Embracing hope through action

Today is the 6th anniversary of the shooting that shocked and rocked the country. Never before Dec. 14th 2012 had an unhinged shooter carried weapons meant for war and massacres to an elementary school and opened fire indiscriminately on innocent 6 and 7 year olds and 6 adults, massacring their young bodies. Never before. But not never again. Since the massacre 6 years ago, 600,000 Americans have been shot. Of those, over a third died of their gunshot injuries. 

We had hope back then that this heinous shooting would at long last, loosen the grip the corporate gun lobby had on our nation’s elected leaders and actually allow stronger gun laws to pass. But we were woefully and tragically wrong. There was a bi-partisan bill. There was hope.

Even Blue Dog Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin, an avid gun owner and NRA politician, cried in his office when the Sandy Hook parents came to him with their pleas to do something. It was a raw moment. It was public. 

We had hope. Even the grief and tears of the parents of the 6 and 7 year olds so soon after the shooting was not enough for the lapdog politicians in thrall with the second amendment. 

We had hope. Hope was not enough. 

Yesterday at our local 6th annual vigil in memory of the Sandy Hook and other gun violence victims a pastor quoted these words

“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

We are angry at the way things are. We have had hope shattered too many times. Which mass shooting will be enough for our leaders? How many victims shot all at once in rapid succession with a mad man holding weapons meant for war would it take? How many………….?

The title of our local vigil was “Embracing Hope Through Action”. Speakers talked about past efforts and present situations. The last speaker was a student at our local university who helped organize our local March For Our Lives chapter. She is an emerging leader who gave us hope because the students have had the courage to step up and look up, as she said. They have nothing to lose. They taught the adults how to do this.

And so it took a group of vocal and determined older high school students, not willing to sit down and shut up after their friends were shot at another shooting that shocked and rocked the nation last Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Florida, to affect change. 

There is common sense after all. Even Florida, the state owned by the NRA, passed stronger gun laws after the Parkland students insisted- no demanded- in very loud voices. Over 1 million people marched in over 700 marches nation-wide on March 24th last year. Students walked out of their schools in moving 17 minutes of actions and silence in memory of the 17 shot at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

The tiny survivors of Sandy Hook elementary school couldn’t make demands. For one thing, they were all traumatized by what had occurred and seeing the bloody bodies of their friends and classmates. They still are. The parents were traumatized and so many felt relief that their child was not one of the bullet ridden bodies left lying on the floors of a building no longer in existence. 

But the memories were not erased by the demolition of the building that was once a happy place of learning. They live on. 

We remember them today and always. We are still angry that our leaders couldn’t have the courage to do the right thing after what happened 6 years ago today.

But we still have hope. That is what allows us to get on and do the hard work of advocacy on behalf of our loved ones. 

This is a “no brainer”. Why should it be so hard? It should be easy. 

And it shouldn’t take courage to make noise and stand up for what we know well over 90% of Americans support. It takes resolve and doing the right thing.

The winds of change are blowing. Our young people are the hope. Our young people have courage. They are showing us how to do this. They have taken on conventional wisdom and attacked those who have stood in the way of the common sense and doing what is morally and lawfully right. 

The 2018 election saw NRA “A” rated candidates and sitting Congress members go down to defeat to candidates who embraced gun safety reform. 

There is hope.

We can and will do this in the names of the victims and survivors. 

Today we remember:

from CNN.com

Anniversaries

Photo in Google photos and provided by Yoko Ono

It’s becoming more and more difficult to remember gun violence victims on the anniversaries of their deaths. There are so many that there is hardly one day in a calendar without a notation about a mass shooting, the shooting of a loved one, or the shooting of a person known to all because of their fame. There is, of course, the anniversaries of the shootings of President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Every year, we think about them and their legacies on the day of their death by bullets. 

Today is the anniversary of the shooting death of Beatles singer John Lennon.

The much loved Lennon was shot and killed outside of his home in New York City:

Lennon was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman in the archway of the Dakota, his residence in New York City. Lennon had just returned from Record Plant Studio with his wife, Yoko Ono.
After sustaining four major gunshot wounds, Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital.

From the above linked Wikipedia article:

Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival by Dr. Lynn at 11:15 p.m.,[29] but the time of 11:07 p.m. has also been reported.[30] The surgeon noted—as did other witnesses—that a Beatles song (“All My Loving“) came over the hospital’s sound system at the moment Lennon was pronounced dead.[31] Lennon’s body was then taken to the city morgue at 520 First Avenue for an autopsy. The cause of death was reported on his death certificate as “hypovolemic shock, caused by the loss of more than 80% of blood volume due to multiple through-and-through gunshot wounds to the left shoulder and left chest resulting in damage to the left lung, the left subclavian artery, the aorta and aortic arch“. The pathologist who performed the autopsy on Lennon also stated in his report that even with prompt medical treatment, no person could have lived for more than a few minutes with such multiple bullet injuries to all of the major arteries and veins around the heart.[32]

An article was posted recently  about whether we should be able to see photos of the deadly wounds caused by bullets. 

