm.

Shameful.

There have been 340 mass shootings this year according to the Gun Violence Archive, unless another few occur in the next few days.

Where does this stop?

Remember the dangerous “default proceed” written into the FBI system when the Brady Law was enacted? The victims and survivors of the Charleston church shooting do. This is another abrogation of our duty to protect people from harm.

Thanks NRA.

The NRA tried to excuse this loophole by claiming it was a “safety valve”. For whom? This is beyond crazy ( see below).

Every day shooting after every day shooting continue unabated. Even on Christmas. This Arizona woman is now dead as are both of her children thanks to her ex-husband and a gun he obtained.:

A 38-year old woman and her two children were killed and a police officer was injured in Christmas Day shootings at a Phoenix apartment complex.

Anthony Milan Ross, 45, the woman’s estranged spouse and the father of the children, was taken into custody shortly after 10 p.m. Monday after exchanging fire with officers after a six-hour standoff, Phoenix police said Tuesday. Ross did not appear to be injured.

Happy Christmas.

What a nice way to spend Christmas for the neighbors of the woman as they waited for the end of the stand-off:

“It’s beyond crazy,” resident Gibson Daoud said. “It’s as sh–ty as it can get on Christmas Day.”

For hours, residents and visitors inside the complex were not allowed to leave and those waiting to return to their homes were not allowed in.

Power was cut to the complex about 7:30 p.m., and residents near the gunman’s apartment were escorted out by police SWAT team members.

Yes, “it’s beyond crazy.” Every day we let this happen is beyond crazy.
Our gun culture is beyond crazy. Thank you to Women Against Gun Violence Facebook page for this information:
more guns than cars
It doesn’t have to be this way. But this is the gun culture we have. There is no question that we can make simple and even difficult changes if we really care more about saving lives than making profits off of the sale of guns. Remember that guns are the only product designed to kill people and also the only product not regulated for safety by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. The way things are going in America, that will likely change as the Trump administration de-regulates everything.
There are regulations for a reason. Our public health and safety should be at the top of the list of responsibilities for our leaders. Excuse me for being cynical that this is the case. The very least we can do is to follow the laws on the books to save a few lives here and there. If that life is someone you know or love, that would be of the utmost importance to you.
2018 is around the corner. If there is any logic at all, we should make a pledge to work together to save lives and reduce and prevent gun violence. Demand that our Congress members get a spine and stand up for what is right. Preventing the public health epidemic of gun violence should be a top priority for our leaders. If it is not, they should be looking for a new line of work.

Not at Christmas time…..

Lutefisk-dinner-631Merry Christmas everyone. I am celebrating with my family and having a good time skating on the rink in my son’s back yard, enjoying the grandchildren and the good food. Christmas cookies, of course, are a part of the celebration with some good old Scandinavian favorites reminding me of my own childhood Christmas’ with a Norwegian grandpa and Swedish grandma and grandpa on the other side. 3 of my grandparents emigrated to Minnesota from their homelands, leaving to look for better opportunities in America. That is the case for many then and now. In spite of what our President says, immigrants who come here are not all coming in with aides and felony records. They are not rapists, criminals and miscreants. They are decent people who look to us as a better place.

Is it? Just saying…..

But back to Christmas. At our house we ate Lutefisk of course for the Norwegian side and Swedish meatballs for the other side. My Norwegian grandpa liked hardboiled egg and butter gravy on his Lutefisk. The Swedish grandparents liked the cream sauce. I remember that we couldn’t leave the Christmas Eve table until my Norwegian grandpa was finished with his Lutefisk. He was a bit of an ornery guy but he would actually playfully eat more Lutefisk on purpose to keep us from getting to the present opening tradition.

We don’t eat Lutefisk now at our family Christmas’. No one likes it. I can’t blame them. But it is still served at a few restaurants and a local Lutheran church serves a Lutefisk dinner complete with all the fixings and singing of the Lutefisk song that my mother used to sing to us. It is a very popular dinner. Meatballs and Alaskan Salmon ( caught by a local man- a friend- who spends some of his summer months in Alaska catching the Salmon.) It has come to be known by his name at local grocery stores and it is wonderful.

