Podcasts about gun violence

Brady has started a podcast to highlight the voices and the programs of gun violence prevention. It’s a good way to get the word out to those who support changing the law and the conversation around the role of guns and gun violence in our society. I was honored to be one of the first voices to be able to speak about my story and my experiences over the years. There have been many. You can listen to my voice here.

But let me summarize a bit of what I said:

  1. I have a story to tell and so do the thousands and thousands of other victims and survivors. Domestic shootings take the lives of too many women every day so my story is the story of many.
  2. Telling our stories is important because it makes the deceased victims come “alive” and “tell their stories” so that the public and politicians can better understand the devastation to families and communities from gun violence.
  3. Understanding how devastating it is for families to experience the sudden, unexpected and violent death of a loved one from bullets will lead to the changes we deserve to keep us all safer.
  4. Many of us in the movement of gun violence prevention have worked for decades to stop bad bills promoted by the corporate gun lobby, advocate for bills to prevent some of the shootings and in many cases to help pass common sense bills that save lives. We know they save lives because we have the numbers to show it.
  5. After the Sandy Hook shooting, other groups formed and helped to advocate for sensible gun laws and have added their voices and visibility in state houses and Congress.
  6. What seems to have made the biggest change is what happened with the student voices after the shooting in Parkland, Florida. Those kids have been relentless and powerful and have given those of us involved for so many years new ways to talk about gun violence prevention. I admire those youthful voices and have come to know them well in my own community.
  7. In Minnesota we have had ups and downs since our chapter formed in 2000 after the Million Mom March. After the passage of the conceal and carry law in Minnesota and the federal sunsetting of the assault weapons ban in 2004 in close proximity, some of the air went out of our balloons. But we have picked up and carried on and stopped some bad bills. We now have new focus after our House passed the background check and Extreme Risk and Protection Order bills in the last session. We will push hard to get them passed in the state Senate in the upcoming session. Senators will have to explain why they would be against bills that would not take away the rights of “law abiding” gun owners. Gun rights and gun violence prevention are not mutually exclusive.
  8. Our country is suffering from PTSD from all of the mass shootings taking place on a regular basis. Our kids certainly are negatively affected by the shootings and sometimes get killed by school shooters. School active shooter drills are causing more distress and anxiety for our kids. We should question some of the programs used and focus on where the shooters get their guns so we can stop them. In the majority of school shootings, the guns come from the home of the shooter. It’a a no brainer to lock guns away safely from the hands of kids, teens and those who might steal them to be used in a gun crime.
  9. One of my heroes in the movement is Sarah Brady who served on the Brady board for part of my terms as a board member. She was a feisty woman whose opinions were made known at meetings. She worked hard with her husband Jim to get the Brady background check bill passed and for that, we are all safer.
  10. What I hope to see in a world where the best will happen is that all purchasers of a gun of any kind must first pass a background check. There is no reason not to do this that makes any sense at all. In addition, we can save lives if we pay attention to the risks of guns for people who could be a danger to themselves or others and make sure that their guns can be temporarily removed while the danger passes. Too many shootings are spur of the moment shootings that happen while someone is under stress, angry over a difficult situation like a contentious divorce that caused my now deceased brother-in-law to shoot my sister. We can make a difference and save lives.

I would encourage my readers to listen to the RedBlue & Brady podcasts. I believe they will provide a lot of insight into the issues and the people who are involved. The stories will make a difference and change the conversation as we must do if we are to make progress.

It is so clear that the majority of Americans want change to happen. The only way the majority will be represented in the halls of state capitols and in Congress is for the voices of those who believe we can save lives with stronger gun laws are louder than the voices of the corporate gun lobby. Remember that the NRA and corporate gun lobby represent a very small minority of Americans and gun owners.

So speak up and speak out. Listen to how we can make change. Get involved and take action, not sides. It’s in our hands to make change happen. Let’s do this.

Gun laws in Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia

I will be on a river cruise on the Danube river for the next few weeks. I wrote before about a previous Danube river cruise and the gun laws in the countries along the way. Three of those countries (Austria, Hungary and Croatia) we will visit again on this trip. But now I want to write about the other countries that I have not visited before- Romania, Bulgaria and Serbia.

Let’s start with Serbia which has experienced a lot of violence in various wars over the decades and centuries. It turns out that there are a lot of legal and illegal guns in Serbia according to this article:

No one knows just how many illegal weapons Serbians are hiding in their homes. Even authorities give vague estimates, ranging anywhere from 200,000 to 900,000. Experts suggest that those numbers are conservative. The weapons concerned are handguns, assault rifles, bombs – even anti-tank grenades. Add to that another 1 million legally registered sport and hunting firearms, as well as yet another 1 million weapons in the hands of the army, police and private security companies. The internet portal gunpolicy.org estimates that the United States is the only country in the world that has more guns per capita than Serbia.

Most of the weapons are leftovers from the bloody wars that raged in the 1990s after the fall of Yugoslavia – in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. Not even the regular armies bothered to bureaucratically administer the inventories of their arsenals back then. When violence erupted, mercenaries and those with a desire to fight arrived on the scene, and no questions were asked. After the wars, some 4 million illegal guns were said to have remained in circulation in the seven republics of the former Yugoslavia – most of them in Serbia.

And more about the culture of guns in Serbia:

A poll conducted by another Belgrade NGO, the Public Policy Research Center, found that 70 percent of Serbs in fact felt safe in their homeland. Not because they believed the country’s institutions or security apparatus would protect them, but because they felt that they themselves, neighbors or friends could. “Of course people should be able to have guns, too bad we can’t have more of them. Do you want an unarmed and defenseless citizenry, so you can do whatever you want with them?” read a recent comment from a reader at DW’s Serbian Facebook page. Hundreds more comments were of a similar opinion.

Yet the news tells a different story: One searches in vain to find examples of people successfully fending off attackers or stopping crimes with handguns. Rather, one sees daily tabloid headlines and lots of stories about murders and occasional shooting sprees. In July, an incident in the northern Serbian village of Zitiste shocked the nation: A jealous husband killed his ex-wife and four others in a bar, injuring another 22 people in the process. Had he not had an illegal firearm at home, the night certainly would not have been so gruesome. But he did – and that firearm was an AK-47 assault rifle.

