What’s happening in gun world?

Woman with dog and diplomaThe responses to the student-led movement after the Parkland shooting are occurring around the country. Some are positive, some are negative.The arrogance and ramped up fear of the students and those who support them has been a thing. The students are not done yet as events are planned for April 20th for another walkout on the anniversary of the Columbine shooting. 

Let’s review just a few of the things that have been going on gun world:

An Illinois town passed a law limiting certain military assault style rifles:

 

The ordinance states, “The possession, manufacture and sale of assault weapons in the Village of Deerfield is not reasonably necessary to protect an individual’s right of self-defense or the preservation or efficiency of a well-regulated militia.”

So, beginning June 13, banned assault weapons in Deerfield will include semiautomatic rifles with a fixed magazine and a capacity to hold more than 10 rounds of ammunition, shotguns with revolving cylinders, and conversion kits from which assault weapons can be assembled. And those are just a few of the firearm varieties banned. The list is long and includes all the following models or duplicates thereof: AK, AKM, AKS, AK-47, AK-74, ARM, MAK90, Misr, NHM 90, NHM 91, SA 85, SA 93, VEPR, AR-10, AR-15, Bushmaster XM15, Armalite M15, Olympic Arms PCR, AR70, Calico Liberty, Dragunov SVD Sniper Rifle, Dragunov SVU, Fabrique NationalFN/FAL, FN/LAR, FNC, Hi-Point Carbine, HK-91, Kel-Tec Sub Rifle, SAR-8, Sturm, Ruger Mini-14, and more.

We can expect major pushback and maybe even legal measures from gun rights advocates who like to believe that anything like this is unconstitutional. But they are unlikely to win in today’s atmosphere. Courts have been ruling that assault weapons bans do not violate the constitutional right to bear arms as described in the second amendment.

Many states also have pre-emption laws that make it impossible for local communities to pass stronger gun laws than existing state laws. This was brought to us by the corporate gun lobby and their minions in state legislatures like my own in Minnesota and 39 other states.

Which brings me to the second happening in gun world from the past week or so. A federal judge has determined that assault weapons bans passed in some states and now local communities are perfectly legal:

U.S. District Judge William Young dismissed a lawsuit challenging the 20-year-old ban, saying assault weapons are military firearms that fall beyond the reach of the constitutional right to “bear arms.”

Regulation of the weapons is a matter of policy, not for the courts, he said.

“Other states are equally free to leave them unregulated and available to their law-abiding citizens,” Young said. “These policy matters are simply not of constitutional moment. Americans are not afraid of bumptious, raucous and robust debate about these matters. We call it democracy.”

The state of Massachusetts passed an assault weapons ban decades ago. And it still stands. The state’s Attorney General had this to say about the ruling:

“Strong gun laws save lives, and we will not be intimidated by the gun lobby in our efforts to end the sale of assault weapons and protect our communities and schools,” Healey, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Families across the country should take heart in this victory.”

Is it any coincidence that Massachusetts has strong gun laws and the lowest gun death rate in the country? From this article:

In a major public health win, newly available federal data shows that Massachusetts has the lowest gun-related mortality rate in the country, a victory likely tied to legislative successes.

The CDC data, cited Tuesday in a Violence Policy Center (VPC) report, puts Massachusetts’ 2015 rate at 3.13 gun-related deaths per 100,000 residents. The next lowest rate, seen in Hawaii, was 3.84 deaths per 100,000 residents.

But shouldn’t we be concerned that overall gun deaths rates are going up? That brings me to my third point. From the article:

Firearm-related deaths rose for the second-straight year in 2016, largely due to spikes in gun violence in major cities like Chicago, newly released data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found.

In 2016, there were more than 38,000 gun-related deaths in the U.S. — 4,000 more than 2015, the new CDC report on preliminary mortality data shows. Most gun-related deaths — about two-thirds —in America are suicides, but an Associated Press analysis of FBI data shows there were about 11,000 gun-related homicides in 2016, up from 9,600 in 2015. The increase in gun-related deaths follows a nearly 15-year period of relative stasis.

“The fact that we are seeing increases in the firearm-related deaths after a long period where it has been stable is concerning,” Bob Anderson, chief of mortality statistics at the CDC’s Center for Health Statistics, told the New York Times.Fortune reported last week that the mortality data also showed an increase in drug-overdose deaths, largely do to the ongoing opioid epidemic.

There should be no surprises here. High profile mass shootings, most with military style assault style rifles account for a small percentage of overall gun deaths but they have taken the lives of dozens at a time which surely has affected the overall gun death rate. We have a serious epidemic of large proportions that we are ignoring. Even after the Parkland shooting, which caused many changes to politicians’ willingness to address the issue of gun violence in ways we have not ever seen before, some are defiant and intent on showing people that they represent the very small minority of NRA and gun owners in America.

Which brings me to my fourth point. At a recent town hall meeting, South Carolina Representative Ralph Norman thought he was being clever  when he pulled out his gun and laid it on a table before the crowd:

A South Carolina Republican congressman is not backing down from critics after he pulled out his own personal — and loaded — .38-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun during a meeting with constituents Friday.

U.S. Rep. Ralph Norman, R-Rock Hill, told The Post and Courier he pulled out the weapon and placed it on a table for several minutes in attempt to make a point that guns are only dangerous in the hands of criminals.

“I’m not going to be a Gabby Giffords,” Norman said afterward, referring to the former Arizona Democratic congresswoman who was shot outside a Tucson-area grocery store during a constituent gathering in 2011.

