Thanksgiving peace and safety

Happy Thanksgiving DayHappy Thanksgiving. May it be a peaceful and safe holiday for all of us. In my neck of the woods, there is no snow forecast so hopefully the roads will be more safe than is often the case at this time of year for traveling. I will be traveling to celebrate Thanksgiving with my son, daughter and families. As our family celebrates I will know that some will not be as lucky as ours. Poverty and homelessness affects many families in our country.

So going into the holiday, I want to talk about some things that did happen with guns and some that didn’t. A man, another man in a domestic abuse situation, threatened to shoot up a church and a casino in Las Vegas but was stopped before he had the chance to carry it out. Why does this sound familiar?

From the article:

A man was arrested after he threatened to open fire at a local church, along with the Las Vegas hotel casino where his estranged wife worked, according to the FBI.

There is no question any more that domestic abusers frequently end up as mass shooters. Why? Anger issues mostly. This man was angry that he wasn’t getting a green card. Why he thought shooting up a church and a casino would accomplish that is the question. But when a gun or guns are available, men ( mostly men as it turns out) use them too often to take out their anger on others. It’s the guns stupid.

Had this man carried out his threat we would have been talking about another heinous mass shooting in America. Be thankful we aren’t talking about it.

And then there is the continued irresponsibility of gun owners ( gun rights advocates love to say that most “law abiding” gun owners are responsible but then that isn’t true is it? For example, this latest example of a Minnesota gun owner apparently leaving his/her gun accessible for young children who, like children do, handle the gun and shoot someone:

 A 3-year-old northern Minnesota child was apparently shot by a 5-year-old Sunday morning, Nov. 19, the Otter Tail County sheriff’s office said.

The victim is in stable condition at Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis, the office said without releasing any names.

A dispatcher got the 911 call around 7:30 a.m. and learned about the shooting in Deer Creek from a caller, who said it was an accident.

There are no accidents when it comes to incidents like this. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

That family is thankful that no one was killed in the “accidental” shooting and maybe they will have more common sense now.

Also in Minnesota a literal good guy with a gun managed to cause a local mall lockdown when he walked in the mall with a gun in a case looking for a store to service his gun. 

Naturally people reported a guy with a gun walking around in the mall. We understand that shootings happen in malls and everywhere else. From the article:

Eden Prairie police said they received a report at about noon that a person with a weapon was inside the mall. Police put the mall in lockdown and searched the building.

A mall employee reported to police during the lockdown that a man carrying a gun case had entered the Scheels store, where he intended to get his gun serviced. He left the mall after being told there were no gun services at that Scheels location, according to a statement from police.

So this is the problem with a “good guy” with a gun theory. No one knows who is a good guy or a bad guy because they often look the same. The public understands that too many “law abiding” gun owners commit mass shootings and everyday shootings. We have experienced weekly.
This incident was not an incident. We can all be thankful for that.

A man accidentally shot himself and his wife in their Tennessee church after he had taken his gun out during a discussion about weapons in places of worship, police said.

The man, 81, and his wife, 80, both suffered non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

The incident happened Thursday afternoon as members of the First United Methodist Church in Tellico Plains — about 60 miles southwest of Knoxville — were gathered at the church for a pre-Thanksgiving lunch, Tellico Plains Police Department Chief Russ Parks told ABC News.

The church members were discussing weapons in places of worship on the heels of the shooting at a Texas church earlier this month that killed over two dozen people, Parks said, and “one of the gentlemen said, ‘Well, I take my gun with me everywhere.'”

Just another instance of the myth of law abiding good guys with guns and how they will save the day in public places. Don’t believe it.

I hope that all in that church discussion are thankful nothing worse happened when the man irresponsibly showed off his gun and then pulled the trigger “accidentally.” It could have so much worse. Perhaps they will have more common sense when thinking that a gun in church could be the ticket to safety.

This Army Veteran set things straight about the risks of carrying guns everywhere and the “good guy” with a gun myth in this piece:

The problem with this narrative (besides a lack of research or data suggesting more guns does indeed prevent violence broadly) is that killing another human being, even a “bad” one, is not easy. This is not “Call of Duty”: Despite the damage that modern weaponry can inflict, there is a reason that soldiers and law enforcement officers receive thousands of hours of training in firearms and tactics. This training is physical, mechanical and, most importantly, psychological, because in order to efficiently and effectively kill other human beings in high-stress situations, one must be conditioned to negotiate that stress. (…)

When I see a young man openly carrying a firearm in public, whether to prove a political point or because he honestly believes at he could be called upon to stop an active shooter, I can only think of how much could go wrong. I do not see a “good guy with a gun”: I see a naive human who is more likely to exacerbate a tragedy than stop it. Is this person a civilian who has forgot to clear their weapon? Are they disciplined enough to avoid accidents? And if a mass shooting does occur, how do I know they will have the skills to take out the bad guy rather than, say, an innocent bystander?

I am a gun owner, a military veteran and a proud American. I believe in the essential right to bear arms, but with that right comes the obligation of responsible ownership. If a young man is brazen enough to brandish a powerful weapon just to attract attention, why would I trust they have the maturity to use it responsibly?

