Thanksgiving peace and safety

Happy Thanksgiving DayHappy Thanksgiving. May it be a peaceful and safe holiday for all of us. In my neck of the woods, there is no snow forecast so hopefully the roads will be more safe than is often the case at this time of year for traveling. I will be traveling to celebrate Thanksgiving with my son, daughter and families. As our family celebrates I will know that some will not be as lucky as ours. Poverty and homelessness affects many families in our country.

So going into the holiday, I want to talk about some things that did happen with guns and some that didn’t. A man, another man in a domestic abuse situation, threatened to shoot up a church and a casino in Las Vegas but was stopped before he had the chance to carry it out. Why does this sound familiar?

From the article:

A man was arrested after he threatened to open fire at a local church, along with the Las Vegas hotel casino where his estranged wife worked, according to the FBI.

There is no question any more that domestic abusers frequently end up as mass shooters. Why? Anger issues mostly. This man was angry that he wasn’t getting a green card. Why he thought shooting up a church and a casino would accomplish that is the question. But when a gun or guns are available, men ( mostly men as it turns out) use them too often to take out their anger on others. It’s the guns stupid.

Had this man carried out his threat we would have been talking about another heinous mass shooting in America. Be thankful we aren’t talking about it.

And then there is the continued irresponsibility of gun owners ( gun rights advocates love to say that most “law abiding” gun owners are responsible but then that isn’t true is it? For example, this latest example of a Minnesota gun owner apparently leaving his/her gun accessible for young children who, like children do, handle the gun and shoot someone:

 A 3-year-old northern Minnesota child was apparently shot by a 5-year-old Sunday morning, Nov. 19, the Otter Tail County sheriff’s office said.

The victim is in stable condition at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, the office said without releasing any names.

A dispatcher got the 911 call around 7:30 a.m. and learned about the shooting in Deer Creek from a caller, who said it was an accident.

There are no accidents when it comes to incidents like this. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

That family is thankful that no one was killed in the “accidental” shooting and maybe they will have more common sense now.

Also in Minnesota a literal good guy with a gun managed to cause a local mall lockdown when he walked in the mall with a gun in a case looking for a store to service his gun. 

Naturally people reported a guy with a gun walking around in the mall. We understand that shootings happen in malls and everywhere else. From the article:

Eden Prairie police said they received a report at about noon that a person with a weapon was inside the mall. Police put the mall in lockdown and searched the building.

A mall employee reported to police during the lockdown that a man carrying a gun case had entered the Scheels store, where he intended to get his gun serviced. He left the mall after being told there were no gun services at that Scheels location, according to a statement from police.

So this is the problem with a “good guy” with a gun theory. No one knows who is a good guy or a bad guy because they often look the same. The public understands that too many “law abiding” gun owners commit mass shootings and everyday shootings. We have experienced weekly.
This incident was not an incident. We can all be thankful for that.

A man accidentally shot himself and his wife in their Tennessee church after he had taken his gun out during a discussion about weapons in places of worship, police said.

The man, 81, and his wife, 80, both suffered non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

The incident happened Thursday afternoon as members of the First United Methodist Church in Tellico Plains — about 60 miles southwest of Knoxville — were gathered at the church for a pre-Thanksgiving lunch, Tellico Plains Police Department Chief Russ Parks told ABC News.

The church members were discussing weapons in places of worship on the heels of the shooting at a Texas church earlier this month that killed over two dozen people, Parks said, and “one of the gentlemen said, ‘Well, I take my gun with me everywhere.'”

Just another instance of the myth of law abiding good guys with guns and how they will save the day in public places. Don’t believe it.

I hope that all in that church discussion are thankful nothing worse happened when the man irresponsibly showed off his gun and then pulled the trigger “accidentally.” It could have so much worse. Perhaps they will have more common sense when thinking that a gun in church could be the ticket to safety.

This Army Veteran set things straight about the risks of carrying guns everywhere and the “good guy” with a gun myth in this piece:

The problem with this narrative (besides a lack of research or data suggesting more guns does indeed prevent violence broadly) is that killing another human being, even a “bad” one, is not easy. This is not “Call of Duty”: Despite the damage that modern weaponry can inflict, there is a reason that soldiers and law enforcement officers receive thousands of hours of training in firearms and tactics. This training is physical, mechanical and, most importantly, psychological, because in order to efficiently and effectively kill other human beings in high-stress situations, one must be conditioned to negotiate that stress. (…)

When I see a young man openly carrying a firearm in public, whether to prove a political point or because he honestly believes at he could be called upon to stop an active shooter, I can only think of how much could go wrong. I do not see a “good guy with a gun”: I see a naive human who is more likely to exacerbate a tragedy than stop it. Is this person a civilian who has forgot to clear their weapon? Are they disciplined enough to avoid accidents? And if a mass shooting does occur, how do I know they will have the skills to take out the bad guy rather than, say, an innocent bystander?

I am a gun owner, a military veteran and a proud American. I believe in the essential right to bear arms, but with that right comes the obligation of responsible ownership. If a young man is brazen enough to brandish a powerful weapon just to attract attention, why would I trust they have the maturity to use it responsibly?

Exactly. There is no way of predicting what will happen in a mass shooting and someone with a gun who decides to take action to save the day could cause many more problems that he would solve.

This article from Vox explains it in charts and graphs:

If Texas is an example of this concept in action, though, it sure doesn’t seem to work. Before another armed person intervened against the Sutherland Springs gunman, he had already killed at least 26 people and injured approximately 20 others. He managed to shoot more than 40 people before “a good guy with a gun” reportedly helped stop him.

Not to mention that if the gunman didn’t have access to firearms, “a good guy with a gun” wouldn’t have been needed in the first place.

But the theory has remained prominent in conservative circles — as the NRA has argued that the right to bear arms and lax gun laws are necessary not just to stand against government tyranny but also for self-defense and protection.

 What I am saying here is that the NRA and corporate gun lobby myths are easily debunked and fewer and fewer people believe them. When virtually almost everyone in the country wants background checks on all gun sales, I would say that the NRA myths are failing. And for that I am thankful.

The public has common sense. The public also feels less and less safe with people with guns around everywhere they go. We are all vulnerable to gun violence. It happens everywhere but the answer is not more guns everywhere. The answer is to make sure that guns are less accessible to people who could be dangerous to themselves or others. Guns are a risk to their owners and those around them. I have given enough examples in this blog but so far the NRA, an arm of the Republican party, believe they are in charge.

