Memorial Day warning for Veterans

Every year America celebrates Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day. A little history

Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

My family is at our cabin for the week-end preparing for the summer season after the long winter. The dock is in, the pontoon is in, tables and umbrellas are up and the grill has been going. We had a cabin association meeting yesterday. There I heard that a man with a cabin on our lake ( not at the meeting) drove by my next door neighbor’s house and just past the house, he stopped and shot his gun out the window. Really? How stupid and dangerous is that? Another cabin owner, a lawyer, said that was illegal, of course. The next time I talk to him, I will be mentioning this incident and reminding him of my grandchildren and all of the other people he could put at risk with his carelessness.

But back to the point of this post, since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are identifying more veterans with PTSD. My brother, who served in Viet Nam, suffers greatly from PTSD and Parkinson’s Disease,both attributed to his service years. It is sad and upsetting that his life is so limited now. He talks of suicide at the Veterans’ Home where he lives. I know that if he were living at a place on his own, he would have tried and maybe succeeded to use one of his guns for suicide. I removed his guns from his house after he moved to assisted living knowing that he could never use those guns responsibly again.

Guns are a risk to our Veterans.

In the wake of an increase in Veterans’ suicides, we can’t run away any more. And, a new study shows that Veterans are not opposed to removing their firearms during crisis times:

In 2016, the suicide rate for male veterans was about 40% higher than non-veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The rate for female veterans was even worse.
Many of those suicides involve firearms, and research has shown that reducing access to means of suicide can help prevent what is sometimes an impulsive act.
And there’s a growing body of research that people like Rolf should be talking about guns – with their doctor.

Lynn Rolf III said rumors that a PTSD diagnosis could endanger his security clearance were one reason he delayed seeking mental health treatment.Chris Haxel / KCUR
“It’s very clear that veterans are at higher risk to die from suicide (than the general population,)” said Dr. Marcia Valenstein, a researcher, psychiatrist and professor emeritus at the University of Michigan. “Veterans with mental health conditions are at even greater risk.”
Many doctors worry their patients will get mad if they try to talk about guns, Valenstein says. For VA doctors working with patients who were in the military, that concern is amplified because veterans are perceived as being more conservative and unwilling to part with their weapons.
Valenstein and a team of researchers surveyed VA patients who had already received mental health treatment. They asked how open the veterans might be to a series of interventions, ranging from basic screening questions and free gun locks to temporarily storing their guns with family members or in a VA-managed program.
The results were surprising: 93% of respondents were open to a low-intensity technique, such as talking about guns with their doctor. About 75% of veterans also endorsed at least one of the more intensive options.
“I think this is pretty clear that this is a positive response from veterans and high-risk veterans in mental health care,” Valensten said.
The key factor, she says: making these interventions voluntary.

We can make the intervention voluntary which may work for some. But for others it could be too late. That is why background checks on all gun sales and Extreme Risk Protection Orders bills are so important to get passed wherever we can. 15 states now have Red Flag laws. They save lives because family members can report that a veteran or military family member ( or non veteran) could be dangerous to themselves or others and should not have access to a gun.

Also remember that the extremist corporate gun lobby does not want health care providers talking to their patients about the risks of guns? Why? Follow the money and influence. According to the NRA, physicians should “stay in their own lane.” Of course talking to patients about risks in their home is exactly their own lane, prompting many physicians and other health care providers to tweet #thisismylane. Really the NRA should stay in their own lane and leave the rest of us alone.

It turns out that many lives could have been saved if the Air Force had reported the veteran who shot up the Sutherland Springs, Texas church and killed 26 and injured 20 in a matter of seconds. From the article:

The service failed six times to submit records to the FBI that would have barred the troubled former airman from buying the guns he used in the November 2017 massacre at a church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., a Pentagon inspector general’s report concluded.
On at least four occasions during and after criminal proceedings against Kelley concerning domestic violence, the Air Force should have submitted the former service member’s fingerprints to the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division, the 131-page report concludes. On two other occasions, it should have submitted to the FBI the final disposition report — which states the results of a case, after proceedings occur.

Why? What are they afraid of? As the previous article mentioned, even military health care providers are afraid to bring up the subject of guns. They should be more afraid not to. Part of the reason for this is the current gun culture which scares people into thinking that mentioning the risks of guns to themselves or others might trample on their rights. Good grief. What about the rights of those 26 whose family members celebrate Memorial Day much differently today than they did before the shooting.

And now the families of the victims can sue the government over the shooting. Often courts are the abiters of what makes common sense and what is right no matter what the extremists believe is right. From the article:

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez’s Thursday ruling is a huge victory for the nine families in the case, which allows them to put federal authorities on trial for alleged negligence. Rodriguez dismissed the government’s motion to throw out the case and said the families can begin the discovery process, which allows their lawyers to gather documents and seek interviews with which to make their case.

Victims deserve to be heard and deserve to have some peace after horrific mass shootings like the one in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The shooter should not have been able to get a gun. He got it from a licensed dealer and his name should have been on the FBI’s list of prohibited purchasers. But let’s also talk about how easy it would have been for the shooter to get a gun from a private seller had he been turned away by the licensed dealer.

