A true national emergency

Hand Drawn Time for Action Concept on Small Chalkboard.This morning I want to share with you my Local View in the Duluth News Tribune. It reflects the views of the majority of Americans. Below is the article in its’ entirety.

President Donald Trump on Jan. 10 tweeted, “We lose 300 Americans every week (to heroin), 90% of which comes through the Southern Border. These numbers will be DRASTICALLY REDUCED if we have a Wall.” Trump also has called the immigration debate a national emergency.


It is not a national emergency.

Climate change is a national emergency. The lack of affordable health care is a national emergency. Americans living in poverty with no way out is a national emergency. Gun violence is a national emergency.
If the fact that about 700 Americans a week are shot and killed in homicides, suicides, and “unintentional” shootings isn’t a national emergency, I don’t know what is. The Gun Violence Archive reports that, as of Jan. 18, 683 Americans had died in gun homicides so far this year. This does not include suicides that account for 80 percent of gun deaths in Minnesota and more than 60 percent nationwide.
You do the math. That’s about 40,000 deaths a year.


On Jan. 8, a bill to require background checks on all gun sales was introduced in the U.S. House. One in five gun sales now goes without a Brady background check. If one in five passengers was allowed to board planes without going through TSA security, we would fix the problem.
Criminal background checks are necessary for public safety but will not end all gun violence. Just as safety measures for cars and drivers led to fewer deaths and injuries, so, too, can stronger gun laws. Just as passing laws about public smoking has saved lives, so, too, can stronger gun laws.


Most mass shooters are homegrown American terrorists. They are not coming from across the border. They are living among us. Shooters are your neighbors killing their wives or their kids. They are friends of your kids using a gun in a suicide. They are a friend’s young child getting a gun and shooting himself or herself or someone else nearby. They are your neighbor’s teen bringing a gun to school and shooting up his classmates. They are police officers getting shot or shooting someone. They are grandparents who may not have the judgment to handle guns safely. They are young gang members with guns they shouldn’t have shooting each other on our streets. They may be people with severe mental illness who can’t handle the responsibility of a lethal weapon. They are people carrying guns in public who don’t act responsibly. These things happen every day in our country.

The pile of bodies and the number of survivors grow daily, affecting us all.
We can figure this out and do it together, but we need common sense and a will to act.
Gun rights and gun-safety reform are not mutually exclusive, as most gun owners agree with the 97 percent of Americans who favor background checks on all gun sales. This is a no-brainer for Congress and the Minnesota Legislature.
As long as Congress refuses to get serious about a national public health epidemic, we can expect to see more shootings They will happen anywhere at any time. Just because a shooting hasn’t affected you so far doesn’t mean one won’t. I never thought my sister would be murdered in a domestic shooting, either. It changes one’s perspective.
A year ago, on the 14th of February, 17 were murdered in Parkland, Fla. Since then, the brave surviving students have changed the conversation about gun violence in our country. Voters this fall chose majorities which want change to our gun laws and our gun culture.
The Minnesota House this session is expected to consider a bill to require background checks on all gun sales. There also is to be a “red flag” bill that would make sure people dangerous to themselves or others don’t have guns.
Tell your Congress members to act. Tell your state legislators to act. Don’t let the president’s rhetoric about a national emergency on our southern border deflect and distract from the true emergencies.


In the midst of my writings, the senseless violence has persisted and existed in our everyday lives. I just ran across this article about the awful and tragic shooting of a young father of 4 over an eviction. From the article:

One of the tenants, Manuel Velasquez, told police he got into a fight with Stokoe on Thursday evening because the landlord kicked the door and put him into a “very serious” chokehold, court documents obtained by the paper say.
Velasquez, 31, told cops that while he was being subdued, he grabbed a handgun inside the fannypack he was wearing and shot Stokoe multiple times.

A fanny pack? And how do we know if the shooter’s view is correct because the victim is dead. Utah is a Stand Your Ground law state.  

It will be interesting to see if the perpetrators try to use it in their defense.

If your state doesn’t have one of these laws, watch for it because the corporate gun lobby loves these laws and looks to pass them everywhere. 

Meanwhile, since I wrote my Local View piece, the Gun Violence Archive has added the numbers of victims of bullets and it’s increased by almost 200    since Jan. 18th. 

This is a national emergency that must be addressed. It’s more than common sense. It’s a national emergency and an American tragedy happening everywhere in our country.

It’s imperative that we act. One person dead from bullets is one person too many. Families are hurting all over America because of the government shut down, because of poverty, because of lack of access to health care, because of gun violence. 

Chaos is surrounding us and the government shut-down is exposing the worst of who we are. We are better than this and we can work together to exercise our rights as Americans to be free of the chaos and to save our country from true emergencies staring at us. 

