The game’s not over yet

NY Daily news cover
From New York Daily News

The Parkland mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school happened in about the 3rd inning. In the midst of the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, the Pulse nightclub shooting, the Sutherland church shooting, the Parkland school shooting happened taking the lives of 17 innocent kids and teachers. The Parkland student survivors were not having it. They decided to speak out and challenge everything about gun violence and the corporate gun lobby.

Nothing will ever be the same. The “game” played by the gun lobby has been exposed. The whole country is aware, activated and talking about gun violence in ways that have not happened before Feb. 14th of this year.

In today’s Duluth News Tribune a letter writer challenged the NRA’s false claims about guns and gun ownership. The writer suggested that the NRA is striking out now that the spotlight is on their myths and dangerous agenda. He’s right. The Parkland students and students all over the country have emboldened not only students but the public. People are speaking out like never before and finally saying what needs to be said and have wanted to say for a long time now.

This writer said this:

Twice I have seen the same man in a local gas station with a pistol on his belt. He did not look well. Misery and depression were obvious on his face. A steady diet of Fox News can do that to a person. Yet he alone among the customers possessed lethal force. It was up to him to act as judge, jury, and executioner if he felt threatened. Is this law and order or Wild West chaos?

Keep your hunting rifles and your shotguns. Own a handgun if you must. But owning guns should not make you judge, jury, and executioner. Nor does it necessarily make you free.

Gun ownership means freedom. Wrong. Many so called good guys with guns have killed too many of our kids and others because of that myth of freedom.

Another letter writer challenged the NRA directly when he suggested that the NRA has struck out because their dangerous rhetoric has led to deaths and injuries:

When all else fails, the NRA seems to want you to believe that outlawing military-type weapons for private use will “not solve the problem,” the problem being the killing of innocent people. Yep, hasn’t stopped since Cain killed Abel. This is the same as saying, “Even though there are speed laws, people will disobey; therefore, we did not solve the problem. So why have speed laws?”

It seems the NRA cannot understand that reducing the slaughter is a worthy cause. Strike three; you’re out, NRA.

#WecallBS

I spent time with the students at one of our local high schools on Friday for the National School Walkouts. I could not be prouder of those kids who are doing what adults have not done. One group of students walked out of their classes to our City Hall and had a moment of silence for the victims of the Columbine shooting on the anniversary of the shooting. And then they got to work. Students called legislators to ask them to support a bill that would once again allow the Health Department to do research about gun violence. ( a no brainer but resisted by the corporate gun lobby). None of the students had done this before. It was heartening to see them improve their skills and get excited and feel so empowered by their activism. It was clear that they were making a difference because one staffer said that they knew what the call was about because they had been getting many calls.

After it was over, the press interviewed the students who spoke with authority and new found communication skills not found in many adults.

Another walkout in my city attracted 300 students who walked out and marched on city streets. A third of the student population gathered to express their exasperation with the game. They understand that our adult leaders are letting them down by not acting to save lives and prevent at least some of the shootings. They get it. They are the new players in this game and fast becoming the stars.

This is how change happens.

In addition, students signed postcards of thank you to Dick’s Sporting Goods for their decision to stop selling assault style rifles and destroy their inventory of said guns. They will be delivered in person to our local Dick’s store.

One student cried as she remembered a relative who had been shot in the Red Lake mass school shooting telling me how that shooting had affected her family. The shooting happened 13 years ago but still the memories of loss remain.I told her about my sister’s death and suggested that she talk more about her story. The walkout allowed her to talk about it in a safe place. She left feeling like she could make a difference.

The student led walkouts and marches have energized a generation and moved the entire country in a direction adults had not thought possible. It’s a strike against the gun lobby who has tried but failed to stain the Parkland surviving students. Shame on them for playing this ugly game.

The game is changing. A new poll in Minnesota shows broad support for gun safety reform:

A majority of Minnesotans support stricter gun laws in the United States, including wide backing for a ban on military-style rifles and for raising the age for gun purchases from 18 to 21, a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found.

An overwhelming 9 out of 10 Minnesota voters also favor mandatory criminal background checks on all gun sales, the poll shows, including those sold privately and at gun shows. And Minnesotans in every part of the state oppose the arming of schoolteachers, which some political leaders, including President Donald Trump, have suggested.

The polling shows political and regional divides regarding stronger gun laws but overall supports all previous polling on the issue in Minnesota and nation-wide.

