Memories

MemorialMemorial Day is a day to remember those who died while serving their country. It has turned into a different kind of holiday now. We remember all those who served and I remember my own father who did not die during his service in World War II but died decades later of natural causes. I remember my brother, who served in Viet Nam, and struggles still decades later with PTSD and Parkinson’s Disease and all that comes with those insidious conditions.

If we fail to remember those who have died before us we fail to think through the results of war and sending our service members into danger to ostensibly protect us all from harm. Some argue that wars in Iraq, Viet Nam and some others did not accomplish that end.

What about the war on our streets and in our homes? Evidence abounds that that is happening. Look at what just happened in New Orleans, as just one example of the hundreds and hundreds:

After the shooting stopped, the witness said, he saw one victim stumble out of the passenger side of the white car and collapse beneath the sign for the walking trail. A man exited the Kia, looked at a man slumped over the passenger seat of the white car, returned to the Kia and drove away.

Only then did the man in the white car move. “It was like he was playing dead until the shooter left,” said the witness said. “As soon as the burgundy car was gone, the driver opened the door and stuck his leg out, and I was just like, ‘Thank God’.” (…) “You have to be really bold to shoot someone in the middle of the day, with all these neighbors around, and drive off all slow and smooth,” the witness said. “I got a good look at that car, and the guy driving it. I was on the phone with 911 and told the dispatcher his license plate and everything. That’s a bold move, for real.” (…) “Never in a million years would I have expected to see something like this,” he said. “It’s scary. You never see anything like this. Stuff like this you see in movies and TV.

Bold? Crazy? Unthinkable? Senseless?

What kind of memories will these children have now?

And how about this child who narrowly escaped with a shrapnel wound when someone decided to go bowling while wearing his pistol? 

You just can’t make this stuff up.

There are no “accidents” when it comes to weapons of war or weapons carried around by everyday Americans in places where people should be safe.

It’s real life right here in America on the day we celebrate the heroes and victims of wars.

Grabbing children to save them from incoming bullets?

All of the above and worse.

We have guns by the thousands and people by the thousands with those guns gunning innocent people down in places where we should be safe from this kind of war-like violence.

More Americans have died from bullets right here on our own soil than American service members have died in wars in defense of our country.

Where is common sense?

Who will save our children?

There is none when it comes to gun violence. Lapdog politicians play with us every day. They issue thoughts and prayers and think that is enough. In fact, the town of Santa Fe in Texas where 10 were gunned down by a teen using his father’s guns got together and tried to pray away the violence.

I am a Christian but I understand that prayers are just not going to do it.

It is a shameful Memorial Day when politicians will attend services for fallen service members but refuse to act to save us all from devastating violence right in our communities and schools.

We need action and we need it now.

#Enough

Memories are painful for too many on this day. For our veterans. For our service members lost in wartime. For our children lost to school shooters. For our women lost in domestic shootings. For the innocent gathered in movie theaters, bowling alleys, hospitals, shopping malls, churches and in homes all over America.

There are memorials for our war heroes in our nation’s capitol and in cities all over America. And increasingly there are memorials now for victims of mass shootings. 

We leave flowers. We ring bells. We light candles. We march.

We remember.

Do Something

santa-fe-high-school14-ap-ml-180518_hpEmbed_8x5_992
Michael Ciaglo/Houston Chronicle via AP

There are hardly words any more. All I know is that I almost felt numb after today’s school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. 10 are left dead and 10 injured. How can we endure this again and again and again and again.

We can’t.

We must do something. We can’t go numb. The Star Tribune published this editorial today after the shooting. I couldn’t agree more. Please don’t go numb:

Instead, a busy school morning was shattered by gunfire, and now 10 people are dead, mostly students, and more wounded. Some escaped by running, at a teacher’s instruction, to the theater department’s storage room, where they huddled while the smell of gunpowder hung in the air. Paige Curry, according to the Houston Chronicle, hid for half an hour, “on the phone with my mom the whole time.” Imagine being the mother who gets that early morning call from a terrified child who might be gunned down while you’re still on the phone with her. A daughter who is relying on your voice to calm her even as you wonder whether you will ever hear her voice again.

Imagine.

Can you?

Look at the photo accompanying the piece. LOOK AT THE PHOTO. WHAT IF THAT WERE YOU?

It could be- that’s the thing.

This is a media release written for our local press:

On March 24th 2018, about 1000 students and community members marched in Duluth Minnesota, saying that we have had ENOUGH of innocent students losing their lives to gun violence in America. Months later, it’s happened again, this time in a Texas school. Students at this school claimed they weren’t surprised that it happened to them.

Please join us June 2nd for National Gun Violence Awareness Day and lend your voice to demanding much needed change. https://www.facebook.com/events/192992358010479/

March For Our Lives Duluth, the Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota chapter and Moms Demand Action Duluth chapter are saddened and angered by yet another mass school shooting in America. Kids should not be sitting ducks and have to endure the fear of bullets in their schools and classrooms. After the Parkland school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 17 students were killed. Now 10 more families will have to suffer the devastation of the loss of a loved one.