Exactly. There is no way of predicting what will happen in a mass shooting and someone with a gun who decides to take action to save the day could cause many more problems that he would solve.

This article from Vox explains it in charts and graphs:

If Texas is an example of this concept in action, though, it sure doesn’t seem to work. Before another armed person intervened against the Sutherland Springs gunman, he had already killed at least 26 people and injured approximately 20 others. He managed to shoot more than 40 people before “a good guy with a gun” reportedly helped stop him.

Not to mention that if the gunman didn’t have access to firearms, “a good guy with a gun” wouldn’t have been needed in the first place.

But the theory has remained prominent in conservative circles — as the NRA has argued that the right to bear arms and lax gun laws are necessary not just to stand against government tyranny but also for self-defense and protection.

 What I am saying here is that the NRA and corporate gun lobby myths are easily debunked and fewer and fewer people believe them. When virtually almost everyone in the country wants background checks on all gun sales, I would say that the NRA myths are failing. And for that I am thankful.

The public has common sense. The public also feels less and less safe with people with guns around everywhere they go. We are all vulnerable to gun violence. It happens everywhere but the answer is not more guns everywhere. The answer is to make sure that guns are less accessible to people who could be dangerous to themselves or others. Guns are a risk to their owners and those around them. I have given enough examples in this blog but so far the NRA, an arm of the Republican party, believe they are in charge.

That will change. We’ve all had enough of the constant gun violence and mass shootings.

Be thankful this holiday if your family has not been affected by gun violence. It is coming to  a point where almost every family will have been affected by gun violence in one way or the other. I can’t tell you how often I hear stories about someone’s family member who has committed suicide by gun or a friend who was murdered in a domestic shooting. it is so common now that it’s become part of our lives.

That is something we need to reject. It is NOT normal nor is it inevitable that the carnage that takes the lives of 100 Americans a day occurs without credible solutions offered by our leaders.

I will be thankful for my family around me and know that one person is missing from the Thanksgiving table of her adult kids and her grandchildren. She will be missed. My sister loved holidays and entertaining and did it well. We are thankful for that happy memory of her.

I urge you all to have a thoughtful discussion over Thanksgiving as inevitably the conversation will turn to politics. How could it not with the daily chaos and tweeting coming from our President? One of the discussions you could and should have is about asking if there are unlocked, loaded guns in the homes where kids and grandkids play and hang-out. ASKing saves lives. Safe storage of guns is key to public and private safety. More on this in my next post as new information has come out about lack of storing guns safely leading to stolen guns used in crime.

And one last thing- please remember the day 54 years ago that President John F. Kennedy was shot by an assassin in Dallas, Texas. I will never forget that day.

Stay safe everyone. Be responsible. Be thankful. And be safe.

Constant carnage

PrintI must give credit to my friend Kandi for this phrase. She messaged me about a toddler shot and injured in St. Cloud, Minnesota. What the heck? A toddler. But yes, constant carnage and it’s just another day.

From the article:

 

Through investigation, police say it appears the shooting was accidental due to negligent storage of a firearm. Authorities said they believe the child accidentally shot himself with a loaded firearm that was within his reach. The boy is still hospitalized in stable condition.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. This adult had a felony conviction on his record. He can’t own guns legally. But he had one anyway and allowed access to it by his toddler child.

Just another day in America.

Where is common sense?

Toddlers cannot be responsible enough to handle guns, period. (see story above) In my neighboring state of Wisconsin ( I can see it from my windows) toddlers can now hunt. What could possibly go wrong?

In Northern California, a gunman shot up people at 7 crime scenes, ending at an elementary school, where he injured 2 children. At the end of this spree ( mass) shooting, 5 were dead and 10 injured. It barely made the news. Why? Maybe because only 4 died?

From the article:

“I really don’t know what his motive was,” Mr. Johnston said. “I think he was just on a rampage. I think he had a desire to kill as many people as he could.” (…)

Mr. Johnston said that investigators had reviewed video from the school’s security system that showed the gunman walking the hallways and entering a restroom, but appearing to get frustrated that the classroom doors were locked.

The school went on lockdown at the sound of gunfire, Mr. Johnston said.

“We would have had a horrific blood bath in that school if that school hadn’t taken the action when they did,” he said.

The alarming thing here is that the man manufactured his own assault weapons at home. How? Here’s how:

The AK-47, perhaps the world’s best-known gun, is so easy to make and so hard to break that the Soviet-designed original has spawned countless variants, updated and modified versions churned out by factories all over the globe. Although US customs laws ban importing the weapons, parts kits—which include most original components of a Kalashnikov variant—are legal. So is reassembling them, as long as no more than 10 foreign-made components are used and they are mounted on a new receiver, the box-shaped central frame that holds the gun’s key mechanics. There are no fussy irritations like, say, passing a background check to buy a kit. And because we’re assembling the guns for our own “personal use,” whatever that may entail, we’re not required to stamp in serial numbers. These rifles are totally untraceable, and even under California’s stringent assault weapons ban, that’s perfectly within the law.

