Gun rights odds and ends and white terrorism

odd

This post has been edited since first posted.

 Walmart store, allegedly and reportedly in Evanston, Indiana put up a display of rifles touting them as part of their going back to school marketing. How odd. How disturbing. A woman took a photo, it went viral, and voila- we have the gun rights culture out front and center for the bold and clueless treatment of guns. The linked article reports that Walmart apologized and the display was taken down but also wondered if it was a fake photo or doctored in some way. Both cannot be true and the mystery remains.

But why go there at all? The thing is, it’s so believable that there would be a marketing display of this sort that naturally people were upset. In the midst of all of the heinous shootings involving kids and the thought of one’s own child as a victim of a school shooting or the shooter for that matter, why go there?

The answer is… gun rights. What is odd about that display anyway? Isn’t it normal for guns to be marketed like this to increase sales? Never mind that it might be offensive to many.

Many are not only offended but many have experienced gun violence in their lives. Shooting anniversaries come and go and it’s one more year since the death or injury of a loved one. Yet another such shooting anniversary occurred with little notice. In 1999 a White Supremacist with hate in his heart and on his mind decided to shoot at kids and teens at a Jewish Community Center day care in L.A.  Five were wounded after 70 shots were fired. It’s quite amazing that more people weren’t injured or killed. The children of two friends were among the wounded. These are mothers I have met through my network of gun violence prevention advocates. The son of one of them, only of pre-school age has now grown into a wonderful young man with nothing but some physical and emotional scars left. The other was a teen girl who is now happily married and doing fine. But the feelings never go away and the scars and memories are still there. The horror of the phone call that your child has been shot lives just below the surface.

It was this shooting that motivated Donna Dees Thomases to start planning what has become one of the largest marches on the National Mall- the Million Mom March. which took place in May of 2000. And the movement continues. Activists and advocates lobby, march and organize still today for non-violence and common sense solutions to gun violence.

Speaking of common sense solutions to violence, how can we hope that will happen when white supremacists gather together to foment hate, racism and intolerance.  But that is what they will do this week-end in an alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

There are concerns about public safety of course as there will be counter protesters as well. Hopefully no gun carrying or gunshots at these rallies. From the article:

Thomas asked that protesters from both camps to pledge to remain nonviolent.

“I urge groups on both sides to publicly commit to a nonviolent assembly,” he said. “Your commitment may influence the small minority that may seek to jeopardize public safety and will also serve to strengthen bonds throughout our community, reduce a growing cloud of fear, and emotionally disarm those who would delight in provoking others towards violent actions.”

Yet, yesterday, Trump’s deputy assistant and counterterrorism adviser, Sebastian Gorka, ridiculed the idea of lone-wolf terrorists and played down the threat of white supremacist violence.
Lone wolf shootings have become more common in America. They should be rare and odd but they are not. There are angry people fueled by white supremacist leanings, terrorist group leanings, anger over politics, race, a grievance against law enforcement or an organization and loosely associated with such groups who have wrecked havoc on innocent Americans. Take a look at this article:

Lone wolf attacks are rare — there have been perhaps 100 successful politically motivated attacks pulled off by a solo actor in the United States since the 1940s. But they began attracting special attention from the national security community more than a decade ago when Al Qaeda started encouraging them. By 2010, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta declared that lone wolf attacks could pose “the main threat to this country.” The next year, President Barack Obama laid out the problem on CNN: “When you’ve got one person who is deranged or driven by a hateful ideology, they can do a lot of damage, and it’s a lot harder to trace those lone wolf operators.”

Researchers believe lone wolf attackers are fundamentally different than people who participate in organized political violence. In an effort to better understand the phenomenon, the Department of Justice has funded two groups of researchers to compile databases of historic lone wolf attacks, so they can be analyzed for trends, psychological profiles — and, the authorities hope, insight into how to prevent them.

We all know that Donald Trump changed his views about gun policy as he was seeking to be our President. Of course he did. Follow the money and power. As an aside, our President has changed his position on many issues and one doesn’t know what will come out of his mouth at any given moment. Lies, #fakenews, incendiary rhetoric, ramping up war rhetoric, blaming others, bullying others, criticizing his own “friends” and allies, throwing people under the bus for his own expediency and blurting out mistruths that could end us all up in a lot of trouble. It is not only odd but disconcerting and quite scary.

(Maybe I should buy a gun!)   grrr

But I digress. It does no good to ignore or deny that these kinds of attacks take place. The shooters are most often angry men and often known to have mental illness. And they have access to guns because… it’s America where gun rights trump the right of all of us to be safe from attacks by people wielding guns in order to hurt others. Ignoring and denying that these incidents happen gives an excuse for doing nothing about them.

More from the above-linked article:

In the early years, a high percentage of lone wolf attacks employed explosives. But that has changed: “The lone wolf’s preferred weaponry is now a staggering range of high-velocity firearms,” Hamm and Spaaij write.

They attribute this trend to controls on the purchase of bomb-making materials enacted after the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995 and the permissiveness of U.S. gun laws.

“Permissiveness of U.S. gun laws…” This is the truth but the gun rights extremists want our laws to be even more permissive so that anyone can buy and carry guns everywhere. This is not normal. It is odd compared to almost all other democratized countries not at war.

When the commander in chief keeps changing his own mind about guns and gun policy and ramping up fear and paranoia, of course we have more violent and intolerant rhetoric. The gun culture we have is not the gun culture we should have. There is no reason why we can’t all work together to at least try to stop some of the shootings. Changing the conversation and working towards making guns accessible only to those who can reasonably handle them and are not under the category of felons, domestic abusers, known terrorists ( on the terror no-fly list), adjudicated mentally ill, drug abusers, or potentially dangerous to themselves or others would save lives.

That should not be so difficult. It’s all about common sense.

