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.

Gun lobby conundrum

Brady Campaign memeIt’s really hard to keep up with all of the shootings and the articles written about the American gun culture as it is revealed in front of our very eyes. Our leaders are abandoning their citizens.

Actually most of us woke up long ago. It’s those who are afraid who are sleeping at the helm of public health and safety.  It’s those who can do something about it who have allowed themselves to be placed in the pocket of a group that doesn’t seem to care about all of the shootings. For if they did, they would start supporting common sense measures- or, as one person I read recently said, just plain laws to keep us safe.

Why do we have to say common sense when it should be an unspoken truth that our leaders will do all they can to protect us from things that can kill and injure us. They can’t protect all of us and they can’t stop all shootings but they sure as heck can get to work to stop some of the killings and act like adults instead of being led around by the nose by the ultra conservatives, the gun extremists and the gun lobby.

What does the corporate gun lobby (NRA)  say about shootings of and by police, of GLBTQ Americans, women and children?  Action is not on their calendar or their radar.  Instead, Congress took a 7 week vacation while people continue to die. The Brady Campaign has it right in the meme I have included here. How many more people will die while our Congress doesn’t do their jobs?

The Gun Violence Archive tells us that 2016 has been bloody. Our streets and homes have seen blood running in them. A speaker at a local Black Lives Matter event I attended on Friday and at which I spoke, stated the obvious. Everyone’s blood is red. Black people, brown people, white people and all people bleed red. toll of gun deaths

The gun lobby doesn’t want us to think about any of this. Nor do they want us to do research about any of it. The likely findings will be that too many Americans are shot to death every day and it’s because of the easy access to guns and lax gun laws that allow for this to happen.

It’s about a culture. It’s about guns. When will it stop? And when will we do something about it to get it to stop?

Here is an excerpt of my remarks at the vigil in my city on Friday night:

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said this: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”
He was right. We are living now in a country full of fear- fear of each other; fear of those who don’t look like us; fear of law enforcement; fear of black people; fear of white people; fear of the government; fear that if you don’t have a gun and someone else does, you are going to be at risk; fear that everyone is armed so then everyone needs to be armed to protect themselves from others who are armed.

Police officers fear that everyone could be armed. Too many are and the result is senseless death by bullets.Bullets are flying in some of our neighborhoods. Innocent people like Birdell Beeks, a beloved grandmother was shot and killed by a stray bullet while sitting in her car in Northeast Minneapolis. Last week, after the tragic and heinous shooting of Philander Castile, 2 babies were shot in their father’s car when bullets were fired in North Minneapolis. A 2 year old died and a 15 month old was injured. (…)

The gun lobby is profiting off of our fears. They are encouraging, to the tune of over $14 billion dollars a year, the arming of America. They are promoting fear of “the other” to get people to buy guns. And the result is an armed society where no one knows who is the good guy with a gun and who is a bad guy with a gun anymore. An armed society is not a polite society.

One of the officers who attended this event told me during a conversation that the police department has to have more guns and more high caliber weapons like assault rifles now to keep up with what citizens have. Indeed, in Duluth, a man was arrested after making threats with an AR-15 on Friday night:

Police executed a search warrant at Davis’ residence and found a loaded Hi-Point brand 9 mm assault rifle between the mattress and box spring of his bed, the complaint said. Officers said the serial number had been scratched off the weapon, which appeared to be fully automatic and fully functional.

Fully automatic? Luckily that did not result in a shooting but it easily could have.

Everyone is afraid of everyone else. They have good reason. I just learned of the shooting death of 3 Baton Rouge, LA police officers. A man apparently walking around with an assault style rifle opened fire on the officers. A bystander called to report this person. How did she know the difference between a good guy with a gun and a bad guy with a gun? More on this later but several days ago, Baton Rouge police were put on alert when there was a threat of a shooting of officers. People were arrested after they had stolen guns:

Authorities in Baton Rouge said this week that a teenager accused of stealing guns during a burglary told investigators that he and others involved were seeking bullets to shoot officers there. Officials said that they deemed this threat to be so credible that it shaped their response to protests over the death of Alton Sterling.

Police say that they arrested three people related to the theft, which occurred early Saturday morning at a pawn shop more than 2 miles from the food mart where Sterling was fatally shot by officers four days earlier.

These are our nation’s young people. What is happening in our country? Teens and guns are not a good mix.

People have had #Enough. It’s past time to do something.

