Shootings at football games

School has started and so has the school shooting season. If kids are in school, in America we know that means kids will be shot. What a sorry state of affairs. This is #NOTNORMAL; except that it is. It’s Homecoming season as well so in Duluth the local high schools and colleges are celebrating at football games.

The thing is, every week since school has started again there has been a shooting at or near a football game. The fifth one just happened.

For at least the fifth week in a row, a shooting has taken place during a high school football game.
Two teens injured in Philadelphia are the latest victims in a string of shootings that have taken place at or near high school football games across the country. (…) The sound of the gunshots sent people running across the field as the P.A. announcer called on spectators to evacuate.

Just look at the photo in the linked article above and you will see the panic as the crowd was told to get out of the stadium. This is America. Football is like Apple Pie and mothers- very popular in our country- just like music concerts, shopping malls, attending church, schools, grocery stores and just hanging out with friends and family.

So I have a question. Where are all of these guns coming from that end up in the hands of our children and others who should not be anywhere near guns? Maybe they fall from the sky? I just read this great article in response to a tweet made by former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. First here is the tweet:

screen shot of actual tweet from Twitter

From the article:

“BEHOLD,” said a thundering voice from a cloud. (Madison had resumed taking his notes at this point, which is how we know this.) The heavens parted. An enormous hand stretched forth, holding a mysterious black object, long and pointed like a stick.
“I’M GIVING YOU THIS,” the hand said. “A GIFT, FROM ME TO YOU, THAT NO ONE CAN EVER TAKE AWAY.”

Today is Sunday. Many Christians attend church on this day. They sing. They worship. They give thanks. They raise concerns about the world. They listen to sermons and they socialize. Do any of these people thank God for guns? Apparently some actually believe this nonsense.

Speaking of nonsense before I circle back to football games and guns, I had a conversation this week with a man who shall not be named about how guns make it into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. His thesis is that background checks won’t stop the guns that are used in crime and shootings. (even though since the Brady Law has prevented the sale of over 3 million guns to prohibited purchasers since it was enacted).

To continue with this idea that background checks are ineffective he proclaimed that most crime guns are stolen. He was right about that one according to this article from Everytown:

Estimates from various sources suggest that between 200,000 and 500,000 guns are stolen from individuals each year.1 The most recent nationally representative survey found that approximately 380,000 guns are stolen from private gun owners every year.2
Gun owners were three times more likely to have a gun stolen if they carried a gun in the last month compared to gun owners who did not carry.3
Research suggests that nearly one-quarter of stolen guns are taken from cars and other vehicles.4,5
In addition to theft from private owners, approximately 18,700 firearms are reported lost or stolen from licensed gun dealers each year, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).6

We did not discuss further this stolen gun thing and what we can do about it. Since most of the stolen guns come from law abiding gun owners, it’s time for them to admit that they could be contributing to the problem of crime guns. Safe storage is key to this. When more guns are owned, more will be stolen. More guns are not making us safer if they are not secured safely away from kids and others who can’t handle them. The result is school shootings, suicides, homicides and “accidental” shootings many by children who find unsecured guns in their own homes.

End Family Fire is a program to educate gun owners about the risk of guns in homes. ASK is a program that encourages parents to ask if there are unsecured loaded guns in homes where their children and teens play and hang out.

And crime guns that come from a small percentage of gun dealers who are not following codes of conduct and the law are a problem. Brady is working on that one.

There are solutions to many of the shootings that happen everywhere in America. They are in front of us but not much is being done about this epidemic of shootings. In fact it is in our hands and the hands of our elected leaders to pass laws and start changing the conversation about the dangers of guns in our communities.

And finally, the man from my conversation claimed, as do many gun rights activists, that crime guns are coming across our southern border from Mexico. This one really bothers me a lot because it is so untrue. Guns are actually going the other way from out country into Mexico and other countries to our south where they are being used in drug trafficking, homicides and to intimidate many in those countries. Many are leaving those countries because it is too dangerous to live there. From the article:

Research shows that a majority of guns in Mexico can be traced to the U.S. A report from the U.S Government Accountability Office showed that 70 percent of guns seized in Mexico by Mexican authorities and submitted for tracing have a U.S. origin. This percentage remains consistent, said Bradley Engelbert, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. And the Trump has administration has recently taken steps to ease rules on gun exports, which enables manufacturers to sell guns in Mexico and Central America countries.
report from the Center of American Progress found that the United States was the primary source of weapons used in crime in Mexico and Canada. Other countries in Central America can also trace a large proportion of guns seized in crimes to the United States. For example, the report found that from 2014 to 2016, 49 percent of crime guns seized in El Salvador were originally purchased in the U.S. In Honduras, 45 percent of guns recovered in crime scenes were traced to the United States as well.

Let’s be clear. There is one gun shop in all of Mexico:

Like the 2nd Amendment in the United States, Mexico’s Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, but it also stipulates that federal law “will determine the cases, conditions, requirements and places” of gun ownership. For many Mexicans, even those who love guns, the thought of an unfettered right to owning one is perplexing.

Claiming that crime guns are coming across our southern border is a foil for building the wall to keep illegal immigrants from entering our country. It is essential that we talk about the truth when dealing with matters of such grave importance.

Guns are not falling from the sky from a God who wants people to use them to shoot other human beings. And until we confront all of the lies and deceptions about the source of crime guns or legally owned guns that are killing 100 people a day, the carnage will continue. Immigrants are NOT bringing guns with them. They are fleeing from them in their home countries.

