Blogging for gun safety reform and changing the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities. Common sense gun laws and gun safety reform and gun rights are not mutually exclusive.
This morning I want to share with you my Local View in the Duluth News Tribune. It reflects the views of the majority of Americans. Below is the article in its’ entirety.
President Donald Trump on Jan. 10 tweeted, “We lose 300 Americans every week (to heroin), 90% of which comes through the Southern Border. These numbers will be DRASTICALLY REDUCED if we have a Wall.” Trump also has called the immigration debate a national emergency.
It is not a national emergency.
Climate change is a national emergency. The lack of affordable health care is a national emergency. Americans living in poverty with no way out is a national emergency. Gun violence is a national emergency. If the fact that about 700 Americans a week are shot and killed in homicides, suicides, and “unintentional” shootings isn’t a national emergency, I don’t know what is. The Gun Violence Archive reports that, as of Jan. 18, 683 Americans had died in gun homicides so far this year. This does not include suicides that account for 80 percent of gun deaths in Minnesota and more than 60 percent nationwide. You do the math. That’s about 40,000 deaths a year.
On Jan. 8, a bill to require background checks on all gun sales was introduced in the U.S. House. One in five gun sales now goes without a Brady background check. If one in five passengers was allowed to board planes without going through TSA security, we would fix the problem. Criminal background checks are necessary for public safety but will not end all gun violence. Just as safety measures for cars and drivers led to fewer deaths and injuries, so, too, can stronger gun laws. Just as passing laws about public smoking has saved lives, so, too, can stronger gun laws.
Most mass shooters are homegrown American terrorists. They are not coming from across the border. They are living among us. Shooters are your neighbors killing their wives or their kids. They are friends of your kids using a gun in a suicide. They are a friend’s young child getting a gun and shooting himself or herself or someone else nearby. They are your neighbor’s teen bringing a gun to school and shooting up his classmates. They are police officers getting shot or shooting someone. They are grandparents who may not have the judgment to handle guns safely. They are young gang members with guns they shouldn’t have shooting each other on our streets. They may be people with severe mental illness who can’t handle the responsibility of a lethal weapon. They are people carrying guns in public who don’t act responsibly. These things happen every day in our country.
The pile of bodies and the number of survivors grow daily, affecting us all. We can figure this out and do it together, but we need common sense and a will to act. Gun rights and gun-safety reform are not mutually exclusive, as most gun owners agree with the 97 percent of Americans who favor background checks on all gun sales. This is a no-brainer for Congress and the Minnesota Legislature. As long as Congress refuses to get serious about a national public health epidemic, we can expect to see more shootings They will happen anywhere at any time. Just because a shooting hasn’t affected you so far doesn’t mean one won’t. I never thought my sister would be murdered in a domestic shooting, either. It changes one’s perspective. A year ago, on the 14th of February, 17 were murdered in Parkland, Fla. Since then, the brave surviving students have changed the conversation about gun violence in our country. Voters this fall chose majorities which want change to our gun laws and our gun culture. The Minnesota House this session is expected to consider a bill to require background checks on all gun sales. There also is to be a “red flag” bill that would make sure people dangerous to themselves or others don’t have guns. Tell your Congress members to act. Tell your state legislators to act. Don’t let the president’s rhetoric about a national emergency on our southern border deflect and distract from the true emergencies.
One of the tenants, Manuel Velasquez, told police he got into a fight with Stokoe on Thursday evening because the landlord kicked the door and put him into a “very serious” chokehold, court documents obtained by the paper say. Velasquez, 31, told cops that while he was being subdued, he grabbed a handgun inside the fannypack he was wearing and shot Stokoe multiple times.
It will be interesting to see if the perpetrators try to use it in their defense.
If your state doesn’t have one of these laws, watch for it because the corporate gun lobby loves these laws and looks to pass them everywhere.
Meanwhile, since I wrote my Local View piece, the Gun Violence Archive has added the numbers of victims of bullets and it’s increased by almost 200 since Jan. 18th.
This is a national emergency that must be addressed. It’s more than common sense. It’s a national emergency and an American tragedy happening everywhere in our country.
It’s imperative that we act. One person dead from bullets is one person too many. Families are hurting all over America because of the government shut down, because of poverty, because of lack of access to health care, because of gun violence.
Chaos is surrounding us and the government shut-down is exposing the worst of who we are. We are better than this and we can work together to exercise our rights as Americans to be free of the chaos and to save our country from true emergencies staring at us.
It is difficult to try to remember the dates of all of the mass shootings in America. You see, mass shootings have happened in every month of the year and almost every week of every month. And when we honor and remember the victims of the high profile mass shootings we don’t want to forget or dishonor the victims of “everyday” shootings- about 90 per day as it turns out.
I just wrote a post about the one year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. And then the shooting happened at the baseball practice and left a U.S. Congressman ( and others) critically injured. And then a mass shooting happened in San Francisco at a UPS building. And then the verdict in the Philando Castile case left a community reeling when the officer involved was acquitted. This case highlights the tensions between people of color and law enforcement- something about which we need to deal seriously and purposefully.
Churches should be places where people can gather without fear of being shot. In America no place is a place where people can gather without fear of being shot. Baseball practices, schools, malls, cars, parks, college campuses, workplaces, office buildings and homes are all vulnerable to shooters with anger, hate and revenge in their hearts. And when guns are so easily accessible, it is all too easy.
The shooter of the 9 people that were killed that day two years ago should not have been able to purchase his gun. But because the gun lobby lapdogs in Congress made sure there was a loophole in our gun laws, he got his gun anyway. We know the result. From the article:
Nearly three thousands guns were sold to people with criminal records, mental illnesses or other prohibitive circumstances in 2015, according to the FBI’s latest operations report on background checks, released in late September.
That’s the result of what many see as a flaw in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). At licensed firearm dealers–but not private shows or sales, including those facilitated online–a background check is required to determine the prospective buyer’s eligibility. Data show that roughly 90 percent of these checks come back with an answer immediately, but the remainder are delayed so the FBI can further investigate eligibility.