So as I reflect on my own Christmas’ past and present I am hoping that Americans who celebrate will experience some peace and joy. Many do not at this time of year. It is stressful and even depressing for many.  Yesterday was the 30th anniversary of my own father’s death from a massive stroke that left us making funeral preparations at Christmas time. His funeral, on Dec. 26th was packed with friends and family. He was a well-loved man with a kind and gentle spirit who left us too soon and left my mother to live as a widow for another almost 25 years.

My Dad had a lot of common sense about everything, including hunting and gun safety. He taught me how to shoot a hunting gun but I didn’t like to hunt. But my family were great outdoors people enjoying hunting, fishing, boating, their beloved cabin near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, snowmobiling, skiing, hockey, and others. Had he lived he would have been very sad and upset about my sister’s shooting death.

My brother who suffers from PTSD related to service in VietNam and Parkinson’s Disease, likely service related, doesn’t like Christmas. He never has. I am saddened by his physical condition and his deteriorating health. Our Veterans are vulnerable and at this time of the year, some are not merry.

So as some of us celebrate this time of year, some of us also have empty seats at tables and family celebrations because loved ones were shot and killed or used a gun to take their own lives. We remember them at this time of year because we celebrate without them at our otherwise happy family gatherings.

And so, before writing this post, this story of an American Christmas gone wrong came to my attention. It’s a story of a family tragedy. It’s a story of our political state. It’s a story of hate, evil and the awful fact that in America, 17 year olds can get their hands on guns and shoot a family over anger and the danger that comes with extreme political philosophy.

How does a 17 year old become a neo-Nazi? And why are neo-Nazis and White Supremacists on the rise in America? What has happened to our country?

This story makes me ill.  But I am writing about it because it does reflect a certain something that is happening in our country that frightens me. It’s not normal. It’s not right.

From the linked story:

Buckley Kuhn-Fricker was so disturbed by what she discovered about her teenage daughter’s boyfriend that she spent a tumultuous week pushing for a breakup. By Thursday, she texted a friend saying the “outspoken Neo Nazi” was out of their lives.

But just hours later, the family said that the 17-year-old boyfriend had shot and killed Kuhn-Fricker, 43, and her husband, Scott, 48, in their Reston, Va., home. It happened around 5 a.m. Friday, while the couple’s children and relatives were inside. They had gathered to celebrate the Christmas holiday.

Christmas will never be the same for the teen-ager in this family or any of the family members and friends who loved the two victims. She witnessed the killing of both of her parents and the attempted suicide of her neo-Nazi boyfriend who her parents unsuccessfully tried to get her away from to no avail.

Shootings have a wide ripple effect on many. PTSD is a factor for many victims and survivors and it doesn’t end with an arrest or the death of the shooter. We all pay in some way for this. That doesn’t sink in when a gun is available and used to “solve problems” or seek revenge or in anger at someone.

If you read on in the article you will see that this neo-Nazi teenager had a gun in his possession when he sneaked into his girlfriend’s bedroom. Why? Why does he carry a gun he cannot legally possess or carry while sleeping with his 16 year old girlfriend? What is wrong with this scene? Everything actually. This is lunacy and a particular American tragedy. It is not “making America great again.”

I have an uncomfortable, unsettled feeling about where we are right now as a country. It has been mounting all year to a crescendo of ugliness and divisiveness that is threatening all of us. But when our leader himself is fomenting fear, paranoia, name calling, racism, divisiveness, hate for anyone who disagrees or doesn’t believe the same as he does, blaming, stoking racist attitudes, what should we expect?

One thing we ought to expect is that our own leaders at the White House and Congress stop ratcheting up this ugliness. And Trump T.V. and N.R.A. T.V. is also right up there adding fuel to the fire. All it takes is one or two unhinged believers in a cause with a gun to cause mayhem and tragedy. How many times have we seen this in our country?

