Parkland

It’s Valentine’s day. It’s the second anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that changed the trajectory of the gun violence prevention movement. Many hearts were broken on Valentine’s Day 2 years ago. They were shattered and remain broken.

The birth of March For Our Lives and young Americans getting involved in the issue of gun violence understanding that they could be next ones shot has changed the movement forever. New gun laws have passed in many states as a result.

Two years ago today changed the lives of yet more parents, more grandparents, more sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and friends. School shootings have become regularized. Our kids are targets. It’s an American tragedy.

And by the way, students involved in March For Our Lives, Brady’s Team Enough and Students Demand Action are not going anywhere. They are still actively involved in pushing for stronger gun laws. Students understand what some adults just can’t get right. Gun laws save lives, not the other way around.

Some adults irresponsibly continue their lies about guns. They continue to tell us that someone surely could have stopped that shooter two years today if only they had had their gun. If only…..

A new video about the myth of guns for self defense came out the other day from GVPedia. Check out the facts:

Thank goodness for facts. The gun rights extremists don’t like them.

Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people. That is why we need to have strong gun laws to stop so many people who can be dangerous with them from getting them in the first place. That is why we need to keep pushing for safe storage of guns ( most school shooters get their guns from home). That is why we need to counter the dangerous myths pushed by gun rights extremists.

Lives depend on it.

We should be celebrating as a country that finally good things are happening that can save lives. Finally organizations are providing facts to shed light on the gun lobby myths. But it’s America, the home of the NRA and the run rights extremists who hate gun laws even if they may save the life of someone in their own family.

A new movement called Second Amendment Sanctuaries is crisscrossing the country as gun extremists have decided that following gun laws is just not for them. In light of all of the mass shootings and everyday shootings, how is this possible? It’s beyond common sense, that’s for sure.

In other states, like New Mexico, it became wide spread.

Now, close to where I live, a northern Minnesota county decided that they, too, would become a sanctuary for guns and rights. What does this mean exactly? From the article:

The motion goes on to resolve that “public funds of the county not be used to restrict the Second Amendment rights of the citizens of Roseau County, or to aid federal or state agencies in the restriction of said rights.”

Roseau County Sheriff Steve Gust said the resolution won’t change local law enforcement’s operations, since one of the resolution’s main intents is to oppose “red flag” gun laws, which allow courts to temporarily remove guns from people who are found to be a risk to themselves or others. Red flag laws have been proposed in Minnesota but not passed.

A template resolution, circulated by members of the New House Republican Caucus over the past few months as they encourage grassroots organization in support of the Second Amendment, specified that a sanctuary designation means that counties can refuse to send law enforcement officers or other county employees to enforce “unconstitutional” laws.

The thing is, gun laws are NOT unconstitutional. The “Red Flag” law, for example, is constitutional in the states where it has passed. Let’s see what the objections are to these laws ( from the article):

Many conservatives oppose all restrictions on access to firearms, arguing that they infringe on the Second Amendment. The National Rifle Association has offered support for the concept of keeping firearms out of the hands of dangerous people, but it has opposed state red flag laws in practice, arguing that they go too far by allowing courts to confiscate guns from people who have not committed a crime. The organization has also complained that red flag laws in states like Oregon deny the targets of the protective orders due process of law, by allowing orders to be issued without the target having a chance to be heard. The N.R.A. has not supported any state red flag law that has yet been enacted.

Brady has challenged the idea that gun laws don’t need to be enforced:

“Second Amendment sanctuaries” are built entirely upon a tightly held and inaccurate belief that common-sense gun safety laws are unconstitutional. This movement is a clear backlash orchestrated by the gun lobby in response to recent wins in gun reform. Over recent years, voters across the country have elected lawmakers committed to preventing gun violence by passing common-sense and evidence-based measures like universal background checkssafe storage laws, and extreme risk laws. The extreme gun rights advocates behind so-called “Second Amendment sanctuaries” want to stop these laws before they can go into effect.

