The game’s not over yet

NY Daily news cover
From New York Daily News

The Parkland mass school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school happened in about the 3rd inning. In the midst of the aftermath of the Las Vegas shooting, the Pulse nightclub shooting, the Sutherland church shooting, the Parkland school shooting happened taking the lives of 17 innocent kids and teachers. The Parkland student survivors were not having it. They decided to speak out and challenge everything about gun violence and the corporate gun lobby.

Nothing will ever be the same. The “game” played by the gun lobby has been exposed. The whole country is aware, activated and talking about gun violence in ways that have not happened before Feb. 14th of this year.

In today’s Duluth News Tribune a letter writer challenged the NRA’s false claims about guns and gun ownership. The writer suggested that the NRA is striking out now that the spotlight is on their myths and dangerous agenda. He’s right. The Parkland students and students all over the country have emboldened not only students but the public. People are speaking out like never before and finally saying what needs to be said and have wanted to say for a long time now.

This writer said this:

Twice I have seen the same man in a local gas station with a pistol on his belt. He did not look well. Misery and depression were obvious on his face. A steady diet of Fox News can do that to a person. Yet he alone among the customers possessed lethal force. It was up to him to act as judge, jury, and executioner if he felt threatened. Is this law and order or Wild West chaos?

Keep your hunting rifles and your shotguns. Own a handgun if you must. But owning guns should not make you judge, jury, and executioner. Nor does it necessarily make you free.

Gun ownership means freedom. Wrong. Many so called good guys with guns have killed too many of our kids and others because of that myth of freedom.

Another letter writer challenged the NRA directly when he suggested that the NRA has struck out because their dangerous rhetoric has led to deaths and injuries:

When all else fails, the NRA seems to want you to believe that outlawing military-type weapons for private use will “not solve the problem,” the problem being the killing of innocent people. Yep, hasn’t stopped since Cain killed Abel. This is the same as saying, “Even though there are speed laws, people will disobey; therefore, we did not solve the problem. So why have speed laws?”

It seems the NRA cannot understand that reducing the slaughter is a worthy cause. Strike three; you’re out, NRA.

#WecallBS

I spent time with the students at one of our local high schools on Friday for the National School Walkouts. I could not be prouder of those kids who are doing what adults have not done. One group of students walked out of their classes to our City Hall and had a moment of silence for the victims of the Columbine shooting on the anniversary of the shooting. And then they got to work. Students called legislators to ask them to support a bill that would once again allow the Health Department to do research about gun violence. ( a no brainer but resisted by the corporate gun lobby). None of the students had done this before. It was heartening to see them improve their skills and get excited and feel so empowered by their activism. It was clear that they were making a difference because one staffer said that they knew what the call was about because they had been getting many calls.

After it was over, the press interviewed the students who spoke with authority and new found communication skills not found in many adults.

Another walkout in my city attracted 300 students who walked out and marched on city streets. A third of the student population gathered to express their exasperation with the game. They understand that our adult leaders are letting them down by not acting to save lives and prevent at least some of the shootings. They get it. They are the new players in this game and fast becoming the stars.

This is how change happens.

In addition, students signed postcards of thank you to Dick’s Sporting Goods for their decision to stop selling assault style rifles and destroy their inventory of said guns. They will be delivered in person to our local Dick’s store.

One student cried as she remembered a relative who had been shot in the Red Lake mass school shooting telling me how that shooting had affected her family. The shooting happened 13 years ago but still the memories of loss remain.I told her about my sister’s death and suggested that she talk more about her story. The walkout allowed her to talk about it in a safe place. She left feeling like she could make a difference.

The student led walkouts and marches have energized a generation and moved the entire country in a direction adults had not thought possible. It’s a strike against the gun lobby who has tried but failed to stain the Parkland surviving students. Shame on them for playing this ugly game.

The game is changing. A new poll in Minnesota shows broad support for gun safety reform:

A majority of Minnesotans support stricter gun laws in the United States, including wide backing for a ban on military-style rifles and for raising the age for gun purchases from 18 to 21, a new Star Tribune Minnesota Poll has found.

An overwhelming 9 out of 10 Minnesota voters also favor mandatory criminal background checks on all gun sales, the poll shows, including those sold privately and at gun shows. And Minnesotans in every part of the state oppose the arming of schoolteachers, which some political leaders, including President Donald Trump, have suggested.

The polling shows political and regional divides regarding stronger gun laws but overall supports all previous polling on the issue in Minnesota and nation-wide.

Meanwhile, back in the real world of the devastation of gun violence, another mass shooting at a Nashville Waffle House left 4 dead. The hero of that incident stopped the gunman and saved lives– but he did it without a gun. A “good guy without a gun” was the quote from New York Daily News front page photo after the shooting. Not a good image for the corporate gun lobby.

And yes, it was another AR-15 that the shooter clearly should not have been able to access that accounted for a senseless and unmotivated shooting because………?:

Illinois authorities and the FBI interviewed him and revoked his firearms authorization. Four weapons were seized, including the AR-15 rifle used in the Waffle House shooting, Aaron said.

Officials returned the weapons to Reinking’s father, on the condition he would keep them out of his son’s hands. But the father gave the guns back to Reinking, Aaron said, adding that two of the four guns are missing.

In 2016, Reinking threatened to kill himself, and cops who arrived at a CVS parking lot said he told them singer Taylor Swift had been stalking him.

In what world would a father return the guns to his son who so clearly had problems? What was he thinking? Some people should not have guns, period. But everyone has a constitutional right to a gun.

Another strike against the gun lobby myths.

One more tragic and heartbreaking incident involving the totally avoidable and senseless shooting of a two year old by her own mother highlights again the risk of guns in homes. The gun lobby can’t explain these kinds of shootings without revealing the hypocrisy of their game of lies and deceptions. From the article:

Cleveland ABC affiliate WEWS reported that the mother admitted to dropping the gun in a 911 call and said the girl was not breathing. She also told operators she thought the safety was off, but then later told authorities the safety was on, WEWS reported.

Police said the gun was legally registered and she owned a concealed carry permit.

There are no accidents with guns. They are lethal weapons designed to kill people.

“Good guys” with guns make lethal mistakes every day.

If there is any common sense, the public will win the game over deceptions and myths.

Two points of view, published in my local paper today, show us how the game is played. One, written by Daniel Hernandez, staffer to former Rep. Gabby Giffords and present at the Tucson shooting that left her forever changed, uses the facts to support the truth about gun violence in America:

Though gun laws vary from state to state, at least one trend is clear: States with weaker gun laws have more gun deaths. You would never know it, though, from the lies pushed by entrenched interests like the National Rifle Association, lies backed by the weight of the NRA’s vast political contributions.

For example, the NRA claims guns make people safer, that gun laws don’t work, and that the “only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” But none of that is actually true.

In reality, owning a gun puts individuals at a higher risk of gun violence; strong gun violence prevention laws are effective at saving lives; and armed citizens rarely successfully intervene to stop an active shooter.

We have to be willing to call out these myths, educate voters, and hold elected officials accountable when they repeat them.