I chose not to see the damage done to my sister’s body after her shooting. I wanted to remember her as the vibrant, beautiful woman she was in life. But perhaps showing the damage would bring the message home to those who are much too cavalier about gun violence and don’t seem to get the devastation to families when a loved one is suddenly and violently murdered.

From the above linked article:

I think that gun control has now become as emotionally charged and intractable as civil rights and the Vietnam War once were. The American College of Physicians was joined in 2015 by nearly 60 other organizations, including the American Public Health Association and the American Bar Association, in a call to address gun violence as a public-health threat. Last month, in Annals of Internal Medicine, the physicians’ group issued a position paper with recommendations for reducing firearms-related injuries and deaths. The National Rifle Association responded with a tweet that read, “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane. Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control.”
The NRA was exaggerating, but that edition of the journal did contain several articles, letters and editorials on gun control. Doctors, who have seen the carnage, want it stopped. I have little doubt that most of the rest of us would react the same way. Daniel Wasserman, the head rabbi of a Pittsburgh synagogue that neighbors the Tree of Life Congregation where 11 people were massacred by a virulently anti-Semitic gunman in October, told a New York Times writer that “unless someone is a soldier in a war zone, I defy anyone to tell me they’ve seen what I just saw.” We should see what he saw. Wasserman went on to say that he knew who one victim was because he recognized the hair on a piece of skull. We should see that too.

My brother served in Viet Nam. He is haunted yet today by what he saw there and suffers from PTSD along with Parkinson’s Disease and many other diagnoses. My sister was abruptly taken from my life by bullets. My brother has been slowly taken from me because of a war that occurred many years ago and the nightmares he has suffered ever since. 

I write this because the iconic image of the blood stained glasses of John Lennon and the description of his injuries should be enough for us to stand up and cry for common sense. But that has never been #enough for us. In America, the also iconic symbol of resistance to any measures that can save lives, the NRA, has for too long now commanded the narrative that has resulted in lapdog politicians, afraid to stand with the majority of Americans. 

As a new majority in the U.S House of Representatives takes control in January, they have a chance to do what over 90% of Americans want to have happen. Will those who have resisted all of these years follow an organization that has been exposed for it’s possible illegal influence over our last election? Will those who have received a lot of money from the NRA and a coveted “A” rating from the organization understand that the organization could be failing and will lose its’ influence over our elections and our elected leaders? Will Congress understand going forward that “A” rated candidates lost to “F” rated candidates? 

We can hope. But more than that, we can demand the change we deserve and want in the name of the victims of gun violence. Next week will mark the 6th anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting- the one that should have resulted in change, at long last. But it didn’t. Shame on us all for letting so many anniversaries of that shooting go by without making change happen. It took outspoken high school students who survived a school shooting on Valentine’s Day of 2018 to shake up the system and take on the organization that doesn’t want us to see those blood stained glasses or the heinous and devastating injuries to the bodies of our loved ones. Things might change in a hurry if we did.

If one can imagine their own loved one with those same injuries and the pain and suffering that came with them, perhaps they would demand the change so we can stop our vigils and remembrances on shooting anniversaries.

Imagine:

NRA news

This morning we learned the news that former President George H.W. Bush has died. I am not a Republican and did not support President Bush’s policies but he served with honor and integrity and was an honest man. Many Americans look back to those days and remember that at the least, there was not corruption, daily lies and chaos. 

George H.W. Bush had the integrity to resign from the NRA when the organization made verbal attacks against law enforcement after the Oklahoma City bombings. He wrote a letter resigning his life membership from the NRA.:

I am a gun owner and an avid hunter. Over the years I have agreed with most of N.R.A.’s objectives, particularly your educational and training efforts, and your fundamental stance in favor of owning guns.


However, your broadside against Federal agents deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor; and it offends my concept of service to country. It indirectly slanders a wide array of government law enforcement officials, who are out there, day and night, laying their lives on the line for all of us.


How refreshing. The current occupant of the White House is so far from doing anything honestly and above board that we look back at former Presidents who have the courage of their convictions with admiration.

I believe we could actually expect the opposite from our current President. Anything for his base. And who is his base? Are the NRA extreme gun rights advocates a large part of his base? Let’s take a look at the number of members of the organization compared to the total U.S. population. From an article written by Mike Weisser ( Mike the Gun Guy) in the Huffington Post in 2017:

Now since the NRA itself claims only to have 5 million members, how do we explain that all of a sudden the organization has added 9 million more to its membership rolls? Here’s how the NRA is handling it as of today: “we have millions more Americans who support us and will tell pollsters they are members, even when they are not.” And to underscore this point, the NRA website also linked to a story from The Washington Times (a real, balanced piece of journalism) which states that the Pew report shows that 21 percent of gun owners had contacted a public official about gun policy at some point in their lives, but only 12 percent of the non-owners said they did.

