We can prevent senseless shootings

GVAToday is the 19th anniversary of the shooting at a Los Angeles Jewish Community Center that injured 3 children, a teen counselor and an office worker, 

People and kids just going about their daily lives when a White Supremacist opened fire. It was the shooting that propelled the Million Mom March as its’ founder Donna Dees Thomases watched in horror as those young children were led away from the scene holding on each other’s hands. 

”It was too much to bear,” she said this week at her home in this wealthy suburban community. ”This is what life has become in America. You can’t send your kids to nursery school anymore and expect them to be safe.”

A few days after the shootings, Ms. Dees-Thomases turned her emotions into action. She scribbled a strategy on the back of an envelope: a plan to send thousands of mothers to Washington to pressure legislators into enacting tougher gun legislation. A week later, she applied to the National Park Service to hold the Million Mom March on May 14.

”We can’t just be sitting around our kitchens, crying about gun violence,” she said. ”We have to do something.”

Senseless. What was this man doing with a gun?

Over my years of advocacy I have met the parents of one of the children and of the teen girl involved in the shooting. They have also become activists and remain so even after their children are adults.

But the trauma never goes away. The memories are always there. That is the insidious nature of gun violence. The ripple effects spread widely and affect many.

In my last post, I wrote about my sister’s shooting death anniversary on Aug. 5th. It has been 26 years for me. For others it has not been as long. Here are just a few other August shootings that we ought to remember if we care about victims and their families and the devastation of gun violence in our families and communities:

On August 5th, 2012 six innocent people were killed and 3 injured by bullets in a hate crime shooting at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. 

This was another hate shooting. What was this man doing with a gun?

On August 6th, 1996 the daughter of a friend of mine in Duluth was shot and killed by her estranged husband as his anger increased over an ended relationship. Alcohol was a factor as well as the rage of a husband or partner when a woman is leaving him. This is the story we read far too often in local media reports. It is my story. It is the story of my friend. It is the story of thousands of Americans.

Why did he have a gun? It was too easy to buy one with no background check at a local Walmart store.

And on August 26th Alison Parker and Adam Ward were shot and killed on live TV as they were reporting a story for a CBS affiliate in Roanoke, Virginia. I have come to know Alison’s parents. They have been amazing advocates for common sense in the memory of their beautiful young daughter. The wounds are deep for them as they have lived around the hole left by their daughter’s untimely and violent death. Alison’s boyfriend, Chris Hurst ran on a platform of gun violence prevention and won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. He will not be a lapdog for the gun lobby.

Why did this shooter have a gun?

Of course there are others. The Gun Violence Archive is keeping track. If you check out this report from the last 72 hours, you can see the long list of shootings all over our country and it’s only August 10th.

These incidents happen every day of every month. It’s an American tragedy.

Why remember these shootings or any shootings for that matter? The gun lobby wants us to forget that this many people are shot and killed on a regular basis because then we might go away and stop pushing for reasonable laws to stop the carnage.

The corporate gun lobby has no common sense when it comes to guns and gun violence. That is becoming increasingly obvious as we learn more about the involvement of the NRA in the Russian meddling into our 2016 Presidential election. Apparently anything goes for the organization that was supposed to be supporting law abiding gun owners.

Who are they? It’s past time to expose the gun lobby’s single focus on suppressing any talk of or actions that would lead to saving lives by supporting lapdog politicians who will do their bidding. Things are changing however as candidates have decided they can run on the issue of common sense gun legislation and win. That’s because the public has finally had #enough and the accumulation of bodies from mass shootings is more than we can take.

On 8/8/18 the Brady Center released its’ new campaign called End Family Fire.

End Family Fire is about safe storage of guns. The thing is, too many people are not responsible with deadly weapons. Check out this story about the campaign:

The new campaign, “End Family Fire,” begins on Wednesday and aims to educate the public on the importance of safe firearm storage. “Family fire,” a phrase created for the campaign, refers to shootings that cause injury or death and involve improperly stored or misused guns found in the home.

“We want everyone who is driving down the street, listening to the radio, watching TV, to hear this term, to go to our website and to internalize what family fire is,” said Kris Brown, a president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the gun control organization leading a coalition of groups behind the campaign, which it produced in partnership with the Ad Council, the nonprofit.

Watch one of the videos:

8 children a day are killed or injured by guns. Is that the America we want? The answer, of course is a resounding NO. But what are we going to do?

The narrative must change in order for the issue to change our elected leaders and also our national conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our American society. This campaign is like MADD and the campaign on second hand smoke. They both changed the culture, the conversation and the laws. Social norm change comes slowly and while we are waiting, people are dying.

We just can’t afford to let that happen.

Another shooting anniversary and NRA spies amongst us

yellow roseI want to start this post by recognizing that today is the day before the anniversary of the tragic murder of 12 and the injuring of 58 by bullets at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater. My friends, Sandi and Lonni Phillips are grieving for their murdered daughter, Jessica Ghawi who was brutally shot that day 6 years ago.  They have gone through hell and back after that day. Who wouldn’t? I stand with them in their pain and their attempts to make changes to our gun laws and to support other victims. Thanks to the NRA, the shooter at the theater was able to purchase a hundred round drum magazine so he could carry out his massacre.

Remember the victims of that horrendous shooting: Jonathan Blunk, Alexander Boik, Jesse Childress, Gordon Cowden, Jessica Ghawi, John Larimer, Matt McQuinn, Micayla Medek, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, Alex Sullivan, Alexander Teves, and Rebecca Wingo. And let us also remember that the injured have and will suffer from life long injuries and likely PTSD after the horror of the shooting scene.

Thank you NRA. Thank you corporate gun lobby.

Since July of 2012, about 200,000 Americans have been killed by bullets and we have experienced multiple (1772) horrific mass shootings– Sandy Hook, Charleston, Las Vegas, Pulse Nightclub, Parkland, Sutherland, …………………………………………………………………………….

Our Congress has done nothing.

Thanks NRA.