After the rash of shootings at football games, 2 shooting in DC , one with an AK-47 ( not allowed in the nation’s capital), and the recent high profile mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, the conversation is centering around what to do about assault style weapons that can be legally purchased in our country by just about anyone and now more frequently the weapon of choice by shooters.

But the times are changing. Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods are no longer selling these weapons of war and the ammunition used by shooters. And in a surprise announcement this week, Colt is going to stop the production of AR-15s in what they said was a market driven decision:

Despite their statement, experts wonder whether the company made the decision with other factors in mind.
“The public is getting very alarmed about what’s happening with assault rifles in the hands of potential mass shooters,” John Donohue, a Stanford Law professor with expertise in gun policy, tells TIME. “Colt may just be feeling better to get out of that particular market, and they’re offering this purely economic manufacturing argument rather than addressing the political realities right now as the justification for this decision.”

Who wants to be the manufacturer of a gun used in a heinous mass shooting? Who wants to be the seller of that gun? In my last post I addressed the changing culture and conversation because businesses and corporations are finally standing up for common sense about guns and shootings.

This week the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on assault weapons. I will be there. In addition there will be a rally to end gun violence at the Capitol attended by hundreds from all over the country. I will be there as well. Today I will be tabling at a local Fall Fest with other chapter members to talk about what can be done to prevent gun violence. We will have materials about ASK and End Family Fire as well as what Minnesotans can do to demand that the Minnesota Senate hear and vote on the 2 bills passed last session by the House about background checks and Extreme Risk Protection Orders. The majority wants this to happen and people are more than happy to sign on.

It’s exhausting to the country to hear about the daily carnage. It is NOT NORMAL for kids and others to carry guns to football games and start shooting at people. It is #NOT NORMAL for the public to have to race to safety when hearing the pop of gunshots in public places.

That being the case, what should we do? There are solutions staring us in the face. Congress must #DoSomething to pass laws that can make us safer. Gun owners must do their part. Gun dealers and manufacturers must do their part. Parents must do their part. Educators and health care providers must do their part. Corporations must do their part.

It’s in our collective hands.

Guns at the borders

I have written before about how the loose gun laws in the U.S. actually are contributing to our border crisis. Here’s how (from an article in Common Dreams:

The link between homicide and migration is captured in this startling ratio from the Inter-American Dialogue in 2018: In Honduras, a 1 percent increase in homicides drives up migration by 120 percent. (…) But what I had not, and certainly should have, grasped is our nation’s central role in generating fear by allowing a flood of US weapons to continue across our southern border. The flood into Mexico alone includes “[m]ore than 212,000 illegal firearms” from the U.S. each year owing to “straw purchases,” observes the Los Angeles Times. 

Central America is hardest hit.

There, gun laws are comparatively strict, yet “homicide rates are among the highest on earth.” In El Salvador, with the world’s highest rate, almost half of weapons found at the country’s crime scenes are from the U.S. officials here estimate.

And more, from the article, that is pretty significant because it refers to how crime guns used in drug trafficking, homicide and terrorizing citizens in Mexico and other Central American countries come from our very own country:

The country has only one gun store. Located in Mexico City, it is guarded by the army. Seventy percent of guns seized in Mexico were originally sold in the U.S.—most of them in Texas, California, and Arizona according to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 

“Once in Mexico, these weapons end up in the hands of drug cartels or get shipped to gangs in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador,” says The Associated Press. In Honduras, “armed holdups on public transportation are a regular occurrence, where nearly half of the unregistered weapons originated in the U.S.,” reports the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.. 

“The number of firearms smuggled from the United States was so significant that nearly half of American gun dealers rely on that business to stay afloat,” reported the University of San Diego in 2013.

The author wonders why this is not more widely known. It is simple. The NRA and its lapdog politicians have conveniently sought to blame others for the problem. The outrage over what what was named Operation Fast and Furious, an ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives) operation to try to stem the sale of illegal guns used by the Mexican drug cartel to reap terror and violence and allow for more drugs to come into our own country was part of this blame game.

Though the Obama administration, the ATF and former AG Eric Holder are not blameless, trying to understand how guns get into Mexico illegally adding to the violence this was a worthy operation it seems to me:

Because federal law prohibits the ATF and local law enforcement agencies from releasing the results of crime gun traces, firearm trafficking patterns are hidden from public view. The trove of records reviewed by The Trace tell two clear stories: High-volume gun traffickers often depend on a single retail gun dealer for most of their wares. And rarely do those gun sellers face consequences.   (…) “It’s one big operation. You’ve got drugs — cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin — coming up from South America and Central America to the U.S., which is a big consumer. And then you have money and guns going south,” said a former ATF official who worked in Mexico during the period in question. He spoke to The Trace on condition of anonymity because he still consults with law enforcement. “Guns are the tool of the trade,” he said. “People aren’t killing each other with machetes.”

A Minnesota man ( from the above article) trafficked guns he purchased at one gun store in southern Minnesota but he got caught.

Beginning in 2007, a Minnesota man named Paul Giovanni De La Rosa began purchasing guns and delivering them to a business partner who lived near Mexico City. In court documents, he was accused of smuggling more than 100 firearms over the course of 20 trips. The weapons included more than 40 Five-seveN pistols, which are favored by drug cartels because they fire a cartridge that can pierce body armor. After De La Rosa was caught at the Laredo border crossing with weapons hidden inside furniture, he was prosecuted and sentenced to three years in prison. He did not respond to a request for comment sent to his attorney.

