Gaslighting and White Supremacy

How do these two words go together? In the month since the insurrection, most of us are absorbing Jan. 6th. Accounts of the day have come slowly. It’s often difficult to process trauma immediately after a horrific and life threatening event. But we are learning more in the aftermath. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez shared her account with us. She has been the target of much ire and gaslighting because she is an outspoken woman of color. She has “radical” and “socialist” ideas. She must be quieted. She wants Republicans to own up to their own complicity in the events of that day of insurrection. The White Supremacists hate her. She dares to speak out.

Marjory Taylor Green, the newly elected Congresswoman ( now stripped of her committee assignments because of her radical conspiracy theories and her own threats against AOC and “the squad) called AOC’s account a hoax– their favorite word.

Gaslighting. (The term is defined, below, but came to be used to describe this sort of abuse in a 1944 film- “Throughout the film version of the story, Paula sees gaslights dimming and brightening for no apparent reason. Gregory convinces her that it’s all inside her head. In reality, he was switching the attic lights on and off to create the gaslight flickers. He manipulated her belief in her own perception of reality through the gaslights.”

Another newly elected Congresswoman, Nancy Mace from South Carolina, discounted AOC’s version of the events of Jan. 6th and accused her of being dramatic and lying.

But wait- that very same Congresswoman shared her own similar account in the immediate aftermath of the attack that affirmed AOC’s account. Hmmm. What’s going on? From the first article highlighted above:

Mace’s misleading attack on Ocasio-Cortez illustrates how, in the lead-up to Trump’s impeachment trial next week, Republicans are shamelessly trying to weaponize the January 6 insurrection against Democrats. Instead of holding Trump or Republicans who indulged his lies about election to account, Republicans like Mace who initially took the insurrection seriously have pivoted to attacking Democrats and arguing it’s time for the country to move on.

The party that mostly voted to let their leader, Donald Trump, get away with his incitement to violence and the resulting insurrection, is circling the wagons. Anyone who dared to speak out against him is now either with him or against him. Nancy Mace voted to certify the election of Joe Biden. Now she is paying the price and has to lie to remain in the party that has increasingly become the party of Trump and White Supremacy, anti-semitism and gaslighting.

White Supremacy is not new, of course, having been with us since the founding of our country and before. And it is not unique to America. Intolerance of anyone different from the dominant caste has led to violence, wars, subjugation, torture, and more. So much has been written about this that my observations are just among thousands of others who have written about and talked about the last month in terms of the history many of us have been ignoring. Now that it is out in the open and so obvious, our nation is staring at how we will proceed and to try to deal with the White Supremacy and concomitant anger that almost killed our democracy.

White Supremacy goes with the gun culture. That is an unavoidable conclusion. I can’t stop thinking about the speech on the floor of the House on Thursday by Representative and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer. His passionate speech, along with his walking amongst his colleagues with the enlarged poster of the now familiar Facebook post of Rep. Marjory Taylor Green, was the point. But the Republicans ignored his point and voted (199-10) to allow a White Supremacist conspiracy theory believer to keep her committee assignments. Allowing the violent threat to members of their own to be OK is stunning, to say the least.

Yesterday morning Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank, wrote this about the vote on Thursday:

For more than five years, I begged Republicans to reject the creeping anti-Semitism Donald Trump brought to the party, noting on the eve of the 2016 election that “when a demagogue begins to identify scapegoats, the Jews are never far behind.”

But I never expected I would see in my lifetime, in the United States of America, what occurred on the floor of the House this week. One hundred ninety-nine Republican members of Congress rallied to the defense of a vile, unapologetic anti-Semite in their ranks who calls for assassination of her opponents.

This is more than a Republican problem; it’s an American problem. You don’t have to be a scholar of 20th-century Europe to know what happens when the elected leaders of a democracy condone violence as a political tool and blame the country’s ills on the Jews. (…)

This isn’t idle bigotry, for she “liked” a social media suggestion that “a bullet to the head would be quicker” to remove House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), who has committed “a crime punishable by death.” She posted on social media about hanging Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, approved of a suggestion that FBI agents be executed, and posted a photo of herself with an automatic weapon next to three Democratic members of Congress, calling herself their “worst nightmare.”

On the House floor this week, she offered no apology and no direct mention of her anti-Semitic and violent statements. Using Christ-on-the-cross imagery, she condemned those who would “crucify me in the public square for words that I said, and I regret, a few years ago.”

Because they refused to vote against one of their own, so obviously dangerous and vile, they have become the party of bigotry, hate anti-Semitism and White Supremacy. And where does the gaslighting come in? Later in his column, Milbank uses quotes of some of the House Republicans blaming this all on the rest of their House colleagues and on the country. The “whataboutism” employed by this group of apologists for their own deplorable behavior has become the M.O. of the Trumpism that has invaded the once proud party of Abraham Lincoln. More from the Milbank’s column:

Republicans have used similar gaslighting in their response to impeachment. Trump helped organize a rally, incited his supporters to attack the Capitol and refused to call for an end to their murderous spree as they rampaged in search of elected officials in their hopes of overturning the election. But Democrats are the ones doing something “unconstitutional” by holding an impeachment trial after he left office?

Insurrection? Sedition? Assassination? Move on, the Republicans say. These actions and threats are mere “distractions” from the real issues.

Republicans defended Greene with absurd parallels. They attacked Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) for past anti-Semitic statements — omitting the crucial distinction that Omar, after Democrats roundly condemned her words, said, “Anti-Semitism is real and I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes. … I unequivocally apologize.”

Greene, by contrast, remained unrepentant. On Friday, she held a celebratory news conference, again refusing to recant, or apologize for, her violent and anti-Jewish words and gestures.

Gaslighting is a term used to describe an abusive relationship. If you need a reminder, here is a definition:

Gaslighting is a form of psychological manipulation in which a person or a group covertly sows seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or group, making them question their own memory, perception, or judgment.[1] It may evoke changes in them such as cognitive dissonance or low self-esteem, rendering the victim additionally dependent on the gaslighter for emotional support and validation. Using denial, misdirection, contradiction, and misinformation, gaslighting involves attempts to destabilize the victim and delegitimize the victim’s beliefs.

Trump is a master at gaslighting. He abused the country and his followers bought it. They, too, were gaslighted by him and continue to follow him and apologize for him. But he was the symptom of the underlying disease. Until we grasp, as a nation, what has befallen us, we will not be able to get out of the relationship. White Supremacy is here. It is the proverbial “camel sticking its’ nose under the tent”. The Republican party allowed the camel in and the result was the first of what could be other attacks on our democracy. The warnings are there.

In case we think otherwise, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison held a Zoom town hall presentation, attended by 260 people, to highlight the White Supremacism in largely white Minnesota and across the country. From the article:

From 1994 to 2020, there have been nearly 900 domestic anti-Semitic and racial terrorist attacks, and the majority of those have been by right-wing groups, said Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC). Racial and religious hatred were the reasons supremacists recently killed people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and a church in Charlotte, N.C.

“The JCRC works well with law enforcement to protect all houses of worship, not just synagogues,” he said. “We all have to work together, whatever threats come.”

Paul, who helped investigate the 2015 mass shooting in Las Vegas, said the FBI has seen an increase in violent rhetoric and the acceptance of violence to advance ideologies. The internet allows individuals to craft their own ideologies without being part of a group, he said.

“As the seriousness of domestic terrorist attacks grows, they become part of the public narrative,” he said.

Macalester College Prof. Brian Lozenski, who researches how people get involved in white extremism, said part of the cause comes from the country’s Founding Fathers’ push for white domination through the restrictions on Blacks on property ownership, citizenship and the ability to hold offices.

“We need a national recognition of the story we tell ourselves about the country,” he said.

The story we tell ourselves has been twisted in favor of the dominant caste ( see Isabel Wilkerson’s book Caste) We have normalized the violence. We have pretended that it’s just part of our country. Gun toting Americans have become our gun culture gone wrong.

