Responsible gun owners?

Clipboard with Rules And Regulations Concept. 3D.All gun owners should be responsible with their deadly weapons. Unfortunately for way too many victims, they are not. With rights come responsibilities but you wouldn’t know it by the actual incidents of gun deaths and injuries. And, of course, the dangerous and false insinuations and rhetoric coming through the corporate gun lobby makes the situation worse. 

Most countries recognize the dangers and risks of guns in the home and/or carrying loaded guns around in public. As a result, there are many laws and regulations making sure that those who do get permission to buy guns know what they are doing and are not those who shouldn’t be able to come near a firearm.

And gun deaths are few and far between in countries that have strong laws and regulations.

Not so in the good old U. S. of A. Shamefully and tragically, we let just about anyone buy and carry guns. What’s the big deal right? Until suddenly it is a big deal.

Take this one example ( and it IS just one of thousands). A Portland, Maine columnist and physician was showing a teen-ager his gun and is now dead as a result of his carelessness:

Harmon, a steadfast defender of gun rights and champion of conservative viewpoints, was a longtime Maine Sunday Telegram and Press Herald editor and columnist. He worked for the newspapers for 41 years before retiring in 2011, although he continued writing a weekly column.

The teenage boy and his father, both from North Berwick, were visiting Harmon’s home at the time of the shooting, police said. Detectives said they have been cooperating with the investigation and will be undergoing more questioning on Thursday.

Harmon’s wife, Margaret Harmon, declined Thursday to discuss details of the shooting, calling it an “accidental tragedy.”

There are no accidents when it comes to gunshot injuries. Or at least they should be at a minimum instead of almost every day stories in the news. Guns are the only product on the market designed specifically to kill another human being ( or an animal). What is it that we don’t get about that in America?

Actually most people do get it and want more strong regulations on gun owners and the guns themselves. They don’t want them taken away. They just don’t want people getting shot to death.

When there are so many guns around there will be so many gun deaths and injuries. This is not rocket science. It is real and it’s common sense. In this crazy and frightening world of fake news and denial of actual facts that make a difference to our health and well being, we just can’t afford to have irresponsibility with deadly weapons.

Until we change the conversation and make it perfectly clear to anyone who walks out of a gun shop that what they do with that gun could affect their own or someone else’s life forever, there will be irresponsible behavior with guns. But then, folks who get their guns on-line or at a gun store from a private seller don’t even undergo a Brady background check, for goodness sakes.

What kind of country and what kind of communities do we want? Do we want to excuse the death of a loved one because he/she was reckless or irresponsible with a gun and just say it was an accident so never mind?

Do we want shootings in our urban neighborhoods to become normalized and pretend there is nothing we can so let’s not? I don’t think so. Check out this article about the uptick of shootings in some Chicago neighborhoods:

“We should be embarrassed as a city, every single one of us, that we’ve allowed this city to become the poster boy of violence in America,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, an activist and pastor of a Catholic church on the South Side. “Are we just going to shake our heads and say, ‘What a terrible year in Chicago?’”

Father Pfleger, who often spars with elected officials, said he was searching for fresh ways to draw attention to the plague of gun violence. He is planning a rally on Saturday on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, a downtown avenue lined with high-end shops and restaurants, that will be attended by marchers carrying two-foot-high wooden crosses bearing the names of victims. Some victims’ relatives are expected to attend.

And yet, where is the shame? Where is the embarrassment? Where is the action? Where are the responsible gun owners and elected leaders?

Where is common sense?

Responsibility means passing laws that will keep us safer from gun violence. Responsibility means stronger regulations on people who can buy and own guns. Responsibility means not letting your brother have a gun if you know he is experiencing alcoholism, severe mental illness, a marriage or relationship break-up, anger or some other problem that may cause him to use a gun to “solve” whatever it is that is bothering him. Responsibility means safely storing guns away from the hands of small children and teens. Responsibility means making sure all who carry guns in public are regulated to make sure they are not prohibited persons and properly trained to carry  deadly weapon in public. Responsibility means stopping “bad apple” gun dealers from getting away with selling guns knowingly to those who shouldn’t have them. Responsibility means asking if there is an unlocked, loaded gun where your children play. Responsibility means not handling your gun inside of your house or letting someone else who doesn’t know anything much about guns handle one in your presence. Responsibility means knowing where your gun is at all times.

I know that our next President rails at rules and regulations. But they are there for a reason. Mostly it is for the health and safety of the public. Regulations on businesses are there so we don’t get screwed. Remember the financial crisis of 2008? I do. All too well. Regulations on energy companies are there so we don’t have the kind of pollution seen in Beijing almost every day. Regulations on speed limits, seat belts, air bags and other car safety measures are there to stop and lower injuries or deaths from auto accidents. Regulations about smoking in public places are there go protect us from deadly diseases. Regulations on poisons, outlet covers, cribs, toys and other products that could harm young children are there for a reason.

Without regulations, laws and rules, it’s a free for all. Leaving it up to private industry to regulate themselves only serves their own bottom line and interests. What happens to the rest of us?

