Aurora- 5 years later

Aurora-theater-victims-1024x524

 

It’s been 5 years since one of our nation’s heinous mass shootings. Only one of them. We have so many that we can say this in America. And these kinds of mass shootings continue today in spite of the efforts of many and the outright support of the majority of Americans to do something about them.

Sigh……

Aurora, Colorado where innocent people went to the movie theater to see the opening night of The Dark Night RisesThey were excited. They were happy to be at this event with friends and family. They likely bought popcorn, candy and softdrinks and texted friends and family that they had gotten in for the premier showing of a very popular movie.

(I have not nor ever will see the movie)

And then, without notice or warning, a young mentally ill man stepped into the theater through an exit door and started shooting. No reason. He just decided to shoot at everyone and anyone in his sight or even not in his sight. People screamed. Some ran out and got away from the shooter. Chaos reigned. It was dark. It was noisy with gunshots. It was so frightening that is was unimaginable to us and we can’t put ourselves there without getting shivers. No one could have saved the victims or killed the shooter because they were so busy trying to run, hide, save themselves or throw their bodies on someone else to save a life. That is what happens in mass shootings. They are totally unexpected.

But the corporate gun lobby would have us believe the impossible- if only someone had a gun..….. If only. Anyone remember another high profile shooting in a theater involving a “law abiding” gun owner and concealed weapons permit holder shot an innocent man over texting and popcorn?

If only someone had a gun……

Someone did have a gun. The shooter. He was in control of the situation because it’s hard to outrun high velocity bullets shot in rapid succession. The bullets came from high capacity drum magazines purchased on-line by the shooter.:

Mr. Holmes purchased all of his weapons legally, law enforcement officials said. In the four months before the shootings, he also bought 3,000 rounds of handgun ammunition, 3,000 rounds for a semiautomatic rifle and 350 shells for a 12-guage shotgun, all over the Internet.

No need for background checks or any questions. I mean, doesn’t everyone want a bunch of 100 round drum magazines? Aren’t they necessary for just anyone to own?

The arsenal of weapons carried by the shooter were legally obtained. Guns are easy to obtain in America.

There are really no words for the grief and suffering caused by the deaths of 12 people and injuring of  70. There never are.

No words for burying your child who shouldn’t have gone before you. No words for the loss of a loved one forever taken in a violent and sudden barrage of bullets. No words.

No words for the families re-living the experience at the trial of the shooter.

No words for the lawsuit that found the ammunition company not responsible for selling those drum magazines to a mad man. No words for the family left to pay the company that made the bullets that killed their daughter.

No words for the law that Congress passed to allow immunity from these kinds of lawsuits called the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms (aka- the gun industry Immunity law). No words for the idea that one industry should be immune from lawsuits like no other industry has.

No words.

This is America. This is the American gun culture. This is what we have, brought to us by the lapdog politicians who are afraid to speak out against the corporate gun lobby. This is what happens when the gun lobby gets a bill passed to allow immunity from lawsuits against a specific industry- the gun industry. This is what happens when one powerful lobby and industry gets its’ way with power and lots of money.

There is no common sense in any of this.

 

We remember those who were injured and living with the physical and emotional scars left behind. We remember the families and friends who will never be the same again. We remember that a mad man was allowed to purchase a gun and ammunition and take the lives of innocent Americans and we did nothing about it after it happened. We remember that we have done nothing after any of our nation’s mass shootings to prevent the next one. We remember that our politicians are spineless in the face of pressure from the NRA and corporate gun lobby.

We also need to remember that healing takes a very long time and many suffer from PTSD and other mental and physical injuries in the aftermath of shootings like this. All over America, families and friends ( the survivors) have to cope with the aftermath of mass shootings. This article about how Aurora has handled the aftermath mentions the mental health services still available in their community.

The scars are visible and invisible but they are there- all over America, and today in particular, in Aurora, Colorado.

Let’s also remember that the majority of us want to do something about mass and “everyday” shootings that take the lives of 90 Americans a day. And when we all stand up together with loud voices and demand that something happen, something may change. When we elect politicians who put the rights of Americans to be safe from senseless gun violence before gun rights, we may succeed.

How many more will it take?

Today we remember:

Jonathon Blunk, age 26
Alexander “AJ” Boik, age 18
Jessie Childress, age 29
Gordon Cowden, age 51
Jessica Ghawi, age 24
John Larimer, age 27
Matt McQuinn, age 27
Micayla Medek, age 23
Veronica Moser-Sullivan, age 6
Alex Sullivan, age 27
Alexander Teves, age 24
Rebecca Wingo, age 32

 

 

Bleak Friday

Basic RGB(Apologies for the formatting. Something went wrong with WordPress while posting.)

Yes, America, we just finished what is supposed to be a peaceful family holiday. As for me, it was one of the better Thanksgivings we have had. Our cabin has become the gathering place for our family so everyone converged in our small place for the holiday week-end. We managed to cook the dinner in our small kitchen and it was one of the best and tastiest yet. There were no arguments- no violence. Laughter, kids sliding and playing outside in the snow and memory making times.

Black Friday is here. Shopping has begun and deals are happening all over the internet and in stores. Americans love deals on things. The holidays are officially upon us, like it or not. As I wrote in my last post, the holidays mean something very different to victims and survivors of gun violence. Just as with any disease or accidental death, the unexpected loss of a loved one is very difficult at holiday times. Since my focus here is on gun safety reform and gun violence prevention, I write about the loss of loved ones in violent, often preventable deaths due to shootings.

And as we know, shootings don’t take a holidays. This year was no exception. In Kentucky, 2 were shot dead at a football game :

Gunfire erupted at an annual Thanksgiving Day football game in Kentucky, leaving two dead and four others wounded, Louisville Metro Police said Thursday.

A West Virginia man shot and killed a teen for bumping into him:

William Ronald Pulliam appeared unrepentant after fatally shooting a teenager during a confrontation outside a West Virginia discount store.