And meanwhile, closer to to the present as the families of the Aurora shooting try to honor their loved ones’ deaths and both remember and try to forget what happened that day, the NRA is still at it. I assume you have read or heard the news about the arrested Russian spy and her connections to the NRA and Republicans.

Yes it’s true. There are Russian/NRA spies working on behalf of the Republicans and our very own President:

Amid the sprawling scandal over Russian interference with the 2016 election, there’s long been an odd subplot over Russian ties to, of all groups, the National Rifle Association — ties that, according to McClatchy, have been investigated by the FBI.

Now the arrest of 29-year-old Russian national Maria Butina on charges of conspiracy and acting as an agent of a foreign government has put those questions about the famous gun rights group on center stage.

But despite the new indictment (which is not part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe), the full extent of what happened here remains mysterious.

Odd subplot is right. It’s not normal and it’s more than odd. But the Russians knew that the NRA would be helpful… because that’s the kind of organization it has become.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

motorcyclespygirl_tnb

I wrote a blog post on my former blog site about sleeping with an NRA spy. It seems that anything goes with the organization that is opposed to common sense laws that could save lives.

Now of course, the NRA has become an extremist organization where board members like Ted Nugent regularly speak hate and violence themselves.:

Ted Nugent dedicated a song during his concert on Tuesday in Virginia to “dumb f***” protesters like Andy Parker, who is the father of a gun violence victim.

The outspoken Republican rocker, who’s no stranger to controversy, said to the audience, according to the Roanoke Times, “If I get too political, f*** you.”

Nugent also dedicated his set to “everybody, including those dumb motherf*****s that were protesting me because they’re still grieving. When you lose a loved one, we pray for you when you lose a loved one. We all prayed for him, didn’t we? How the f*** do you hate the Nugent family when we’re praying for you? You dumb f****.”

Yes. It’s true. That is what he said. I know Andy and Barbara Parker. Their daughter Alison was shot and killed on live TV almost 3 years ago now. Why would Nugent attack the father of a young woman so brutally murdered by someone who should not have had a gun? The NRA must sanction this kind of totally offensive and crude rhetoric because they have not denounced it. What you don’t say is as important as what you do. The true agenda of the NRA is out there in plain site for all of us to see.

The irony of all of this is that the majority of NRA members do NOT agree with the agenda of the organization to which they have paid their membership dues. The majority want Brady background checks on all gun sales which the NRA has scuttled all attempts to pass in the U.S. Congress- even after the shooting of 20 6 and 7 year olds at Sandy Hook Elementary School:

Sixty-nine percent of NRA members expressed support for comprehensive background checks. A proposal to implement universal background checks would apply to all gun sales, rather than just purchases made at licensed retailers, according to the Giffords Law Center, a gun control advocacy group.

The other irony is that the outspoken and offensive Ted Nugent didn’t allow gun carrying concert goers to carry their guns into his latest Roanoke concert. What is he afraid of? I will remind my readers that Alison Parker was shot and killed in Roanoke. Is that why? Was he afraid of the Parker family? Because Andy is so scary when he speaks out against the violence that took the life of his daughter.

Or maybe some of the irresponsible gun owners who, on a regular basis, “accidentally” fire their guns and hurt or kill someone? Like this father? He shot and killed his 6 year old daughter while cleaning his gun. There are no accidents with guns. They are lethal weapons designed to kill. Everyone needs to

Or maybe someone who intentionally means harm. Remember the shooting at the Las Vegas concert?

There is really no question that Russia has been involved in our last Presidential election. Trump is having trouble publicly admitting it but he knows about it and has since before he was inaugurated our 45th President. Not sure what to call this but many words come to mind.

The NRA was also involved in the Presidential election in ways that we should all question. Answers need to come forth. We know that the NRA spent $30 million to get Donald Trump elected. But now it seems like more than just money was spent on the election:

The F.B.I. and special counsel Robert Mueller are investigating meetings between N.R.A. officials and powerful Russian operatives, trying to determine if those contacts had anything to do with the gun group spending $30 million to help elect Donald Trumptriple what it invested on behalf of Mitt Romneyin 2012. The use of foreign money in American political campaigns is illegal. One encounter of particular interest to investigators is between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian banker at an N.R.A. dinner.

The Russian wooing of N.R.A. executives goes back to at least 2011, when that same banker and politician, Alexander Torshin, befriended David Keene, who was then president of the gun-rights organization. Torshin soon became a “life member,” attending the N.R.A.’s annual conventions and introducing comrades to other gun-group officials. In 2015, Torshin welcomed an N.R.A. delegation to Moscow that included Keene and Joe Gregory, then head of the “Ring of Freedom” program, which is reserved for top donors to the N.R.A. Among the other hosts were Dmitry Rogozin, who until last month was the deputy prime minister overseeing Russia’s defense industry, and Sergei Rudov, head of the Saint Basil the Great Charitable Foundation, one of Russia’s wealthiest philanthropies.

Maria Butina apparently used sex to gain power and influence into the Republican party on behalf of the Russians. She inserted herself into CPAC, the religious right wing and the NRA to get information and to influence elected leaders and others to get Trump elected.

It worked. And now she is behind bars without bail.

It’s hard to fathom this intrigue. It reads like a spy novel but it’s happening in real life. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

The NRA is not your father’s NRA. The NRA is not an organization to support gun owners and hunters. It is an organization that is an arm of the Republican party and its’ intentions are to elect people who will support their agenda to loosen gun laws, to nominate Supreme Court justices who will help loosen gun laws and to make sure the country’s majority does not get what they want and need to be safe in their communities.

We ought to be better than this. The corruption is palpable and increasingly dangerous for our democracy. We just cannot let this be our country. We are the model of democracy for the world. If we become an autocracy and just another country beholden to corrupt leaders at the top and big money, we can expect to see bad things happen.

I, for one, am going to continue pushing for common sense and protesting the influence of Russians and the big money NRA in our politics.

Shooting anniversaries

Alison ParkerAnniversaries marking the death of a loved one in a heinous shooting are so difficult. Over time it does get easier but the date is always there somewhere, called up at odd moments. August 5th is my day to remember a shooting anniversary.

