July 4th violence

Happy 4th of July Card, Traditional American BannerWell, I didn’t think I would be posting so soon after my last one. We shouldn’t be surprised that #45 is not taking a July 4th vacation from tweeting. He should.  Our President decided to tweet out yet another invective against the press, including a violent  doctored video.:

The video appears to be a repurposed clip of Trump, then a reality TV star, beating up WWE owner Vince McMahon in 2007 ― with the logo for CNN, which Trump has continually labeled a “fake news” media outlet, replacing McMahon’s head.

Trump’s official White House account subsequently retweeted the video, which appeared on a Reddit thread on Wednesday, entitled “Trump takes down fake news.”

The fake news is the video and tweeting by our own President.

Let’s hope no one acts on the violence encouraged in the tweeted video, above.

And we do have to wonder now if the President was right when he said he could step out onto Fifth Avenue in NYC and shoot someone and he wouldn’t lose any voters.  Something to think about,

This is America on the Fourth of July, 2017.

You just can’t make this stuff up and it portends of a whole new world and a total disregard for the office of the Presidency and the country as a whole. As Rachel Maddow explained on her Friday show, this President really doesn’t care about that. He only seems to care about his ratings, his base, and his self esteem. People with low self esteem are often bullies.

What does this have to do with gun violence you ask? Many of our nation’s domestic and mass shootings are committed by people with  anger problems , problems with women, actual low self esteem and self image problems or prior violence in their own lives. They are often angry and some with mental illness, diagnosed or under diagnosed. Gun suicides are often the result of these personality traits as well. And to make matters worse, many mass and domestic shootings are committed by suicidal people who seem to want to take others with them. My ex ( now deceased) brother-in-law did not kill himself at the moment of the shooting of my sister and one other person. He did that later but clearly mentioned being suicidal after the shooting and actually succeeded 3 months later when he put a plastic bag over his head and suffocated himself.

Back to my original thought about the President of our country instilling violence…..

We are about to celebrate our nation’s Independence from England. It was a brutal and violent war (what war isn’t?) and left many dead and injured behind. (4435 battle deaths.)

At about 90 gun deaths per day, it would take about 3 months to reach the number killed in the Revolutionary War. Since 1968 more Americans have been killed by guns than in all American wars combined.

Astounding.

The American gun culture is killing people en masse and we look the other way.

Who are we as a country any more?

What we gained was an independent country that has become a model for democracy all over the world. If that model becomes tainted by our own leader, what kind of model will we become? Confidence and trust in our country has already eroded after the election of a man who seems to be increasingly angry and unhinged- seeking vengeance against anyone who dares to criticize him for his own words and behavior that is out there for all to see or anyone who slights him in any way.

Words matter. Behavior matters. Tweets matter. This should not be tolerated by any of us. I would hasten to bet that if Hillary Clinton had been elected, the attacks would have been vicious but she would not have been the attacker. If Barack Obama had said or done any of the things #45 has done and said, he would have been run out of office in short order.

This is not the America we deserve or should want. The fact that our President’s base is willing to tolerate this because of ideology, fear, anger, and whatever else was in the background of our last election,  is alarming. Violence from the top can only beget violence below.

And speaking of violence ( having nothing to do with the President but everything to do with angry people and guns) the recent rampage at a Bronx hospital was just another reason why more guns do not make us safer. Why a man who had the problems this physician had was not charged with a felony for previous behavior is beyond me. But had he been, getting a gun would have been more difficult. Not impossible mind you because private sellers at gun shows and on-line can sell to anyone with no Brady background checks. He bought the gun within weeks of the shooting.

Waiting periods anyone? Some states have them.  Not enough. They could save lives.

Brady background checks can save lives.

Was the shooter a law abiding purchaser and gun owner?

This physician had an AM-15- an assault gun that he shouldn’t have had. But he brought it with him to the hospital and killed one, wounded 5 more and then killed himself. As these shootings always are- it was a shocking and violent surprise with no time to react. Don’t anyone write a comment to me about how if only someone had had a gun, this would not have happened. That would be a lie. We don’t need any more lies in our country.

And then there is the continued ripple effect of gun violence that also is felt by the families of the shooters. This story is about the reflections of the wife of the man who shot and injured Congressman Steve Scalise:

He flung dishes at his wife, roared at the television, erupted during an outing at a local brewery. Suzanne Hodgkinson became so concerned with her husband’s growing anger that she wrote to his doctor asking for help.

Now, the wife of the man who opened fire on a congressional baseball team in June wonders what more she could have done.

A case for Gun Violence Protection Orders. Some states have them. They can save lives.

Was the shooter a law abiding gun purchaser and owner?

Guns and anger don’t go together. Guns and domestic strife or domestic abuse don’t go together. Guns and issues with women don’t go together. Guns and financial troubles don’t go together. Guns and mental illness don’t go together. Guns and vengeance don’t go together.

Guns and stupidity and irresponsibility also do not go together. If this were not so serious, one could cry. A Florida man sat on his gun and shot himself in the penis. Really? Yes, really. #notanaccident

She said the man told her he sat on the gun, which accidentally went off.

Police were called to the hospital just before 3 a.m. because of the gunshot wound.

Investigators found that the man was convicted of cocaine possession in 2004.

It’s possible he will be facing charges for possessing a firearm, because he is a convicted felon.

Not a law abiding gun owner. How did he get his gun?

And since I will be busy doing things with my family, I want to write once again about the totally stupid and dangerous celebratory gunfire that occurs every year on July 4th:

Looking into the science of it, can it actually kill someone? According to Forensic Outreach it not only can, but has.

“Celebratory gunfire has wounded hundreds and killed dozens in recent years in the US alone,” according to the research website.

As the site explains, the impact a bullet falling back to the ground can have has several different factors rooted in physics — everything from gravity, terminal velocity and wind resistance. The speed of the bullet leaving a gun or rifle also changes based on size or caliber but is estimated at anywhere from 1,500 feet per second to 2,900 feet per second.

A bullet shot straight up in the air, which is almost impossible by a human according to Forensic Outreach, will lose all of its speed at the top and then start to fall back to the ground.

