Guns and potato chips

potatochips_005350I frequently run into stories about people getting shot in arguments about simple things or objects just because. I have written about arguments over lawn mowers, garbage cans, property ( that’s a more common cause for a shooting), dogs, etc. But here is a new reason for shooting someone- eating my potato chips. Yes. It’s true. A South Carolina man shot and seriously injured his cousin after said cousin ate the chips he told him not to eat.

But the story started changing after the victim recovered enough for further questioning. The teen told investigators that Langdale shot him after warning him not to eat his salt and vinegar potato chips.

 

“Do not touch my chips, or I’ll shoot you,” Langdale allegedly told the victim according to a sheriff’s incident report, obtained by the Charleston Post and Courier.

People are killed for much more serious arguments actually. My sister is dead over a serious argument during a contentious divorce. No one should die because of that but a gun and several rounds of ammunition were available to my now dead estranged brother-in-law. And the result was 2 dead people. All because of money and a divorce.

I really am not fond of vinegar flavored potato chips. They are sour tasting to me but many love them. I guess a man with a gun loved them a little too much and now he is arrested for attempted murder.

It is about the guns after all. This man was presumably a “good guy with a gun” until he wasn’t. That’s the thing. It only takes seconds to make that very serious decision to use a loaded deadly weapon in the heat of the moment to seriously injure or kill someone.

Each of us has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in America. Too often that right is taken from us for reasons that are beyond our control- like disease, weather ( Hurricane Michael), war, poor health, poverty, no health care, etc.

In our country, we can count on the daily carnage of gun violence as one way to take away life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Every day in our country is an American tragedy and yet we do nothing.

When will we ever learn? It’s not for lack of trying of course because many people like myself have been sounding the alarm and asking for common sense for decades now. And for that we have been treated like an “angry mob” and those bad people who will take away the guns of all of those “good people” and “law abiding” armed citizens.

The “angry mob” that our President and the GOP has now concocted as a reason not to vote for the Democrats is unarmed. The other angry mob walks around with AR15s strapped to their bodies and shows up in public places with loaded guns to intimidate the rest of us. Remember Charlottesville?

This is dangerous rhetoric fomented by our very own President and assisted by the corporate gun lobby with the promotion of fear and paranoia. Remember Wayne LaPierre and the “guys with the guns make the rules”?

No Mr. LaPierre. They don’t.

Let’s hope the rules are not made by armed citizens.  When that rhetoric is part of our national daily media, guys with guns get the idea that they just might be justified in shooting someone over potato chips or elections.

Elections are coming up. It’s October with less than a month to go. Peaceful and fair elections have always been the American way. Without that, we are not a democracy.

October is also Domestic Violence Awareness month.

The statistics are chilling. When a gun is in the home, women are at great risk during domestic arguments. 

This week I attended the annual fund raiser for Safe Haven which is a shelter for abused women in Duluth. Every year, either a woman who has been abused and used the shelter tells her story to the audience or a film is shown with interviews of some of the women who have been abused. Out of the 3 stories told by the women interviewed for this year’s film, 2 of them had experienced the terror of their abuser holding a gun to her head or having a gun aimed at her during the abusers abusive tirades. They lived to tell their stories.

A former District Court Judge was the keynote speaker for this event. He had seen a lot of domestic abuse cases over his years as a local attorney and then a judge. He spoke about seeing generations of men who had come before him as abusers- a grandfather, then his son and then his son. His message was that violence begets violence. Violence is not the way to win arguments or elections. But it can become the ultimate control over others.

I am adding this new report by the Brady Campaign about domestic violence and guns:

Every hour, 1,141 people become victims of domestic violence. About 3 people are shot and killed every single day by an intimate partner with a gun. Millions more are victimized, threatened, intimidated, or terrified into silence by the presence of one. They will survive with emotional (and sometimes physical) scars of the time that a person they loved hurt them. The stories of Sara, Kate, Rachael, and Kimberly are the voices of real people who have been affected by the intersection of domestic violence and guns in this country. Sara and Shelley didn’t survive their attacks. We owe a duty to them and to the survivors who lived. It is our job to call on Congress and state legislators to pass meaningful laws to prevent more men and women from becoming victims of domestic violence every year.

There is much much more to the above linked report including the real stories of women who have survived domestic violence- or not.

Loaded guns can become weapons of terror within seconds. The assumption is, or what I am told anyway by those who own guns for self protection, that a gun will be used to save the lives of one’s family during a robbery or an assault of some kind. But the thing is, owning a gun is risky business. Unless the owner is properly trained ( which many are not), stores guns securely in a safe away from the curious hands of a child or teen- or a burglar, they can be used to harm others. 

There are certain facts here. A gun in the home is more likely to be used to kill or injure oneself or someone in the home than it is to be used for self defense. There are real risks associated with gun ownership just like the risks of driving while drunk or smoking in public places.

Check out the Brady Campaign’s End Family Fire site to learn more about the risks.