A high school freshman wrote this one. Please read it and listen to the voices of our children. They know more than many of the adults in the country. From her letter:

We shouldn’t ban guns totally, as that would jeopardize the basic need of self-defense, but we should not give unlimited access to all sorts of guns in the name of the Constitution. Our neighbor Canada has restricted certain guns from civilian use. In the past year Canada had 172 deaths related to firearms, whereas the United States had 12,236 firearms-related deaths. We ought to follow our neighbor in restricting certain assault rifles and administering appropriate background checks. This way we can ensure the safety of our people and respect our constitutional right.

An older gentleman, known to me, wrote this one, with equal reasonable arguments in favor of gun safety reform and gun violence prevention:

How much, we need to ask ourselves, was Johnson responsible for these killings? And how much are our laws, our militarism and our elected officials responsible? If the United States is “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” does this mean we are free to shoot one another: white police shooting young blacks, unbalanced blacks shooting white police, husbands and boyfriends shooting wives and girlfriends, so many people shooting so many other people — and so freely? Not bravely, certainly, but cowardly.

The New York Times quoted the police chief of Milwaukee on July 8: “We’re the most heavily armed violent society in the history of Western civilization.”

Who is responsible for that?

Indeed. Who is responsible? Not the over 90% who want reasonable gun laws. How about our leaders? How about the gun lobby? How about our culture of guns?

They are right. They make more common sense than our own leaders. Why aren’t they saying things like this? Good question. Apparently they don’t have the backbone to stand for what is right.

Here is a short list of some of the latest shootings for your perusal:

One woman killed and others injured in separate events in Minneapolis last night.

12 shot and injured near Cleveland in one night. Yes, you read that right. Cleveland where the Republican Convention starts tomorrow.

2 people are dead from gunshot injuries in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Teens playing the latest game to hit American culture, Pokemon Go, sitting in their car playing the game experience shots fired by a man who got suspicious. Does one just shoot off one’s gun if one has even a little suspicion that something could be wrong before finding out or calling 911? When a gun is present, the potential is there for something bad to happen.

What does the gun lobby have to say about these?

What does the gun lobby say about the armed citizens in Dallas who were mistaken for perpetrators when gunfire began, leaving 5 officers dead?

What does the gun lobby say about the fact that a black man, Philando Castile, had a legal permit to carry a gun and when he told this to the Falcon Heights, MN officer. Who knows what that officer was thinking when he shot and killed Castile? We do know that officers assume that just about anyone could be armed when they make a traffic stop.  At this point, there are many unanswered questions but one is why the gun lobby did not stand up to defend this shooting of a legal gun permit holder?

And while we are on the topic of permits to carry, I have been talking to quite a few people about the fact that they get their permits to carry but they choose not to carry those guns around with them. Many of them said they like the training they get and they get their permits just in case they decide to carry. But for many reasons, they don’t want to carry- guns are heavy, they are hot, they get cold in cold weather, it’s inconvenient, it’s an awesome responsibility, and other reasons. So try as the gun lobby does to get everyone armed, they have not succeeded. It is about 4-5% of our population who have their permits to carry but many of them don’t carry a gun.

The gun lobby is caught in a conundrum of their own making. When lies and deceptions have been foisted on us about the safety of all gun owners and how guns will protect us from harm and then they don’t, what is their answer?

When people carry guns to protect themselves from others with guns, and get shot anyway, what is their answer? When police officers assume everyone is armed and then shoot someone who is armed for one reason or another (or potentially no good reason) what is their answer? When an otherwise supposedly legal gun carrier has access to military style weapons and targets and kills officers after the shootings of 2 black men, what is their answer?

When the political party conventions coming up allow for people to open carry guns in the second layer of security and now everyone is worried about what could happen, what is their answer? The Cleveland Police union has asked for Open Carry in Ohio to be suspended during the Republican National Convention. Now we are seeing the results of what our corporate gun lobby has done to our country.  Who can blame the officers?

The head of one of Cleveland’s largest police unions is calling on Ohio Gov. John Kasich to temporarily restrict the state’s open carry gun laws during this week’s Republican National Convention following Sunday’s shooting in Louisiana that killed three officers and wounded at least three others.