Sounds familiar.

The annual rate of gun deaths in Serbia according to gunpolicy.org is 3.23 per 100,000 ( 2015) The total number of gun deaths in 2015 was 232- 154 of which were suicides. Regulations are strict, including registration and restrictions on private ownership of automatic and semi-automatic guns. But according to the article above, there are many illegally owned and unregistered guns in Serbia.

Now let’s move to Romania. The laws are very restrictive not allowing private ownership of handguns. Only long guns for hunting are legal in Romania. There were 27 gun deaths in 2016 which is a rate of .13 per 100,000. So two countries as close as Serbia and Romania have very different laws and very different outcomes. Of he 27 deaths, 12 were suicides.

And now, Bulgaria. From the same source as the above link, in 2014 there were 108 gun deaths, with a rate of 1.51 per 100,000. 53 of the total number of gun deaths in Bulgaria in 2014 were suicides. Licensing is required for all guns owned, including automatic, semi-automatic and handguns. In order to get a license to buy and own a gun, the purchaser must provide a reason for needing a gun.

In the U.S. the rate of gun deaths per 100,000 is 12.21. We know that compared to almost all other democratized countries not at war, our gun death rate is right at the top. Our laws are right at the bottom.

When I compare the gun laws in other countries as I travel, what I find is that inevitably where there are more guns and looser laws, there are more gun deaths. This should come as no surprise to anyone. More guns do not make people safer. The opposite happens to be true. The corporate gun lobby loves to tell us that we all need guns to keep us safer. Why would they not? We know that the gun industry benefits when people are paranoid and filled with fear. If people are led to believe that guns will make them safer, they may just go and buy one, or two or many. Unfortunately, too many people suffer death and injury as a result and we end up being one of the deadliest countries in the world.

Who else has the rate of mass shootings that we have experienced in America? The link here points to the deadly phenomenon of American mass shootings since 1966 noting that the rate has increased in the past decade. The age of the shooters has become younger. From the article:

Although the data goes back to 1966, nearly a third of the 1,196 total victims have died since Charleston, and the two deadliest shootings in U.S. history fall into that time frame.

In October 2017, a 64-year-old gambler with a cache of high-powered rifles fired from his Las Vegas hotel room window and shot 480 people in a country music festival below. Fifty-eight of them died.

Less than 15 months earlier, a security company employee killed 49 and wounded 53 in a gay nightclub in Orlando, the second-highest toll.

The 169 shooters ranged in age from 11 to 73, but they were mostly young to middle-aged men, and they have trended still younger recently. Shooters before Charleston averaged just under 34 years old; from Charleston to the present, they have averaged 32 years old. (…)

While there may be trends in the types of places targeted, the geography remains unpredictable. Mass shootings have occurred all over the country, in red and blue and purple states, in huge metropolises, medium-sized cities and tiny rural towns.

I just know we will be safer in the countries we will be visiting- at least from bullets. Travel is always risky. But I know that since we are doing little or nothing to keep people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them another 1000 plus Americans will die from gunshot injuries while I am gone.

It’s hard to ignore what is going on back home while traveling and a lot is going on right now. But hopefully we can enjoy this area of southeast Europe and the history of the countries we will visit. Many of the countries along the Danube have experienced mass deaths and violence in the wars that have ravaged their countries over the decades. It’s hard to forget the early 1990s when the area in what was Yugoslavia left millions dead. And certainly the 2 world wars affected Romania and Bulgaria in ways it is hard for us to understand here.

It is a complicated area with a lot of interesting and controversial history.

We have a lot of work to do in the U.S. regarding gun safety reform and keeping our democracy safe from an authoritarian leaning President in the midst of an impeachment investigation. We should all be alarmed that our own President is threatening armed insurrection when he tweeted that there will be a Civil War if he is impeached. We all know what that means. And we get a view into his twisted mind when he suggested that immigrants should be shot in the legs to slow them down.

We have our own complicated problems and our history books will in the decades to come have chapters about our mass shootings and a President who used violent rhetoric to foment his base.

We are better than this.

The NRA- again

A screenshot of image taken at House Judiciary Committee hearing

In the last year or so I have written plenty about what is going on at NRA headquarters in Virginia. It is not pretty. In fact, it is downright ugly. The organization is in what I would call meltdown mode. The IRS 501 C3 status is in question. Russians have infiltrated the organization in what appears now to be to aid in the election of President Trump in 2016. In fact, before 2016 the Russians were palling around with the NRA in a new article revealing what many of us have long suspected:

The report pulls back the curtain on the cozy relationship Russian agents had with the NRA by focusing in part on a 2015 trip gun group leaders took to Moscow. Russian agent Maria Butina, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison earlier this year after pleading guilty to conspiring against the U.S., worked in tandem with former Russian government official Alexander Torshin to get NRA officials to Russia. (…)

In a January 2015 email to David Keene, Butina bragged that Torshin’s appointment to the Central Bank of Russia was “the result of a ‘big game’ in which he has a very important role,” and said the new role would allow Torshin to travel to the U.S. more often to meet with NRA leadership.

Now, to add insult to injury, it looks like the NRA is willing to get involved in the 2020 election as well in what could be an illegal quid pro quo with the President. How could it possibly be anything else when we learned yesterday that the President met with the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre to allegedly ask him for help funding his impeachment defense? And by help, I mean in dollars, not sense. In return, apparently, according to the article, LaPierre wanted something – for the President to drop any talk of working to stem the epidemic of gun violence in the country he leads.

From the article ( in case you think I am making this up):

President Trump met in the White House on Friday with Wayne LaPierre, the chief executive of the National Rifle Association, and discussed prospective gun legislation and whether the N.R.A. could provide support for the president as he faces impeachment and a more difficult re-election campaign, according to two people familiar with the meeting.

