Hearings in Congress

Congress has finally, after 2 years or more, begun the work they were elected to do. Previous Republican led committees have failed us. Democrats tried in 2013 after the shooting of 20 first graders. But the NRA choked that effort and Republicans refused. The issue of gun violence has turned partisan even though gun deaths take the lives of anyone no matter what their political stripe is. The NRA became an arm of the Republican party and made sure that Trump got elected. And Trump failed to even mention gun violence in his state of the union address. Unbelievable given the numbers and the mass shootings.

The Democrats are in charge of the House now and this week there have been hearings on just about every major issue of our times. Thank goodness we are going to hear the truth and from expert witnesses. Some in Congress have not wanted the truth because it exposes inconvenient facts.

Of course my interest was on the H.R. 8 hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. It was, as one could expect, not without some fireworks and angry exchanges. It was the first hearing on expanding background checks to all gun sales since 2011. The first witness was Aalaya Eastmond, a Parkland shooting survivor. Aalaya saved herself by staying hidden under the dead body of a classmate. Just imagine that, if you can. This is a teen-aged girl who testified like the calm, articulate young adult she has become. You can watch the hearing here.

Other witnesses laid out the reasons why requiring a background check on all gun sales is one very good way to stop people who shouldn’t be able to get guns from getting guns anyway. Many other things can be done to stop this inane public health epidemic. Dr. Joseph Sakran, a trauma surgeon, survivor of a shooting and board member of the Brady Campaign testified to the committee using his experiences and expertise:

Firearm injury and death in America is not only a disease,1 but a public health crisis in the United States. Every day, an average of 109 individuals are killed and more than 240 people suffer injuries secondary to firearm violence.23 While the United States is a world leader in many arenas, we are failing when it comes to firearm injury prevention. Firearm-related injury and death is a public health problem creating a vast burden of disease across the spectrum of ages and socioeconomic groups in this country. Additionally, firearm-related violence has a substantial economic burden of over 229 billion dollars per year to the United States health care system.45 Most concerning despite advances in trauma systems and health care capabilities, the fatality rate secondary to firearms has not significantly changed or improved.67  (…)We have both the opportunity and responsibility to comprehensively address gun violence as the true public health crisis that it is. This is not a Democrat versus Republican issue. It’s a uniquely American issue and it is uniquely in each of your hands to help fix it.
The America I’m fighting for is one where parents no longer have to fear the phone call that my parents received, that the Parkland parents received, and literally hundreds of others in communities across this country are receiving every single day. As a trauma surgeon, I have to look into the eyes of these parents and it’s nothing less than heartbreaking. The medical community implores you: the time for action is now. There is no one solution to this complex health problem, which is why we must come together as a country to build consensus and support and develop a research informed, data-driven, approach so that we can help you, as our policy-makers, to ensure the public safety of Americans all across this great nation.

One would never know that the issue is not a Republican vs. Democratic issue during the hearing. Republican committee member Matt Gaetz threw in specious comments about illegal immigrants shooting Americans and even went to “the wall”. This set off a series of interruptions by some of the Parkland parents in the hearing room. In turn, Representative Gaetz pointed his finger at the aggrieved parents and wanted them thrown out. This was a low point of the hearing. The one year anniversary of the Parkland shooting is next week. Where is any kind of empathy or concern for those people?

Does Rep. Gaetz understand that if background checks on all gun sales are required, those illegal immigrants will have a much harder time getting their hands on guns. Since they are prohibited purchasers, they would no longer be able to get guns through private sellers. Yes, there are guns out there to be had but where do they come from in the first place? They don’t fall out of the sky. All guns start as legal purchases ( even those bought from private sellers in states that allow that since it is not so far illegal) . From there, they get into the illegal market or in the wrong hands through straw purchasing, through “bad apple” gun dealers, by being stolen, or trafficked on the street. Requiring background checks on all gun sales will stop some of these other ways that guns get into the wrong hands.

And further, of course Rep. Gaetz is wrong to try to compare any shootings by illegal immigrants with the overall shooting deaths of American citizens by American citizens. There is no comparison.

Other specious comments from committee members and expert witnesses alike caught my attention. In fact, outright lies were told. The following are those lies and deceptions:

Background checks on all gun sales will lead to gun registration. Actually since the Brady Law was enacted and started working to require background checks on sales at federally licensed firearms dealers, there has been no gun registration. The expanded background checks will be the same ones now already in existence. There will be no gun registration.

Background checks on all gun sales will affect law abiding citizens who want to carry guns for self defense. How would that happen? If someone who is law abiding wants to carry a gun, they should not be affected by the requirement to get a background check on said gun. It’s only those who shouldn’t have guns in the first place who will be affected by H.R. 8.