Really Representative Norman? Where is your common sense? In the current state of mind of the American public, this was a truly bad idea. What is your point? Mark Kelly, of the Giffords organization and husband of former Representative Gabby Giffords responded to this truly ludicrous move by the Republican Congressman:

Giffords’ husband, retired NASA astronaut Mark Kelly, said in a statement that Norman is “no Gabby Giffords” and noted that his wife has dedicated her life to ending gun violence.

“Americans are increasingly faced with a stark choice: leaders like Gabby, who work hard together to find solutions to problems, or extremists like the NRA and Congressman Norman, who rely on intimidation tactics and perpetuating fear,” Kelly said.

Norman said he’ll display his gun at future constituent meetings.

“I’m tired of these liberals jumping on the guns themselves as if they are the cause of the problem,” Norman told The Post and Courier. “Guns are not the problem.”

Yes, guns are the problem. We are onto you Rep. Norman. #WeCallBS. What you said and did at a public town hall meeting defies reason and the facts. You are wrong. And the public is not having it any more. We’ve had #Enough of this BS. We understand that the problem is actually- guns. Too many guns = too many gun deaths. The facts are clear. You are in the 3% of Americans who actually and stupidly believe that we should not require background checks on all gun sales. 

Support for common sense gun laws is going up, not down, just as gun deaths are going up. We have noticed. From the article:

Roughly 2 in 3 Americans now say gun control laws should be made more strict in the wake of the murder of 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, according to a number of polls, including a new POLITICO/Morning Consult poll that shows support for stricter gun laws among registered voters at 68 percent, compared with just 25 percent who oppose stricter gun laws.

It’s common for support for gun control to tick up in the aftermath of mass shootings. But there appears to be a clear trend in all the post-Parkland, Florida, polling: This time is different. The percentage of Americans who want more restrictive gun laws is greater now than after any other recent shooting.

Which brings me to my fifth point- For those who are attacking the facts and even the Parkland students- stand aside. Your behavior is noticed and we don’t like it. Try as you might to convince the public that guns are not the problem and that more guns make us safer, it’s not working. From the article:

The attacks now come not just from the alt-right and anonymous Twitter louts. Since the weekend’s massive marches for gun control, more and more prominent figures in media and politics are aiming previously unfathomable public attacks at the youngsters. (…) Given that the Parkland student-activists are still working to encourage more town hall events and more demonstrations, it seems likely these teenagers will face evermore vile personal and public attacks in the months to come. Although we cannot expect any personal responsibility from internet trolls, Americans should expect better from public officials, who have the power to lend legitimacy to the more disgraceful arguments circling around social media. But in the instances above, the public responded by rejecting the hateful arguments, and proved we have the power to hold these politicians to account.

We should and must expect better from public officials. What are they thinking? Being under the thumb of the increasingly unpopular and corrupt NRA ( see article for ties to Russia and the Mueller investigation) is just not a good idea any more.

Which brings me to my sixth point- the November 18th elections are going to matter when it comes to guns. This will be one of the main issues in the next election:

Now, suburban voters increasingly find that on guns they have more in common with their urban friends than with their rural ones. Some restrictions on guns, in particular, seem increasingly reasonable to swing voters after numerous mass shootings. As the issue has become more salient politically, it has also become potentially more effective for Democrats. (…)

Opponents of new gun controls are now so thoroughly integrated into the GOP that they are part of that party’s political base. Because they are no longer swing voters, they no longer have the electoral clout they once did.

Some Democrats from conservative, largely rural states or congressional districts will need pro-gun voters to win elections, and they will try to walk a fine line on the issue, as Conor Lamb is trying to do now in a western Pennsylvania House special election.

But in many states and districts, swing suburbanites — and particularly suburban women — are a much more important constituency than are NRA members because those suburban voters can decide which party wins — just the way anti-gun control voters once could.

This increased attention from suburbanites has changed the electoral equation for 2018, and that is why Democrats now should benefit from any focus on gun control issues.

It’s long past time for this shift. The body count has mounted as voters have been deceived by the gun lobby into voting for pro-gun candidates, intolerant of and totally resistant to any gun safety reform measures. The fear and paranoia is just not working any more. Instead, the fear of being shot has increased and the public is standing with our teens who are telling us that they are more afraid to go to school than they are of the insane rhetoric (much from NRATV) coming from the likes of Wayne LaPierre and Dana Loesch. Their increasingly desperate and unhinged rhetoric is falling more and more on deaf ears.

Take note, NRA lapdogs– you may not be around to make those nasty comments and pull out your guns at public meetings any more. You will be consigned to the dustbin of history.

We are better than this and the public understands that.

I will end with the video brought to us by the Brady Campaign about lapdog politicians. It’s good for a laugh which is much needed today, but it’s serious stuff. Watch.

 

 

 

 

 

Listen up- The last school shooting

listenLet’s make the Parkland shooting the last school shooting said one of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school students interviewed after 17 of his school classmates were slaughtered.

The last school shooting took the lives of 17 Parkland, Florida students and educators and traumatized the entire nation. The injured will recover, some with life long debilitating injuries, others left with only the trauma. We are all traumatized.

The thing is, Columbine should have been the last school shooting. Virginia Tech should have been the last school shooting. Sandy Hook for sure should have been the last school shooting. Our kids are sitting ducks. But ducks are better protected from bullets than kids given that duck hunters must use a plug to prevent a hunter from using more than 3 shots at a time. It’s to sustain the duck population for future hunters.

Who is sustaining the population of our children?

Something is different this time. Teachers, students, parents, law enforcement and the media- all speaking out in stronger and more urgent voices asking the “adults” in Congress to act on behalf of our children.

Insanity is the word that comes to mind.

We are all exhausted but we are not numb and we are not stupid. We understand what is going on here. We get that our loose gun laws are killing our precious human resources and snuffing out the potential of dozens of kids to live a productive life with their friends and family.

