Freedom from gun violence

dove of freedomHappy July 4th. Today is, of course, the day we celebrate our independence from a tyrannical government. If we are not vigilant we could be there again. Freedom obviously means different things to different people. But universally it should mean that people ought to be free from violence; free from oppression; free to express opinions; free to live a life without fear of losing health care, a way to make a living, being able to make decisions about own’s own body, free from intolerance and racism, free from discrimination , losing the right to vote, the fear of not being able to marry who you love, the right to the rule of law, the right to live in society within reasonable and common sense rules and laws so that what is good for the most of us is good for all of us. For one never knows when those freedoms might unexpectedly be taken away by circumstances beyond our control or by despotic and self serving leaders.

This morning I read this column written by Dana Milbank, writer for the Washington Post ( the media outlet Trump loves to hate) about our freedoms. From his article:

This isn’t just a linguistic de-emphasis of freedom; Trump has made common cause with dictators and played down human rights abroad while starting a trade war with democratic allies. At home he has questioned due process for refugees, taken immigrant children from their parents, imposed a travel ban on several Muslim-majority nations and declared the media the enemy of the American people. He is now poised to shift the balance on the Supreme Court away from abortion rights and gay rights.

In a very real sense, the fight against Trump is a battle for freedom.

It’s 2018. We should not be a in a battle for our freedoms. But this is where we are right now. Some on the far lunatic right like Alex Jones ( conspiracy theorist and fear monger who Trump loves to love) has put out there that the Democrats are going to start a Civil War today:

The conspiracy theorist tweeted his prediction on Monday, accompanied by a video in which he claimed that “elite publications” were calling for a “civil emergency” using civil unrest and “racial strife” to force out President Trump.

We must be free of this anger, fear mongering and downright lunacy. The fact that our President is on board with this guy says it all.

The President had to relent and allow government buildings to lower their flags to half mast after the shooting of 5 journalists at the Capital Gazette office in Annapolis, Maryland. The fact that someone in the White House refused the original request by the Annapolis Mayor says it all. Why didn’t they intuitively do the right thing? They really don’t seem to care about the lives lost to gun violence. Or if they do, they have a strange way of showing it.

Who does this President stand with? Who does he stand up for? What does he stand up for? Thousands a year lose their lives to gun violence in America, the land of the free. And yet Senator Majority leader Mitch McConnell cynically and dangerously says that the federal government can’t do anything to stop school shootings:

McConnell delivered his remarks amid a push for tougher gun safety laws in America, after a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., claimed 17 lives.

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was killed in the Florida attack, said McConnell was full of it.

“Honestly, the man should resign. He either is intentionally useless or he’s just evil,” Guttenberg told the Daily News.

The outspoken activist insisted there’s plenty the federal government could do to combat violence in American schools.

“They could allow the CDC to study gun violence. They could strengthen background checks, ban high capacity magazines,” he said. “There’s a lot they can do, but they can’t do anything if they’re not allowed. Mitch McConnell is nothing more than a roadblock.”

The Kentucky Republican, who has a 93% rating from the NRA, has repeatedly blocked gun-control proposals.

This is what we’ve got right now in America. Lapdog politicians who are pushing to restrict many of our other freedoms but willing to ignore one of the most important freedoms- to live without gun violence.

STOP.

YES WE CAN STOP SHOOTINGS. YES, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CAN ACT TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE PASS A BRADY BACKGROUND CHECK LAW AND A RED FLAG LAW.

MR. MAJORITY LEADER- STOP THE STUFF AND NONSENSE.

And further, of course, is the hope on the right that any nominee for the Supreme Court open position will further erode the laws that have kept us free and safe from some of the gun violence. The far right and the corporate gun lobby have shown us they resent any restrictions on guns- the kind of guns, who can carry them, and where they can be carried. One of their favorite justices, Antonin Scalia, knew that there should be some restrictions and said so in the 2008 Heller decision– something the corporate gun lobby and Congress loves to conveniently forget. So we do have some constitutional rights to be safe from gun violence after all.

This line of reasoning posed by the corporate gun lobby and the far right extremists ( and even the current GOP party leaders) is dangerous and will lead to chaos and yes, Mr. Jones, even violence. Let’s hope that is not the case but the threat will not be coming from the Democrats who want to stop the violence. Look to those who believe in conspiracy theories, threaten journalists with violence, try to restrict basicl freedoms, rights to vote, and stockpile their weapons for a future war against their own government.