There are millions of defensive gun uses every year, therefore guns are needed to protect people. Actually no. This has been debunked over and over and over again. It’s not true and it’s never been proven. But the gun rights advocates trot it out frequently. Professor Joyce Malcom of George Mason University School of Law came to the hearing with this information for the committee. If there were millions per year we would know about it and hear about it in media and police reports. The Gun Violence Archive is actually keeping track of these numbers and here is what they have found. So far this year there have been 130 defensive gun uses. These are the ones actually reported and verified. That’s the best way to use data. The professor who testified at the hearing admitted that her numbers were mostly anecdotal. Hmmm.

The reason gun deaths decreased after the mid 1990s is because so many states passed conceal and carry laws.  This was also claimed by Professor Malcom ( see above). There is no proof of this either. Those on the side of gun safety reform can also say that the Brady Law was enacted and began to work to require background checks on all gun sales during that time as well.

This great article published in the Scientific American ( yes-science, evidence, facts) counters most of the corporate gun lobby’s specious arguments about defensive gun use and crime and more guns leading to less crime and violence. From the article:

A closer look at the who, what, where and why of gun violence also sheds some light on the self-defense claim. Most Americans with concealed carry permits are white men living in rural areas, yet it is young black men in urban areas who disproportionately encounter violence. Violent crimes are also geographically concentrated: Between 1980 and 2008, half of all of Boston’s gun violence occurred on only 3 percent of the city’s streets and intersections. And in Seattle, over a 14-year-period, every single juvenile crime incident took place on less than 5 percent of street segments. In other words, most people carrying guns have only a small chance of encountering situations in which they could use them for self-defense. (…) The belief that more guns lead to fewer crimes is founded on the idea that guns are dangerous when bad guys have them, so we should get more guns into the hands of good guys. Yet Cook, the Duke economist, says this good guy/bad guy dichotomy is a false and dangerous one. Even upstanding American citizens are only human—they can “lose their temper, or exercise poor judgment, or misinterpret a situation, or have a few drinks,” he explains, and if they’re carrying guns when they do, bad things can ensue. In 2013 in Ionia, Mich., a road rage incident led two drivers—both concealed carry permit holders—to get out of their cars, take out their guns and kill each other.

This one I know for sure. An everyday ordinary argument during a contentious divorce and an armed estranged husband led to my sister’s death. A road rage incident in Minneapolis along the I35 freeway led to the shooting and injuring of a school bus driver. The shooter is claiming self defense which law enforcement has found to be totally untrue ( and I would say insane) This man is the poster child for what is wrong with our gun carrying minority of citizens who believe they need these guns for self defense and they are lowering the crime rate by having their loaded guns with them at all times.

Clearly the gun lobby and their spokespeople are wrong about what they are saying.

Women need guns to protect themselves from being raped.  A young woman testified to this at the committee hearing. She also claimed that expanding background checks would be a “financial burden”. She is wrong on both counts. Her first argument has also been debunked over and over again. The financial burden argument is also specious. Why is it not a burden to get a $25 (on average) background check when buying at a federally licensed firearms dealer. If one can afford to buy a gun, one can afford to get the background check. Just as if one can afford a car, one can afford to get the title, registration and insurance. If not, don’t buy one.

Just this one article explains:

However, since rape seems to be Dana Loesch’s main concern, we can focus more on that. When it comes to rape, well, it is most likely to occur in states that have the most relaxed gun laws. For every woman who could, theoretically, fend a man off with a gun, there is a man who could intimidate a woman into having sex with a gun. One woman, during debates about whether or not guns should be allowed on college campuses, claimed, “If my rapist had a gun at school, I have no doubt I would be dead.”
Even if the manufacturers make them a cute shade of pink, guns are not tools that are helpful to women. They kill far more women than they save. But Dana Loesch is right about one thing—the world can be a dangerous place for women. Rape is horrible. And one way to help make the world safer for women is to make weapons like guns harder for dangerous people to get.

Also in this article is the commonly known fact that” Women are 100 times more likely to be fatally shot by a man with a gun than use one for self defense.”

There are facts. There are too many gun deaths. Too many guns are leading to too many people dying from gunshot injuries. Stronger gun laws have been shown to reduce and prevent gun deaths. It is undeniable.

In the end, common sense will lead us to stronger gun laws and safer communities. That is what this is about. It is not about registration, or charging people too much, or taking away the right to use a gun for self defense, or owning a gun to reduce crime and shootings. It is about making sure that guns are not used to harm others- mostly known to the shooters- or are used in absolutely senseless deaths like the many mass shootings, the “unintentional” shootings of and by children, suicides that can be prevented, in domestic disputes, to kill young men of color, in road rage and all of the other preventable uses of guns.

It’s about the guns. It’s about gun violence. It’s about public health and safety. It’s about facts and evidence. It’s about saving lives. Even one life. It could be someone you know or love next time.

Brady background checks- why not?

6 years ago about this time a group from the Northland Brady Campaign/Protect Minnesota chapter braved sub zero temperatures near the location of a gun show. The reason we came out for this in the freezing temperatures was because then, and now, private sellers at gun shows don’t have to do background checks on gun purchasers.