Last night 300 people came out for a vigil outside of NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia. Some of my friends were there.

1000 people came out in Parkland to honor the victims. But without action, none of this matters.

Speaking of the NRA, I can’t even begin to add up the media articles and stories about how much that organization has contributed to the mayhem and carnage. The time has come to turn on the corporate gun lobby, whose profit motive has become the main reason for existence. It is not your father’s or your grandfather’s NRA any more.

Listen to the voices of gun owners and former NRA members.

Listen to the voice of just one teacher:

Don’t tell me teachers should be carrying weapons in the classroom — we’re not police.

It’s our job to assign books, create lessons and lead discussions that make students think critically and help them see the world a little differently: I want them to read “The Outsiders” in my class and remember it when they’re adults and their kids are reading it.

Don’t tell me there’s nothing we can do about guns. Yes, Americans have a constitutional right to bear arms — but it’s not limitless. And we all have the right to live.

Listen to the voice of the Broward County Sheriff:

““If you’re an elected official, and you want to keep things the way they are ― if you want to keep gun laws as they are now ― you will not get re-elected in Broward County,” Israel told a crowd that erupted in cheers.”

Listen to the voice of just one parent:

“Stop accepting blood money.”

Listen to the students. They are our future. They are being massacred in every more frequent mass shootings. But they are fighting back:

“Please, this is the 18th one this year. That’s unacceptable. We’re children. You guys are the adults,” David Hogg said during an interview on CNN.

And well they should. Read this frightening article about real and not so real threats made by students after the Parkland shooting.  My God. What is going on? Where are the adults in the room?

Remember that every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Talk about the influence of even the Russians in our gun violence epidemic in America.

The NRA has a connection with the Russians.

The NRA has connections with our President. The Brady Center went to court to get a white paper written with the help of the NRA presented to the President right before his inauguration.

So can we talk?

Talk about Brady background checks.

Talk about Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

Talk about Assault Rifles:

Equally important for a gunman looking to do a lot of damage in a hurry: AR-15-style weapons are fed with box magazines that can be swapped out quickly. The standard magazine holds 30 rounds. Equipped in this way, a gunman can fire more than a hundred rounds in minutes.

The Parkland shooter had “countless magazines” for his AR-15, the local sheriff said. And there is still one more reason the weapons are so popular in states like Florida: They are easy to buy — and for Nikolas Cruz, 19, the shooting suspect, far easier to obtain than a handgun.

The Washington Post goes further about another assault weapons ban:

He calls the results “staggering.” Compared with the 10-year period before the ban, the number of gun massacres during the ban period fell by 37 percent, and the number of people dying from gun massacres fell by 43 percent. But after the ban lapsed in 2004, the numbers shot up again — an astonishing 183 percent increase in massacres and a 239 percent increase in massacre deaths. (…)

On a scale of effectiveness ranging from 1 (not effective) to 10 (highly effective), the expert panel gave an average score of 6.8 to both an assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity magazines, the highest ratings among the nearly 30 policies surveyed. (…) More strikingly, substantial numbers of gun owners supported the measures as well: 48 percent of gun owners in that poll said they would support a ban on assault style weapons, and 44 percent said they favored a ban on high-capacity magazines. A Quinnipiac poll conducted later in the year showed similar numbers.

Talk about research on the causes and effects of gun violence.

Talk about how much money our leaders are getting from the NRA.

Ask all candidates what their plans are for preventing shootings and saving lives.

And yes, talk about the Second Amendment:

Ideally we would also rethink the Second Amendment in an age where firearms are far more lethal than in the 18th century and where we no longer require minutemen to protect our liberties from the redcoats. But it’s not necessary to repeal the Second Amendment. The courts have consistently upheld gun regulations in the past, including a federal assault-weapon ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004 and a Maryland ban that went into effect in 2013.

Yet instead of instituting such common-sense safeguards, Congress is moving in the opposite direction. Early in 2017, Congress passed and President Trump signed a bill that revoked an Obama-era regulation that would have made it harder for mentally ill people to buy guns. Toward the end of the year, the House passed legislation that would force every state to honor concealed-carry permits — meaning that a resident of Oklahoma could pack heat in the District of Columbia or New York City.

And talk about all of these things with common sense conversations and actions.

Talk about the insanity of American gun laws and shootings as the rest of the world is watching this insanity unfold. This article highlights an Australian perspective into our shootings.

Do we love our children as much as we love our guns? That is a very important question that needs an answer.

Make this the last school shooting. Because the last one has started a movement and a conversation that is not going away. The accumulation of bodies and inaction by Congress and state legislatures if finally just too much for a nation that sees more gun violence than any other democratized country not at war. Our kids are the victims of knock-off military style weapons used in war. As one friend said, our children have become war correspondents, live streaming a shooter killing their friends and texting parents as the shooting occurs.

With the help of adults, students are going to take national action as the Women’s March has organized a national student walk-out set for March 14th.

We shouldn’t have to do this. This is an American tragedy.

Listen up Mr. President. Spend more than 6 minutes “listening” to the victims of the shooting at the Parkland hospital. Your tone deaf anemic, robotic statement a day after the shooting did not even mention the word guns or gun violence. Your lack of passion and empathy was disheartening and disturbing. Have a nice week-end on the golf course at Mar-a-Lago.

We are better than this.

We have had #Enough.

Nothing to see here….

map of gun deaths
From Gun Violence Archive

Yes. One can apparently buy a rocket propelled grenade launcher in America and keep it at home. That was the case in Minnesota this week as police seized a load of drugs and weapons from a rural home where they were stashed- just in case. From the story:

 

 

A search warrant Tuesday, Jan. 30, led to five arrests and uncovered drugs, nearly four dozen firearms and suspected explosives, including items found in a concrete bunker in the basement.