Let me just say that on this July Fourth holiday, what can be done is a commitment to changing the conversation about the causes and effects of gun violence, change the gun culture and change the laws so we can be safe and free from gun violence in our schools, our places of work, our shopping malls, our homes, our parks, our wherever we gather together as a community.

If we give up our freedoms such as freedom of speech and others without also challenging the idea that the misinterpreted meaning of the second amendment means freedom for anyone to purchase and own any kind of gun and carry it anywhere one pleases, we will be giving up our democracy.

Stay firm and strong and keep fighting attempts to take away our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Happy Fourth. Stay safe out there everyone. There are some restrictions on fireworks and personal fireworks can lead to injuries. Celebratory shooting is simply not OK no matter what anyone says. What goes up must come down- a simple law of Physics not understood by some irresponsible gun owners.  Shooting off guns on the Fourth of July is dangerous business and not in the spirit of the celebration.

This is a great day to think about what you can do about our national public health epidemic and our national dilemma about freedoms and civil rights. The best thing you can do is to consider all of this and VOTE in your primaries and the November election.

Common sense is at stake. Lives are at stake. Freedoms are at stake.

Who do you trust?

PrintApparently there are many in America who trust no one but themselves. Trust in government has been eroded over years, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes not. But it’s clear that the minority of Americans who oppose background checks on all gun sales actually believe it will lead to confiscation of their guns.

The Trace has again done some research into who the people are who oppose those on the terror watch list from being stopped from getting guns and those who oppose background checks on all gun sales. Results were interesting but not necessarily surprising.From the article:

The Pew Research Center provided The Trace with a breakout of respondents to a July 2015 poll who indicated opposition to expanded background checks. The numbers show that people who oppose requiring checks at gun shows are more likely to be male, white, and lack a college degree than those that support such laws.

Among opponents of expanded checks, the gender split is 57 percent male to 42 percent female.

Forty-nine percent were white, 15 percent were black. In that same pool, those whose schooling stopped at high school were nearly five times as likely to oppose background checks at gun shows than those with a college degree.

By a nearly two-to-one margin, opponents of background checks at gun shows are also less likely to say that they do not live in a gun-owning household.

I have a question for these folks. Do you honestly think that those who have been identified as known terrorists should be able to purchase guns legally from licensed dealers?

Do you really think it is more important to protect the rights of those few who are on the list by mistake than to protect the next 50 people gathered together in a public place from being shot by someone who has terrorist leanings?

The Orlando shooting is still being investigated as to whether the shooter was a terrorists but he clearly had some leanings in that direction. There is no proof that the shooting was directed by any terror group.

That being said, the shooter was also mentally unstable according to many, angry, according to many, and a domestic abuser according to his first wife. There are many reasons why this guy should not have had a gun. But we have made it easy for anyone to get a gun no matter what. The Brady law had a built in loophole put there on purpose by the gun lobby. It allowed for private sellers of guns to not have to require background checks on sales.

So do you honestly believe people who shouldn’t have guns should be able to get them anyway with no background check?

Do you really believe that the very same Brady background check you have been getting for many years now when you buy a gun from a licensed seller will lead to gun registration or confiscation if a private seller requires the check?

Do you honestly believe that only “good guys” with guns can stop “bad guys” with guns?

Do you believe that everyone who legally buys a gun will be safe with that gun?

Do you really believe the government is coming for your guns?

Do you actually believe that your small arsenal of guns would protect you against that scenario should it actually happen?

Do you understand that your guns are more likely to be used to shoot someone close to you than to be used in self defense?

Do you really believe in the fear and paranoia foisted on you by the corporate gun lobby?

Do you trust that this guy is telling you the truth?:

I’m just asking.

Common sense indicates that background checks on all gun sales will only affect those who shouldn’t have guns. It also is proven that in states ( and in countries) where background checks on all gun sales are required, lives are saved. Yes, it’s true. Lives are saved.

Do you honestly want to save lives and prevent gun violence? Do you want to prevent your teen-ager from committing suicide with one of your guns? Do you want to keep your child from getting your loaded gun and shooting him/herself or a friend or sibling? Do you want to keep someone from stealing your gun and using it in a crime? Do you care about the lives of young black people who are dying in great numbers from bullets because guns are so readily available to them? Do you want to keep your neighbor from “accidentally” discharging his/her gun and having the bullet come flying through your wall, or hitting you in the leg in a public place? Do you trust that your child or grandchild will absolutely not pick up a loaded gun and fire it?