We have a serious problem in America. Veterans are dying by suicide at an alarming rate:

Veterans are twice as likely as civilians to die by suicide, the Department of Veterans Affairs said Monday in its latest report on suicide.
Veterans make up more than 14 percent of all suicides, although they account for only 8 percent of the total population, the VA report said. (…) Guns were used in two-thirds of suicides by veterans in 2015. Having access to firearms raises the risk of suicide, experts have found.

Another recent article highlights a suicide emergency among young veterans:

Veterans aged 18 to 34 have higher rates of suicide than any other age group, the VA says in its National Suicide Data Report. The rate for those young veterans increased to 45 suicide deaths per 100,000 population in 2016, up from 40.4 in 2015, even as the overall veteran suicide rate decreased slightly, according to a copy of the report reviewed by the Guardian.
Many vets in that age group served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(…) Veterans were also more likely than other Americans to kill themselves using a gun. In 2016, 70% of veteran suicides were by firearm, compared with 48% of non-veterans.

This is serious. Some of our lapdog politicians are shrugging it off because…..????? Rights? Campaign contributions? Drinking the gun lobby’s kool-aid? Whatever the reason, they are negligent. Much like the Air Force was negligent in not reporting a name of a potentially dangerous service member to the NICS database, politicians are failing us and acting as if gun deaths and injuries are just a normal experience in America.

It is NOT NORMAL for so many people to die from bullets.

Background checks on gun sales and Extreme Risk Protection Orders are constitutional. The extreme gun lobby makes up nonsense about the laws claiming all sorts of fake facts leading to fear and paranoia amongst a few who make a lot of noise. We can’t listen to them.

Whether suicide, domestic shootings, gang violence, unintentional shootings, mass shootings, something must change. People can’t even attend a Memorial Day party without being shot up as did 10 in this New Jersey mass shooting yesterday. 9 were injured and one has now dies as a result of a drive-by shooting. Why do we let so many people carry guns around in public? It’s leading to blood running in our streets. Since I wrote my last post, another 3 or 4 stupid and dangerous incidents by “law abiding” gun owners have occurred. They are becoming more frequent. It took time before the result of loosening conceal and carry laws started having consequences.

Please have a safe memorial day and honor those who have died in the service of our country. But as you honor them, remember the ones who have died as a result of bullets here at home. If we are patriotic, we will do something about this national public health and safety epidemic.

Be a patriot.

Stupid and Dangerous- series 100

Back when I was writing my blog on Blogger before it was hacked (who would do something like that?) , I wrote a bunch of posts that I called Stupid and Dangerous and started numbering them. The thing is, I just couldn’t keep numbering because there are so many stupid and dangerous incidents with guns. I had trouble keeping up.

In the last few weeks there have been enough of them that I decided that I must write again about how irresponsible and stupid so many gun owners are with their dangerous weapons. The risks are many when one brings a gun into one’s home or carries in public. Enough so, that reconsideration may be necessary in order to stay safe.

So let me begin my list of stupid, dangerous and sometimes deadly incidents with guns:

  • A man in Washington state hid drugs in his butt and pocket and then his not too well hidden gun fired, shooting him in the testicles. (How often do gun rights extremists claim this cannot happen?) Yes, one wants to feel for the guy, but really? Come on. He was a convicted felon with drugs and a gun: “Wilson, who is a 13-time convicted felon, told his girlfriend to dispose of the weapon before heading to the hospital, the paper said…..When the ex-con finally went to the hospital, a balloon of marijuana slipped out of his anus while a doctor was operating on the gunshot wound, court records show….Cops also arrived at the hospital when alerted of the gunshot wound and searched Wilson’s car where they discovered a bag of meth in the blood-stained jeans he was wearing when he shot himself. ” No more words necessary

And of course, none of these involve the many many other shooting incidents happening every day that are intentional. Common sense tells us that this is not normal. But in America, of course, it is. Sadly it is because our leaders have decided they would rather be lapdogs to the corporate gun lobby than to protect us from gun violence.

Guns are dangerous. Many gun owners understand that and take care not to let stupid and dangerous things happen with their guns. But there are so many guns out there owned by people who shouldn’t have them in the first place thanks to our loose gun laws and elected leaders with no backbone, that incidents like the ones I described above seem to be on the increase.

It goes without saying that something needs to be done. Keep the pressure on your elected leaders to do whatever needs to be done to stop the above mentioned incidents and keep us all safe from this lunacy. Join a gun violence prevention organization. Talk to your legislators and Congress members. Talk to your friends. Safely store your guns and ask others to do the same. Make sure people are trained properly before going anywhere or doing anything with a loaded weapon.

The gun lobby would love to normalize the carrying of guns in public so we just get used to having people with guns everywhere. Should we just get used to these “normal” people shooting the rest of us?

