Not rocket science

rocketscientist_01So where were we? Oh yes, talking about why it’s a myth that more guns make us safer.

It’s difficult to discern and predict who may become dangerous with a gun. I know that from personal experience. But there does come a point where we ought to err on the side of preventing a potential tragedy.

There really are some people who should not have guns. One would think that would be a no-brainer and an area of agreement. One would be right. Even NRA members- 74% of them or so- believe that all gun sales should have Brady background checks to keep guns out of the hands of people who could be dangerous with them or who have abused them in the past, committed a felony, abused a partner, spent time in a mental institution, a fugitive from justice, or a teen-ager.

So who opposes such a reasonable measure? The corporate gun lobby of course. Their reasons? A lie.

Not selling guns to prohibited individuals is really a good idea for the public safety and health of our citizens. But sell them we do. Private sellers can set up tables at gun shows and flea markets or sell guns through on-line sites like Armslist.com And they can sell their guns to anyone they want to without asking them for ID or requiring a background check. Whenever this comes up the gun lobby insists that having private sellers do the same background checks that federally licensed dealers have been doing now for 23 years now ( enactment of the Brady law) it will lead to certain gun registration or ( YIKES!!) confiscation.

Such nonsense has filled the void of reasonable conversation for so many years that some actually believe this lie. But I have also found that the other lie perpetrated by the gun lobby that all gun sales do require background checks is believed by many.

They do not of course. Private sales account for about 40% of gun sales. No background check, no ID, have gun will travel. That is simply not OK and makes no sense.

So making sure we are not dealing with alternative facts but rather the truth and the facts will make us safer. Of course, the other lie is that any research into the causes and effects of gun violence are fake news or fake science. That is because those kinds of studies do not support the idea that more guns make us safer and everyone should have one.

This is not rocket science. This is about safety and stopping shootings. It’s that simple.

Take, for example, the oft repeated lies of the gun lobby and those who believe them about Chicago gun crime and/or other crime. There is an insistence that Chicago and Illinois have strong gun laws but the crime rate and shootings are high so, obviously ( to them) strong gun laws don’t work.

They would be wrong. In spite of stronger gun laws than some neighboring states, Chicago’s murder rate is high. The overall crime rate is not,  as President Trump asserts ( and lies about) the highest it has been in 45-47years. In fact, it is at it’s lowest with a peak last year. Why? There are many reasons for what is happening in Chicago. One of them is that 60% of the guns come in to the city from surrounding states with looser gun laws.

Maybe this chart from The Trace will explain things even better. Note that Chicago has fewer gun crimes than many other cities in America. Why does the administration and Republicans as well pick on Chicago? Shall we take a guess given where the other cities are? I’m just saying.

chicago-murders

If we don’t try to stop some of this by passing a national law to require Brady background checks on all gun sales, cities and states that have strong gun laws cannot stop or prevent some of the deadly carnage resulting from guns coming in from somewhere else.

In my own city, there have been 5 shootings in 2 weeks.Read what the police chief had to say about this:

Sunday’s incident is the fifth shooting in Duluth that resulted in injuries in the past 16 days, with at least two additional armed robberies reported during that time. Duluth officials have called the latest outbreak of gunplay a statistical anomaly, noting overall crime rates are dropping. Police Chief Mike Tusken, however, has said there has been an uptick in gun-related activity. Police confiscated more than twice as many firearms from criminals in 2016 compared to 2015, the chief said.

Tusken did not comment to reporters Sunday but did post on his Facebook page: “I empathize how these incidents create fear and angst. Those who use guns to settle disputes harm not only their intended victims but also rob our neighborhoods of a sense of security. For these reasons, we pursue these criminals with great vigor.”

In this article, Chief Tusken is quoted:

“What concerns me is that you have a proliferation of more guns accessible by more people who should not own them, and then that human factor that there’s a propensity — and what appears to be no reluctance whatsoever — to use them,” he said.

Tusken, though, reiterated that he considers the recent rash of gun crimes to be a “tremendous anomaly.” He stressed that none of the shootings were considered random.

Yes, there are people who should not own guns. And yes, most shootings are not random but rather among people who know each other. I know that from personal experience. And facts and research show it to be true. From the linked article:

This is, in many ways, intuitive: The prevalence of guns can cause petty arguments and conflicts to escalate into deadly encounters. People of every country get into arguments and fights with friends, family, and peers. But in the US, it’s much more likely that someone will get angry at an argument, pull out a gun, and kill someone.

These three studies aren’t the only ones to reach similar conclusions. Multiple reviews of the research, including the Harvard Injury Control Research Center’s aggregation of the evidence, have consistently found a correlation between gun ownership and gun deaths — including homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings — after controlling for other factors.

So arguments among friends and family members can lead to deaths by firearms which cause the majority of homicides.

So to another myth- buy a gun for self defense and you will be safer. Fake news. Buy a gun for self defense and you and your family are more at risk for being shot:

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.

Facts matter- or they should. But we are living in a new country now where alternative facts and fake science have risen to new prominence and it comes right from the top.

Do the gun rights advocates think this is OK? I’m just asking. Because it sure seems like it. If they don’t think it’s OK, why are they not insisting that we make common sense changes to keep our families and communities safer from devastating gun violence.

Do gun rights advocates think the man who shot into a crowd of Black Lives Matters protesters in Minnesota because he was a racist and wanted to prove a point is OK with a gun?  Remember, he was a “good guy” with a gun. From the article:

Texts and photos taken from Scarsella’s cellphone and computer, many of which were not presented at trial, show a deeply racist man who talked about being part of a “reserve militia.” He took selfies with his gun in his waistband, wrote frequently about shooting blacks and was passionate about the gun he would eventually use to shoot protesters.

Frightening at best. Some people should not have guns. And when they use them in this way, they should not be able to claim self defense and get away with it. But the gun lobby thinks it would perfectly OK for someone like this to get away with shooting someone because…. Stand Your Ground– coming up for consideration in a state near you, including Minnesota.

Communities of color are rightly concerned and fearful of these kind of alternative facts and lies. They are more at risk now because we are not dealing with science and facts.

(I am editing this to include another great article about the dangers of guns compared to the dangers of terrorists). Nicholas Kristof New York Times writer) wrote this today:

Above all, fear spouses: Husbands are incomparably more deadly in America than jihadist terrorists.

And husbands are so deadly in part because in America they have ready access to firearms, even when they have a history of violence. In other countries, brutish husbands put wives in hospitals; in America, they put them in graves.

Yet Trump is raging about a risk from refugees that seems manageable, even as he talks about relaxing rules on another threat, guns, that is infinitely more lethal.

“I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools,” Trump said last year. “My first day, it gets signed, O.K., my first day.” Trump hasn’t in fact signed such an order, but his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, backed him up at her confirmation hearing last month, saying that guns might be necessary in schools because of “potential grizzlies.”

Domestic violence takes more lives than grizzly bears or terrorists. This is not rocket science. It doesn’t have to be this way and we must demand the truth and the facts.

It is so clear that more guns are not making us safer and particularly more guns in the hands of people who clearly have no business with a gun anywhere. So why are some of our leaders supporting measures to make it so easy for loaded guns to be in the hands of so many people?  It doesn’t seem to matter that the public is not demanding armed people in every nook and cranny of their communities. The public really is not comfortable with armed people with little or no training and no vetting via a background check walking around everywhere with their guns strapped openly to their bodies.

This is home grown terrorism. We lose more people to gunshot injuries that occur because of even law abiding gun owners who shoot a loved one, allow a toddler to get their small hands on a gun, or leave a gun available for a teen to use in a suicide than to terrorists coming in from other countries. And we are going to perform “extreme vetting” on immigrants, most of whom are not coming across our borders to do harm to others, but not on people who buy guns that are used to shoot another human being?

This is not rocket science. But it is science and fact that America is a country where more citizens own guns than any other democratized country not at war and also a higher gun death rate than almost any other nation:

Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries, a new study finds.

There you have it. Facts. Science. Proof.

Until we are allowed by those in charge to deal with facts and science, nothing will change. It is downright frightening that facts are being changed or denied to suit the agenda of those who believe in the lies. Or do they? Is this about money? Likely. Is it about power and influence over elected officials and the voting public? Likely.