With the help of gravity, it will pick up speed and impact at somewhere between 200 to 330 feet per second, which is said to be enough to penetrate the skin.

Most bullets won’t be shot straight up. Most will be shot at an angle so it will never loose all of the speed coming out of a gun barrel. A bullet on that type of an angle will impact at a speed between 300 to 700 feet per second which is enough to penetrate a skull.

The moral of the story is don’t shoot your gun in the air because it’s illegal and can kill someone.

Pare injured or worse by this avoidable and nonsensical practice by irresponsible gun owners- most law abiding- who should know better. What goes up must come down by the laws of nature. I also refer to my friend Joe Jaskolka on the fourth of July because his life changed forever on New Year’s Eve of 1999 when a celebratory bullet ended its’ trajectory in his brain. He was 11 then and almost 30 now still suffering from the permanent effect of one celebratory bullet.

#Enough

Be safe out there everyone. More guns do NOT make us all safer so don’t listen to that lie. And use common sense if you do happen to own a gun. There’s too much carnage going around and way too much violent rhetoric going around. As a country we owe it our children and grandchildren to stop this from becoming normal. It is not normal in any way.

We do have a serious problem but for the next few days, we can hope that common sense will prevail and the President and others will refrain from violent rhetoric and actual violence. We all need a vacation from the tweeting and the chaos surrounding the President.

On that note, Happy July 4th everyone.

Questions to ask about guns and gun violence

ASK display with rocksYesterday, the Northland Brady Campaign, Protect Minnesota chapter asked parents some questions. Volunteers ( askers) sat in 8 local parks/playgrounds with ASK materials and either approached parents or parents approached them to see what was set up on the picnic tables. It was a cool and windy day, thus the Lake Superior rocks to hold down the brochures and other materials. This was our first attempt at taking the ASK campaign out to parents where they hang out with their kids. The reception was all positive once people understood what we were all about.

One man, though, approached the table and told the volunteers that he had 3 gun safes where he keeps his many firearms safely locked up. He then blustered that there were 3 reasons to own guns:

  • Self defense
  • Hunting
  • Fighting against the government

Right. There are several things to talk about here.

Guns bought for self defense (mostly pistols) and left around in homes are more likely to be used against you or someone you love than for self defense. That is why the ASK campaign is encouraging parents to ask the awkward question about whether there are unsecured loaded guns in the homes where their children play. ( see my previous post)

That is why the need to lock up guns to prevent avoidable accidents and suicides by children and teens. That is why locking guns securely can keep criminals or those who should not have guns from gaining access to them after they steal them from a home. Many guns obtained this way result in crimes. From this article in The Trace:

Privately owned firearms are stolen in America with alarming frequency: between 300,000 and 600,000 every year, a forthcoming survey of gun ownership by researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities will show. At the high end, that’s more than 1,600 guns stolen every day, more than one every minute. That’s enough firearms to provide a weapon for every instance of gun violence in the country each year — several times over.

That is why the questions need to be asked.

Hunting? Many people own guns just for hunting and hopefully have proper training and keep their hunting guns locked up in secure gun safes. Most people do not object to hunting guns. Hunting is a sport and often a family tradition. I grew up in an outdoors hunting/fishing/camping family and was exposed to hunting guns at an early age. I learned how to shoot a .22 hunting gun but chose not to hunt with my mom, dad and brother. My husband is a hunter though now does not hunt any more. We have his guns stored in a locked metal safe. My daughter told me though that when she was young, before my sister was murdered and I got involved in this issue, she knew where the hunting guns were stored ( unloaded but not locked). Funny thing about that, most kids do know where those guns are. That is why we need to ask the important questions of other parents.

Now though, fewer kids are interested in hunting and the sale of hunting guns decreased with this lack of interest in the sport. That is why the corporate gun lobby shifted emphasis to self defense and concealed carry to open up a new marked for firearm sales. Businesses and industry do this all the time. Changes are made to boost sales and profit. The difference between most businesses and the firearm business is that guns are the only product sold to the public without the consumer product safety regulations used for other products to guard against harm and the only products sold that are meant to kill or harm another human being.

Guns used to fight against the government? Yes. It turns out that a new Pew study shows how many people own guns and how many know someone who has been shot. The facts are inverse to what they should be if we had strong gun laws and a gun culture that did not promote guns for tyranny and self defense just in case. Of the minority of Americans who own guns, many of them own many guns.:

Overall, Americans own an estimated 265 million guns – more than one gun for every American adult, according to the study by researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities. Half of those guns – 133 million – were in the hands of just 3% of American adults, so-called “super owners” who possessed an average of 17 guns each, it showed.

Questions need to be asked.

There are militia groups all over America getting ready for the apocalypse or a hostile take-over of the government and they are armed heavily. So far, most states let them be but they are watched carefully just in case. The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps track of these groups now on the rise. Guns don’t go well with hate, racism and anti-government sentiments.

As I was reading the morning paper, I noticed an article that struck me about our American gun culture. It turns out that a Canadian sniper killed an Iraqi fighter from a distance of 2.2 miles with a .50 sniper rifle. Yes, bullets can fly that far and kill someone. Who knows what might come between the sniper and the target. But as I read the article, I thought about the fact that in America this kind of rifle is available to anyone who wants one.  And even without a background check. For just thousands, you, too, can own a gun that could shoot down a plane:

A 50 caliber rifle can hit a target accurately from distances of 1,000 to 2,000 yards, depending on the skill of the shooter, and can reach targets at a longer range, sacrificing accuracy.2  Designed for use in urban combat situations, these weapons can penetrate structures and destroy or disable light armored vehicles, radar dishes, helicopters, stationary and taxiing airplanes, and other “high-value” military targets.3

Despite their deadly power, or perhaps because of it, 50 caliber rifles are proliferating on the civilian market. Because they are considered long guns, however, they are subject to less regulation than handguns.4  In fact, under federal law and the laws of nearly all states, any 18-year-old who passes a background check may purchase a 50 caliber rifle.5 Moreover, because federal law and the laws of most states do not require private sellers to conduct background checks, 50 caliber rifles may easily be purchased by criminals at gun shows and elsewhere.