And I will end with some observations I made while tabling a few days ago for Protect Minnesota at the St. Louis County Health and Human Services conference. This conference is attended by social workers and health care personnel from all over the state and is always full of people ready to learn. Our table was a popular one. Many stopped by to take information and have conversations.

One woman took lots of our information about safe storage of guns, ASK, and talking points about gun violence prevention. She told me she was a social worker who went into many homes of families who needed services for one reason or another. In one home, a woman lived alone with her children after being abused by her spouse. She told the social worker that she kept a loaded gun in the dresser drawer next to her bed just in case he came calling. This horrified the social worker as she asked the woman if her children were also in that bedroom. She said that her 3 year old slept with her.

So the social worker explained the risks of having this loaded gun around unsecured both to herself and her children. They went to a local Goodwill store and found a gun safe there for less than $10 and brought it home. The gun is now secured in this small safe hidden in the bedroom closet.

That is common sense.

Also at that 2 day conference, we gave away 200 trigger locks before 10:00 a.m. of the first day. People support what we do and what to be safe if they own guns.

Had that South Carolina man had his gun safely stored and not at the ready in his hands, his cousin would not have suffered serious injuries over a dispute about potato chips and the shooter would not have been arrested. Both lives have been forever changed because of the gun.

It doesn’t have to be this way. With some common sense and awareness about the risks of loaded guns we can save lives. With stronger gun laws, we can save lives.

That is the bottom line.

 

In memory- Las Vegas victims

Las Vegas 2Today we remember the 58 innocent Americans whose lives were lost senselessly in the devastating shooting at a concert in Las Vegas. One year ago today, the carnage once again captured the nation’s attention and left us horrified as the news filtered out.

Who could imagine that one man standing high above the crowd in a hotel room with a high powered rifle fitted with a bump stock could do so much damage? It’s an American tragedy and it happens with such frequency that we grow numb.

Before the Las Vegas shooting became the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, the Pulse Nightclub shooting ended with 49 dead. Soon to follow would the Sutherland, Texas church shooting and then the Parkland, Florida school shooting. 

Between them, 151 innocent Americans were left dead.

How many more will it take before we do something about the daily carnage?

Of course, about 38,000 Americans, give or take, have lost their lives to bullets since the Las Vegas shooting. It should frighten and concern us that the number of the dead bodies is increasing in recent years.

Our collective common sense tells us that we can be better than this. The fact that we aren’t even trying is a travesty.

Elections are coming up soon enough. The issue of gun violence has become a major issue of concern in elections after the Parkland students made us all sit up and notice. Their efforts to register voters and get out the vote have been impressive to say the least. Students are registering students in large numbers at high schools and campuses all over America:

But youth voter registration has surged since the Parkland shooting, according to an analysis by the consulting group TargetSmart. Among 39 states where data is available, voter registration by 18-29-year-olds went up an average 2.2 percent, the group found. In Pennsylvania, which has a race for governor and House and Senate races that could determine which party controls each chamber next year, youth registration rose 16.1 percent. In Florida, the hike was eight percent; in Colorado, 2.3 percent, and in Ohio, the rise was six percent.

 

“I absolutely think 2018 is going to be different,” both in terms of young voter participation and the impact of the gun issue, says Isabelle James, political director for Giffords, a gun-safety group founded by the former congresswoman. “Young people are engaged at an unprecedented level, and it started before Parkland,” she says.

Protect Minnesota is now involved with voter registration all over the state. National gun violence prevention groups, like the Brady Campaign, are also registering voters. It is encouraging to see the young people so involved and making gun violence an issue in this year’s election.

Yesterday, the Duluth News Tribune ran an opinion piece that I wrote with the co-president of our local Brady Campaign chapter also working with Protect Minnesota.

Here is what we said:

 

Local View: Elect leaders who will change the culture of gun violence

A year ago tomorrow, on Oct. 1, 2017, a man in a hotel room in Las Vegas, high above a gathering of concertgoers, unleashed 1,100 rounds of bullets at anyone in his high-powered rifle’s sights. Using a bump stock to make his rifle more deadly, he killed 58 people and injured 851 in a matter of minutes. Concert attendees scrambled to safety or hid under bodies to avoid the bullets. The injured still suffer from physical and psychological wounds, and the trauma ripples through friends and families.

This tragedy was added to a pile that already included the Pulse nightclub and numerous shootings in schools, churches, theaters, and places of work. After a while one becomes weary.

We all have heard arguments over why these happen and what should be done about them. There is no doubt it’s a very complex, multilayered public health issue that needs to be addressed from many angles.

However, there is one common denominator: the gun. If any of these shooters had been thwarted from getting a deadly weapon, maybe some of their victims would be alive today.

Keeping guns out of the hands of people intent on doing harm is a daunting task. There are some safeguards in place, but they have loopholes. Any attempts to close those loopholes or pass new laws that might keep guns away from those who cannot handle them responsibly have proven to be almost impossible. Our elected officials have stonewalled changes, in spite of a majority of the public, including gun owners, wanting more safeguards. Through financial support, the powerful gun lobby has maintained a tight grip on our elected leaders.

