Shooting anniversaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“He did not take that well,” he said.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

If only Alison and Adam had been armed……

Sigh.

Where is common sense?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have had #Enough.

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

Merry Christmas- This is what change looks like

bauble_decoration_297288As 2016 is soon to be upon us, change is in the air regarding guns and the conversation about the causes and effects of gun violence. I wrote in my last post about new research about gun violence that is educating people about the insidious nature of a devastating public health and safety epidemic. If we understand the causes, we can work on common sense solutions.

Let’s look at the ways in which change is coming.

The NBA has teamed up with Everytown for Gun Safety to run ads during NBA basketball games starting on Christmas Day.

The NRA lost a lawsuit involving the city of Seattle’s decision to add a new tax on guns and ammunition.

The Supreme Court refused to take a case involving a ban on assault weapons in Highland Park, Illinois.

The Governor and Attorney General of Virginia are continuing to make news as they have now decided that Virginia will stop honoring the concealed carry permits of 25 other states, including my own state of Minnesota.

Earlier this year, Governor McAuliffe signed an executive order banning open carry of guns in some Virginia public buildings.

Connecticut Governor Malloy took action to stop those on the known terror watch list from being able to legally buy guns.

Bad apple gun dealer, owner of Stag Arms in Connecticut got caught with felony possession of a machine gun not registered to his company and other such charges. He can no longer own his business or be involved in it in any way.

A conspiracy theorist and Florida university professor, involved in a disgusting movement harassing parents of the Sandy Hook shooting victims, has come under fire for his views and could be fired.

This is what change looks like. The public has had #enough. The shootings at the Planned Parenthood building in Colorado Springs and the terror attack that killed 14 people in San Bernardino have changed the conversation. It is long past time for that to have happened. It’s too late for Andy and Barbara Parker. It’s too late for Chris Hurst. It’s too late for Sandy and Lonnie Phillips. It’s too late for the parents of the 20 first graders who were massacred by a teen who shouldn’t have had access to guns. It’s too late for Colin Goddard. It’s too late for Bob Weiss and Lucy McBath and Richard Martinez. The list is too long for this blog.

It’s too late for the 89 Americans a day who lose their lives to gunshot injuries.

2016 will bring more change and more common sense. As the fear and paranoia will ramp up during the presidential election, more people will buy guns and more accidental shootings will happen and more children will die. More women will be shot by their abusers. More teens and older white men will take their own lives with guns that are accessible in their homes. More gang shootings in our large cities will lead to devastating deaths and injuries. More angry men will shoot innocent people in public places and at home. More and more and more.

There will be more victims. But the victims will not be quiet. They will fight back.

As more people like my friend at Accidents Happen Guns Kill and the Ohh Shoot blog write about the dangers of guns in homes, the public will be made aware of the risks to owning guns and hopefully think twice about leaving loaded guns around rather than storing them safely. As more parents are made aware that they should ASK if there are loaded guns in the homes where their children play, children will be safer. As more awareness of bad apple gun dealers ends with consequences for gun dealers who are providing guns to felons and others who shouldn’t have them, communities will become more safe.

The corporate gun lobby has gone too far and will have more defeats thanks to their unyielding resistance to common sense gun laws that the American public wants. When even their own members agree with the gun violence prevention groups, it is becoming more obvious that Wayne LaPierre and his fellow gun rights extremists are out of touch with even their own.

The Trace has published it’s list of 15 statistics about gun violence in 2015 that rose to the top of importance. Such facts as 8% of gun owners own more than 10 guns and deaths from car accidents are going down as deaths from guns remain steady or increase. And toddlers are killing themselves or others at a rate of once per week. There is much more in this great article that will change the conversation.

There will be more awareness and more talk about solutions and more laws passed to make it harder for dangerous and potentially dangerous people to get their hands on guns. There will be more people involved with gun violence prevention groups and more voices raised to let our leaders know that we have had more than #enough. There will be more bloggers and groups writing about the truth of our insane American gun culture.

#NRAdefeat will be trending on Twitter.

As we go into the Christmas holiday, I will be thinking of the family members missed around the tree and for whom there will be no gifts. There will be no gifts from them to their family members this year. We have missed gifts to and from my sister for 23 years now.

We remember them. We honor them. We will continue our march to common sense and making America safe from gun violence again.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate the holiday. To those who celebrate and those who don’t I wish peace and fond remembrances of your loved ones.

 

 

The Brady Campaign on the march

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

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

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

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

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

Insanity.

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

Accidents Happen Guns Kill

Ohh shoot blog

Gun Violence Archive

The Daily Kos- Gun Fail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sigh.

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

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

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

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

Shhhh…. Let’s not talk about guns or gun violence

shhhOne can’t have a civil discussion about guns and gun violence. It’s the “third rail” of politics as this article discusses:

Somewhere amid these social media discussions, I typically read this line, “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” It’s the ultimate outcome of such third-rail topics. If you’re unfamiliar with that term, it’s a metaphor for issues so highly charged that they’re untouchable. It refers to the dangerous, high-voltage third rail of a railroad track.