The Trace has a year-end report with some gun violence statistics that should make everyone understand that we need to do much more about our gun culture and guns in our country. This publication is responsible for a good deal of research in the area of gun violence that others cannot or are not doing. If we are to do the responsible thing and try to prevent and reduce gun deaths and injuries, these are to what we need to turn our attention. There is no denying these facts:

We’re hungry for the data that can help us better understand gun violence in America, and when we find something that informs our thinking, we are eager to share it with our readers. Here are 10 facts and figures that helped shape our reporting this year.

You can read the ten facts, including about domestic gun violence and the effect on women, the effect of shootings on black communities, many Americans falsely think background checks are required on all gun sales, why people buy guns, etc.

Unless we are allowed and/or demand to have hearings and discuss this national public health tragedy, things will not change. You may remember that some Democrats in Congress held a sit-in last June to call attention to the fact that the Republicans had not allowed discussions or votes on gun violence prevention. The result?  A lot of attention to some brave leaders who actually went against the rules in desperation to try to get some new laws and regulations.

But the Republicans ( House Speaker Paul Ryan) want to silence them and any kind of protest regarding controversial issues. Shame on them. What goes around may come around. Representative Ryan doesn’t want a vote and he doesn’t apparently want to do anything about gun violence. He is willing to silence those who do. And those who ar making noise are speaking for those who have been silenced by a gun.

These same leaders have been shamelessly blocking the usual rules in the House and Senate for the last 8 years to try to keep President Obama from governing and doing something about gun violence and a whole lot of other important issues. I guess they only like their own rules.

Surely we are better than this. If you believe as I do that no one wants to be shot or have a loved one or good friend shot to death or injured, then you ought to be making noise and not being silent or being silenced.

Let’s get to work. Lives depend on it.

 

Tis the season….

Christmas horizontal banners backgroundIt’s the Christmas season. And, oh yes, the Chanukah season and the approach of the new year. Here in my neck of the woods, we are expecting a major winter ice/snow/rain storm event on Christmas day which will interfere with the holiday celebrations tomorrow.

But nothing interferes more with the holidays than the shooting of a loved one. I write often about how shootings don’t take a holiday. They happen every day in our beloved country. Easter, Halloween, Memorial Day, Labor Day, New Years, Christmas, whatever. 90 a day die from gunshot injuries.

Merry Christmas.

In Faribault, Minnesota a family is grieving the loss of two loved ones after a murder/suicide occurred a few days before the holiday. It was another domestic shooting. The shooter took guns and ammunition from his son’s home and gunned down his ex-wife at her place of work and then shot and killed himself. He was an ex police officer:

The shootings took place less than a week after Barbara Larson served her former husband with a harassment restraining order, Pederson said. The couple divorced in 2014.

Richard Larson retired from the city’s police department in 2008 after serving Faribault for about 25 years, Pederson said. He was a captain when he retired.

Sigh.

Another police officer’s gun was used by his 2 year old child to kill himself “accidentally”. The Cleveland family will be mourning the senseless and avoidable loss of their precious child all over irresponsible storage of a gun the child should never have accessed:

The boy is the son of a 54-year-old Cleveland police officer, Jose “Tony” Pedro, who was hired in 1993. Cleveland police said the gun was the officer’s service weapon.

Aren’t these the “good guys” with guns? I’m just asking.

Where is common sense?

Guns are a risk to those who choose to own them. With rights come responsibilities. What is it that we don’t get about that in America?

But I digress because I wanted to write about a shooting closer to my home. In Cloquet, Minnesota:

A victim, who police said was in his 30s, was found inside a residence with multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to a Duluth hospital, where he was pronounced dead.(…) “I don’t believe it was a random act,” Ferrell said a few hours after the shooting. “I’m sure they are aware of each other. I just don’t know what the circumstances are or what led up to the shooting.”

Most shootings happen between people who know each other. Guns for self defense are often used against someone known to the shooter. The myth of the gun lobby’s mantra that more guns make us safer is just that. A myth. A deadly myth as it turns out.

More guns are clearly not making us safer. An armed society is clearly not a polite society.

And more families are mourning the senseless loss of a loved one at a holiday time that is supposed to be merry and happy. Not for many.

I’m sure I don’t have to remind my readers that the holidays can be sad and depressing for many. And gun suicides account for the majority of gun deaths in America:

Despite an alarming uptick in homicides in some urban areas in the last few years, violent death rates are significantly lower than they were in the 1990s. There is one notable exception to this trend. Suicide rates for men and women have steadily increased for the past 15 years.

The statistics are bleak. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. From ages 10 to 34, it is the second leading cause. Last year, at least 40,000 people in the U.S. died by suicide. From 1999 to 2014, the suicide rate for men and women jumped 24 percent.

Guns make it all so easy.

Also I shouldn’t have to remind my readers that toddlers have killed more people than terrorists in America:

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

So please tell me again how it is that a gun in the home for self defense will make the owners safer from strangers, home invaders, terrorists or zombies? I don’t buy it.

The Gun Violence Archive is keeping track of gun deaths and injuries in America in case you don’t believe the numbers. 356 children under 11 have been killed or injured by guns in 2016 so far. 11 in the last week alone have been killed.

Stunning. Shocking.

Surely we are better than this and if so, we need to work much harder to change these statistics. For the statistics are real children with real families. They are not just statistics.