Meanwhile, back in the real world of the devastation of gun violence, another mass shooting at a Nashville Waffle House left 4 dead. The hero of that incident stopped the gunman and saved lives– but he did it without a gun. A “good guy without a gun” was the quote from New York Daily News front page photo after the shooting. Not a good image for the corporate gun lobby.

And yes, it was another AR-15 that the shooter clearly should not have been able to access that accounted for a senseless and unmotivated shooting because………?:

Illinois authorities and the FBI interviewed him and revoked his firearms authorization. Four weapons were seized, including the AR-15 rifle used in the Waffle House shooting, Aaron said.

Officials returned the weapons to Reinking’s father, on the condition he would keep them out of his son’s hands. But the father gave the guns back to Reinking, Aaron said, adding that two of the four guns are missing.

In 2016, Reinking threatened to kill himself, and cops who arrived at a CVS parking lot said he told them singer Taylor Swift had been stalking him.

In what world would a father return the guns to his son who so clearly had problems? What was he thinking? Some people should not have guns, period. But everyone has a constitutional right to a gun.

Another strike against the gun lobby myths.

One more tragic and heartbreaking incident involving the totally avoidable and senseless shooting of a two year old by her own mother highlights again the risk of guns in homes. The gun lobby can’t explain these kinds of shootings without revealing the hypocrisy of their game of lies and deceptions. From the article:

Cleveland ABC affiliate WEWS reported that the mother admitted to dropping the gun in a 911 call and said the girl was not breathing. She also told operators she thought the safety was off, but then later told authorities the safety was on, WEWS reported.

Police said the gun was legally registered and she owned a concealed carry permit.

There are no accidents with guns. They are lethal weapons designed to kill people.

“Good guys” with guns make lethal mistakes every day.

If there is any common sense, the public will win the game over deceptions and myths.

Two points of view, published in my local paper today, show us how the game is played. One, written by Daniel Hernandez, staffer to former Rep. Gabby Giffords and present at the Tucson shooting that left her forever changed, uses the facts to support the truth about gun violence in America:

Though gun laws vary from state to state, at least one trend is clear: States with weaker gun laws have more gun deaths. You would never know it, though, from the lies pushed by entrenched interests like the National Rifle Association, lies backed by the weight of the NRA’s vast political contributions.

For example, the NRA claims guns make people safer, that gun laws don’t work, and that the “only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” But none of that is actually true.

In reality, owning a gun puts individuals at a higher risk of gun violence; strong gun violence prevention laws are effective at saving lives; and armed citizens rarely successfully intervene to stop an active shooter.

We have to be willing to call out these myths, educate voters, and hold elected officials accountable when they repeat them.

The other, uses the myths and deceptions used in the game played by the corporate gun lobby. The writer, with whom I am unfamiliar, equated overall crime rates to gun violence, a deception often used by those opposed to any common sense measures to save lives. It ends with one of the other myths claiming that passing stronger gun laws will take away the rights of law abiding gun owners. This specious claim is easily debunked and has been:

Instead of penalizing law-abiding gun owners who use their firearms to save thousands of people every year, lawmakers should work to reduce crime by improving economic growth and providing additional educational opportunities. Those are proven methods for limiting crime.

The writer also used the lie that most homicides are gang related and chose to discount the gun deaths caused by suicide:

It’s also important to note that relative to other problems in our society of 320 million people, gun-related crime caused by Americans who legally own a firearm involved in the crime is virtually nonexistent. Of the 33,000 gun-related deaths that occur each year, two-thirds are suicides, and the majority of the remaining 11,000 deaths are gang-related and involve guns purchased illegally.

Let’s look at just the lie about gang related shootings from the linked article above:

The 80 percent of gang-related gun homicides figure purporting to support Loesch’s claim, then, is not only false, but off by nearly a factor of five. The direct opposite is necessarily true: more than 80 percent of gun homicides are non-gang related. While gang violence is still a serious problem that needs to be addressed, it is disingenuous to assert that the vast majority of our gun problem (even excluding suicides) is caused by gangs.

The article refers to NRA talking head Dana Loesch, responsible for many of the lies pushed by that organization. We are on to her and her lies and not playing her game.

The NRA and the corporate gun lobby are striking out with the general public. It is a fierce game, accompanied by ugly attacks on those who just want to save lives. But it’s a long game and the players are changing.

The students have come off of the bench and they are becoming the star players. They are the hope that the game is changing.

