Another epidemic amidst the pandemic

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Good morning. As I write this I sit in my cabin coronavirus hide-away looking at the sun begin to shine across the lake. It’s Easter week-end. We will not be spending Easter with our family as we often have done on this holiday week-end at our cabin. Instead, it’s just the two of us. We will connect with our kids and grandkids via one of the various apps designed to hold face to face virtual conversations. It will have to suffice. Instead of hugs it will be a chance just to see everyone and know they are OK.

Our daughter is a health care provider but not one on the front lines in a hospital. For that we give thanks this week-end. Her job has been affected by the coronavirus in that her healthcare system has had to furlough doctors, physician assistants, nurses, lab techs and others because they are bleeding money. She has taken a one week furlough without pay as have thousands of other professional staff so the hospitals can serve the coronavirus patients. She is lucky that has a job and that it is essential as she answers patient calls and has seen some patients in her office who are not COVID related. So far in Minnesota, we have had fewer than many other states but we know it’s coming here. My county has experienced an increase in cases of late.

Just as the pandemic has caused confusion, distress, disastrous changes to life as we know it and death, so has gun violence. Gun violence prevention advocates have been talking about and writing about our concerns that the surge of gun buying left possible because gun shops have been deemed essential businesses during the pandemic will result in increased probability of suicide, domestic shootings and unintentional shootings. It’s happening. Gun deaths have not been reduced during the pandemic as you might think could happen. There are fewer people out and about on our streets so certain types of gun violence are likely reduced due to young urban men shooting at each other. We won’t know this for sure until we can do more study and research during and after the pandemic surge abates.

Brady is keeping track of shootings though so we have some data. It is not pretty. We know people are dying of coronavirus now- a new disease requiring data so we know exactly how many people have the disease and how many are dying. This is crucial to stemming the disease and getting us back to some sense of normalcy. Unfortunately our testing capabilities are woefully inadequate to the task at hand. In spite of what our President says, we are not testing enough people so we can track the disease and figure out how to get our economy up and running.

Just as we have not done enough research into the causes and effects of gun violence and kept better figures about deaths and injuries. Facts matter. Research matters. Understanding reality matters. In order to cure and reduce deaths, sickness, and injuries we need facts. But when some with an agenda keep the facts away from the public and stop research, we are left with ignorance- on purpose. The CDC, now struggling to provide us with the information we need and the testing that is crucial, was stopped from researching gun violence years ago in an attempt to keep us from learning the facts about gun violence. Thank you corporate gun lobby and the elected officials who allowed this to happen. ( sarcasm intended)

After shootings like Sandy Hook and Parkland, others have filled the void. The Trace is one example as they write about and provide crucial information about our gun violence epidemic. The Gun Violence Archive has provided us with information about daily shootings that has proved to be invaluable in understanding the spread of gun violence around he country.

Just a little from the new Brady tracking of shootings ( above link):

The COVID-19 global pandemic risks exacerbating gun violence in all of its forms, including domestic violenceunintentional shootingsfirearm suicide, and everyday gun violence. So far, the devastating results have left public health and government officials pleading for an end to the violence, as gun violence victims compete for space and vital resources inside our health system’s overcrowded intensive care units.

“Doctors like me are trying to keep the world safe from the coronavirus pandemic. But thousands of families in America are already caught in the country’s existing epidemic: gun violence.”Dr. Elinore Kaufman, a fellow in surgical critical care and trauma surgery at the University of Pennsylvania.

When our nation overcomes the COVID-19 global pandemic, the epidemic of gun violence will not have paused. One woman will still be shot and killed by a former or current partner nearly every 16 hours; eight children and teens will still be unintentionally injured or killed due to an unlocked or unsupervised gun in the home; and Black men will still be 13 times more likely than white men to be shot and killed with a gun.

When you look at the incidents of gun violence, broken down by “category” you can see the number of domestic related shootings, the number of unintentional shootings, the number related directly to coronavirus, and the number of suicides (less information available about suicides because of lack of reporting)

I participated in a Webinar this past week sponsored by Brady to learn more about our response to the surge in gun buying and what that will mean for our families. It is not a pretty picture. I learned that some of the reasons people are buying guns is because of the fear of a breakdown in our society, a fear that law enforcement will be sick with the virus and unable to respond to threats to safety, and fear of prisoners released during the pandemic ( most of whom were convicted of non- violent crimes).

These are scary times for sure. We already knew that we had a gun violence epidemic and that gun deaths and injuries have been on the rise in recent years. Now we know that because of the current pandemic, gun violence may increase more. Guns don’t wear out. Many of the gun buyers during this surge of purchases are first time buyers making even some of the gun shop owners nervous. The guns will be in homes long after the pandemic abates. That means, inevitably, more deaths and injuries. Common sense tells us that this will be true. More guns = more shootings and more death and injury. That has always been true.

The key to stemming this tide of violence, if we can do so, is to strongly encourage safe storage of guns. Guns must be stored unloaded and locked away from those who should not be able to access them. We know that small children are curious and can access guns easily when they are left unsecured. We know that suicides are more successful with guns than other methods. We know that domestic abusers use guns to threaten and injure or kill spouses and partners. We know these things.

And we cannot have this discussion without talking about expanding background checks to all gun sales. If a domestic abuser wants a gun he ( or she) can easily get one through a private sale. Extreme Risk Protection Orders are very important now that so many guns in homes where the risk of someone being a danger to him or herself or someone else is very real. Also making sure gun sales do not proceed after the 3 day wait ( called the Charleston loophole) without a background check is more important than ever but the U.S. Senate has failed to even hear that bill after it passed in the House last year.

Now more than ever stronger gun laws are essential to pass. That should be an essential service to our communities and our families.

Check out End Family Fire for all the reasons we should be concerned about the risks of guns in homes.

Please talk to friends and family about guns in their homes at this stressful and volatile time. Please tell them to store guns safely if they feel they must have them. Guns will not protect us from the coronavirus. They will make us less safe. Please talk to friends and family who may be experiencing domestic strife to make sure guns are kept away from abusers and to be mindful of the risk they pose to our families. Domestic abuse organizations are still working and are a resource for victims of abuse. Please refer those who you think may be at risk for suicide to the suicide hotline. There has been an unfortunate exponential increase to the calls to the hotline.

There is so much more to write about and I will be doing so in the coming days about the surge of gun buying in the midst of a pandemic and the risks of guns in the home. Please stay safe at home and spend some virtual time with your families on this holiday week-end.

Below are some resources for families.

Suicidehotlines.com At this site you can find hotlines specific to your state.

Here is domestic abuse hotline information.

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Lasting effects of gun violence

Today is the “anniversary” of the attempt to assassinate President Reagan. As we know, President Reagan survived the shooting and was back at work leading the country within the following month. But it was never the same for James Brady, President Reagan’s press secretary who suffered grievous injuries on March 30, 1981:

Besides Reagan, White House Press Secretary James BradySecret Service agent Tim McCarthy, and police officer Thomas Delahanty were also wounded. All three survived, but Brady suffered brain damage and was permanently disabled; Brady’s death in 2014 was considered a homicide because it was ultimately caused by this injury

His life became that of a survivor with continuing health and physical challenges. He retained his sense of humor and did the best he could to be cheerful. I met Brady once at a lunch for Brady United Against Gun Violence and spoke with him briefly. It was hard to understand him as his speech production was affected by his injuries. It was such an honor to be able to speak with him and meet him for the first time.