Questions need to be asked.

It turns out that the man who stabbed an officer at the Flint, Michigan airport tried to buy a gun ostensibly for this attack ( considered by some to be a terror attack) but he was turned away from a licensed dealer because he was not an American citizen. Luckily for all, he did not choose to go to a private seller at a gun show or on-line or this attack could have resulted in much more tragedy and devastation.

Brady background checks work.

Asking the right questions works.

Common sense works.

Safe storage works.

Sensible gun laws work in other countries and right here at home. 

None of these are a “magic bullet” but in combination, we know we can save lives.

Though only Americans not on board with all of this common sense are those who are lapdogs to the corporate gun lobby. The majority is already there.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The conversation is changing- one person at a time. The culture will change as the conversation changes. And gun laws can be made stronger when the culture and conversation changes. Whether the change in laws comes first to change the culture or the change to the culture and conversation come first to change the laws is moot.

It will change with awareness, persistence and knowledge. The majority are already there.

Asking saves kids.

Answers will save American families and communities from the devastation of gun violence.

Where are you?

 

 

Just one bullet

Bullet gun copperJust one bullet killed an innocent Alaska woman and left a suicidal man with a life forever changed:

A trial date has been set for a 21-year-old Alaska man accused of fatally shooting his girlfriend when he tried to kill himself and the bullet struck the woman after passing through his head. (…)

Chelsea Hartman, Haag’s sister, told KTVA that the pair, who were high school sweethearts, “always seemed so happy.”

“I think a lot of it is still hard to grasp of how is it just one bullet, you know? And how does it go through one person and then the other person and kill the second person? It’s just not fair,” Hartman said.

Yes, that is all it takes. One bullet and instant death. Accident, suicide, unintentional, homicide, terror attack….. Just one bullet.

Guns and alcohol don’t go together.

A South Carolina family is lucky one of them was not killed by this man’s bullets. In this case, it started with one bullet and one angry man. It then escalated quickly to many bullets. From the article:

Frustrated by young children playing in his Goose Creek-area neighborhood, a man shot their grandparents and fired at two others, including a 1-year-old girl, investigators said Tuesday. (…)

Before 5 p.m. Monday, the children played in the road near Merritt’s house. One was an 8-year-old boy, the other a 1-year-old girl, said Mark Peper, an attorney for the children and their parents.

Merritt emerged from his home and told them to be quiet.

The grandparents, who were watching the children after school, learned about the encounter. They told Merritt not to yell at their grandchildren.

“Merritt got upset and … retrieved a .22-caliber pistol,” the sheriff’s statement said.

He confronted the grandparents and the children’s mother, telling the woman that she and the baby she was holding were going to die.

He started shooting at several people there and followed them a short distance as they scattered.

The grandfather was hit in the left chest, an arm and an ear. He had tried to shield his family from the gunfire, Peper said.

A bullet struck his wife in the chest.

You can’t make this stuff up. Children playing? That deserves a bullet?

Anger and guns don’t go together.

The thing is, when the gun lobby wants to arm anyone and everyone and allow people with no permit, no training and absolutely no common sense to have guns loaded with deadly bullets around everywhere, this is the result.

But I digress. It took just one bullet for this 4 year old Virginia boy to find at his daycare center, carelessly and irresponsibly left accessible to children. He shot and killed himself with it:

This incident occurred at a child care provider that is also the residence of a Stafford County Sheriff’s Office recruit, according to officials. The recruit was not at home at the time of the incident.

Aren’t children supposed to be safe at child care centers? A woman I know said she was asked if there were guns in the home before she was licensed as a home daycare provider. The cavalier attitude towards guns that is shown by some gun owners is a national public health and safety problem.

Children and guns don’t go together.

I could go on and on because incidents like the above happen every day and every hour of every day. All it takes is one bullet. It took one bullet to injure my sister, one to kill her and one for “good measure.”

The owner of the bullets used to shoot others are the ones who have to be responsible and careful because bullets are deadly and don’t know where to stop. Often enough, however, bullets are very intentionally aimed at an innocent person resulting in instant tragedy. The “good guy” with the gun who shot at grandparents and children because of noisy playing is a poster boy for all that is wrong with the American gun culture. He represents what the corporate gun lobby wants. The “good guy” with a gun who shot my sister became an instant “bad guy” with a gun.

Domestic disputes and guns don’t go together.

What should we do about this state of affairs?

We should educate people about the risks of loaded guns to their owners and those around them.

We should insist on laws that prevent those who should not have guns from getting them legally or illegally. Yes, it is legal for prohibited purchasers to buy guns legally with no background checks in case you were thinking of arguing about this fact.

We should pass safe storage laws and insist that all guns are locked up, unloaded, away from small hands, teens and others who could be dangerous to themselves or others.

We should strengthen our gun trafficking and straw purchase laws.

We should pass mandatory lost and stolen gun laws.

We should pass laws to hold parents responsible when their gun is used in an “accidental” shooting by their own child.

We should pass gun violence protection order laws so that families can report a person who could be dangerous to him/herself or others to law enforcement so the guns could be removed from their hands.

We should insist that all gun buyers have training before walking out of a gun store with a deadly weapon.

We should make sure that if someone wants to carry a loaded gun in public, they are vetted carefully and have training in how to carry that gun.

We should agree that an armed society is not a polite society nor a safe society.

We should ASK if there are loaded guns in the homes where children hang out and play.

We should not let ads for products that depict guns and bullets cavalierly without asking why. Check out Azzaro Cologne as just one example:

In both smell and presentation, this cologne draws out the rebel in every man with striking aromas and a gleaming gun cylinder bottle.

What? What do mens’ cologne and bullets have in common? Maybe manliness, or being a rebel? What does that mean? The not so subtle intimation that only a rebel with bullets and Azzaro cologne can be real men?

Where is common sense?

Real bullets kill people.

All it takes is one bullet.