During the meeting, Mr. LaPierre asked that the White House “stop the games” over gun control legislation, people familiar with the meeting said. It was not clear whether Mr. Trump asked Mr. LaPierre for his support, or what that support would look like.

Of course La Pierre denied that he wanted something in return but in observing his behavior for decades now, we all understand that LaPierre would like nothing better than to stop any talk of background checks, or Extreme Risk Protection Orders, or assault weapons, or funding research into the causes and effects of gun violence, or any gun measures that would reduce gun violence.

Why is the word “game” used so often here? The fact that 100 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries is not a game. The fact that American lives are being snuffed out almost weekly in mass shootings is not a game. The fact that our children are slaughtered regularly in their schools is not a game. The fact that Americans have such easy access to guns that daily suicides and homicides occur all over our country is not a game.

More and more this is like reading a spy novel. It is happening right in front of us in broad daylight. The victims are now the entire country, the rule of law, honesty, national security, American lives, extortion, shakedowns of foreign leaders, resignations of people involved with the President, truth, gaslighting of America, and other ramifications of this corrupt behavior.

This past week I traveled to Washington D.C. for a meeting and then attended the House Judiciary Committee’s hearing on the assault weapons ban. Listening to the testimony was sobering. Even more sobering and disturbing was the lengths to which some Republican members of the committee went to distort the truth about what banning certain types of assault weapons would mean. It was stunning to hear one of the witnesses called to the hearing by the Republicans on the committee proclaim that she and other women loved their AR-15s so much that taking away these guns from women would be taking away a woman’s right to choose. We all knew what that line meant.

Another line made for quoting was a woman who was an ex-police officer proclaim she would not comply with any law to ban assault style rifles. What happened to law abiding citizens and officers of the law? And more to the point, what does that really mean? I think we understand the not so veiled inference that people will keep those guns and be ready to use them.

Representative Buck of Colorado even had a photo of himself with former Representative Trey Gowdy flashed on the screen in the room showing the two of them fondling an AR-15 with an American flag design on it. The purpose of the photo was to ask one of the pro gun witnesses if that looked scary to her. This line of reasoning is losing its’ relevance given the rash of mass shootings in our country. Of course AR-15s and the like are scary weapons. It is not just the design. It’s the damage done by them and the loss of human life that we should all be scared of.

One of the witnesses was a trauma surgeon from El Paso who was called to the hospital to attend to the gunshot victims of the El Paso Walmart shooting. His testimony was hard to hear as he described the injuries to the victims. The father of one of the Parkland students was in the room. A survivor of the Las Vegas shooting was in the room. Other victims were there. They understand full well what those injuries mean. They mean death and severe injuries. When you listen to the surgeon describe the injuries and how different they are from handgun bullet injuries, you know that assault style weapons are, indeed, scary. He noted that he this was like a war zone scene rather than a hospital because of the number of victims, the amount of blood and the types of injuries.

You can watch the graphic video here:

Stunning. This is an American tragedy that has left a trail of carnage and NRA lapdogs in Congress do nothing about it and have done nothing about it for decades. We were there to let them know we wanted them to #DoSomething.

Sitting next to Dr. Tovar is Dayton, Ohio Mayor Nan Whaley who testified about the smell of bleach at the scene of the mass shooting in Dayton as clean-up efforts began. This is what stuck with her and this is the ripple effect of gun violence and the memories that never go away.

After the hearing we attended the rally to #endgunviolence on the Capitol lawn where hundreds of victims and survivors were there to listen to speeches from Congressional leaders who actually care about ending gun violence. Following the rally another smaller group walked into the office of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. This group stayed for 90 minutes with a staffer who heard their stories and wondered why McConnell has refused action on an issue of grave national importance and urgency.

So now we know that our efforts have been fruitful in bringing the issue of gun violence prevention to the forefront of election issues. But we also know that our very own President will make a deal with the NRA to stop any more discussion because of his corrupt behavior and possible impeachment. What a sad state of affairs. Common sense is nowhere to be found amongst the Republicans and the NRA.

All I know is that something is changing. The waves of support are strong and getting stronger. Common sense will prevail in the end.

Shootings at football games

School has started and so has the school shooting season. If kids are in school, in America we know that means kids will be shot. What a sorry state of affairs. This is #NOTNORMAL; except that it is. It’s Homecoming season as well so in Duluth the local high schools and colleges are celebrating at football games.

The thing is, every week since school has started again there has been a shooting at or near a football game. The fifth one just happened.

For at least the fifth week in a row, a shooting has taken place during a high school football game.
Two teens injured in Philadelphia are the latest victims in a string of shootings that have taken place at or near high school football games across the country. (…) The sound of the gunshots sent people running across the field as the P.A. announcer called on spectators to evacuate.

Just look at the photo in the linked article above and you will see the panic as the crowd was told to get out of the stadium. This is America. Football is like Apple Pie and mothers- very popular in our country- just like music concerts, shopping malls, attending church, schools, grocery stores and just hanging out with friends and family.

So I have a question. Where are all of these guns coming from that end up in the hands of our children and others who should not be anywhere near guns? Maybe they fall from the sky? I just read this great article in response to a tweet made by former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. First here is the tweet:

screen shot of actual tweet from Twitter

From the article:

“BEHOLD,” said a thundering voice from a cloud. (Madison had resumed taking his notes at this point, which is how we know this.) The heavens parted. An enormous hand stretched forth, holding a mysterious black object, long and pointed like a stick.
“I’M GIVING YOU THIS,” the hand said. “A GIFT, FROM ME TO YOU, THAT NO ONE CAN EVER TAKE AWAY.”

Today is Sunday. Many Christians attend church on this day. They sing. They worship. They give thanks. They raise concerns about the world. They listen to sermons and they socialize. Do any of these people thank God for guns? Apparently some actually believe this nonsense.

Speaking of nonsense before I circle back to football games and guns, I had a conversation this week with a man who shall not be named about how guns make it into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. His thesis is that background checks won’t stop the guns that are used in crime and shootings. (even though since the Brady Law has prevented the sale of over 3 million guns to prohibited purchasers since it was enacted).