Gun rights to some people seems to mean no responsibility with that deadly weapon. Allowing guns to be accessible to small children is inviting tragedy. Every day in America, guns fall into small hands. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Take one of the latest incidents ending badly:

A Kansas City 5 year old is dead by his own hands when he found a gun in his home and shot himself. Without the kind of discussion, research, common sense measures to prevent shootings and whatever it takes to stop this irresponsible gun behavior we can expect our children to continue to suffer from gunshot injuries and deaths.

A 16 year old Mississippi teen fatally shot his 6 year old brother to “scare” him: 

Craft illegally came into possession of the handgun, according to Gulfport police Chief Leonard Papania. The teen has been charged with manslaughter.

How do 16 year olds access guns? That question must be asked and answered. They should not have guns, period. But this is gun rights in America. Solutions can be found if we have good research into the problem, talk about the risks of guns in homes, attack gun trafficking, lost and stolen guns, straw purchasing and require Brady background checks on all gun sales.

This writer for Forbes has written about this American tragedy and the denial of it in America.:

 

Today, 19 children will die or receive emergency treatment for a gunshot wound in the U.S. And tomorrow, another 19 will. And then another 19 the next day. In fact, 91% of all children who die from firearms in high-income countries across the world come from the United States, and guns are the third leading cause of death for all children between ages 1 and 17. Those are a handful of the sobering statistics reported in a new study on gun violence in Pediatrics.

Yet the myth persists that the freedom to own a gun without a universal requirement of background checks or a legal requirement to store those guns safely and out of children’s reach supersedes the lives of American children. Until the U.S. as a whole decides to recognize and accept what the tremendous cost of current lenient gun laws is, more than 1,000 more children will die next year. And the year after that. (Read here how to reduce your child’s risk.)

Yes. We have gun rights and we also have gun rights myths. Guns are killing us and most especially, our children. This is not OK. It’s odd. It’s not normal. We can do something about it if we stop the denial and raise our voices. It doesn’t have to be this way. Young children should not die from gunshot injuries, robbing them of a future and their families of watching them grow up to contribute to society. Young children dying from gunshot injuries should be rare and odd.

Try ASKing if there are loaded unsecured guns where your children play and make sure you, yourself lock your guns away, unloaded, from curious hands or from theft.

And speaking of young children being shot, this awful incident happened in Cleveland when a road rage incident ended with the shooting of a 4 year old:

A 4-year-old boy is in serious condition after he was shot in the head in an apparent road rage incident overnight in Cleveland, Ohio, the Cleveland Police Department said.

Police said the shooting happened while a mother was driving her 4-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter.

After the mother honked her horn to pass another car blocking the road, that car allegedly followed the mother onto the freeway and fired shots into the woman’s car, police said.

What is wrong with us? Why are people driving on our roads armed? What is so dangerous out there to warrant this kind of behavior? This is a gun culture gone wrong.

A friend posted a photo on her Facebook page of a man open carrying at a dog park to which she took her dog. She had never seen someone open carrying a loaded gun before and found it odd. It is. It’s not normal. Others on her Facebook page were not aware that people can open carry guns in many states and were upset and disgusted to see this photo. People don’t like seeing armed citizens around where they go to work, play, learn, worship and hang out.

Commenters on her page wondered what is so dangerous at a dog park? Will the man have to shoot another dog? Will a dog owner make him angry? Will that gun “accidentally” fall off of his belt  (not sure how gun is attached to belt)  when he leans over or chases the dog? There are no “accidental gun discharges but nevertheless they happen. I write about these incidents too often and they should be odd. Why aren’t they?

I have posted this photo with permission from my friend.

man at dog park

Should this be normal? A minority of Americans practice their gun rights by carrying concealed or openly. So far instances of having to use carried guns for self defense are rare compared to the risk of having guns around in the home. But the reason given by many gun rights activists is that they must own and carry their guns for self defense.

( This was added after I first posted) And then stuff like this happens.:

A pistol-packing senior tried to reserve a parking space in Queens Wednesday by firing off a few rounds.

Yvonne Cosby, 76, let off two gunshots from the window of her Brookville home because she was angry that a man had parked outside her house, cops said.

Miraculously, Cosby missed her target. Police were eventually able to calm her down and take her into custody, cops said.

It’s very clear that some people should not have guns. We need to re-think the idea that just anybody can pack heat and have a gun for “self defense”. This woman’s family will now hopefully understand that she is dangerous to herself or others and should have her gun removed from her home.

There is something wrong with a gun culture where there are almost more guns than people. And to make it worse gun ownership has gone down and now fewer people own more guns per person. Normal? There is something wrong when gun deaths happen at such a rate as to be a national public health epidemic that we ignore and deny at our peril. There is something wrong with idolizing guns and gun rights to the point that we dare not challenge it or those who believe in the myths.

Gun rights and gun responsibility along with sensible gun laws can go hand in hand. They are not mutually exclusive. Since most gun owners agree with this, we ought to be on our way to sensible solutions, right?

haha

There is nothing funny about it. In the end, this is about saving lives and need not set gun rights against the right to be free from devastating gun violence.

 

UPDATE:

Sadly, as predicted, violence has broken out at the “alt-right neo-nazi rally in Charlottesville, VA. The Governor has declared a state of emergency.

 

This is not who we are as a country and what is happening is truly frightening. From an article posted last night:

A group of three dozen self-described “militia” – men who were wearing full camouflage and were armed with long guns – said they were there to help keep the peace, but they also did not break up the fights.

There were vicious clashes on Market Street in front of Emancipation Park, where the rally was to begin at noon. A large contingent of white nationalist rallygoers holding shields and swinging wooden clubs rushed through a line of counterprotesters. (..,)

Tensions began Friday night, as several hundred white supremacists chanted “White lives matter!” “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” as they carried torches marched in a parade through the University of Virginia campus.