Another article posted after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida analyzed the numbers game played by the NRA in order to make the organization seem bigger and more powerful than it actually is:

Still, if there are an estimated 55 million gun owners in the U.S., even at 5 million members the NRA would account for less than 10 percent of the gun owning community.
“Let’s say it’s 10 million [members],” said Ware, the South Carolinian gun owner. “That’s still a fraction of the gun owners out there.”

A fraction of the gun owners out there- that is significant. If this is the organization that has successfully bought and paid for many of our elected leaders and represents a fraction of gun owners and even fewer Americans, we ought to be yelling from the roof tops to demand the action that over 90% of Americans want. 

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Brady Law. Back in 1993, even the NRA supported the idea that if someone wanted to buy a gun their background should be checked out to make sure they were not a felon, a domestic abuser, someone who was adjudicated mentally ill, etc. This was a no brainer. But when the law passed, with support of the NRA, there was an exception for private sellers of guns. That exception has proven to be deadly. There are many examples of mass shooters, domestic abusers and others who got guns through private sales and used them to murder innocent people. Columbine. Wisconsin Spa shooting. Charleston church shooting……..

Since the passage of the law, according to Mark Glaze, writing for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

Under the current law, only people who buy their guns from federally licensed gun dealers are required by federal law to pass a background check. Unlicensed “private sellers” who sell at gun shows or over the Internet, are not required to conduct checks – a major gap that has grown exponentially larger as a portion of the marketplace for guns has moved online and away from bricks-and-mortar dealers.
Felons and other prohibited purchasers are well aware of this private sale loophole – and they exploit it every day. Researchers have estimated that as many as 22% of gun sales are conducted by private sellers – with no background checks and no questions asked.
In response to this lethal gap in the law, 20 states and the District of Columbia have acted to expand background checks to include at least some private sales, including those conducted by unlicensed sellers at gun shows, on the Internet and anywhere else.
And these laws are saving lives: when, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting massacre, Connecticut enacted a universal background check system, the state saw a 40% reduction in gun homicides and a 15% reduction in gun suicides.
Overall, from 2009 to 2012, states that required background checks on all handgun sales or permits had 35% fewer gun deaths per capita than states without that background check requirement.
Researchers have also found that, after adjusting for population, states that require background checks on all handgun sales experience less than half as many mass shooting incidents (52% fewer) as states without that background check requirement. (…) Brady background checks are more popular in America than pizza. A 2018 Quinnipiac poll showed that 97% of Americans support universal checks, including 97% of gun owners. And a 2012 survey by GOP pollster Frank Luntz found that even 74% of NRA members support this common-sense reform.
And we know voters have their eye on this issue. Polls both before and after the 2018 midterms showed gun safety was one of the top issues for voters. And a survey of 11 battleground House districts conducted by the Brady Campaign and the American Federation of Teachers showed that voters were much more likely to support candidates who support universal checks.

Change and common sense are coming to America. The 2018 elections will prove to be a game changer in America for many reasons. 

The news of the day is happening fast and furiously. Much of it is related to the Mueller investigation into whether our very own President colluded with the Russians and now, as a result of the investigation, there may actually be attempts at obstruction of justice.

Buried in some of this news was this one about the Russian woman, Maria Butina,  who allegedly attempted to help the Russians gain access to the President through the NRA. It should be more alarming that this happened but then, it’s become such an everyday occurrence that alarm has become complacency or else not wanting  to know.

Let’s look at what this article is saying about the consequences to the country and to the NRA once Butina spills her knowledge:

Prosecutors now allege that Torshin was, in fact, directing Butina’s gun rights networking in the US, as part of a Russian influence effort. If the government wants to get to the bottom of whether the NRA was getting Russian money to boost Trump, Butina may possess valuable information about Torshin’s role in the alleged scheme. (…) Butina, as Torshin’s collaborator and as Erickson’s partner, was smack dab in the middle of this effort in May 2016. In fact, during this same month, Butina herself was part of a group that unsuccessfully sought a meeting with the Trump campaign. So it’s likely she could shed light on Erickson’s and the NRA’s efforts to connect Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin. (…) Though the campaign declined, Butina went to the event. During the audience Q&A, she asked Trump a question about whether he had plans to continue Russian sanctions, which Butina called “damaging” to both the American and Russia economies. Trump reassured her that he didn’t think the sanctions were needed. In May 2016, as the NRA hosted its convention in Louisville, Butina briefly met with Donald Trump Jr., and gave a speech at a NRA fundraiser involving Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin

I don’t know about you but I smell trouble ahead for Butina, the administration and the NRA. The organization is now having financial and legal problems related both to this investigation and the intense scrutiny placed on the NRA after the Parkland shooting. The activated students have not been shy about going after the powerful interest lobby. And it’s past time for that to happen. But it took the future generation to do what many of the adults have been unable to do. 