That will change. We’ve all had enough of the constant gun violence and mass shootings.

Be thankful this holiday if your family has not been affected by gun violence. It is coming to  a point where almost every family will have been affected by gun violence in one way or the other. I can’t tell you how often I hear stories about someone’s family member who has committed suicide by gun or a friend who was murdered in a domestic shooting. it is so common now that it’s become part of our lives.

That is something we need to reject. It is NOT normal nor is it inevitable that the carnage that takes the lives of 100 Americans a day occurs without credible solutions offered by our leaders.

I will be thankful for my family around me and know that one person is missing from the Thanksgiving table of her adult kids and her grandchildren. She will be missed. My sister loved holidays and entertaining and did it well. We are thankful for that happy memory of her.

I urge you all to have a thoughtful discussion over Thanksgiving as inevitably the conversation will turn to politics. How could it not with the daily chaos and tweeting coming from our President? One of the discussions you could and should have is about asking if there are unlocked, loaded guns in the homes where kids and grandkids play and hang-out. ASKing saves lives. Safe storage of guns is key to public and private safety. More on this in my next post as new information has come out about lack of storing guns safely leading to stolen guns used in crime.

And one last thing- please remember the day 54 years ago that President John F. Kennedy was shot by an assassin in Dallas, Texas. I will never forget that day.

Stay safe everyone. Be responsible. Be thankful. And be safe.

There are no shooting accidents

gun accidentCollectively we are shooting ourselves in the foot by ignoring the truth about the risks of guns. And, as it turns out we are shooting ourselves ( collectively- our children, teens and adults) in the arms, chest, head and other body parts.

Today I am going to focus on the “Truth about Kids and Guns” as the Brady Campaign has called their report.:

The majority of all child and teen gun deaths happen in a home; it’s even more for our youngest children. So although improved legislation is critical to keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people, it is not the entire answer. When it comes to kids, the danger is rarely outside their own homes, or the homes of their family and friends. That means we don’t need to wait for Congress or anyone else to start reducing the toll guns take on our children.

Why do we continue to call the shooting of a child by another child an accident? Why do we continue to call a child finding a gun in a purse and shooting him/herself an accident? What should we call it when a parent handles or cleans a gun inside of the house and a bullet discharges from the gun, hitting and killing a child in another room?

#notanaccident

Not common sense.

I call it irresponsible gun ownership. I call it lack of training. I call it careless and stupid. I call it negligence. I call it not understanding the grievous risk of loaded guns as deadly weapons. I call it the American tragedy and the American gun culture gone wrong. I call it gun rights extremists convincing people that they just must have a gun in their home or their purse or loaded in a holster while walking around in public without a warning label on the gun similar to what we have on packs of cigarettes. Or on alcoholic beverages. 

We do seem to understand that there are some products that can lead to serious health problems and even death and so we at least try to get the public to understand the risks. It may not be as effective as we would like but over time, we have come to understand the risks associated with smoking and alcohol.

So then when an Ohio father cleans his gun in his home and doesn’t check to make sure there is not a bullet still in the chamber, isn’t that a risk to owning a gun and shouldn’t there be more discussion about this risk? Shouldn’t there be warning labels or something that comes with a gun purchase to highlight this risk? Shouldn’t there be mandatory training for anyone who purchases a gun from a licensed dealer? ( not to mention all of the guns sold by private sellers on-line with no anything required).

From the above linked article:

Akron police say 27-year-old Dexter Brooks said he was trying to unload his gun Saturday afternoon at the family’s home when he fired a shot, thinking the gun was empty. Police say the bullet went through a staircase into a lower-level bathroom, where it struck the girl in the head. She was hospitalized in critical condition.

Tragic. Devastating. Avoidable. Preventable. Stupid.

And the one about the gun found in a grandma’s purse by a grandchild looking for candy?:

When the 4-year-old slipped her hand into her grandmother’s purse, she was searching for something sweet, her father told the Tampa Bay Times.

Shane Zoller told the newspaper that his daughter, Yanelly, was looking for candy while visiting her grandparents last week in North Tampa, Florida. Instead, she found a handgun, then accidentally shot and killed herself, Zoller said.

#notanaccident

I know that gun rights advocates say these are just irresponsible people who have nothing to do with them. The thing is, these same advocates are not on board with pushing the public health approach to gun violence. We ALL need to be educating people about the risks of owning guns. Instead, the corporate gun lobby encourages everyone and anyone to buy a gun for self protection and then the guns get used this way instead. Guns are rarely used for self protection: 

There are, of course, plenty of solid arguments for robust 2nd Amendment protections. Millions of people use guns for sport and recreation every day. The vast majority of gun owners are responsible citizens, not criminals.

But, though some people certainly use guns for self-defense, the data suggest that overall, guns are used far more often for killing than self-defense. As a result, it may be worth thinking twice about arguments for more guns in schools, churches and other public places.

And that’s the truth of the matter. The truth is also that a gun in the home is much more likely to get used to injure or kill someone also in the home or even in public places.

More from the above linked article about child shootings in America:

As The Post’s John Woodrow Cox reported last week, an average of 23 children were shot each day in 2015, according to a review of the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That’s at least one bullet every 63 minutes.

That year, an estimated 8,400 children were struck, and 1,458 of them died – more than in any year since at least 2010. That death toll amounted to more than the entire number of U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan over the past 10 years.

#Enough

There are many more incidents where these came from. Children are dying in high number and more than military fatalities in Afghanistan over the last 10 years. Why are we not making a huge fuss about this?

Rights…..

Lack of courage and backbone…

Lapdog politicians….

Noisy, greedy and power grabbing gun lobby…..

Myths. Misinformation

And I haven’t even mentioned the gun “accidents” that kill adults. 

More guns make us safer.

 

We are better than this.

 

“Good” grief

Charlie BrownI often use the words “good grief” to describe my anger, frustration, distaste, exasperation, disbelief and any number of other emotions when other words do not suffice.

Charlie Brown, the iconic character in Charles Schultz’s  Peanuts cartoons, which also became television specials, used this term often to express his frustration.