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the senseless shooting ( aren’t they all?) of journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward on live TV in Roanoke, Virginia. This is one we will remember if are paying attention. No shooting is OK and rarely are they justified. But to watch it happen on live TV as if watching a fiction show was something unusual, even for America.

Thank you to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for the above image.

I remember the day well. August 26th of last year. I remember it because this particular shooting reminded me so viscerally of my own sister’s shooting. I cried when I began hearing the news and know that many other of my friends who have lost loved ones to a shooting felt the same way. Yet one more family had just joined us in the club we didn’t want to belong to in the first place. But Alison and Adams’ deaths happening live on TV was too close to thinking about how it must have been for our own loved ones. We grieved for the friends and relatives of Alison and Adam while we grieved for our own sister, brother, father, mother, daughter, son, niece, nephew, uncle or aunt.

Over the past year, I have met Alison’s parents, Barbara and Andy Parker on several occasions. I have also met and spoken with Chris Hurst, Alison’s fiancé at the time of the shooting. They are all fine and gentle people who have been brave enough to step forward, soon after Alison’s shooting to call for strengthening our gun laws. The pain in their faces is always behind their smiles as they speak of the lovely Alison and her aspiring career as a journalist. Their commitment to gun safety reform is also passionate and fierce.

Alison’s shooting death reminds of us of how vulnerable innocent people can be when someone with a grudge gets his hands on a gun and acts.  It is far too easy in America to act on a grudge and far too easy for a “disturbed” person to get a gun,  as Alison and Adam’s shooter did:

Overton said the gunman was “disturbed in some way.” Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, speaking on WTOP, described Flanagan as a “disgruntled” employee. Jeff Marks, WDBJ’s general manager, said during a live broadcast on the station that Flanagan “was sort of looking out for people to say something he could take offense to.”

Marks said Flanagan was fired after “many incidents of his anger coming to the fore.”

“He did not take that well,” he said.

Why is it so easy? Because our America gun culture has evolved, along with the laws that allow just about anyone to buy a gun, to the point where we do very little to screen out those who should not be able to buy a gun. Because the corporate gun lobby has managed to get their friends in Congress to do their bidding, we have come to assume that anyone can be responsible with a deadly weapon. Because owning a gun is a right in America, we have come to assume that means that right can’t be denied to anyone. Because we have come to think we can’t deny a right to a deadly weapon to anyone, we let anyone get a gun easily.

This video from Real Sports shows how easy it is for a 13 year old to walk into a gun show and legally buy a gun from a private seller with no background check to show that he is not old enough to buy or own that gun. This is ludicrous, dangerous and absolutely why we need to stop the private seller loopholes in our gun laws. You can see it for yourself here:

And we are letting this happen. And we look the other way when people who are considered to be “law abiding” gun owners flip out or get angry over a grudge and shoot someone. The gun lobby says that every case like this is just an anomaly. They claim that only criminals with guns shoot people.

They are wrong. It’s a gun lobby myth that only a good guy with a gun can save us all from bad guys with guns. The gun lobby claim that if only someone had had a gun in situations like this one, when the shooter unexpectedly approached the journalists and the woman they were interviewing is false::

Tragically, a record number of Americans subscribe to some version of this mythology, with 63 percent (67 percent of men polled and 58 percent of women) believing that guns truly do make them safer. The public’s confidence in firearms, however, is woefully misguided: The evidence overwhelmingly shows that guns leave everybody less safe, including their owners.

 

A study from October 2013 analyzed data from 27 developed nations to examine the impact of firearm prevalence on the mortality rate. It found an extremely strong direct relationship between the number of firearms and firearm deaths. The paper concludes: “The current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis that guns make a nation safer.” This finding is bolstered by several previous studies that have revealed a significant link between gun ownership and firearm-related deaths. This international comparison is especially harrowing for women and children, who die from gun violence in America at far higher rates than in other countries.

If only Alison and Adam had been armed……

Sigh.

Where is common sense?

Work place shootings happen far too often in our country. There is a long list of them, at least one of which occurred in my own state of Minnesota when an angry employee showed up at Accent Signage and shot and killed 6 people and left 3 others injured. I also know the Rahamim family and have seen the pain of their grief over the years since that shooting. The anniversary of that shooting is coming on September 27th and I know that that day is so difficult for all of them.

What is it about angry men, guns and the desire to seek revenge or harm someone?  From the article:

One of the most significant findings was the three-way association between individuals who owned multiple guns, carried a gun outside of the home and expressed a pattern of angry, impulsive behavior. Study participants who owned six or more guns were found to be four times more likely to carry guns outside of the home and to be in the high-risk anger group than participants who owned one firearm.

Participants who were considered to have a high risk for impulsive anger responded affirmatively to some or all of the following questions: “I have tantrums or angry outbursts;” “Sometimes I get so angry I break or smash things;” and “I lose my temper and get into physical fights.”

Or suicidal people with guns who shoot others and sometimes themselves?

Every day, on average, 90 Americans die from gunshot injuries, including suicide. The Gun Violence Archive keeps tracks of these shootings. Thank goodness someone is doing this because the denial from the gun lobby that these shootings happen in such high numbers often goes without fact checking. The chart on the site shows an up-to-date accounting of gun deaths, including suicides where that information is possible to gather. You can click on the graph and see where the shootings have happened and more about each incident.

The thing is, these are real people with real families who are grieving for their loved ones every day and reminded of that person on anniversaries, holidays, and special family occasions.

Only in America do we mark anniversaries of mass shootings and very high profile public shootings like that of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. They have become synonymous with an American gun culture that has evolved over time with deadly consequences. We don’t have to shrug our shoulders and say nothing can be done because….rights. We know that we can not only change our gun laws, but we are changing the conversation and we can change the culture. Most gun owners are with us and agree with our proposals.