We are better than this. The pressure to tell the truth will continue with those who believe we are not safer with more guns everywhere carried into places where we hang out with our families and friends. And that happens to be the majority of Americans.

We will raise our voices. We will make noise. We will demand the truth and the facts and hold our leaders responsible for their choices that make Americans less safe.

 

 

Who’s in charge anyway?

Business man select choice - Vector illustration - EPS10Only in America. Dangerous and irresponsible people can get their hands on guns. Easy Peasy. The “pizzzagate” incident is a classic example of why we need to strengthen, not loosen, our Brady background check system. Let’s take a look at the guy who saw fit to check out a lunatic conspiracy theory ( my last post) at a DC pizza restaurant:

 

 

John Sifford, a captain in the sheriff’s office in Rowan County, where Welch lives, said the gunman’s misdemeanor charges would not have impeded the department from issuing him a concealed weapons license or a permit to purchase a pistol. But there is no evidence that Welch applied for, or received these permissions, Sifford said.

It appears that Welch may have not obtained legal permission to buy or carry the .38-caliber revolver found in his possession in the pizza parlor. (…)

Welch had also been convicted of drug crimes. In 2007, he pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor drug possession charges. But the “unlawful user” prohibition has an expiration date. A conviction, positive drug test, or confession only prohibits individuals from buying guns if it occurred in the past year. That’s according to the FBI’s detailed guidelines about just what designates someone as an “unlawful user” of illegal drugs, which indicates that Welch was probably not covered by the prohibition.

So as long as Welch obtained his guns after 2008, there is likely no legal reason why the sales should have been blocked. Stephen Fischer, an FBI spokesman, declined to directly address whether Welch had passed a background check or not, due privacy restrictions.

Do you know anyone like Welch? They are in our communities and they can have guns- no questions asked. Do you think that is a good idea? And if the answer is yes, why?

It’s pretty obvious that this guy should have been flagged in the FBI’s National Instant Check System as someone who could not be responsible enough with a deadly weapon to be able to legally buy one. And even if he was flagged at a federally licensed dealer, he would know how easy it is to obtain an AR-15, powerful semi-automatic handgun or just about anything else he wanted from a private seller at a gun show or on-line.  (armslist.com)

Because, this is America.

Apparently our next President believes this is OK as do his cronies in Congress. They hate government restrictions on who can have guns, where they can be carried, what kinds of guns and ammunitions are sold, and where they can be sold. They do like conspiracy theories. And who will @realDonaldTrump listen to when it comes to protecting Americans from senseless gun violence or many other public health and safety issues that Americans depend on in their daily lives?

Who will really be in charge?

Those who will be in charge don’t like Medicare or Social Security. They do love tax cuts for the rich and corporate tax cuts. They love cronie capitalism. They love power.They don’t like the minimum wage. The don’t like restrictions on businesses. They hate environmental protections that make sure we have clean water and safe food and that we aren’t poisoned by the air or medicines or cleaning supplies. They love fossil fuels no matter what they do to our environment and that may actually be depleted if we don’t find other energy methods or supplies. A climate change denier will head the EPA.

They hate an affordable health care system that has insured tens of millions of Americans who weren’t insured before the Democrats finally got a bill passed to fulfill the really moral case for the right of all Americans to have health care. They don’t seem to care that people couldn’t buy insurance if they had a pre-existing condition but, of course, they have government insurance so it doesn’t affect them. A man who has authored the repeal Obamacare bill over 60 times will now be in charge of finding a way to provide health care to all without providing health care for all. 

They hate a woman’s right to choose her own reproductive health care decisions. Would they love it if men could bear children and this happened to them? Think about it. They don’t like women in positions of power and they don’t like Muslims, minorities, Mexicans or anyone who disagrees with them ( well- him actually- you know @realDonaldTrump).

He (@realDonaldTrump) seems to love Russia and Vladimir Putin and denies the evidence that Russian hackers influenced the American election.  Would he have hated that if he had lost? I’m just asking.

A general who believes in conspiracy theories will have the daily ear of @realDonaldTrump. This general’s son, more extreme than him, until just the other day, worked for the transition team of the President-elect. So who’s in charge anyway? Why would the son of a man who believes in conspiracy theories and who is, himself, even more extreme, with little or no experience in government get security clearance for some of our country’s most classified information? What could possibly go wrong?

Sigh.

Oh, and they love the billionaires who are now going to tell the rest of us that they care about the middle class and low income Americans. One is a woman who hates public education and will now run the department of Education. One is a woman who runs the World Wrestling Entertainment business and will be in charge of small businesses.

Sigh. So much for “draining the swamp.”

They love those deals that save 750 jobs for a mere $7 million in tax breaks- er uh- or maybe a 35% tariff on imports brought in by companies who outsourced American jobs to make the products they are going to import back to our country. And if you call @realDonaldTrump out on his lies, as an Indiana union leader just did, watch out.

Or this young woman who dared to ask @realDonaldTrump a question at a rally?

Death threats. Do the guys making the threats have guns? I’m just asking.

And is it a good idea for the President of the United States to be tweeting ugly and accusatory things at private citizens who question him? I thought that only happened in third world countries.

Who’s in charge anyway? Who will stop the man with the tweets? Is this how our country will find out what is actually happening in the administration?

But I digress. And oh yes, a supposedly brilliant neurosurgeon is going to be making decisions about housing for the poor. 

Sigh.

Who cares? I do, for just one. The almost 3 million Americans who gave Hillary the popular vote win but she lost the electoral college vote by 77,000 votes care. But oh yes- he – (@realDonaldTrump) won by a landslide. He likes to remind us of that while he is lying his head off and tweeting about the millions of illegal votes in the popular votes.

Oh- and they like to threaten the media, business people, union leaders, or anyone else who challenges them about anything. This is the way it works. When you blog or do anything in the gun violence prevention movement, you open yourself up to ugliness and lies. Like the one about any common sense gun law to protect innocent Americans from harm leading to gun confiscation. Of course it does- like it did for the last 8 years of Obama’s presidency. Mass shootings are more common and more frequent.  American toddlers killed more people than terrorists but they love to go after the Muslim ( naturally) terrorists for killing Americans with guns legally obtained here in America. See San Bernardino shooting in linked article.

Black is white. White is black. Domestic abusers, drug abusers, felons, terrorists, dangerously mentally ill folks- all walking amongst us as the next potential threat to our safety. And what are we doing about it? Appointing people to be in charge of policy and regulations who hate regulations. They want to dismantle our government.

And then what? They have no idea. Let’s just say that it won’t be pretty.

There will be no common sense if the next 4 years are like the past year and the transition period.

And in the midst of this chaos, incompetency, deception and outright lying, threats to the media or others, mixing private business with foreign deals and government policies, taking away the rights of people to be free of gun violence, to make health care decisions, to have health care, to make a living wage, to drink safe water, to be able to breathe clean air, and so many other important public health and safety measures, what we don’t need is  making it easy for crazy people who believe in conspiracy theories to have guns.

What could possibly go wrong?

If you want to see a film that depicts what goes in the lobbying world, check out “Miss Sloane” now  playing in theaters all over the country. It’s the gun lobby against the “gun control” organizations. It’s not a pretty picture and it’s going to get worse?

We know who is now in charge and it’s not a pretty picture. The folks in charge don’t seem to care that 33,000 Americans a year are killed by firearms- oh and another 70,000 injured every year.  And the man who will be in charge of the Justice Department is against measures that could save lives.

Lives matter. Facts matter. The truth matters even if one of @realDonaldTrump’s cronies said we should not take what he says literally:

Trump is different. On his own terms he’s an outsider and a “disrupter” who claims that political elites range from stupid to malevolent. He also has zero experience in foreign or domestic policy. What he says — and how he says it — takes on greater importance precisely because he lacks a track record in public office to put his language in context.

This seriously-not-literally thing is a great analytical insight into how then-candidate Trump communicated with his supporters. But it is fairly ridiculous hogwash as a prescription for how to treat an actual president, or president-elect, of the United States.

