Anniversaries of gun safety reform

On Thursday this week it will have been one year since the U.S. House of Representatives voted on and passed the universal background check bill.

It is also the anniversary of the enactment of the Brady background check bill on Feb. 28, 1994.

Federally and in many states, criminal background checks on the sale of guns are not required for all gun sales. There is a private sale loophole that is big enough for 22% of sales to go through. That means that anyone can purchase a gun through a private sale at a gun show, on-line or at a flea market (the most frequently used venues):

But as effective as the original Brady Bill has proven, its current structure has resulted in several loopholes in the background check system of today. Today, one in five gun sales are conducted without a background check — through gun shows, private sales, and over the internet in online sales. More than 90 percent of Americans agree that anyone who buys a gun — no matter where or how — should go through a Brady Background Check. But loopholes in our nation’s gun laws mean that too often guns fall into the wrong hands.

Gun rights advocates often argue that we already do background checks on all gun sales. They are wrong. Are they willfully wrong or do they just not know the facts? Or are they lying? Hard to know.

They also argue that criminals will get guns anyway no matter if we pass the law. Let’s look at that deceptive argument:

“Background checks work,” Rep. Mike Thompson of California, the lead Democratic author on the background checks bill, said on the House floor. “Every day, they stop 170 felons and 50 domestic abusers from getting a gun from a licensed dealer. But, in some states, those same people can go into a gun show or go online and buy a gun without a background check. This bill will help stop them from doing so.

“Some will argue that criminals won’t follow the law,” he said. “If that is the case, then why do we have laws against murder? People still commit murder. Why do we have laws against stealing? People still steal. This is flawed logic. Don’t fall for it.”

The truth is that the Brady background check bill was written with an exception for private sales of guns. In 1993 it seemed that the NRA won that point with the idea in mind that private sales would not result in selling to prohibited purchasers or if they did, maybe it didn’t matter? Who knows?

It matters. Now, private sellers often have collections as large as the federally licensed dealer next to them at a gun show. Or they advertise their guns, ammunition and other accessories like silencers on Armslist.com and make a sale without checking ID or doing a background check. For some reason there are gun rights advocates who don’t appear to know about Armslist.com. There are also elected representatives who don’t understand it. I have educated a few of them about on-line sales. When writing new laws, it’s key to know what is in them before either voting for or advocating against.

It is disingenuous to argue that we already do background checks on all gun sales. In case the opponents believe or lie about the reason people like me support bills to require a background check on all gun sales here is the real reason. Background checks can save lives.

Why not require a background check on all gun sales? What is the reason to be against it? Rights…..confiscation…..registration. All wrong. There is no reason that makes any common sense to be against requiring a simple background check that takes just minutes on a gun sale.

Now let’s look at the Charleston loophole bill. This bill, passed on 2/28/19, closes the loophole in current law that allows a default proceed of a gun sale. In plain language, it allows someone whose background is questionable but whose information doesn’t come into the NICS within 3 days to walk away with the gun. Thus did the shooter of 9 people at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, get his gun. He was a white supremacist and a prohibited purchaser. And he devastated the lives of 9 families in just a few seconds.

The bill would make the time longer before letting someone walk away with a gun if there are “red flags” in that person’s background:

Critics of the current system say the Charleston shooter would have been barred from obtaining the gun had investigators had more time to dig into his record and discovered his drug arrest.

We have been waiting a year now for Senator McConnell to take these bills out from under the dust of his desk and bring them to the floor of the Senate for a vote. Why won’t he? Ask him.

Does President Trump want the bills to pass? No. Does the NRA want the bills to pass? No. Do the far right extremists want the bills to pass? No. Does the American public want the bills to pass?

YES.

Coincidentally, Protect Minnesota will be holding a lobby day on Thursday to rally the House to pass the criminal background check bill and the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill- both of which will save lives. The Senate, of course, has refused to take up the bills so far. But we are pressing on and intend to keep pushing for common sense to happen sooner rather than later.

So let’s get on with it. According to the Gun Violence Archive, so far this year there have been over 6000 gun deaths and more injuries. That is more than last year at this time. And so, what will we do? Turn our backs on victims and survivors and say we don’t care? Or say we care and then do nothing? Or continue to take money and influence from the corporate gun lobby to stop the bills?

What will it be? Lives or rights? We all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The time is now. The time is 20 or 30 years ago.

This is an American tragedy and a public health epidemic crying out for a solution.

Traveling with your gun

It seems that the American public is no longer safe no matter where they are. A California shooting on a Greyhound bus may be a first for the scene of a mass shooting– One dead and 5 injured. Until firearms carry laws passed in the early 2000s in many states, there weren’t so many shootings in public places. Shootings took place at home mostly in the form of domestic shootings or suicides. They still do but mass shootings have become a regular happening. The Columbine school shooting was one of the first mass (school) shootings that caught the attention of the public in a big way because so many victims were left dead and they were kids.

Speaking of guns and buses, does anyone remember last winter’s incident involving a school bus driver and a “law abiding” carry holder in Minnesota?:

A Minnesota man who shot and wounded a school bus driver on a Minneapolis freeway during a snowstorm has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison.

Thirty-two-year-old Kenneth Lilly, of St. Paul, pleaded guilty in August to first-degree assault for the February attack that left Thomas Benson deaf in one ear and unable to continue working as a bus driver due to nerve damage in his hand.