The other, uses the myths and deceptions used in the game played by the corporate gun lobby. The writer, with whom I am unfamiliar, equated overall crime rates to gun violence, a deception often used by those opposed to any common sense measures to save lives. It ends with one of the other myths claiming that passing stronger gun laws will take away the rights of law abiding gun owners. This specious claim is easily debunked and has been:

Instead of penalizing law-abiding gun owners who use their firearms to save thousands of people every year, lawmakers should work to reduce crime by improving economic growth and providing additional educational opportunities. Those are proven methods for limiting crime.

The writer also used the lie that most homicides are gang related and chose to discount the gun deaths caused by suicide:

It’s also important to note that relative to other problems in our society of 320 million people, gun-related crime caused by Americans who legally own a firearm involved in the crime is virtually nonexistent. Of the 33,000 gun-related deaths that occur each year, two-thirds are suicides, and the majority of the remaining 11,000 deaths are gang-related and involve guns purchased illegally.

Let’s look at just the lie about gang related shootings from the linked article above:

The 80 percent of gang-related gun homicides figure purporting to support Loesch’s claim, then, is not only false, but off by nearly a factor of five. The direct opposite is necessarily true: more than 80 percent of gun homicides are non-gang related. While gang violence is still a serious problem that needs to be addressed, it is disingenuous to assert that the vast majority of our gun problem (even excluding suicides) is caused by gangs.

The article refers to NRA talking head Dana Loesch, responsible for many of the lies pushed by that organization. We are on to her and her lies and not playing her game.

The NRA and the corporate gun lobby are striking out with the general public. It is a fierce game, accompanied by ugly attacks on those who just want to save lives. But it’s a long game and the players are changing.

The students have come off of the bench and they are becoming the star players. They are the hope that the game is changing.

The discussion about how to prevent gun violence should be not a game. But the NRA and the corporate gun lobby have made it so and they have been winning for far too long as the bodies have piled up.

#Enough  #WeCallBS

 

It’s the kids, stupid

March for Our Lives
from the Brady Campaign

What do our leaders not get about the movement that is taking place in our country right now? Why are they ignoring the voices of the kids who understand the sound of an AR-15 killing their friends? Why do they continue to mouth the same old tired NRA talking points when pretending that nothing can be done as did Senator Ted Cruz yesterday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe?

 

Cruz was wrong but was smooth in his lies and deceptions brought to him and us by the NRA and corporate gun lobby. We aren’t having it. #WeCallBS. 

I have been working with teens and young adults in my city to support their plans for student Walk-outs on March 14th and a local March For Our Lives on March 24th. With each exchange with the students I have become more impressed with their energy and resolve to do something about the lack of action on laws and actions that would protect them from shootings in their schools.

Adults want to support these kids knowing that their voices are being heard and that they are the leaders for this cause. Many national gun violence prevention organizations and other organizations are lining up to co-sponsor the walk-outs and marches.

Kids are afraid. Why wouldn’t they be? They are the targets and sitting ducks for school shooters who have killed students all over our country in surprise attacks against their own classmates. They are also able to get their hands on guns far too easily.

In the past few weeks since the Parkland shooting there have been numerous incidents of threats to schools by young kids. In Minnesota, one particularly alarming incident involved a 13 year old Vadnais Heights boy who had threatened to shoot up a school:

The father of a Vadnais Heights boy who allegedly threatened to shoot up his school owned several illegal firearms and kept loaded guns out in the open, according to charges filed Monday.

Christopher Stowe, 41, was charged in Ramsey County District Court with two felony counts of prohibited possession of machine guns and short-barreled shotguns and one count of gross misdemeanor negligent storage of firearms where a child can access them.

Authorities on Friday seized a cache of firearms, ammunition and at least two explosive devices from Stowe’s split-level home on Desoto Street. Some of the firearms were unsecured, and a ballistic vest was also recovered, authorities said. (…) “During the execution of the search warrant, law enforcement officers also observed that several of the firearms were a [sic] loaded and located out in the open and accessible to children in the home,” the charges said. “[The boy] was home alone when law enforcement officers first arrived to execute the search warrant.”

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. What was this family planning? And what were they thinking? Some gun owners have a total lack of common sense when it comes to storing their guns safely away from the hands of children. This family seemed clueless about the guns that were left loaded laying around their home. There are no excuses for this behavior around lethal weapons. Had this boy shot up his classmates at his school, I am quite sure they would have thought differently about their own lack of common sense.

The stakes are high. What is it about the risk of loaded guns in homes that some people don’t understand? I say it’s the gun culture gone wrong. It’s the Senator Ted Cruz nonsensical arguments that filter down to some gun owners who are vulnerable to the lies and paranoia spewed by the lobbyists and leaders of the NRA.

The AR-15s used in recent mass shootings take more lives at once which is why they are used. A Parkland physician wrote this article about the damage done to body tissue and organs when bullets come from assault type rifles. From the article:

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the mass-shooting victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, and was bleeding extensively. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage? (…) Routine handgun injuries leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks through the victim’s body that are roughly the size of the bullet. If the bullet does not directly hit something crucial like the heart or the aorta, and the victim does not bleed to death before being transported to our care at the trauma center, chances are that we can save him. The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different: They travel at a higher velocity and are far more lethal than routine bullets fired from a handgun. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than—and imparting more than three times the energy of—a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun. An AR-15 rifle outfitted with a magazine with 50 rounds allows many more lethal bullets to be delivered quickly without reloading.

This is why the kids are scared. This is why the kids, parents and teachers know that trying to make ordinary hunting rifles seem the same as assault style rifles is “BS”. This is why the kids are angry.

The kids are not having it. There have been small walk-outs and protests all over the country. Just yesterday, hundreds (some say 2000) students from 2 high schools in St Paul, Minnesota walked to the state Capitol to express their anger and frustration:

“We’ve sat through many school shootings, and we’ve watched, and we’ve listened and we’ve waited for something to change, and nothing has changed,” said one of the organizers, Clare Fitzpatrick, a 18-year-old senior from Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul. (…)

“I just hope that we can change this. I just hope that everybody that they can make this work, and we can change the gun violence. And find out a way to keep guns away from schools.”

Fitzpatrick said students want the Minnesota Legislature to take action.

“We’ve received silence from our legislators that can’t pass a bill to help our students, and I think our first priority should be passing legislation that’s going to help save lives of students.”

Another article explains that other students joined the students who walked to the Capitol adding to the crowd to make it around 5000 students-and it’s not even the day of the March For Our Lives! From the article:

Arie Walker, a sophomore from St. Paul Academy and Summit School, said the mass shootings have instilled fear in her. Before she comes to school, she said, she thinks about what students could be thinking. She said this has made it hard for her to trust her peers.

“It builds tension,” Walker said. “We shouldn’t be scared that someone is going to come to school and shoot us.”

Tension is the least of what is happening.

And yet another source about this walk-out:

“As a group of students, we come here today with total diversity of opinion,” Doyle said in an interview. “As you look around, there are people here with signs with specific demands. As a group, we’re here to promote legislative action. I don’t think that high schoolers should have to write the bills for legislators. That’s why they’re in there. And that’s why we’re out here — to encourage them to write those bills.”

No, high schoolers shouldn’t have to write bills but right now I am thinking they could do a much better job of it than the legislators who have no courage or conviction.