All it takes are elected leaders who will stand up to the corporate gun lobby.

All it takes are Americans making more noise, raise their voices against our gun violence epidemic and get involved to save lives.

Like the voice of this little boy who tells it like it is. He doesn’t want a bullet to take his life. He just wants to go to school to learn his numbers.

All it takes is just one bullet to change the lives of innocent people forever. This little boy knows that. Our leaders should listen to his voice and do something about it.

Where is common sense?

A summit of gun violence prevention leaders and advocates

There are so many things to talk about.

I have just made a trip to Washington D.C. for the joint Brady Campaign, Americans for Responsible Solutions summit- A Nation United for a Safer Future.  I have been involved in this movement long enough to have met many leaders and victims from all over the country. Many of us met and continued our friendship through the Million Mom March and now Brady Campaign. I also have met and know people involved with Americans for Responsible Solutions. Social media has allowed us all to connect and become friends. Many victims and survivors attended the summit.

Here were just a few of the victims and survivors in attendance.

A mother whose daughter was shot at the Aurora Theater; a mother and father of a young woman reporter shot on live T.V.; a young woman whose mother was shot in the Clackamas Mall shooting just days before the Sandy Hook shooting; a mother and a father whose college students survived the Virginia Tech shooting; a father whose son was shot when a friend was handling a gun; a mother whose 13 year old daughter was shot by a gun stored openly and loaded in the home of a friend; a man whose mother shot and killed herself; the woman who kicked the ammunition away when the Tucson shooter stopped to re-load his gun; a father whose son was shot in the Isla Vista mass shooting; several women whose family members had committed suicide by gun; a woman whose brother was shot and killed many years ago; me- who lost a sister to bullets during a domestic shooting; Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign whose brother was shot and injured in the terror attack on the Empire State Building; a woman who had lost two children to shootings; two women whose children were shot and injured in the Jewish Day Care Center in Los Angeles; a man whose mother was shot and killed when a shooter was looking for someone else and mistakenly shot and killed her and wounded his father…….

Aside from victims and survivors, attendees included law enforcement officers, interested advocates, leaders of national and state organizations, clergy, staff members of the two organizations, politicians, lawyers, health care providers, NAACP leaders, film makers, a founder of the Women’s March, and many others.

Politicians who spoke to and with us:

Former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly.

Senators Cory Booker, Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal from Connecticut, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand

Connecticut Representative Esty, California Representative Mike Thompson, Rhode Island Representative Dave Cicilline, Representatives Val Demings and Stephanie Murphy from Florida and others.

Maura Healey, Massachusetts Attorney General

Valerie Jarrett, former advisor to President Obama.

But we didn’t just listen and react to these amazing speakers. We took action.

Hundreds of participants lobbied on Capitol Hill and had great visits, “armed” with information about two concerning bills that would make us all less safe if enacted:

H.R. 38- Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017 ( Arm Everyone bill). This bill would, if it became law, override steps that states have taken to protect public safety and put citizens at risk. It would leave states with no power to decide who carries hidden loaded guns ( or openly carried) within their own states and communities.

H.R.367- cynically called the Hearing Protection Act. This bill is meant to do what the gun lobby loves- increase sales of accessories to guns ( gun sales are down right now) and attempt to undo the 1934 National Firearms Act which requires individuals who purchase gun silencers and machine guns to undergo strict background checks, fingerprints, payment to register and license the gun/silencer and a waiting period. These regulations work. We just don’t see silencers used in crimes since that act became law. If this bill were to pass, we could expect to see silencers sold without Brady background checks through private seller internet sales and private sellers at gun shows. It also creates threats to law enforcement and would make it more difficult to respond to mass shooters as the sound of gunfire would be muffled and dispersed. There are many items sold to protect hearing while using firearms that make more sense.

Can we just talk about the fact that conceal carry weapons holders DO kill and threaten people with their guns even after going through a permitting process? Read the Violence Policy Center‘s report- Concealed Carry Killers. And can we also talk about the fact that 11 states now allow people to carry guns with no training or permit requirements.?Without a system of universal background checks, these people could be prohibited purchasers who will be allowed to carry their guns everywhere. How will we know the “good guys” with guns from the bad guys with guns? I have not heard an answer that makes any sense. The idea that it’s OK to normalize the carrying of guns everywhere by anyone is not only ludicrous, it is irresponsible and dangerous.

On “The Hill”, we had some great conversations, a chance to thank those who have voted against the gun lobby sponsored bills and who have led the charge and the conversation about the need to prevent gun violence. And we had a few victories when Congress members changed their positions after meeting with our groups of victims and advocates.

The importance of the summit and visits to Capitol Hill cannot be overstated. Advocates who had never attended a summit before were engaged and energized. They now know they can do this. People like me came away re-energized and encouraged that, in spite of the Republicans in charge, the issue of gun violence and the prevention of it has more support than ever before. It’s only Congress (doing the bidding of the corporate gun lobby) who stands in the way of common sense. And while they are doing that, 32,000 Americans ( give or take)- real people- someone’s family member or good friend- are killed by guns. It happens every day.

During the summit we all engaged our minds about legislation, other actions, and changing the conversation about this public health epidemic. There was much to think about and actual incidents that reminded us about why we were there. Among just a few:

Americans continue to die by bullets in alarming numbers. The Gun Violence Archive keeps track of shooting incidents. It’s not pretty.

And here are the reasons people get shot in Aor shoot others from Parents Against Gun Violence::

reasons people shot in April

And ISIS is telling its’ members to buy guns in America because it is so easy:

“The acquisition of firearms can be very simple depending on one’s geographical location,” the article read. “In most U.S. states, anything from a single-shot shotgun all the way up to a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle can be purchased at showrooms or through online sales — by way of private dealers — with no background checks, and without requiring either an ID or a gun license.”

The Rumiyah article specifically touted gun shows where these unregulated sales are often easiest.

And the officer who shot a black teen in Texas was fired and charged with murder. 

And Gander Mountain management bet wrongly on gun sales and lost. (Go figure. When Democrats are in office, the gun lobby scares people into buying guns in high numbers. When Republicans are in charge- no worries.)