“The way I look at it, that’s another piece of trash off the street,” Pulliam allegedly told police, according to a criminal complaint.
But the 62-year-old man, in a jailhouse interview with CNN affiliate WCHS, categorically denied making that statement. He said he feared for his life when 15-year-old James Means allegedly pulled a gun on him. The complaint did not say Means had a gun.
This is “Stand Your Ground” on steroids. Without that gun, the teen would be alive today. Tell me again that more guns have made us safer and that an armed society is a polite society. These are lies perpetrated by the corporate gun lobby and their lackeys in Congress and our legislatures. A teen should not be dead over unsupported fear that he had a gun.

The incident began about 6 p.m. on Thursday. Local news station KOLO reported that “there was apparently a dispute over a parking spot” and said police characterized the shooting as a road rage incident.

Reno Police said two vehicles stopped near the exit of the parking lot, The Associated Press reported. It said: “Police said both persons involved were armed with weapons and a 33-year-old man was shot dead at the scene.”

 So much for “responsible” gun toting Americans with permits to carry.
Of course it makes no common sense but that is not what is driving our gun culture. Because if we practiced common sense, these kinds of shootings would be much more rare.
The Twin Cities area of Minnesota also saw 2 shootings right before the Thanksgiving holiday. One man was shot  and killed in his home and a woman was shot and injured in her workplace by her ex-husband. One was a domestic shooting which occur regularly in our country of guns. The other has not yet been determined but it appears that the victim may have been known by his shooter.
There are more that I likely missed or just did not report. About 80 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries.
So what should we do? Just let these kinds of shootings happen without making the slightest attempt to prevent them? Or without doing any meaningful and scientific research into the causes and effects of gun violence? Or without trying to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them?
Just because shootings have not yet affected you does mean that one day, you or someone you know or love could be a victim of a senseless and avoidable shooting. That means that you should be joining in efforts to prevent and reduce gun violence of all kinds- whether homicide, suicide, terrorism, or “accidental”.
It doesn’t have to be like this. The only reason it is is because as a country, we have let the corporate gun lobby and its lapdogs in Congress and legislatures have their way. Lies, deception, fear, paranoia and profits have kept us from saving lives. And we disagree on how that plays out in our everyday lives.
As it turns out, guns are deadly weapons and are dangerous products sold without proper vetting in too many cases and without any training required. The gun lobby has succeeded in getting some of us to think it’s OK for people with no training whatsoever or going through a permitting process to carry loaded guns on our streets.  The gun industry and lobby has convinced some of their lapdogs and members/minions that the shooting of 20 first graders and 6 educators was not enough to change our gun policy. Even the shooting of one of their own, Gabby Giffords, was not enough for Congress to act. I guess it wasn’t enough that 12 people were shot and killed at a Colorado movie theater or that 49 were killed at a GLBT nightclub and ……..
When is enough? What is enough?
It’s a bleak America if you really think hard about this.
And if we believe that President-elect Trump is going to drain the swamp of industry profits at the cost of human lives and lobbyist influence on our Congress and legislators, then I have a bridge to see you in Brooklyn. The NRA spent a lot of money to get him elected and if we think that won’t produce good results for them, we are dreaming. The interesting thing is that the opposite effect may be the result of Trump’s election. Minorities are now buying more guns to ostensibly protect themselves from the potential for more racism and acts of violence, hate crimes or intolerance towards them:

Scott, an African-American, is one of many minorities who have been flocking to gun stores to protect themselves, afraid Trump’s victory will incite more hate crimes.

“You feel that racists now feel like they can attack us just because the president is doing it,” Earl Curtis, the owner of Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly, Virginia, told NBC News.

Gun store owners told NBC News that since November 8 they’re seeing up to four times as many black and minority customers — and black gun groups are reporting double the normal number of attendees at their meetings since the election.

This proliferation of weapons is just not good for America. It is a vicious circle that leads not to self protection but to more gun incidents and more injuries and deaths. We know that more guns has not led to fewer gun deaths but more. 
Back to the gun lobby, in this new article in The Trace, we see how the NRA actually cleverly and deceptively has worked for decades to make sure someone like Trump got elected. Sociologist and writer, Scott Meltzer, is interviewed for this article. Let’s take a look fat his observations from the linked article:

Yeah, I think the really interesting dynamic that the NRA has in its rhetoric and its language is that it frames itself and its members as victims of this culture war that’s removing guns and giving special rights to women and people of color and gays and lesbians. Its members are the new minority, they’re the new victims.

The flip side for the NRA is that it also frames its members as heroes, as freedom fighters. The group labels itself as the oldest civil rights organization in the country. It’s essentially a religion, it’s a faith. It’s a fundamental belief system, it’s the religion of freedom — that they have to literally fight ’til the death. That’s what Heston was saying with “from my cold, dead hands,” right? There are not a lot of other single-issue interest groups that would use that kind of rhetoric.

That kind of rhetoric is not based on fact but on raw emotion, fear, power, and loss of control. I get it that many good Americans own guns for hunting and self protection but again, most Americans have not bought into this kind of rhetoric and do understand that gun owning, gun rights and reasonable restrictions on guns and gun owners are not mutually exclusive.  It is because we want to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our families safe that we can agree on this. But what that means seems to be where we can’t meet in the middle. If this is about culture, it is essential that we are talking about the risk of guns and ways to prevent people from getting shot.
#Enough. Let’s get to work to change the conversation, the culture and policy so we can protect our children and families from devastating gun violence.

Clowns amongst us

clownHappy Halloween.

Yesterday I wrote about scary things happening politically on the eve of Halloween. It’s still scary out there and getting worse.

This morning I had a conversation with my daughter who was unaware of the scare about clown masks and almost bought one for her teen-aged son. Quickly she realized this would not be a good idea, thankfully. Then she read an article about people in clown costumes threatening small children and committing crimes and got more alarmed, wondering about human nature in general and the lunacy of our country of late. She is not alone.

When people dressed as clowns or using Facebook posts as clowns threatening to commit school shootings or other violent threats, we have a problem. It’s bad enough that people without masks make these threats but using a clown mask/costume to hide an identity makes it more frightening.

