Vaccine for shootings

It took a long time for the public and media to understand the “side effects” from shootings. As with the COVID vaccines, meant to protect us from a potentially deadly and highly infectious disease, we need a vaccine from shootings. Yes, there are side effects but getting the public vaccinated is of the utmost importance to get life back to normal. Wouldn’t it be great if we has a vaccine to prevent the side effects of people dying or being injured from bullets? The side effects of gun violence are myriad.

That vaccine would be in the form of reasonable gun laws proposed by legislatures and Congress. The vaccine would also be in the form of campaigns to get gun owners to store their guns safely away from those who could be dangerous with a loaded gun taken from a home or car such as the Be Smart program. It could be in the form of parents asking if there are loaded unlocked guns in the homes where their children play or hang out. It could be an awareness campaign about the risks of guns in homes such as End Family Fire. It could be in the form of appointing a permanent director for the ATF ( as President Biden has offering the name of David Chipman, former ATF agent), long underfunded on purpose and vilified by the gun rights extremists. The ATF has been left without a director for decades on purpose at the bidding of the gun extremists in Congress. It could be in the form of funding research into the causes and effects of gun violence, underfunded by the lapdog politicians in Congress. ( It finally happened in 2020) It could be in the form of community violence intervention efforts to reduce shootings in our urban communities as well as cracking down on Ghost Guns both in the President Biden’s recent Executive Orders.

And of course, it could and should be requiring a Brady background check on ALL gun sales so that every transaction is treated the same way. This, of course, would prevent felons, domestic abusers, adjudicate mentally ill people and others who are looking for a gun to use to shoot people, from easily getting a gun without a background check on-line or at a gunshow. Extreme Risk Protection Orders, when applied the way they should be, would also save lives.

As an aside, there was a recent seizure of Ghost guns and other dangerous weapons in a Pennsylvania raid:

“Investigators discovered 21.5 pounds of crystal methamphetamine with a street value of $968,200,” Shapiro’s office said in a statement. They also discovered “six fully assembled ghost guns, three 80 percent receivers used to make ghost guns, four assault rifles, three handguns, and various ghost gun parts, along with drug and Nazi paraphernalia.”

So-called ghost guns are homemade firearms often made from parts bought online, which do not have traceable serial numbers. They have recently been the subject of executive actions by President Joe Biden to curb their use through federal regulation.

What could possibly go wrong with the scene described above? ( and why the Nazi paraphernalia, often found at gun shows?) After the Jan. 6th insurrection on our nation’s Capitol, one would think this would not be allowed. It is certainly a symptom of something terribly wrong in America. That is a topic for another post.

All of these measures could save us from ourselves. Isn’t it just preposterous that anyone could be against these vaccines for our public health epidemic of gun violence? Only a small minority are as it turns out but somehow they have managed to keep us from curing our disease. It’s not unlike COVID vaccine deniers who refuse to be part of the solution and just add to the problem. Some of the anti-vax opposition is based on nonsense or crazy conspiracy theories. We must oppose that in order to get our country back to normal. Unfortunately some of the denial is political just as is refusing to admit that gun safety reform will work to protect us from devastating gun violence in all of its’ forms. Some of it is misinformation or lack of knowledge about the effects of the vaccine.

Is that on purpose do you think? Some days I wonder at the lack of responsibility and failure of people to seek out correct and valid information. Yes, there is fear of the unknown. But we do now know that the vaccines work. I know if from personal experience. Just as the corporate gun lobby has fomented fear and hysteria over what the effect of common sense gun safety reform would actually mean and look like, there is fear and misinformation around gun violence prevention. A misinformed public is not good for democracy and public safety.

But I digress.

PTSD after mass shootings and “every day” domestic shootings, suicides, community violence, and unintended shootings is real. We know that now. When citizens have to worry that wherever they go to work, play, pray, shop, learn, and celebrate outdoor events there could be a person with a gun who intends to do harm, something is wrong in America.

This is a uniquely American disease. Other countries have found the vaccine for the potential violence and snuffed it out before it kills people by the hundreds every day. That vaccine is strong gun laws and the recognition that guns carried around and owned by anyone and everyone is just not healthy.