“We are sending a letter to Gov. Kasich requesting assistance from him. He could very easily do some kind of executive order or something — I don’t care if it’s constitutional or not at this point,” Stephen Loomis, president of Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, told CNN. “They can fight about it after the RNC or they can lift it after the RNC, but I want him to absolutely outlaw open-carry in Cuyahoga County until this RNC is over.”
Governor Kasich says he doesn’t have the power to protect the officers and citizens by suspending Open Carry or even concealed carry at that ( which officers actually fear more) for the duration of the convention. Of course not. Even suspending the rights of some people ( a distinct minority) in order to save lives is not possible. Governors have tried to restrict voting laws, also Constitutional, and rights of women to exercise their Constitutional right to choose abortion, but guns? Not so much.
Let common sense win. Officers lives are at risk. Was the Baton Rouge shooting an ambush? Are we at war?
(Speaking of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, does anyone find it ludicrous that real guns can be carried but tennis balls and toy guns are banned in the perimeter of the convention area? )
Everyone’s lives are at risk. This is the insanity of our American gun culture. Why should anyone carry assault rifles around in public wearing fatigues or dressed all in black? Who are they or who do they think they are? And body armor was apparently found on one of the suspects in Baton Rouge. Why is body armor available to citizens? There is no reason to buy it or wear it than to know you are going to need it in a shooting.
Our country is experiencing a very bloody time right now. What are we going to do? Nothing is not an option. What will the gun lobby do now? Please don’t let them bring forth their tired old arguments about more guns making us safer or leading to a polite society or only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns or passing any law will lead directly to gun confiscation. Please.
We just have to be better than this. It’s time to #DisarmHate and demand a safe society for our families, our children, our grandchildren, people of all colors, races, religions, sexual preference, law enforcement officers, women…..
We are weary of the news reports. We are tired of the shootings, the grief, the press conferences, the statements from politicians, the 24/7 news coverage, and we are afraid of the next national gun tragedy.

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?

 

 

July 4, 2016- Who will protect the children?

Happy 4th of July Card, Traditional American Banner

On this Independence Day, I will again remind my readers that what goes up must come down. My friend Joe Jaskolka knows this all too well. His story is told here by my friend who writes the New Trajectory blog. Joe survived the bullet that lodged in his brain that New Years’ Eve of 1999 when he was just 11 years old. Someone celebrating their second amendment rights changed Joe’s life forever. I have met Joe and his father. I know how his life is now. Who protected him that night from someone with a gun? No one could have predicted this.

As The Trace wrote last New Years, the odds are low of being hit by a bullet fired into the air:

But if the odds of being hit by celebratory gunfire are indeed low, so too are the odds of ever being caught for engaging in it in the U.S. Cases where authorities can precisely pinpoint the location of the gun — let alone identify the shooter — are incredibly rare. The legal consequences for those who do get caught are mixed, with charges ranging from the misdemeanor to felony level and fines ranging widely.

And why do people do this in the first place? On one level, the answer is the obvious one: It’s recklessness, frequently abetted by drunkenness.

People may actually not realize that the bullets they launch into the air will inevitably land somewhere, with potentially disastrous results. But on another level, there are basic economics at work.

Many municipalities ban outright the sale of another New Year’s staple: fireworks. That means residents have to be able to afford to travel outside city limits or even cross state lines in order to buy them. Meanwhile, ammunition can be plentiful, already at hand, and, in many cases, simply cheaper.

But when guns, celebration and possibly alcohol are mixed together with people whose rights don’t come with responsibilities, these kinds of shootings happen often enough that we should be very concerned that your child or grandchild could be affected next.

Anyone with common sense should understand that bullets shot into the air do come down somewhere. What are they thinking? Not much apparently. Those guns bought for self protection more often than not end up harming or killing some other innocent American citizen. 

So my purpose in writing about this is that, before I met Joe Jaskolka, I never thought about the possibility that someone would be injured or killed by celebratory gunfire. I want others to know that this is possible and to make sure there are not armed people nearby celebrating on our national holidays by shooting bullets into the air.

Fireworks also injure people every year. Interestingly, this article reveals some statistics about fireworks injuries:

As states have relaxed laws related to fireworks sales over the past decade, emergency doctors saw an increase in both the number and severity of fireworks-related injuries among young people, the data show.
They determined that the number of patients under age 21 treated and released by emergency departments between 2006 and 2012 rose modestly: from 4.28 per 100,000 people in 2006 to 5.12 in 2012. Significantly larger increases were seen in injuries requiring inpatient hospital admission, which skyrocketed (if you’ll pardon the pun) from 29% of cases in 2006 to 50% in 2012.

Laws matter as it turns out and are there for good reason- to protect children from avoidable injuries and death.

Rights come with responsibilities. On this day when we celebrate freedom, independence and love of country, we should take our responsibilities very seriously.