THE TRUTH? THESE GUN SAFETY LAWS DON’T INFRINGE ON THE SECOND AMENDMENT

According to these gun rights extremists, common-sense gun safety laws infringe on their Second Amendment rights. But the truth is that the Second Amendment is not under threat — and coordinated efforts to purposefully mislead the public or refuse to enforce public safety laws are dangerous. The gun safety measures that are being denounced by extreme gun rights advocates were passed by democratically elected legislators and were signed into law by state governors. Common-sense gun safety laws do not interfere with the rights of gun owners — but they do keep guns out of the hands of those who cannot or should not possess them.

100 Americans a day are killed by bullets. The school shootings like the one that happened two years ago today that killed 17 people carried out by a young man who should not have had a gun happen because of easy access to guns. It’s the guns. Just maybe, had a Red Flag law been enacted in Florida at the time of the shooting, someone would have reported the shooter to authorities and just maybe, at least temporarily enough to avoid the shooting, his rights to have guns would have been temporarily removed.

Our kids need sanctuaries in their schools from shootings. Our country needs a sanctuary from shootings in malls, places of business, homes, clinics, army bases, colleges, on the streets, in bars and restaurants and Walmart stores.

A documentary about the Parkland shooting is now being shown in some theaters and in selected cities. It is the stories of the victims and their families. We see how the violence that day affected not only the victims and their families but the survivors and the PTSD suffered by so many after witnessing the horrors of the shooting. Two students who survived the Parkland students have now died from gun suicide. The irony and tragedy of this is unspeakable.

In the aftermath of such tragedy, declaring second amendment sanctuaries is just plain nonsensical and ludicrous. For in real life, someone’s daughter, son, mother, father, uncle, friend, sister or brother are shot every day. Second amendment sanctuaries are an insult to the victims and their families. They had the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That was taken from them in just seconds.

Their families had the right to watch them grow older and contribute to our cities and counties all over America. They would have gone to college maybe or found a job somewhere and met someone to love and be in a meaningful relationship and maybe have families of their own. Maybe one would have become an astronaut. Maybe another would have become a world renowned scientist. Another- an artist or a dancer. Another a Pediatrician. Another a politician. Endless contributions to society and potential snuffed out by bullets.

The rights of Americans to live without fear of being shot is the most important right

Please look at the photos of the 17 who died two years ago today- on Valentine’s Day. Look at their faces. Say their names.

In memory:

Traveling with your gun

It seems that the American public is no longer safe no matter where they are. A California shooting on a Greyhound bus may be a first for the scene of a mass shooting– One dead and 5 injured. Until firearms carry laws passed in the early 2000s in many states, there weren’t so many shootings in public places. Shootings took place at home mostly in the form of domestic shootings or suicides. They still do but mass shootings have become a regular happening. The Columbine school shooting was one of the first mass (school) shootings that caught the attention of the public in a big way because so many victims were left dead and they were kids.

Speaking of guns and buses, does anyone remember last winter’s incident involving a school bus driver and a “law abiding” carry holder in Minnesota?:

A Minnesota man who shot and wounded a school bus driver on a Minneapolis freeway during a snowstorm has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison.

Thirty-two-year-old Kenneth Lilly, of St. Paul, pleaded guilty in August to first-degree assault for the February attack that left Thomas Benson deaf in one ear and unable to continue working as a bus driver due to nerve damage in his hand.

Another article about the shooting says this about the shooter:

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office says Lilly was cleared in a previous shooting, in which he shot and killed a 16-year-old armed robbery suspect in 2015. At that time, the county attorney found that no criminal charges were “appropriate.”

It appears that the man, a supposed security guard, has a trigger finger and should not have had that gun on that day. His anger combined with a gun has now left him serving time.

Unfortunately and tragically times are changing. Guns are so easily and readily available to just about anyone. No matter if they can pass a background check- they can get a gun. No matter if they are a domestic abuser- they can get a gun. No matter if they are dangerously mentally ill or a felon, they can get a gun. No matter if they live in a state with strong gun laws, they can get a gun. California is one of those states where gun deaths are actually low compared to some states and were strong gun laws have been passed. But the weak laws in neighboring states allow guns to come into California anyway:

California has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. But the tragedy that played out on Sunday, in which three people were killed and 12 wounded, illustrated a familiar problem for states that have ratcheted up their own gun laws in recent years, only to see them neutralized by neighboring states with more lax rules.