Who do you trust? Do you trust everyone with a gun? Do you trust people who have bought their guns legally though they shouldn’t have one? Do you trust that your armed neighbor is not going to have too much to drink and bring out his gun and shoot you? Do you trust the young man next door who just might have terrorist leanings, with his gun? Do you trust the mentally unstable young man who lives down the street with guns?

It comes down to what we are willing to do to save lives and keep our children and communities safe from mass shootings like that that just happened in Orlando and from the tens of thousands of suicides, domestic homicides, gang shootings, “accidental discharges” of guns leading to death and injury, home grown terror attacks, actual terror attacks, and other shootings. I trust that passing stronger laws will save lives and prevent shootings. My trust is backed up by the facts.

I happen to trust the government. I am not afraid of the government. I am not afraid of armed people lurking around every corner to shoot me. Government is not perfect. But going it alone and living life with the fear and paranoia so many people experience must be exhausting. By nature I am a positive person. I have lost a sister in a domestic shooting that should have made me distrustful but instead it made me resolved to do something to keep other families from experiencing what my family has.

And I trust that the Senate Democrats did the right thing when they forced a vote on Monday. The amendments failed but their resolve is a model of what can be done when there is resolve and a moral imperative from the majority of Americans on your side. I trust the House Democrats who are, as I write, having a “sit-in” on the House floor to force a vote on the no-fly, no-buy bill and an expanded background check bill. It sounds like a vote will happen:

In a move rich with historic symbolism, Lewis, a Democratic congressman from Georgia, and fellow Democrats sat down at the front of the chamber in an unusual demonstration of civil disobedience challenging Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary. Sometimes you have to make a way out of no way. We have been too quiet for too long,” Lewis said. “There comes a time when you have to say something, when you have to make a little noise, when you have to move your feet. This is the time. Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more.”
I trust Representative John Lewis because he has brought the issue of gun violence right where it belongs- at the forefront of our political arena. Just like Senator Chris Murphy did last week when he began the successful filibuster that led to the Senate votes this week.

I trust that eventually we will get this right and sit down and stand up for victims. I trust that this time, the gun lobby and its’ minions are not going to dominate the conversation. Why? Because Americans have had #Enough and want to #DisarmHate.

Who do you trust?

Do you trust those who are standing ( or sitting down for) the victims who want the carnage and massacres to stop or those whose profits depend on selling guns and keeping people fearful and paranoid about gun confiscation?

#NoBillNoBreak

Watching the House members who are sitting in the House chamber is inspiring to the millions of Americans who want stronger gun laws. We have lost trust in our leaders and the system to do something about the daily carnage and regular massacres. There is no excuse for doing nothing except in some sort of twisted belief in the corporate gun lobby’s lies and deceptions.

And I am very proud of some of my Minnesota delegation for taking part in this historic action. Times are changing and the voices of the majority are being heard loudly and clearly.

It’s about time. How many tens and hundreds of thousands more Americans will need to die before our leaders vote for common sense?

We are at war with each other

crossIt’s no secret. The political atmosphere was hateful and angry before the Orlando shooting. Now it’s worse. We are war with each other. History will look back on the America of the 2000s and write about how we turned our backs on the millions of victims of gun violence and their families. Historians will write about how a country allowed the massacre of 20 first graders to happen without trying to do something to prevent the next one. History will not be kind when it comes to America and mass shootings and gun violence in general.

If we lined up the crosses of all Americans killed by gun violence since 1968, they would form a field larger than that at Normandy (France), Gettysburg, Appomattox, Arlington and other cemeteries combined where fallen American military personnel are buried.

Are we at war?

Today is the first anniversary of the Charleston church shooting that took the lives of 9 innocent Americans while praying at Mother Emanuel church. History will write about how our weak gun laws allowed a young man with hate and racism in his heart to buy a gun in spite of his prohibited purchaser status. Thanks to the corporate gun lobby and their minions in Congress, a three day default proceed provision was written into the Brady law. What that means is that if the record keeping and data bases don’t communicate with each other and get information into the law enforcement system by 3 days after the purchase of a gun, the purchaser can walk away with the gun anyway.