Will we invest in our kids? More from the linked article:

As seen elsewhere, the school shooting in Florida seems to have triggered a rash of copycat threats. At least 21 threats have been made against Minnesota schools in the last three weeks, resulting in recent lockdowns and school closures at Minneapolis’ Patrick Henry High School, schools in the Cambridge-Isanti Public Schools and Orono Public Schools districts.

In response to Governor Dayton’s safe schools request, a Superintendent had this to say ( from thea article):

Speaking in support of Dayton’s proposal, Orono Public Schools Superintendent Karen Orcutt said it’s important that schools are given flexibility in how they invest in safety and security features because no two schools’ needs are exactly the same. But having recently endured a lockdown that lasted nearly six hours as police and the FBI investigated a “serious shooting threat” coming from inside one of the district’s buildings, she says it became clear that more needs to be done.

“All of these things we had going for us did not assure nor comfort the parents of these children, who spent the whole day under a threat and a lockdown,” she said.

Our kids are under threat almost every day. The adults are not listening or doing nearly enough.

Listen to the kids. They are leading the adults and we should listen to them. They are wiser than the adults and they are affected by gun violence in ways adults are not. There have been 18 incidents of guns firing at or in schools already this year alone. And it’s only March. Here’s one that just happened in Alabama.

We can expect to see more shootings in schools and everywhere else for that matter. We can also expect to see many thousands of students involved in Walk-outs scheduled for March 14th at 10:00 a.m. in each time zone. So far, as I write, students at 2300 schools will walk out of classes for 17 minutes and each will do something different during their protests.

On March 24th it is expected that there could be 500,000 students and others in Washington D.C. at a March For Our Lives. Marches will occur in cities all over the country and the world for that matter. People are angry. They want their voices to be heard and they want our leaders to act. They have had #Enough.

Why are they not acting? Have we been taken hostage by a hostile enemy? Have some of our leaders lost their mandate to protect their constituents from harm? Apparently.

At least in Florida, nicknamed the “gunshine state” the kids got to the legislators and they passed a bill that will help prevent some shootings. They could have gone further to save lives but this is a first step and a slippery slope to common sense. In spite of Marion Hammer, the legislators acted. Finally the voices of those who matter were heard. The NRA be damned.

The NRA has dug in its’ heels as it usually does. No capitulation for them. No compromising either. Just listen to their spokeswoman, Dana Loesch,  threaten the media and others on NRA TV:

“To the politicians who would rather watch America burn than lose one ounce of their own personal power, to the late night posts that think their opinion is the only opinions that matter.

“To the Joy-Ann Reids, the Morning Joes, the Mikas. To those who stain honest reporting with partisanship.

“To those who bring bias and propaganda to CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times… your time is running out. The clock starts now.”

She then turns over the sand timer before the screen fades to black and a message appears promoting Loesch’s new show on NRATV.

Perhaps the NRA’s time is running out.

No wonder so many people and businesses are distancing themselves from the organization.

The majority of people are supportive of reasonable gun laws understanding that the second amendment does not preclude passing laws to keep our children safe.

Health care providers who deal with kids and teens understand the risks and the public health aspect of gun violence. This Minnesota group of physicians has come forward to urge more research on gun violence. They understand the need to keep kids and teens safe from gun violence since they are the ones who deal with the injured and the dead. They also understand the devastation to bodies caused by bullets in ways that we cannot. A physician from Parkland, Florida, wrote this piece about the damage done to victims since she has seen it and we have not.

This is about our kids. If we can’t do the right thing for our kids, who are we? Kids are demanding action in ways that adults have not been able to. Our next generation is being snuffed out by senseless and avoidable shootings. Our kids are becoming shooters. The lost potential is staggering, not to mention the cost in not only dollars, but dealing with the aftermath of shootings and the PTSD that will be with some of these kids for years. Watching a friend or fellow student bleed out from a gunshot wound right in front of your eyes can’t be unseen.

Do this for our kids. It’s the only thing we can do. And do it right to make it matter.

Listen to the kids in one of the videos from the March For Our Lives site. #Whatif #Neveragain :

 

A Scarlet Letter

letter A in flamesThe novel, The Scarlet Letter, is a poignant reminder of how public shame can change everything. Even public shame isn’t working for the NRA lapdogs who lap at the feet of an organization that has kept the nation from doing anything about the school shootings, the mass shootings, the domestic shootings, the suicides, the “accidental” shootings, police shootings- you get the picture.

Students from Parkland, Florida, tried to see Florida Governor Scott when they visited Tallahassee but naturally, Scott did not have the courage to see the faces of anguished students demanding action. They started chanting, “shame, shame, shame.” Though the Governor was at the funeral of one of the slain students, one does have to wonder if he would have met with these students. Time will tell. What we know is that Governor Scott has taken a lot of money from the NRA. Many in Congress are in the same group who should wear the letter A on their chests.

A rating of A or A+ means something to the 1.5% of Americans who happen to be NRA members. That’s it folks. A tiny tiny sliver of Americans and gun owners care about the rating from the NRA. So why do our leaders even listen to them?

The times, they are a changing.

We’re not buying it any more.

Governor Scott and many others, are reconsidering their allegiance to the NRA. Are they finally getting it? Time will tell.

Scott has done the bidding of the NRA for years, listening to the strident voice of Marian Hammer, NRA lobbyist who has worked for decades to make Florida one of the most gun friendly states in the country.

It has been suggested that the politicians who receive an “A” rating from the NRA should wear it like a scarlet letter of shame:

I’m not opposed to the Second Amendment (do read the article in today’s Commoner Call on the actual history of the amendment. It ain’t what you think it is). I am a gun owner. I am even a long ago former member of the NRA. And I support those courageous and morally clear high school students demanding reform and sanity. Any democrat — office holder or member — who refuses to stand with those students against the attacks of the right wing extremists and shun the NRA and their dirty money should leave the party. They are beneath what the party should be about. Really, if the party ever wants to rise to power again they have to stop renting out its soul for dollars.

Shame on them all for persisting with their nonsensical, fact-free assersians and fear mongering after 17 students were hunted and massacred like animals in Parkland, Florida. Even their own mouthpiece, Dana Loesch, was no match for those students and parents  who didn’t get the message that we should be polite to these people who have been so responsible for the carnage in America. From the article:

Exactly one year ago, the National Rifle Association excitedly announced that it had tapped Dana Loesch, a conservative commentator and radio host, to serve as its spokeswoman. She had all the right chops for the job: razor-sharp public speaking skills, a devoted online following, and, most importantly, an extensive track record of fervently defending the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms.

Long respected in conservative circles for her brash political commentary and unapologetic gun rights advocacy, Loesch gained broader attention last year with a pair of inflammatory NRA ads that critics said could incite violence against the organization’s perceived opponents.

But it wasn’t until Wednesday night that Loesch’s role as the public face of the country’s preeminent gun rights organization was truly put to the test. (…)

But her advocacy often spirals into extremes. Her book compares gun control efforts to Nazi and Stalinist propaganda, and she inveighs against what she calls “the tragedy caucus,” a broad assortment of liberal “gun grabbers” who, in her eyes, exploit mass shootings “as a tactic to take away law-abiding citizens’ guns.”