Let me refresh your memory:

Ft. Hood

San Bernardino

Pulse Nightclub

Kansas shooting of Indian men 

Hate shooting in Fresno

Chapel Hill shooting of Muslims

Sikh Temple

Las Vegas

Many of these happened before 2017 of course and we were somewhat surprised at the hate, intolerance, racism and anger that caused people with guns to kill other innocent people. But now we are also worried that this kind of hate is ramped up by leaders who are also intolerant, angry, show racist sentiments, anti-immigrant sentiments and make statements that fuel the anger and hate.

This is not the great America we deserve.

We are better than this.

On this Christmas holiday, our Better Angels need to be called out to save us.

Not at Christmas time- not now. Shootings know no boundaries nor stop for holidays. That is the America in which we live but that is not the America we want.

In the spirit of “It’s a Wonderful Life”, let us call out to Clarence and ask him to make us better as citizens, leaders and a country.

Merry Christmas all.

 

The dark before the light

0be6f-winter-solstice-signToday is the winter solstice. The shortest day of the year. Our national political situation feels very dark but I am hopeful that shedding light on the truth and evidenced-based research into the causes and effects of gun violence will help protect the vulnerable amongst us from their entitlement to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As we go into the new year it is worth remembering that almost 100 Americans lose their lives to gunshot injuries. That is more than 33,000 a year and another 70,000 or so are injured by guns. That includes transgender people and fetuses.  Mass shootings are happening far too frequently and affect our diversity of citizensScience-based studies have been stifled about the cause and effect of gun violence.

Everyone is vulnerable to getting shot anywhere and that is not going to change unless we all speak out and stand up like this military officer did at his hearing to be approved by a Senate committee for a job at the Department of Defense.:

“I’d also like to, and I may get in trouble with other members of the committee, just say how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy a semiautomatic assault rifle like an AR-15,” Dr. Dean Winslow, the nominee for the Department of Defense’s top health affairs job, said during his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Winslow was responding to a question from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) asking if the Texas gunman, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, should’ve received a “dishonorable discharge” from the military — the worst possible way to leave the armed forces — instead of a “bad conduct discharge” for assaulting his spouse and child.

He was not approved.

I guess we can’t speak our minds about guns and gun violence and talk common sense in America where gun violence takes more lives than in any other democratized country not at war.

In this new America since January of this year, speaking the truth and voicing your views are under attack and it is truly frightening.

What is also frightening is that the far right “Trump TV” is talking about a coup. What does that mean? Will there be armed people taking over the government? I fear that with all those armed insurrectionists out there with arsenals and the fomenting of paranoia of government coming from those in the government, it could lead to tragic consequences. Half of U.S. guns are owned by just 3% of gun owners. That seems like a signal that some folks in our country are ready for something- not sure what yet.

But maybe these two know something. Alex Jones, conspiracy theorist and nut job, and Roger Stone, friend of our President, made a video of themselves at a gun range getting ready for civil war if Trump either resigns or is impeached. Let’s take a look:

The visit was documented in a nearly one-and-a-half-hour-long December 19 video posted to Jones’ YouTube channel with the title “Roger Stone Prepares For Civil War After Trump Is Removed From Office: LIVE AUTO GUNFIRE.”

Jones set up the video by explaining that when Stone “was recently asked by TMZ what happens if Trump is assassinated or overthrown, he said it would cause a civil war.”

I suppose I don’t need to remind my readers that “overthrown” is a dark word fraught with accusations and pregnant with meaning to some. If the President leaves of his own accord, is asked to leave after things get too dicey or is impeached, this is not being overthrown as if in a third world country.

But then again, the way things are going with attempts to ban words, stifle the media, shut down entire departments, “overthrow” regulations that are important for public health and safety, throwing people off of health care, attacking the FBI and the Justice Department, attacking immigrants and minorities, threatening to fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, tweeting false accusations, blaming past administrations, meeting in secret to pass bills and “investigate” former administrations, avoiding a serious investigation into the actual known threat of Russian interference in our elections and much much more, it feels like we are a third world country.

We are better than this. When conspiracy theorists and lunatics arm themselves to the teeth in preparation for a civil war, we are in a dangerous place.