Another article about the shooting says this about the shooter:

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office says Lilly was cleared in a previous shooting, in which he shot and killed a 16-year-old armed robbery suspect in 2015. At that time, the county attorney found that no criminal charges were “appropriate.”

It appears that the man, a supposed security guard, has a trigger finger and should not have had that gun on that day. His anger combined with a gun has now left him serving time.

Unfortunately and tragically times are changing. Guns are so easily and readily available to just about anyone. No matter if they can pass a background check- they can get a gun. No matter if they are a domestic abuser- they can get a gun. No matter if they are dangerously mentally ill or a felon, they can get a gun. No matter if they live in a state with strong gun laws, they can get a gun. California is one of those states where gun deaths are actually low compared to some states and were strong gun laws have been passed. But the weak laws in neighboring states allow guns to come into California anyway:

California has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. But the tragedy that played out on Sunday, in which three people were killed and 12 wounded, illustrated a familiar problem for states that have ratcheted up their own gun laws in recent years, only to see them neutralized by neighboring states with more lax rules.

The above article was referring to the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival last July where 3 were shot dead and 17 wounded. Have gun will travel to other states. Have gun will travel on buses and to malls and Congress on your Corner events like the one that killed 6 and left U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and others permanently injured and disabled.

The gun lobby, of course, will tell you that the world is dangerous so you must carry a gun to protect yourself or have one at the ready at home. The opposite is true of course. Many times “law abiding” gun owners and gun carriers are the shooters. “Unintentional shootings” happen far too often. Mistaken identity has left more than a few dead or injured. It happens primarily in America where gun rights advocates insist that the second amendment protects them and allows them to have guns no matter what.

A Super Bowl ad funded by the Michael Bloomberg campaign got it right. Watch the ad for yourself:

Galandrian Kemp who speaks about George, her murdered son, ends with these words: “You have a right to live. No one has a right to take your life and dreams”

Exactly. That is what this is all about. There is no need to travel with a gun. One can’t even compare defensive gun uses to the number of daily gun deaths. Bodies are piling up as I write. They are killed on buses, in cars, in homes, in malls, on the streets, in schools and offices, in hospitals, in every corner of America. But rarely are guns used in self defense. According to the Gun Violence Archive, as of today 3583 Americans have died by firearm. There have been 132 defensive gun uses. Common sense tells us that guns are more often used to kill someone than in self defense.

Yes, some choose to carry firearms. And sometimes they are used in legitimate self defense. Mostly the firearms in homes and carried are never fired to kill or injure another human being and most gun owners are safe with their guns.

We can stipulate to all of that. But given that the number of gun deaths and injuries are the highest in our country of all industrialized democratized countries in the world, it is worth discussing why the minority of gun owners ( more extreme in their positions) resist attempts to prevent and cure our national public health epidemic. Given that we all have the right to our lives and dreams it seems like a no brainer.

There is a responsibility to safely store and handle lethal weapons. With rights come responsibilities. Lives can be saved if gun owners think twice or three times before using a gun in anger, disputes, depression or against themselves. Lives are changed in just an instant when a gun is the weapon.

There is also a responsibility to reign in your rhetoric when you are an elected leader. For example, it’s a pretty dangerous idea for a state lawmaker to say it’s legal to shoot communists. We don’t have to use much imagination to know who he is talking about. (And who, really are communists? We know the right and Trump are going to use that word to describe the Democratic candidate no matter who he or she is. Let’s take a look:

Rep. Rodney Garcia, a state lawmaker in Montana, told a roomful of Republicans he believes the U.S. Constitution says socialists can be jailed or shot simply for being socialists. Garcia initially made the statement at an election event, then he reiterated it to a Billings Gazette reporter. And then, (…) Garcia was not able to say where he finds that in the Constitution, the Billings Gazette reported.

Anthony Johnstone, a law professor at the University of Montana, told The Washington Post that “nothing in the Constitution of the United States authorizes the government to punish socialists or anyone else on the basis of their political beliefs.” In fact, the First Amendment prohibits punishing political speech, and the Constitution of Montana “expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of political beliefs,” Johnstone said. All state lawmakers swear an oath to uphold those doctrines.

Never mind….. rights.

He should get an ethics violation at the least. And does he have a carry permit? I question how he will use it if confronted with a candidate running for office who is in the left position of many Democrats. You don’t get so shoot people with whom you disagree politically. You just don’t.

Unless of course your are Donald Trump who believes he can shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose his supporters.

You can’t make this stuff up.

After experiencing the anger of Minnesotans 2 weeks ago at a hearing that I mentioned in my last post, I get the feeling that we can’t overcome this anger to get to a solution that will move us forward towards saving lives. We are not the enemy as one man told one of the bus riders who traveled to Hibbing, Minnesota to attend a hearing on gun bills. We disagree about how to get to the solution. If those folks are truly law abiding gun owners, they have nothing to fear. But the NRA and right wing extreme talking points have fueled anger, fear, paranoia, misinformation and hyperbole.

In the end, we ought to be safe traveling on buses and in the mall, and in our homes, and our kids should be safe from shootings in their schools. Arming more people is just not the solution. And allowing easy access to guns for those who clearly should not have them is just plain stupid and dangerous.