Stolen guns, stolen lives

It should be a no brainer that all guns need to be locked up away from the hands of those who should not have them. Those hands would be children, teens, those individuals having a crisis in their lives making them dangerous with guns and thieves. Guns are one of the most stolen items from homes. I just read an account from someone on a local neighborhood site letting neighbors know that there was someone breaking into homes and that a gun was stolen from one of the homes. Hopefully the gun owner reported the gun stolen because it is now in the illegal market for guns leading to more guns on our streets.

And then there is this from the Minneapolis Star Tribune about crime guns in the city of Minneapolis:

“In October, police were called to an apartment complex across the street from the police union’s headquarters in Northeast, after the worker found the bag of guns inside a room that’s used to access the building’s HVAC system, according to filings in the case. Peeking inside, he counted seven handguns.
Police say the firearms were traced to a burglary last July at an Ashland, Wis., pawnshop where more than 30 guns were taken. No arrests have been announced in the case, which is being investigated by the ATF.
Another of the stolen firearms — a Ruger .380-caliber handgun — was apparently recovered last September at a south Minneapolis gas station.”

Gun dealers and pawn shops also need to store their guns safely and institute safety measures in their businesses to keep guns from being stolen. Stolen guns increase the risk that one will be used in a crime or get into the hands of kids on our streets who use them against each other in gang situations. And too often innocent people, not involved in this activity, are shot and killed as was a woman named Birdell Beeks, shot while sitting in her car with her granddaughter:

The fatal shooting of the 58-year-old grandmother a year and a half ago stirred outrage. Investigators say it was set into motion when a gang rival crossed over an invisible territorial boundary on Broadway Avenue in north Minneapolis.
Tipped off to the rival’s presence by a 165-second phone call, Ezeka went outside and fired a handgun nine times towards the rival’s car. One of those bullets hit and killed Birdell Beeks, whose van was stopped at an intersection across the street. (…) “When you point a gun and you fire it, you do so with the intent that you’re going to destroy whatever you’re firing at,” Mathews said. “We all know what guns do.”
Mathews also argued that if Ezeka really meant to scare his rival, he could have fired the gun in the air or waved it around. Mathews says nine shots fired in just a couple seconds “doesn’t sound like shots that are meant to scare.”

The problem with this argument is that the person who wanted to “scare” his rival should not have had a gun in the first place. And firing a gun into the air is a really bad idea. What goes up always comes down. Don’t wave a gun around either. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill. We should be working really hard to prevent such easy access to guns in our communities with no excuses for those who use them dangerously.

We can’t get our loved ones back after incidents like this as Birdell Beeks’ daughter (who I have come to know well) says ( from the article):

Members of the close-knit Beeks family have packed one side of the courtroom each day of the trial, comforting one another during the sometimes graphic testimony or chatting quietly during court delays. Birdell Beeks’ daughter Sa’Lesha testified that her mother was a “pillar of the community.”
After the verdict, Beeks said she didn’t see any remorse from Ezeka, and she can’t forgive him, but the prospect of Ezeka spending his life prison is bittersweet.
“It doesn’t bring my mom back, but we got justice,” Sa’Lesha Beeks said, “almost in a sad way, because two lives were lost.”
Granddaughter Ne’Asha Griffin, who is now 17, told the court that her grandmother had always been her “cheerleader.” Griffin, who’s heading to college in Florida this year, said she’s set her college acceptance letter next to the urn containing her grandmother’s ashes.

Lives are stolen. Innocence is stolen. Future plans are stolen. Productivity for the shot person is stolen. Family members are stolen. Peace and tranquility are stolen. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is stolen because guns are stolen and end up in the hands of people who should not have them. (other loose laws contribute to stealing lives as well)

The latest school shooting came about as a result of a gun “stolen” from home by a teen-ager who wanted to shoot up a school:

Two sources with knowledge of the investigation told Denver7 on Wednesday that investigators believed the guns were stolen from the parents. But Denver7 could not report at the time the manner in which the weapons might have been secured.
The sources said Wednesday they believe the parents of the 18-year-old suspect bought the weapons legally and that the guns were stolen by the suspects. People under age 21 are not allowed to purchase handguns in Colorado.

Earlier in the article it was reported that the students smashed the gun safe to get into it. If the guns were in a glass case, it would be easy to smash it open and certainly the teens would have known the guns were there. A more secure gun safe would have been almost impossible to smash. I would not say the guns were “stolen”.

Most school shooters are teens who got their guns from home and are affiliated in some way with the school. And yet, some would have us believe otherwise as did this active shooter training video made in Pennsylvania to train officers for school shootings. They got it very wrong:

A video of an active shooting drill at a Pennsylvania school has received sharp criticism over the decision to dress an actor playing a would-be shooter in what appears to be a Middle Eastern-style headdress.
The simulation video, which was made in January and only intended for internal training purposes, shows an actor abruptly entering a classroom and firing a shot, followed by a loud scream and students ducking their heads. The school said that two actors were used during the filming.

In the first scene, it’s not clear if an actor is wearing a headdress — but a few minutes later, after police officers have caught up with him, there’s a clearer picture of him wearing a headdress with his hands up.