If there is a gun in the home for hunting or sport, the onus is on the owner to lock it up away from the hands of toddlers, people who are experiencing domestic problems, people experiencing severe mental difficulties, suicidal teens or adults, or thieves.

In America, our cavalier attitude about guns and gun rights is leading us to deadly outcomes.

There are too many empty chairs around holiday tables every year. The one belonging to my sister has been empty for 24 years now. But we remember her fondly for her hosting amazing Christmas gatherings full of fun and holiday chaos.

Tis the season to be jolly. Hopefully you will all have a jolly holiday no matter what you celebrate.

And may the grinch not spoil things for your family.

Merry Christmas ( and yes, I am a liberal and Donald Trump didn’t just allow me to say that to my friends). Happy Chanukah. Happy Kwanzaa and everything else.

Stay safe and warm out there wherever you are.

 

Idiots trying to get on planes with guns

Red metal luggage for travelReally, you can’t make this stuff up. The week before my friends and I traveled home from our trip to Italy, the TSA posted this blog post. Read it and tell me that we are a sane country. Let’s consider this ( from the post):

TSA discovered 75 firearms this week in carry-on bags around the nation. Of the75 firearms discovered, 66 were loaded and 25 had a round chambered. All of the firearms pictured were discovered in the last week

OK. Having just traveled abroad and carefully packed my checked luggage and my carry-ons knowing the “rules of the road”, I know that this is not just carelessness. It is insanity and stupidity. Everyone knows how carefully all bags are checked and re-checked. Everyone knows that liquids have to be 3 ounces or less and placed in a small plastic baggie. No knives. No guns. No sharp objects. Knowingly packing a loaded gun with a round in the chamber is sheer irresponsibility. Where are those “law abiding gun owners” who got their legal permits to carry?

Does anyone remember September 11, 2001 after which everything changed about traveling on planes?

Simply put- our laws are too loose and too many people who shouldn’t have guns in public places get them anyway thanks to our loose gun laws that the corporate gun lobby is trying, and succeeding in some states, to make them even looser- because…. rights.

In America all of this is allowed and legal.

Sigh.

Where is common sense anyway?

Remember in my last post when I mentioned the Italian tour guide who thought our country was crazy for not passing stronger gun laws?  He is right. I doubt that the check points at Italian and European airports find guns in carry-on bags. The laws are strong and don’t allow anyone who does not have a very good reason to carry a gun in public to carry one. Therefore, the chances that someone would try to check a loaded gun onto a plane are slim.

In my opinion one of the worst things to happen in America is the passage of laws that allow any idiot to carry loaded guns around with them in their pockets, purses, carry-ons, backpacks, on their shoulders or holsters on their waistbands or on their legs or even in their bras. I have written many times about intentional and unintentional shootings of guns in public when they drop out of pockets, when purses are dropped to the ground, when a toddler finds a loaded gun in his mother’s purse and kills her with it, when a woman with a gun in her bra “accidentally” shoots and kills herself with said gun…. The list goes on and on.

This is the American gun culture we have. It is not the American gun culture we need to accept. Until our elected leaders stop listening to the false claims of the corporate gun lobby that more guns will make us safer, we will be stuck with the current situation. Guns were not found in carry-in luggage previous to the passage of gun carry laws. Anyone who thinks they can get away with carrying a gun onto a plane shouldn’t be traveling with the rest of us. And anyone who claims it was a mistake or that they forgot shouldn’t get a permit to carry a deadly weapon around with them.

This is insanity. It doesn’t have to be this way. It’s past time to pressure our leaders to make changes to our laws to keep us all safe from stupid and dangerous people with guns. Guns are not needed everywhere. Guns are dangerous on planes for obvious reasons.

Happy travels everyone.

Scared to death of the dentist

Dentist2Has anyone seen “Little Shop of Horrors”? The mocking and funny musical about a sadistic dentist is amusing and a bit of the truth. Note that a gun was not used as intended because Seymour ( character in the play) could not bring himself to shoot Orin. Instead he killed him with nitrous oxide.

But back to dentists and the fear of them. People don’t seem to like to go to the dentist. Often it involves pain. And there’s a bit of humiliation as one sits in the chair, captive to a drill or a clamp. Having someone fool around with your mouth is disconcerting.

Apparently some gun carrying Americans feel unusually afraid of dentists to the point of packing heat while sitting in the chair. Nothing really good can come of carrying a gun around everywhere one goes and then, either forgetting the gun is in your pocket or knowingly carrying one around unholstered out of “necessity”  or fear. So one Ohio man found out the horror of packing while under the influence of  nitrous oxide. You can’t make this stuff up. From the article:

James White, 72, apparently thought he heard his cellphone ring, and when he went to answer it, he somehow fired his gun.

In a 911 call obtained by the station, an employee at New Carlisle Dental Group can be heard saying, “we have a patient here who accidentally shot himself with a gun.”

Big oops.

And more:

White has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, but now it looks like the dentist office is going to have a stricter policy about allowing weapons in the building.

Video shows fatal abuse by Oklahoma dentist, prosecutors say

“Going into a doctor’s office where you might be placed under some kind of medication, you might not want to carry a weapon in there,” Sgt. Christina Evans-Fisher of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office told WCMH. “Think of your safety and the safety of those around you.”