She pretended to be empathetic on the CNN town hall meeting but the very next day, here is what the real Dana Loesch told ardent supporters at the CPAC meeting:

“I want to make this super obvious point,” Loesch said. “The government has proven that they cannot keep you safe. And yet, some people want all of us to disarm. You heard that town hall last night. They cheered the confiscation of firearms. And it was over 5,000 people.”

“I had to have a security detail to get out,” she said of the Sunrise, Fla. event. “I wouldn’t be able to exit that if I didn’t have a private security detail. There were people rushing the stage and screaming burn her. And I came there to talk solutions and I still am going to continue that conversation on solutions as the NRA has been doing since before I was alive.”

Really Dana Loesch? More hyperbole and blame. That is the game they play and they play it well. But we aren’t buying it.

E.J Dionne, columnist for the Washington Post says it just right:

How come only one side of the supposed culture war on guns is required to exude respect for the other? Because the culture-war argument is largely a gimmick pushed by the gun lobby as a way of demonizing its opponents. None of us who endorse stronger gun laws wants to disrupt anybody else’s way of life. And none of the measures we are proposing would do that. (…) What truly alarms the gun lobby is that many steps to curb the scourge of gun violence enjoy broad support, from those who own guns as well as those who don’t. A Quinnipiac poll released on Tuesday, for example, found that 97 percent of Americans favor background checks for all gun buyers. While the survey showed the highest level of approval for background checks in some time, it is not an outlier. Background checks have long been embraced by 85 to 95 percent of us. Quinnipiac, by the way, also showed that 66 percent of voters support stricter gun laws, up from 47 percent in December 2015.

We aren’t buying the BS any more. Things are changing.

Yesterday I attended lobby day and a rally at the Minnesota state legislature as a member of Protect Minnesota and the Brady Campaign. It was one of the largest rallies held in recent years at the Capitol. The energy and commitment to change were palpable. Over 1000 people came to our rally and chanted and demanded action. It was reflective of the mood of the general public. Our legislators knew we there as we walked the halls in our orange shirts and visited our legislator’s offices. The day was inspiring for many and most especially for those who had never attended an event like this or darkened the doors of the Capitol.

Two days before our rally 300 Moms Demand Action members had a lobby day. Between us, the message was clear. We aren’t buying the NRA talking points and the BS any more.

Schools all over Minnesota have received threats on social media including my own grandson’s school. This is not OK. This is not normal. One school district was on lock down as they dealt with a threat. How frightening for the students and parents. Even though the threats were not credible, there were a lot of frightened parents and students. Why? Because we all know that the next school shooting is just around the corner at a school near you.

The idea that kids can buy AR-15s, knock off military style weapons is horrifying. It has been for decades but now the tide is turning. The public is fed up and understands the true nature of these weapons. They are not meant for hunting or self defense. Don’t believe the gun lobby or the gun extremists when they tell you that. #WeCallBS. They have gotten away with this for far too long. Their time is up.

The NRA is becoming less relevant as well it should be. Companies are cutting off business ties with this national organization of terror and fear mongering. Soon enough, an organization that represents a tiny tiny proportion of NRA members and gun owners, will fade to exist. We will be better off for it.

Follow the money. For way too long, the NRA’s deceptive claims and partnerships with the gun manufacturers has resulted in their ability to influence public policy about gun violence and kept the country from being able to save the lives of our children.

They can try to blame the “socialists” as did NRA’s Executive V.P at CPAC yesterday. Why listen to this lunatic? Who is he anyway? He represents power and influence which is fast fading away.

But we aren’t buying it.

And our very own President mimics the ludicrous arguments that, in his own estimation ( not based on anything) that 20-40% of teachers should now carry loaded guns in our schools. Where did that come from? And then he amazingly and stupidly pronounced at a meeting at the White House that all of those retired Marines who are teaching in our schools should be armed. Seriously? He is dead wrong. Who are all of these retired Marines? There may be some retired or discharged military members teaching in our schools but I doubt the numbers are what Trump pulled out of his empty hat.

Craziness is all around us.

And we’re not buying it.

Where is common sense? It’s in the halls of our legislatures. It’s in Parkland, Florida. It’s all over our media sources and it’s in American homes and schools. It’s all around us. It will be on March 14th when students will walk out of classes. It will be on March 24th when students will March their lives in DC and all over the country. It will be on April 20th. It will be everyday.

We want action NOW. Not yesterday or tomorrow- NOW.

We’ve had #Enough.

#WeCallBS

#NeverAgain

Gun stories in newspaper headlines

Breaking News Shows At This Time And InfoAs I was reading my local newspaper on-line  yesterday, 2 headlines caught my attention.

The first is a veteran’s story- one of many involving veterans with PTSD and guns. From the story:

 

The former National Guard soldier and Iraq War veteran shot and killed his father, Rick Defiel, on June 1, 2016, in the family’s home in Fergus Falls, Minn.

He was found not guilty due to mental deficiency and was committed to the Minnesota Security Hospital as mentally ill and dangerous.

Defiel spoke to a reporter as he explained why he shot and killed his father. His claim is that he killed his own father in self defense. But his family members say otherwise:

She said Dustin had a psychotic break caused by untreated post-traumatic stress disorder, and only God knows what’s in his mind.

“This is his truth,” Tammy Defiel said. “It’s just not the truth.”

This is a hard story for me. My brother, a Viet Nam veteran, has PTSD along with many other health problems, some of which are service related. I know that PTSD is very real and his sometimes delusional reactions to things around him make it difficult to ascertain what is real and what isn’t. But further, veterans with PTSD should not be around guns. The reporter said that the shooter “found” a gun.

Looking for protection, Defiel found a gun. He opened the door and saw his dad on the bed, yelling and swearing.

“I pointed the gun and shot. He started to get up, so I pointed the gun and shot again. I shot him twice,” Defiel said, to keep his dad from coming after him.

Defiel said he went into “military mode,” feeling his life was in danger.

Here is the story as reported at the time of the shooting. It was a “high powered rifle” used in the shooting and the story in the linked article does not fit with the shooter’s story. From this story about the shooting:

Steven Kalenberg, the fiancé of Dustin’s sister, told authorities that the family has been terrified of Dustin Defiel. At one time, Ricardo Defiel had firearms in the house, but removed them because of Dustin. Kalenberg also said Dustin’s brother and sister were so afraid of him that they did not give out their home addresses or telephone numbers and had limited contact with him.

An investigator who spoke to Defiel shortly before midnight Wednesday found him calm and emotionless.

Defiel, according to court records and media accounts, has had run-ins with the law for theft, drunken driving and violation of a restraining order. He was the subject of several civil commitment hearings. He was arrested by West Fargo police in September of 2014 after a woman noticed him peeking into garages in her neighborhood.

The family wisely removed firearms from their home. But the shooter had one anyway in spite of his arrests and his psychotic break.

There are people who should not have guns, period. And why anyone “needs” an AR-15 ostensibly for self defense is beyond me and most of the American public.

The second story is of a local man who was sentenced for firing off off 36 rounds with an assault style rifle- yes I said 36 rounds- in an attempt to kill his wife. How did he not succeed? From the story:

Rusty George Kallis, 41, of Proctor pleaded guilty in December to a charge of attempted premeditated first-degree murder. He admitted that he threatened his girlfriend and two children with the firearm before firing off more than three-dozen rounds at the woman, missing her but striking a house across the street, and later pointing the weapon at a neighbor.