As with other public health and safety campaigns, if we change the conversation and the culture, we can save lives by also changing the laws. That is how we got laws requiring seat belts, air bags and other safety features in cars. The result? Reduced deaths and injuries.It is also how we got a massive change in the way we treat tobacco. It’s not OK any more for smokers to smoke inside where non-smokers come to be at risk for health problems.

And it’s not OK for the shootings that take the lives of our loved ones and leave us marking shooting anniversaries to continue without addressing how we can change things to reduce the violence- the deaths- the injuries- the emotional and psychological trauma- the physical after affects of survivors- the cost to our country in the billions- and the pain and the grief.

And while so many are marking anniversaries of shootings, Congress is taking a break from its’ job in the longest recess ever. Why? Good question. But we are not letting them get away with it. Two weeks ago there was a #DisarmHate rally in DC to mark the 2 month anniversary of the Orlando nightclub shooting that took the lives of 49 Americans. And today is the Day of Unity Rally in DC where rally participants will gather at NRA lobbying headquarters in DC to protest that organizations resistance to strong life saving gun laws. We have had activities all over the country to remind Congress members that we expect them to do their jobs and pass life saving measures to keep us safe from the gun violence that is devastating far too many families and communities. While Congress is away, almost 4000 Americans will die from gunshot injuries.

We have had #Enough.

Let’s get to work. Join me and the many people (many of whom are victims and survivors) working on gun safety reform.

The truth about gun registration

Truth on Display of Vending Machine.

It’s that season again. You know- the Presidential election where myths and lies are being spouted as the truth. We are witnessing the dumbing down of American politics where one of the candidates is actually fomenting violence at his rallies- that would be one Donald Trump of course. Here is a comment that should be frightening to us all from an article I read this morning:

Several Trump fans vowed that the next time, they would come armed. Some warned that if Trump was not chosen by Republicans, a militia would rise up to take him to power. When an evicted protester appeared at the doors of the Peabody, it was like a scene out of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery: gazing down at a sea of rage, the demonstrator descended the stairs and the crowd tensed to pounce.

American history is filled with ordinary people doing unspeakable things: a country where wholesome families treated lynchings as social occasions and witch trials as spectacles. As the voice of a demagogue blared from a theater, protesters were beaten and his supporters laughed, cheered and cheered. Trump proclaimed it good.

Extraordinary fury was unleashed by the ordinary, in plain sight, in the midday sun, and political darkness rose.

Yup. This sounds about right for some Trump fans who are ramped up by their candidate’s violent rhetoric and allowing violent protests at his rallies so he can make demeaning and racist comments about the protesters. This is just not OK.  Armed citizens at rallies or forming an angry militia for their candidate is not only dangerous and speaks of insurrection, it is ludicrous and should be alarming to us all.

Let’s make America nice again ( I have seen caps with this slogan on them).

What I wrote above is about a real situation and a possible threat and not a myth. But let’s talk about the oft promoted myth by the gun lobbyists that closing the private seller loophole in our gun laws will just inevitably and certainly lead to gun registration followed by, of course, confiscation of their guns. Check, for example, this article in City Pages, a Minnesota publication,  about the criminal background check bill introduced in the Minnesota legislature last week. A comment from the article goes like this:

At the same time that Latz and Schoen introduced their bill, the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus launched the predictable shrieking in opposition.

“Senator Latz and Representative Schoen have unveiled a gun control bill that is being portrayed as a comprehensive gun safety measure. In fact, this bill is nothing more than a gun owner registration bill, requiring law-abiding citizens to submit government paperwork for any purchase or transfer of a firearm,” said executive director Bryan Strawser.

Yes. Predictable and wrong. Since 1994, federally licensed dealers have been required to perform Brady background checks on sales of guns. There was a provision in that bill that protected private sellers from requiring these criminal background checks because it was thought that collectors and occasional sellers should not need to go through the bother of the paper work ( which takes about 3 minutes).

But things have changed since 1994. There are many many more private sellers selling the same guns as federally licensed dealers without asking sellers to go through background checks. That allows for people to slip through the cracks who could be domestic abusers, felons, adjudicated mentally ill or other prohibited categories for gun buyers. Sellers have no idea to whom they are selling guns without that background check.

Further, the system now in place for over 20 years has not resulted in gun confiscation. That is the nonsensical part of this mythical argument. It hasn’t happened yet and it won’t happen under the new laws. It is not happening in the states that have passed laws requiring background checks on all gun sales. So why keep saying it? Because they have gotten away with it in the past. But we know better and we are telling people the truth.

The truth matters just as lives matter. In fact, the truth matters to save lives. Look at the photo in the article of 3 people who are friends of mine. They have all lost loved ones to bullets just as I have. There is a club of survivors that has a membership based on the devastation loss of a brother, daughter, sister, aunt, mother, father, child. The membership dues are high.

There is no doubt, based on facts, that background checks and other gun laws can save lives. Just this morning on CBS Sunday Morning, there was an interview with the former Prime Minister of Australia who changed the gun laws in his country just 6 weeks after the heinous mass shooting in Port Arthur,Tasmania. Since that time, there have been ZERO mass shootings and the gun homicide and suicide rates have gone down measurably and accountably.

Also on the CBS Sunday Morning show, there was an interview with the parents and boyfriend (Chris Hurst) of Alison Parker, the Virginia journalist who was shot on live TV. Alison’s shooting and that of cameraman Adam Ward, was a violent and live shooting that affected many Americans but most especially and tragically their family and friends. This is why we need to change something in our country. Where else do citizens watch shootings on live TV?  I have met Andy and Barbara Parker and Chris Hurst and admire them very much for their advocacy on behalf of the many victims of gun violence in America.

But back to gun registration….In the proposed federal background check law that passed in the U.S. Senate in 2013 ( 54 votes should be passage but because we need 60 votes to get anything done in the Senate, the bill failed to go forward) there was a provision specifically stating that there would be no registration of guns:

“If your private gun transaction is covered by Toomey-Schumer-Manchin (and virtually all will be) … you can assume you will be part of a national gun registry,” the lobbying group Gun Owners of America said. (The group added the name of Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y, one of the co-sponsors.)