The photo shows our group holding our signs. We asked then and we ask now:

Why would we not make sure that every gun sale occurs with a background check? Since most do, why not all? About 1 in 5 guns are sold without a background check. It used to be more than that but because more states have passed laws to require background checks on all gun sales, we have made it harder for people who shouldn’t have guns to get their hands on them.

One of the interesting things about our protest on that cold day was the man who had been to the gun show and approached our group to talk to us. He claimed he had never talked to “gun control” activists before. Eventually the conversation turned to his worry that if a universal background check bill passed, the government would take his guns ( for sure). He had told us previous to this comment that he was a member of the National Guard. A friend in our group asked if he realized that he actually was the government who would go around confiscating guns if that gun lobby myth ever came to fruition. That was a surprise to him as he had never thought through what it would mean.

We need to make decisions made on facts and evidence, not myth.

Of course requiring the very same Brady background checks on private sales that are now required when purchasing from federally licensed firearms dealers would not result in confiscation. It hasn’t so far as long as the FBI’s National Instant Check system has been in existence- for the last 25 years.There is no logic to this gun lobby argument. But for too long this is what has persuaded our elected leaders to run away from passing a stronger background check law.

And therein lies the problem. There are myths rather than truths around the issue of requiring background checks on all gun sales.

Gun safety reform advocates understand that universal background checks will not cure the entire epidemic of gun violence. But that is no reason not to pass a law. Just as any law doesn’t solve the entire problem it is intended to fix. But we pass strong public safety laws for good reasons. And, as it turns out, most people follow the laws. Those who don’t get into trouble.

We also understand that lax gun trafficking laws, lax laws about stolen guns, lax laws about assault type rifles, lax laws about who can carry guns in public, lax laws about the sale of bump stocks, etc. contribute to the problem of too many gun deaths. Congress passed a law to deny funding for federal research into the causes and effects of gun violence. Congress passed a law to give immunity to the gun industry against lawsuits. Those, too, have contributed to our national gun violence epidemic.That’s why we are where we are- with close to 40,000 Americans a year losing their lives to bullets in the U.S.

That being the case, why would we not want to make everyone do the same thing when it comes to buying a gun? Lives can be saved. Every teacher gets a background check. No exceptions. Every health care provider gets a background check. No exceptions. Every person who works with children in a church or pre-school gets a background check. No exceptions. Everyone goes through the TSA check before boarding a plane- no exceptions. There are good reasons for these background checks. Why have any exceptions for buying a deadly weapons designed to kill people?

On Wednesday the House Judiciary Committee will have an official hearing on H.R. 8 to require background checks on all gun sales. This is the first hearing on a background check since 2011. There will be actual testimony about why requiring background checks on all gun sales is a really good idea. There will be evidence. There will likely be victims and survivors.It will likely pass out of the committee on a partisan vote unless a Republican on the committee decides to vote the way his/her constituents actually want. They will be held accountable by their constituents.

Common sense will happen this week at long last. I, for one, will be celebrating the hearing. I am quite sure that the corporate gun lobby will do their best to get their supporters to believe the usual myths about background checks on all sales leading to confiscation or registration. That’s a stupid and ludicrous untrue argument. But they will do it anyway. We will expect it.

Since most people understand that background checks on all gun sales make a lot of common sense, they already support the majority of the committee members. And the majority of the committee members will represent the 97% of Americans who want them to pass stronger gun laws.

Yesterday morning at my church I made an announcement and passed out stickers for members of the church to call our Representative to support H.R. 8. People couldn’t take them fast enough. I ran out. There were gun owners, parents, grandparents, community leaders, health care providers, educators, students, clergy- all who are sick and tired of letting the corporate gun lobby lead the conversation and intimidate their Congress members. They hate the daily carnage due to gun violence.

There are examples every day for the reason why we need to strengthen gun laws in our country.

A few days ago, a man in New Ulm, Minnesota gave his dying wife meth and had a death party for her. Clearly he is a man who should not have had any guns by the account in the article. But nonetheless, several guns were found in his home. The man reported that he had 47 guns, many of which were stolen. If true, why? Also from the linked article:

He has prior convictions for assault and DWI and is on probation for driving after license cancellation. A blood test taken after his DWI arrest in 2014 showed he had used methamphetamine, according to court records.

There really are people who should not have guns. Most likely this man could not purchase guns legally, explaining why most of his guns were allegedly stolen. Though he is under arrest for what occurred with illegal drugs and whatever else went on at his house, having guns accessible seems like a really bad idea. That is why we need stronger gun laws.

I just read this great editorial from the Star Tribune about the efforts of the Minnesota Medical Association to address gun violence. It’s heartening to see that health care providers are speaking out about gun violence as a public health issue. From the editorial:

Many cars now have backup cameras, which might have saved the child, the surgeon said. But when it comes to firearms, where are the technological advances and societal improvements — such as the widespread recognition of drunken-driving risks — that could prevent gun deaths?