Background checks for all

It’s about time bills are introduced into Congress and my own Minnesota state legislature. In fact, it’s a national tragedy that our elected leaders have not passed bills requiring that every gun sale go through the process of finding out whether the buyer of a legal weapon should own one.

As the sign says, “the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a Congress with a spine”. So far Congress has been spineless. Yes, there was a bill written in 2013 after the Sandy Hook shooting but the NRA backed out at the end leaving not enough votes to get a bill passed after the nation’s most heinous mass shooting.

And mass shooting after mass shooting; domestic shooting after domestic shooting; suicide after suicide with a gun; “unintentional” shootings of toddlers by toddlers; stupid gun mistakes after mistakes; veteran suicide after suicide’ gang shootings after gang shootings and here we are today with gun deaths on the rise.

We are better than this.

On Tuesday I drove to the state Capitol in St. Paul for a welcome back and lobby day. Between the Minnesota Moms Demand Action and Protect Minnesota along with a group of us from the Northland Brady Campaign/Protect Minnesota chapter, we were well represented. As hundreds gathered in the rotunda of the Capitol and outside of the chambers there were chants, lots of signs, enthusiastic volunteers and a lot of energy. Legislators knew we were there. Post cards were delivered to Representatives, Senators and the Governor asking for support for the bills that will be introduced this week for background checks on all gun sales and an Extreme Risk Protection Order bill.

Almost at the same time, H.R. 8 was introduced in the U.S House on the 8th anniversary of the shooting of then Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

Let us remember the 6 who were senselessly murdered 8 years ago on January 8th because a young man who should not have had a gun had one anyway.: Christina- Taylor Green; Judge John Roll; Gabe Zimmerman; Phyllis Schneck; Dorothy Morris; Dorwan Stoddard.

All of the national groups were gathered at the U.S. Capitol, as well as supportive Congress members. One of these was Congresswoman Lucy McBath from Georgia. Now there’s a woman with a spine. After her son Jordan Davis was shot and killed for sitting in a car playing loud music while black, Lucy got involved with Everytown for Gun Safety. And now, she is an elected leader with a spine. I am proud to know her and proud that she will actually stand up and do the right thing.

She is not alone. The country is with her. 97% of us want background checks for all gun sales. Why are the other 3% opposed to something that makes so much common sense? Several of them the 3% were at the Minnesota Capitol on Tuesday filming us, intimidating volunteers and telling their supporters the usual nasty nonsense about our groups. They were heard to say: “They want it all”. What does that mean? What we want are measures that will save lives and will not affect them- if they are law abiding individuals. On the Facebook page of Minnesota Gun Rights, as soon as the videos were posted, the comments started coming in. Such rational comments like- Did they leave their children at home watching videos while they are at the Capitol? Really? Women can’t go out of the house now without the criticism and approval of the gun rights extremists? What year is it again?

Or the best one is that we are paid by that terrible liberal philanthropist George Soros. Seriously. Why are we such a threat to them? They don’t believe that we volunteer our time for this noble and just cause. I mean, how can so many people show up if they aren’t paid? If I had been paid for all of my volunteering over the past 2 decades, I would be a millionaire. Instead, I spend my own money on gas, supplies, donations, tee shirts and other swag, so that I can represent my organizations and advocate for common sense gun laws.

Oh, and then a state legislator actually said this in an article about the proposed laws:

” House Republicans, meanwhile, blasted the proposals. Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, said Minnesotans should be concerned that Democrats are trying “to take your freedoms, to take your money, to take your guns and to take your children” by forcing them into state-backed early educational care.”

Really? This is such nonsense, fear and paranoia. Plus it’s “fake news”. It’s a lie. I wonder where he got this stuff? ( Wayne LaPierre? Donald Trump? Rush Limbaugh? Sean Hannity?)

What we need here is a common understanding of the problem. The problem is that 1 out of 5 guns are sold with no background check. That would be like 1 out of 5 people going into a separate TSA line at the airport with no screening whatsoever. The number was greater until a few years ago when more states passed laws requiring background checks on all gun sales.

Brady background checks do save lives but they won’t prevent all gun deaths and injuries. 

There need to be other life saving measures to reduce the number of gun deaths and end gun violence. Extreme Risk Protection Orders will save lives. Waiting periods would save lives. Raising the age for purchase of handguns and assault rifles to 21 would save lives. Restricting the sale of some types of assault type rifles would save lives. So would banning bump stocks. Not allowing so many people to carry guns in public places would save lives. Asking if there are loaded, unsecured guns where your children play will save lives. Safe storage of guns will save lives. Stronger gun trafficking laws will save lives. Public awareness and education about the risk of guns in the home such as End Family Fire will save lives. Research about gun violence will save lives. Allowing law enforcement to share crime date with each other sill save lives. Reminding patients when they go to their health care providers that guns could be a risk to their health will save lives.