If three business days pass without a verdict from the FBI, licensed dealers can sell the gun anyway, unless prohibited by local law. If the background check later comes back negative, federal authorities are supposed to retrieve the weapon. (…)
Since 1998, the delayed denial provision has put a total of 58,779 guns in the wrong hands
“Lawful gun owners should applaud this legislation. The only people who should fear this legislation are people who are unfit to carry a gun,” said Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, one of the co-sponsors of the bipartisan bill, along with Sen. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster.
Alas, the bill failed. Gun lobby lapdogs won’t even stand up for the victims of one of the worst mass shootings in our country.
What does it mean to honor with action? Passing this bill would be one big action and it should happen in Congress.
But quietly, other actions are taking place to honor the victims. From the linked article above about the second anniversary of the shooting:
Taylor, a retired nurse, once worked in hospice, but, like so many here, still struggles with the heavy yoke of loss that clings to the regal crimson and dark wood sanctuary.
“We’ve just got to face the reality. Death is hard for everybody,” she says. “It’s something you never get over. We all hurt. But we’ve got to move on.”
She tries to heal by honoring those who died.
Before Pinckney’s death, Taylor was helping him launch a new community outreach. Since his death, she has continued to organize what is now called the Clementa C. Pinckney Community Health Fair each year. She also expanded the outreach to include feeding people facing homelessness. Pinckney’s wife and younger daughter, who both survived the shooting by hiding in his secretary’s office, have attended the health fairs along with his father and older daughter.
Now Taylor has eyes on expanding both outreaches. In August, she hopes to hold a health fair for children returning to school. In November, she wants to begin holding the homeless event monthly.
Emanuel needs it. The broader community needs it. And Pinckney would have wanted it.
“Everybody knows Clementa Pinckney was a community man,” Taylor says. “That was just his heart. He loved to help people in the community. He was full of love and grace and kindness.”
Taylor wants to ensure that, away from the spotlight, Emanuel lives out that commitment. She isn’t alone.
Away from the spotlight of high profile publicized shootings like that at Mother Emanuel church, people are trying to heal and take action. Their loved ones live on in their hearts leaving a hole that will never be filled.
I have met Clementa Pinckney’s wife who is a quiet beautiful woman trying to raise her children alone after the horror of that day two years ago. I have met others who are working with the Charleston community to prevent gun violence. I honor all of them and grieve with their survivors as they remember and try to forget this day. To the victims:
Last Sunday, my minister said that the world is both beautiful and scary in a sermon relating to one of the readings of the day. She is so right. Most of the time, I find the world to be beautiful. In spite of my family’s having dealt with the domestic shooting of my sister, we have all moved on the best we could living around the hole left by my sister’s death. Life seems beautiful and we are lucky for that.
But then something happens to bring the grief and sadness to the surface again. Recent shootings, especially the very public shooting of 2 reporters in Virginia, brought those scary feelings back instantly. Gun violence is so unexpected and violent. Thoughts of a loved one experiencing that horror, pain, violence and fear are hard to push back down again. People die from auto accidents, household accidents, diseases, and sometimes by homicide. But gun deaths for the most part are so senseless and preventable.
So maybe we should all put our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not happening. We could roll ourselves up in a ball and move on. But many of us have not done that. We have made ourselves advocates for preventing the awful effects of gun violence on other families. So I read. I act. I write. I talk.
The daily news of gun incidents is hard to ignore. But it’s important to keep writing and talking. Most people become numbed to the issue and just want to live their lives without thinking about gun violence. But just as with auto accidents, diseases and other causes of injury and death the majority of parents do what they can to keep their families safe and healthy. Gun safety reform and awareness of the dangers of guns should be a part of the safe and healthy life styles that we all practice . We, as adults, will not be here forever. Our children will be around longer than us and we owe it to them to keep them safe and teach them healthy habits. We should do #WhatEverItTakes. When 8 children a day are dying from gun homicides, suicides or accidents, we can’t take it lightly. And many more are injured and suffer life long disabilities and/or emotional distress.
Earl Carswell said Sunday’s incident could have been much worse.
“If (Minter) had been aiming, and wasn’t somebody pulling on him, he could have killed three, four or five folks,” Carswell said. “But thank the Lord he got pulled off. As soon as that gun appeared, they grabbed a hold of it.”
Despite struggling with several churchgoers, Carswell said Minter was able to squeeze off seven rounds.
“Bullets don’t got any sense, they just go whichever way,” he said. “It could have been a hairy thing quick, I mean sure enough.”
(…) “When I think about it (today), I get jittery,” he said.
Jackson said he believes residents “are still in shock that something like this could happen in Selma.
This is probably the first church shooting we have had, but unfortunately this is the world we live in now,” he continued. “Church used to be off limits, even to the worst criminals, as far as committing a crime in the church. Now times have changed.”
Carswell said he has lived in Selma for 61 years and many churchgoers have been known to carry guns into worship service. Carswell said himself carried one into church for 10 years.
“This is the first time anyone has ever pulled it and even showed it,” he said.
“…. but unfortunately this is the world we live in now.”” Yes. It’s unfortunate but not inevitable. It’s hard to believe that this is the first time there has been a problem with guns in worship services in Selma given that people have been carrying guns into churches for years. Why? Why are guns needed during church services? What are people scared of in church? Church services are mostly beautiful and peaceful or joyous. If we are scared of people with guns coming into churches, it’s because we, as a country, have allowed our laws to be weakened to the point of allowing guns in our churches.
And why is that when people “snap” it’s a gun that they turn to to “solve” their problems?
Our gun culture encourages almost everyone to own and carry guns and we don’t make serious attempts to stop people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them. When someone like the man in the Selma church “snaps” a gun changes everything in an instant from normal, beautiful, calm, happy,…. to scary. The shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston was scary not only because 9 people were shot but because of the shooter’s motives. He was associated with white supremacists and had racist sentiments. The recent fomenting of racism and anti-Muslim statements made by Republican Presidential candidates is making our world scarier. Combined with people who shouldn’t be able to own guns, we have a potential “perfect storm”.
Part of this is the consequence of a culture of guns that is based on fear of others who are not like us and fear of others with guns. It’s a vicious circle.
Bullets don’t have any sense of course as is mentioned in the above linked article. That’s the point. They have trajectories that can be predictable or not. Guns with bullets in them are dangerous and people who carry guns and own them can become dangerous in a split second.
