A historic day

On this day in 1963, President John Kennedy was assassinated. I will never forget that day and the days that followed. In my home town, anyway, the news flew around fast. School was dismissed and I think there was no school for quite a few days afterward as the nation was in mourning. Still sticking in my mind is sitting with my parents watching the T.V. in our living room when Jack Ruby shot and killed the shooter on live TV before our very eyes. I always remember my sister letting out a scream of disbelief. We had never seen anything like this before on live T.V.- only in movies and T.V. shows.

How times have changed. We now see shootings on live T.V. and the coverage of them almost 24 hours a day. President Kennedy’s shooting shocked us all. These things don’t happen in America. Could Oswald have been a legal purchaser of a gun? He ordered it from a mail order catalog:

 Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, with a mail-order Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5 millimeter bolt-action rifle, for which he paid $19.95 plus shipping and handling.

Fifty years later, obtaining guns via mail is less common because the U.S. Postal Service imposes major restrictions on firearms shipments.

But despite a myriad of federal and state laws regulating gun transactions, buying a firearm via the Internet is commonplace.

Where Oswald mailed his money order with a coupon torn from an ad in the National Rifle Association‘s American Rifleman magazine, troubled individuals today can search online and similarly get their hands on powerful weapons with no questions asked, gun control advocates claim.

Even back then the NRA was involved in gun deaths though they were still doing more reasonable things like supporting hunters and teaching gun safety classes. I imagine there weren’t as many people then to worry about ordering a bolt action rifle because we just didn’t have mass shootings then. Now we have military style assault rifles available at places like Armslist.com so just about anyone can get their hands on one of these weapons of mass destruction with no background check.

By the way, when I googled Armslist I took a look at the front page. Here is the problem. There is a photo of a gun that looks sort of like a military pistol- maybe a semi-automatic? held by a guy wearing gloves. The wording on the photo goes like this: ” GEAR FOR YOUR DAILY GUNFIGHT”.

Really? This is the difference between 1963 and today.

Right.

The article about Kennedy’s assassination (above) was written in 2013 and 7 years later, nothing has changed. Let’s remember that since Robert Kennedy, President Kennedy’s brother, was assassinated in 1968 more Americans have died from gunshot injuries than all American military members who have died in an American war combined. Stunning.

Now the country mourns shootings of famous people, shootings of relatives and friends, suicide deaths of Veterans, farmers, police officers, “accidental” shootings of children, mass shootings at schools and malls and domestic murders like the one that took the life of my sister.

American Presidents are much more protected now than in 1963. The Secret Service has increased in numbers and the type of protection they provide. Cars outfitted with armour and other protections are taken so a President’s life is not in as much danger. The armoured vehicle used is actually called “The Beast”. Still though, I worry that no matter who our President is, all it takes is one person bent on doing harm with a gun easily obtained to change history.

Back to President Kennedy’s assassination. As with all gun deaths, life changes irreversibly. His family was never the same. They remained in the limelight. Jackie Kennedy could hardly live her life and eventually, of course married Aristotle Onassis, an unlikely match for her. And tragically the young John Kennedy died in an airplane crash in 1999. The Kennedy family suffered a lot of losses and still the younger generations are into politics, causes and sometimes trouble.

Today we remember the lost potential of the life of John F. Kennedy. We will never know what he could have accomplished or if he would have won re-election and make further contributions to our country. Looking back, we now see a man who was in almost constant pain that he didn’t show. We also know of his affairs about which some knew but have now been revealed. He was an imperfect man. He was an imperfect President.

But because he died so young and so tragically, there is a fairy tale aspect to his life and his legacy. Today we remember his life and his Presidency and understand that since 1963, no other President has been killed by gunfire but attempts were made famously on the life of President Reagan which led eventually to the passing of the Brady Law and on President Gerald Ford.

One would think that after this violent history of gun violence in America we would have the common sense to pass much stronger gun laws. But such is not the case.

I have hope that in time the majority will win and laws to prevent gun violence will pass in the U.S. Congress and be signed into law by a President who cares more for saving lives than saving his (her) own political skin.

16 seconds with a gun

From the Gun Violence Archive Facebook page

Another teen-ager got his hand on a gun he should not have had and came to his school to shoot some of his classmates. It’s an all too familiar scenario that plays out regularly in America. He shot himself with the gun only after shooting 5 kids and now 2 of those kids are dead. He is in grave condition in the hospital.