The fast-paced march was made up almost exclusively of men in their 20s and 30s, though there were some who looked to be in their mid-teens.

Very frightening. Where do we live? This is America but then again, this is not America.

 

ANOTHER UPDATE:

There is enough material here for a new post but I will add to this one instead. The NRA has decided to continue its’ offensive, rude, threatening and dangerous rhetoric by suggesting that North Korea should bomb California instead of Guam. The NRA has become an extremist group that supports violence and they are the “good guys with the guns”?   From the article:

Stinchfield later deleted the tweet and then apologized.

“It was meant as a joke and I regret it,” he told the New York Daily News. “What’s going on with North Korea is no laughing matter.”

 NO. It was not meant as a joke. He got caught. He meant it and it’s NOT FUNNY. Just as President Trump claimed that it was a good thing that Putin cut all of those embassy jobs because they were trying to cut the State Department budget and later tried to claim that it was satire. NO. It was NOT SATIRE. He meant it. Apparently he also told the Governor of Guam that this tough talk would be good for tourism there as well. NOT SATIRE. Stupid and dangerous talk.
Words matter. Words often lead to actions. We are seeing it play out in real time in Charlottesville, Virginia. No Mr. LaPierre, “the guys with the guns make the rules”-
NOT.  We’ve had it with this hate, intolerance, paranoia and threats of violence. This is not who we are.

 

 

 

 

Unlucky gun stuff and Irish gun laws

shamrockAs you know, today is St. Patrick’s Day. It’s also my daughter’s birthday. Neither my husband nor I have any Irish heritage but because of her birthday, we always feel a kinship. We used to dress our daughter in green clothing which she really didn’t like. There are many photos of her looking a bit unhappy until she got old enough to decide for herself what she was going to wear on her birthday. I don’t think she wears green much any more on this day.

I know that there is the saying that the Irish have luck on their side. There’s the 4 leaf clover and the Blarney Stone, green beer, etc. But a lot of people are unlucky when it comes to guns no matter what day of the year it is. Every day close to 90 Americans die from gunshot injuries- many from suicide. It doesn’t have to be that way and anyone who is a survivor of a family member who has shot him/herself feels pretty unlucky that that person had access to a gun.

Veterans, after a vote in the House yesterday, will be unlucky enough to be able to legally purchase guns even if they have been identified as having mental illness severe enough to deem them prohibited purchasers. This makes absolutely no common sense. 

And what could possibly go wrong?:

“About 170,000 disabled veterans are deemed mentally incompetent by the VA,” NPR’s Quil Lawrence reports. “A guardian makes legal decisions for them, and their names go on an FBI list so they can’t purchase guns. House Republicans sponsored the Veterans’ Second Amendment Protection Act to change that.”

Opponents of the bill say that easing gun ownership for mentally disabled veterans would make them a greater threat to themselves. As recently as 2014, an average of 20 veterans per day died from suicide, according to statistics released last year by the VA Suicide Prevention Program. Between 2001 and 2014, the VA said, the suicide rate among U.S. veterans rose by more than 32 percent. (…)

On the other side of the issue, Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., said, “When a determination is made that a veteran is mentally incompetent or incapacitated — for whatever reason — that determination is made to protect them, not to punish or deprive them.”

Critics of the bill include retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the former vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army. Speaking to Quil about why he opposed the bill, Chiarelli said, “Every single study you can read on this shows you that people in crisis — because suicide is such a spontaneous event — when they separate themselves from personal weapons the incidence of suicide goes down tremendously.”

#factsmatter

America is unlucky enough to have a corporate gun lobby that doesn’t really care about what would be in the interest of public health and safety. If they did, they would not have pushed this ludicrous measure with their lapdogs in Congress. They claim to care about unfairness and rights but the bottom line is that there are some people who should not be able to access guns, period.

Many disagree with what the House just did but when you have absolute power, you think you can force anything on a country that doesn’t want this. Do the families of the Veterans who can buy guns even though they shouldn’t and then kill themselves with said gun feel lucky on this day?

You know the answer.

This article in The Trace highlights efforts to try to prevent suicides on military bases.:

Military suicides used to be rare. Throughout the 20th century, the suicide rate among active-duty service members was lower than the population at large. But after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, the numbers began to climb. In 2006, for the first time, the Army’s suicide rate, routinely the highest among the branches of the armed services, surpassed that of the national population. By 2010, suicide had become a military crisis. That year, there were 163 suicides in the Army, an 87-percent increase from five years before.

It is a population that is especially vulnerable: many service members return from combat with some degree of post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury, both of which can contribute to depression and suicidal thoughts. Easy access to guns, which prove fatal much more often than other means of attempting suicide, may exacerbate the problem.

While it is laudatory that the military has made efforts to deal with the problem of suicides among the military it is also disturbing that there is clear denial among some that suicide is a health problem faced by many in our military. Denying the facts does not lead to real solutions. And clearly the fact that the gun lobby lapdogs in Congress are willing to either deny the facts or knowingly reverse good policy that could prevent some military suicides is disturbing at most.

As I said, we are unlucky to live in a country where some of our leaders are either outright lying or denying the truth.