The items seized from the rural Willmar home included submachine guns, homemade silencers, night vision goggles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

Weapons of war in a bunker. What the he%^? Seriously. This is America where homegrown terrorists stockpile weapons and ammunition to be ready for… for…. what? What was the plan here? More from the article:

According to the criminal complaint, Monson had told someone that he had the addresses of a judge, a prosecutor and another attorney and intended to use explosives in or near their homes and vehicles.

The five people arrested face a variety of felony and misdemeanor drug and weapons charges.

Monson faces felony counts of possessing a firearm with an altered serial number, possessing a machine gun and possessing a firearm suppressor. He also faces two felony counts of fifth-degree drug possession and a gross misdemeanor count of being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

Jacobson faces two felony counts of possessing a firearm with an altered serial number, one felony count of possessing a machine gun and another felony count of possessing a firearm suppressor. He faces gross misdemeanor charges of fifth-degree drug possession, being a drug user in possession of a firearm and negligent storage of firearms accessible to a child.

Johnson faces a felony charge for possessing a firearm after having been convicted of a violent crime, a felony count of fifth-degree drug possession, and a gross misdemeanor count of being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

Quimby is charged with felony and gross misdemeanor fifth-degree drug possession and a gross misdemeanor count of being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

And so,  people who cannot legally purchase or possess firearms, let alone sub machine guns or a rocket propelled grenade launcher, were found in possession of these weapons of war anyway.

And have I mentioned that drugs and guns just don’t go together well? But they are often intertwined making it all the more dangerous.

What could possibly go wrong?

There are Americans stockpiling guns and ammunition with an intent to use them to terrorize other Americans. It is #NotNormal. They are living right under our noses in communities near you.

Could the Minnesota folks from the above article undergo a Brady background check at a Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer and walk away with these weapons legally? NO.

This is why we need to insist that all firearms and related paraphernalia require Brady background checks before they walk out of a store or gun show in the hands of someone who will not use them safely and legally.

We could do this. But we haven’t and we won’t as long as NRA and corporate gun lobby legislators control the country. Do these lawmakers think this is OK? They must.  Otherwise why wouldn’t they agree to pass some common sense legislation to stop this lunacy?

It’s beyond explanation of any kind why our lawmakers continue to allow this culture of violence. The gun violence public health epidemic is real. It is taking the lives of an increasing number of Americans on a daily basis.

Let’s check in with the Gun Violence Archive for the body count just in January of this year:  1334 dead and 2404 injured. 23 mass shootings so far in 2018. Look at the chart on the web page and the map I have provided above. Can you see one state where a gun incident has not happened in January of 2018? One month in America.

This is #NotNormal or inevitable dear readers. Most, if not all, of these shootings are totally preventable.

But let me get back to the above story about rocket propelled grenade launchers and other insanity. Where can one buy some of this stuff anyway? Here. and Here. and Here ( “And anti-personnel weapon. And anti-helicopter weapon. And anti-anything-worth-shooting weapon. And we-Afghans-are-celebrating-a-wedding weapon. And… well, you get the point)”. 

I guess this last one does not shoot grenades but some other kind of ordinance. That makes me feel so much better. People playing soldier at home in rural Minnesota should give us all pause. It is happening in every state actually.

The grenade launcher is legal to purchase after Congress let the assault weapons ban expire. There was a reason for not allowing the import, sale or possession of certain kinds of dangerous weapons under the Assault Weapons Ban. But the corporate gun lobby hated that some weapons were not available to the average citizen and so they bullied our politicians to get rid of legislation that could have saved some lives.

What in the world does a private citizen need with a rocket propelled grenade launcher? Is there an answer that makes any sense at all?

In other news of the #NotNormal, there was another school shooting this week in California involving a 12 year old shooter. Yes indeed- a 12 year old shot and injured 4 people :

A 12-year-old girl was booked on suspicion of negligent discharge of a firearm Thursday after a shooting at Sal Castro Middle School left four students injured, authorities said.

Los Angeles police do not believe that the shooting was intentional, spokesman Josh Rubenstein said Thursday evening.

“At this time, the information suggests that this was an isolated incident, involving the negligent discharge of a firearm, where innocent children and a staff member were unfortunately injured,” the LAPD said in a statement. (…)

“​​​Someone decided to bring a gun, I guess someone was accidentally playing around with it,” said Benjamin, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, whose guardian asked that his last name not be used. “They thought it was a fake gun.”

What? “I guess someone was accidentally playing around with it.” There are no accidents with guns. No one should be accidentally playing around with a gun. Period. Let alone a 12 year old child in a school.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. This is lunacy. Who thought it was a fake gun? This is total irresponsibility and preventable. This is #NotNormal not or inevitable.

Also in the news of the #NotNormal is the fact that an engineer sold altered armour piercing bullets to the Las Vegas shooter and is now charged for this sale to a madman who killed 58 people in just one shooting incident. From the article:

Tracer ammunition is built with a small pyrotechnic charge that produces a bright trail of light to allow a shooter to see the bullet’s trajectory during nighttime firing or other low visibility scenarios.

“At no time did I see anything suspicious or odd or any kind of a tell,” Haig told reporters.

The complaint says Haig told investigators that when Paddock bought the ammunition, he put on gloves before taking the box from Haig.

Nothing odd? Except for the fact that a man wanted to buy multiple rounds of tracer bullets that another man was not licensed to sell:

The 55-year-old aerospace engineer did not have a license to manufacture and sell the armor-piercing bullets he sold to Stephen Paddock in the weeks before the massacre that left 58 people dead.

