Peace and justice on Thanksgiving

Puzzle Pieces: Justice Concept.

As Thanksgiving approaches we should all pause and think about what is going on right now in our country. The Paris terror attacks have elevated the fear, anger and paranoia of Americans for good reason. But since the terror attack, some of the reactions have been amazingly uneducated and utterly frightening. I have been writing about this in my last few blog posts.

But now terror has hit Minnesota in the form of an attack by armed (alleged) white supremacists in Minneapolis against members of the Black Lives Matters protest over the shooting of a young black man by police last week.

This is a domestic terror attack- there is not another word for it. When so many people have been encouraged to arm themselves for perceived threats to their safety, this is inevitable. When so much hate, anger and fear is spewed on the air waves every day, what do we expect? More guns have definitely not made us safer or more polite. We have a violent and racist society.

Mike the Gun Guy has written about the Minneapolis shooting. It’s something to consider. From his post:

If you don’t think there’s a connection between the Black Lives Matter protestor who was beaten up at a Trump rally in Alabama and the attempted killing of peaceful demonstrators in Minneapolis, then you haven’t been paying attention to the news or the Trump campaign.  When you stand up in front of a cheering-jeering audience and call someone a ‘jerk’ or a ‘dope’ or a ‘crazy’ because they yell something during your speech, you’ve abandoned any degree of public civility and are now just pandering to the lowest and meanest folks in the crowd. (…)

But they don’t have to keep quiet if they can go to a rally headlined by Trump.  And they don’t have to keep quiet when they walk up to a demonstration held by Black Lives Matter because another Black man may have been gunned down by the cops.  After all, these guys have a Constitutional right to call someone a name and they also have a Constitutional right to walk around with a gun.  Put those two rights together and you know what you get?  You get three young Black men in the hospital with gunshot wounds and the cops, in a shooting which took place right outside a police station, still looking for the guys who pulled out the guns.

It happened right outside the police station.  Think about that.

Didn’t these armed thugs know that armed police officers were nearby? Of course they did. They didn’t care. Their hate, racism and anger fueled them and combined with guns, it didn’t go well. The suspects have all been arrested.

We don’t know yet what exactly happened in the case of the shooting of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis. Both sides have a story to tell and evidence to bring. An investigation will hopefully bring some justice and peace to citizens of the 4th precinct.

No matter what happened to Jamar Clark, one can understand mistrust of officers by people of color given the incidents that have happened over many years’ time. The tenuous relationship between people of color and law enforcement has been much in the news all over our country.

A Chicago officer just turned himself into police over the shooting of a black teen in October of 2014. It turns out that the officer shot the teen 16 times, many of the bullets shot after the teen was lying dead on the street.

These are difficult times for America. When there are so many guns on our streets and in our homes, the inevitable result is mistrust of others. Yes, black teens and young men are dying in greater numbers than their white counterparts. Yes, white men are dying more often than their counterparts of color in gun suicides. Toddlers and small children are “accidentally” shooting themselves and others at an alarming rate. Mass shootings occupy our media spaces on a regular basis. Yes, white radicalized home grown terrorists are shooting people of color. Stand Your Ground laws are unmistakably aimed at people of color and affect them at a greater rate than white people.  And yes, black young men are also shooting each other and innocent people in gang related shootings all over America. Police officers are being shot by others in various scenarios. And police officers are sometimes shooting  young men of color in sometimes justified shootings, sometimes not.

The issue of race and guns needs to be examined so we can understand the issues faced by our communities of color. It is not without controversy as nothing is with gun rights and gun violence prevention. The Trace has written about the history of race and gun rights. It’s worth the read for a better understanding of what is going on in our own country right now.

It’s impossible not to connect the dots from this article with the summer shooting of 9 Black people at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina. It was an act of terror and it was an act of overt racism.

Home grown extremists are shooting Americans on a pretty regular basis.

We have a gun problem that is contributing to all of the above.