I don’t know about you but I was always creeped out by the Joker of Batman movies. And many people are genuinely afraid of clowns. But now there is more than good reason to be afraid of people in clown outfits or acting like clowns.

We can ‘t escape the association of The Dark Knight with the 2012 shooting in the Aurora theater that claimed the lives of 12 during the midnight showing of the The Dark Knight Rises.  That was truly frightening and tragic, to say the least. I can’t even go there without thinking about friends who lost their loved ones in that shooting.

Who needs this kind of frightening stuff on a holiday that is supposed to be for kids but has been co-opted by adults whose intentions are sometimes evil or dangerous? But do people need to arm themselves against clowns now? A group of Florida parents have decided that carrying guns around while their kids trick or treat is the way to go. This seems like a bad idea to me because mistakenly shooting an innocent person is the more likely scenario than actually needing a gun to protect oneself from a clown with bad intentions. From the article:

Brevard County authorities say clown fears could endanger someone who is dressing up as a clown as a joke. Palm Bay Police Lt. Mike Banish fears that someone dressing like a clown could end up getting seriously injured.

“The problem is that someone dressed like a clown could scare someone and there’s a possibility, a possibility you could end up with someone getting shot,” Bandish said. “A person could think that they’re about to get robbed.”

Whatever happened to common sense? Why does everything have to become fearful and threatening?

The election is scary enough and is leaving many Americans with an uncertain and sick feeling in the pits of their stomachs. When people feel unsettled about things, they also feel fearful and maybe think that arming themselves is the answer. But we know already that more guns have not made us safer,  contrary to what the corporate gun lobby would have you believe.

But, as usual, we are afraid of the wrong things. We should be afraid that just anyone can purchase a firearm with no proof that they are not felons, adjudicated mentally ill, a domestic abuser, a terrorist or someone who should not be able to get a gun. Private gun sellers can sell guns to anyone with no background checks at on-line sites or at gun shows. We have made this possible because our elected leaders are afraid of the corporate gun lobby’s influence on their own election or re-election and so they listen to those who do not represent that majority of us who want background checks on all gun sales. 

Women should be especially afraid that their abusers can still get their hands on guns even after they have been deemed to be prohibited purchasers. This article by The Trace shows how easy that is:

This scenario is not unusual. Under federal law, anyone convicted of domestic violence or subject to a domestic violence protective order is prohibited from possessing a gun. But abusers are often able to buy a firearm anyway, or are allowed to keep one they already own, and they end up using it to shoot a wife, girlfriend, or other intimate partner.

So how is it that known abusers, convicted of a crime or subject to a restraining order, come to have a firearm in their possession? Often, they are able to exploit gaps in the federal background check system or in state laws designed to remove firearms from abusers’ homes. Here are seven ways that commonly happens.

Read the seven ways and then know why our laws need to change.

Scary.

This sad story of a young Colorado man with severe mental illness who shot people up last Halloween is an example of why we need laws  (like this California law) that will allow family members to report someone who could be dangerous to him/herself or others allowing for guns to be removed.

Four years ago, the parents of Japanese exchange student, Yoshihiro Hattori, shot and killed when he went to the wrong house for a Halloween party, urged Americans to pass stronger gun laws:

The heartbreak led Yoshihiro’s parents to lobby for a change in US gun laws. They collected nearly 2 million Japanese signatures calling for tighter gun control, and personally handed them over to then President Bill Clinton. They donated compensation from their civil trial to anti-gun groups, and continue to support their efforts from afar.

Yet, on a recent trip back to Baton Rouge, Mieko Hattori said she was shocked to learn more than two dozen states had enacted “Stand your ground” laws that expand a person’s right to self-defense.

Twenty-four years after this tragic shooting, we are still in the same place we were that Halloween of 1992.

The clowns of the corporate gun lobby are still scaring American elected leaders into being afraid to enact the laws that could save lives.

#Enough.

This year, the shootings have already begun:

2 shot and killed at a New York Halloween party.

It’s scary enough out there with the election in its’ last week before we elect a new President. But if you want to be more scared, read journalist Benjy Sarlin ‘s piece about Donald Trump’s violent and vengeful rhetoric:

It has also expressed itself at Trump’s rallies, where supporters have reflected the candidate’s harsh tone.

“We’re all Second Amendment pros, we want our country back like he just said, and she’s not going to give it to us,” a Trump voter, Tammy Wilson, said at a Florida rally this month after predicting people would “rise up” if Trump loses.

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment for this story. With Trump’s language heating up in the final days and his list of enemies growing fast, some civil rights groups and law enforcement officials are raising fears that things could get out of hand.

“We are concerned about the possibility of violence on Election Day and afterwards,” Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center told NBC News. (…)

Twice Trump has made jokes that seem to float the notion of Clinton being assassinated. In August he suggested “Second Amendment people” could prevent her from filling a Supreme Court seat. It was widely perceived as a reference to violence, although the campaign denied that was his intent. In September, he said Clinton’s bodyguards should disarm and then “see what happens to her.”

Trump has also shown unprecedented tolerance for supporters who engage in more overt threats. He enthusiastically defended the character of an adviser, Al Baldasaro, after he repeatedly said Clinton “should be shot by a firing squad,” even after his campaign distanced itself from the remarks.

And more from this article should have us all concerned this Halloween and on election day and beyond:

This fear is especially pronounced because Trump has cast such a wide net in picking targets, and they often have a racial, ethnic, or religious component. He’s regularly made false claims about American Muslims celebrating terrorism or refusing to turn in an attacker and warned that “other communities” — almost invariably cities with large minority populations — are out to steal the election. Recently, Trump told Fox News “illegal immigrants are voting all over the country.”

“What happens on Nov. 9 is anyone’s guess, but some of these trend lines of mainstreaming and broadening bigotry and incidents of violence and hints of a dark conspiracy are very concerning,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in an interview.

The clownish and dangerous behavior and rhetoric of a major party candidate for President of the United States is no Halloween joke. It’s for real and it’s frightening. He has convinced some of his supporters that violence just may be the solution to his falsified and perceived paranoia about election results.

We are better than this.