Our better angels should prevail. In my city, there will be a Better Angels training to get people on opposite sides of controversial issues to engage and try to get to some place where we can agree. Our country has become so polarized over the last few decades that I wonder if that is even possible. The current occupant of the White House tweets many times a day to foment the polarization. Never before has a President been so demeaning and called so many people names. Never before has a President engaged in hourly lies to misinform the public and cause damage to the national psyche. And never before has a President encouraged violence in tweets or excused it for that matter.

Never before has social media and more mobility been a factor in some of the violence and polarization. People travel with their guns to shoot people, to attend rallies, to attend hearings and they come from out of state and from far away.

Take this article from the Star Tribune about the increasing gang violence in the Twin Cities:

She offered another, simpler explanation: As society becomes more mobile, many young gang members, lacking stable housing, are staying with relatives or girlfriends around the metro area. (…)

Bill Finney, another Ramsey County undersheriff and former St. Paul police chief, suspects that teens feuding online set up meeting spots at transit stations along the light-rail line to settle their differences in person. Last year, he witnessed such an encounter as two boys wielding knives greeted another pair getting off the train. The attack resulted in a stabbing, Finney said.

Before the internet, graffiti was the medium of choice to diss a rival, experts say. The emboldened could, under the cover of darkness, spray paint an anonymous message on an adversary’s property.

But an explosion of social media has accelerated those disputes. Today, teens flock to Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube to disrespect one another through flashy rap videos without ever leaving their homes. The words are not veiled, and neither is the poster. Retribution is swift.

At the end of the above article mention is made about getting the guns off the streets. That is really the main problem here. Easy access to guns allows the violence to increase and results in tragic loss of life. The gun rights extremists often write off gang violence as an excuse to do nothing about the violence. Gang members have families who love them and when they die, their families mourn for them. We can’t just write off a whole group of citizens. Sometimes the violence of gangs harms and kills innocent people like the mother of my friend Bunny Beeks who as sitting in her car when a bullet flying in the street hit her and killed her.

Never before has there been such an outright display of weaponry as we have seen in Virginia and Kentucky in the past few weeks. A meme is going around with a photo of the armed Kentuckians going around the metal detectors at the state Capitol while others, unarmed, had to go through the detectors. And by armed, I mean AR-15s strapped around their shoulders and chests. Check out the photos in the linked articles and tell me if you would feel safer surrounded by these folks. You can’t make this stuff up.

It is not normal nor should it become normal. It will take elected leaders to step up and call out this dangerous and bullying behavior if the rest of us are to feel safe. I have been told by some in the gun rights community that I should not fear being surrounded by people carrying guns. They are, after all, law abiding citizens. My response? If I feel unsafe surrounded by armed citizens then I feel unsafe. They don’t seem to understand that the majority of us do not care to see people carrying guns around in public. And particularly people dressed in masks and military gear.

We are not at war- or not yet anyway. But I fear that with the increased polarization and the increase in armed rallies and citizens ready to engage in civil war, we just may see one.

That would be tragic to say the least.

We are better than this.

UPDATE:

I need to add something to my original post that supports my view that we don’t need armed people everywhere to respond to crises. According to this article. the Greyhound bus driver in the incident where a shooter killed 1 and injured 5 was unarmed. He talked the shooter down without a gun pointed at him:

After the gunman opened fire, the bus driver pulled over to the shoulder and “was able to persuade the shooter” to get off the bus, Sgt. Brian Pennings with the California Highway Patrol said during a news conference Monday morning.

The suspect “voluntarily” got off the bus, leaving a black handgun behind, Pennings said. Officers located him on the shoulder and took him into custody without incident.

The bus driver, who was not injured, “handled the situation professionally and appropriately to minimize any more possible victims,” Pennings said.

Even if the driver had been armed, how was he to respond with a gun while driving the bus and keeping the other passengers safe? This is the myth of the gun lobby suggesting that if only someone had a gun…….

Blue Virginia offers hope to the nation

Yes, Virginia, there is hope. After the 2019 elections when gun violence prevention was the top issue and the reason the state turned “blue” the Virginia legislature is taking up long neglected gun safety reform bills.

The first bill passed was to ban guns at the Capitol complex. The question is why anyone feels the need to carry a loaded gun while at a hearing for a gun bill- or for any bill for that matter. If the reason is intimidation, they have failed. The gun safety reform groups are unarmed and unafraid and will not be bullied and intimidated by the “gun guys.”

From the above article:

The policy, which was set to take effect at midnight Friday, pointedly applies not just to visitors, who until now have been allowed to bring weapons into the building if they have a concealed-carry permit. The ban also applies to senators and delegates — even those who are law enforcement officers.

But as a practical matter, Capitol Police Col. Steve Pike said, the policy will not be enforced with lawmakers. Requiring them to pass through metal detectors would probably slow them down as they travel between the Capitol and the adjacent Pocahontas Building, which the ban also covers. In addition, he said, legislators are immune from prosecution during the session, under a law intended to ensure their performance of the people’s business is not impeded.

A practical matter? It seems pretty impractical to me to allow lawmakers to remain armed. For what possible reasons should they be armed now that their constituents are not. “Accidents” have happened. Take this one in Kentucky:

Democratic Kentucky State Rep. Leslie Combs doesn’t think her accidental discharge of a firearm in the state’s capitol building Tuesday afternoon was a big deal. “I am a gun owner, it happens,” Combs told reporters after the incident. 

