Embracing hope through action

Today is the 6th anniversary of the shooting that shocked and rocked the country. Never before Dec. 14th 2012 had an unhinged shooter carried weapons meant for war and massacres to an elementary school and opened fire indiscriminately on innocent 6 and 7 year olds and 6 adults, massacring their young bodies. Never before. But not never again. Since the massacre 6 years ago, 600,000 Americans have been shot. Of those, over a third died of their gunshot injuries. 

We had hope back then that this heinous shooting would at long last, loosen the grip the corporate gun lobby had on our nation’s elected leaders and actually allow stronger gun laws to pass. But we were woefully and tragically wrong. There was a bi-partisan bill. There was hope.

Even Blue Dog Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin, an avid gun owner and NRA politician, cried in his office when the Sandy Hook parents came to him with their pleas to do something. It was a raw moment. It was public. 

We had hope. Even the grief and tears of the parents of the 6 and 7 year olds so soon after the shooting was not enough for the lapdog politicians in thrall with the second amendment. 

We had hope. Hope was not enough. 

Yesterday at our local 6th annual vigil in memory of the Sandy Hook and other gun violence victims a pastor quoted these words

“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

We are angry at the way things are. We have had hope shattered too many times. Which mass shooting will be enough for our leaders? How many victims shot all at once in rapid succession with a mad man holding weapons meant for war would it take? How many………….?

The title of our local vigil was “Embracing Hope Through Action”. Speakers talked about past efforts and present situations. The last speaker was a student at our local university who helped organize our local March For Our Lives chapter. She is an emerging leader who gave us hope because the students have had the courage to step up and look up, as she said. They have nothing to lose. They taught the adults how to do this.

And so it took a group of vocal and determined older high school students, not willing to sit down and shut up after their friends were shot at another shooting that shocked and rocked the nation last Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Florida, to affect change. 

There is common sense after all. Even Florida, the state owned by the NRA, passed stronger gun laws after the Parkland students insisted- no demanded- in very loud voices. Over 1 million people marched in over 700 marches nation-wide on March 24th last year. Students walked out of their schools in moving 17 minutes of actions and silence in memory of the 17 shot at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

The tiny survivors of Sandy Hook elementary school couldn’t make demands. For one thing, they were all traumatized by what had occurred and seeing the bloody bodies of their friends and classmates. They still are. The parents were traumatized and so many felt relief that their child was not one of the bullet ridden bodies left lying on the floors of a building no longer in existence. 

But the memories were not erased by the demolition of the building that was once a happy place of learning. They live on. 

We remember them today and always. We are still angry that our leaders couldn’t have the courage to do the right thing after what happened 6 years ago today.

But we still have hope. That is what allows us to get on and do the hard work of advocacy on behalf of our loved ones. 

This is a “no brainer”. Why should it be so hard? It should be easy. 

And it shouldn’t take courage to make noise and stand up for what we know well over 90% of Americans support. It takes resolve and doing the right thing.

The winds of change are blowing. Our young people are the hope. Our young people have courage. They are showing us how to do this. They have taken on conventional wisdom and attacked those who have stood in the way of the common sense and doing what is morally and lawfully right. 

The 2018 election saw NRA “A” rated candidates and sitting Congress members go down to defeat to candidates who embraced gun safety reform. 

There is hope.

We can and will do this in the names of the victims and survivors. 

Today we remember:

from CNN.com

Anniversaries

Photo in Google photos and provided by Yoko Ono

It’s becoming more and more difficult to remember gun violence victims on the anniversaries of their deaths. There are so many that there is hardly one day in a calendar without a notation about a mass shooting, the shooting of a loved one, or the shooting of a person known to all because of their fame. There is, of course, the anniversaries of the shootings of President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Every year, we think about them and their legacies on the day of their death by bullets. 

Today is the anniversary of the shooting death of Beatles singer John Lennon.

The much loved Lennon was shot and killed outside of his home in New York City:

Lennon was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman in the archway of the Dakota, his residence in New York City. Lennon had just returned from Record Plant Studio with his wife, Yoko Ono.
After sustaining four major gunshot wounds, Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital.