This is the 22nd school shooting of the year already. We are also concerned with the 96 Americans, 8 of them children, who lose their lives to bullets every day in our country. A few days ago a 7 year old first grader in Plymouth, Minnesota found a loaded gun in a box and shot and killed himself. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

It is unavoidable to talk about the role of guns in our national public health crisis. Please see this article by columnist David Frum. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/05/its-the-guns/560771/?utm_source=atlfb

The Minnesota legislature had several chances to pass a universal background check and Extreme Risk Protection Order bill but failed 90% of Minnesotans by refusing to vote them out of committee or bring them to the floor. This is not OK with us.

The fact that gun injuries have taken more lives than U. S. service members is simply outrageous. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/05/18/2018-has-been-deadlier-for-schoolchildren-than-service-members/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.53767397c367

Elected leaders are responsible for bringing life saving bills to votes. The fact that they have not should be a wake-up call to us all. 97% of Americans support universal background checks. Only 1.5% of Americans are NRA members. Most gun owners and NRA members support these life saving measures.

We are calling on our elected leaders to act immediately to pass life saving bills. We are also calling on Minnesotans and Americans to listen to these young leaders who are demanding change.

June 2nd is National Wear Orange and Gun Violence Awareness Day. In Duluth, activists and the public will be standing on the corners of Lake Avenue and Superior St. from 10:00 a.m. to Noon holding signs and wearing orange to demand change to our gun laws and our gun culture. We urge people who are fed up with the inaction of our leaders to come and wave a sign in solidarity with the families who are hurting and grieving after this horrendous loss of life in Santa Fe, Texas.

 

We are tired of being tired of the carnage.

The whole country has had #Enough.

After Parkland we said #Neveragain.

But here we are again.

Where is common sense?

Our hearts are broken.

Protect Minnesota is holding a rally today to demand the change Minnesotans deserve before the session is over.

The Minnesota legislature is scrambling to finish the session. Will they finish without enacting any gun safety reform measures? If so, shame on them.

I end with the statement from the Brady Campaign:

Brady Campaign co-presidents Kris Brown and Avery Gardiner stated:

“We are heartbroken today. Once again, children are shot in their school. Once again, another mass shooting has grabbed the headlines, and meanwhile, so many other shootings go by without any attention. We’ve asked this time and time again – what will it take? What will it take for Congress to step up and do their jobs to protect innocent children from gun violence? Our hearts go out to the victims and their loved ones today, and we fervently hope that perhaps this is the day when our elected officials stand and take action.”

Do something.

 

The odds of the game

Blank Red Dice Shows Copyspace Gambling And LuckIn my last post, I wrote about the “game” of gun rights advocacy vs. the “game” plan for the gun safety reform advocates. The game is not over yet but we lost a skirmish in Minnesota this week as the Republican led legislature rolled the dice and came down on the side of cowardice:

But Republicans who control the state Senate, with support from three DFL senators, rejected Latz’s bids to attach the two amendments to a wide-ranging spending bill that the Senate considered on Thursday. The bill dedicates nearly $20 million for schools to hire counselors or school resources officers, update building security and develop mental health programs. It also increases the frequency of school employee background checks and provides grants for schools to audit their security.

The Senate votes were the biggest test to date of whether gun control supporters at the State Capitol could seize political momentum from the renewed national debate over guns in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, where 17 people were killed. Lawmakers across the nation have been considering similar gun regulations, and a recent Star Tribune Minnesota Poll found that 9 in 10 Minnesotans favor mandatory universal criminal background checks.

In light of new polling data showing strong support for universal background checks and majority support for an assault rifle ban and other safety measures, it’s remarkable that the speaker of the House, Kurt Daudt said this (from the article):

“Could gun legislation be something where the NRA supports it and it actually could help keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals? That’s the sort of thing we would need to look for,” said Daudt, who said he personally does not support universal background checks or the temporary removal of firearms, known as “red flag laws” or extreme risk protection orders.

Daudt said he sees no scenario where further gun restrictions pass in Minnesota this year.

He may or may not realize that the NRA represents a minority of Americans and even fewer gun owners. But he still opines that the approval of the NRA is needed on the watered down bills presented to them for a vote. Why? Good question. From the article:

Other studies show that gun owners strongly support more gun-safety regulations, including a federal database of gun sales, banning people convicted of domestic violence from owning guns and prohibiting ownership by those with a mental illness.

It’s not about rights and the second amendment. It’s about keeping our communities safe from the devastation of gun violence. But nevertheless, they persist in their lies and innuendos. 2000 gun rights advocates gathered at the Minnesota Capitol yesterday, many armed. Were they afraid of each other? Why armed? To make the point that the “guys with the guns make the rules.” What rules?

Here are some of the wild and false statements made at the rally:

Lee said that he and other NRA leaders, including Wayne LaPierre, “were heartbroken over the senseless murders” in Parkland, but that gun-control supporters had exploited the shooting. “The ‘antis’ most recent tactic is to use the un­developed emotions of children to advance their cause,” he said.