Yes. Trump is different. That does not make it OK to lie and let us think one thing when he meant another or believe the opposite of what he just said.  Or tweet out untruths to millions who may act on what was tweeted. In what world is that OK? Who is the real Donald Trump? How will this work out? Who is in charge? Who and what can we trust? What will all of this drama and chaos do to the American psyche?

It’s exhausting really and we deserve better. I do try to believe that most Americans are better than this.

I am hoping for the best but expecting the worst.

 

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.

 

 

Worlds collide

I remember the episode of Seinfeld where the character “George Costanza” chastised Jerry Seinfeld for inviting his fianceé, Susan, to a movie. George was upset because he wanted to keep Susan away from his world with his friends. Here is the segment:

I had an exchange on my last post with one of my readers about the lawful ownership of tanks by private individuals. In my world, the people with whom I associate would find this to be just plain ridiculous and would wonder why in the world anyone would want to own a tank much less the legality of such ownership. One can assume that these tanks are not operational and only for the purpose of collecting them. But again, why?

An article in the Wall Street Journal highlighted this world of tank owning:

When their insurance agent inquired about their plans for the tank, the Neal brothers emailed back, “We are going to use it to take over the world.”
Says Ken Neal, 45: “A tank is cool.”

A tank is also expensive, with good ones going for the price of some houses.

Sigh.

In Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine he asks if the right to bear arms should be extended to nuclear bombs and other such military armaments. Does it? How far can we go with the amendment that was written more than 200 hundred years ago by the founding fathers that are so often “quoted” or mis quoted by gun rights extremists. From the film:

Is this the world envisioned by our founding fathers?

A Facebook friend, involved in gun violence prevention, posted this photo of a quote from the Jefferson Memorial while on a recent trip to Washington D.C.

Thomas Jefferson quote

 

The world has changed since Thomas Jefferson wrote this quote while reflecting on the Constitution. I think everyone can recognize that. Since then several wars have occurred leaving behind new types of arms. ( and by the way, more Americans have died from gun violence just since 1968 than from all Americans killed in wars since the Constitution was written). Now some of these arms ( weapons) are marketed as “common sporting rifles”. AK 47s have been converted to become an ordinary civilian weapon for mass shooters or those who believe the government is coming for their guns.

The inventor of the AK 47 expressed regrets for how his invention has been used in wars and in civilian deaths around the world:

“I keep having the same unsolved question: if my rifle claimed people’s lives, then can it be that I… a Christian and an Orthodox believer, was to blame for their deaths?” he wrote.

“The longer I live, the more this question drills itself into my brain and the more I wonder why the Lord allowed man to have the devilish desires of envy, greed and aggression.”

AR 15s are also used by mass shooters such as at Sandy Hook Elementary school where a teen shooter knew perfectly well that using an AR 15 would inflict as much damage as possible in a very short time in order to kill as many first graders as he could. From the article:

“It’s a favorite among sportsmen, target shooters and competitors,” Stewart told CBS News. “It’s also popular as a home defense platform.”

Lightweight and easy to master with about 30 minutes of instruction, the AR-15 was invented in 1959 for the military, but was modified for civilian use beginning in 1963.

“The AR-15 is America’s rifle,” Stewart said. “You’re going to find more of those in safes at home than you’ll find of any other rifle in the country.”

Civilian use of the weapon is an abiding issue though.

There once was a nationwide ban on such assault weapons, imposed in 1994 following a number of mass shootings in the ’80s and ’90s.

When it was lifted ten years later, gun rights advocates cheered and sales rose.

Now the parents of those first graders and the relatives of the adults also killed in that heinous shooting are suing the manufacturer of the AR 15 because said manufacturer knows that these types of semi automatic rifles originally designed as war weapons that can take large capacity ammunition magazines are actually not common sporting rifles but meant to kill a lot of people in one place at a time in short order.

Worlds collide. The world of gun rights extremists is not understood by those of us who want safer communities and fewer people shot to death or injured by the many guns that are now accessible to average Americans. And vice versa. Was this the vision of our founding fathers? Doubtful. They had the common sense to realize that the world would change long after their own deaths and that the country and its’ Constitution should also change to reflect different times. They set down some principles that have helped govern our country for the last 200 plus years. For the most part they have worked well. But when it came to only white property owners having the right to vote, the new world had to change. Slaves were no longer. Black people were freed and demanded the right to vote. Women decided that they had the same rights as men to vote and demanded that right. It took a long time to get there which, looking back, seems almost surreal.

And so we plod along trying to make the world a safer place and hoping that gun deaths and injuries can be prevented with stronger gun laws to reflect the current world. The internet has provided a new market place for the sale of guns where private sellers can connect with private buyers and exchange guns for money with no background checks. Let’s look at just one of many hidden camera videos of how easy it is to buy any gun on-line.

“When you need the money you need the money.”

Sigh. Follow the money.

The founding fathers did not anticipate this world. When the Brady law was enacted, there was a provision for private sellers to be able to sell collections of guns at gun shows and other places without having to ask for background checks. The world has changed since 1994. Private “collectors” now set up tables at gun shows with the same types of guns and as many sometimes as licensed dealers. And they don’t have to require background checks from buyers. Another Brady Campaign hidden camera video to show the real world of private sales at gun shows:

Colin Goddard (in the video) was shot and injured at the Virginia Tech mass shooting.

Guns don’t fall out of the sky. They are not powder rifles any more. One more video from States United to Prevent Gun Violence to show you what I mean about the changed world of guns since the second amendment was written by our founding fathers:

 

Mass destruction is possible with the weapons developed since the 2nd amendment was written. Weapons designed for military use are now available to citizens. And some gun extremists actually believe they will be at war with their own government. This kind of fear and paranoia is stoked by the corporate gun lobby where profits are the bottom line. And so resisting all common sense measures to stop guns from going from the legal market to the illegal market are stopped by their nonsensical rhetoric.

And so the devastation continues with almost daily reporting of toddlers accessing loaded guns owned by their parents or other relatives who think their rights to own guns apparently don’t come with the responsibility to keep others safe from shooting themselves or others. Domestic shootings continue unabated. Gang shootings are taking the lives of young people of color in our large urban cities. Gun suicides are taking the lives of too many older white men and young (mostly) men and teens.

Worlds do collide. Truth is often stranger than fiction. Just look at the Presidential race if you don’t believe me. Presidential candidate Donald Trump is ramping up the nonsense and fear by making claims that if Hillary Clinton is elected as our President she will methodically order the confiscation of all of the more than 300 million guns in circulation in America. If you believe this, I have a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you. 

So what now? Will we ever be able to convince a majority of our elected leaders to support the views of the majority of Americans without fear of being attacked by the minority but well funded and mythically powerful corporate gun lobby. Yes, a lot of Americans own guns but fewer homes have guns than in many years. Some Americans own many guns. Yes, a lot of Americans hunt and use guns for recreation but they don’t oppose stronger gun laws. Yes, a small minority of Americans like to carry loaded guns around in public and seem to think they have some sort of constitutional right to do so (can you find that in the wording of the second amendment?) But do they realize that carrying a gun in public is more often to result in incidents like those below than actually using that gun in self defense?

Kentucky concealed carry permit holder discharges gun “accidentally” in hospital.

South Carolina student “accidentally” discharges gun in a school and shoots himself.

3 year old finds gun in Dad’s backpack and shoots and kills himself.

This is the real world. It is not fiction. This is where the world of the gun extremists and gun lobby collide with the world of actual daily shootings that could be avoided and prevented if we put our heads together to make it happen.

Slowly but surely, the public is recognizing that we can do something about the devastation of gun violence in America. As more people are affected by gun violence or are made aware of the truth of the matter, they are joining the many organizations and individuals working to prevent gun violence. And politicians are recognizing that supporting reasonable gun laws that don’t affect law abiding gun owners or take away rights is a winning issue.

We are better than this. Let’s get to work because we’ve had #Enough and refuse to be intimidated by those who make claims that are not true. We may never bring the two worlds together but we can bring the majority who reside in the middle and believe we make changes together to save lives.

 

Veterans Day concerns

Viet Nam memorialYes, it’s Veterans’ Day. I took a walk this morning with friends on the Lakewalk along Lake Superior in Duluth, where I live. We stopped at the Korean and Viet Nam war memorials in recognition that this is Veterans Day. The photo above is of the Viet Nam memorial. On that wall is the name of a good friend whose plane was shot down over Laos. He was never found or heard from again. Ten years after his plane went down, he was declared legally dead. His wife, a good friend of mine, was able to move on and marry another man with whom she has been very happy. They have several grown children now.

