Aurora- 5 years later

Aurora-theater-victims-1024x524

 

It’s been 5 years since one of our nation’s heinous mass shootings. Only one of them. We have so many that we can say this in America. And these kinds of mass shootings continue today in spite of the efforts of many and the outright support of the majority of Americans to do something about them.

Sigh……

Aurora, Colorado where innocent people went to the movie theater to see the opening night of The Dark Night RisesThey were excited. They were happy to be at this event with friends and family. They likely bought popcorn, candy and softdrinks and texted friends and family that they had gotten in for the premier showing of a very popular movie.

(I have not nor ever will see the movie)

And then, without notice or warning, a young mentally ill man stepped into the theater through an exit door and started shooting. No reason. He just decided to shoot at everyone and anyone in his sight or even not in his sight. People screamed. Some ran out and got away from the shooter. Chaos reigned. It was dark. It was noisy with gunshots. It was so frightening that is was unimaginable to us and we can’t put ourselves there without getting shivers. No one could have saved the victims or killed the shooter because they were so busy trying to run, hide, save themselves or throw their bodies on someone else to save a life. That is what happens in mass shootings. They are totally unexpected.

But the corporate gun lobby would have us believe the impossible- if only someone had a gun..….. If only. Anyone remember another high profile shooting in a theater involving a “law abiding” gun owner and concealed weapons permit holder shot an innocent man over texting and popcorn?

If only someone had a gun……

Someone did have a gun. The shooter. He was in control of the situation because it’s hard to outrun high velocity bullets shot in rapid succession. The bullets came from high capacity drum magazines purchased on-line by the shooter.:

Mr. Holmes purchased all of his weapons legally, law enforcement officials said. In the four months before the shootings, he also bought 3,000 rounds of handgun ammunition, 3,000 rounds for a semiautomatic rifle and 350 shells for a 12-guage shotgun, all over the Internet.

No need for background checks or any questions. I mean, doesn’t everyone want a bunch of 100 round drum magazines? Aren’t they necessary for just anyone to own?

The arsenal of weapons carried by the shooter were legally obtained. Guns are easy to obtain in America.

There are really no words for the grief and suffering caused by the deaths of 12 people and injuring of  70. There never are.

No words for burying your child who shouldn’t have gone before you. No words for the loss of a loved one forever taken in a violent and sudden barrage of bullets. No words.

No words for the families re-living the experience at the trial of the shooter.

No words for the lawsuit that found the ammunition company not responsible for selling those drum magazines to a mad man. No words for the family left to pay the company that made the bullets that killed their daughter.

No words for the law that Congress passed to allow immunity from these kinds of lawsuits called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms (aka- the gun industry Immunity law). No words for the idea that one industry should be immune from lawsuits like no other industry has.

No words.

This is America. This is the American gun culture. This is what we have, brought to us by the lapdog politicians who are afraid to speak out against the corporate gun lobby. This is what happens when the gun lobby gets a bill passed to allow immunity from lawsuits against a specific industry- the gun industry. This is what happens when one powerful lobby and industry gets its’ way with power and lots of money.

There is no common sense in any of this.

 

We remember those who were injured and living with the physical and emotional scars left behind. We remember the families and friends who will never be the same again. We remember that a mad man was allowed to purchase a gun and ammunition and take the lives of innocent Americans and we did nothing about it after it happened. We remember that we have done nothing after any of our nation’s mass shootings to prevent the next one. We remember that our politicians are spineless in the face of pressure from the NRA and corporate gun lobby.

We also need to remember that healing takes a very long time and many suffer from PTSD and other mental and physical injuries in the aftermath of shootings like this. All over America, families and friends ( the survivors) have to cope with the aftermath of mass shootings. This article about how Aurora has handled the aftermath mentions the mental health services still available in their community.

The scars are visible and invisible but they are there- all over America, and today in particular, in Aurora, Colorado.

Let’s also remember that the majority of us want to do something about mass and “everyday” shootings that take the lives of 90 Americans a day. And when we all stand up together with loud voices and demand that something happen, something may change. When we elect politicians who put the rights of Americans to be safe from senseless gun violence before gun rights, we may succeed.

How many more will it take?

Today we remember:

Jonathon Blunk, age 26
Alexander “AJ” Boik, age 18
Jessie Childress, age 29
Gordon Cowden, age 51
Jessica Ghawi, age 24
John Larimer, age 27
Matt McQuinn, age 27
Micayla Medek, age 23
Veronica Moser-Sullivan, age 6
Alex Sullivan, age 27
Alexander Teves, age 24
Rebecca Wingo, age 32

 

 

Shootings in the whirlpool of controversy

Tunnel lights or vortex glowThe controversial shooting death of a woman in Minnesota has been the subject of national and international concern and alarm. An officer shot a Minnesota woman for what appears to be no reason. She was not armed. She had called 911 to report a possible assault in the alley near her house. For some reason, she herself, was outside when officers arrived and apparently approached the squad car. After that, things get more fuzzy. The woman was shot and killed by a gunshot wound to her abdomen. An officer, two years on the Minneapolis Police Department, allegedly leaned over this partner to discharge his weapon upon reportedly hearing a loud noise. Some report it to be fireworks. Did others hear fireworks?

This shooting cries out for an investigation and answers. It appears to be inexplicable. But when someone, even an officer, shoots first and then thinks about it later, the victim doesn’t get to tell his/her story. What could possibly have gone wrong? What prompts and officer to be so fearful of an unarmed citizen who, by most accounts, was not a threat?

In Minnesota, this is the third such recent incident of officer involved shootings that have raised eyebrows and caused protests and even trials of officers. First there was Jamar Clark. Then Philando Castile. And now Justine Damond.

Some explanations are rolling out but don’t seem to provide good answers so far. From the linked article above:

“It’s certainly reasonable to assume that any police officer would be concerned about a possible ambush under these circumstances,” Bruno said. “It was only a few weeks ago when a female NYPD cop and mother of twins was executed in her car in a very similar scenario.”

Bruno was referencing the case of New York City police officer Miosotis Familia, 48, who was killed July 5 after a mentally ill man shot her in the head while she sat in her squad car in the Bronx.