This article explains more about the NRA’s financial problems:

More noteworthy than its drop in contributions, though, was its decline in membership dues. The NRA took in more than $128 million in dues last year—a significant sum, but down considerably from the $163 million it took in the year prior. That decline, more than the drop in direct contributions, appears to indicate a dwindling, if still formidable, base of public support. Asked for comment on the decline, an NRA spokesperson pointed to reporting showing that the organization’s magazine subscriptions have shot up this year, interpreted as an indicator of an accompanying membership surge. (…) That loss in funding comes at a tricky political moment for the organization. Rarely has the NRA had so staunch an ally in the White House. But the group, which built significant political heft on the back of Obama-era threats to key gun-rights priorities, has also become a lightning rod in the still-raging debate over gun control and mass shootings in the U.S. And several recently elected House Democrats ran explicitly on pledges to go after the gun lobby when in office.
Under President Trump, the NRA has also adopted a more aggressive advocacy posture exceeding its traditional focus on gun-rights issues exclusively. It recently launched a stand-alone political commentary platform, NRA TV, that has veered into culture-war issues at best tangentially related to the Second Amendment.


So where are we? I say we are at an important time in our country’s history. One cannot avoid the sense that the corruption, lies and coverups are coming to a head. The involvement of the NRA in some of this news will not be good for the organization- once a respected group that supported gun safety and hunters. Things have changed. The country is going to experience more chaos and controversy.

When the truth is revealed, let’s hope that Americans will have the common sense to handle whatever happens peacefully without violence. There is a worry that those gun rights extremists, many of whom own many guns just in case they need them for an insurrection, may not stay on the sidelines:

“It seems like this is a theme that’s kind of resonating out there — that the militias feel there is an impending civil war that’s brewing between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, the militia versus antifa,” Johnson said. “That’s very concerning when you have a movement that is as well-armed [as militias], and conducts paramilitary training, and stockpiling and prepping and everything else. When you have them getting paranoid and discussing the possibility of a civil war, it’s not out of the realm of possibility of them actually trying trying to instigate it or provoke it.”

And so I end where I began- with my tribute to former President George H.W. Bush and his honor and integrity. And with my concern that the current occupant of the White House and the related investigations into corruption, collusions and possible obstruction of justice could lead to possible violence. The NRA is in the middle of both my tribute and my concerns about the current situation.

A place at the table

It’s the day before Thanksgiving. We are at our cabin for a family Thanksgiving and we will enjoy sliding, hiking in the snow, snowshoeing and just hanging out as a family. It’s long time since the shooting death of my sister. We think of her at holiday times knowing that there will be a place for her in our hearts but not at our table. It has become the new normal for her grown kids and their children to have Thanksgiving without her.

But we are all thankful for our full and happy lives in spite of her being missing from the table.

Many victims and survivors will be having a sad Thanksgiving this year because a loved one was shot and killed. The latest mass shooting ( it’s ridiculous that we even have to mention the latest mass shooting) in Thousand Oaks, CA has left 13 families and many friends without a person who they expected to be at their Thanksgiving table. And to add literal insult to injury, many had to evacuate the area because of the wild fires:

Throughout the day, I drove all over the region talking to the gunman’s neighbors and to survivors, including some who had already survived a previous mass shooting. It was the second mass shooting I had reported on within the span of three weeks. And once again it was a huge story, with around-the-clock television coverage. (…)  Then, just after 3 a.m., I awoke to a voice on a gurgly loudspeaker: “We are under mandatory evacuation orders. Please collect your bags and exit immediately.” (…) It took several minutes for me to realize I had been in the same parking lot earlier that day, looking for loved ones of those who died at the Borderline Bar. Few there wanted to speak with me. As one worker put it, “It really can’t get much worse.”
An hour or so later, it did. As I drove down the 101 Freeway, flames were easily visible from both sides. Thousands of people were evacuated from Thousand Oaks, including those who had survived the shooting the night before. It was even worse in the northern part of the state, where an inferno trapped people trying to escape in their cars, likely killing hundreds.

Should not a mass shooting be enough for one area to experience? The trauma to so many people will cause them pain and suffering for many years. 

And our President has done nothing to help heal the area with his crass and insensitive remarks about the devastation from the fire by trying to blame those affected. The idea that raking the “floor of the forest” would have prevented the fires is both ridiculous and preposterous and has been roundly criticized by Americans and Finns. ( Using the Finnish President as his foil, he claimed that he told him (Trump) that they take care of their forests by raking the floors of the forest- and then called it forestation as if he knew exactly what that meant. There are really no words for this debacle,

The Finns have a sense of humor at least and saw this disturbing behavior for what it was. Take a look at the photos and tweets from some of them.

In addition, along the lines of nonsensical comments from Trump,  I’m sure he would have claimed that if only one of those students had been armed while dancing and enjoying themselves at a local bar this tragedy could have been averted. I’m sure he knew that the first 2 victims were security guards? 

Soon after the Thousand Oaks shooting, a man decided to shoot up a Yoga studio where innocent women were shot and killed:

According to police, Scott Paul Beierle, 40, walked into Hot Yoga Tallahassee on Friday evening and opened fire, killing two people and wounding five others before turning the gun on himself. (…) According to The New York Times, Beierle was sympathetic toward Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and wounded 14 others in 2014 near the University of California, Santa Barbara. Rodger had written a manifesto in which he lamented his virginity, which he blamed on the “cruelness of women.”
Beierle said that as an adolescent he could relate to “this endless wasteland that breeds this longing and this frustration,” The New York Times reported.
He recounted a string of instances in which he was personally rejected.