Too many legal gun carriers don’t think about safety. Why not? They think they are thinking about safety but they aren’t really doing that. They are exercising their right to be stupid and dangerous with a deadly weapon.

Where is common sense?

I have written about “accidental” gun discharges happening in many places in our country but a dentist’s office is not one of them- until now. “Law abiding” gun owners have carelessly discharged guns in bathrooms, Starbucks stores, hospitals, schools, stores, cars, at work, bars, restaurants, apartments, homes, on the streets, military recruiting centers,  and almost everywhere families gather to spend time together. Small children have killed siblings, themselves and others with guns found left loaded and within easy reach of children. Some idiots even post their “accidental” discharges on YouTube videos.

Now some of my readers will make comments about these folks being stupid with their guns and that they are the exception. Though that has a grain of truth to it, it seems to me that we ought to be doing whatever we can to make sure those “exceptions” ,which happen far too often, don’t become the rule. There should be no exceptions with guns. They are deadly weapons designed to kill and harm people.

I write often about instances like this one. It is simply not true that guns everywhere make us safer and protect us from harm. What is true is that many people with guns are carrying loaded deadly weapons around with them without thought to the risk to themselves or others. This dangerous behavior is promoted by the American corporate gun lobby and supported by our politicians.

These things don’t happen in other civilized countries. Why? People in other countries don’t consider that carrying guns around is a thing. It’s also not a right as the gun extremists claim it is here. Other countries also don’t have the high rate of gun deaths that we experience in America nor the mass shootings that occur way too often here.

Some have distorted the right to bear arms into the right to carry them everywhere regardless of the public’s right to be safe from armed citizens. What is required of the rest of us,who understand that loaded weapons everywhere are a risk to public safety, is to change the conversation and change the culture that has led to the current situation.

LWe’ve had #enough. The careless Ohio man who confused his phone for a gun only shot himself and the injuries were not serious. They could have been. Or the dentist working on his teeth could have been the true victim of the horror of a gun death.

This is a public health and safety problem that needs serious attention and study. My guess is that if there was a CDC study about the risks of gun carriers in public, it would reveal that they are actually not saving lives or preventing crime but increasing public health and safety risks. The Violence Policy Center has studied the numbers of justifiable self defense shootings compared to the number of gun deaths by suicide, homicide or unintentional. Here is the conclusion from data gathered of actual incidents:

The reality of self-defense gun use bears no resemblance to the exaggerated claims of the gun lobby and gun industry. The number of justifiable homicides that occur in our nation each year pale in comparison to criminal homicides, let alone gun suicides and fatal unintentional shootings. And contrary to the common stereotype promulgated by the gun lobby, those killed in justifiable homicide incidents don’t always fit the expected profile of an attack by a stranger: in 35.5 percent of the justifiable homicides that occurred in 2012 the persons shot were known to the shooter. The devastation guns inflict on our nation each and every year is clear: more than 33,000 dead, more than 81,000 wounded, and an untold number of lives traumatized and communities shattered. Unexamined claims of the efficacy and frequency of the self-defense use of firearms are the default rationale offered by the gun lobby and gun industry for this unceasing, bloody toll. The idea that firearms are frequently used in self-defense is the primary argument that the gun lobby and firearms industry use to expand the carrying of firearms into an ever-increasing number of public spaces and even to prevent the regulation of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Yet this argument is hollow and the assertions false. When analyzing the most reliable data available, what is most striking is that in a nation of more than 300 million guns, how rarely firearms are used in self-defense.14

Conclusion? Guns carried and owned for self defense get used more often to shoot someone intentionally, unintentionally, in a domestic shooting, suicide, by kids and by others who shouldn’t have guns in the first place. If we change the conversation, change the culture and have a serious discussion about how passing stronger laws can also send a message that, in America, we care about the lives of our citizens too much to let the carnage by bullets continue.

We are better than this.

 

 

Bullets are flying

flying_bulletYes they are. It’s getting more difficult to explain the gun culture in America. When there is an auto accident and the one at fault gets out of his rolled car and shoots and kills the woman in the other car, we have to wonder what in the h#$% is going on? I just can’t wrap my head around this kind of violence and stupidity. Why did this happen? The accident was enough wasn’t it? Maybe alcohol? Maybe a whole lot of anger directed at the wrong person? Maybe just a gun at the ready to use just in case one causes an accident and needs to get rid of the evidence?

Where is common sense?

But even worse than this is the shooting death of a young mother in Chicago while bullets were flying intended for others:

Nykea Aldridge, 32, a mother of four, was pushing a baby stroller Friday afternoon on Chicago’s South Side when she was shot. Police said she was not the intended target of the shooting. Aldridge’s child was not struck by the gunfire.

Police said the two men charged with murder — Darwin Sorells, 26, and Derren Sorells, 22 — were both on parole and affiliated with the Gangster Disciples gang. They appeared in court Sunday and were ordered held without bail.

This is such an awful tragedy. I watched a news show with an interview of the woman’s mother who talked with tears streaming down her cheeks.

It’s insanity. Yes, the shooters were gang members. Yes a lot of gang members are armed. And yes, they shoot other people. Why? How do they get their guns? Legally? From people who sell guns from the trunk of their cars like these opportunistic gun buyers at a Minneapolis gun buyback?