Ireland has had its’ own problems, of course, like all countries do. But one thing they don’t worry too much about is gun homicide and suicide. Why? Strong gun laws that prevent senseless shootings. Let’s take a look at the laws here:

Ireland has some of the least permissive firearm legislation in Europe. In order to possess a limited range of hunting and sport-shooting firearms,1 gun owners must renew their firearm certificates every three years.2 3 Although small arms-related death, injury and crime remain relatively low, rising rates of gun violence and firearm ownership in the Republic ― in particular the possession and misuse of handguns ― have become sources of national concern.4 In 2009, the private possession of handguns was curtailed. Licensing of all pistols and revolvers using centrefire ammunition was capped through ‘grandfathering,’ with new licences restricted to a limited range of small-calibre .22 rimfire handguns and .177 air pistols.3 5 The possession and use of realistic imitation firearms in a public place is prohibited.6 7 Ireland is an active supporter of the United Nations process to reduce gun injury (UNPoA).8

As a result, gun homicides, suicides and gun crimes are low according to these numbers:

Gun Homicide

Of the 84 homicides reported by police in 2007, 18 (21 per cent) involved firearms ― eight fewer than the 26 gun homicides in 2006.29 Although the rate of firearm homicide in Ireland remains comparatively low (0.61 per 100,000 population in 2006, and 0.41 in 2007),30 31 gun killings have increased markedly since 1991, when the rate was 0.03.32 From 1995 to 1999 the firearm homicide rate averaged 0.28.33 34

Gun Suicide

Of 8,547 suicides recorded in Ireland from 1980-2003, 725 (8.5 per cent) were completed with a firearm.35 In the years 2001-05, the proportion averaged seven per cent.36 If the average number of firearm suicides reported in 2001-07 (33 per annum) remained steady during 2008, the annual rate of gun suicide in Ireland that year would be 0.74 per 100,000 population,36 31 down from 0.94 in 1991.37

Gun suicide is six times more common in rural areas than in cities, and 94 per cent of victims are male.38 Although total suicides (all methods) rose in Ireland from 200 per annum in 1980 to nearly 500 in 2003, gun suicides remained relatively static, averaging 31 self-inflicted shooting deaths each year over 23 years, with an annual high of 50 and a low of 14.39

Gun Crime

In the five years from 2001-2005, the Garda reported 1,690 robberies and aggravated burglaries committed with firearms, for an average of 338 per year. A peak year was 2004, with 428 armed robberies and burglaries.40 In the years 2003-2007, fewer than one in five gun crimes resulted in a conviction.41 In 2009, the Department of Justice reported a 31 percent decrease in crime involving discharge of a firearm, while the number of firearm possession cases increased by 8 percent.42

In addition there are some common sense policies in place to make sure public safety is protected:

It is illegal for any civilian to use, carry or possess a firearm or ammunition without a valid firearm certificate which correctly specifies the owner, the weapon, the ammunition and its maximum permitted quantity. (…) Applicants must prove ‘good reason’ for ownership of the firearm applied for, and the Garda must be satisfied that the applicant can be permitted to possess, use and carry the firearms ‘without danger to the public safety or security or the peace.’ If the ‘good reason’ for firearm possession is target shooting, the owner must belong to a police-approved rifle or pistol club. Where application is for a restricted firearm, the applicant must have ‘good and sufficient reason for requiring such a firearm’ and must additionally demonstrate that ‘the firearm is the only type of weapon appropriate for the purpose (….) An applicant must provide proof of identification and age, proof of competence with the firearm concerned, and proof of secure storage for weapons and ammunition while not in use. Potential gun owners must, when making an application for a firearm certificate, give written permission for the police to consult a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist to confirm the applicant’s good physical and mental health, and must nominate two additional referees to attest to the applicant’s character. Minimum qualifications for character referees are set out in the Garda Commissioner’s Guidelines as to the Practical Application and Operation of the Firearms Acts, 1925-2009.53 54 55

Though attesting to character can lead to conflicts and potential mistakes, at the least, the Irish government cares about people who have mental health issues getting access to guns. In America, we do not- at least some do not anyway.

The solution to the problem of people who cannot manage their affairs, Veterans with clear mental health difficulties and others who are known to family members or friends to be of a state of mind that having a gun would pose a potential risk to themselves or others is to find ways for these people not to have guns.

A gun violence restraining order or protection order is one solution that is not going anywhere in most states that have introduced a bill for public safety.

Never mind public health and safety. That is not on the top of the list these days in a Republican led government that is slashing programs, lying about serious matters and denying the true state of American people in need.

Back to the beginning of this post- there are a lot of unlucky people in America whose lives have drastically changed because a gun was available to someone who should not have had one or because of a totally avoidable accidental discharge. The incident below is just one of many occurring far too often in America:

The parents of a 12-year-old boy who was shot to death while home alone with his younger brother were charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter.

Damian Holmes, 12, and his brother, 9, were left home alone Tuesday night in the 3300 block of Michigan Avenue when they found a gun and started playing with it, police said.

A round struck Damian in the head about 10:35 p.m; police are not saying who fired the shot.

The boys’ father came home and took the 12-year-old to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Until we make it clear that loaded guns in homes pose a risk to those living in the home, this will continue to happen in unlucky America. Until we hold adults responsible for being irresponsible with guns, this will continue to happen in America. Until we insist that gun owners lock their guns up, unloaded, to insure that guns are not stolen, or accessed by young kids and teens, this will continue to happen.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Calling all responsible gun owners……

Even officers of the law need to follow these common sense ideas about guns. In Minnesota, an officer’s gun was stolen and used in a shooting. Now someone is dead as a result. This is all senseless.

It’s more than luck. It’s responsibility and changing and the conversation, the culture and the laws. Until we do that, we will be less safe- especially when Congress is in session. As Mark Twain once said:

  • “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”[3]Cscr-featured.svg   
Simple: No one’s life, liberty or property are safe while Congress is making laws.

May the luck of the Irish be with you today. Stay safe out there. And as we consider what Congress is all about concerning rolling back common sense gun laws, I would like to believe this:

Irish proverb

 

 

 

 

Time for questions

3d person decide problemI have some questions. We have some questions. This article was posted right after Thanksgiving wondering about a lunatic tweet with a photo of a Glock in a pumpkin pie posted by a gun lover. Lots of questions were asked but I just picked out these:

8. Is a good pie with a gun the only way to stop a bad pie?

9. Who at the Glock corporation comprehended and approved of this and what state of mind were they in? Related: Who gets a job in social media at Glock?