It is understandable, when faced with the complexity of the gun-violence epidemic, to do nothing. But we ignore this issue at our own peril.

There are small steps we can take that would, in time, make a difference. Some common-sense measures include requiring background checks on all sales, requiring waiting periods for gun purchases, and enacting extreme-risk protection orders so guns can be temporarily taken from people who could be dangerous to themselves or others.

In addition, the bump stock feature, the unregulated add-on device that allowed the Las Vegas shooter to unleash numerous bullets in seconds, needs to be banned. At the very least it should be tightly regulated.

As we remember the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, let us also remember that it doesn’t have to be this way. It is up to us to elect leaders who will be the voices calling for laws to protect their constituents. With our support they can change the culture of gun violence and the conversation about the role of guns in our everyday lives.

A new generation is stepping up to demand action. The Parkland students led the way in bravery and activism to show adults that change can happen if our voices are loud and clear. Our leaders need to listen to the majority of us who are telling them that we want change and we want action.

We ask our candidates to stop their campaigns for 58 minutes on Monday, Oct. 1 to remember the victims. We ask them to consider that this is not a zero-sum game. The Second Amendment can coexist with the rights of all of us to be safe from gun violence.

In the name of the 58 victims who died tragically one year ago, we invite candidates and elected leaders to work with us, their constituents, to reduce gun violence.

Joan Peterson and Mary Streufert are co-presidents of the Northland Chapter of the Brady Campaign/Protect MN. Both the Duluth women have lost family members to gun violence.

For the families of the victims and for the survivors, their lives have been dark since the shooting one year ago. They are suffering from PTSD and other emotional and physical difficulties that just won’t go away:

Fudenberg heard the gunshots through his phone. Popping sounds. He can’t forget them. His protocol has been to show up at any scene if there were two or more dead. The investigator told him there were at least 20. Maybe more.

Cheney saw his friend absorb the news. His face locked in an expression he’d never seen.

“The change in him was instant,” Cheney said. “We had been talking and joking and, suddenly, it was gone.”

Fudenberg was dropped off first by the driver. Cheney didn’t see him again until he was on television, giving updates on the deceased. It would be two more weeks before he would see his friend again in person. Over that dinner, Cheney would see some cracks.

The veteran coroner would cry. It wouldn’t be the last time.

This is the ripple effect of gun violence that we don’t deal with well.
Remember the names of the victims and demand that your candidates and leaders take a stand on gun safety reform.
So on this day, our country has experienced 2 mass shootings.
#Enough
 

 

 

 

Shootings at work

Laptop Screen with Safety Database Concept.Are you safe from a shooting while at work?

In the last 24 hours there have been 3 shootings at a place of work. Disgruntled employee? Get a gun? Domestic dispute? Get a gun and go to the place of work where person with whom you are in a relationship works and shoot her/him and others.

No problem. Easy access to guns makes this all possible.

In Minnesota the worst workplace shooting happened on September 27th, 2012. The anniversary of the Accent Signage shooting is coming right up.

Family and friends will be have to face the memories of that deadly day and relive the experience as they have for the past 6 years. Four were murdered. The gunman shot himself and died at the scene. Four were injured, and one of the injured died later.

I have come to know some of the victims’ family members. We are bound together now because we are in a unique club of people whose family members have been senselessly murdered by bullets.

It’s hard to move on from your own memories when the shootings continue as a reminder.

In the last 24 hours there have been 3 workplace shootings.

In Wisconsin, a man walked into a software company and shot and injured 4. He was shot by police at the scene.

In Aberdeen, Maryland, 3 innocent people were shot dead at a Rite Aid distribution center. 4 were injured and the shooter shot herself and later died. It is unusual for the shooter to be a female but not unusual for some sort of problem to end in a deadly shooting. The woman was a temporary employee. I’m sure we will learn more about her and maybe what led to the shooting.

From the above linked article:

“It’s very real. You don’t know where it’s going to happen, who it’s going to happen to. It’s just very scary and I just pray for all of them. They will need all the strength they can muster to get through this,” said neighbor Brigitte Kent. “You don’t know what’s going on in her mind, and a lot of times you don’t know. You don’t see any type of warning signs to watch for. People just suffer in silence.”

Another woman who lives in the neighborhood spoke with 11 News, but did not want to be identified.

“What makes someone do something like that? What is it? Twenty six years old. You haven’t done anything at 26. Nothing at all at 26,” the neighbor said. “Every time you hear something, it comes closer to somebody else’s home, somebody else’s school, workplace. It comes closer. It’s right here! I had no clue that her family lived this close.”

You don’t know where it’s going to happen. It’s more than scary. It is a serious national public health and safety epidemic left ignored by our leaders at all levels of government. Why? The question has to be asked and answers must come.