Yes, we want it all. We want whatever it takes to save lives. We don’t want to ban guns and take away rights. But let us remember that we are the only civilized democratized country that doesn’t have all of the above and more in the interest of public safety and health.

Let us also remember that background checks are required for a reason in many other areas of our common lives. One needs a background check to work with kids in churches and schools. One needs a background check to adopt a pet. One needs a background check to get a job in certain sectors like public accounting. One needs a background check to be a health care provider. This is for our common protection and safety.

The Brady Campaign has put a good chart together about background checks that will help with our understanding of for what we are asking. Here it is:

The “gun guys” don’t like background checks. They themselves buy guns with background checks when they to to a federally licensed dealer. Why would they object if all sales required a check to make sure the person who will have a loaded weapon is not a prohibited purchaser who could be dangerous to others? What do you say gun guys? ( standing above the crowd with their video cameras)

At Minnesota state Capitol with Protect Minnesota
Protect Minnesota, Brady Campaign, Moms Demand Action supporters
Video by Joan Peterson

It’s time to act.

In the video, you can hear the voices of the gun rights guys speaking loudly about something- not sure what- but they were drowned out by voices for common sense.

We want action. We want all gun sales to have a background check. We want Extreme Risk Protection Orders. There are many more things that can be done to save lives from gunshot injuries due to bullets. What we want now is simple and won’t even do enough. Progress is slow but it is coming. Change is coming. The country wants change as was evidenced by the November elections.

Let’s get to work.

Irresponsible with guns

The year got off to a bang-literally. In my home state of Minnesota a homicide/suicide took the lives of 2. 

Authorities say up to 20 relatives, ranging in age from kids to the elderly, had gathered at the family matriarch’s house to celebrate the holiday when shooting broke out. Larry Klimek, 54, of Minneapolis was killed with his 16-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter nearby, their mother said Wednesday. The boy called 911 to report that his uncle had shot his father, who was bleeding inside the home, according to emergency dispatch audio.

How do things like this even happen? What brings a man who may or may not have obtained his guns legally or may or may not have had a permit to carry them around decide to kill his brother and then himself in front of a roomful of people?

It’s an American tragedy. Only in America do we need to keep daily track of shootings. Only in America do gun rights = not passing strong gun laws to prevent shootings.

When someone buys a gun, hopefully legally, it should be a given that they will be responsible for taking good care with it. It is a lethal weapon designed to kill. No one should act cavalierly around guns. And when a gun is available, no one should use it in anger, when depressed, when under the influence of alcohol, or otherwise incapacitated. Moments of despair or anger turn deadly in seconds when a loaded and unsecured gun is available. Responsible gun owners must store guns away and think about the risks involved. Common sense needs to be practiced.

There are 2 paths to gun ownership. Being careful and responsible or not.

Too often the wrong path is taken resulting in senseless and avoidable deaths and injuries.

When guns become a symbol for freedom, or a product of revenge and anger they can also become just another thing and people act cavalierly around them. When gun rights are taken literally as a right to do anything with a gun, then they can also become a way to exhibit rights without responsibilities.

What else could bring someone to senselessly shoot bullets into the air to celebrate New Year’s Eve? It’s pretty basic physics to understand that something that is shot into the air will come down again somewhere. That somewhere this year was in the head of a 6 year old California girl celebrating New Year’s Eve with her family.

Police are blaming all of the bullets on celebratory gunfire. Amazingly, the child is going to okay. The bullet is still in her head and may never be removed. (…) The chief also said the girl’s parents are shaken.

“Put the guns down,” Chief Kirkpatrick said. “It is foolishness. It is unnecessary.”

Foolishness is a mild term for what happened. It could have been another tragic death and left a little girl forever changed as it did for my friend Joe Jaskolka who was struck by a celebratory bullet in 1998. Nothing has been the same for Joe or his family since he was struck in the head by a bullet.

And shaken is also a mild word for how the parents and family must feel about a bullet lodged in the brain of their little girl. Future problems, including lead poisoning, could occur and cause more difficulties for them.

2019 has started with the same bang that ended 2018. The Gun Violence Archive keeps track of daily incidents with guns and the cumulative numbers as the year goes on. Here are up to the day figures already for 2019:

We are better than this. Please support efforts of gun safety reform groups to prevent and reduce gun injuries and deaths. Lives depend on what we do and 2019 is a year that we can bring change to the ubiquitous narrative and to our gun laws.