I passed a Veterans Day parade in my city on my way from one place to another. There were a lot of veterans, mostly older, marching on a cloudy, humid day in my city. It was sad, in a way. And we always remember our veterans.

Will we remember that 22 veterans a day take their own lives- mostly with guns and bullets? What a sad state of affairs. Access to guns by people who are having these kinds of problems is just a bad idea. From the article:

One of the most tragic problems afflicting those who served their country is the specter of suicide, often the fallout of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). After more than a year of intense lobbying by veterans groups, Congress this year passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, named for a Marine veteran who took his own life even after working as an advocate for suicide prevention. The law is designed to reduce military and veteran suicides, and improve access to quality mental health care.

But veterans experts estimate that 17 of the 22 daily suicides involve vets not enrolled in the VA’s health care system, suggesting more research — and far greater funding — will be necessary to get a handle on the problem. (…)

Faddis and his fiancee were scheduled to be married in Fremont in a month when he shot himself in their Newark apartment. The gun had not been aimed directly at his temple, giving his mother some small hope that her only son didn’t actually intend to kill himself. But Faddis was an NRA safety instructor, one of many jobs he had dabbled in since leaving the Navy.

“He taught people you don’t point your gun at anything you’re not going to shoot,” says his father, Stan Faddis, who was a Santa Clara County probation officer for 27 years. He moved the family to Turlock after retiring in 2011, and Daniel — who was still struggling to find himself after the Navy forced him out in 2006 for being overweight — lived with his parents while shuffling through jobs as an armored car driver, a bounty hunter, and finally, security guard at a department store in the Stanford Shopping Center.

When people are in distress or having mental health problems or financial problems, gun safety and gun training mean nothing.

We throw the word hero or heroine around a lot when it comes to veterans. They did a job many didn’t choose or want to do. Without the draft, the military is an optional thing for our young men and women. They do it for different reasons. But I am guessing that many did not expect the stress and trauma they experienced while serving.

My own brother, a Viet Nam veteran, suffers from depression, PTSD, and now Parkinson’s Disease and other physical and health challenges. I can safely say that his life is a mess, no thanks to his service in the military. My Dad served in North Africa and Italy in World War ll. Much later in his life, when my brother and I were young, we could hear my Dad having panic attacks in the middle of the night. Nothing was ever said about it. After both of my parents died I found some books from my Dad’s army experience and realized how awful his tour of duty was. That generation did not talk about all of the bad stuff. They held it inside. Watching Ken Burns’ TV series about World War ll opened my eyes to the dangers and the terrible trauma my Dad must have experienced while serving his country.

After visiting the American memorial at Normandy on a trip to France, I realized that our Normandyyoung men were sitting ducks while trying to land on the beaches to help the allies finish the war. For some reason, it felt important to me to walk on the sand at the beaches at Normandy and breathe in the scene of confusion and death our soldiers faced. The French people are still grateful for the American and Canadian troops who freed their country from Nazi Germany. The memorial is a very emotional place for all who visit. Rows of crosses and the beautiful grounds, sculptures and museums are poignant, peaceful and informative. One can almost envision the battle scenes and feel the death cries of our soldiers. The photo here is my own taken when we laid a flower at the grave of several Minnesota military members.

Since World War ll, several more wars have been fought, taking the lives of many. Many who don’t die come home with physical, mental and emotional injuries. It seems we are more than willing to support our military when they are sent into harm’s way but not so much once they return. We have no common sense when it comes to dealing with military suicides and what can be done to prevent them. Our returning military members need to hear that having a gun around could be a risk to themselves or those around them. But leave it to the gun lobby bought and paid for Congress members to make sure we don’t counsel our veterans about the risks of guns. It’s inexcusable and shameful given the epidemic of suicides amongst veterans.

Today I also remember that more Americans have died from gunshot injuries since 1968 than all Americans in wars fought since the Revolutionary War. Where are the parades and the day of memorial for them? There are many heroes among the victims and the survivors of gunshot injuries. And also amongst those who work hard to prevent the awful devastation of gun violence in our American communities.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We could do something to save lives if the gun lobby would get out of the way and let it happen. Until they do, we can expect more of the same.

We are better than this.

Korean memorial

This close-up photo of the Korean memorial in Duluth tells the story that 80% of “B” company were killed or wounded in that war. It’s hard to fathom this much loss just as it is hard to fathom that 89 Americans die a day from gunshot injuries.

In memory of my Dad. In honor of my brother. Remembering veterans on this day and hoping that common sense will break out.

Wake up calls about gun violence

alarm_clockDoes anyone think through the results of our lax gun laws? I know I do but, as a country, we have been so steeped in a unique gun culture that we have lost our way. It’s time to wake up to the reality of what our lax gun laws actually mean.

I ran across an editorial from the Washington Post comparing the recent Colorado Springs shooting with the recent California campus stabbing. Four people were stabbed by someone wielding a knife on a campus and will survive. Not so for the victims of the Colorado man who walked plainly down the streets of Colorado Springs with an openly carried gun that was legal to carry. From the article:

Imagine if Colorado weren’t so permissive in allowing people to openly display guns. Would that 911 operator have recognized the danger more quickly and would lives have been saved?

Similarly, imagine what would have occurred if the attacker at the University of California at Merced had wielded a gun instead of a hunting knife. Would there have been fatalities instead of injuries, and would there have been additional victims before the attacker could be stopped? Indeed, would the construction worker who bravely broke up the attack have been able to do so if a gun were involved and not a knife?

Where is the knife lobby when you need it? Death by knifings/stabbings are very low compared to firearms. The obvious is before us. Gun laws would matter and would save lives. But we are living in a country where rights come before public safety. Is this what we really thought would happen when our state legislators loosened our gun laws in a slippery slope that has led to the spectacle of armed citizens on our streets?

What do we think of when armed men (mostly men) are walking armed on the streets of our communities? I think of countries at war. And I do believe that we are war with ourselves in America. How can we think otherwise? When more Americans have lost their lives since 1968 to gun violence than all Americans who have died in all American wars since the Revolutionary War, we know we have a real public health and safety epidemic that we are not addressing with any kind of common sense.

When small children continue to shoot themselves or someone else because of easy access to a gun, we have a serious problem. When teens and middle aged white men have access to guns, they are shooting themselves at an alarming rate. 

Will we admit that guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people and animals? Even in hunting season, there are accidents because bullets are projectiles coming from guns that kill animals but sometimes kill or injure hunters or innocent bystanders. One such happened in my own state of Minnesota when a slug hit a hunter instead of a deer. Luckily for all the man will live. Gun safety is of the utmost importance but isn’t always followed by gun owners.

Every one who holds a gun should have required gun safety classes before they can own or carry a gun. I will remind my readers that the gun lobby is actually working to do away with training requirements for those who carry guns in public. And we don’t require any prior experience or training before someone walks out the door of a gun shop with a gun. Never mind those who get their guns without a Brady background check because we have no idea who these folks are or whether they are allowed to purchase guns let alone be able to be responsible with them once they have them.

Not only is the gun lobby keeping us snoozing when it comes to gun safety reform, they are ramping up the fear and paranoia to those who believe it. It sells guns. Take a look at this post from Mike the Gun Guy for the contradictions in our country when it comes to gun rights and gun safety reform. Mike is a guy the gun lobby/extremists hate. Why? He is a gun owner who is speaking the inconvenient truths about guns and gun laws. He is a supporter of gun violence prevention and yet lives in the world of guns. A majority of gun owners are like Mike. From his latest blog post after attending a vigil at the National Cathedral in DC and then attending a Pennsylvania gun show:

The point is that the two sides in the gun debate are more different than any two populations that we could identify as having different viewpoints on any public policy issue at all.  When it comes to gun violence, incidentally, what’s funny is that we all seem able to discuss in reasonable tones whether as a country we need to have a ready supply of really big weapons – planes, tanks, nukes – to make the world a safer place.  It’s when we get down to safety on our own street corners with the little weapons that rhetorical ugliness and angry epithets tend to shape the debate.