10. Is the Glock corporation endorsing its products being used in baking, here?

11. What sort of statement, if any, is this pie trying to make? What does the Glock corporation imagine it says about its brand?

Good questions.

Also, where were all of those law abiding gun owners when bullets started flying at 4 different malls on Black Friday? Would the results have been different if someone with a gun got involved to save the day?  In fact, some of those shooting the bullets were ostensibly “law abiding” gun owners. Why does this keep happening? It wasn’t happening like this a few decades ago. But then the gun lobby decided that sales of guns needed to be boosted in order for the industry to stay in business and profit. When sales fell due to declining interest in hunting sports, they got busy and convinced lapdog politicians to do their bidding in state after state. The result?

….laws that allow people to carry guns into almost all of our public places and sometimes without even as much as one familiarity with a deadly weapon or any permitting to make sure the carrier isn’t a felon or domestic abuser or someone else who shouldn’t be allowed to own, let alone carry a deadly weapon around.

One more mass shooting happened in New Orleans leaving one dead and nine injured:

Two men were arrested at the scene on gun possession charges, including one man who was wounded in the shooting. The second arrested man “perhaps may or may not be affiliated with this event,” Harrison said.

If people were armed and not involved as a shooter, why didn’t they save everyone else? One of them was injured in spite of being armed. More information will let us know if these armed folks were “law abiding” gun carriers carrying their guns for self protection.

And just today, an incident at Ohio State University, at first reported as a campus shooting, turned out to be some sort of alleged planned attack. There were knives and a car involved. Gunshots were reported heard on campus which, as it turns out, were likely law enforcement responding to the incident and shooting the attacker. Law enforcement responded quickly with their guns to handle the situation. No armed students needed.

But when shots are heard on American college campuses it is assumed that there is a student with a gun determined to shoot up people on campus because that is how we roll in America. Of course an alert was issued about a mass shooter letting students know that the campus was on lock-down. Of course it was.

But this week there will be hearings in the Ohio legislature to allow students to carry loaded guns around on campus. Why? Because the gun lobby has convinced some that an armed society is a polite society and more guns will make us safer. Why? To increase gun sales, of course.

And I am guessing, the gun lobby will deceptively pronounce that if only students had been allowed to carry guns at Ohio State, someone would have been in exactly the right place at the right time to stop the incident. Why is it assumed that a student would know exactly what to do when law enforcement was already at the scene to take care of the incident? And why wouldn’t law enforcement believe that another armed student would be a suspect?

Ohio Ceasefire has this to say about the bill:

This proposed expansion of hidden, loaded weapons will do nothing to improve Ohioan’s safety or reduce gun violence, and will only serve to further normalize the presence of weapons in public spaces, furthering the interests of individuals and companies who profit from the sale of these dangerous weapons.

Only in America.

And then there is the notion that military assault style weapons like AR-15s are good to have around the house for self protection. Instead, this happened in Proctor, Minnesota near to my home town:

A 40-year-old man is in custody after allegedly firing shots from a rifle during a domestic dispute Saturday evening in Proctor, according to the Proctor Police Department.

Sigh.

One more question ( for now)- why are there a regular number of “accidental” gun discharges at gun shows? A gun “discharged” at a Montana gun show where loaded guns are not allowed. This lends the lie to the ridiculous notion that guns don’t kill people, people do. In this case, no one was killed but 2 were injured. Did someone pull the trigger or did the gun discharge on its’ own?

No charges filed? Why not? Wouldn’t it be a good idea to file charges when someone endangers the lives of others by being stupid and dangerous with a deadly weapon? How do guns discharge on their own- or do they discharge on their own?

Why are we not doing the research into the causes and effects of gun violence and the role of guns and gun violence in America? That one can be partially answered by blaming the NRA for getting their lapdogs in Congress to ban this important and potentially life saving federal and state research.

And considering that we are coming off of and immersed in an interesting and tumultuous and disconcerting election and post election period, there are questions about the relationship of the NRA ( and gun lobby in general) to President-elect Trump and the media attacks. Why is the NRA so concerned about Trump continuing his attacks against the media? What is their interest in this? Does it have anything to do with guns and gun rights or is this about the “alt right” view of the country? From the article:

There seem to be no lengths to which NRATV won’t go to defend Trump. For example, during the show’s October 27 broadcast, Stinchfield attacked the media for covering numerous sexual assault allegationsagainst Trump, saying outlets should instead have been reporting on people who used guns in self-defense.

Like Trump, the NRA frequently pushes the talking point that the press is in cahoots with so-called global elites who are trying to take guns away from ordinary Americans. Most recently, the group’s leader, Wayne LaPierre, railed against the media in a post-election message where he claimed that “the disgraceful media attempted to manipulate” Trump supporters’ “emotions.” In another representative example of the NRA’s attacks on the press, LaPierre told attendees at a 2014 conservative gathering that the press is one of America’s “greatest threats” and said, “NRA members will never, and I mean never, submit or surrender to the national media.”

This is more than interesting. It should be of concern to the free press and our democracy. We can’t have an organization as well funded and influential as the NRA making these kinds of statements to stifle the press and deceive the public. Measures to save lives by preventing at least some of the daily shootings in America depend on facts, reporting of the facts and holding our leaders accountable. Why should an organization like the NRA have any more influence than any other organization? Why will our President-elect listen to the NRA?

If we don’t ask and then answer these questions, the daily carnage will continue unabated. It is incumbent upon the public and our elected leaders to figure this out if they want to truly deal with our national public health and safety epidemic of gun violence.

Where is common sense?

 

Minnesota nice?

minnesota-niceThe last few days has revealed the lunacy of an armed society in Minnesota. Not that it isn’t happening in every state of our “great” country every day. But the last few days have been particularly concerning. Let’s take a look at the Minnesota gun culture as it has been reported in news stories.

