The most important day

Today is the most significant inauguration in my lifetime. The countdown has begun. By 11:00 my time President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will take over the reins of a much wounded America. The past 4 years have been a national nightmare. It has been exhausting to watch the daily and hourly tweets from an unfit, unhinged and dangerous President. He left the country in worse shape that he found it but we should have taken a cue from his own inauguration address when he used the word “carnage” to describe the country. Now we can look back on that speech and understand that Trump was actually predicting the mayhem that ended his presidency.

Presidents have to deal with all kinds of unexpected events that shape their time in office. Certainly Trump could not have predicted the death and destruction a pandemic would do to the country and the world. But we elect Presidents so they can deal with crises like the coronavirus pandemic. We expect that they will be surrounded by expertise and intelligence that will keep us safe and that they will do everything they can to prevent or stop the threat. We expect common sense.

Boy were a lot of people wrong. I was not one of them. But I could do nothing to stop this man from doing almost nothing to stop the spread of the pandemic that has taken the lives of 400,000 precious Americans. I could do nothing while the nation watched as anti-Semitic White Supremacist rioters turned Charlottesville, Virginia into a scene of death. They were armed of course. They always are. Because they can be. They intimidate. They bully. And sometimes they act with their guns to cause more death and destruction.

Let’s review one a few of the racist and hate-filled shootings during Trump’s presidency.

A Walmart in El Paso, Texas that left 23 dead and 23 injured- mostly people of color.

Gilroy Garlic festival shooting in California- perpetrated by a young white man with White Supremacy leanings. 3 died with others injured.

Virginia Beach, Virginia where a white disgruntled male shot and killed 12 people and left others injured.

Another White Supremacist shot and killed 11 at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

There are others of course. Every President has faced mass shootings as only happen in America. Other Presidents have expressed sympathies and brought the country together in their remarks or their actions after the shooting. President Obama famously broke into singing Amazing Grace at the memorial for the victims of the Mother Emanuel church shooting in Charleston, S.C.

Here is a full list for your perusal.

Gun deaths have increased in the last 4 years so they are now at one of the highest in many years. According to the Gun Violence Archive.In 2020, 43, 465 Americans died from gun violence.

In the last 4 years we have also seen an increase in heavily armed citizens at our state capitols and on our streets strutting around with openly held loaded guns at the ready. This is #notnormal and we can’t let it be. I will hope to see a decrease in such violent intimidation of American citizens and elected leaders whose lives have been threatened over the last 4 years. When a sitting Governor Gretchen Whitmer is the victim of a plot to kidnap her and kill her, we have a serious problem. This must stop but I fear it won’t. At least we will have a new President who will call out dangerous people like those in Michigan who were thankfully arrested.

That is carnage and much of it happens on our streets and in homes a few at a time.

Yes. There has been carnage. Trump’s presidency ended with the Jan. 6th insurrection attack of the U.S. Capitol. He incited the White Supremacists, the neo Nazis, the militia groups, the dangerous crowd of his supporters who had violent intentions on their minds and in their hearts. He is and was a sore loser and a dangerous man. He left us with the national PTSD after the worst event that has happened in America in many generations.

There is hope. A new day is dawning as I write this. Last night I lit 4 candles- one each for 100,000 victims of the COVID pandemic. President elect Biden and Vice President elect Kamala Harris led a beautiful, powerful and emotional ceremony of remembrance for the victims. The country wept as we experienced a cathartic moment that was necessary. There is national PTSD about the damage done physically, emotionally and economically to our country. President Trump mishandled the pandemic so badly that he is responsible for many of the deaths. He is responsible for the deaths at the U.S. Capitol. He is responsible for the rise of domestic violence and White Supremacy in America.

Never again.

I look forward to a common sense, decent, caring, competent White House team and administration. The country needs healing. I have no illusions about getting the gun laws passed that will save lives and have been ignored for decades. But I do have hope that we will pay attention to our nation’s gun violence epidemic and at least try to do the right thing.

Welcome President Biden and Vice President Harris. A lot rests on your shoulders. May you succeed and may you bring us hope and the unity that is needed to heal us from the monster that has been serving as the President of our country for 4 hate-filled, angry, twitter-filled rants and unsettling years.

Insurrection at the Capitol

us capitol hill siege, us capitol hill siege protest, us capitol hill siege news, capitol hill building, capitol hill building protest, donald trump, joe biden, capitol Hill, DC protests
“An explosion caused by a police munition is seen while supporters of US President Donald Trump gather in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, U.S., January 6, 2021. (Reuters Photo: Leah Millis)”
from
https://indianexpress.com/article/explained/us-capitol-hill-siege-explained-7136632/

I have been thinking about what happened at the Capitol yesterday. It was an attempted coup. It was insurrection. It was domestic terrorism.

For years, people in the gun violence prevention movement have been watching insurrectionists stockpile guns and ammunition. Their entire purpose has been to use their arsenals to fight against their own government. Yesterday they had their chance to do just that. Luckily D.C. has strong gun laws but several people have been arrested for carrying guns and ammunition anyway. Now I ask you to imagine what could have happened in the halls of Congress had one of these armed folks opened fire? Too scary to think about. I have watched the reports from Congress members about the terror that ensued as they hid and ran from the Trump thugs who broke into the people’s House. Congressman Jason Crow, who was in the House chamber, called his wife to say he loved her. Let that sink in.

Does this sound familiar? Remember the calls that the Parkland students made to their parents as they were locked down in their classrooms as a mass shooter was shooting their classmates before their eyes?

It’s horrifying. It leaves behind PTSD that will never go away.

If you have watched “Designated Survivor” you understand the horror of a domestic terror attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Let me get back to gun extremists. A very small percentage of gun owners own a lot of guns. I can safely guess that many of these mostly white thugs were gun owners and gun extremists with a lot of guns perhaps left at home, in a car or maybe concealed? That has been mentioned as a possibility at yesterday’s attack. Let’s look at the American gun phenomenon and stockpiling guns. From this article in the Guardian:


But America’s gun super-owners, have amassed huge collections. Just 3% of American adults own a collective 133m firearms – half of America’s total gun stock. These owners have collections that range from eight to 140 guns, the 2015 study found. Their average collection: 17 guns each.
After the Las Vegas shooting, officials said the killer had 23 guns in his hotel room, and another 19 at home. Some Americans asked, shocked, why one person purchasing so many guns had not set off any red flags.
AdvertisementPart of the answer is that owning more than 40 guns is actually fairly common in the United States: there are an estimated 7.7 million super-owners, which might make it difficult to flag a mass shooter building an arsenal from enthusiastic collectors and gun enthusiasts piling up different kinds of guns for hunting different kinds of game, a selection of handguns for self-defense, and various accessories for the popular, customisable military-style rifles that enthusiasts have compared to lethal Lego sets for grown men.
“Why do you need more than one pair of shoes? The truth is, you don’t, but do you want more than one pair of shoes? If you’re going hiking, you don’t want to use that one pair of high heels,” Philip van Cleave, the president of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, a gun rights group, explained last year.
Super-owners were less diverse than gun owners overall, with super-owners more likely to be male, less likely to be black or Hispanic, and more likely to own a gun for protection, researchers said.

Well, Mr. Van Cleave, no one needs so many guns that they can overwhelm an entire legislature, or Congress, or gathering of people. No one.

We are seeing the result of weak gun laws and the pandering of our lawmakers to the monied and powerful corporate gun lobby and far right extremists. We are seeing the result of pandering to the far right by Trump and the Republicans. It’s a vicious circle. The “base” believes the lies that Trump tells and they repeat it and then the Republicans are afraid of the base for repeating Trump’s lies.

It happened before our very eyes yesterday.

The second amendment extremists think the amendment is all about them being able to attack their own government or to protect themselves from a tyrannical leader. Those of us on the other side believe that common sense gun laws are necessary to protect all of us from insurrection as well as “ordinary” gun violence. With Joe Biden as President and a Senate now controlled by Democrats, there is hope that the changes supported by the majority will actually be passed and make us all safer.
What happened yesterday was #notnormal.