To continue with this idea that background checks are ineffective he proclaimed that most crime guns are stolen. He was right about that one according to this article from Everytown:

Estimates from various sources suggest that between 200,000 and 500,000 guns are stolen from individuals each year.1 The most recent nationally representative survey found that approximately 380,000 guns are stolen from private gun owners every year.2
Gun owners were three times more likely to have a gun stolen if they carried a gun in the last month compared to gun owners who did not carry.3
Research suggests that nearly one-quarter of stolen guns are taken from cars and other vehicles.4,5
In addition to theft from private owners, approximately 18,700 firearms are reported lost or stolen from licensed gun dealers each year, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).6

We did not discuss further this stolen gun thing and what we can do about it. Since most of the stolen guns come from law abiding gun owners, it’s time for them to admit that they could be contributing to the problem of crime guns. Safe storage is key to this. When more guns are owned, more will be stolen. More guns are not making us safer if they are not secured safely away from kids and others who can’t handle them. The result is school shootings, suicides, homicides and “accidental” shootings many by children who find unsecured guns in their own homes.

End Family Fire is a program to educate gun owners about the risk of guns in homes. ASK is a program that encourages parents to ask if there are unsecured loaded guns in homes where their children and teens play and hang out.

And crime guns that come from a small percentage of gun dealers who are not following codes of conduct and the law are a problem. Brady is working on that one.

There are solutions to many of the shootings that happen everywhere in America. They are in front of us but not much is being done about this epidemic of shootings. In fact it is in our hands and the hands of our elected leaders to pass laws and start changing the conversation about the dangers of guns in our communities.

And finally, the man from my conversation claimed, as do many gun rights activists, that crime guns are coming across our southern border from Mexico. This one really bothers me a lot because it is so untrue. Guns are actually going the other way from out country into Mexico and other countries to our south where they are being used in drug trafficking, homicides and to intimidate many in those countries. Many are leaving those countries because it is too dangerous to live there. From the article:

Research shows that a majority of guns in Mexico can be traced to the U.S. A report from the U.S Government Accountability Office showed that 70 percent of guns seized in Mexico by Mexican authorities and submitted for tracing have a U.S. origin. This percentage remains consistent, said Bradley Engelbert, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. And the Trump has administration has recently taken steps to ease rules on gun exports, which enables manufacturers to sell guns in Mexico and Central America countries.
report from the Center of American Progress found that the United States was the primary source of weapons used in crime in Mexico and Canada. Other countries in Central America can also trace a large proportion of guns seized in crimes to the United States. For example, the report found that from 2014 to 2016, 49 percent of crime guns seized in El Salvador were originally purchased in the U.S. In Honduras, 45 percent of guns recovered in crime scenes were traced to the United States as well.

Let’s be clear. There is one gun shop in all of Mexico:

Like the 2nd Amendment in the United States, Mexico’s Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, but it also stipulates that federal law “will determine the cases, conditions, requirements and places” of gun ownership. For many Mexicans, even those who love guns, the thought of an unfettered right to owning one is perplexing.

Claiming that crime guns are coming across our southern border is a foil for building the wall to keep illegal immigrants from entering our country. It is essential that we talk about the truth when dealing with matters of such grave importance.

Guns are not falling from the sky from a God who wants people to use them to shoot other human beings. And until we confront all of the lies and deceptions about the source of crime guns or legally owned guns that are killing 100 people a day, the carnage will continue. Immigrants are NOT bringing guns with them. They are fleeing from them in their home countries.

After the rash of shootings at football games, 2 shooting in DC , one with an AK-47 ( not allowed in the nation’s capital), and the recent high profile mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, the conversation is centering around what to do about assault style weapons that can be legally purchased in our country by just about anyone and now more frequently the weapon of choice by shooters.

But the times are changing. Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods are no longer selling these weapons of war and the ammunition used by shooters. And in a surprise announcement this week, Colt is going to stop the production of AR-15s in what they said was a market driven decision:

Despite their statement, experts wonder whether the company made the decision with other factors in mind.
“The public is getting very alarmed about what’s happening with assault rifles in the hands of potential mass shooters,” John Donohue, a Stanford Law professor with expertise in gun policy, tells TIME. “Colt may just be feeling better to get out of that particular market, and they’re offering this purely economic manufacturing argument rather than addressing the political realities right now as the justification for this decision.”

Who wants to be the manufacturer of a gun used in a heinous mass shooting? Who wants to be the seller of that gun? In my last post I addressed the changing culture and conversation because businesses and corporations are finally standing up for common sense about guns and shootings.

This week the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on assault weapons. I will be there. In addition there will be a rally to end gun violence at the Capitol attended by hundreds from all over the country. I will be there as well. Today I will be tabling at a local Fall Fest with other chapter members to talk about what can be done to prevent gun violence. We will have materials about ASK and End Family Fire as well as what Minnesotans can do to demand that the Minnesota Senate hear and vote on the 2 bills passed last session by the House about background checks and Extreme Risk Protection Orders. The majority wants this to happen and people are more than happy to sign on.

It’s exhausting to the country to hear about the daily carnage. It is NOT NORMAL for kids and others to carry guns to football games and start shooting at people. It is #NOT NORMAL for the public to have to race to safety when hearing the pop of gunshots in public places.

That being the case, what should we do? There are solutions staring us in the face. Congress must #DoSomething to pass laws that can make us safer. Gun owners must do their part. Gun dealers and manufacturers must do their part. Parents must do their part. Educators and health care providers must do their part. Corporations must do their part.

It’s in our collective hands.

Is it too extreme to speak the truth about gun violence?

personal photo of book

In my last post I wrote about the businesses who have decided to “come out” and tell their customers that they want nothing to do with their openly carried guns in their places of business. This would not have happened a month ago. But after the heinous shooting at an El Paso Walmart, it became obvious that any business could be the next one found in a Wikipedia entry for a mass shooting site. Who wants that to be your legacy?