He shot himself as well. He was able to get a gun easily because that’s the way it is in America. Guns=shootings.

And then after that a domestic dispute ended in a mass shooting at Chicago area hospital killing the intended victim, an Emergency Room physician and others.  

And then after that there were several shootings in Minnesota of a pregnant woman and a Pokemon Go player minding their own business.

And after that 1 was shot dead and 4 injured in downtown Denver.

And then there is a new (Neo-Nazi) video game that allows players to kill GLBTQ people:

As reported by the Angry White Men blog, one of the game’s levels involves shooting people inside a gay club called “LGBTQ+ Agenda HQ.” The action is strongly reminiscent of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, in June 2016 when 49 people were killed.
Another mission involves killing journalists inside the offices of the “Fake News Network,” a reference to the term Trump uses to attack media organizations such as CNN. The New York offices of CNN were recently sent a pipe bomb as part of an alleged plot targeting Trump critics and key Democrat figures, including former president Barack Obama and former secretary of state Hilary Clinton.

Disgusting and frightening. Is this the America we deserve?

You can’t make these scenarios up.

After the recent mass shooting, and particularly the Thousand Oaks shooting, the CEO of the Toms shoe company decided to have a seat at the table of gun safety reform. In an appearance with Jimmy Fallon he announced that he would be contributing millions to organizations working on gun violence prevention. 

Notice the emotion about the Thousand Oaks shooting shown by Blake Mycoskie when he realized that this latest of our nation’s mass shootings was too close for comfort.

Here’s the thing. Shootings are happening everywhere at anytime. No one is safe. More guns is not the answer. That is clear because the number of victims of gun violence is rising, not decreasing. Americans are waking up to the reality of our gun culture. It’s not a culture. It’s tyranny according to the author (Jack Holmes) of this piece:


This is the America we have made for ourselves. You can survive one mass shooting—an unprecedented atrocity which left 59 dead and 527 wounded—only to find yourself the victim in another one because you chose the wrong bar on the wrong night to go dancing with your friends. If you’re an American, you can be shot anywhere: at school, at the mall, at a concert, at the movie theater. To be an American is to know that when you venture outside, you have a better chance than the citizen of any other country in the developed world of being shot by a complete and total stranger with easy access to incredibly powerful weaponry. (…) That’s why the response from the NRA and their Republican allies after every mass shooting is that no measure that would restrict the number of guns sold will work. Nothing that would deem certain citizens unworthy of gun ownership—a history of violence, worrying signs of mental illness—can be made disqualifying by an act of Congress. The only solution, they tell us, is more guns. We should arm teachers. We should have armed guards. We should all be armed, even in bars. Did you notice all these solutions lead to gun manufacturers selling more guns? The desired outcome is a relentlessly militarized society, where every citizen must be armed at all times to ensure their own safety, and you can shoot someone who scares you in the supermarket parking lot. (…) Should the women at that Tallahassee yoga studio have been strapped while they assumed the Downward Dog? Should the college kids at the Thousand Oaks’ Borderline Bar & Grill have all brought their own weapons, pawing at the safety while they danced to Jason Aldean, waiting for the would-be mass murderer to enter so…everyone could shoot through the packed crowd back at him? After the Texas shooting, gun fanatics held up the case of two men who confronted the shooter outside with AR-15s of their own as evidence that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. This was held up as a positive scenario, of America’s Gun Culture Working: that a man with a history of violence shot 26 people to death in the pews of a church, but that two other guys with guns stopped him killing even more. (…) No, like all the great American marketing tactics, it’s rooted in breathless deception. The gun is no antidote to the fear. The gun is the fear. Its proponents hold it up as the last line of defense against a tyrannical government. Never mind that even an AR-15 won’t be much use against a dedicated military force equipped with tanks and Predator drones. It is a fantasy peddled by people who spend their whole lives trumpeting their love of freedom, and hold it up as the only legitimate value in a democracy. A world where everyone could be out to get you, and you can’t leave your house unarmed, is not a free world. It is tyranny.

This is what we have become. A country where regular mass shootings shock us into tears and immobility to do anything. But this is not true. We can do something and we will. More and more people are asking for a seat at the table. Corporations, health care providers, students, educators, gun owners, people of color, GLBTQ Americans, religious organizations, faith leaders, victims. We are all in this together. Shootings are #inour lane

The name of my blog is commongunsense for a reason. Common sense will prevail. When those who agree that stronger gun laws and changing the conversation about guns and gun violence away from what has been the corporate gun lobby led narrative join the table, we can and will save lives. That is the bottom line. That is what this is all about.

Too many families are missing loved ones at their Thanksgiving tables. They should be at the table but suddenly and violently they were killed. Others will unfortunately join the club of victims and survivors. 