We witnessed an attempted coup on the United States of America fomented by an unhinged and dangerous President. Had the insurrectionists brought and/or used their guns, we would be having a different discussion today.

There was a lot of violent and racist symbolism displayed yesterday. The Jim Crow era is alive. One photo showing a man carrying a Confederate flag in the Capitol Statuary Hall is frightening, to say the least. And then there is the yellow Gadsden flag, symbolizing all kinds of things but of late, it is seen often at pro gun rallies and the words, “Don’t Tread On Me” have a clear meaning about not taking away guns or gun rights:

The Gadsden flag has appeared at other political protests, too, such as those opposing restrictions on gun ownership and objecting to rules imposed in 2020 to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Most recently the flag has been flown and displayed at some post-election protests, including events where demonstrators called for officials to stop counting votes – and both inside and outside the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., during the counting of the electoral votes on Jan. 6.

Because of its creator’s history and because it is commonly flown alongside “Trump 2020” flags, the Confederate battle flag and other white-supremacist flags, some may now see the Gadsden flag as a symbol of intolerance and hate – or even racism. If so, its original meaning is then forever lost, but one theme remains.

At its core, the flag is a simple warning – but to whom, and from whom, has clearly changed. Gone is the original intent to unite the states to fight an outside oppressor. Instead, for those who fly it today, the government is the oppressor.

#Enough We don’t need to be intimidated by the flags of insurrectionists. Of course they also carry American flags as if they are the only true patriots. They are not. They are the opposite of patriots. They are seditionists. They are displaying racist symbols. We get it.

We’ve all had enough of the Republicans aiding and abetting a madman and his conspiracy theories and paranoia. And listening to some ( Lindsey Graham, William Barr, John Danforth) try to explain themselves today to make try to restore their reputations is just sad and despicable. It’s too late. We’re sick of them all. They have failed us and they let this happen. Their regrets are not enough. They made a terrible and almost fatal mistake. We hold them accountable.

These folks could have stopped the man behind the attack long ago but they made their choice. They could have looked more carefully at supporting people with blind ambition and vetted them more carefully. The time to support someone just because they are conservative or liberal is over. Those who quietly supported Trump even though it was sickeningly obvious that he was evil and sick and totally unfit for the job are now responsible for the monster they allowed and created. They gave themselves to a man who will be written about for years to come as one of the most evil “leaders” ever to occupy the White House. It’s on them.

We are better than this. And we are going to make sure questions are answered and that extremist groups are no longer going to have the support of an elected President or Congressional leaders. There should be arrests. There should be and will be consequences. We are tired of conspiracy theories and lies. We want the truth. We want the facts. We want lawmakers who don’t blindly follow a madman like they are cult members just so they can appoint conservative judges and give their rich friends tax breaks. We want a public that is not so angry they are ready to destroy their own democracy because a maniac sitting in the White House and his nutty personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani told them to use violence to get their way.

They have some explaining to do. We are waiting.

An unhappy New Year in Minnesota

Image from Duluth News Tribune

I am really tired of seeing the stock photos of police car flashing lights and crime scene tape on the front page of my local paper. Just in the last few weeks, Minnesotans and the Northland area have been involved in a long list deadly and/or dangerous shooting incidents. Sadly I can make a list of these incidents as if they were a shopping list or a “to-do” list. And the thing is, those affected are real people and real families suffering from the after affects of senseless shooting incidents. Neighborhoods are traumatized by the sound of gunfire.Only in America is this the case. The New Year will not be a happy one for many.

Here is just some of the incidents from the last few weeks in Minnesota and the Northland:

A domestic shooting in the Bemidji area left one person dead and 2 arrested.

A 16 year old boy was shot and killed allegedly in an incident of teens sitting in a truck while drinking alcohol

A person was shot and gravely injured in downtown Duluth

Minneapolis police shot and killed an alleged felony at a gas station after the victim supposedly fired his gun

A gun “accidentally” discharged in a Superior Kwik Trip store

A hand grenade was found in the recycling center in Duluth

In St. Paul a 2 year old died from gunshot injuries inside of a home where adults were present.

A 17 year old is dead from gunshot injuries sustained in a North Minneapolis shooting

And these were the headlines that littered the media sources in Minnesota and the Northland. Have we become numb to the fact that guns are creating a terrible public health epidemic in our country? Media all over the country report these incidents daily. It’s a fact of life in America.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The devastation of gun violence in our communities is endemic. It’s traumatizing. It’s violent. It is painful and leaves too many families grieving over avoidable deaths and injuries.

The Gun Violence Archive reports shooting incidents in real time. As of today, the last day of 2020, 43,322 Americans have lost their lives to bullets. Let that sink in.

This is not normal. It should be alarming to all who care about their fellow Americans. The fact that our state legislators and Congress have not addressed this scourge head-on is not only an embarrassment, it is an American tragedy. This is simply not happening in other civilized countries not at war.

There are so many things that can be done about this national epidemic. There is no vaccine for it as there is now for COVID. But there are common sense solutions that have been tragically avoided. The majority of Americans know there are solutions and support the solutions. But some of our elected officials either ignore it or purposely do nothing. We don’t have good answers as to why they are doing this other than decades of allowing it. Pressure from the paper tiger called the NRA has a lot to do with it. Big money influences people in office. Fear of public sentiment has for decades shaped the conversation even when it’s a very small number of people who hold the views that have kept solutions from happening.

Unfortunately in a year when gun purchases went up and fear over whatever people have feared in the age of COVID, general support for gun laws that could make a difference is down. Overall support still remains strong for specific individual gun laws ;ike universal background checks.

We have work to do. If people better understood how gun violence is affecting communities and the risks of guns in homes and in public, minds can be changed.

2020 was the annus horribilis for many reasons. COVID 19 has ravaged our country leaving 341,000 dead. It is common knowledge that we could have saved some of these lives had we acted sooner and better. By we, I mean the current administration. But we didn’t. We didn’t act soon enough for the victims of gun violence either.

We have elected a new President, Joe Biden, whose support for common sense gun safety reform is well known. He won anyway. The current occupant of the White House, if you can call him that, took on the gun extremist mantra and used it even though we all know he does not genuinely hold those beliefs. He panered to the far right. It’s a sham. It’s the Wizard of Oz fooling us into thinking there is nothing we can do.

We have no illusions that 2021 will lead to immediate solutions for the scourge of COVID 19. It will take most of the year to get us all vaccinated and back to normal. It will also take some backbone to stand up to those who refuse to do anything about the gun violence public health epidemic. Both are huge problems that don’t have easy solutions. But the solutions are there if we make up our common minds that we intend to do something about it.

The national discussion will change. Change will happen, albeit slowly. Lives can be saved. Families and communities don’t have to live with gun violence as an everyday occurrence.

There is hope in spite of incredible grief and trauma. We are all experiencing a form of PTSD since the pandemic hit the world early this year. Nothing is the same. Nothing will ever be the same. But a new President is coming with a team of people who actually are qualified for the positions they will hold. Expertise and science is back. The truth is back. The public will not be fooled by those with evil and malignant intentions.

I hope you will have a very small celebration and stay safe. Don’t shoot guns into the air, by the way. What goes up must come down. I have posted before about my friend Joe Jaskolka, whose life changed forever in 1999 after a New Year’s Eve celebration when a stupid gun owner shot a bullet into the air that landed in the brain of an innocent young boy. His life and his family’s life was changed forever on that New Year’s Eve. I leave you with this message about the danger of bullets and guns.

Be safe. Stay safe. Don’t bring guns to parties. Don’t fire a gun into the air. Don’t leave your guns out for kids and teens to find. Don’t drink and shoot. Don’t use a gun in an angry dispute. Don’t leave your guns unlocked and loaded. Store them safely. Don’t use a gun to take your own life. Save lives. Have some common sense.

Happy New Year.