The extremist gun lobby and some lawmakers and our very own President would have us believe that this is the way school shootings occur in America. Further this is who we should be very afraid of and why we all need to have our guns for self protection. People like this are lurking in every shadow waiting to attack us. We should be afraid of someone in middle eastern style head wear with a mask on his face. We should be a afraid of a person of color.

What we should be afraid of is the recklessness with which parents and adults store their guns in their own homes. We should be afraid of the frequency of unintentional shootings with guns found by young children. We should be afraid of how often guns for “self protection” are used to kill others in homes or for suicide.

This article highlights a study in the JAMA Pediatrics about safe storage of guns and suicides and unintentional gun deaths:

How guns are stored matters. A study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics has found that even a modest increase in owners who lock up their guns would pay off in an outsize drop in gun deaths. (…) Last year, a study based on a national survey in 2015 found that about one in three of all households in the United States owned at least one gun. Of those households with both guns and children at home, more than 20 percent reported storing them both loaded and unlocked — the least-safe way. An additional 50 percent stored them either loaded or unlocked. (…) This meant that about 7 percent of all children in the United States lived in a house in which at least one gun was stored in an unsafe manner. This was about twice the number reported in the previous national survey, published in 2002. Other research suggests that many people in gun-owning households, typically not the primary owner of the gun, think they are safely stored when they are not.

Yes, some gun owners believe they need easy access to their guns in case of a home invasion ( or whatever other reason they may have). But they don’t seem to be thinking about easy access to those same guns by kids, teens and others who should not have them.

Guns are a risk because they are deadly weapons designed to kill people. If you or someone you know decides to bring a gun into your home, please think about the chance that that gun will be used against you or someone you know.

There are things we can do about all of the above. The sad and disturbing fact is that we aren’t doing what needs to be done. Common sense informs us that dangerous things in homes need to be made safer for our children and others living in the home. We lock poisons, hopefully medications, cleaning supplies and other such things away. We put covers over electric outlets when toddlers are crawling around. We use gates to keep kids from falling down stairs or getting into things that would be dangerous. We put kids in federally approved car seats and have to follow the laws about when kids can go without the seats. Kids wear bike helmets and safety gear for sports for good reasons.

But guns? Not so much.

I will end by again shining a light on End Family Fire (endfamilyfire.org) which is designed to educate parents and adults about the risk of guns in homes and bring more awareness to those risks. Saving lives is the bottom line.

Check out this video about how kids find everything ( and we all know they do):

Kids find anything. Kids do anything. Some kids get their hands on guns by taking them from their parents or another known adult. Some get guns by stealing them or getting them from someone who stole them. Some guns get into the hands of kids in other ways. But remember this- guns don’t fall from trees. They start out as legal purchases and then pass through other hands in various ways. And that is why we need to pay attention, be responsible, educate others, be more aware, pass stronger gun laws and make noise about keeping our kids safe.

Our children are losing their lives. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Reunification

posted on Facebook page of GVPers for Pro GVP Candidates

Well, here is a different word to describe how parents can find out if their child was the one shot in a school shooting- a reunification center. The parents who are not reunified will then know that their son or daughter was the victim of yet another school shooting.

What parent wants that to happen? NONE.

What about Congress members and the Minnesota House and Senate members beholden to the NRA who refuse to support common sense legislation that will save lives and potentially stop a school shooter? What if they had to go to one of these centers waiting to see if they would be reunited with their kids?

That was the scene yesterday at the STEM school in Colorado where 2 kids from the school got their hands on a gun and decided to shoot their classmates. One is dead. Kendrick Castillo. Say his name. From the article:

Ms. Giasolli said Mr. Castillo’s split-second decision to lunge for the gunman gave the other students a precious few seconds of cover to dive under their desks or rush the gunman. Ms. Giasolli said a cluster of boys then tackled the gunman, allowing her and others to flee the classroom.

This is how it is now in America. A student sacrifices him/herself selflessly and manages to save other lives. Is this the way our kids should be spending their school days? This is war. Like soldiers sacrificing themselves.

And by the way, the shooters at the STEM school were a juvenile female and an adult ( 18 years old I believe) male? What the heck? Where did the guns come from. Most school shooters get their guns at home.

Last week it was Riley Howell at the University of North Carolina.

Heroes all. But why? For what? It’s not for a worthy cause. it is an act of violence perpetrated on innocent people who die “in the line of duty.” It’s the 3rd mass shooting in that many weeks where one person sacrificed him/herself to save someone else. Remember the synagogue shooting in California? It’s hard to think back that far- 11 days- because of the frequency of mass shootings. Read more:

The nation’s three latest mass shootings, each occurring over an 11-day span beginning at the Chabad of Poway temple on April 27, have given us our latest heroes – just like shootings at a high school in Parkland, Florida, a Waffle House in Nashville, Tennessee, a synagogue in Pittsburgh and elsewhere did last year. 

Who will be the hero next week? Who will be the victims next week? Who will it be tomorrow or next week? Your friend? Your child? Your neighbor’s? Your cousin’s? Your legislator’s? Your banker’s? Your health care provider’s?