For what? Why? Where did he get the gun? He was 15- or I should say that according to media reports he turned 16 today. Happy birthday.

The media reported about the shooting and the usual “experts” were invited to talk about the shooting. Some of them actually mentioned that easy access to guns is one very huge factor in school shootings. But many avoided speaking the word “guns”. It is the guns. Most school shooters get their guns from home but we will find out more about where this teen got his gone as more information becomes available. This article reports that there were guns in the home. The gun was a .45 semi-automatic pistol. From the first article linked above:

A lack of gun safety at home also has played a big role in school shootings. Guns in the home “is a very important element that has been lost in the current debate,” said J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist and FBI consultant. He sees the problem in the combination of a troubled adolescent, unsecured firearms, general disorganization at home, and “then you increase the risk, of course, of him being able to easily access a weapon.

The shooter’s father died 2 years ago presumably leaving his guns behind. We don’t yet have information about how those guns were stored or who was in possession of the guns in the home. But from the article we learn this: ” Law enforcement officials have not shared any information about how the suspected shooter obtained the gun used in Thursday’s assault. The 16-year-old couldn’t have legally bought it himself: In California, licensed dealers cannot sell a firearm to anyone under age 21.”

Safe storage of guns is a no brainer. Making sure kids who may be experiencing problems of some kind can’t access guns is another. Brady’s End Family Fire is a program to highlight the risks of guns in homes:

Family fire is preventable, and that’s exactly what our End Family Fire initiative aims to do. Brady’s End Family Fire initiative is designed to drive social change and save lives, educating and encouraging gun owners about safe gun storage. We believe ending family fire is in our hands to solve. We’re calling on gun owners and non-gun owners alike to unite—to talk about safe storage practices, save lives, and End Family Fire once and for all.

In this case family fire includes a gun allegedly taken from the family home where it was not safely stored and brought somewhere else to shoot people.

One parent in the linked story above said what is always said:” It’s stressful and overwhelming.” That it is. More kids and families grieving. More with PTSD. In the article about the shooter and the guns, here is a quote: “He doesn’t seem like the kind of kid to do this,” Risley said.”

That is often said as well about mass shooters or any shooter. It was said about my now deceased former brother-in-law after he shot and killed my sister.

There is no common sense when it comes to trying to understand these kind of shootings or any shootings actually. One of the things in common is a gun. Easy access to guns. The other is, from the article above:

There have already been at least 30 resulting in death or injury in 2019

I was just made aware this article from the Washington Post that I wanted my readers to see:

The shooting is at least the seventh to take place on U.S. school grounds since the start of the academic year, according to a Washington Post analysis, and the first fatal shooting on a campus since students arrived back at school. More than 233,000 schoolchildren have been exposed to gun violence at their own schools since the shooting at Columbine High in 1999.

More than 233,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine

“We need to say ‘no more.’ This is a tragic event that happens too frequently,” said Capt. Robert Lewis of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. “When are we going to come together as a community … to say ‘no more’?”

The thing is, we have come together to say “no more”. But our leaders are not listening. They refuse to take up meaningful legislation that would save lives. The fact that 90% of Americans agree on this is stunning. We are polarized about just about everything. The fact that our leaders represent the very small group of gun rights advocates and right wing extremists falsely saying that anything we do to save lives from gun violence would take away their rights or their guns is a sham and a travesty. It is am American tragedy.

And one more thing about this shooting that must be said- these type of shootings happen with so much shock, surprise and rapidity that it is almost impossible to respond. The fact that the gun jammed saved lives and the fact that law enforcement was there so quickly also saved lives. But think about the time it took to wreak such deadly havoc:

At an early evening news conference, authorities said just 16 seconds passed from the time the shooter drew his gun and when he shot himself. They said that the shooting was contained to the quad and that they had no information about a connection between the shooter and his victims.

More from the article:

“When I was in the situation, I didn’t feel scared, and that’s the saddest part,” Carzola said. “I felt like everyone was going to go through this at some point and this was my turn.”

When is it your child’s “turn”? Why is it any child’s turn?

Our kids should not have to live like this every day. Nor should their parents or their communities. There is a ripple effect that gets wider and wider as relatives of victims, law enforcement, health care providers, emergency responders and others all feel the awful and devastating effects of just one of these shootings.