This is NOT NORMAL It is unique to America. We can do something about it. Just carrying a deadly weapon is threatening enough to those not in the dominant caste. It’s a way to keep power and control. In order to be in charge, they must gaslight us all into thinking we are the ones to blame. We are to be feared- those of us who don’t think like them. They must use their symbols- their flags, their weapons, their MAGA and “Q” hats, their anger. Some believe they must carry their guns in the halls of Congress. And now there are metal detectors to stop that from happening and fines for refusing to go through the metal detectors. A few entitled Congress members have already been fined. I guess following the law and procedures is not for them- just for everyone else.

It is going to be difficult to “quit” the abuser. The dominant caste does not give up power easily. We can see that the Republicans are having a hard time processing that Joe Biden actually did win the election after putting us through months of gaslighting trying to convince us otherwise. We, like victims of abuse and gun violence, are suffering from PTSD. I would like to feel hopeful that an intervention in the form of the election and changing of the “guard” will begin that process. With some common sense and fortitude we can begin to heal. This week we will see reruns of the attack during the impeachment hearing in the Senate. It will bring it all back. But sometimes that is what is needed to move on.

Will we hold those responsible for the Jan. 6th attack accountable? Time will tell. Stay tuned.

Meanwhile, shedding light on the abuse, the threats, the events of Jan. 6th and the history of white nationalism and domestic terrorism is a way out of the mire and the twisted history of our democracy. Our democracy can be saved if we hold the light up to the truth.

The most important day

Today is the most significant inauguration in my lifetime. The countdown has begun. By 11:00 my time President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will take over the reins of a much wounded America. The past 4 years have been a national nightmare. It has been exhausting to watch the daily and hourly tweets from an unfit, unhinged and dangerous President. He left the country in worse shape that he found it but we should have taken a cue from his own inauguration address when he used the word “carnage” to describe the country. Now we can look back on that speech and understand that Trump was actually predicting the mayhem that ended his presidency.

Presidents have to deal with all kinds of unexpected events that shape their time in office. Certainly Trump could not have predicted the death and destruction a pandemic would do to the country and the world. But we elect Presidents so they can deal with crises like the coronavirus pandemic. We expect that they will be surrounded by expertise and intelligence that will keep us safe and that they will do everything they can to prevent or stop the threat. We expect common sense.

Boy were a lot of people wrong. I was not one of them. But I could do nothing to stop this man from doing almost nothing to stop the spread of the pandemic that has taken the lives of 400,000 precious Americans. I could do nothing while the nation watched as anti-Semitic White Supremacist rioters turned Charlottesville, Virginia into a scene of death. They were armed of course. They always are. Because they can be. They intimidate. They bully. And sometimes they act with their guns to cause more death and destruction.

Let’s review one a few of the racist and hate-filled shootings during Trump’s presidency.

A Walmart in El Paso, Texas that left 23 dead and 23 injured- mostly people of color.

Gilroy Garlic festival shooting in California- perpetrated by a young white man with White Supremacy leanings. 3 died with others injured.

Virginia Beach, Virginia where a white disgruntled male shot and killed 12 people and left others injured.

Another White Supremacist shot and killed 11 at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

There are others of course. Every President has faced mass shootings as only happen in America. Other Presidents have expressed sympathies and brought the country together in their remarks or their actions after the shooting. President Obama famously broke into singing Amazing Grace at the memorial for the victims of the Mother Emanuel church shooting in Charleston, S.C.

Here is a full list for your perusal.

Gun deaths have increased in the last 4 years so they are now at one of the highest in many years. According to the Gun Violence Archive.In 2020, 43, 465 Americans died from gun violence.

In the last 4 years we have also seen an increase in heavily armed citizens at our state capitols and on our streets strutting around with openly held loaded guns at the ready. This is #notnormal and we can’t let it be. I will hope to see a decrease in such violent intimidation of American citizens and elected leaders whose lives have been threatened over the last 4 years. When a sitting Governor Gretchen Whitmer is the victim of a plot to kidnap her and kill her, we have a serious problem. This must stop but I fear it won’t. At least we will have a new President who will call out dangerous people like those in Michigan who were thankfully arrested.

That is carnage and much of it happens on our streets and in homes a few at a time.

Yes. There has been carnage. Trump’s presidency ended with the Jan. 6th insurrection attack of the U.S. Capitol. He incited the White Supremacists, the neo Nazis, the militia groups, the dangerous crowd of his supporters who had violent intentions on their minds and in their hearts. He is and was a sore loser and a dangerous man. He left us with the national PTSD after the worst event that has happened in America in many generations.

There is hope. A new day is dawning as I write this. Last night I lit 4 candles- one each for 100,000 victims of the COVID pandemic. President elect Biden and Vice President elect Kamala Harris led a beautiful, powerful and emotional ceremony of remembrance for the victims. The country wept as we experienced a cathartic moment that was necessary. There is national PTSD about the damage done physically, emotionally and economically to our country. President Trump mishandled the pandemic so badly that he is responsible for many of the deaths. He is responsible for the deaths at the U.S. Capitol. He is responsible for the rise of domestic violence and White Supremacy in America.

Never again.

I look forward to a common sense, decent, caring, competent White House team and administration. The country needs healing. I have no illusions about getting the gun laws passed that will save lives and have been ignored for decades. But I do have hope that we will pay attention to our nation’s gun violence epidemic and at least try to do the right thing.

Welcome President Biden and Vice President Harris. A lot rests on your shoulders. May you succeed and may you bring us hope and the unity that is needed to heal us from the monster that has been serving as the President of our country for 4 hate-filled, angry, twitter-filled rants and unsettling years.

Holiday reflections

Happy holidays to all. What a weird holiday season this will be, to say the least. We will be cleaning up after a blizzard for most of this Christmas Eve day. It feels like any other day except it isn’t. We are in the midst of a pandemic surge though the numbers in Minnesota of cases and deaths are decreasing. The vaccine is here and thankfully, many health care workers are or will be immunized against this deadly virus that has gripped our country for almost a year now. In the new year, most of us will also get the vaccine leading to hope for normalcy, whatever that may be.

The virus first made itself known in December of 2019 in some places and perhaps even in the U.S. And here we are living in what feels like a dream.

Since March of this year almost everything we have known has been altered or changed, some things forever. If you allow time to reflect properly, it’s like a scary movie. The pandemic has caused such widespread death and destruction all over the world that it is really unimaginable. There will be tomes written about this time in our history for many years. Looking back we will wonder how we managed to get through this. And, of course, many did not. Over 300,00 and more to come, fewer Americans are not celebrating with their families. leaving gaping holes in the hearts of their loved ones and friends. The damage is incalculable. And the holiday will make that even worse.

Because I write about gun violence prevention, I must also talk about the increase in the violence that has taken lives in numbers that should be red flag and a call to action.

I wrote a post about the connection between the coronavirus and gun violence. That connection has been noticed by many. How could it not given the number of people dying from both? A Star Tribune editorial this week pointed out what is happening with gun violence in the midst of the pandemic:

Gun violence remains one of the more potent threats to U.S. public health. Firearms play a role in most of the murders committed in the United States each year, and in more than half the suicides. More people die from gun violence than from traffic accidents. In Minneapolis, 2020 is shaping up as a year of nearly unprecedented firearm-driven mayhem.

Unlike the pandemic, the scourge of gun violence will not yield to a vaccine — and if a vaccine were available, some people would refuse to take it. This points to one of the similarities between COVID-19 and the proliferation of guns: In the face of both threats, some Americans are unaccountably averse to health measures that would provide them a measure of protection.

survey reported this month by Pew Research found that about 4 Americans in 10 say they would not take the COVID vaccine if it were offered to them. Then there is the small but growing population of children whose parents refuse to vaccinate them against once-common diseases like whooping cough. And let’s not forget the people who refuse to wear a mask during the pandemic, or who insist that the pandemic itself is a hoax. Their antipathy to scientific fact — perhaps it’s just antipathy to facts, period — may help explain why the United States has lost more people to COVID than any other country on earth.