So how do these words find themselves into my post today? How does the funeral of a friend, a summit on gun violence as a public health issue, a hunting accident, an officer’s response to tragedy,  a racist incident at a Minnesota college, a road rage incident, the acquittal of a St. Louis police officer, tabling at a local festival and a gun suicide intersect?

Grief. Anger. Victims. Awe. Inspiration. Organizing. Keeping children safe from gun injuries and death.

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a friend. We met his family at church many years ago and his wife, in particular, became my friend and a member of my church book group. As she always does at funerals, my minister wove his story of love, compassion for his family and community, his humor, his fun loving life style and his courage in the face of his cancer diagnosis into the sermon. He was a volunteer firefighter and a Viet Nam veteran. No one was left without a tissue. We were all touched by his 3 adult daughters telling us about their dad and his 3 sons-in-law reading the verses. There were so many things we hadn’t known about our friend and it took his death for us to find out. He was an avid hunter, fisherman, outdoorsman, volunteer, grandparent to 6, and good man who made his mark on his circle of friends and the community at large. The grief of this family over the loss of a man who died too young will continue through their lives and they will live with the hole left by his death.

Grief is grief no matter how a death happened. With my friend it was cancer. There are many causes of death, of course. Suicides take the lives of way too many Americans and are on the rise in Minnesota. In Minnesota suicides by gun account for about 75% of gun deaths.

One of the topics of the Protect Minnesota 2 day summit I attended last week about gun violence and public health was the prevalence of gun suicides across the country and in Minnesota. There was much discussion about access to loaded guns, discussions about how much mental illness contributes to suicides and about other conditions or behaviors that contribute to suicides and suicides by gun.

An article in the Washington Post written by the wife of a gun suicide victim says it all:

I believe my husband’s decision to end his life two years ago was made seconds before it happened. His fate was sealed only when he reached for one of his guns for the last time. Once the hammer started to fall, that was it.

When our American gun culture doesn’t consider the risks of guns to those who should so clearly not have them, we have a serious public health crisis. Yes, it is a crisis.

I do not oppose the Second Amendment, but we desperately need to start changing the conversation about gun ownership in this country. My husband was a casualty of a jacked-up marketing fable that convinces men, women and children that their castles are unsafe unless they are guarded with guns.

Far more guns kill people in suicides, accidents, mistakes or fits of rage than from an intruder in the night. Families, partners and friends must acknowledge this reality when discussing having guns in the home. We also need politicians to support policies that give families the power they need to save their loved ones.

We can save our loved ones by enacting sensible and common sense measures such as requiring a Brady background check on all gun sales and Gun Violence Protective Orders. In fact, these make so much common sense that the majority of Americans and even gun owners agree. We can prevent at least some of the grief of gun deaths and injuries.

At the Protect Minnesota summit we heard from a panel of survivors, each of whom had lost a loved one to gun violence or had survived a shooting. To say the least, it was powerful and emotional and full of the grief of the survivors. This is why those in the gun violence prevention movement do what we do. We really don’t want others to feel the grief we have all felt.

survivors

There is a lot of grief to go around and some of it is actually in the form of anger. At the Protect Minnesota summit mentioned above there were local and national speakers highlighting ways in which we can reduce and prevent urban gun violence. Much of it was based on the racism associated with shootings in urban areas. And a lot of time was spent on how and why young men of color “need” guns that often end up in the wrong hands or in gun crimes, and worse, gun tragedies.

So when the “shooting” incident reported by a security guard at St. Catherine’s College in St. Paul made the media rounds, it first appeared to be another school shooting. A campus was locked down and law enforcement were called to the scene looking for the perpetrator. As it turned out, the perpetrator was the security guard himself who had irresponsibly brought his own firearm to work and “accidentally” discharged it, shooting himself in the shoulder.  He said he was afraid he would lose his job if he reported the truth and so he fabricated a shooter- of course a young black man wearing a hoodie:

Police arrested Ahlers, 25, on Wednesday, after he told investigators during questioning that he accidentally shot himself with his handgun and lied about it because he feared losing his job, according to St. Paul police. St. Kate’s prohibits people, including security guards, from carrying guns on campus.

St. Kate’s terminated Ahlers on Thursday. University President Becky Roloff said in a statement that the university “strongly condemns racial discrimination, racial stereotyping, and racial profiling of any kind. The statements attributed to the former employee concerning the race of an alleged suspect are deeply troubling and do not reflect our values.”

The man lost his job. A campus was locked down for nothing. Police were involved in an unnecessary search for a black man. And there are no “accidental” shootings. There is irresponsible handling of a deadly weapon however.

A St. Catherine University security guard put African-American men at risk of being hurt or killed during an intense manhunt in St. Paul, after he allegedly falsely accused a black male of shooting him, community leaders said Friday.

There were real implications to what Brent Patrick Ahlers told police, said community activist Robert McClain. He received calls regarding three people stopped by police during the search for the “suspect” Tuesday night, including by officers with guns drawn.

“When they look for someone who they assume is an active shooter, they don’t look in a nice way,” McClain said. “They don’t stop and ask questions in a nice way, so you victimize people who haven’t done a thing.

Good grief.

Law enforcement officers are a part of our communities and there to serve us and protect us from harm. Sometimes that does not work out well and there are plenty of recent incidents of officer involved shootings of young black men gone wrong that have left families and communities grieving. The latest outcry has come in St. Louis where the last two days have seen protests after the acquittal of an officer who shot and killed a black man.

We have a lot of work to do regarding relationships between law enforcement and communities of color. It is understandable that people of color are angry over the acquittals of officers after shootings of black men. This is a uniquely American problem and it is because of all of the guns in our communities. Officers are armed and citizens are armed. It doesn’t work out well and racism plays a part. When everyone is armed, too many people do not feel safe.

But officers are often involved in non-violent support of their communities. A story in the Duluth News Tribune caught my attention this morning. It is written by a female officer who comforted a young girl during the rescue of her father and sister in their drownings in Lake Superior. Officers are often traumatized by tragic incidents and sometimes even leave the force. But this officer chose to write a beautiful story about how she spent hours with a young girl who had lost her father and sister. Thanks goodness for officers like this one and their dedication to their communities and the victims of tragic incidents.

