Shootings at work

Laptop Screen with Safety Database Concept.Are you safe from a shooting while at work?

In the last 24 hours there have been 3 shootings at a place of work. Disgruntled employee? Get a gun? Domestic dispute? Get a gun and go to the place of work where person with whom you are in a relationship works and shoot her/him and others.

No problem. Easy access to guns makes this all possible.

In Minnesota the worst workplace shooting happened on September 27th, 2012. The anniversary of the Accent Signage shooting is coming right up.

Family and friends will be have to face the memories of that deadly day and relive the experience as they have for the past 6 years. Four were murdered. The gunman shot himself and died at the scene. Four were injured, and one of the injured died later.

I have come to know some of the victims’ family members. We are bound together now because we are in a unique club of people whose family members have been senselessly murdered by bullets.

It’s hard to move on from your own memories when the shootings continue as a reminder.

In the last 24 hours there have been 3 workplace shootings.

In Wisconsin, a man walked into a software company and shot and injured 4. He was shot by police at the scene.

In Aberdeen, Maryland, 3 innocent people were shot dead at a Rite Aid distribution center. 4 were injured and the shooter shot herself and later died. It is unusual for the shooter to be a female but not unusual for some sort of problem to end in a deadly shooting. The woman was a temporary employee. I’m sure we will learn more about her and maybe what led to the shooting.

From the above linked article:

“It’s very real. You don’t know where it’s going to happen, who it’s going to happen to. It’s just very scary and I just pray for all of them. They will need all the strength they can muster to get through this,” said neighbor Brigitte Kent. “You don’t know what’s going on in her mind, and a lot of times you don’t know. You don’t see any type of warning signs to watch for. People just suffer in silence.”

Another woman who lives in the neighborhood spoke with 11 News, but did not want to be identified.

“What makes someone do something like that? What is it? Twenty six years old. You haven’t done anything at 26. Nothing at all at 26,” the neighbor said. “Every time you hear something, it comes closer to somebody else’s home, somebody else’s school, workplace. It comes closer. It’s right here! I had no clue that her family lived this close.”

You don’t know where it’s going to happen. It’s more than scary. It is a serious national public health and safety epidemic left ignored by our leaders at all levels of government. Why? The question has to be asked and answers must come.

But I digress. There was a third shooting at a workplace- this time in a Pennsylvania court building lobby. Four were injured and the gunman shot and killed by law enforcement:

Fayette County District Attorney Richard Bower said the gunman walked up to the building, which houses the office of District Magistrate Daniel Shimshock, and shot a Masontown police officer in a lobby and then shot two men and a woman.

Another police officer from the German Township police department who ran into the building then shot the suspect several times, and the suspect died from his wounds, officials said.

The suspect was charged with strangulation, assault and other charges stemming from a domestic incident several weeks ago and he was due to have a hearing on Wednesday, Bower said.

A presumably armed officer was shot and injured. The suspect clearly should not have had access to a gun but in America, it’s easy to get one no matter who you are or how dangerous you could be with a deadly weapon.

Speaking of courthouse shootings and domestic shootings, the aunt of a friend of mine was shot and killed at the Hennepin County courthouse by a woman who should not have had access to a gun. That anniversary is coming up on September 29th. It’s been 15 years since that shooting happened and still her family members grieve and relive the day they got the news. From the article:

“The evidence shows that defendant Berkovitz came into the Hennepin County Government Center that morning with a loaded gun, and with obsessive resentment against the two victims,” says Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar.

The complaint details a scene where Berkovitz waited on the 17th floor with a century-old loaded gun she’d bought this past summer at a gun show — a .38-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver she’d learned to use by shooting target practice. Kordell and Hendrickson appear to have had safety concerns when they arrived that morning. The two asked a security officer to accompany them to the 17th floor, which he did.

Lori Wachter, Hendrickson’s sister, said her brother was concerned about Berkovitz. “He did mention her and we called her the ‘crazy lady’ because she was harassing him quite a bit,” she said. “He did screen his calls. So when we’d call him, we’d always get the answering machine, and when he found out it was us calling, he would answer and start talking. That’s all we knew about her.”

Seriously- where is common sense? Why do have to keep writing about these shootings? Why has nothing happened? Why do I have to keep asking that?

You may remember another recent workplace shooting. A gunman shot up innocent people at a newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland in June. 

5 were left dead and 3 injured. The gunman was apprehended.

The victims and survivors are crying out for change. The country is asking for stronger gun laws. Congress looks the other way. The corporate gun lobby is lapping at their feet yelling that gun laws won’t change anything.

They are wrong. They are spineless. They are cowards in the face of money and influence.