Earlier in the rally, O’Neill said that she and other legislators supporting gun owners are “concerned for protecting life.”

“None of us wants to see an innocent person’s life taken away from them,” she said. “But taking guns away from law-abiding citizens is not the answer.”

Katie Peterson, a 25-year-old graduate student at the University of Minnesota, came to the rally carrying a sign and wearing an NRA hat. She said she recently became a gun owner and felt it was important to show up and support the Second Amendment.

Peterson’s sign read: “After witnessing and experiencing abuse, I realized, I am my protector.”

She said that having a gun would have helped protect her during a domestic sexual assault she experienced.

Let’s stop right here. Having a gun will not protect women during domestic assaults.:

But the available evidence does not support the conclusion that guns offer women increased protection. Myriad studies show that the NRA and its allies grossly misrepresent the actual dangers women face. It is people they know, not strangers, who pose the greatest threat. There is also strong, data-based evidence that shows owning a gun, rather than making women safer, actually puts them at significantly greater risk of violent injury and death.

In some places and in some instances, women have, in fact, used guns to successfully defend themselves. But the case that gun rights advocates make when pitching guns as essential to women’s personal and family security goes beyond the anecdotal, leaning heavily on an oft-cited 1995 study by the Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck — a study built on faulty research. (…)

Women who were victims of attempted or completed crimes used guns to defend themselves just 0.4 percent of the time, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey. (The survey uses a representative sample of 90,000 households in order to estimate national crime rates.) A Harvard study found that, of the more than 300 cases of sexual assault reported in the sample of NCVS data between 2007 and 2011, none were stopped by a firearm. Of the 1,119 sexual assaults reported in the NCVS from 1992 to 2001, a different study revealed that only a single case was stopped by defensive gun use. And, as we have shown in previous articles, even these numbers from the NCVS likely overestimate the true rate at which women protect themselves with firearms.

The truth matters.

None of the measures proposed would take away anyone’s second amendment rights. If they want their guns, have at it. But let me just say that if that is the case, you may be rolling the dice against yourself or your family because the chances of your needing that gun for self defense are minimal compared to the chances of being shot or using the gun to shoot someone while in your home- as in a domestic shooting or a suicide or a child finding that gun and using it “accidentally” to shoot him/herself or someone else in the home.

From the above linked article:

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 tells Here & 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.” (…)

Even if someone wanted to use a gun in self-defense, they probably wouldn’t be very successful, says Mike Weisser, firearms instructor and author of the blog “Mike The Gun Guy.” He says many people who carry a gun aren’t properly trained to use it in this way, and there is no performance validation standard for police officers.

“If we don’t even have a minimum standard, not for training, but for performance validation for our law enforcement,” he says, “how in God’s name is anybody going to say, ‘Well, just because you have a gun in your pocket, you know how to use it in self-defense?’ You don’t.”

But never mind the facts. The die is not cast yet. Gun safety reform advocates were present at the Capitol all week showing support for a sit-in supporting passing a few life saving measures. The point was made but legislators chose to close their eyes and ignore what their constituents want.

Common sense tells us, along with strong public opinion, that passing background check and extreme risk protection orders will not result in gun confiscation. The truth of the matter is that most gun owners undergo background checks anyway when purchasing guns from licensed dealers. Have their guns been confiscated? No.

The truth of the matter is that extreme risk protection orders will save lives and only temporarily remove guns from people who are clearly a danger to themselves or others. Remember the Nashville Waffle House shooting? Remember the Isla Vista shooting? Remember the Wisconsin Azana spa shooting? Remember the Virginia Tech shooting?

Memories are short apparently. And it’s too late once another person who should not have had a gun in the first place either shoots strangers, loved ones or him/herself in a state of anger, domestic abuse, severe mental illness, etc.

Why not prevent shootings in the first place? We already know that guns are not the first answer to preventing shootings. Check out the “hero” in the Nashville Waffle House shooting. But the gun rights advocates are sure that their just being at the scene as if unfolds will assure that they will save the day. The fact is it just doesn’t happen.

The Sutherland church shooting ended when the shooter left the scene. A gun owner pursued him and shot him but did not prevent the shooting in the first place.

Another small minority of Americans have permits to carry guns. Just having the permit does not mean the person will be carrying that gun wherever they go on a daily basis. In fact, many people have the permit as a way to legally purchase guns and just to have it. Carrying a gun around is inconvenient and a burden on the person carrying. Permit holders do actually make mistakes- sometimes deadly, sometimes not. “Accidentally” shooting someone you know or love is inexcusable and avoidable. Leaving loaded guns around where others can find them is avoidable and senseless. There should be no “mistakes” or “accidents” with guns. They are deadly weapons designed to kill people.

Check out this, this, this and this for just a few. With rights come responsibilities.

The “game” needs to be played fairly with the facts at hand and with the idea in mind that representing one’s constituents really does mean playing the hand on the side of gun safety reform.

The Minnesota legislature may have won a pyrrhic victory but they have not won the game. The cost is in human lives. The cost may be too great to sustain. Losing seats in November may the cost. Time will tell.

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.