Dozens of De La Rosa’s purchases were included in the trove of ATF records reviewed by The Trace. Of the 34 weapons tracked in that dataset, 28 were sold by a single store: Hart Brothers, in the town of Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Hart Brothers is now out of business. I wonder why.

From the quote in the above article from The Trace, this is key: ” Because federal law prohibits the ATF and local law enforcement agencies from releasing the results of crime gun traces, firearm trafficking patterns are hidden from public view.”

Brady and The Trace as well as other organizations have received some ATF trace data through a FOIA request. We have known why the ATF needs to be stronger, not weaker as the NRA minions in Congress want the organization to be-because the Republicans pushed through the Tiahrt amendment which passed in 2003. Why would the corporate gun lobby and some members of Congress not want us to know about crime gun traces? We know the answer. Information is not a friend of corruption, greed and illegal activity,

The ATF is vastly underfunded and under staffed on purpose. Thank you NRA and lapdog politicians.

Laying blame at the feet of others is the M.O. used by those who want power and control and are willing to corrupt the conversation for their own selfish agenda. Hating President Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder was ubiquitous and overt. Republican leadership did everything they could to discredit our first Black President. They held Holder in contempt of Congress.

And Trump hating and now attacking those who are trying to get to the bottom of his immigration mess at the border is shameless at the least. Rep. Elijah Cummings was holding him and his administration responsible for the horrendous conditions at border detention centers. The detention centers are a stain on our democracy and our history.

Let’s be clear. What is happening now at the border is not the fault of the ATF, President Obama or AG Eric Holder. President Trump, his sycophants in the administration and his Republican minions have made the situation much worse and now, of course, blame everyone but themselves. That is actually how Rep. Elijah Cummings found himself the subject of more of Trump’s offensive and racist Tweets. Comparing Baltimore with the border situation is a shameless way of diverting attention away from the terrible problems created by the Tweeter in Chief.

The Baltimore Sun pushed back in a great editorial piece laying it out like it is. We all must push back on what is happening at the border, what our President is tweeting, and the overt racism and intolerance as well as attacks on entire cities and members of Congress totally unbefitting a President, let alone anyone else.

Finally, while we would not sink to name-calling in the Trumpian manner — or ruefully point out that he failed to spell the congressman’s name correctly (it’s Cummings, not Cumming) — we would tell the most dishonest man to ever occupy the Oval Office, the mocker of war heroes, the gleeful grabber of women’s private parts, the serial bankrupter of businesses, the useful idiot of Vladimir Putin and the guy who insisted there are “good people” among murderous neo-Nazis that he’s still not fooling most Americans into believing he’s even slightly competent in his current post. Or that he possesses a scintilla of integrity. Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one.

We all must step forward and take responsibility for the terrible situation at the border and in our impoverished cities. Passing strong gun laws would help fix both violent situations at home and in neighboring countries. We can see how guns make it into the Baltimore area but we are not doing anything about it:

“I would say approximately 60 percent statewide of firearms that are seized by Maryland law enforcement are not Maryland guns, that goes up exponentially in places like Baltimore City and Prince George’s County,” Lopez said.

Maryland has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. Buyers are required to wait seven days after purchase to actually take possession of a handgun. There is no instant background check, and buyers are limited to one purchase per month.

Laws are far more lax in states to the south and west.

In West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, background checks are instant, and there is no waiting period and no limit on how many guns you can purchase at once.

The disparity between gun laws state by state complicates the effort to reduce gun violence, currently an urgent priority in Baltimore.

There is no shortage of supply. (…) “It’s not difficult at all,” Guy said. “Not only are those that are involved in intentionally violent activities have quick access to guns, even those kids that are fearful that if they are not protecting themselves, that they could be another victim, but it’s easy for them to get guns too.”

Passing a federal universal background check law requiring that every buyer is checked out to make sure he/she is not a prohibited purchaser would save lives. That makes common sense. Passing and enforcing straw purchasing and gun trafficking laws would help stop some of the sales of guns that end up in Mexico and other Central American countries. These laws would also prevent some of the trafficking into our major urban areas. Holding irresponsible gun dealers accountable also will stop the practice of selling to those who can’t and shouldn’t get their hands on guns. These same laws would affect violence in our urban centers all over the country.

Immigration, violence, poverty and guns go together. They shouldn’t but they do. President Trump just connected the border situation with urban poverty and violence. In many ways he is right but he doesn’t know it. His intent was to denigrate, attack and criticize and his Tweets have only drawn attention to the atrocious conditions in both places. Plus I’m pretty sure he did not want us all to know that his own son-in-law Jared Kushner is partly responsible for the “rat infested” living conditions in Baltimore. Seriously- you really can’t make this stuff up.

It’s in our hands to affect change. We don’t have to accept what has become an untenable situation. Holding our leaders accountable for their negligence is key to making change happen.

Take action. Not sides.

Shooting Anniversary again

Today another shooting anniversary is upon us- that of the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise who was at a baseball practice for a Congressional baseball game. One other person was injured and one was killed in the shooting. The shooter was a left-wing activist:

Hodgkinson was a left-wing activist[10][11] from Belleville, Illinois, while Scalise was a Republican member of Congress. The Virginia Attorney General concluded Hodgkinson’s attack was “an act of terrorism…fueled by rage against Republican legislators”.[12] Scalise was the first sitting member of Congress to have been shot since Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in 2011

In America we have home grown terrorists who account for more shootings than any foreign terrorists in spite of what the right wing and Wayne LaPierre want us to believe:

From 2009 through 2018, right-wing extremists accounted for 73 percent of such killings, according to the ADL, compared with 23 percent for Islamists and 3 percent for left-wing extremists. In other words, most terrorist attacks in the United States, and most deaths from terrorist attacks, are caused by white extremists. But they do not cause the sort of nationwide panic that helped Trump win the 2016 election and helped the GOP expand its Senate majority in the midterms.