Officers do have justification to be fearful of ambushes because they have happened with some frequency in America. (Pittsburgh, Tacoma, NYC, Their lives are on the line whenever they are on duty.

And then, this:

On Tuesday the BCA released some information, based in part on an interview with Harrity, who said the two were responding at 11:30 p.m. to a call of a possible assault in the quiet Fulton neighborhood when he was startled by a “loud sound.” Damon, who was the 911 caller, approached Harrity in the driver’s side window of the squad car “immediately afterward,” according to the statement.

Noor, who was in the passenger seat, then fired across his partner, striking Damond in the abdomen.

A loud noise sounding maybe like gunshots? Did anyone else hear that noise? Would that be enough to shoot someone? Especially an unarmed woman?

She first called officers trying to help someone she thought was being raped:

Justine Damond spent her last moments trying to help a stranger.

At 11:27 on Saturday night, Damond called police to report a possible sexual assault, according to a 911 transcript obtained by the Star Tribune Wednesday.

“I’m not sure if she’s having sex or being raped,” Damond told the operator. After giving her address, Damond continued: “I think she just yelled out ‘help,’ but it’s difficult the sound has been going on for a while, but I think, I don’t think she’s enjoying it.”

“OK,” said the operator, “I’ve already got an officer on the way.”

About eight minutes later, Damond called 911 again to make sure they got her address right. She repeated the report of hearing a woman screaming, and the operator assured her the officers were en route.

“Thank you,” said Damond.

Moments later, one of those officers would fatally shoot her.

Wow. This just does not make sense.

And now the controversy is swirling with not enough answers. They will hopefully come. A family in Minnesota and Australia and several communities are devastated. The family and community of the officer is devastated. The Somali community in Minneapolis has had problems with violence, intolerance and gun violence. This just can’t help.

Several letters to the editor in today’s Star Tribune deserve to be read and re-read about the shooting of Justine Damond. Here  is the first:

Thirty-some years ago, we were the owners of the house Justine Damond lived in when she was killed. One New Year’s Eve we let our 13-year-old son baby-sit his younger brother and sister for the first time while we celebrated less than a mile away. We’d been calling hourly to see how things were going when right after midnight our son answered and said, “Was it OK that I answered the door for the police?” My heart stopped momentarily. It turned out that the elderly woman across the alley had her back door kicked in by two men who then robbed her, and the police were canvassing to see if anyone had heard anything.

We rushed home, not wanting to leave our kids home alone with possible bad guys in the neighborhood. Then, it was the bad guys people were afraid of, not the police.

Something has gone terribly wrong. Then, as now, the Fulton neighborhood was a pretty quiet, fairly upscale area with some property crimes but not much else. But, other things have changed significantly. There has been a continual push in the U.S. for more access to guns and gun freedoms like conceal-and-carry. It is no wonder most police are fearful when they never know who might pull out a gun. Their training has conditioned them to always believe the worst of everyone and every situation. Tensions and fear are high when someone always expects the worst. But that fear is no excuse or defense for the increasingly common case of police officers who are trigger-happy.

Today, unfortunately, I’d be as afraid of having my young (white) son answer the door for the police as I would be of the bad guys. We citizens have to demand better.

And here is the second:

Two immigrants came to the United States searching for the American dream. One came to heal; the other, to protect. Now due to the fear and violence surrounding firearms, both have realized the American nightmare.

State Sen. Steve Cwodzinski, DFL-Eden Prairie

These shootings reveal tensions between law enforcement and communities of color. They also reveal the need for better training for officers. And the “elephant in the room” that gets swept under the rug is that there are just too many guns around in our country and that is leading to too many gun deaths.

This is of international interest because Justine Damond was Australian. They just can’t wrap their heads around the American gun culture. I’m with them. This article calls the shooting the  “American Nightmare”. From the article:

In Justine Damond’s native country, news of the meditation teacher’s baffling death has dominated the airwaves, newspapers and websites for days, feeding into Australians’ long-held fears about America’s notorious culture of gun violence.

In this image made from video, John Ruszczyk, father of Justine Damond, an Australian woman who was shot dead by a Minneapolis police officer, holds a press conference with his family in Sydney Tuesday, July 18, 2017. The death of Damond, a 40-year-old meditation teacher who was reportedly dressed in her pajamas, was shot late Saturday. The story has led Australian network newscasts and was splashed across newspapers' front pages on Tuesday. (Channel 9 via AP)
In this image made from video, John Ruszczyk, father of Justine Damond, an Australian woman who was shot dead by a Minneapolis police officer, holds a news conference with his family in Sydney on Tuesday, July 18, 2017. (Channel 9 via AP)

“The country is infested with possibly more guns than people,” said Philip Alpers, a gun policy analyst with the University of Sydney who has studied the stark differences in gun laws between the nations. “We see America as a very risky place in terms of gun violence — and so does the rest of the world.”

While police officers carry guns in Australia, deadly shootings by police are exceedingly rare; only a handful are reported each year, according to the Australian Institute of Criminology. And though the U.S. doesn’t keep a national database of deadly police-involved shootings, even incomplete statistics show there are hundreds every year.

America’s reluctance to strengthen its gun regulations and its seemingly endless stream of shooting deaths have long been a source of confusion and concern in Australia, which instituted tough gun ownership laws in 1996 following a deadly mass shooting. At the time, then-Prime Minister John Howard — a conservative — warned Australians against following America’s lead on gun control, saying: “We have an opportunity in this country not to go down the American path.”

The “American path”….

I have a theory. Ever since conceal carry weapons permits laws have passed, there are more people on the streets armed with guns. It is truly difficult to know when someone could be a danger to themselves or others and it’s also difficult to sift out who could be a “good guy” with a gun or a “bad guy” with a gun. Officers often respond with fear and excess violence when fearing for their own lives. Too often, innocent citizens are killed by officers and then the officers are found to be not guilty because they were justified out of fear for their own safety.

We have a circular problem. More guns carried by citizens means officers need more guns. When officers have more guns and citizens have more guns everyone feels unsafe.