Holiday reflections

Happy holidays to all. What a weird holiday season this will be, to say the least. We will be cleaning up after a blizzard for most of this Christmas Eve day. It feels like any other day except it isn’t. We are in the midst of a pandemic surge though the numbers in Minnesota of cases and deaths are decreasing. The vaccine is here and thankfully, many health care workers are or will be immunized against this deadly virus that has gripped our country for almost a year now. In the new year, most of us will also get the vaccine leading to hope for normalcy, whatever that may be.

The virus first made itself known in December of 2019 in some places and perhaps even in the U.S. And here we are living in what feels like a dream.

Since March of this year almost everything we have known has been altered or changed, some things forever. If you allow time to reflect properly, it’s like a scary movie. The pandemic has caused such widespread death and destruction all over the world that it is really unimaginable. There will be tomes written about this time in our history for many years. Looking back we will wonder how we managed to get through this. And, of course, many did not. Over 300,00 and more to come, fewer Americans are not celebrating with their families. leaving gaping holes in the hearts of their loved ones and friends. The damage is incalculable. And the holiday will make that even worse.

Because I write about gun violence prevention, I must also talk about the increase in the violence that has taken lives in numbers that should be red flag and a call to action.

I wrote a post about the connection between the coronavirus and gun violence. That connection has been noticed by many. How could it not given the number of people dying from both? A Star Tribune editorial this week pointed out what is happening with gun violence in the midst of the pandemic:

Gun violence remains one of the more potent threats to U.S. public health. Firearms play a role in most of the murders committed in the United States each year, and in more than half the suicides. More people die from gun violence than from traffic accidents. In Minneapolis, 2020 is shaping up as a year of nearly unprecedented firearm-driven mayhem.

Unlike the pandemic, the scourge of gun violence will not yield to a vaccine — and if a vaccine were available, some people would refuse to take it. This points to one of the similarities between COVID-19 and the proliferation of guns: In the face of both threats, some Americans are unaccountably averse to health measures that would provide them a measure of protection.

survey reported this month by Pew Research found that about 4 Americans in 10 say they would not take the COVID vaccine if it were offered to them. Then there is the small but growing population of children whose parents refuse to vaccinate them against once-common diseases like whooping cough. And let’s not forget the people who refuse to wear a mask during the pandemic, or who insist that the pandemic itself is a hoax. Their antipathy to scientific fact — perhaps it’s just antipathy to facts, period — may help explain why the United States has lost more people to COVID than any other country on earth.

In the gun debate, there are similar contradictions between demonstrable fact and stubborn belief. For example, in a new survey commissioned by the Joyce Foundation and the George Family Foundation (bit.ly/JoyceResearch), two-thirds of likely Minnesota voters say they believe the presence of a gun makes a household safer. In fact, people who have a gun in the house are at considerably greater risk. For every anecdote about a homeowner’s defense of his castle, there are instances of tragedy — a toddler dead, a suicide completed, a domestic dispute turned fatal.

Minnesotans — including those who own guns, and those who don’t — overwhelmingly support measures that can help curb gun violence, like universal background checks and so-called red-flag laws that identify cases of extreme risk. Yet, according to the research, those Minnesotans express doubt that the measures they support can help in any significant way.

That’s not accurate. As foundation representatives point out, the experience of states that have passed such measures, Maryland and Connecticut, proves otherwise. Background checks that close the loophole enjoyed by private dealers and gun shows reduce gun deaths. They work.

Facts matter but in this age of denial of COVID, denial of the election of Joe Biden to the Presidency, denial of mask wearing, denial of the chaos wrought by one Donald Trump, denial of science and facts, it’s no surprise that people are not aware that, actually, gun laws matter and they do work. In Minnesota we have been facing this denial for decades. Nevertheless, we persist in educating the public and pushing against the false idea that passing common sense gun laws will not make a difference. The excuse that criminals won’t obey the laws to keep legislatures from passing laws is just that- an excuse to do nothing.

More from the above linked editorial about this:

It used to be that a command of facts was considered an advantage in any debate on public issues. Now, consider the roster of areas in which the most basic facts are disputed or dismissed: the coronavirus, for example, or absentee voting, or white privilege, or climate change, or the Mueller investigation. That list, sadly, is barely a beginning.

Kate Havelin of Protect Minnesota, a group that advocates for gun-safety measures, cited the efforts to deny even the facts of the Sandy Hook school massacre, which occurred eight years ago last week. “People don’t accept facts,” she said last week during a webinar organized by the Joyce Foundation. “That’s a real issue.”

Facts matter. Science matters. Laws do matter. Just because facts make us uncomfortable with what is happening around us does mean they aren’t true. It’s disturbing that in the age of COVID, gun violence, the 2020 election, Trumpism, fact deniers, we just let people die. It’s a national tragedy.

The Christmas story, as told in the Christian Bible, does rely on a certain amount of belief in the unbelievable and some fact denial. After all, can we believe that certain “wise men” followed a star to a small stable located in Bethlehem where they brought gifts to a baby born in that stable thought to be the son of God? And yet, this week when the Great Conjunction occurred all over the world in a once in a lifetime conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that has been called the Christmas Star, it was hard not to believe. I don’t know about you, but this phenomenon, a celestial event that actually took place before our very eyes, was hard to deny.

If we decide, as a nation, that passing sensible gun laws will lead to decreasing the gun violence running rampant in the country, then the result will be fewer gun deaths. It will require a set of beliefs that lives matter and that we have a moral responsibility to save lives. If we change our preset beliefs that nothing we do will make a difference, then that is what will happen.

I will believe in facts. I will believe in science. But I also believe that what we say and do and how we message the narrative will change public perception which will change how we deal with a myriad of issues.

Perhaps it’s a convergence of facts and beliefs. Perhaps it’s like the film, It’s a Wonderful Life. The angel Clarence appears to save George from taking his own life and changes the trajectory of not only George and his family but the entire town. That is how belief works. If we build it, they will come. Our own Field of Dreams can shape the future.

If we decide we are going to do something to save lives, we will. If we are shown how our own actions have affected others in the past, and present, the Ghost of Christmas Future from the holiday favorite Christmas Carol , written a long time ago by Charles Dickens, can show us how we can affect change going forward.

It will be hard this Christmas season to have hope. It’s a dark time literally and figuratively. If we shed light on the truth, we can move forward as a country.

Every year we believe we are celebrating happily. But every year, there are people living in poverty, people who can’t celebrate, people who have depression or don’t have enough food or the ability to purchase gifts or a tree. I urge us all to be kind. I urge us all to do something for someone else this Christmas. I urge us all to have belief that things are going to actually get better even in the midst of this terrible time.

What matters to you? This is a good time to reflect on all of these things.

Merry Christmas to those who believe. Merry Christmas to all who are suffering or are grieving the loss of a loved one. Merry Christmas to those who don’t believe or are deniers of the facts. And may the new year bring change we can believe in.

Children in the crosshairs

Photo from CNN.com

It’s all about the children today- and every day actually. If we don’t protect our children from harm, who are we? On so many levels and in so many ways, we have failed our children. Do you remember where you were when you heard the news 8 years ago that 20 innocent beautiful first graders and 6 educators were massacred by a young man who should never had had access to a gun? I do. I was on my way from Duluth to the Twin Cities for a holiday program for one of my grandsons. All I could think about was him and his little pre-school friends performing music for parents and grandparents having their lives snuffed out violently and in a bloody few minutes of horror. Or, I should say, I couldn’t imagine it. I remember the director of the pre-school making a statement about the shooting before the program began. Sobering.

Eight years later, today, the parents,, grandparents, family and friends of those little children and educators will be re-living the horror of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that rocked the country. The pain never goes away. There is a hole in the lives of all who knew the victims. They live around the hole. Some do better than others. The father of one of the children killed took his own life last year. He just couldn’t keep going after losing his beloved daughter. The ripple effect of gun violence is real. PTSD is real. Heartbreak is real. Grief is real.