Speaking of becoming dangerous in a split second, we really do need to have a very serious discussion immediately about kids bringing guns to school. Going to school should be a positive experience. We all know that is not the case for all children given their race, religion, home life experiences, intellect, etc. Many factors can make learning difficult for some. But school, at least, is supposed to be a safe place. Not so any more. From this article in The Trace, we learn that:
Since the school year began roughly one month ago, there have been at least 29 incidents in which elementary, middle school, and high school students were caught bringing firearms to school, according to a survey of media reports. Most have involved teenagers.
This bears repeating- “…there have been at least 29 incidents in which elementary, middle school, and high school students were caught bringing firearms to school....” Very frightening. What are we going to do to keep our kids and students safe? Every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first pass through the hands of an adult. What in the world are adult gun owners thinking? The problem appears to be that people have such a cavalier attitude towards guns that they don’t seem to realize how dangerous they are. Guns are mostly not used for self defense. When will we get this into our collective heads? When will we stop listening to the gun lobby who tells people the opposite?
Scary to say the least. And the problem comes from easy access to guns. We now have more guns around than ever before. It is inevitable that they will make it into the wrong hands. There is just no common sense to our gun culture and our gun laws.
Yesterday I took a little time away from the cares of the world and this blog and gun violence prevention. I drove up along the North Shore of Lake Superior on a gorgeous day to enjoy the beauty of the nature around me. I was not scared of anyone or anything. I saw no guns. I saw no one who looked like they were scared about some idiot with a gun in the parking lot or along the trail. What I saw was people enjoying the beautiful day with cameras carried instead of guns. Thanks goodness most people don’t carry guns or feel the need to own them. At least not where I live. And not the people with whom I am friends. And if they do have guns, they use them mostly for hunting in the beautiful woods that are all around my area of northern Minnesota. Not only do people hunt, they love the beauty of the woods in the fall and the sport of hunting.
Until we get to the point of of a serious national discussion about the dangers of guns, even for “law abiding” gun owners, the incidents I read and write about will continue. The corporate gun lobby is aiding and abetting our insane gun culture to boost sales and preserve a narrative that is just not based on the truth. Maybe some of those folks should take a walk in the woods and enjoy the beauty around them instead of thinking of ways to sell guns.
Gun violence has a ripple effect that spreads far beyond the victim and the immediate family. It is a public health epidemic. The corporate gun lobby is part of this ripple effect because were it not for their fierce opposition to doing the right thing to reduce and prevent gun violence, the ripple would be smaller. But the carnage continues daily and does not take a holiday.
Judging by the size and depth of the wound, police believe it was fired into the air from a five-mile radius, which would include Omaha.
“Just to be in your own yard and get struck by a bullet from the sky, you know, it is supposed to be fireworks coming from the sky, not bullets,” said grandfather Jim Riddle. “We thought it was a firework that hit him right here and then all of the sudden we found out it was a bullet laying on the floor after she lifted up the cloth, putting pressure on the blood.”
Looking weary and visibly frustrated, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy delivered a press conference Sunday afternoon addressing the high levels of gun violence Fourth of July weekend in Chicago, attributing much of it to lax gun laws.
As of 3 p.m. Sunday, Chicago police confirmed nine shooting deaths and at least 40 others wounded in shootings since Thursday afternoon. Earlier this week, McCarthy promised “all hands on deck” for the holiday weekend. (…) McCarthy displayed an array of firearms on a table at the press conference, saying that Chicago Police seized “about one illegal gun per hour” over Fourth of July weekend thus far. (…)
Amari was shot, along with a 26-year-old woman, just before midnight. Sunday morning, police said they were not the intended targets of the shooting; McCarthy confirmed that police believe the target was Amari’s father, who he said is a “ranking gang member” with 45 previous arrests, including for illegal gun possession.
McCarthy said he was most recently arrested on a gun charge in April, but then released the next day. “If Mr. Brown is in custody,” McCarthy said, “his son is alive. That’s not the case. Quite frankly, he shouldn’t have been on the street.
“It’s real simple,” he continued. “Gun possessors are potential murderers. If they don’t learn a lesson for carrying the gun, they keep carrying the gun. They get into an argument, now instead of fighting, they shoot.”
McCarthy said there need to be stricter gun laws and blamed “the gun lobby” for the lack of political motivation to pass them.
Lula Hill has a strategy for keeping her three sons alive.
It begins just before they leave for school in the morning. She rubs their foreheads with anointing oil and says a prayer that God might protect them when they are not in her sight.
Then there are the more practical steps, like teaching the boys to stay away from the windows of their own home, on the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Roseland. Jaden, the youngest, who is 8, knows why.
“A man might have a gun in his hand, and he can look through the window and see me and he can shoot,” he said. “That makes me feel, like, scared because I don’t want to get killed.”
These are the practicalities of life and family as another summer of violence breaks over Chicago.
Unfortunately, prayers will not keep her kids safe. Changing the laws and the conversation are the only hope this mother, and the many other parents like her have. Kids should not have to worry about being too close to windows in their homes because of bullets flying on the streets or for fear of someone with a gun looking in and aiming at him/her. This is the America we have, though. In some urban areas, kids are growing up with gun violence all around them.
My good friend and fellow activist for gun violence prevention posted about the “ripple effect” of the shooting that changed her life when her daughter got access to a gun and shot and killed herself leaving behind children and a grieving family and friends. It was 4 years ago today and my friend posted all of the things she is angry about that her daughter or her grandchildren or herself can no longer do. From her Facebook post ( just some of what she wrote):
” Every day I miss hearing her come in the door calling out Mom! Even the times when she was angry. I miss the time she changed the ringtone on my phone for her to play Stewie (from Family Guy) yelling out Mom in so many different and annoying ways. I miss that her kids may not always remember the different facets of Angela. I miss listening to her laugh as she would play dominoes with her friend Jodie, or giggle with her kids and when they were upset she would get them laughing by telling them not to laugh, she would say do not laugh, whatever you do DO not laugh, I do not want to see you laugh and in no time they would be giggling so sweetly. I remember her coming over and the kids running in all excited that they had rescued a turtle. They saw one on the side of the road so Angela pulled over and carried it across the street so it would not get run over by a car. I asked her are you sure that was where he was headed and she laughed. I miss her so much not only because of the times we spent together, but for the times we will miss.