The provocative question relayed by McClain provided just the right kickoff to the pioneering Minnesota workshop on gun-violence prevention put on by the state’s medical association. The MMA, which represents over 10,000 state physicians, merits praise not only for organizing it but for channeling members’ passion toward finding realistic solutions to a public health scourge. Beginning the discussion by considering the changes that have reduced motor vehicle deaths both inspired members and focused them on the workshop’s goal — proposing practical reforms.

The MMA has already taken a courageous stance on gun-violence prevention, one that not all members approved of. It issued a statement last March calling gun violence a “public health crisis” and then backed much-needed state reforms — such as criminal background checks on all purchases and transfers or exchanges of firearms. “Failure to intervene in the face of this significant epidemic is not an option,” the MMA said.

Exactly. It is not an option to not deal with gun violence. We have a crisis facing us and something has to be done about it. 

We will be a better country with the passage of H.R. 8. Will the Senate, with a Republican majority, many bought and paid for by the corporate gun lobby, hear a Senate similar bill?  Would the President sign any bill to strengthen gun laws given that the NRA spent more money on getting him elected than on any previous candidate? He owes them. If the Senate and the President want to be in partnership with an increasingly compromised organization they will be held accountable in the end.

Have a good week everyone. I will enjoy watching something positive happen for a change.


America- home of mass shootings and land of the dead

You can’t make up what is happening in our country on so many fronts. There’s “the wall”. There’s “the shutdown”. There’s “Roger Stone”. There are “Trump’s tweets”. There’s the news of “the opioid crisis”. There’s “the ubiquitous chaos”. There is the “immigration debacle”. There are “Presidential candidate announcements”.

But lost in all of this news is the fact that in our country mass shootings have continued unabated and, one might say, with increasing frequency. They have barely been a blip in the news because of all of the other news. But some have noticed. Axios, for example. posted this article to highlight another violent and deadly week in America:

A rash of mass shooting incidents across the United States was forced under the radar last week as cable news largely focused on the indictment of former Trump political adviser Roger Stone and the end of the longest government shutdown in modern history.


The big picture: A number of last week’s mass shooting incidents and threats specifically targeted women and other family members, highlighting the harrowing statistic that women in the U.S. are 16 times more likely to be killed by gun violence than in other developed countries.

Women in America are at risk for their lives from the men in their lives. There is not a question about this in case someone wants to ask one. I sit on the board of Domestic Abuse Intervention Program, home of the Duluth model, The model has been made famous because it works. Men who abuse are arrested and if ordered by the court, must attend group sessions to learn how to change their aggressive and violent behavior. If men can change their behaviors women will be safer. And if the country is accountable for making sure that domestic abusers can’t get their hands on guns, we will all be safer. Should that be controversial?

The Brady Campaign’s End Family Fire can also work to educate the public about the risk of guns in homes to gun owners. For, as the Axios article points out, it’s about women at risk. And children are at risk if women are at risk. Other family members are at risk. Innocent people are at risk.

Here is a video showing how easy it is for kids to get their hands on guns in homes. Anyone can get their hands on an unsecured and loaded gun and cause a death or an injury. It’s that simple. It’s that quick. It’s that deadly.

The thing is, we can do something about all of this but we aren’t- so far anyway. There is finally hope that Congress and state legislators are actually ready to stand up to the gun lobby and the decades’ long hold it has had on our elected leaders and the national conversation about gun safety reform.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

As to incidents of recent mass shootings, mostly domestic related, listed in the Axios article, the Brady Campaign released a statement about the lastest of the shootings which took place near Baton Rouge, Louisiana:

“The fact that there have already been more than 1,000 shooting deaths this year is astounding in the worst way. And now, two families in Louisiana have been destroyed because, yet again, a dangerous person was able to gain access to a gun. That this happened in a state that features some of the most lax gun laws in the country is, sadly, unsurprising. We owe it to the victims of this heinous crime to offer more than thoughts and prayers – we owe it to them to determine how the shooter obtained his firearm, and then to work to pass stronger legislation to make sure that this sort of shooting spree cannot again take place in Louisiana.” (…) Louisiana has ranked as the third deadliest state in the country for gun violence, with 987 firearm deaths in 2016 and 21.2 firearm deaths per 100,000 people.

Louisiana has lax gun laws as pointed out in the statement. Why? Good question. We know the answer. “Rights” Spineless politicians to stand up the corporate gun lobby. Controversial? The noisy gun rights extremists who actually represent a very small percentage of Americans, including gun owners. Money, power and control.

And just when I thought I was done writing this post another incident of a mass shooting came across my Facebook feed. 5- yes 5 Houston police officers were shot in an incident in which the suspect was shot dead(today):

“This evening’s horrific attack on police officers is a solemn reminder of the service and sacrifice our brave men and women in law enforcement make every day to keep us safe,” he said in the statement. 