Actually, the amendment outlawed any such registry. In fact, a registry was alreadyoutlawed, and the amendment extra outlawed it.

It declared that nothing in the legislation should be construed to “allow the establishment, directly or indirectly, of a federal firearms registry

But never mind. The NRA and others in the gun lobby got busy and opposed a law that could have saved lives because…..rights? Since the Sandy Hook school shooting which prompted this common sense bill, over 100,000 Americans have been shot and killed by bullets. Where were the rights of all of those people to the freedom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

No one on my side of this debate about saving lives believes that passing a background check bill would save all lives. What we are advocating is to save as many as is possible with background check laws, safe storage of guns, awareness about the risks of guns in homes for children and vulnerable or dangerous adults, suicide awareness, or whatever else it takes. But we are NOT pushing for gun registration. Though some would say that registration would work to save even more lives. Most other democratized countries not at war do require licensing and registration and other measures for the sake of public health and safety. And the result? Far far fewer gun deaths and injuries. And people are still allowed to own guns for hunting and sport shooting.

So let’s talk the truth. The majority of Minnesotans (82%) and Americans (90%+) want background checks on all gun sales. We have been held hostage by the corporate gun lobby. Or rather I should say that our legislators and Congress members have bought into the myths. Why? Follow the money and influence. It’s the American system at its’ worst. It not only leads to needless and avoidable gun deaths it leads to mythical thinking about other important issues of our day. As Minnesota Representative Dan Schoen said from the above linked article:

“You can’t lose faith that there’s an opportunity for people to see the wisdom in doing the right thing,” Schoen says. “Rep. Cornish and I actually have a really good working relationship on many issues. He has what he puts out in public, and we all know where that’s at. We have to convince legislators that their citizens will send them back to the state Capitol and they won’t be targeted because of their vote, that the outside interests’ money shouldn’t be the issue.”

Exactly. Thanks to Representative Schoen for speaking the truth. It’s time to hold our leaders and candidates responsible and accountable for their words and their actions. If they vote in favor of laws that allow dangerous people to be able to get their hands on guns, they should be called out. If they stand with victims and survivors they should be congratulated and voted back into office.

We have had #Enough. Lies, deceptions, myths, promotion of violence and dissembling can’t be the way we run our country. We are better than this.

 

 

The Brady Campaign on the march

tipping pointI have been away from my blog while attending the Brady Summit in Washington D.C. hosted by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the American Public Health Association. Hundreds of attendees were inspired, saddened, educated and energized by like minded people on a mission. The tide is turning. We can feel it and we know it by the public responses to the recent tragedies. We see the testimonials. We hear the speeches. We watch as the news media is changing what they are saying about the issue and at least some politicians are finally speaking the truth about our national gun violence epidemic. Thank goodness. It’s far far too late for way too many. But it’s a step. And I hope it will be the slippery slope towards common sense.

I wrote in my last post about the article on the CNN website written by Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign. We have reached a tipping point on the issue of gun violence.

A recent shooting in Virginia which ended with the murder of 2 journalists on live TV was a tipping point. At the Brady Summit, one vey inspiring and emotional moment came when Andy and Barbara Parker, parents of Alison Parker, one of the Virginia journalists, spoke to the attendees. Here is a video of Andy Parker’s remarks:

Let’s do this for Sarah and Jim Brady and for Alison. Let’s not let our mission be derailed by those whose interests are in keeping gun industry profits high and keeping gun lobbyists in business. For too long, those voices have drowned out the voices of victims and survivors. Not any more. We will not be silenced.

Meanwhile, as advocates were learning from the experts in public health and safety, suicide prevention, physicians, attorneys, elected officials, victims, state advocates, and others-   these are the things that went on in our country while we weren’t paying attention:

Insanity.

You can read much more about the world of firearm accidents and intentional deaths at several good sites:

Accidents Happen Guns Kill

Ohh shoot blog

Gun Violence Archive

The Daily Kos- Gun Fail

Don’t you find it amazing that there are so many sites reporting on accidental and intentional gun discharges? Only in America. But much of the research and reporting is coming from sites like this. Since the NRA owned Congress members made sure government agencies can’t research the causes and effects of gun violence, it’s good news that others are stepping up.

One of the best sources of information outside of the public health researchers is the on-line publication, The Trace. In one of today’s articles, we learn that the ATF only monitors 7% of gun dealers in a year. That is a crime, actually.

Where are crime guns coming from? Many from “bad apple gun dealers”. You can read more about that in this piece from the New York Times today:

Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, has pledged to throw his weight behind the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, one of the country’s most prominent gun control groups, in an as-yet-unannounced effort demanding that the Justice Department more closely scrutinize so-called bad apple gun merchants, according to people familiar with the campaign.

Mr. Cuomo, in an interview about his plans to work with the Brady Campaign, promised that his involvement in national gun politics would continue to deepen. He said he would hit the campaign trail in 2016 to emphasize the issue of gun violence, which he repeatedly called “the big issue” in national politics. (…) To start, Mr. Cuomo will be among the chief signatories of a letter to Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch, to be released as early as next week, urging the Justice Department to punish what the Brady Campaign describes as a small fraction of gun dealers who sell an overwhelming share of weapons used to commit crimes. He has promised to lobby other governors around the country to join in the push.

Yes, we can do something about gun trafficking and crime guns and we will.

And you can watch 60 Minutes on Sunday for information about Smart Gun technology that has the potential for saving lives. The gun lobby opposes Smart Gun technology. Why? They need to explain how they can be against new technology that could prevent a toddler from pulling a trigger to kill or hurt themselves or somebody else. They need to explain how they can be opposed to a technology that could keep a teen from accessing a gun to use in a suicide or a school shooting. They need to explain why they oppose technology that could prevent a robber from using a stolen gun in a crime.