Or from this guy who was trafficking guns from Indiana into Chicago. Indiana has lax gun laws. Illinois’ laws are stronger. And this man was supplying guns to gangs. From the article:

A suburban Chicago man has been sentenced to nearly 17 years in federal prison for buying hundreds of firearms and high-capacity magazines from gun shows in Indiana and selling them illegally in Chicago. (…) The 24-year-old is from South Holland. He was convicted of dealing firearms without a federal license, illegally transporting firearms across state lines and interstate travel to sell guns without a license.

The woman was doing what she was supposed to be doing on a week-end day- walking a baby in a stroller. Mothers walking their babies in strollers should be safe from stray bullets flying in their neighborhoods.

And let’s address the real problem- guns and the easy access to them. But Presidential candidate Donald Trump doesn’t want to talk about the guns. It’s all about himself and not the victims. He wants votes and thinks he can get them by letting people know that he predicted things like this would happen. He says he can protect people from being shot but he doesn’t say how. Nothing but empty rhetoric seemingly addressed at people of color in neighborhoods like this one in Chicago and in large urban cities all over America.

What about the guns Mr. Trump? What will you do about the guns and the bullets? How will you protect young mothers walking their babies? This great article from the Star Tribune quotes the Chicago Police Chief asking Mr. Trump what his plan is ,if he has one, to stop the killings:

On Monday morning, Trump posted on Twitter about crime in inner cities “reaching record levels,” which is untrue. While killings have increased in major cities across the country this year — as they did last year — crime rates still remain far below what they were just a few decades ago.

Facts matter. Yes we have crime but the rates are lower than they have been for many years. Conflating crime rates with shooting rates is an old trick of the corporate gun lobby used to deflect the real problem with guns and bullets in our country. Shootings are not just about criminals with guns. Some of the gun rights advocates who read my blog tried to tell me that my ex brother-in-law was a criminal because he shot and killed my sister. He was not a criminal until he pulled the trigger and the bullets ended up in my sister’s body. People who commit suicide by gun are not criminals. Small children who find their parents’ guns and shoot their siblings like this incident ( for just one of many) are not criminals. Domestic shootings like my sister’s are not often committed by criminals but by angry, jealous mostly men upset with a spouse or partner trying to leave the relationship.

How will we all protect anyone from an angry divorced guy who decides to shoot bullets into the air in mid-day in the Minneapolis suburb of Eagan? How?  He was shot and killed by police. How do we protect our families from crazies with guns? Why do so many people think they can do things like this in the first place? Without the gun, what would have happened? He would be alive most likely. Was this a suicide by cop? We don’t know. He endangered the lives of many innocent people while shooting those bullets around near the apartment building.

Where are our values when it comes to the ease with which people take another human life and we do nothing about it? Isn’t this something that rises to the top of our agenda? If not, why not?

The fact that I am writing about this and these incidents even happened shows the serious public health and safety problem we are facing. And these are only just a few of thousands happening every year everywhere in America. Note that the apartment tenants in Eagan, Minnesota were surprised that this could have happened in their neighborhood. Don’t people know that with over 300 million guns in America things like this are inevitable? From the article about the Eagan shooting ( above):

The incident shocked residents in what some described as a peaceful neighborhood.

“I am a lifelong Eaganite, and we rarely have an incident like this,” said Jim Carlson, the state senator for District 51, which includes Eagan. Carlson was knocking on doors with a group of volunteers when the shooting erupted nearby.

And yes, those volunteers could have been injured or worse by flying bullets.

When will the gun lobby help out with this? Why do they convince just about everyone that owning a guns is an OK thing without making sure everyone has a background check and proper training to operate a deadly weapon? Why do we have such a cavalier attitude towards deadly weapons? Rights? Why are we not discussing the inherent risk of owning a deadly weapon and making sure they are not only stored safely but that those who have them can be responsible with them? We legislate safety with cars so that everyone has to be trained properly and take a test to get a license. Cars are registered and when transferred to a new owner, paper work is required by the state and kept on file.

What we need is to break down the resistance to sensible measures to make sure we are safe from devastating gun violence in our neighborhoods; and that people who shouldn’t have guns aren’t shooting bullets off with them on the streets in our neighborhoods. I think we can do this. We have done it with many other things we deem to be potentially dangerous to our safety or our health. We sent people to the moon and into outer space. We can figure this out.

Let’s get to work. We’ve had #Enough of the denial and inaction.

UPDATE:

Just after I posted this I saw this article from The Trace which gives us some hope:

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry’s top trade group, is partnering for the first time with the leading suicide prevention nonprofit organization in the U.S. The ambitious goal of the collaboration: averting nearly 10,000 deaths over the next decade.

The program, initiated by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, will strive to educate people on the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, and provide guidance on how best to talk to someone who may be considering trying to end his or her own life, says Robert Gebbia, the chief executive of AFSP.

Notably, the program will also recommend blocking family members who are suicidal from accessing firearms by, for example, emphasizing the importance of securely locking guns away. It is not clear whether the AFSP guidance will include specific suggestions about how to remove weapons from potentially suicidal people. The NSSF, which represents thousands of gun dealers and manufacturers, provided input into the program and is also promoting it.