From the above linked Wikipedia article:

Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival by Dr. Lynn at 11:15 p.m.,[29] but the time of 11:07 p.m. has also been reported.[30] The surgeon noted—as did other witnesses—that a Beatles song (“All My Loving“) came over the hospital’s sound system at the moment Lennon was pronounced dead.[31] Lennon’s body was then taken to the city morgue at 520 First Avenue for an autopsy. The cause of death was reported on his death certificate as “hypovolemic shock, caused by the loss of more than 80% of blood volume due to multiple through-and-through gunshot wounds to the left shoulder and left chest resulting in damage to the left lung, the left subclavian artery, the aorta and aortic arch“. The pathologist who performed the autopsy on Lennon also stated in his report that even with prompt medical treatment, no person could have lived for more than a few minutes with such multiple bullet injuries to all of the major arteries and veins around the heart.[32]

An article was posted recently  about whether we should be able to see photos of the deadly wounds caused by bullets. 

I chose not to see the damage done to my sister’s body after her shooting. I wanted to remember her as the vibrant, beautiful woman she was in life. But perhaps showing the damage would bring the message home to those who are much too cavalier about gun violence and don’t seem to get the devastation to families when a loved one is suddenly and violently murdered.

From the above linked article:

I think that gun control has now become as emotionally charged and intractable as civil rights and the Vietnam War once were. The American College of Physicians was joined in 2015 by nearly 60 other organizations, including the American Public Health Association and the American Bar Association, in a call to address gun violence as a public-health threat. Last month, in Annals of Internal Medicine, the physicians’ group issued a position paper with recommendations for reducing firearms-related injuries and deaths. The National Rifle Association responded with a tweet that read, “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane. Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control.”
The NRA was exaggerating, but that edition of the journal did contain several articles, letters and editorials on gun control. Doctors, who have seen the carnage, want it stopped. I have little doubt that most of the rest of us would react the same way. Daniel Wasserman, the head rabbi of a Pittsburgh synagogue that neighbors the Tree of Life Congregation where 11 people were massacred by a virulently anti-Semitic gunman in October, told a New York Times writer that “unless someone is a soldier in a war zone, I defy anyone to tell me they’ve seen what I just saw.” We should see what he saw. Wasserman went on to say that he knew who one victim was because he recognized the hair on a piece of skull. We should see that too.

My brother served in Viet Nam. He is haunted yet today by what he saw there and suffers from PTSD along with Parkinson’s Disease and many other diagnoses. My sister was abruptly taken from my life by bullets. My brother has been slowly taken from me because of a war that occurred many years ago and the nightmares he has suffered ever since. 

I write this because the iconic image of the blood stained glasses of John Lennon and the description of his injuries should be enough for us to stand up and cry for common sense. But that has never been #enough for us. In America, the also iconic symbol of resistance to any measures that can save lives, the NRA, has for too long now commanded the narrative that has resulted in lapdog politicians, afraid to stand with the majority of Americans. 

As a new majority in the U.S House of Representatives takes control in January, they have a chance to do what over 90% of Americans want to have happen. Will those who have resisted all of these years follow an organization that has been exposed for it’s possible illegal influence over our last election? Will those who have received a lot of money from the NRA and a coveted “A” rating from the organization understand that the organization could be failing and will lose its’ influence over our elections and our elected leaders? Will Congress understand going forward that “A” rated candidates lost to “F” rated candidates? 

We can hope. But more than that, we can demand the change we deserve and want in the name of the victims of gun violence. Next week will mark the 6th anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting- the one that should have resulted in change, at long last. But it didn’t. Shame on us all for letting so many anniversaries of that shooting go by without making change happen. It took outspoken high school students who survived a school shooting on Valentine’s Day of 2018 to shake up the system and take on the organization that doesn’t want us to see those blood stained glasses or the heinous and devastating injuries to the bodies of our loved ones. Things might change in a hurry if we did.

If one can imagine their own loved one with those same injuries and the pain and suffering that came with them, perhaps they would demand the change so we can stop our vigils and remembrances on shooting anniversaries.

Imagine:

NRA news

This morning we learned the news that former President George H.W. Bush has died. I am not a Republican and did not support President Bush’s policies but he served with honor and integrity and was an honest man. Many Americans look back to those days and remember that at the least, there was not corruption, daily lies and chaos. 