First up- a Winona man apparently was shot by an “accidental” discharge and has now died of his gunshot injuries. There are no “accidental” gun discharges. There are avoidable, senseless accidents with guns that shouldn’t have happened. Why? Because guns are deadly weapons designed to kill or injure humans or animals. They must be taken seriously and their owners must not “play” with them or clean them without knowing if there is a round in the chamber, or get them out while drinking, or let children access them and all of those other common sense admonitions that go with dangerous things.

Second- a first grader brought a gun to a St. Paul school where it discharged, injuring the floor tiles and luckily not another child or adult. As we said when I was writing for the Kid Shootings blog- Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. This is lunacy.

Third- a shooting took place at an Anoka area gas station. Law enforcement engaged in the high speed chase on highways and freeways ending with a crash and the suspect being shot and injured by law enforcement.

And now the same St. Cloud mall that suffered the September mass stabbing incident was under lock-down because a man was seen with a gun.

Shortly after 7 p.m., St. Cloud police Sgt. Jason Burke said in a news release that ““Initial information is that a male and female were in an argument outside the mall by the food court. During the argument, two males unknown to them approached, one of the males lifted the front of his shirt and showed the couple a gun in his waistband. The gun was not pointed at the couple, no threats were made, and no injuries have been reported.

It will be interesting to find out who these 2 reported guys with guns were.

And as an aside, people arguing in malls should take it outside or in private so they don’t frighten people around them. Fear is all around us now after the most contentious election in recent history. The corporate gun lobby has helped stoke that fear and suspicion that could lead to us being less safe rather than safer:

Trump bore little resemblance to the lifelong heartland conservatives whom the NRA typically backed. He was an Ivy League-educated real estate heir with a gold-plated private jet and a foreign, former-model third wife. Trump and Melania had wed at a glamorous ceremony where Bill and Hillary Clinton had been among the guests. A proud New York City resident, Trump didn’t seem to have much regard for the attachments many Americans felt towards guns, never mind the policy purity the NRA demands of other candidates. In a 2000 book, he’d even written, “I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.”

But from the outset of his campaign, Trump adopted an incendiary message that matched the NRA’s own. He hurled invectives at establishment politicians in both parties. He described a once-great nation under assault and in sharp decline, rhetoric that electrified white Americans brimming with grievance.

This is our President-elect.

Sigh.

We will not be safer with more guns around us in this atmosphere of fear.

But I digress.

Another fatal shooting in North Minneapolis yesterday adds up to a very violent year in that section of Minneapolis that has residents very concerned for their own safety. From the article:

For the third day in a row, the pop-pop-pop of gunfire punctuated the midday calm near a north Minneapolis strip mall, this time leaving a young man dead and detectives searching for answers.

This is simply not the kind of communities we want for our children and families. The proliferation of guns on our streets is a serious public health and safety epidemic. No one is immune from it. It adds to the fear and suspicion of others and spirals out of control.

And last, the Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile has been charged with manslaughter:

In an extraordinary move by a Minnesota prosecutor, authorities said the officer, not the civilian, is to blame for the tragic events that turned a traffic stop in a Twin Cities suburb into a flash point in the national debate over racial profiling and police use of force.

You may remember that the shooting of Castile resulted in demonstrations on the streets of Minnesota and all over the country for that matter. These are incidents that have escalated all over America. Unarmed and armed men of color have been shot by officers in what seems like increasing frequency. Race plays a role. Armed citizens plays a role. Fear plays a role. There should be some very serious conversations about what all of this means for the safety of Americans. Will we have them? Will we ignore this at the peril of our communities?

I have great respect for our law enforcement officers and have written frequently about officers under assault by armed citizens. The job of our officers is made all the more dangerous by so many armed Americans and it has led to a vicious circle of arming up to protect themselves from citizens who are allowed to carry their guns in public places or are involved in domestic disputes. Armed citizenry is not the norm in other democratized countries and therefore, law enforcement officers are not often the target of ambushes. In fact, in some countries, officers are not armed. Interestingly, there are far fewer gun deaths in almost all over democratized countries not at war. Coincidence?

What is particularly disturbing is the number of ambushes of American officers leading to tragic deaths of officers:

The attacks on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge that left eight officers dead earlier this month sent waves of fear through law enforcement agencies across the country, with departments ordering officers to double up on patrols as a safety measure.

These deaths contributed to a grim tally this year. Through last week, 32 officers were shot and killed in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, a nonprofit group that tracks these deaths. More than half of the officers fatally shot died in ambushes, the group said in a report released Thursday.

President-elect Donald Trump will have to deal with this American tragedy. Time will tell if he will and if he does, how he will.

An armed society is not a polite society. Our children and families should not have to be exposed to this kind of violence and potential violence. This is lunacy, not niceness.

“Minnesota nice” is a myth.

These are only the gun deaths we know about. About 80% of gun deaths in Minnesota are suicides. These are not usually reported in the media unless they are homicide/suicides, often occurring in domestic shootings. Passing stronger gun laws reduces gun homicides and suicides as it turns out.

But requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales is under assault. The continued myths coming from the corporate gun lobby don’t make us safer.

Who are we? Do we care about our fellow citizens no matter who they are? There are certain truths that should be self-evident. One of them is that we have a moral responsibility to protect our citizens from those who would do them harm and I am not just talking about terrorism. The truth is that toddlers have killed more of their fellow Americans than terrorists:

According to the Washington Post, our nation’s nurseries are housing more than just unbearable levels of cuteness: Twenty-three people have been shot by toddlers in the U.S. since the start of 2016 — exactly 23 more than have been shot by Muslim terrorists over the same period.

Please look at the map in the above linked article showing that in “red states” that typically have looser gun laws, more shootings by toddlers have occurred. Coincidence?