Combs was apparently in the process of unloading her Ruger 380 semi-automatic handgun when it fired into the floor of the Capitol annex. No one was harmed by the gunshot, so she reported the incident to state police about two hours later. the lawmaker told the Courier-Journal that she has a concealed carry permit, and often brings the gun to work in her purse.  Here’s more from Combs: 

“I was purposely disarming it to put it up because I didn’t like it and I didn’t want to use it any more… I had had it in my purse I carry usually, and I thought I’m going to put that sucker away.”

I say put those “suckers” away permanently. We know what else happens but I will not use the word here. And “it” happens far too often when so called law abiding gun owners are irresponsible with their guns. Even when they think they are responsible, guns are deadly weapons and things go wrong. That seems like a good reason to practice common sense and just not carry the “sucker” around with you everywhere you go.

Sometimes these “accidental” gun discharges end with death or severe injury. I have written about incidents like this many times in this blog. A relative tries to get in the house and a loved one shoots them thinking they are an intruder. Just today a man discharged his gun in a crowded restaurant injuring an 80 year old woman. You can’t make this stuff up. A woman lives to age of 80 and gets shot in a restaurant by a reckless and irresponsible gun carrier. She was lucky and so was the gun owner. What if he had killed the woman? Does anyone want to live with the reality that they killed an innocent person in a totally avoidable situation?

But I digress. A 3 year old finds his brother’s loaded gun in a restaurant and shoots it off. The man was charged with several crimes. A gun fired from a woman’s purse and shot and killed her in a North Carolina restaurant.

The list is endless. Look them up for yourself. These don’t get a lot of attention but they should. Guns carried around loaded in public places are dangerous and should be re-considered. It’s time to change the conversation about the role of guns in public places.

So it was a good first step for Virginia to ban guns in the Capitol buildings in the name of public safety. Next up, other bills concerning public safety and gun safety reform. Today 4 bills passed out of the Virginia Senate. This is cause for celebration and I’m sure my Virginia friends are ecstatic right now as well they should be.

Elections matter.

Let’s take a look at the Virginia Senate bills ( from the above linked article):

The bills now headed for the full Senate would require background checks on all firearms purchases, allow law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from individuals deemed a risk to themselves or others, let localities ban weapons from certain events and government buildings, and cap handgun purchases at one per month.

All common sense measures and all supported by the majority of voters in Virginia. The majority in the country and in almost all states want to make the country safer from gun violence and one very important way to do that is to pass stronger gun laws. It’s going to happen state by state and it will happen in the country as soon as we vote out those who oppose the public.

Voting with the NRA and the gun lobby is a losing proposition right now. The public is far ahead of some of our elected leaders who are still dinosaurs as far as gun laws go. There is still nonsensical talk about gun registration and gun confiscation as well as taking away rights. But in Virginia as in many states, there have been several high profile mass shootings and other shootings that have called attention to the lax gun laws and the devastation from bullets. The Virginia Tech shooting resulted in the death of 32 and others injured. The shooting of a young Richmond T.V. reporter Alison Parker on live T.V. was horrendous and unspeakable. And the latest was the mass shooting at Virginia Beach killing 12. Virginians just don’t want to get shot nor do they want their loved ones and friends to be shot. They want laws that will prevent and reduce some of the shootings.

And if the NRA and any other gun rights advocate can say how these stronger gun laws will affect their lifestyle, have at it. If they can tell us how doing nothing is saving lives, tell us about it. If they can claim that we are safer now after allowing so many guns to be carried in public places, give us some facts to show that. If they can tell us why they object to everyone getting a background check before purchasing a gun, tell us about it. If they can tell us why the background check system already in place has inconvenienced them and caused terrible consequences for themselves or their families, please step up. I may even print the answers and examine the logic.

I am excited about what’s happening in Virginia. The Minnesota Senate is going to hold hearings on several bills as well:

But the hearing will be held on Republicans’ terms: no votes will be cast and the meeting will be held in gun-friendly Hibbing.

The chair of the Senate Public Safety and Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Dec. 19, announced that he would take the panel on the road next month to talk about the plans to require background checks at the time of transfer of a firearm and to allow law enforcement to remove a person’s firearms if they are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others.

“Gun friendly Hibbing.” We know where Hibbing is and it is not all gun friendly. We have many Minnesotans for common sense gun legislation living in northern Minnesota and they will be there. But nice try. Sneaking around in small towns to get the “gun guys” out in large numbers is so obvious as to be suspect to say the least.

Criminal background check and Extreme Risk Protection Order bilsl are life saving bills favored by the majority of Minnesotans. 97% of Minnesotans want universal background checks. That is almost unanimous and includes the gun owners in Hibbing, Mn. Of those 75% were Republicans. The Senate Republicans are on the wrong side of the isse.

2020, as I wrote in a recent post, has started out as violent as 2019 ended. Just check out the Gun Violence Archive for the latest information about shootings.

There is hope. There is a change in the issue of gun violence. The NRA is weak, pathetic and corrupt. Our leaders are finally catching up to the public. So I look forward to more progress in 2020 and making elected leaders accountable for their actions. We are not having their excuses any more.

What is “gunnormal” in 2020?

Screen shot from Gun Violence Archive Twitter Feed

2020 is off to a violent start. I just saw the Twitter feed from Gun Violence Archive showing us the current states since the start of this year. It’s Jan. 6th folks. We’re off to the races so to speak. 6 mass shootings in 6 days. What other country endures a mass shooting a day? What other country does nothing about something as tragic and insane as our own gun violence epidemic?