Sarah Brady became a force in the effort to get the Brady law eventually passed after 6 tries in 7 years. Because of her tireless and selfless efforts, we are safer now from gun violence. That is what drove her to keep going back to Congress to demand that something be done to stop people, like the man who shot her husband, from getting guns in the first place.

I served with Sarah on the Brady board and came to appreciate her wry humor, her feisty personality and plain spokenness. She was not afraid to speak up, to criticize when she thought something was wrong, to be appreciative when things were done right, and to engage in the important discussions about gun violence prevention. Sarah died in 2015 from cancer.

Since the shooting on March 30, 1981 that left Jim Brady permanently disabled, over one million Americans have died of gunshot injuries.

After the Brady Bill was enacted into law in 1993, a system of instant background checks on gun purchasers was set up by the FBI. The database includes the following:

  1. Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  2. Is a fugitive from justice;
  3. Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
  4. Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution;
  5. Is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
  6. Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
  7. Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced U.S. citizenship;
  8. Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner, or;
  9. Has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

These prohibited gun purchaser categories are used by federally licensed firearms dealers to check the status of someone who wants to buy a gun. At the point of purchase, the buyer completes a Form 4473 to complete the purchase.

Because of the passage of the Brady law, over 3 million people seeking to purchase a gun from a licensed firearms dealer have been prohibited from doing so because they fall into one of the above categories. There is no question that Brady background checks have and do save lives.

As of the time of Sarah Brady’s death she was working on, along with many others in the gun violence prevention movement, expanding this system of background checks to all private sellers. What is generally referred to as a loophole in the law allows for private sellers to sell guns to anyone without requiring a background check. This loophole is equivalent to allowing some physicians, some teachers, some public accountants, some other professionals to practice their careers without being checked out to make sure they are not a felon, a domestic abuser, an illegal drug user, etc. That is the way it should be.

Especially now with the coronavirus outbreak, we certainly want patients to be treated by licensed professionals. And especially now when the Health and Human Services Department has deemed that gunshops are essential businesses with a surge in gun sales, we should want all gun sales to have a background check. These are stressful, dangerous and perilous times in the history of our country. There is a lot of fear and misinformation floating around as well as anxiety, depression and anger. When President Trump pronounced on Saturday that we was concerned about the potential for suicides, he forgot to mention that he had not shut down gun shops to make the means for suicide less likely. Whether he is right or wrong doesn’t it make common sense to stop one of the most efficient methods of suicide by shutting down gun shops? Suicide by gun accounts for at least half of all suicides; suicide by gun accounts for the majority of our gun deaths.

Something does not make sense with passing a law that made so much common sense and then letting some gun sales go without the checks that save lives. Something does not make sense in letting people who could be dangerous to themselves or others to buy a gun from a private seller without making sure that person can be responsible and safe. Something does not make sense that in this time of uncertainty, some counties across our states are declaring themselves second amendment sanctuaries to law enforcement ostensibly will not have to enact laws already on the books or new laws passed in many states to save lives.

Some things do not make sense. The shooting of Jim Brady did not make sense. My sister’s shooting did not make sense. The mass shootings at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Las Vegas, El Paso, Virginia Beach, Red Lake, Parkland, and all of the others so frequently occurring in our country don’t make any sense. Something does not make sense about stockpiling guns in this time of uncertainty. Something does not make sense about a public health epidemic out of control not receiving the attention it deserved and deserves.

But in this time of another public health pandemic, most things are shut down and on hold, including actions in Congress and state legislatures to deal with gun violence prevention. We will not forget. We will keep working on keeping Americans safe long after the current epidemic slows. A piece written by Jonathan Lowy from the Brady Center explains why this is so crucial:

The risks are great that guns will be stored unsafely and accessible to children and others who should not have access to them. And your semiautomatic can’t fend off the coronavirus, no matter how large your ammunition magazine is.

But there is an even more fundamental problem that may be at play with at least some of the binge-buying of guns. Some have a sense, it appears, that society may break down under the weight of this pandemic, and Americans will end up fighting each other for supplies, or food, or to maintain safety.  

In this post-apocalyptic Hobbesian state, guns will be needed. This is the same worldview that the National Rifle Association has been stoking for decades to fuel the notion that a gun is necessary for self-protection, evidenced by an inflammatory tweet last week. Some will even add, that is what the Framers intended when they wrote the Second Amendment into our Constitution. (…) And when we come out of this coronavirus, we must recommit to repairing the breaches of our society and establishing a caring community in which Americans recognize we are in this together, as a nation and, indeed, a world. Stockpiling firearms is not the answer and is contradictory to the very notions of government and society upon which our nation was founded.

Lowy is so right. We will come out of this on the other side. Many hundreds of thousands will have died or been changed forever by this time in our history. It would be an added tragedy to add gun avoidable and senseless deaths to coronavirus deaths.

The toll will be more than we can imagine right now. The toll of gun deaths has been more than we can fathom for decades. The bell tolls for the hundreds of thousands who will die or be affected.

Please be safe and healthy. These are difficult times. Having a gun in the home right now can make households and families less safe. If you own a gun please store it securely and unloaded. Please don’t let children or teens get their hands on a gun right now or ever. End Family Fire is working on awareness of the risks of guns in homes.

Sarah Brady knew the risks of guns owned by those who shouldn’t have them. I know the risks of guns in homes with domestic and marital strife. Too many parents have found out the hard way about the risks of guns to children who accessed them in curious moments. Too many families have found that a suicide by gun has forever changed their lives. Too many mass shootings have proven why we need to continue this national discussion about gun violence.

The stockpiling mentality

Thanks to Guns Down America for this image

Like all of you, my mind has been on many important daily life decisions. My husband and I have moved to our cabin to practice good social distancing. We have the amenities we need and the supplies to last for a few weeks but we do have some grocery and convenience stores 15 minutes away so we can replenish. We have tried hard not to hoard items needed by others. About 3 weeks ago, while spending some time at our cabin I did a little shopping and noticed some things in the center aisle of the local Walmart store including large bottles of hand sanitizer, packages of Clorox wipes and also some smaller bottles of hand sanitizer. I am the kind of person who does like to be prepared so I bought one of each. Little did I know that within a week or so, these items would be out of stock.

For some reason toilet paper has been the item most coveted by customers. I guess we can’t do without it and maybe we ought to consider the European and Japanese practice of using bidets to clean their bottoms after using the toilet. People have been posting about this on Facebook. It would also solve the problem os using up our precious resources for bodily functions.

Lots of changes and interruptions to our daily lives have caused anxiety and stress for many. That is why I want to talk about another product on the market that Americans are buying in large numbers or stockpiling- that would be guns and ammunition. Already many Americans have been stockpiling guns and ammunition in readiness for some sort of government take-over, or confiscation, or an actual civil war. I have written about this before in another post. A small percentage of Americans own a large number of guns. From the above linked article:

Gun sales are surging in many U.S. states, especially in those hit hardest by the coronavirus — California, New York and Washington. But there’s also been an uptick in less-affected areas, with some first-time gun buyers fearing an unraveling of the social order and some gun owners worried that the government might use its emergency powers to restrict gun purchases.