When white extremists kill, politicians do not demand that they be racially profiled. They do not call for bans on white people coming to the United States. They do not insist that white people’s freedom of movement be restricted, their houses of worship be surveilled, their leaders be banned from holding public office, or their neighborhoods be “secured” and occupied by armed agents of the state. And they do not demand that taxpayers foot the bill for a massive, symbolic monument that will register America’s official disdain for white people in perpetuity.

We should be talking about where the guns come from that flow in Mexico and the Central American countries from where so many migrants are coming and trying to get into the U.S. For the most part they are not rapists and murderers as President Trump continues to say in spite of the facts to the contrary. And many of these migrants are trying to escape the violence that is happening in their countries in part due to the guns that come in from us. We have a vicious circle. These migrants, if they end up being able to stay in the U.S. will live in a country where the gun death rates are among the highest of any democratized country not at war.

Let’s take a look at the above linked article about guns flowing into Mexico:

report from the Center of American Progress found that the United States was the primary source of weapons used in crime in Mexico and Canada. Other countries in Central America can also trace a large proportion of guns seized in crimes to the United States. For example, the report found that from 2014 to 2016, 49 percent of crime guns seized in El Salvador were originally purchased in the U.S. In Honduras, 45 percent of guns recovered in crime scenes were traced to the United States as well. (…) On paper it’s significantly harder to legally purchase a firearm in Mexico than it is in the United States. So if it’s so difficult to buy a gun in Mexico, where do all of the country’s guns come from? The answer has as much if not more to do with U.S. gun policy than with Mexico’s, though the issue is rarely brought up in America’s political debates over gun control and border security.

The right to own guns is in Mexico’s constitution, as it is in the U.S., but Mexican gun laws are highly restrictive. The Mexican army is the only entity allowed to sell guns in the country, either to private security firms, private citizens or to local police. In fact, there is only one legal gun store in the country, which is also run by the Mexican army and located in Mexico City. Assault weapons and any weapon more powerful than a .38 caliber gun is banned from personal use, with few exceptions. Only the military is allowed to use high-powered firearms. (…) So-called “straw purchasers” play a key role in firearms trafficking from the U.S. to Mexico and other points south. Typically “straw purchasers” are intermediary or middleman buyers who purchase and execute all the paperwork required for a legal firearm transaction on behalf of someone else. These purchasers are usually American citizens who adhere to U.S. gun laws, including passing a background check or meeting other applicable federal and state gun laws.

In many cases, “traffickers will run a ring of straw buyers,” said Kristen Rand, the legislative director for the Violence Policy Center. “The traffickers are exploiting the background check system because they just find people who can have the background check, and as long as they don’t raise suspicion with the dealer, then it’s difficult to identify that this is illegal.”

If we pass stronger gun laws we would not only reduce the violence here at home but in other countries as well. And perhaps our immigration problem would also be affected.

Congressman Scalise survived his shooting and is back in the halls of Congress on this 2nd anniversary. He loves his job. Instead of changing his views on gun safety reform though , he dug in more deeply:

Echoing comments made by other congressional Republicans and the White House, Scalise said that lawmakers should focus on supporting victims and law enforcement before advocating for a legislative response.

“Because first of all you’ve got to recognize that when there’s a tragedy like this, the first thing we should be thinking about is praying for the people who were injured and doing whatever we can to help them, to help law enforcement. We shouldn’t first be thinking of promoting our political agenda,” Scalise said.

Scalise’s congressional website notes that his support gun rights has earned him an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association. The bills he has supported over the years would ease interstate gun sales and ensure national reciprocity for concealed-carry permit holders. 

No. Prayers? What good does that do. This is a deflection and denial of the actual public health epidemic of gun violence. The old mantra that we shouldn’t talk about “gun control” after a mass shooting is becoming laughable considering that since 2013 there has been only one full week without one.:

Since 2013, there has been only one full calendar week — the week of January 5, 2014 — without a mass shooting.

The longest respite was 11 days between January 8, 2013, and January 18, 2013, when no mass shootings were reported, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

This, of course, does not include shootings like Congressman Scalise”s or my sister’s or my friend’s father who committed suicide by gun or the other 100 a day who die every day from gunshot injuries.

Gun violence prevention groups and their partners continue to hold vigils, ring bells, light candles, bring candles, march, rally, speak out but yet they ignore our voices and our pleas.

Congressman Scalise voted against H.R. 8 requiring background checks on all gun sales and H.R. 1112 to close the Charleston loophole allowing shooters like the one who massacred nine innocent people at Mother Emmanuel AMA Church in Charleston. How could anyone vote against these bills?

He has received campaign money from the NRA to the tune of over $36,000. Is that why?

Next week is the 4th anniversary of the Charleston hate shooting. I will write more then.

If we talk about all of this, we just might have to do something about it. And that would make all the common sense in the world. And it would stop the flow of guns into the hands of those who should not have them. It would also likely lead to a drop of gun sales. God forbid that should happen. And what would Congress members like Steve Scalise do with the financial and other support from the NRA?

Given the revelations about continued corrupt practices of the NRA Scalise and others would be much better off morally if they stopped accepting support from the organization. They don’t seem to care about that. Watch this:

So as we think about mass shooting anniversaries or personal anniversaries of loved ones who have been murdered or killed by suicide or an “accidental shooting” let’s also remember that we need an anniversary of a day when the full Congress votes to reduce and prevent gun violence and thinks more about the country than their own elections.