It is past time for this to happen but acknowledging the public health problem of gun suicides is a big step forward from this gun industry leader. We can hope that the corporate gun lobby will follow this group and get involved in reducing and preventing gun deaths. Common sense may just be breaking out.

 

My travels with no guns

no guns allowedI posted earlier about a trip I was going to take with my family to Glacier National Park and to Seattle. I also posted about the gun laws in the states we would be traveling through on the Amtrak just as a way of comparison of gun laws. Montana, where we stayed for 4 days, has pretty loose gun laws and a high rate of gun suicides. From this article from The Trace, we find this:

Where the distinctive cause of death is gun suicides, the numbers also show much larger than usual shares of residents owning guns. Researchers led by epidemiologists at Columbia University calculated last year that Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming placed in the top six for state gun-ownership rates. At 62 percent and 57 percent, respectively, Alaska and Idaho are double the national gun ownership rate of 29 percent that the researchers used as a baseline.

The lethality of guns means that people who attempt suicide with them are more likely to succeed than those using other means.

In Montana, many of the gun deaths are suicides which we don’t usually hear about in the news unless it involves others as in mass shootings or domestic homicide/suicide. Of course we heard nothing about gun deaths while traveling but I do need to say that I did not see one gun while on our trip. I looked to see if anyone was open carrying. I suppose there could have been folks carrying concealed and I didn’t see it. But I also know that many of the people we saw were tourists with their families, likely with no interest in carrying a gun around.

While visiting Glacier Park we took a guided hike through the Trail of the Cedars to Avalanche Lake.

Avalanche Lake

It was stunning and amazingly wild. There were signs along the way suggesting what to do if one encountered a Grizzly Bear which some folks we talked to had seen. Our guide was not carrying a gun. They have common sense measures to avoid bears or deal with one if sighted. The National Park Service issues these warnings and safety tips without mentioning carrying a gun. We could have purchased bear spray in many places along our way but didn’t.  In fact, we were disappointed that we did not sight a bear off in the distance.

We did notice however, that our hotel in Whitefish, Montana posted a sign saying that guns were not allowed. And as you can see by the top photo on this post, the famous Mercantile store in Polebridge, Montana, an outpost at the far north end of Glacier Park and very isolated, does not want either guns or bear spray inside.

Mercantile

I can see why. It was crowded inside- lots of tourists and locals go there for provisions as it is the only place around for many miles. It’s historical purpose was to provide explorers and early visitors to the Park with food and other needed items for their trip into the wilderness.

While there we enjoyed the baked goods, sandwiches and Huckleberries we bought before we went into the amazingly beautiful Bowman Lake campground located within Glacier Park showing us another blue-green glacial lake. The day was rainy with low clouds so we did not get the view we hoped for. But it was beautiful nonetheless. Bowman Lake

Seattle, of course, is located in a state where the citizens decided for themselves that they wanted to require background checks on all gun sales. It is a funky and unusual city hosting the Pike Street Market with a sea of humanity, and the Space Needle where tourists gather to wait to go up into the Space Needle for the spectacular view. Guns are not needed there either. One vendor in a wheel chair who promised my granddaughter and I 2 magic tricks for $5 called me a liar in a loud voice when I said “maybe later”. He was right of course. I had no intention of buying his magic tricks. It did not end in any confrontation but I suppose it could have and people have been shot for less in angry confrontations.

At the top of the Space Needle the view was spectacular. This was also a very crowded place with shoulder to shoulder visitors. The beauty was incredible on the clear day we visited. Mount Ranier was showing off for us. It is unimaginable that anyone would want or need to carry a gun there where tourists were crowded in from countries all over the world to see the view from the top.

Mt. Ranier

(By the way, our bags were searched there as well for weapons or other contraband or dangerous items.)

So in the wilderness, the parks and the big cities, I saw no need for a gun. The Amtrak train depot had explicit instructions for declaring any guns and that they had to be packed in stored luggage and not on the train. In small compartments and aisles on trains that are jerking around and coming to sudden stops, one can see why a gun would just not work out well.

In 2009 Congress passed a Credit Card bill necessary for the economic recovery. In the sausage making of the bill and the need for the corporate gun lobby to get its’ fingerprints on just about anything, an amendment was added to the bill to allow guns in our National Parks. It was a bad idea. Most people thought it would not be a problem. But as we know, we are beginning to see the results of our guns everywhere gun culture where “accidental” discharges are happening just about anywhere some person with a gun who doesn’t understand that they are not needed everywhere, drops a gun or a gun drops by itself through carelessness and discharges. Sometimes there are deaths and injuries, other times not.

More guns are not making us safer.

There have been incidents of gun discharges in our National Parks. According to this article, they may be an anomaly but if one person were to be killed we would likely not call it an anomaly.

Last week a careless man carrying a gun into the Old Faithful Lodge, “accidentally” discharged his gun. Guns are not allowed in the Lodge but they are allowed in the Park. The result? A shot rang out where hundreds of tourists were trying to enjoy their vacation. From the article:

Charissa Reid, a spokeswoman for the park, said a maintenance worker reported to park law enforcement Wednesday afternoon that a gun went off inside a men’s bathroom at the Old Faithful Lodge.

No one was injured. The shot is believed to have been accidental, based on statements from multiple witnesses, including at least one who was in the bathroom at the time.