This is lunacy. Time to pass laws to make this illegal.

The shooting in California started with a shooting of the man’s wife. Too often mass shootings are the result of domestic violence that lead to anger and the shooter takes it out on innocent Americans.

And to make matters even more ridiculous, our very own President tweeted condolences to the wrong community after the shooting in California. Either there are so many mass shootings of late that he can’t keep track of them or he is being his usual uninformed and hopelessly unprepared for his job. From the article:

Mr. Trump’s Twitter response, which has since been deleted from his account but is timestamped at 11:34 p.m. on November 14, mentioned another mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, which occurred on November 5, killing 26 people and injuring 20 more.

“May God be with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI and Law Enforcement has arrived,” Mr. Trump wrote in the tweet, offering thoughts and prayers to the wrong town.

dorsybtvwaayaif.jpg

I thought that his tweets were part of the official Presidential record. Can he delete these lies and misinformation? That is a huge problem right now. The misinformation about shootings and gun policy are ubiquitous in the public sphere. Just take for example the usual talking point from the far right extremists that since California is a liberal state with strong gun laws, how does a shooting like this happen? Remember that the shooter made his own guns. And further, many of the guns used in crimes in California come from other states where gun laws are much weaker. In spite of that, California’s gun death rate is lower than in most other states.

But never mind the facts. And these are the folks, and the President, who love to accuse others of #fakenews. The hypocrisy is hard to stomach.

We have passed laws to keep guns away from domestic abusers but there are ways to get around it and there are too many loopholes that allow these angry folks to buy ( or manufacture) guns anyway. Too often someone in their lives know that they are potentially dangerous with guns. We could pass Gun Violence Protection Orders to make it harder for them to have guns. Will we?

We could save lives and prevent shootings.

On the political front, we will have 2 new Democratic governors who spoke openly about their support for gun violence prevention measures. And they won- not by a small margin. Talking about guns works. The public found that issue to be one of their top issues. Finally.

No need to be afraid to talk about gun violence. How can it be avoided when the constant carnage is killing so many people that soon enough all of us will know someone who has been shot.

We can actually do something about all of this. The public does understand that which is why they voted for candidates who spoke out about solutions. As a public health issue, gun violence needs a cure. The American Medical Association is becoming more concerned about deaths and injuries due to gunshots as well they should. In a new article, the Journal of the American Medical Association writes that physicians should treat gun violence like a public health problem and look for the cause of it like in other illnesses:

Guns kill people. More background checks; more hotel, school, and venue security; more restrictions on the number and types of guns that individuals can own; and development of “smart guns” may help decrease firearm violence. But the key to reducing firearm deaths in the United States is to understand and reduce exposure to the cause, just like in any epidemic, and in this case that is guns.

The constant gushing of gun deaths has hollowed out a huge hole in America. Every day, toddlers shot with a gun found in the home. Every day, women killed by abusers. Every day, guns used in suicides. Every day, every day, every day, every day………..

This column by conservative columnist David Frum opines on actions taken in America after all of the mass shootings. It is not what you would think is common sense:

So it’s not at all true that “nothing changes.” In fact, a remarkable research paper published in 2016 by Harvard’s Michael Luca, Deepak Malhotra, and Christopher Poliquin found that between 1989 and 2014, the most probable policy response to a mass shooting was a loosening of gun laws. (…)

This may explain why gun advocates insist that the immediate aftermath of a spectacular massacre is “too soon” for the gun discussion. They want the pain and grief and fear to ebb. They want ordinary citizens to look away. Then, when things are quiet, the gun advocates will go to work, to bring more guns to places where alcohol is served, where children are cared for, where students are taught, where God is worshipped. More killings bring more guns. More guns do more killing. It’s a cycle the nation has endured for a long time, and there is little reason to hope that the atrocity in Las Vegas will check or reverse it.

Ordinary citizens cannot look away. They must be noisy and insistent that our gun laws are strengthened, not loosened.

This is a moment in time that can make a difference. The constant carnage is digging a deep hole in our collective memories and day to day lives. Stay constant in the demands to act to prevent gun deaths and injuries.

And to our elected leaders, we must demand that they represent the vast majority of Americans ( almost 100%!) who support requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales and strongly support many other common sense measures to end the carnage. This Quinnipiac poll is stunning in that it reveals the truth about how our leaders have failed us:

That marks the highest level of support since Quinnipiac first asked the question in February 2013 in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead.

Let’s get to work and do what almost all Americans know is the right thing to do.

The corporate gun lobby should not be calling the “shots”.

As I write this,  Senators Chris Murphy and John Cornyn are working on a bill that would fix some of the problems in our background check system that allowed the shooter at the Texas church to get a gun he shouldn’t have had. I’m all for it.It’s a fix around the margins but it’s a fix. It’s so interesting that when a shooting happens in a Senator’s state, he/she is under pressure to act ( Senator John Cornyn). Wouldn’t it be great if all Senators wanted to act whether the shooting happened in their state or another of our 50 states because they do, of course.