In the gun debate, there are similar contradictions between demonstrable fact and stubborn belief. For example, in a new survey commissioned by the Joyce Foundation and the George Family Foundation (bit.ly/JoyceResearch), two-thirds of likely Minnesota voters say they believe the presence of a gun makes a household safer. In fact, people who have a gun in the house are at considerably greater risk. For every anecdote about a homeowner’s defense of his castle, there are instances of tragedy — a toddler dead, a suicide completed, a domestic dispute turned fatal.

Minnesotans — including those who own guns, and those who don’t — overwhelmingly support measures that can help curb gun violence, like universal background checks and so-called red-flag laws that identify cases of extreme risk. Yet, according to the research, those Minnesotans express doubt that the measures they support can help in any significant way.

That’s not accurate. As foundation representatives point out, the experience of states that have passed such measures, Maryland and Connecticut, proves otherwise. Background checks that close the loophole enjoyed by private dealers and gun shows reduce gun deaths. They work.

Facts matter but in this age of denial of COVID, denial of the election of Joe Biden to the Presidency, denial of mask wearing, denial of the chaos wrought by one Donald Trump, denial of science and facts, it’s no surprise that people are not aware that, actually, gun laws matter and they do work. In Minnesota we have been facing this denial for decades. Nevertheless, we persist in educating the public and pushing against the false idea that passing common sense gun laws will not make a difference. The excuse that criminals won’t obey the laws to keep legislatures from passing laws is just that- an excuse to do nothing.

More from the above linked editorial about this:

It used to be that a command of facts was considered an advantage in any debate on public issues. Now, consider the roster of areas in which the most basic facts are disputed or dismissed: the coronavirus, for example, or absentee voting, or white privilege, or climate change, or the Mueller investigation. That list, sadly, is barely a beginning.

Kate Havelin of Protect Minnesota, a group that advocates for gun-safety measures, cited the efforts to deny even the facts of the Sandy Hook school massacre, which occurred eight years ago last week. “People don’t accept facts,” she said last week during a webinar organized by the Joyce Foundation. “That’s a real issue.”

Facts matter. Science matters. Laws do matter. Just because facts make us uncomfortable with what is happening around us does mean they aren’t true. It’s disturbing that in the age of COVID, gun violence, the 2020 election, Trumpism, fact deniers, we just let people die. It’s a national tragedy.

The Christmas story, as told in the Christian Bible, does rely on a certain amount of belief in the unbelievable and some fact denial. After all, can we believe that certain “wise men” followed a star to a small stable located in Bethlehem where they brought gifts to a baby born in that stable thought to be the son of God? And yet, this week when the Great Conjunction occurred all over the world in a once in a lifetime conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that has been called the Christmas Star, it was hard not to believe. I don’t know about you, but this phenomenon, a celestial event that actually took place before our very eyes, was hard to deny.

If we decide, as a nation, that passing sensible gun laws will lead to decreasing the gun violence running rampant in the country, then the result will be fewer gun deaths. It will require a set of beliefs that lives matter and that we have a moral responsibility to save lives. If we change our preset beliefs that nothing we do will make a difference, then that is what will happen.

I will believe in facts. I will believe in science. But I also believe that what we say and do and how we message the narrative will change public perception which will change how we deal with a myriad of issues.

Perhaps it’s a convergence of facts and beliefs. Perhaps it’s like the film, It’s a Wonderful Life. The angel Clarence appears to save George from taking his own life and changes the trajectory of not only George and his family but the entire town. That is how belief works. If we build it, they will come. Our own Field of Dreams can shape the future.

If we decide we are going to do something to save lives, we will. If we are shown how our own actions have affected others in the past, and present, the Ghost of Christmas Future from the holiday favorite Christmas Carol , written a long time ago by Charles Dickens, can show us how we can affect change going forward.

It will be hard this Christmas season to have hope. It’s a dark time literally and figuratively. If we shed light on the truth, we can move forward as a country.

Every year we believe we are celebrating happily. But every year, there are people living in poverty, people who can’t celebrate, people who have depression or don’t have enough food or the ability to purchase gifts or a tree. I urge us all to be kind. I urge us all to do something for someone else this Christmas. I urge us all to have belief that things are going to actually get better even in the midst of this terrible time.

What matters to you? This is a good time to reflect on all of these things.

Merry Christmas to those who believe. Merry Christmas to all who are suffering or are grieving the loss of a loved one. Merry Christmas to those who don’t believe or are deniers of the facts. And may the new year bring change we can believe in.

Children in the crosshairs

Photo from CNN.com

It’s all about the children today- and every day actually. If we don’t protect our children from harm, who are we? On so many levels and in so many ways, we have failed our children. Do you remember where you were when you heard the news 8 years ago that 20 innocent beautiful first graders and 6 educators were massacred by a young man who should never had had access to a gun? I do. I was on my way from Duluth to the Twin Cities for a holiday program for one of my grandsons. All I could think about was him and his little pre-school friends performing music for parents and grandparents having their lives snuffed out violently and in a bloody few minutes of horror. Or, I should say, I couldn’t imagine it. I remember the director of the pre-school making a statement about the shooting before the program began. Sobering.

Eight years later, today, the parents,, grandparents, family and friends of those little children and educators will be re-living the horror of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that rocked the country. The pain never goes away. There is a hole in the lives of all who knew the victims. They live around the hole. Some do better than others. The father of one of the children killed took his own life last year. He just couldn’t keep going after losing his beloved daughter. The ripple effect of gun violence is real. PTSD is real. Heartbreak is real. Grief is real.

What about this don’t we get as a country? What craziness is this that 8 years after the shooting on Dec. 14th, 2012 we have done nothing. Nothing………

Who are we? Why do we let our children remain in the crosshairs of weapons designed for war that are sold legally in a country where there are more guns than people? Why? Teens can get their hands on guns. Teens shoot other teens in school shootings or in urban neighborhoods where guns are a way of life. Teens shoot themselves regularly in a moment of despair, depression or anguish over something that might not have caused a death had a gun not been available to them.

It’s an American tragedy. Gun Violence Archive is keeping track of deaths and injuries from bullets. It’s stunning that we even have to keep track of such things. But as of today, according to Gun Violence Archive, 275 children aged 0-11 have died from gunshot injuries and another 658 have been injured. 996 children aged 12-17 have died from gunshot injuries and another 2910 have been injured.

Let the numbers sink in.

We don’t know the kind of injuries but we do know that some of these children will live forever with physical and emotional scars.

Our Northland Chapter held a virtual vigil on Dec. 11th to remember the victims of Sandy Hook and all victims of gun violence. We have held a vigil every year for 8 years following the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. We do it to remind us all that the shootings continue unabated. From an OpEd piece written by myself and another chapter leader for the Duluth News Tribune:

If we don’t remember the victims, we will never act to prevent more senseless gun violence. We can make a difference if we demand the changes that lead to safer communities.

People should be safe from gun violence when they go about their daily business. Children should be safe from gun violence wherever they are. We can decrease the number of gun homicides and suicides through common-sense precautions and legislation. (…)

The behavior we put up with is the behavior we get more of. By speaking up and taking responsibility to store guns unloaded and locked, we can begin to reduce the threat of dangerous gunfire in our neighborhoods. Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken has asked for the community to help identify those who are being reckless with their guns and disturbing the peace of our neighborhoods.

With the right to own and carry a gun comes the serious responsibility to use it sparingly and wisely and to keep it away from others who cannot handle that responsibility.

Contrary to what some say, we are not trying to take rights or guns away. We want to make sure that guns are bought legally and with proper vetting to make sure owners are up to the responsibility.

That’s all. Simple. Common sense.

We can save lives if we choose to. The fact that, as a country, we have not chosen to do so is an abysmal and catastrophic failure. We have failed to protect our children. Our bad.