An incident at a St. Louis Missouri Walmart is just one example of many to come with more guns in public places during our national crisis:

The call for police came about 7:42 p.m. after a customer, a 60-year-old man, reportedly got into an argument with a Walmart employee.

The customer assaulted the employee, and they began fighting until the customer pulled a gun out of his pocket. The Walmart employee grabbed the customer’s hand and a shot fired into the ceiling, police said.

By the way, I have also written often about gun incidents at Walmart stores. What’s the problem with Walmart and guns? Just asking…..

What in the world is the importance of having guns and ammunition in this national health care pandemic? I don’t get it. Guns can’t protect people from the disease certainly. Are people afraid of other people? Are they afraid of being robbed? Are they ready in case a stranger comes asking for help to shoot that person just in case?

What if I’m at the local grocery store and I take the last loaf of bread off the shelf? If the man or woman a few feet away also wants that bread and is armed, will he or she point a gun at me to get the bread? That’s what I’m afraid of.

What if someone loses their job and is feeling depressed and angry with the world and has a loaded gun at the ready? Will that person use that gun on a family member or him or herself? Possibly. That’s what we need to be afraid of.

The truth is that in these trying times families are spending more time together in smaller spaces unable to go out and do the usual activities. Tempers flare. Depression happens. Angry moments could turn deadly with a gun at the ready. Small kids and teens, now home from school, can find unsecured guns and use one for suicide by gun or unintentionally shooting someone else or him or herself. This is real. It is not a made up supposition because in “normal” times these kinds of incidents happen almost every day.

End Family Fire reminds families about the risks of loaded guns unsecured in homes for children. But also for teens. And don’t forget that one of the items someone may want to steal are your guns and ammunition and then your own weapons could be in the hands of someone who should not have access to guns.

As financial worries continue with loss of jobs, the drop in the stock market, and not enough money to purchase the necessities it’s really hard to imagine spending a lot of money on guns and ammunition. Guns are not cheap. According to an article in my local paper, it’s the ammunition but also handguns and AR-15s. Why AR-15s? We aren’t having large gatherings so mass shootings with assault style weapons should be on the decrease. How many people does someone need to shoot in their madness over the national coronavirus disaster? From the article:

“Panic buying is never good,” she said. “It disrupts everything. This may be the third or fourth time this has happened, but you want a store that’s stocked. You want to be able to plan. I know that sounds backward, but we want enough ammo for everybody.”

That’s not the case, however, as locally ammunition has been disappearing fast. The Northland is beginning to mirror the country as a whole as buyers begin to gobble up weapons and ammunition as state and federal guidance advises isolation away from even modest-sized groups amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition the article mentions the problem with a backlog of background checks. That is not a good thing but at least buying from a federally licensed firearms dealers requires a background check so the guns won’t get into the wrong hands:

It’s not just ammo and the guns that are being impacted. The required background checks on firearms sales aren’t processing as swiftly as usual.

“The system can only handle so many people, and it’s really gotten backed up,” Kukull said. “You might have to wait a week or more. It has nothing to do with the customers’ backgrounds; it only has to do with the system being overwhelmed.”

Even though we are all worried and scared, common sense needs to be the deciding factor in keeping ourselves and our families safe. Guns just won’t do it. But washing hands, using hand sanitizer if you have it, keeping social distance and not going out with friends will be the best way to keep families safe.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, 8250 Americans have died from gunshot injuries in 2020. Coronavirus will exceed this quickly- as I write this the number of cases reported is 7323 and the number of deaths is 115.

Please stay safe and practice good health habits. Keep your families safe but if are one of those people stockpiling guns and ammunition, for goodness sake, lock them up away from the ammunition. You could save lives of others or even your own.

International Women’s Day

Today is a day to celebrate women all over the world. We have only to look a few decades back to when women in America finally got the vote after years of protesting, organizing, and being arrested to understand why we need a day of celebration of women. Women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton persisted in spite of the men who were as determined that they should not be able to vote as they were that they had the right to vote. They are role models to all women even today.

Women are superheroes- they are working mothers, they are stay at home mothers, they are sisters and grandmas who serve as CEOs, and in all professions that just decades ago were almost all occupied by men. The world has changed thanks to the persistence of women.

I am a proud member of the League of Women Voters in my community. The League has served to educate, engage and activate women on issues of concern- not just women’s issues- all issues. Many women leaders and elected leaders have come from that organization over the years. I stand on the shoulders of many great women leaders and organizers.Don

Of course, the Million Mom March was the springboard for many of us now and remaining involved in the gun violence prevention movement. One woman, Donna Dees Thomases, after seeing small children being led out of a Jewish Community Center day care center in L.A. in 1999 after a shooter wounded several inside, got a permit for a march on the Mall in D.C. And then the Columbine shooting happened. Mothers ( and parents) all over the country watched in horror as kids were shot down in a school in Colorado. And then they got mad and got organized.

The rest is history. I attended the march in 2000 in Washington D.C. and was moved, angered, and energized after observing so many victims and survivors of gun violence with names of loved ones killed by bullets on their hats, shirts and signs. Some of the mothers of kids injured in the day care center are still involved with gun violence prevention. We are now merged with Brady and there are chapters all over the country populated by mothers and others. We persist in pushing for stronger gun laws all over the country, including in my own state of Minnesota.

Brady is celebrating the women who got involved and stayed involved in videos sent out to supporters before the coming 20th anniversary of the Million Mom March. After the 2000 march, the organization name was changed to Brady because of the efforts of Sarah Brady, wife of James Brady, President Reagan’s Press Secretary, shot in the assassination attempt on Reagan’s life in 1981. Sarah persisted in her efforts to get the Brady Law passed and finally won. The law has been in effect since 1994.

And Brady’s capable leader is Kris Brown, a powerful and effective woman leading one of the country’s oldest gun violence prevention organization.

Spurred on by the horrendous shooting of 20 young children at Sandy Hook Elementary school in 2012, Moms Demand Action for GunSense in America was founded by Shannon Watts. Hundreds of thousands of women and others belong to chapters of MDA in every state in the country.

Women have been victims of many domestic and other shootings. My sister was just one of many of these women. Victims of domestic violence are FIVE times more likely to be murdered if their abuser obtains a gun according to Brady.

According to Giffords ( an organization formed after a woman Congress member, Gabby Giffords, was shot and severely wounded in a mass shooting in 2011):

The firearm homicide rate for women in the US is nearly 16 times higher than that in other high-income countries.
Laws that prohibit firearms after a domestic violence restraining order is issued are associated with a 13% decrease in firearm intimate partner homicides.

As long as the Senate refuses to act on bills that will keep guns away from domestic abusers, women will continue to be at risk. For the first time since the Violence of Women Act passed in 1994 the Senate has refused to pass this bill. From this New York Times article:

“The bill has three broad, but simple, goals: to make streets safer for women; to make homes safer for women; and to protect women’s civil rights,” Joseph R. Biden Jr., one of the bill’s sponsors when he was a Delaware senator, said in 1990.

That summer, survivors delivered stirring testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. At the time, the Senate had only two women and the proposal had little support from women’s groups or civil rights groups.