However, the parents of slain TV news journalist Alison Parker have intentionally grabbed this third rail and claim they aren’t letting go until their last breaths. They didn’t want to grab it, they feel compelled to after their daughter’s killing last week.

“They messed with the wrong family,” Andy Parker told media, referring to NRA supporters and lawmakers who voted against passing stricter gun laws.

Kudos to the Parkers for coming out shooting, so to speak, about this hot-button issue. They could have retreated to their home, locked the doors and grieved in private.

Indeed, the public grief of victims and survivors of gun violence makes people uncomfortable. Few people want to engage in an honest discussion with you when you just happen to mention that your sister was shot and killed by her estranged husband. Good grief. Poor woman. It’s too painful. I can’t talk about this because it’s too awful. It’s too painful.

And yet, as the victims pile up year after year after year with no end in sight, there are more and more and more loved ones and friends left behind. It’s unavoidable. One can hardly escape the pain of those of us who walk about our loved ones. It’s inconvenient to hear the stories but people like Andy Parker, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, Richard Martinez, and many many others are speaking up and speaking out. They are going to be heard whether people want to listen or not.

The gun rights advocates just hate it when people affected by gun violence speak out soon after a shooting . We are told that organizations working on gun violence prevention are “dancing in the blood of the victims” if we speak out for stronger gun laws and a change to our gun culture soon after a shooting. They want us to wait. Wait until when? If we waited until the carnage stopped our voices would be silenced forever. This hypocrisy is offensive, insensitive and self serving.

The week-end after Labor Day is a high school class reunion for me. A friend is coming from Vermont and will stay with me. A few years ago her husband, also in my class, shot and killed himself. ( Vermont- a state of high gun ownership and where most gun deaths are suicide and most suicides are by firearm)

I reached out to my friend after reading her husband’s obituary in my local newspaper which didn’t mention suicide of course. But I just knew that the cause of death, not being listed as suicides tend to be,  wasn’t right. On a visit several years after his death she and I shared our stories. She is ready to be involved in some way and I believe she will make her voice heard. But her concern expressed to me in an email about arrangements for her visit was what she would say to people who knew her husband and may or may not have known about his gun suicide. My advice was to just be honest and forthright and discuss it if people wanted to. And if some of our former classmates are uncomfortable with the inconvenient truth, so be it. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk. Because just perhaps we can talk about what it means to have guns in the home for self defense that end up being used to kill oneself or another intentionally.

I just love this post from Mike the Gun Guy as he talks about the latest video posted by Molly Ann Weymer that has gone viral. An innocent looking sexy woman lying on her back talks to the camera about the difference between an attack gun and a self protection gun. From the post:

And this is the point at which the video takes a brilliant turn.  Because after a few additional Ma’ams, Molly says to the storekeep, “I watch the news, and I know there are guns that attack people and guns that protect people and I would like the protection kind of gun.”  She then goes on to say that she bought a “pink one” because that was more “feminine” and here’s the kicker: “If we can just figure out how to get all the murder guns and the attack guns and not keep selling them and just sell protection guns, I think that would be great and solve a lot of problems.”

Now I’ve been following the gun debate for more than forty years, and this is the first time I have heard the two sides of that debate referred to simply in terms of what a gun can do.  Of course a gun can be used for self-defense, but the same gun can also be used to inflict great harm against someone who isn’t a risk or threat to the gun owner at all. And by verbally juxtaposing the words ‘attack’ and ‘protection’ with the idea that we are talking about different kinds of guns, what Molly Ann has done is reduce the whole argument about guns to what it really is: a dispute about what a gun represents in its most finite form. Because what protection means to the pro-gun community is what attack means to people who want to regulate guns.  And Molly Ann Wymer has expressed this better than anyone else.

Herein lies the problem of our American gun culture. We are confused (on purpose of course by the corporate gun lobby and gun extremists) into thinking a gun for self defense will never be used as an attack gun or a gun to kill a loved one or even oneself. This is a huge misperception that needs to be challenged. Good for Molly Ann Wymer for simplifying the debate. For those loved guns keep getting used against people who know and love each other either intentionally or accidentally. No one wants to talk about this. And the big secret that no one wants to admit is that the majority of gun deaths are due to suicide.

One of my favorite sources for research and information is The Trace. In one of the latest posts, the point about the gun deaths that take place privately in homes due to domestic shootings or suicides is highlighted. From the article titled “Just Another Bloody Summer”:

The total numbers, the numbers that matter, are these. Between the start of Memorial Day Weekend and August 28 (the date when the most recent statistics were pulled), an estimated 3,702 people were killed by guns in America. Another 8,153 were wounded. That’s according to preliminary data from the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks incidents of gun violence through media reports and police blotters. And it amounts to 81 more shooting deaths and 959 more gun injuries than during the same period in 2014.