Moving forward, we must demand that our lapdog politicians join the table and the conversation. We must make sure that all have a seat at the table if they truly care about our public health epidemic.

Have a happy Thanksgiving and join us at the table. We know that shootings will not take a holiday but I hope for safety for your families.

There are no “accidents” with guns

It is not normal that American kids have such easy access to loaded, unlocked guns. When one can read articles like the two I just ran across in one day, there is something terribly wrong. The first one took place in my home state of Minnesota. Let’s take a look at the details:

A father was arrested in Minnesota for allowing a child to get his hands on his firearm and shoot and injure himself:

According to court documents, the child’s mother brought him to Sanford Bemidji with an injury to his leg that occurred on Monday. She said Bjerkness told her the child fell on a power tool when he was at Bjerkness’ house for the day. The injury was stitched, but the child was brought back to the hospital on Wednesday, Nov. 14, when the injury started to swell. That’s when the bullet was located.

After an officer spoke with the child, the boy explained how he found the revolver “between his father’s bed and the wall,” the complaint said. He told the investigator he accidentally cocked the gun and that it fired while he was trying to uncock it. It fired into his left leg.

The father lied, of course, knowing that what he did was reckless and irresponsible and then told his boys to also lie about this incident. Aren’t parents supposed to be role models for their children? Way too many gun owners are irresponsible with their guns.

He was arrested as well he should have been. I would say there was absolutely no common sense in the brain of this father.

If I had my way, every person who walked out of a federally licensed gun store would have required training and a waiting period before taking possession of that gun. Even then, there is no guarantee that said gun owner will treat a deadly weapon with the respect it deserves. But not doing anything is leading to injuries and deaths.

The next incident I just ran across is about a toddler who found a gun under a pillow in his home and shot and killed himself:

A two-year-old boy is dead after finding a handgun under a pillow at his home and accidentally shooting himself, according to police in Jonesboro, Georgia.

There are no “accidents” with guns. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill and kill they do. What about this do some gun owners not get.

Most gun owners are responsible with their guns just as most drivers are responsible drivers. But we have laws to prevent accidents, injuries and deaths because we know that bad things can happen with just about any product. And that is why we also have insurance for drivers and for our homes, etc. Things happen. Why would we not want to protect as many people as possible from senseless injuries and deaths?

We know the answer when it comes to guns- the NRA itself. 

The tide is changing though when it comes to listening to the deceptions, outright lies, fear and paranoia of the NRA. Elected leaders and candidates have started listening to their constituents who overwhelmingly want stronger gun laws. They understand the risks and they see the news about mass shootings, hate crimes, domestic shootings and they know people or have family members who have used a gun in a suicide. 

Gun deaths are increasing in recent years. Check out this very informative article from Vox.com. When there is research about guns and gun violence, we can actually attribute causes and effects- just what the gun lobby hates the most. Why? Because most research shows that more guns are not making us safer. There are some good charts and graphs contained in this article showing us what we really already know.  From the article:

 

First, America has uniquely weak gun laws. Other developed nations at the very least require one or more background checks and almost always something more rigorous beyond that to get a gun, from specific training courses to rules for locking up firearms to more arduous licensing requirements to specific justifications, besides self-defense, for owning a gun.

In the US, even a background check isn’t a total requirement; the current federal law is riddled with loopholes and snared by poor enforcement, so there are many ways around even a basic background check. There are simply very few barriers, if any, to getting a gun in the US.

Second, the US has a ton of guns. It has far more than not just other developed nations, but any other country period. Estimated for 2017, the number of civilian-owned firearms in the US was 120.5 guns per 100 residents, meaning there were more firearms than people. The world’s second-ranked country was Yemen, a quasi-failed state torn by civil war, where there were 52.8 guns per 100 residents, according to an analysis from the Small Arms Survey.

More guns=more shootings. This is not rocket science.

And have I written yet about the NRA’s attack on health care providers? The best thing about this is that the NRA picked the wrong “target”. They went after well educated and highly trained physicians whose “lane” is actually preventing deaths and treating gunshot injuries. They see the actual result of the bullets shot into someone’s body and they get to tell the families when their loved one has died or is injured seriously enough to leave them forever disabled. It’s not pretty but it is real. 

Let’s look at what happened:

 

Those experiences fueled angry responses from her and other doctors in recent days to a tweet from the National Rifle Association aimed at their profession: “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane.”

When Dr. Haughey saw it, she tapped out a reply on her cellphone. “I see no one from the @nra next to me in the trauma bay as I have cared for victims of gun violence for the past 25 years,” she wrote. “THAT must be MY lane. COME INTO MY LANE. Tell one mother her child is dead with me, then we can talk.”

Since the N.R.A. posted its message on Nov. 7, the heavyweight gun rights group has been flooded with more than 21,000 responses. Some replies expressed support for the group, but the bulk resembled Dr. Haughey’s remarks, and many came from those in the medical community.