Minnesota has had a rough year for shootings. There have been many shootings in the communities of color. There have been horrific domestic shootings and the usual suicides which account for 80% of gun deaths in Minnesota. Just yesterday, a man in a domestic dispute was shot and killed by officers in a Minnesota suburb. Domestic cases are among the most dangerous for officers.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Getting a handle on our nation’s public health and safety gun violence epidemic won’t be easy. But we shouldn’t stop until we have the conversation we deserve about the causes and effects of devastating gun violence. Common sense and resolve have to lead the discussion.  Facts will be important but our sense of justice and common values should be at the forefront of the discussion and decision making.

You may have conversations around your Thanksgiving table with family and friends about the many controversial  topics surrounding us. There are terror attacks, Syrian refugees, what to do with old aunt Sally, how to deal with cousin Peter, what to do about Uncle Joe’s drinking, where to go shopping on Black Friday and other important and not so important topics. If shootings and gun violence come up there are some answers to some of your gun toting relatives in this article in The Trace. “Arming” yourself with the facts rather than arguing at an emotional level may make your Thanksgiving table conversation less confrontational.

This Thanksgiving is going to be very difficult for a lot of people who are missing a family member because of a deadly shooting. Please think of them while you are with your own family and friends. And stay safe this holiday season.

God help us all. We will need all the help we can get to deal with all of the tragedy and unrest surrounding us.

Sweeping away the real risks of guns

vacuumIt should not be surprising that we are sweeping some of our more serious problems under the rug. For example, the many incidents involving legal gun owners that occur every day. Why aren’t we talking about the true risk of guns in the home or in public places? We know the answer. The gun lobby doesn’t want us to know about this stuff. They just want us to know that if we aren’t all armed, we will be attacked by zombies, or God forbid, terrorists. And so the hyperbole and paranoia continues. I wrote in my last two posts about the foolishness of politicians and presidential candidates regarding the Paris attacks. Many opined that things would have gone so much better if only those folks had been armed.

But they don’t want to talk about the real dangers of guns carried by people who, even in situations that don’t involve terrorism, can’t handle their legal guns. And so the carnage continues.

Only in America can we read about incidents like the those I am listing below:

A man shot a woman in a “freaky sex” incident and killed her. He forgot to take the bullet out of the chamber. Really? I thought gun owners knew better. They are supposed to make themselves and the rest of us safer. Guns and sex don’t mix.

Do you need to be carrying your gun while vacuuming? It turns out that it could be dangerous. Who knew? I guess those dust bunnies are pretty scary after all. Guns and vacuuming don’t mix.

Speaking of sweeping our real problems under the rug, only in America can a white gun extremist who threatened on Twitter to kill Jews and school kids get released to his parents by a Montana judge. From the article:

Lenio’s defense team managed to have his trial postponed earlier this year and has been working on a plea deal with prosecutors. Hutson noted, however, that when he was released on the condition that he not use social media at all, Lenio immediately reactivated his Twitter account under the name @PsychicDogTalk3 and proceeded to retweet anti-Israel propaganda and musings on how to satisfy the “urge to kill.”

“He has violated the court’s order and shown contempt for the judge 348 times,” Hutson told Strickland. “He is unfit for release into his parent’s custody in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I question if he would be getting such preferential treatment if he weren’t white and the son of an investment banker.”

A Native American or Muslim man would be treated very differently under Montana law, Hutson said.

Brant Getty, the public defender assigned to represent Lenio declined to comment for the DailyInterLake article.

This article, written by Jonathan Hutson, the man who reported the extremists’ tweets, resulting in his arrest, says this about the case:

My concern now, shared by many others, is that justice may not be served by the backroom deal apparently in the works, in which a young man who may be a danger to himself and to others could be released without having been held to account for his online threats against the Kalispell community, and without the court ensuring that Lenio receive appropriate mental health care which he apparently needs and deserves.

The prosecutor, County Attorney Ed Corrigan, is considering a possible plea bargain which could result in the felony charge of intimidation being reduced to a misdemeanor, or a deferred prosecution, which would mean that eventually, the felony charge would be dismissed, and Lenio would one day get his arsenal back. Imagine David Lenio, reloaded, courtesy of the State of Montana. That could happen.