Kallis was facing trial on 10 felony charges, with jury selection entering its second day, when he entered the plea on Dec. 13.

And yet another man who should not have had a gun got his hands on a gun anyway. All were lucky that no one is dead as a result of this man’s anger. Anger and guns don’t mix.

Guns are readily available to just about anyone in America.

Many of the nation’s homicides are due to domestic disputes. This one I know because of my own sister’s shooting in a domestic dispute.

From the article:

In all, an average of at least 760 Americans are shot to death by current or former partners each year, a 2016 Associated Press analysis of national and state law enforcement data found. These numbers are probably an undercount, since not all agencies provide data. Nearly 75% of the victims in domestic violence shootings are the current wives or girlfriends of the men who killed them, the Associated Press found. Shooting deaths of men are much less frequent.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If we required Brady background checks on all gun sales, require safe storage of guns to avoid them being stolen or found by someone who could be dangerous to themselves or others, strengthen straw purchasing laws and pass Gun Violence Protective Orders or Extreme Risk Protective Orders, we could prevent some shootings.

And if we are not even interested in preventing at least some of our nation’s daily shootings, we are not doing the job of protecting our families.

What we need is a whole lot of common sense and the courage to take on one of our nation’s worst public health epidemics.

What I read in one edition of a local paper is just the tip of the iceberg. These stories often don’t grab the attention of the public or the media because they have become so common place that we just read and move on. But real people’s lives are affected by these every day shootings. A veteran with PTSD tells his story. But his family, telling a different story, now suffers from their own PTSD after losing a loved one to bullets. The family who was terrorized by an angry man with an AR-15 was lucky to get out alive. But they will never forget the horror of the day a man with a gun threatened to kill them.

It is not acceptable to think there is nothing that can be done to stop shootings. That is what the corporate gun lobby would have you believe.

They are wrong.

Many of our daily shootings are not “breaking news”. They are buried amidst many other stories. But they are breaking news to the families who are involved. And they break the hearts of way too many people every day.

It is #NotNormal and not inevitable that we read headlines about shootings in our local newspapers all over our country.

We are better than this and we have had #Enough.

 

 

Baseball and guns

Brady memeGun violence has and does occur in every nook and cranny of America. That is because there are guns in every nook and cranny of America. As many, if not most, of us watched in horror yesterday morning, another mass shooting unfolded almost before our very eyes and ears. Later in the day yesterday video with the audio of the mass shooting was released making it all too real. The sound of constant gunfire reminded us of war.

We are at war with each other. Yesterday’s shooting of U.S. Congressman Steve Scalise got a lot of attention because the victim was someone serving our country as was Rep. Gabby Giffords who was shot while serving in Congress. And here is Gabby Giffords writing about the obvious after yesterday’s shooting:

Why courage? Because the times we are in require it. We owe ourselves, our neighbors and our nation courage.

In the days and weeks to come, I know from personal experience what to expect. As a nation, we will debate violence and honor service — the service of the elected officials and their staff, and of local law enforcement and the U.S. Capitol Police, without whom the carnage could have been so much worse. We will debate the availability and use of guns. And we will wonder about the victims — how they are doing and how we can help them — as we wonder, too, about the shooter. What motivated such violence? What can we do to prevent it?

We know, as always, that no one law could prevent a shooting like this. But we also know that we must acknowledge a problem: an unacceptable rate of gun violence in this country. And we must acknowledge that a deadly problem like this brings a responsibility to find solutions. And that’s where we, as a nation, will need courage in abundance, as my former colleagues find the strength to recover from their wounds — and the bravery to try to make shootings like this one less likely in the future. (…)

My prayer today for my colleagues and their families is that they feel our strength and love as they embark on their recovery. My prayer for my country is that we find the courage I know we possess and use it to work toward a safer world, together.

We are all horrified at the shooting of Representative Steve Scalise and 3 others at yesterday’s baseball practice for a charity ball game to be held tonight in spite of the shooting. We are hoping for a good recovery for Rep. Scalise knowing that he is in critical condition and has a long road to go.

This morning I ran across this article that highlights what I have long thought about the issue of gun violence. We have so much of it in our country that it does seem to beget more of it. It’s like a virus that we can’t control and for which there is no cure. From the article:

The left-wing views of the alleged shooter might be surprising to some, but they shouldn’t be. The gun industry and the National Rifle Association market guns with promises that owning guns will make a customer feel manly and powerful, and that fantasy has a power that can transcend political boundaries. And no one knows better than gun industry leaders how feelings of political frustration caused by seeing your preferred candidate lose an election can be channeled into a pitch to buy more guns. (…) Gun marketing, helped along by the political messaging of the NRA, , is targeted largely at conservatives. That said, the emotional buttons being pushed — the wish to feel powerful, the desire to prove one’s masculinity, the appeal of violence as a political shortcut — cannot be contained by something as pedestrian as political partisanship. Through years of marketing and cultural messaging, the appeal of guns has been crafted into something totemic, even primal — desired by all manner of people who yearn for some kind of cleansing violence to solve their problems.

It is frightening that this is where we are now. We’ve been there for a long time but when the violence affects those who support the efforts of the corporate gun lobby, one would expect a new reaction- that just maybe something will be done about it -this time. But one would be wrong. More from the article:

And when it comes to the Republicans, sadly there is no reason to believe they will react to this dreadful crime by rethinking their resistance to saner gun control laws that could go a long way toward minimizing the amount of damage that people disposed to carrying out violence can do. Despite watching their friends and colleagues running away from a hail of gunfire, Republican politicians and pundits are sticking with the thoughts-and-prayers narrative and not even discussing taking steps to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people.

Some are demanding the opposite of common sense by suggesting that if only someone had been packing heat this would not have happened. Such ridiculous reasoning is insane and should not be believed or tolerated. But that rhetoric has been around for so many years that some actually believe it regardless of the truth of the matter. Here are some responses on an article posted on a Twitter feed about this very thing:

Yesterday the House was to have had a hearing on a bill to allow for the purchase of gun suppressor ( silencers) without going through the strict process now in place since 1934. Silencers were placed in a special category at that time for good reason. But the gun lobby is forever looking for a way to increase sales and accessories.

After the shooting yesterday morning apparently it was thought that it was not a good time to raise this controversial issue so the hearing was cancelled.:

The measure would make it easier to purchase silencers, transport guns across state lines and ease restrictions on armor-piercing bullets
The draft bill is sponsored by Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-South Carolina, who was at Wednesday’s practice in Alexandria, Virginia, where Majority Whip Steve Scalise and four others were shot.

In this article there is a video of Senator Rand Paul, an avid support of second amendment rights and “freedom” stating that the incident yesterday would have been a massacre had capitol police officers not been there to take down the shooter. Paul was at the baseball practice and sounded truly frightened and shaken when interviewed. I am just wondering if he thought how much more deadly the shooting could have been had the shooter purchased a suppressor and attached it to his rifle. But I guess hypocrisy and warped thinking runs into the facts when it comes to justifying arming more people in more places for “self defense”.