The fallout is a grocery store worker experiencing PTSD after being at King Soopers Stop and Shop on the day a shooter walked in and started shooting innocent people:

In the six weeks since a gunman killed 10 people — including his manager and two colleagues — at the King Soopers market in Boulder, Loomis has come to avoid crowds and public places. He is sad, angry and anxious,and following months of working the front lines of pandemic, worn out.

“A lot of people are quitting, and others are still too shaken up to talk about what happened,” the 21-year-old cashier said. “Wherever I go now, I’m looking at people, thinking, ‘Does he have an assault rifle? Was that a gunshot? How do I escape?’ ” (…)

The prolonged stress, public health experts say, can lead to depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease and other conditions. Now they’re dealing with one more stressor, said Bethany Brand, a psychology professor at Towson University in Maryland who specializes in trauma.

“Statistically the odds of any one grocery worker being killed at work are extremely small, but that is not how our brains work,” she said. “The impact of these events is real with heightened levels of stress and anxiety for many employees.”

‘It feels like a war zone’: As more of them die, grocery workers increasingly fear showing up at work

Even workers not directly affected by the shootings say they are struggling to sleep and are fearful of going to work, as they confront an ever-present threat of gun violence in the workplace. On April 20, less than a month after the Boulder shootings, a gunman opened fire in a Stop & Shop in Long Island, killing one manager and injuring two employees.

This is #notnormal. Except, of course, it is. Last week I saw a headline of a news story come across my iPhone that a 6th grader brought a gun to Plymouth Middle School in Minnesota. My son lives in Plymouth, Mn. His oldest son and my grandson goes to middle school but his school is in the Wayzata school district. My first reaction was panic as was that of my son and his wife until we realized that the school in question was in the Robbinsdale school district. Phew. Crisis averted. Except it wasn’t for the Plymouth Middle School after this 6th grader, who took a gun from his home, shot off bullets into the ceiling. Phew. Crisis averted. Except for the trauma of the event on everyone involved.

And the father who owned that gun? He apologized. According to the above linked article, he believed his son to be suicidal and spoke about the effect of COVID on our kids. I get that part. It’s been tough. What he didn’t talk about is why he had a loaded handgun sitting in his bedroom for his son to get his hands on. If he knew his son was suicidal, safe storage was the vaccine for that.

We need more than apologies.

Minnesota has a Child Access Prevention Law but it does not appear that the father will be charged. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Was this the child’s fault? Was he trained not to touch a loaded gun because it could be dangerous? Because we know that just does not work. Children will, just like adults, think a gun is just another thing around the house if it is not treated like a dangerous weapon designed to kill others. Parents need to understand the consequences of irresponsibly storing a gun. The father, the boy and the entire Robbinsdale community are lucky the incident was not deadly.

The fallout of the middle school shooter is all around us. The entire community is wondering how this could have happened in their school or place of work. Way too often, the first comments after a shooting are that these things just don’t happen in their city, their school, their grocery store, their concert, their movie theater- until they do.

If we just practice common sense, we can reduce and prevent shootings. It’s not rocket science. It’s simple. If we care that over 40,000 Americans a year lose their lives ( an increase not seen in decades) to mostly preventable shootings, we will put our heads together with politicians on both sides of the aisle, with gun owners, with parents, professionals, educators, CEOs of companies, victims, survivors, faith leaders, community activists, and youth. We will get it done. Whatever it takes to get this done we do know that the #timeisnow for all of that to happen. We also know that the time was decades ago but we have failed our citizens. We have failed our children. We have failed.

Let’s do this.

April

It’s April 20th. Yesterday was the “anniversary” of the bombing of the Oklahoma City Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. 168 people died. The nation will not forget that on April 19th, a man with right wing extremist views committed an act of domestic terror- one of the first of others to follow. After the Jan. 6th insurrection at the Capitol, references and comparisons were made. There was something similar about the two.

“April is the cruelest month”. This quote is the first line of the poem by American poet T.S. Eliot in his poem Wasteland. This year April has clearly been a very cruel month regarding shootings as I wrote about in my last post.

Today it’s another anniversary of the nation’s first mass school shooting that broke our hearts as we watched, horrified at the images of students hanging out of windows and walking out of the school, hands over their heads. 12 died that day in 1999. We mourned together. The Columbine shooting was the first of what has since become a national epidemic of school shootings that have taken the lives of our precious children in numbers unimaginable. 20 six year olds were massacred in December of 2012 in Newtown, Connecticut. 32 at Virginia Tech. 16 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. And it continues.