In looking for the numbers of mass shootings since Sandy Hook I found this article from CNN:

Gun violence has been overshadowed this year by the pandemic, the struggling economy and the victory of Joseph Biden in the presidential election. There hasn’t been a high-profile mass shooting, on the scale of Sandy Hook, since the pandemic began. Mass shootings that dominated the news include 50 killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, 59 killed at the Harvest music festival in Las Vegas in 2017, and 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.

Philip J. Cook, a sociologist with the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and author of “The Gun Debate: What Everybody Needs to Know,” said that six of the 10 deadliest mass murders in U.S. history have happened since Sandy Hook. The most recent high-profile mass shooting was in 2019, at a WalMart in El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were killed. He said the deadliest mass shooting in 2020 was a domestic incident in North Carolina where a man killed six family members and then himself.

“It was a tragic event, but not a public event, and the number of deaths was smaller than the cases that have become famous,” said Cook. “The Sandy Hook massacre was a great shock to the political stasis around gun control.”

President Barack Obama tried, and failed, to implement stricter gun control. In 2013, Congress failed to pass a bill to restrict assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which have been used in multiple mass shootings.

“The states were inspired to go their separate ways, with red states loosening gun regulations and blue states tightening them,” said Cook, noting that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, spearheaded the SAFE Act in 2013, which bans most assault weapons. 

But the federal government has implemented virtually no gun control laws, aside from the 2019 ban on bump stocks used in the Las Vegas mass shooting to speed up the rate of fire.

While some see mass shootings as reason for more gun control, others see mass shootings as reason to buy more guns. Mark Oliva, public affairs director for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry group that happens to be based in Newtown, described mass shootings as a “crime problem and not one of lawful firearm ownership.”

“The first crime committed by the murderer at Sandy Hook was theft of the firearm belonging to his mother,” he said. “The second crime was the brutal murder of his own mother, before he continued with his unspeakable acts.”

Shame on us.

Remember all of the children who have died since this day 8 years ago. The numbers are staggering.

And remember these 26 today:

Charlotte Bacon, 6

Daniel Barden, 7

Rachel Davino, 29

Olivia Engel, 6

Josephine Gay, 7

Ana M Marquez-Greene, 6

Dylan Hockley, 6

Dawn Hochsprung, 47

Madeline F. Hsu, 6

Catherine V. Hubbard, 6

Chase Kowalski, 7

Jesse Lewis, 6

James Mattioli, 6

Grace McDonnell, 7

Anne Marie Murphy, 52

Emilie Parker, 6

Jack Pinto, 6

Noah Pozner, 6

Caroline Previdi, 6

Jessica Rekos, 6

Avielle Richman, 6

Lauren Rousseau, 30

Mary Sherlach, 56

Victoria Soto, 27

Benjamin Wheeler, 6

Allison N Wyatt, 6

Reflections on shootings past present and future

As I reflected on the beauty of a light snowfall this morning, I was reminded by a news story that today was a day to remember momentous shootings. There are so many that it is too easy to forget what happened on this day in other years. We have paid so much attention to the present chaos over COVID and the 2020 election results which continue hour by hour, that we forget important things. That is the point of a President and a party who don’t want us to remember tragedies and past mistakes so we can learn from them and move forward to better solutions.

Today is the “anniversary” of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The country experienced a shock on November 22nd, 1963 as we watched the repeated video of our young President as he slumped over into his wife’s lap while the car sped away to the hospital where he died of his gunshot injuries. One shooter; one gun; many bullets; one U.S. President’s life snuffed out in seconds; the shooter shot by another unhinged man on live T.V.; the country mourned; stronger gun laws passed:

It had been floating around Congress for several years. [Discussion] really began after the JFK assassination; there was a strong sense that people shouldn’t buy guns through interstate mail, because Lee Harvey Oswald did through an ad that appeared in a NRA magazine. Congress held hearings, but it didn’t really go anywhere. Now in 1968, the country is facing rising urban rioting. In the mid-to-late ’60s, crime begins to increase. There’s greater concern about guns and easy accessibility to guns. Martin Luther King is assassinated in April. In June, Robert Kennedy was assassinated and that was really the final push that brought the law back and got it through Congress.

What are the most important things the law changed?

It banned interstate shipments of firearms and ammunition to private individuals [and] sales of guns to minors, drug addicts and “mental incompetents.” This is the first time you have in law that mentally unbalanced people ought not to be able to get guns — also convicted felons. It also strengthened the licensing and record-keeping requirements for gun dealers, and that was significant because gun dealers were subject to virtually no systematic scrutiny up until this time, although a 1938 federal law did establish a fee they paid to government to be a licensed dealer. It banned importation of foreign-made surplus firearms, except those appropriate for sporting purposes.

Since then, one other important gun violence prevention law passed in 1993 in the aftermath of the assassination attempt on the life of President Ronald Reagan- the Brady Background Check law. The Brady Background check law has prevented over 3 million prohibited people from getting their hands on guns.

As a side note, I recently completed the book-Mrs. Kennedy and Me written by Clint Hill, the security agent assigned to Jacqueline Kennedy. I learned from his reflections, about the horror in the immediate seconds after the President was shot. How can we understand the horror of what a shot person looks like when a bullet tears through their brain, or heart? We can’t. Maybe if we could better understand the consequences we would be quicker to want to prevent shootings.

Today is also the 6th anniversary of the shooting of 12 year old Tamir Rice. Tamir was walking around with a toy gun when police found him and mistakenly assumed he had a real gun. This is the problem with so many guns around. No one knows who is armed and who is not. But it’s also the problem with the quick response from law enforcement when a black person has a gun or is perceived to have a gun or is perceived to be armed or is just perceived to be trouble. Here is an article written by Tamir’s mother earlier this year as she reflected on the shooting death of her innocent son:

If Tamir was alive, he’d probably be doing something with sports. That little boy was so athletic at an early age. I’m not sure what kind of athlete he would have been. We didn’t really have a chance to have a lot of those conversations. He would be 18 and have graduated high school by now.

That day Tamir was murdered I received a knock at the door and it was a neighborhood kid saying my son had been shot by police. I said, “What are you talking about?” I was in denial and shock.

No parent should have to endure something like this.

As I arrived on the scene, my 14-year-old was in the back of a police car. Tamir was laying on the pavement in a gazebo with police surrounding him. My 16-year-old was surrounded by police officers as well. Basically, police told me to calm down or else they were going to put me in the back of a police car. They gave me an ultimatum to stay at the scene of the crime, or to go with Tamir in the ambulance.

The day was very horrific for me. I was enraged by the way he was killed, murdered, assassinated, lynched, whatever they may call it. Nobody bothered to look at this man’s record before he became a Cleveland police officer. He had a horrible report. Nobody in Cleveland did their job, and that’s why I have a dead son today.

No. No parent should have to endure this. No sister. No brother. No mother or father. No child. No one. And yet, over 100 Americans a day die from gun violence. The nation is enduring a public health epidemic now in the midst of an actual public health pandemic.

COVID restrictions have changed our world. Since last March, when the country shut down, many schools have been doing distance learning. This fall, when the school year began again, schools struggled with how to educate our children safely. Some opened completely. Some chose the hybrid model and some chose all distance learning. This largely depended on how the spread of COVID was occurring in the communities where schools are located. My own grandchildren are now learning from home while their parents work from home. It is not the way our kids should be educated but here we are.

There have been no school shootings since COVID started spreading in our country. I came across this report from the Government Accounting Office (GAO) about school shootings that confirms what we really already know:

We examined school shootings and found:

Half were committed by current or former students

Suburban and rural, wealthier, and low-minority schools had more school-targeted shootings; such shootings were the most fatal and most commonly committed by students

Urban, poor, and high-minority schools had more shootings overall and more motivated by disputes; these shootings were often committed by non-students or unknown shooters

More shootings happened outside, but those inside schools were usually more deadly

We found no empirical research from 2009-2019 that directly examined the link between school discipline and school shootings.