We have our own home grown terrorists with guns:

But the breakdown of extremist ideologies behind those attacks may come as a surprise. Since Sept. 11, 2001, nearly twice as many people have been killed by white supremacists, antigovernment fanatics and other non-Muslim extremists than by radical Muslims: 48 have been killed by extremists who are not Muslim, including the recent mass killing in Charleston, S.C., compared with 26 by self-proclaimed jihadists, according to a count by New America, a Washington research center. (…)

Non-Muslim extremists have carried out 19 such attacks since Sept. 11, according to the latest count, compiled by David Sterman, a New America program associate, and overseen by Peter Bergen, a terrorism expert. By comparison, seven lethal attacks by Islamic militants have taken place in the same period.

If such numbers are new to the public, they are familiar to police officers. A survey to be published this week asked 382 police and sheriff’s departments nationwide to rank the three biggest threats from violent extremism in their jurisdiction. About 74 percent listed antigovernment violence, while 39 percent listed “Al Qaeda-inspired” violence, according to the researchers, Charles Kurzman of the University of North Carolina and David Schanzer of Duke University.

We have our own problems with terrorists at home. The Montana case represents our nation’s willingness to let people who shouldn’t have guns get them anyway because….. rights.

Sigh.

With the latest terror attack and all of the talk of radical Muslims attacking people in the Western world, we absolutely must join together to do whatever it takes.

We also do need to deal with young white angry bigoted men here at home. The young man arrested for his threats to Jews and children  may get away with his threats. Where else does this happen? Are his gun rights more important than the potential damage he can do once released? I think not. And what could possibly go wrong if he gets his guns back?

We have a double standard in our country. I have written before about mass shootings being committed by mostly young white angry men with (mostly) legally purchased guns. And yet the evidence is in about young black men becoming the majority of the homicide victims in our country. They are also incarcerated at a higher rate than white people.

We have some pretty serious problems that we are not addressing in America. Yes, there was a terror attack in Paris. There was a terror attack in Lebanon. We have serious problems with violence all over the globe. Ours is with gun violence not seen in any other civilized country not at war.

Today we are alarmed and talking 24/7 about the latest terror attack. And we should be talking about that in a reasonable thoughtful manner that will result in a plan to stop the terror and the violence. But the conversation is dumbed down by those who are speaking before engaging their brains or getting the facts.

Shameful.

And when this terror attack fades from constant public attention in a few weeks as it inevitably will, will we then pay attention to our own serious public health and safety epidemic? And will we, at the least, stop people on the terror watch list from buying guns legally in our own country? From the article:

And, as the GAO found, a number of them do: Between 2004 and 2014, suspected terrorists attempted to purchase guns from American dealers at least 2,233 times. And in 2,043 of those cases — 91 percent of the time — they succeeded. There are about 700,000 people on the watch-list — a point that civil libertarians have made to underscore that many on the list may be family members or acquaintances of people with potential terrorist connections. (…)

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Peter T. King (R-N.Y.) introduced a bill to do that earlier this year. The “Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act of 2015” would prevent several hundred gun purchases by suspected terrorists each year, and it includes provisions to let people challenge a denial if they believe they were placed on the watchlist in error.

But these bills have rarely made it out of committee, in part due to vehement opposition from the National Rifle Association and its allies in Congress. The NRA objected to earlier versions of the bill, saying they were “aimed primarily at law-abiding American gun owners,” that “prohibiting the possession of firearms doesn’t stop criminals from illegally acquiring them,” and that the bills were “sponsored by gun control extremists.”

The NRA doesn’t want us to know about this or talk about it. Why not?

And will we sign on to the UN Small Arms Treaty as the country that is providing the most small arms to the rest of the world? Will we do our part in stopping the terror in our own country and in the world at large? From the linked article about the gun lobby deceptions that keep the US from signing the treaty:

In 2013, after nearly a decade of effort (and opposition from the Bush administration), the U.N. adopted an Arms Trade Treaty to curtail illicit sales of war weapons, including tanks, fighter jets, warships, missiles, artillery, and small arms, chiefly to keep them out of the hands of rogue governments and militant groups. But that last category of weapons riles Second Amendment activists, who are concerned that the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is part of a secret globalist agenda to winnow away their constitutional right.