I am angry that it has been 4 years and nothing has changed.
I am angry that I have friends that have been working hard to make changes since 1989 and nothing has changed.
I am angry that the system failed my daughter and so many other daughters and sons, siblings and spouses, so many loved ones.
I am angry my grandchildren are growing up and my daughter is missing all of it.(…)
I am angry that like her siblings, her children will meet milestones in their lives and like their Aunt and Uncles there will be someone missing.
I am angry that every day new people join our ranks of grieving survivors….
I am angry at the people and politicians that believe we want to take away everyone’s guns and abolish the 2nd Amendment, because they believe this false information people will continue to die every day from gun violence.
I am angry that since Sandy Hook there have been at least 125 school shootings and nothing has changed. (…)
I am angry that to some the answer is we need to arm more people…. Yet the death rate by gun violence keeps climbing.
I am told guns don’t kill people, people kill people…. With this I cannot argue, so let’s cut the gun violence by keeping guns out of the hands of those that should not have a gun. Felons, domestic abusers, those that are considered a danger to themselves or others.
I am angry that gun owners think because they are responsible gun owners that we shouldn’t have universal background checks. It isn’t the responsible gun owners I fear, it is the irresponsible ones. The ones that leave their guns where children can find them and use them. Those who will without a second thought give guns to anyone and call it their constitutional right and not give it a second thought as to what could happen. We have laws about stealing and robbery and those aren’t in place to stop the lawful…
I am angry when people look at me and say if she hadn’t had a a gun she still would have committed suicide…. Yes that is possible she may still have but then again had she chosen another method she could have possibly changed her mind.
I am angry that in 2012 – 32,288 people died from gun violence and 64% of them where suicides and yet people still will say to me she could have picked another way…. When there is a gun in the home it is more likely to be used in suicide, domestic violence or accidently than in defense.
We need to work together, we need to sit down and discuss and find an equitable solution. We need a universal background check that would prevent a lot of senseless murders and suicides. We need more education on gun safety to protect our children from accidental shootings.
In 2013 there were 41,149 suicides: 10,062 were by suffocation – 6,637 were by poisoning (pills) – 21,175 were by gun…. Do you still think we do not need a background check that includes severe depression and severe mental illness?
Please lets open the discussion and save lives.”
Diane’s daughter had serious mental illness and had been hospitalized. Yet she was able to purchase a gun anyway. And now, Diane is living with the ripple effects of the violence that takes way too many lives and leaves families and communities devastated.
I am angry that Diane had to post this today. I am angry that many of us have been working for many years to get our elected leaders to stand with us and do the right thing. I’m angry that too many of our leaders have chosen the money and the corporate gun lobby over common sense. I’m angry that the devastation continues unabated because we have not had the courage to have a serious national conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our country.
Diane’s voice is just one of many. She is representing a lot of Americans and also a majority of Americans who just know that what we are doing now is not working and we need to work for change.
If anyone wants to know why the majority of Americans want something to change about our gun culture and our gun laws, just read what I wrote. And then read this article about why we are doing virtually nothing- post Charleston and post Sandy Hook and post Aurora and post the daily parade of gun deaths and injuries:
All of this has produced a certain level of cynicism among those who support gun restrictions, as expressed by the President when he said he didn’t expect reforms any time soon.
Each time that a massacre has occurred, we have seen not only a striking mobilization against any new restrictions but an equally striking absence of strong pressure to address this issue.
A significant number of liberal Democrats, who in previous years had strongly supported gun control, have remained noticeably silent on the issue. They are resigned to defeat.
The President often finds himself standing alone when calling for gun control. But those who say federal legislators can “never” pass gun restrictions should look to moments like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Affordable Care Act of 2010 to see how those predictions can turn out to be wrong.
The good news is that there has been some progress in states like Maryland and New York, which have attempted to move forward even as gridlock reigns supreme on Capitol Hill. But for an effective response to the kind of gun tragedies we see so often, supporters will need stronger mobilization to counteract what their opponents have achieved.
The country needs to do a better job dealing with its gun problem. Otherwise, it will be all too soon that we’ll find ourselves going through this again.
We can write and think about this all we want to. But what we need is action. Lives depend upon us putting our heads together to do the right thing. In the name of the victims, this needs to change. Act now to ask Congress to pass a universal background check bill. Act now to work with your own state legislators to pass a similar law. We can save lives if we stand together and have the will. Will we?
Family members said they had heard distant gunshots a while before Martin collapsed. They reported the gunfire to a ranger, because using firearms is prohibited in that area of the national forest.
Now, the family is urging whoever fired the errant shot to come forward.
“It just happened. You never know when you’re going to go. You can be sitting at a campfire waiting to roast marshmallows with your grandchildren talking to your son in law and you’re just done,” Carlie said.
At this time, sheriff’s officials said it appears that Martin was killed by an errant bullet fired by an unknown person. They do not believed it was intentional at this time. However, that has not been ruled out, sheriff’s officials said.
On Monday my chapter of the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence ( also affiliated with Protect Minnesota) organized and held a bell ringing in memory of the 9 victims of the Charleston Mother Emanuel church shooting. It was well attended and very powerful. There were 3 local clergy from different faith persuasions giving remarks as well as the pastor of the local AME church where we held the event. Another community activist involved in the community of color also made remarks. As is our tradition, we had 9 people from those gathered come to the front of the church and hold a photo of each of the 9 victims. When they said their names, our bell was rung. We finished by ringing the bell for all other victims and survivors and joined in a hopeful song.
We are numb in this country. We hardly know how to respond any more to these kinds of shootings. But this one seemed different. 9 people were targeted because of the color of their skin. I have not seen this much activity on-line, on social media, in the American media, in media from around the world in events held, in comments made- ever since I have been involved in the issue of gun violence prevention. It has stunned me. People want to talk about it. A friend stopped me in the grocery store. She wanted to talk about it. People saw me on TV as I was interviewed about the bell ringing. The public is outraged and numb.
It’s been a week now. And the country has been reeling with the uproar caused by this shooting. The Charleston community has reacted with grace and peacefully, even using the word forgiveness and sometimes hope. That is what we heard at our bell ringing event on Monday.