Consider if the Congress members were packing heat at that practice or the game scheduled for tonight as some have suggested. Really? More warped thinking. What about sliding into third base? What about jumping up to catch a fly ball? What about a collision at home base between the catcher and a runner? What about just running around the bases with a loaded gun on your hip?

All of this defies common sense but it is being raised. Remember that the shooting took over 2 minutes according to a home video taken on an observer’s iPhone that many of us have now seen and heard. No one knew where to go, where to run, at first where the shots were coming from. Panic ensued. The instinct to run for your life and take cover or protect someone else by laying on top of him/her. Representative Scalise was a sitting duck out on the field as was the staffer who was injured. How could they have defended themselves with a loaded gun on their bodies? How could the other Congressmen have shot at a shooter not having any idea where he was? And what if more police came onto the scene, as happened, and saw a person with a loaded gun? Who is the good guy and who is the bad guy?

No. These are ludicrous and warped ideas.

There is one more issue that has surfaced after the shooting at the baseball field- more protection for Congress members who do receive death threats and face angry constituents at town halls meetings and other places. I will go on record as saying I am all in favor of this. But doesn’t it seem ridiculous that one of the first solutions to come up is more protection instead of looking for ways to tighten access to guns and trying to stop shootings in the first place? Who is going to protect the children? Who will protect the vulnerable women in domestic disputes? Who will protect us all at parks, movie theaters, malls and other public gathering places? We all need more protection. But let’s also look at ways to prevent and reduce the shootings.

Further, though the shooter had some past problems with domestic incidents and shooting his gun into the trees in his back yard prompting complaints from neighbors to law enforcement, he was a legal purchaser of guns and did so from a licensed dealer. This is actually often the case. Legal gun owners are law abiding until suddenly they are not. The thing is, guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people and a risk to families, friends, and innocent people if something goes awry. It only takes an instant for a gun to do the damage we saw and heard yesterday. That’s why guns are the weapon of choice when someone intends to do harm and go on a rampage.

And weapons like assault type rifles and semi-automatic pistols, intended for use in war but altered slightly for civilian use, are often the ones used in these kinds of rampages. There are no limits to how many of these Americans can buy, either with or without a background check and no limits as to how many rounds can be in a magazine. Shooters who plan ahead understand perfectly well that a lot of people can be shot and killed if they use an AR-15 or AK 47 or the like. There are so many shootings with these types of weapons in America that we just move on to the next shooting, knowing it will come.

Once upon a time we banned certain types of assault type rifles. It lasted 10 years before we had time to know if it made a difference. But since that time, we know for a fact that many of the banned weapons have been used to kill Americans.

But I digress. When will the next mass shooting come? Where will it come?  As to when it is important to note that so far there have been 154 mass shootings in 2017. Yes. It’s true. We can quibble about the definition of “mass”.  What difference does it make? Lots of people are dead or injured. There was another mass shooting just hours after the shooting at the baseball field in Alexandria. This one- a workplace shooting where an alleged UPS worker took out his anger and frustrations on some of his fellow workers at a UPS facility in San Francisco. 6 shot. 3 dead plus the shooter who shot himself as he was about to be apprehended. All in a day’s work in America.

As this article states, baseball and gun violence are as American as apple pie:

And gun violence is our national shame, as American as apple pie and, yes, baseball.

The Wednesday attack on the Republican team’s final practice before the game by a shooter reportedly armed with an assault rifle was a chilling reminder of the 2011 attempt on Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ life, which left six dead and 13 wounded. It raises serious concerns about ensuring the security of our elected officials and their staff.

For many parents, such concerns are a part of everyday life. In communities across the country, parents cannot safely send their children to school, to parks or to baseball practice for fear of gunfire. (…)

While the epidemic of gun violence in this country and the maddening politics around the issue can make this feel like an intractable problem, nothing could be further from the truth. There is a growing body of research showing that states that have enacted common sense measures — such as universal background checks, limits on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines and restricting gun access by domestic abusers — have significantly lower rates of gun violence than permissive states.  (…)

In addition to high levels of support for policies like universal background checks — support that is shared among Republicans and Democrats, gun owners and non-gun owners — a new poll conducted by Penn Schoen Berland found that 54% of voters feel there should be fewer guns in circulation in America’s neighborhoods.

Since the start of this baseball season, approximately 3,120 people have been killed with guns in this country — more than four times as many people as the active Major League Baseball roster. Perhaps, at long last, the bipartisan spirit of baseball that imbues the annual congressional game will stay with the members as they return to Capitol Hill, and they will finally take action to address this epidemic nationwide.

Is there hope that we can address the issue- a national pastime- shooting other people? It’s sick, warped, deadly, despicable and shameful that we haven’t yet even after the shooting of 20 six and seven year olds.

What makes sense is trying our hardest to make it harder for everyone to get guns instead of easier. This shooter had his problems but they didn’t get addressed as perhaps they should have been. He appeared to be angry over the last election. He had some prior domestic incidents which almost always point to future violent problems. He had been shooting off his gun in his yard at home until his neighbors reported him to law enforcement who told him he had to stop. Did anyone realize that this was a man who should not have had a gun in the first place?

What if a friend or relative had sensed rightly that he could be a danger to himself or others and asked law enforcement to take his guns away as is possible with Gun Violence Protection Orders?

What if violence begets violence and in America, people see guns as a way to “solve their problems” rather than a final solution that takes the lives of loved ones, innocent people, sometimes themselves, and causes devastation to many?

Some say we can’t talk about gun violence after a terrible incident of gun violence. Why not? That is the time to talk about it. Some want our voices to be silent until……?  Every day 90 Americans die from gun violence due to suicide, homicide and “accidental” shootings. The corporate gun lobby and its’ lapdogs in elected office want us to be silent and not bring up the obvious. We have a public health epidemic and a serious problem with gun violence in America. Our voices will not be silenced. We will follow Gabby’s lead and be courageous and demand changes to gun laws, to the gun culture and to the conversation we cannot avoid.

I have volunteered with the Brady Campaign and Protect Minnesota for many years now.  Most of us have seen it all and tried everything and anything to make a dent in the resistance to doing the right thing. The meme above says it all though. At the very least we ought to be able to go to baseball practice, to school, to work, a movie or shopping without fear that someone who feels angry, vindictive, is seriously mentally ill, etc. gets his or her hands on a gun and massacres innocent Americans. We ought to know that a child will not have access to a loaded gun and shoot someone or him/herself. We ought to be able to make it much harder for our teens or older citizens to take their own lives and leave behind the grief and devastation for their survivors.

We ought to be safe from gun violence. We ought not to live in fear of gun violence wherever we gather or even in our homes. What’s happening in America is backwards. We are not doing nearly enough to keep Americans safe in their communities.

#Enough.

Remembering my sister- victim of gun violence

photo of Barbara(I have edited this post at the encouragement of a reader and also to mention a mass shooting that occurred on this day as well.)

23 years ago today, my sister, Barbara Lund, was shot and killed by her estranged husband during difficult and protracted divorce proceedings. Actually the family learned about the shooting on August 6th after the bodies of my sister and her friend, Kevin, laid in the house of the shooter for 24 hours before he admitted to what he had done to his lawyer.