Nothing to see here folks. Let’s move on to the next massacre.

Where is common sense?

 

Here comes the judge

judgeAs soon as I wrote this I could hear the cadence of the “Rowan and Martin Laugh Incomedy show skit starring Sammy Davis Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Often when decisions about gun policy get to court, judges take a different look at what is going on and decide in the favor of public health and safety. That is as it should be. Law and order are important concepts to our American life and the judicial system. Laws need to be fair and decided on their merits and their constitutionality.

I wrote about the “docs vs. glocks” decision in my last post. It turns out that the first amendment right of a health care provider to practice medicine how they are taught and know is best to treat patients trumps the second amendment. People have a right to know about the risks of guns from those who understand that health care encompasses keeping people from killing themselves or others and keeping children from getting their hands on guns. There is nothing in it for physicians and other health care providers except practicing good health care. Since far too many parents neglect to understand the obvious risk of guns in the home and are irresponsible with their guns, someone has to protect the children.

This week another ruling came down upholding a Maryland assault weapons ban:

The en banc panel of the court, meeting in Richmond, overturned a three-judge panel that ruled against the law. In a 10-4 ruling, 4th Circuit judges sided with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat who introduced the bill when he served in the state Senate in 2013.
The 10-member majority said assault weapons like those banned under the Maryland law were disproportionately used in mass shootings and in assaults on law enforcement officers. Judge Robert King, writing for the majority, said assault weapons are not protected under the Second Amendment.
Maryland’s ban on assault weapons still allows citizens to protect themselves “with a plethora of other firearms and ammunition,” King wrote. King cited shootings in Aurora, Colo.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Orlando, Fla.; Virginia Tech; Fort Hood, Texas; Binghampton, N.Y.; and Tucson, Ariz., the incident in which then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) was shot in the head.
Of course. This is common sense in action. The case was decided en Banc making it even stronger.
And more from the linked article:
“It is unthinkable that these weapons of war, weapons that caused the carnage in Newtown and in other communities across the country, would be protected by the Second Amendment,” Frosh said.
Unthinkable.
But the corporate gun lobby doesn’t care about the unthinkable. To them, anything goes if it means increasing sales and having more power. They equate it all with rights. Where are the rights of the rest of us to be safe from people who believe they can carry around a weapon of war on our streets ( as is done in some places) or take one into a school, a mall, a college campus or anywhere else and unload the high capacity magazine full of bullets into the bodies of innocent people. Now that is unthinkable.
I just hate to get into any kind of discussion about the second amendment because it just raises hackles and is usually unproductive.
This is about public safety. If anyone thinks our society is the same as it was when the amendment was written in 1791, please let me know. Or take a look at the States United to Prevent Gun Violence video below which I have included in other blog posts:
The world has changed. The world of guns has certainly changed. And the change has not made American citizens safer.
We will be judged by how we treated our fellow citizens and hopefully not how we failed to protect them from harm. We will be judged by the ways in which we saved our children from senseless harm, injury and death by any means.
Gun violence is insidious. Gun violence is a public health epidemic. Gun violence is preventable. The courts understand this.
Will our elected leaders?

 

It’s about the guns

little boyThe last few days have been difficult and heart-breaking to say the least. In my home state of Minnesota of course, a black man was shot to death by a police officer after being stopped for allegedly having a broken tail light. Really? So much to say here that I can hardly say it all. The victim had a legal permit to carry a gun around. He announced that he had that permit. Why? He didn’t have to according to Minnesota law. But he was a black man with a gun. Perhaps he was afraid that if he was found with a gun on his person, things would get hairy for him. He was right.

Would he have been alive had he not had that permit to carry and announced that he did to the officer? We don’t know. I’m just thinking out loud.

Philando Castile was his name. He was a beloved cafeteria worker in a St. Paul Montessori School. A role model to children.

Now he is dead.

So many unanswered questions. We don’t know why he kept saying that he had this permit to carry, or so his girlfriend said he was saying.

The gun lobby has been working hard to arm every American just in case….. Castile must have thought his gun and his legal permit would protect him from harm. It didn’t.

Where is the gun lobby’s outrage over these shootings? Are they standing with the Black Lives Matters protest in St. Paul because a man with a legal permit to carry was shot to death by an officer? Nope.

We don’t know why the officer fired his gun when Philando allegedly moved his hand towards his pocket for his ID.

We just don’t know everything. People react to situations in many different ways.

We do know that when a gun is present, things often go wrong.

We do also know that more guns are not making us safer.

We understand that there is racism abounding in our American communities fomented by fear and paranoia of “others”. We do know that the gun lobby is making it worse.

We do know that one Presidential candidate in the name of Mr. Donald Trump has said that the Orlando tragic shooting could have been lessened or averted if only someone had been armed.

Ludicrous.

And then came Dallas last night. Armed officers were gunned down by a couple of citizens ( or that is what we know so far) who seemed to have been upset by the peaceful Black Lives Matters protest over the Minnesota and Louisiana shootings of black men.

Four guys with assault style weapons and high capacity magazines were like snipers gunning down officers on purpose- armed officers.

We know that it is easy to get assault rifles and high capacity magazines in America- far too easy. We have made it easy. We allowed the Assault Weapons Ban to expire. What has happened since? Numerous shootings of innocent school children, movie goers, military members, officers, LGBTQ citizens, and others. That’s what our lack of common sense has done.

And, as a reminder to my readers, most of these guns were legally obtained by otherwise “law abiding” gun owners.

Hypocrisy.

Good guys with guns are as bad as bad guys with guns.

The least we can do is to keep guns away from the “bad guys”. But what do we do about the good guys?