Against this, of course, was the suggestion, by a board member of the National Rifle Association, that responsibility for the massacre lay with the clergyman within the church, for opposing laws that would allow “concealed carry” in places of worship. Had he not taken that stand, the argument runs, there would have been a pitched gun battle in the church—a better thing, apparently, even though it would have only fulfilled the gunman’s mad fantasies of race war. Pitched gun battles in a Charleston church or a Connecticut elementary school, of the sort that some in the N.R.A. apparently dream of, would more likely be horrific blood baths, with crossfire and injured bystanders, not some well-tuned and well-timed action-movie scenario.
The reason that we have gun massacres in numbers wildly out of proportion to any other rich country is because we have too many guns. When gun massacres have happened elsewhere—as they sometimes have, in Canada and Scotland and Australia and elsewhere—the common-sense response has been to change the laws, and, almost always, after the laws are changed the massacres end. In the United States, they continue. It seems like a good bet that changing the law here would change that.
In the areas of gun crime where there has been extended study, we know for certain that serious gun control works to end, or at least limit, gun violence. It is as robust a correlation as any in the social sciences, as sure a thing, as I’ve written before, as knowing that antibiotics act to limit and end infections. You go looking for sane counterarguments in favor of overarmed America and find that none exist. Guns don’t protect anyone from anything. Their presence simply increases the odds of domestic tragedy, of a domestic altercation turning into a homicide (or a suicide). The data confirms what common sense suggests: not even the most desperately paranoid among us could possibly be perpetually prepared for an actual home invasion—as very rare as such incidents actually are. The fantasy of the armed homeowner bravely repelling the evil armed intruder is just that. The number of justified homicides is overwhelmed by the number of gun tragedies. In 2012, thirteen states, including New Jersey and New York, reported no justifiable homicides at all. Not one. The notion that gun possession could stop, rather than increase, the number of casualties in the home is another fantasy created by violent movies and television programs, and is only possible in them. (Violent crime is dropping under the gun-control regimes in Europe and Canada as well, just as it has in the States. We’re still the only country that has gun massacres so routinely that our leader has to figure out what new thing he can say each time out.)
Gopnik goes on to write about the Confederate flag and why people who still pledge allegiance to it and to their own gun fetishes and fear and paranoia are so dangerous:
Another, parallel claim—what might be called the insurrectionist one—insists that guns are necessary to enforce a constitutional right to threaten and subvert the duly elected government as gun owners might see fit. This is a view that one Abraham Lincoln rather fiercely resisted, and put an end to in the eighteen-sixties. Amid the arguments over the Confederate battle flag flying in Charleston, the one that insists that the flag represents, above all, an effort to make slavery a permanent state for black people is probably the most relevant. But it’s also worth remembering that the defeat of the Confederacy involved exactly the defeat of the notion that the threat of insurrection was ever to be regarded as an acceptable political act. As Lincoln said, in his first inaugural, “No government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.” You can’t say you need to have a gun to threaten the government.
Gopnik finishes with things I have written here many times before:
On most public issues, there are two reasonable views, even when one view seems, to put it mildly, cruel—the view, say, that poor people should be left without medical insurance. But on gun control there aren’t. All the facts are in; all the social science is long settled; the constitutional positions are clear, if contested, and the wiser way known and shared by mankind. On one side are facts, truth, and common sense. On the other, an obsession with dark fantasies of individual autonomy and power—the sheer fetishistic thrill of owning lethal weapons. On one side is the sanity and common sense shared by the entire world; on the other, murder and madness and a strange ongoing American mania. If we don’t change, then, well—it will happen again, again. And then again.
Will we choose sanity and common sense or will we choose madness?
Who is ultimately responsible for dozens of gun lobby sponsored bills advancing not just in Missouri each year but in other conservative legislatures? We are. Who is responsible for the many legislators who remain silent during floor debate, even though their districts suffer the most gun violence in the state? We are.
Who is responsible for a Congress which continually fails to advance policies like universal background checks even though 90 percent of us, including gun owners and NRA members, overwhelmingly support these common sense measures? We are.
Who is responsible for re-electing a Congress which ignores majority opinion in favor of standing with the gun lobby? We are. Who is responsible for the myth that one can’t get elected if they stand up to the profiteering of gun manufacturers? We are.
In our silence, we have forgotten that we hold the power to save lives.
Our power is our vote — the power that the majority of Americans don’t utilize unless it’s a sexy presidential election year. Most Americans have no clue who represents them in state houses (where most gun laws are being passed) or even in Congress, which is exactly how the NRA wants it. On top of that, the NRA knows exactly who votes and who doesn’t because voting records are public and available to anyone. (…)
Our silence on election days is increasing the carnage and suffering. We cannot afford more silence. Please help.
Silence is killing us.
Don’t be silent. Don’t be numb. Wake up. Stand up. Raise your voices. Make noise so your elected leaders hear you. Demand that they listen to the voices of reason whose concern is for the victims.
We have been dumbed down as well by the myths and illogical arguments foisted on our leaders and too many Americans by the corporate gun lobby. They have succeeded for too long now but the latest carnage in Charleston, South Carolina is pushing the country to speak out and speak the truths that have been too long ignored. We need the courage of conviction on the gun issue as is starting to happen on the flag issue. There is a right about some things in our culture that, when evil exposes the terrible wrong, just has to be acknowledged. There really is such a thing as common sense.
These kinds of stories represent what’s gone terribly wrong about rights. These things shouldn’t be normal. The people don’t want this kind of behavior to be normal.
But we can fix what’s wrong. Our leaders have also been touched by the Charleston shootings in a way that perhaps they weren’t even touched after the Sandy Hook shooting. It’s a national shame that the corporate gun lobby stopped the country from acting according its’ conscience after the Sandy Hook shooting. Maybe this time the organization whose board member tried to blame the victims for the shooting will have to sit down and be quiet for a change. Senators Manchin and Toomey have admitted that they are willing to pursue gun safety reform legislation of some kind. Is there hope?
Is the Charleston Mother Emanuel church shooting the one that was one too many? Is this the one? Are the other mass shootings that occurred on the week-end after the Charleston shooting too many for us? Is the murder/suicide of a young family ( just one of many that occur regularly) enough for us?