True. It’s also a reminder that we are living in a deadly country where mass shootings are happening every day and we’re doing nothing about it. It’s crazy making and ludicrous and just plain unacceptable. When will it stop?

It’s time for common sense and logic to be the guidepost for how we treat deadly weapons in our country. Guns kill, period. They are the only product on the market designed to kill and yet are treated as if they are just a “tool” to be used by whoever wants to have a gun or carry one. The cavalier attitude towards guns and gun ownership is killing us.

We are better than this.

A true national emergency

Hand Drawn Time for Action Concept on Small Chalkboard.This morning I want to share with you my Local View in the Duluth News Tribune. It reflects the views of the majority of Americans. Below is the article in its’ entirety.

President Donald Trump on Jan. 10 tweeted, “We lose 300 Americans every week (to heroin), 90% of which comes through the Southern Border. These numbers will be DRASTICALLY REDUCED if we have a Wall.” Trump also has called the immigration debate a national emergency.


It is not a national emergency.

Climate change is a national emergency. The lack of affordable health care is a national emergency. Americans living in poverty with no way out is a national emergency. Gun violence is a national emergency.
If the fact that about 700 Americans a week are shot and killed in homicides, suicides, and “unintentional” shootings isn’t a national emergency, I don’t know what is. The Gun Violence Archive reports that, as of Jan. 18, 683 Americans had died in gun homicides so far this year. This does not include suicides that account for 80 percent of gun deaths in Minnesota and more than 60 percent nationwide.
You do the math. That’s about 40,000 deaths a year.


On Jan. 8, a bill to require background checks on all gun sales was introduced in the U.S. House. One in five gun sales now goes without a Brady background check. If one in five passengers was allowed to board planes without going through TSA security, we would fix the problem.
Criminal background checks are necessary for public safety but will not end all gun violence. Just as safety measures for cars and drivers led to fewer deaths and injuries, so, too, can stronger gun laws. Just as passing laws about public smoking has saved lives, so, too, can stronger gun laws.


Most mass shooters are homegrown American terrorists. They are not coming from across the border. They are living among us. Shooters are your neighbors killing their wives or their kids. They are friends of your kids using a gun in a suicide. They are a friend’s young child getting a gun and shooting himself or herself or someone else nearby. They are your neighbor’s teen bringing a gun to school and shooting up his classmates. They are police officers getting shot or shooting someone. They are grandparents who may not have the judgment to handle guns safely. They are young gang members with guns they shouldn’t have shooting each other on our streets. They may be people with severe mental illness who can’t handle the responsibility of a lethal weapon. They are people carrying guns in public who don’t act responsibly. These things happen every day in our country.

The pile of bodies and the number of survivors grow daily, affecting us all.
We can figure this out and do it together, but we need common sense and a will to act.
Gun rights and gun-safety reform are not mutually exclusive, as most gun owners agree with the 97 percent of Americans who favor background checks on all gun sales. This is a no-brainer for Congress and the Minnesota Legislature.
As long as Congress refuses to get serious about a national public health epidemic, we can expect to see more shootings They will happen anywhere at any time. Just because a shooting hasn’t affected you so far doesn’t mean one won’t. I never thought my sister would be murdered in a domestic shooting, either. It changes one’s perspective.
A year ago, on the 14th of February, 17 were murdered in Parkland, Fla. Since then, the brave surviving students have changed the conversation about gun violence in our country. Voters this fall chose majorities which want change to our gun laws and our gun culture.
The Minnesota House this session is expected to consider a bill to require background checks on all gun sales. There also is to be a “red flag” bill that would make sure people dangerous to themselves or others don’t have guns.
Tell your Congress members to act. Tell your state legislators to act. Don’t let the president’s rhetoric about a national emergency on our southern border deflect and distract from the true emergencies.


In the midst of my writings, the senseless violence has persisted and existed in our everyday lives. I just ran across this article about the awful and tragic shooting of a young father of 4 over an eviction. From the article:

One of the tenants, Manuel Velasquez, told police he got into a fight with Stokoe on Thursday evening because the landlord kicked the door and put him into a “very serious” chokehold, court documents obtained by the paper say.
Velasquez, 31, told cops that while he was being subdued, he grabbed a handgun inside the fannypack he was wearing and shot Stokoe multiple times.

A fanny pack? And how do we know if the shooter’s view is correct because the victim is dead. Utah is a Stand Your Ground law state.  

It will be interesting to see if the perpetrators try to use it in their defense.

If your state doesn’t have one of these laws, watch for it because the corporate gun lobby loves these laws and looks to pass them everywhere. 

Meanwhile, since I wrote my Local View piece, the Gun Violence Archive has added the numbers of victims of bullets and it’s increased by almost 200    since Jan. 18th. 