UPDATE:

As always happens after mass shootings, the situation is fluid and more information comes forward. We now know that the shooter died of his self inflicted gunshot injuries. We also now know that a teacher used a gunshot injury kit that was in her classroom to likely save the life of one of the injured students. It’s come to this. Rather than protect our precious kids from shooters by preventing easy access to guns we are distributing kits to stem the flow of blood from the bodies of said precious kids. We have it all backwards. Thanks NRA.

We also now know the names of the shooter ( which I will not post or say) and the victims who died. Say their names.

Dominic Blackwell. Age 14.

Gracie Anne Muehlberger. Age 16

Their images will forever be stopped in time as was my sister’s and they will never grow older or reach their potential.

In memory of Dominic and Gracie.

End Family Fire in Minnesota

It’s hard not to despair every day about the deaths due to firearms. Minnesota has had a rough week but then, who hasn’t when it comes to gun violence? I have been asked how I don’t get too depressed or how do I keep myself healthy emotionally, mentally and even physically faced with the involvement with the gun violence prevention movement?

The last question first- my family, friends, faith community, local community and statewide and national gun violence prevention friends keep each other healthy. We mourn. We ring bells. We act. We support each other and carry on in the names of the victims. For what else can we do? Everyone handles the stresses differently. I immerse myself in photography, exercise, reading books, spending time at our cabin and with our family enjoying watching my grandchildren grow into fun and productive human beings. Their sports activities keep us busy. Their school activities- musical and otherwise are an outlet and provide happiness. Travel is also a great way to forget about the violence and the world’s problems.

Now to the first about Minnesota. This week 2 Minnesota law enforcement officers used guns to kill themselves. Suicide by gun. Not uncommon as it turns out. But 2 in one week- unrelated to each other? From the article:

A study released in September found that police officers are at a higher risk of suicide than any other profession.The rate of 13 out of 100,000 deaths by suicide in the general population rises to 17 out of 100,000 for police officers, with 167 police officers taking their own lives in 2018.

Police officers risk their lives every day on the job. They see the carnage caused by homicides, suicides, domestic abuse, auto accidents and the like. It has to be very stressful to experience this every day on the job. The unexpected happens and officers respond.

Officers also have easy access to guns. When contemplating suicide, if there is an easy way out, a gun is the fastest and most efficient.

So what should we do about this? Police departments are providing officers with ways of handling stress and dealing with their emotional health. It is not enough and more recognition of the serious risks should be discussed more openly. It is difficult for people trained to be tough and authoritative to admit that they have vulnerabilities and difficulties handling their stressful and dangerous jobs.

Brady’s End Family Fire is a program designed for discussion of the risks of guns in the home. No matter who the gun owner happens to me, a better understanding of the actual risks posed when a gun for self protection or used on the job can still cause unintentional or intentional deaths.

So that is the lesson for some Minnesota teens who last week in St. Paul “accidentally” pulled the trigger on a stolen gun and killed a friend. This tragedy was so avoidable in many ways:

The St. Paul Police Department says Jones-Morris was shot Wednesday afternoon at a home on the 100 block of Annapolis Street, near the city’s border with West St. Paul. Police say a 15-year-old boy told investigators he accidentally shot Jones-Morris while playing with a gun that he didn’t know was loaded.

That teen and a 16-year-old boy were charged in the shooting Thursday. The criminal complaint says the 16-year-old admitted to stealing the gun from an SUV last week. Both are being held at the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center.

“So many people are just broken down and shocked,” said friend Alex Hogg.

How many times does “so many people are just broken down and shocked” have to be quoted in an article about the gun death of one of our teens whose life’s potential will never be reached? This young man was a football and basketball star at his school and had many friends. His personality was a happy one- making others laugh.

Let’s talk about some of the precursors of this avoidable death. The teens stole a gun from a car. That was illegal. What about the “responsible” gun owner who left a gun in his/her car easy to steal? What is his/her responsibility here? Every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first pass through the hands of an adult. Teens can’t buy guns. Stealing is one easy way to get one.

Second, teens cannot be responsible with guns. Guns are not toys to be “played with”. Everyone who touches a gun should have some kind of training on how to operate a deadly weapon and the risks of having one in their hands. How often do we hear about people who did not realize there was a bullet in the chamber?