“In 2016, at a rate of more than twice a week, a child under 18 years old was shot and killed with a loaded, unsecured gun”. This is from the Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance, a new organization that presented information at the summit. One can look up current information of  shootings of and by children on this site. Who cares about the children?

And in just another average day in America, two young people are dead in a murder/suicide at a Texas college campus. Domestic disputes often spill over into public places and also way too often are the cause of mass shootings.

Asking about loaded, unsecured guns in homes can save lives. (ASK campaign)

And a health care bill passed in the House that will leave millions of Americans with no health care and lower taxes on the wealthy.

And those those with mental illness will have easier access to guns than health care.

Gun violence is a public health epidemic.

Many gun deaths and injuries are preventable and avoidable.

If we are to have the serious conversation we need and deserve to have, recognizing that there is a problem in the first place that can actually be fixed, or cured, or prevented or reduced in severity and frequency, is the most important thing we can do. Using some common sense in arguments and discussions will lead to responsible solutions.

On my plane back home from DC were at least a half dozen members of Congress, including my own, anxious to get back home for the recess ( didn’t they just have one?). While waiting to board, I spoke with my own Representative who introduced me to a Senator from a neighboring state- a Republican. We had a good discussion about health care and gun violence. We did not agree on much. But his main reason for being skeptical or against common sense solutions to save lives is one of the gun lobby’s myths. He actually believes that organizations such as the Brady Campaign and Americans for Responsible Solutions are out to get his guns. He is a lapdog for the gun lobby and will do their bidding no matter what anyone says to him.

As long as some of our politicians are in the pocket of the corporate gun lobby, we can expect to see bills that could become law that will actually make us less safe and lead to an increase in gun deaths and injuries. Is there anyone who thinks that is a good idea? The American public agrees that passing strong gun laws is a good idea.

Please make sure your own elected leaders are doing the bidding of the people and not the corporate gun lobby. We can make a difference if our voices are loud and clear about saving lives. For that is the bottom line.

Another anniversary-Columbine

Columbines blooming fresh in the springtime. Colorado state flower.In my recent post, I wrote about the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Tech mass shooting. That mass shooting occurred on April 16, 2007- ten years ago.

“April is the cruelest month” wrote T.S. Eliot.  The poet could never have predicted how true that has become for America. The poem deals with depression and what April can mean for those who are suffering from depression. Eliot’s poem takes on new meaning considering those who suffer from grief and loss over loved ones shot and killed and/or injured in the month of April. There are too many to count since 1999.

Today is the anniversary of the Columbine shooting. Yes, remember that mass shooting? It was the first school shooting to really capture Americans as it unfolded almost in real time. It was the first one that made people wonder how it could have happened and also what in God’s name could we do to stop school shooters from randomly shooting classmates.

An article with facts about Columbine provides us with the basics about the shooting. There are facts in the article but they were not fast. It was a slow moving shooting that day. The grief of the families and friends has not healed fast. Grief is under the surface until something triggers the day. A birthday. A holiday. And today, an anniversary of that day.

The article names the victims. They were somebody’s son, daughter, niece, nephew, sister, brother, father, uncle, friend. They were real people who in an instant became named victims.

Cassie Bernall, 17
Steven Curnow, 14
Corey DePooter, 17
Kelly Fleming, 16
Matthew Kechter, 16
Daniel Mauser, 15
Daniel Rohrbough, 15
William “Dave” Sanders, 47
Rachel Scott, 17
Isaiah Shoels, 18
John Tomlin, 16
Lauren Townsend, 18
Kyle Velasquez, 16

We must also remember that 20 were injured and now live with their memories and injuries- physical and emotional.

Some have already forgotten and don’t want us to remember. Others will never forget. Just as I will never forget the night I learned that my sister had been shot and killed. That memory never goes away.

And those of us who have lost a loved one look back and wonder what could have stopped the event? Was there anything anyone could have done? Can we make sure other families don’t have to remember these anniversaries?

We could, at the least,  try to stop the shooters from easily accessing guns they shouldn’t have in the first place.

Here is how the Columbine shooters obtained their guns, being too young to purchase on their own:

Robyn Anderson, a friend of Klebold and Harris, bought the shotguns and the Hi-Point 9mm Carbine at The Tanner Gun Show in December of 1998 from unlicensed sellers. Because Anderson purchased the guns for someone else, the transition constituted an illegal “straw purchase.” Klebold and Harris bought the TEC-DC9 from a pizza shop employee named Mark Manes, who knew they were too young to purchase the assault pistol, but nevertheless sold it to them for $500.

They planned ahead. Nobody knew. That is often the case but also too often someone knew that something was not right but didn’t report it or do anything about it. From the “fast facts” article above, a statement from the mother of one of the shooters:

In the first television interview since her son Dylan killed 13 people at Columbine High School, Susan Klebold speaks to Diane Sawyer. Klebold states that “If I had recognized that Dylan was experiencing some real mental distress, he would not have been there,” she says. “He would’ve gotten help. I don’t ever, for a moment, mean to imply that I’m not conscious of the fact that he was a killer, because I am.”

We have done little or nothing to change gun laws and our gun culture in spite of horrendous mass shooting after mass shooting. We see the same things. We talk about the same things. We watch the coverage of shootings repeatedly on the news but nothing changes. The gun lobby says it’s not the guns,stupid and we couldn’t stop these shootings no matter what we do. And Presidents attend memorial services. And families grieve. And politicians put their heads in the sand and hope no one asks them what they want to do to stop shootings from happening so families don’t have to continue remembering the day their loved ones were shot. And we go on and on and on……

This article urges passage of stronger laws and points out that states that have laws requiring all gun sales to go through a background check have fewer shootings. In other words, laws do matter. Facts matter. From the article:

Research shows that background checks are effective when it comes to saving lives. States with universal background check laws experience 48 percent less gun trafficking, 47 percent fewer deaths of women shot by intimate partners, and 17 percent fewer firearms involved in aggravated assaults. States with universal background check requirements also have a 53 percent lower gun suicide rate, and 31 percent fewer suicides per capita than states without these laws.