There was a law enforcement panel at the Protect Minnesota summit last week. All participants were caring, dedicated and educated individuals who cared a lot about how gun violence affects their communities and they are working to lessen the impact of gun crimes and gun violence. They all agreed that they saw too many gun suicides and too much urban violence and they want to work with us to solve important problems and lessen the grief that devastates families and communities.

And we know that many officers are themselves victims of shootings when trying to intervene in incidents or in actual ambushes by people who hate officers or have a grudge of some kind.  We have our very own home-grown terrorists. This is yet another element to our gun violence epidemic that we are ignoring at the risk of losing lives.

Good grief.

The grief that comes with a violent and sudden death never goes away. Another story in the Duluth News Tribune this morning was so poignant and difficult but I am grateful for the man who told his story of grief over an accidental shooting that took the life of his son while hunting decades ago:

He allowed Mark to move ahead a few steps. Just then, a grouse flushed along the trail.

“When a grouse flushes, your instinct is to be quick,” Kern said.

He was. He shouldered his shotgun and swung on the fleeing bird. In that split-second, he wasn’t aware that Mark had moved directly into the path of his shot.

“I shot him right in the back of the head,” Kern said. “Killed him instantly.”

He speaks openly about that day, not without showing some emotion. He shares his story with others from time to time. He hopes it might serve as a powerful reminder to other hunters about the importance of safe gun handling, about being aware of where one’s hunting partners are, about understanding the finality of an ill-advised shot.

…”the finality of an ill-advised shot.” Bullets are often final.

Hunting season is happening right now in Minnesota. Every year we hear of hunting accidents involving guns and too often it is one family member or a friend shooting another family member or friend. The guilt and pain that comes with that must be unimaginable. But this man goes on with his life as best he can and lives forever with his grief. More from the linked story:

Over the years, Kern has regained his inner strength and a sense of who he is. He believes strongly that each of us has “a force” within. A kind of energy. A spirit.

He cannot, of course, forget what happened on that long-ago September day. He doesn’t try to bury the memory. He fully acknowledges the reality of what he did.

“This happened to me,” he says.

The loss of a child is too painful to consider but it has happened to members of my family and to friends. Most have thankfully not been due to gun deaths. Yesterday my chapter set up a table at a local event to educated the public about how they can reduce the chances that a child will be “accidentally” shot in the home of friends. The ASK campaign encourages parents and gives them the language to ask that awkward question. Most gun owning families actually think this is a good idea and if they are storing their guns unloaded and secured, they can avoid the awful tragedy of an “accidental” shooting. It was ( and is) well received and allowed us to have many great conversations with parents and others about the risks of unsecured guns and other issues related to guns and gun violence.  ASK

Every day in America about 7 children a day die from gunshot injuries. Some survive and survive with lifetime physical and emotional injuries and PTSD. (PTSD was a topic of discussion also at the Northstar conference on gun violence and public health.) A road rage shooting that is now being reported in the media has left one innocent little boy with terrible head injuries but hopefully not with long term disabilities related to the shooting. The article is titled: ” Children Under Fire”.

Good grief.

How can this be a title for a story? It can be because in America, people carry guns around with them in their cars. And stupidly and tragically, they shoot other people when they get angry over their driving.  From the article:

“Stop!” Hill screamed, turning to check on her son, who, just before midnight on Aug. 6, had become one of the nearly two dozen children shot — intentionally, accidentally or randomly — every day in the United States. What follows almost all of those incidents are frantic efforts to save the lives of kids wounded in homes and schools, on street corners and playgrounds, at movie theaters and shopping centers.

Good grief.

(…) On average, 23 children were shot each day in the United States in 2015, according to a Post review of the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That’s at least one bullet striking a growing body every 63 minutes.

In total, an estimated 8,400 children were hit, and more died — 1,458 — than in any year since at least 2010. That death toll exceeds the entire number of U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan this decade.

Many incidents, though, never become public because they happen in small towns or the injuries aren’t deemed newsworthy or the triggers are pulled by teens committing suicide.

Caring for children wounded by gunfire comes with a substantial price tag. Ted Miller, an economist who has studied the topic for nearly 30 years, estimated that the medical and mental health costs for just the 2015 victims will exceed $290 million.

Good grief.

There is nothing good about grief. In America, the grief of families because of gun violence is remarkable, avoidable, preventable, and a national public health epidemic. We can do something about all of this but a minority of gun extremists and the corporate gun lobby get in the way of common sense. I wonder if they read about these incidents or have experienced the grief associated with gun deaths? I don’t wish it on anyone but stories must be told in order to make change.

In this post I have told quite a few stories. They involve victims, law enforcement officers, survivors, the grief experienced by the family of my friend, children, communities and families.

And I haven’t even touched on domestic shootings like the one that took my sister’s life. But they, too, happen every day. More grief.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is October– soon. I will write more then.

We are better than this.

The perfect storm

sunThough the sun is out in my neck of the woods and we are about to have a gorgeous early fall day, it feels bad in much of the country. It feels unsettling and people are apprehensive.

Wildfires are consuming many areas of the western U.S., including in Glacier Park where I visited with my grandchildren last summer. The area around beautiful Lake MacDonald is experiencing flames and smoke and there is concern about the historic lodge there which we visited while we were in the Park. One other historic lodge, the Sperry Chalet, has already burned. Friends are posting photos on Facebook of ash from the fires in Washington and Montana falling on their decks and homes. Another friend told me that her son lives in the Columbia River Gorge and they are worried about his home. Some people can’t be outside because of the smoke and ash.

Here is my photo of the Lake MacDonald lodge.  IMG_3034

Ordinarily this news would occupy the 24/7 cycles but Hurricane Harvey came along devastating the Houston area. We hardly had time to digest that awful tragedy before the warnings came about Irma. The survivors of Harvey are still in shelters, many having lost their homes and belongings. It will be a very long time for recovery.

But Irma. I can’t come up with any words that haven’t already been used to describe this monster storm. I have been watching the news on and off all day as things unfold in front of our eyes. Surely this will be horrific for millions.

And so September has been a bad month so far. Oh- there was a major earthquake in Mexico while we were paying attention to Irma warnings.

Some friends and family members have homes or condos in Florida. I have spoken with many of them and so far they are safe but the fury has not yet begun. To be continued….

