Excuses for no gun safety reform

Yesterday a group from our Northland Brady chapter associated also with Protect Minnesota stood on a busy corner near our Congressman’s district office. We were there as part of Brady’s and other national gun violence prevention groups’ Week-end of Action. The actions were to demand that the Senate come back early from their summer break to pass the laws that the House passed in February- namely the universal background check and Charleston loophole bills. My Congressman Pete Stauber voted against these 2 life saving measures.

Thus we were there, after gathering only one and half weeks ago in a local rally against hate and violence which was a well attended plea for action and to ask our leaders to #DOSOMETHING about the carnage. Several mass shootings in a row have changed the conversation ( again) and more of the public are demanding action.

But now, the House Judiciary Committee will be coming back from recess early to consider several common sense gun bills. The Extreme Risk Protection Order bill and perhaps an Assault Weapons Ban and/or restrictions on the size of ammunition magazines will be discussed.

After standing with our signs on the corner and getting mostly positive honks and waves, we went to Congressman Stauber’s office with a packet of information and a letter stating what we wanted him to do. We ended up having an impromptu meeting with his staffer. It was a good meeting- informative and revealing.

We spoke about all kinds of things as victims, a veteran, a clergy member, several health care providers, a woman of color, grandparents, parents and concerned citizens expressed our frustration and outrage over the do nothing Senate and the lack of votes in favor of bills that would make a difference. In the discussion we made it clear that we don’t believe that any one of these measures on their own will “cure” the epidemic of gun violence. But the fact that we have done nothing for decades has fueled the current epidemic and made it more lethal.

And then we heard some of the usual Republican and gun lobby excuses for why these bills won’t work or why the Congressman doesn’t believe the bills before him are the right ones ( in spite of research showing the effectiveness of them and the overwhelming public support for the measures that passed in the House). The first of these is the idea that we can’t deal with the gun problem until we deal with mental illness. President Trump himself said that mental illness pulled the trigger in the latest mass shooting, not the guns. That is absurd on its’ face but it is also patently not true. It’s not mental illness. It’s mostly angry white men who have access to guns they should not have.

Here’s the truth about mental illness and shootings:

In response, mental health experts repeated what they have said after previous mass shootings: Most people with mental illness are not violent, they are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators, and access to firearms is a big part of the problem.
“Until we begin to have our political leaders speaking more accurately to these issues, it’s up to us to put the facts out there,” said Arthur Evans, chief executive officer of the American Psychological Association.
Evans agreed that red flag laws , also known as extreme risk protection orders, are a worthwhile step. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have such laws, according to the nonprofit Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and some have used the laws to temporarily disarm people who have threatened violence.
But Evans and others said terms like “monsters” add to stigma that keeps people from getting treatment. (…)

A country’s rate of gun ownership is a far better predictor of public mass shootings than indicators of mental illness, said Adam Lankford, a University of Alabama criminologist who published a 2016 analysis of data from 171 countries.
“If mental illness were the driving factor, we would expect the countries with highest suicide rates to have higher rates of public mass shootings. That’s not what we see,” Lankford said.
Instead, Lankford found, gun ownership per person is the best predictor.
Lankford called Trump’s emphasis on mental illness “too simplistic.”

It’s the guns.

Since our rally last week, another mass shooting occurred in Philadelphia where 6 officers were injured by one man with an assault rifle ( again). The shooter was a man who should not have had a gun in the first place given numerous firearms charges against him. So how did he get that gun? From the article:

The suspect was identified by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner as Maurice Hill, 36. Krasner said Hill had an extensive criminal history, including drug, gun and robbery charges. Krasner said Hill should not have been on the streets but stopped short of saying there was any specific failure by law enforcement.

My Congressman is a former police officer. He, of all people, should be more concerned that officers are at great risk when they are outgunned on the streets. This year alone 31 officers have been killed by shooters. 175 have been injured. And yesterday yet another officer shooting occurred where 2 Missouri officers were shot while delivering eviction papers.