The discussion about how to prevent gun violence should be not a game. But the NRA and the corporate gun lobby have made it so and they have been winning for far too long as the bodies have piled up.

#Enough  #WeCallBS

 

Virginia Tech remembered as shootings continue in America

Virginia Tech Shooting AnniversaryTomorrow is April 16th ( one day from the late tax day deadline this year)

I want to first remember the victims of the Virginia Tech mass shooting which happened on April 16, 2007. It was the worst mass school shooting after Columbine and still remains one of our country’s deadliest mass shootings. 32 died and 17 were injured. The effects of that shooting, even 11 years later, live on for those who were there, those left behind and the entire community. Gun violence has a ripple effect. No one forgets. The corporate gun lobby wants us to forget. They are not succeeding. If anything, we are remembering more and more as more and more of these kind of shootings and every day homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings continue apace.

The young man who got his hands on a gun and shot up the Virginia Tech campus should not have had a gun and was clearly irresponsible with his gun. Not only was he irresponsible, he intentionally murdered innocent people. He was a supposed “legal” gun owner as his name was not in the FBI database flagging him as prohibited to buy a gun. It should have been but our loose gun laws allowed him to purchase that gun and kill people. Why did he want his gun? For self defense? No. To kill people.

Many gun owners are responsible with their guns and own them for hunting or sport. Many gun owners are not interested in shooting at people who they believe might do them harm because they are not paranoid. Most gun owners don’t just shoot first and ask questions later. In fact most Americans don’t do this because most Americans don’t own guns in their homes for hunting, sport or self protection. And they are more safe than those who do as it turns out.

I write all the time on this blog about the rare instances of needing a gun for self protection in your home or in public and the rare incidents of said uses of a gun. NPR posted this article a day ago about this very topic.:

The latest data show that people use guns for self-defense only rarely. According to a Harvard University analysis of figures from the National Crime Victimization Survey, people defended themselves with a gun in nearly 0.9 percent of crimes from 2007 to 2011.

David Hemenway, who led the Harvard research, argues that the risks of owning a gun outweigh the benefits of having one in the rare case where you might need to defend yourself.

“The average person … has basically no chance in their lifetime ever to use a gun in self-defense,” he tellsHere & Now‘s Robin Young. “But … every day, they have a chance to use the gun inappropriately. They have a chance, they get angry. They get scared.”

The gun rights advocates beg to differ with little evidence or actual facts- from the article:

But the research spread by the gun lobby paints a drastically different picture of self-defense gun uses. One of the most commonly cited estimates of defensive gun uses, published in 1995 by criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, concluded there are between 2.2 and 2.5 million defensive gun uses annually.

One of the main criticisms of this estimate is that researchers can’t seem to find the people who are shot by civilians defending themselves because they don’t show up in hospital records.

“The Kleck-Gertz survey suggests that the number of DGU respondents who reported shooting their assailant was over 200,000, over twice the number of those killed or treated [for gunshots] in emergency departments,” crime prevention researcher Philip Cook wrote in the book Envisioning Criminology.

Kleck says there is no record of these gunshot victims because most instances of self-defense gun use are not reported.

Hmmmm. Really? Why not report these incidents if it is so important to you? Because they are not happening, that’s why.

“The researchers who look at [Kleck’s study] say this is just bad science,” Hemenway says. “It’s a well-known problem in epidemiology that if something’s a rare event, and you just try to ask how many people have done this, you will get incredible overestimates.”

In fact, Cook told The Washington Post that the percentage of people who told Kleck they used a gun in self-defense is similar to the percentage of Americans who said they were abducted by aliensThe Post notes that “a more reasonable estimate” of self-defense gun uses equals about 100,000 annually, according to the NCVS data.

Check out this chart from the Gun Violence Archive for facts:

You can see for yourself how often guns are used defensively and how many end up being used to kill or injure someone by comparison.  Not even close.

The NRA extremists in the form of their leaders and their minions, have ratcheted up the fear and paranoia for so many decades that they have convinced a certain segment of gun owners that they should be afraid of their own shadows. They are afraid of the wrong thing.

Three incidents from the past day or two prove my point.

 

This one involved a black teen who got lost while looking for his school. He innocently knocked on the door of the home of one of those aforementioned paranoid and racist homeowners:

A black teenager was nearly shot and killed by a racist homeowner after missing his bus and trying to ask a neighbor for directions. (…)

“I got to the house, and I knocked on the lady’s door,” Brennan told the TV station. “Then she started yelling at me and she was like, ‘Why are you trying to break into my house?’ I was trying to explain to her that I was trying to get directions to Rochester High, and she kept yelling at me.”