Somehow over the last twenty years the reaction to people getting killed or injured with guns has turned ugly, raucous and mean.  But hasn’t the discussion of all policy issues become more nasty and abrasive since a certain Kenyan signed a lease at for an apartment in the People’s House?

The issue of gun rights has become not just about guns but about politics. When most Republicans agree that gun rights are more important than gun safety reform, it’s political. Republican Presidential candidates are tripping all over themselves to be the most extreme NRA supporter. The opposite is happening with the Democratic candidates who are trying to outdo each other to be the one with the worst rating from the NRA. It’s become part of the far right’s take over of the Republican party. The fear and paranoia spewing after our first Black President was elected is not only offensive- it’s frightening.

A friend attended a recent gun show and took photos there, which the gun show operators hate. Why? Because what she got photos of were incendiary bumper stickers, hate posters, Confederate flags, rows and rows of assault rifles for sale, tee shirts for sales with slogans like this: “Hillary for prison, 2016″, ” Liberty Freedom Family My right to own a firearm has  more value than your  entitlement to Food Stamps.” Sellers at gun shows not only sell guns and ammunition they sell fear, hate, insurrectionist ideas and paranoia. In addition, a good number of those sellers are private sellers who most often sell their wares without requiring a background check. That is grounds for fear.

This is the extreme view of gun rights that we are allowing to take over any rational discussion we could be having and deserve to have. But, as Bob Dylan wrote in one of his songs,  “the times, they are a changin’.” His words couldn’t be more appropriate for 2015. From the song lyrics ( linked above):

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

Yes, Congress has stalled and a lot of Americans are being hurt because of the snoozing of our politicians. There is a battle for the messaging about gun rights vs. gun safety reform. There shouldn’t be. The two are not mutually exclusive and can co-exist. Tell that to the extremists and your politicians.

America, we need to wake up. We’ve had many wake-up calls over the years. But apparently we have hit the snooze button. We are napping through a serious public health and safety epidemic. I sense that the public is waking up, however. We’ve had #enough.

We’re late for a very important date that can save lives.

In remembrance- church shootings and access to guns

In remembranceI was planning to write about something else today. But I can’t. I hardly know where to begin. I spent most of yesterday trying to carry out my life while watching the news, sharing Facebook posts, Tweeting and making phone calls about the heinous shooting at the Charleston AME church. We are all saddened to sickness. We are again, in America, in shock over yet another mass shooting. And we are numb. But we should not stay numb. Lives are lost every day. This time it was 9 innocent black Americans praying in their church. This time it appears to be a hate crime carried out by a young man who, according to some reports and photos on Facebook, has sympathies to the White Supremacist movement.

It’s unimaginable. It’s about race. It’s about guns. It’s about hate. It’s about intolerance. It’s about domestic terrorism. Racial injustice is among us and it’s evil and hateful.

There is so much to say. There is nothing to say.

The conversation about race in America is too important to ignore. The conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in America is too important to ignore. One of the commenters on a news show this morning said that if you can’t be black while attending church, where can you be black? Good question.

It is an evil act. It’s the act of a “lone wolf” or is it? It was perpetrated by someone who should not have had a gun. His roommate said he had been planning this for a while. Why didn’t the roommate say or do something in time to stop him? Do we just shrug our shoulders when people talk like this and we know they have guns? What is wrong with us? From the above article:

Meek said Roof recently used his birthday money to buy a Glock pistol. When the two of them were drinking together a few weeks ago, Roof began railing about black people and remarked that he had “a plan,” Meek said. He did not say what the plan was, but Meek said it scared him enough that he took the gun out of Roof’s car and hid it in his house until the next day.

What is wrong with our country when young people express those kind of sentiments?

What is wrong with our leaders? President Obama held a press conference today and commented with resignation. He knows we need to do something but he knows we won’t. He knows our leaders have no spine. He knows our leaders run the other way when the issue of doing something about gun violence comes up. He understands and he doesn’t.

The world thinks we are crazed and a dangerous place to live. We can’t go to church to pray without a gunman shooting innocent people. We can’t go to movie theaters without a gunman shooting innocent movie goers. We can’t send our kids to school in the morning knowing they will come home alive in the afternoon. We can’t send our kids to college without fear of a mentally ill student with a gun shooting up the campus and maybe, just maybe, our child will be one of the victims. We can’t even work on an American military base without fear of a gunman shooting up people who have given their lives to protecting us from harm. We can’t go to a spa without a domestic abuser who gets his gun on line with no background check shooting up his ex wife and many innocent others. We can’t go to a Sikh Temple without a gunman who doesn’t like people who are not like him shooting them in his hatred. We can’t go to shopping malls without a deranged gunman shooting people for no apparent reason. We can’t work in a police station without an anti government nut case shooting up the station hoping to kill those he hates. We can’t sit in a restaurant without fear of someone shooting us up or accidentally dropping his gun ending in the body of a patron just out to eat. We can’t be at home without fear of young children getting their hands on a gun and shooting themselves or a sibling. We can’t walk down the street in some neighborhoods without fear of being shot by a stray bullet. For that matter, we can’t even sleep at home without fear of a stray bullet making a hole in the house walls and shooting a sleeping child. We can’t be in a city hall without a gunman who got a gun through a straw purchase shooting at police officers in the building. We can’t be at gun ranges either or gun shops without fear of people getting shot “accidentally.”

Why? Why? Why did this shooter have a gun? He got it as a gift from his father. Was that a good idea given that he may have had some problems? He had been arrested twice in recent months. Why did he have a gun? He had been expressing white supremacist and racist sentiments.

I say it’s crazy. I say it’s time for our leaders to stop crying and whining and saying they are sorry. If they are so sorry why aren’t they doing something about it? For they can if they want to. Why don’t they want to? Questions have to be asked.

We can do better. For God’s sake- in the name of these latest 9 victims and the many others who have gone before them to their early deaths, stop the violence. We are tired of this. Enough now. Common sense needs to happen in order to save lives. Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign has some heart felt sentiments along with some concrete solutions to at least some of our senseless gun violence:

When we talk about solutions, we don’t spend enough time talking about the real things we can do to keep guns out of the hands of the people who commit these crimes. Solutions that almost everybody supports, like:

  • Expanding Brady background checks to all gun sales, so that felons, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill can’t walk into gun shows or go online and buy guns with no questions asked.
  • Shutting down the 5 percent of “bad apple” gun dealers that knowingly do business with gun traffickers and straw purchasers and supply almost all crime guns in our nation.
  • Educating parents about the risks of unsafe access to guns in the home, knowing that nine kids are shot unintentionally in America every day and in more than two-thirds of school shootings, the gun comes from the home of the attacker or a relative — including the shooting at Sandy Hook.

We need to educate America that guns are dangerous weapons. Not everyone should have a gun. Indeed, there are plenty in our country who shouldn’t for various reasons. But they have them anyway.

It’s not just about laws. It’s about a culture of guns that is unique to America. It’s about thinking differently about guns.

We need to stop being insensitive to the real problem of gun violence in our country. When the Charleston Post and Courier newspaper ran the story about the shooting in the morning paper, they also included a sticker above the headline advertising a gun sale. Really? Cognitive dissonance. The two worlds of guns and gun violence in America. This is the problem with our gun culture. There’s a world of guns out there that doesn’t include the idea that people can get killed by them apparently. Here’s an image of the newspaper. sticker on newspaper ad

So let’s get this straight. When the corporate gun lobby stops all reasonable measures to stop some of the shootings, we have daily carnage on our streets, in our churches, in our homes and everywhere else. And when our leaders subscribe to the idea that they can’t stand up for the victims, the carnage continues unabated. And when we don’t make it difficult for people to get guns or use those guns once they get them, we see regular mass shootings and shootings every day that take the lives of 80 Americans.

As President Obama said, “it is in our power to do something about it.”

“We do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun,” Obama said at the White House. “At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this kind of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency. It is in our power to do something about it.”

Let’s do something.

Enough.

We grieve with the families and the Charleston community.