Only in America. It’s about the guns. It’s about a gun culture and a culture of fear and hatred that, when combined, leads to tragic shootings and senseless loss of lives. From this editorial in the Baltimore Sun:

We are in the deep end, my fellow Americans, drowning in anger and frustration, guns and violence. I don’t know about you, but when I woke up this morning and read the news from Dallas, I felt like the country had tipped toward anarchy.

The U.S. is an exceptional country, all right. Exceptional for its political, social and racial polarization. Exceptional in its acceptance of gun ownership.

You can feel despondent. You can feel hopeless.

I am despondent but not feeling hopeless. As someone who has lost a sister in a domestic shooting, I have been re-traumatized by these latest shootings. I watched the now viral video taken by the girlfriend of Philando Castile. I watched the blood ooze from his shirt. I heard his dying moans and breaths. What if there was a video of my sister’s last moans and breaths? What if?

What if this was your loved one as President Obama said in a speech given last night before the Dallas shooting. What if? What if our elected leaders were made to watch videos and see photos of the victims’ last dying breaths? What if this was one of theirs?

And who will protect the children as I asked in my last post? There was a 4 year old girl in the back seat of Philando Castile’s car who saw him shot and watched him die. How can we forget the children who witness such awful murder in their young lives?

What if Congress just straight up passed stronger gun laws without pandering to the corporate gun lobby as House Speaker Paul Ryan just did:

“We’re not going to rush it,” the Wisconsin Republican said at a news conference. “We’re going to get it right. And that’s what we’re working on with our members.”

No rush. Every day 90 Americans die from gunshot injuries.

No rush. 5 officers were just gunned down in Dallas.

No rush. 49 LGBTQ Americans were just gunned down at a nightclub in Orlando.

No rush, Speaker Ryan.

Shame.

Heartbreak.

Outrage.

Tears.

Sorrow.

Before the Dallas shootings but after the Minnesota shooting, the words of Protect Minnesota’s Executive Director Rev. Nancy Nord Bence, were sent out to supporters. She was urging us to look at the Philando Castile shooting from many perspectives. But in the end, it’s all about the guns. Here is the email sent out last night titled “Thoughts on the death of Philando Castile:

 July 7, 2016
Posted by Rev. Nancy Nord Bence, Executive Director

“Another terrible tragedy occurred last night, this time in our own backyard, when Philando Castile was shot dead by a police officer in Falcon Heights. Philando was a much loved 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor at a St. Paul Montessori school who was black. According to police reports, he was pulled over for a tail light violation and a handgun was “recovered at the scene.” According to his girlfriend, the officer shot Philando as he reached for his identification as per the officer’s request. Philando was armed, but had clearly announced that he had a permit to carry a handgun. His girlfriend, sitting next to him in the car with her young child in the backseat, streamed a video of Philando as he slumped over, bleeding, having been shot four times point blank. The video allows us to hear the officer yell at her and then handcuff and detain her, while she narrates, weeps and prays that Philando will survive. It is difficult to watch.

Because this awful incident involved gun violence, Protect Minnesota is expected to make a definitive statement and “take sides” on the issue. At this time, with so much still unknown, I am not prepared to do either. But I do have some thoughts to share. What follows isn’t short and pithy–I’m a pastor after all!– but I hope you’ll find it helpful.

1. On Racism
This was the second questionable shooting of a black man by police in the U.S. in as many days. According to the Washington Post, there have been 509 police killings in America so far this year, with African Americans being killed at a rate 2-1/2 times greater than whites. President Obama today said that African Americans are 30% more likely than whites to be pulled over and three times more likely to be searched by the police. Whatever other particulars arise, racism cannot be discounted as a key element of this tragedy. Often-hidden but always present, racism is like a strand of barbed wire woven into the fabric of our society. Its barbs catch, tear and hold back every institution, organization and individual as we strive to move forward towards justice. Since it would be naive to think that law enforcement does not reflect the racist attitudes that permeate our culture, this incident cries out for a full investigation by the Department of Justice. But nothing is black and white: according to Philando’s girlfriend in the video, the officer was Asian American. It’s safe to assume that he also experiences racial discrimination on a regular basis. At this time we cannot know how that factors into the equation.

2. On Police
There are approximately 1 million working police officers and law enforcement professionals in the United States, the vast majority of whom honorably serve and protect their communities. The risks they face have increased in recent years due to the ubiquity of firearms. More guns are being carried around in public now than at any time in our history, including during frontier times and the days of the “wild west”. Police officers now have to assume that anyone they detain may be carrying a gun and present a threat to their life. And the threat is real. According the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, shooting deaths of members of the U.S. law-enforcement community have increased significantly in recent years. For the first time in 2014, shootings comprised the leading cause of death for law enforcement personnel on the job, with ambush-style shooting attacks increasing the most. According to a 2010 press release issued by the San Mateo County, California, Sheriff’s Office,

“the law enforcement response is one of ‘hypervigilant urgency’… Should the gun carrying person fail to comply with a law enforcement instruction or move in a way that could be construed as threatening, the police are forced to respond in kind for their own protection. It’s well and good in hindsight to say the gun carrier was simply “exercising their rights” but the result could be deadly.”

That is a perfect description of what appears to have happened last night. Philando Castile was exercising his right to carry a firearm in Minnesota with a legal permit. He was totally within his rights and fully complying with both the law and the officer’s instructions when he was shot. The officer seems to have reacted with lethal “hypervigilant urgency” when he heard Philando announce that he had a permit to carry. Sadly, this is not unusual in the circumstance. According to gun violence expert David Hemenway in his book Private Guns, Public Health,

“Police officers, who receive large amounts of training, are still often inadequately prepared to handle ambiguous but potentially dangerous situations. Intense stress, confusion and fear are inherent in most possible shooting situations. Heart rates skyrocket, and it’s difficult to think clearly and to act deliberately. Not surprisingly, even police make serious mistakes.”