The constant carnage is killing us.

A broken background check system

Background checks workThe shooting of 26 at a small church in Texas is now history and America has turned to other things. That is the way things go here. The victims and survivors have not forgotten though. If we let this shooting, like all of the other mass shootings and every day shootings go the way of Wikipedia and move on, we can expect to see many more.

What will we do about saving lives land preventing shootings?

We are not helpless to fix this national public health epidemic. Some laws are broken and need to be fixed and we need some new laws that, in this political atmosphere are unlikely to be passed.

Our background check system for gun purchases is broken. There is absolutely no rational reason not to require a background check on every single gun sale. We require them for adopting a pet, for a whole lot of other important jobs and responsibilities. But because the corporate gun lobby has co-opted any common sense discussion about reforms to our gun policy and gun culture, we have allowed people to buy guns without background checks all over our country.

easier to get a gun,,,

The Charleston loophole has not been fixed even after 8 were shot and killed in a small Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015:

Roof was able to buy the weapon after the investigator assigned to complete his background check wasn’t able to find his police record, which contained a confession for drug possession. Under federal law, NICS has three business days to finish vetting a gun buyer, or the sale can proceed. When the deadline expired with his background check still incomplete, Roof got his gun.

Last summer, the story of Roof’s dead-end background check helped expose a loophole that annually allows upwards of 3,000 persons deemed too risky to own a gun to acquire a firearm via so-called “default proceed” sales.

And so, we see the results every day. There really are hardly words to describe the shooting in a small church in the small Texas town of Sutherland, Texas. How can one family lose 8 people at once in a shooting? How can a shooter shoot and kill and 18 month old baby?

The shooter had serious problems while in the air force:

Devin Patrick Kelley’s June 2012 escape from Peak Behavioral Health Systems in New Mexico occurred months after he was accused of abusing his ex-wife and her child, according to an El Paso Police Department report obtained by CNN affiliate KVIA on Tuesday.
Kelley was picked up after the Santa Teresa, New Mexico, facility listed him as missing. The documents said officers had been warned that Kelley was a danger to himself and others and that he had sneaked firearms onto Holloman Air Force Base, where he had reportedly threatened his commanders.

All of this and he was able to buy guns.

This is America. This is not normal or inevitable. This is a public health epidemic of huge proportions. Americans and Texans are angry, sad, upset, shocked,

There is no doubt that we need to make some serious changes and make it harder for certain people to get guns. It wouldn’t hurt law abiding citizens if it was harder for them to get a gun either for the good of the whole and for saving lives. If people go through background checks and lengthy processes for other things in their lives, they can do the same to acquire a gun. This is a no brainer and the majority concur.

So put on your game faces and let’s get to work on crafting, supporting and passing a policy that will save lives. Brady background checks have prevented the sale of 3 million guns since the system was authorized and set up.

 

What is wrong with us? Every day we watch the carnage. A few days ago a family was wiped out in Scottsdale Arizona over financial troubles.

They were a nice young family with small children. And now they are no longer.

Just another daily domestic shooting.

This is not normal. It’s time to do something quickly before it’s a friend of yours or a family member who picks up a gun and uses it to “solve a problem.”

Ask your Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 4240 and your Senators to co-sponsor S. 2009 to expand and fix the Brady background check system.

Las Vegas costs

Costs - Puzzle with Missing Piece through Loupe.Las Vegas is known for its’ casinos, hotels and restaurants where people go to ( hopefully) make some money and spend some money on shows featuring singers and other stars.

It is also now known for the cost of loose gun laws, bump fire stocks and lasting emotional, physical and health care costs for the victims and survivors of the nation’s deadliest mass shooting. The dead have been buried, leaving families with the actual financial cost of a funeral. And now the families and friends are spending their time and energy wondering why this happened to their loved one and how they will spend the rest of their lives without that person.

The sounds of weeping.

The survivors are traumatized and many will need counseling. They can’t get the scene out of their heads- the noise of the gunfire- the noise of the screaming- the noise of the dead and injured- the noise of people running for their lives-the noise of the sirens. And some will face astronomical financial costs as long as they live.

We all pay.

Thanks to the corporate gun lobby and the lack of courage of many in Congress, the carnage continues every day and Americans pay billions every year to cover the costs of the shootings.

But I digress.

In this article there is a video where the sounds of screaming and the rapid fire of the gun are heard. It was frightening.

The sound of Congress doing something about changing gun laws after the massacre?

Silence.

The sound of the media 4 weeks out- silence.

We have already forgotten the Las Vegas shooting.

This is an American tragedy.

The victims and survivors have not forgotten. Time will tell if their voices will join the thousands of others who have experienced the loss of a loved one or friend, the injuries from bullets or the trauma of being at the scene of the shooting.

This is the cost of not doing anything about gun violence in America.

Listen to the “Sounds of Silence.”

We will not be silent.

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut along with Connecticut Senator Blumenthal and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin made some noise this week by introducing yet another bill to extend Brady background checks to all gun sales.