My suggestions? Pass a law to require Brady background checks on all gun sales.Don’t dress as a clown on Halloween. Don’t carry your gun around on Halloween. Don’t mistake a fake clown for a real clown. Use your common sense and stay safe.

 

Guns and washing clothes

washing_machineI have written before about various disputes over things (like lawn mowers, garbage cans, etc.) that have ended in death or injury from gun fire. Here is yet another- a dispute over washing clothes has ended in the death of 4 people in the Los Angeles area. The easy access to a gun and alcohol can be deadly. From the article:

A man shot and killed his wife and two others in his home on New Year’s Eve before his son wrestled the gun away and fatally shot him in a chain of events apparently set off by a dispute over a washing machine, authorities said Friday.

The two other victims killed were the son’s 48-year-old girlfriend who also lives at the house in Rowland Heights and a 27-year-old man who was visiting, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

The 54-year-old father was a heavy drinker with a large gun collection, and authorities had made dozens of previous trips to the home, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said.

This is the American gun culture out of control. Guns make disputes like this deadly. People can argue over all sorts of things but when a gun is at the ready, sometimes they die. I know that from personal experience.

Devastating shootings affect the lives of many. There is a ripple effect when mass domestic shootings like this happen. Now the son who witnessed the shootings is being held on murder charges for killing his father after he wrestled the gun from him. Good grief.

According to the writers of the Gun Violence Archive, 200 incidents that they know of involving guns and shooting have been recorded so far in 2016. It’s January 2nd. Check it out for yourself on their above linked website if you don’t believe me.

Raise your hand if you believe this is the way of life we, as Americans, should accept. The corporate gun lobby does everything in its’ ubiquitous power to stop any kind of common sense measure to prevent at least some of the shootings. With wide recognition by the public that passing laws such as expanded Brady background checks are a good idea, why doesn’t Congress just go ahead and vote to keep us safer? Rural Democratic legislators and Republicans who are in charge of a lot of our state houses are doing everything they can to reverse common sense and make it easier for just anyone to buy, own and carry guns in public. Who are they afraid of? We know the answer.

All of this adds up to a gun culture that is no longer accepted but is allowed because of feckless, timid and scared elected leaders. They are the only ones who can act through law to keep us safer. And we need them to be afraid of us and afraid of the victims and survivors who have a lot at stake to keep other Americans from suffering from devastating gun violence.

Some of our citizens have become so scared and paranoid about needing guns for protection against zombies, terrorists, people of color, President Obama, and shadows in every corner that we now have 89 Americans a day dying from gunshot injuries.

Citizens and gun owners can act positively by storing guns safely from kids, teens or being stolen. They can stop taking risks that end in death. They can be more responsible with their guns. Measures ( one has been proposed)  like requiring liability insurance on gun owners could make people more responsible much like we do with cars because car accidents can kill others unintentionally. We can tax guns and ammunition (now law in Seattle) like we do cars upon purchase so that people understand that if they want a gun, they will have to come up with tax money. Why? Because gun deaths and injuries are costing Americans a lot of money.

And why are gun buyers not required to take a class to teach them about the risks and responsibilities of gun owning  before they walk out the door of the gun shop just like we do with anyone who wants to drive a car?

And perhaps a stiff tax on ammunition would have stopped the shooter of the Aurora theater victims to think twice before ordering thousands of rounds of ammunition to be used to slaughter innocent people.

All of these things are done for good reason. And there are no exceptions. Everyone has to take driving lessons. Everyone has to pay state sales taxes when buying a car. Everyone has to register their car and get a license for that car. Proof of insurance is required but we know that some ignore this and then we all pay when an accident happens. Driving while drunk has severe penalties now. What about operating a gun while drunk? There are laws in states that allow guns in bars and restaurants that say someone with that permit can’t drink beyond the state approved legal limit. But who’s checking to see if that is the case? Bar owners don’t ask their customers if they are carrying a gun before serving them their 5th beer. It’s too late once a shooting happens. But our legislators were convinced that everything would be just fine for those “responsible” gun owners and carriers because they don’t break the laws- until they do. That’s what laws are for- to protect us all and keep us safe from those who can’t or won’t be responsible.

If you think the man who shot those folks over a dispute over washing clothes while under the influence of alcohol was responsible, think again. He should not have had access to guns.

So in 2016, what is past due is a discussion that involves reasonable people from both sides to get to a place where we can prevent some of the shootings however we can and protect rights and gun ownership. It is done in most other places in the world and in some of our own states with good results.

Let’s get to work.

 

Star Wars “The Force Awakens” and the real dangers of guns

Star WarsThe long awaited opening of the new Star Wars movie, “The Force Awakens” is here. It looks like security will be tight at movie theaters across the country.Of course we all know that mass shootings can happen in movie theaters. The dust has just settled on the trial of the Aurora theater shooter. Remember that one? Remember that, as a country, we pretended it didn’t happen and didn’t want to be inconvenienced by talk of trying to prevent these kinds of shootings. Shooters like this can get any weapon and any amount of ammunition they want with no background check (legally) and carry out a heinous shooting leaving far too many families grieving forever.

Brady background checks anyone? This guy, ridiculous as it is, passed a background check. He was not a stable person. But in America, what the heck? Anyone should have a gun because……rights. And the ammunition? Bought on line with no background checks. Hundreds of rounds and drum magazines. Why not? The average citizen needs that kind of sh&^ for every day living. We don’t require background checks on ammunition, no matter how much is purchased.

This time around, when a larger than life movie that will attract millions of viewers opens, America can’t help but think of shootings and terror attacks because…… America. So theaters are preparing with extra security guards and precautions like not allowing Star Wars type lasers and light sabers. Oh, and no masks or painted faces.

But, unless it is specifically prohibited, guns may be allowed inside. I mean, what’s more dangerous? A toy light saber or a real gun?

Anyone remember these incidents?

A Florida “law abiding” gun carrier shot and killed a young man who was texting at the beginning of a movie.

A man opened fire at a Lafayette, Louisiana movie theater, killing 2 and injuring 9 before shooting himself.