So even as we demand justice for the killing of Philando Castile, we can have compassion for the frightened officer who shot him.

3. On the NRA and the gun lobby.
In its continuing efforts to arm America in order to generate more profits for the gun industry, the gun lobby has done much to perpetuate two distructive myths that I believe may have played a role in Philando Castile’s tragic death.

Myth number 1: Gun violence is really just a “black on black” violence problem.
The NRA loves to quote statistics about how many black people kill other black people. Why? Because it feeds the fear that blacks are dangerous so we must carry guns to protect ourselves against them. In reality, according to FBI’s most recent statistics, 84% of white murder victims are killed by white people, compared to 90% of black murder victims who are killed by black people. Whites are six times more likely to be murdered by another white person as by a black person. And here’s the kicker: 82% of gun deaths in Minnesota are suicides, an overwhelmingly white phenomenon. Unfortunately, we never hear about the epidemic of “white on white” gun violence, but the “black on black” myth has been swallowed whole by the media. The image of the scary black man with a gun has become a psychological meme in white America–and the gun lobby seems to be fine with that. How do I know? Listen to their deafening silence in response to Philando’s shooting. A permit-holding, law abiding American who was exercising his 2nd Amendment right was shot point blank by a police officer for no other reason than stating that he had a permit to carry. Where is the NRA’s outrage? Have they joined the Black Lives Matter protesters outside the Governor’s mansion?

Myth number 2: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
We hear the NRA trumpet that after every terrible shooting. Well, this time it was a “good guy” with a gun who did the terrible shooting. If a licensed police officer who has completed many hours of firearms training and testing on justified and unjustified shootings could over-react to such deadly effect, how can we expect untrained “amateurs” to respond with measured self-control when faced with a real or imagined threat? This is the aspect of Philando Castile’s death that falls within the missional scope of Protect Minnesota. Our task is to counter the myth that more guns equal more safety. They don’t. More guns equal more gun tragedies. More gun crimes. More mass shootings. More domestic gun murders. More black on black gun violence. More white on white gun violence. More gun suicides. More unintentional gun deaths of children. And yes, more police shootings. The common denominator is the gun.

We at Protect Minnesota join President Obama, Governor Dayton and the larger gun violence prevention community in expressing our deepest condolences to the family of Philando Castile. We grieve at the senseless loss of a good man who was loved by the children at the school where he worked. We weep at the thought of the trauma that his girlfriend and her young child have experienced and will relive every time the video is played. Our prayers are with all people of color in our community who have been wounded by yet another apparently unjustified shooting of a black man by law enforcement. Our hearts are open as well for the dedicated and honorable police officers throughout our state and nation who will now face greater suspicion and increased risks.

There is no easy, definitive statement to make except this: In the wake of this tragedy, we will continue to do our job. We will counter the false claims of the gun lobby. We will build a statewide network of people and organizations who support sensible gun legislation. We will speak out against and work to prevent gun violence in Minnesota. I invite you to join us.”

The false claims of the gun lobby have us in this position. How do officers deal with armed citizens? Often they are outgunned by people on the streets. How do communities deal with more heavily armed young men in their communities? How do the young men in affected communities get their guns so easily and why do they feel like they need them? Why are officers so quick to stop people of color for minor traffic violations? Why are officers more afraid of black people with guns than white people with guns?

Governor Mark Dayton boldly said it like it is in his press conference yesterday:

“Would this have happened if … the driver and passenger were white?” he asked. “I don’t think it would’ve. So I’m forced to confront and I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront that this kind of racism exists.”

Today, President Obama said it like it is in his statement:

“Let me just say, even as yesterday I spoke about our need to be concerned, as all Americans, about racial discrimination in our criminal justice system. I also said our police have an extremely difficult job and the vast majority do their job in outstanding fashion,” he continued. “We also know when people are armed with powerful weapons, unfortunately it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic. And in the days ahead we are going to have to consider those realities as well.”

Realities. More guns are NOT making us safer. The gun lobby is dead wrong.

This is about racism. This is about intolerance. This is about fear. And this is, at the least, about guns.

 

UPDATE:

We now know that there was a single gunman in Dallas. He had served in the military. He had lots of guns. He claimed he wanted to shoot white people ( he was black). One lone man with extreme  and out of the mainstream ideas( and a loner according to neighbors) could do this much damage because he could buy an assault style rifle with many rounds of high capacity magazines. He knew what he was doing. He knew he could inflict a lot of damage on a lot of people. From the article above:

Micah Xavier Johnson didn’t have a criminal record and apparently acted alone in the carefully planned ambush during a march downtown, a law enforcement official, who was not authorized to comment publicly, told USA TODAY earlier Friday. Seven other officers and two civilians were also wounded.

In a statement Friday afternoon, Dallas police confirmed the identity of the gunman and said he was described as a loner by some who knew him. Detectives were in the process of analyzing the information in the journal, the statement said. (…)

Johnson’s Facebook account included the names Fahed Hassen and Richard GRIFFIN or Professor Griff, the Dallas Police Department said in the statement. GRIFFIN, who embraces a “radical form of Afrocentrism,” police said, also authored a book titled A Warrior’s Tapestry.

Extremism of any kind and guns and ammunition are a lethal mix. We have proof of that over and over again. But we are still waiting to act.

Why?

 

 

What now?