And aren’t you tired of other lame and shameful excuses or blaming from Republicans to deflect the reality of our national public health epidemic? They even have memos showing how to respond to constituents such as this one, blaming the left, when we know that most of the politically motivated shootings have come from people with far right political views. In fact, Trump has been mentioned by criminals as a reason for their crimes:

But a nationwide review conducted by ABC News has identified at least 36 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.
In nine cases, perpetrators hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically attacking innocent victims. In another 10 cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. And in another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant’s violent or threatening behavior.

White supremacy, hate crimes and other acts of political violence are American terrorism. We have to face that reality. There is no excuse for not doing anything about this.

And yes, we can stop some of these shooters from getting guns in the first place. If we close some loopholes making it easier for them to buy guns themselves or get them from others who may buy them legally ( and private sales with no background checks are legal in many states, including my own) we can stop some sales. If we enforce straw purchasing laws more stringently, we can stop some guns from going where they shouldn’t. If gun owners safely store their guns, we can stop some of the guns from being stolen and ending up where they shouldn’t. If we pass Red Flag laws, we can temporarily remove guns from people who could be dangerous to themselves or others. If we pass restrictions on ammunition magazines, we can, at the least, prevent shooters from taking dozens of lives at a time in a short time period. If we make sure the ATF can do their job properly with adequate funding and personnel, gun dealers will be held more accountable for bad behavior. If we litigate cases where gun dealers have sold guns knowingly to those who shouldn’t have them, we can stop some shootings.

It’s a package and it needs to be. But as we discussed at our meeting yesterday, we can’t say criminals won’t follow the laws anyway as an excuse not to pass laws. If that is the case, why have laws at all? People do wear their seat belts for the most part. It’s the law. People don’t smoke in public places. It’s the law. People stop on red lights because it’s the law. If you don’t follow the law, you may become a felon. But we are not a lawless society. That’s no excuse.

And then there was this given as an excuse. We all must work hard to keep illegal guns from coming into our country from the Canadian and Mexican borders. I had to ask again if that is what I heard. This is an excuse. We don’t need to do anything about our own country’s gun laws because the guns are coming across the borders into our country?

I was astounded at this one because it is the exact opposite of what is true. The guns flowing into Mexico and Canada are coming mainly from the U.S because our gun laws are so much weaker than theirs. Check out this article in the Christian Science Monitor about what is actually happening:

American guns bought from vendors in the U.S. and then smuggled illegally abroad are a fact of life across the Americas. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, using data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), some 70% of guns recovered by law enforcement in Mexico and sent to the ATF for tracing between 2011 and 2016 were originally purchased from a licensed dealer in the U.S. Some estimates put the number of U.S. weapons smuggled from the U.S. into Mexico at over 200,000 a year.
Mexican officials, in their fight against drug violence, have long pleaded with the U.S. to stem the southward flow of guns. Former President Felipe Calderón famously had a billboard erected in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, that read “No More Weapons,” spelled out with confiscated, destroyed weapons. (…)

That is also despite research showing that when the U.S. assault weapon ban expired in 2004, Mexican municipalities on the border with the U.S. saw a spike in homicides, he says.

“I do see some recognition now that this is beyond drugs, and that guns play a major, major role,” Mr. Weigend says. That includes think tanks, students, and civil society groups speaking out more against the implications of U.S. gun flows to Mexico. (…)

Weaker gun regulations in the U.S. have long undermined Canada’s much stricter rules, as guns get trafficked north. Last week Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair said Canada could reduce violence with more money towards stopping guns from the U.S., which he called “the greatest arsenal in the world.”

So no. We don’t have a problem with illegal guns coming into our country from the nations who share our border. It is the other way around. And further, the fact that so many guns make into Mexico and other Central American countries have caused violence there which many are trying to flee to get into our country. And then if they get into our country their lives are at risk here because of the hate and racist rhetoric against people of color fomented right from the top.

It is also part and parcel of our illegal drug problem.

These are flimsy excuses designed as cop-outs. What our Congress members who are beholden to the NRA, as mine is, are trying to do is to deflect the conversation away from the truth. We have a problem with guns in America. Such easy access makes it easier for just about anybody to get a gun.

Minnesotans and Americans ( and this includes Republicans and gun owners by the way) support stronger gun laws. We want our Congress members to represent the majority of people in their districts. Just because the gun rights advocates make more noise does not mean they are the majority. In fact they are a small minority of the constituents all over the country.