It appears that Congress will be silent on banning bump stocks even though they made some noise about it.

It is inexcusable that we have allowed them to get away with ignoring their responsibilities for protecting the public against insanely loose gun laws and allowing just about anyone to purchase just about any gun or accessory they want because they are cowards.

There will be a cost for this abrogation of responsibilities.

Congress members should pay with their seats. The rest of us are paying with our lives and the loss of loved ones.

There is no common sense.

Let Congress members visit this woman whose life is forever changed by the shooting as she sits in her wheelchair in therapy knowing she will likely never walk again. Let them hear her story. Let them understand that our healthcare system is broken and will not pay for this woman’s care for the rest of her life.

Would they be silent if this were one of their own?

Would they pay what it takes to prevent shootings in America?

The victims went to a concert the night of October 1st. They were not silent that night until after the bullets started flying and the carnage began. They had to do things they never thought possible( article from National Public Radio):

SIEGEL: First, had you experienced anything like this, and did you sense your training kicking in at all during the – during this?

LACY: I’ve never experienced anything at this magnitude. I’ve seen a lot in 20 years in Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Panama, Turkey but nothing like this where you’re supposed to be out having a good time and you don’t expect something like this to happen. My training kicked in immediately, and I bolted and looked towards the – where the shots were being fired from. And then I started trying to assess the wounded and trying to get people out of the area so we could take care of those that needed help and get those others that could move out of the area so they were not – no longer in harm’s way.

The man was in the military and said this to the interviewer:

LACY: You know, if you want to describe what war is, I guess this is what looks like war but on a civilian scale. These people didn’t deserve it. And I’m just glad that there were true Americans that stayed behind and helped those that were wounded and helped the individuals that were deceased.

It was worse than war- on a civilian scale, as he said.

This woman came close to death. She describes the scene– listen to her, Congress members. Or can’t you bear the thought of the blood and carnage? Her family talks of how much this will cost and whether they will be able to afford the cost. Loss of work, loss of mobility, loss of functioning in everyday life, loss of freedom, loss of security. From the article:

At the hospital, people were lined up along the wall. “Just so many people, just stacked, and blood—just tons and tons of blood,” Sheppard said. She was lying on a gurney next to a girl who had been shot multiple times in the leg. “I was breathing really hard, and I was like, screaming and making noise, and I was really, really, really, really, really, really struggling.” She hollered that she was going to throw up, was given a bucket, and began vomiting blood. An X-ray machine was brought into the room. She heard someone say, “Surgery, immediately.” Her last memory before she woke up, five days later, is of a doctor—no one at the hospital knows who it was—grabbing her face with both hands, looking in her eyes, and telling her, “You’re gonna fucking make it. You’re gonna fucking do this.”

One of the misperceptions that accompanies a mass shooting is that those affected are divided into the victims, who are killed, and the survivors, who live. The news cycle moves on—as it already has, a month later—and the collective notion, insofar as anyone who wasn’t there or didn’t lose a loved one thinks about it, is that those who survived are in the process of moving on, too. But, for those who were injured, existence is transformed.

“…and I was, like, screaming and making noise….”

The silence of Congress is deafening.

Whose rights come first? The right for anyone to own and carry any gun wherever they want and to shoot innocent people? Or the right to live free from gun violence in our communities?

I know my answer. Congress is silent.

 

Carnage in Minnesota

Bloodshed Word Represents Wordclouds Bloodletting And FightingThis past week-end was a stunning example of our urban gun violence epidemic. It happened in Minneapolis and St. Paul where 17 people were shot and 2 of them died of their gunshot injuries.:

 

 

So far this year, 229 people have been struck by gunfire citywide — roughly 21 percent fewer than this time last year — most on the North Side. If the pace continues, Minneapolis will log 283 shootings this year.

Many of the assaults have been attributed to gang disputes.

In 2016, Minneapolis had 341 gunshot victims, after averaging 243 per year over the previous decade, according to department figures. The number of juvenile gunshot victims has also risen in each of the past five years. Four of the 14 people shot in Minneapolis last week were 18 or younger.

Meanwhile, on a national level shootings continue unabated. Check out the Gun Violence Archive’s latest information.

2545 Americans have been shot since the Las Vegas massacre according to the Gun Violence Archive.

As with other causes of death, injury or illness, we must deal with the evidence and the facts in order to understand what is happening. In Minnesota the facts are that urban gun violence is killing and injuring too many people.

Sigh.

772 have been killed.

Sigh.

Why does this carnage not get the attention it deserves? Simple- the NRA and corporate gun lobby are extremist organizations that have a hold on our country and our leaders. Why in the world our leaders are afraid of a distinct minority of Americans is not a puzzle. Follow the money. Follow the influence.

But the puzzle is solvable.

Corporations, including that of the corporate gun lobby, are in control of our Democracy. They are eroding our freedoms, our dignity, our rights to be safe and to solve the most important problems facing us as a country. As long as we continue to elect people who are beholden to these minority interests, we will contribute to the demise of the country our founders envisioned.