There is one reason why Senator Mitch McConnell and most Republicans refuse to re-authorize the act:

There’s already a law on the books to keep guns out of the hands of spouses convicted of such crimes, and Democrats and some Republicans have long wanted to extend that restriction to partners. But the National Rifle Association is opposed, and that’s why the bill is stalled in the Senate.

“The objection doesn’t make any sense if the idea is to be consistent and to protect women,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) told VICE News. “At this point, we don’t see why we wouldn’t close that loophole.”

Are we going to let a minority of gun owners and Americans decide what is best for women? If the violence was happening to men, would the act be stalled? I think we know the answer. The same is true of women’s health care and women making their own decisions about their bodies. The fact that men want to control women’s bodies is just another example of why we must celebrate women on this day.

Everyone is affected by gun violence- men, women, transgender and GLBTQ Americans of all ages and races. But when it comes to domestic violence, it is most often the women who become the victims. And many of our mass shootings are spawned by a domestic dispute:

But scientists say the real problem is that violent, impulsive, and angry men are getting their hands on guns.

Many of the shooters behind the deadliest mass shootings in modern America (listed below) committed violence against women, threatened violence against women, or disparaged women.

Suicides become homicide/suicides as well as (mostly) men who are angry, depressed or upset about a relationship or something else are suicidal but also shoot someone else:

In a comparison of homicides-suicides in the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States (using NVDRS data), major differences — e.g., Switzerland and the U.S. have much higher rates of homicide-suicide than the Netherlands — are explainable by the availability of firearms.

The bottom line is that women are often the ones on the front lines of the fight against gun violence. They are also on the front lines of those affected by gun violence. Today is a day to remember and celebrate women all over the world who have fought against violence against women and for women’s rights. Being a woman in many countries is dangerous and difficult. When heroes like Malala Yousafzei step up, it gives other women and girls the courage to do the same. She was the victim of a terrible shooting and survived to speak up. And, of course, it took a Swedish teen-ager, Greta Thunberg, to lead the world wide effort against climate change.

Women are about 50% of the population but still not where we should be regarding influence and leadership on the most important issues of the day. If even half of the world’s and our own country’s leaders were women, I believe many issues would be looked at and solved differently.

The day after President Trump was sworn in as the 45th President, a million women and others (including myself) marched in Washington D.C. bringing in more people than attended the inauguration. Several hundred thousand others marched in cities all over the world in concert with the march in D.C. Women have led the way against a misogynistic man whose reputation with women and statements made during the campaign angered and invigorated women to act. The march organizers held workshops on running for office and run they did. The historic 2018 election saw 90 newly elected women take office in Congress.

When women run for office they serve as role models to girls and women as well. The 2020 Presidential race is an example of how difficult it is to run as a woman to lead our country. It’s discouraging that so many believe that a woman cannot be the Commander in Chief. That’s nonsense. Women are tough. Maybe that’s the problem. When women challenge men in a relationship or in a primary or a debate, too often they become victims of the status quo.

We can and should get the background check bill passed into law in the U.S. Senate to keep guns away from domestic abusers and others who should not have them. In addition Red Flag or Extreme Risk Protection Order laws have been passed in many states but should be passed in all to allow for the removal of guns from domestic abusers by law enforcement after a judge determines they could be a danger to themselves or others. Women would be safer if these bills are enacted into law.

Everyone would be safer, of course. But today is the day to celebrate women.

I applaud all women who put their names and faces into the public sphere to speak up for what’s right and for the changes we deserve. It’s not easy. Women are often criticized unfairly and suffer from discrimination because of simply being a woman. Please say thank you to a woman today.

Anniversaries of gun safety reform

On Thursday this week it will have been one year since the U.S. House of Representatives voted on and passed the universal background check bill.

It is also the anniversary of the enactment of the Brady background check bill on Feb. 28, 1994.

Federally and in many states, criminal background checks on the sale of guns are not required for all gun sales. There is a private sale loophole that is big enough for 22% of sales to go through. That means that anyone can purchase a gun through a private sale at a gun show, on-line or at a flea market (the most frequently used venues):

But as effective as the original Brady Bill has proven, its current structure has resulted in several loopholes in the background check system of today. Today, one in five gun sales are conducted without a background check — through gun shows, private sales, and over the internet in online sales. More than 90 percent of Americans agree that anyone who buys a gun — no matter where or how — should go through a Brady Background Check. But loopholes in our nation’s gun laws mean that too often guns fall into the wrong hands.

Gun rights advocates often argue that we already do background checks on all gun sales. They are wrong. Are they willfully wrong or do they just not know the facts? Or are they lying? Hard to know.

They also argue that criminals will get guns anyway no matter if we pass the law. Let’s look at that deceptive argument:

“Background checks work,” Rep. Mike Thompson of California, the lead Democratic author on the background checks bill, said on the House floor. “Every day, they stop 170 felons and 50 domestic abusers from getting a gun from a licensed dealer. But, in some states, those same people can go into a gun show or go online and buy a gun without a background check. This bill will help stop them from doing so.

“Some will argue that criminals won’t follow the law,” he said. “If that is the case, then why do we have laws against murder? People still commit murder. Why do we have laws against stealing? People still steal. This is flawed logic. Don’t fall for it.”

The truth is that the Brady background check bill was written with an exception for private sales of guns. In 1993 it seemed that the NRA won that point with the idea in mind that private sales would not result in selling to prohibited purchasers or if they did, maybe it didn’t matter? Who knows?

It matters. Now, private sellers often have collections as large as the federally licensed dealer next to them at a gun show. Or they advertise their guns, ammunition and other accessories like silencers on Armslist.com and make a sale without checking ID or doing a background check. For some reason there are gun rights advocates who don’t appear to know about Armslist.com. There are also elected representatives who don’t understand it. I have educated a few of them about on-line sales. When writing new laws, it’s key to know what is in them before either voting for or advocating against.

It is disingenuous to argue that we already do background checks on all gun sales. In case the opponents believe or lie about the reason people like me support bills to require a background check on all gun sales here is the real reason. Background checks can save lives.

Why not require a background check on all gun sales? What is the reason to be against it? Rights…..confiscation…..registration. All wrong. There is no reason that makes any common sense to be against requiring a simple background check that takes just minutes on a gun sale.

Now let’s look at the Charleston loophole bill. This bill, passed on 2/28/19, closes the loophole in current law that allows a default proceed of a gun sale. In plain language, it allows someone whose background is questionable but whose information doesn’t come into the NICS within 3 days to walk away with the gun. Thus did the shooter of 9 people at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, get his gun. He was a white supremacist and a prohibited purchaser. And he devastated the lives of 9 families in just a few seconds.

The bill would make the time longer before letting someone walk away with a gun if there are “red flags” in that person’s background:

Critics of the current system say the Charleston shooter would have been barred from obtaining the gun had investigators had more time to dig into his record and discovered his drug arrest.

We have been waiting a year now for Senator McConnell to take these bills out from under the dust of his desk and bring them to the floor of the Senate for a vote. Why won’t he? Ask him.

Does President Trump want the bills to pass? No. Does the NRA want the bills to pass? No. Do the far right extremists want the bills to pass? No. Does the American public want the bills to pass?

YES.

Coincidentally, Protect Minnesota will be holding a lobby day on Thursday to rally the House to pass the criminal background check bill and the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill- both of which will save lives. The Senate, of course, has refused to take up the bills so far. But we are pressing on and intend to keep pushing for common sense to happen sooner rather than later.