There are no excuses. There never have been but now, more than ever, we are sick and tired of the carnage affecting almost all of us.

#DO DOMETHING.

AR-15s are popular

Senator Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, issued a new excuse for why the Senate should not take up a bill to ban assault rifles and ammunition- because they are popular. From the article:

On Fox News on Tuesday, Toomey shared his renewed push for legislation for background checks for gun show and online purchases, but when asked about a ban to assault weapons, he rejected the idea because the firearms were too popular. 

“They’re extremely popular, and so to ban an extremely popular firearm, I’m not going to support that,” said Toomey of assault weapons. “That would be an infringement on the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

On Fox News, @SenToomey says he’s not in favor of additional regulations on military-style weapons because “they’re extremely popular, and so to ban an extremely popular firearm — I’m not gong to support that.”

And while assault-style weapons like the AR-15 may be popular with gun enthusiasts, a majority of Pennsylvanians actually want them banned. According to a March 2018 poll from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., 68 percent of registered voters support banning assault-style weapons in the state. 

Of that group, 61 percent strongly support such measures. Comparatively, the 2018 poll said that 27 percent oppose a ban in Pennsylvania. A March 2019 poll from F&M showed that 62 percent of Pennsylvanians support creating more laws that regulate gun ownership, while 35 percent oppose those laws. 

They are popular. They are popular for mass shootings and have been used in many of the recent ones. Isn”t it amazing that we even separate older mass shootings and more recent ones? From the article:

But in all of the latest incidents – Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012; San Bernardino, California, in 2015; Orlando, Florida, in 2016; Las Vegas, 2017; Sutherland Springs, Texas, 2017 -the attackers primarily used AR-15 semi-automatic rifles.

If not an AR-15 than and AK-47 or similar type of semi-automatic rifle that can fire off a bullet a second with every pull of the trigger. More people can be killed with these firearms in a shorter period of time. That is the point.

We had a ban on certain types of assault weapons but Congress unwisely let it lapse in 2004 when it sunsetted before it had a chance to really work. I believe that is why we are seeing mass shootings with assault rifles. There is no check on them at all. Just about anyone can buy one- background check or not.

They may be popular amongst those who just like to shoot them for sport. Some people get pleasure out of this kind of sport. Whatever. Maybe they can just shoot them at a gun range and not own one. Why own one of these ( or more as many in America do, actually)? To be ready for an insurrection against the government of course. Or to go out and kill as many people as possible in a short time.

Another mass shooting appeared to have been averted when a young white male ( as it almost always is) showed up at a Walmart ( again) in Missouri all set to go with body armour, an assault rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition:

Police in Springfield, Mo., arrested a 20-year-old man wearing body armor and carrying a loaded rifle — and more than 100 rounds of ammunition — at a Walmart store Thursday. Formal charges of making a terrorist threat in the first degree are now pending against Dmitriy Andreychenko, police say.

He thought he could “fool” people by walking around like this in the store? Not any more. We are all hyper aware and nervous when we see anyone carrying these guns around.

What about at least raising the age for purchase of these kinds of guns to 21? That would save lives.

In Texas people can walk around on the streets with AR-15s hanging from their bodies. Why? No one needs one of these. How do we know if the person means harm or not? We don’t of course.

This is insanity. What have we come to in America? Why have we let the influence of the corporate gun lobby do so much harm to the gun culture and to actual human beings. This is not the America we want. This is not how we should have to live.

In New York City, a motorcycle backfired near Times Square and everyone panicked and started running. Good grief. This is NOT NORMAL.

Well now, the pressure is on. The House is considering coming back into session to pass some stronger gun laws. They passed 2 background check bills last winter but the Senate refused to even have hearings. Until now. When over 10,000 calls get patched through to Mitch McConnell’s office in just a few days by Brady the pressure is on. Other organizations have also been patching calls through. If McConnell does anything about gun safety reform it won’t be because he wants to, it will be because he can’t not do what’s right and what the vast majority of Americans support.