Under President Obama, American leadership helped the treaty get enough signatures to enter into force — as much force as the U.N. can muster, anyway — late last year. This week’s meetings in Mexico are when the 72 ratifying states will discuss amendments to and enforcement of the agreement. Notably, the U.S. will not be among them. It’s signed the treaty, but Congress has yet to ratify it and is unlikely to anytime soon. (…)

And it’s here that the real shenanigans begin, as the rest of the treaty text makes it clear that opponents are warping its intent to suit their own purposes. It is true that the ATT aims to keep guns (and tanks, and anti-aircraft missiles) out of the hands of “unauthorized… end users.” But contrary to the NRA’s interpretation, no one is required to provide small arms makers or their governments with specific identifying info on a gun’s ultimate owner. As the treaty now reads, exporting countries “may include end use or end user documentation” in the info they share with other treaty nations, when deemed “appropriate.” On top of that, the treaty also permits a participating country to tailor that arms-trade data “pursuant to its own legal or constitutional system.” In other words, if U.S. courts see reporting “end user” information as a violation of Second Amendment rights, the U.S. won’t be able to provide that info to exporters abroad.

More importantly, guns imported to the U.S. already get registered. With very few exceptions, all firearms brought into the country have to go through a firearm dealer licensed by the ATF, and a Form 6 for the deal must be filled out in detail and filed with ATF and Customs and Border Protection. Your individual sportsman can get a special permit to directly import sporting-gun parts and ammunition for personal use — but even then, there’s a record of the importation. In all likelihood, treaty parties will treat gun stores and dealers who receive imports as the “end user” for record-keeping purposes, rather than individual customers who may buy the weapon at a point of sale months or years later.

So in a broad sense, the specter of “registration” that the NRA raises has already been the law of the land for some time. The more specific fear — that foreign governments and UN lackeys will gain lists of every Tom, Dick, and Harry who owns a Beretta — is the absurd product of scaremongering.

I suggest you read more of this article. The scare mongering and paranoia exhibited by the American gun lobby are hampering efforts to try to control the trafficking of weapons world wide that inevitably end up in the hands of terrorists.

So again I ask, what are we doing about terror in our own country and our own failures to help with anti terrorism at home and abroad?

We can actually deal with the concerns about with the terror watch list and the UN Small Arms Treaty by the way. If we can send people to the moon, we can figure this out as well. It takes resolve and common sense which sometimes we have little of.

And why do so many Americans believe the hype about guns for self defense? The guys who were involved in the shooting while having sex and while vacuuming apparently believed nothing could possibly go wrong with a gun in their own hands. I am guessing these are the same folks who are thinking that the citizens of Paris should have been armed during the terror attack. What could possibly go wrong?

The real problems cannot be swept away.  As long as the gun lobby holds sway over our politicians, the house cleaning of our weak gun laws to save lives won’t happen. Let’s dust off our reluctance to attack the problem and get to work.

I would like to add an article to my post. I like this one about how the NRA and the corporate gun lobby are actually arming criminals because of their insistence that stronger gun laws won’t work. From the article:

Through all of this, the National Rifle Association has been resolute in its mission to protect Americans’ access to guns. Their success extends far beyond protecting Second Amendment rights.

They have been so effective at limiting or weakening gun violence prevention laws that they can legitimately be accused of helping to arm many of the United States’ criminals. And while they do this they cynically claim that there are plenty of laws on the books if you just enforce them.

Before you fire off angry letters and comments, please read just a few ways how the NRA’s mission has strayed from protecting law abiding gun owner’s rights to keeping the flow of arms to crooks steady.

And then the writer gets to my point from this post:

If you were wondering how out of touch the NRA has become, think about this – they strongly oppose legislation to prohibit the sale of guns to people on the terrorist watch list. Is any comment even needed here?

We need an honest debate about gun laws and how to reduce violence, balancing the protection of Second Amendment rights with realistic measures to keep guns away from lawbreakers. But the NRA, through scare tactics, exaggeration, lying and appeal to paranoia has shown they are not capable of participating in an honest debate.

Through their tactics, they make it easy for criminals to keep getting guns. And if you support the NRA, so do you.

No further comment.