Will 2020 be a banner year for gun violence? If this keeps up, maybe it will be. That would be the new normal.

Is this the new normal? Gun rights extremists gathering en masse locked and loaded outside of the Virginia state house to make a point? What point? Look at us. We are armed and dangerous and we will intimidate the legislature into voting against common sense gun legislation. What could possibly go wrong? From the article:

What began as a handful of rural Virginia counties declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” has jumped the state’s borders and become an Internet phenomenon. Far-right websites and commenters are declaring that Virginia is the place to take a stand against what they see as a national trend of weakening gun rights.

Now they are coming from out of state with their guns. They sure are exercised about the probability that at long last, Virginia is likely to join other states who have passed stronger gun laws. And gun rights still exist.

And so a Nevada-based group called the Oath Keepers said it’s sending training teams to help form posses and militia in Virginia. The leader of a Georgia militia called Three Percent Security Force has posted videos and calls to arms on Facebook, urging “patriots” to converge on Richmond. The right-wing YouTuber “American Joe Show” warned without evidence that Virginia will cut the power grid to stop the army of protesters — one of a host of false and exaggerated rumors spreading online.

Remember Charlottesville?

Fear and paranoia abound. Fake news and outright lies are ramping up the anger that could be a dangerous combination with guns. Hatred of those who they believe are going to take something from them is in there as well. It is unfounded but real to them. Showing up en masse armed and angry will not solve their hatred and fears. The reality is that this is not normal. I think it will not turn out well for the armed ersatz militia in Virginia. Even the NRA is distancing itself from this insane movement:

Response to that agenda has become so heated that the nation’s most visible gun-rights group, the National Rifle Association, is taking an intentionally lower-key approach. It will sponsor town halls in three rural locations around Virginia in the coming weeks, aimed at explaining proposed legislation.

The majority of the public nationally and in Virginia want stronger gun laws. It was the biggest issue of the 2019 election that turned Virginia blue. The public will not side with these extremists. Let’s hope there is no violence. And also let’s hope this is not a trend when other legislators consider laws to keep us safer.

And speaking of keeping us safer, let’s talk about our children in schools all over America in the year 2020. Some schools have gone so far in their school safety plan as to have “poop buckets” delivered to classrooms to be used as children are hunkering down during an active shooting.

No more words for this one. It is not normal. The majority want to see our leaders pass measures to keep guns away from school shooters. In a far simpler and common sense way to do this, parents who are gun owners must store their guns safely so a troubled or angry kid can’t get a gun to shoot up his schoolmates. Most school shooters get their guns from their own homes.

Check out End Family Fire to see how curious kids are and how easy it is for kids and teens to find a gun to use in an unintentional shooting, a school shooting or a suicide.

I have an idea- or maybe several for that matter. Regarding the “poop buckets”, I think we ought to have them delivered to state legislators and Congress members just in case they have a lock down drill and an active shooter. Then they can experience what it’s like to be a kid in school in 2020.

Another idea is for our leaders to speak up using the right language to talk about why it’s a good idea to pass stronger gun laws. There is enough proof that strong gun laws mean fewer deaths and injuries. And it’s not gun control. It is gun violence prevention or gun safety reform. Groups working to prevent gun violence are trying to take away the risk of guns to innocent people. They actually do want to either take away or keep away guns from people who have already been deemed to be prohibited to purchase one.

Gun violence prevention and gun rights are not mutually exclusive. The gun rights extremists have made the argument for decades now that they are. They are wrong. We can have both. All that law abiding gun owners need to do is go through a background check for each gun sale- simple and short and not inconvenient. Then they need to be sure they are trained to operate their deadly weapon because not doing so can result in tragedy.

Locking up their guns should be mandatory but if not, at least strongly recommended for many obvious reasons. And finally let’s hope that the many law abiding gun owners out there won’t decide to use their gun(s) in an argument, in moments of anger, despair, during a difficult relationship separation, while drinking alcohol or to get even with someone.

Simple. Common sense. Normal in most other places in the world.

To shoot or not to shoot, that is the question

After the shooting at the church in White Settlement, Texas there has been a lot of discussion, misinformation, tweeting and assertions made about how the shooter was shot. We know now that a trained security guard shot the shooter. We also know that it appears that there were other armed parishioners at the ready. We don’t know if the victims were actually armed though one article suggested that one of them was a member of security “force” used in that particular church. The man who shot the shooter actually trained the others and was an ex law enforcement officer who knew what he was doing.

Had police officers come to the scene, they would have done the same. And yes, we have to admit that the security guard did something good. Can we say that he was skilled and maybe also lucky? He took one shot and aimed at the head of the shooter, according to some reports. He hit the target and stopped the shooter from doing more damage, if that is what he intended..

We know that after the Sutherland Springs church shooting Texas passed a law allowing guns in churches. Texas has other gun laws- looser rather than stronger.

And we know now that the shooter was a prohibited purchaser. But Texas has not passed a universal background check or Extreme Risk Protection Order to stop people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them anyway and shooting up churches and schools and malls and Walmarts and other places of businesses.

But that’s the way it is. This article explains what I have been thinking about and highlights the controversy over arming people in churches and everywhere else for that matter. From the article:

The reality of Wilson’s heroism is a lot more complex. He wasn’t just an ordinary parishioner, as gun advocates may want you to believe. The church’s volunteer security team member is a firearms instructor, gun range owner and former reserve deputy with a local sheriff’s department, according to a New York Times detailed account.  