No more thoughts and prayers. We want action.

America- home of mass shootings and land of the dead

You can’t make up what is happening in our country on so many fronts. There’s “the wall”. There’s “the shutdown”. There’s “Roger Stone”. There are “Trump’s tweets”. There’s the news of “the opioid crisis”. There’s “the ubiquitous chaos”. There is the “immigration debacle”. There are “Presidential candidate announcements”.

But lost in all of this news is the fact that in our country mass shootings have continued unabated and, one might say, with increasing frequency. They have barely been a blip in the news because of all of the other news. But some have noticed. Axios, for example. posted this article to highlight another violent and deadly week in America:

A rash of mass shooting incidents across the United States was forced under the radar last week as cable news largely focused on the indictment of former Trump political adviser Roger Stone and the end of the longest government shutdown in modern history.


The big picture: A number of last week’s mass shooting incidents and threats specifically targeted women and other family members, highlighting the harrowing statistic that women in the U.S. are 16 times more likely to be killed by gun violence than in other developed countries.

Women in America are at risk for their lives from the men in their lives. There is not a question about this in case someone wants to ask one. I sit on the board of Domestic Abuse Intervention Program, home of the Duluth model, The model has been made famous because it works. Men who abuse are arrested and if ordered by the court, must attend group sessions to learn how to change their aggressive and violent behavior. If men can change their behaviors women will be safer. And if the country is accountable for making sure that domestic abusers can’t get their hands on guns, we will all be safer. Should that be controversial?

The Brady Campaign’s End Family Fire can also work to educate the public about the risk of guns in homes to gun owners. For, as the Axios article points out, it’s about women at risk. And children are at risk if women are at risk. Other family members are at risk. Innocent people are at risk.

Here is a video showing how easy it is for kids to get their hands on guns in homes. Anyone can get their hands on an unsecured and loaded gun and cause a death or an injury. It’s that simple. It’s that quick. It’s that deadly.

The thing is, we can do something about all of this but we aren’t- so far anyway. There is finally hope that Congress and state legislators are actually ready to stand up to the gun lobby and the decades’ long hold it has had on our elected leaders and the national conversation about gun safety reform.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

As to incidents of recent mass shootings, mostly domestic related, listed in the Axios article, the Brady Campaign released a statement about the lastest of the shootings which took place near Baton Rouge, Louisiana:

“The fact that there have already been more than 1,000 shooting deaths this year is astounding in the worst way. And now, two families in Louisiana have been destroyed because, yet again, a dangerous person was able to gain access to a gun. That this happened in a state that features some of the most lax gun laws in the country is, sadly, unsurprising. We owe it to the victims of this heinous crime to offer more than thoughts and prayers – we owe it to them to determine how the shooter obtained his firearm, and then to work to pass stronger legislation to make sure that this sort of shooting spree cannot again take place in Louisiana.” (…) Louisiana has ranked as the third deadliest state in the country for gun violence, with 987 firearm deaths in 2016 and 21.2 firearm deaths per 100,000 people.

Louisiana has lax gun laws as pointed out in the statement. Why? Good question. We know the answer. “Rights” Spineless politicians to stand up the corporate gun lobby. Controversial? The noisy gun rights extremists who actually represent a very small percentage of Americans, including gun owners. Money, power and control.

And just when I thought I was done writing this post another incident of a mass shooting came across my Facebook feed. 5- yes 5 Houston police officers were shot in an incident in which the suspect was shot dead(today):

“This evening’s horrific attack on police officers is a solemn reminder of the service and sacrifice our brave men and women in law enforcement make every day to keep us safe,” he said in the statement. 

True. It’s also a reminder that we are living in a deadly country where mass shootings are happening every day and we’re doing nothing about it. It’s crazy making and ludicrous and just plain unacceptable. When will it stop?

It’s time for common sense and logic to be the guidepost for how we treat deadly weapons in our country. Guns kill, period. They are the only product on the market designed to kill and yet are treated as if they are just a “tool” to be used by whoever wants to have a gun or carry one. The cavalier attitude towards guns and gun ownership is killing us.

We are better than this.

Happy 2019

I have no doubt that 2019 will take up where 2018 ended with stupid, dangerous and insane gun incidents in our gun crazy country. The end of this year is full of shootings and gun deaths and general insanity featuring “law abiding” gun owners.

This incident in Florida ( again in Florida) struck me as the “poster child” for what our spineless politicians have bestowed upon us all when they decided it was perfectly OK for ordinary citizens to carry weapons of war around in public places. From the article ( and please check out the video accompanying the article):

According to officials, 60-year-old Robert Miller brought the rifle into the store because he was upset over the price of two packs of cigarettes.
“I’m speechless,” said customer Jacques Momeerhouse. “Do we need all of that?”
The arrest report said Miller had entered the supermarket prior to the incident to buy two packs of Pall Mall cigarettes, but he left because the price was $11 and he only had $10.
Investigators said Miller was so upset about the dollar difference that he grabbed his long rifle and returned to confront the clerk.

You really can’t make this stuff up. And worse, in the video, there were others in the store who seemed to not be too alarmed by the fact that a man armed with an AR-15 was walking around the store making threats. This is exactly what the NRA and the corporate gun lobby wants- to normalize armed citizens in our public places.

I call this the definition of insanity.