So let’s get on with it. According to the Gun Violence Archive, so far this year there have been over 6000 gun deaths and more injuries. That is more than last year at this time. And so, what will we do? Turn our backs on victims and survivors and say we don’t care? Or say we care and then do nothing? Or continue to take money and influence from the corporate gun lobby to stop the bills?

What will it be? Lives or rights? We all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The time is now. The time is 20 or 30 years ago.

This is an American tragedy and a public health epidemic crying out for a solution.

Hostility at gun bill hearings

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

To continue where I left off in my last post, the threats and hostile acts by a minority of angry gun rights extremists continue. We now have information that revealed that one of the organizers of the extremist group “The Base” has lived in Russia and has been directing operations of the group from there:

The FBI has described the group as a “racially motivated violent extremist group” that “seeks to accelerate the downfall of the United States government, incite a race war, and establish a white ethno-state.” (…) One video posted online in March 2019 shows Nazzaro in Russia wearing a T-shirt with Vladimir Putin’s face and the words, “Russia, absolute power.”

“The Base” is considered to be a neo nazi militia group watched by the Southern Poverty Law Center and some of whose members were arrested before the pro gun rally in Virginia last week:

In the days leading up to the rally, the FBI arrested multiple members of “The Base,” a white nationalist group where some members hold neo-Nazi beliefs. Court documents show some members discussed attending the rally in Richmond with the intent of killing people.

The pro gun rally ended without violence, miraculously given the anger, tension and guns that were mixed in with the annual “lobby” day sponsored by the Virginia Citizens Defense League. Prominent on the website of the vcdl is this statement: ” The 2020 Legislative Session started January 8, 2020 and represents the greatest threat to gun rights Virginians have faced in modern times! 

The “funny” thing about “The Base” operations coming from a man living in Russia, who appears to really like Putin, is that we know that the Russians tried to influence the 2016 election by sending one of their own to influence the election through the NRA. Remember Maria Butina? The Russians do understand that gun rights go together with Republicans and that money and power go together. Sowing discord and even violence in America is one of Putin’s aims. Can we say he is succeeding to a certain degree? And can we say that President Trump is helping out by tweeting his support of this movement of violence against Americans?

This is about more than gun rights.

The thing is, there are no threats to gun rights when laws like universal Brady background checks and Extreme Risk Protection Order bills are passed in the name of public safety. Not one of these folks can tell us how this will affect their very own gun rights or those of their friends- at least no reason that makes any sense and is factual.

I had this “discussion” this week- on Tuesday- when the Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on 4 gun bills in Hibbing, Minnesota, home of Bob Dylan located 1.5 hours to the north of my city of Duluth. The Republican leaders opined that holding the hearing in Hibbing would give rural folks a chance to speak up about gun issues:

Senate Republican leaders said they opted to hold the hearing after years of “dogging” from all sides of the issue and they chose Hibbing because they wanted rural constituents to have a stronger voice in the debate.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that it just isn’t true. I have been going to hearings at the Minnesota state Capitol for many years. There are just as many rural and urban gun owners and leaders there as the people like myself speaking for common sense gun legislation. People travel to wherever the hearings are held to make their viewpoints known.

Metropolitan gun lobbyists traveled to Hibbing to testify. Very few local gun owners testified. Instead, they brought in a lobbyist from NRA headquarters to speak on behalf of gun rights. Two men from the Twin Cities area testified on behalf of the gun owners of Minnesota. Some rented hotel rooms so they could make it to Hibbing for the hearing. Only two speakers on the side of gun violence prevention were from outside of northern Minnesota. One was state Public Safety commissioner John Harrington and the other was a woman whose father was shot 3 years ago. She lives in a small town north of the Twin Cities.

So when one of the gun rights “extremists” in the room asked why the Duluth Police Chief was there to testify, the answer is that he is at least from close by. Why was an NRA national spokesperson at the hearing?

The Hibbing hearing, unfortunately, magnified a stereotype about gun owners that most gun owners hate and don’t fit into. There were hundreds of angry men and women, some armed, in a smallish standing room only room brandishing their anger and bullying tactics from the beginning. One man interjected himself into a press conference held by the Democratic Senator (Ron Latz) who was bringing the background check and extreme risk protection order bills to the committee. This man yelled out questions and comments often yelling over the press. He did the same as I was being interviewed by a local T.V. reporter. Did I have to answer his questions just because he was there to bully and intimidate? No. But he insisted on a “conversation” with me about the hackneyed “slippery slope” argument.

At the beginning of the hearing, a man sitting in front of me yelled, “Where is the flag? No flag no respect. I’m outa here.” And he got up and left.

Nice.

I’m sure these folks are regular people with families they love just like I do and my friends do. They go to work and send their kids to school. Unfortunately the area where they live is economically depressed with many mining jobs lost leaving lots of anger and frustration. But something seems to happen to them whenever guns and gun safety reform come up. At the hearing, many insisted on being loud and interrupting and not listening. The others applauded their uncivil behavior. Our very own President has given “permission” for this kind of behavior. He is modeling it whenever he speaks. So what can we expect?

When any of us ( there were about 50 of us from the Duluth and Iron Range area in orange Protect Minnesota shirts and red Moms Demand Action shirts) were engaged by them, they mostly tried to shout over us.

I was on a bus that took many who had never attended a hearing before or never been in a roomful of angry armed people. Some were quite intimidated and worried about this. I can’t blame them. The crowd was racaus, rude, belligerent, and boorish as they interrupted the proceedings, yelled out comments and questions, insisted on answers, and several came close to being ejected. The Democratic Senator Ron Latz was personally verbally attacked by many.

The chair of the committee, Senator Limmer, lost control at the outset and never regained it. Here is my letter to the editor about that:

Sen. Limmer and the Republican Senate were under pressure to hear the bills, given that gun-safety reform is at the top of the list of concerns for Minnesotans and Americans; 84% of Minnesotans support requiring background checks on all gun sales. The group of angry folks who came to the Hibbing hearing reflected a minority of Minnesotans and gun owners.

Their angry voices reflected fear of losing something. Our fear is of losing lives to senseless gun violence.

As I said in my letter, one of our supporters was poked in the back by a man behind her who kept asking what she thought of comments made by one of his own. This is physical harassment. One man clapped his hands right next to the ears of a friend of mine sitting in front of her. Others booed at victims and even at the Chief of Police. They had no compunction about doing this-so sure were they that they deserved their rights to intimidate and bully others.

I am a League of Women Voters debate and forum moderator. We practice the Speak Your Peace Rules of Civility Project and state them at the beginning of every event. This hearing was the total opposite of peace and civility.

What is this fear and anger really about? As I have said probably thousands of times in this blog and in other places, if these people are law abiding citizens they will not have to worry about a thing. If they believe it is inconvenient to show a permit to purchase a gun at a licensed dealer and also to a private seller, I wonder how they feel when they stand in line at the license bureau to renew their driver’s license or their car license plate?

It’s inconvenient to bury a loved one who was shot. It’s inconvenient to read about your family in the newspaper and have reporters surround your family to take photos. It’s inconvenient to go to court where the killers of your loved ones stand trial and you have to re-live the trauma. It’s inconvenient to have to go through the personal effects of your loved one and decide how to part with their things. It’s inconvenient to have to speak with your back to a hostile crowd in a hearing room of armed people and know their anger over perceived loss of rights extends to you.