In memory of the victims. Let us pause to remember the lives lost. Let us remember the people whose families and friends are grieving and will miss them forever:

Rev. Clementa Pinckney

Susie Jackson

Rev. Daniel Simmons

Cynthia Hurd

Sharon Singelton

Myra Thompson

Tywanza Sanders

Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor

Ethel Lance

UPDATE:

This article just published by the New York Times is showing evidence that, indeed, this was a hate crime and one of racism. It’s time for those who are in denial, like one of my commenters here, to admit what this is really all about. From the article:

“I have no choice,’’ it reads. “I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country. We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.”

In one picture, Mr. Roof is shown posing with wax figures of slaves. In others, he posed with a handgun. He is alone in all the photos, which appear to have been taken at a slave plantation, Sullivan Island, S.C., and at the Museum and Library of Confederate History.

The website links to several pages of long racist rants. Some describe Hispanics as enemies and say that “Negroes” have lower I.Q.s and low-impulse control. The writings are not signed.

Gun insanity reigns

Open CarryThe political cartoon I have used here is going around on social media. It is a pretty good depiction of what most people think about the guys who openly carry their assault rifles in public to make some kind of point that eludes the sane majority. And it also points to the insanity of our gun culture. Just as gun deaths are going up, so are the attempts to weaken gun laws and “normalize” gun carrying in public. It’s antithetical to the real problem of gun violence in our communities and definitely not what we need.

What we need in our country is a serious national discussion about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities- not the insanity taking place in communities across America. Why is it happening? The answer is important. What or who are these guys afraid of? Their behavior makes no sense given that crime is going down in our country for many reasons. And President Obama has not taken away anyone’s guns during his two terms. The gun lobby has made claims about why we need an armed America but they are specious- not supported by the facts.

On the other hand gun deaths are going up for many reasons. And most of the deaths are suicides or homicides among people who know each other rather than random acts of violence by “the  (feared) other”. People like themselves ( “good guys with guns”) are shooting people on a regular basis intentionally or not (accidents). Shouldn’t we examine what is going on here and then deal with this national public health epidemic in ways that will affect lives and make us safer?

In America I thought we rolled up our sleeves and worked together on things that kill our children, sisters, brothers and friends. Why? Because we don’t want our loved ones dying from something preventable.  Or we engage and rally supporters and the public to educate them about the causes and effects of serious problems and then ask our elected leaders to make changes to laws, if that is what’s needed. Or maybe it’s not a law. Maybe it’s awareness that will lead to changes in behavior that can also save lives or prevent injuries. But the gun lobby has seen fit to prevent research about saving lives due to gun violence. And that is insane and troubling to say the least.

Certainly that is what happened when MADD called attention to the insanity of drunk drivers being responsible for the deaths of their children. Recent changes to our acceptance of same sex couples have led to changes in our marriage laws to allow people to marry who they love. We now recognize that second hand smoke can cause health problems. Public health campaigns encourage cancer screening tests which can save lives. Some of these efforts resulted in laws, others not.

Something interesting is happening with awareness about gun deaths and injuries, much of which changed after the shooting of 20 small children at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. The public is far more engaged on this issue and new polling has shown continued and mostly unchanged support for changes in laws that could save lives. With more groups and organizations pushing for change, it is inevitable that change will happen. But there’s an opposite push by a minority of well funded and increasingly bold gun extremists that makes no sense given the facts. Rather than trying to prevent gun injuries and deaths by highlighting the risks of guns, these zealots are exposing America to an underbelly of extremism that is potentially dangerous and certainly not in the mainstream or the interest of public health and safety.

Meanwhile things are getting crazier and crazier in gun world. What is the deal with the open carry activists anyway? They are pretty much making fools of themselves while also calling attention to the potential dangerous result of laws that have made it possible for gun extremists to carry any kind of gun they want to carry in public places. Our legislators should be re-thinking their favoring of the corporate gun lobby’s nonsensical notion that openly ( or concealed) carrying loaded guns in public places is a good idea. The “proof is in the pudding”.

I don’t have to give all of the examples of permit to carry holders having problems with their guns in public places do I? It’s been written about by me and many others repeatedly. But further, in a civil society not at war citizens don’t carry loaded guns around in public. I’ve traveled in countries where armed military are on the runways at airports or in public places because of unrest and potential violence. Is that us?

Take this confrontation with law enforcement in Abeline, Texas by open carriers. From the article:

Grisham tells officers that he is within his rights to loiter roadside with high-powered weapons. “This is public property,” Grisham says. The cop, however, informs Grisham that he has actually been standing on private property, and that he and his cohorts are guilty of criminal trespassing.

Grisham asks why cops felt compelled to give a warning armed with AR-15s. When police pointed out Grisham too was in possession of a large weapon, he dismissed the concern since the gun was “on [his] back.”

“I’m a law-abiding citizen. I’m minding my own business,” Grisham complains to police. “Do you know why I’m feeling this way right now?”

“I feel threatened,” Grisham explains loudly, “because you are a police officer and you have people with rifles here that are threatening me.”

Grisham and his partners in crime elected to leave rather than escalate their dispute with law enforcement. But when he gets to his car — a silver minivan with an Open Carry Texas logo on the front driver’s side door — Grisham turns back toward cops to shout at them first before getting in. “You guys wanna come up on us like we’re some sorta terrorists, then I’m gonna respond in kind,” Grisham yells toward police, before exchanging a few more tense words, and driving off.

That last utterance from Grisham pretty much says it all doesn’t it? What kind of sane person who doesn’t want to call attention to himself or who isn’t looking for a confrontation does this? Grisham has had his problems with the law. When the new carry law is enacted in Texas will he even be able to carry a pistol legally? From the article:

That being said, it seems like Mr. Watkins and Open Carry Texas leader CJ Grisham, two men who’ve dedicated much of their adult lives to being radical anti-government wackos fighting for gun rights in Texas, might finally be getting their wish as a current proposal would pave the way for Texans to openly carry handguns. There’s just one slight catch – neither man would qualify to do so under the proposed law. Under current laws anyone convicted of a Class A or B misdemeanor is prohibited from carrying concealed handguns for 5 years, and anyone arrested on either of those charges loses their concealed license until the case is resolved. Well it just so happens that Grisham was arrested during a hike carrying an AR-15 and charged with interfering with an officer’s duties, while Watkins was arrested this past September while he and his group of anti-government activists were out harassing police officers in Arlington, Texas. It’s believed that the requirements under this new proposal would mirror the state’s current laws concerning concealed handgun licenses, which means that if convicted, neither Grisham or Watkins would be allowed to openly carry handguns for at least 5 years. Naturally, neither man believes that any form of license should be required to carry guns. As always they’ll cite the “shall not be infringed” fragment of the Second Amendment – while completely ignoring the whole “well regulated” part at the very beginning.

These are the “law abiding” “good guys” with guns who are promoting ever more lax gun laws so that they can do whatever they want with their guns. People can’t do whatever they want with anything in our country. We have laws for a reason. That’s a democracy in action.

The Open Carry nonsense is gaining traction- but not for the reasons the Open Carry folks want. Check out this parody about Open Carry on a recent Daily Show segment. The Texas pool party incident that has everyone talking took on a different meaning looking at it through the lens of satire about Open Carry. And can we talk about the totally different reaction by one set of Texas police officers towards mostly black teens in a disturbance at a swimming pool and another set of Texas police officers towards a bunch of insane men carrying assault rifles and yelling at and harassing the officers?

Something is wrong in America.

Here’s another “law abiding” good guy with a gun waiting to break a law. I thought that was just for criminals. Remember another gun lobby myth- that if we make stronger gun laws, the criminals won’t follow them anyway. Based on that mythical analysis we should not have any laws I guess. But I digress. An Open Carry Missouri activist, looking all “svelt” decked out in his finest, decided that the law about not allowing people with guns in his local zoo was just not for him:

In April, Open Carry activists marched on the Ohio State university campus to ‘educate’ kids attending school there. When a man named John informed the group that children as young as 5-years-old will be attending dance classes nearby, and politely requested that those participating leave their weapons in their vehicles until right before the walk, Jeffry Smith declined.

He said, “If children are scared, then it is because they’ve been socialized to be so.”

“It’s a zoo, not an amusement park. It’s a zoological institution. The difference between the zoo and Six Flags is that the zoo is public,” Smith said.