Nine precious lives were taken because of that provision in our law that makes absolutely no common sense. But in America, sales and profits of selling guns takes precedent over saving lives.

Today, the families of the 9 killed in Charleston are remembering their loved ones. Here is one article written by the brother of one of the victims in remembrance.:

We may be back here again soon. Not in Charleston, not in a church, but somewhere in our country someone is going to experience some type of pain simply because of the proliferation of guns, and the Achilles heel of our country, racism, that we can’t seem to get past. So we got to not just forgive and forget, but we have to remember to continue to fight for those things that make our society better today than it was yesterday.

What will historians write about how we responded to this crime of hate and racism?

I wrote in my last post that things were changing concerning guns and the conversation about gun violence after the Orlando shooting. No sooner had I posted my article than a filibuster broke out in the U.S. Senate led by Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Senator Murphy was in attendance when the families of the first graders massacred at Sandy Hook learned that theirs were the 20 who didn’t come out alive. He is not going to forget or let us forget about that heinous and bloody day in American history.

Has the accumulation of all of the mass shootings in recent years just been too much? Are we, at long last, ready to do something?

It looks like there may be a vote now on some gun safety reform provisions as a result of that filibuster. At the least, the conversation changed for 15 hours when 40 Democratic Senators, 2 Republicans and 1 independent joined in and articulately and passionately talked about our national gun violence scourge. They stood with the victims. They spoke for the victims’ families. They spoke for the majority of Americans who can see that change has to happen in order to stop the daily war in our streets and our homes and public places.

Even the generals are weighing in. General Stanley McCrystal wrote this piece for the New York Times today. From his opinion piece comes something very important to the conversation about guns in America:

Here at home, many of us are alarmed by the carnage. We are alarmed by loopholes that let felons and domestic abusers get hold of guns without a background check. We are alarmed that a known or suspected terrorist can go to a federally licensed firearms dealer where background checks are conducted, pass that background check, legally purchase a firearm and walk out the door.

Now veterans are speaking out. Last Friday, two days before the tragedy in Orlando, a new initiative, the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense, led by the Navy combat veteran Capt. Mark Kelly and his wife, the former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was announced. Those of us serving on its advisory committee come from every branch of our military and virtually every rank. We are trained in the use of firearms, and many of us have served in combat. And we all think our country must do more to save lives from being cut short by gun violence.

Are we alarmed enough to do something at long last?

Listen to the voices of common sense and experience. Those on the side of the corporate gun lobby are most often also strong supporters of our military. Not that the rest of us aren’t but those who oppose reasonable gun measures can often be heard to proclaim themselves as patriotic Americans- more patriotic than the rest of us. What’s so patriotic about allowing our citizens to be massacred by people who shouldn’t have guns?

The inanity of the conversation about gun violence in our country has been taking place for far too long. Not any more. People are joining gun violence prevention organizations in large numbers asking what they can do to help. Spontaneous rallies have occurred. Monetary donations have been received. Hundreds of thousands of calls were made to Senators in 24 hours urging participation in the filibuster and what will hopefully be upcoming votes.

We have had #Enough. Action is needed. No more words and thoughts and prayers.

And no more blaming President Obama for what happened in Orlando. Shamefully Arizona Senator John McCain ( among others) has gone over the line of common sense and sanity to join in some of the lunacy regarding the Orlando shooting. From the article:

Sen. John McCain said Thursday that President Barack Obama was “directly responsible” for the massacre at the gay nightclub in Orlando, though McCain later said he “misspoke.” “Barack Obama is directly responsible for it because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al Qaeda went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures — utter failures, by pulling everybody out of Iraq, thinking that conflicts end just because you leave. So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies,” McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Really Senator McCain?

We are better than this.

There is a gun culture that has promoted the civilian ownership of weapons of war that is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. For 10 years we had a ban on these kinds of guns but our weak politicians, with pressure from the gun lobby let it lapse. Since then these weapons designed for use in war time have been used to kill countless Americans. Sandy Hook. Aurora.San Bernardino….. It doesn’t have to be this way.