Will we decide we won’t continue to be numb and we refuse to be dumbed down and numbed by the gun lobby?
This article ends with a great quote that fits with everything I have written in this post about our political leaders and the need to have them stand up to the gun lobby:
Despite the assertion that pro-gun forces are winning the battle for public opinion, support for reasonable gun laws remains strong. According to a poll by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, 83 percent favored background checks for all gun sales, while 80 percent supported prohibiting anyone with a temporary domestic restraining order from buying a gun.
“It’s noteworthy that attitudes among gun owners were well over a majority for a whole range of different measures to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals,” said Johns Hopkins associate professor Colleen Barry.
This fight isn’t lost, then. Far from it.
It’s time to speak up and speak out.
To fight fog with facts.
And to be every bit as determined as the other side.
It’s been foggy. It’s been numbing. It’s been void of the facts for far too long. But things are changing. We may be coming out of our numbness and our fog.
This week-end, my husband and I went to see Merchants of Doubt at a local theater. It was very well done and powerful. Most people do understand that the big corporations and businesses are all about profit and keeping their political power in order to make more profits. Anything goes for some of them. The movie is about climate change and those who deny its’ existence but in order to get to that talking point, examples were given of the tobacco industry and energy companies tactics to deny the facts. From this review of the movie:
His phrasing—scientific, precise, and bloodless—perfectly illustrates Merchants Of Doubt’s central thesis. As science historian Naomi Oreskes, co-author of the book the film is based on, says, “If this is not a scientific debate, what kind of debate is it?” The answer, of course, is a political debate. And political debates are won by rhetoric and tribalism. The most illuminating passages in Merchants Of Doubt are those which illuminate the role of tribal identity in not only the global warming debate but also the rise of the Tea Party. As Skeptic magazine editor and lifelong libertarian Michael Shermer discovered when, after long doubting that global warming was real, his opinion was changed by a close examination of the overwhelming scientific evidence. When documentarians follow him to a libertarian convention where he debates a climate change skeptic, audience members attack him as with phrases like “That’s what YOUR TEAM wants us to think!” (…) The problem with this kind of issue documentary is that it seems like preaching to the choir. No one who views their identity as a conservative in good standing is going to voluntarily watch this film, and if they’re exposed to it, they’ll just call it more lies. Indeed, the documentarians’ methodology of following the money and questioning the neutrality of so-called impartial observers naturally leads to the question, “Who’s paying for this?” Just because I agree with it—and I do, wholeheartedly—doesn’t mean I shouldn’t ask hard questions of it. Merchants Of Doubt’s thesis is that slick communicators willing to use any tactics available, regardless of morality, are the ones who can win political debates. The slickness and clarity of the production means the filmmakers have taken that lesson to heart.
The movie was not about gun violence prevention or the debate about gun rights but it could have been. Some of the scientists and writers who were interviewed for the movie talked of the backlash, the harsh criticisms, the threatening comments, e-mails and phone calls they received from those on the other “team” who absolutely would not listen to anything but their own echo chamber. Even when presented with facts, if the opposition team is noisy and clever enough and has enough money to employ stealth tactics to deceive the public, big issues of our times don’t get addressed and solved; or they are solved too late for too many.
The thing is, lives depend on our getting this right. Lives depend on believing the facts and the evidence even if it means lower profits and less power for corporations and the wealthy. Lives have been saved because the truth about the risks of smoking and second hand smoke finally won out over the powerful tobacco companies. Law suits helped. The same is true for safety measures on cars and drunk driving laws. It took years of fighting against a powerful and well funded industry and some law suits.
Thus we are now at a pivotal moment for climate change. The evidence shows that if we don’t change what we are doing with energy, with water conservation, with greenhouse gases, with fuel and electrical usage, with our daily living habits, the earth will not be the same for our children and grandchildren. But the voices of denial inexplicably win the battles. They won’t win the war but it might not matter. And why does this happen? Ideology. Fear. Anger. Ignorance. Hatred for the other “team.” Loss of profits and power.
All of this can be applied to the battle over gun rights and gun safety reform. For it is a battle. It is fierce and it gets down to which team you are on. And we are at a pivotal point as gun death rates stay the same or rise. Does it matter that lives are being lost every day to firearms injuries many of which could be saved? Just like with the auto and tobacco industries, denial and outright deception too often win. Solutions are right in front of us and make so much common sense but politics stop us from saving lives.
It doesn’t work this way, at least about guns and gun rights, in other countries. Why? Common sense. Morality. Interest in public health and safety. Concern for the common good. No second amendment. No gun rights extremists. Fewer gun owners. No NRA or corporate gun lobby.
Speaking of the corporate gun lobby, the NRA convention held this past week-end in Nashville, is over. It was the usual fare only some of the rhetoric was more strident than ever. Hatred of President Obama is now turning to hatred of the now declared Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. If we think the evil and repugnant rhetoric and hatred towards President Obama was over the top, wait until the women hating, Clinton hating folks get started. It should be interesting. And the NRA will be right in the midst of the battle as evidenced by their own Wayne LaPierre’s speech at the convention.
After warning once again that Obama is going to turn America into a country that “you and I won’t recognize” (*yawn*), LaPierre switched gears towards attacking Hillary Clinton. When LaPierre suggests Clinton may be elected president, the crowd loudly boos and one person screams “Never!” LaPierre grimaces at the thought:
“I have to tell you, eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough.”
“Demographically symbolic”? LaPierre just stood before tens of thousands of people and accused the president of being a token black guy. Following this logic, Hillary would be the token woman. LaPierre makes it obvious that what he wants is a return to less diverse times. The overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male crowd seems to agree, interrupting LaPierre’s speech with enthusiastic cheers.
LaPierre’s remarks are the latest bold attempt by the conservative movement to reject Obama and Clinton based solely on the fact that they are members of minority groups (in Clinton’s case, not in number of women, but in their disenfranchisement) and therefore don’t constitute a true representation of what right-wingers believes a president looks like: white, male, and donning an American flag on their lapel.
“They think that they’re better and smarter than we are, as if they’re more sophisticated and intellectually evolved than we are,” Porter said.