And when the NRA ramps up that fear of others as they have in the last few weeks, we have volatility in our public interactions. The most recent NRA TV screed came close to urging violence against the media. Our very own President has verbally attacked many media sources calling them fake news and lying about their motives.  He skirted suggesting violence against the press ( from the article above) which fits right in with what the NRA is doing. When a free press is vulnerable to attack, physical or verbal, our democracy is at risk. As I wrote in my last post, when protesters are not safe from the ramped up encouragement of violence against them by the “guys with the guns”.

By the way, does anyone think that this NRA is representing average gun owners? This is an extremist organization seemingly representing the right wing of the Republican party. Is this even about guns any more? Or is it a not so subtle way for the guys with the guns to think about their enemies as those who are not like them or those who criticize them and their leaders?

Frightening.

None of this is OK. None of this is good for democracy. None of this is making us safer from violence and gun violence. No one is safe until everyone is safe is the slogan of the Women’s March from the NRA to the DOJ last week-end said. Someone picked a great slogan to describe the “American nightmare.”

There needs to be common sense when it comes to guns. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill other people. And they do that every day in the hands of officers and citizens alike.

More guns are not making us safer. We are being sucked into the vortex of a place that we must get out of before it destroys us. The path is going towards more senseless gun deaths and injuries and leaves many families living the American nightmare.

Time to wake up.

 

Women’s March and the NRA

We are not safeThe Women’s March is taking on the NRA. Why? Because the NRA has been using videos to encourage their members to use violence against protesters. Seriously. In what country do we live again? If protesters aren’t safe from intimidation and violence, we are not a democracy any more. When the media is attacked by our very own President and he encourages intolerance and lies about what he calls #fakenews, we are not a democracy. Violence is not the answer in a democracy.

We already know that women are less safe when a gun is in the home. Women should not feel unsafe at home, at work, at malls, at protest marches or wherever they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. I know this from personal experience.

In fact no one is safer when a gun is present in the home.

Guns are a risk to their owners and others. They can be used in a few seconds to “solve a problem” or kill an innocent person or people with whom they disagree.

Protesters should be protected from violence and be able to participate in non-violent marches and events without fear of violence. That is the way the Women’s March on DC and other cities all across the America in January- non violent, peaceful protests to show our resistance to and our fears and concerns about our newly elected President. Women took the lead and we are not going away. Protests have erupted all over the country against the hapless and selfish agenda pushed by our President and his cronies in Congress.

And our concerns have been realized as the news of what the Trump campaign, Trump family members and maybe even the President himself did and have been doing to our country’s Democracy and the office of the Presidency. The news gets more complicated and more concerning every day.

Back to the NRA, no one is safe when one powerful interest group and industry group ramps up fear, violence, paranoia and intolerance.

Below is the NRA video in question. Let me know if you think this is OK.

The “clenched fist of truth” is all #fakenews. The ad is so over the top that there are really no words to describe it- other than alarming.

If vigilantes or one individual unhinged person acts on what the above video is suggesting, it could be tragic and deadly.

When so many guns are available and accessible to just about anyone, it would be easy for someone to act on their anger and intolerance. We can hope for common sense but that isn’t what is happening for a minority of Americans who believe in this dangerous nonsense.

So I think we can agree that this is meant to ramp up intolerance and violence towards those with whom you don’t agree. Is it also to sell more guns as is the habit of the NRA and the corporate gun lobby. In several of my past posts, I have written about the encouragement and tolerance of violence towards others coming directly from the top in the person of our very own President. As we know, the NRA has a seat at the table of our President and their agendas are linked.

But today, many are acting and protesting the NRA ad attacking protesters. The Women’s March is taking on the NRA- marching from the NRA headquarters in Virginia to the Department of Justice building in Washington D.C. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.

I am so proud of those people who have decided that enough is enough. The lies, innuendos, threats and dangerous rhetoric are not scaring these people.

Will these people be safe from gun violence or other forms of violence? Will the NRA harass them and follow them and film them and make another insipid and dangerous ad showing how the Women’s March is ruining America? Will they ramp up the lies some more to encourage yet more violence? The answer is YES.

Are they not ashamed? Embarrassed?

The answer would be NO.

Watch for more in the news media about this march and protest. The truth is that America has more guns and more gun deaths than any other democratized country. More guns have not and will not make us safer. Every day innocent people are killed or injured by firearms due to suicide, homicide or “accidental” shootings.

When enough Americans raise their own voices and let the elected leaders who are afraid to raise theirs know that that is not OK, maybe something will change? Or will it take another tragedy?

The corporate gun lobby and the NRA have had their way for too long. The country is waking up to the clever and disingenuous tactics used by a powerful industry and lobby group. It’s past time.

The thing is, we have had those tragedies already. Sandy Hook. Columbine. Virginia Tech. San Bernardino. Red Lake. Aurora. Clackamas Mall. Pulse nightclub. And……………………….

What will it take?

It’s time to take the moral high ground and do whatever it takes to prevent violence and intimidation. From an article about the march from the NRA to the DOJ:

“I’ve never ever believed that the NRA is more powerful than the people,” Mallory said. “As long as people of good moral conscience come together … I believe we will be victorious.”

The NRA was the largest outside donor to Trump’s campaign. That means the Women’s March, Everytown for Gun Safety and other groups participating in the protest are not only taking on the NRA, but the political establishment, providing an opportunity for the movement to demonstrate the scope of its influence.

#NRA2DOJ

#Enough

July 4th violence

Happy 4th of July Card, Traditional American BannerWell, I didn’t think I would be posting so soon after my last one. We shouldn’t be surprised that #45 is not taking a July 4th vacation from tweeting. He should.  Our President decided to tweet out yet another invective against the press, including a violent  doctored video.:

The video appears to be a repurposed clip of Trump, then a reality TV star, beating up WWE owner Vince McMahon in 2007 ― with the logo for CNN, which Trump has continually labeled a “fake news” media outlet, replacing McMahon’s head.

Trump’s official White House account subsequently retweeted the video, which appeared on a Reddit thread on Wednesday, entitled “Trump takes down fake news.”

The fake news is the video and tweeting by our own President.

Let’s hope no one acts on the violence encouraged in the tweeted video, above.

And we do have to wonder now if the President was right when he said he could step out onto Fifth Avenue in NYC and shoot someone and he wouldn’t lose any voters.  Something to think about,

This is America on the Fourth of July, 2017.