But there are actually some things we can do. Certainly making sure that we resist these machinations to “burn down the house” as Rep. Adam Schiff said last night in an interview on the Rachel Maddow show. Peacefully resisting and protesting any move to shut down our freedoms of the press, freedom to express ourselves, and any attempt to take down our democracy are an option.

And regarding the ever contentious issue of gun rights and gun violence, the Brady Campaign has an idea. Start talking more common sense with friends and relatives over the holidays when people are gathered together and the conversation turns to politics  (which it most likely will given the chaos happening all around us).

Let’s take a look:

A good discussion always starts with a place of common understanding. Find the ideals that unite you both – like respecting constitutional rights, while also preventing gun deaths – and focus on those. Starting at a point of understanding and recognition of your shared beliefs will lay the groundwork for a more productive conversation, and remind you why you’re having this conversation. It’s important to emphasize working together to accomplish a common goal, rather than view this discussion as a quick way to change someone’s mind.

And more:

This step is the crux of what most people think of when they envision of a “political debate.” But it doesn’t need to be intimidating or scary. Keep in mind the tips we’ve given you up to this point – remain engaged and open, don’t get defensive, and continue to share your viewpoints in a calm, rational manner. It’s okay if you find a place where you disagree – that is bound to happen – but this is where you can share the results of common-sense solutions like background checks with your audience.

It is too important to our liberty, our freedom, our rights, our democracy, the safety of our families and friends, to excuse extreme thoughts and behavior. For there is common ground in the middle. We know this from the polling done for many years now. Almost everyone agrees on requiring background checks for all gun sales, for example. And many other measures to strengthen our gun laws are also supported by a majority of Americans.

If we treat each other with respect and dignity without name calling and attacking, we will be a better country. And if we have conversations and make policy in the light of day instead of secretly and in the dark, even if we don’t agree, we can at least understand how it happened and have a chance to rebut or attempt to change minds.

The one thing I know for sure is that arming up will lead to bad things. Loaded guns in volatile and angry situations will inevitably lead to chaos and tragedy.

In the new year, I have to hope that shedding light on the truth and finding common ground on many issues, but particularly on the gun issue, can bring our country out of the darkness of the gun violence epidemic where we have been hiding for way too long. This is about safety and the health of our communities and families.

Happy solstice. Happy holidays. May your holidays be peaceful and joyful. And stay safe wherever you are.

 

See their faces; say their names

candlesOn Thursday of this week, my local chapter held a vigil on the 5th anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting. Since we had a dozen co-sponsors who helped us spread the word about the vigil, attendance was higher than expected. Participants sat in the sanctuary of a local church listening to beautiful piano music played by a friend as slides with the faces of the 20 children and 6 adults massacred 5 years ago looped in front of them. Earlier this fall, we held another vigil for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, equally well attended and a solemn reminder that real people lose their lives every day to gunshot injuries. At that vigil, we said the names of each victim and rang the bell 58 times. It was moving to say the least.

A local reporter asked me in an interview before the vigil why we would hold a vigil for mass shooting victims when they happened so far away. My response? I don’t suppose the families of those small children expected that it would happen to them or in their town. I don’t think the residents of Sutherland, Texas imagined that it could have happened in their town. I never imagined that gun violence would affect my family.

That is why we do this.

There were vigils all over the country sponsored by Newtown Action Alliance and many other national gun violence prevention groups.

The reason I mention that vigil is that only 2 months ago, we held a vigil for the victims of the worst mass shooting in our country. And then the church shooting in Sutherland, Texas happened in November taking the lives of another 26. There were slides with photos of those victims as well as their names on the screen as well.

It was sobering, moving and powerful. After remarks from the pastor of the church urging peace and reminding us that, for Christians, this is the season of lighting advent candles to remind us of the reason we celebrate Christmas. But there were people of all faiths in the sanctuary including the local Rabbi, the Quaker community and those who don’t practice with any faith group.