Though the subject matter is serious, this makes me smile. It’s about time people fight back against the NRA’s insidious and ridiculous statements. Being married to a physician, this one is “in my lane” and “in the lane” of my family since my daughter also practices medicine. The NRA’s bloated vision of themselves took a big hit as well it should have. 

They “shot themselves in the foot” with this attack.

Gun violence is a public health epidemic that requires treatment. The people who treat the victims are also supporting common sense gun laws. Since over 90% of Americans agree, the fix is coming and it likely will not involve the NRA. 

As I mentioned earlier, gun deaths are on the rise:

Gun-related deaths are on the rise in the U.S., bucking a decade-long decline, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. During 2015-2016, the federal agency says there were 27,394 homicides involving firearms and another 44,955 gun suicides — the highest levels recorded since 2006-2007.

In 2015-2016, the latest year available, homicide was the 16th leading cause of death among U.S. adults and the third leading cause for children between the ages of 10 and 19, according to the report. Guns were used in 74 percent of all recorded homicides, and used in 87 percent of homicides involving youth.

This is simply outrageous. Doing nothing is not an option.

But the times are changing. We are ready to go at last with elected Congress members and state legislatures who are not afraid anymore to take on the NRA and the uncommon wisdom that they should fear this extremist organization.

I am hopeful. I believe we are on a trajectory to pass stronger gun laws and change the conversation about guns and gun violence in a positive way. 

Let’s get ready for change and a new era of saving lives and protecting innocent people from the devastation of gun violence.

We are better than this.

 

Domestic terror attacks

Extremism - Word on Red Puzzles.In the last few weeks it is becoming more and more obvious that the terror in America is coming from far right extremists. It was already obvious to most of us but as the bodies pile up, we have to call BS and talk truth.

There’s been another shooting. (Yawn) The bodies have barely been laid to rest from the last one at Tree of Life Synagogue and now 2 more. A far right Tallahassee ( Florida again) man decided to shoot up a Yoga studio. That makes just one more place where people who shouldn’t have guns can get them and shoot people going about their every day business.

From the article:

The man who shot dead two women at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, on Friday before killing himself was a far-right extremist and self-proclaimed misogynist who railed against women, black people, and immigrants in a series of online videos and songs.

Surprised? Not me. It’s a pattern. White men with what appear to be identity problems and far right views who seem to hate women, Jews, Black people, Muslims, and immigrants want to actually kill them because………

When the President of the United States continues his daily and almost hourly diatribes and hate speech at political rallies designed to foment hate and fear, what can we expect?

There’s a list of shootings like this. Only some are listed below.

Charleston church shooting- because they were black…

Sikh Temple shooting- because they were Hindu….

Shooting of 2 black men in Kentucky because they were black….

Pulse Nightclub shooting just because apparently. The shooter wanted to go to DisneyWorld but decided on a gay Latino bar…..

Las Vegas shooting for whatever reason…..

………………….

I left this post for a while because of the elections and came back to have to write about the latest mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, CA. 12 are dead. The shooter was a white man- a “good guy” with a gun. He was not a prohibited purchaser. Though he had some apparent problems with mental health, he was able to purchase a gun. There are Extreme Risk Protection Orders in California but they are only as good as the education of the public who need to know they can use them.

Really, this is domestic terrorism. I have seen enough interviews with survivors who have cried and just can’t believe they survived. They are terrorized and will likely suffer from PTSD.

It the skin color of these terrorists had been brown or black, we would be having a different conversation. If they were Muslim or from the Middle East we would be talking terrorism.

We must call this as it is- terrorism. It is white guys with guns. These are the invaders. The corporate gun lobby extremists have invaded our country and we are terrorized.:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people died from gun deaths in 2016 (38,658) than from prescription opioids (around 14,400). And 13,686 of the people killed by guns that year were under the age of 19. Even if you believe in the premise of self-protection or “haters gonna hate, thugs gonna thug,” when you extract the criminal element from total gun deaths, 495 of those deaths were unintentional, and another 22,938 were suicides.

The grand total of U.S. deaths from terrorism and extremist activities over the last decade is 71.

In fact, if you added up the numbers of every American casualty of terrorism since 1865, the numbers of gun deaths in 2016 alone would dwarf it.

Let’s call this what it is:

The NRA’s crusade against gun reform has nothing to do with the will of the people. It is an ideological war that kills and injures thousands of innocent people every year. It is based on a fundamentalist interpretation of the Second Amendment not shared by the American people.

This is, unfortunately, America. It doesn’t have to be this way but here we are again.

From the Brady Campaign about the Thousand Oaks shooting:

“Waking up to news of a mass shooting is becoming frighteningly close to a daily occurrence in America. We mourn the deaths of the 12 people murdered and what some are reporting as another 12 injured, and yet we know there is so much more we could do to prevent these tragedies. This should have been a night for college students to enjoy themselves, but instead the Ventura County community is left broken and grieving. From synagogues to yoga studios to schools to dance halls, as long as gaps in our federal gun laws remain, every single one of us is vulnerable. Gun violence is a public health epidemic, and we need comprehensive solutions. We have to pass stronger laws, and we have to enforce the ones we have. We cannot wait for the next House of Representatives to take office – we expect and demand that Congress enact Brady’s three-point plan to take meaningful action to end these mass shootings. We don’t have a moment to wait.”