The above article was referring to the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival last July where 3 were shot dead and 17 wounded. Have gun will travel to other states. Have gun will travel on buses and to malls and Congress on your Corner events like the one that killed 6 and left U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and others permanently injured and disabled.

The gun lobby, of course, will tell you that the world is dangerous so you must carry a gun to protect yourself or have one at the ready at home. The opposite is true of course. Many times “law abiding” gun owners and gun carriers are the shooters. “Unintentional shootings” happen far too often. Mistaken identity has left more than a few dead or injured. It happens primarily in America where gun rights advocates insist that the second amendment protects them and allows them to have guns no matter what.

A Super Bowl ad funded by the Michael Bloomberg campaign got it right. Watch the ad for yourself:

Galandrian Kemp who speaks about George, her murdered son, ends with these words: “You have a right to live. No one has a right to take your life and dreams”

Exactly. That is what this is all about. There is no need to travel with a gun. One can’t even compare defensive gun uses to the number of daily gun deaths. Bodies are piling up as I write. They are killed on buses, in cars, in homes, in malls, on the streets, in schools and offices, in hospitals, in every corner of America. But rarely are guns used in self defense. According to the Gun Violence Archive, as of today 3583 Americans have died by firearm. There have been 132 defensive gun uses. Common sense tells us that guns are more often used to kill someone than in self defense.

Yes, some choose to carry firearms. And sometimes they are used in legitimate self defense. Mostly the firearms in homes and carried are never fired to kill or injure another human being and most gun owners are safe with their guns.

We can stipulate to all of that. But given that the number of gun deaths and injuries are the highest in our country of all industrialized democratized countries in the world, it is worth discussing why the minority of gun owners ( more extreme in their positions) resist attempts to prevent and cure our national public health epidemic. Given that we all have the right to our lives and dreams it seems like a no brainer.

There is a responsibility to safely store and handle lethal weapons. With rights come responsibilities. Lives can be saved if gun owners think twice or three times before using a gun in anger, disputes, depression or against themselves. Lives are changed in just an instant when a gun is the weapon.

There is also a responsibility to reign in your rhetoric when you are an elected leader. For example, it’s a pretty dangerous idea for a state lawmaker to say it’s legal to shoot communists. We don’t have to use much imagination to know who he is talking about. (And who, really are communists? We know the right and Trump are going to use that word to describe the Democratic candidate no matter who he or she is. Let’s take a look:

Rep. Rodney Garcia, a state lawmaker in Montana, told a roomful of Republicans he believes the U.S. Constitution says socialists can be jailed or shot simply for being socialists. Garcia initially made the statement at an election event, then he reiterated it to a Billings Gazette reporter. And then, (…) Garcia was not able to say where he finds that in the Constitution, the Billings Gazette reported.

Anthony Johnstone, a law professor at the University of Montana, told The Washington Post that “nothing in the Constitution of the United States authorizes the government to punish socialists or anyone else on the basis of their political beliefs.” In fact, the First Amendment prohibits punishing political speech, and the Constitution of Montana “expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of political beliefs,” Johnstone said. All state lawmakers swear an oath to uphold those doctrines.

Never mind….. rights.

He should get an ethics violation at the least. And does he have a carry permit? I question how he will use it if confronted with a candidate running for office who is in the left position of many Democrats. You don’t get so shoot people with whom you disagree politically. You just don’t.

Unless of course your are Donald Trump who believes he can shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose his supporters.

You can’t make this stuff up.

After experiencing the anger of Minnesotans 2 weeks ago at a hearing that I mentioned in my last post, I get the feeling that we can’t overcome this anger to get to a solution that will move us forward towards saving lives. We are not the enemy as one man told one of the bus riders who traveled to Hibbing, Minnesota to attend a hearing on gun bills. We disagree about how to get to the solution. If those folks are truly law abiding gun owners, they have nothing to fear. But the NRA and right wing extreme talking points have fueled anger, fear, paranoia, misinformation and hyperbole.