This morning the President boasted about having a good relationship with the NRA:

“They’re really good people,” Trump said. “They’re great patriots. They love our country. They love our country so much. And frankly, I really think they’re going to get on board.”

Great patriots? No.

The way things are going with the NRA I don’t think that was a wise thing to say. But he is, after all, Donald Trump.

The organization is as corrupt as Trump himself. They are all about themselves and not about the public health crisis of gun violence. They don’t care a whit about the shootings as long as they maintain their base and their power and control.

Remember when President Trump told the victims of The Parkland shooting that he would pass a background check bill after that horrific shooting? Remember when the President talked to the NRA the next day? Remember when nothing happened?

Yes, Senator Toomey, AR-15s are popular. So what? As long as that is your attitude, Americans will continue to be killed in large numbers. If you had any common sense at all, you would stand up at long last and do the right thing. We can give you credit for trying after the Sandy Hook shooting. It didn’t work out so well when the NRA said NO. You should have learned your lesson then. What difference does it make what the NRA and its’ small number of gun owners want and threaten to do? They represent a scintilla of Americans.

It’s time for that to change. It’s time for all in Congress to stand against the weak and mythical arguments of the gun lobby. The time is past to publicly recognize that even gun owners and most NRA members want you to act.

Do something.

A “memoraversary”

The last week has been a difficult one for the entire country. For victims and survivors it has been worse than difficult. High profile shootings bring back too many memories. The press coverage, the constant conversation about the guns, bullets, the victims, the injuries…

PTSD is what I call it. I believe the entire country is experiencing PTSD after the last week of mass shootings. The nonsensical talk about video games, lack of praying in school, mental illness and every other excuse offered by those who refuse to talk about the root of the problem is enough to make us sick. We know what the problem is. We have experienced it.

It’s the guns stupid. Plain and simply it’s easy access to guns. The hate shooting in El Paso was a horrendous act of violence directed at immigrants, people of color, hispanic people- the “other”. An assault rifle. Premeditated murder. Unrepentant killer. A legal gun purchase.

We’ve heard it ad nauseum before- hundreds of times.

The shooting in Dayton appears to be a domestic related shooting but the premeditation involving body armour, an assault rifle with a 100 round drum magazine is inexplicable. Why?

In talking about the high profile mass shootings, we often forget about the “everyday” shootings happening regularly. Over 100 a day. The domestic homicides. The suicides. The unintentional shootings by kids, officer involved shootings. They are all around us every day. They leave victims and survivors in their wake. They leave a ripple effect going wider and wider. With all of the shootings, there are few of us remaining who have not been affected by a shooting.

I am one of those people feeling the PTSD in the past week. Thoughts of my own family dealing with the domestic shooting of my sister came back. The phone call came back. It brought back the days between the shooting and the funeral and the days following dealing with the after effects and grief and moving forward.

Moving forward for me was getting involved and working with Brady and Protect Minnesota to prevent shootings in any form. It has been a long and frustrating journey. We go round and round and make small steps towards progress because we are swimming upstream against a formidable force of opposition and a culture of guns that stops us from doing what almost everyone knows is the right thing to do.

Today is the anniversary of the shooting death of my sister, Barbara Lund. What should we call the anniversary of the death of a loved one? That question was asked recently in a group of Brady chapter leaders. Anniversary seems like not quite the right word. Every year on this date I write about my sister, who was murdered by her estranged husband on Aug. 5, 1992.

It’s been a long time but we miss her still. I can still hear her voice and remember her vivacious personality at family events. She was a force. She was a beauty queen. She was a skier, an artist, a mother, a sister, a wife, an ex-wife, a step-mom, a tennis player, a pilot, an entertainer, politically active, and an all around adventurous person. People never forgot her once they met her.

She would have been a fierce advocate for doing the right thing in my memory had I died before her by some untimely violent death. She would have worked for background checks on all gun sales and the many issues that have been in the forefront in the decades since her death.

But a stronger background check system would not have stopped my sister’s shooting. Her estranged husband was a legal gun owner. Perhaps an Extreme Risk Protection Order law however could have prevented what happened that day in August in 1992. There had been a restraining order. He was becoming aggressive with phone messages to her. He was becoming, in general, more resistant to the divorce proceedings even being in contempt of court for refusing to comply with the proceedings. They were separated by then and she told friends she was worried about his guns.