Barbara was vivacious, beautiful, adventurous, a loving mother, sports minded, an artist, a pilot, and many other things. She was loved by many and made an impact on those who knew her. I admired her and loved her deeply. When she was around, life was never dull.

The memories never go away but over time, the pain becomes weaker. The hole left by her death is one we live around. Her name is mentioned less. But we can see some of her in her grandchildren, who she never met. We can laugh about happy memories. We remember the last time we all saw her. We try not to think about the phone calls and the immediate aftermath of her shooting. We try not to remember the media coverage and how awful it all was at the time. And most of all, I try not to remember the phone call we had to make to my mother who was at her cabin tucked far away on the scenic Gunflint Trail in northern Minnesota.

Many of us have these memories and the pain and the grief. Little things remind us of our loved one or our friend. That can be both good and bad. In July, my sister’s birthday passed us by with little notice but it was always close to my own July birthday.

Over the years, I have met the loved ones of many other people whose memories are strong and painful. There are too many of us. I see and hear their pain and we hug and share our grief.

And we share our resolve to work hard so that other families won’t go through what we all go through. But we are met with strong resistance from a corporate gun lobby who don’t share our pain or our grief. They share in their profits and their way of life that includes having lots of guns and their false belief that the second amendment is under some sort of attack. The gun lobby tells them this. Right wing extremists tell them this. They tell them we are coming for their guns. They tell them Hillary Clinton will take away the second amendment ( which can’t be done without a constitutional amendment to do so).  They tell them their rights will be taken with any common sense measure to keep people from being shot.

It makes no sense. None of it.

Today I read that gun rights extremists won’t adhere to the new California laws passed there requiring registration of assault rifles and restrictions on the size of ammunition magazines sold. They won’t follow the laws on the books. California’s gun death rate is low compared to other states. We don’t have to guess why.

Long Rails Textured

I am leaving for a vacation on a train trip with my family tomorrow. We will board the train in St. Paul and travel to Glacier Park through North Dakota and Montana. And then, after some days at Glacier enjoying the park we will again board the plane for Seattle where we will spend some time before flying home to Minnesota.

 

As I always do when I travel, I explore gun laws in the places we visit. Let’s look at North Dakota first.  From the link ( Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence):

North Dakota does not:

Now let’s look at the gun death rate in North Dakota:

In 2013, North Dakota had the 24th highest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. This represents a significant increase from its position as the state with the 33rd highest gun death rate in 2010. North Dakota had the 35th highest rate of crime gun exports among the states in 2009–meaning that crime guns originally sold in North Dakota were recovered after being used in crimes in other states at the 35th highest rate among the states.

Not so good.

Now for Montana ( also from the Law Center):

Among other things, Montana does not:

And as for gun death rates:

In 2013, Montana had the 5th highest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. Montana also had the 14th highest rate of crime gun exports among the states in 2009–meaning that crime guns originally sold in Montana were recovered after being used in crimes in other states at the 14th highest rate per capita among the states.

Gun suicides are high in Montana:

Suicide is the leading cause of gun-related deaths across the country in recent years. Of the 33,636 firearm deaths in 2013, more than 21,000 were suicides. In fact, suicide accounted for more than half of gun-related deaths in all but one state with the most gun violence. In three states — Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming — suicide accounted for more than 80% of all firearm deaths.

It turns out that the suicide gun death rate in Montana places it in the top 20 states for gun death rates.

At the request of a commenter, I am including Idaho gun law and death information. Our train will also travel through a small area of Idaho on the way to Glacier National Park. Here it is ( from the Law Center):

Idaho does not:

As to gun death rates in Idaho:

In 2013, Idaho had the 14th highest rate of gun deaths per capita among the states. 227 Idahoans died from firearm-related injuries in Idaho that year. Additionally, according to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, in 2009, Idaho supplied the 18th highest number of crime guns to other states per capita, and the state exports more than twice as many crime guns as it imports.

And finally, the state of Washington (from the Law Center again) where a referendum changed the laws there (by 60% approval)to require background checks on all gun sales. From the first link:

Among other things, Washington:

  • Requires a background check prior to the transfer of a firearm between private parties;
  • Requires firearm dealers to obtain a state license, and imposes a background check on all dealer employees;
  • Prohibits certain domestic violence misdemeanants and persons subject to a domestic violence order of protection from purchasing or possessing any firearms; and
  • Requires that all firearms dealers have a state license in order to transfer ammunition.

Gun death rates are lower in Washington:

In 2013, Washington had the 11th lowest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. Washington had the 17th lowest rate of crime gun exports among the states in 2009–meaning that crime guns originally sold in Washington were recovered after being used in crimes in other states at the 17th lowest rate among the states.

Gun laws matter.

In states that require background checks on all gun sales, there are fewer gun homicides, fewer domestic shooting deaths and less gun crime.

Facts matter. Laws matter.

I want to point out that today is also the 4th anniversary of the heinous hate crime that occurred at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin:

On August 5, 2012, a massacre took place at the gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where 40-year-old Wade Michael Page fatally shot six people and wounded four others.[3][4] Page committed suicide by shooting himself in the head after he was shot in the stomach by a responding police officer.

Page was an American white supremacist and Army veteran from Cudahy, Wisconsin. Apart from the shooter, all of the dead were members of theSikh faith.

We have continued to endure mass shootings like this one all over America without doing a thing to stop them. The families of those shot at the Sikh Temple have told their stories. I have heard them. Stories matter. That is why I tell my story and why so many of us who have lost loved ones tell our stories. For if our leaders can’t look at our photos and hear our stories and still refuse to pass stronger gun laws, then who are we as a nation? Who are we if we don’t do whatever we can to stop and prevent devastating gun violence in our families and our communities.

Life goes on for those of us who have lost someone to bullets. It goes on in a different way. I can write about my sister’s death without crying now. I can take trips with my family and not think about her. But gun violence doesn’t take a trip or a vacation. In the 10 days I will be traveling, 900 people will die due to bullets.

We are better than this. Our gun laws have gone “off the rails” thanks to a corporate gun lobby more interested in making profits than in saving lives. There is no excuse for this. We need to get back on track and do the right thing. By the right thing, I mean to change laws, change the conversation, change the culture where we can and stop people from being shot. All of this can be done without taking away the rights of law abiding gun owners.

My purpose is to keep the attention on gun violence and urge support for reasonable measures to prevent families from losing someone in a very sudden and violent death, often avoidable. If we do the right thing, we can lessen the impact of gun violence on more families. We can hear fewer stories and keep our children and families safer.

Let’s get to work in the name of my sister and the other victims. That is the least we can do.

A stormy time for the gun lobby

tree damageWe were without power for 3 days following a terrible and violent summer storm in my city of Duluth. We were awakened at 3:30 a.m. on Thursday morning by hurricane force winds, violent thunder and constant and bright lightning. To say it was scary is an understatement. We heard trees cracking along with all of the other noises and were not sure if we would have to seek shelter. The photo here showing one tree down on a wire is minor compared to the destruction that happened all over in my part of town.

A majority of Duluth residents lost their power during the storm due to trees on wires and twisted power poles. Upon waking on Thursday morning, I checked on my friends to make sure all was well. Many had huge Spruce and other old growth trees down in their yards. A friend and I drove around a bit looking for coffee and were stunned at the awful damage done by this storm. Many streets were impassable because of downed trees and wires and debris was all over. Traffic lights were not working causing long lines of cars on the streets.