But hey, people can feel good about the fact that Governor Scott has made sure they can all carry their concealed guns without a permit during the emergency of the hurricane. That’s reassuring. Because why in the world does someone need a gun while hunkering down sheltered in place during one of the nation’s worst ever hurricanes? Because- rights……..

And as if on cue, a Sheriff had to warn Floridians not to actually shoot their guns at the hurricane because of a ludicrous “event” created urging people to do just that. Really sometimes you just can’t make up the lunacy of some gun rights enthusiasts. I can actually envision this happening, can’t you? Because that is how far afield gun rights extremists have gone. It would be great if shooting at a hurricane would make it go away. This is not funny. Lives are at risk.

Where is common sense?

It almost didn’t seem relevant to write about gun violence incidents which continue unabated in spite of the natural disasters around us. So I wasn’t going to write for a while. But then this story came to my attention from Columbia, South Carolina that just begs for our attention. A two year old found a loaded gun in his home and shot and killed himself. Unfortunately incidents like this happen far too frequently and often no one knows they have happened. The boy’s father, bereft at the shooting, then shot and killed himself.

This is unimaginable. There are no words to express the grief and heartache of this family.

Too easy access to loaded guns become everyday tragedies.

But there are words to express the total lunacy of some gun owners in our country. As I have said, most gun owners are responsible with their guns. But the gun culture encourages loaded guns around homes and people are not responsible with their guns. There is no mandatory training to operate deadly weapons designed to kill people. Owning a gun is an awesome responsibility. Firearms are deadly weapons and need to be treated with great respect. All it takes is an instant and a family is changed forever.

It is mandatory to go through driver’s education and to get a permit while learning to drive. It is mandatory to pass a test in order to drive a vehicle because of course, accidents can happen and it’s just plain a good idea to make sure people are as safe as they can be on the roads. We all know that this does not assure that there are no accidents. So on the other end, it is now mandatory for car manufacturers to install seat belts and air bags and other safety features and mandatory for us to wear those seat belts. It is saving lives. That’s a good thing.

Sadly we are not focused on the right thing when talking about gun violence. The conversation becomes polarized immediately with people on both sides blaming and making statements that don’t make common sense. What if we focused on the victims instead of on whose side politicians are on as they try to avoid or make policy? When we do focus on people instead of policy and objects, we understand that families all over America have suffered the devastation of gun violence. At some point they don’t care what the politicians or the the gun rights or gun violence prevention sides are saying. They just want their loved ones back. Impossible.

This article found that most articles about gun violence focus on policy instead of on the victims and survivors. 

There is much good advice at the end of this article but I picked out these to highlight:

Depoliticize gun violence by appealing to common values. Sidestep political opposition by crafting messages that emphasize universal values like safety, opportunity and freedom from fear. Focus on storytelling instead of data. Highlighting personal stories will bring statistics to life, create empathy and overcome stereotypes about who is impacted by gun violence.

This is about California but can be extrapolated to every state. The difference would be that California has strong gun laws which does cause some complacency. Other states with much weaker gun laws also seem to be complacent but unwilling to do something to save lives by not passing stronger gun laws.

We can actually save people from dying or being injured from firearms with the right conversation and the right policies. The narrative needs to shift to how to save lives. That is what this is all about. Personally my family have been hunters and gun owners. My husband owns hunting guns which are locked safely away in a safe without the ammunition. This is just common sense. We don’t want grandchildren to find those guns. We don’t want them to be stolen and in the hands of those who should not handle them or can’t be responsible with them.

This is simple. It is not rocket science. It’s common sense. As I watch coverage of the coming wrath of Irma, I have heard those who have decided not to leave their homes or heed the warnings. I pray they will be safe but know that some will not because they opted not to be responsible. The same is true of firearms owners. Policy is made for all to protect us from ourselves and others. Laws and rules are not punitive on the front end. They are there to protect us.

Let’s protect our children and families. And let’s pray for the potential victims and survivors of Irma.

The sun will come out- maybe not tomorrow but it will come out in Florida and reveal the devastation. It will shed a bright light on what is needed from us as a country to help the millions affected by hurricanes, flooding, loss of property, belongings and most likely lives. As a country, we will work together to rebuild. Lives can not be replaced but belongings can. My sister’s life cannot be replaced after her shooting death. But we have our memories of her vivacious and beautiful personality and yes, a few of her belongings to bring us pleasure.

What about the kids?

teamwork_kids002We need to talk. Yesterday was national ASK day when Brady chapters around the country participated in activities to highlight the risks of loaded guns in homes for kids. Many articles revealed some startling information about kids and guns that we can’t avoid talking about. But avoid we do. Just like some of the other important issues of the day, we skirt around the edges of problems we need to tackle but we can’t find agreement. Our polarized nation is becoming even more polarized.

One thing I believe we can agree on is that small children should not be able to access guns and then shoot either themselves or someone else, like a sibling, friend, parent or cousin. It happens almost every day and it’s a national tragedy and health care epidemic. But even about this, common sense does not happen.  Why? Good question.

The ASK campaign encourages parents to ask if their are loaded, unsecured guns in the homes where children play. It is an awkward conversation for sure. But it is a necessary conversation. It is the job of parents to keep their children safe from harm. It is the job of law abiding gun owners to be responsible enough to keep loaded guns out of the hands of small children- or teens who are curious about guns. Kids are naturally curious about guns. They are exposed to them early in play, TV, computers, and movies. Guns are fascinating. They are also the only product on our market that are designed to kill another human being therefore making them a risk to those who own them.

In the information on the above linked website at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, we learn some facts- and they are facts:

  • 1 in 3 homes with children have guns, many unlocked and loaded
  • 1.7 million children live in homes with loaded, unlocked guns
  • 3 of 4 children know where guns are kept in their homes
  • 80% of unintentional shootings of children happen in homes.

And yet, adults expose kids to guns sometimes purposely, ,sometimes not, thinking that nothing could ever happen if only they teach their kids not to touch. That doesn’t work, period. There are both incidents to show the fallacy of that argument oft used by the corporate gun lobby and those who believe that and evidence to show it does not work.

I have included this video from ABC’s 20/20 program many times before about what happens when kids are told not to touch guns by adults but when left alone, they touch and play with real guns. This is just not OK but should not be a surprise to us.

Here are a few of the recent articles about kids and guns that need to be taken seriously.

From the American Psychological Association about why talking about guns in homes is a good idea.