George H.W. Bush had the integrity to resign from the NRA when the organization made verbal attacks against law enforcement after the Oklahoma City bombings. He wrote a letter resigning his life membership from the NRA.:

I am a gun owner and an avid hunter. Over the years I have agreed with most of N.R.A.’s objectives, particularly your educational and training efforts, and your fundamental stance in favor of owning guns.


However, your broadside against Federal agents deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor; and it offends my concept of service to country. It indirectly slanders a wide array of government law enforcement officials, who are out there, day and night, laying their lives on the line for all of us.


How refreshing. The current occupant of the White House is so far from doing anything honestly and above board that we look back at former Presidents who have the courage of their convictions with admiration.

I believe we could actually expect the opposite from our current President. Anything for his base. And who is his base? Are the NRA extreme gun rights advocates a large part of his base? Let’s take a look at the number of members of the organization compared to the total U.S. population. From an article written by Mike Weisser ( Mike the Gun Guy) in the Huffington Post in 2017:

Now since the NRA itself claims only to have 5 million members, how do we explain that all of a sudden the organization has added 9 million more to its membership rolls? Here’s how the NRA is handling it as of today: “we have millions more Americans who support us and will tell pollsters they are members, even when they are not.” And to underscore this point, the NRA website also linked to a story from The Washington Times (a real, balanced piece of journalism) which states that the Pew report shows that 21 percent of gun owners had contacted a public official about gun policy at some point in their lives, but only 12 percent of the non-owners said they did.

Another article posted after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida analyzed the numbers game played by the NRA in order to make the organization seem bigger and more powerful than it actually is:

Still, if there are an estimated 55 million gun owners in the U.S., even at 5 million members the NRA would account for less than 10 percent of the gun owning community.
“Let’s say it’s 10 million [members],” said Ware, the South Carolinian gun owner. “That’s still a fraction of the gun owners out there.”

A fraction of the gun owners out there- that is significant. If this is the organization that has successfully bought and paid for many of our elected leaders and represents a fraction of gun owners and even fewer Americans, we ought to be yelling from the roof tops to demand the action that over 90% of Americans want. 

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Brady Law. Back in 1993, even the NRA supported the idea that if someone wanted to buy a gun their background should be checked out to make sure they were not a felon, a domestic abuser, someone who was adjudicated mentally ill, etc. This was a no brainer. But when the law passed, with support of the NRA, there was an exception for private sellers of guns. That exception has proven to be deadly. There are many examples of mass shooters, domestic abusers and others who got guns through private sales and used them to murder innocent people. Columbine. Wisconsin Spa shooting. Charleston church shooting……..

Since the passage of the law, according to Mark Glaze, writing for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

Under the current law, only people who buy their guns from federally licensed gun dealers are required by federal law to pass a background check. Unlicensed “private sellers” who sell at gun shows or over the Internet, are not required to conduct checks – a major gap that has grown exponentially larger as a portion of the marketplace for guns has moved online and away from bricks-and-mortar dealers.
Felons and other prohibited purchasers are well aware of this private sale loophole – and they exploit it every day. Researchers have estimated that as many as 22% of gun sales are conducted by private sellers – with no background checks and no questions asked.
In response to this lethal gap in the law, 20 states and the District of Columbia have acted to expand background checks to include at least some private sales, including those conducted by unlicensed sellers at gun shows, on the Internet and anywhere else.
And these laws are saving lives: when, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting massacre, Connecticut enacted a universal background check system, the state saw a 40% reduction in gun homicides and a 15% reduction in gun suicides.
Overall, from 2009 to 2012, states that required background checks on all handgun sales or permits had 35% fewer gun deaths per capita than states without that background check requirement.
Researchers have also found that, after adjusting for population, states that require background checks on all handgun sales experience less than half as many mass shooting incidents (52% fewer) as states without that background check requirement. (…) Brady background checks are more popular in America than pizza. A 2018 Quinnipiac poll showed that 97% of Americans support universal checks, including 97% of gun owners. And a 2012 survey by GOP pollster Frank Luntz found that even 74% of NRA members support this common-sense reform.
And we know voters have their eye on this issue. Polls both before and after the 2018 midterms showed gun safety was one of the top issues for voters. And a survey of 11 battleground House districts conducted by the Brady Campaign and the American Federation of Teachers showed that voters were much more likely to support candidates who support universal checks.