In the end, we ought to be safe traveling on buses and in the mall, and in our homes, and our kids should be safe from shootings in their schools. Arming more people is just not the solution. And allowing easy access to guns for those who clearly should not have them is just plain stupid and dangerous.

Our better angels should prevail. In my city, there will be a Better Angels training to get people on opposite sides of controversial issues to engage and try to get to some place where we can agree. Our country has become so polarized over the last few decades that I wonder if that is even possible. The current occupant of the White House tweets many times a day to foment the polarization. Never before has a President been so demeaning and called so many people names. Never before has a President engaged in hourly lies to misinform the public and cause damage to the national psyche. And never before has a President encouraged violence in tweets or excused it for that matter.

Never before has social media and more mobility been a factor in some of the violence and polarization. People travel with their guns to shoot people, to attend rallies, to attend hearings and they come from out of state and from far away.

Take this article from the Star Tribune about the increasing gang violence in the Twin Cities:

She offered another, simpler explanation: As society becomes more mobile, many young gang members, lacking stable housing, are staying with relatives or girlfriends around the metro area. (…)

Bill Finney, another Ramsey County undersheriff and former St. Paul police chief, suspects that teens feuding online set up meeting spots at transit stations along the light-rail line to settle their differences in person. Last year, he witnessed such an encounter as two boys wielding knives greeted another pair getting off the train. The attack resulted in a stabbing, Finney said.

Before the internet, graffiti was the medium of choice to diss a rival, experts say. The emboldened could, under the cover of darkness, spray paint an anonymous message on an adversary’s property.

But an explosion of social media has accelerated those disputes. Today, teens flock to Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube to disrespect one another through flashy rap videos without ever leaving their homes. The words are not veiled, and neither is the poster. Retribution is swift.

At the end of the above article mention is made about getting the guns off the streets. That is really the main problem here. Easy access to guns allows the violence to increase and results in tragic loss of life. The gun rights extremists often write off gang violence as an excuse to do nothing about the violence. Gang members have families who love them and when they die, their families mourn for them. We can’t just write off a whole group of citizens. Sometimes the violence of gangs harms and kills innocent people like the mother of my friend Bunny Beeks who as sitting in her car when a bullet flying in the street hit her and killed her.

Never before has there been such an outright display of weaponry as we have seen in Virginia and Kentucky in the past few weeks. A meme is going around with a photo of the armed Kentuckians going around the metal detectors at the state Capitol while others, unarmed, had to go through the detectors. And by armed, I mean AR-15s strapped around their shoulders and chests. Check out the photos in the linked articles and tell me if you would feel safer surrounded by these folks. You can’t make this stuff up.

It is not normal nor should it become normal. It will take elected leaders to step up and call out this dangerous and bullying behavior if the rest of us are to feel safe. I have been told by some in the gun rights community that I should not fear being surrounded by people carrying guns. They are, after all, law abiding citizens. My response? If I feel unsafe surrounded by armed citizens then I feel unsafe. They don’t seem to understand that the majority of us do not care to see people carrying guns around in public. And particularly people dressed in masks and military gear.

We are not at war- or not yet anyway. But I fear that with the increased polarization and the increase in armed rallies and citizens ready to engage in civil war, we just may see one.

That would be tragic to say the least.

We are better than this.

UPDATE:

I need to add something to my original post that supports my view that we don’t need armed people everywhere to respond to crises. According to this article. the Greyhound bus driver in the incident where a shooter killed 1 and injured 5 was unarmed. He talked the shooter down without a gun pointed at him:

After the gunman opened fire, the bus driver pulled over to the shoulder and “was able to persuade the shooter” to get off the bus, Sgt. Brian Pennings with the California Highway Patrol said during a news conference Monday morning.

The suspect “voluntarily” got off the bus, leaving a black handgun behind, Pennings said. Officers located him on the shoulder and took him into custody without incident.

The bus driver, who was not injured, “handled the situation professionally and appropriately to minimize any more possible victims,” Pennings said.

Even if the driver had been armed, how was he to respond with a gun while driving the bus and keeping the other passengers safe? This is the myth of the gun lobby suggesting that if only someone had a gun…….