As the participants lined up to light candles in memory of the victims of all gun violence and in particular the victims of the Sandy Hook shooting, the photos continued looping. It was seeing those happy faces of those 20 first graders that caused the tears and emotion as the candles were lit. Many of us also lit a candle for our own personal loss of a loved one and there were a number of victims in the sanctuary who cried over their own loss as well as the losses felt by way too many Americans.

As the vigil came to a close, we asked to honor the victims with action. That action included signing over 300 postcards that were mailed to our Congressional delegation urging them to support bills that would expand Brady background checks to all gun sales- something that makes so much common sense that 90-95% of Americans agree.

postcards

We have had enough. That was the overwhelming sentiment at our vigil and vigils all over the country to mark this particular anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting- the one we thought was even too much for our lapdog politicians.

Alas, none of these mass shootings are enough. In fact, the stunning fact that 51% of Americans think that in order to protect gun rights, some mass shootings are OK with them. 

Sigh.

This sad fact should make us wonder what in the world is wrong with us. These shootings just don’t happen anywhere else in the world in such large numbers or at all, actually.

At the same time as that 51% number revealed the insanity about our nation’s gun culture, people also said this ( from the linked article above):

About 61 per cent said the country’s gun laws should be tougher, while 27 per cent would rather see them remain the same, and 11 per cent want them to be less strict. That’s similar to the results of an Associated Press poll in July 2016.

What is happening in our country is just not normal. Nor is it inevitable. It is preventable. It is avoidable. It is lunacy itself.

5 years later, the victims’ families reflect on what happened and, of course, are still haunted by that day that changed their lives forever.

The ripple effect of gun violence spreads far and wide.

It is an American tragedy.

Something needs to change. We will not be held hostage by the corporate gun lobby.

As two of my friends who attended our vigil said, they both have granddaughters in first grade. Seeing those smiling faces hit home for them about how it would be if one of their own was massacred so violently and suddenly by a crazed person with a gun.

The enormity of our gun violence epidemic is very personal.

Say their names. Look at their photos.

Say their names.

 

Forced changes to gun laws

forcingThe NRA and it’s minions accuse the side of gun violence prevention or gun control, as it is often called, of trying to force changes to gun laws that people don’t want and that would affect law abiding gun owners. Claims include gun registration somehow hidden in “gun control” laws, mostly laws that would require Brady background checks on all gun sales. How that would work is a mystery to me. Currently, and as long as the Brady law has been in effect requiring Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers (FFLs) to perform background checks on sales in their establishments. there has been no gun registration.

But to require private unlicensed sellers to do background checks on the very same people who often go to FFLs for their guns suddenly becomes gun registration. It isn’t true of course but facts don’t seem to matter to the gun lobby. Fear and paranoia are what sell guns and ammunition. And how this would affect law abiding citizens’ rights to own a gun is beyond me. The protests about this don’t fit the problem or the solution to the problem.

But further, as the claims go, following registration, confiscation is inevitable. Such nonsense is not to be believed. It just makes no common sense but never mind. I would remind everyone that this worked pretty well during the Obama administration and the 2016 election when the NRA, an arm of the Republican party, ramped up the fear of gun confiscation, driving sales of guns and ammunition.

Follow the money.

Can one say that forcing everyone to undergo a background check to acquire a deadly weapon is unlawful or would affect law abiding citizens rights? No, but never mind the facts.

We have laws for a reason. They are mostly to protect people from harm. And that is one of Congress’s main missions.

So this past week when H.R. 38, Concealed Carry Reciprocity or “arm anyone” passed in the U.S. House, there was no talk of just enforcing the laws already on the books or doing something harmful to law abiding gun owners. Maybe that is because this law, if passed in the Senate and signed by an eager NRA supported President, would supercede the laws of many states. Currently 12 states require no training or permits for people to carry guns. So anyone can carry regardless of their status. That is because, anyone, including presumably felons, domestic abusers, those who have been adjudicated mentally ill and others don’t need to get a background check from local law enforcement to carry a loaded gun around in public. And further, these same dangerous people, if living in a state that does not require universal background checks can buy a gun(s) with no background check from a private seller on-line or at a gun show. 1 in 5 guns are sold without background checks.