Until we get serious and extend and pass a stronger Brady background check law to insist that all gun sales get a background check, we will have shootings. Until we pass Extreme Risk Protection Order laws that will keep guns away from people who could be a danger to themselves or others, we will have shootings. Until we admit that every gun owner needs training before they walk away from a gun sale, we will have shootings. Until we make sure all guns are safely secured to keep them out of the hands of children, teens and from those who steal them from homes, we will have shootings. (ASK campaign) Until we admit that there are risks to owning guns and having them around in the home, we will have more shootings (End Family Fire).  Until we allow the necessary research into the causes and effects of gun violence, we will have shootings. Until we allow victims to bring lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers who are irresponsible, we will have shootings. Until we enforce the laws already on the books, we will have shootings.

Until our elected leaders stop being lapdogs for the gun industry, we will have shootings.

We are better than this.

Remembering 9/11

IMG_7286Today is the 17th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks on America. We can never forget what happened on that day that changed so much in our country. Nearly 3000 people lost their lives that day. Those attacks had nothing to do with guns of course.

Since that day, we do flying differently. We take off our shoes, jackets and some jewelry. We put our purses and carry-ons through metal detectors. We are wanded. We put our 3 ounce liquids in a small plastic baggies. We don’t carry box cutters or knives or guns……

But gunsare found, however, regularly by the TSA in the carry-on bags of passengers:

On May 3rd, the agency said, they found 26 firearms in carry-on bags, the most in a single day. The firearms were discovered at 15 different airports including one at Dallas Love Field, two at Dallas-Fort Worth International, one at Austin-Bergstrom and four at Houston’s Bush Intercontinental Airport.

This is not normal. We have to keep saying this. The people who “forget” that they have guns in their carry-on bags are not terrorists. They are Americans who presumably have legal permits to carry their guns. But what are they thinking?

Guns are not allowed on flights for obvious reasons but we do now have air marshals who are armed on many flights and passengers have no idea who they are. A recent incident with an air marshal occurred at the Minneapolis St.Paul airport from which I fly often:

However, communication between the cockpit and the MSP control tower that was captured by the authoritative website Liveatc.net revealed that it was confirmed onboard fairly quickly that both men were federal air marshals, and one of them “actually showed our flight attendant his gun,” one of the pilots reported soon after landing.

“That is completely against SOP [standard operating procedure] for them to show their firearm,” the pilot added. “So that’s the reason we declared an emergency.”

The marshal was initially mistaken for a passenger and with the hyper awareness about terror attacks on planes and gun violence in general, who can blame the cabin attendant?

Here is just one story about a loaded gun found at the Nashville airport where apparently guns are found with regular frequency at that airport.

The TSA offers advice to passengers who need to transport a gun safely while flying. 

It’s pretty simple to follow this advice and if you are thinking before flying, you just know there are certain things you can’t take on board with you any more after 9/11 and guns are among them. There is a certain amount of common sense and the realization that carrying a gun in public (or having one at home) is a grave responsibility that should come with gun ownership. Unfortunately for the too many victims, that is not the case.

We have had a few terror attacks at American airports since 9/11. The most notable is the shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale airport on Oct. 6 of last year.:

Santiago was born in New Jersey in 1990 and moved to Puerto Rico two years later.[22] He lived most of his life in Peñuelas, Puerto Rico, and attended high school there.[23] He joined the Puerto Rico National Guard on December 14, 2007, and served in the Iraq War from April 23, 2010, to February 19, 2011, as a combat engineer. He later served in the Alaska Army National Guard from November 21, 2014, until receiving a general discharge in August 2016 for “unsatisfactory performance.”[22] He was a private first class and received ten awards during his time in the military.[24]According to his family members, he had become mentally ill after his tour in Iraq and was severely affected by seeing a bomb explode near two of his friends while in service. They also stated he had recently received psychological treatment,[25][26] which was confirmed by federal officials.[27]

This shooter ( homegrown terrorist) was American born and served in the U.S. Military where he was affected by his experience in Iraq. Another issue for another post is the fact that many of our military veterans suffer from PTSD or other mentally incapacitating conditions that make them risks for suicide and homicide. This is yet another American tragedy.

It should also be mentioned that people who are placed on the terror watch list after 9/11 can legally obtain guns because we have not passed a law to make sure their names are placed on the list of prohibited persons:

The consolidated federal terrorist watchlist had 800,000 people (mostly non-Americans) on it as of September 2014, including 64,000 on a subset referred to as the “no-fly” list, which bars air travel to, from or within the United States.

While inclusion on the list does not disqualify people from purchasing weapons, prospective gun buyers are screened against the terrorist watchlist, and matches are forwarded to F.B.I. agents, who can use the information to help with investigations. Last year, 244 background checks involved people on the list.

According to a study by the Government Accountability Office using data collected by the F.B.I., the vast majority of those on the watchlist who attempted to buy a gun from 2004 to 2015 were allowed to proceed, because they were not stopped by a disqualifying factor like a history of criminal or mental health problems.

This is called the “terror gap” in our gun laws.

And, as I always mention, it is not necessary to get a Brady background check when purchasing a gun because our loose gun laws allow private sellers to sell to anyone, no background check required. This was mentioned in the above linked article.