A gun carrier “accidentally ” shot himself in the leg while carrying in a Kansas theater.

This is insanity. Our priorities are all screwed up.

And I can’t help throwing in why guns are more dangerous than other “weapons” or tools. How about guns in road rage incidents?  You just never think of someone throwing a knife at a driver in road rage. Or a hammer? Or maybe a vase or some sharp object?  A gun is much more effective at killing people. So this happened in Oklahoma:

A man open fired from his pickup truck and killed two people in separate shootings on an Oklahoma interstate in what is suspected to be a road rage incident. (…)

The suspect continued driving, firing at vehicles as he drove fast and erratically, Custer County Sheriff Bruce Peoples said.

“He shot so many vehicles that it would have been totally impractical to assume he knew them,” Peoples added.

The suspect was being held at the Custer County jail on a preliminary complaint of driving under the influence, Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Jessica Brown said.

Driving under the influence? What about murder with a gun? Two innocent Americans are dead.

And while we are thinking of road rage and gun deaths of people innocently driving their cars down the road let’s turn our attention to this conundrum. The federal government ( with the help of Congress) has determined that death by auto accident deserves our attention and tax payer money to fund research to cut deaths makes perfect sense. Research on gun deaths? Not so much. 

Thanks NRA and corporate gun lobby. Thanks Congress.

And speaking of guns allowed in all public places, Disney World has decided- NOT. Guns will not be welcome in their theme parks any more nor will they even sell toy guns in their parks. Oh, and no costumes for people over 14. Why? I think you know the answer. It is not only “foreign” terrorists they fear. It’s the nutty Americans who can buy anything on-line or at gun shows with no background checks or through straw purchasing or on through trafficking that have caused most of our nation’s terror attacks.

I was at Disney World with my daughter and grandchildren last winter. It was such a great experience for all of us. It’s the “happiest place on earth”. Or is it? We now have to fear armed people everywhere we go. We would rather inconvenience millions of Americans at theme parks than require Brady background checks on all gun sales.

I don’t know about you but the Tea Cup ride made me a little dizzy. It’s shown in this article about the security changes at Disney World. You know what else makes me dizzy? The lapdog politicians who give in to the demands of the minority of Americans ( and even of gun owners and NRA members) so that Americans need to fear guns while enjoying movies and theme parks.

(An aside- speaking of straw purchases, we now know that I wrote about before. The guns used in the San Bernardino terror attach were obtained through a straw purchase and the buyer has been arrested for that and many other things.)

The gun nuts tell me all the time that it would be so inconvenient for them to have to undergo a background check when buying from a private seller on line (armslist.com) or at a gun show. I have asked these folks if it is equally inconvenient for them when they buy from licensed sellers where Brady background checks are required on all gun sales. I have yet to see or hear a rational answer to this question. That makes me wonder if these folks can actually pass a Brady background check. For what other reason could there be to resist this common sense way of keeping guns away from dangerous or potentially dangerous people?

Tell the family of Zina Haughton  how inconvenient it would have been for Radcliffe Haughton to be turned away from the seller on armslist.com when he sold Haughton his gun used to kill his wife at a Wisconsin spa and 2 others and then himself. He was a prohibited gun purchaser because of domestic abuse. It was mighty inconvenient for the families of those killed that day to bury their loved ones.

Just for a minute, let’s take a look at how many guns are available through private sales in Florida on Armslist.com just for today. Many pages of them. This is not OK. How does the seller know to whom he/she is selling that gun?

Why do we allow this? Congress? State legislators? It’s up to you now.

I just spoke with someone yesterday who said she had to have a background check to volunteer with kids in our schools. This is true for teachers and for volunteers in churches when someone wishes to volunteer with kids. There are no exceptions to this. Why? To protect our children from potentially “bad” people. Background checks are required for many other Americans for many reasons- with no exceptions. But for guns? Not in America.

Guns everywhere is clearly not the answer. We have allowed this to happen and now we have created a monster. Changing this culture of guns, guns, guns is not going to be easy. But it is happening. The force is awakening. The American public has had #enough. We are fighting back and we are angry as well. The gun lobby’s angry and fear mongering rhetoric has been responsible for Americans arming themselves. And when more Americans are armed, more Americans are losing their lives to gun homicides, mass shootings, gun suicides and “accidental” shootings.

So now when we attend openings of popular movies or go on trips to theme parks or other places where large numbers of Americans gather, we need to fear for terrorists with guns or just about any nut or angry person with a gun who can easily get one.

We are better than this. It’s past time for the changes we want and deserve to protect our communities and families from devastating gun violence. Join me in demanding action from Congress and state legislators. Go to the website of a gun violence prevention organization of your choice. Get on the email lists. Attend events. Contribute money and your talent and time. Raise your voices with me and the millions of others who have already said in poll after poll after poll for many years now that they want our leaders to listen to us and not the corporate gun lobby.

 

Lions and gun violence

lion killingWell, I didn’t expect that posting this meme would cause such a heated discussion on my Facebook page- amongst my friends. The killing of Cecil, the lion, by a Minnesota dentist has provoked some amazing emotions. The media is on it. It’s a controversy for sure. And people are demanding action. Great. I think it deserves the attention it is getting and  potential solutions. And it looks like the Minnesota hunter has not exactly been a responsible hunter.

Meanwhile, back to the people who live in our communities, the killings and injury of human Americans continues. A writer in Colorado wonders why parents who leave their loaded guns out for small children to access are treated differently than those who leave their cars running in the cold. From the article:

This is so wrong. The punishment for leaving your car running in Aurora is far more severe than the penalty for leaving a gun lying around — even if a child finds it and shoots another kid with it. (…)

But in Aurora, you can leave a gun and ammunition in a house with kids, tucked out of sight, and rest assured the Arapahoe County District Attorney’s office won’t prosecute you, even if your own kid finds the gun and accidentally shoots himself or someone else with it.

Last week, Arapahoe County Assistant District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said that office would not file charges against an Aurora man whose 12-year-old son found his father’s gun inside a coat pocket, discovered the bullets elsewhere in the house, got the gun out when he had some pals over and his parents weren’t home, and ended up inadvertently shooting a 7-year-old boy in the head two weeks ago.