But I digress. There was a third shooting at a workplace- this time in a Pennsylvania court building lobby. Four were injured and the gunman shot and killed by law enforcement:

Fayette County District Attorney Richard Bower said the gunman walked up to the building, which houses the office of District Magistrate Daniel Shimshock, and shot a Masontown police officer in a lobby and then shot two men and a woman.

Another police officer from the German Township police department who ran into the building then shot the suspect several times, and the suspect died from his wounds, officials said.

The suspect was charged with strangulation, assault and other charges stemming from a domestic incident several weeks ago and he was due to have a hearing on Wednesday, Bower said.

A presumably armed officer was shot and injured. The suspect clearly should not have had access to a gun but in America, it’s easy to get one no matter who you are or how dangerous you could be with a deadly weapon.

Speaking of courthouse shootings and domestic shootings, the aunt of a friend of mine was shot and killed at the Hennepin County courthouse by a woman who should not have had access to a gun. That anniversary is coming up on September 29th. It’s been 15 years since that shooting happened and still her family members grieve and relive the day they got the news. From the article:

“The evidence shows that defendant Berkovitz came into the Hennepin County Government Center that morning with a loaded gun, and with obsessive resentment against the two victims,” says Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar.

The complaint details a scene where Berkovitz waited on the 17th floor with a century-old loaded gun she’d bought this past summer at a gun show — a .38-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver she’d learned to use by shooting target practice. Kordell and Hendrickson appear to have had safety concerns when they arrived that morning. The two asked a security officer to accompany them to the 17th floor, which he did.

Lori Wachter, Hendrickson’s sister, said her brother was concerned about Berkovitz. “He did mention her and we called her the ‘crazy lady’ because she was harassing him quite a bit,” she said. “He did screen his calls. So when we’d call him, we’d always get the answering machine, and when he found out it was us calling, he would answer and start talking. That’s all we knew about her.”

Seriously- where is common sense? Why do have to keep writing about these shootings? Why has nothing happened? Why do I have to keep asking that?

You may remember another recent workplace shooting. A gunman shot up innocent people at a newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland in June. 

5 were left dead and 3 injured. The gunman was apprehended.

The victims and survivors are crying out for change. The country is asking for stronger gun laws. Congress looks the other way. The corporate gun lobby is lapping at their feet yelling that gun laws won’t change anything.

They are wrong. They are spineless. They are cowards in the face of money and influence.

Until we get serious and extend and pass a stronger Brady background check law to insist that all gun sales get a background check, we will have shootings. Until we pass Extreme Risk Protection Order laws that will keep guns away from people who could be a danger to themselves or others, we will have shootings. Until we admit that every gun owner needs training before they walk away from a gun sale, we will have shootings. Until we make sure all guns are safely secured to keep them out of the hands of children, teens and from those who steal them from homes, we will have shootings. (ASK campaign) Until we admit that there are risks to owning guns and having them around in the home, we will have more shootings (End Family Fire).  Until we allow the necessary research into the causes and effects of gun violence, we will have shootings. Until we allow victims to bring lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers who are irresponsible, we will have shootings. Until we enforce the laws already on the books, we will have shootings.

Until our elected leaders stop being lapdogs for the gun industry, we will have shootings.

We are better than this.

But for the guns…..

american-flag-gun-stockBut for the guns, thousands of Americans would be alive today to live their lives as the rest of us are doing. They would be singing, dancing, working, studying, playing, shopping, eating, loving, reading books, traveling, and just living.

Take this young man from Chicago-Delmonte Johnson for one example:

Mr. Johnson, a 19-year-old who loved to sing and dance, who was an athlete and a budding social activist, will not get to see that vision realized. He was shot and killed Wednesday after playing basketball near his home.

Image
Delmonte Johnson, in red, with his family in an undated photo.

Mr. Johnson’s death was tragic and unnecessary and enraging. It was also the sort of death that’s become far too common in America, and in particular in Mr. Johnson’s hometown, where more than 2,000 people have been shot so far this year, nearly 400 of them fatally. While mass shootings involving high-powered guns and high death tolls have claimed an outsize portion of the nation’s collective grief — and its headlines — street shootings like the one that killed Delmonte Johnson are far more common.

Yes. Far too common.

And then take this man who was minding his own business when a cop walked into the wrong apartment ( she thought it was her own), saw him there and shot and killed him. This one has to be almost a first, or is it?:

Amber Guyger, who is white, was off-duty when she shot Botham Shem Jean, a black man, in his apartment, police said Thursday. Guyger told police she thought she was entering her own apartment not realizing she was on the wrong floor. Upon encountering Jean, she thought her home was being burglarized and opened fire, according to police.
Botham, a 26-year-old native of St. Lucia, was unarmed. He died at a hospital.

Enter the NRA with their lame and usual excuse- if only the victim had also been armed, all would have been hunky dory:

“This could have been very different if Botham Jean had been, say, he was a law-abiding gun owner and he saw somebody coming into his apartment,” Loesch said on NRATV’s Relentless on Monday. “I don’t think there’s any context that the actions would have been justified. If I see somebody coming into my house and I’m not expecting them and they’re walking in like they own the place, I would—I would act to defend myself.”