Every year on this tragic anniversary we say the names of the victims of the attacks and remember them. Their deaths are not ever forgotten by their families and friends. It’s always an emotional day as it was this year. I visited the site of the 9/11 memorial last fall and I was stunned at how beautifully and respectfully it is done to honor those victims.

Every day in America 90 people lose their lives to bullets. Since In one month in America more Americans die from gun violence than died in total in the 9/11 attack. That is not meant to take away from the memories of those victims but to put things in perspective. Mass shooting anniversaries happen regularly in America on many days of the year.

Today we remember. Today we reflect on our country and patriotism and terrorism and victims and on the firefighters and police officers who lost their lives trying to save the victims. We remember the awful scenes we saw on our T.V. screens. We remember the aftermath and the collapse of two tall skyscrapers changing the horizon in New York City. We remember the horror and the finding of live people in the wreckage. We remember the pile of rubble left behind of what was left of human bodies, artifacts, fire trucks, personal effects. The site is now a sacred burial site and the victims’ names of there to read. They are just people going about their daily lives.

Nothing is the same.

Let us remember all victims of violent and tragic deaths.

Back to school gun nonsense

backpacks and little kidsOur kids are targets in our schools. Far too many of them have been murdered in cold blood while doing what they are supposed to be doing.

Why are we letting this happen? Why are we not addressing the issue of where school shooters get their guns and how we can prevent them from getting weapons of mass destruction?

Because….. rights.

Where are the rights of students and their parents to know that they will come home at the end of the school day safe and secure from being killed or injured by bullets?

So now our illustrious and totally unfit to serve Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is suggesting that the federal government should now allow states to be able to buy guns for teachers with federal education funds.

This is so ludicrous there are hardly words for it. Most teachers don’t want guns or want to be bodyguards or security guards while doing the difficult job of teaching our kids. I have been there. I worked in my school district as a special educator. Here is my take which I have shared before:

  1. My first duty is to get kids to a safe place and be with them in a very frightening and uncertain situation.
  2. My second is to stay with the kids, period.
  3. My last responsibility is to hope like hell that the shooter won’t find me and the group of kids I am trying to keep safe because I would not, in a moment when frightened and with adrenaline surging through my body, have the nerve or the knowledge to start shooting at a shooter. That would be a win-lose.
  4. Anyone who has not been in a classroom setting teaching kids should not be making these stupid decisions to arm teachers. Watch as a teacher goes through his or her day to see how difficult it would be to grab a gun while at the same time trying to keep students from being killed.
  5. The best thing we can do is to prevent school shooters ( mostly kids themselves) from getting guns in the first place. The majority of school shooters get their guns from home. Where is the responsibility of those “law abiding” gun owning parents and relatives? Check out this article about school shooters and how our weak laws and failure to deal with the problems we can see with some of our students contributes to the mass school shootings in our country:
  6. From the article above
  7. The 19-year-old had made threats and was expelled from school, bragged about killing animals, posed with guns on social media and went to a clinic for mental health treatment before took an AR-15-style rifle he had bought legally to a Florida high school and killed 17 people.

    The same style weapon has been used in Sutherland Springs, Texas; Las Vegas, San Bernardino, California; and Newtown, Connecticut. A similar rifle was used in Orlando.

    President Donald Trump kept a loophole allowing people to obtain guns while undergoing mental health treatment after President Barack Obama had tried to close it. Other mass shooters have gotten around restrictions by using weapons initially purchased legally

  8. Safe storage of guns is the key to keeping our kids safe. That should be a no brainer. Other measures like requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales and passing Extreme Risk Protection Orders can actually save lives and keep people from getting shot.
  9. Products like bulletproof backpacks or others being sold are just a way to make money and play on the fear of parents. What if the backpack is not with the kid when a shooting occurs? What if the backpack is in a locker or left on the floor?
  10. We can prevent school shootings. Ask your elected leaders why they are not working their tails off to do the right thing by and for our kids.

Common sense is what we need. Educators spend hundreds of their own dollars every year for supplies needed for teaching. Why? Schools are vastly underfunded. The Federal government does not contribute much to local school districts. State and local taxes pay for most of the education of our children. But every year, kids and their parents stress out over getting school supplies for the year since the districts don’t have the money to pay. Some families have a difficult time affording all of this so charitable non-profit organizations contribute backpacks and other supplies to families with needs. There are also groups who distribute supplies to teachers for free.

If Secretary Betsy DeVos wants to do something to help our kids, she should fund more assistance for mental health problems for kids and help pay for supplies and other things needed for our children to keep them financially secure and healthy and fed.  Class sizes are large. Kids’ needs are not being met. We have some unaddressed problems in our public schools. Arming teachers is one issue that comes with its’ own safety concerns and should be looked at very skeptically as a solution to the larger problem of access to guns by kids.

The idea that government would purchase guns for teachers is so out there as to make me wonder what people are smoking or where their priorities actually are for education in America.

Secretary DeVos played nice with gun safety reform advocates by inviting them to meetings to discuss school safety. The thing is, the word guns was not mentioned at these meetings. But when the influence of the corporate gun lobby pressures her and others in our government, she comes up with this cockamammie idea?