The younger boy was critically injured, but his condition nor prognosis aren’t particularly clear, other than he is expected to survive.

Hurlbert said there isn’t enough evidence to charge either the boy who fired the gun while playing with it, nor his father, who said he had no idea that his son even knew there was a gun in the house. (…)

About half of the more than 1 million homes with children and guns in the United States don’t have locked and unloaded weapons. And a report by Everytown for Gun Safety cites an unnerving but hardly surprising Harvard University survey of children in homes with guns. The study reveals that “more than 70 percent of children under age 10 knew where their parents stored their guns — even when they were hidden — and 36 percent of the children reported handling the weapons.”

Even though the Arapahoe County DA considers keeping a gun in a coat pocket good enough security to avoid criminal charges, clearly that strategy isn’t good enough to keep kids from getting injured or killed.

Kids know where guns are “hidden”. My own kids have told me recently that they knew where my husband’s hunting guns were hidden. This was before I got involved in gun violence prevention advocacy. We purchased a gun safe when more awareness about gun violence and the tragic shooting death of my sister caused us to be hyper aware of the dangers of guns in the home. I have provided videos and other information on this blog showing how kids find guns no matter what anyone tells them. They hold them. They play with them. They aim them. And then sometimes they shoot them and kill or injure someone.

Where is common sense? In America is it so lacking that it would be laughable if it weren’t so sad and tragic.

Back to the article above- the writer poses a very good question. Why are gun owners treated differently than others when it comes to negligence? What is wrong with our country? We are outraged and enraged over a man who allegedly shot a lion illegally in Zimbabwe. But when a father irresponsibly leaves his gun out for a child to access leading to a shooting? Not so much. This is the definition of insanity. We have our priorities backwards to say the least.

Last night, my friends Sandy and Lonnie Phillips were on The Rachel Maddow Show talking about the gun industry immunity law or Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms. After their daughter was murdered in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting, they filed a law suit against the on-line ammunition dealers who sold the shooter his thousands of rounds of ammunition, protective body armor, explosives, etc. When the suit came before a judge, it was dismissed and not only that, because of the Colorado law, modeled after the federal law ( brought to us by the corporate gun lobby) they were ordered to pay the costs of the companies to the tune of over $200,000:

[Holmes] bought steel-jacketed ammo that went through the chairs of the theater, went through the walls of the theater into the theater next door. [He] hit my daughter, who was hiding behind a seat…one bullet hit her in the head and created a five-inch hole…and blew her brains out,” Sandy Phillips said.

Phillips questioned why a bullet with such velocity wasn’t more regulated, and why a person ordering 4,000 rounds wasn’t questioned about needing so much ammo. She also said Holmes was not required to show his license to verify that he was of age to legally make those purchases.

This was not a lawsuit about propaganda  ( as the judge proclaimed) or political gain. This was a law suit about our terribly flawed system of gun laws that allow just about anyone to purchase weapons and deadly ammunition on-line ( and in other venues) with no background checks or no questions asked. When profits come before protecting human lives, this is the result. Victims and families of shootings are treated differently because of the ever influential hold on our political system by one powerful industry and the lobbyists who represent them. It’s a uniquely American tragedy.

Once this many Americans are massacred over and over and over, it’s too late really to have the discussion. It’s too late for the Phillips’. It’s too late for the parents of the children who were murdered in cold blood at Sandy Hook elementary school. Now is certainly the time to discuss this controversial issue even if the NRA folks and others in the corporate gun lobby would love to have it go away. It won’t. Here’s why we need to talk about this issue now and after every mass shooting and every other shooting- in other words- every day:

Warren is right. The only deaths in America we must not discuss or address with any urgency are those caused by guns.

We saw this insane sentiment on display last week after the latest mass shooting – this one in Lafayette, La., where a demented 59-year-old drifter shot and killed two young women and injured nine others in a movie theater.

In the immediate aftermath, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal made one thing perfectly clear. “The best thing we can do across Lafayette, across Louisiana, across our country, is come together in thoughts, in love, in prayer,” Jindal said the night of the shooting.

Asked about what this meant for changing his state’s gun laws (among the weakest in the nation), Jindal pushed back hard. “Let’s focus on the victims right now,” he said. “Let’s focus on their recoveries. There’ll be a time, I’m sure folks will want to jump into the politics of this. Now is not the time.”

Jindal is not alone in his desire to stall and procrastinate after a mass shooting. He’s only repeating the standard Republican/NRA mantra after similar tragedies: Now’s not the time. This is a period for mourning and prayer. There will be time to talk about how to address the problem later, but not while people are burying their dead. For now, let’s pray for them and hug our kids.

Again, why are gun deaths treated differently than other national tragedies or incidents that harm others and/or the environment? Our insane gun culture has become a national tragedy in itself. More from the article:

Funny, I don’t recall Jindal suggesting anyone wait a week to start discussing how to address the Deepwater Horizon explosion in April 2010, which killed 11 people (most of them his constituents).

Immediately after that disaster, Jindal demanded immediate action on “three challenges: stopping the leak, protecting the coast and cleaning the coast.” No one suggested that Jindal’s quick call to clean up the Louisiana coast was a “shameful” effort to “score cheap political points.”

Instead of prayers, Jindal demanded prompt action. “Officials at the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority are also working with the state’s oil spill coordinator’s office to monitor any potential environmental impact,” Jindal saidwithin 24 hours of the explosion.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, did anyone suggest we should wait a few weeks to pray and mourn before responding to the terrorists who murdered thousands?

On the night of the attacks, then-President George W. Bush appeared on national television to vow swift action. “I have directed the full resources of our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and to bring them to justice,” Bush said that night. “We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.”

Did Jindal or anyone else suggest that Bush was politicizing these murders by vowing to avenge them?

The answer is NO. The answer about delaying the gun violence discussion is also NO.