You just can’t make this stuff up and it portends of a whole new world and a total disregard for the office of the Presidency and the country as a whole. As Rachel Maddow explained on her Friday show, this President really doesn’t care about that. He only seems to care about his ratings, his base, and his self esteem. People with low self esteem are often bullies.

What does this have to do with gun violence you ask? Many of our nation’s domestic and mass shootings are committed by people with  anger problems , problems with women, actual low self esteem and self image problems or prior violence in their own lives. They are often angry and some with mental illness, diagnosed or under diagnosed. Gun suicides are often the result of these personality traits as well. And to make matters worse, many mass and domestic shootings are committed by suicidal people who seem to want to take others with them. My ex ( now deceased) brother-in-law did not kill himself at the moment of the shooting of my sister and one other person. He did that later but clearly mentioned being suicidal after the shooting and actually succeeded 3 months later when he put a plastic bag over his head and suffocated himself.

Back to my original thought about the President of our country instilling violence…..

We are about to celebrate our nation’s Independence from England. It was a brutal and violent war (what war isn’t?) and left many dead and injured behind. (4435 battle deaths.)

At about 90 gun deaths per day, it would take about 3 months to reach the number killed in the Revolutionary War. Since 1968 more Americans have been killed by guns than in all American wars combined.

Astounding.

The American gun culture is killing people en masse and we look the other way.

Who are we as a country any more?

What we gained was an independent country that has become a model for democracy all over the world. If that model becomes tainted by our own leader, what kind of model will we become? Confidence and trust in our country has already eroded after the election of a man who seems to be increasingly angry and unhinged- seeking vengeance against anyone who dares to criticize him for his own words and behavior that is out there for all to see or anyone who slights him in any way.

Words matter. Behavior matters. Tweets matter. This should not be tolerated by any of us. I would hasten to bet that if Hillary Clinton had been elected, the attacks would have been vicious but she would not have been the attacker. If Barack Obama had said or done any of the things #45 has done and said, he would have been run out of office in short order.

This is not the America we deserve or should want. The fact that our President’s base is willing to tolerate this because of ideology, fear, anger, and whatever else was in the background of our last election,  is alarming. Violence from the top can only beget violence below.

And speaking of violence ( having nothing to do with the President but everything to do with angry people and guns) the recent rampage at a Bronx hospital was just another reason why more guns do not make us safer. Why a man who had the problems this physician had was not charged with a felony for previous behavior is beyond me. But had he been, getting a gun would have been more difficult. Not impossible mind you because private sellers at gun shows and on-line can sell to anyone with no Brady background checks. He bought the gun within weeks of the shooting.

Waiting periods anyone? Some states have them.  Not enough. They could save lives.

Brady background checks can save lives.

Was the shooter a law abiding purchaser and gun owner?

This physician had an AM-15- an assault gun that he shouldn’t have had. But he brought it with him to the hospital and killed one, wounded 5 more and then killed himself. As these shootings always are- it was a shocking and violent surprise with no time to react. Don’t anyone write a comment to me about how if only someone had had a gun, this would not have happened. That would be a lie. We don’t need any more lies in our country.

And then there is the continued ripple effect of gun violence that also is felt by the families of the shooters. This story is about the reflections of the wife of the man who shot and injured Congressman Steve Scalise:

He flung dishes at his wife, roared at the television, erupted during an outing at a local brewery. Suzanne Hodgkinson became so concerned with her husband’s growing anger that she wrote to his doctor asking for help.

Now, the wife of the man who opened fire on a congressional baseball team in June wonders what more she could have done.

A case for Gun Violence Protection Orders. Some states have them. They can save lives.

Was the shooter a law abiding gun purchaser and owner?

Guns and anger don’t go together. Guns and domestic strife or domestic abuse don’t go together. Guns and issues with women don’t go together. Guns and financial troubles don’t go together. Guns and mental illness don’t go together. Guns and vengeance don’t go together.

Guns and stupidity and irresponsibility also do not go together. If this were not so serious, one could cry. A Florida man sat on his gun and shot himself in the penis. Really? Yes, really. #notanaccident

She said the man told her he sat on the gun, which accidentally went off.

Police were called to the hospital just before 3 a.m. because of the gunshot wound.

Investigators found that the man was convicted of cocaine possession in 2004.

It’s possible he will be facing charges for possessing a firearm, because he is a convicted felon.

Not a law abiding gun owner. How did he get his gun?

And since I will be busy doing things with my family, I want to write once again about the totally stupid and dangerous celebratory gunfire that occurs every year on July 4th:

Looking into the science of it, can it actually kill someone? According to Forensic Outreach it not only can, but has.

“Celebratory gunfire has wounded hundreds and killed dozens in recent years in the US alone,” according to the research website.

As the site explains, the impact a bullet falling back to the ground can have has several different factors rooted in physics — everything from gravity, terminal velocity and wind resistance. The speed of the bullet leaving a gun or rifle also changes based on size or caliber but is estimated at anywhere from 1,500 feet per second to 2,900 feet per second.

A bullet shot straight up in the air, which is almost impossible by a human according to Forensic Outreach, will lose all of its speed at the top and then start to fall back to the ground.

With the help of gravity, it will pick up speed and impact at somewhere between 200 to 330 feet per second, which is said to be enough to penetrate the skin.

Most bullets won’t be shot straight up. Most will be shot at an angle so it will never loose all of the speed coming out of a gun barrel. A bullet on that type of an angle will impact at a speed between 300 to 700 feet per second which is enough to penetrate a skull.

The moral of the story is don’t shoot your gun in the air because it’s illegal and can kill someone.

Pare injured or worse by this avoidable and nonsensical practice by irresponsible gun owners- most law abiding- who should know better. What goes up must come down by the laws of nature. I also refer to my friend Joe Jaskolka on the fourth of July because his life changed forever on New Year’s Eve of 1999 when a celebratory bullet ended its’ trajectory in his brain. He was 11 then and almost 30 now still suffering from the permanent effect of one celebratory bullet.

#Enough

Be safe out there everyone. More guns do NOT make us all safer so don’t listen to that lie. And use common sense if you do happen to own a gun. There’s too much carnage going around and way too much violent rhetoric going around. As a country we owe it our children and grandchildren to stop this from becoming normal. It is not normal in any way.