Where is common sense?

Wouldn’t those gun shops and manufacturers just be drooling at the prospect of selling guns to school districts all over the country?

Follow the money.

After the Parkland shooting on the heels of all of the other school shootings, to even publicly suggest spending tax money to arm teaches is tone deaf and misinformed.

Here is a list of school shootings so far in 2018. School has just begun in many states or will begin in a few weeks in others. That number will certainly go up and no one knows where the next shooting will occur. Will it be at your child’s school or your grandchild’s school?

We are better than this.

#Enough

 

UPDATE

I want to share this wonderful statement and video from Senator Kamala Harris of California when speaking about the dangers and ludicrous nature of arming teachers:

Guns and the midterm elections

FrightenedThe primary election in my state is history now. Many Democrats who have decided it is in their best interest to support reasonable gun safety reform were elected. I am happy about this. All over the country, (mostly) Democrats ran on the issue of guns safety reform or at the least decided not to run away from it:

 

 

 

“To win campaigns you need to have candidates who are their district. And so candidates should most certainly talk about the economic issues that we face,” said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), the head of the Democrats’ gun-violence prevention task force. “But they also need to talk about things that are important to the people they want to represent, and keeping your kids alive is certainly one of those issues.”

Minnesota candidates for Governor in the primary election ran on the gun issue or changed their minds about their previous positions to get elected. The candidate who had the worst record on gun safety reform and an A rating from the NRA came in third- for many reasons but her A rating did not sit well with Minnesotans. From the article:

“I’ve always gotten an F from the NRA, and Minnesotans need to know who is going to stand with them on this issue,” Murphy said in the final pre-primary ­debate this week.

Walz has said he has evolved on the gun issue and always been a pro-labor liberal on other issues. “The NRA you see now is not the NRA when they were teaching us gun safety classes when we were growing up,” he told the state news website MinnPost last year. On the trail, he says his experience attracting votes in a part of the state that little resembles the urban center of Minneapolis will help him not just win, but build consensus when he does.

The race heated up with the last-minute candidacy of Lori Swanson, the state’s longtime attorney general, who usually received positive NRA ratings. Dogged by accusations over whether she politicized her office, Swanson does not portray herself as a moderate; her final ad blitz includes one accusing Walz of failing to “stand up to Trump” by skipping House votes, and a super PAC supporting her campaign has sent out mail that pairs the years of Walz’s NRA endorsements with the years of deadly school shootings.

Tim Walz won the primary. He will need to stand firm and have a spine.

The Minnesota gun rights  folks ran this dark ad against Joe Radinovich who won the 8th Congressional district DFL primary. It’s so full of bull puckey I hardly know where to start. But this is the fear and paranoia that the NRA is instilling in its’ members and the false attacks we can expect from now until November.

Eek- a mouse! Run.

Joe and his family have been touched by gun violence in a major way. He owns guns, he hunts but he understands that gun safety reform does not lead to gun confiscation and registration as is claimed because he has common sense. He also knows that gun safety reform and gun rights are not mutually exclusive.

Joe’s opponent Pete Stauber, “having been grazed by a bullet in the head as a police officer” is running on gun rights. 

Go figure.

When Mr. Stauber was a police officer, he came to a vigil held by our chapter a few years ago. He rang the bell for officers who had been shot and injured or killed while in the line of duty. More guns have not made police officers feel safer. This year is no exception to the shootings of officers in the line of duty.

Let’s see how much corporate money Mr. Stauber will take from the NRA.

The thing is, officers would be safer if common sense gun laws were passed. Requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales would keep guns away from those who should not have them in the first place. Tightening up straw purchasing and trafficking laws would keep guns out of the hands of many who should not have them. Passing Extreme Risk Protection Orders would allow for law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from those who could be a danger to themselves or others ( including officers). Many deaths of officers come when answering calls about domestic abuse. These are among the most dangerous calls for officers, not to mention the women on the other side of that gun.

Safe storage of guns is also a key ingredient to preventing shootings and keeping stolen guns from getting onto the streets of our communities. There is so much that can be done to save lives without stepping on the rights of people to own guns if they are responsible and law abiding. I wrote about this in my last post.

It’s such a simple thing that can save lives and talking about this and the risk of guns in homes is not something from which to run but something that must be talked about in order to change the culture and the conversation. Candidates who speak honestly about keeping our kids and families safe will win elections.

On election night I spoke with a group of Democrats about this and mentioned for how many decades I had personally been working to get the party to embrace what the majority of Minnesotans and American voters have said they want. Many thousands of us have been diligently working with our own elected leaders to give them a spine about the issue of gun safety reform. It is beginning to work.

Republicans are running on opposing any gun safety reform life saving measures. If you think this seems perverse, you are right. Why would this be? What is the problem with life saving measures that will both keep us safe and allow law abiding Americans to have guns if they so choose?

Oh yes, the NRA is the Republican party.