“When it comes to those elitists, looking down their noses and telling us how to live, it’s time they got the message loud and clear,” he said. “You elitists live however your want, but when it comes to us, get your hands off our freedom and leave us the hell alone.”
Uff da. Sounds like fighting words. Either that or total nonsense. I’ll go with the latter. Can these folks be serious? Elitists? Who are elitists? I suppose we don’t need to remind them of the huge salaries of the top executives of NRA leaders. And don’t get me started about the “intellectually evolved” statement. Do these folks really believe their own words?
Post foreign affairs blogger Max Fisher concluded, “The U.S. gun murder rate isabout 20 times the average for all other countries on this chart. That means that Americans are 20 times as likely to be killed by a gun than is someone from another developed country.”
A related fact-check from PolitiFact examined a 2011 study by researchers of the Harvard School of Public Health and UCLA School of Public Health. Their findings, while based on data for 23 high-income, populous countries from the World Health Organization now almost a decade old (2003), mirror more recent trends.
The United States, they found, has more firearms per capita, the most permissive gun control laws and a disproportionate amount of firearm-related deaths from homicides, suicides and accidents.
“The United States had a homicide rate 6.9 times higher than those in the other high-income countries, driven by a ﬁrearm homicide rate that was 19.5 times higher than those in the other high-income countries,” the report says. “For 15 year olds to 24 year olds, the ﬁrearm homicide rate in the United States was 42.7 times higher than in the other countries.”
This is stunning. Of course, it’s been stunning for many years now but we continue along this path without taking action to change it. If we want to know why, we can refer back to what has just happened at the NRA convention in Nashville. There they continued with the push for more guns for everyone everywhere because, of course, more guns make us all safer. The article I have linked is based on studies and collections of data that show the exact opposite. What’s the problem here?
To avoid reality and the facts about gun deaths, the gun lobby has their slick talking points that don’t get questioned as often as they should. If they were, we would find that they are not based on facts. Does it matter? When you are playing for the gun rights team, slick talking points replace a serious conversation based on facts. Here are just a few of those talking points:
Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. This, of course, is simply not true and can’t be proved but it’s out there as some sort of “fact” that needs to be challenged. It’s a myth. Check it out from the link. Don’t be duped.
If we pass reasonable gun laws, only criminals will get guns and law abiding citizens will be punished. This one begs credulity because requiring background checks on all gun sales, for example, will stop the “bad guys” from getting guns without stopping any law abiding citizen from getting a gun. If this were true, why did those who ordered a gun from one of the displays at the NRA convention have to get a background check at the nearest licensed dealer to their home? Because they were following state and federal laws. Hmmmm. If only the laws required this for every gun sale.
Universal background checks will lead to gun registration. No, not true. In the 20 years of the Brady law’s existence, this has not happened and it won’t.
There are more but I think my point has been made.
America, we’ve been duped. Let’s stop the game playing. There should be only one team here because there is only one right answer- preventing death and saving lives through common sense laws and gun safety reform. Gun safety reform and gun rights are not mutually exclusive.
I have updated and edited this post since I first posted it.
Easter is now past and Passover is being celebrated this week. I attended a wonderful church service at a church attended by my son and his family before we had Easter brunch. It was an uplifting, celebratory service in a church filled to the brim as they often are at this Christian holiday. The pastors told several relevant stories of the season based on the Biblical accounts of the resurrection. I looked around at the families and was feeling thankful for this chance to celebrate my own faith with others who believe in similar values to mine.
I would have been horrified to think that one of those folks sitting there with their families was carrying a gun at the church. There are just some places where guns should not be. Church is one. Places where families and children gather are another. And that, actually, makes for most places where the gun lobby has managed to convince too many bought and paid for legislators that guns are “needed.” Facts don’t support this “logic.” But the gun rights advocates tell stories that don’t make sense and are actually unbelievable to instill fear and paranoia into legislators and the potential gun buying public. We need true stories and actual research in order to make informed decisions about important public safety measures such as preventing gun violence.
We were collecting information to answer the question of who, what, where, when, and how did shootings occur?
We were finding that most homicides occur between people who know each other, people who are acquaintances or might be doing business together or might be living together. They’re not stranger-on-stranger shootings. They’re not mostly home intrusions.
We also found that there were a lot of firearm suicides, and in fact most firearm deaths are suicides. There were a lot of young people who were impulsive who were using guns to commit suicide.
No wonder the gun lobby doesn’t like this research. It blows a hole in their messaging and story telling.
Let’s look at just a few of the many incidents in the past week or so. It’s impossible for me to get them all into one blog post. Remember- about 80 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries in gun suicides, homicides and “accidental” shootings. I don’t make this stuff up. OK- a partial list:
Nik Clark, president of Wisconsin Carry, Inc., a gun rights advocacy group, said his group was puzzled why the DA’s office “didn’t re-examine their pursuit of charges after the first charge was dismissed.”
He also said the case “demonstrates the fundamental level of discrimination that exists in society today with respect to firearms.” He said power tools, lighters and poisons all cause more child deaths that unattended guns, yet no one would be charged for leaving those items in a restroom.
Good grief. What is the matter with these people? Are these good folks with guns or bad folks with guns?
What kind of “good guys” with guns are these? Or for that matter, any of the incidents I write about in this post today. Did these “good guys” need their guns to defend from “bad guys” with guns? The answer is a resounding NO. Guns are risky business. That is becoming more and more obvious, as if it already was not. But the gun rights extremists who believe in the mantra of “more guns everywhere for everyone” and the fear and paranoia coming from the corporate gun lobby, convince our legislators that passing any law will infringe on their rights. They are telling false stories to keep their power, influence and profit. Do these folks have a right to shoot off their guns wherever they are and get away with shooting someone else or almost shooting someone else by their negligence? Is this the “God given” right we are talking about?
Well, in Tennessee there’s currently a push by the state legislature to allow guns in state parks. Prior to an NRA convention in Nashville, state Rep. Glen Casada was questioned about this push in his state and what he would think about a child being struck and killed by a stray bullet while playing in one of these parks. His answer? If that were to happen, those would just be “acts of God.” He also went on to suggest that a child is just as likely to get killed in a bicycle accident as they are by a gun, claiming that if a gun is “used properly” it’s no more dangerous than a bike.