Change and common sense are coming to America. The 2018 elections will prove to be a game changer in America for many reasons. 

The news of the day is happening fast and furiously. Much of it is related to the Mueller investigation into whether our very own President colluded with the Russians and now, as a result of the investigation, there may actually be attempts at obstruction of justice.

Buried in some of this news was this one about the Russian woman, Maria Butina,  who allegedly attempted to help the Russians gain access to the President through the NRA. It should be more alarming that this happened but then, it’s become such an everyday occurrence that alarm has become complacency or else not wanting  to know.

Let’s look at what this article is saying about the consequences to the country and to the NRA once Butina spills her knowledge:

Prosecutors now allege that Torshin was, in fact, directing Butina’s gun rights networking in the US, as part of a Russian influence effort. If the government wants to get to the bottom of whether the NRA was getting Russian money to boost Trump, Butina may possess valuable information about Torshin’s role in the alleged scheme. (…) Butina, as Torshin’s collaborator and as Erickson’s partner, was smack dab in the middle of this effort in May 2016. In fact, during this same month, Butina herself was part of a group that unsuccessfully sought a meeting with the Trump campaign. So it’s likely she could shed light on Erickson’s and the NRA’s efforts to connect Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin. (…) Though the campaign declined, Butina went to the event. During the audience Q&A, she asked Trump a question about whether he had plans to continue Russian sanctions, which Butina called “damaging” to both the American and Russia economies. Trump reassured her that he didn’t think the sanctions were needed. In May 2016, as the NRA hosted its convention in Louisville, Butina briefly met with Donald Trump Jr., and gave a speech at a NRA fundraiser involving Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin

I don’t know about you but I smell trouble ahead for Butina, the administration and the NRA. The organization is now having financial and legal problems related both to this investigation and the intense scrutiny placed on the NRA after the Parkland shooting. The activated students have not been shy about going after the powerful interest lobby. And it’s past time for that to happen. But it took the future generation to do what many of the adults have been unable to do. 

This article explains more about the NRA’s financial problems:

More noteworthy than its drop in contributions, though, was its decline in membership dues. The NRA took in more than $128 million in dues last year—a significant sum, but down considerably from the $163 million it took in the year prior. That decline, more than the drop in direct contributions, appears to indicate a dwindling, if still formidable, base of public support. Asked for comment on the decline, an NRA spokesperson pointed to reporting showing that the organization’s magazine subscriptions have shot up this year, interpreted as an indicator of an accompanying membership surge. (…) That loss in funding comes at a tricky political moment for the organization. Rarely has the NRA had so staunch an ally in the White House. But the group, which built significant political heft on the back of Obama-era threats to key gun-rights priorities, has also become a lightning rod in the still-raging debate over gun control and mass shootings in the U.S. And several recently elected House Democrats ran explicitly on pledges to go after the gun lobby when in office.
Under President Trump, the NRA has also adopted a more aggressive advocacy posture exceeding its traditional focus on gun-rights issues exclusively. It recently launched a stand-alone political commentary platform, NRA TV, that has veered into culture-war issues at best tangentially related to the Second Amendment.


So where are we? I say we are at an important time in our country’s history. One cannot avoid the sense that the corruption, lies and coverups are coming to a head. The involvement of the NRA in some of this news will not be good for the organization- once a respected group that supported gun safety and hunters. Things have changed. The country is going to experience more chaos and controversy.

When the truth is revealed, let’s hope that Americans will have the common sense to handle whatever happens peacefully without violence. There is a worry that those gun rights extremists, many of whom own many guns just in case they need them for an insurrection, may not stay on the sidelines:

“It seems like this is a theme that’s kind of resonating out there — that the militias feel there is an impending civil war that’s brewing between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, the militia versus antifa,” Johnson said. “That’s very concerning when you have a movement that is as well-armed [as militias], and conducts paramilitary training, and stockpiling and prepping and everything else. When you have them getting paranoid and discussing the possibility of a civil war, it’s not out of the realm of possibility of them actually trying trying to instigate it or provoke it.”

And so I end where I began- with my tribute to former President George H.W. Bush and his honor and integrity. And with my concern that the current occupant of the White House and the related investigations into corruption, collusions and possible obstruction of justice could lead to possible violence. The NRA is in the middle of both my tribute and my concerns about the current situation.