The Republican party is afraid of the corporate gun lobby which is now enmeshed in the national scandal involving a Russian women, Maria Butina,, who infiltrated the NRA. Oh, and then there’s the issue of Russian money in the NRA coffers. Oh, and then there’s the problems with the NRA providing insurance to gun carriers ( Carry Guard) just in case, you know, a shooting happens while you are carrying a gun.

And this is who some of our lawmakers fear?

Get a spine.

The corporate gun lobby hides behind the second amendment whenever a bill or a suggest measure comes before their leadership. They pretend they might support such measures as in 2013 when Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey thought they had support for a watered down bill to require background checks on all gun sales.  They were blind -sided by the fake NRA support of the bill and have been afraid to bring it up again because…….. lapdog politicians who have no spine.

In the wake of the murder of 20 first graders and 6 educators at Sandy Hook elementary school, the Senate lacked the backbone to do the right thing.

The cynicism and spineless fear of the NRA continues in the wake of the Parkland shooting that came on the heels of the Las Vegas and Sutherland, Texas church shooting. Trump uttered empty words and nothing happened.

This is the country we have but not the country we want or deserve. This is the country that weakened our gun laws (spineless politicians) so just about anyone can carry a gun around wherever they go under the auspices of self protection. And yet, every day, irresponsible gun owners make deadly and serious decisions about how to use their guns.

This is the country where a silly argument about Aretha Franklin ( after her death yesterday) can lead to a shooting.

Without that gun, an argument would have been an argument. With that gun, an argument could have been deadly.

Thanks NRA and spineless politicians.

This is not who we are but at the moment, as long as certain of our elected leaders have no spine to stand up the corporate NRA and other gun rights groups, shootings will continue unabated. As long as certain of our elected leaders run away from what the majority of us want, we will see senseless and avoidable shootings.

Common sense has been replaced by fear and complacency. I don’t think Americans are going to let this happen in the long term. The Trump Presidency has made spineless politicians look like the cowards and controlling people they are. But it has also brought new energy to the Democrats who are standing up strong and tall for what is right and good about our country.

#Enough

Another anniversary

photo of BarbaraEvery year on this day, I write a memorial to my sister, Barbara Lund. I try not to dwell on the day my sister was murdered by her estranged husband. It was a day that changed the “age of innocence” about gun violence for our family. I mean, really, who ever thinks that a family member will be shot to death? My sister was in her second marriage but trying to get out of it after more than 20 years together with the man who would eventually kill her. The most vulnerable and dangerous time for women is when they are leaving or attempting to leave a relationship.

I wish we had all known then what we know now. I have no idea whether a tragedy could have been averted but I have learned that not doing something is not an option.

On Aug. 5th of 1992 my sister, now in a new relationship after a long and protracted and contentious divorce process, drove to her estranged husband’s home to deliver some paperwork that he needed to sign. ( He was also in a new relationship) She went with her partner because, as we learned later, she was actually nervous about her estranged husband. She knew he had guns in his home. Apparently, something I learned later but was not aware of, he did keep a lot of guns around his house.

We don’t know some of the details because my estranged brother-in-law killed himself months after the shootings of my sister and her partner leaving us with a lot of unanswered questions. ( That is another story) We do know that he said he thought he was killing her lawyers and doesn’t remember much except that he sort of blanked out during the shooting. That is often said by shooters. The loud noise. The sudden death. The blood. The chaos.

There is much more but you don’t need to know all of the details to know that when a gun is at the ready, disputes over relationships and divorces turn deadly in an instant. Even the shooters are surprised by it and often take their own lives at the same time in desperation. Taking a human life ( or two) is something no one, unless maybe those serving in the military or law enforcement, expects will happen.

What I know now is that my life changed as I got involved with advocacy groups like the Brady Campaign  and Protect Minnesota and others to prevent families from devastating, insidious, tragic, senseless and mostly preventable shootings.

There are ways to keep guns away from people who should not have them and change the conversation about the risks of guns in homes. Brady background checks will and do save lives if we expect that all buyers should have one no matter what.  Extreme Risk Protection Orders (Red Flag laws) also can save lives. Look at what has happened in Florida just since the laws passed there in response to the Parkland shooting and the pressure put on lawmakers by the outspoken and courageous students:

Hundreds of gun owners in Florida have been ordered to give up their guns under a new law that took effect after the deadly Parkland shooting in February, according to a report published Monday.

The Risk Protection Order, signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott just three weeks after a gunman killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas, aims to temporarily remove weapons from gun owners who have been deemed by a judge to possibly be a threat to themselves or others.

 

Yes. We can save lives.

Let’s do it together.

There are many issues before us during this chaotic election season. Gun violence is just one of them that has now taken hold and supported by the majority of Americans. Lawmakers are feeling this and have become more outspoken about the issue. I am a Democrat. For many years I have been working on my own elected leaders to be bold and speak out. It is finally happening. It took many years of advocating, meetings, vigils, sending emails, making phone calls and insisting on change.