There is absolutely no reason for ordinary citizens to be able to carry loaded weapons around in public. The proof is in the pudding. More guns have in fact not made us safer. The opposite is true. More guns have led to an increase in the number of gun deaths which have now surpassed auto accidents in lethality.

It is unsustainable to continue along this trajectory.

As I have noted before, in the midst of the devastating carnage, there is hope that the narrative and the laws are changing and will change. The survivors of the Parkland shooting have changed the way we talk about gun violence forever. We can’t take back what happened last February 14th. It was almost literally the shots heard ’round the world. It’s because those courageous and angry students chose to cry out instead of cringing in the face of the opposition to any common sense coming from the gun rights extremists.

What we know is that we can do something about senseless gun deaths. It is not a hopeless cause as some of the gun rights extremists want us to believe when they say that “guns don’t kill people, people do”, or “if you pass stronger gun laws, the criminals will still get their guns”, or “only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun” and other inanities that we have allowed to stand for far too long.

Speaking of inanities regarding gun rights extremists, this article appeared in the Denver Post. 

Read carefully. The writer openly proclaims that he does not intend to follow the laws of Boulder, Colorado regarding registering his gun with authorities if he plans to carry it in public. The photo itself is enough to make us all want to cry. A grown man with a long gun slung over his shoulder walking his young child in a stroller down the street. This is just not normal. What is this guy so afraid of that he needs to carry a long gun in public while pushing his baby down the street? This narrative is not popular with the majority of Americans. What we need is common sense if we intend to take back the narrative and allow us all to live in safety without having to worry about some nut with a loaded gun in public corroding our otherwise peaceful day with our families and friends.

We’re not having it. The many families affected by the shooting death of a loved one, whether to homicide, suicide or “accidental” discharge of a gun do feel hopeless at times because many of them, like me, have been pouring their hearts and souls into getting laws passed and changing the conversation about our nation’s public health epidemic.

2019 will bring change and hope. The newly formed Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives will take up legislation to strengthen our gun laws. If new laws are passed, a tone is set in the country that we don’t intend to allow the carnage to continue. It also sets a moral tone that in this country, we care about victims and we care about our families and their safety. Laws alone can’t fix our terrible problem with gun deaths but they can set the tone for a kinder, gentler nation that no longer accepts the uncommon wisdom that has set the tone until now.

In Minnesota the newly formed Democratic majority intends to take up laws like requiring background checks on all gun sales and Extreme Risk Protection Orders that will save lives. I look forward to it.

The thing is, when even a provision to ban bump stocks (used in the Las Vegas shooting) is held up by Gun Owners of America ( to the right of the NRA)  it is perfectly obvious that there is no interest whatsoever in saving lives. It’s about them and their power and money. There’s really no other way to look at it. And suing to get their way is their M.O. From the article:

“These dangerous regulations can go much farther than just bump stocks,” Erich Pratt, executive director of GOA said in a statement. “The goal of the anti-gun left is, ultimately, not just banning bump stocks, but, rather, putting ‘points on the board’ toward its goal of banning civilian ownership of all firearms.”

Really? Just another nonsensical statement that is not only not true but totally false. There have been no attempts to ban citizen ownership of all firearms nor will there be. Pratt knows this but it is necessary to continue the narrative of fear and paranoia to keep control of a dying gun rights movement.

So I wish my readers a Happy New Year and a safe and peaceful ending to 2018. It was a deadly year. It was also a year of chaos for our country. In addition to all of the other investigations into Russian influence in our 2016 election and corruption charges, one of them has also changed the image of the NRA forever. There’s no turning the clock back on the corrupt behavior of those whose interest was in influencing an election and maintaining power and control.

We are better than this.

Happy New Year.

The odds of the game

Blank Red Dice Shows Copyspace Gambling And LuckIn my last post, I wrote about the “game” of gun rights advocacy vs. the “game” plan for the gun safety reform advocates. The game is not over yet but we lost a skirmish in Minnesota this week as the Republican led legislature rolled the dice and came down on the side of cowardice:

But Republicans who control the state Senate, with support from three DFL senators, rejected Latz’s bids to attach the two amendments to a wide-ranging spending bill that the Senate considered on Thursday. The bill dedicates nearly $20 million for schools to hire counselors or school resources officers, update building security and develop mental health programs. It also increases the frequency of school employee background checks and provides grants for schools to audit their security.

The Senate votes were the biggest test to date of whether gun control supporters at the State Capitol could seize political momentum from the renewed national debate over guns in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shooting, where 17 people were killed. Lawmakers across the nation have been considering similar gun regulations, and a recent Star Tribune Minnesota Poll found that 9 in 10 Minnesotans favor mandatory universal criminal background checks.

In light of new polling data showing strong support for universal background checks and majority support for an assault rifle ban and other safety measures, it’s remarkable that the speaker of the House, Kurt Daudt said this (from the article):

“Could gun legislation be something where the NRA supports it and it actually could help keep guns out of the hands of violent criminals? That’s the sort of thing we would need to look for,” said Daudt, who said he personally does not support universal background checks or the temporary removal of firearms, known as “red flag laws” or extreme risk protection orders.

Daudt said he sees no scenario where further gun restrictions pass in Minnesota this year.

He may or may not realize that the NRA represents a minority of Americans and even fewer gun owners. But he still opines that the approval of the NRA is needed on the watered down bills presented to them for a vote. Why? Good question. From the article:

Other studies show that gun owners strongly support more gun-safety regulations, including a federal database of gun sales, banning people convicted of domestic violence from owning guns and prohibiting ownership by those with a mental illness.

