Red flags

red flagsAs the trauma and revelation that our country now is holding toddlers in what amount to interment camps, life goes on around us. This morning, an article in the news added to my sadness and outrage. A Washington woman was shot and killed by her estranged husband during a divorce.   

As the anniversary of my sister’s death approaches, this one added to my trauma and feeling that things have gone very awry in the America I love. From the article:

The suspect purchased a handgun in 2017 and kept it in a gun safe, according to court papers.

“I’m not requesting a restraining order regarding the gun but do request that he leave the gun in the gun safe until this matter is resolved,” Holly Martinez wrote in paperwork seeking a divorce.

How many times does happen in America? Too many to make any common sense. 

These are senseless avoidable deaths if we do the right thing. The right thing would be to pass “red flag” or Extreme Risk Protection Orders. If someone fears that a loved one could be a danger to themselves or others, guns can be temporarily removed pending a hearing. Had this woman taken advantage of a law like that, she may be alive today.

There were “red flags” all over the incident. Washington does have a Red Flag law but this victim apparently did not choose to use it.  Sometimes men don’t give warnings before they decide to use a gun to “take care of things.” Often people don’t believe someone they have loved and lived with just wouldn’t do something like happened here.

And to make sure that same person can’t just get a gun from an unlicensed seller, a Brady background check on all guns sales would be insurance that we can stop prohibited people from buying a gun even if one is temporarily removed for the safety of the gun owner and those around him/her.

The thing is, this can happen at any time with anyone anywhere. If a gun is readily available during a difficult relationship, it just may be use. That is why education is so important. For some shooters, it is a spur of the moment decision to shoot someone. For others it is premeditated. Either way, innocent victims are killed every day in situations like this one.

The gun lobby takes the stance that gun rights and due process are taken away with these kinds of laws. Do they even consider the lives taken of the people who are shot? The answer is no. Rights supersede lives. From the article:

The NRA’s stance felt like a betrayal to some. “The key point for red flag laws is that someone can be accused and have their guns confiscated. It is an anti-American proposal,” said Dudley Brown, president of the National Assn. for Gun Rights.

Red flag laws amount to a “removal of due process,” he said. “They think you might do something bad, so they’re going to take away your civil rights.”

Gun rights advocates hand out 30-round magazines at an event outside the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier in March to protest gun-control laws. The measures, including a “red flag” law, were signed into law. (Lisa Rathke / Associated Press)

 

A nationwide study by Everytown for Gun Safety showed that 42% of the time, the suspect in mass shootings showed warning signs prior to the incident.

Stuff and nonsense. What’s unAmerican is the daily shootings that take the lives of 96 Americans.

We have to get this right. We can save lives if we stop listening to the corporate gun lobby. We can save lives if we have the courage to do the right thing.

While watching a news program this morning someone quoted this from Alexis deToqueville, a writer and philosopher:

Alexis de Tocqueville quotes “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good,America will cease to be great.”

A good America would not look the other way about the national public health epidemic of gun violence. A good America would do whatever it takes to save the lives of innocent people.

We’ve had #Enough. We’ve had enough of the fear, paranoia, lies, deceptions, cruelty, adherence to corporate America and money.  We’ve had enough of elected leaders who refuse to stand up and take charge of our country again to make it good and make it great. What is happening now is unsustainable all the way around.

Women should not be shot during a divorce. But when armed men feel a sense of power and control and feel outraged when a partner or wife wants to leave them women are not safe. Women are at higher risk to be killed by a partner/husband when a gun is in the home.

Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill and contrary to what the gun lobby would like us to believe, a gun in the home for self defense is used more often in a domestic shooting, suicide or “accidental shooting” than to be used to defend yourself in your home.

Let’s make America good again and do something to save lives. It’s not hard to imagine a better and safer America with fewer gun deaths.

 

Gone but not forgotten

Bell and rocksWhile I was away from my blog several important shooting anniversaries came and went. As time goes by after mass shootings or any shooting, the memories fade and we forget about the pain and the national debate about gun violence. That is how the gun lobby wants it. Calling attention to anniversaries and remembering victims is a painful reminder that, as a country, we are doing virtually nothing to stop the next one from happening.

In fact, a mass shooting occurred just the other day in New Jersey. An all night Art Fair, which is a yearly event, attracted not just art lovers but gun lovers. An alleged “neighborhood dispute” (gang related) ended with 17 injured by bullets and the death of the shooter ( by police). In spite of New Jersey’s strict gun laws there are still shootings as there are in every state. When over 300 million guns are floating around in our country it is becoming easier and easier for shootings like this to take place anywhere.