There have been few mass shootings in public places either. People aren’t gathering as much in public now. There was one two days ago though in a Milwaukee suburb mall leaving 8 innocent people injured and none dead. Malls are still places where people are allowed to gather in larger numbers. It seems that where people gather in larger numbers, there are opportunities for mass shooters to take out some sort of angry rampage on people they don’t know. And easy access to guns along with weak gun laws lets this all happen.

Don’t get me started on the weak response to the actual pandemic. During the pandemic the sale of guns has gone up. How do we explain this? I don’t think we do. It’s a gun culture that no other country where COVID is also spreading experiences. It’s the weak gun laws.

We are experiencing unprecedented turmoil due to the pandemic. The stress of worry about losing a job, kids being at home, working from home, getting COVID and now the lunacy of a sitting President who refuses to admit he lost the election, is leading to fear and paranoia. It is not a good time to be locked and loaded. It is not a good time to be carrying a gun around in public where there are rallies and protests.

We know how that worked out in Kenosha when there were protests there after the shooting of a black man by police. Two people were shot and killed by a 17 year old who bought his gun in a straw purchase since he was too young to own or carry an AR-15. But carry he did. He was arrested.

The lunacy of what we are experiencing in America is that the said 17 year old shooter has been bailed out by none other than the “pillow guy”- friend to the current occupant of the White House and actor Ricky Schroder.

You can’t make this stuff up.

Where is common sense?

Everyday shootings have continued apace. According to Gun Violence Archive, 38,526 Americans have died from gunshot injuries so far this year. It will likely reach 40,00 before the end of the year.

This number included suicides. An increase in gun suicides in the age of COVID should not surprise us. Access to guns and suicide go together. Gun suicides have been on the rise anyway. But now we are seeing more evidence that times of stress and anxiety can lead to more suicides. Guns make it easy. A New York Times article has this to say:

Ms. Torp has reason to worry. Gun violence kills about 40,000 Americans each year, but while public attention has focused on mass shootings, murders and accidental gun deaths, these account for little more than one-third of the nation’s firearms fatalities. The majority of gun deaths are suicides — and just over half of suicides involve guns.

According to national health statistics, 24,432 Americans used guns to kill themselves in 2018, up from 19,392 in 2010.

People who kill themselves in this way are usually those with ready access to firearms: gun owners and their family members. Gun owners are not more suicidal than people who don’t own guns, but attempts with guns are more likely to be fatal.

Now, nearly a year after the coronavirus pandemic began, unleashing a tide of economic dislocation and despair, experts are bracing for a rise in suicides. Gun sales have risen steadily since March, and as shutdowns aimed at containing the virus have disrupted lives and led to social isolation, studies have shown an increase in anxiety and suicidal ideation.

We are in perilous times now. More deaths from COVID and still rising to numbers that are incomprensible; a feckless, unfit and unhinged President turning his back to the American people; a major party refusing to stand up and insist that we proceed with the transition to the next President Joe Biden; armed people on our streets; conspiracy theories pushed by right wing extremists, including the President that will only make the threats of violence more likely; weak gun laws that allow for so many people to have instant access to guns that could result in a tragedy. Election officials have been threatened as have people who have spoken out against the President’s lunacy.

There is NO VOTER FRAUD. Time to move on to a more peaceful and safe country.

I look forward to President Joe Biden for many reasons. The daily chaos will decrease or disappear. We will have a sane approach to combating COVID and distributing what looks to be a successful vaccine. There is hope that the economy can recover and our kids can get back to school. And there will be a common sense approach to reducing and preventing gun violence.

I look forward to a peaceful and calm, but quiet, Thanksgiving and holiday season as a time of reflection on things past, present and future. I wish we could spend it with our kids and grandkids but not this year. Enjoy your quiet and tune out the loud noises out there.

Cure the virus of violence

image created by anonymous artists of Minneapolis and St. Paul

I’m angry. I’m sad. I’m outraged. I’m almost speechless;. I’m hurting for my state and for George Floyd’s family. I’m concerned. I’m worried about the boogaloo movement that foments violence and hopes for Civil War. Were they involved in the protests? We don’t yet know who the people are who came from the outside to promote violence, looting and burning of buildings. We need to find that out.

I’m afraid of the eruption of violence over the murder of George Floyd by a white officer while other officers stood by and let it happen. I’m inspired by the passionate activism of so many people who want justice for George Floyd. I am a white woman of privilege. I can’t really understand how it feels to be black, brown or indigenous in America. But I can see the reactions in Minneapolis and all over the country. We have all seen the demands for justice that are about more than George Floyd. They are about racism, racial and social injustice and inequality, discrimination in housing and jobs, lack of educational opportunities and violence against them perpetrated over the decades.

There are now many viruses spreading all over America. In the midst of our country’s worst pandemic in many decades, the virus of violence has been spreading from person to person and from community to community all over our country. The murder of George Floyd set it off. But that murder was the symptom of an underlying virus that has been lurking under the surface and often above the surface making America sick.

And to make matters worse, because of the protest the spread of coronavirus may increase now and could affect even more people of color. Clearly we have a long ways to go before that virus is controlled. And clearly we have a long ways to go to control the viruses of racial injustice and gun violence.

We have not been paying attention to what has been right in front of us. Communities of color have been hurting and angry for 400 years. A civil war was fought over slavery and tore our country apart. Even after the Civil War ended, there was not a solution to racial injustice.

In fact, if anything, the situation was worse after slaves were free to look for jobs, go to schools, live in houses in our neighborhoods, become professionals, work in our communities, vote in our communities and participate in our society. Because of the color of their skin, they have not been able to do any of those things without fighting and struggling to be treated just like everyone else.

Long after the Civil War, protesters in some places, Trump supporters and pro gun activists bring the Confederate flag with them as a statement of their racism. We know what that means.

Why have we allowed angry anti-government people to carry Confederate and Don’t Tread on Me (Gadsden) flags? Yes. It’s their first amendment right but it’s also an indication of racism and violence that is now taking center stage. It’s abhorrent and offensive. These may be the same people criticizing the protests and crying out for more arrests and more force against protesters.

Our own President seems to be encouraging violence in some of his recent tweets, especially mentioning shooting the looters. His tweets are stoking the tension and the violence. It’s unfathomable that our leader is not leading during our epidemics.

Pivoting to gun violence as a virus and public health epidemic, men and boys of color are 2.5 times more at risk of being shot by law enforcement than white men and boys. This article from the Washington Post shows us the number of police shootings so far this year along with the number of black victims:

Although half of the people shot and killed by police are white, black Americans are shot at a disproportionate rate. They account for less than 13 percent of the U.S. population, but are killed by police at more than twice the rate of white Americans. Hispanic Americans are also killed by police at a disproportionate rate.

The time was ripe. We are in the midst of a pandemic that has taken over 100,000 lives, a disproportionate number of which have been people of color. The shut down of the economy has been disastrous for the economy and for low income people in particular. Many have no access to affordable health care. Many are unemployed and in despair. No wonder the country erupted.

Scientists, meanwhile, are increasingly studying police violence as a public health problem whose long-term harms radiate far beyond the original victim.

“It can have these toxic effects on communities, in terms of both their physical and mental health,” Edwards said.

A study published in the Lancet last year found that police killings of unarmed black men were associated with an increase in mental health problems such as depression and emotional issues for black people living in the state where the killing took place.

And living in a state of constant fear can lead to chronic stress, Edwards said. He referred to “the talk,” a conversation that many African American parents have with their children — especially boys — about how to interact with police to avoid being harmed.

All things considered, isn’t it surprising that there have not been more mass eruptions of anger and protests over the police killings of people of color? And over economic disparities? And over housing disparities? And over our healthcare crisis? And over gun violence?

Gun violence prevention organizations have talked about but never fully embraced this intersection of gun violence with racial injustice. We could have done better. We should have done better.