“Acts of God…” Really? I guess if you can’t blame anything else, you can just blame God for those nasty “accidental gun discharges.” I mean, these are the folks who believe God granted them their rights to own guns in the first place. Think about this for a minute or two. And if you do, you will, of course, conclude that is not possible. But I guess thinking through to logical conclusions based on fact is just not part of the discussion for some folks.
Speaking of “acts of God”and gun discharges, a gun permit holder in Altoona, PA “accidentally” discharged his loaded gun while attending a church service. I don’t make this stuff up. The first question about this incident is why the man was pulling his gun out of his pocket while attending a mass in a church? I’m sure God would love to know that people think they need guns while worshiping because……… well, because……… Hmmm. Sorry. Can’t think of one reason why someone needs a gun in church. But what makes common sense is just not part of the discussion for some folks. Good guy with a gun or bad guy with a gun?
There is new information about the man who was involved in this incident. From this article:
The gun owner involved in an accidental shooting at a cathedral in Altoona is the same man who was expelled from Mount Aloysius College last week for bringing a gun inside a classroom. Charges were not filed in the Mount Aloysius incident, and charges have not been filed in the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament incident, so 6 News is choosing not to release the man’s name. (…) That man reached out to 6 News and said he has a permit to carry and said the incident at the cathedral was an accident. He also confirmed he was the Mount Aloysius student who was expelled for bringing a gun into a classroom. The man said in this case, his shirt rode up, exposing his concealed weapon, and it was just an honest mistake. Police said he will not face charges for the Mount Aloysius incident, and there is no word yet if he will be facing charges in the church incident.
Were the people who died, were injured or suffered a narrow miss with a bullet involved in “acts of God”? Because if they were, according to some folks who boldly and falsely make this claim, there is nothing we can do about any of these shootings. And that, dear readers, is exactly what the gun lobby wants you to think. Doing nothing is better than infringing on their “God given” rights. People dying? No problem. It’s the price of a constitutional right. It’s also the price of a gun culture gone wrong.
“Many people understandably have questions about what would prompt an individual to carry a gun into the Cathedral,” Bishop Bartchak said in a statement released Monday by the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. “I would like to take this opportunity to state my firm belief that guns have no place in our Cathedral or any of the other parishes in our Diocese. Our churches must be an environment in which all feel safe to worhip the Lord and celebrate our Catholic faith.”
Amen to that. This is just common sense.
We’ve got it wrong in America. We’ve got it backwards. Gun rights are not inalienable. Gun rights come with responsibilities. People who own guns need to be trained and safely secure them from kids and others who should not have them. They should have to go through a background check for every sale to make sure they are “law abiding” citizens. Just like we require training, licensing and background checks for most every other thing going on in our country, guns and their owners or prospective owners should be no different. Do we want to trust our kids at a daycare to just anyone- a felon maybe or a domestic abuser or sexual predator? You know the answer. Background checks are required. Do you trust your financial advisor or accountant with your money and personal financial information? Do you expect that person to be free of a criminal background? Of course you do. Do you expect that people who drive on the same roads as you do to have a license and have had driver’s training? You know the answer. Do you expect the people who teach your kids to be properly vetted and licensed in their field? Do you expect law enforcement officers to be well trained in handling firearms and for the job they do every day to protect us and enforce the laws? Do you expect your lawyer to be trained and not to be felons or sexual predators?
A multilevel security plan went into works not long after Nashville was chosen as the convention destination. All guns on the convention floor will be nonoperational, with the firing pins removed, and any guns purchased during the NRA convention will have to be picked up at a Federal Firearms License dealer, near where the purchaser lives, and will require a legal identification.
This organization is pushing guns at the rest of us in places where we hang out to shop, learn, eat, work and play ( playgrounds, parks, etc.) but not in their own convention? Come on. I don’t make this stuff up. What are they so afraid of? I thought they loved their guns and loved to carry them around with them everywhere they go. Is it that they aren’t afraid of other people like themselves? Is it that they actually understand that if a whole bunch of gun carriers are walking around in one place, safety will be compromised? It is because someone might get angry at one of the many “illustrious” speakers like Sarah Palin, Jeb Bush, Mike Pence, and others and take a shot? Or what is it? I’d love to know. In addition, they are telling people they will have to pass a background check in order to buy/order guns at the convention and pick them up at a federally licensed firearms dealer near their home. Really? I thought that was terribly inconvenient for these folks.
Hypocrisy as far as the eye can see. There is absolutely no common sense when it comes to the gun lobby’s safety policies for themselves and their total resistance to the same for the rest of us. In fact, there are no loaded guns allowed at gun shows. Occasionally an “accidental” discharge occurs in spite of this safety measure. Like here or this one. Did you know that guns are not allowed for visitors to the NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia? Yes, it’s true. Who don’t they trust? Staff can carry but anyone else, no. So this organization pushes for visitors to schools, malls, hospitals, college campuses, state legislatures. national parks, etc. to carry guns but at their own headquarters? Nope. From the article:
She told me that the security guards at the front desk were unarmed, but that visitors were not allowed to bring weapons into the building (except to their posh firing range, which has a separate entrance). Doesn’t that leave the visitors at a bit of an disadvantage, I asked, and we had a bit of a chuckle about that. I was too chicken to ask her whether that policy was inconsistent with the NRA’s present philosophy that seems to encourage shoot-outs.
So there you have it. The NRA staff is armed, while visitors are disarmed.
Well, There you have it. People are being shot every day by “law abiding” citizens intentionally or unintentionally and the NRA claims that more guns make us safer. And then they don’t allow guns in their convention or at their own headquarters.
This Facebook page (Parents Against Gun Violence) is keeping tracks of the shootings every month and the reasons for the shootings. Please read (below)and then raise your hand if you agree with Mr. LaPierre ( above) that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”:
On the Facebook page you can see links to the actual stories about these incidents. No one made them up. So there you have it. The hypocrisy of the corporate gun lobby and the gun rights extremists is “alive” and well. Meanwhile, too many Americans are not alive thanks to gunshot injuries or are suffering the long term affects from gunshot injuries while the gun lobby opposes any and all measures to reduce the carnage. It’s well past time to do something about this national public health and safety epidemic. Please join me in efforts to keep our communities safe from devastating gun violence.