“Then the guy came downstairs, and he grabbed the gun,” the teen added. “I saw it and started to run — and that’s when I heard the gunshot.”

The shot missed the fleeing teen, and Brennan said he kept running until he found a hiding place, and that’s when he broke down crying.

His crime was being Black and lost and knocking on the wrong door, apparently. And more from the boy:

“My mom says that black boys get shot because sometimes they don’t look their age, and I don’t look my age,” he said. “I’m 14, but I don’t look 14. I’m kind of happy that, like, I didn’t become a statistic.”

He was one of the lucky ones who did not become a statistic. But way too many do.

This gun owner should be held accountable for, at the least, reckless discharge of a gun and at the most, intent to injure or kill someone. Let’s see how this one turns out.

Another teenaged Oklahoma boy did, however, become a statistic. His own father shot and killed him in his haste to shoot first and ask questions later. Without that gun in his hand, his son would be alive today. And what did he do wrong? Let’s look:

When Tony Rutherford, 47, arrived in the middle of the night, he saw his older son’s pickup truck cut across a field. It was supposed to be parked.

According to the release, Rutherford “gave chase and fired his rifle at the driver several times.”

At least one of those rounds hit the driver, who was pronounced dead at the scene. That driver, found slumped over in the driver’s seat of the pickup, was later identified as Rutherford’s 13-year-old son.

“What is unique about this case is that we have a father who thought he was protecting an older son’s property, and in fact, he shot and killed his younger son, not knowing it was his younger son,” Jennifer Brown, OSBI spokeswoman, told KOAM.

Unique? No actually, incidents like this happen often enough in America as to be of grave concern. I have written many many times in this blog about family members “accidentally” killing each other when they mistake them for someone else and don’t use an ounce of common sense.

The boy’s death was totally avoidable and senseless. How will that father be able to live with what he did?

And then there is this, all too common stupid and dangerous use of a gun- an 8 year old had a loaded gun and fired it off while walking home from school with friends!:

Detectives said the gun is legally owned by a family member of the child.

Police said that the child took the gun that morning without the owner’s knowledge, and carried it to Harper Elementary in his backpack.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Lock up your darned guns everybody. Safe storage can save lives. Where is common sense?

Do I have to remind you all that these two gun owners were “law abiding” until suddenly they weren’t? And the parents of the 8 year old? I have no words. They were the “good guys” with guns that NRA VP Wayne LaPierre loves to talk about. As recently as the CPAC convention, mentioned in the above linked article, La Pierre was using the same old unprovable and nonsensical argument about those good guys out there with guns. And this happened just a week after the Parkland school shooting that shocked the nation and caused everyone to take a different look at the National Rifle Association. Take a look at the continuing rants of this man who represents a group that represents a very small minority of Americans- about 1.5% of us.

Wayne- we actually hate the shootings.

Gun ownership is going down. The NRA’s reputation is in the toilet. They are now part of the Mueller investigation.

What LaPierre and others sometimes talk about but don’t often do much about is that gun ownership requires not only common sense but responsibility, training, and restraint. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill. And kill they do. They are the only product on the market not regulated for safety. There are no training requirements to own a gun and very few for carrying one in public.

We are changing the culture and the conversation more slowly than we should since the body count is increasing every year.  

Finally the messaging of the corporate gun lobby is falling apart. It’s well past time for that to happen. Just as with gay marriage, the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke and driving while drunk changed laws and the culture, so too will allowing loose gun laws to lead to a national public health and safety epidemic.

Candidates and lawmakers are now publicly stating their support for measures that will save lives and claiming their “F” rating from the NRA proudly.

Yesterday I attended my congressional district convention as a delegate. Not one of the democratic candidates running or current sitting lawmakers were against passing reasonable laws to protect our kids and communities from the devastation of gun violence. Even those in districts where many gun owners and hunters live agreed that something has to be done. I had many conversations with these leaders and candidate as did many in the room. Gun violence prevention was on the top of the list as issues of concern.

The Parkland students and students all over this country are telling lawmakers that they are no longer willing to listen to their BS representing gun lobby speak. Students and others in the Virginia, Maryland, DC area came out for a rally at NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia yesterday.  They ( we) are not going away any time soon. We are more committed than ever to getting things done to save lives.