But I digressed. I sat at a table with a BBC reporter at the Brady Summit on Tuesday. She was doing a story on America’s fascination with guns and the lack of ability to change the minds of Congress when so many Americans want change. She was stunned at the American gun culture and our seeming tolerance for the carnage. It was unfathomable to her that we have failed to act. These things are just not happening anywhere else in the world. But she was also encouraged that groups were working state by state to change the gun laws that don’t get passed in Congress. That was news to her. As Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy spoke to the summit attendees, she paid attention to his remarks about how hard it was to get new laws passed even in the state where the massacre of 20 small school children occurred.

I explained to her about the insidious corporate gun lobby and the fear of said lobby affecting too many of our elected leaders. The lies and deceptions keep coming as the influence of the gun lobby wanes. You can read about the latest from the NRA’s own Mr. Wayne LaPierre in this Media Matters article:

The NRA’s lie is brazen given widespread reporting explaining how the gun group interferes with ATF operations. As USA Today reported in 2013, “lobbying records and interviews show the [NRA] has worked steadily to weaken existing gun laws and the federal agency charged with enforcing them.”

According to The Washington Post, “the gun lobby has consistently outmaneuvered and hemmed in ATF, using political muscle to intimidate lawmakers and erect barriers to tougher gun laws. Over nearly four decades, the NRA has wielded remarkable influence over Congress, persuading lawmakers to curb ATF’s budget and mission and to call agency officials to account at oversight hearings.”

The NRA’s opposition to the ATF has been extreme. The gun group has threatened to attempt to abolish the agency all together and LaPierre infamously called federal law enforcement agents “jack-booted government thugs” who wear “Nazi bucket helmets and black storm trooper uniforms.”

Sigh.

While lobbying on Wednesday at the Hart Senate office building, a group of us were standing with our”Background Checks Save Lives” stickers on and managed to attract attention and comments from quite a few people. One of them was a Senate staffer who was not American born but worked for a Senator who he said did not agree with us. The thing was- he himself agreed with our views and shook his head as he tried to figure out why America is so gun crazy and so violent. I told him that the majority in his Senator’s state agreed with us and he should go back and check the polling date to share with his boss.

For if our own leaders fail to represent us- the majority and the victims, survivors, experts, researchers, law enforcement, clergy, youth, gun owners, health care providers, educators, hunters, and others who want gun safety reform, what else is there? Congress must act. Our state legislators must act. They are now hearing from the millions who want to get this job done in the name of the victims.

We are marching forward towards saving lives in spite of stiff resistance. We are holding our elected leaders responsible and asking them to commit to measures to keep us all safer in the halls of Congress and state legislatures. The tipping point is here.

We have had #enough. If you have also had enough, check out the #enough campaign on the Brady Campaign’s website.

My daughter was killed…..welcome to the club

handshakeFill in the blank. My sister was killed in a domestic shooting. But thousands of Americans could say :”My daughter was killed in a shooting.” “My brother was killed in a shooting.” “My son was killed in a shooting.” “My boyfriend was killed in a shooting.” “My mother was killed in a shooing.” “My father was killed in a shooting.” “My girlfriend was killed in a shooting.” “My friend was killed in a shooting.”

My sister was killed 23 years ago. The passage of time doesn’t make it any easier. It just makes it less fresh. But I can still cry at odd moments when something reminds me of her or I think about what she has missed or what her family has missed after her shooting death. And when we learn about and see the media coverage of yet another tragic shooting, we have flashbacks. We are a club. Californian Amanda Wilcox experienced what many of us went through last week. We relive the day we got our own news that someone we loved was shot. From the article:

When she watched the video of Alison Parker gunned down on live TV, the 2001 murder of her own daughter played out in her mind as if it just happened.

“We relive it in our mind all the time about being shot and never thought about whether she screamed or not,” she said.

Her 19-year-old daughter Laura was also shot and killed at work by a man she didn’t even know who had no history of violence.

This is Amanda’s story. We all have stories to tell, as club members. It’s part of the dues. I communicated with many last Wednesday as the tragedy unfolded. We all had the same awful feeling in the pits of our stomachs.

Since my sister’s shooting death I have been working to change gun laws, change the mind of politicians, change the conversation and change hearts and minds. I believe some of this has happened since my sister was shot. Some hasn’t. Hearts and minds are changed for sure. Gun laws in some places are weaker than ever and in others stronger. The gun culture hasn’t changed. And the politicians are largely ignoring the issue of gun safety reform. Shame on them.

Andy Parker just joined the exclusive club of those affected by gun violence in America. The dues to the club is a lost loved one. He is speaking out in the name of his daughter, Alison and Adam Ward, the two journalists who were gunned down last week on live TV. Their friends and family also belong to this club and are mourning their deaths.

Andy Parker, the father of Alison Parker is now entering the fray and joining the club to which no one really wants to belong. Welcome Andy. And good luck. The parents of the Sandy Hook school shooting victims joined the club almost 3 years ago. I can’t list the members. There are far too many. But Andy Parker’s voice is going to be heard. Here is just some of what he said in the linked article:

I plan to devote all of my strength and resources to seeing that some good comes from this evil. I am entering this arena with open eyes. I realize the magnitude of the force that opposes sensible and reasonable safeguards on the purchase of devices that have a single purpose: to kill.

That means we must focus our attention on the legislators who are responsible for America’s criminally weak gun laws; laws that facilitate the access dangerous individuals have to firearms on a daily basis.

(The above photo was included in the Washington Post article I have linked here.)

It’s the legislators at the state and federal level who pass or reject the bills that can lead to safer communities. I like that Parker named them. We don’t want to name the killers- the shooters. But we should be naming those who refuse to stand with the victims who have names and families and unrealized potential.

So what do we want- the members of the club? We want stronger gun laws that will make it harder for those who just can’t be responsible with guns to be able to get them legally. Laws like expanded Brady background checks that would require a background check on all gun sales- whether at a licensed dealer ( where they are now required), a private seller at a gun show, flea market or at on-line sites like Armslist.com. We need to finish the job started in 1993 with the passage of the Brady law. The only way any other laws make sense is for this one to happen. It makes absolutely no common sense that every gun sale does not require a background check.