This Boston Globe editorial is asking for us to return to sanity and common sense when it comes to military style assault rifles:

There is nothing more American today than a mass shooting, the quickest way for the wicked among us to join the ranks of the reviled. Their motives are many, but their opportunity is limited only by their gun and ammunition magazine brand preference. In this country, the federal government limits duck hunters to weapons that carry only three shells, to protect the duck population. But you can buy an assault weapon in seven minutes and an unlimited number of bullets to fire with it. For every McDonald’s in the United States, there are four federally licensed gun dealers and an untold number of unregulated private dealers who can legally sell an unlimited number of guns out of their homes, backpacks, and car trunks without requiring a criminal background check or proof of ID.

These weren’t the guns, and this wasn’t the America, that the Founders foresaw. That is why we need a new assault weapons ban, written for the realities we face in 2016.

What did the founding fathers envision? Gun rights extremists tell us that what we have now is exactly what was meant by the founding fathers when they wrote the second amendment. That is, in part, responsible for what happened in Orlando.

There is a weak system of regulating who gets guns that is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Racism and hatred is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando.

Presidential politics and extreme rhetoric is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. One of our Presidential candidates is fear mongering and hating certain groups even thought they aren’t responsible for what happened in Orlando. (“Trump’s discourse, both leading up to and following the Orlando shooting, begins with a pathos of fear but ends with an appeal to anger.”)

We are better than this.

Even tolerance of anti-government groups and support for them has allowed the current culture to get a foot hold in American and leads to other acts of violence. For example, the stand-off by armed Americans proclaiming it was all about the federal government taking something from them, was not only ignored but even supported by some on the right and Donald Trump himself:

That chummy relationship with extremists didn’t start with Malheur. In fact, Donald Trump expressed admiration for Cliven Bundy at the time of the 2014 confrontation between his armed supporters and law enforcement officers over Bundy’s refusal to pay grazing fees for his cattle on government land.

“I like him, I like his spirit, his spunk…I respect him,” Trump told Fox News in April that year. Bundy’s sons led the Malheur standoff, which eventually resulted in their arrest and the killing of one of the occupiers at a roadblock by state police.

“Republican Congressional leaders have done nothing to combat this growing threat,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) “Indeed, they ignored a Democratic request … to hold a Natural Resources Committee hearing on this issue.”

History will judge us for this kind of anti-government extremism.

It’s not President Obama. It’s those who hate him. More from the above article:

“This antigovernment movement has exploded since President Obama took office. In 2008, we documented approximately 150 radical antigovernment groups. Last year, we counted almost 1,000,” he added. “The movement is dangerous. It includes almost 300 armed militia groups committed to resisting what they see as a tyrannical federal government.”

Thompson pointedly compared the anti-government crowd with foreign, and foreign-inspired, terrorists. Domestic terrorists have the same goal, he said, “to harm and incite fear within our borders.”

Congress, he said, “must take this growing threat seriously and take action.”

Our politicians weak spines are in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Individuals who have become self radicalized and terror groups who want us to be terrorized by actions of unstable angry young men who have troubled pasts and intolerance of others are in part responsible for what happened in Orlando:

Oppositional. Lacks remorse. Verbally abusive. These are some of the terms teachers and school counselors used to describe a young Omar Mateen, according to elementary and middle school records.

Mateen, who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday in the worstmass shooting in modern U.S. history, had a troubling record of behavioral issues throughout his elementary and middle school years, ranging from simply disrupting class to outright aggressive conflicts with classmates.

Our almost total ignoring of the hundreds of thousands of gun violence victims is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Fear and paranoia promoted by the corporate gun lobby and extremists on the right are in part to blame for what happened in Orlando.

All we know is that blame is not going to change the fact that too many Americans have been killed in mass shootings and every day shootings. We need to deal with fear, paranoia, hate, racism, misogyny, anti-gay sentiments, terror, intolerance, mental health and whatever else causes someone to kill others. But to ignore the guns is a national shame and putting our heads in the sand.

This can’t be the new normal. We can’t let it be. We will do whatever it takes. The nation is asking for our leaders to do something. Increased interest in strongly regulating assault style rifles and high capacity magazines has surfaced. The gun lobby hates any renewed discussion but we are not going to let the gun lobby lead that discussion. A majority of Americans want something to happen.

Something has changed. New ways of invoking terror in Americans has sparked a national conversation but I am concerned that it has further divided us and made the conversation more hate-filled and acrimonious than ever.

We are better than this.