We CAN do something. We can pass stronger gun laws such as requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales. We can pass Gun Violence Protection Orders so that families and friends can ask that guns be taken from those who could be dangerous to themselves or others. We can pass stronger laws against straw purchasing. We can wake people up to the fact that if something doesn’t seem right, it isn’t and action is necessary. We can identify that there are risks to owning guns and casually selling them to just anyone. We can hold “bad apple gun dealers” accountable and make sure guns are not being sold or exchanged with people who clearly should not have them and end as crime guns.

We can’t let Columbine be forgotten. That is what the gun lobby wants. If we forget the victims- their names and faces, maybe we will just go along and do nothing to cause “trouble” for politicians. They want to avoid the unavoidable. They want to gain the favor of the gun lobby who represent an increasingly small group of Americans who think that the “guys with the guns make the rules.”  Or they just don’t want to deal with what has become a national public health epidemic. It is not and will not be easy. But that does not mean we shouldn’t do it.

Victims continue to speak out but who is listening to them? Tom Mauser, father, of  Columbine victim Daniel Mauser, has reached out to the NRA and wants them to listen. To no avail. With every subsequent mass shooting, he will comfort other parents if they ask for him to do that. He understands. He is active in the movement to prevent gun violence. In his words ( from the article):

“For the first 10 days, I didn’t speak to the media at all. I was just in shock. […] And then suddenly, I was so angry knowing that the NRA was meeting in town that I went and spoke in front of 12,000 people.

[…]It can be shocking. After I spoke, I suddenly realized I’m going to start getting calls from the media, I’m going to start getting people who are angry at me. You really have to be prepared for that.

[…]It can get pretty overwhelming. When you become an activist, you tell your story a lot. You live that story every day anyhow, it’s not like you don’t think of your loss. But when you go in front of other people and speak about it, it’s so much more. “

We have our stories. We have the facts on our side. But the facts and our stories don’t seem to be enough. They should be but we are living in a world where big money speaks and makes policy that advantages corporations and thumbs its’ corporate and political nose at the victims and survivors.

The truth is that on April 20, 1999, 12 students and one teacher were brutally and shockingly and unexpectedly murdered for no reason other than two seemingly angry and possibly mentally ill young men wanted to shoot other kids. There is no other explanation.

What say you gun lobbyists and gun extremists? Is this OK with you? Is it just about mental illness? What if these two couldn’t have so easily accessed guns? What then?

The Columbine is Colorado’s state flower, thus the name of the school. Often names of flowers have significant meanings. For the Columbine flower there is a message:

Wherever your journey takes you stay steadfast in your faith, love and friendships. Believe in things that are not yet seen.

We have not yet seen the majority of America’s leaders step up to the challenge of gun violence. There is actually common ground on solving the issue of gun violence. The majority understands that doing something about this epidemic will save lives.

Where is common sense?

Virginia Tech-moving stones

Virginia TechIt’s Easter tomorrow for those who practice the Christian faith. It’s also the Passover season for Jews. What will the victims and survivors of the Virginia Tech shooting be doing and thinking about on the 10 year anniversary of what was our nation’s most deadly and heinous mass shooting until the Sandy Hook shooting took the lives of 20 first graders and 6 educators and the Orlando nightclub shooting took the lives of 50- yes 50 innocent Americans?

When will we ever learn?

The grief of the Virginia Tech shooting victims is matched by the grief of 90 families a day after a gunshot injury became a gun death due to homicide, suicide or an “accidental” gun discharge. This is the daily carnage and the daily news in America in spite of holidays, families pleading for common sense and brave elected leaders willing to stand up to the corporate gun lobby and demand that the devastation be, at the least, reduced and at the most prevented.

We know there is no way to stop all shootings but shouldn’t we at least try? When a public health epidemic that takes the lives of so many people every year (32,000-33,000) we always get busy to study why and then recommend changes or cures that can prevent the cause of the disease or cause of death.

In America, instead, we are making things worse by loosening gun laws at the state and federal level. Why? Good question. I don’t really believe that the gun lobby wants people to die. They couldn’t could they? They must be affected by the photos and videos of all of the shootings that take place on a regular basis everywhere.

So why do they resist gun safety reform and efforts to prevent shootings so vigorously?

It’s a question that we must ask and it needs an answer.

Following the money is one answer. Power and control is another.

Meanwhile, while we are trying to figure out how to work around the money and profits of the gun industry and the outsized power of the NRA and other organizations, mass shootings continue unabated:

Perhaps because Virginia Tech’s fatality count was so high, most of the school shootings that followed didn’t receive the attention they might have in the decade prior to the massacre.

Are these kinds of shooting becoming normalized to the public or is it they don’t want to hear about them because they feel helpless to do anything about them? They are NOT normal and we can’t let them become normal. It is simply not normal for someone to walk into a school and spray bullets around killing random, or sometimes, selected victims.

And of course, the “everyday” shootings happen without much media coverage and every day, ordinary people’s lives are changed forever. You may know some of these people. They are living close to you- in your neighborhoods and communities. They are remembering lost loved ones every day. This is not normal.

Memorials to victims have become normal. Flowers, candles, teddy bears, hearts, cards, bell ringings, stones.

Memorials sprout up all over the country. In the case of Virginia Tech it was stones. From the article in The Trace:

Without realizing it, the kids at Virginia Tech were propelled by the same instinct that leaves mourners in America’s cities searching their surroundings for a way to honor shooting victims whose deaths often go unnoticed outside their neighborhoods. In Lexington, Kentucky, last fall, high schoolers laced track shoes to a chain link fence in homage to a slain 15-year-old runner, Trinity Gay. After a homicide in New York City, lampposts sprouted roses and sidewalks glittered with liquor bottles. In Cincinnati, a menagerie of stuffed animals was deployed to guard the home of a 9-year-old. (…)

The permanent memorial was dedicated with a ceremony on August 19, 2007, four months and three days after the massacre. Thousands of people gathered on the lawn that day, sporting their Hokie colors of maroon and orange. The university president spoke. A bell tolled 32 times. Each original stone had been placed in a mahogany box with a hinged lid, like a miniature coffin. Later, the boxes would be delivered to the families of the victims.