Efforts to safety proof guns have been rebuffed by the corporate gun lobby. Smart guns could save lives and in this case, would have. But the technology is not there yet. My opinion is that if we can create the will and technology to send Americans to the moon and into space, we can develop better guns that will keep us safer.

Safe storage of guns whether in cars or homes would save lives and this case would have. Stronger laws for safe storage and mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns would save lives. But we aren’t passing those laws in many places either.

And it doesn’t have to be a law. It’s just common sense really isn’t it? Responsible gun owners understand that their guns are to be respected and gun safety is key to avoid the gun incidents I have written about here. But even in the hands of responsible gun owners, things go wrong. Combined with anger over just about anything, a domestic abuse, a bad grade in school, despair, depression, drug and alcohol use, or “playing” with a gun and/or cleaning a gun, tragedy and heartbreak can be an unfortunate and deadly outcome.

There was one more incident this week in Oklahoma that I want to talk about. Yet another 3 year old found a gun left carelessly in a bathroom in a public place.:

The restaurant, located near May Avenue and Grand Boulevard, has a sign on the door that reads, “No handguns,” but a customer brought one in anyway and left it behind by mistake.

“I got a call from my daughter, and she was quite alarmed.” Dennis Pealor said.

Pealor told KOCO 5 that his daughter’s family was eating brunch Sunday at La Baguette when his son-in-law escorted their 3-year-old to the bathroom.

“Immediately, she points to this item on the toilet paper holder and says, ‘Daddy. What’s that?'” Pealor said.

According to a police report, a semi-automatic handgun was found in the stall. The report states that a 77-year-old man from Duncan used the restroom and left the restaurant, forgetting the weapon was in there.

No handguns allowed but someone who thought he could ignore the law brought his gun in anyway? Why? What is so dangerous about a restaurant? And then he leaves the gun in the toilet stall? Good grief. This is what happens when more people carry guns around in public. We are not safer.

These incidents have become too common place but also had the owners understood the risks of guns by applying the End Family Fire tenets, carelessness that could have led to an awful outcome would be avoided.

And my last concern is about the irresponsible United States Senate for its’ failure to pass the Violence Against Women Act. This has never happened before. Too many women and children lose their lives to domestic violence- and most to firearms. This is national disgrace:

The bill would eliminate the so-called boyfriend loophole by expanding a current ban on firearm purchases for spouses or formerly married partners convicted of abuse or under a restraining order to include dating partners who were never legally married.

More than 30 House Republicans voted for the measure. But the opposition from most House Republicans, as well as the NRA, made it unlikely it would pass the GOP-controlled Senate.

Of course. The NRA.

For 30 years, Minnesota has been keeping track of the numbers of people who have died from domestic violence:

Known for years as the annual Femicide Report, it started in 1989 as a way to fill in a gap in reporting gender-bias violence against women and girls. There was no other state or national group collecting this kind of data at the time, and to this day no state agency collects comparable data.

“Every month or so a woman, and or her children, and or her partner or mother or neighbor got killed, and it was like a flash in the pan,” said Julie Tilley, who first decided to start collecting the names as a staffer at the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

“One of our goals was not only to honor the victims of this horrendous violence but to make this violence visible. It was so clear to us at that time that people weren’t seeing what was happening all around us.”

The Clothesline Project is a visual display of tee shirts designed by family or friends of a victim of domestic or sexual violence. We must make the violence visible. I once found my sister’s name on a tee shirt at a display by the project. It was a very emotional moment for me as I held on to the shirt with her name as the clothesline stretched out with the many other names.

We must say their names and see their faces. It’s the stories of the victims that should change the conversation. That is why I do this advocacy.

Today I remember Minnesotans:

Da’Qwan Jones-Morris, 17

South St. Paul PD Officer Cory Slifko

Rogers PD Officer Blake Neumann

We all remember the many victims of mass shootings that have occurred in November- Thousand Oaks, CA one year ago on Nov. 7 leaving 12 dead, Sutherland Springs,Texas church shooting 2 years ago on Nov. 5 leaving 26 dead and 20 wounded ( for just 2). Minnesota has seen an upsurge in shooting deaths this year. What will we do about it? That remains to be seen but we have to #dosomething. It’s in our hands to make our kids, teens and communities safer.

We are better than this.