Banning Muslims and deporting Mexicans, as our President-elect and apparently many in the Republican party want to do to protect us will not change this.

The Brady Campaign and other gun violence prevention organizations have solutions that often don’t involve legislation. Check out what can be done to make us safer by making sure guns are locked and stored away from tiny hands and the hands of others who should not have access to guns.

As I wrote about in my last post, things will not be getting better now that the corporate gun lobby believes they have a seat in the White House. How will that make us safer? It won’t. I have yet to hear how plans to repeal strong gun laws will result in fewer shootings and fewer deaths. In fact, the opposite is true.

But we are now living in a country where lies and deception are taken for the truth. It’s a scary time for those of us who have been working for peaceful solutions and safer communities. It’s downright sobering that in a country where “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is under assault.

Americans agree about stronger gun laws

orange check mark with arrow

It’s a fact. Americans agree about requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales. Polling data over many years has been consistent. A recent Star Tribune poll showed that 82% of Minnesotans favor background checks on all gun sales. It’s unmistakable. This includes gun owners, non gun owners, rural and urban Minnesotans and people of all political persuasions.

Americans in general in polling taken over many years show anywhere from 90%-92% agreement about Brady background checks. Gun owners also support requiring background checks on all gun sales by large numbers. This recent polling shows 83% of gun owners support Brady background checks for all gun sales:

A new national Public Policy Polling survey of gun owners finds overwhelming support for background checks and a higher likelihood of supporting political candidates who move them forward. Gun owners also believe the National Rifle Association, or NRA, is out of touch with them on these issues, and many believe the organization has lost its way altogether. While the debate over gun policy starkly divides American politics, this poll shows that support for key gun violence prevention policies has remained strong for years, even among gun owners themselves. (…) “The big picture from this survey is clear: Gun owners overwhelmingly support background checks,” said Tom Jensen, director of Public Policy Polling. “And that includes gun owners who are Republicans and gun owners who are NRA members. Gun owners want politicians to take action on these issues, and if anything, they will reward them for it. Gun owners also send a clear message that the NRA has lost its way and does not represent them on this issue.”

In 2 previous Frank Luntz (Republican pollster) polls surveying gun owners, even 74% of NRA members support requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales.

To show this support using humor to get the point across, the Brady Campaign teamed up with “Funny or Die”. Check out this great video showing the things about which most Americans agree. Here it is on this You Tube video

 

It’s known that many gun owners still want to buy guns with no background checks. While that may be OK for those who are law abiding, it ignores the fact that some are not and can get guns through on-line sites and at gun shows with no background checks. After Facebook made its’ announcement that gun sales without background checks would not be allowed on its’ platform, some are finding other on-line sites to do their business.

Why do people NOT want to go through background checks? That’s a question that needs to be asked and answered. If it’s inconvenient, so be it. When applying for certain jobs, a background check is required. When adopting a pet, a background check is required. One usually stands in line to renew driver licenses or auto titles or licenses for many other things. That can be inconvenient. Why the fuss over going through a background check when purchasing a gun?

Most people to agree to go through background checks because they buy their guns through licensed sellers. If the buyer is law abiding, it most likely takes just a few minutes to wait to find that out when buying from a licensed seller. That’s what the word “instant” means in the National Instant Background Check system. This is a system that works but it needs to be expanded to include private sellers if we are truly serious about keeping guns away from those who should not have them.

So what’s the problem? It’s a mystery to me and most Americans. It shouldn’t be a mystery to our elected leaders who have become lapdogs for the corporate gun lobby. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can not only change our gun policies to reflect the majority views of Americans. But we must also change the conversation and the culture that allows tragedies like this one in Tennessee:

An 11-year-old boy has been sentenced to spend the rest of his childhood in custody after he was found guilty of the murder of an 8-year-old girl. (…)

MaKayla Dyer, a student at White Pine Elementary, was killed October 3, 2015, outside her home. Juvenile Judge Dennis “Will” Roach II, who presided over Tiller’s case, wrote in a court order that he was playing with MaKayla Dyer, her 11-year-old sister and her friend when he asked her to retrieve her puppies. After she said no, he went inside and came back with a 12 gauge shotgun and a bb gun, telling the girls he had guns.

“The victim then laughed at Mr. Tiller, and stated that she believed they were not real,” read the court documents. “Tiller then made certain the gun was loaded, cocked the hammer of the gun, and shot the victim just above the heart” from inside the window.

Dyer fell backwards and was later confirmed dead.

Day after day these incidents are happening. Most Americans would agree that this is not acceptable and that the 11 year old boy who shot an 8 year old girl should not have had that gun that day. Common sense is not always practiced by gun owners. Unless we raise the issue and talk about it as a matter of a public health epidemic, more children will die in the same way.

So we already agree that Brady background checks should be extended to all gun sales. Guns are the only product in the market place designed to kill others. We should all agree that we can do a much better job of keeping loaded guns out of the hands of children, teens, vulnerable adults and those who intend harm. The gun culture we have is not promoting the idea that more guns have not actually made us safer from devastating gun deaths and injuries. Reality matters. With rights come responsibilities and owning a gun is an awesome responsibility that should be taken very seriously. This is the conversation we should be having but thanks to the corporate gun lobby, it is not the conversation we are having.

It’s changing gun policy to reflect the majority public opinion and the public health and safety of Americans. It’s changing the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our country and how we can save lives.

Since you agree with me, let’s get to work on solutions to the problem.

Guns dropping. Bullets flying. Kids dying. Parents and guns don’t go together.

droppingAs a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I need to write something. Armed Americans are dangerous. What is wrong with parents carrying guns around with them wherever they go or leaving guns out for kids and teens to find them? Guns in public places are proving to be quite dangerous to the health and well being of our kids and communities. And guns dropping are much more dangerous than dropping a rock on your foot. Recent news backs up my assertion.