But using his guns to kill her and her friend because he was angry? Why? Where is common sense?

Others have similar stories with somewhat different details. Some women survive the bullets. Many do not. Domestic murders often involve more than one person and most often happen when a woman is trying to leave the relationship- whether marriage or not. Sometimes it takes a half dozen times to actually leave. When children, money and pets are involved, it’s difficult to leave.

I have learned a lot since Aug. 5, 1992. Now we all know more and we all know that we can do something about this carnage. If there is a difficulty in the relationship and the man ( for it is almost always the man) owns guns, we must think differently. We must be hyper aware. If there is a threat to the gun owners’ self or others, if Extreme Risk Protection Orders are law, guns can be removed, at least temporarily.

A woman is 5 times more likely to be killed in intimate violence situations when a gun is present. In my sister’s case there was no physical violence but rather increasing signs of anger and depression over his losing control of money and control.

If there is a difficult relationship between domestic partners or spouses, a gun can make it deadly instantly. Getting away from the relationship or getting guns away from the person who could be a danger to themselves or others is of utmost importance.

End Family Fire is a new campaign to highlight the risks of guns in the home. These risks are for suicide, domestic homicide, school shootings (most school shooters get their guns from their own homes) or “accidental gun discharges”. Considering the risks there is no reason not to be more cautious about guns in the home. At the very least they need to be stored safely ( in a metal gun case) and/or with a trigger lock and away from ammunition.

Too many gun owners think their loaded guns must be at the ready at home just in case. This flawed thinking leads to way too many avoidable deaths and injuries. A gun is much more likely to be used against you or someone in the home than in self defense.

You may think that something like this can never happen in your family or your community. You may be right. But if I were you I would err on the side of safety and caution to prevent personal tragedy. None of the families of the tragic and deadly mass shootings and “everyday” shootings ever thought it would happen to them either. My last post was about the rash of mass shootings in the last week. Since I wrote that post, dozens more have died of gunshot injuries.

We don’t have to live like this. But we do have to demand that our leaders make sure our lives are safe from preventable gun violence. Our personal responsibility is to be aware, be safe, be sensible around guns, and don’t do anything stupid or dangerous. Lives depend on getting this right.

Our leaders’ responsibility is to pass laws to make it less easy for people who should not have guns to get them. It is to make it harder to get guns. It should be. Guns are lethal weapons and they are responsible for horrendous carnage. This is national public health emergency and we must do something.

In memory of my sister and the many thousands of Americans who have died from gunshot injuries since her death and before, I demand action. I honor the lives lost with action.

Guns for entertainment

Yesterday President Trump actually told British media personality Piers Morgan in an interview that AR-15s are used for entertainment. Yes. He said that. He is parroting what the gun lobby is trying to sell to us about the necessity for these weapons meant for war. And coincidentally the President was in Britain, and then in Normandy, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day where thousands of U.S., British and Canadian troops were shot on the Omaha, Utah and Gold beaches.

Let’s look at Trump’s words from the linked article:

“In London you have stabbings. I read an article…they said your hospital is a sea of blood…Piers, when somebody has a gun illegally and the others [don’t] they have no chance. The bad guys are not getting rid of their guns…The people who obey the laws are sitting ducks. The thing I think about the most is Paris…if there was a gun on the other side.”

Deflect, deflect, deceive, lie, deflect, blame someone else, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…….

Where is common sense? Inexplicably he also tried to slough off any criticism of America’s public health gun violence epidemic by blaming the British for all the blood running in England from knife deaths. Good grief. You just can’t make this stuff up but this is also the gun lobby’s turning the conversation away from all of the blood running in the streets and homes of Americans from gun violence.

According to the above article knife deaths are up in the UK and so are gun deaths- they are up to 29. America’s are up,too- about 40,000! No comparison.

My brother fought in Viet Nam and was under fire much of the time he was there. He came home with Malaria and now suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and PTSD. He doesn’t think of assault rifles as entertainment. To him they mean death and destruction.