It took me several days to recover from the day at the hearing. The righteous and obnoxious folks we encountered at the hearing have no empathy for what it feels like to be surrounded by people with misplaced anger and hostility. We are not the enemy. We disagree about how to approach public safety. But we know the majority happens to be with us. We wish them no harm or ill will. We are not angry with them except when they verbally attack one of us. We do not want their guns. Their rights will not be taken away.

But too many of our loved ones are.

There is no need for them to threaten us or bully us. It’s not necessary. They will have their guns if they go through background checks. If they, in a moment of anger or mental anguish, may harm themselves or someone else, they may have guns temporarily removed for their own safety. Because if one of those “law abiding” gun owners shoots someone in a moment of anger, they will never be the same. Their lives will be as upended as the victim but killing another human being is a very serious thing and an awesome responsibility.

They don’t have to argue with us about defensive gun uses, or tell us that people kill themselves with knives too, (but check the lethality of guns compared to knives- apples to oranges) or about the Dickey Amendment or about the myth about the slippery slope as they did last Tuesday. Those are side issues and deflect from the bottom line. And we do have facts that are not being considered by those who insist we are wrong and the enemy.

In America, we shoot too many of our own. Too many of our own die by gun suicide. We want to change that and, contrary to NRA hype, it can be done without interfering with rights and gun ownership.

Too many of our own are shot “accidentally” ( 4 year Indiana old boy dies when shot by father’s gun while wrestling) What law owning and carrying father intends for that to happen? But seriously, what was he thinking? If you refuse to listen to those of us just trying to tell you that guns are a risk and needed to be treated as a threat to your own safety or that of your family, perhaps these regular incidents would not happen and more children would be alive. If a gun carrier is so cavalier about safety that he carries his gun in his pants ( without a holster apparently?) bad things happen. What gun carrier wrestles with is little boy wearing a gun?

He must be devastated. How tragic this is and my heart goes out to all of them. This will be their nightmare for the rest of their lives.

Where is common sense?

That is all we are asking.

I tried to tell one of the angry men about the Gun Violence Archive and that he should look at it to see how many people have died from gun violence compared to defensive uses of guns. He talked over me and didn’t want to hear it but I am going to leave you with this just in case.

He told me I should join the NRA after I tried to tell him the truth. I told him I would not do that and that my sister had been shot to death in a domestic shooting. He did not know what to do with this information but sometimes one must be blunt to get the point across.

Background checks and gingerbread houses

Yesterday I stopped to pick up my best friend at her house. Her son-in-law and granddaughter were outside of her door picking up her background check form that would be submitted to her granddaughter’s teacher so that she could enter the school building to help with her granddaughter’s 3rd grade class make gingerbread houses.

Her granddaughter was quite clear that this was required because of the near school shooting that happened last spring in Duluth. In a matter of fact voice she stated that her school had to go on a “soft” lock-down because someone with a gun was in the nearby high school. All Duluth schools went on lock-down that day. No one connected with the schools has forgotten what happened that day. Duluth could have been in the news for a mass shooting of innocent school children but because law enforcement acted quickly and relative reported the man to law enforcement the man was arrested before he could do any serious harm.

The harm done still lives inside of students and teachers. As I wrote in my last post, one of the students who huddled with friends in the orchestra room fearing she was going to die, has not forgotten. PTSD is real. Kids go to school wondering if there will be a shooting that day. It is no at the top of their minds most likely but it lurks under the surface.

And companies are profiting from this fear by training educators and children to participate in lock-down drills that make them responsible for stopping a shooter, not the elected leaders who could actually do something about it. I will write more about this later.

And by do something, I mean pass the universal background check bill passed by the U.S. House last February. Minnesota Senators could pass the background check sitting idle on their desks as well after the House passed the bill last spring. But common sense is not happening when it should given the gun violence epidemic.

Does it make any sense, for example, that a man who has served time for various felony offenses, can walk into a Duluth bar and threaten people with a gun?:

At the time of the incident, Curry was on supervised release for a federal conviction for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. He also has convictions in Minnesota for attempted second-degree burglary, aiding and abetting second-degree assault and escape from custody.

Could or should this man have passed a background check at a federally licensed firearms dealers? No. Could he get a gun anyway? Yes. And that is our problem and the foolishness and danger of not requiring background checks on all gun sales but getting them on volunteers in our schools.

The thing is, the man who was caught at a high school in Duluth last year passed a first background check so he could coach kids with disabilities. But a more thorough check may have found him to be someone who should not be in schools working with kids if not more. An Extreme Risk Protection Order could have prevented him from having guns given that he was reported by a family member for comments he had made. In addition, he appeared to have mental health difficulties that should have prevented him from having a gun.

Miller, the defense attorney, said his client has mental health diagnoses and believes that he was not thinking clearly at the time he made the statements. He added that he does not believe the weapons were actually capable of fully automatic fire, indicating a probable cause challenge would likely be made to that charge.

“…fully automatic fire…” What are we thinking? Why should any gun or any gun kit that could make a gun capable of automatic fire be available to anyone?

We know requiring background checks on all gun sales will not save every life. But not to require them is an abrogation of our responsibility of a polite and democratic society. We all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is being able to help your granddaughter make a gingerbread house in her school classroom without fear of being shot.

Rather than do the right thing and do whatever is necessary to make guns harder to access for those who should not have them,we engage companies to train our children to fight off school shooters.

The Trace has published this article about ALICE training:

Drills can also be traumatic for the children involved, and schools considering training options have the difficult task of weighing the need for protection from intruders against the risk of doing further harm. “There is no evidence that lockdown drills with kids learning to barricade or defend themselves enhances security,” said Dr. Nancy Rappaport, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. And the drills “may have unintended consequences of creating terror for students.”

And more:

There are no national standards or specific licensing requirements dictating who can or can’t start an active shooter training company, he said, which is part of the problem. “People are claiming to be subject matter experts because they feel they are, or have written a book,” he said.

Czyz said he is so convinced that teachers are the ones who need to be prepared that he doesn’t train children in active shooter drills, only in preventative measures and situational awareness. He doesn’t want to risk training a potential shooter, and was spooked by reports that the Parkland shooter may have used his knowledge of the school’s drill procedure to guide his attack. (The gunman reportedly set off the fire alarm before his rampage, which may have complicated the school’s lockdown.)

This is all about the kids. If we can’t protect them from being shot, who are we? All kids should be able to go about their business of being students and not worry about being shot. The fact that we have to have lock-down drills using techniques from companies like ALICE is a statement about us. New information about these kinds of trainings should make us wonder what we are doing to our kids.

I know my friend had a great time with her granddaughter and I assume all were safe. And let’s hope that everyone stays safe for the remainder of the school year of 2019.

Knives, tusks, guns and terror attacks

The world stopped for a while on Friday when a now known terrorist killed 2 innocent British citizens in a knife attack. Bystanders acted quickly by grabbing something called a narwhal tusk and a few fire extinguishers before police arrived with guns to shoot him. (A narwhal tusk is very long and sharp, made of ivory) Much has been made of these brave citizens who acted without thinking about their own safety. Likely they saved more innocent people from being killed or injured. And- without guns.