We do have a serious problem but for the next few days, we can hope that common sense will prevail and the President and others will refrain from violent rhetoric and actual violence. We all need a vacation from the tweeting and the chaos surrounding the President.

On that note, Happy July 4th everyone.

Stunts and games with guns are deadly

dominoesSometimes when I read accounts of really stupid and dangerous incidents with guns, I want to cry. Take this Minnesota story for just one of many examples:

A woman shot and killed her boyfriend in a “stunt” gone tragically wrong allegedly to increase their presence on YouTube:

As part of a young couple’s quest for YouTube fame, a 19-year-old woman shot at a book her boyfriend was holding against his chest, killing him at close range outside their northwestern Minnesota home. (…)

Ruiz held up the book — described by County Attorney James Brue as a hardcover encyclopedia — and Perez pulled the trigger on a .50-caliber Desert Eagle pistol, trying to see whether the bullet would go through, according to the criminal complaint.

A few hours before the shooting, a posting went up on Perez’s Twitter account that read: “Me and Pedro are probably going to shoot one of the most dangerous videos ever. HIS idea not MINE.” The note included two wide-eyed emoji faces and another of an eye-covering monkey with a gaping mouth.

No words.

They rolled the dice and tragically lost.

Playing games while carrying is also a bad idea. Someone got mad at friends while playing dominoes in Las Vegas and got a gun from his car to shoot and kill two people. No joke.

Two men in their 20s died Sunday night after an argument broke out over a game of dominoes at a northeast Las Vegas home, Las Vegas police said.

Officers responded about 7:20 p.m. to a shooting call at the home on the 4400 block of Wendy Lane, near East Craig and North Walnut roads, according to Metropolitan Police Department homicide Lt. Dan McGrath.

After the argument began, another man retrieved a gun from his car, went back inside the home and opened fire, McGrath said. Detectives are working to “positively identify” and arrest the suspected shooter, who knew the men killed.

Who knew a simple game of dominoes could become deadly? My husband’s aunt and his mother used to have real arguments over their games of Cribbage while at their cabin. I’m sure glad neither of them had a gun. Because guns are dangerous and deadly. What is it about that that some people just can’t understand? The American gun culture is out of control.

On my old blog site, I wrote about a board game gone terribly wrong in Minnesota.

Becoming angry while playing friendly games with friends or family should not result in death or injury. But this is the American gun culture. It is out of control.

One of my favorite sources, The Trace, posted an article today about how research has shown that more “law abiding” conceal and carry gun permit holders have actually contributed to more crime:

In a new working paper published on June 21 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics at Stanford Law School ran that data through four different statistical models  — including one developed by Lott for More Guns, Less Crime — and came back with an unambiguous conclusion: states that made it easier for their citizens to go armed in public had higher levels of non-fatal violent crime than those states that restricted the right to carry. The exception was the narrower category of murder; there, the researchers determined that any effect on homicide rates by expanded gun-carry policies is statistically insignificant.

While other studies conducted since 1994 have undermined Lott’s thesis, the new paper is the most comprehensive and assertive debunking of the more-guns-less-crime formula.

“For years, the question has been, is there any public safety benefit to right to carry laws? That is now settled,” said paper’s lead author, John Donohue. “The answer is no.”

I am not surprised but know that there will be pushback from the gun rights community because this debunks their notions that more guns= less crime when actual research says “NO”.

New polling from Pew research reveals how the country is very divided about some things concerning guns and unified about others:

Republicans and Democrats find rare common ground on some gun policy proposals in the U.S. Large majorities in both parties continue to favor preventing people with mental illnesses from buying guns, barring gun purchases by people on federal no-fly or watch lists, and background checks for private gun sales and sales at gun shows.

Yet there are sharp partisan differences on several other issues – particularly on whether to let people carry concealed guns in more places and to allow teachers and officials to carry guns in K-12 schools, a new Pew Research Center survey has found.

And Republicans and Democrats have stark, fundamental differences on questions relating to the causes of gun violence – and even whether gun violence is a serious problem in the country.

In what world do people not think gun violence is a serious problem? Just asking……

How did gun violence prevention and gun policy get to be a Republican/Democratic issue dividing the country? Just asking……

Because gun violence does not discriminate between political parties. Republicans and Democrats ( and Independents) alike are shot and killed every day. They also shoot people every day. My now ex and deceased brother-in-law was a Republican. My sister was a Democrat. Gun violence is an issue that affects us all but the corporate gun lobby has become a favored Republican organization:

That partisan split could provide a hint as to why Republicans are so united today behind the NRA. Some of America’s biggest social-issue shifts have been driven by motives other than ideology; young people regardless of party have buoyed America’s increasing tolerance of same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization, for example.

Gun rights, by contrast, have magnetized Americans toward the political poles. So Republicans might be naturally lining up with the more conservative factions in their party on everything from gun rights to immigration.

But Republicans also have a fairly complex relationship with gun laws. And in fact, the shift described above might undersell it.

Witness their changes over time on the idea of protecting gun ownership versus controlling it. Republicans’ lines are much squigglier than Democrats. But the trend among Republicans since 2008 is clear as day: gun rights over gun control. What was an even split seven years ago is now a 3-to-1 edge in favor of gun rights.

It’s an American tragedy that a public health gun death epidemic is treated as a partisan issue.

But is it? Let’s take a look at more recent polling from Quinnipiac showing more broad support for gun safety reform issues. In this poll and others, Americans broadly rejected the Republican health care plan- even Republicans. Americans seem to agree that the plan is a really bad idea for them. And they also agreed about most policies to prevent gun deaths. Let’s take a look from the linked article:

American voters support 94 – 5 percent, including 92 – 8 percent among voters in households where there is a gun, background checks for all gun buyers. Support is over 90 percent in every listed group.

It’s too easy to buy a gun in the U.S. today, 57 percent of voters say, while 6 percent say it’s too difficult and 32 percent say it’s about right.

If more people carried guns, the U.S. would be less safe, 57 percent of voters say, while 35 percent say the nation would be safer.

American voters say 79 – 17 percent that the way people talk about politics in the U.S. today contributes to violence. This belief is strongly held among all listed groups.