In other words, he’s exactly the kind of man you want around with a firearm. But we know nothing about the at least six other parishioners who also appeared to draw their handguns at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas. (…) And that’s terrifying.

Why is it terrifying? Because anyone can carry a gun into churches now and other places. How do we know if they are “good guys” with guns or bad guys with guns? If the man who shot those parishioners carried a gun inside the church and intended harm, no one would have said a thing because….. rights:

But have we really reached a point when each of us need to carry a firearm anywhere we go? Gun advocates certainly think so. They point to Wilson and the new Texas law that allows him and others to carry firearms inside the church.

And of course our very own President tweeted about the heroism of Jack Smith. He tweeted the NRA line. The President likes heroes and tough guys. He has made that clear many times over the past 3 years. He, and the corporate gun lobby, would rather there be a hero saving the day, though not stopping the shooting in the first place as they claim armed citizens will do, than to pass laws to stop shooters from getting a gun in the first place.

We will wait to see if he invites Smith the White House or invites him to one of his campaign rallies to showcase his tough guys, heroes, and pardoned Navy Seals.

The shooter was a prohibited purchaser. Where did he get the gun?:

The gunman at West Freeway Church of Christ, 43-year-old Keith Thomas Kinnunen, apparently had a long criminal history, including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Authorities say they’re still investigating the motive of Sunday’s shooting, and there were no immediate details about how he got the firearm he used at the church.

And this, from the article, is the main point of it all isn’t it?:

We know firearms are readily available to anyone who wants one, really. And that’s part of the problem. Sunday’s shooting isn’t just about Jack Wilson’s heroism. It’s about how Kinnunen got a hold of a weapon in the first place, given his criminal record.

The shooter was also mentally unstable and had been ordered to receive treatment as well as having a restraining order against him from his former wife.

These are all reasons this man should not have been able to get a gun in the first place. Why aren’t we talking about that? We must talk about that. Because if we don’t the shootings will continue unabated and continue to end in senseless gun deaths and injuries.

Texas gun laws changed to take the state and common sense backwards:

Texas also doesn’t require gun owners to obtain a license or register their firearms. Law enforcement in the state does not have any discretion to deny a concealed carry permit.

In addition, if a Texas gun purchaser already has a concealed carry permit, a background check is not required. Like many other states, Texas does not require a background check for private sales or sales at gun shows.

Research has generally shown that states with higher levels of gun ownership experience higher numbers of gun homicides and suicides.

Texas currently ranks in the middle in terms of firearm mortality according to the CDC.

In addition, recent research from Columbia University finds states with more permissive gun laws experience higher numbers of mass shootings.

Gun laws matter.

I also want to talk about why so many shooters are angry men? It’s the combination of anger and easy access to guns.

Common sense tells us that we don’t want everyone to be armed. Imagine the chaos if everyone was shooting at everyone else at the church, as they almost did according to reports. This is insanity itself.

We have failed the country by not dealing with the causes of our national epidemic of gun violence before the shootings rather than during the shootings.

To shoot or not to shoot. We have choices to make as a country. Are we going to allow the corporate gun lobby to decide how our country will be or are we going to follow the wishes of the majority and do something about our gun culture and lack of gun laws in order to save us from senseless and avoidable shootings?

My post would not be complete without reporting on the usual and totally avoidable shootings of innocent people in celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve. A 61 year old woman ( and, according to the article-one toddler injured and a 31 year old woman also killed) was shot by a bullet that someone made a deadly decision to shoot out of his gun to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Why do people do this? Aren’t these the good guys with guns we were talking about earlier?

2020 is picking up where 2019 left off with shootings already listed in the Gun Violence Archive charts– 91 deaths so far and the day is not over yet.

Stop the shootings. Make a decision. Do the right thing elected leaders.

( I have struck through the name of the shooter because we should not be naming the shooters )

Let us remember the names of the two victims: Anton “Tony” Wallace, 64, and Richard White, 67.

Sabbath attacks

Yesterday was the Jewish sabbath. In New York, a man ran into the home of a Rabbi celebrating Hanukkah with friends and family and stabbed 5 people leaving 2 seriously injured:

“It was a terrifying scene, the officials and witness reported, saying that the violence occurred at about 10 p.m. as numerous people were celebrating Hanukkah at the home of the rabbi, Chaim Rottenberg, in Monsey, which is in an area with a large population of ultra-Orthodox Jews. (…) Mr. Kohn said that after the attacker fled, he tried to enter a synagogue next door, Congregation Netzach Yisroel, which is led by Rabbi Rottenberg.

But people inside the synagogue apparently heard screams from the rabbi’s home and, fearful, locked the door so the attacker could not get in, Mr. Kohn said.

Why, you might ask, do I write about a mass stabbing? They are relatively rare compared to mass shootings and often leave the victims injured but not dead. Never mind though, the far right and the gun rights advocates love to tell you that knivings result in more deaths than “rifles”. Let’s take a look at this Politifact article to find out the truth:

When totaling the data from the FBI crime report, we see that 374 people were killed by rifles, while 1,604 were killed by knives or cutting instruments. That means about 4.3 times as many people were killed by knives or cutting instruments as were killed by rifles.