Now the tide is coming in and it’s turning. A few days ago, 150 chief executives of some of America’s largest companies sent a letter to the Senate telling them that it’s “simply unacceptable” to not act on bills that could stop some of the gun violence that is affecting their customers and their businesses.

This is huge:

The letter — which urges the Republican-controlled Senate to enact bills already introduced in the Democrat-led House of Representatives — is the most concerted effort by the business community to enter the gun debate, one of the most polarizing issues in the nation and one that was long considered off limits.

It’s been “off limits” for far too long. The corporate gun lobby has made it so. And our elected leaders and many influential business leaders and others, for that matter, who could have made a difference decades ago have now decided to weigh in.

The thing is, the public has been ahead of elected leaders for decades now. Look at the latest poll which is just one of many showing the same results over the last few decades. Support is undeniable. But deny does Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump and the Republicans who have run out of excuses.

Why has it taken so long to act? Sometimes this is the way the system works I guess. But it does take bold action and a constant drumbeat of advocacy and also, I guess, one too many mass shootings, before it enters the collective consciousness of a country exhausted by the carnage.

When shootings in Dayton, Ohio, El Paso, Texas and then Odessa, Texas showed how people with AR-15s can inflict so much damage to human bodies in such a short time happened in rapid succession that appeared to be too much even for business leaders.

Let’s be clear. It’s been too much ever since the Columbine shooting became one of the first mass shootings to get the attention of the country. When our kids became the targets and the victims, mothers marched on DC in the Million Mom March in 2000. We were horrified at the shooting at a Jewish Day Care Center in California followed by the Columbine shooting and one brave woman, Donna Dees Thomases, stepped forward to lead the charge.

But that was 20 years ago. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from gunshot injuries needlessly. We let the NRA lead the conversation with the second amendment as their foil to stop any common sense action to stop the next shooting. We let the gun lobby continue to protect gun manufacturer profits over lives. We let our leaders get away with avoiding any discussion about the role guns actually play in gun violence.

We are all to blame for this in a way. The Democrats got scared that if they touched the “third rail” of gun violence they would lose their seats. Never mind that thousands lost their loved ones. We tried. We have held rallies and hundreds of vigils. We have lobbied at the state and federal level. We have sent letters, made phone calls, visited with our leaders, lit candles, rang bells, and demanded action. We have lie-ins and sit-ins and stood up for common sense. We have protested in the streets of our towns and in the nation’s Capitol.

Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot and severely wounded at a Tucson gathering outside of a mall and a group named for her and now called Giffords was formed. After the totally unimaginable happened at Sandy Hook elementary school a new group of mothers and others began- Moms Demand Action and Everytown.

Together, groups who have been working for decades like Brady, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and many independent state groups (States United) have been joined by a host of other groups to demand action. We are making a difference. Congress is now hearing us but the Republicans are not listening.

Even a few months ago, Democrats vying to become our next President would not have touched the issue of gun violence. But something happened after the Parkland shooting. The student survivors fought back and made their voices loud and clear. March For Our Lives joined the others and it was hard to ignore their young and articulate voices.

The tide is changing. At this week’s Democratic debate, candidates tripped all over themselves to be the one with the best plan for preventing gun violence. The loudest voice was that of former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke who represented El Paso. El Paso, the site of the mass shooting at a Walmart that was carried out by a White Supremacist whose rhetoric matched that of our sitting President. O’Rourke suspended his campaign to be with the victims in El Paso and it changed him.

Sitting with those whose sisters, brothers, children, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, cousins and friends have just been shot and killed so suddenly and violently is hard work. Who among us wants to listen to those stories? But we must hear their stories if change is to happen. And it was so clear that the shooter in the El Paso incident should not have had a gun. It was so clear that the Dayton shooter should not have had a gun but they both got them anyway.

And then, the Odessa shooting showed us how, if we had passed a law requiring a background check on every gun sale, we could have prevented the shooting death of 7 innocent people and the permanent disfigurement of the face of a 17 month old baby.

So when Beto O’Rourke described sitting with the mother of a 15 year old girl as she died from the horrendous injuries caused by bullets from an AR-15, it was too much. There were so many injured people because AR-15s can do that- shoot as many people as possible in as short a time as possible, that ambulances couldn’t respond to the mayhem. And so, the 15 year old died as her mother watched her bleed to death.

And now we have the famous statement made by Beto O’Rourke calling for a mandatory buyback of AR-15s and AK-47 assault style weapons originally meant for war. His description of why these weapons have been used and are used by the military was something we have not heard a candidate say before. His passion was genuine and heard loudly and clearly.

Even some Democrats came unglued and are wringing their hands. Oh my- what will happen now? Will we lose voters? Did we make people too angry? Will we lose the Presidency? What should we do about this perceived threat to gun rights? I guess time will tell how this shakes out. At the least it started a very important discussion about weapons designed for war in the hands of civilians.

What Beto O’Rourke did was “accidentally” or on purpose speak the truth. The public knows that it is AR-15s that have been used in many of our mass shootings. The public at large does not want these weapons in circulation so they get into the hands of people who intend mass carnage. Even many gun owners don’t want them, don’t need them, and are willing to give them up.

O’Rourke’s loud call was heard by a sitting Texas state Senator who issued a tweet heard ’round the country.

And this, dear readers, is why we need to act and act soon. When gun rights extremists occupy our state houses and Congress and believe they can own any weapon they want to own with no restrictions and then issue threatening rhetoric at candidates for office, we have turned a very dangerous corner.

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Assault Weapons Ban and the 15th anniversary of its’ death. which was famously allowed to sunset in 2004 after only 10 years of keeping us safer from weapons designed for war. The gun lobby keeps trying to tell us that these weapons don’t kill many people compared to other guns. They tell us that they love them and we hate them because they are scary looking. They tell us that they need them for hunting and sport.

No. When they kill, they kill many at a time and the bullets do much more damage to human tissue. That is why the military likes them.

No. They are not good for hunting.

No. They are not needed by anyone for self defense or sport.