In incident after incident the country has watched the shootings of black men and boys by police when other options were better. Many organizations have made statements of solidarity with the protesters. We all care. We all want to help. We all need to step up and do more and do better. Brady made this statement about George Floyd:

This reality and the fact that Black Americans face disproportionate rates of gun violence result from the same racist policies and structures that drive inequality and disparity for minority communities across numerous outcomes. To speak to police violence requires acknowledging systemic racism in our country. To seek to end police violence requires addressing systemic racism. They are inseparable.

I get that law enforcement officers fear for their lives every day. Their jobs are dangerous by necessity. They are armed which gives them power over others. And they also recognize that citizens are more armed now than ever before. Made possible by the NRA and other gun rights organization, gun carry laws have passed in most states of the nation. Now police can’t tell the difference between “good guys” with guns and “bad guys” with guns.

And they can tell the difference between a black person with a gun ( or not) and a white person with a gun. Too often police have wrongly assumed that a black person is armed and they shoot first and ask questions later. Too often police officers who are charged and arrested are not found guilty of murder. That is what must be addressed if anything is going to change.

While we are at if, let us not forget the groups of armed white people who showed up in state capitols to protest the stay at home orders of Governors to stop the spread of COVID-19. What happened to those folks displaying assault weapons, including a rocket launcher? Nothing. No arrests. No police actions. We get the difference. If those armed men had been black, they would have been arrested- or worse. This is the problem isn’t it? One group is not like the other.

There is a virus of gun violence within the virus of the protests within the virus of COVID-19 turning to rioting and violence. We all need to breathe. George Floyd couldn’t breathe because of police action and he is now dead. Coronavirus victims have trouble breathing because the virus attacks the lungs. Some have died. Protesters can’t breathe when tear gas is lobbed their way. The nation can’t breathe now because of the violence and because of rampant racism. We need a cure.

And my last point has to do with the guns carried by protesters or used against protesters in the last few days. It’s bad enough without loaded weapons that take the breath away from the victims of the bullets. In Louisville, Kentucky several instances of deadly shootings have occured as the result of the protests. Here – 7 dead. Here- 1 shot dead by law enforcement.

In Omaha, Nebraska a white man shot and killed a black protester. The shooter had a history of gun arrests, including felonies. Why did he have access to a gun? Laws matter.

Here are just a few names of people of color shot by police:

Ahmaud Arbery

Breonna Taylor

Tamir Rice

Walter Scott

Michael Brown

Philando Castile

Jamar Clark

Just a few of the names of black people shot by armed citizens:

Trayvon Martin

Jordan Davis

Birdell Beeks

Tyesha Edwards

Nizeal Banks

I just watched an impromptu memorial to George Floyd in Minneapolis. George’s 2 brothers asked for peaceful protests to make the change that is needed. We all hope that common sense happens so we can get to work on solutions and systemic changes.

At the memorial there were several chants: “Peace on the left; justice on the right.” and “What’s his name?” “George Floyd.

George Floyd.

Protecting your potatoes

We have hit a new marker in the President’s dog whistles to potential supporters. Today, in a meeting with farmers, he brought up the second amendment. Why? It’s a dog whistle and used to ramp up fear and paranoia so those farmers will certainly vote for him. I mean if I thought my potatoes were at risk during this pandemic or any other time, I would certainly think about my guns and gun rights. Wouldn’t you?

From this article:

Said Trump: “We’re going after Virginia, with your crazy governor, we’re going after Virginia.”

He then made a reference to gun rights to the farmers present: “They want to take your Second Amendment away. You’ll have nobody guarding your potatoes.”

Yes. He said that. You can’t make this stuff up.

What does it mean that Trump links ” going after Virginia” with second amendment rights? Not too subtle. Is this a threat?

Here’s the thing. Do you need to guard your potatoes? Of course it’s total nonsense to use the tired old meme about taking away your second amendment rights. After the Democrats took the House and Senate in Virginia, the first thing they did was to pass common sense gun laws. The last time I looked, no one’s guns or gun rights were taken away from them. Instead, the citizens of Virginia just got a whole lot safer and less likely to die from shootings.

Isn’t that a good thing?

This election season is already becoming insane but with the second amendment “hanging in the balance” it may just turn deadly as well. The worry is those folks who are openly carrying their guns around ostensibly guarding ….? What are they guarding? That’s what I don’t get. They claim to be guarding some sort of right to be free or die. But what they are really doing is causing the spread of the coronavirus around to their friends, families and strangers. From the article:

Thus do right-wing extremists exploit America’s lax gun laws for political gain. Of course, the open carrying of rifles or handguns is a recipe for intimidation and potentially deadly confusion, even when not politically motivated. If shots ring out on a street full of armed pedestrians, how are the police supposed to identify the culprit? (…) The lesson is that armed political movements of any ideology can endanger democracy, and that a consistent, rational reading of the Constitution would empower states to rein them in.

What about our rights to be safe from these guardians of insanity? Generally speaking the public does not like seeing people strut around with assault rifles and rocket launchers strapped around their chests.

It’s armed insurrection. It’s domestic terrorism.

And generally speaking the public does not want the coronavirus spreading to them or those close to them. When close to 100,000 Americans have died from one cause in the course of 2 months, wouldn’t you think we could be together in our efforts to stop the spread of the disease so more of us don’t succombe to a deadly novel virus? Wouldn’t you think these guys with the guns who think they are making the rules would join with the governors of their states and do whatever they could to make sure we can keep people from ending up on a ventilator? Wouldn’t you think these folks would want to keep our health care providers and front line workers safe from getting sick so they can take care of all of us- serve food, pack groceries, fill prescriptions, sell plants and building materials?

Wouldn’t you think?

UPDATE:

I am not the only one wondering what the President meant by guarding your potatoes. This parody from the Washington Post highlights how ludicrous Trump’s statement was ( see above):

I got a call from an old friend from potato guardian training. He washed out; people were always taking potatoes from under his nose, and he was a laughingstock among us. Now he works in finance. He asked if I had heard the news about the governor and what he was planning to do. I said I hadn’t, so he told me. I can’t believe the governor would come for our Second Amendment rights. No potato will be safe then. It’s monstrous.

Exactly. Nothing is safe without those second amendment rights. Not even potatoes.

Freedom or die

The last week or so has been eye opening and appalling as anti government, pro-gun, pro-Trump extremists were pushing for more ways to kill or harm us. And by that I mean both with guns and with the coronavirus. There’s quite a list of examples but below are just a few:

It would be hard to make this stuff up wouldn’t it? This did not happen in other countries that have also suffered from the same virus. Unlike America, they don’t suffer from armed insurrectionists threatening and shooting their fellow citizens.

On another front, people are dying from bullets in the midst of our pandemic. There have been several shootings in Minnesota, one in particular that has drawn the attention of the media and citizens. A gun permit holder shot and killed a young black man during an altercation over a fender bender because he “thought” the man was going for a gun when he put his hand in his waist. This is called Shoot First, Ask Questions Later. And, of course, the victim cannot tell his side of the story. But he was unarmed. Here is more from the article:

Trifiletti later told police that Lewis appeared to be reaching toward his waistband as he advanced toward Trifiletti, who’d grabbed a handgun from his glove box and fired several shots, striking Lewis four times. The man has a legal permit to carry, a law enforcement source confirmed.

The problem with legalized carrying of guns in public places is that when armed citizens and even law enforcement officers believe that anyone could be armed (because a certain number are) they assume that putting your hand on your waist band means you are have a gun and you are going to shoot.

And the excuse given by permit holders in these incidents is that they were shooting in self defense. In Minnesota the law requires a duty to retreat first unless in your own home, before shooting someone. There is no excuse for shooting innocent people for no reason.