My Dad was a World War ll Veteran. He served in an Infantry Brigade in North Africa and Italy. He rarely talked about the horrors of war but clearly suffered from Panic Attacks. He was involved in a lot of gunfire as they marched over the mountains and into Rome. He did not live long enough to mourn the death of my sister who was murdered in a domestic shooting. I am quite sure he would have been horrified at the proliferation of shootings and mass shootings, some of which were the result of shooters using AR-15s to kill as many people as possible in as short a time period as possible.

We should all be horrified that our President thinks AR-15s are for entertainment when they are weapons that don’t belong in the hands of ordinary citizens, gun rights or not. Did the founding fathers anticipate this kind of carnage when they wrote their infamous and now controversial words? Would they have been able to predict that since 1968 when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, more Americans have been killed by guns than all American wars combined? Yesterday was the 51st anniversary of his shooting. I will never forget that awful day as America mourned the shooting death of a second Kennedy brother. I don’t believe he would have been in favor of the sale and use of semi-automatic assault rifles for common use.

(added since first posted) I just ran across this relevant article about gun deaths compared to American deaths on D-Day:

Some 2,501 Americans gave their lives that day, according to historic estimates. Another 1,913 soldiers from other Allied countries also died, bringing the total death toll from the immediate invasion to 4,414.

It took until late April before the number of people killed by guns in the United States in 2019 topped that number, according to data collected by the Gun Violence Archive. (This data excludes suicides.)

This is so stunning that there are really no good words to talk about it.

Let’s take a look at guns used for “entertainment”:

Does anyone remember when a little girl “accidentally” shot and killed the gun range instructor with an Uzi which her parents allowed her to shoot? The man’s family is suing the girl’s family for allowing her to shoot the gun? Did he not have a responsibility to say No to letting a 9 year old shoot an Uzi for fun? Presumably that was for entertainment.

Too many other incidents like this have happened to enumerate here. Guns are not for entertainment. Their sole purpose is to kill animals or humans. That is what they are designed to do.

There are so many other things that people can do for entertainment. Bowling. Movies. Sports. Music. Theater. Playing games with friends. And yes, I get that some like to shoot guns for fun at gun ranges. But the slippery slope has created a gun culture where military style weapons have become common place for just about anyone who wants one. That is not entertainment.

The President is wrong. The gun lobby is wrong. Guns are not their playthings that they can do anything they want to do with them.

It’s been 100 days since the House passed H.R. 8 to require background checks on all gun sales. The Senate companion bill, S. 42 is in limbo because……rights? fear? paranoia? power and influence? campaign contributions?

How about saving lives? Does that figure into any of this. Here is today’s press release from Brady about 100 days passing since the House passed the life saving bill:

In the 100 days since the House passed H.R. 8 in a bipartisan vote:*

10,000 people have been shot and killed;

21,000 people were injured by gunfire;

400 children and teenagers (1-17) were killed in shootings;

800 children and teens were shot in family fire;

6,100 Americans died from suicide with a firearm, with another 1,000 attempting.

A reminder to my readers- this is NOT NORMAL. This is a public health epidemic. The Republicans in the Senate are letting America down. They seem to feel no shame or responsibility when mass shootings occur every week or so and 12 or more innocent people are mowed down for no apparent reason except a gun was readily available. And for the domestic related gun deaths and for the suicides by gun and the little children shooting each other with a gun found at home. They have no conscience.

We are better than this.

A Pyyhric Victory

Since my return home from my trip to Greece, the Minnesota House of Representatives has passed an Omnibus Public Safety Bill containing both background check and Extreme Risk Protection Order provisions. The vote happened at about 2:00 a.m. last Tuesday after the gun rights Republicans tried every trick in their tired old bag to weaken the bills. Stand Your Ground and Constitutional Carry- ever favorites of the now imploding NRA were tried but failed. One Representative suggested that, in the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill, other things besides firearms should be taken from those who could be dangerous to themselves or others. He suggested cars, knives, golf clubs and bats for just a few. Yes. He said that.

He is wrong of course since the other items, except for auto accidents, don’t come anywhere near to killing as many people as guns. But never mind the facts.