“He is comparing a full set of cutting instruments to a partial set of guns which makes cutting instruments look more deadly,” said Dr. James Nolan, a sociology professor at West Virginia University.

“The real story from the data is that the odds of being murdered by a firearm are nearly seven times higher than the odds of being murdered by a knife or cutting instrument,” he said.

When you look at firearms murders overall, the number is staggeringly different: 11,004 murders out of 15,070 total murders were committed with firearms. That is, 73 percent of U.S. murders were committed with firearms — 3.4 percent of firearm murders were committed with a rifle. The other categories are shotguns, handguns and “type unknown.”

So comparing apples to oranges is misleading. Knives can be dangerous for sure. When used as a weapon they can kill and injure. And what happened in New York is reprehensible at the least. It’s hate and anti-Semitic nature make it a domestic terrorism attack. Unfortunately those are on the increase in America. What makes it even worse than usual is that the current occupant of the White House encourages hate and intolerance and fails to speak out against White Supremacism, Racism and anti-Semitism:

Indeed, the most dangerous thing about living at a time of constant stories about anti-Semitism is how quickly the hatred is normalized. Two and a half years ago, chants of “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville, Virginia, stunned America; today, anti-Semitism is just a part of the news cycle.And so, as we take stock after this latest news, it’s time to face three uncomfortable truths. First, despite his claims, Giuliani’s comments are unmistakably anti-Semitic. Second, this anti-Semitism is not merely vile but dangerous: The anti-Soros tropes like those evoked by Giuliani may tacitly encourage those prone to violence, resulting in Jewish bodies on the streets. Most disturbingly, we can’t write this off as the inebriated ravings of a single man. Everything Giuliani said had been repeated, over and over, by President Donald Trump, by Republican lawmakers and by Fox News hosts.

We can’t forget the recent shootings in synagogues- Tree of Life and Poway mass shootings are still fresh in our minds. In the linked article you can see an increase in the 21st century of attacks on synagogues. Something is rotten.

Note that as of the time I wrote this, there has not been one tweet or one statement from our President about the attack at the New York home of the Rabbi.

No words.

And speaking of shootings at places of worship, there have been quite a number of them as well over the past few years. I won’t name them here but I’m sure you know of them.

One happened just this morning at White Settlement church in Texas. Two are dead and one injured. From another article, it seems that an armed member, perhaps a security guard at the church, shot the shooter. Not before, of course, the shooter got off a few rounds and did the damage. These kind of things take everyone by surprise because why would you think you might be shot while taking communion at a church service on a Sunday morning?

Do I have to remind you that the deadliest shooting at a place of worship also happened in Texas- at Sutherland Springs, leaving 26 dead?

It’s the sabbath in America when many Americans practice their faith in different ways. Have we come to needing armed guards at churches? Do we need them wherever we go because that is what may happen? But how would that work? Or should we all carry our guns with us wherever we go? That will make for a safer America for sure.

It’s heartening to see that an unarmed group of volunteers calling themselves the Guardian Angels will be patrolling the streets near where the stabbing attack occurred and in Jewish neighborhoods. No guns. No knives. Just people making a statement that we are not going to let these attacks deter us from living our lives and we will not let them frighten us (though they most certainly do at some level).

It’s clear that we need leadership from our elected leaders to protect us. That is the bottom line.

Instead of dealing with an out of control gun culture and culture of fear, intolerance, hate and paranoia, some are ignoring the crisis and acquiescing to the corporate gun lobby’s myths. It’s a sad and chaotic way to live but that is the way some like it because then they can control everything and make money doing it.

Call me cynical if you must but we are ending 2019 with a record number of gun deaths according to Gun Violence Archive and all of the everyday media reports of shootings. Will things change in 2020? Will common sense break out? I think you know the answer to that. As long as our leaders would rather support corporate money and power rather than what the majority of Americans want them to do, this will be our sabbath and worship days, and our school days, and our shopping at malls, and going to work, and enjoying concerts and movies. This will be our fate as a country unless we get new leaders who will stand up for what is morally the right thing to do and stop the shootings.

If we can’t or won’t change the laws and the culture, we will change the leaders.

Let’s get to work.

This is not normal. It doesn’t have to be like this.

And let us take a minute to remember the victims of both attacks. They have names. They have family and communities grieving their losses and grieving that their faith stirs hate enough to want them dead.

Gun negligence

The other day I wrote a post about accountability with guns. It’s hard to come up with words for the negligence and irresponsibility exhibited by far too many gun owners and gun carriers. Ever since states have allowed for the public carrying of guns we have seen an increase in people who carry either intentionally or unintentionally shooting another person. Florida is where it all started as the state that has served as the cauldron of gun rights laws that have bubbled up into other states.

Gun owners and permit holders have been involved in many incidents of negligent and irresponsible behavior with their guns over the years and I have written about them many times in this blog.

A recent incident in Sanford, Florida, shows why it is a terrible idea for people to be allowed to carry deadly weapons in public places:

Deputies said the weapon fell out of the gun owner’s holster while he was walking through the dining room of the Cracker Barrel at 200 Hickman Circle in Sanford.

Deputies said William Hoback was talking to the checkout counter when his gun slipped out of his holster and fired.

The bullet hit a kettle, which sent fragments flying.

Three people were hit by the shrapnel, including a restaurant manager and Hoback’s fiancé.

You can’t make this stuff up. But almost worse than the incident itself is the response to it by law enforcement:

After Hoback realized what had happened, he apologized and explained it was an accident.