This is a double whammy for innocent people living in places where stricter laws preclude these folks from buying and carrying.

I don’t have to remind my readers that in the last year and a half two of the nation’s worst mass shootings have taken the lives of dozens of Americans. And in the last few months two mass shootings have killed many innocent Americans. In light of this fact, one would think that our Congress would consider strengthening our gun laws to prevent these from happening. For some of them could have been prevented with stronger regulations or following the laws we already have.

But one would be wrong. In light of that, Congress went ahead with its’ adherence to folly and lunacy by loosening gun laws. This week, the 5th anniversary of the heinous massacre of 20 first graders and 6 educators will occur. There will be hundreds of vigils around the country to mark that anniversary.

What are we doing? Continuing to allow the shootings to happen unabated and shrugging as if it’s inevitable.

95% of Americans agree to universal background checks. Who are these people representing anyway?

We know the answer.

We only need to google news stories to find the truth.  As just one recent sampling of the news stories I found that , these yahoos- “law abiding” gun owners, had gunfights on the streets of Texas over road rage. There were 3 incidents of this in a few days. One assumes it was legal for the perpetrators to carry but if H.R. 38 becomes the law of the land, that won’t make one whit of difference. We won’t know. Anything goes.  Check it out:

Investigators said two men involved in a crash on Westheimer and South Kirkwood fired on one another, sending bystanders-including Erica-scrambling to take cover.

A woman nearby was grazed in the ear and taken to a west Houston medical center for treatment, while one of the shooting suspects was transported by Ben Taub Hospital.

All these incidents highlight a need for everyone to be prepared for the unexpected and to keep your eyes open.

That highlighted paragraph is from the last shooting mentioned. Two men squared off with their guns, presumably legal gun carriers, endangering bystanders, pedestrians, car passengers and law enforcement.

“…be prepared for the unexpected…”

Why should the majority of us who don’t carry guns and don’t want them where we live, work, drive, play and learn, have to be prepared for lunatics with guns around? One woman died and one was grazed with a bullet in these incidents. The other one frightened a young mother who was driving with her 3 year old when a man pointed a gun at her.

There are no excuses for this but our Congress excuses it all by hiding behind the “rights” thing. Or what exactly do they think? Or are they thinking at all? This is just about paying the gun lobby back for their contributions in their elections. Or maybe they actually believe that we will all be safer with more loaded guns around everywhere. If that is the case, the truth and facts prove them wrong.

If one of their own was involved in one of these incidents, would they think differently? Oh right. One or two of their own have been shot and seriously injured. Of those, one- Gabby Giffords- is working hard to prevent shootings. The other, Steve Scalise, is still, inexplicably, in the pocket of the gun lobby.

The shooter of Scalise “escaped the system”. This happens far too often in America leading to avoidable, senseless gun deaths and serious injuries. We can’t allow anyone to escape the system. We are talking here about people who shouldn’t have deadly weapons having them anyway. This is not acceptable or normal. Innocent lives are shattered by a system made to protect gun rights under cover of the second amendment rather than to protect citizens from harm. Our Congress has a duty to protect the citizens from harm. They have failed to protect us. They have failed to protect their own.

Gabby Giffords’ shooter is the very person who would be allowed to carry his gun into another state legally if H.R. 38 passes through the Senate. Arizona is a permitless carry state. No permits required. Therefore no background check by law enforcement when applying for a permit to keep someone from carrying who shouldn’t. It’s optional to get a permit. One can’t assume that the gun carrier went through a background check to buy that carried gun.

It’s not optional to get a driver’s license in any state. If you drive a car, you have to have a license. If you buy a car, it has to be registered. There are reasons for that. Gun permits are not like driver’s licenses. If they were, we would call it gun licensing which the gun lobby hates. There are similar requirements, state to state, for getting a driver’s license. That is what allows states to be confident that someone from Texas driving in Arkansas has gone through a permit and driver’s test to get a license to drive and is legal to drive. The same is not true of gun permits. From the above linked article:

States honor one another’s driver’s licenses under a voluntary agreement. There’s no federal mandate. States also have fairly uniform requirements for issuing driver’s licenses. If you’re renting a car to someone with a New York license who is visiting Texas, you can be pretty confident the New Yorker has passed a road test. Guns are different. At least 26 states will issue a gun permit to someone without requiring that person to ever actually shoot a gun.