The shooting at Columbine and at a Jewish Community Day Care Center in California led to the Million Mom March and the birth of an organization that has been working to save lives and prevent shootings ever since. That organization is today called Brady United Against Gun Violence, or just Brady. Since the shooting of Gabby Giffords and the shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school, 2 more organizations entered the space of gun violence prevention. Giffords and Everytown/Moms Demand Action are making a real difference to the landscape with ever more activists doing the work of educating the public, lobbying, organizing, making calls, working on campaigns, holding vigils, involved in the Social Media space to demand that common sense prevail over cowardice and weakness.

Time after time, we have rallied, lobbied, marched, rung bells and lit candles. The bodies have piled up as we watch our lapdog politicians ignore the devastation and the horror. We have heard the excuses. We have heard the nonsensical rhetoric of the corporate gun lobbyists and leaders deceiving us and lying to us over and over again. We have heard them say that trying to prevent shootings won’t make a difference because people will get guns anyway even though we are trying to stop the “anyway”. We have heard them say that only good guys with guns can save us from the consequences of our failure to enact laws that could save us from the shootings. We have heard them offer thoughts and prayers while refusing to take the action necessary to stop having to offer thoughts and prayers.

Today we remember the victims of the Columbine shooting. Yesterday and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow we have and will remember the more than 100 who die of gunshot injuries every day in America.

In remembrance:

Cassie Bernall

Steve Curnow

Corey DePooter

Kelly Fleming

Matt Kachter

Daniel Mauser

Daniel Rohrbough

Rachel Scott

Isaiah Shoels

John Tomlin

Lauren Townsend

Kyle Velasquez

Coach Dave Sanders

Cloudy with a chance of shootings

I started to see the headlines in the media and then on Facebook and Twitter. It was one shooting after another over the week-end. Here is the list ( but there could be more):

You can’t make this up.

The Gun Violence Archive reports that so far this year, 12, 758 Americans have died from gunshot injuries. There have been 152 mass shootings so far this year. There has been a 73% increase in mass shootings this year over last year.

The forecast is deadly. It’s dangerous. Take cover and don’t go near your windows. Find a safe place where you will be protected from the violence.

It’s like a virus spreading around from city to city. No mask can save us from this one. It’s an ominous sign and we should heed the warning. Guns are almost literally falling from the sky.

Insanity reigns ( rains).

Only common sense can fix this.

Let’s do something and do something fast before the virus becomes too virulent to stop. Let’s do something before the winds and hail of bullets harm all of us.

The blame game or who can we blame for mass shootings?

I have been in a nonsensical “discussion” on a Facebook posting of a local TV station about the mass shooting in Indianapolis. In a ridiculous series of comments, which I must conclude come out of ignorance or political adherence to the destructive and dangerous views of the corporate gun lobby and Fox news, President Biden was blamed for the mass shooting. Yes. You read that right. Oh, and also the Democrats.

Here are a few of the comments to which I replied copied from the Facebook page:

  • ” I would like to know…let’s say in the last ten years…how many of these mass shooters were on Doctor prescribed medication?
  • “It’s almost daily now… 🤦🏼‍♂️And all they want to do is take away our guns so we can’t defend ourselves from these crazy people. Think about that…”
  • ” Funny how there’s always mass shootings when Democrats are in office…. weird….”
  • ” Let me guess its the guns fault not the person using it.”
  • “To many f’n nutjobs running around. Primary reason that I have my CCW. I hope it never happens, but I just might be the guy in line behind one of these nutjobs and you can rest assured that I will take him out long before he starts shooting!!!”
  • ” Funny how every single time the dems push for more gun control, there ends up being a bunch of shootings to support their agenda.”
  • ” You can’t carry at fedex while you’re working. Gun free zone gun control failed.yet again. Sad for all the families.”
  • “Why is it sense Biden and the democrats took the office,, were getting alot more shootings,,mmmm”

mmmm. You get the idea.