These lives lost are lost potential and a lost future. We can’t get them back. We don’t know how they would have contributed to their communities. They won’t go to college or work at a job of their choice. They won’t be at holiday events with their families. They represent the thousands who die senselessly every day in our country.

So how about you? Have you experienced a shooting or do you know someone who has been murdered or used a gun in suicide? Do you know someone whose child found a loaded gun at home and shot someone or him/herself with that gun? Do you know someone who carries a gun around recklessly and the gun fires while in her purse injuring her husband? ( I have written blog posts about these kinds of incidents)

What will you do? How will you react? What will you feel if you have to go to a reunification center to find your child after a school shooting? Would you sacrifice your life for the common good? A photo of the reunification center after the STEM shooting has been posted in several places. It is an unimaginable scene.

There is PTSD. When I posted the article about the latest school shooting yesterday, friends commented that they are feeling traumatized after a near shooting incident at a high school in Duluth in early April.

The trauma is palpable and real. Our kids are sitting ducks. Places of worship are vulnerable to shooters. We do have shootings in places of business, in places of worship, in malls, but school shootings seem to be the most often used for shooters who think they have a reason to kill people.

The corporate gun lobby and gun rights advocates would have us believe that an armed individual could save the day. It rarely happens due to confusion, adrenalin, panic, not being in the place at the time of a shooting,

I have an idea. Instead of arming more people which is what the gun lobby wants so having guns everywhere becomes normal ( and adds to profits), let’s pass stronger gun laws to stop the shootings in the first place. Let’s change the conversation about gun violence in America. Let’s change our culture of guns everywhere. It can be done. In fact, we must do it if we care about our kids and grandkids.

This is not normal. Say it after me- this is NOT normal.

A Pyyhric Victory

Since my return home from my trip to Greece, the Minnesota House of Representatives has passed an Omnibus Public Safety Bill containing both background check and Extreme Risk Protection Order provisions. The vote happened at about 2:00 a.m. last Tuesday after the gun rights Republicans tried every trick in their tired old bag to weaken the bills. Stand Your Ground and Constitutional Carry- ever favorites of the now imploding NRA were tried but failed. One Representative suggested that, in the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill, other things besides firearms should be taken from those who could be dangerous to themselves or others. He suggested cars, knives, golf clubs and bats for just a few. Yes. He said that.

He is wrong of course since the other items, except for auto accidents, don’t come anywhere near to killing as many people as guns. But never mind the facts.

This is the first time ever that a common sense gun safety reform bill has passed in a Minnesota legislative chamber. There was a rally on Monday which I attended and at which I spoke, to call attention to the bill and make noise about wanting it to pass. They heard us in chambers and knew we were there. Also there were a couple of obnoxious gun rights guys, dressed in suits can carrying their tripod with iPhone around on it to record the rally. Paranoid as they are, they must find out what we are doing and report it to their fearful followers in case we do something like spread out in the area and start confiscating their guns.

There was a group of students visiting from their school who these guys decided to record without asking permission. Several of us stood between the phone guy and the kids and answered questions about what we were doing. They were uniformly against the gun guys and understood the stakes for themselves when people who shouldn’t have guns use kids in schools as sitting ducks. Listen to the kids.

All in all it was a good day. We spoke with legislators and made our cause known. Speakers were inspiring, including Governor Walz who pulled his pen out of his pocket and said he was ready to sign the bill into law.

It was a Pyrrhic victory and we knew that. It will now be in the hands of a conference committee where the Senate, full of gun rights members, will not vote in favor unless a miracle happens. Why? Great question. No gun registration or confiscation will occur. No legal gun owners rights will be affected. There may be a few minutes of extra time involved in getting a background check from private sellers but so what? Not a reason to oppose. We know the reason. Follow the money and the influence of the corporate gun lobby.

From Minnesota DFL

The Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka declared the bills dead. My sister is dead. Hundreds of Minnesotans die every year. We can’t make them alive again but he can make the bills alive again. We can save lives and stop people from becoming dead in senseless and avoidable shootings.

The number of gun rights advocates calling and emailing the legislators are smaller by percentage than the majority of us who have demanded the passage of the bills. We are the majority but most of us are not single focused or paranoid and care about many things in our lives. To be more exact, the number of NRA members, the ones making the noise, in America compared to the total population is less than 10% of gun owners.

In fact, from the article above, after the Parkland school shooting, 97% of gun owners wanted to strengthen our gun laws. Remarkable. And also from the article:

A question remains. If gun owners across the country like Ware no longer identify with the organization, and polls show that they increasingly support gun control measures, who is the gun rights group fighting for?

Good question. And the other question that I asked on Monday in my speech was of whom are the legislators so afraid? This small group? The biggest problems is that the NRA is now an arm of the Republican party and part of the overall ideological bent of the party. It almost has nothing to do with guns anymore. They are a paper tiger but they have managed to wield a lot of influence anyway. Money talks. Corporations are people.

As the bodies pile up, our legislators will need to explain the real reasons they oppose reasonable gun laws. The archaic thinking that goes with their opposition is going out with those who are clinging to the old world order of mostly white guys having power and control. And when the NRA explodes, the road to victory will happen more easily.