Deputies agreed, so he was not charged.

“This shooting doesn’t appear to be intentional and the conduct doesn’t appear to be so reckless that it would support the charge of criminal negligence,” said WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer.

Sheaffer said even though the shooting doesn’t rise to the level of criminal negligence, the victim could file a civil lawsuit.

The public has a right to know if the man had a permit to carry and if the restaurant allows people to carry guns inside. Perhaps Cracker Barrel will reconsider any policy they have about gun carriers given this incident. If they don’t, one wonders what the effect this incident may have on their business. Will those injured hold the restaurant accountable for their belief that people carrying guns will do no harm because they are “law abiding” gun owners?:

In recent years, many states have relaxed their concealed carry laws, on the theory that concealed-gun carriers deter crime. But there is no credible evidence that permissive laws prevent or deter crime. In an analysis of states with right-to-carry laws, Stanford researcher John Donohue and colleagues found that states that passed right-to-carry laws experienced 13 to 15 percent higher aggregate violent crime rates, over a period of 10 years, than comparable states.

Don’t believe the NRA and gun rights myths about guns for self defense making us safer. This is why research about gun violence is so important. Facts matter.

Sanford, Florida may sound familiar to you. That would be because it was in Sanford that George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in 2012 claiming self defense and then getting away with it.

Look at what Zimmerman is up to now:

Accusing Zimmerman of “revictimizing individuals whose lives were shattered by his own misguided actions,” Crump, Fulton and Martin said there is no credible proof to back Zimmerman’s claims.

“This tale defies logic,” they said, “and it’s time to close the door on these baseless imaginings.”

Klayman, the founder of Judicial Watch whose other clients include the conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi, made headlines this year when a legal ethics panel recommended that he be suspended for misconduct regarding his actions toward a female client who had refused to enter into a romantic relationship with him.

Again-you just can’t make this stuff up. In case you forgot Jerome Corsi was involved with Trump and the Mueller investigation. There is something very wrong with things in the American gun culture. Up is down and down is up. What a tangled web is woven. The NRA=Russian money influence on the 2016 election=corruption=the NRA’s track towards investigations into its’ non-profit status and financial mismanagement and difficulties.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Florida’s gun death rate is high compared to states that have stronger gun laws though under intense pressure from the students from March For Our Lives after the Parkland shooting, even the conservative Florida legislature and governor responded by passing stronger gun laws.

Florida has been the research center for the NRA’s loose gun laws. It was the first state to pass a Conceal and Carry law and the first to pass Stand Your Ground under the leadership of the NRA’s own Marion Hammer. We can see how that is working out in real time:

(…) NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer has singlehandedly written Florida’s gun laws for the past 40 years and has done more than any Florida lawmaker to ensure that pretty much anyone anywhere in Florida can buy whatever kind of gun he or she wants — including a disturbed teen like Cruz. Hammer’s influence extends even further too: She influences elections by personally instructing NRA members to vote against pro-gun-control candidates. Lawmakers are terrified of her.

In America, lawmakers have let the NRA terrify them. That is why the Dickey Amendment was passed in 1996 and flew under the radar for decades. The public did not know about it and did not understand that a law that actually denied the Centers for Disease Control and other federal agencies was passed by those in the pocket of the NRA. Because?… rights.

Just as research has been done on other public health and safety epidemics, it should be done on the causes and effects of gun violence. Because of research on auto accidents, we now have seat belt laws, drunk driving laws, safer roads and fewer auto accident deaths. And gun death rates have now surpassed auto accident death rates. Because of research into the effects of second hand smoke on those who don’t smoke, we have laws banning smoking in public places and healthier communities.

Just this past week, finally after decades of talking about this and lobbying to get Congress to fund research into gun violence, it happened. This is a victory for common sense and for the future of our country’s safety. If even one innocent person’s life is saved because of this research, it will have been worth the money and the research. From this article:

Dr. Robert McLean, the president of the American College of Physicians, applauded the funding bill and said in a statement that “the alarming rate of injuries and deaths related to firearms brings to light the glaring lack of research and data.””For over twenty years, we’ve desperately needed up-to-date research about firearm violence and intervention and prevention strategies to reduce physical as well as emotional injuries caused by firearms,” McLean said.”While $25 million is a great start, it pales in comparison to the amount needed to address this public health problem,” said Dr. Joseph Sakran, the founder of This Is Our Lane, a movement started by physicians in response to the National Rifle Association.For more than two decades, the CDC has avoided firearms research because of its interpretation of the so-called Dickey Amendment, named after the late Republican Rep. Jay Dickey of Arkansas.

Since 1996 hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from gunshot injuries and more injured. Since 1996 the NRA managed to get states to pass laws that have become dangerous to the average American. Since 1996 the rate of mass shootings has risen and many hundreds of our precious children have been slaughtered. Since 1996 the number of conceal carry (or open carry) incidents and even deaths are on the increase.

This is not the America we deserve or should have. We deserve to be safe from people whose guns somehow fall out of their holsters ( or pockets or purses) and fire off “unintentionally” harming innocent people while eating out or shopping. We deserve to know the truth and get the research into gun violence which has now become one of the top policy issues in our elections.

It is unconscionable that we have let this happen. Our leaders have been complicit in a scheme to normalize the carrying of guns and normalize daily shootings.

It is not normal.

We are better than this.

#Enough