Statistically, then, this summer’s increase in firearms casualties has not been huge. What has seemed potentially significant is the effect on perceptions. David Chipman, a former ATF agent, believes that “people have been blown out of their detachment and denial.” If there is a lasting shift (and time will certainly test his assertion), it will owe in part to the way the summer of 2015 mixed together horrors too-familiar and new: Innocent churchgoers standing in for innocent school kids, a Tennessee Naval Reserve facility instead of a Texas army base, a movie theater shooting sequel, a workplace rampage that in a depraved twist was documented with not one but two cameras. Americans may have come to expect an Aurora or Newtown or Fort Hood on a semi-annual basis, but there yet remain varieties of brutality for which we aren’t prepared, have not already pre-processed.

Has anyone not been affected by the carnage inflicted on innocent church members, military members, journalists and movie goers in the shootings that have been the source of much talk and consternation? I doubt it.

The article goes on to talk about the mass shootings, the “not so mass” shootings and the numbers -which are staggering. And then, of course, there are the shootings by and of police officers which cannot be avoided even if inconvenient to discuss. From the article:

While theories falter, there are numbers, again, to be reckoned with: TheGuardian has counted 298 people, 61 of them black — seven of them black and unarmed — shot by police this summer. On the other side of the thin blue line, twelve police officers were killed in June, July, and August, eight of them in one ten-day stretch. One of them, Darren Goforth, a deputy sheriff ambushedwhile pumping gas in Harris County, Texas, was approached from behind by a man who emptied 15 rounds into his head. Firmin DeBrabander, a Baltimore resident and author, looked at the first set of numbers and the second set of numbers and saw a place where the interests of the Black Lives Matter movement and law enforcement overlap. “Neither can advance their stated missions — saving lives, affirming the value of all lives — amid a profusion of guns, which so easily waste lives,” he wrote in the Washington Post.

Indeed. It is the profusion of guns. This is unavoidable and inconvenient. But it just can’t be kept quiet. Yes, police officers have shot armed and unarmed people alike- many people of color, some not. Fear for their own lives or some sort of racial prejudice or questionable decision-making and/or police practices have led to far too many shootings. On the other hand, with so many armed citizens on our streets, officers can’t be blamed for fearing for their own lives. It’s the guns in both cases. Officers in other countries don’t carry as many guns because they don’t encounter armed citizens on their streets or in homes.

And more from the article:

The Conley story was unusual in that it generated national coverage; shootings that take place within four walls can seem too quotidian to attract much attention. This does not make them any less brutal. In one week in August, a mother of three was fatally shot by her boyfriend in Covington, Tennessee; a man murdered his brother in Toledo, Ohio; and a firefighter wasshot at home by a woman in Jackson County, Mississippi. “It’s a domestic,” the local sheriff said. “He’s been shot and he’s dead.” A shooter, a body, another family tragedy. The numbers from the Gun Violence Archive tell that there have been hundreds of domestic victims this summer. (Even when we do pay attention to gun deaths that take place at home, we still often overlook a still bigger category, the gun violence no one talks about: the thousands of gun suicides that occur every summer, part of the upwards of 21,000 suicides-by-firearm recorded each year.)

A majority of Americans now believe that a home with a gun in it is a safer home, as the pollsters at Gallup tell us. When a gun kept for self-defense is a gun kept at the ready, loaded and unobstructed by locks or passcodes, it becomes a gun that can find itself into a child’s hands. Here is Fred Grimm, a popular columnist for the Miami Herald, assessing the damage done this summer in his state alone, when “Florida kids discovered their parents’ firearms and the statistical probabilities trumped all that home safety propaganda pushed by the gun lobby.” An 11-year-old boy finds his mother’s semi-automatic pistol and shoots his 9-year-old brother in the face. A three-year-old, likely searching for an iPad, instead discovers his parents’ loaded Glock 9mm and shoots himself in the head.

Shhhh. Let’s not talk about this. Let’s avoid the discussion. Let’s not listen to the voices of Andy Parker and the other victims who are speaking out and will not be silenced. Plug your ears. Cover your eyes. Maybe it will go away. And then again, maybe not.

I mean when incidents like this are reported on a daily basis in local media outlets, how can we avoid the idea that guns are dangerous and people with guns are also dangerous. From the linked article:

A 23-year-old Phoenix man is in critical condition after shooting himself in the head while trying to show that a handgun could not be fired while he had the safety mechanism engaged.

The Navajo County Sheriff’s Office said Christen Reece fired his handgun Wednesday while shooting with six other people outside Overgaard in eastern Arizona.

Good grief. The sub header of the article says not to point a gun at yourself or others. Good advice but it just isn’t working. This just doesn’t happen with knives or hammers. Sorry. It’s an inconvenient truth but it doesn’t.

The answer is common sense and so much more. We are reaching a point of no return. If we don’t change things soon, almost everyone in America will know someone who has been affected by senseless gun violence. Things just have to change and people like me and those who are writing such great articles and doing the research that must be done are exposing the inconvenience that gun violence is a serious problem. We can’t not talk about it. It’s past time to have the conversation and insist on solutions.

My daughter was killed…..welcome to the club

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Child Access Prevention laws? Yes. Good idea.

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

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

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

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

Are our leaders paying attention?

Gunned down Americans- Rest in Peace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But we aren’t doing these things.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes. We are gunned down America.

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

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

Where is common sense?

Rest in Peace America.