What about this don’t we get as a country? What craziness is this that 8 years after the shooting on Dec. 14th, 2012 we have done nothing. Nothing………

Who are we? Why do we let our children remain in the crosshairs of weapons designed for war that are sold legally in a country where there are more guns than people? Why? Teens can get their hands on guns. Teens shoot other teens in school shootings or in urban neighborhoods where guns are a way of life. Teens shoot themselves regularly in a moment of despair, depression or anguish over something that might not have caused a death had a gun not been available to them.

It’s an American tragedy. Gun Violence Archive is keeping track of deaths and injuries from bullets. It’s stunning that we even have to keep track of such things. But as of today, according to Gun Violence Archive, 275 children aged 0-11 have died from gunshot injuries and another 658 have been injured. 996 children aged 12-17 have died from gunshot injuries and another 2910 have been injured.

Let the numbers sink in.

We don’t know the kind of injuries but we do know that some of these children will live forever with physical and emotional scars.

Our Northland Chapter held a virtual vigil on Dec. 11th to remember the victims of Sandy Hook and all victims of gun violence. We have held a vigil every year for 8 years following the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. We do it to remind us all that the shootings continue unabated. From an OpEd piece written by myself and another chapter leader for the Duluth News Tribune:

If we don’t remember the victims, we will never act to prevent more senseless gun violence. We can make a difference if we demand the changes that lead to safer communities.

People should be safe from gun violence when they go about their daily business. Children should be safe from gun violence wherever they are. We can decrease the number of gun homicides and suicides through common-sense precautions and legislation. (…)

The behavior we put up with is the behavior we get more of. By speaking up and taking responsibility to store guns unloaded and locked, we can begin to reduce the threat of dangerous gunfire in our neighborhoods. Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken has asked for the community to help identify those who are being reckless with their guns and disturbing the peace of our neighborhoods.

With the right to own and carry a gun comes the serious responsibility to use it sparingly and wisely and to keep it away from others who cannot handle that responsibility.

Contrary to what some say, we are not trying to take rights or guns away. We want to make sure that guns are bought legally and with proper vetting to make sure owners are up to the responsibility.

That’s all. Simple. Common sense.

We can save lives if we choose to. The fact that, as a country, we have not chosen to do so is an abysmal and catastrophic failure. We have failed to protect our children. Our bad.

In looking for the numbers of mass shootings since Sandy Hook I found this article from CNN:

Gun violence has been overshadowed this year by the pandemic, the struggling economy and the victory of Joseph Biden in the presidential election. There hasn’t been a high-profile mass shooting, on the scale of Sandy Hook, since the pandemic began. Mass shootings that dominated the news include 50 killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, 59 killed at the Harvest music festival in Las Vegas in 2017, and 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.

Philip J. Cook, a sociologist with the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and author of “The Gun Debate: What Everybody Needs to Know,” said that six of the 10 deadliest mass murders in U.S. history have happened since Sandy Hook. The most recent high-profile mass shooting was in 2019, at a WalMart in El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were killed. He said the deadliest mass shooting in 2020 was a domestic incident in North Carolina where a man killed six family members and then himself.

“It was a tragic event, but not a public event, and the number of deaths was smaller than the cases that have become famous,” said Cook. “The Sandy Hook massacre was a great shock to the political stasis around gun control.”

President Barack Obama tried, and failed, to implement stricter gun control. In 2013, Congress failed to pass a bill to restrict assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which have been used in multiple mass shootings.

“The states were inspired to go their separate ways, with red states loosening gun regulations and blue states tightening them,” said Cook, noting that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, spearheaded the SAFE Act in 2013, which bans most assault weapons. 

But the federal government has implemented virtually no gun control laws, aside from the 2019 ban on bump stocks used in the Las Vegas mass shooting to speed up the rate of fire.

While some see mass shootings as reason for more gun control, others see mass shootings as reason to buy more guns. Mark Oliva, public affairs director for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry group that happens to be based in Newtown, described mass shootings as a “crime problem and not one of lawful firearm ownership.”

“The first crime committed by the murderer at Sandy Hook was theft of the firearm belonging to his mother,” he said. “The second crime was the brutal murder of his own mother, before he continued with his unspeakable acts.”

Shame on us.

Remember all of the children who have died since this day 8 years ago. The numbers are staggering.

And remember these 26 today:

Charlotte Bacon, 6

Daniel Barden, 7

Rachel Davino, 29

Olivia Engel, 6

Josephine Gay, 7

Ana M Marquez-Greene, 6

Dylan Hockley, 6

Dawn Hochsprung, 47

Madeline F. Hsu, 6

Catherine V. Hubbard, 6

Chase Kowalski, 7

Jesse Lewis, 6

James Mattioli, 6

Grace McDonnell, 7

Anne Marie Murphy, 52

Emilie Parker, 6

Jack Pinto, 6

Noah Pozner, 6

Caroline Previdi, 6

Jessica Rekos, 6

Avielle Richman, 6

Lauren Rousseau, 30

Mary Sherlach, 56

Victoria Soto, 27

Benjamin Wheeler, 6

Allison N Wyatt, 6

Connections- shootings and coronavirus deaths

Yes There is a connection. How could there not be? We are a nation of people who have mourned or are mourning the deaths of loved ones who died of gunshot injuries. They are not with us on holidays. They are missed. Their lives were lost in mostly unavoidable senseless acts of violence which take many forms- domestic shootings, gun suicides, urban violence, police violence, unintentional shootings, mass shootings, school shootings and more rarely, random acts of violence.

There was a random act of violence in Nevada the other day- on Thanksgiving. Happy thanksgiving. A couple in Nevada thought, apparently, that driving around shooting innocent people might be a thing to do on the holiday. It’s America. Should we be surprised?:

One person was shot dead and four others injured on Thanksgiving after police in Henderson, Nevada say a man and woman fired at people while driving in the city. 

“It is believed that the suspects were driving around the city randomly shooting at citizens with no apparent motive,” Henderson police said in a news release.

Henderson police officers responding to the Thursday shooting at the 800 block of East Lake Mead Parkway found a 22-year-old man who had died from an apparent gunshot wound, a 23-year-old injured woman, a 18-year-old injured man, a 53-year-old injured man, and a 41-year-old injured man, all suffering from apparent gunshot wounds, according to a news release. 

How is this related to COVID you might ask? As I wrote in my last post, shootings have continued in many forms during the shut downs and restrictions due to the pandemic. Not so many mass shootings because of the fact that the masses are not really gathering in many places as targets for shooters. But nevertheless, people are dying from gunshot injuries.

In El Paso, for example, the numbers of the dead from COVID are staggering. The community is struggling to deal with the bodies and the grief. El Paso was the sight of a heinous hate shooting at a Walmart store targeting Latino citizens a little over a year ago. The community was still reeling from the after effects of that shooting when COVID spread in our country last winter.

This article highlights the pile-on of grief for the victims of the virus on top of still grieving for those lost in August of 2019. How much can one community take? From the article:

The city unified in the face of hatred last year, adopting the “El Paso Strong” ethos after 23 people were killed in an allegedly racist attack at a Walmart. El Paso is now struggling to summon the solidarity to transcend indifference and fatigue as scores of people are dying each day in a persisting pandemic.

“Unfortunately, as human beings, we want to see things for ourselves. We physically watched the shooting and could see the danger,” said Ana Lilia Holman, whose 86-year-old father, William Howard Holman, died of covid-19 on Nov. 12. “But we can’t see this virus, so people tend to doubt how severe it really is.”

We should not doubt that coronavirus is spreading at an uncontrolled pace all across our country. And yet, there are deniers. There are those who don’t believe the virus exists or if it does, they will not be affected. They will not get sick or die. That only happens to others. So they don’t have to wear a mask or social distance because that’s just for other people. They know better.

Certain lawmakers are in denial or believe they can hide from the consequences of their failure to help America in the face of a national emergency. Why? History will look back on this time and wonder how a whole group of politicians chose not to act. Americans died as a result.