A few days ago, a story circulated about a 3 year old Kansas child who was visiting a home in Tennessee with his parents. Unfortunately and tragically for all concerned, the boy found a loaded gun in the home, not stored away from small hands, and he shot himself in the face.

He died.

What caught my attention on the news story video was the sign in front of the house that promoted the owner’s second amendment rights with the saying: “protected by the second amendment”.

Who was there to protect that child from the owner’s second amendment rights?

The second amendment does not, according to the gun lobby, guarantee the right of the rest of us to be safe from those who promote it with no restrictions, regulations or moderation.

This is not acceptable and should not be accepted as fact.

Who will protect our children from those who are not practicing their second amendment rights responsibly? Most gun owners are safe and responsible. But many of them refuse to participate in efforts to make sure all are responsible.

What can we do?

Pass safe storage laws so guns must be stored safely or there will be a penalty.

Pass Child Access Prevention Laws and enforce them to make adults responsible for leaving loaded guns within easy reach of children.

Make sure all gun sales come with a Brady background check.

Pass laws to make sure domestic abusers don’t have guns. Children ( and women) are often shot during domestic shootings.

ASK  if there are unsecured, loaded guns in the homes where your children play.

Require everyone who buys a gun to have training with a firearm before walking out of the gun store or gun show with said gun.

Restrict the number of rounds allowed to be used with firearms.

Restrict the features that can be added to assault type rifles to turn them into weapons of mass destruction.

Charge gun owners whose guns are used by children to kill themselves or others.

Contact your elected leaders and demand that they act to save the children.

Join an organization working to prevent gun violence. It’s about prevention.

Understand that any restrictions on firearms does not lead to confiscation of guns or taking away second amendment rights. Remember that these are myths promoted by the corporate gun lobby.

Report anyone using a gun irresponsibly at a celebratory community or family event.

Don’t assume anything. Take irresponsible gun use seriously. With rights come responsibilities.

Change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in America.

On this day of national celebration, please remember that we are better than this and must act to keep our children safe from devastating gun violence.

A new NRA website called sharethesafety.org is promoting the purchase of guns for others who can’t “afford” them. This is the exact opposite of everything we know about gun safety. A brazen attempt to arm people in neighborhoods where supposedly people can’t afford guns is a ludicrous and dangerous promotion of gun sales to make a profit off of death and injury. We already know that our young people of color in these kinds of neighborhoods are already quite heavily armed and causing death and mayhem every day in inner city urban neighborhoods.

Minneapolis has seen an increase in shootings in affected neighborhoods this year. Recently a beloved woman, Birdell Beeks, was shot by a stray bullet in her neighborhood. All we need are more guns legally or illegally owned  killing innocent people.

Please read the Violence Policy Center’s “Blood Money” if you don’t believe me.

It’s not sharing the safety. It’s sharing the death.

This is the American we have. Is this the America we deserve to have or want? I think not.

Remember that more people have died from gunshot injuries in American than all Americans who have died in wars. Is this patriotic and love of country?

Only in American, the nation we are celebrating today, do shootings of and by toddlers take more lives than terrorists do:

In the US in 2015, more people were shot and killed by toddlers than by terrorists. In 2013, the New York Times reported on children shot by other children: “Children shot accidentally – usually by other children – are collateral casualties of the accessibility of guns in America, their deaths all the more devastating for being eminently preventable.”

Children and innocent Americans should not be collateral damage. If we take this seriously like we do death by any other cause,  we will do something about it. If we love our country and are patriotic, we will do whatever it takes to save our children from a country dripping in guns and bleeding from gun deaths and injuries like no other country not at war.

#Enough.

Be safe out there today and Happy Fourth of July.

 

UPDATE:

Disclaimer- It turns out that the website, sharethesafety.com is a hoax and a parody about the NRA.  Sometimes parodies reflect the truth and in this case, we can all believe that the NRA would promote the buying of guns for people who can’t afford them because they often use that myth as a way to complain about gun restrictions. What I also find interesting is that low-income Americans can barely afford clothing, food and the necessities of life. It’s likely they won’t need a gun to live their daily lives. The other point is that there are young people who don’t have a lot of money to afford guns but can easily get them on the streets cheaply. Easy access to guns for those who shouldn’t be able to get them is a serious public health and safety problem in our country. Guns are weapons designed to kill other people. They should be expensive and more difficult to access.

According to the above article, the NRA has filed an official complaint about the men who launched this hoax website. It hit too close to home apparently.

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?