Social media users balked at the suggestion that a gun could have saved Jean, who was born on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

“If Botham Jean had a gun and killed a police officer he’d be in jail held without bond and Trump would be nonstop tweeting about that immigrant who killed that poor cop,” Comedian Sarah Cooper tweeted in response to Loesch’s remarks.

Sometimes the NRA’s line of reasoning is so ridiculous as to be unbelievable and totally unhinged. As if people are sitting around in their own apartments armed just in case someone happens to come in who doesn’t belong there and, of course, be totally prepared for a cop with a gun. ( Oh right- that is what the NRA and gun rights advocates believe).

I think they can retire this argument. It makes no common sense and it’s stupid.

The mother of Philando Castile challenged the flawed reasoning of Dana Loesch- mouthpiece for the NRA:

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch is “asinine” to suggest Botham Jean might still be alive today if only he was “a law-abiding gun owner,” Valerie Castile told the Daily News. (…)

Castile is the mother of Philando Castile, the Minnesota public school employee who had a valid concealed carry permit when he was shot to death by a police officer during a routine traffic stop in Minnesota two years ago.

“My son was a licensed gun owner and it didn’t help him. He’s dead because he gave that information to an officer,” Castile said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, called out the NRA spokeswoman for being "one-sided."
Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, called out the NRA spokeswoman for being “one-sided.” (CRAIG LASSIG / Getty Images)

 

Castile called Loesch “reckless” and “one-sided” for using Jean’s tragic death to further the NRA’s agenda.

“(Jean) was in his own home. Inside a nice building with security. He had a right to feel safe in his own home. He wasn’t expecting someone to come in uninvited. He shouldn’t have to always keep a gun on his hip. That’s asinine,” Castile said.

“That officer was dead wrong. Just hold her accountable. Don’t try to spin the story. My son was a good guy, and (the NRA) tried to spin it. The truth is, he’s dead for being honest and telling the truth,” she said.

Reckless is a great word for the NRA’s claims. Loesch was actually suggesting that Jean should have shot a police officer. What would have happened then? A black man with a gun shooting an officer? Stand your ground laws don’t work out so well for people of color.

And then take these Twin Cities area victims all shot in one short period time:

“It’s unacceptable,” Frey said. “Gun violence is one of the most insidious issues we have confronting our country and our response as a city is gong to be swift and strong.”

His comments came as police scrambled to ward off any retaliatory violence after a weekend in which 10 people were shot, four of them fatally. Most of the shootings occurred over a 48-hour stretch on Friday and Saturday.

It’s the guns. It’s actually the bullets from the guns that are killing all of these people-mostly innocent of wrongdoing but now dead. California wants to do something about the bullets. That liberal bastion of a state has managed to pass some of the nation’s strongest gun laws and also has one of the lowest gun death rates in the country. Gun rights advocates love to criticize the laws in California because they don’t seem to stop all shootings. But they have it all wrong. What is going on in California is saving lives. California has lower gun death rates than most other states.

Let’s review. Firearm deaths account for the majority of overall homicides in our country. Guns make a difference.

Suicide by gun accounts for the majority of overall gun deaths in America.

America has more mass shootings than any other developed country not at war.

America has more guns per capita than most other countries and the most gun deaths per capita.

And I want to end by remembering the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting that occurred on this date 5 years ago..

Twelve died and 3 injured because of a gunman who should not have had a gun:

The government contractor who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yardlast week was driven by delusions that he was being controlled by low-frequency radio waves and scratched the words “End the torment!” on the barrel of the shotgun he used, the FBI said Wednesday, offering new, chilling details of the attack.

Valerie Parlave, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said that Aaron Alexis, 34, began the shooting knowing he would be killed. A search of Alexis’s electronic devices, she said, indicated that he was “prepared to die during the attack and that he accepted death as the inevitable consequence of his actions.”

In America, people like this have easy access to guns.

Let us all take a moment and remember the victims.

It’s the guns. We can’t avoid the truth. But then, for some in today’s American political craziness truth is not truth any more.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Stand up for the truth and for action. Tell your candidates you want them to do something about gun violence. And by that I mean do something. Don’t pander to the nation’s large corporate gun lobby. It’s a paper tiger. The majority of Americans do actually understand that we have a serious problem with guns and loose gun laws.

#Enough

Remembering 9/11

IMG_7286Today is the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on America. We can never forget what happened on that day that changed so much in our country. Nearly 3000 people lost their lives that day. Those attacks had nothing to do with guns of course.

Since that day, we do flying differently. We take off our shoes, jackets and some jewelry. We put our purses and carry-ons through metal detectors. We are wanded. We put our 3 ounce liquids in a small plastic baggies. We don’t carry box cutters or knives or guns……

But gunsare found, however, regularly by the TSA in the carry-on bags of passengers:

On May 3rd, the agency said, they found 26 firearms in carry-on bags, the most in a single day. The firearms were discovered at 15 different airports including one at Dallas Love Field, two at Dallas-Fort Worth International, one at Austin-Bergstrom and four at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport.