Gun rights advocates do like to blame most shootings on gangs. They are wrong of course but I’m sure this will happen with this shooting.

My local chapter held a wonderful and meaningful event to mark the 2nd anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. As the names of the victims were read by a Spanish speaking university professor, the bell was rung in memory. All of the names were written on rainbow colored rocks displayed on a table. 49 families remembered the day two years ago when they learned of the death of their loved ones. It was the worst mass shooting by number until the Las Vegas mass shooting surpassed the number of victims.

We can’t forget about the victims, most from the GLBTQ+ community and of Hispanic origin. There has been debate about whether the shooting was homophobic in nature, a “terror” attack or something else. It really doesn’t matter. It was a mass shooting of innocent people who were just living their lives.

Let’s get one thing clear. Mass shootings like the Pulse nightclub shooting are domestic terror attacks. We should call it like it is.

Also, on June 17th, the 3rd anniversary of the Charleston church shooting passed with little notice. For the 9 families of those who lost their lives that day, it was not unnoticed. Anniversaries like that never are. We can’t forget this awful hate crime against members of a Black church. And we remember Cynthia, Clementa, Susie, Ethel, DePayne, Tywanza, Daniel, Sharonda, and Myra.

And tomorrow, the President will show up in home town for a rally. He will bring with him the usual fear, anger and paranoia. Many of us are organizing rallies and events of our own to speak out against the policies of the GOP party and the President. In light of the immigration debacle and attention paid to the disgraceful and shameful separation of children from their parents, we will be showing our opposition to this and other policies with which we disagree. Of course gun violence prevention is just one since there has been no action in spite of the many kids separated from their parents after being shot to death. And their fathers. We can’t forget the pain suffered by the fathers who couldn’t have their children with them on Father’s Day because of a deadly bullet to their bodies.

Many mamas and papas are missing their children every day. We should not be a country that countenances the awful policy adopted by the administration regarding immigrant children. The cries heard on the tape now made public are haunting. 

Just as we are haunted by the deaths of small children and of teens that occur on a regular basis in our country. We are better than this as a country and should not accept that there is nothing we can do. Our voices are crying out for action. Our voices are crying out for compassion and for caring. Our voices call out for common sense. 

Tomorrow is the summer solstice. In my city, we are having a Soulstice event to feed our souls with music, poetry, speeches and a large get together of those who are wanting change and compassion.

June 21st is ASK day. Parents can save lives by asking if there are unsecured loaded guns where kids can access them. And teens should ask their parents and their parents’ friends if their own guns are secured as well. Teen gun suicide is a leading cause of death and a senseless avoidable death.

Asking will save lives.

We have had #Enough and we call BS every day that no action is taken.

As an addendum to my post I am including a few photos of one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited in the Banff National Park in Canada. It was worth the trip to find so much peace and beauty in one place and not have to worry about gun toting visitors to disturb the peace.

Gun laws in Canada

Banff-Hero-AUR0018949-1735x1153Today my family is on the way to Banff, Alberta in Canada. It is a long anticipated trip with our entire family. We are caravaning with 2 cars and 9 people for the trip. As with our other travels, I like to blog about the gun laws where we are going to compare them to what American gun laws looks like.

First of all, who needs a gun in this beautiful place? I would hope we don’t run into a Grizzly Bear. But actually bear spray seems to be the “weapon” of choice when it comes to a very rare encounter with a Grizzly.

But I digress. Back to Canadien gun laws.

I always remember that the film producer Michael Moore made a trip to Canada in his award winning film, Bowling for Columbine. The laws are starkly different than ours. Even though Canadiens own a lot of guns, gun deaths and injuries are few. Let’s take a look:

According to a StatsCan report from 2012 – the most recent year available – the U.S. suffered a total of 8,813 murders involving the use of firearms that year. Canada, in the same year, recorded just 172 firearms-related homicides.

“When looking at firearm-related homicide rates in comparable countries, Canada’s rate is about seven times lower than that of the United States (3.5 per 100,000 population), although it is higher than several other peer countries. While Canada’s firearm-related homicide rate is similar to those in Ireland and Switzerland, it is significantly higher than the rates in Japan (0.01 per 100,000 population) and the United Kingdom (0.06 per 100,000 population),” states StatsCan’s findings, which do not include Quebec figures.