Here are some facts offered by Brady that were sent out on social media yesterday:

“In shootings with assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, 155% more people are shot and 47% more people are killed. These weapons of war were designed for mass destruction. (…) According to the @nytimes, the federal assault weapon ban — which ran from Sept. 13, 1994 to Sept. 13, 2004 — was associated with a 25% drop in gun massacres and 40% percent drop in fatalities.  (…) On September 13, 2004, Congress let the federal assault weapons ban expire. In the decade after, America saw a 347% increase in fatalities in gun massacres. Enough is enough. Congress: it’s past time to end this bloodshed and #BanAssaultWeapons now! “

Yes. We can save lives if we ban assault weapons. Yes. We can save lives if we pass universal background check and red flag laws. Yes. We can do this. Yes. It’s past time. Yes. Beto O’Rourke said something that people are talking about. Was it too extreme?

Was it to extreme for 53 Americans to be shot in mass shootings just in August?

Is it too extreme that the Republicans have stopped every reasonable gun bill coming their way and let Americans die as a result?

Is it too extreme to let the NRA write our gun bills?

Is ti too extreme that the NRA had help from Russia to get our current President get elected?

Is it too extreme that our President swings like a pendulum whenever a mass shooting happens and then fails to act?

Is the cost of an assault weapons buy-back too extreme?

Is the actual cost in billions of dollars attributed to gun violence and all that happens in the aftermath too extreme?

Is it too extreme that a group of student survivors had to write their own plan, in the absence of action from Congress, to stop gun violence?

Is it too extreme that a book, “If I Don’t Make It, I Love You” was published because children are texting their parents in terror during lock-down drills and during actual shootings? Survivors who wrote in the book are not extreme people. They are average Americans who have experienced the terror of school shootings and survived to tell their stories.

Is it too extreme that our children are the targets of mass shooters?

Is it too extreme that the American Federation of Teachers, March For Our Lives and Brady teamed up to run an ad in Politico showing a student hiding under a desk during a lock-down drill?

Is it too extreme that our schools have been forced to have these drills in the first place because our leaders refuse to act to prevent school shooters from getting guns in the first place?

I know the answers. I own the book pictured above and know some of the people who wrote sections of that book. I understand that even still, decades after shootings, they do not forget the terror. I also know some people affected by mass shootings and “everyday shootings” like my own sister’s. I know the emotional and financial trauma suffered by too many. I have met some of the survivors of these shootings and seen the sadness in their eyes.

You know the answers. The public understands. The Democrats are not afraid anymore. American business leaders are not afraid anymore. Teachers, parents and students are not afraid to speak out. Survivors are not afraid. The stakes are high. Lives are at stake.

The only ones still afraid of the corporate gun lobby are the ones who can make the difference.They are afraid they will lose their power and influence and yes, campaign donations. If they won’t act, we will. We will make sure they are voted out of office and left to wonder what happened and why they refused to act on our nation’s epidemic of gun violence.

#Enough

No to open carry and ammunition

It’s finally happening. The business community and corporate America have decided that they don’t want to deal with guns and ammunition. Can you blame them? Quite a lot of businesses have suffered through horrendous shootings or have had incidents that make them less safe and uncomfortable.

Let’s take the position released by Walmart earlier this week:

Walmart stepped forcefully into the national gun debate on Tuesday, saying it would stop selling ammunition that can be used in military-style assault rifles, would discourage its customers from openly carrying guns in its stores and would call on Congress to increase background checks and consider a new assault rifle ban.
One month ago, a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, a massacre that put pressure on the company to respond to the wave of mass shootings across the country. It is the nation’s biggest retailer, and a large seller of firearms and ammunition.
Walmart said it made the announcement after weeks of discussion and research about how best to respond. The decision is in line with public opinion polls that favor more gun controls, and advocates, gun violence victims and others have increasingly called for action.

Walmart clarified the statement about ammunition magazines:

“Our assortment will remain focused on the needs of hunting and sport shooting enthusiasts,” Garcia told the Washington Free Beacon. “It will include rifles used for deer hunting and shotguns, much of the ammunition they require, as well as hunting and sporting accessories and apparel. In other words, if we sell the firearm, we will sell the ammunition for it unless that ammunition, such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber that, while commonly used in some hunting rifles, can also be used in large-capacity magazines on military-style weapons, and also the .300 Blackout, 7.62×39 and .224 Valkyrie which can also be used in military-style rifles.”

This is exactly what they should have done after the massacre at one of their stores in El Paso, Texas. Who wants to have a mass shooting inside of your store? Not only are your employees at risk, but your customers as well. Let’s just say it’s pretty bad for business not to mention the horrendous loss of life.

In addition, when a class action lawsuit against your business is looming, the incentive is great to prevent another shooting for which you could be liable. See this article:

The move came after survivors of a mass shooting at an El Paso filed a lawsuit against the mega-retailer late last month. 
In the lawsuit, which was brought against Walmart Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Texas LLC, the victims said that they were not seeking monetary compensation but instead the reason as to why the store did not have more adequate security measures in place to prevent the shooting.

Remember that a man armed to the teeth and wearing a protective vest showed up at a Missouri Walmart store days after the El Paso shooting.

Who needs it?

There’s a choice to be made here. Either all businesses and all places where the public gathers install security measures like metal detectors and screening or they prevent the need for this in the first place by denying people carrying guns around in their businesses.

So this week in a matter of a few days a bunch of businesses and corporations decided to stand up to the insanity of our gun culture and say a big fat NO.

Prior to Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods had already taken a stand. It actually helped their business:

More than a year after calls to boycott Dick’s Sporting Goods, the retailer announced that profits increased to their strongest showing since 2016, information that could prove important for America’s largest retailer, Walmart.

This happened after the Parkland shooting. Last week, the local Fleet Farm took a stand. They are no longer advertising assault style rifles and they will not allow a gun to be sold after 3 days if the sale is delayed because the paperwork has not been returned. This is called the default proceed and it is exactly how the shooter of 9 people at a Charleston church got his gun. He was a prohibited purchaser. Why take a chance? The families of the Charleston victims can now sue the government for this loophole in the background check bill that allowed their loved ones to be murdered.