Times are changing. Laws will change. The culture will change. Minnesota will change its gun laws. It may not be this year, though I still am hopeful. But it will change. Gun safety reform is here to stay and will be one of the most important issues of the upcoming campaigns and elections. We are not afraid any more of the “guys with the guns” who believe they make the rules.

Loopholes

After traveling in Greece, I am recovering from jet lag and getting back to my life. Nothing stopped in the U.S. while I was gone of course. The Mueller report was released with all of the concomitant and expected chaos and controversy. The weather was awful in Minnesota while I was gone. Actually the weather was cool and a bit rainy in Greece for the first part of our trip and our guide explained that the snow capped mountains we saw were very unusual for April in Greece. In a normal year, there is not snow on the mountains in April there. But this was not a normal year.

Clearly it is not a normal year in the U.S. A President and presidency is run amok. The Mueller report revealed that there were enough instances of obstruction of justice to make us all know that this is not normal. And there is no excuse for calling it not normal because what is happening is frightening and dangerous to our democracy. But never mind, the President and his sycophants carry on as if there is nothing to see here even though it is as obvious as a large wart on someone’s nose that we have a serious crisis on our hands.

Speaking of crises- the coverage of the NRA convention, going on as I write, has been amusing and interesting. It reveals an organization also run amok.

From the article:

Turmoil racking the National Rifle Association is threatening to turn the group’s annual convention into outright civil war, as insurgents maneuver to oust Wayne LaPierre, the foremost voice of the American gun rights movement.
The confrontation pits Mr. LaPierre, the organization’s longtime chief executive, against its recently installed president, Oliver L. North, the central figure in the Reagan-era Iran-contra affair, who remains a hero to many on the right.
Behind it is a widening crisis involving a legal battle between the N.R.A. and its most influential contractor, Ackerman McQueen, amid renewed threats from regulators in New York, where the N.R.A. is chartered, to investigate the group’s tax-exempt status. With contributions lagging, the N.R.A. is also facing an increasingly well-financed gun control movement, motivated by a string of mass shootings.

Count me as not sad about this state of affairs. The NRA has stopped common sense gun legislation for way too long for its’ own financial and political purposes. They are not considering the loss of life in increasingly large numbers, spewing hate and paranoia instead of working with us to find solutions to our national gun violence epidemic. It’s time for a reckoning. They have wielded undue influence and money for decades as the bodies pile up. The American public is against what they are doing but some of our lapdog politicians are too afraid to stand up. That is changing though as the U.S House passed several gun laws in the new Congress to keep people who could be dangerous with guns from getting them. The Minnesota House is poised to do the same and other states have passed recent laws to make their residents safe from shootings.

The second amendment is NOT sacrosanct as we are finding out. Laws have passed in spite of the now weakened NRA. The organization has veered off course and they are eating their own. The NRA allegedly took money from the Russians. That is a scandal worth investigating. They have misused their non-profit status over and over again. We all know about the money they take in from gun manufacturers and now, possibly foreign countries.

And meanwhile, during the now controversial and as usual, hateful NRA annual convention, Maria Butina, Russian operative(?) was sentenced to 18 months in prison. She tried to claim she was not a spy. If that is true, pigs will fly. Butina’s job was to get to the Trump campaign via the NRA which the Russians knew could happen. Because of course, the NRA gave more money to Trump’s campaign than has ever been given to any other campaign.

They exploited campaign finance loopholes and now they are getting caught. As is explained in the above article Giffords is taking them on in a lawsuit. It’s about time for accountability:

The worst news for the NRA, however, may be a new lawsuit filed against the Federal Exchange Commission. The FEC is being sued by nonprofit group, Giffords, for failing to uphold financial laws allegedly broken by the NRA.

Back to the second amendment, misusing its’ meaning is ripe for those who are true believers in the hype about an amendment written in the late 1800s when powder guns were the norm. Look, for example, at an article about a Minnesota teen ( 16 years old) who wore a shirt to school displaying the American flag with bullets and handgrenades instead of stars of stripes. Patriotic? NOT. Considering the number of school shootings and lockdowns that our kids must endure, this is plain and simply provocative and meant to be so. From the article:

Valerius said he wore the sweatshirt as a show of support for the Second Amendment, and feels that there should be a “loophole” in the dress code for that type of expression. He wore it to school again Friday.

A loophole? Let’s talk about loopholes that allow anyone, even domestic abusers, teens, felons and those adjudicated mentally ill to purchase any kind of gun they want and then use it to kill people. That is a loophole.

An example of this wonderful loophole in our gun laws is the vigilante extremist who was arrested at the New Mexico border with Mexico for essentially kidnapping asylum seekers. He was a felon with a gun. Where did he get the gun? Easy enough in America. From the article:

Hector Balderas, New Mexico’s attorney general, said federal agents had arrested the leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins, who had been operating under the alias Johnny Horton Jr. Mr. Balderas said in a statement that Mr. Hopkins was arrested on charges of firearms possession by a felon.