Raise your hand if you have heard of a narwhal tusk used as a weapon.

(As an aside, I actually saw a narwhal tusk on display while at the Hofburg palace museum in Vienna in October. It was a curious item to be displayed there and we wondered at the time about it. It turns out to be an item of the myth of Unicorns.)

Let us stop for a minute to remember the two victims of the attack- both graduates of Cambridge University:

Saskia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25, were both involved with Learning Together, a network of academics and criminal justice organizations, which was hosting an event at Fishmonger’s Hall where the attack began on Friday.

In the United Kingdom, citizens do not carry guns nor do they own many of them without a lot of regulations and laws. Police did not used to be armed but are now, given the world in which we live. Fairly regular terror attacks have occurred in the UK- none with firearms. Many have died but it doesn’t even come close to the toll of American lives lost in armed terror attacks in our country:

Terrorist attacks are much more likely to involve firearms in the U.S. than in many other high-income industrialized countries, a new study suggests.

Researchers examined data on 2,817 terrorist attacks in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand from 2002 to 2016.

Nearly all of the countries with attacks had at least 10 incidents. Among these countries, the U.S. had the highest proportion of attacks involving guns, at 20 percent, followed by the Netherlands at 14 percent.

“The overall burden of firearm violence is much greater in the United States compared to other high-income countries,” said lead study author Dr. Robert Tessler of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

“Our findings indicate that terrorist attacks involving firearms are deadlier compared to attacks with other weapons, regardless of the country,” Tessler said by email.

We should also remember that in the U.S. those on the known terror watch list can legally buy guns because we have not made it illegal.

You can’t make this stuff up.

There is a truth here that seems to go unnoticed by our elected officials in Congress who are beholden to the influence of the corporate gun lobby instead of to the majority of Americans who want them to protect us from senseless gun violence. I should say that these leaders notice but choose to do nothing. Since the U.S. House passed the bill requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales in February of this year, 27,670 Americans have died from firearms injuries.

Stunning.

#DoSomething

As long as Senator Mitch McConnell (President Trump) is in charge of the Senate, we can expect to see more deaths of innocent Americans. They are happening all around us every day. Suicides, homicides and “accidental” gun deaths are in news reports today as I write. There is no common sense amongst Senate Republicans at the moment. Their hands are bloodied and stained with their willful neglect and refusal to do what’s right.

And as long as there are people who insist on perpetuating the myth that more people with guns in public places ( “good guys with guns”) can save the day to stop terror attacks, the deaths will continue. A friend of our very own President had this to say about the terror attack in London:

“Takeaway from #LondonBridge incident: If law-abiding Londoners could carry firearms legally, it probably wouldn’t have happened. Amazing how bold the terrorists are when they know their victims will be unarmed,” he wrote.

Piers Morgan was among those to criticise Wohl’s response, with the Irish Post Award winner tweeting: “How can anyone be this dumb?”

Dumb is a good word for it. Just how would a “good guy” with a gun have been in the exact place when a terrorist decided to attack? And just what would that armed citizen have done to stop an attack that took place in a flash of a second surprising innocent people going about their business? And what makes those who say these dumb things believe they, themselves, would be able to act so quickly to save the day when chaos reigns and adrenaline is taking over the ability to act calmly and rationally? And just what makes those who believe in this myth believe that when law enforcement arrives on the scene, as they usually do pretty quickly, they themselves will not be mistaken for the attacker?

Alas, none of these common sense questions have answers that make any sense-except to themselves.

Rather than prevent so many guns from getting into the hands of people who should not have them or flood our streets with guns, our leaders are aiding and abetting the flooding of weapons into our streets, homes, businesses and public places. And, for the record, many of these guns used in attacks are could possibly have been prevented with stronger laws to keep the perpetrators from getting guns in the first place:

Mass shootings are not a random, inevitable element of American life today. Rather, this report illuminates trends that can help point lawmakers to strategies to curb these tragedies. These trends include that mass shootings are often:

perpetrated by someone who was legally prohibited from possessing a firearm;

perpetrated by someone who displayed prior warning signs;

intermingled with acts of domestic violence; and

far deadlier when they involve assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

All of our mass shootings to me are domestic terror attacks. Some have involved weapons legally owned such as at the Aurora theater shooting, the Sutherland Springs church shooting,( though he should have been prohibited), the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, and others.

Until we put our collective heads together to solve and treat our national gun violence epidemic, we will have more terror attacks, mass shootings, suicides, homicides and small children finding guns they shouldn’t have to shoot themselves or someone else avoidably and senselessly.

A 14 year old Texas boy found a gun and shot and gravely injured himself. It was a “reckless injury” as reported by law enforcement. The mother said her son had access to guns in the home. The 3 boys were passing it around. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

In the same story linked above, the police officer reported in great detail about an officer involved shooting. A Texas airman, obviously suicidal, aimed his weapon at the officers who responded. He then shot and killed himself with his weapon.

Lock up those guns all of you “law abiding” gun owners and good guys with guns. Be aware of military members, veterans and the risk of suicide.

Just today, in the midst of a lot of snow, 2 Minneapolis children were shot and killed while playing outside in the snow. What the H$%T?

11 were injured in a mass shooting at a celebration in New Orleans. Guns and altercations do not go together. Do people need guns at a rowdy celebration? Not really. It’s obviously dangerous and reckless.

And at the National Zoo in D.C. a family thought that fireworks let off by some people nearby were gunshots, closing down the zoo.

The country has PTSD from so many shootings in public places. We shouldn’t have to live like this. From the article:

On Twitter, some visitors inside the zoo said the false alarm caused panic.

“Within 10 minutes people calmed,” Twitter Ashley (@WeinDC) wrote.
“But people were running and carrying kids and screaming gun. It wasn’t great.”

Another Twitter user by the name of Sammie Fritts said that her and her husband left immediately after hearing others shout about a shooter.

‘We didn’t stay long enough to find out,” she wrote. “My husband saw my anxiety attack about to happen and got me out of there asap.”

It is still unclear how many kids had the fireworks and where they were shot from.

We have a serious unsolved problem.

And while we are reporting on all of these senseless shootings, the gun lobby is hoping the Supreme Court will come down in favor of their notion that the second amendment means that people have a right to carry guns in public. In the aftermath of and the midst of mass shootings and school shootings after shootings, will the Court come down on the side of common sense? In light of the fact that more guns in public places have resulted in more death and injury it would be a travesty if the Court expanded the meaning of the second amendment.

So there we have it. More people are dying from gun injuries. Some people believe stupidly that more guns make us safer wherever we are, including from unexpected terror attacks. Children and teens are harming or killing themselves on a regular basis. Senseless homicides are happening all over the country- even in a Minneapolis snow bank. Military members and veterans are using firearms to kill themselves at a stunning rate of 22 per day. And the gun rights community wants to expand gun rights.

We are better than this. Where is common sense?

Podcasts about gun violence

Brady has started a podcast to highlight the voices and the programs of gun violence prevention. It’s a good way to get the word out to those who support changing the law and the conversation around the role of guns and gun violence in our society. I was honored to be one of the first voices to be able to speak about my story and my experiences over the years. There have been many. You can listen to my voice here.