Then came Krogers, Wegmans, Walgreens and CVS- all in one day:

The retailers are among a growing number of U.S. companies, such as Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) and Bank of America (BAC.N), that are responding to calls for action to help curtail the rash of gun violence that has plagued the nation, risking backlash from powerful gun owners’ groups as politicians consider options.
“We are joining other retailers in asking our customers to no longer openly carry firearms into our stores other than authorized law enforcement officials,” Walgreens said in an emailed statement. (…) CVS Health echoed the sentiment saying, “We join a growing chorus of businesses in requesting that our customers, other than authorized law enforcement personnel, do not bring firearms into our stores.”
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Target stores had already taken a stand in 2014:

As you’ve likely seen in the media, there has been a debate about whether guests in communities that permit “open carry” should be allowed to bring firearms into Target stores. Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course, we will continue to do so. But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law.
We’ve listened carefully to the nuances of this debate and respect the protected rights of everyone involved. In return, we are asking for help in fulfilling our goal to create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting for our guests and team members.
This is a complicated issue, but it boils down to a simple belief: Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Who will be next? We shall see. You can bet that gun violence prevention activists are not sitting still. The slippery slope has gone the way of loose gun laws and it happened quickly as state after state passed concealed carry laws. Many of those laws also allowed for open carrying of guns, including my own state of Minnesota. The bottom line is that customers don’t like seeing people carrying guns around while they are shopping. Let’s take a look at some of the problems with open carry.

It has taken a while but there is evidence that since more permissive carry laws have passed violent crime has increased. It has also become much easier for armed people in public places to shoot someone with whom they have a minor (or major) disagreement.

(I am updating my post to include this incident in West Virginia which proves my point that carrying guns in public is a really dangerous idea):

The wife of a West Virginia pastor is facing charges of reckless endangerment after she allegedly fired a gun during an argument with another pastor’s wife in the parking lot of New Life Apostolic Church in Oak Hill this May.
According to The Register Herald, 44-year-old Melinda Frye Toney pulled out a pistol during the altercation when it accidentally discharged. Toney is married to New Life pastor Earl Toney. The other woman, Lori Haywood, is married to the same church’s youth pastor, David Haywood.

Police say the argument was due to a simmering disagreement, and the women’s husbands suggested that the two get together to hash it out. Details on the dispute are thin and Haywood would only say they “had a disagreement, and when we sat down to talk, I called her out, and she lost it.”
The gun reportedly went off when Earl tried to wrestle the gun out of his wife’s hand after she retrieved it from her car.

Guns are dangerous weapons. The 2 women were lucky that no one was killed. As the article pointed out, there were also children in the parking lot. What if one had been hit by a bullet?

This article was written by a man who decided to do some much needed research into the effectiveness of carrying loaded guns in public. He came to a conclusion not unlike what most people believe:

As I drove from Scottsboro to Atlanta to catch my flight home, I kept turning over what I had seen and learned. Although we do not yet know exactly how guns affect us, the notion that more guns lead to less crime is almost certainly incorrect. The research on guns is not uniform, and we could certainly use more of it. But when all but a few studies point in the same direction, we can feel confident that the arrow is aiming at the truth—which is, in this case, that guns do not inhibit crime and violence but instead make it worse.
The popular gun-advocacy bumper sticker says that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”—and it is, in fact, true. People, all of us, lead complicated lives, misinterpret situations, get angry, make mistakes. And when a mistake involves pulling a trigger, the damage can’t be undone. Unlike my Glock-aided attack on the zombie at the gun range, life is not target practice.

That pretty much sums it up and it’s why businesses are taking a hard look at having customers carrying guns into their stores.

When the debate happened in Minnesota in 2003, I was involved and opposed the “shall issue” law that eventually passed. At the time, the supporters of the bill claimed that gun violence prevention activists were saying that blood would be running in the streets. We didn’t say that. But I would argue that blood is running in our streets. Gun homicides and suicides have increased in Minnesota in recent years.

Just a few days ago, three people were injured when gunfire erupted outside the gates of the State Fair on the last night of the fair:

“Everybody was put at risk,” Linders said. “This was incredibly concerning…shockingly brazen…audacious isn’t even a strong enough word. We’re lucky that more people weren’t injured or killed.” 

When people carry guns in public, this is the result. There are incidents, too numerous to list, of “accidental” discharges of firearms by “law abiding” gun owners in public places that put themselves and others at risk. That is why businesses need to assure that their customers are safe. Here is just one of many:

On September 3, a man wearing a loaded gun in his pants waistband accidentally shot himself in a University City grocery store. The man, who was hit in the leg, survived. A fellow shopper was wounded by debris from the blast.

More guns have not made us safer anywhere.

And while I’m at it, it is of utmost importance that we pass universal background checks and Extreme Risk Protection orders, both of which could have worked in the case of the Odessa shooter. He bought his AR-15 from a private seller because he could not pass a background check. Now authorities believe they have found that private seller. If you were a private seller would you want to be found as the person who sold a mass shooter his gun that killed 7 and injured many more? I think not. Passing these laws is insurance and assurance that everyone who buys a gun from a dealer of any sort can pass a background check.

We can, of course, and I have, talked about other ways people get their guns. But for now, this is #Enough.

We’ve reached a tipping point. Change is coming. Once corporations get involved in the movement of gun violence prevention, everything will change. It already has. We are all sick of the carnage and mayhem. We are sick of mass shooting after mass shooting after mass shooting. We are sick of seeing guns and hearing gun rights activists try to tell us that their guns will make us all safer. We are tired of it all. And the majority is sick that their elected leaders refuse to hear them and deal with our country’s public health epidemic.

We want common sense now. #DoSomething. Our elected leaders who resist passing stronger gun laws are running out of arguments and excuses. There are none.

Back to school with guns

School is starting all over our country. In some school districts, staff can bring their guns to school. This has not worked out as expected in so many places but facts don’t seem to matter when it comes to guns and school safety.

As I always say, there are no “accidents” with guns. Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill animals or humans.