Under Missouri law, guns are prohibited in amusement parks, but Smith questions if the zoo is actually categorized as one. (…) The St. Louis Zoo said that it bans all weapons.

I guess when you are a white guy with an AR-15 and a pistol on your hip,you can do anything you dang well please with that gun. And why do people need guns in zoos? Maybe a peacock will get out of control and attack? Or a lion could escape I suppose. Or worse- a bear. I mean, we have bears and deer in my  back yard regularly where I live but I don’t need my gun to get rid of them nor would I use it that way. Or armed at an amusement park? You just never know when you might get stuck at the top of the ferris wheel and need to shoot yourself to safety. Insanity.

No, this guy is just strutting and showing off because he thinks he can. He mistakenly believes that his second amendment rights include doing anything he wants with his guns. And he believes that we should just socialize everyone to love having people like him around everywhere we go. And as for the kids, they will learn that we are a country at war with ourselves over gun rights- a war not seen anywhere else in the world. Wars in other parts of the world are where people actually get killed with those AR-15s or loaded guns in public. Oh right……..Sandy Hook. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Gabby Giffords. Aurora Theater…………..

Or there’s the NRA’s own Ted Nugent exclaiming on his Facebook page that President Obama should be assassinated. He’s done this before, of course, and got the attention of the Secret Service. One day, his rantings just may result in a tragedy. Do these folks actually think through what they are saying or is the fear and paranoia real? Hard to tell. Nugent is a performer- and a bad one at that.

So how to counter this insanity? Here’s an idea from a University of North Dakota professor that is worth considering. Refusing to enter an eating establishment or other business that allows folks with openly carried weapons inside is one thing. Walking out without paying may work, it may not. The businesses are stuck with the laws in their states but most could post signs that say guns are not allowed or welcomed inside. But the gun rights extremists say they can and will ignore those signs and carry anyway. The laws are not meant for them. Insanity reigns.

The thing is, a civil society is a society where people help each other and care about each other enough to not to harm or inflict violence on others. Certainly having guns openly carried discourages the idea of civility. How can one have a serious conversation with someone displaying an AR-15 over their shoulder? And why an assault rifle? There is a clear message sent by the carrier of these guns. Don’t mess with me. “Molon Labe”- come and take it. We get the message. It’s flawed and full of potential problems. Our message is that we don’t want you carrying these guns around with you in places where our families hang out. Leave them at home where you can use them for self defense, or um,  for whatever people think they need them. 

As I said before, we need a serious national discussion that is beginning to happen in spite of efforts to stop it ( by the corporate gun lobby). There are films and plays in the works. There are publications and studies. There are protests. There are blogs and new web sites. There are Tweets and Facebook pages and new studies showing consistent support for common sense when it comes to stronger gun laws.

June is gun violence awareness month. June 21st is ASK day encouraging parents to ask about loaded unsecured guns in homes where their children play. We have had more than enough incidents of kids “accidentally” killing kids to know how important it is to ASK. On June 22nd, HBO will run a documentary about gun violence victims. titled “Requiem for the Dead”.  The film is full of incidents taken from news media reports and Facebook and Twitter links to actual deaths of real people. As long as real people die every day, these kinds of films will be important as a documentation of the facts.

Please join me in efforts to take the insanity out of our gun culture and gun laws. Too many people are dying every day. What we need are cool, sane, calm and reasonable voices with the facts at hand if we are to influence the decisions made about gun policy. Lives depend on our getting this right.

UPDATE:

I am updating this post to include this blog post by Mike the Gun Guy. It’s all about the appearance of Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign on Sean Hannity’s FOX news show the other night. From the blog:

But nice-sounding platitudes aside, I find it interesting that someone as pro-gun as Hannity would give Dan Gross an opportunity to appear before a large Fox audience to prove, if nothing else, that he’s not Lucifer in disguise.  Because although Hannity threw in a couple of red-meat comments that are de rigueur on Fox when anyone mentions guns, such as his fear of the ‘slippery slope’ of gun control, he basically let Dan tell the audience how much gun owners had in common with supporters of the Brady Campaign, which is entirely contrary to what usually erupts from the NRA.

Ever since the Brady law was voted in 1994, the NRA and other pro-gun groups have kept up a steady drumbeat of anti-Brady commentary designed to convince gun owners that any expansion of background checks is nothing short of a conspiracy to take away all guns.  Here’s a typical comment from the NRA in 2013 after Brady mounted a video to mark the 20th anniversary of the original background-check law:  “The Brady Campaign’s proposed expansion of federal background checks would force even many family and friends to get government permission for firearm transfers amongst each other and subject all lawful gun transfers to federal paperwork and recordkeeping requirements, the prerequisites for a national registry.”  Of course this statement is simply untrue, but it plays directly into the old slippery-slope gun control nonsense that Hannity found necessary to mention on the show.

I have been saying recently that the smartest thing Brady and Everytown have done is to move into the safety space which until now was owned lock, stock and barrel (pardon the pun) by the NRA. But while everyone’s in favor of safety, there’s one safety issue which puts the two sides as far apart as the Brand Canyon’s rims, and Hannity gave it away when he said that no matter how many laws were passed to prevent guns from getting into the ‘wrong hands,’ criminals wouldn’t obey laws anyway, so what was the point of passing more laws?

The pro-gun community falls back on this argument every time that any new measure is proposed that would increase regulation of guns.  The problem is that if we only passed laws that criminals would obey, there wouldn’t be any laws at all. Which is actually what the pro-gun community would prefer as regards gun ownership, particularly when a Democrat happens to be renting living space at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

You may remember that I wrote something very similar earlier in this post. It’s true. Another gun lobby myth that doesn’t hold water. It’s time, as I have said before, to de-mythify the gun lobby arguments so we can deal with the facts when dealing with saving lives.


Duped by the gun lobby

Tnotrocketsciencehis is not rocket science. Stronger gun laws will save lives. There is actually proof that weak laws contribute to more gun deaths and injuries and the proliferation of firearms in America have not saved lives. Americans have been duped by the corporate gun lobby. Slight of hand tactics and slogans have confused the reality and managed to win support from elected leaders and some of the public. As a result, gun deaths have continued unabated and in some places now contribute to more deaths than auto accidents.

And all for profits and power.

This week-end, my husband and I went to see Merchants of Doubt at a local theater. It was very well done and powerful. Most people do understand that the big corporations and businesses are all about profit and keeping their political power in order to make more profits. Anything goes for some of them. The movie is about climate change and those who deny its’ existence but in order to get to that talking point, examples were given of the tobacco industry and energy companies tactics to deny the facts. From this review of the movie:

His phrasing—scientific, precise, and bloodless—perfectly illustrates Merchants Of Doubt’s central thesis. As science historian Naomi Oreskes, co-author of the book the film is based on, says, “If this is not a scientific debate, what kind of debate is it?” The answer, of course, is a political debate. And political debates are won by rhetoric and tribalism. The most illuminating passages in Merchants Of Doubt are those which illuminate the role of tribal identity in not only the global warming debate but also the rise of the Tea Party. As Skeptic magazine editor and lifelong libertarian Michael Shermer discovered when, after long doubting that global warming was real, his opinion was changed by a close examination of the overwhelming scientific evidence. When documentarians follow him to a libertarian convention where he debates a climate change skeptic, audience members attack him as with phrases like “That’s what YOUR TEAM wants us to think!”  (…) The problem with this kind of issue documentary is that it seems like preaching to the choir. No one who views their identity as a conservative in good standing is going to voluntarily watch this film, and if they’re exposed to it, they’ll just call it more lies. Indeed, the documentarians’ methodology of following the money and questioning the neutrality of so-called impartial observers naturally leads to the question, “Who’s paying for this?” Just because I agree with it—and I do, wholeheartedly—doesn’t mean I shouldn’t ask hard questions of it. Merchants Of Doubt’s thesis is that slick communicators willing to use any tactics available, regardless of morality, are the ones who can win political debates. The slickness and clarity of the production means the filmmakers have taken that lesson to heart.