And those very people who are beholden and who influence our leaders blame everything on gangs. Yes, gangs are responsible for much of our urban gun violence. And black men account for 50% of homicide victims according to this 2015 report from The Trace. I recommend reading the linked article for other statistics about gun violence in the year 2015 since it addresses the issues I have mentioned as concerns and puzzles that we can solve if we make some new laws, improve old laws and change the culture and the conversation around gun violence in America.

But to just cast blame and then claim that their lives don’t matter is cynical and mean. Much of the urban gun violence is due to gang activity. It is among people who know each other for the most part except when an innocent person gets caught in the crossfire like the Birdell Beeks whose daughter I have come to know.

Domestic violence is also in urban areas as are suicides. Children find guns they shouldn’t find in urban areas as well as rural areas.

The bottom line is the easy access to guns. That we can change by changing the conversation, getting involved with efforts to intervene in urban areas by offering services that will help our youth get out of poverty, make sure they have access to health care, education and other basic needs and to interrupt the cycle of violence.

And we can pass stronger laws to make sure all gun sales have a background check, to strengthen straw purchasing, stolen guns and trafficking laws and Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

Finally we can and should elect politicians who actually care about public safety and saving lives lost to gun violence. This is not a Republican or Democratic issue. This is an American public health epidemic being ignored by our leaders.

Make the gun issue one of your issues. Demand answers from candidates about what they will do to prevent some of the gun violence in America. Don’t let them hide behind the second amendment. This is not about the second amendment and gun rights. This is about the rights of Americans to live free of insidious and devastating gun violence that affects dozens of families every day and it comes as a total shock.

After the Las Vegas shooting it should be a no brainer to do something about the carnage. If candidates avoid the issue, you will have your answer. Vote for the other person or persist in asking the question. What will he/she do about urban gun violence? What will he/she do about gun suicides? What will he/she do about small children getting access to guns and shooting themselves or others? What will he/she do about stolen guns that contribute to crimes and violence? What will he/she do about easy access to guns on our streets? What will he/she do about assault weapons? What will he/she do about high capacity magazines and accessories like silencers and bump fire stocks?

And then expect answers.

Gun violence is destructive to families and communities. People should be able to sit in their cars, walk in the streets, go to work and school, play on playgrounds, go to public places and be in their homes without encountering bullets.

It wouldn’t take too much common sense to change things. The current atmosphere, however, is far from common sense.

As a country, we are better than this.

 

 

 

#LasVegasShooting

crying#Enough 59 dead. Hundreds injured. So much more information yet to come. I will be blogging about this when I am less exhausted and less angry about what just happened in America. There is no excuse. There is no reason for this. There is no common sense. Congress has no backbone. The gun lobby is an insane extremist organization that deceives the public about the risks of guns. Not everyone should be able to buy a gun. Some people are too dangerous for guns. Weapons of war should not be available to just anyone. All guns should have a background check. Stronger gun laws WOULD prevent some of the shootings. More guns have not and do not make us safer. Someone with a gun could have done nothing to save lives in this shooting.  American gun laws are very lax. The American gun culture is totally out of whack. The second amendment does not mean this. We all have a right to be safe in our homes, at concerts, in schools, malls, nightclubs.

And Congress wants to act to loosen regulations about gun silencers this week.

Insanity,

Where is common sense?

I mourn the victims and mourn with their families. We all have PTSD. The 2 deadliest shootings in the country happened in the last 2 years. When is the next one? What will we do? Nothing is not an option. It never was. Demand action. Thoughts and prayers are nice but we need much much more than that.

Vigils occurring all over the country- again. #Enough.

We are better than this.

“Good” grief

Charlie BrownI often use the words “good grief” to describe my anger, frustration, distaste, exasperation, disbelief and any number of other emotions when other words do not suffice.

Charlie Brown, the iconic character in Charles Schultz’s  Peanuts cartoons, which also became television specials, used this term often to express his frustration.

So how do these words find themselves into my post today? How does the funeral of a friend, a summit on gun violence as a public health issue, a hunting accident, an officer’s response to tragedy,  a racist incident at a Minnesota college, a road rage incident, the acquittal of a St. Louis police officer, tabling at a local festival and a gun suicide intersect?

Grief. Anger. Victims. Awe. Inspiration. Organizing. Keeping children safe from gun injuries and death.

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a friend. We met his family at church many years ago and his wife, in particular, became my friend and a member of my church book group. As she always does at funerals, my minister wove his story of love, compassion for his family and community, his humor, his fun loving life style and his courage in the face of his cancer diagnosis into the sermon. He was a volunteer firefighter and a Viet Nam veteran. No one was left without a tissue. We were all touched by his 3 adult daughters telling us about their dad and his 3 sons-in-law reading the verses. There were so many things we hadn’t known about our friend and it took his death for us to find out. He was an avid hunter, fisherman, outdoorsman, volunteer, grandparent to 6, and good man who made his mark on his circle of friends and the community at large. The grief of this family over the loss of a man who died too young will continue through their lives and they will live with the hole left by his death.