Park rangers are investigating but have not been able to identify the man with the gun. He is presumed to have fled after the incident. (…)

People are allowed to carry guns inside Yellowstone National Park. A ban on firearms inside park boundaries was lifted in 2010. But people aren’t allowed to bring guns into any of the park’s buildings or any of the buildings operated by the concessionaire company, like Old Faithful Lodge.

Shooting a gun inside Yellowstone National Park is illegal.

I have a question. If shooting a gun inside of the Parks is illegal, why carry one in the first place? Just asking.

Another place that guns will not be allowed this year is at the Minnesota State Fair. From the article:

No weapons of any sort will be allowed on the fairgrounds, he said. No fireworks — “we have plenty of our own.” Ditto for alcoholic beverages.

No need for guns at a State Fair. Most state fairs do bag searches and require people to go through metal detectors. As it turns out, guns have been banned from the State Fair for a long time now and the gun rights activists don’t like it. But I am guessing they among the small minority who think guns are a good idea at a fair, teaming with people, small kids running around and babies in strollers. We know that loaded guns have been “accidentally” discharged in many public places. This is about public safety and nothing else. The gun rights folks cannot guarantee that everyone with a gun will be safe with that gun while carrying. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill or harm others. There are no reasons to take chances in public places where families and large crowds of people gather.

As more people own and carry guns, it is inevitable that more crazy and dangerous incidents will occur in public places and anywhere, for that matter. It is time to ask serious questions about the need for so many guns in public places and get answers as to why they are necessary. Guns in public places have created a real conundrum. It is not working out as many thought it would. They are not being used for self defense often enough to allow for loaded guns in public places. But rather enough incidents of “accidental” discharges have occurred to make us all wonder why they are allowed to be carried in the first place. And our children are clearly at risk from loaded guns at home and other places.

We are better than this. It’s time for all of us to put our heads together and work out the best way to keep Americans safe from gun violence. Since the majority wants that to happen anyway, it’s our leaders who have the onus to make it happen. It’s up to the rest of us to pressure our leaders, change the conversation and eventually the culture of gun violence that only occurs in America.

We’ve had #Enough.

 

UPDATE:

Speaking of traveling, we did rent a car while visiting Glacier Park. This Tennessee family found a loaded gun in their rental car where 2 small children were sitting. Luckily they found the gun before something tragic occurred. This is just not OK. There are too many careless gun owners out there not thinking about the consequences of their carelessness. There are no excuses for carelessness with guns.

 

Trump’s Second Amendment “gaffe”

Trump remarks

Thank you to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for this meme of the latest remarks by Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump. The Brady Campaign is named for James Brady who was shot and seriously injured in the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan.

The question is, were these remarks a gaffe or something else?

A gaffe is when a politician accidentally says what he/she really means instead of couching it in more cautious language. Sometimes gaffes expose good things that someone running for office really means but is afraid to say for fear of some sort of consequence for telling the truth. Sometimes gaffes expose the true nature of a politician’s mind and thought process. From Merriam Webster:

  1. a social or diplomatic blunder

  2. a noticeable mistake

I guess you could call all of the amazingly crude, offensive and ludicrous things Donald Trump says gaffes. They are certainly noticeable mistakes. Were they innocent mistakes or were they intentional? For sure they are blunders and they are happening on a daily basis.

But really, the country is coming to know Trump as someone who is what he says and means what he says and it’s not a pretty picture. Some thought he could overcome his own personality and seem more Presidential. I never thought that. There is nothing Presidential about a man who says what Trump said yesterday.

Sigh.

And so when Trump went off script, or should we say actually stayed on his own script which is basically to say anything that comes to mind, about the second amendment last night, we heard something we’ve never heard before. We heard a Presidential candidate actually suggest that once Hillary was elected those “second amendment” people would just have to do something about her appointing judges who would overturn the second amendment.

He did say that and he meant it no matter what his surrogates are saying. We know what it meant. He was not asking “second amendment” voters to get involved in the election and be active in getting Trump himself elected. That is not what he meant because his words indicated doing something about judges after Hillary is elected.

This was a dangerous moment in our nation’s history. Common sense tells us that Trump is woefully and dangerously unprepared to become the leader of the free world. The fact that he is now the “titular” head of the Republican Party should be an embarrassment and travesty to the party leaders. But they still sit back, hoping against hope that Trump will stop being Trump and act like a normal candidate for President.

Trump claims to be outside of the mainstream and an unusual candidate. That’s for sure. Do his supporters actually believe that someone who knows virtually nothing about running a country should get the job? And do they also believe that what Trump said was just a joke and the rest of us should pretend we didn’t hear the words that came out of his mouth? They heard them. Are they giving him a pass even on this remark?

How far will this go before there is a nut job who takes what he says seriously enough to act on his words? This dangerous and insurrectionist talk is fomenting anger and fear amongst Trump supporters. We should all be afraid of the consequences.

What this election has done is bring the issue of guns and gun rights front and center. Hillary Clinton has asked for strengthening our gun laws so that so many people won’t get shot. That seems like a sensible goal and would be in any other country. But in America we have a group of right wing gun extremists who have taken the second amendment out of context and turned it in to some interpretation that just doesn’t fit with what’s happening in real life. The worst of this is that they have gotten away with their fear mongering and hate talk for far too long.