The recent shooting of a U.S. Congressman and several other people in Virginia will have no impact on how people talk about politics, 53 percent of voters say, while 11 percent say it will have a positive impact and 31 percent say it will have a negative impact.

This is agreement that we should be doing more to reduce and prevent gun violence. So why aren’t we? We know the answer. And speaking of politics contributing to violence, there has been much discussion today after our very own President again tweeted out some offensive things against two media personalities. The White House response was the usual defensive one claiming that the President doesn’t advocate violence. Quite a few Republican leaders denounced the tweets but until their actions follow their words, this will continue unabated. And we will all be the worse for it.

Words matter. Did we elect a fighter to be a our President? ( I did not vote for #45) I don’t even know what that means. Presidents are not supposed to openly fight with the press, with women, with anyone who talks about him/her. This President thinks he is still a candidate and a businessman. His thin skin has become his worst enemy leading him to bully, intimidate, tweet inappropriate and offensive words and alienate most of the country. Does he realize that he is actually the President of the United States?

Self restraint and discipline is what is needed. Being tough with world leaders when necessary, with Congress when necessary, with his cabinet members when necessary, but not with the American people and the press. But being tough does not mean being tough like a schoolyard bully. It doesn’t mean throwing verbal punches at innocent people.

And, by the way, a free press is protected in the First Amendment and necessary for a democracy. Any leader who thinks otherwise is flirting with the kind of authoritarianism that is just not American.

And where are his supporters? Do they believe this behavior is OK? It’s not under any standards.

Of course we can all find video and media clips of the President advocating violence and egging on his supporters.

(As an aside, the President was wrong about Mika Brzezinski bleeding on New Year’s Eve.) And here is an article written by Joe Scarborough and Mika in today’s Washington Post asking some serious questions about the President’s dangerous tweets.

This is an embarrassing, sad, unprecedented, unPresidential, offensive, deplorable, vulgar, appalling state of affairs and lack of discipline and common sense that we can’t tolerate. If words that encourage violence come from the top, some people take them seriously and do likewise. We have become an angry, impolite and intolerant country. Having more guns around does not make this any better.

Gun violence often happens when people are angry and intolerant of others or feel that vengeance is the way to make it better. Too many young people are out on our streets with guns used to get even or vent anger.

So back to what is going on in my state of Minnesota….. The St. Paul Police Chief has verified what most of us in the gun violence prevention movement know to be true. Gun violence is a public health crisis:

While addressing the St. Paul City Council, Police Chief Todd Axtell called a significant rise in gun violence a, “public health crisis.”

“As of Wednesday, the number of gunshots fired is up 61 percent, homicides are up and the number of guns recovered off the street is 286,” Axtell said. (…)

Axtell also noted that half of the city’s 13 homicide victims this year were teenagers and the suspects in most of those crimes were teenaged perpetrators as well. The chief added that the summer season may see a rise in gun violence.

“Just last night alone … we had three arrests, five shots fired incidents throughout the city and three guns were recovered,” Axtell said. “This is just one night of work.”

How do teen-agers get their guns? From irresponsible adults. Stealing. Buying on the street from others who have bought guns legally or got them illegally themselves. From their homes. From a relative. From a friend. Any of these scenarios is likely and something we must address as communities and as a country. Guns don’t fall from the sky. All guns start out as legal purchases. From there, too many of them get into the hands of children, teens, criminals and others who should not have access to guns.

This is an American tragedy. It is not happening in other democratized countries.

Our gun culture is not a game or a stunt. We have serious problems that are not being addressed and people are dying every day senselessly and avoidably. It doesn’t help that rhetoric is ramping up and becoming more and more angry and hyperbolic.

Along that line, we need to talk about the latest video from the NRA by their new young star, Dana Loesch.  

Can we talk about advocating violence and encouraging armed insurrection in America? Here is what Loesch is saying under the umbrella of the NRA. I do love the hypocrisy:

In other words, Loesch is telling us that she and the NRA appropriated the imagery of a clenched first, even though when it’s associated with the left, it stands, in her mind, for violent protest or being a whiny loser. She also urges her critics to “take a Midol” and “get a grip,” which is wild advice coming from a woman who made an eight-minute video sitting three inches from a camera yelling about leftists lighting garbage can fires.

But it’s a call to arms that is alarming here and considering the political atmosphere, it wouldn’t take much for a terrible incident to start something we don’t want to see in America. This is no game. This is serious stuff , so for Loesch to feign surprise at the pushback is dishonest and cynical. More from the linked article:

The NRA is getting a little of the sweet, white-hot outrage they so crave with a new and deranged ad featuring their spokesperson, pundit Dana Loesch. The ad explicitly positions Real Americans against the violent, lying left, and—given that it’s an ad for a gun lobbying organization—it reads a lot like a call to take up arms against those menacing liberals. But who is Dana Loesch, why is she in my face, and where does this fit in with the proud tradition of batshit NRA ads?

Who is she? Who is anybody who uses a media platform to encourage violence while representing an organization that encourages the sale of the weapons that cause the violence in this country?

The domino effect of gun violence is all too real  and it’s making us less safe. The dangerous rhetoric we are hearing every day is contributing to a sense of unease and mistrust. The potential for actual violence based on the rhetoric is also real.

Too many families and communities are suffering devastating loss from gun injuries and death. We ought to be discouraging violent and hyperbolic talk instead of hearing it from the top and in ads meant to cause anger and fear of others.

We are better than this.

Questions to ask about guns and gun violence

ASK display with rocksYesterday, the Northland Brady Campaign, Protect Minnesota chapter asked parents some questions. Volunteers ( askers) sat in 8 local parks/playgrounds with ASK materials and either approached parents or parents approached them to see what was set up on the picnic tables. It was a cool and windy day, thus the Lake Superior rocks to hold down the brochures and other materials. This was our first attempt at taking the ASK campaign out to parents where they hang out with their kids. The reception was all positive once people understood what we were all about.

One man, though, approached the table and told the volunteers that he had 3 gun safes where he keeps his many firearms safely locked up. He then blustered that there were 3 reasons to own guns:

  • Self defense
  • Hunting
  • Fighting against the government

Right. There are several things to talk about here.