We are better than this and the public has had about #enough.

#Neveragain.

 

 

The absurd idea of arming teachers

lion roaringThe majority of Americans can agree that our children ought to be safe in their schools from shootings. What we can’t agree on is how to make that happen. In recent days since the Parkland, Florida school shooting that took the lives of 17 innocent high school kids, the rhetoric has been noisier and more insistent than ever before. What is happening now is a movement such as we have not seen before. It has a life of its’ own. It’s the teens who are speaking out without worry of push-back from the adults. It’s the adults who are following- or not- what the teens are saying and demanding.

Some adults have tried their usual conspiracy theory ideas out on the teens but it’s not working. They are fighting back. It’s hard for me to imagine the frame of mind of an adult attacking a teen who has just experienced one of the worst school shootings in America. But then again, there a lot of extreme and mean people in the world who have become so radicalized that they literally cannot stop themselves from acting like total idiots.

What the teens, teachers, general public and most politicians are NOT clamoring for is arming teachers. But President Trump has been way out there with the absurd notion that kids would be safer with armed teachers. And in his ramblings as he starts talking and tweeting with no facts or common sense, he has said the most absurd things I have heard on this topic.

The President is mouthing the propaganda of the NRA. For decades, that organization, run by lobbyists, extremists and gun manufacturers, have been trying to get guns into our schools. It would be, of course, yet another market for the sale of guns and possible training classes sponsored by the NRA. Follow the money.

This stupid and dangerous idea is not even supported by most veterans, who understand what it’s like to face down an “armed enemy” and kill another human being. From the article:

Critics seized on Peterson’s failure to act. The left held it up as evidence that armed guards won’t prevent shootings, while people on the right—including President Trump—used Peterson as a scapegoat, the exception that proves the rule. Peterson, according to Trump, either “didn’t react properly under pressure or [was] a coward.”

It’s a simple, if reductive explanation, and an easy one for those who’ve never experienced the mental and physical toll of a firefight scenario. But as some with combat experience, like retired General Mark Hertling, the one time commander of the United States Army in Europe, pointed out on Twitter, freezing up in a potential combat scenario, or failing to perform your duty, is not unusual.

“While soldiers/security are trained to run to the sound of the guns…not all do for a variety of psychological reasons. It happens more often than most would think, and it’s part of human nature,” he said.

Human nature? Let’s ignore that and pretend all teachers have nerves of steel and would defy logic and human nature. Because then we can continue with our fantasy about armed teachers.

Even law enforcement officers only hit their marks about 18% of the time.:

Yet, even with all of their training, it’s hard for police officers to hit a target and harder still in chaotic conditions.

The New York Police Department is the nation’s largest police force and among the best trained, yet its own study showed between 1998 and 2006, the average hit rate was 18 percent for officers in a gunfight.

So what makes the President think that teachers would do better given the panic of a school shooter, kids shouting, running, trying to escape or find cover? Here are all the reasons why this is a terrible, absurd idea:

I could go on but these are just common sense reasons why arming teachers is absurd. I am a retired educator and went through many lock-down drills while working. I knew that my job was to get the kids out of the halls, into a room, lock the door, turn off the lights, hide in a closet ( which I didn’t have) or behind furniture and stay with the kids to keep them from running or panicking. Had I stepped away from this responsibility I would have left the kids on their own and would have caused more problems for all.

Officers don’t know who the “good guy” with a gun is in these situations and will shoot anyone they see with a weapon. No one knows who the good guy is. Kids and others may run and in a split second a mistake could be made. I could shoot and kill a child or someone else by mistake. That happens in these situations and even with trained officers.

I would be absurd to arm teachers.

But let me talk about more absurdities. The President seems to have cornered the market on absurdity when it comes to this issue. And that is saying it kindly. Cynicism is another word for all of this. If we just deflect the conversation from actually doing something about keeping guns away from those who shouldn’t have them in the first place, we wouldn’t need to have this conversation in the first place. But that is not what the NRA and corporate gun lobby wants and so the President is doing their bidding and talking about what they want him to talk about.

Just watch the video from an article about comedian John Oliver’s attack on the President’s idea (some offensive language) :

He, Trump that is, met with the ridiculous NRA VP Wayne LaPierre and other NRA leaders a few days ago. I can imagine the conversation.