Why not blame everything but the American gun culture and the millions of guns that can be accessed by private citizens? Why not blame the Republican lapdogs for the corporate gun lobby for their refusal to act to save lives in the face of a national public health epidemic? Why not blame the NRA whose leaders have stood in the way of any kind of gun safety reform legislation that might actually allow most of us to be free from daily gun violence? Why not blame the outrageous lies and myths perpetrated by the corporate gun lobby over the last few decades such as ” the guys with the guns make the rules” or “only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun” or guns will be taken away from law abiding gun owners and not criminals if we pass a national background check bill to require background checks on all gun sales?

I have responded to this stuff for so long it is not necessary to do it again. It’s exhausting to tell the truth in the face of lies. The thing is, most Americans want stronger gun laws. Most Americans don’t carry guns around. Most Americans don’t even own guns. Most Americans understand who is to blame.

According to the article quoted above, this shooting could have potentially been prevented if we had Extreme Risk Protection Orders in place in all 50 states and by requiring background checks on all sales. The shooter had his gun removed by law enforcement a year ago at the request of his mother. So where and how did he get this gun? We don’t know yet. From the article cited above:

There have been reports in various news sources that the shooter used an AR15 style rifle for the shooting. Another person reported that an employee went to his car in the parking lot and got a gun out but the shooter shot that person. If true, so much for having a gun to prevent mass shootings and protect oneself.

Long before the shooting, Hole had been known to law enforcement. Last spring, after his mother reported her fears that he would attempt “suicide by cop,” he was questioned by authorities, and the police temporarily detained him for mental health reasons, FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan said.

With Hole’s shotgun seized and not returned, it was unclear how he had obtained the rifle used Thursday night.

And then there is this satire, which sometimes is the only way to make a point in a ridiculous discussion blaming everything but the proliferation of guns in America, from The Onion:

“This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said Nebraska resident Andrew Clark, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this individual from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what they really wanted.” At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past eight years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”

Let’s just look at the real problem. This Washington Post article writer gets to the facts and the truth about our American national tragedy played out on an all too regular basis:

Earlier this month, Biden announced limited measures to tackle gun violence that included a crackdown on self-assembled “ghost guns.” But more stringent measures face an uphill battle in a divided Congress, where Republican lawmakers have long opposed any new gun limits.

Nearly 20,000 Americans died last year as a result of gun violence, not including suicide – 25% higher than in 2019, and more than in any other year in at least two decades, according to figures compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is those decades that many of the gun violence prevention organizations and individuals have been working hard to stop and prevent the gun violence that we now see elevated to numbers not seen since many of us began this work. In 1992 when my sister was murdered, the number of gun deaths were in the 40,000 plus range. Then the numbers came down during the late 1990s. In 1993 the Brady law was enacted requiring a background check system to be established called the National Instant Check System. Under that system, in place since then, over 3 million people have been prohibited from buying guns at federally licensed gun dealers. But the law left a big gap allowing for the private sales of guns with no background check required. 1 in 5 gun sales go without a background check. What if we allowed 1 in 5 people to drive without a driver’s license or training or 1 in 5 doctors to treat patients without getting their medical degree and the training required? What if allowed 1 in 5 passengers to board planes without going through the TSA checkpoints? Or what if allowed just anyone to teach our kids?

So what next? President Biden understands common sense. He understands that gun violence in America. From the article quoted above:

“Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence,” he said. “It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation. We can, and must, do more to act and to save lives.”

Later on Friday, Biden said U.S. firearms deaths are a “national embarrassment” and called on Congress to ban military-style “assault” firearms.

“This has to end. It’s a national embarrassment,” Biden said at a White House press conference alongside Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

It is more than an embarrassment. it is a tragedy unfolding before our eyes every day. The Gun Violence Archive keeps track of shootings of all kinds. This is what has happened so far in 2021- there have been 148 mass shootings so far and including all forms of gun violence, 12, 515 American souls have died of gunshot injuries. When we study methods of death in our country, if that many people had died so far to this date, we would be demanding that something be done. We have been. But nothing is happening.

Ignoring these deaths, these victims, these numbers, this terrible tragedy is just not sustainable. Blaming everything but the truth does nothing of course. That’s the point. If we do nothing, the bodies will pile up. It could be your loved one or friend next. So many are dying that it’s inevitable that all of us will be directly affected by gun violence. For sure all of us suffer from the PTSD and exhaustion of stories about gun deaths in the news.