This is the first time ever that a common sense gun safety reform bill has passed in a Minnesota legislative chamber. There was a rally on Monday which I attended and at which I spoke, to call attention to the bill and make noise about wanting it to pass. They heard us in chambers and knew we were there. Also there were a couple of obnoxious gun rights guys, dressed in suits can carrying their tripod with iPhone around on it to record the rally. Paranoid as they are, they must find out what we are doing and report it to their fearful followers in case we do something like spread out in the area and start confiscating their guns.

There was a group of students visiting from their school who these guys decided to record without asking permission. Several of us stood between the phone guy and the kids and answered questions about what we were doing. They were uniformly against the gun guys and understood the stakes for themselves when people who shouldn’t have guns use kids in schools as sitting ducks. Listen to the kids.

All in all it was a good day. We spoke with legislators and made our cause known. Speakers were inspiring, including Governor Walz who pulled his pen out of his pocket and said he was ready to sign the bill into law.

It was a Pyrrhic victory and we knew that. It will now be in the hands of a conference committee where the Senate, full of gun rights members, will not vote in favor unless a miracle happens. Why? Great question. No gun registration or confiscation will occur. No legal gun owners rights will be affected. There may be a few minutes of extra time involved in getting a background check from private sellers but so what? Not a reason to oppose. We know the reason. Follow the money and the influence of the corporate gun lobby.

From Minnesota DFL

The Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka declared the bills dead. My sister is dead. Hundreds of Minnesotans die every year. We can’t make them alive again but he can make the bills alive again. We can save lives and stop people from becoming dead in senseless and avoidable shootings.

The number of gun rights advocates calling and emailing the legislators are smaller by percentage than the majority of us who have demanded the passage of the bills. We are the majority but most of us are not single focused or paranoid and care about many things in our lives. To be more exact, the number of NRA members, the ones making the noise, in America compared to the total population is less than 10% of gun owners.

In fact, from the article above, after the Parkland school shooting, 97% of gun owners wanted to strengthen our gun laws. Remarkable. And also from the article:

A question remains. If gun owners across the country like Ware no longer identify with the organization, and polls show that they increasingly support gun control measures, who is the gun rights group fighting for?

Good question. And the other question that I asked on Monday in my speech was of whom are the legislators so afraid? This small group? The biggest problems is that the NRA is now an arm of the Republican party and part of the overall ideological bent of the party. It almost has nothing to do with guns anymore. They are a paper tiger but they have managed to wield a lot of influence anyway. Money talks. Corporations are people.

As the bodies pile up, our legislators will need to explain the real reasons they oppose reasonable gun laws. The archaic thinking that goes with their opposition is going out with those who are clinging to the old world order of mostly white guys having power and control. And when the NRA explodes, the road to victory will happen more easily.

Times are changing. Laws will change. The culture will change. Minnesota will change its gun laws. It may not be this year, though I still am hopeful. But it will change. Gun safety reform is here to stay and will be one of the most important issues of the upcoming campaigns and elections. We are not afraid any more of the “guys with the guns” who believe they make the rules.

A true national emergency

Hand Drawn Time for Action Concept on Small Chalkboard.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.


In the midst of my writings, the senseless violence has persisted and existed in our everyday lives. I just ran across this article about the awful and tragic shooting of a young father of 4 over an eviction. From the article:

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.

A fanny pack? And how do we know if the shooter’s view is correct because the victim is dead. Utah is a Stand Your Ground law state.  

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. 

Charleston- another mass shooting anniversary

Charleston shootingIt 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.

When will it end?

The mass shooting at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina was a particularly brutal and heinous shooting because of the fact that a group of Black members of the church welcomed the shooter into their fold as they were innocently praying in the church. And then, he shot them brutally in a heinous and unforgivable hate crime.

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

What are we doing about this? Some members of the South Carolina legislature tried by proposing a bill to close this loophole in gun laws.:

“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.

Common sense tells us that we must stop this practice and prevent shootings wherever we can. But the NRA defends the indefensible.

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:

Rev. Clementa Pinckney

Cynthia Hurd

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

Tywanza Sanders

Myra Thompson

Ethel Lee Lance

Rev. Daniel L. Simmons

Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor

Susie Jackson