It’s not about rights and the second amendment. It’s about keeping our communities safe from the devastation of gun violence. But nevertheless, they persist in their lies and innuendos. 2000 gun rights advocates gathered at the Minnesota Capitol yesterday, many armed. Were they afraid of each other? Why armed? To make the point that the “guys with the guns make the rules.” What rules?

Here are some of the wild and false statements made at the rally:

Lee said that he and other NRA leaders, including Wayne LaPierre, “were heartbroken over the senseless murders” in Parkland, but that gun-control supporters had exploited the shooting. “The ‘antis’ most recent tactic is to use the un­developed emotions of children to advance their cause,” he said.

Earlier in the rally, O’Neill said that she and other legislators supporting gun owners are “concerned for protecting life.”

“None of us wants to see an innocent person’s life taken away from them,” she said. “But taking guns away from law-abiding citizens is not the answer.”

Katie Peterson, a 25-year-old graduate student at the University of Minnesota, came to the rally carrying a sign and wearing an NRA hat. She said she recently became a gun owner and felt it was important to show up and support the Second Amendment.

Peterson’s sign read: “After witnessing and experiencing abuse, I realized, I am my protector.”

She said that having a gun would have helped protect her during a domestic sexual assault she experienced.

Let’s stop right here. Having a gun will not protect women during domestic assaults.:

But the available evidence does not support the conclusion that guns offer women increased protection. Myriad studies show that the NRA and its allies grossly misrepresent the actual dangers women face. It is people they know, not strangers, who pose the greatest threat. There is also strong, data-based evidence that shows owning a gun, rather than making women safer, actually puts them at significantly greater risk of violent injury and death.

In some places and in some instances, women have, in fact, used guns to successfully defend themselves. But the case that gun rights advocates make when pitching guns as essential to women’s personal and family security goes beyond the anecdotal, leaning heavily on an oft-cited 1995 study by the Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck — a study built on faulty research. (…)

Women who were victims of attempted or completed crimes used guns to defend themselves just 0.4 percent of the time, according to the National Crime Victimization Survey. (The survey uses a representative sample of 90,000 households in order to estimate national crime rates.) A Harvard study found that, of the more than 300 cases of sexual assault reported in the sample of NCVS data between 2007 and 2011, none were stopped by a firearm. Of the 1,119 sexual assaults reported in the NCVS from 1992 to 2001, a different study revealed that only a single case was stopped by defensive gun use. And, as we have shown in previous articles, even these numbers from the NCVS likely overestimate the true rate at which women protect themselves with firearms.

The truth matters.

None of the measures proposed would take away anyone’s second amendment rights. If they want their guns, have at it. But let me just say that if that is the case, you may be rolling the dice against yourself or your family because the chances of your needing that gun for self defense are minimal compared to the chances of being shot or using the gun to shoot someone while in your home- as in a domestic shooting or a suicide or a child finding that gun and using it “accidentally” to shoot him/herself or someone else in the home.

From the above linked article:

The latest data show that people use guns for self-defense only rarely. According to a Harvard University analysis of figures from the National Crime Victimization Survey, people defended themselves with a gun in nearly 0.9 percent of crimes from 2007 to 2011.

David Hemenway, who led the Harvard research, argues that the risks of owning a gun outweigh the benefits of having one in the rare case where you might need to defend yourself.

“The average person … has basically no chance in their lifetime ever to use a gun in self-defense,” he tells Here & Now‘s Robin Young. “But … every day, they have a chance to use the gun inappropriately. They have a chance, they get angry. They get scared.” (…)

Even if someone wanted to use a gun in self-defense, they probably wouldn’t be very successful, says Mike Weisser, firearms instructor and author of the blog “Mike The Gun Guy.” He says many people who carry a gun aren’t properly trained to use it in this way, and there is no performance validation standard for police officers.

“If we don’t even have a minimum standard, not for training, but for performance validation for our law enforcement,” he says, “how in God’s name is anybody going to say, ‘Well, just because you have a gun in your pocket, you know how to use it in self-defense?’ You don’t.”

But never mind the facts. The die is not cast yet. Gun safety reform advocates were present at the Capitol all week showing support for a sit-in supporting passing a few life saving measures. The point was made but legislators chose to close their eyes and ignore what their constituents want.

Common sense tells us, along with strong public opinion, that passing background check and extreme risk protection orders will not result in gun confiscation. The truth of the matter is that most gun owners undergo background checks anyway when purchasing guns from licensed dealers. Have their guns been confiscated? No.

The truth of the matter is that extreme risk protection orders will save lives and only temporarily remove guns from people who are clearly a danger to themselves or others. Remember the Nashville Waffle House shooting? Remember the Isla Vista shooting? Remember the Wisconsin Azana spa shooting? Remember the Virginia Tech shooting?

Memories are short apparently. And it’s too late once another person who should not have had a gun in the first place either shoots strangers, loved ones or him/herself in a state of anger, domestic abuse, severe mental illness, etc.

Why not prevent shootings in the first place? We already know that guns are not the first answer to preventing shootings. Check out the “hero” in the Nashville Waffle House shooting. But the gun rights advocates are sure that their just being at the scene as if unfolds will assure that they will save the day. The fact is it just doesn’t happen.

The Sutherland church shooting ended when the shooter left the scene. A gun owner pursued him and shot him but did not prevent the shooting in the first place.