On the 14th anniversary of the shooting of 32 at Virginia Tech, we now also have an anniversary of the 8 shot in Indianapolis. On April 20th, we will remember the 12 victims of one of the nation’s first mass school shootings- Columbine. We are all to blame that we have done virtually nothing to protect our kids and our citizens from suffering from shootings.

We are all to blame.

In memory and honor with action:

Matthew R. Alexander, 32; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Amarjeet Johal, 66; Jaswinder Kaur, 64; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Amarjit Sekhon, 48; Karli Smith, 19; and John Weisert, 74.

Gun! Run!

Those are the words I heard an employee of the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado say as he described the scene of the mass shooting on Monday. Someone yelled these words and of course, everyone knew what they meant. Someone had a gun. Run from it. He did not say anyone offered to stand up to the shooter and try to defend the people inside of the store.

Customers were just going about their daily business buying groceries, picking up a coffee, getting a COVID vaccine- the things we do when we least expect a crazed gunman to open fire randomly with an alleged assault type rifle. Colorado is an “open carry” state allowing gun permit carriers to carry long guns on their persons. It might not be unusual to see someone carrying a long gun around- in America that is. In most other countries, citizens would assume their country was at war if there were people carrying rifles around. But I digress.

Running away in a panic with adrenaline racing through your body is the usual scenario at mass shootings. The first and obvious instinct is to run to get away from the shooter. In many or almost all of the recent mass shooting from Sandy Hook to Aurora, to Las Vegas to Sutherland the shooter chooses the weapon most likely to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible- to the most damage to create havoc and attention. It is not an accident that weapons like AR-15s are chosen by shooters. They know the damage that will be done. The bullets do more damage to tissue and organs, causing more death than other guns.

That is not, of course, what the gun lobby or its’ lapdogs in Congress. They exclaimed in loud and convincing voices that the best way to deal with mass shootings and all shootings is for everyone to have more guns and for the country to have fewer and looser laws rather than the opposite. Actually most Americans disagree with this claim and so does the evidence. But let’s check out Senator Ted Cruz’s angry and defensive comments at the Senate hearing yesterday on gun violence ( long planned before the Atlanta and Boulder mass shootings):

OK. Really Senator Cruz? Ridiculous theater? Poor choice of words. It surely was no theater performance when my sister was shot and killed by her estranged husband. How is theater for the Democrats on the committee to point out the obvious- that we have the highest rate of gun violence of all democratic countries not at war. It’s not theater. It’s not anything of which to be proud. It’s insanity and an American tragedy. The gaslighting from the speakers and Senators was as if they had a script for how to turn everything on it’s head and make all of them into the victims.

But the public knows better. Senator Cruz and other Republican lapdogs to the gun lobby did everything they could to distract from the two tragic and horrendous mass shootings that happened within one week of the hearing. How can you bloviate about the loss of 18 American lives in just 2 shootings, let alone the 100 plus a day that die from gunshot injuries due to domestic violence, suicides and unintentional shootings?

Senator Cruz and others opposed to 2 common sense gun laws passed by the House 2 weeks ago to merely keep guns away from those who shouldn’t have them are the drama queens. Near the end of the hearing, Senator Jon Ossoff, newly elected from Georgia where one of the shootings happened, asked one of the pro-gun speakers if she agreed that felons should not have guns. Her answer was yes.

Where is the gun lobby and lapdog plan for keeping guns away from potentially dangerous people? Where is their solution to our gun violence public health epidemic?

The deceptions offered by the pro gun speakers and their Senate lapdogs were amazingly transparent. Here are a few things that were offered or claimed:

All I know is that the majority of Americans, who agree on almost nothing, do agree that something must be done about gun violence in America. People want to be safe from being shot when they are in public places. They don’t want their children to be shot in school. They don’t want to have to say, as is said after all of the mass shootings, “this doesn’t happen in communities like ours.” YES. It does, it can and it will.

  • People should be allowed to carry guns everywhere
  • Passing universal background checks will only punish law abiding gun owners
  • Guns for self defense are used 1/2 million times a year.
  • Passing the 2 expanded Brady background check bills would result in gun confiscation
  • The Democrats have had an agenda to take guns away for years,
  • People of color, disabled Americans and LGBTQ Americans would be safer if they carried guns
  • People would not be allowed to use guns for self defense if the 2 bills were passed into law
  • Someone with a gun could absolutely stop, prevent mass shootings or save lives at mass shootings
  • We can absolutely tell “good guys” with guns from “bad guys” with guns even though the Atlanta shooter was a supposed “good guy” because he was not a prohibited purchase and got his gun legally.
  • Only “good guys” with guns can save us if they happen to be at the site of every mass shooting
  • There were more but you get the picture.