That is what we have to do with so many other issues like health care, immigration, the economy, getting big money out of our politics, medicare, social security and the environment. It won’t happen overnight but suddenly it will take hold.

The Parkland shooting has moved the needle at long last on the issue of preventing gun violence. It wasn’t the Sandy Hook shooting or the Aurora theater shooting or the Las Vegas shooting or the Pulse Nightclub shooting, many of which took more lives than the Parkland shooting. But it was an accumulation that threw the public over the edge. Thanks to those courageous and outspoken students for the change we are seeing in our country.

It takes us all working together raising our voices and persistence.

We all have our stories to tell. Some are about the loss of life due to bullets. Some about insidious diseases or conditions. Some are about suicide by any means. Some are about immigration or about health care or about losing a job or about cancer, or Parkinson’s, or depression or Alzheimer’s or heart disease. All of these are in my family. Many of these are in families of people I know and care about.

At some point there is an intersection of the issues and that is this-  making us all safer, healthier and caring for one another when it needs to happen.

Gun violence is a public health epidemic where it intersects with health care. Gun violence is an economic issue as deaths by gun cost our law enforcement, legal and health care system a lot of money. Gun violence has an intersection with immigration. Gun violence has an intersection with education as so many of the mass shootings have happened in our schools. Gun violence has an obvious intersection with domestic abuse and violence.  

And to add to this list, gun violence intersects with terrorism and national security because we know terrorists can buy guns in the U.S. and we aren’t stopping them from doing so because of a big gap in our laws. This is a matter of national security as well. And if we don’t think the fomenting of fear and paranoia against the media and the increased presence of militia and other hate groups who are armed isn’t another big issue, we are not paying attention to a serious problem.

And yes, gun violence intersects with big money in politics as the NRA has become a lobbying and big money influencer in our politics and elections. That is why so many of our leaders won’t stand up and do the right thing.

We don’t need a repeat of what happened last August in Charlottesville but the same group is gathering in Oregon and a “Unite the Right” rally on the National Mall in D.C. next week-end. Let’s hope nothing goes wrong.

Many of these issues are the American tragedy. Failure to deal with all of them is failure to keep America safe and do the right thing for our citizens.school

When common sense prevails, we will all be better off.

On this day I remember not only my beautiful sister Barbara Lund but all my friends and people I don’t know who have suffered the grief of the sudden, unexpected and violent death of a loved one from bullets shot out of guns that are too readily available.

As my former Senator Paul Wellstone said, ” We all do better when we all do better.

Nothing could be more true.

 

UPDATE:

I posted this before I went to church this morning and I was inspired by the service to write more.  It was the annual outdoor service under a tent near the vegetable and wild flower garden planted behind the parking lot. There was great music, a wonderful children’s time, a great sermon and the closeness of the congregation gathered together in this sweet sultry summer morning. The minister of my church reminded the congregation that this was the 27th anniversary of her first service at our church.

In an odd confluence of events, it was one year after she began her ministry that my sister was murdered. On August 7th after our family finally learned of the news of the murder and all family members were informed, I called my minister to share what had happened with her. Her response was as it always is with her- so supportive and caring and kind and gentle with just the right things to say. After all of that, though, she told me that her husband, who had not yet moved to Duluth because he hadn’t found a job yet, was on his job as a Police Officer in Minnetonka, Minnesota on August 6th. He was one of the first officers to enter the home of my estranged brother-in-law, now taken to the mental ward of a Twin Cities area hospital by his lawyers ( another long story). He was one of the first officers to find her body and that of her partner. He was there. He saw the horrific scene.

Once and only once, I had the nerve to talk to him about the crime scene. I think I didn’t really want to know the details. I wanted to remember her as the vibrant, beautiful, talented, high spirited sister I knew who was trying to be happy. The last time I saw her was at my daughter’s graduation from high school less than 2 months before her murder.

This morning’s church service was a reminder to me about how supportive my minister and everyone in my church has been to me over the years. One year after my sister’s murder, I asked my minister to lead a celebration of life for my sister on the shore of Lake Superior. Friends and family attended. The minister read the eulogy from my sister’s memorial service as it was held quite privately in a church in the Twin Cities so not many of my friends attended.

Since that time, our chapter has held many vigils and events around gun violence prevention and I have led many mission moments about gun violence- too many. My minister has spoken many times at our vigils and has spoken out publicly about this issue. Gun violence has a ripple effect you see. The people in my church are affected by what happened to me and they support my efforts and they support stronger gun laws and preventing shootings.

I am humbled today by all of the emotions and the memories. I know that the majority is with me. If only the leaders of our country would step up and be with us so we can save lives.

church service

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Vigil for Las Vegas shooting victims at my church in Oct. 2017

 

Does technology trump the law?

Screen Shot 2018-07-31 at 7.25.00 AMMy last post was about the availability of blueprints to make 3D guns in the privacy of your own home. It’s a bad idea and now a whole lot of other people agree with me:

 

In 2013, the agency had said the plans could violate International Traffic in Arms Regulations. The government also had won several rounds of litigation with Wilson and his company since 2015.