Just like it makes no common sense that every passenger departing from our airports does not go through the same screening process before boarding a plane. Just like it makes no common sense that all drivers don’t go through driver’s training and pass a behind the wheel test before taking to our streets. Just like it makes no common sense that all physicians and other health care providers don’t get the training necessary to treat patients.

You know what I mean. Our gun laws don’t make sense.

What makes sense are laws similar to the Gun Violence Restraining Order that passed in California recently. 

Also strengthening and fixing our background check so that people slip through the cracks as in the Charleston church shooting and the Lafayette theater shooting.

Also since many crime guns are stolen, mandatory reporting of lost and stolen guns and strengthening the gun trafficking and straw purchasing laws.

What about only allowing the purchase of one gun a month? Realistically does anyone NEED that many guns?

Or requiring guns to come with trigger locks and pushing forward with the technology for Smart Guns or other such technology to make sure a gun can only be shot by its’ owner in case of a child getting a gun or a stolen gun.

The Brady Campaign is working to hold “bad apple” gun dealers accountable. Seems like a good idea. If just a few are letting a majority of crime guns get into the hands of people who shouldn’t have guns, they should be held accountable. Makes common sense.

Making sure all gun permit holders get background checks and training before venturing out onto the streets and other public places with their guns. The gun lobby is pushing for the opposite as if it makes sense. Insane.

Child Access Prevention laws? Yes. Good idea.

There are others. It’s the slippery slope to the corporate gun lobby. But they will need to explain how these laws would affect their members and law abiding gun owners. They can’t do that and they don’t and they won’t. Why? Because perhaps gun purchases will decline? Or are they already? Walmart is discontinuing the sale of AR-15s. Hmmm… The largest gun retailer in the world won’t be selling AR-15s.

I could go on and on with other things that could change the way we view guns and gun ownership like the risks to owning a gun. And the ASK campaign and others like it to make sure there are not unlocked guns in the homes where your children play. Those are conversation and culture changes.

Welcome Andy Parker. We are ready for your voice and your resolve and we will support you in your efforts. We hear you. We know your anguish and your grief. We’ve been there. And just maybe your voice will make a difference that others have not. In Alison’s name, we will work with you to do what it takes to get this done.

The club is getting larger. The voices are getting louder. When your daughter is killed in such a public way, the public is paying attention.

Are our leaders paying attention?

Gunned down Americans- Rest in Peace

RIPIn what country are we living again? Historically we have understood that there are countries where awful violence affects the citizens and the rest of the world watches in horror. I would suggest that in the last week in America, the rest of the world has watched in horror as a disgruntled employee gunned down 2 journalists because….? Actually other nation’s citizens have been watching our gun violence in horror for years now but last week was particularly horrific.

We know more about the shooter of the journalists now and understand that he was an angry man and potentially violent. He had to be physically removed from the TV station after throwing things and making threats against other employees. 

As a result of that shooting, there has been a focus on the issue of gun violence prevention because Alison Parker’s father has chosen to use his grief to call attention to our nation’s lax gun laws and has proclaimed that he will work hard to make change happen. I wish him all the luck with that and we are all expecting to work with him. Many other family members of shooting victims have come forward over the years to work on the issue. This beautiful piece, written by the mother of a Sandy Hook school shooting victim, encourages Parker to get involved and offers hope:

Please use your emotions, your love for your daughter and the pain caused by the gaping hole in your life, and focus them into this issue. Once you’ve been touched by violence, saving the lives of others is the only way forward. Whether you choose to fight for policy and political change, or whether you decide to get ahead of the violence and prevent it before it happens (as I chose), always know you are never alone.

We are on a long, difficult road together, but with my son, your daughter and hundreds of thousands of others across the states, we will get there. I promise.

When will our leaders make this promise in the name of the victims and survivors? Unfortunately for them and for the country, not much happens as a result because of our entrenched gun culture and refusal of the corporate gun lobby to actually work to stop the shootings. Our leaders put their fingers to the wind and believe ( erroneously) that if they challenge the gun lobby, they can’t get re-elected.

I would also offer that if we had stronger gun laws and screening of potential gun purchasers and gun carriers more carefully as is done in a lot of other countries, the shooter of the 2 young journalists would likely not have been considered as someone who could legally buy a gun. And in a system where all sales require background checks or personal information as in other countries, there would be few avenues for him to purchase a gun. So angry people do kill people by other means but not anywhere close to the killings by firearms ( in America).

And we thought this shooting of 2 young journalist on live TV and recorded by the shooter was horrific. It was. And then yesterday, another execution occurred. A Texas state trooper was gunned down execution style while he stopped for gas at a convenience store. The details of this are almost too awful to contemplate. From the article:

A man shot a uniformed sheriff’s deputy “execution-style” while he fueled his patrol car in the Houston area, killing him instantly, authorities said.

Deputy Darren H. Goforth, 47, was returning to his car after pumping gas Friday night.

The gunman walked up from behind him and opened fire for no apparent reason, Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said.

When Goforth fell to the ground, the gunman stood over him and shot him some more, authorities said. He died at the scene.

“He was literally gunned down in what appears to be an unprovoked, execution-style killing,” Hickman said. “I have been in law enforcement for 45 years, I have never seen anything this cold-blooded.”

Well, dear readers. This is the America we now have in no small part because of our twisted and paranoid gun culture. The corporate gun lobby is promoting guns for everyone everywhere and that is what we have.

(I am editing this post to include details about the shooter of the Texas law enforcement officer. He has been caught.):

Sheriff Ron Hickman released few details about the suspect Saturday in a press conference. Miles has a list of prior convictions including resisting arrest, trespassing and disorderly conduct with a fire arm, he said.

He was able to get a gun, of course. And now an innocent law enforcement was gunned down and his family will grieve for him forever. Senseless.