Presently, Canadian law classifies firearms into three categories: prohibited, restricted, and non-restricted. Prohibited firearms include military-grade assault weapons such as AK-47s and sawn-off rifles or shotguns. Handguns are generally classified as restricted weapons, while rifles and shotguns are usually non-restricted. The AR-15 rifles used by the San Bernardino suspects is classified as restricted.

That explains a lot. Gun laws work. And more:

Anyone wishing to buy a gun in Canada and/or ammunition must have a valid licence under the Firearms Act. To obtain a firearms licence, all applicants must undergo a screening process, which includes a safety course, criminal history and background checks, provision of personal references, and a mandatory waiting period.

So then, what about gun deaths and injuries:

Overall, Americans are almost 70 per cent more likely to die at the end of a gun — shot by someone else, by themselves, by accident — than Canadians are to die in a car accident.

Thirty-five per cent more likely to be shot to death than Canadians are to die of a fall.

American firearm death rates are almost three times higher than Canadian death rates of ovarian cancer and Parkinson’s; 42 per cent higher than Canadian prostate cancer deaths; 10 per cent higher than pneumonia.

Stunning and proof positive that strong gun laws work without totally restricting guns themselves. And that is the ludicrous myth presented to us by the corporate gun lobby. If we pass one law, all guns will be confiscated. On its’ face, it doesn’t even make sense. It won’t happen and it hasn’t happened in Canada or other countries where people actually have to go through a stringent process to purchase a gun. In America, we go through that process to buy a car, to adopt a pet, to buy Sudafed, and many other things in our daily lives.

Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill people. The fact that we don’t regulate these lethal weapons better and the people who are purchasing them is an American tragedy. We are unique in many ways in our country. Our President wants us be exceptional. We are, unfortunately. More people die from gun deaths and injuries every day than in any other industrialized country not at war.

What we want is just common sense based on the evidence. The evidence is in. The suicide rate is going up.:

Montana experienced about 29 suicides for every 100,000 people — the highest in the nation — compared with about seven people out of every 100,000 in the District of Columbia — the lowest. As a whole, the nation saw 15 people dying by suicide for every 100,000 in 2016.
“The most common method was firearm, followed by hanging or suffocation, followed by poisoning,” Schuchat said. “Opioids were present in 31% of individuals who died by poisoning.” She added that intentionality is difficult to determine in cases in which a person dies by overdose.

We will be traveling through North Dakota and Montana on our way there. There are lots of guns available to residents of those states and loose gun laws. So no surprises that the suicide rate is high in Montana.

The overall number of people killed by guns is going up. But our Congress stands still and does nothing. Some of our state legislatures have managed to pass stronger gun laws. Not in Minnesota. Generally speaking states with strong gun laws have fewer gun deaths.

Any questions?

What are we doing about this?

So why is this happening? We know the answer. Limp, scared lapdog politicians afraid to stand up to the gun lobby. The NRA makes up about 1.8% of Americans. Most gun owners want stronger gun laws. I have spoken with many.

The best thing that has happened after a national tragedy in Parkland, Florida is that the kids are speaking up. They are making a difference. At the recent Minnesota DFL convention, held on Wear Orange week-end, gun violence became one of the most important issues there. Finally, the issue is on the radar screen and has the attention of the Democrats at least. If the Republicans avoid it, they may be sorry.

We have a long ways to go but we are moving. And we are not afraid to be bold. The time is long passed to address our public health epidemic of gun violence.

While I am in Canada, I will be unlikely to see gun toting people where I will be with my family. I know that I will at the least be safe from gun violence. Now let’s hope we are safe from other things like auto accidents, falls on the trails, etc. I look forward to getting away from the negativity and chaos of American politics.

I also know that the G-7 summit will be in Canada and that our President will be in the same country as me again.  I doubt that he will give one thought to gun violence and how Canada has managed to be mostly safe from mass shootings and every day shootings. But he intends to leave the summit early before other things of grave importance to the U.S. and the world will be discussed:

By pulling out early, Trump will skip sessions focused on climate change, the oceans and clean energy. He will also miss the traditional group-photo opportunity among fellow heads of state. The president may also miss the opportunity to host a summit-ending news conference, something world leaders traditionally do. The leader of the host nation, in this case Trudeau, also takes questions and gives closing remarks. Trump chose not to hold a news conference last year, becoming the only G-7 leader not to do so before leaving Italy, according to The Hill. He opted instead for a speech at a nearby naval air station.