This is not normal. We have to keep saying this. The people who “forget” that they have guns in their carry-on bags are not terrorists. They are Americans who presumably have legal permits to carry their guns. But what are they thinking?

Guns are not allowed on flights for obvious reasons but we do now have air marshals who are armed on many flights and passengers have no idea who they are. A recent incident with an air marshal occurred at the Minneapolis St.Paul airport from which I fly often:

However, communication between the cockpit and the MSP control tower that was captured by the authoritative website Liveatc.net revealed that it was confirmed onboard fairly quickly that both men were federal air marshals, and one of them “actually showed our flight attendant his gun,” one of the pilots reported soon after landing.

“That is completely against SOP [standard operating procedure] for them to show their firearm,” the pilot added. “So that’s the reason we declared an emergency.”

The marshal was initially mistaken for a passenger and with the hyper awareness about terror attacks on planes and gun violence in general, who can blame the cabin attendant?

Here is just one story about a loaded gun found at the Nashville airport where apparently guns are found with regular frequency at that airport.

The TSA offers advice to passengers who need to transport a gun safely while flying. 

It’s pretty simple to follow this advice and if you are thinking before flying, you just know there are certain things you can’t take on board with you any more after 9/11 and guns are among them. There is a certain amount of common sense and the realization that carrying a gun in public (or having one at home) is a grave responsibility that should come with gun ownership. Unfortunately for the too many victims, that is not the case.

We have had a few terror attacks at American airports since 9/11. The most notable is the shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale airport on Oct. 6 of last year.:

Santiago was born in New Jersey in 1990 and moved to Puerto Rico two years later.[22] He lived most of his life in Peñuelas, Puerto Rico, and attended high school there.[23] He joined the Puerto Rico National Guard on December 14, 2007, and served in the Iraq War from April 23, 2010, to February 19, 2011, as a combat engineer. He later served in the Alaska Army National Guard from November 21, 2014, until receiving a general discharge in August 2016 for “unsatisfactory performance.”[22] He was a private first class and received ten awards during his time in the military.[24]According to his family members, he had become mentally ill after his tour in Iraq and was severely affected by seeing a bomb explode near two of his friends while in service. They also stated he had recently received psychological treatment,[25][26] which was confirmed by federal officials.[27]

This shooter ( homegrown terrorist) was American born and served in the U.S. Military where he was affected by his experience in Iraq. Another issue for another post is the fact that many of our military veterans suffer from PTSD or other mentally incapacitating conditions that make them risks for suicide and homicide. This is yet another American tragedy.

It should also be mentioned that people who are placed on the terror watch list after 9/11 can legally obtain guns because we have not passed a law to make sure their names are placed on the list of prohibited persons:

The consolidated federal terrorist watchlist had 800,000 people (mostly non-Americans) on it as of September 2014, including 64,000 on a subset referred to as the “no-fly” list, which bars air travel to, from or within the United States.

While inclusion on the list does not disqualify people from purchasing weapons, prospective gun buyers are screened against the terrorist watchlist, and matches are forwarded to F.B.I. agents, who can use the information to help with investigations. Last year, 244 background checks involved people on the list.

According to a study by the Government Accountability Office using data collected by the F.B.I., the vast majority of those on the watchlist who attempted to buy a gun from 2004 to 2015 were allowed to proceed, because they were not stopped by a disqualifying factor like a history of criminal or mental health problems.

This is called the “terror gap” in our gun laws.

And, as I always mention, it is not necessary to get a Brady background check when purchasing a gun because our loose gun laws allow private sellers to sell to anyone, no background check required. This was mentioned in the above linked article.

Every year on this tragic anniversary we say the names of the victims of the attacks and remember them. Their deaths are not ever forgotten by their families and friends. It’s always an emotional day as it was this year. I visited the site of the 9/11 memorial last fall and I was stunned at how beautifully and respectfully it is done to honor those victims.

Every day in America 90 people lose their lives to bullets. Since In one month in America more Americans die from gun violence than died in total in the 9/11 attack. That is not meant to take away from the memories of those victims but to put things in perspective. Mass shooting anniversaries happen regularly in America on many days of the year.

Today we remember. Today we reflect on our country and patriotism and terrorism and victims and on the firefighters and police officers who lost their lives trying to save the victims. We remember the awful scenes we saw on our T.V. screens. We remember the aftermath and the collapse of two tall skyscrapers changing the horizon in New York City. We remember the horror and the finding of live people in the wreckage. We remember the pile of rubble left behind of what was left of human bodies, artifacts, fire trucks, personal effects. The site is now a sacred burial site and the victims’ names of there to read. They are just people going about their daily lives.

Nothing is the same.

Let us remember all victims of violent and tragic deaths.