Guns right groups, law enforcement officials and legislators have opposed the printing of guns.

“I don’t think that we really want to be in a world where Hamas in the Gaza has an ability to download a capacity for an AR-15 that could endanger security in that region, and the same thing could happen around the world,” Massachusetts Sen. Ed Markey, a Democrat, said at a hearing earlier this week with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The alarm bells have gone off as the public, Congress, Attorneys General and others have realized the implications of untraceable plastic home-made firearms finding themselves into public places. Just today, a Federal judge put an injunction on the release of the blueprints just before the deadline:

But with just hours before an Aug. 1 deadline when Mr. Wilson has said he will upload many more schematics — including instructions for making AR-15-style rifles — alarmed public officials had accelerated their efforts to to prevent Mr. Wilson from moving forward with his plans.

Attorneys general in eight states and the District of Columbia filed a joint lawsuit in federal court in Seattle on Monday attempting to force the Trump administration to prevent Mr. Wilson’s nonprofit organization, Defense Distributed, from making the technical plans for the plastic guns available online.

Today even President Trump weighed in on the controversy that his very own administration allowed in the first place. Take a look at the screen grab above. What he doesn’t understand ( no surprise) is what this is about- it’s not about the guns being sold. It’s about the blueprints for the guns becoming available for people to make their own guns. I suppose they could be sold after the guns are made which is another issue altogether.

I rarely agree with the President but it doesn’t make sense. Further, what makes even less sense is that his administration is allowing this to happen. Why didn’t he know that? Why didn’t they know this would cause a sh&6 storm in the public and in Congress?

Why did the President talk to the NRA about this? The NRA may not even like this idea given that if people start making their own guns they won’t be going to their local Federally Licensed Gun Dealer to buy them. And that is what this is all about. If we follow the money, we can learn a lot.

From the linked article above, Dana Loesch has weighed in on behalf of the NRA:

Dana Loesch, a spokeswoman for the N.R.A., mocked Democrats last week for concerns about the 3-D guns, and said that attempts to regulate the technology would be “absolutely unenforceable.” The guns were “what the rest of us call freedom and innovation,” she said in a video segment posted last week on NRATV, the organization’s online video channel.

Really? “…the rest of us call freedom and innovation”? Who are the rest of us? Not the majority of us. Not most in Congress. Not apparently the President. What does that even mean? The freedom for felons and terrorists to make guns they can use in terror attacks or domestic terror attacks?:

“What I’m opposed to is technology unchecked,” said David Chipman, a retired Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives special agent. He says 3D-printed guns present a real and present danger because they’re both unregulated and untraceable.

“We are basically handing the keys to the store to terrorists and armed criminals,” he said.

Frightening thought.

The man who wants to post these blueprints to make guns is a self described anarchist. What could possibly go wrong? As an anarchist and a Libertarian, he doesn’t really like laws. He believes that this technology may supersede gun laws and make them obsolete.

But maybe it won’t actually work out as planned. Nevertheless, technology changes rapidly. Who thought we would have cars that drive themselves?  

From this article:

Because there has been a proliferation of guns built with do-it-yourself kits obtained online, gun-control advocates have maintained that 3-D-printed guns are a future threat. Adam Winkler, professor at UCLA School of Law, said that when printing technology becomes more reliable and affordable — which, he said, is undoubtedly coming — it will have dangerous consequences for public safety. “Climate change isn’t affecting us today, but people can be concerned about the future,” he analogized. For now, though, the 80-percent-unfinished DIY gun looms larger.

From the above article: ” Wilson relishes that he edged his way into American gun-control politics.”

What is that about? Sounds like Wilson is pretty impressed with what he has created and the fuss it has caused. But it’s more than politics. It’s public safety. It’s about lives.

Technology is mostly a good thing. But we are finding out how technology has become a vehicle to attack countries and threaten their national security and democracies. The investigation into Russia’s influence in our 2016 Presidential election proves how easy it has become to infiltrate the websites and emails of candidates and organizations. Social media sites are vulnerable to attacks.

Facebook revealed more information today about accounts the company have removed because of deceptive campaigns:

Facebook announced Tuesday afternoon that it has removed 32 Facebook and Instagram accounts or pages involved in a political influence campaign with links to the Russian government.

The company says this included efforts to organize counter-protests August 10-12 for the white nationalist Unite The Right 2 rally planned in Washington that weekend.

Though the President held his first national security council meeting about the Russian influence in our elections and cyberattacks, ( more than a year after the country learned about the Russian attacks) they met for about an hour on this important topic and then had no recommendations about how to stop and fix the attack.

So how is this all related to 3D guns? Cyberattacks are one thing. We know they are happening. I got a message yesterday from Instagram asking if I had signed in from an Android in another part of the country. The answer was no and I changed my password. My daughter got an email from Google saying that her son’s email ( which he almost never uses) had a sign-in from a Russian site. We know now that Senator Claire McCaskill’s account was hacked by Russians as well as those of 2 unnamed Senators.