Guns bought for self defense (mostly pistols) and left around in homes are more likely to be used against you or someone you love than for self defense. That is why the ASK campaign is encouraging parents to ask the awkward question about whether there are unsecured loaded guns in the homes where their children play. ( see my previous post)

That is why the need to lock up guns to prevent avoidable accidents and suicides by children and teens. That is why locking guns securely can keep criminals or those who should not have guns from gaining access to them after they steal them from a home. Many guns obtained this way result in crimes. From this article in The Trace:

Privately owned firearms are stolen in America with alarming frequency: between 300,000 and 600,000 every year, a forthcoming survey of gun ownership by researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities will show. At the high end, that’s more than 1,600 guns stolen every day, more than one every minute. That’s enough firearms to provide a weapon for every instance of gun violence in the country each year — several times over.

That is why the questions need to be asked.

Hunting? Many people own guns just for hunting and hopefully have proper training and keep their hunting guns locked up in secure gun safes. Most people do not object to hunting guns. Hunting is a sport and often a family tradition. I grew up in an outdoors hunting/fishing/camping family and was exposed to hunting guns at an early age. I learned how to shoot a .22 hunting gun but chose not to hunt with my mom, dad and brother. My husband is a hunter though now does not hunt any more. We have his guns stored in a locked metal safe. My daughter told me though that when she was young, before my sister was murdered and I got involved in this issue, she knew where the hunting guns were stored ( unloaded but not locked). Funny thing about that, most kids do know where those guns are. That is why we need to ask the important questions of other parents.

Now though, fewer kids are interested in hunting and the sale of hunting guns decreased with this lack of interest in the sport. That is why the corporate gun lobby shifted emphasis to self defense and concealed carry to open up a new marked for firearm sales. Businesses and industry do this all the time. Changes are made to boost sales and profit. The difference between most businesses and the firearm business is that guns are the only product sold to the public without the consumer product safety regulations used for other products to guard against harm and the only products sold that are meant to kill or harm another human being.

Guns used to fight against the government? Yes. It turns out that a new Pew study shows how many people own guns and how many know someone who has been shot. The facts are inverse to what they should be if we had strong gun laws and a gun culture that did not promote guns for tyranny and self defense just in case. Of the minority of Americans who own guns, many of them own many guns.:

Overall, Americans own an estimated 265 million guns – more than one gun for every American adult, according to the study by researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities. Half of those guns – 133 million – were in the hands of just 3% of American adults, so-called “super owners” who possessed an average of 17 guns each, it showed.

Questions need to be asked.

There are militia groups all over America getting ready for the apocalypse or a hostile take-over of the government and they are armed heavily. So far, most states let them be but they are watched carefully just in case. The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps track of these groups now on the rise. Guns don’t go well with hate, racism and anti-government sentiments.

As I was reading the morning paper, I noticed an article that struck me about our American gun culture. It turns out that a Canadian sniper killed an Iraqi fighter from a distance of 2.2 miles with a .50 sniper rifle. Yes, bullets can fly that far and kill someone. Who knows what might come between the sniper and the target. But as I read the article, I thought about the fact that in America this kind of rifle is available to anyone who wants one.  And even without a background check. For just thousands, you, too, can own a gun that could shoot down a plane:

A 50 caliber rifle can hit a target accurately from distances of 1,000 to 2,000 yards, depending on the skill of the shooter, and can reach targets at a longer range, sacrificing accuracy.2  Designed for use in urban combat situations, these weapons can penetrate structures and destroy or disable light armored vehicles, radar dishes, helicopters, stationary and taxiing airplanes, and other “high-value” military targets.3

Despite their deadly power, or perhaps because of it, 50 caliber rifles are proliferating on the civilian market. Because they are considered long guns, however, they are subject to less regulation than handguns.4  In fact, under federal law and the laws of nearly all states, any 18-year-old who passes a background check may purchase a 50 caliber rifle.5 Moreover, because federal law and the laws of most states do not require private sellers to conduct background checks, 50 caliber rifles may easily be purchased by criminals at gun shows and elsewhere.

Questions need to be asked.

It turns out that the man who stabbed an officer at the Flint, Michigan airport tried to buy a gun ostensibly for this attack ( considered by some to be a terror attack) but he was turned away from a licensed dealer because he was not an American citizen. Luckily for all, he did not choose to go to a private seller at a gun show or on-line or this attack could have resulted in much more tragedy and devastation.

Brady background checks work.

Asking the right questions works.

Common sense works.

Safe storage works.

Sensible gun laws work in other countries and right here at home. 

None of these are a “magic bullet” but in combination, we know we can save lives.

Though only Americans not on board with all of this common sense are those who are lapdogs to the corporate gun lobby. The majority is already there.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The conversation is changing- one person at a time. The culture will change as the conversation changes. And gun laws can be made stronger when the culture and conversation changes. Whether the change in laws comes first to change the culture or the change to the culture and conversation come first to change the laws is moot.

It will change with awareness, persistence and knowledge. The majority are already there.

Asking saves kids.

Answers will save American families and communities from the devastation of gun violence.

Where are you?

 

 

What about the kids?

teamwork_kids002We need to talk. Yesterday was national ASK day when Brady chapters around the country participated in activities to highlight the risks of loaded guns in homes for kids. Many articles revealed some startling information about kids and guns that we can’t avoid talking about. But avoid we do. Just like some of the other important issues of the day, we skirt around the edges of problems we need to tackle but we can’t find agreement. Our polarized nation is becoming even more polarized.

One thing I believe we can agree on is that small children should not be able to access guns and then shoot either themselves or someone else, like a sibling, friend, parent or cousin. It happens almost every day and it’s a national tragedy and health care epidemic. But even about this, common sense does not happen.  Why? Good question.

The ASK campaign encourages parents to ask if their are loaded, unsecured guns in the homes where children play. It is an awkward conversation for sure. But it is a necessary conversation. It is the job of parents to keep their children safe from harm. It is the job of law abiding gun owners to be responsible enough to keep loaded guns out of the hands of small children- or teens who are curious about guns. Kids are naturally curious about guns. They are exposed to them early in play, TV, computers, and movies. Guns are fascinating. They are also the only product on our market that are designed to kill another human being therefore making them a risk to those who own them.