Halloween 2019 was deadly

It was a scary Halloween this year. 4 are dead and more injured at a Halloween party at an Airbnb. Who brings guns to a Halloween party and why?:

“The killings shocked neighbors and residents in Orinda, where homicides are especially rare. The last killing in the small East Bay city about 15 miles east of San Francisco was in 2012, when a man hacked his girlfriend to death with a machete. Before that, the city’s only other homicide this century was in 2002, when Susan Polk killed her estranged psychotherapist husband.

Now that is ghoulish.

But this was yet another mass shooting. It may have been domestic in nature but we don’t know that yet. The thing is, after shootings like this, it is often noted that the community is a quiet community where shootings and violence don’t happen. We can’t say that anymore because shootings happen anywhere there are people who decide to bring guns with them or where people have guns in their homes. More guns means more shootings and we have more guns than ever now which means we have more shootings and more deaths than ever.

In another Halloween shooting a little 7 year old girl dressed in a bumblebee costume was shot by a “stray” bullet meant for someone else as she was trick or treating in the Chicago area. Don’t people with guns know that there are small kids out and about on the streets on Halloween Eve when they decide to bring their guns to the streets to do whatever they do with them? Also if the person who shot the gun was a “responsible” gun owner, why shoot bullets when you know they very well may not hit their target? And why have a target anyway? Why do people want to kill each other with bullets? What’s all the anger about? Why should Americans have to experience this level of violence in their neighborhoods? Why aren’t we doing anything about it?

From the article:

“Obviously the little girl wasn’t the target. We think two gangs were having a dispute and one of them shot at the other,” Johnson told reporters Friday morning. “She just was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”

She was actually in the right place at the right time. It was the shooter(s) who were in the wrong place at the wrong time. They always are. And further, from the article:

“Those involved don’t deserve to be in our city,” he said. “I’m disgusted but committed to doing everything we can to find the cowards that would engage in a gun battle during the early evening hours while children are trick or treating.”

It’s the guns. These gang members could have had a fist fight and it would not have ended in this kind of tragedy. Even a knife fight would not have ended this way. But they have chosen guns because they know that guns kill. Where is common sense?

The answer is simple. Guns kill people. They are designed to kill people and kill they do at an alarming rate. When Americans are convinced that they need their guns for self protection ( since that seems to be the reason) this is the consequence. A gun bought ( or stolen or bought in a straw purchase or on the streets) is more likely to be used in a shooting of someone you know or love than to be used for self protection.

Unfortunately for that 7 year old who is in critical condition and for the 4 killed in an Airbnb senselessly it’s too late to have this discussion. And until we do something about the shootings it will be too late for thousands of Americans.

But it’s not too late for us to demand that our leaders #DoSomething about gun violence. Apparently President Trump has given up any pretense ( and it was pretense all along) of any further progress towards stemming the tide of gun violence. Shame on him and the Republicans who refuse to deal with the daily carnage.:

“A lot of the people who put me where I am are strong believers in the 2nd Amendment, and I am also,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.Then he argued that any efforts to restrict gun sales would inevitably lead to confiscation of privately owned weapons from law-abiding citizens, although no one has proposed that drastic remedy on Capitol Hill.“They call it the slippery slope,” he said. “And all of a sudden everything gets taken away. We’re not going to let that happen.”

Wrong. This is such nonsense and gun lobby lying and paranoia. What is taken away are people’s lives. And if does not want to alienate his base, what about the loved ones of gun violence victims? Why doesn’t he care if he alienates them? Because……. NRA……. money………he’s a chicken.

The gun advocates often criticize gang gun violence and Chicago for all of the shootings. Yes. Chicago has shootings but their crime rate and gun death rate are down. Other cities are experiencing a lot of gun violence like Minneapolis and St Paul. The thing is, what are these critics willing to do about all of the violence? Don’t they really care that when gang members get guns they kill not only themselves but often innocent victims? They are chickens.

The gang members who shot the bullet that ended in the neck of a 7 year old are chickens. They don’t have a way to solve their problems without hiding behind a gun? Trump can’t deal with gun violence without hiding behind lies and gun lobby deceptions? What are these people afraid of? They have no courage or common sense. They are hiding behind their masks of cowardice and complicity with a small minority of voters, a corrupt NRA and the gun manufacturers. They think they are protecting themselves and their own election chances and reputations. They should be protecting us from daily shootings.

Our voices need to be loud and clear about who are the brave ones and who are the bullies and the chickens. We must call them out for their profiles in cowardice.