And, of course, we must talk about the hypocrisy (sometimes on both sides) in the argument about states’ rights, commonly used by conservatives. In this case, states’ rights to pass their own gun laws would be trampled by the bill under consideration.

And finally this incident just came across my emails. A young man who had an open arrest for a murder was, thankfully, rejected for a gun purchase at a Walmart store. Luckily for everyone, Walmart did their lawful duty and took the time needed to stop this man from getting a gun legally:

Laura Cutilletta, the legal director of the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said Beardsley offers a sharp example of why the new definition poses a danger to the public.

“Somebody who’s wanted for a crime is not someone who should have a gun,” she said, “Not only have they broken the law, but they have evaded the law.”

U.S. Marshals picked up Beardsley for murder on Nov. 14,  just as the three-day waiting period was running out, sources close to the case said. He did not have a gun, according to a Marshals spokesman.

But our very own Justice Department has inexplicably loosened our laws so that FFLs don’t have to reject a gun purchase if there is an open arrest. Why? Good question. And these could be the kind of people who could carry a gun around in public places.

No one ever said politics was easy or uncomplicated but the issue of gun rights seems particularly fraught with controversy and inconsistency.

And finally, regarding “everyday” shootings, there was another school shooting- in New Mexico. The shooter was known to the FBI for having threatened a mass shooting but they closed the case because he didn’t have a gun at the time.  Two are dead as a result of another case of not paying attention and flagging dangerous people like this guy- because rights. When gun rights supercede common sense, this happens over and over and over again.

This is not an either/or all or none situation. Gun rights have co-existed with reasonable gun laws and can continue to do so. Making strong laws is for the good of us all. The fact that we can’t come together about this is tragic and deadly.

We all deserve better than this. These things are not inevitable and they are not normal. We are shirking our responsibilities as Americans to keep our communities and families safe from gun violence.

What is the N.R.A. doing?

mafiaAs the Russian investigation by Congress and the special counsel Robert Mueller continue, we are learning about the extent of the influence of the Russians into corners we did not necessarily expect. But we shouldn’t be surprised at anything. Ever since Trump was elected it’s been a surprise a day and daily chaos and dysfunction, if not corruption.

Is that by design, incompetence, craziness or whatever other word has been used to describe what is going on? Kleptocracy has been mentioned as a cause for this American travesty. It’s so hard to determine what is going on but things are coming into closer focus.

It’s becoming more difficult to discern the difference between the NRA and the Republican party of late. What exists today is not your father’s or grandfather’s NRA. Back in the day, the NRA was a sportsmen’s organization, supporting hunting and shooting sports and training people ( and kids) how to properly handle their guns and be safe with them while hunting and shooting for sport.

Today? Not so much. A hostile take-over of the organization occurred in 1977 and it hasn’t been the same since.

After the corporate gun lobby managed to get laws passed to allow just about anyone to carry guns in most of our states, the NRA stood to make some money by offering classes to instruct prospective permit holders how to safely carry loaded guns in public and about the laws in a particular state. (You can even get a free gun on this site if you sign up).

Sigh.

One wonders, as an aside, what will happen if the NRA and the corporate gun lobby gets HR 38 ( Concealed Carry Reciprocity) or “arm anyone” bill passed into law? Why? Because 13 states don’t even require any hours of training before allowing someone to pack heat in public places and 3 have some version of the idea of “constitutional carry”. What will happen to the NRA revenue stream if classes are not required? They can hope that the bill to allow the legalization of gun silencers passes ( which by all rights it should not after the Las Vegas shooting) so a new source of revenue will open up.