Sigh. Innocent people are terrorized every day by gun extremists. We have our very own home grown terrorists who think they can do anything with their guns and their rights. Only in America.

Trump has been busy encouraging this danger by speaking total falsehoods, fear and paranoia at the NRA convention. It was sickening, actually, to watch and hear but the gun toting crowd loved it. Er, uh, oops- they can’t carry their guns at NRA conventions because……?

Trump also announced during this crazy speech that he would make the world less safe by refusing to sign on to the U.N. Small Arms Treaty which NRA lapdogs in Congress and now the Presidency claim will take away gun rights in America. I like this reasoning from the article quoted from the Protect Minnesota Facebook page because it explains the second amendment and gun rights nonsense so well:

” 1) The NRA, on behalf of gun manufacturers, gets Trump to revoke the small arms trafficking agreement. 2) Arms manufacturers get rich selling guns to gangs in countries like Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. 3) Armed gangs make life unbearable for the citizens in those countries. Thousands are forced to leave and walk across a continent to “safety” in the US. 4) Trump convinces Americans the these asylum-seekers are dangerous criminals. 5) Frightened Americans buy more guns to protect their families. 6) Arms manufacturers get even richer. The NRA has done its job.”

This is the fact checking of his speech which is always necessary because Trump never tells the truth while speaking to his base:

Members of MS-13, a violent street gang, are a tiny fraction of the number of people apprehended while trying to illegally cross the southwestern border.
In the 2019 fiscal year thus far, border officials apprehended more than 360,000 people trying to illegally cross the border. Of those people, 221, or 0.06 percent, were MS-13 members.

(See above statement from Protect Minnesota)

(…) The 2014 Arms Trade Treaty regulates international sales of conventional weapons (like tanks, combat vehicles, warships, missiles and firearms). It does not “surrender American sovereignty” over gun laws to the United Nations or hand enforcement powers over guns to “foreign bureaucrats.”
The United States was a signatory to the treaty, but did not ratify it as 101 other nations have. Mr. Trump withdrew the United States’ signature during his speech.
The treaty aims to establish international norms for regulating arms sales between countries and addressing illegal arms sales. It prohibits selling weapons to nations that are under arms embargoes or will use them to commit genocide, terrorism, war crimes or attacks against civilians. (…) “It has absolutely no effect on U.S. domestic gun laws,” said Daryl G. Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, which supports the treaty.
Adam Winkler, a Second Amendment expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, agreed and noted that withdrawing the United States as a signatory would have very little impact given that the Senate never ratified the treaty. What Mr. Trump is relinquishing, Mr. Kimball said, is a seat at the international table to set global standards and better enforcement in countries most affected by the illegal arms trade. (…)

You can watch a video of his entrance when someone in the audience throws a cell phone at the President. Thank God no guns are allowed inside of the convention.

Well, back to loophole nonsense. Why would the NRA want to have this woman teaching gun safety to others? She shot an unarmed person and got away with it- another loophole. From the article:

A former Tulsa police officer acquitted in the shooting death of an unarmed man is expected to teach a National Rifle Association course next month.

I want to end with where I began- with our trip to Greece where the origin of the phrase “Molon Labe” began:

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC), one of the most famous battles in history . King Leonidas of Sparta said the phrase Molon Labe (means “Come and take them” in ancient Greek) to Xerxes I of Persia 2492 years ago when the Persians asked the Spartans to lay down their arms and surrender.

The second amendment apologists have misused this one as well. We visited the site where the battle of Thermopylae took place and where this phrase was used in its’ original context.

The “second amendment” folks claim this phrase for their own purposes which is to let people know that they will resist any attempts to take away their guns or their rights as if that is going to happen. It is yet another loophole in language that has been exploited for political purposes.

The photo shows the famous statue of King Leonidas.

Resisting common sense and any attempts to keep the rest of us safe from danger and shootings by exploiting the meanings of language is disingenuous at the least. They are like the goats ( in photo from my trip taken on the Greek island of Kefalonia) who take risks, follow the ersatz leader and sometimes do dangerous things that could hurt the herd.

Working together works out better in the end for all of us. In Greece and in most other democratized countries, they think the U.S is just crazy when it comes to guns. Our guides told us that in Greece, it is very hard to get a gun of any kind. They are only used for hunting and not much for that , as it turns out. When it comes to semi-automatic assault rifles, they proclaimed their dangerousness and surprise that in America, just about anyone could have one. They don’t believe that guns are necessary for much of anything in Greece and their gun death rate , among the lowest in the world, proves that they have common sense. The ancient Greeks were very wise as are the modern Greeks that we encountered on our trip.

And so it is always instructive to travel for many reasons but getting a perspective on what’s going on at home is useful and mind expanding. We are a country unto our own when it comes to loopholes and gun laws.

Violence against women and babies

Yes. In America, babies get shot. Toddlers pick up guns and shoot themselves or others or get shot and the NRA tried to stop the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Just another day in America.

Let’s look at all of these one by one.

In Alabama, a 6 month old baby was shot and killed by her own father.