Not any more. This kind of interpretation of the second amendment, long held by the NRA leaders and lobbyists and the corporate gun lobby is now being challenged by more people who see that the “emperor has no clothes”. The curtain has been pulled aside on Oz and we see this small group of lobbyists and extremists and the leaders who refuse to debunk their myths, for who they are.

If we continue to have incidents like the ones I write about on this blog and will highlight just a few of here, we will see that our world of guns and gun violence is taking an increasing toll on too many citizens. We are also seeing that more guns are leading to more dangerous incidents with guns. How could it not? Guns are designed to kill people. Too many gun owners have cavalier attitudes about guns because…rights.

With rights come responsibilities.

What was the responsibility of this Indiana prosecutor who should have known better when he decided to carry his loaded gun in his pocket?

What was the responsibility of this Florida police officer whose gun still had a bullet in the chamber and ended up killing an innocent citizen who was volunteering to become a citizen patrol member? How was it that someone so experienced with guns made this mistake?

Was this Minnesota gun guy a responsible gun owner when he threatened a cable worker with his shotgun? I think not.

I didn’t make these up. These incidents happen every day and are not myths. This is what we need to be talking about instead of insinuations that “second amendment people”, whoever they are, should get involved in a solution to Hillary Clinton appointing judges who will allegedly abolish the second amendment.

This is the problem with our gun culture. It isn’t what the second amendment extremists claim it is. It is something else. Every day we see the consequences.

And in this great article, Evan Osnos writes in the New Yorker about why Trump’s comments about the second amendment matter to gun owners:

Many gun owners I know, especially those who are most passionate about defending the Second Amendment, take pride in reminding others that they are law-abiding. They are responsible for their conduct and for the safe handling and storage of a firearm; they try not to lose their tempers, and to argue their ideas with facts and civility. Trump, in this sense, is harming them; by suggesting that, to use his phrase, “Second Amendment people” would turn to violence because their favored candidate loses an election is an insult to gun owners everywhere. By feeding a caricature, Trump is effectively advancing the case of those who would seek to curtail access to guns. Truly protecting the Second Amendment means identifying those who are misusing it for their own political purposes.

If anyone thinks those  law abiding gun owners who want the right to own guns for self protection and hunting/recreation believe that those guns should be used the way Trump is suggesting, they are wrong. Most gun owners are safe with their guns but those same gun owners need to get involved and tell the corporate gun lobby and candidates like Trump to stop giving them all a bad name.

In fact, most gun owners want what I want. So do the vast majority of Americans who support sensible gun laws and a sensible gun culture where women are not being shot by their partners in domestic shootings, where children are not shooting themselves and others in “accidental” gun dischargers, where people of color, gay Americans, Sikhs, small children, college students, children at a Jewish day care center, military members, and others are not victims of hate crimes and mass shootings.

Trump’s remarks left an opening for an interpretation of calling for a political assassination.Political assassinations happen, it seems, more frequently in other countries but we have had our share of successful and unsuccessful attempts to change our government through violent means. Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, Gerald Ford, Robert Kennedy, Martin Luther King, John F. Kennedy, and others. The list is long.

What we don’t need is the anger and violent talk fomented by one of our Presidential candidates to end in another American tragedy.

This is serious business and our next leader needs to be a serious person who knows how to speak publicly without others having to interpret the true meaning of the words. World leaders are watching this wondering what we have become. A few careless and thoughtless words could change the trajectory of world peace. Dangerous remarks made about violence could end in violence.

To say this is unsettling is an under statement. No matter what Trump’s surrogates say about this, they will not convince most voters that this was a joke. As someone who has lost a sister in a domestic shooting, I am not only offended, I am frightened by the rhetoric spewing from the mouth of someone who, if elected our next President, would make us all less safe.

Where is common sense? We are better than this. And we’ve had #Enough of the violent and fear mongering rhetoric. We’ve had #Enough of actual gun violence that takes the lives of 90 Americans a day.

This election is a pivotal time for changing the conversation about guns and gun violence. Hillary Clinton has not said and could not succeed in abolishing  the second amendment. This is hyped up fear talk and it needs to stop. All Hillary wants is to stop some of the shootings. There is nothing more nefarious than that. Any other meaning ascribed to her words is a lie. The linked article states that Trump’s remarks were open to interpretation. Wars and international misunderstandings have resulted when a leader’s remarks were misinterpreted. 

The bottom line is that no candidate for President should be allowed to get away with this kind of talk. If Trump can’t speak without issuing threats or needing to have  his remarks interpreted by his surrogates to cover his ass, then the Republican party needs to seriously think about what their own positions are and reflect on whether this is the man they want representing them.

I leave my readers with these wise and cogent remarks from someone who should know what it means to be targeted as a politician- and lived to tell her story and advocate for reasonable gun laws- former Representative Gabriel Giffords:

“Donald Trump might astound Americans on a routine basis, but we must draw a bright red line between political speech and suggestions of violence,” the statement reads. “Responsible, stable individuals won’t take Trump’s rhetoric to its literal end, but his words may provide a magnet for those seeking infamy. They may provide inspiration or permission for those bent on bloodshed.”