The Dear Abby column giving terrible advice to a young mom who asked about guns in homes where her children will be going to play. I personally made a comment and many others did as well. Hopefully whoever plays the part of Abby will have learned a thing or two about asking about guns and the true risks to children in homes where loaded guns are present.

A Newsweek article showing that death by firearm is the 3rd leading cause of death for children.:

Few stories are more heartbreaking than those involving children who are injured or killed by gunshots. It isn’t hard to find them: In June alone, a 6-year-old accidentally shot and killed a 4-year-old in South Carolina, a father accidentally shot and killed his 9-year-old daughter in Indiana and an 8-year-old Mississippi boy was accidentally shot in the chest. His grandparents drove him to the hospital, but he died 45 minutes later. Sadly, the list of child gun deaths goes on.

Though we constantly see examples in the news, child gun injuries and deaths may be even more prevalent in the United States than we realized. A study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics showed that an average of 5,790 children in the United States receive emergency room treatment for gun-related injuries each year, and around 21 percent of those injuries are unintentional. The study also found that an average of 1,297 children die annually from gun-related injuries, making guns the third-leading cause of death for children in America (behind illnesses and unintentional injuries like drownings or car crashes). The number is based on data taken from 2012–2014 for children up to the age of 17.

From the Today Show on-line site, a mother whose child was senselessly shot in an accidental shooting tells her story:

Who allows their child to keep unlocked guns in their room? Still to this day, I can’t wrap my mind around that. Guilt eats at me night and day. The worst thing that can happen to a mother is for her child to be killed. My child was in the care of others who let him and his family down. Forgiveness is something I struggle with daily.

I am a gun owner. I believe in gun locks and following strict safety procedures around guns. I am always surprised that some folks view my beliefs as being against the right to bear arms. I am not against guns. Noah was raised around guns. He went hunting for the first time when he was 3 years old. The difference between us and a lot of other gun owners is that we understand the power a gun can have when not in the right hands or is handled improperly. Guns should be locked and kept away from curious children. They were definitely not allowed in my son’s room.

But no matter what we instilled in him, none of it saved him that night. He was at the mercy of other people. And, sadly, I never imagined that other parents were not as responsible as I am. I never thought to ask his friend’s parents about how they stored their guns because I naively assumed everyone was like me.

From Forbes magazine an article about how to keep your child safe from gun violence:

There three main steps you can take, expanded upon below. First, remove all firearms from the home. Second, if you are unable or unwilling to remove all guns from the home, stored them unloaded in a locked safe with ammunition locked up elsewhere. Third, ask the household members of every home your child visits whether they have firearms in the home and, if so, whether they are safely stored as above.

From Pediatrics:

Nearly 1300 children die and 5790 are treated for gunshot wounds each year. Boys, older children, and minorities are disproportionately affected. Although unintentional firearm deaths among children declined from 2002 to 2014 and firearm homicides declined from 2007 to 2014, firearm suicides decreased between 2002 and 2007 and then showed a significant upward trend from 2007 to 2014. Rates of firearm homicide among children are higher in many Southern states and parts of the Midwest relative to other parts of the country. Firearm suicides are more dispersed across the United States with some of the highest rates occurring in Western states. Firearm homicides of younger children often occurred in multivictim events and involved intimate partner or family conflict; older children more often died in the context of crime and violence. Firearm suicides were often precipitated by situational and relationship problems. The shooter playing with a gun was the most common circumstance surrounding unintentional firearm deaths of both younger and older children.

From USA Today, an article urging what parents should know before their children go to sleep-overs this summer.:

“Is there an unlocked gun where your child plays?”

Each year on June 21, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence encourage parents to ask questions about whether guns are accessible to their children.

It’s a question that should be asked every day, but as we hear all too often, sometimes guns get into the hands of children. Each day, 19 children in the United States are either killed or injured by a firearm. 

And the work isn’t done for parents who are taking the right safety measures, Ashlyn Melton writes in a Today column. Melton’s son was accidentally shot and killed by a friend who had access to loaded guns.

In the column, she notes that parents should feel comfortable asking their children’s friend’s parents about where they store their guns.

I rest my case. This is probably enough for now. Because of my volunteer work, I read regular stories about “accidental” shootings of and by children. What the articles above reveal should be enough for us to get to work, put our noses to the grindstone and do everything we can to prevent and reduce avoidable gun deaths.

In my city of Duluth, young parents will be at local playgrounds on Saturday to talk to other parents about the ASK campaign and changing the conversation about the risks of guns in homes. One of these parents is an Emergency Physician. Another a Psychotherapist, another a Child Service Advocate for the county, another a math teacher at our local university- all with young children and concerns about keeping their children safe from potential harm before something happens that would make it too late. Intervention and prevention is the key to this American public health problem.

#Enough

As more people learn the facts, more people are concerned and more people will demand that something be done legislatively but they will also be the agents of change that must happen before our ubiquitous and deadly gun culture will also change. For the sake of our children and grandchildren we must be involved and we must act.

We should all be on the same team when it comes from protecting our children from harm. We seem to agree about poisons, electrical outlets, household cleaners, child seat belts, safe baby cribs and toys, crossing guards, bike helmets, and many other potential harmful things for our children.

Let’s get to work.

I want to add a graphic from the ASK campaign that is important to how we change the conversation.

ASKtextgraphic

Just one bullet

Bullet gun copperJust one bullet killed an innocent Alaska woman and left a suicidal man with a life forever changed:

A trial date has been set for a 21-year-old Alaska man accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend when he tried to kill himself and the bullet struck the woman after passing through his head. (…)

Chelsea Hartman, Haag’s sister, told KTVA that the pair, who were high school sweethearts, “always seemed so happy.”

“I think a lot of it is still hard to grasp of how is it just one bullet, you know? And how does it go through one person and then the other person and kill the second person? It’s just not fair,” Hartman said.

Yes, that is all it takes. One bullet and instant death. Accident, suicide, unintentional, homicide, terror attack….. Just one bullet.

Guns and alcohol don’t go together.

A South Carolina family is lucky one of them was not killed by this man’s bullets. In this case, it started with one bullet and one angry man. It then escalated quickly to many bullets. From the article:

Frustrated by young children playing in his Goose Creek-area neighborhood, a man shot their grandparents and fired at two others, including a 1-year-old girl, investigators said Tuesday. (…)

Before 5 p.m. Monday, the children played in the road near Merritt’s house. One was an 8-year-old boy, the other a 1-year-old girl, said Mark Peper, an attorney for the children and their parents.