This is a national emergency that must be addressed. It’s more than common sense. It’s a national emergency and an American tragedy happening everywhere in our country.

It’s imperative that we act. One person dead from bullets is one person too many. Families are hurting all over America because of the government shut down, because of poverty, because of lack of access to health care, because of gun violence. 

Chaos is surrounding us and the government shut-down is exposing the worst of who we are. We are better than this and we can work together to exercise our rights as Americans to be free of the chaos and to save our country from true emergencies staring at us. 

Background checks for all

It’s about time bills are introduced into Congress and my own Minnesota state legislature. In fact, it’s a national tragedy that our elected leaders have not passed bills requiring that every gun sale go through the process of finding out whether the buyer of a legal weapon should own one.

As the sign says, “the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a Congress with a spine”. So far Congress has been spineless. Yes, there was a bill written in 2013 after the Sandy Hook shooting but the NRA backed out at the end leaving not enough votes to get a bill passed after the nation’s most heinous mass shooting.

And mass shooting after mass shooting; domestic shooting after domestic shooting; suicide after suicide with a gun; “unintentional” shootings of toddlers by toddlers; stupid gun mistakes after mistakes; veteran suicide after suicide’ gang shootings after gang shootings and here we are today with gun deaths on the rise.

We are better than this.

On Tuesday I drove to the state Capitol in St. Paul for a welcome back and lobby day. Between the Minnesota Moms Demand Action and Protect Minnesota along with a group of us from the Northland Brady Campaign/Protect Minnesota chapter, we were well represented. As hundreds gathered in the rotunda of the Capitol and outside of the chambers there were chants, lots of signs, enthusiastic volunteers and a lot of energy. Legislators knew we were there. Post cards were delivered to Representatives, Senators and the Governor asking for support for the bills that will be introduced this week for background checks on all gun sales and an Extreme Risk Protection Order bill.

Almost at the same time, H.R. 8 was introduced in the U.S House on the 8th anniversary of the shooting of then Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

Let us remember the 6 who were senselessly murdered 8 years ago on January 8th because a young man who should not have had a gun had one anyway.: Christina- Taylor Green; Judge John Roll; Gabe Zimmerman; Phyllis Schneck; Dorothy Morris; Dorwan Stoddard.

All of the national groups were gathered at the U.S. Capitol, as well as supportive Congress members. One of these was Congresswoman Lucy McBath from Georgia. Now there’s a woman with a spine. After her son Jordan Davis was shot and killed for sitting in a car playing loud music while black, Lucy got involved with Everytown for Gun Safety. And now, she is an elected leader with a spine. I am proud to know her and proud that she will actually stand up and do the right thing.

She is not alone. The country is with her. 97% of us want background checks for all gun sales. Why are the other 3% opposed to something that makes so much common sense? Several of them the 3% were at the Minnesota Capitol on Tuesday filming us, intimidating volunteers and telling their supporters the usual nasty nonsense about our groups. They were heard to say: “They want it all”. What does that mean? What we want are measures that will save lives and will not affect them- if they are law abiding individuals. On the Facebook page of Minnesota Gun Rights, as soon as the videos were posted, the comments started coming in. Such rational comments like- Did they leave their children at home watching videos while they are at the Capitol? Really? Women can’t go out of the house now without the criticism and approval of the gun rights extremists? What year is it again?

Or the best one is that we are paid by that terrible liberal philanthropist George Soros. Seriously. Why are we such a threat to them? They don’t believe that we volunteer our time for this noble and just cause. I mean, how can so many people show up if they aren’t paid? If I had been paid for all of my volunteering over the past 2 decades, I would be a millionaire. Instead, I spend my own money on gas, supplies, donations, tee shirts and other swag, so that I can represent my organizations and advocate for common sense gun laws.

Oh, and then a state legislator actually said this in an article about the proposed laws:

” House Republicans, meanwhile, blasted the proposals. Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, said Minnesotans should be concerned that Democrats are trying “to take your freedoms, to take your money, to take your guns and to take your children” by forcing them into state-backed early educational care.”

Really? This is such nonsense, fear and paranoia. Plus it’s “fake news”. It’s a lie. I wonder where he got this stuff? ( Wayne LaPierre? Donald Trump? Rush Limbaugh? Sean Hannity?)

What we need here is a common understanding of the problem. The problem is that 1 out of 5 guns are sold with no background check. That would be like 1 out of 5 people going into a separate TSA line at the airport with no screening whatsoever. The number was greater until a few years ago when more states passed laws requiring background checks on all gun sales.

Brady background checks do save lives but they won’t prevent all gun deaths and injuries. 