Uma Loganathan can hardly remember the dedication; grief seems to have blurred many of her memories from that time. What she does remember is that first semicircle of stones set earnestly upon the grass, their rough edges befitting of her sorrow.

“Befitting of her sorrow”…. Can anything befit the sorrow we all feel after losing a loved one to gun violence? Or having a close call as did my friend Lori Hass, mother of a Virginia Tech survivor?

Like other survivors, I got into this GVP movement because of what happened. But that’s in the past and what we’re working for is a future where there’s less gun violence and where we’re doing more to prevent it. Our goals are to take the evidence and the policies that work and begin to apply as many as are appropriate. For example, we understand that domestic violence situations become exponentially more lethal when there’s a firearm introduced. Road rage with a firearm can turn lethal. Confrontation in the streets become lethal when there’s a firearm. Toddlers have killed more Americans than terrorists if you look at the numbers over time — all because somebody was careless and left firearms out and unsecured.

Lori Haas speaks during a vigil outside the U.S. Capitol on April 16, 2013, to remember those murdered and demand congressional action on gun legislation.

ALAMY

We want policies that make us all safer. We think domestic abusers shouldn’t have access to guns. We think that there should be a background check on all buyers — how do you stop a prohibited buyer from purchasing a gun if you don’t do a background check to figure out if he or she is prohibited? We believe that you should have to have hands-on training around concealed carry. We think there should be penalties so that gun owners must properly store and secure their firearms so that children can’t get access to them. We think there should be limitations on the type of firepower that everyday citizens can carry on our street. The efficacy of a lot of those policies have been proven in other states and those states have fewer deaths. New York’s gun death rate per 100,000 is in the low, low single digits. Virginia’s is 10.9.

It’s devastating for all of the families, me included, to relive the trauma each time another school shooting occurs. And you can’t help but relive it. What we’re also really traumatized by is the fact that someone else is now added to the club nobody wants to be in: the one where your loved one’s been shot and killed or injured. But [that] club is strong, the club is active, the club is compassionate and supportive. I know dozens of families from dozens of mass shootings. Every day we have gun violence in America, so there is a camaraderie that’s very understood by those [who have experienced it].

Ten years ago tomorrow, the feelings will re-emerge of how things went down that day ten years ago. Lori gives a very moving testimony to how one family experienced the horrendous shooting of 32.

Tomorrow will also be Easter. A stone figures prominently in the Easter story. Stones can be moved but they are hard to move and they are hard to destroy. Tombstones are made of stone for a reason. They signify a marker where a loved one is buried and they are there mostly forever. So are the memories of our lost loved ones.

Tomorrow, please remember these 32. See their photos. Say their names.

We Will Not Forget

Families have approved and released these official biographies and photos of our 32 fallen Hokies. Please join us in remembering and honoring their lives by clicking on their names or photos.

And then work with Lori Hass, Colin Goddard, Andy Goddard and the millions of us involved in preventing the next one of these shootings. Colin has been an advocate for gun violence prevention since he was shot and injured in the shooting. The film, Living for 32, features Colin’s story and his efforts to expose the lack of Brady background checks on all gun sales.

We should not have to erect stone memorials to victims. We should not have to move stones to get the attention of the public and elected leaders about our deadly gun violence epidemic. We should expect that our leaders do this without question in the name of the victims and common sense. If we are to change the conversation and change the culture, we need more than memorials, thoughts, prayers, flowers, etc.

WE NEED ACTION. Get involved in the name of the victims and just because losing 90 Americans a day to gunshot injuries is not normal and not acceptable. Let’s get to work.

 

Minnesota’s latest gun madness

madnessWe ought to be angry. We ought to be outraged over the madness that is gun violence. There are a lot of things about which to feel outrage in this political atmosphere. One of them just has to be the continuing devastation of gun violence in our country- in every state. We ought to be outraged that we aren’t talking about the risks of gun ownership that causes so many senseless and avoidable deaths and injuries. We ought to be outraged that so many people who should not be able to get their hands on guns get them anyway because we have failed to pass measures to stop them.

For example-  A St. Thomas University  (Minnesota)  student, handling a gun in a dorm ( where guns are not allowed by the way) “accidentally “discharged the gun and injured another student when a bullet went through the wall of a dorm room.

Accidental? Seems purposeful to me when someone brings a gun into a place where they are not allowed and then takes it out for some reason and irresponsibly shoots an innocent person. More from the article:

A University of St. Thomas student was accidentally shot Friday night inside a residence hall, authorities said.

The student was injured seriously enough to require surgery after a gun was accidentally discharged in another room, sending a bullet through a wall in Flynn Hall, the university said Saturday.

Guns don’t shoot people of course. People do.

In St. Paul a family is decimated and devastated by a domestic homicide/suicide committed during a custody battle over a young child:

Hernandez Foster said that the 20-year-old man suspected of killing her family members was involved in an intense custody dispute with one of the slain young women over the 18-month-old girl. Accounts from her and others who knew the family reveal the night’s carnage as a sprawling act of domestic violence. (…)

“Our lives will never be the same again,” she said. “I want to make sure that the investigation prevails and that we find all the details of the madness that happened.”

Their names are Maria McIntosh,  Wade McIntosh, Olivia McIntosh.

Madness it is. It happens every day in America because we have done nothing to stop it.

This more recent article details the angry phone call between the parents of the young child before the shooting occurred. It appeared that there had also been domestic abuse but not documented.

Yes, it was purposeful and happened because of anger, anxiety, custody of a child, loss of control and…. an available gun.

Two people shot at each other in Prior Lake, MN from their cars and were injured:

Witnesses reported seeing gunfire coming from one of the vehicles and directed toward the other around 8 p.m. on County Road 21 near Carriage Hills Parkway, said Police Chief Mark Elliott.