The city is recovering though many are still without power as I write. Neighbors are helping neighbors and the city has risen to the occasion. We are not used to these kinds of storms in our area. We have blizzards that cause power outages and sometimes downed wires. But this is something most of us have not seen in our lifetimes. The weather has been generally more tumultuous this summer. With many torrential rain falls and severe storms, I am convinced that climate change is real.

Also what is real is the summer of shootings of young black men and police officers. In Minneapolis, shootings have risen to one of the highest levels of recent years. This Star Tribune article revealed a different law enforcement policy to stop some of the straw purchasing that accounts for many crime guns getting into the wrong hands. From the article:

Amid signs of a rise in illegal firearms trafficking, federal prosecutors in Minnesota have hit on a novel strategy to crack down on gun violence and get shooters off the streets. Instead of prosecuting suspects for murder, where convictions can be difficult to obtain, they charge multiple defendants with conspiracy to buy and possess guns illegally.

The strategy is rooted in the successful prosecution of 11 gang members in 2014, after what authorities called an “all-out shooting gang war” in the Twin Cities. Prosecutors built a conspiracy case that produced 10 guilty pleas and a jury trial conviction of the gang’s leader, Veltrez Black, who was sentenced this spring to 15 years in prison.

Now a Minnesota prosecutor has been asked to share the strategy with Chicago authorities, who are grappling with near nightly volleys of gunfire throughout their city.

Such crimes often go unsolved because witnesses refuse to break a code of silence, prosecutors say, but firearms conspiracy cases can be easier to build.

What we know is that crime guns don’t fall from the sky. Guns start out as legal purchases and get into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them in various ways. It’s easy for anyone to buy guns legally or not, by not undergoing a background check at gun shows, flea markets or on-line sites such as Armslist or Facebook.

Straw purchasing is another way that allows the flow of guns into our streets and neighborhoods. We can do something about this if we have the will and think together about how to stop the guns that get used in shootings. Too many people are dying. There should be no excuses for not doing whatever it takes. More from the article:

The strategy is timely, given the recent surge in local gun violence. Minnesota gun deaths hit a 10-year high in 2015, according to the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, and represented a greater share of all homicides (61 percent) than in 1995, when Minneapolis was dubbed “Murderapolis.” (…)

And a new federal report shows that the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) recovered and traced 2,780 firearms in Minnesota last year — up 14 percent from a year before and also a 10-year high. That total doesn’t include all guns recovered by other law enforcement agencies; Minneapolis police inventoried an average of 681 guns as evidence per year from 2013 to 2015.

In the article there was mention of the problem of stolen guns. Some states have passed lost and stolen gun legislation to require people to report a stolen gun(s). We can see why from this: “The office also charged two people with buying up to 10 weapons for others in the group and later reporting the guns as stolen.”

And this, from the article, shows that many gun dealers are doing their jobs well:

At Bill’s Gun Shop & Range, owner John Monson is among the numerous Twin Cities sellers to occasionally find that a straw buyer passed through their doors. Monson said each of his five locations logs suspicious activity from any of the 100,000 customers who visit each year and passes along information to law enforcement agencies when necessary. Investigations can also evolve from mandatory reports to local police and the ATF whenever a customer buys two or more handguns in a week.

“We can’t stop all [straw purchasing],” Monson said. “But we can stop it in conversations in the process that happens before they do buy the gun.”

Prevention is what this is all about. If we can prevent guns from getting into the hands of those who intend harm, we can prevent some of the way too many shootings. Working with gun dealers is an important part of this process.

A new approach to preventing the proliferation of weapons onto our streets is needed given that many of our elected leaders are so beholden to the corporate gun lobby causing inaction in passing new laws or strengthening the ones we have. But we are seeing a new boldness amongst our politicians who are willing to speak out against the gun lobby publicly. One such statement was made by Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Tim Kaine on Saturday at his introductory speech. He spoke out and has spoken out before on the need for passing reasonable gun laws and has won all of his elections anyway.

The gun lobby is going to experience a stormy time now that their hypocrisy and rhetoric of fear are coming back to haunt them. Talk has turned to the nonsensical idea that citizens should openly carry assault rifles at public events and rallies such as the Dallas Black Lives Matter rally that turned violent. Others are wondering about conceal carry policies and how they work to protect people given that Philando Castile was armed with a legal gun when he was shot. There is some confusion over this confirmed by a local police officer at a meeting I attended about community safety. There are some interesting comments in the above linked article:

Thoughts on concealed carry: “If you’re a concealed-carry permit holder and you’re carrying, you assume some risk, you know? Things happen. Whether it’s on accident or intentional—you’re carrying a firearm. You’re assuming some risk in carrying a firearm. You have to assume some risk—it’s just like when you drive a car.”

How the Philando Castile situation will affect his work: “Will we change the way we do the training? No, because we believe we’re teaching it correctly. Will we emphasize this part of the training more? Yes. Will it come up for discussion? Guaranteed.”

It is undeniable that risk is involved when someone chooses to own and carry a gun. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill others.

 

There is a perfect storm coming. More and more people are getting involved. This latest action to get in the way of Crossfit Reebok giving away Glock pistols to the winner of the  annual Crossfit games worked to call attention to the idea that gun giveaways are just not a good idea and obviously promote gun company profits. After the Orlando shooting, the GLBTQ community is not going to sit back and be silent. From the article:

“It is an outrage that an organization like CrossFit Reebok, who purport to be about health and fitness, are giving away a weapon of death and destruction as a prize,” said New Yorkers Against Gun Violence Executive Director Leah Gunn Barrett.

Why give guns away? Promotion of weapons of death just does not fit with exercising.

A new AP poll shows, again, consistent support from gun owners and non gun owners alike for universal background checks and stronger regulation of assault weapons.

From the above article:

Nearly two-thirds of respondents expressed support for stricter laws, with majorities favoring nationwide bans on the sale of semi-automatic assault weapons such as the AR-15 and on the sale of high-capacity magazines holding 10 or more bullets.

The percentage of Americans who want such laws is the highest since the AP-GfK poll started asking the question in 2013, a survey taken about 10 months after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, that killed 20 children and six educators.

High-profile shootings also appear to have taken a toll on Americans’ sense of safety. Strong majorities of those polled expressed some degree of concern that they or a relative will be a victim of gun violence or a mass shooting.

What I love about this poll is that it reveals that public opinion has not changed regarding support for doing something about the proliferation of guns in America. And when politicians and the public are in no mood for the increase in mass and every day shootings, things are going to change. The gun lobby may experience some stormy times and it would be past time for that to happen.

As my friend and writer, Sam Cook, wrote for the Duluth News Tribune, there is a hole in the sky left by the fallen trees.

But guns are not falling through that hole.

The public has shown over and over again over many years that they want our leaders to act to prevent at least some of the heinous shootings. More guns are clearly not making us safer.

I leave you with the latest mass shooting at another nightclub in Florida where teens were gathered for a pool party.  Two killed and 17 injured.

Teens should be able to attend a pool party without being shot and killed.  Guns make every situation more likely to end badly. They make for the perfect storm.

#Enough. We are better than this.