What's next?It’s been an eventful few weeks for America. Our nation’s worst mass shooting took place, killing 49 gay/lesbian people at a nightclub in Orlando. Of course our leaders did the right thing and immediately passed laws that would make it harder for dangerous people to get guns.  Our leaders, in the figures of mostly Republicans, refused to act to do something to make it harder for dangerous people to get guns. The Democrats and a few Republicans and Independents decided this was not the way things were going to go this time.

This time.

Not after this mass shooting.

Not after Sandy Hook.

Not after Aurora.

Not after Tucson.

Not after Umpqua Community College.

Not after San Bernardino.

Not after Santa Monica.

…………..

Not this time.

Australia acted after its’ country’s worst mass shooting. There have been no more mass shootings since 1996 when gun laws were strengthened there.

The Senate took a vote (after a successful Democratic filibuster) on whether or not we should allow those on the terror watch list to be able to buy guns legally. And it passed. It was blocked by the bought and paid for Republicans a few scared Democrats. Then they took a vote on whether or not it was OK for a felon, domestic abuser, someone adjudicated mentally ill, a fugitive or another such person to buy guns without background checks. And it passed. It was blocked by the Republicans and a few scared Democrats.

Then something happened in the U.S. House of Representatives. An unprecedented sit-in happened to get a vote on whether dangerous people should be able to buy guns legally. They sat for 25 hours and had help from some of the Senators who days earlier had made their stand with a 15 hour filibuster which led to the no votes.

They used their own photos and a video app called Periscope to feed their speeches to the public through the Facebook platform and C-Span. Never before had this been done. But then never before had 49 Americans been killed in one place at one time except during war time.

And Speaker Paul Ryan called a vote to protect us from the next mass shooter.

Civil disobedience has a way of calling attention to something the leaders don’t want us to know, see or hear about.

What next? What now? More civil disobedience?

More sit-ins?

More filibusters?

More no votes?

More shootings?

For surely the shootings will come until we decide that they shouldn’t and decide we can actually do something about them without fearing that the corporate gun lobby will interfere and “call the shots.”

The public understands what is happening. The public will vote in November and they will not forget that some of our leaders are not interested or care enough about the many victims of shootings to sit with the victims’ families and look into their eyes and tell them that they just won’t do anything to stop more people from ending up like their own loved ones. They care more about being re-elected and maintaining the power they got largely through special interest lobby groups whose money speaks.

Who will speak for the victims?

Lack of courage is not a good feature in a leader. Lack of empathy and conviction doesn’t work out well when representing people who need help and support. Lack of ability to stand up for what’s right even though a powerful lobby is telling you you can’t do it is shameful and spineless. Lack of the backbone to tell the gun lobby to take a hike because they are not representing the Americans who want you to do something, anything, to stop this carnage- these massacres, is not only unbecoming, it’s inexcusable.

There are no excuses. Lack of common sense leads to bad decision-making for the good of the people.

There are no excuses. No. Rights will not be taken from someone who deserves them and is law-abiding.

Not everyone gets those rights. They are not God-given and sacrosanct no matter what the gun lobby has deceived people into believing. And the second amendment does not say that we can’t infringe on the rights of dangerous people to have guns. That is total nonsense.

If a conversation can’t take place and a bill can’t be marked up to deal with what is staring us in the face, we can’t even try to deal with language that will make sure someone whose name may be on the no-fly list by mistake can address the problem and correct it. A bill was floated by Senator Susan Collins that would give people 14 days to get their name off the no-fly list after being told it is on the list and that they can’t buy a gun. It was a bi-partisan effort and it passed, of course. From the linked article:

“The Orlando shooting provides perhaps the clearest example of why this provision is so important,” Collins said ahead of the vote, referring to the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

“Surely on an issue of this importance we should be able to come together and work for common sense solutions,” Collins said of her bill.

Afterwards, she said she was “uncertain” what happens next — though she claimed momentum, arguing she was “pleased” with the “strong vote.”

The bill drew more bipartisan support than previous measures, and defeated the procedural vote aimed at tabling it permanently. But in the end it fell victim to same ideological splits that have prevented any movement on guns in the past few years.

So there you have it.

In the name of common sense, if someone is so desperate to buy a gun that we can’t wait for 14 days to see if they actually are a terrorist or someone who shouldn’t have one, then we have lost our ability to think through what is best for all of us.

More from the article about the House sit-in:

“I tremble at the thought of what” Republicans will do next, Pelosi, (D-Calif.) said at a press conference.

“We need actions, not words,” Pelosi, visibly exhausted, added, referring to empty calls for thoughts and prayers following mass shootings.

“We cannot stop until we get a bill,” she said. “It’s not about politics, it’s not about elections, it’s not about campaigns, it’s about the safety of the American people.”

What is next? Speaker Ryan? Majority Leader McConnell?

Gun owners and Republicans are on board with these proposals.

The majority of NRA members want these common sense measures to happen.

What next Republican leadership? Who will you represent? Who will you protect?

Who will you sit-in for or stand up for?

Whose sons or daughters or sisters or brothers or uncles, aunts, nieces, grandchildren will be next on the list of victims of mass shootings?

Who will listen to the voters and the public during the election?

Who will acknowledge that the public actually wants restrictions on weapons designed for war time use?

Who will take money from the gun lobby to do their bidding to make sure as many Americans are armed as possible and will go to the gun stores to keep profits coming?

How many more AR-15s and other such assault type rifles ( and other guns not needed for self defense) will a minority of crazed and fearful Americans buy to protect themselves from their own government? 

How many more people who shouldn’t be able to buy guns will buy them anyway and commit acts of mass murder or everyday shootings while our Congress refuses to sit down and stand up for victims?

How many more private sellers will sell guns to people who are too dangerous to own them because a background check is not required for private gun sellers?

What?

Who?

When?

Where?

Why?

 

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.