What we need to discuss for sure and at the least is one of the serious flaws in our background check system. That would be the “default proceed” with a sale of a gun after 3 days even after the background check has not been completed. This is the flaw that led to the Charleston shooter getting his gun. 9 people are dead as a result. Is that enough to get us talking about solutions to the national gun violence epidemic?

So yes, let’s talk about poaching animals and killing wild animals illegally. The people of Zimbabwe are even puzzled over the outrage given all of the pressing problems that exist where they live:

“It’s so cruel, but I don’t understand the whole fuss, there are so many pressing issues in Zimbabwe — we have water shortages, no electricity and no jobs — yet people are making noise about a lion?” said Eunice Vhunise, a Harare resident. “I saw Cecil once when I visited the game park. I will probably miss him. But honestly the attention is just too much.”

An economic meltdown over the last few years has closed many companies and left two thirds of the population working in the informal economy while battling acute water and electricity shortages.

Most people questioned in downtown Harare hadn’t actually heard about the lion and said they were too busy trying to make a living to care about it.

Water shortages, no jobs, an economic meltdown and the killing of a lion. Up to the Lafayette theater shooting, according to the “mass shooting tracker”, there had been 204 mass shootings in 204 days of 2015. Stunning. Even if you use a different definition of mass shootings, there is no question where the outrage should be directed in America. Since the Lafayette shooting occurred one week ago, 626 Americans have died of gunshot injuries and many more than that have been injured by bullets. Where is the outrage?

Let’s also remember that we are the country that let the massacre of 20 first graders happen with no solution to the problem. We moved on. And then more innocent people were killed. What will we tolerate? We don’t like the killing of a beoved lion in a foreign country because the hunter lured the lion out of a reserve that was protecting it and then killed it. How do we feel about shooters opening fire on innocent people in movie theaters  or schools or military bases or college campuses on purpose for no apparent reason other than they could? I know how I feel.

We are better than this. Let’s get to work and have the discussion and pass laws that will make a difference.

I would like to end with this editorial by Fareed Zakaria in the Washington Post that I read just after posting:

Since 9/11, the United States has responded aggressively to the danger of terrorism, taking extraordinary measures, invading two countries, launching military operations in many others, and spending more than $800 billion onhomeland security. Americans have accepted an unprecedented expansion of government powers and invasions of their privacy to prevent such attacks. Since 9/11, 74 people have been killed in the United States by terrorists,according to the think tank New America. In that same period, more than 150,000 Americans have been killed in gun homicides, and we have done . . .nothing.

Our attitude seems to be one of fatalism. Another day, another mass shooting. Which is almost literally true. The Web site shootingtracker.com documents that in the first 207 days of 2015, the nation had 207 mass shootings. After one of these takes place now, everyone goes through a ritual of shock and horror, and then moves on, aware that nothing will change, accepting that this is just one of those quirks of American life. But it is 150,000 deaths. Almost three Vietnams.

And more from the editorial piece:

It is not an act of fate that has caused 150,000 Americans to die over the past 14 years. It is a product of laws, court decisions, lobbying and pandering politicians. We can change it.

And Timothy Egan writing for the New York Times agrees:

The waves of mass shootings continue to roll over the United States like surf on the ship of state’s prow. Every few weeks now we get hit with a jolt of cold water. We shake and shudder, and then brace ourselves for the next one.

So we beat on — a nation whose people are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of most other developed countries. The only thing extraordinary about mass shootings in America is how ordinary the killing grounds are — elementary schools, high schools, colleges, military recruitment centers, theaters, parks, churches.Is no place safe? Actually, several places are. You want protection in a country that allows a deranged man to get an assault weapon to hunt down innocent people in a public space? Go to the airport — that bubble of gun-free security. Or go to a major-league baseball game, or a stadium in the National Football League. (…)

What we’re moving toward, then, are regions that are safer than others, and public spaces that are safer than others, led by private enterprise, shunning the gun crazies who want everyone armed. The new reality comes with the inconvenience and hassle of screening and pat-downs similar to the routines at airports — enforced gun-free zones, not mere suggestions.

As a way to make everyday life seem less frightening, the new reality is absurd. But that’s the cost, apparently, of an extreme interpretation of a constitutional amendment designed to fend off British tyranny, a freedom that has become a tyranny in itself.

Once a week….shootings

tiredmomAmerica is fatigued. One mass shooting a week- or at least that gets media attention. First Charleston. Then Chattanooga and now Lafayette, Louisiana. 3 are dead ( the gunman shot himself) and 9 injured in yet another theater shooting. The dust hasn’t settled yet on the trial of the other theater mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado yet and we are having flashbacks of the 12 killed and 70 injured in that shooting.

From the above linked article:

They described the shooter as a 58-year-old “lone white male” with a criminal history but did not immediately disclose his name. Lafayette Police Chief Jim Craft said the gunman was by himself and started the rampage by shooting the two people sitting in front of him.

At least one theatergoer described the attack, saying an older man stood up about 20 minutes into the 7:10 p.m. showing of the movie “Trainwreck” at the Grand 16 theater in Lafayette and began shooting.

Sound familiar? A lone white male. Someone with a criminal history who had a gun.

Sigh.

Yawn.

Congress?

Louisiana has the highest rate of gun deaths in the country:

An analysis of the data published Wednesday (June 18) by the Violence Policy Center found high rates gun deaths in Louisiana and other states correlates with weak gun protection laws and high gun ownership. The VPC, which bills itself as a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury, also found states with stronger gun control laws and less gun ownership had lower rates of gun deaths. (…) In an unusual move for Louisiana, the state Legislature and Jindal have agreed to enact one new gun restriction. Domestic abusers under a legal protective order will be prevented from owning a gun for 10 years under a new law that will go into effect Aug. 1.

This happened in 2014.

Guns matter. Laws matter.

Gun free zones? Much is talked about recently because of the Chattanooga shooting at 2 military establishments that were “gun free” zones. And yet, according to new reports, one of the military members shot back at the shooter:

At a news conference here, the F.B.I. confirmed that at least one service member shot at the attacker, but did not say whether he had managed to wound the gunman, Mohammod Abdulazeez, who was killed minutes later in a shootout with the Chattanooga police.