Yes. This actually happened. From the article:

Police in Alabama confirm that over the weekend, a 6-month-old girl was fatally shot by her father, who then turned the gun on himself in an apparent murder-suicide.

There was a domestic dispute, following the filing of a restraining order that ended in a homicide of a baby and a suicide of the father. Too awful for words. Who shoots a 6 month old baby?

Domestic abusers are particularly dangerous with guns. And yet, some Republican members of the House and soon the Senate, voted or will vote against the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The NRA decided to get involved and scored the vote. But the diminished NRA representing an ever smaller and extreme group of gun owners, lost. Who’s afraid of the NRA? Who’s afraid of those bullies? 33 Republicans joined the Democrats ( except for Collin Peterson of Minnesota- not my Rep.) in voting for common sense and were not afraid of the NRA.

Rep. Eric Swalwell is not afraid of the NRA though he was threatened by an NRA member He even tweeted out the voicemail message left by the guy who felt the need to try to intimidate the outspoken California Congressman. Listen to what he says and tell me that this is OK.

What is wrong with these guys with their guns? Intimidation and bullying is not OK and we call BS on these folks. The gun lobby does not apparently care if babies and women are shot to death over domestic disputes. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn by their actions.

And I don’t want to forget that yesterday was the anniversary of the shooting death of Martin Luther King Jr. Please remember how easy it was for his shooter to get his gun even though he was a felon. What has changed?

Oh- and I wanted to highlight the most ridiculous irresponsible incident with guns that is hard to beat. There have been many other such follies but this one is right up there with the best ( or worst). From the article:

A police affidavit says the two men are neighbors and were drinking on a deck Sunday when Ferris told Hicks to shoot him with a .22-caliber rifle while Ferris wore the vest. The affidavit says the shot left a red mark on Ferris’ chest and that he was angry because it hurt. 

Duh. Alcohol and drugs do not go together, nor does being stupid with guns. This happened in Arkansas where gun laws are pretty loose. The state also has a high rate of gun deaths.

I will be away from my blog again for a 2 week trip to Greece. I have already written about the gun laws in Greece when I took a previous trip there. They are much more strict than those in America, thank goodness. Also very few people die from gunshot injuries in Greece. (I had trouble finding current information) There is common sense regarding gun laws in other parts of the world.

And speaking of other parts of the world and guns, a Wisconsin woman will likely be doing jail time after stupidly carrying a gun with her on a cruise to the Cayman Islands where guns are not allowed. Her excuse? I can carry my gun in Wisconsin. I thought I could take it with me wherever I go.

She was wrong of course. Only in America can people carry guns wherever they go. From the article: ” Guns and ammunition are strictly regulated in the Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica, as several other visitors have learned recently. “

She had no common sense and now she is in trouble and according to the above linked article, she is not the only American gun permit holder to get into trouble for traveling with guns.

I have a question. What is so dangerous on a cruise ship that someone needs to carry a gun on board. Are the Caymans dangerous? It turns out that they have little crime but there is the usual pickpocketing of tourists found anywhere that having a gun on one’s person would do little to prevent; unless Americans want to shoot pickpocketers. Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist, comes to mind when I think of pickpockets. “You’ve got to pick a pocket or two.” I have experienced this while traveling but carrying a gun never occurred to me.

And before I go, I wanted to say that we saw no armed people while on our trip to the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and the other places we visited in Utah and Arizona. Because the danger in those places is not something having a gun could prevent. Three people died at the Grand Canyon after we left the Park. Two fell to their deaths into the Canyon. How horrible. I can see how this can happen as there are so many narrow trails and outlooks with no guard rails or barriers. It was a bit icy and muddy leading to some slippery conditions on the Bright Angel Trail when we hiked it. People need to be careful of course.

Something else happened on our trip though that really affected me. While traveling I learned of the death by suicide of one of the fathers of a Sandy Hook victim. He was searching for answers after his daughter was so brutally massacred by one young man with a bunch of bullets and firearms.

In the few weeks before that 2 Parkland students also took their lives- all by firearm ( the easiest and quickest way to die). This is the ripple effect of gun violence. It is also a reminder that suicide by firearm takes the lives of many Americans and in fact, is the majority of gun deaths in America. I was so saddened by these deaths. It happened that we visited the Chapel of the Holy Cross built up near the beautiful rock formations of Sedona, Arizona. It was a small, beautiful chapel in an awe-inspiring location. Inside were the usual red candles to light in memory of someone. Though I am not Catholic, I decided to light 3 candles in memory of the victims of shootings in the aftermath of mass shootings.

Please remember that the PTSD caused by losing a loved one in a heinous and violent shooting is real. It is yet another reason why we must prevent and reduce shootings to save lives.

While I am gone, gun deaths and injuries will continue. The Gun Violence Archive continues to keep track and here is the latest. So far the numbers are alarmingly high as they have been for decades.

From Gun Violence Archive

Be careful out there if you are traveling and make sure that you and your family are safe from gun violence at home. If you have a gun, please lock it up away from the hands of children and teens and from those who want to steal them. I will end by referring my readers to Brady’s End Family Fire, a campaign to highlight the dangers and risks of guns.