There need to be other life saving measures to reduce the number of gun deaths and end gun violence. Extreme Risk Protection Orders will save lives. Waiting periods would save lives. Raising the age for purchase of handguns and assault rifles to 21 would save lives. Restricting the sale of some types of assault type rifles would save lives. So would banning bump stocks. Not allowing so many people to carry guns in public places would save lives. Asking if there are loaded, unsecured guns where your children play will save lives. Safe storage of guns will save lives. Stronger gun trafficking laws will save lives. Public awareness and education about the risk of guns in the home such as End Family Fire will save lives. Research about gun violence will save lives. Allowing law enforcement to share crime date with each other sill save lives. Reminding patients when they go to their health care providers that guns could be a risk to their health will save lives.

Yes, we want it all. We want whatever it takes to save lives. We don’t want to ban guns and take away rights. But let us remember that we are the only civilized democratized country that doesn’t have all of the above and more in the interest of public safety and health.

Let us also remember that background checks are required for a reason in many other areas of our common lives. One needs a background check to work with kids in churches and schools. One needs a background check to adopt a pet. One needs a background check to get a job in certain sectors like public accounting. One needs a background check to be a health care provider. This is for our common protection and safety.

The Brady Campaign has put a good chart together about background checks that will help with our understanding of for what we are asking. Here it is:

The “gun guys” don’t like background checks. They themselves buy guns with background checks when they to to a federally licensed dealer. Why would they object if all sales required a check to make sure the person who will have a loaded weapon is not a prohibited purchaser who could be dangerous to others? What do you say gun guys? ( standing above the crowd with their video cameras)

At Minnesota state Capitol with Protect Minnesota
Protect Minnesota, Brady Campaign, Moms Demand Action supporters
Video by Joan Peterson

It’s time to act.

In the video, you can hear the voices of the gun rights guys speaking loudly about something- not sure what- but they were drowned out by voices for common sense.

We want action. We want all gun sales to have a background check. We want Extreme Risk Protection Orders. There are many more things that can be done to save lives from gunshot injuries due to bullets. What we want now is simple and won’t even do enough. Progress is slow but it is coming. Change is coming. The country wants change as was evidenced by the November elections.

Let’s get to work.

Irresponsible with guns

The year got off to a bang-literally. In my home state of Minnesota a homicide/suicide took the lives of 2. 

Authorities say up to 20 relatives, ranging in age from kids to the elderly, had gathered at the family matriarch’s house to celebrate the holiday when shooting broke out. Larry Klimek, 54, of Minneapolis was killed with his 16-year-old son and 14-year-old daughter nearby, their mother said Wednesday. The boy called 911 to report that his uncle had shot his father, who was bleeding inside the home, according to emergency dispatch audio.

How do things like this even happen? What brings a man who may or may not have obtained his guns legally or may or may not have had a permit to carry them around decide to kill his brother and then himself in front of a roomful of people?

It’s an American tragedy. Only in America do we need to keep daily track of shootings. Only in America do gun rights = not passing strong gun laws to prevent shootings.

When someone buys a gun, hopefully legally, it should be a given that they will be responsible for taking good care with it. It is a lethal weapon designed to kill. No one should act cavalierly around guns. And when a gun is available, no one should use it in anger, when depressed, when under the influence of alcohol, or otherwise incapacitated. Moments of despair or anger turn deadly in seconds when a loaded and unsecured gun is available. Responsible gun owners must store guns away and think about the risks involved. Common sense needs to be practiced.

There are 2 paths to gun ownership. Being careful and responsible or not.

Too often the wrong path is taken resulting in senseless and avoidable deaths and injuries.

When guns become a symbol for freedom, or a product of revenge and anger they can also become just another thing and people act cavalierly around them. When gun rights are taken literally as a right to do anything with a gun, then they can also become a way to exhibit rights without responsibilities.

What else could bring someone to senselessly shoot bullets into the air to celebrate New Year’s Eve? It’s pretty basic physics to understand that something that is shot into the air will come down again somewhere. That somewhere this year was in the head of a 6 year old California girl celebrating New Year’s Eve with her family.

Police are blaming all of the bullets on celebratory gunfire. Amazingly, the child is going to okay. The bullet is still in her head and may never be removed. (…) The chief also said the girl’s parents are shaken.

“Put the guns down,” Chief Kirkpatrick said. “It is foolishness. It is unnecessary.”

Foolishness is a mild term for what happened. It could have been another tragic death and left a little girl forever changed as it did for my friend Joe Jaskolka who was struck by a celebratory bullet in 1998. Nothing has been the same for Joe or his family since he was struck in the head by a bullet.

And shaken is also a mild word for how the parents and family must feel about a bullet lodged in the brain of their little girl. Future problems, including lead poisoning, could occur and cause more difficulties for them.

2019 has started with the same bang that ended 2018. The Gun Violence Archive keeps track of daily incidents with guns and the cumulative numbers as the year goes on. Here are up to the day figures already for 2019:

We are better than this. Please support efforts of gun safety reform groups to prevent and reduce gun injuries and deaths. Lives depend on what we do and 2019 is a year that we can bring change to the ubiquitous narrative and to our gun laws.