The movie was not about gun violence prevention or the debate about gun rights but it could have been. Some of the scientists and writers who were interviewed for the movie talked of the backlash, the harsh criticisms, the threatening comments, e-mails and phone calls they received from those on the other “team” who absolutely would not listen to anything but their own echo chamber. Even when presented with facts, if the opposition team is noisy and clever enough and has enough money to employ stealth tactics to deceive the public, big issues of our times don’t get addressed and solved; or they are solved too late for too many.

The thing is, lives depend on our getting this right. Lives depend on believing the facts and the evidence even if it means lower profits and less power for corporations and the wealthy. Lives have been saved because the truth about the risks of smoking and second hand smoke finally won out over the powerful tobacco companies. Law suits helped. The same is true for safety measures on cars and drunk driving laws. It took years of fighting against a powerful and well funded industry and some law suits.

Thus we are now at a pivotal moment for climate change. The evidence shows that if we don’t change what we are doing with energy, with water conservation, with greenhouse gases, with fuel and electrical usage, with our daily living habits, the earth will not be the same for our children and grandchildren. But the voices of denial inexplicably win the battles. They won’t win the war but it might not matter. And why does this happen? Ideology. Fear. Anger. Ignorance. Hatred for the other “team.” Loss of profits and power.

All of this can be applied to the battle over gun rights and gun safety reform. For it is a battle. It is fierce and it gets down to which team you are on. And we are at a pivotal point as gun death rates stay the same or rise. Does it matter that lives are being lost every day to firearms injuries many of which could be saved? Just like with the auto and tobacco industries, denial and outright deception too often win. Solutions are right in front of us and make so much common sense but politics stop us from saving lives.

It doesn’t work this way, at least about guns and gun rights, in other countries. Why? Common sense. Morality. Interest in public health and safety. Concern for the common good. No second amendment. No gun rights extremists. Fewer gun owners. No NRA or corporate gun lobby.

Speaking of the corporate gun lobby, the NRA convention held this past week-end in Nashville, is over. It was the usual fare only some of the rhetoric was more strident than ever. Hatred of President Obama is now turning to hatred of the now declared Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. If we think the evil and repugnant rhetoric and hatred towards President Obama was over the top, wait until the women hating, Clinton hating folks get started. It should be interesting. And the NRA will be right in the midst of the battle as evidenced by their own Wayne LaPierre’s speech at the convention.

After warning once again that Obama is going to turn America into a country that “you and I won’t recognize” (*yawn*), LaPierre switched gears towards attacking Hillary Clinton. When LaPierre suggests Clinton may be elected president, the crowd loudly boos and one person screams “Never!” LaPierre grimaces at the thought:

“I have to tell you, eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough.”

“Demographically symbolic”? LaPierre just stood before tens of thousands of people and accused the president of being a token black guy. Following this logic, Hillary would be the token woman. LaPierre makes it obvious that what he wants is a return to less diverse times. The overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male crowd seems to agree, interrupting LaPierre’s speech with enthusiastic cheers.

LaPierre’s remarks are the latest bold attempt by the conservative movement to reject Obama and Clinton based solely on the fact that they are members of minority groups (in Clinton’s case, not in number of women, but in their disenfranchisement) and therefore don’t constitute a true representation of what right-wingers believes a president looks like: white, male, and donning an American flag on their lapel.

Just read this over-the-top rhetoric from gun rights extremists at the NRA convention if you don’t believe me. Sounds like the world is about to come to an end. From the linked article:

“They think that they’re better and smarter than we are, as if they’re more sophisticated and intellectually evolved than we are,” Porter said.

“When it comes to those elitists, looking down their noses and telling us how to live, it’s time they got the message loud and clear,” he said. “You elitists live however your want, but when it comes to us, get your hands off our freedom and leave us the hell alone.”

Uff da. Sounds like fighting words. Either that or total nonsense. I’ll go with the latter. Can these folks be serious? Elitists? Who are elitists? I suppose we don’t need to remind them of the huge salaries of the top executives of NRA leaders. And don’t get me started about the “intellectually evolved” statement. Do these folks really believe their own words?

Disturbing to say the least.

Here is more insight into the angry and fear mongering words at the convention.

Some reporters got in to the convention and have written about what they saw and heard. This one is a pretty good summary.

The thing is, facts matter. The claims made by the corporate gun lobby, many of the candidates for the Republican nomination who spoke at the NRA convention and the gun rights extremists who believe what they are told without checking for accuracy, are false. There is a truth out there in the real world. In the real world people in the U.S. are dying at a high rate- at an epidemic rate in fact. This article from the Washington Post fact checked the claims that America has a higher gun death rate than most other “civilized” countries.  From the article:

Post foreign affairs blogger Max Fisher concluded, “The U.S. gun murder rate isabout 20 times the average for all other countries on this chart. That means that Americans are 20 times as likely to be killed by a gun than is someone from another developed country.”

A related fact-check from PolitiFact examined a 2011 study by researchers of the Harvard School of Public Health and UCLA School of Public Health. Their findings, while based on data for 23 high-income, populous countries from the World Health Organization now almost a decade old (2003), mirror more recent trends.

The United States, they found, has more firearms per capita, the most permissive gun control laws and a disproportionate amount of firearm-related deaths from homicides, suicides and accidents.

“The United States had a homicide rate 6.9 times higher than those in the other high-income countries, driven by a firearm homicide rate that was 19.5 times higher than those in the other high-income countries,” the report says. “For 15 year olds to 24 year olds, the firearm homicide rate in the United States was 42.7 times higher than in the other countries.”

This is stunning. Of course, it’s been stunning for many years now but we continue along this path without taking action to change it. If we want to know why, we can refer back to what has just happened at the NRA convention in Nashville. There they continued with the push for more guns for everyone everywhere because, of course, more guns make us all safer. The article I have linked is based on studies and collections of data that show the exact opposite. What’s the problem here?

Profits. The gun industry is a large industry and needs to profit, like other industries. So back to where I started. One team wants to save lives and prevent gun violence that is so devastating to so many all over America. The other team wants what they think they have always had and deserve and facts don’t matter. If they had not been duped, they would realize that a simple thing like background checks on all gun sales would actually strengthen the second amendment. If that wasn’t the case, why did the leaders and organizers of the NRA convention insist that any firearms purchased on the convention floor be sent to the closest licensed dealer so the buyer could go through a background check?

To avoid reality and the facts about gun deaths, the gun lobby has their slick talking points that don’t get questioned as often as they should. If they were, we would find that they are not based on facts. Does it matter? When you are playing for the gun rights team, slick talking points replace a serious conversation based on facts. Here are just a few of those talking points:

  • Just enforce the laws already on the books-meant to distract from the fact that gun laws have actually been weakened and it’s difficult to enforce trafficking laws when one state makes it easy for felons and domestic abusers to bring guns into a state where it’s harder. The number 20,000 existing gun laws is thrown around. If we check with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence which researches gun laws, we can see that that really can’t be true. I also was directed recently to a fact check article about this number, 20,000, that is used by gun extremists. Check it out for yourself and you will see that the number cannot be verified. So don’t be duped.
  • More guns make mean less crime. This is a much used phrase that is not based on fact. An old discredited study by gun rights activist John Lott has been used to get conceal carry laws passed all over America. Don’t be duped.
  • Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. This, of course, is simply not true and can’t be proved but it’s out there as some sort of “fact” that needs to be challenged. It’s a myth. Check it out from the link. Don’t be duped.
  • If we pass reasonable gun laws, only criminals will get guns and law abiding citizens will be punished. This one begs credulity because requiring background checks on all gun sales, for example, will stop the “bad guys” from getting guns without stopping any law abiding citizen from getting a gun. If this were true, why did those who ordered a gun from one of the displays at the NRA convention have to get a background check at the nearest licensed dealer to their home? Because they were following state and federal laws. Hmmmm. If only the laws required this for every gun sale.
  • Universal background checks will lead to gun registration. No, not true. In the 20 years of the Brady law’s existence, this has not happened and it won’t.
  • Guns make us safer. Another myth. If guns stopped gun violence and made us safer, why do we continue to have the highest rate of gun deaths per capita in the civilized world?

There are more but I think my point has been made.

America, we’ve been duped. Let’s stop the game playing. There should be only one team here because there is only one right answer- preventing death and saving lives through common sense laws and gun safety reform. Gun safety reform and gun rights are not mutually exclusive.