Common sense tells us that if the shooter had been a person of color there would be no excuses allowed. Stand Your Ground laws have penalized black people more than whites in these situations. And more black people are shot in “self defense” incidents:

When white shooters kill Black victims, the resulting homicides are deemed justifiable 11 times more frequently than when the shooter is Black and the victim is white.6

Controlling for other factors—such as who initiated the confrontation and whether or not the victim was armed—Florida Stand Your Ground cases with minority victims are half as likely to lead to conviction, compared to cases with white victims.7

I can’t leave this post until I talk about the heinous case of Ahmaud Arbery who was shot in the back by 2 white men in Georgia. A video shows that Arbery appeared to have been ambushed. Once the video was released the public was so angered and the media coverage so intense that the shooters were finally arrested after more than 2 months of getting away with murder. (Coincidentally the video was made by a friend of the shooter who was following Arbery and the 2 shooters for some reason. But why was he doing a video in the first place? Was this shooting planned ahead of time?)

It seems that some in positions to know better would have let this go if they could have:

Arbery’s family and their attorneys say Arbery was out for a jog when he was killed. They believe he was the victim of racial profilingand have called the killing a lynching.

“Once again, a black man was lynched in Georgia. It was an unfortunate incident because we see this too often,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a press conference Friday. “That is a sad statement in where we are in this nation.”

It wasn’t until the video was released that public pressure and reporting about the shooting led to the arrest of the shooters. In just a few minutes 2 men with a gun snuffed out an innocent life and changed their own lives forever. For what?

Georgia is a Stand Your Ground state. It will be important to watch this case to make sure justice is done for the victim. This was a murder by vigilantes. This is an American tragedy.

Charles Blow writing for the New York Times had this to say:

But there is a clear problem here: Arbery had committed no offense. His only offense, the thing that drew suspicion, was that he was black and male and running through these white men’s neighborhood. (…)

Arbery was enjoying a nice run on a beautiful day when he began to be stalked by armed men.

What must that have felt like?

What must he have felt when he approached the truck and saw that one of the stalkers was brandishing a shotgun?

What must he have thought when he fought for the gun?

Ahmaud Arbery was a 25 year old human being out for a jog. He happened to be black while jogging. He jogged almost every day according to his family who loved him and will miss him every day.

When there are more guns added to the mix and more stress from the stay at home orders and job loss, there will be more gun deaths. A surge in gun purchases means a surge in gun deaths and injuries. From the Annals of Internal Medicine:

Since February 2020, as U.S. public health efforts have focused on containing the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), gun sales in the country have skyrocketed. In March, more than 2.5 million firearms were sold, including 1.5 million handguns (1). In the best of times, increased gun ownership is associated with a heightened risk for firearm-related suicide (2). These are not the best of times. The United States faces an unprecedented combination of a public health and economic disaster. The physical distancing necessary to curb transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 has disrupted social networks. Many people live in isolation, and the mental health of the population will likely suffer. Combined, these forces create a climate with the potential to increase firearm-related suicides.The firearm-related suicide crisis was mounting well before COVID-19. From 2006 to 2018, firearm-related suicide rates increased by more than 25% (3). In 2018 alone, there were 24 432 firearm-related suicides in the United States (3). Simultaneously, the number of firearm background checks increased from 10 036 933 in 2006 to 28 369 750 in 2019—an annual increase of 14% (4).

Gun violence is an epidemic in the midst of our coronavirus pandemic. The guns purchased in panic will be in homes and on our streets for the years to come. The gun lobby would have us believe that an armed society is a polite society. We have been treated to daily photos, videos and stories about armed Americans intimidating, injuring, threatening and killing innocent human beings during the coronavirus pandemic. The public understands that the gun lobby is dead wrong. The public is in favor of stronger gun laws and doing something to save lives.

Over 70,000 Americans- almost 80,000 have died from the coronavirus and the numbers keep climbing. It is frightening that a disease can be so deadly and so communicable. Scientists and health care providers are working hard to find measures to treat the virus and/or lessen the severity of the disease. Until a vaccine is released to give us all immunity from this awful disease, deaths will continue.

Now we need a vaccine from shootings. There are laws that can reduce and prevent gun violence -like a vaccine. Common sense works too. Staying safe from gun violence means locking up guns, not carrying them around in situations that could become volatile, checking on friends and loved ones to make sure they are not suicidal or homicidal, and just thinking about the risks of guns right now and always.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay at home unless you have important and necessary items. Social distance. Wear masks. It’s not just for you, it’s for all of us. We are all in this together and can prevent the spread of the disease by following easy and simple measures. Our freedoms have been temporarily restricted to save lives. It’s not an either or proposition. We don’t have the freedom to kill people and we should not the freedom to willfully spread the coronavirus by protesting against the very things that can prevent all of us from dying. We all have the freedom of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

May Day with guns

Use this free printable May Day Basket to celebrate May Day ...

Happy May Day. As per my last post, the armed protesters are still protesting and causing a fuss about the life saving stay at home orders. Yesterday they outdid themselves by showing up armed in great numbers and almost literally breaking into the Michigan state Capitol building where the state legislature was in session.

It was not a pretty picture. In fact it frightened most of America when they saw the heavily armed men with assault style rifles and more- some said automatic weapons- carried around their shoulders and across their chests. Yes, open carry is allowed in Michigan, but come on. This was no ordinary protest. Some Senators donned bullet proof vests out of fear of these home grown terrorists standing in the balcony above them with their guns. From the above article:

While not all the protesters were armed, there were some armed men in the crowd inside. Michigan is an open-carry state, and people are allowed to openly carry inside the state Capitol, though signs and banners are banned from the building to prevent potential damage to the architecture.

Democratic state Sen. Dayna Polehanki tweeted that some of her colleagues had worn bulletproof vests to cast their votes.

And, of course, Trump weighed in on twitter because he can’t help himself calling them good people just like he did during the Charlottesville protests. No. They are not good people:

In a tweet on Friday morning, President Donald Trump described protesters in Michigan as “very good people” and suggested that the governor should strike a deal with them.

On Thursday, hundreds of protesters — many of them carrying guns — descended on the Michigan Capitol to oppose Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s extension of the state’s stay-at-home order by another two weeks, to May 15.

“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire,” Trump wrote. “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

No. The Governor of Michigan should not give a little to these dangerous terrorists. They can be angry. But they can’t be angry while armed to the teeth making threats to capitol police and yelling in their faces spewing who knows what at them. That is why we wear masks. Upwards of 25% of coronavirus victims are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic.

Elected officials need not back down to armed crazed angry white guys with guns. Intimidation with guns is not new but going after our elected officials over the stay at home orders is a new dangerous thing. As it turns out these folks may become sick or make someone else sick with coronavirus and those who get it will spread to others leading to the death of some and leading to filling up hospitals with sick people that they can’t really handle.

This movement is sick and twisted.

May Day is a day of hope for the coming summer and celebrating spring. It has also been used a show of military force by some communist countries. The day itself has an interesting and controversial history.

Here are some photos of May Day celebrations and photos from around the world showing differences in the emphasis of the day.

Decades ago, my husband and I took a 3 month tour of Europe with another couple and encountered a May Day parade in the former Yugoslavia featuring tanks and a military show of force. I have never forgotten feeling very uncomfortable and a little fearful because, of course, this does not happen in America.

But yesterday, perhaps it did. A show of force of military style weapons meant to intimidate, pure and simply. It is the talk of the world now. Protests have taken place in other parts of the world for the same reason as people here are doing. But they were and are not carrying guns around wearing camo clothing.

There is no common sense in what is going on right now in our country. The President has botched the response to the coronavirus outbreak in so many ways that I can’t list them. He only cares about his re-election which is pretty obvious. Tens of thousands have died and many other sickened. The PTSD will be overwhelming for the country and Americans.

Angry white men with guns only adds to the anxiety and the PTSD. It is not OK. It is not right. It should be illegal but we have allowed laws to pass that make this all legal. And now we see what it means. The NRA and corporate gun lobby made sure that that happened and some are now involved in encouraging the armed protests. Will these people stay silent in the coming months leading up to the election?

I am worried about what is going to happen with these “good guys” with guns if things don’t go their way.