There will be a new Congress- a Democratic House. Expect gun safety reform laws to be on the agenda. When lapdog Republicans and maybe some scared Democrats vote against what the majority wants, they will be held accountable. We are not willing to let politicians get away with this any longer. There have been 307 mass shootings and it’s the 312th day of the year according to the Gun Violence Archive.

This is insanity itself.

Where is common sense?

(More on the recent elections soon)

Kaddish- for the mourners

vigilOn Monday of this week, I attended a vigil for the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting. 150-200 people attended on a cold fall day and crowded into a small gathering place on a busy street corner in Duluth. There were chants and songs and prayers along with speeches from local community leaders. I spoke as a person whose sister was murdered by bullets. Our Mayor spoke and my minister as well as a local elder from the NAACP. Many from the local Jewish community were there as well and expressed such sadness and mourning for the anti-Semitic attack on their brothers and sisters of faith.

It has been 26 years since my sister was shot. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday. The memories come and go as does the pain and the grief. I don’t cry much any more when speaking. But when the leader of the Synagogue asked us to sing and pray Kaddish for the dead and told us to think of our own losses, I cried. That moment was so emotional and powerful and almost haunting.

The vigil was testament to the solidarity we all feel when attacks come against one group of people because of anti-Semitism or racism or anti-GLBTQ or anti-abortion, or anti-Christianity or just because.

Following on the heels of the pipe bomb threats to high profile Democrats it felt like something was terribly wrong.

And predictably, the President said these words after the mass shooting at the synagogue:

When asked if the shooting indicated a need to revisit gun laws, Trump replied that the shooting “has little to do with it” and that an armed guard might have been able to stop the gunman “immediately.”
Asked if he was advocating for armed guards inside of places of worship, Trump replied, “no, it’s certainly an option.”

These are corporate gun lobby words that mean nothing. Rarely has someone who is armed stopped a mass shooting. In this case, the synagogue often did have armed guards as has become necessary for many synagogues in the current atmosphere in our country. But that is different than arming worshipers. If we have to go to our places of worship with guns,  then we have lost our freedom to worship in peace and tranquility.

I did speak with the person at our church in charge of building issues. He told me that we do have an evacuation plan just in case but we haven’t paid a lot of attention to it. I think it’s time to talk about this but it won’t involve weapons.

Something is terribly wrong. There is no way of avoiding the obvious. Hatred and fear of the “other” is increasing in intensity and promoted by hate groups and some of our very own leaders. The President is at the top of the heap of this fear. At the moment, in a ploy to drive his base to the polls, he has dangerously and cynically decided to issue an unconstitutional order to deny citizenship based on birth rites. The country awaits the fall-out from this ludicrous idea.

On top of that the President said on national TV that he intends to deploy 10,000-15,000 troops to our border to stop the “invasion”, as he has pronounced it, from the south. Thousands of refugees are peacefully walking towards the Mexican border from Honduras where they are afraid to live in their own country.

The Honduran migrants headed northward as part of a massive caravan are fleeing for different reasons — rank poverty, gang threats and a globalized economy that left them behind. They’re so desperate, they told me, they’re willing to gamble on a dangerous trip.

It is families with children and people of all ages and yet, the President claims these poor people are gang members and criminals and maybe a few Middle Easterners thrown in for good measure to frighten us all to death.

I am daily horrified and disgusted by this anger and fear. It should not be this way. I may be naive but I really do believe that we are better than this. Any common sense about this kind of rhetoric has flown away into thin air. We need it back.

Can we get our nation back? Can we have a calm and peaceful national conversation about any of this? As the election grows closer, the rhetoric grows more and more coarse. The ghouls of Halloween are with us every day now.

We should be praying and singing Kaddish for our country. My friend, Rabbi Michael Adam Latz, has written this piece for City Pages:

Our kids know anti-Semitism is real and it concerns them. They see it through the lens of understanding police brutality against unarmed African American men, the attacks on trans people and Muslims and Native People and Latinx and migrants and those with disabilities. They recognize that none of us are free until all of us are free.

They know in their bones that the attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh was absolutely an attack on the Jewish people—and was the same attack on the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin and the AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Our children know that unless and until we address bigotry and racism and hatred for all, none of us will be safe. (…) We—all of us—need one another. We are facing mighty waves of bigotry and violence, intolerance and cynicism. The way we will make it to shore—the way we will survive and thrive and build a community worthy of our children’s dreams—is to hold on to one another and swim to the shore, together.

We need each other and we also need a leader who can bring us together in these moments of violence and upheaval. We don’t have that leader. Who will do this? Who will fix this? When will it stop?

When will they ever learn?

When I spoke on Monday I read the words of former President Barack Obama which got to the core of the matter:

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Amen.