How in the world can a mother be holding a gun or having a gun on her person while braiding her daughter’s hair? Yes, you guessed it. The gun dropped to the floor and killed the 8 year old daughter of the gun owner. This is so outrageous on so many levels and highlights the craziness of our insane gun culture. More from the article:

Marsha Lynch said she was braiding her daughter’s hair when a handgun fell to the floor and fired, striking her in the leg and then shooting her 8-year-old daughter in the head.

Sharia Lynch died from the gunshot wound before she could be airlifted to an area hospital.

“She was a precious little girl, she made everybody laugh — she was the kind of kid in class everybody loved,” said Ann Arnold, principal of Sara Ragsdale Elementary School. “Our hearts are just broke. We’ve got a lot of tears going on, of course. We’re in shock right now.”

The Paulding County Sheriff’s Office is investigating whether the gun belonged to Lynch or her adult son, and authorities also want to know why the .9 mm handgun fired when it was dropped.

A firearms expert said a standard safety feature should have prevented the accidental firing unless the gun had been altered to give it a shorter trigger pull.

All of our children are precious. Why expose them to loaded guns and take a chance that a bullet could kill them in their own home? They are too precious to be shot and killed in our schools and on our streets. They are too precious for this kind of careless and cavalier attitude towards guns. They are too precious for us to be ignoring stronger gun laws just because some of us are afraid of the gun lobby.

Please read this report from the Brady Campaign- The Truth about Kids and Guns if you don’t believe me. 1,700,000 children live with unlocked, loaded guns in their homes.

The corporate gun lobby and gun extremists are so intent on selling guns and making people feel afraid of their own shadows that people have been duped into believing having a gun in the home will make them safer. The facts and the actual incidents happening every day do not bear that out. Many folks who walk out of gun stores or permit to carry classes ( if they are even required) do so with absolutely no knowledge of guns or shooting or gun safety. If we want to keep our homes safe from shooting our children in stupid and dangerous “accidents” like this one, we need to mandate training classes and make sure people pass them with an A. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people. Allowing just anyone to buy one or carry one around without the respect and seriousness it deserves is a national tragedy.

It was just a matter of time before our loose gun laws played out in our homes, in public places and on our streets.

And while I am on the topic of carelessness with guns, I must ask why anyone needs a gun in the doctor’s office? This Texas woman’s mother must have thought her doctor’s office would be a dangerous place when she herself was the one who caused the danger to herself and others. The gun found in the purse dropped causing a bullet to go through the wall of an office, striking a patient in the thigh.

Good grief. People sometimes get bad news from their health care providers. What they don’t need is a bullet flying around in the office. If they have a serious disease that could take their life or that of a loved one, getting hit and injured or killed by a bullet would be the height of irony. This is just plain ludicrous and an example of our gun culture gone awry.

Wouldn’t it be better to treat gun violence like the public health epidemic it is? Many reports and editorials have been written by public health providers. This latest one implores us to do something about the crisis of our kids dying from bullets in large numbers.

Gun violence is a public health issue that profoundly affects children and families. Firearm injuries are among the top three killers of kids.

As a pediatrician, I have a duty to protect children. And the data is clear: strong gun laws positively impact families and lower accidental gun deaths, homicides, and suicides in youth.

I firmly support the American Academy of Pediatrics’ stance that Congress needs to find a way forward on gun safety legislation that improves the background-check system (including the elimination of gun show loopholes), reduces gun trafficking, requires safe firearm storage, bans all high-capacity magazines, passes stronger handgun regulations, enacts a strong, effective ban on assault weapons, and supports research to generate effective approaches to prevention and healing.

If you aren’t concerned about the above incidents and what I write about here regularly, you should be. You can be part of the solution by demanding changes to our laws that make common sense. (…) 

We cannot afford to be silent on gun violence. I strongly encourage action on this issue, with appropriate legislation passed, research supported, and families able to access bolstered mental health services to heal those who are already victims of schoolyard killings, drive-by shootings, or accidental gun-related injuries in the home. Call your congresspeople. Take action to help be the change we need.

I hope that we can all agree that reducing gun violence would be good for America. Certainly, there is no simple, overnight solution. It took the better part of four decades to improve traffic safety. Let’s hope it won’t take that long to improve gun safety.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is spot on. Don’t listen to what the gun lobby says about this. They are dead wrong. And I mean that metaphorically and literally. Remember that the Florida legislature passed a law penalizing health care providers for talking to parents about the risks of guns in their homes. 

Ludicrous.

Pay attention to what is going on in your state’s legislature. What happens in Florida and Texas often shows up in legislatures all over our country. The gun lobby is foaming at the mouth to loosen our gun laws to make it easier for dangerous people to get guns and to have virtually no laws about who can carry guns in public and where they can carry them. This is the virtual slippery slope towards towards lawlessness and anarchy. And that is what the corporate gun lobby seems to want.

Is this what you want? Is this the kind of country you want for your children and your families? Do you want to be sitting in your doctor’s office with armed citizens who aren’t properly trained to carry guns and know little about them? Do you want your kids to play in a home where a mother needs her gun with her at all times, including when she is braiding her daughter’s hair? Do you want a world where bullets are flying on our streets taking the lives of innocent people? Do you want a world where gangs and people who shouldn’t have guns are having wars in our streets because of easy access to guns? Do you want a country where easy access to guns is killing our kids on a daily basis in “accidents”, suicides and homicides?

If not, join a gun violence prevention group and get active. Ask your candidates what they intend to do about this shameful and ludicrous public health and safety problem. Demand that your elected officials have a position on how to prevent the shootings. Don’t let them get away with the deceptive gun lobby arguments. Challenge them to stand with the victims to make sure we are safe from the gun violence that is devastating our communities.

We are better than this.