School safety has taken on a whole new definition in the days of school shootings. Since the Columbine shooting in 1999 and now the 20th anniversary, about 700.000 Americans have died from gunshot injuries- a good proportion of them our precious students. Congress has still not acted since Columbine, thus the large toll of human life.

We all remember the Columbine shooting as the marker for our “new normal” where kids are shot up regularly in our schools. It is also a new normal for the victims and the trauma never goes away.

While I was working as a special educator in my local school district, lockdown drills were a part of our routine. Schools are not necessarily made for the type of safety needed from a school shooter. No building is actually. Schools and kids are not bulletproof.

Remember the slaughter of 20 first graders and 6 educators at Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012? That surely is another important marker is school shootings because no one could believe that Congress would DO NOTHING after that heinous shooting. And remember when Wayne LaPierre said “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”? That was , in a way, a new low in NRA opposition to common sense gun laws. The NRA and Republicans and some Democrats stopped support for doing the right thing even though the nation supported action.

And then came the Parkland school shooting on Feb. 14, 2018. This massacre of 17 high school students changed things forever. This time the students were old enough to fight back and fight back they did. They started a national movement and a huge country wide March For Our Lives. And now, because the adults are doing nothing, they have their own well thought out plan for stopping school shootings and every day shootings.

But companies are making a profit trying to make everything bullet proof. I mean, why not? If we refuse to stop people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them with the result that we are all less safe in public places, why not try to bullet proof people? Thus, there are bullet proof backpacks that make parents feel better about sending their kids to school and making sure they come home again.

I hope everyone understands that backpacks are not with the kids all day. Some are in closets in elementary classrooms and some are in lockers where they will be inaccessible. During some classes, backpacks may not be allowed or usable. Lunch time? Likely not wearing a backpack. Phy Ed class? Not wearing a backpack.

In addition, the company that makes them actually tested whether the backpacks would stop a bullet. Note that the backpack was on the front of the dummy, not the back where kids wear them. And also note that the backpack did not stop bullets from an AR-15, the weapon of choice for mass shooters.

So much for those. They have been pulled from the shelves in some places.

Companies are also profiting on training programs such as ALICE. I have written about this one before. ALICE is mostly to train kids and staff to take measures that could make them less safe from a shooter. It makes some sense on the face of it but in reality often the “countering” techniques like throwing something at the shooter, or interrupting the shooter can work in reverse.

We do hear about people interrupting shooters by hitting them with a chair from behind or tackling them as in the Tucson mall shooting. That does sometimes work.

But we are talking here about kids taking the responsibility for saving themselves instead of the adults who can do something about the gun violence epidemic preventing the easy access to guns in the first place.

Some Colorado school districts have provided buckets of kitty litter and tourniquets so kids can survive from the bleeding from a gunshot wound and go to the bathroom if they are trapped in a classroom for a long time.

The buckets are just one strategy teachers are being taught to respond to lockdowns and school shootings. Lopez says she was also given a Sharpie marker to indicate what time a tourniquet was applied to a bleeding student, and candy to give diabetic students to maintain their blood sugar during a long lockdown.

So it’s come to this.

Where is common sense?

As kids head back to school, it will be inevitable that school shootings will begin again. There are some things that can be done and I’m not sure the above measures are the right ones. Lockdown drills happen regularly and they are scaring our kids:

Over the past two decades, the drills have ramped up in intensity — with some schools going so far as to use fake blood and fire blanks at students. A drill last month at an Indiana school prompted outrage when teachers were shot execution-style with pellet guns, leaving them injured.

At the same time, students’ anxieties have swelled. Some are not told that the lockdowns are just drills, prompting them to send what they believe are final goodbyes over text to their parents or faint or throw up. Others are afraid to go to school in the days following the drills.
As a result, a growing number of schools are experimenting with ways to lessen the toll of the drills while still doing everything possible to keep students safe. For some school districts, that means using age-appropriate language; for others, it involves having guidance counselors or school psychologists available during and after the drills.

In a recently released video, by Brady, “Morning Routine”, the morning routine includes putting a bullet proof vest on a little girl as she goes out the door for her school day. The father watches with a worried look on his face:

So it’s come to this.

We all have PTSD from shootings and the ripple effect has grown so wide that we are all affected by shootings in one way or the other. We are raising a generation of lockdown kids and increasing anxiety about going to school.

We have done little if anything to stop school shootings. There are some things that can be done that don’t require lockdowns or laws.

Parents must store their guns safely at home since most school shooters get their guns from home. Talk about End Family Fire as a way to discuss the risks of guns in the home.

If you see something, say something. In the weeks since the El Paso and Dayton shootings dozens of people have been arrested for threats made to shoot up people in public places. One such threat came from an Albert Lea, Minnesota 15 year old girl who made threats on social media to shoot up a school.

I don’t believe that arming staff is a good way to deal with active shooters either. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to be in the right place during a shooting and also to be able to actually hit a moving human being also shooting at you. There have been many instances of staff members leaving loaded guns in bathrooms or accidentally discharging their guns. In last May’s Colorado STEM school shooting an armed guard accidentally shot one of the students. He should not have had his gun:

In a statement, STEM School Highlands Ranch said it didn’t know the guard was armed until the shooting occurred May 7 on the campus that includes students from kindergarten through high school.
“While it is more common to have armed security personnel at high schools, it is uncommon at elementary schools,” the statement issued Monday said. “Given the diverse population at our school, we made the decision to request an unarmed guard in an effort to balance these different interests.”

There are many reasons that arming staff is not a good idea.

Let’s just say it like it is. Our politicians need to DO SOMETHING to protect us from gun violence. It can be done in conjunction with respecting gun rights. The bottom line is that gun rights in the clothing of the second amendment, has stopped us from protecting the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Since January of 2019 there have been 22 school shootings according to his article. That does not include the beginning of the last school year from September through December. What we want is to reduce that number through new laws, awareness, safety practices, safe storage, and any other method we can use.

This is about saving lives and protecting our children. For the sake of my grandchildren and yours and your children, it’s time to get involved and engage. Let’s get to work.