But let me summarize a bit of what I said:

  1. I have a story to tell and so do the thousands and thousands of other victims and survivors. Domestic shootings take the lives of too many women every day so my story is the story of many.
  2. Telling our stories is important because it makes the deceased victims come “alive” and “tell their stories” so that the public and politicians can better understand the devastation to families and communities from gun violence.
  3. Understanding how devastating it is for families to experience the sudden, unexpected and violent death of a loved one from bullets will lead to the changes we deserve to keep us all safer.
  4. Many of us in the movement of gun violence prevention have worked for decades to stop bad bills promoted by the corporate gun lobby, advocate for bills to prevent some of the shootings and in many cases to help pass common sense bills that save lives. We know they save lives because we have the numbers to show it.
  5. After the Sandy Hook shooting, other groups formed and helped to advocate for sensible gun laws and have added their voices and visibility in state houses and Congress.
  6. What seems to have made the biggest change is what happened with the student voices after the shooting in Parkland, Florida. Those kids have been relentless and powerful and have given those of us involved for so many years new ways to talk about gun violence prevention. I admire those youthful voices and have come to know them well in my own community.
  7. In Minnesota we have had ups and downs since our chapter formed in 2000 after the Million Mom March. After the passage of the conceal and carry law in Minnesota and the federal sunsetting of the assault weapons ban in 2004 in close proximity, some of the air went out of our balloons. But we have picked up and carried on and stopped some bad bills. We now have new focus after our House passed the background check and Extreme Risk and Protection Order bills in the last session. We will push hard to get them passed in the state Senate in the upcoming session. Senators will have to explain why they would be against bills that would not take away the rights of “law abiding” gun owners. Gun rights and gun violence prevention are not mutually exclusive.
  8. Our country is suffering from PTSD from all of the mass shootings taking place on a regular basis. Our kids certainly are negatively affected by the shootings and sometimes get killed by school shooters. School active shooter drills are causing more distress and anxiety for our kids. We should question some of the programs used and focus on where the shooters get their guns so we can stop them. In the majority of school shootings, the guns come from the home of the shooter. It’a a no brainer to lock guns away safely from the hands of kids, teens and those who might steal them to be used in a gun crime.
  9. One of my heroes in the movement is Sarah Brady who served on the Brady board for part of my terms as a board member. She was a feisty woman whose opinions were made known at meetings. She worked hard with her husband Jim to get the Brady background check bill passed and for that, we are all safer.
  10. What I hope to see in a world where the best will happen is that all purchasers of a gun of any kind must first pass a background check. There is no reason not to do this that makes any sense at all. In addition, we can save lives if we pay attention to the risks of guns for people who could be a danger to themselves or others and make sure that their guns can be temporarily removed while the danger passes. Too many shootings are spur of the moment shootings that happen while someone is under stress, angry over a difficult situation like a contentious divorce that caused my now deceased brother-in-law to shoot my sister. We can make a difference and save lives.

I would encourage my readers to listen to the RedBlue & Brady podcasts. I believe they will provide a lot of insight into the issues and the people who are involved. The stories will make a difference and change the conversation as we must do if we are to make progress.

It is so clear that the majority of Americans want change to happen. The only way the majority will be represented in the halls of state capitols and in Congress is for the voices of those who believe we can save lives with stronger gun laws are louder than the voices of the corporate gun lobby. Remember that the NRA and corporate gun lobby represent a very small minority of Americans and gun owners.

So speak up and speak out. Listen to how we can make change. Get involved and take action, not sides. It’s in our hands to make change happen. Let’s do this.

The Charleston 9

Today is the 4th anniversary of yet another heinous shooting and hate crime in America. The shooting of 9 innocent people at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston was one of a now increasing number of hate shootings that reveal the racist underbelly of America. The shooter had a gun he should not have had but because of a loophole in the law which we now call the Charleston loophole, he got his gun anyway from a federally licensed firearms dealer. Had he not been able to get the gun from the dealer, he could have gone on-line or to a gun show where guns are readily available from private sellers with no required background check.

Let’s look at more from the above linked article:

Under current federal law, people who buy a gun from a licensed dealer have to go through a background check. The FBI has up to three days to complete this check. But if it doesn’t, gun dealers are allowed to sell the firearm anyway. Many sellers choose not to, but some do proceed with the sale even if a background check wasn’t completed.

ThinkProgress, which obtained data from the FBI, found the FBI in 2018 failed to complete 276,000 background checks within the three-day window. That’s around 3 percent of background checks, out of the more than 8.2 million in 2018 — which is typical, based on data going back to 2014.

The loophole allowed a self-described white supremacist to obtain the gun he used to kill nine people at a predominantly black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. He had admitted to drug possession prior to the gun purchase, which should have prohibited him from buying a gun — but the FBI couldn’t complete his background check in time, and the seller allowed him to buy a gun anyway.

When the Brady law passed, loopholes were a part of the bill, thanks to the NRA. Why sell a gun after 3 days if the records don’t come through? If there is not a problem with the sale, it takes about 3 minutes to be cleared by the FBI National Instant Check System but the run rights extremists want to make sure that just about anyone can get a gun. The result: (See below)

Thousands of people are dead because of our loose gun laws. Mass shootings continue and are on the uptick. So are domestic shootings, suicide by gun and “accidental” shootings. The number of careless gun owners who make deadly mistakes are also increasing. The fact that the majority of our states have loose conceal and carry laws has let that happen.

Congress had a chance to change our gun laws to make sure a White Supremacist like the shooter of the 9 victims in the church in Charleston won’t be able to get a gun. The House passed the bill. The Senate didn’t even have a hearing. Why not?

Ask Senator Mitch McConnell. 90% of Americans want stronger gun laws.

It’s time for us all to let those Republican Senators who failed the country that we are watching and will hold them accountable for their lack of action to save lives. Every day a vote is delayed 100 more Americans die from gunshot injuries.

Never mind. Campaign donations and fear of a failing NRA inform the current U.S. Senate. There is no common sense. There is really no word to describe this failure.

If they care about the victims and survivors, they will act. If not, we will see more shootings like the one that happened 4 years ago today in a small church in Charleston, South Carolina.

I met the wife of Rev. Clementa Pinckney at an event in D.C. just a year after the shooting. She is a lovely, quiet spoken woman. Here are her words almost 4 years after she and her 6 year old daughter hid in the pastor’s office during that fateful prayer meeting:

In the beginning, you’re in denial. You don’t always register when things happen. Especially as traumatic as the Charleston shooting. You just kind of think to yourself, “Did this happen to me?”

To be honest, at first, I was a little in denial that it really happened at all. I can tell you that I immediately went into mom mode to protect and be there for my two girls, which was and still is my first priority. I can remember getting home that night and seeing police cars everywhere in our yard and allowing my girls to briefly look out the window as I tried to explain to them the reality of what had happened.

So many Americans suffer from the ripple effect of gun violence. PTSD is 2 real. And we are failing to treat that adequately as well. Recently 2 Parkland school shooting survivors committed suicide by gun. Living with the trauma can be debilitating and overwhelming without good care.

We are better than this.

In memory:

Rev. Clementa Pinckney

Rev. Sharonda Singleton

Myra Thompson

Tywanza Sanders

Ethel Lee Lance

Cynthia Hurd

Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr.

Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor

Susie Jackson

Look at their faces. Say their names.