It’s May. We are just flattening the curve of coronavirus deaths. We are not done with this malignant disease in any way, shape or form. We have a long ways to go.It’s time to practice patience even though it is extremely difficult. It’s time to be together about what we need to do as Americans because we are truly all in this together. What you do today could affect me tomorrow. It could affect your cousin or your neighbor or your sister or your mother.

Guns are not needed now. In fact more guns will not and do not make us safer. Gun violence has continued apace during this crisis even though crime has gone down. Suicide hotlines are experiencing a huge increase in calls. Domestic abuse hotlines as well. We know that the majority of suicides and domestic homicides are by gun.

The other day a physician, Dr. Sarah Breen, committed suicide in reaction to what she was seeing every day on the front line. She had also contracted the virus herself. The method of her suicide has not been reported. But in this article it is clearly stated that another health care provider used a gun to kill himself:

Two days earlier, a Bronx EMT witnessing the virus’ ruthless toll fatally shot himself with a gun belonging to his retired NYPD cop dad.

We will see more of this, sadly. Guns and a coronavirus pandemic do not got together and should not. Please don’t buy a gun because of the pandemic. Guns are a risk in your home and now more than ever. Check End Family Fire about the risks and the solutions. Please store guns safely. Please don’t act in a moment of anger or despair. So far we have lost more than 60,000 Americans. We will lose many more. And we will lost more to gun violence.

“Side with Safety”.

Gun deaths are avoidable and preventable. Coronavirus can be avoided if the proper measures are practiced. In the end, a majority of Americans may be affected one way or another by the virus until a vaccine is developed. That is a ways away.

Put away your guns. Stay safe. Stop intimidating and making things dangerous and threatening to others. The folks who are doing this are foolish and look foolish.

We are better than this.

Enjoy May Day and be hopeful that if we all act together we can go together into our new future where maybe nothing will be the same.

In remembrance of Dr. Sarah Breen.

What have guns got to do with it?

Protesters at Michigan anti stay at home rally from Post Online Media (4/16/20)

I was thinking about the Tina Turner song, What’s Love Got To Do With It? as I was getting ready to write this post. For the life of me, I cannot understand what guns have to do with the anti stay at home protests going on all over the country. Why, for instance, are AR-15s deemed necessary when protesting that governors have shut down much of our lives so we stay home to keep from getting sick and dying? It makes no sense because common sense tells us that going out now and mingling with groups, eating out, going to sporting events, being in school, going to movies, etc. can be deadly. Of course doing those things can also be deadly because of gun violence as well. But right now we are talking about the coronavirus that is killing people by the thousands every day.

In a photo in the above linked article, there are armed members of the Boogaloo movement. I posted about that group during the pro gun rally at the Virginia statehouse in January to protest the impending passage of common sense gun laws. Does this mean that these folks want a Civil War or are they preparing for one?

When these anti government groups protest with guns strapped across their chests they are also sending a message to the rest of us. Beware. Danger. If society doesn’t open now or very soon, we will use these guns? Or are the guns a threat to our own leaders? Or to our democracy itself? I believe all are true.

Fomented by our very own President, these groups have been given not so subtle permission from the very top:

Several Democrats at the state and nation levels, meanwhile, blasted the president for fomenting domestic violence with a series of tweets calling on his supporters to “liberate” Virginia, Minnesota and Michigan — all states with Democratic governors.

Trump urged the action as groups have formed to protest stay-at-home orders and business closures aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus. He ominously also called on people in Virginia to protect their gun rights, which are “under siege,” he said.

And the protests are not organic. They have been organized by, of all things, Minnesota pro-gun activists:

The Facebook groups target Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania and New York, and they appear to be the work of Ben Dorr, the political director of a group called “Minnesota Gun Rights,” and his siblings, Christopher and Aaron. By Sunday, the groups had roughly 200,000 members combined, and they continued to expand quickly, days after President Trump endorsed such protests by suggesting citizens should “liberate” their states.

The Dorr brothers manage a slew of pro-gun groups across a wide range of states, from Iowa to Minnesota to New York, and seek primarily to discredit organizations like the National Rifle Association as being too compromising on gun safety. Minnesota Gun Rights, for instance, describes itself as the state’s “no-compromise gun rights organization.”

I am familiar with the Dorrs. Ben shows up at the Minnesota Capital with his video camera following people like me around trying to get them to talk to him. His paranoia about what Protect Minnesota and Mom Demand Action are doing is obvious.

So is this actually about the stay at home orders or is it about gun rights? The two seemed to be linked here. The NRA has become an arm of the Republican party and represents the far right fringe, whatever that is currently. From the article about the protests though the NRA has compromised too much. Wow.

Also in the photos there are signs that say: give me liberty or the coronavirus. Really? “Give me liberty or give me death.” The irony. The ignorance. The danger. The fantasy?

Now what? What is going to happen? People are frightened, stressed out, depressed, angry- we all are. I get that. But we don’t need nor should we have to be afraid of people with guns in this charged atmosphere.

We all know that guns kill people. Yes they do.

An apparent murder/suicide just occurred in Minnesota. At this point we don’t know if it’s related to COVID because domestic killings have been going on for many decades now. But the concern is that we will see an increase that goes with the increase in the number of guns purchased in panic buying. They won’t wear out. They will be in homes for the foreseeable future to be used in homicide, suicide and unintentional shootings.

A man was found dead of a gunshot wound in Maple Grove, MN. The shootings continue during the pandemic.

Gun deaths have been at an epidemic rate for decades now. They have not been treated as an epidemic but the numbers have hovered between 32,000 and close to or over 40,000 since the mid ’90s when my sister was murdered. And yet, what have we done? Not nearly enough.

As with the coronavirus, we are not doing enough. We need strong leaders who will not be afraid to tell the truth and deal with the facts on the ground. When tens of thousands of Americans die every year from just one cause, we must find a way to reduce that number and prevent the cause. We need to make sure people are safe at home and on the streets, in the workplace and where kids and families go to school and play.

We are hopefully safe at home now with the orders given by most governors. Opening up our society too soon will cause more deaths. That is inevitable. About 25% to 50% of those who test positive for COVID 19 are asymptomatic. That is why testing of all kinds is imperative. Until that happens, we cannot listen to the people with guns who are making idle and not so idle threats. By most accounts and most reporting and facts, the country is not ready to open up yet. Those who are protesting are flat our wrong. They are not thinking about what it actually means to have people go back to “normal” pre-COVID life. But then again, they are not thinking when they show up with assault rifles outside of governors’ mansions and state houses either.

We must be safe at home and stay at home now. We also must be safe at home from gunshot injuries that could kill us. This is not how it has been in any other country. Only in America can we see photos of people protesting the very thing that will save them from themselves. Only in America is there a stupid and dangerous display of assault type weapons on the streets near our state houses and governors’ mansions.

By the way, most Americans don’t agree with the protesters- they don’t want the country to re-open too quickly according to a Sunday poll by NBC and Wall Street Journal. Just like the gun issue where the majority of Americans want common sense gun laws, Americans know that pandemics and gun violence epidemics need solutions that keep them safe from danger, death, injuries and sickness.

In the words of my friend and local writer Sam Cook in this column:

I cannot imagine a summer without waking up in the canoe country, listening to the soft lapping of water on rock. I could be packed and ready to go in half a day. But if that kind of travel is deemed too risky — to me or to the greater populace — then it would be both selfish and foolish for me to go.

Don’t be foolish. Don’t be selfish. Stay safe. Stay at home. Lock up your guns. Don’t bring your guns out in public. Don’t shoot yourself or a loved one. Don’t let your kids handle loaded unsecured guns. Wear a mask in public. Don’t congregate in groups and become sick yourself or infect those around you. Use common sense.

In the fog of the coronavirus pandemic crisis, I almost forgot to mention that today is the 21st anniversary of the Columbine shooting. Columbine was the first mass school shooting that in some ways, has been a model for other school shooters. Please remember the 13 who were killed and the others who were injured and survived and their families. This day lives on in their memories and ours.