Grief is grief no matter how a death happened. With my friend it was cancer. There are many causes of death, of course. Suicides take the lives of way too many Americans and are on the rise in Minnesota. In Minnesota suicides by gun account for about 75% of gun deaths.

One of the topics of the Protect Minnesota 2 day summit I attended last week about gun violence and public health was the prevalence of gun suicides across the country and in Minnesota. There was much discussion about access to loaded guns, discussions about how much mental illness contributes to suicides and about other conditions or behaviors that contribute to suicides and suicides by gun.

An article in the Washington Post written by the wife of a gun suicide victim says it all:

I believe my husband’s decision to end his life two years ago was made seconds before it happened. His fate was sealed only when he reached for one of his guns for the last time. Once the hammer started to fall, that was it.

When our American gun culture doesn’t consider the risks of guns to those who should so clearly not have them, we have a serious public health crisis. Yes, it is a crisis.

I do not oppose the Second Amendment, but we desperately need to start changing the conversation about gun ownership in this country. My husband was a casualty of a jacked-up marketing fable that convinces men, women and children that their castles are unsafe unless they are guarded with guns.

Far more guns kill people in suicides, accidents, mistakes or fits of rage than from an intruder in the night. Families, partners and friends must acknowledge this reality when discussing having guns in the home. We also need politicians to support policies that give families the power they need to save their loved ones.

We can save our loved ones by enacting sensible and common sense measures such as requiring a Brady background check on all gun sales and Gun Violence Protective Orders. In fact, these make so much common sense that the majority of Americans and even gun owners agree. We can prevent at least some of the grief of gun deaths and injuries.

At the Protect Minnesota summit we heard from a panel of survivors, each of whom had lost a loved one to gun violence or had survived a shooting. To say the least, it was powerful and emotional and full of the grief of the survivors. This is why those in the gun violence prevention movement do what we do. We really don’t want others to feel the grief we have all felt.

survivors

There is a lot of grief to go around and some of it is actually in the form of anger. At the Protect Minnesota summit mentioned above there were local and national speakers highlighting ways in which we can reduce and prevent urban gun violence. Much of it was based on the racism associated with shootings in urban areas. And a lot of time was spent on how and why young men of color “need” guns that often end up in the wrong hands or in gun crimes, and worse, gun tragedies.

So when the “shooting” incident reported by a security guard at St. Catherine’s College in St. Paul made the media rounds, it first appeared to be another school shooting. A campus was locked down and law enforcement were called to the scene looking for the perpetrator. As it turned out, the perpetrator was the security guard himself who had irresponsibly brought his own firearm to work and “accidentally” discharged it, shooting himself in the shoulder.  He said he was afraid he would lose his job if he reported the truth and so he fabricated a shooter- of course a young black man wearing a hoodie:

Police arrested Ahlers, 25, on Wednesday, after he told investigators during questioning that he accidentally shot himself with his handgun and lied about it because he feared losing his job, according to St. Paul police. St. Kate’s prohibits people, including security guards, from carrying guns on campus.

St. Kate’s terminated Ahlers on Thursday. University President Becky Roloff said in a statement that the university “strongly condemns racial discrimination, racial stereotyping, and racial profiling of any kind. The statements attributed to the former employee concerning the race of an alleged suspect are deeply troubling and do not reflect our values.”

The man lost his job. A campus was locked down for nothing. Police were involved in an unnecessary search for a black man. And there are no “accidental” shootings. There is irresponsible handling of a deadly weapon however.

A St. Catherine University security guard put African-American men at risk of being hurt or killed during an intense manhunt in St. Paul, after he allegedly falsely accused a black male of shooting him, community leaders said Friday.

There were real implications to what Brent Patrick Ahlers told police, said community activist Robert McClain. He received calls regarding three people stopped by police during the search for the “suspect” Tuesday night, including by officers with guns drawn.

“When they look for someone who they assume is an active shooter, they don’t look in a nice way,” McClain said. “They don’t stop and ask questions in a nice way, so you victimize people who haven’t done a thing.

Good grief.

Law enforcement officers are a part of our communities and there to serve us and protect us from harm. Sometimes that does not work out well and there are plenty of recent incidents of officer involved shootings of young black men gone wrong that have left families and communities grieving. The latest outcry has come in St. Louis where the last two days have seen protests after the acquittal of an officer who shot and killed a black man.

We have a lot of work to do regarding relationships between law enforcement and communities of color. It is understandable that people of color are angry over the acquittals of officers after shootings of black men. This is a uniquely American problem and it is because of all of the guns in our communities. Officers are armed and citizens are armed. It doesn’t work out well and racism plays a part. When everyone is armed, too many people do not feel safe.

But officers are often involved in non-violent support of their communities. A story in the Duluth News Tribune caught my attention this morning. It is written by a female officer who comforted a young girl during the rescue of her father and sister in their drownings in Lake Superior. Officers are often traumatized by tragic incidents and sometimes even leave the force. But this officer chose to write a beautiful story about how she spent hours with a young girl who had lost her father and sister. Thanks goodness for officers like this one and their dedication to their communities and the victims of tragic incidents.