As long as we our lapdog lawmakers stand in the way of what 90% of Americans want the bodies will pile up.As long as ignore gun violence without offering up sensible solutions, the entire country will experience PTSD. With 40,000 plus gun deaths a year, we are to the point where almost all of us know someone who has been shot or has a family member who died from gun violence. It’s stunning. The Washington Post had this to say today about the situation:

Until two lethal rampages this month, mass shootings had largely been absent from headlines during the coronavirus pandemic. But people were still dying — at a record rate.

Washington Post

“In 2020, gun violence killed nearly 20,000 Americans, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, more than any other year in at least two decades. An additional 24,000 people died by suicide with a gun.

The vast majority of these tragedies happen far from the glare of the national spotlight, unfolding instead in homes or on city streets and — like the covid-19 crisis — disproportionately affecting communities of color.”

The Washington Post article used the Gun Violence Archive as its’ source as I always do.

Senators on the side of support for passing the laws passed by the House cited evidence and pleaded for evidence based decision making. While it’s true that the evidence is strongly in favor of passing stronger gun laws, much of what will happen will be based on emotion and political will.

We have a gun problem in America- that being that we have too many with easy access to anyone who wants one. Solving this problem seems herculean. It doesn’t have to be. Other countries have acted swiftly and strongly after heinous mass shootings ( New Zealand for example):

“On March 15, a gunman opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayers, killing 50 people and injuring many more. It was the country’s first mass shooting in more than a decade. Three days later, cabinet members agreed to develop a massive overhaul of the nation’s gun laws, including a ban on military-style assault weapons.

That show of unified political will, leading to swift action, stands in contrast to the U.S., where there has been more push-and-pull after innumerable high-profile mass shootings in recent years: at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012, Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015, Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016, at a Las Vegas country music festival and a Texas church in 2017, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and a Pittsburgh synagogue last year (and the list goes on).”

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/why-the-u-s-and-new-zealands-responses-to-mass-shootings-are-so-different

Now we are focusing our attention on the two shooters and motives for the shootings. Does it really matter? They both got access to a gun and fit the profile of an angry young man who decided to shoot people for maybe no particular reason. Guns make that all too easy to do. If the shooter of the Atlanta massage parlors had a sexual thing for Asian women, couldn’t he have fixed that without a gun? Maybe get some help? If the Boulder shooter had a reason to hate shoppers, couldn’t he have solved his problem another way- without a gun? There really are no excuses for any of these shootings. There never are. If there is mental illness involved, why have access to a gun? How does that happen in the first place? Yes, we need attention paid to mental illness which is a disease and we are not adequately funding services. But that does not mean we cannot work on solutions to our gun violence problem and at least try to stop dangerously angry, mentally ill people and domestic abusers from getting guns.

This is going to be a fight. It shouldn’t be. It is not partisan. Republicans and gun owners support stronger gun laws. Republicans and Democrats are shot and do the shooting. It’s a uniquely American problem and needs a uniquely American solution. We will keep working on the solution and raising our voices. We know they hear us. They are just deaf to the reality that doing something about it will not be bad for them politically. Or do they cynically want the gun violence numbers to remain high so they can use the numbers to support the sale of guns and to keep their base angry and fearful?

Just asking……

In memory of the Atlanta and Boulder shooting victims :

Rikki Olds- grocery store manager

Denny Stong – 20

Neven Stanisic – 23

Tralona Bartkowiak – 49

Erik Talley- 51 Police Officer

Suzanne Fountain – 59

Teri Leiker – 5

1Kevin Mahoney – 61

Lynn Murray – 62

Jody Waters – 65

Soon Chung Park, age 74

Hyun Jung Grant, age 51

Suncha Kim, age 69

Yong Yue, age 63

Delaina Ashley Yaun, age 33

Paul Andre Michels, age 54

Xiaojie Tan, age 49

Daoyou Feng, age 44

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.