Gun violence won’t happen to those deniers either. If we hide in the sand and pretend it’s not happening, then it’s not something we need to address. The same lawmakers who are failing us about the spread of the virus and failing to help us in this national emergency are doing the same about gun violence. They have failed us. They have acquiesced to a rich and powerful gun lobby and a distinct minority of Americans who have conjured up false reasons for not acting on gun violence. They will do anything to keep their fragile control over America to shape it the way they want it to be in spite of public opinion, research and science showing them to be wrong.

People have died. People are dying. People will die. As long as we let these lawmakers get away with their failed policies and their inhumane decisions to let people die, we will also fail.

The connection is unmistakable. We have a national gun violence epidemic in the midst of the worst public health virus pandemic in a century.

We will have to deal with the aftermath and ripple effects of the pandemic and the gun violence epidemic for many years to come.

Where is common sense?

Reflections on shootings past present and future

As I reflected on the beauty of a light snowfall this morning, I was reminded by a news story that today was a day to remember momentous shootings. There are so many that it is too easy to forget what happened on this day in other years. We have paid so much attention to the present chaos over COVID and the 2020 election results which continue hour by hour, that we forget important things. That is the point of a President and a party who don’t want us to remember tragedies and past mistakes so we can learn from them and move forward to better solutions.

Today is the “anniversary” of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The country experienced a shock on November 22nd, 1963 as we watched the repeated video of our young President as he slumped over into his wife’s lap while the car sped away to the hospital where he died of his gunshot injuries. One shooter; one gun; many bullets; one U.S. President’s life snuffed out in seconds; the shooter shot by another unhinged man on live T.V.; the country mourned; stronger gun laws passed:

It had been floating around Congress for several years. [Discussion] really began after the JFK assassination; there was a strong sense that people shouldn’t buy guns through interstate mail, because Lee Harvey Oswald did through an ad that appeared in a NRA magazine. Congress held hearings, but it didn’t really go anywhere. Now in 1968, the country is facing rising urban rioting. In the mid-to-late ’60s, crime begins to increase. There’s greater concern about guns and easy accessibility to guns. Martin Luther King is assassinated in April. In June, Robert Kennedy was assassinated and that was really the final push that brought the law back and got it through Congress.

What are the most important things the law changed?

It banned interstate shipments of firearms and ammunition to private individuals [and] sales of guns to minors, drug addicts and “mental incompetents.” This is the first time you have in law that mentally unbalanced people ought not to be able to get guns — also convicted felons. It also strengthened the licensing and record-keeping requirements for gun dealers, and that was significant because gun dealers were subject to virtually no systematic scrutiny up until this time, although a 1938 federal law did establish a fee they paid to government to be a licensed dealer. It banned importation of foreign-made surplus firearms, except those appropriate for sporting purposes.

Since then, one other important gun violence prevention law passed in 1993 in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on the life of President Ronald Reagan- the Brady Background Check law. The Brady Background check law has prevented over 3 million prohibited people from getting their hands on guns.

As a side note, I recently completed the book-Mrs. Kennedy and Me written by Clint Hill, the security agent assigned to Jacqueline Kennedy. I learned from his reflections, about the horror in the immediate seconds after the President was shot. How can we understand the horror of what a shot person looks like when a bullet tears through their brain, or heart? We can’t. Maybe if we could better understand the consequences we would be quicker to want to prevent shootings.

Today is also the 6th anniversary of the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice. Tamir was walking around with a toy gun when police found him and mistakenly assumed he had a real gun. This is the problem with so many guns around. No one knows who is armed and who is not. But it’s also the problem with the quick response from law enforcement when a black person has a gun or is perceived to have a gun or is perceived to be armed or is just perceived to be trouble. Here is an article written by Tamir’s mother earlier this year as she reflected on the shooting death of her innocent son:

If Tamir was alive, he’d probably be doing something with sports. That little boy was so athletic at an early age. I’m not sure what kind of athlete he would have been. We didn’t really have a chance to have a lot of those conversations. He would be 18 and have graduated high school by now.

That day Tamir was murdered I received a knock at the door and it was a neighborhood kid saying my son had been shot by police. I said, “What are you talking about?” I was in denial and shock.

No parent should have to endure something like this.

As I arrived on the scene, my 14-year-old was in the back of a police car. Tamir was laying on the pavement in a gazebo with police surrounding him. My 16-year-old was surrounded by police officers as well. Basically, police told me to calm down or else they were going to put me in the back of a police car. They gave me an ultimatum to stay at the scene of the crime, or to go with Tamir in the ambulance.

The day was very horrific for me. I was enraged by the way he was killed, murdered, assassinated, lynched, whatever they may call it. Nobody bothered to look at this man’s record before he became a Cleveland police officer. He had a horrible report. Nobody in Cleveland did their job, and that’s why I have a dead son today.

No. No parent should have to endure this. No sister. No brother. No mother or father. No child. No one. And yet, over 100 Americans a day die from gun violence. The nation is enduring a public health epidemic now in the midst of an actual public health pandemic.

COVID restrictions have changed our world. Since last March, when the country shut down, many schools have been doing distance learning. This fall, when the school year began again, schools struggled with how to educate our children safely. Some opened completely. Some chose the hybrid model and some chose all distance learning. This largely depended on how the spread of COVID was occurring in the communities where schools are located. My own grandchildren are now learning from home while their parents work from home. It is not the way our kids should be educated but here we are.

There have been no school shootings since COVID started spreading in our country. I came across this report from the Government Accounting Office (GAO) about school shootings that confirms what we really already know:

We examined school shootings and found:

Half were committed by current or former students

Suburban and rural, wealthier, and low-minority schools had more school-targeted shootings; such shootings were the most fatal and most commonly committed by students

Urban, poor, and high-minority schools had more shootings overall and more motivated by disputes; these shootings were often committed by non-students or unknown shooters

More shootings happened outside, but those inside schools were usually more deadly

We found no empirical research from 2009-2019 that directly examined the link between school discipline and school shootings.

There have been few mass shootings in public places either. People aren’t gathering as much in public now. There was one two days ago though in a Milwaukee suburb mall leaving 8 innocent people injured and none dead. Malls are still places where people are allowed to gather in larger numbers. It seems that where people gather in larger numbers, there are opportunities for mass shooters to take out some sort of angry rampage on people they don’t know. And easy access to guns along with weak gun laws lets this all happen.

Don’t get me started on the weak response to the actual pandemic. During the pandemic the sale of guns has gone up. How do we explain this? I don’t think we do. It’s a gun culture that no other country where COVID is also spreading experiences. It’s the weak gun laws.

We are experiencing unprecedented turmoil due to the pandemic. The stress of worry about losing a job, kids being at home, working from home, getting COVID and now the lunacy of a sitting President who refuses to admit he lost the election, is leading to fear and paranoia. It is not a good time to be locked and loaded. It is not a good time to be carrying a gun around in public where there are rallies and protests.

We know how that worked out in Kenosha when there were protests there after the shooting of a black man by police. Two people were shot and killed by a 17 year old who bought his gun in a straw purchase since he was too young to own or carry an AR-15. But carry he did. He was arrested.

The lunacy of what we are experiencing in America is that the said 17 year old shooter has been bailed out by none other than the “pillow guy”- friend to the current occupant of the White House and actor Ricky Schroder.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Where is common sense?

Everyday shootings have continued apace. According to Gun Violence Archive, 38,526 Americans have died from gunshot injuries so far this year. It will likely reach 40,00 before the end of the year.

This number included suicides. An increase in gun suicides in the age of COVID should not surprise us. Access to guns and suicide go together. Gun suicides have been on the rise anyway. But now we are seeing more evidence that times of stress and anxiety can lead to more suicides. Guns make it easy. A New York Times article has this to say:

Ms. Torp has reason to worry. Gun violence kills about 40,000 Americans each year, but while public attention has focused on mass shootings, murders and accidental gun deaths, these account for little more than one-third of the nation’s firearms fatalities. The majority of gun deaths are suicides — and just over half of suicides involve guns.