There was a law enforcement panel at the Protect Minnesota summit last week. All participants were caring, dedicated and educated individuals who cared a lot about how gun violence affects their communities and they are working to lessen the impact of gun crimes and gun violence. They all agreed that they saw too many gun suicides and too much urban violence and they want to work with us to solve important problems and lessen the grief that devastates families and communities.

And we know that many officers are themselves victims of shootings when trying to intervene in incidents or in actual ambushes by people who hate officers or have a grudge of some kind.  We have our very own home-grown terrorists. This is yet another element to our gun violence epidemic that we are ignoring at the risk of losing lives.

Good grief.

The grief that comes with a violent and sudden death never goes away. Another story in the Duluth News Tribune this morning was so poignant and difficult but I am grateful for the man who told his story of grief over an accidental shooting that took the life of his son while hunting decades ago:

He allowed Mark to move ahead a few steps. Just then, a grouse flushed along the trail.

“When a grouse flushes, your instinct is to be quick,” Kern said.

He was. He shouldered his shotgun and swung on the fleeing bird. In that split-second, he wasn’t aware that Mark had moved directly into the path of his shot.

“I shot him right in the back of the head,” Kern said. “Killed him instantly.”

He speaks openly about that day, not without showing some emotion. He shares his story with others from time to time. He hopes it might serve as a powerful reminder to other hunters about the importance of safe gun handling, about being aware of where one’s hunting partners are, about understanding the finality of an ill-advised shot.

…”the finality of an ill-advised shot.” Bullets are often final.

Hunting season is happening right now in Minnesota. Every year we hear of hunting accidents involving guns and too often it is one family member or a friend shooting another family member or friend. The guilt and pain that comes with that must be unimaginable. But this man goes on with his life as best he can and lives forever with his grief. More from the linked story:

Over the years, Kern has regained his inner strength and a sense of who he is. He believes strongly that each of us has “a force” within. A kind of energy. A spirit.

He cannot, of course, forget what happened on that long-ago September day. He doesn’t try to bury the memory. He fully acknowledges the reality of what he did.

“This happened to me,” he says.

The loss of a child is too painful to consider but it has happened to members of my family and to friends. Most have thankfully not been due to gun deaths. Yesterday my chapter set up a table at a local event to educated the public about how they can reduce the chances that a child will be “accidentally” shot in the home of friends. The ASK campaign encourages parents and gives them the language to ask that awkward question. Most gun owning families actually think this is a good idea and if they are storing their guns unloaded and secured, they can avoid the awful tragedy of an “accidental” shooting. It was ( and is) well received and allowed us to have many great conversations with parents and others about the risks of unsecured guns and other issues related to guns and gun violence.  ASK

Every day in America about 7 children a day die from gunshot injuries. Some survive and survive with lifetime physical and emotional injuries and PTSD. (PTSD was a topic of discussion also at the Northstar conference on gun violence and public health.) A road rage shooting that is now being reported in the media has left one innocent little boy with terrible head injuries but hopefully not with long term disabilities related to the shooting. The article is titled: ” Children Under Fire”.

Good grief.

How can this be a title for a story? It can be because in America, people carry guns around with them in their cars. And stupidly and tragically, they shoot other people when they get angry over their driving.  From the article:

“Stop!” Hill screamed, turning to check on her son, who, just before midnight on Aug. 6, had become one of the nearly two dozen children shot — intentionally, accidentally or randomly — every day in the United States. What follows almost all of those incidents are frantic efforts to save the lives of kids wounded in homes and schools, on street corners and playgrounds, at movie theaters and shopping centers.

Good grief.

(…) On average, 23 children were shot each day in the United States in 2015, according to a Post review of the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That’s at least one bullet striking a growing body every 63 minutes.

In total, an estimated 8,400 children were hit, and more died — 1,458 — than in any year since at least 2010. That death toll exceeds the entire number of U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan this decade.

Many incidents, though, never become public because they happen in small towns or the injuries aren’t deemed newsworthy or the triggers are pulled by teens committing suicide.

Caring for children wounded by gunfire comes with a substantial price tag. Ted Miller, an economist who has studied the topic for nearly 30 years, estimated that the medical and mental health costs for just the 2015 victims will exceed $290 million.

Good grief.

There is nothing good about grief. In America, the grief of families because of gun violence is remarkable, avoidable, preventable, and a national public health epidemic. We can do something about all of this but a minority of gun extremists and the corporate gun lobby get in the way of common sense. I wonder if they read about these incidents or have experienced the grief associated with gun deaths? I don’t wish it on anyone but stories must be told in order to make change.

In this post I have told quite a few stories. They involve victims, law enforcement officers, survivors, the grief experienced by the family of my friend, children, communities and families.

And I haven’t even touched on domestic shootings like the one that took my sister’s life. But they, too, happen every day. More grief.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is October– soon. I will write more then.

We are better than this.