That bill, too, is the clever theft of language to change something into something it isn’t. You just have to love that the bill is named the “Hearing Protection Act“.  The bill was included in a House Natural Resources Committee bill called the SHARE Act. Seriously- what do gun silencers have to do with natural resources? Another theft and co-opting of language. The goal is to remove gun silencers from the National Firearms Act which was passed for good reason after the mafia used gun silencers and machine guns to silence their enemies.

We get it. If we allow silencers ( and then possibly machine guns) to be sold like every other firearms instead of the now very strict regulations,  the consequences will be dangerous. Because of that law, it is extremely rare but not unheard of for them to be used in crimes. 

Back to “constitutional carry”. This is the stealing of a right ( second amendment) as written in our Constitution to make it into something it was not intended for. Tricky but we get it. It is the theft of the right to be safe and to make sure those who carry loaded guns are at the least, minimally trained to carry that deadly weapon.

You would think this is only common sense. But you would be wrong.

What about bump stocks? They are still being sold. Will Congress pass a law requiring at the least, a Brady background check before purchasing? Or will they be outlawed all together after the Las Vegas shooting?

This is insanity and more mass shootings waiting to happen.

The NRA has become an arm of the Republican party. That is pretty well known. But in the last few days we have discovered that a prominent member of their organization helped arrange a meeting between a Trump campaign leader and a Russian for the alleged purpose of helping Trump get elected.

This is like a spy novel. The intrigue is fascinating. Now we know what we have suspected. The NRA is an extremist organization and not in existence to just support shooting and hunting sports. They are a lobbying organization with a lot of power, control and influence in Congress and on our sitting President. This is dangerous.

As shooting deaths rise and lapdog politicians work to help the NRA and others in the corporate gun lobby with profits and more influence, we are becoming less and less safe from gun violence. I say this is an untenable situation.

Sigh.

Let’s take a look at the above linked article about Russian influence in the 2016 election:

 A conservative operative trumpeting his close ties to the National Rifle Association and Russia told a Trump campaign adviser last year that he could arrange a back-channel meeting between Donald J. Trump and Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, according to an email sent to the Trump campaign.

A May 2016 email to the campaign adviser, Rick Dearborn, bore the subject line “Kremlin Connection.” In it, the N.R.A. member said he wanted the advice of Mr. Dearborn and Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, then a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trump and Mr. Dearborn’s longtime boss, about how to proceed in connecting the two leaders.

Russia, he wrote, was “quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S.” and would attempt to use the N.R.A.’s annual convention in Louisville, Ky., to make “ ‘first contact.’ ” The email, which was among a trove of campaign-related documents turned over to investigators on Capitol Hill, was described in detail to The New York Times. (…)

The emailed outreach from the conservative operative to Mr. Dearborn came far earlier, around the same time that Russians were trying to make other connections to the Trump campaign. Another contact came through an American advocate for Christian and veterans causes, and together, the outreach shows how, as Mr. Trump closed in on the nomination, Russians were using three foundational pillars of the Republican Party — guns, veterans and Christian conservatives — to try to make contact with his unorthodox campaign.

You really can’t make this stuff up.

The hypocritical calling for Hillary Clinton to reveal her ” acid washed” emails or lock her up is coming back to bite the Republicans and their supporters.

There are really no coincidences here. More from the article:

Indeed, evidence does appear to show deep ties between Mr. Erickson, the N.R.A. and the Russian gun rights community that were formed in the years when many American conservatives, put off by the Obama administration’s policies, were increasingly looking to Mr. Putin as an example of a strong leader opposing immigration, terrorism and gay rights.

The N.R.A. was one of Mr. Trump’s biggest backers during the campaign, spending tens of millions of dollars to help elect him.

Follow the money. Follow the influential lobbyists and you will get to the bottom of the mystery. For it’s nothing short of a mystery as to what is going on today. There is no common sense in any of this intrigue. There is danger. There is collusion. There is corruption. There is trouble.

If this is what we have become, God help us. We are no longer a democracy.

Guns should not be influencing national elections or our local or state elections. No Mr. Wayne LaPierre, the guys with the guns should not be making the rules. This is insanity itself and we must #resist.