Another small minority of Americans have permits to carry guns. Just having the permit does not mean the person will be carrying that gun wherever they go on a daily basis. In fact, many people have the permit as a way to legally purchase guns and just to have it. Carrying a gun around is inconvenient and a burden on the person carrying. Permit holders do actually make mistakes- sometimes deadly, sometimes not. “Accidentally” shooting someone you know or love is inexcusable and avoidable. Leaving loaded guns around where others can find them is avoidable and senseless. There should be no “mistakes” or “accidents” with guns. They are deadly weapons designed to kill people.

Check out this, this, this and this for just a few. With rights come responsibilities.

The “game” needs to be played fairly with the facts at hand and with the idea in mind that representing one’s constituents really does mean playing the hand on the side of gun safety reform.

The Minnesota legislature may have won a pyrrhic victory but they have not won the game. The cost is in human lives. The cost may be too great to sustain. Losing seats in November may the cost. Time will tell.

April- shooting anniversaries and an important birthday

April foolEvery April, some families have to stop what they are doing and remember an awful anniversary. The country also remembers certain April dates as those of mass shootings and violent events that we can’t forget:

April 13- Thomas Jefferson’s birthday

April 15- Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent shooting of one of the perpetrators and eventual capture and shooting of the other

April 16- Virginia Tech shooting

April 19- Oklahoma City bombing by gun rights extremist

April 20- Columbine shooting

April is a cruel month according to poet T.S. Eliot:

 

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
This of course refers to the spring weather which has been particularly cruel in Minnesota this year. We are one day wearing winter coats and boots and shoveling and the next sitting outside in short sleeves and enjoying the spring sun.
But for the victims of these now famous shootings and attacks, April is unforgettable. How can we forget the 32 shot dead at Virginia Tech? How can we forget the first big school shooting that left 12 dead and the country reeling? How can we forget the Oklahoma bombing that left 168 innocent people dead. The man who committed this heinous act was a gun extremist and had anti-government sentiments. The Boston Marathon Bombing did end with shootings and left 3 people there to watch the finish of the race dead.
And what does Thomas Jefferson’s birthday have to do with any of this? Let’s take a look at this article that dispels the myths associated with some of his quotes that are used by gun extremists and far right political extremists:
Saul Cornell, a professor at Fordham University, said some quotations may need context, especially those from the “losing side” of debates. He added that he believes both sides of the gun conversation tend to oversimplify the Founding Fathers’ historical intent.
“Without being too professorial about it,” he said, “depending on what theory of the Constitution we use, you can get very different interpretations of the Second Amendment.”
Cornell, who is the Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History at the school, said the Constitution incorporates lessons learned while the nation was under the Articles of Confederation. He said the turmoil of Shays’ Rebellion stirred up fears of mob rule among many leaders.
He also compared the militias of early America to a form of taxation, saying that citizens had what Jefferson referred to as a “right and duty” to be armed. That is, they were required to buy weapons in addition to being allowed to possess them. Militia membership was often compulsory, Cornell said.
He questions whether the Founding Fathers would have welcomed the idea of people taking up arms against their newly hatched constitutional government instead of using governmental procedure to settle differences, which sometimes is referred to as the “ballots vs. bullets” debate.
The quote that has sometimes been used by extremists is: ” The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” So what does that mean? From this article in the Huffington Post by Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:
Those who hold the belief that the Second Amendment gives them an individual right to take violent action against our government should it lapse into “tyranny” have isolated Jefferson’s “tree of liberty” quote in order to justify a radical ideology. The truth is that Jefferson’s views on private rebellion were far more thoughtful and nuanced. While scholars like Saul Cornell have acknowledged that Jefferson affirmed an individual right to keep arms for private purposes, he never described disorganized or spontaneous insurrection as a right. Jefferson instead envisioned“a universally armed citizenry organized into well-regulated militia units based on a system of ‘ward republics’” as a deterrent against “usurpers” and a key guarantor of a healthy republic.
In today’s hyperbolic and sometimes even violence-prone political environment it is important to understand that armed Americans ready to fight against their own government or for a particular candidate is not a democracy. We use ballots- not bullets- and hopefully common sense, to change our leaders. Our Founding Fathers wanted it that way. I doubt that they envisioned armed Americans ready to fight their own government or use their guns to intimidate and bully other Americans.

Some wonder if April has some significance when it comes to violence. This article explores that idea and comes to the conclusion that in America, at least, mass shootings occur in any and every month and we know that shootings happen every day of every month to the tune of 90 a day.

For my family August was a cruel month. For others it was December when 20 first graders and 6 educators were shot dead by a young angry mentally disturbed man who should not have had access to guns.

Gun violence is cruel and devastating. In American it is particularly and uniquely so.It doesn’t have to be that way. We shouldn’t be thinking about certain months or certain dates in light of violent events that took place then. Too many families hate the anniversaries of the shooting deaths of their loved ones or friends.

It’s past time to change the conversation and do something. Today a petition with 200,000 signatures to ask Congress to repeal the PLCAA law was delivered. A protest outside of the hotel where the NSSF was meeting also happened. The National Shooting Sports Foundation opposed the Senate background check bill in 2013 much to the great consternation of gun violence prevention activists and victims. It is located in Newtown, Connecticut where the Sandy Hook shooting took place.

April is a busy month for activists whose mission it is to call attention to our American public health epidemic and ask our leaders to do something about it. The month starts out with April Fools’ Day. We will not be fooled by the false and deceptive rhetoric of the corporate gun lobby. And we can’t let our elected leaders be fooled either. It is no joke to have a loved one’s life cut short by a bullet. And that is why we are acting today, this month and every month.

Check out the Facebook page of Newtown Action Alliance and the Twitter feed of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for photos showing the activists working for victims. This is what change looks like. Let’s keep going and make it happen.