Happy 2019

I have no doubt that 2019 will take up where 2018 ended with stupid, dangerous and insane gun incidents in our gun crazy country. The end of this year is full of shootings and gun deaths and general insanity featuring “law abiding” gun owners.

This incident in Florida ( again in Florida) struck me as the “poster child” for what our spineless politicians have bestowed upon us all when they decided it was perfectly OK for ordinary citizens to carry weapons of war around in public places. From the article ( and please check out the video accompanying the article):

According to officials, 60-year-old Robert Miller brought the rifle into the store because he was upset over the price of two packs of cigarettes.
“I’m speechless,” said customer Jacques Momeerhouse. “Do we need all of that?”
The arrest report said Miller had entered the supermarket prior to the incident to buy two packs of Pall Mall cigarettes, but he left because the price was $11 and he only had $10.
Investigators said Miller was so upset about the dollar difference that he grabbed his long rifle and returned to confront the clerk.

You really can’t make this stuff up. And worse, in the video, there were others in the store who seemed to not be too alarmed by the fact that a man armed with an AR-15 was walking around the store making threats. This is exactly what the NRA and the corporate gun lobby wants- to normalize armed citizens in our public places.

I call this the definition of insanity.

There is absolutely no reason for ordinary citizens to be able to carry loaded weapons around in public. The proof is in the pudding. More guns have in fact not made us safer. The opposite is true. More guns have led to an increase in the number of gun deaths which have now surpassed auto accidents in lethality.

It is unsustainable to continue along this trajectory.

As I have noted before, in the midst of the devastating carnage, there is hope that the narrative and the laws are changing and will change. The survivors of the Parkland shooting have changed the way we talk about gun violence forever. We can’t take back what happened last February 14th. It was almost literally the shots heard ’round the world. It’s because those courageous and angry students chose to cry out instead of cringing in the face of the opposition to any common sense coming from the gun rights extremists.

What we know is that we can do something about senseless gun deaths. It is not a hopeless cause as some of the gun rights extremists want us to believe when they say that “guns don’t kill people, people do”, or “if you pass stronger gun laws, the criminals will still get their guns”, or “only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun” and other inanities that we have allowed to stand for far too long.

Speaking of inanities regarding gun rights extremists, this article appeared in the Denver Post. 

Read carefully. The writer openly proclaims that he does not intend to follow the laws of Boulder, Colorado regarding registering his gun with authorities if he plans to carry it in public. The photo itself is enough to make us all want to cry. A grown man with a long gun slung over his shoulder walking his young child in a stroller down the street. This is just not normal. What is this guy so afraid of that he needs to carry a long gun in public while pushing his baby down the street? This narrative is not popular with the majority of Americans. What we need is common sense if we intend to take back the narrative and allow us all to live in safety without having to worry about some nut with a loaded gun in public corroding our otherwise peaceful day with our families and friends.

We’re not having it. The many families affected by the shooting death of a loved one, whether to homicide, suicide or “accidental” discharge of a gun do feel hopeless at times because many of them, like me, have been pouring their hearts and souls into getting laws passed and changing the conversation about our nation’s public health epidemic.

2019 will bring change and hope. The newly formed Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives will take up legislation to strengthen our gun laws. If new laws are passed, a tone is set in the country that we don’t intend to allow the carnage to continue. It also sets a moral tone that in this country, we care about victims and we care about our families and their safety. Laws alone can’t fix our terrible problem with gun deaths but they can set the tone for a kinder, gentler nation that no longer accepts the uncommon wisdom that has set the tone until now.

In Minnesota the newly formed Democratic majority intends to take up laws like requiring background checks on all gun sales and Extreme Risk Protection Orders that will save lives. I look forward to it.

The thing is, when even a provision to ban bump stocks (used in the Las Vegas shooting) is held up by Gun Owners of America ( to the right of the NRA)  it is perfectly obvious that there is no interest whatsoever in saving lives. It’s about them and their power and money. There’s really no other way to look at it. And suing to get their way is their M.O. From the article:

“These dangerous regulations can go much farther than just bump stocks,” Erich Pratt, executive director of GOA said in a statement. “The goal of the anti-gun left is, ultimately, not just banning bump stocks, but, rather, putting ‘points on the board’ toward its goal of banning civilian ownership of all firearms.”

Really? Just another nonsensical statement that is not only not true but totally false. There have been no attempts to ban citizen ownership of all firearms nor will there be. Pratt knows this but it is necessary to continue the narrative of fear and paranoia to keep control of a dying gun rights movement.

So I wish my readers a Happy New Year and a safe and peaceful ending to 2018. It was a deadly year. It was also a year of chaos for our country. In addition to all of the other investigations into Russian influence in our 2016 election and corruption charges, one of them has also changed the image of the NRA forever. There’s no turning the clock back on the corrupt behavior of those whose interest was in influencing an election and maintaining power and control.

We are better than this.

Happy New Year.