“Don’t worry about a thing. I’ll make statements about arming teachers to distract from the things you guys don’t want. It will be fine. I’ll talk about doing something about gun violence- like raising the age of purchase for assault rifles to 21 but I won’t really mean it and I won’t push it. I’ll talk about requiring background checks on all gun sales but in a few weeks, people will forget about it and it won’t happen. I’ll mention the Fix NICS bill that has been languishing in Congress for a long time but don’t worry, I’ll make sure that doesn’t happen either. I know you guys will support me and my lapdogs when I run again so I’ll just lie. I do it all the time and about 38% of Americans believe me. My base will be happy when none of this happens and we’ll all move on. O.K.? Believe me. ”

Other absurdities from the President include:

  • Making up some cockemamy idea that 20% of teachers should be armed.
  • Talking about only people who can handle guns well should have them in schools.
  • Talking about arming teachers who are former or current military because there are so many of them teaching in our schools.
  • Claiming that the real problem is the lack of courage of the armed officers who didn’t go into the school to challenge the shooter.
  • Saying( from link above):  “”I really believe I’d run in there even if I didn’t have a weapon, and I think most of the people in this room would have done that, too,” He was sure of that. ( I mean, he alone can take care of everything.) Just leave it to him. All will be fine. He will be around for every school or mass shooting and run into the building to save the day.
  • We just need to “harden” our schools and all will be fine. Let’s surround them all with the fencing used at our prisons and have no windows or bullet-proof windows. That should make the learning atmosphere pleasant and inviting for students and the public.

And I do love the idea of the Oath Keepers stationing armed “volunteers” outside of every school to protect the buildings. Good grief. Who are these guys?

All of this nonsense is cynical and intended to deceive us into complacency once again. It’s to get us to shut up and go away. They don’t want to see the faces or hear the words of the students, who are a lot brighter and more articulate than most of their elected leaders. I just read this piece from Emma Gonzáles, one of the Parkland students, whose wisdom is beyond her years.:

What matters is that the majority of American people have become complacent in a senseless injustice that occurs all around them. What matters is that most American politicians have become more easily swayed by money than by the people who voted them into office. What matters is that my friends are dead, along with hundreds upon hundreds of others all over the United States. (…) “If you have ever lost someone very important to you, then you already know how it feels, and if you haven’t, then you cannot possibly imagine it,” wrote Lemony Snicket in The Bad Beginning: A Series of Unfortunate Events. There are people who do not know, and will never know, what it feels like to go through this. For that I am eternally thankful. But to the people out there who disagree with us: if you have ever felt what it’s like to deal with all of this, you would know we aren’t doing this for attention. If these funerals were for your friends, you would know this grief is real, not paid for. We are children who are being expected to act like adults, while the adults are proving themselves to behave like children.

Where are the adults? Where is common sense? You cannot possibly imagine it. But I can.

The NRA is meeting its’ match at long last. Right now they have a mouth piece in the White House and they have Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell- cowards in the face of tragedy- calling the shots ( excuse the pun). From the linked article:

Ryan also emphasized that sentiment: “There was a colossal breakdown in the system locally… and we need to get to the bottom of this to [find out] how these breakdowns occurred, from … the armed officer who was in the school at that time, to the FBI who failed to follow up on a glaring tip that this young man wanted to shoot up a school.”

Thank you Paul Ryan. More deceptions and deflections and cynicism. More putting it off for another day until another dozen or more students are shot in a school or a gunman enters a mall or church and mows down innocent citizens. The thing is, we know where the “colossal breakdown” is- it’s you and your cynical colleagues in Congress.

But that is not going to last for long. If candidates for election or re-election think they can get away with silence or lying or mimicking gun lobby talking points, they are mistaken. We have seen the man behind the curtain and he is evil and he is weak. He lacks the courage of the cowardly lion. He is corrupt with money and influence of the NRA. And maybe even the Russians. He is scared of the wrong things. He has scared a minority of Americans into thinking the wrong things for the wrong reasons.

“We’ve met the enemy and he is us”. He is a minority of us as it turns out. But he is still in power and in control of our government. We need to throw him out. We need to keep the curtain drawn. We need to see him naked without the emperor’s clothing that has been fooling us.

We are not fooled. We are marching and we are calling and we are writing and we are talking and chanting and lobbying and traveling to DC and rallying and sending lots of emails to legislators and Congress.

And we will vote in November.

Hear our voices.

Hear us roar.

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.