In the information on the above linked website at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, we learn some facts- and they are facts:

  • 1 in 3 homes with children have guns, many unlocked and loaded
  • 1.7 million children live in homes with loaded, unlocked guns
  • 3 of 4 children know where guns are kept in their homes
  • 80% of unintentional shootings of children happen in homes.

And yet, adults expose kids to guns sometimes purposely, ,sometimes not, thinking that nothing could ever happen if only they teach their kids not to touch. That doesn’t work, period. There are both incidents to show the fallacy of that argument oft used by the corporate gun lobby and those who believe that and evidence to show it does not work.

I have included this video from ABC’s 20/20 program many times before about what happens when kids are told not to touch guns by adults but when left alone, they touch and play with real guns. This is just not OK but should not be a surprise to us.

Here are a few of the recent articles about kids and guns that need to be taken seriously.

From the American Psychological Association about why talking about guns in homes is a good idea.

The Dear Abby column giving terrible advice to a young mom who asked about guns in homes where her children will be going to play. I personally made a comment and many others did as well. Hopefully whoever plays the part of Abby will have learned a thing or two about asking about guns and the true risks to children in homes where loaded guns are present.

A Newsweek article showing that death by firearm is the 3rd leading cause of death for children.:

Few stories are more heartbreaking than those involving children who are injured or killed by gunshots. It isn’t hard to find them: In June alone, a 6-year-old accidentally shot and killed a 4-year-old in South Carolina, a father accidentally shot and killed his 9-year-old daughter in Indiana and an 8-year-old Mississippi boy was accidentally shot in the chest. His grandparents drove him to the hospital, but he died 45 minutes later. Sadly, the list of child gun deaths goes on.

Though we constantly see examples in the news, child gun injuries and deaths may be even more prevalent in the United States than we realized. A study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics showed that an average of 5,790 children in the United States receive emergency room treatment for gun-related injuries each year, and around 21 percent of those injuries are unintentional. The study also found that an average of 1,297 children die annually from gun-related injuries, making guns the third-leading cause of death for children in America (behind illnesses and unintentional injuries like drownings or car crashes). The number is based on data taken from 2012–2014 for children up to the age of 17.

From the Today Show on-line site, a mother whose child was senselessly shot in an accidental shooting tells her story:

Who allows their child to keep unlocked guns in their room? Still to this day, I can’t wrap my mind around that. Guilt eats at me night and day. The worst thing that can happen to a mother is for her child to be killed. My child was in the care of others who let him and his family down. Forgiveness is something I struggle with daily.

I am a gun owner. I believe in gun locks and following strict safety procedures around guns. I am always surprised that some folks view my beliefs as being against the right to bear arms. I am not against guns. Noah was raised around guns. He went hunting for the first time when he was 3 years old. The difference between us and a lot of other gun owners is that we understand the power a gun can have when not in the right hands or is handled improperly. Guns should be locked and kept away from curious children. They were definitely not allowed in my son’s room.

But no matter what we instilled in him, none of it saved him that night. He was at the mercy of other people. And, sadly, I never imagined that other parents were not as responsible as I am. I never thought to ask his friend’s parents about how they stored their guns because I naively assumed everyone was like me.

From Forbes magazine an article about how to keep your child safe from gun violence:

There three main steps you can take, expanded upon below. First, remove all firearms from the home. Second, if you are unable or unwilling to remove all guns from the home, stored them unloaded in a locked safe with ammunition locked up elsewhere. Third, ask the household members of every home your child visits whether they have firearms in the home and, if so, whether they are safely stored as above.

From Pediatrics:

Nearly 1300 children die and 5790 are treated for gunshot wounds each year. Boys, older children, and minorities are disproportionately affected. Although unintentional firearm deaths among children declined from 2002 to 2014 and firearm homicides declined from 2007 to 2014, firearm suicides decreased between 2002 and 2007 and then showed a significant upward trend from 2007 to 2014. Rates of firearm homicide among children are higher in many Southern states and parts of the Midwest relative to other parts of the country. Firearm suicides are more dispersed across the United States with some of the highest rates occurring in Western states. Firearm homicides of younger children often occurred in multivictim events and involved intimate partner or family conflict; older children more often died in the context of crime and violence. Firearm suicides were often precipitated by situational and relationship problems. The shooter playing with a gun was the most common circumstance surrounding unintentional firearm deaths of both younger and older children.

From USA Today, an article urging what parents should know before their children go to sleep-overs this summer.:

“Is there an unlocked gun where your child plays?”

Each year on June 21, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence encourage parents to ask questions about whether guns are accessible to their children.

It’s a question that should be asked every day, but as we hear all too often, sometimes guns get into the hands of children. Each day, 19 children in the United States are either killed or injured by a firearm. 

And the work isn’t done for parents who are taking the right safety measures, Ashlyn Melton writes in a Today column. Melton’s son was accidentally shot and killed by a friend who had access to loaded guns.

In the column, she notes that parents should feel comfortable asking their children’s friend’s parents about where they store their guns.

I rest my case. This is probably enough for now. Because of my volunteer work, I read regular stories about “accidental” shootings of and by children. What the articles above reveal should be enough for us to get to work, put our noses to the grindstone and do everything we can to prevent and reduce avoidable gun deaths.

In my city of Duluth, young parents will be at local playgrounds on Saturday to talk to other parents about the ASK campaign and changing the conversation about the risks of guns in homes. One of these parents is an Emergency Physician. Another a Psychotherapist, another a Child Service Advocate for the county, another a math teacher at our local university- all with young children and concerns about keeping their children safe from potential harm before something happens that would make it too late. Intervention and prevention is the key to this American public health problem.

#Enough

As more people learn the facts, more people are concerned and more people will demand that something be done legislatively but they will also be the agents of change that must happen before our ubiquitous and deadly gun culture will also change. For the sake of our children and grandchildren we must be involved and we must act.

We should all be on the same team when it comes from protecting our children from harm. We seem to agree about poisons, electrical outlets, household cleaners, child seat belts, safe baby cribs and toys, crossing guards, bike helmets, and many other potential harmful things for our children.

Let’s get to work.

I want to add a graphic from the ASK campaign that is important to how we change the conversation.

ASKtextgraphic