School days, gun days…..

Back to School

It’s back to school in most of the country. I really do love the photos on Facebook of kids of various ages in various outfits and displaying various facial expressions. Some are obviously not so happy with their parents’ photos. But they are obligatory and I still have the photos of my kids on their first days of school. Now they are taking photos of their own kids.

There will be lots of things on the minds of our kids. My grandson just wrote two papers for Advanced English and Advanced Biology classes in his high school.He loved both of the books he read and his papers reflected his own opinions after reading the books. One was A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. 

The reading of this book led our family to having a serious and interesting discussion about the origins of the universe as we sat on the deck of our cabin looking at the stars and even some shooting stars.

I loved this discussion and watched his mind as it was literally expanding before us.

What I don’t love is the thought that his school could be the subject of a school shooting. And it could based on all evidence and our history with school shootings. This is also on the mind of our students. Or maybe, as this article suggests, it is more on the mind of parents and kids pick up on the anxiety displayed by their parents:

Schools have active shooter drills to get everyone used to their safety plan. “The more you practice something, the more you rehearse it, you lay the mental tracks so that you decrease the tendency to freeze in the case of a real emergency and you can go quickly into action,” explains Dr. Howard. “In the military you do realistic drills because you really will be in combat, but this is a low-probability event. You just need to lay the tracks so you decrease those few seconds of reaction time.”

Who can blame parents all things considered.

The thing is, schools are not the military and should not have to be “hardened” against school shootings. The article talks little about gun violence prevention and actually working to keep school shooters from getting guns in the first place. Kids should be able to study English and Biology without fear of being shot and not getting home to be with their families. Families should not have to be anxious that sending their child off to school in the morning could be the last time they see or hug their child.

A recent article article from the Star Tribune focused on school safety as well. 

It’s all about what schools around Minnesota are doing to keep students safe from shootings. A lot of money has been spent to construct secure entrances, metal screening devices, security lights and cameras and other things that will only alert those in the building to a shooting already happening. It all makes a lot of common sense.

Again, no mention of guns or how to keep school shooters from accessing guns. We just can’t talk about school shootings without talking about the role of guns in shootings. It’s that simple. What about prevention?

It’s the guns.

As proof, a San Francisco area school year got off to a bang when a student brought a gun to school and was “playing with it” in the back of the room when it discharged:

A 14-year-old girl student told NBC Bay Area that the gun went off in her class in the auditorium. She explained that she witnessed one student saying to another, in a joking way, “do you want me to shoot you?”

The other student said “yeah OK,” not taking the other student seriously, according to the witness. Then, the student with the gun started fumbling with his backpack and the firearm went off, the witness said.

Authorities said one person sustained a non-life threatening injury during the incident. One student sustained non-life threatening injuries unrelated to the firearm discharge and was evaluated and released to parents at the scene, police said. No other students were injured in this incident.

First of all, how did that gun get into his backpack? Second, why did he take it out of the backpack and play with it? Third, it was loaded. Adults are responsible for that. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

These are serious concerns. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill others. They should be safely stored, unloaded, away from the hands of small children and teens. This will also protect them from being stolen. It is not a small thing or to be shrugged off when something like this happens in our schools. These incidents are not isolated. They happen often enough for us to be very concerned. Luckily no one was killed- this time.

So it was gratifying to see that a major American corporation was persuaded by the student survivors of the Parkland shooting to change the policies regarding guns in their stores. And they are going to put their money where there mouths are:

That’s why Levi Strauss & Co. is stepping up our support for gun violence prevention. You may wonder why a company that doesn’t manufacture or sell guns is wading into this issue, but for us, it’s simple. Americans shouldn’t have to live in fear of gun violence. It’s an issue that affects all of us—all generations and all walks of life.

The stakes could not be higher. On an average day, 96 Americans are killed by guns, and hundreds more are wounded. Most are suicides or unintentional shootings. Our nation’s gun homicide rate is more than 25 times the average rate of other high-income countries. Some shootings make the headlines; some you never hear of; but each one is a tragedy.

So today, on top of our previous actions, Levi Strauss & Co. is lending its support for gun violence prevention in three new areas.

First, we have established the Safer Tomorrow Fund, which will direct more than $1 million in philanthropic grants from Levi Strauss & Co. over the next four years to fuel the work of nonprofits and youth activists who are working to end gun violence in America.

This is only the beginning of what is going to happen after the tragic school shooting in Parkland, Texas and the aftermath of the shooting as students did not remain quiet but raised their voices loudly and clearly.

So as the school year begins, we can only hope that we won’t see more tragedies. Unfortunately we will. It’s just a matter of time before another teen who may be troubled or bullied or fascinated with guns or has some mental difficulties accesses a gun he cannot own and takes it to school to shoot at random kids or friends or those he perceives have slighted him or bullied him.

Much can be done to solve the problem of school gun violence. But if we refuse to talk about the guns and where they come from, we will be failing our kids and our country.