Why? We will hopefully find out but the reason doesn’t really matter does it? All we know is that these two irresponsible gun owners decided to “solve a problem” with guns fired from moving cars not thinking about where the bullets would end up. Bullets do fly for long distances and often hit innocent “targets”.

And it was purposeful.

In another Minnesota shooting, something strange happened:

The charging document continues that Johnson cooperated with police, saying he met Glover at Don’s Car Wash a couple months ago. Johnson said he was the manager there, and had recently fired Glover. He also explained that he was letting Glover live in his garage, adding Glover was “a really good guy” and had gotten “caught up in some s***”. Johnson said another friend made allegations that Glover had stolen some coins and was going to come over to see if they were there.

“I got worried,” court documents say Johnson tells detectives. “I grabbed my gun and I loaded it and it was sitting in the garage.”

The documents also say Johnson admitted to snorting methamphetamine earlier that day. He goes on, describing how he started boxing up Glover’s belongings that were in the garage, also talking about how he thought Glover may have tampered with the ammunition in his gun. Johnson says Glover arrived about a half hour later, walked up to the garage and an argument broke out over the theft accusations.

Glover, documents say, pushed past Johnson, saying he was going through his stuff to look for drugs. Johnson says Glover came out of the room in the garage, Johnson held the pistol up and Glover said “you pull a pistol on me?” and “I’m going to break your f****** neck”. Johnson told police Glover was 4-5 feet away and he pulled the trigger, but the gun misfired. Documents say Glover took a breath and froze. Johnson says he started pulling the trigger again, this time the gun firing, Glover saying “you shot me” over and over. Johnson said Glover started towards him then, and Johnson fired two more times.

See if you can figure this one out. It seems that drugs were a factor. Paranoia. Anger. Suspicion. And a gun was available. Two men who had worked together, one for the other, are now forever linked together by a shooting. One is dead. The other is charged for murder. Nothing will ever be the same. And for what?

I guess one could always say that shootings are strange because they are not normal. The gun lobby seems to believe they are because as long as their second amendment rights are preserved there are bound to be some consequences. The consequences are death and injuries.

But one more- A Grand Rapids father with diagnosed depression over many years had a gun. He used it to kill himself and shoot and injure his own son:

Both parties had been shot in the head in an attempted murder-suicide scenario, said Sgt. Bob Stein, an investigator with the Grand Rapids Police Department. The boy remained in critical condition Friday in a Duluth hospital, Stein added.

“He’d been suffering with depression since the age of 14,” said Stein of the elder Krauss.

A 9mm handgun was found at the scene and is presumed to have been the weapon involved, Stein said. The man had a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon and had purchased the gun on March 22, Stein said.

Is this what we have come to expect now? People with guns in their homes can and do use them to commit tragic acts like this one which would have been far more difficult without that gun accessible. Another Minnesota family is devastated by gun violence and will never be the same.

It was purposeful. The shooter had a valid Minnesota permit to carry that gun. He was supposed to be safe and responsible with the gun. But he wasn’t. Why did he have a permit? Under the loose “shall issue” permitting system in Minnesota it is assumed that people who get their permits do not have problems that could make them dangerous to themselves or others. This is not the case, of course.

I can’t leave this post without writing about the latest news story that barely got a mention in the media because of all of the other strange things going on in the national news. But another domestic dispute spilled into a workplace at a San Bernardino elementary school where a teacher, the shooter and an innocent 8 year old boy are dead. The shooter apparently had a domestic dispute with his estranged wife:

“He came in, and very, very quickly upon entering the classroom started shooting,” Burguan said.
Anderson also reloaded after firing what is believed to have been a .357-caliber revolver, the police chief said.
Burguan said preliminary information indicates the two were recently married.
“I’m told that their marriage was relatively short. They’ve only been married for a few months and they’ve been separated for about the last month, month-and-a-half, roughly, when this incident took place,” he said. “But there’s nobody that in the investigation has come forward to say that they saw this coming.”
Her name was Karen Smith.
The thing is, people often don’t see it coming. But when a gun is available to settle what the shooter believes is a problem or is jealous or angry or depressed, things happen quickly and we learn the story later. I know this one from personal experience. (Her name was Barbara Lund).
In addition, this shooter should definitely not have had a gun:
The police chief said Anderson “does have a criminal history.”
Court records showed that he had faced criminal charges of brandishing a weapon, assault and crimes against public peace in 2013, with those charges later “dismissed or not prosecuted.” There had also been two petitions for temporary restraining orders filed against him by women in previous years.
California does have strict gun laws. We don’t know how or where he got his gun. Guns are often available to those who want them through many channels. And since we have not chosen to close the channels, we have come to expect that these things will happen.
We do have some facts that matter about guns and domestic violence however that should make us all pause- and then get to work. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has this to say:

Guns pose a particular threat in the hands of domestic abusers.1

  • Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm.2
  • Domestic violence assaults involving a gun are 12 times more likely to result in death than those involving other weapons or bodily force.3
  • More than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims between 1980 and 2008 were killed with firearms.4
  • In 2011, nearly two-thirds of women killed with guns were killed by their intimate partners.5
Whether purposeful or accidental, what I know and what the stories tell us is that we need a whole lot more common sense and courage to prevent some of these shootings. Both seem to be in short supply.
Some states, including my own, have passed laws to remove guns from domestic abusers. This seems like a very good idea given what we know. But until we pass even more laws, such as universal Brady background check laws to prevent prohibited purchasers from getting their hands on guns no matter where they go to buy them, we are failing women and children. And one bill that has been introduced in Minnesota ( and other states and passed in California) is a Gun Violence Protection Order. Of course as long as lapdog politicians are in charge of legislatures and the Congress, this, too, does not even see the light of day. And we are failing our families because of this lack of courage and conviction.
As long as we let the gun lobby make the rules and hijack the conversation, we are failing our families.
I don’t know about you, but I will not stop working to prevent and reduce the devastating gun violence that has affected so many families and communities in my state and in our country. It doesn’t have to be this way and I just know we are better than this.
Are you angry and outraged yet?
Let’s get to work and insist that our leaders do something about our serious public health epidemic of gun violence.