According to national health statistics, 24,432 Americans used guns to kill themselves in 2018, up from 19,392 in 2010.

People who kill themselves in this way are usually those with ready access to firearms: gun owners and their family members. Gun owners are not more suicidal than people who don’t own guns, but attempts with guns are more likely to be fatal.

Now, nearly a year after the coronavirus pandemic began, unleashing a tide of economic dislocation and despair, experts are bracing for a rise in suicides. Gun sales have risen steadily since March, and as shutdowns aimed at containing the virus have disrupted lives and led to social isolation, studies have shown an increase in anxiety and suicidal ideation.

We are in perilous times now. More deaths from COVID and still rising to numbers that are incomprensible; a feckless, unfit and unhinged President turning his back to the American people; a major party refusing to stand up and insist that we proceed with the transition to the next President Joe Biden; armed people on our streets; conspiracy theories pushed by right wing extremists, including the President that will only make the threats of violence more likely; weak gun laws that allow for so many people to have instant access to guns that could result in a tragedy. Election officials have been threatened as have people who have spoken out against the President’s lunacy.

There is NO VOTER FRAUD. Time to move on to a more peaceful and safe country.

I look forward to President Joe Biden for many reasons. The daily chaos will decrease or disappear. We will have a sane approach to combating COVID and distributing what looks to be a successful vaccine. There is hope that the economy can recover and our kids can get back to school. And there will be a common sense approach to reducing and preventing gun violence.

I look forward to a peaceful and calm, but quiet, Thanksgiving and holiday season as a time of reflection on things past, present and future. I wish we could spend it with our kids and grandkids but not this year. Enjoy your quiet and tune out the loud noises out there.

Ghost guns and goblins

Happy Halloween. There may be fewer ghosts out there today given COVID and the scare about contracting the virus from strangers giving out candy. I don’t think the sacrifice is too great to miss this one year of Halloween. It seems like families are finding creative ways to celebrate the holiday in spite of it all.

But I want to talk about something else scary today. Ghost guns. Just as their name suggests they are sort of invisible guns that fly under the radar. According to Brady:

Ghost guns are unserialized and untraceable firearms that can be bought online and assembled at home. They are often sold through “ghost gun kits,” which include all of the parts and often the equipment necessary to build these weapons at home. These kits are widely available and can be purchased by anyone, including prohibited purchasers, domestic abusers, and gun traffickers — without a background check. As these kits and guns are sold at gun shows and online every day throughout the country, they undermine all of the life-saving policies that state legislatures have fought so hard to put in place.

Ghost guns are:
Designed to avoid all gun laws

Untraceable and unserialized

Available to buy without a background check

This criteria and lack of federal regulation is exactly ghost guns are a growing a weapon of choice among people who are legally prohibited from buying guns.

I think this is scary, and I’m sure my readers would agree with me. This is exactly why we need to elect leaders who will do something to bust ghost guns. As long as they are easy to buy, are unregulated and untraceable they should not be available to anyone.

Common sense would tell us this but the extreme gun lobby is missing a lot of common sense. And most citizens have no idea these kinds of guns are available. That is, unless one of their loved ones was killed or injured in the Saugus High School shooting by a ghost gun. You can see a photo of it in the article if you want to see what it looks like. From the article:

A teen who fatally shot two students and injured three others in Santa Clarita, California, used an unregistered “kit gun” in last week’s shooting, authorities said.

Kit guns, sometimes called “ghost guns” if they do not have a serial number, are self-assembled firearms, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva told KABC-TV that the gun used in the shooting at Saugus High School does not have a serial number to track.

“The real concern here is that you have untraceable, unserialized firearms that exist completely outside of the regulatory scheme of federal and state law,” Nick Suplina, managing director for law and policy at gun violence group Everytown, told USA TODAY. “People who are prohibited from owning firearms under federal or state law have ready access to make their own untraceable firearms, and that’s very dangerous.”

Check out Brady’s podcast about Ghost guns here.

On this Halloween I suggest that we need to know where ghosts are hiding and where they come from. That way we can stop fearing them. Until we get our system under control to stop the sale of ghost gun kits, we should be worried.

And there are certainly goblins out there threatening the safety and peacefulness of our upcoming election. Americans should not feel anxiety about guns at polling places. That is for 3rd world countries where guns are a regular feature of elections. But we are in the midst of the potential for tragedy and violence. It’s scary.

Much has been written about this topic but I found this article in the Washington Post a good summary of the current situation:

“Could the election devolve into civil war? Unlikely,” mused Miller, the founder of a budding network of members-only survivalist camps. “But look at World War I: Some worthless, low-level archduke gets assassinated and things escalate out of control. I’ve got people who are concerned that all it would take is a close election and some cheating.”

In Portland, Ore., where a right-wing armed group plans to show up at ballot drop-off sites on Tuesday with weapons in plain view, some extreme left-wing organizers are preparing to do the same.

“The right is not going to give up their power unless they feel threatened,” said Olivia Katbi Smith, a co-chair of the Democratic Socialists of America in Portland. “People are opening up to the idea that a riot is the language of the unheard. Property destruction is not violence.”

On the eve of a presidential election fraught with tension, warning flares are bursting across American skies. From federal and local law enforcement to analysts who track radical groups, concern is high about the possibility that violence could erupt, especially if the vote count drags on for days without a clear winner.

Happy Halloween. It’s 3 days until the election. That’s scary enough if you support candidates who believe in and support common sense gun laws. And it’s scary considering the threats of violence, shootings, kidnappings and other potentially unsettling and tragic happenings in the next few weeks.

Until we elect people who will stand up to the scary lobbyists from the gun industry, ghost guns will haunt us. Until we deal with armed militia groups things will be scary in our country.

Stay calm. Vote. Be patient. Carry on.

Helpers and Civility

I just finished listening to Fred Guttenberg being interviewed on the Brady podcast, Red, Blue and Brady. For those who are unfamiliar with this podcast, I cannot recommend it highly enough. In fact, the podcast, which has been running for about a year, has been nominated for a Shorty Award. I was one of the first people interviewed for the podcast and was honored to talk about my sister’s story and my decades of advocacy for common sense gun safety reform. The podcast has highlighted many topics related to gun safety reform and has featured guests from a variety of life experiences and expertise.

Brady’s podcast, Red, Blue, and Brady, has been recognized as a finalist for a prestigious Shorty Award after only its first year of production and publication. The Shorty Awards honor the best in production and development for numerous categories of content and social media, including podcast production. Red, Blue, and Brady’s series on racial justice was nominated and is a finalist in the podcast category.

Red, Blue, and Brady” is the first podcast devoted solely to gun violence prevention, and we have now made it the first podcast devoted to gun violence prevention and racial justice. The nomination notes that in just three months, “Red, Blue, and Brady” (RBB) produced 17 podcast episodes devoted to the intersection of gun violence, racial inequality, and racial justice, featuring advocates, activists, academics, politicians, and survivors to speak on the issues.

“Red, Blue, and Brady” consistently placed among the top 200 education podcasts, demonstrating that the public is in need of well researched, passionate, bipartisan conversations on gun violence and race and racism. Episodes attracted listeners from across the U.S., as well as a notable number of listeners from Brazil, India, South Africa, and France. The https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fred_Guttenbergseries garnered over 27,000 listeners and uplifts the work of organizations such as D.C.’s violence interrupters (episodes 45 and 59); a social club of mothers who have lost children to gun violence (episode 60); and youth activists (episodes 43 and 74).

Back to Fred Guttenberg. If you don’t know who he is, you should. Fred has been a vocal advocate for gun violence prevention since his daughter, Jaime, was killed in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida in 2016. We all know about this shooting don’t we? It was the shooting that started a movement that is still going strong- March For Our Lives.

It is a national tragedy that people have to march for their lives and keep shouting for support for common sense measures to reduce and prevent the daily toll of gun violence. It’s an epidemic and it continues even in the midst of the pandemic. In fact, more guns have been purchased and more gun background checks have been completed than since the years when the gun nuts decided that President Obama was going to take their guns away.