Please join the students in their fierce efforts to make changes to the conversation and changes to our gun laws to prevent shootings. It’s not rocket science. It’s about saving lives and stopping the carnage.

We can do this. Support a local, state or national group working to end gun violence and to pass gun safety reform measures. That, too, is simple. If you are anxious about school shootings, stand up and speak out. Lives depend on it.

3 + 9 equals mass shooting

Protect MinnesotaYesterday another mass shooting happened in America. It is probably not a surprise that it happened again in Florida. The gun laws in Florida are particularly loose ones and Florida has become the laboratory of the NRA’s agenda, thanks to NRA Board member Marion Hammer.

But things are changing even in Florida after the Parkland students and the country stood up and said “no more”in marches and student walkouts all over America that came from the March For Our Lives movement.

A shooter decided to direct his anger or frustration or whatever the heck he was thinking at innocent other people who were just hanging out at a gaming tournament in Jacksonville, Florida. And so now we have to think twice about going to gaming events as well as schools, shopping malls, churches, parks, stores, being in homes, workplaces, colleges, preschools, and other places where American citizens go everyday.

It is unquestionable that too many guns and too easy access to guns by just about everyone is leading to an unsafe society. It is also an impolite and violent society. The culture of the corporate gun lobby is what the problem actually is. When so many people can buy so many guns of most any type so easily, we can expect to see just about every corner of our country experiencing gun deaths and injuries.

In Jacksonville, Florida yesterday, 2 were shot dead by the shooter who shot himself and 11 were injured, 9 by gunfire.

The 2 innocent people who died of their gunshot injuries were Taylor Robinson and Eli Clayton. Look at their faces and say their names.

In a live recording from the scene, gunshots can be heard and then screaming and the sound of people running. That is what the first reaction is- run for your life. If anyone had a gun there, they didn’t use it to stop the carnage. It would be rare if they did.

And the sound of bullets firing from a gun, screaming and running have become part of the American landscape.

The math is not good for shootings in Florida- or anywhere else for that matter.  The Parkland shooting has changed the landscape about gun safety reform in our country. It’s only been 6 months since that heinous shooting. And it’s only been about a week since a shooting at a high school football game in Jacksonville left 1 shot dead and 2 injured in an apparent gang member shooting:

“It is shocking. I was actually here, at the game,” Superintendent Diana Greene told the Times Union. “It was a great game and for it to end in violence like this is just unfortunate, and quite frankly, we should all be saying unacceptable.”

The superintendent said everyone coming into the game had to undergo a magnetic detector wand search and that security inside the game area was tight.

“This is a community issue,” Greene said. “I need parents, students to stand up. If you see something, say something.”

Friday’s shooting followed by one week a shooting at a high school football game in Palm Beach County, Fla., where two adults were wounded.

Really? A shooting the week before at another Florida football game before the Jacksonville shooting?

I would say it’s an understatement that this is a community issue important enough for parents and students to stand up and say something.

Where is common sense?

And let’s ask the obvious question. Where are all of the guns coming from?  Stolen? Trafficking? Straw purchasing? Private sale with not background check? Whatever the source, we can do something about all of it if we put our minds together and decide to stand up for common sense and right.

As kids go back to school, they will be facing another year where no parent knows whether their child will make it home after school. Children are fearful of being shot. In my last post, I discussed products sold to protect our children from harm. And I also discussed the ludicrous notion proposed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to spend federal funds to arm teachers.

How many kids are affected by gun violence every day? 8. Eight is 8 too many. The numbers are too high and shouldn’t add up to death or injury by bullets. How many kids have lost their lives so far this year to bullets? According to the Gun Violence Archive= 2236. 

Until we decide that the best way forward is prevention rather than taking measures after the fact or measures that deal with a shooting in progress, we will not protect our children and our citizens from gun violence.

The Brady Campaign’s new campaign to talk about the risks of family fire- End Family Fire- is a way to look at gun violence from the prevention and public health aspect as it should be. Passing stronger laws can prevent shootings. All gun violence prevention organizations at the state and federal level are promoting prevention measures and proactive measures to save lives.

Speaking of the Brady Campaign, here is a statement about the Jacksonville shooting:

“Americans deserve to be safe, whether at school, a football game, a club, an airport, an art exhibition, a church, a workplace, a concert, or — as of today — a gaming tournament. We await the details of this shooter’s plans and how he got his gun, but we already know that far more gun deaths happen every day in America than among any other industrialized nation. We can stop the shootings if we enforce our existing gun laws, including the Brady background check system, and eliminate the gaps in our our nation’s laws that make it far too easy for dangerous people to get firearms to use as killing machines.”

Protect Minnesota is urging young people and students to get involved in a new text program. Check out the meme above for more information. The Brady Campaign also has a text for action program (877-877) as do most other groups.  Brady’s #TeamEnough is a good way to get involved for young people.

Many good things are going on and I’m proud to be part of it all.

But where are Congress and our legislators?

We are better than this.

#Enough