So now what? Is this how it’s going to be? Domestic shootings happen between people who know each other and one ( usually a male) decides to take out his anger by killing a spouse/partner and whoever else happens to be in the way. Suicides happen quietly but sometimes are also the motivation of mass shooters who were likely suicidal in the first place but had to shoot others first for some inexplicable reason. It happens quite often that way. The shooter kills himself after shooting all the others. Too hard to face what he/they did or knowing how awful it was to shoot other human beings, why live with those images in your head? And we do have a problem with young people in our large cities who may or may not be members of local gangs but who shoot each other over slights or arguments about territory or whatever. Easy access to guns adds to this urban violence problem. Also often enough, innocent people get caught in the cross fire and are killed by stray bullets. It happens often enough to alarm us. We are gunning each other down in America.

Are we alarmed? Do we care that we now have execution style shootings going on in our communities? Hyped up fears and mistrust of law enforcement officers  (and government) have caused other attacks in public places, here ,and here. There are others where these come from. And then the opposite happens. Officers themselves shoot and kill ( often) people of color over things that should not result in a shooting death. We have the recent shootings of Michael Brown, Walter Scott and Tamir Rice  to name just a few. We are gunning each other down in America.

Anti government sentiment, whipped up by extremists and the gun lobby, also result in horrific shootings. Take the shooting in Las Vegas in 2014 for just one example but there are many others. The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps track of potentially dangerous extremists groups who represent racist, white supremacist, anti government sentiments. These folks are armed and can do a lot of damage.And shootings also have killed some of our military members serving on US soil, also this summer, in the Chattanooga shooting. Expect to see more of these shootings like the one in the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston this summer. The hate and racism exhibited by the shooter there seems to have been some sort of catalyst for the shooter of the Virginia journalist or so he claimed.

It just may be true that one mass shooting contributes to another, and to another and the cycle continues until we decide we’ve had enough like Australia did after a horrific 1996 mass shooting there. For now, though, we are gunning each other down.

Officers fear for their lives every day because there are so many citizens with guns that they, themselves, get caught in situations where they believe they are defending themselves. When carrying a gun, officer or citizen) it’s there to use and sometimes judgment is impaired or race plays a role or fear. Some citizens apparently fear for their lives every day as well and sometimes kill others over something that shouldn’t result in a death. And with new Stand Your Ground Laws, people like George Zimmerman can do this and not be accountable for the death of an unarmed young black man.

The result is that the violence is increasing. The Gun Violence Archive is keeping track. There have been over 33,569 shooting incidents so far in 2015. It’s only August. So far this year there have been 247 mass shooting (4 or more shot and injured or killed) incidents in America. We have 4 months left in the year. What will happen next? We keep thinking we have seen the worst. When 20 first graders are gunned down by a young man who never should have had access to guns and we do nothing, we can expect to see more. When people are gunned down in movie theaters, churches, malls, schools and everywhere we go for no apparent reason, we are officially a country that has lost it’s moral compass in efforts to appease a group of armed Americans so fearful of losing something they value that they will allow just about any kind of carnage to keep their way of life. But there appears to be disregard for the valuable lives lost because of our love affair with guns.That love affair with guns has resulted in what we are now seeing in our media and on the streets of our communities.

There are ways to change what we are doing to keep guns away from volatile, angry people who don’t necessarily find themselves on the prohibited purchaser list for gun purchases at a licensed dealer. And, of course, we can require that every gun sale go through a Brady background check no matter where a gun is purchased.

But we aren’t doing these things.

A new report/study by Criminologist Adam Lankford points to our American gun culture as exceptional compared to other countries and provides some interesting ideas about why these kinds of shootings happen mostly in America. He was interviewed for this article:

“For decades, people have wondered if the dark side of American exceptionalism is a cultural propensity for violence,” he wrote, “and in recent years, perhaps no form of violence is seen as more uniquely American than public mass shootings.”

Lankford, author of “The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers,” looked at the situation globally, and considered a wide range of relative factors — the state of mental health coverage, the availability of guns, the valorization of fame, and other cultural differences. (…)

What the data clearly show is a strong relationship between firearm ownership rates – what is the percentage of firearms owned by civilians in a country – and the number of public mass shooters. That’s what I found in my study of 171 countries – that relationship was very strong. And it was even strong when you removed the United States from the analysis – it explains the variations in other countries as well. So that seems to be one of the critical factors, and the United States has five times the number of mass shootings than any other country – five times the second-ranked country – from 1966 to 2012 – and we have the world’s leading firearm ownership rate among civilians. (…)

There is nearly one handgun for every person in America – far higher than the ratio in ever other country in the world. How consequential is that?

Very consequential. It effects both who can get a gun to carry out an attack, and how many guns someone who’s decided to carry out an attack can get, which directly, in turn, effects the number of people they kill. One of the findings of my study is that attackers who use multiple guns kill significantly more victims. That was a global finding. (…)

It would be a great day for America if people struggling with mental health problems and had some motive to carry out an attack decided to take a different path because they couldn’t find the firearms they wanted.

That would be a great day, indeed. Let’s get to work to make that happen because we just have to be better than this. We can’t let the world look at us as people who gun down other Americans in public places because they hold a grudge in the workplace, are angry over a separation, are angry in general, or have mental illness that could lead to thoughts of homicide.

Yes. We are gunned down America.

In spite of all of this, gun violence prevention advocates are not going away. We will continue to discuss gun violence and solutions to the problem in the midst of yet another shooting even though the gun lobby doesn’t want us to “dance in the blood of the victims.” If we waited until we had no shooting tragedies, we would wait a very long time and that is exactly what the gun rights advocates want. Mass shootings, execution style shootings, keeping track of shooting incidents, writing about the carnage, witnessing a shooting live on TV, hearing about a neighbor killed by a  souse or partner- they won’t go away no matter what the gun lobby thinks. Ignoring it would be a total abrogation of our responsibilities to make sure our families and children are safe. And it would be a moral lapse of huge proportions.

No, we will not back down in the face of the fierce resistance of an armed minority of Americans. The public is with us. We will continue. Andy Parker’s voice will be heard and added to the many others like him working for reform.  The voices of other high profile shooting victims ‘ families will be heard. Those of us who have lost someone in a domestic shooting will continue to force the conversation to happen. We will be heard. But in the meantime, we are killing each other every day.

Where is common sense?

Rest in Peace America.