But this year’s sales spike is different because it’s being driven by a rise in first-time gun buyers, especially among African Americans and women.About 40% of gun sales in the first four months of the year were made by first-time buyers — far higher than the annual average of 24% over the past two decades, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a trade association that tracks gun sales and analyzes industry trends.Gun sales among Black Americans are up 58% through September, according to the NSSF. Mark Oliva, the foundation’s director of public affairs, said the rise in Black gun ownership is unprecedented.”We’ve never seen a year-over-year increase that large in African-American gun buyers,” Oliva told CNN Business. “It is the largest demographic increase we’ve seen. People that are buying guns today look a whole lot less like me and a whole lot more like the rest of America,” added Oliva, who is White.

This ludicrous notion is raising its’ ugly head during the 2020 election as President Trump feeds on the fear and anger of those who claim that their rights are under attack and Joe Biden will take away their guns. People are scared in the uncertain times of COVID, racial unrest and job loss during a declining economy. Those fears are real but I maintain that guns will not help but rather have the potential to make things worse and more dangerous. And I am continually mystified at the anger over the life saving measure of mask wearing in public. This is complete and utter nonsense and the armed anti-maskers look like fools. But then, acting in your own best interest is, indeed, foolish. What happened to civility, civil protests and common sense?

Unfortunately not only do many believe guns will make them safer. Guns, of course, are deadly weapons designed to kill. Owning one comes with some risk. But I have written about this many times before.

Some extremists are arming up for a civil war and are engaged with right wing terror groups ready to roll if the results of the election are not to their liking. As I write this, they are getting ready for armed intimidation at polling places, urged on by an increasingly unhinged and desperate President who says he will likely not accept the results of the election.

“Part of the issue we’re seeing is with people congregating, whether it’s for protests or other issues, in cities, is it has basically brought together extremist individuals from all sides in close proximity,” said Seth Jones, the director of the Transnational Threats Project at the center. “We’ve seen people on all sides armed, and it does raise concerns about escalation of violence in U.S. cities.”

The report also linked the threat of violence to the country’s charged politics, the coronavirus pandemic and its financial fallout. It warned that violence could rise after the presidential election because of increasing polarization, growing economic challenges, concerns about racial injustice and the persistence of coronavirus health risks.

It said that if the Democratic presidential candidate, Joseph R. Biden Jr., wins the election, white supremacists could mobilize, with targets likely to be Black people, Latinos, Jews and Muslims. A Republican presidential victory could involve violence emanating out of large-scale demonstrations, the report said.

Minnesota has been at the center of some of action since the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. We learned recently that a private Tennessee company intended to hire retired armed military and law enforcement to “guard” polling places. Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison was having none of it and pursued legal action. Just yesterday, the company “decided” they would not send armed folks to Minnesota and they will not be allowed to be near our polling places.:

Attorney General Keith Ellison launched a probe into Atlas Aegis on Tuesday, the same day that a pair of local advocacy groups filed federal lawsuits in response to ads placed by the company seeking to hire armed guards for the “protection of election polls” in Minnesota.

In a settlement reached Friday, Atlas Aegis agreed that it will not provide security services in Minnesota around the time of the election — effectively through Jan. 1. The company also agreed to provide public notification that it was wrong to suggest that it was recruiting armed guards at Minnesota polling places, which would have violated the state’s election laws.

“Minnesotans should expect that our elections will run as safely, smoothly, and securely as they always have,” Ellison said in a statement. “One of the reasons is that my office and our partners are actively enforcing our laws against threatening, frightening, or intimidating voters.”

Also in Minnesota, a member of the Boogaloo Bois, who was involved in firing at a police officer during the George Floyd protests, was charged with a crime.:

A sworn affidavit by the FBI underlying the complaint reveals new details about a far-right anti-government group’s coordinated role in the violence that roiled through civil unrest over Floyd’s death while in police custody.

Ivan Harrison Hunter, a 26-year-old from Boerne, Texas, is charged with one count of interstate travel to incite a riot for his alleged role in ramping up violence during the protests in Minneapolis on May 27 and 28. According to charges, Hunter, wearing a skull mask and tactical gear, shot 13 rounds at the south Minneapolis police headquarters while people were inside. He also looted and helped set the building ablaze, according to the complaint, which was filed Monday under seal.

Unrest flared throughout Minneapolis following Floyd’s death, which was captured on a bystander’s cellphone video, causing Gov. Tim Walz to activate the Minnesota National Guard. As police clashed with protesters, Hunter and other members of the Boogaloo Bois discussed in private Facebook messages their plans to travel to Minneapolis and rally at the Cub Foods near the Third Precinct building, according to federal court documents. One of the people Hunter coordinated with posted publicly to social media: “Lock and load boys. Boog flags are in the air, and the national network is going off,” the complaint states.

And of course, there is the plot to kidnap, put on trial and kill Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

These are very real and fomented by our very own President who is making things worse instead of helping to calm the situation. I don’t recall this much violence or threats of violence during an election in my lifetime. We are living in dangerous and unpredictable times.

So many things about this are wrong and inexplicable. Brady is working hard to make sure elections are safe and that voters do not have their rights infringed. You can get involved by checking out the website. Make sure you know that efforts to intimidate voters at polling places with guns are illegal.

You can be a helper, as Fred Guttenberg is encouraging you and others to be in his new book, Find the Helpers. Fred spoke so passionately and eloquently in the podcast, about those who stepped in to help him and his family as they grieved the sudden violent and unexpected shock of the shooting death of their daughter. That is how he is getting through his loss. Helpers. I hope you will read his book to hear more about his story.

That is how I got through it after my sister was shot and killed in a domestic shooting during a contentious divorce. My friends, my church and many I did not know were there for me when I needed to talk and vent and cry. Like Fred, I decided not to sit back and do nothing but there were not many ways to be involved in 1992. It was the opportunity to go to the Million Mom March in 2000 that finally allowed me to be engaged and to use my grief to change things. I found my voice.

Fred has found his voice. Sometimes, as he admits, it gets a little loud and also inappropriate. But when the elected leaders do nothing on purpose, the frustration builds up and voices need to be loud. When they know there are solutions and they fail to solve them on purpose, it is hard to sit by. When they espouse fealty to a corrupt and failing NRA, voices need to be heard.

Gun Violence/Mass Shooting Awareness Orange Small Ribbon Pin. March for Our Lives Pin in a Bag

Fred and his family started a charitable organization called Orange Ribbons for Jaime that will give scholarships to selected students in the name of Jaime. The orange ribbons, of course, are for gun violence prevention. Our Northland Brady Chapter and Protect Minnesota have been bringing orange ribbons to events for years now to depict victims of gun violence. Orange ribbons remind us that we are here to help victims and survivors of gun violence.

Your voice needs to be heard. Be a helper. Do something. Be watchful during the election and in the weeks and months after because it is going to be a bumpy and rocky road. Be prepared. Stay calm. Carry on and be a voice for common sense.

What is patriotism?

I have not written a post here for a long time. My life has been taken over by family visits and moving to our lake place. But in the meantime I have been posting on my own Facebook page, listening to convention speeches, reading articles, and watching how the country is changing before my eyes.

First of all, of course, there is the pandemic. It appears that some of the Trump supporters believe that patriotism is not wearing a mask even when required by state and local mandates.

Patriotism is wearing a mask, social distancing, washing hands and making sure not to expose oneself to others in a large crowd or a bar. But at the GOP convention, the opposite occurred as if the coronavirus was not a thing any more. If Trump and his supporters believe this was a sign of their patriotism to America they are dead wrong. And I mean that in the literal and figurative sense. Defying the public health and safety of the community, of family, friends and of the country is sheer stupidity and irresponsibility. Super spreader events like the GOP convention will begin infecting people all over the country, spreading the disease to those who are vulnerable, putting pressure on our healthcare system and health care workers and endangering lives. It’s already started from those who attended the Charlotte opening last Monday. In addition, as long as the virus is in the community spread mode, schools and businesses will end up closing, causing more economic pain. That is not patriotism.