“A service member from inside the facility observed him and opened fire on him, firing several rounds at him,” said Edward W. Reinhold, the special agent in charge of the F.B.I.’s Knoxville office. Two guns belonging to service members were recovered from the scene, he said, and “at least one of those weapons had been discharged.”

So much for the argument that the Chattanooga military facilities were gun free zones. But armed citizens have taken it upon themselves to “protect” these “gun free zones”. It hasn’t gone well so far. An Ohio “good guy” with a gun “accidentally shot off his AR-15 while “guarding” a military facility there. So much for more guns making us safer. From the article:

A police report said 28-year-old Christopher Reed was holding the rifle outside the recruiting station near the River Valley Mall in Lancaster, about 40 miles southeast of Columbus, at about noon when someone asked to look at the weapon. While Reed was clearing the ammunition from the rifle, he accidentally fired a shot into the pavement.

Reed was given a summons to appear in court on a misdemeanor charge of discharging a firearm within the city limits. A call to a number listed for him in the police report rang unanswered.

Sigh.

The military is treating these armed folks as potential danger. I wonder why?

So far the gun extremists are yelling that the Louisiana theater was a “gun free zone”. Not sure about that. If theaters have policies not allowing guns, they do so for a reason. Allowing people with guns inside a dark and crowded theater is just not a good idea. Small children and families go to movies. Why the need for a gun? Could someone really have stopped this shooter once he took everyone by surprise when he stood up and started firing? What does the average person do when hearing a gunshot and observing a shooter? Run to get away. That’s the natural and usual response. Firing back in a crowded dark theater with people running around? Ludicrous. But in addition, this Florida concealed carry permit holder shot an innocent young father over texting and popcorn at a movie theater. Tragic. The “good guy” with a gun didn’t do so well in this case, did he?

So yes, let’s allow those “good guys” with guns in our theaters. Clearly those folks will stop shooters and protect themselves and others.

Meanwhile, the shootings that don’t make national news?

Michigan boy shoots and kills brother.

10 year old Louisiana boy shot and killed himself with gun he accessed at home.

14 year old Kansas teen shoots and injures another teen.

A weird California case resulted in law enforcement finding 1200 guns stashed in a dead man’s home.

In Georgia a man killed his wife, her 2 children and himself.

Where do the guns come from? Why do kids and teens have such easy access to guns? Why do domestic disputes too often end in death by firearm? Why does anyone “need” 1200 guns?

There are many more where these came from. But I’m tired of this. Aren’t you? Shouldn’t we be addressing our nation’s serious epidemic of shootings by talking about strengthening our laws? Shouldn’t we be changing the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in a country at war with itself? More than 80 Americans a day are dying from gunshot injuries including homicide, suicide and accidents. This is a uniquely American tragedy. It’s a gun culture brought to us by the corporate gun lobby and their bought and paid for politicians.

We’re tired of the daily news about shootings. We are fatigued and battle weary with the media coverage and breaking news. That doesn’t mean we are worn down however. What it means is that we need to wake up and do something. We need to demand change.

This shooting left 2 more families grieving for a loved one shot in a senseless act of violence not seen in any other democratized country not at war. It left the injured with life long memories and maybe life long disabilities. It left those in the theater traumatized by the idea that they could have been one of the victims. It has left us all with a feeling of dread.

We don’t need more guns in more places as a “solution” to our problem of too many shootings. We need to keep guns away from those who shouldn’t have them in the first place and consider the actual problem that too many guns in too many places is posing for the public health and safety of Americans. We are not helpless to solve the problem. Only our elected leaders are in that position. And they are in the position to change things as well. The rest of us need to be pro-active in changing the conversation and demanding change.

We are better than this.

Where is common sense?

UPDATE:

A father , Peter Read, who lost his daughter in the Virginia Tech shooting has written a great blog about “gun free zones”.  From the blog post:

Now it’s routine for gun lobby commentators and politicians to blame mass shootings on the existence of so-called “gun-free zones.” This is a red herring, pushed by the gun lobby to advance a “guns everywhere” agenda, which insults the dead and mocks the living by reducing tragedy to a mere trope.

It’s past time to lay this fallacy to rest.

In our case, Virginia Tech had routine police presence in and around campus, which the gunman even accounted for in his planning. It’s pointless to debate what hypothetically could have happened if a student or teacher carried a concealed firearm in Norris Hall that day, because nobody will ever know. But such a debate misses the main point: Mary, and everyone else, would have been far safer if the shooter had been unable to obtain a gun in the first place.

In Chattanooga, everyone at the recruiting center, the first attack scene, survived despite a hail of rapid long gun fire, because the combat veterans present followed their active shooter training and helped others to shelter and to evacuate the building. In their case, effective training and quick thinking, not the presence of a gun, made the difference. Only time will tell what exactly happened at the second scene, but official accounts so far indicate our service members’ brave actions and teamwork probably saved lives.

“So-called ‘gun-free zones’ are not the problem, and victim-blaming is not a solution.”

So-called “gun-free zones” do not make people more vulnerable to gun violence. The fact is, 86% of mass shootings – which the FBI defines as four or more murders – occur elsewhere, such as at home, in the streets, or in workplaces, according to research byEverytown for Gun Safety. Many of these shootings relate to domestic violence, and more than half the victims of mass shootings are women. Many of these mass shootings never grab national headlines. You may not know this, but a mass shooting that killed two adults and two teenagers, and left an eight-year-old boy fighting for his life, happened just this month in a private home in Holly Hill, South Carolina.

So-called “gun-free zones” are not the problem, and victim-blaming is not a solution. Dangerous people’s continued access to guns is the problem, largely due to the gun lobby’s extreme agenda which harms everyone, including law-abiding gun owners, military members, and law enforcement. So let’s work on the real problem, together.

The solution is to strengthen our common-sense gun violence prevention laws, like legislation pending in Congress right now to ensure background checks occur on all gun sales. It won’t prevent every tragedy – nothing will – but it would go a long way toward making Americans safer.