Merritt emerged from his home and told them to be quiet.

The grandparents, who were watching the children after school, learned about the encounter. They told Merritt not to yell at their grandchildren.

“Merritt got upset and … retrieved a .22-caliber pistol,” the sheriff’s statement said.

He confronted the grandparents and the children’s mother, telling the woman that she and the baby she was holding were going to die.

He started shooting at several people there and followed them a short distance as they scattered.

The grandfather was hit in the left chest, an arm and an ear. He had tried to shield his family from the gunfire, Peper said.

A bullet struck his wife in the chest.

You can’t make this stuff up. Children playing? That deserves a bullet?

Anger and guns don’t go together.

The thing is, when the gun lobby wants to arm anyone and everyone and allow people with no permit, no training and absolutely no common sense to have guns loaded with deadly bullets around everywhere, this is the result.

But I digress. It took just one bullet for this 4 year old Virginia boy to find at his daycare center, carelessly and irresponsibly left accessible to children. He shot and killed himself with it:

This incident occurred at a child care provider that is also the residence of a Stafford County Sheriff’s Office recruit, according to officials. The recruit was not at home at the time of the incident.

Aren’t children supposed to be safe at child care centers? A woman I know said she was asked if there were guns in the home before she was licensed as a home daycare provider. The cavalier attitude towards guns that is shown by some gun owners is a national public health and safety problem.

Children and guns don’t go together.

I could go on and on because incidents like the above happen every day and every hour of every day. All it takes is one bullet. It took one bullet to injure my sister, one to kill her and one for “good measure.”

The owner of the bullets used to shoot others are the ones who have to be responsible and careful because bullets are deadly and don’t know where to stop. Often enough, however, bullets are very intentionally aimed at an innocent person resulting in instant tragedy. The “good guy” with the gun who shot at grandparents and children because of noisy playing is a poster boy for all that is wrong with the American gun culture. He represents what the corporate gun lobby wants. The “good guy” with a gun who shot my sister became an instant “bad guy” with a gun.

Domestic disputes and guns don’t go together.

What should we do about this state of affairs?

We should educate people about the risks of loaded guns to their owners and those around them.

We should insist on laws that prevent those who should not have guns from getting them legally or illegally. Yes, it is legal for prohibited purchasers to buy guns legally with no background checks in case you were thinking of arguing about this fact.

We should pass safe storage laws and insist that all guns are locked up, unloaded, away from small hands, teens and others who could be dangerous to themselves or others.

We should strengthen our gun trafficking and straw purchase laws.

We should pass mandatory lost and stolen gun laws.

We should pass laws to hold parents responsible when their gun is used in an “accidental” shooting by their own child.

We should pass gun violence protection order laws so that families can report a person who could be dangerous to him/herself or others to law enforcement so the guns could be removed from their hands.

We should insist that all gun buyers have training before walking out of a gun store with a deadly weapon.

We should make sure that if someone wants to carry a loaded gun in public, they are vetted carefully and have training in how to carry that gun.

We should agree that an armed society is not a polite society nor a safe society.

We should ASK if there are loaded guns in the homes where children hang out and play.

We should not let ads for products that depict guns and bullets cavalierly without asking why. Check out Azzaro Cologne as just one example:

In both smell and presentation, this cologne draws out the rebel in every man with striking aromas and a gleaming gun cylinder bottle.

What? What do mens’ cologne and bullets have in common? Maybe manliness, or being a rebel? What does that mean? The not so subtle intimation that only a rebel with bullets and Azzaro cologne can be real men?

Where is common sense?

Real bullets kill people.

All it takes is one bullet.

All it takes are elected leaders who will stand up to the corporate gun lobby.

All it takes are Americans making more noise, raise their voices against our gun violence epidemic and get involved to save lives.

Like the voice of this little boy who tells it like it is. He doesn’t want a bullet to take his life. He just wants to go to school to learn his numbers.

All it takes is just one bullet to change the lives of innocent people forever. This little boy knows that. Our leaders should listen to his voice and do something about it.

Where is common sense?

Minnesota’s latest gun madness

madnessWe ought to be angry. We ought to be outraged over the madness that is gun violence. There are a lot of things about which to feel outrage in this political atmosphere. One of them just has to be the continuing devastation of gun violence in our country- in every state. We ought to be outraged that we aren’t talking about the risks of gun ownership that causes so many senseless and avoidable deaths and injuries. We ought to be outraged that so many people who should not be able to get their hands on guns get them anyway because we have failed to pass measures to stop them.

For example-  A St. Thomas University  (Minnesota)  student, handling a gun in a dorm ( where guns are not allowed by the way) “accidentally “discharged the gun and injured another student when a bullet went through the wall of a dorm room.

Accidental? Seems purposeful to me when someone brings a gun into a place where they are not allowed and then takes it out for some reason and irresponsibly shoots an innocent person. More from the article:

A University of St. Thomas student was accidentally shot Friday night inside a residence hall, authorities said.

The student was injured seriously enough to require surgery after a gun was accidentally discharged in another room, sending a bullet through a wall in Flynn Hall, the university said Saturday.

Guns don’t shoot people of course. People do.

In St. Paul a family is decimated and devastated by a domestic homicide/suicide committed during a custody battle over a young child:

Hernandez Foster said that the 20-year-old man suspected of killing her family members was involved in an intense custody dispute with one of the slain young women over the 18-month-old girl. Accounts from her and others who knew the family reveal the night’s carnage as a sprawling act of domestic violence. (…)

“Our lives will never be the same again,” she said. “I want to make sure that the investigation prevails and that we find all the details of the madness that happened.”

Their names are Maria McIntosh,  Wade McIntosh, Olivia McIntosh.

Madness it is. It happens every day in America because we have done nothing to stop it.

This more recent article details the angry phone call between the parents of the young child before the shooting occurred. It appeared that there had also been domestic abuse but not documented.

Yes, it was purposeful and happened because of anger, anxiety, custody of a child, loss of control and…. an available gun.