Second, the protests have become a distinct line between patriots and would- be patriots railing against Black Lives Matters protesters all over the country. There are good reasons for Black, brown and indigenous people to be protesting police brutality and systemic racism. It’s all boiled over after George Floyd’s murder by a Minneapolis police officer. Had we had a leader who was not a racist himself and could handle national security and safety, we would have had someone who could address the nation to calm us all and seek common sense solutions. Alas, that is not who we have. Instead we have a leader who is throwing matches on the kerosene and encouraging armed protesters:

Heidi Beirich, the chief strategy officer at the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, said she was unsurprised when she woke up to the news of violence in Kenosha Wednesday morning. The summer of 2020 has already seen the targeting of Black Lives Matter protesters with a bomb plot in Nevada, the targeted killing of a federal court security officer and the murder of a sheriff’s deputy by a suspected right-wing extremist in California, and a Ku Klux Klan leader driving his car into a crowd of police brutality protesters in Virginia.

“As we’re approaching the election and Trump is hyping fear over the protests and ginning these people on with all this of law order stuff, it’s going to get worse,” Beirich told The Intercept. “I don’t expect this, unfortunately, to be the end of it.”

This is not patriotism. That is domestic terrorism and extremism leading to potential national chaos.

We have a leader ready to spread chaos and then use it to get himself elected. For when there is chaos, it is easy for an authoritarian leader to take over the country and rule by fiat- as if a King or Emperor. The Emperor has no clothes, however.

Concerning elections, we now have a leader who is intending to cheat in the election to force the country into a state we won’t recognize as democracy. The worst of it is that he is gaslighting the country by claiming that the election will be rigged ( in the event he loses of course) while he himself is rigging the election in his favor:

We can no longer trust that our federal government will oversee fair elections this November. The repeated statements and actions of the president, his attorney general and leaders in the Republican Party have demonstrated that not only will they seek to cheat to ensure their “victory,” they will do so in multiple ways as part of a massive, systematic effort to defraud the American people and undermine our democracy. 

All of this is happening of course while Republicans and Trump sycophants stand by and let it happen. This could be considered treason in most circles. It is a felony to interfere with federal elections. But, as Trump has said in the last election, he can shoot someone on 5th Avenue and his supporters won’t abandon him. Is this patriotism? We know the answer.

I am a Patriot. I will make sure to do whatever I can do to get people to the polls so they can cast their votes for people who will not cheat or attempt a hostile take-over of our democracy.

I will make sure true patriots are elected. Those would be lawmakers who care about people dying from coronavirus, insisting on masks and other safety measures to keep the spread down and save lives and jobs. I will make sure we elect candidates who care about the environment and saving the planet from ourselves. I will make sure people are elected who actually care that many seniors rely solely on Social Security and Medicare to stay alive and live in security that the deserve as they grow older.

I will elect people who will keep us safe from the epidemic of gun violence in the midst of the pandemic. These patriots will not allow 17 year olds to access an AR-15 and walk down the streets of our communities killing protesters. Patriotism is making sure everyone who carries or owns a gun can do so legally and will also make sure America understands the risks of owning guns. Patriotism is protecting our children and women from being shot either unintentionally or on purpose. Patriotism is going after the source of all of the weapons on the street to protect urban communities from the violence of young folks feeling the need for a gun to protect themselves or to use in retaliation for some wrong. We need to make safer streets and homes for all communities. Patriotism is recognizing that the majority of gun deaths are suicides so safe storage of guns is essential. Patriotism is knowing that domestic abusers should not have guns., Patriotism is protecting our communities from shooters with assault rifles only needed ( wanted) to kill as many people as possible in a very short time. Patriotism is understanding that requiring a background check on every gun sale is to protect us all from people who should not have guns.

Patriots are the majority of Americans, including gun owners, who want common sense gun laws passed by their lawmakers.

This post started when I took a photo of a car (at end of the post) in a local park displaying a very large American flag and a thin blue line flag which is meant to show support for our police officers. Unfortunately the meaning has been co-opted by white supremacists after the protests during and after the murder of George Floyd.

“We’ve seen trucks riding around with big old versions,” said Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of the Los Angeles chapter of Black Lives Matter, about the protests in recent days. “It feels akin to a Confederate flag.” She has also noticed the flag’s image on police and other government-owned vehicles, and she sees this as evidence that even self-described liberal officials are not doing enough to combat white supremacy. “The supposed ‘liberal’ answer to Donald Trump has not been as critical of police violence as it should be,” she said.

Police officers themselves are also not speaking uniformly about the flag. Last month, San Francisco’s chief of police Bill Scott banned his officers from wearing face masks emblazoned with the thin blue line flag, worrying they would be seen as “divisive and disrespectful.” The masks had been distributed by the local police union, which accused the department of failing to provide masks. “We did it as a morale booster for each other,” union president Tony Montoya said, “not as a political statement.”

Photo from above linked article

I had never seen one of these flags flown before but I am now living in rural America where I feel like there is an alternate set of norms and lifestyle than that in most urban areas. I am still not sure how that happened but happen it did. There is a not so thin line between the two and the polarization is real and dangerous.

I asked myself as I have done many times before, what it actually means for this “in your face” display of flags. The American flag on the car I photographed was so large that it looked like it would hit the ground when the car was being driven around. How is that patriotism? And of course, I support our local police department. They have done a good job of policing in my community and there when I have needed them. And I also am outraged at shootings of officers and the hatred of police by so many. Some of the ambushes of officers, like that in Dallas in 2016, have been horrendous to say the least. That shooter was angry with police for the shootings of Black people so his solution was to shoot officers.

More guns = public safety.

I am white. I don’t know how it feels to be Black in America with outright racism coming from law enforcement. We White folks cannot possibly understand. We can provide support to our Black and brown brothers and sisters and listen to them and their experiences.

It is possible to support police while recognizing that policing must change and be reformed. Far too often, even now after George Floyd’s death, officers are doing the same thing. Shooting a black man , Jacob Blake, 7 times in the back during a domestic abuse situation which has still not been adequately explained, is just wrong. Diffusing tense situations is dangerous and stressful for all concerned. Officers are afraid that almost anyone can have a gun because our loose gun laws have made that possible. So yes, they are afraid of armed citizens and especially in volatile situations when anger, fear and/or acute mental illness are involved.

The converse of course is that Black, brown and indigenous people fear police- for very good reason. We have come a ways since now deceased Rep. John Lewis was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge but it’s obvious that we have not come nearly far enough.

Being a patriot is being like John Lewis. Being a patriot is protecting our elections and assuring that every registered voter can vote. Being a patriot is doing whatever is necessary to stop the spread of a deadly coronavirus. Being a patriot is making sure our schools and our businesses will re-open only after we have taken herculean steps to stop the spread of COVID. Being a patriot is making sure those on unemployment are getting the money they need to survive and feed their families. Being a patriot is doing whatever is necessary to protect Social Security and Medicare for our seniors and providing healthcare to all Americans.

As deceased Senator Paul Wellstone ( my Senator) , a true American patriot, said “We all do better when we all do better.”

I don’t believe that Trump and his sycophantic followers are true patriots. They believe in the lies and conspiracy theories thrown out by our very own President every hour of every day. By believing in Trump, they are doing exactly the wrong things to protect Americans from the virus, from gun violence, from racial injustice, from right wing extremists, from fair and free elections, from providing for our families and communities.

Stand up and show your patriotism. Vote for those who will actually take care of us and our country. I know we can do better and we will but everyone needs to go to the polls or get an absentee ballot and then actually put in the mail or a drop box. Don’t let anyone take that right away from you.

Fight for it. VOTE. Vote for honest and caring candidates who will be clear and transparent about their agenda and be open about their reasons for running. I will vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. They are true patriots.