Avoiding tough issues is no way to solve them. The world is crying out for dealing with important issues facing us all.

While I am gone, there will be memorials to the 49 victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting 2 years ago on June 12th. There will be one in my home town which I will miss. People want to take action and do something. And they will come and remember and sign up to get active to do something. We will make sure they do.

I intend to write more about the Pulse shooting later.

Until then we will be enjoying the beauty of Banff.

Robert Kennedy Jr. – 50 years later

Robert_F._Kennedy_grave_in_Arlington_National_CemeteryIt’s been 50 years since the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. I remember when it happened. It was only a few months after the shooting of Martin Luther King so the nation had just experienced the loss of another great leader. It was one of those times in American life when things stopped for a while and people cried and mourned in disbelief.

Since Robert Kennedy was killed, over 1.5 million Americans have died from gunshot injuries. 

And it continues.

Bobby’s family somehow moved on with the grace and dignity shown after the assassination of President John Kennedy. Now, another brother. Another father. Another uncle. Another husband. Another cousin.

I had the honor to serve on the Brady Board of Trustees with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the oldest of the Kennedy children. She became a strong advocate for gun violence prevention and many other causes in which she believes. Here are some of her reflections on this momentous anniversary:

“‘How do we make moral choices? How do we help our fellow human being?'” Townsend said. “That is the most meaningful thing you can do.”

And it was their faith in the answers he offered that helped him build a coalition that’s implausible, if not impossible, to imagine today. “He could speak to white working class men and women because they trusted him that he would fight for them, and he also fought for African-Americans,” said Townsend. “If you talked to those who met him, you never sensed that he felt he was better than you. He was with you.”

Stopping the shootings of our children and innocent Americans is a moral choice. Our job is to help our fellow human beings do the right thing. That is why I am doing this work and remaining a fierce advocate for gun safety reform that can save lives.

And I believe that Bobby Kennedy would not have been influenced by the corporate gun lobby. In 1968 the NRA was a very different kind of organization than what it has now become. When Kennedy ran for President the NRA was an organization to support hunters and teach gun safety. Now it is an extremist group that accounts for about 1.8% of Americans with influence it should not have. We need more leaders like Bobby Kennedy to stand up to the corporate gun lobby instead of the lapdogs we have sitting in their seats refusing to stand up for the victims of gun violence.

Tomorrow the country will mark the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death with a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

Many will be there to share their memories, to represent victims, to praise Robert Kennedy. From the linked article:

On Wednesday, Kerry Kennedy will join former president Bill Clinton at her father’s resting place in Arlington National Cemetery, for a memorial service marking the 50th anniversary of his death. Civil rights hero John Lewis, 78, and 18-year-old gun control activist Emma González will be among those reading quotations from the slain senator’s works. Two are inscribed in granite near the plain white cross at his grave: “Some men see things as they are and ask ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’” and: “… each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope …”

It is so fitting that one of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting survivors will be in attendance. For she would have been honored by the Bobby Kennedy of 1968. She represents those whose voices can’t be heard just as Kennedy’s voice was taken from him far too soon. He would have stood with the victims and survivors and cried with them and acted on their behalf.

His potential to be a great leader was snuffed out in seconds by a gunman. Bullets end lives quickly leaving memories, legacies, unrealized potential and talent behind in aftermath.

What could have been different about our country if Bobby Kennedy had become our President? It may be an exercise in futility to wonder that but it’s interesting to think about what could have been given his positions and his passion for justice.

Compared to what we have now, our country would be a different place. We might actually have passion for people who need our help. We might actually be doing something about racism, about gun violence, about immigration and social justice.

The people seemed to sense that about Kennedy as his body was carried by train across the country while thousands of Americans waved and grieved along the side of the tracks.

My last post was about memories of gun violence victims. Bobby Kennedy was a gun violence victim.

Today I remember him and think about what could have been. I was honored to be invited to attend the ceremony but was unable to attend. I will be watching as it is televised.

Today we should all remember that our country does not have to tolerate this senseless loss of life. We can prevent shootings. We can do something about easy access to guns. We can pass stronger gun laws. We can change the conversation and the culture of gun violence. We can save lives. We can be a country with common sense approaches to the gun violence epidemic affecting our country.

We remember Robert F. Kennedy.