Two people shot at each other in Prior Lake, MN from their cars and were injured:

Witnesses reported seeing gunfire coming from one of the vehicles and directed toward the other around 8 p.m. on County Road 21 near Carriage Hills Parkway, said Police Chief Mark Elliott.

Why? We will hopefully find out but the reason doesn’t really matter does it? All we know is that these two irresponsible gun owners decided to “solve a problem” with guns fired from moving cars not thinking about where the bullets would end up. Bullets do fly for long distances and often hit innocent “targets”.

And it was purposeful.

In another Minnesota shooting, something strange happened:

The charging document continues that Johnson cooperated with police, saying he met Glover at Don’s Car Wash a couple months ago. Johnson said he was the manager there, and had recently fired Glover. He also explained that he was letting Glover live in his garage, adding Glover was “a really good guy” and had gotten “caught up in some s***”. Johnson said another friend made allegations that Glover had stolen some coins and was going to come over to see if they were there.

“I got worried,” court documents say Johnson tells detectives. “I grabbed my gun and I loaded it and it was sitting in the garage.”

The documents also say Johnson admitted to snorting methamphetamine earlier that day. He goes on, describing how he started boxing up Glover’s belongings that were in the garage, also talking about how he thought Glover may have tampered with the ammunition in his gun. Johnson says Glover arrived about a half hour later, walked up to the garage and an argument broke out over the theft accusations.

Glover, documents say, pushed past Johnson, saying he was going through his stuff to look for drugs. Johnson says Glover came out of the room in the garage, Johnson held the pistol up and Glover said “you pull a pistol on me?” and “I’m going to break your f****** neck”. Johnson told police Glover was 4-5 feet away and he pulled the trigger, but the gun misfired. Documents say Glover took a breath and froze. Johnson says he started pulling the trigger again, this time the gun firing, Glover saying “you shot me” over and over. Johnson said Glover started towards him then, and Johnson fired two more times.

See if you can figure this one out. It seems that drugs were a factor. Paranoia. Anger. Suspicion. And a gun was available. Two men who had worked together, one for the other, are now forever linked together by a shooting. One is dead. The other is charged for murder. Nothing will ever be the same. And for what?

I guess one could always say that shootings are strange because they are not normal. The gun lobby seems to believe they are because as long as their second amendment rights are preserved there are bound to be some consequences. The consequences are death and injuries.

But one more- A Grand Rapids father with diagnosed depression over many years had a gun. He used it to kill himself and shoot and injure his own son:

Both parties had been shot in the head in an attempted murder-suicide scenario, said Sgt. Bob Stein, an investigator with the Grand Rapids Police Department. The boy remained in critical condition Friday in a Duluth hospital, Stein added.

“He’d been suffering with depression since the age of 14,” said Stein of the elder Krauss.

A 9mm handgun was found at the scene and is presumed to have been the weapon involved, Stein said. The man had a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon and had purchased the gun on March 22, Stein said.

Is this what we have come to expect now? People with guns in their homes can and do use them to commit tragic acts like this one which would have been far more difficult without that gun accessible. Another Minnesota family is devastated by gun violence and will never be the same.

It was purposeful. The shooter had a valid Minnesota permit to carry that gun. He was supposed to be safe and responsible with the gun. But he wasn’t. Why did he have a permit? Under the loose “shall issue” permitting system in Minnesota it is assumed that people who get their permits do not have problems that could make them dangerous to themselves or others. This is not the case, of course.

I can’t leave this post without writing about the latest news story that barely got a mention in the media because of all of the other strange things going on in the national news. But another domestic dispute spilled into a workplace at a San Bernardino elementary school where a teacher, the shooter and an innocent 8 year old boy are dead. The shooter apparently had a domestic dispute with his estranged wife:

“He came in, and very, very quickly upon entering the classroom started shooting,” Burguan said.
Anderson also reloaded after firing what is believed to have been a .357-caliber revolver, the police chief said.
Burguan said preliminary information indicates the two were recently married.
“I’m told that their marriage was relatively short. They’ve only been married for a few months and they’ve been separated for about the last month, month-and-a-half, roughly, when this incident took place,” he said. “But there’s nobody that in the investigation has come forward to say that they saw this coming.”
Her name was Karen Smith.
The thing is, people often don’t see it coming. But when a gun is available to settle what the shooter believes is a problem or is jealous or angry or depressed, things happen quickly and we learn the story later. I know this one from personal experience. (Her name was Barbara Lund).
In addition, this shooter should definitely not have had a gun:
The police chief said Anderson “does have a criminal history.”
Court records showed that he had faced criminal charges of brandishing a weapon, assault and crimes against public peace in 2013, with those charges later “dismissed or not prosecuted.” There had also been two petitions for temporary restraining orders filed against him by women in previous years.
California does have strict gun laws. We don’t know how or where he got his gun. Guns are often available to those who want them through many channels. And since we have not chosen to close the channels, we have come to expect that these things will happen.
We do have some facts that matter about guns and domestic violence however that should make us all pause- and then get to work. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has this to say:

Guns pose a particular threat in the hands of domestic abusers.1

  • Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm.2
  • Domestic violence assaults involving a gun are 12 times more likely to result in death than those involving other weapons or bodily force.3
  • More than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims between 1980 and 2008 were killed with firearms.4
  • In 2011, nearly two-thirds of women killed with guns were killed by their intimate partners.5
Whether purposeful or accidental, what I know and what the stories tell us is that we need a whole lot more common sense and courage to prevent some of these shootings. Both seem to be in short supply.
Some states, including my own, have passed laws to remove guns from domestic abusers. This seems like a very good idea given what we know. But until we pass even more laws, such as universal Brady background check laws to prevent prohibited purchasers from getting their hands on guns no matter where they go to buy them, we are failing women and children. And one bill that has been introduced in Minnesota ( and other states and passed in California) is a Gun Violence Protection Order. Of course as long as lapdog politicians are in charge of legislatures and the Congress, this, too, does not even see the light of day. And we are failing our families because of this lack of courage and conviction.
As long as we let the gun lobby make the rules and hijack the conversation, we are failing our families.
I don’t know about you, but I will not stop working to prevent and reduce the devastating gun violence that has affected so many families and communities in my state and in our country. It doesn’t have to be this way and I just know we are better than this.
Are you angry and outraged yet?
Let’s get to work and insist that our leaders do something about our serious public health epidemic of gun violence.