Technology is in many ways helpful and we couldn’t do without it- or I couldn’t any more. But it also causes some bad things to happen. There’s cyber stalking. There’s cyber advertising which is more than annoying. There are now cyber plans for guns made by a printer at home. The man who developed the plans claimed his first amendment rights.

I’m obviously not an attorney so don’t know the intricacies of the law regarding first amendment rights. But what about skirting federal and state gun laws which keep us from becoming a lawless society? We all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Laws are enacted for good reasons and most of them have to do with public safety and security.

If the plans lead to a terrorist making a gun and shooting a politician because the gun he made is undetectable to metal detectors, is that OK with our Congress? With President Trump? With Cody Wilson? With the NRA? Where do responsibilities end when it comes to rights? Or maybe the question is, where do responsibilities begin?

What’s OK when it comes to guns and gun violence?

We are crossing a dangerous line and leaving all common sense behind us. This is the result of a gun culture that values gun sales and second amendment rights over the ability to actually keep people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them anyway.

So the President calls the NRA to talk to whoever he talked to about 3D guns. I would be interested in knowing to whom he spoke and what that person’s position is on these guns. Are they OK with it? They seem to be OK with domestic abusers, terrorists, felons and those adjudicated mentally ill being able to buy guns without  background checks from private sellers. So what about 3D guns?

The NRA remains silent about the Maria Butina case and the fact that Russian money was funneled into its’ organization for the purpose of helping the campaign of Donald Trump.

The NRA has not mentioned the shooting of a “good guy” with a gun by Aurora, CO. police after said “good guy” shot and killed an intruder during a burglary. The officers thought the “good guy” was the intruder since he was standing in his house with his loaded gun in his hand:

Metz said officers who arrived at the scene heard gunshots inside the home and ran into an armed man. An officer shot the man, who died at an area hospital.

After clearing the scene, according to Metz, officers found a juvenile injured inside and a man shot dead on the bathroom floor. The child was taken to a hospital for “serious, but non-life-threatening injuries” caused by the intruder, he said.

Clearly we are not a polite society or a safer society with the proliferation of guns in America. Guns are more likely to cause injury or death to those who own them ( of their families) than using them in self defense. 

This knee-jerk response to gun violence is not only nonsensical, it is outright dangerous. The bottom line is, guns beget gun violence.

The Violence Policy Center (VPC) recently released Firearm Justifiable Homicides and Non-Fatal Self-Defense Gun Use, which uses available federal data to determine that, despite the myths propagated by the firearms industry and gun lobby, private citizens rarely use guns to kill criminals or stop crimes. (…) 

There’s a simple explanation for why gun owners believe guns make us safer: The gun industry and the National Rifle Association (NRA) have spent decades convincing Americans that firearms are the best answer to any possible danger.

The NRA falsely claims that “millions” of Americans use guns for self-defense every year, a number that pro-gun advocates continually use to push their agenda — even though it has been shown to be factually inaccurate.

(…) The “good guy with a gun vs. bad guy with a gun” trope is a gun lobby and firearms industry myth. Our research found that a gun is 34 times more likely to be used in a criminal homicide than to kill in self-defense.

Technology has presented us with all kinds of new conundrums.  Do rights allow us to do absolutely anything we want? Should a right to bear arms allow felons, terrorists and domestic abusers the right to make guns with no background checks? Do rights allow for anything to be put on the internet no matter what harm it could cause to individuals or the national security of our country?

I don’t have the answers. But the questions are important.

We deserve the answers and we deserve a country where we don’t have to worry about plastic untraceable guns being available to anyone who can make them.

#Enough

 

UPDATE:

Here is more information about the Aurora officers’ shooting of a man in his home:

The man shot and killed by Aurora police was defending his family from a naked stranger who had burst through the front door of their East Montview Boulevard home in the wee hours of Monday morning, grabbing an 11-year-old boy who was sleeping on a couch and attacking him.

This sounds positively bizarre and frightening. In this case it seems the grandfather was justified in shooting the intruder who clearly intended to harm a family member. I have no quarrel with using a gun in that situation.

The problem came with the chaos and police not knowing what was happening. Things happened very quickly and decisions were made in an instant.

Could everyone have taken a second to deal with this differently? Perhaps but we still don’t all of the facts.

It would be interesting to know if the door was locked to prevent the man from bursting into the home. But that, too, may also come out with further investigation.

 

 

 

A big fat NO to 3D guns and other gun rights dangers

3D gun
from CNN.com

Technology could change the gun safety reform movement and the conversation about guns and gun violence.  In the words of the young man who created plans for how to make 3D guns on printers: 

 

“I want to reserve a space for the humane. I hope I would react humanely. And I hope it would affect me. But does that lead me to apologise for what was done? And I appeal back to standard discussions about respect for civil liberties. What does that mean? It means people will abuse these rights. But what does it mean, as a structural feature, to have access to military weapons as a society? I’m not trying to brush it off but it means accepting people will abuse their liberties, but that’s why they deserve protection. If no one is going to abuse a gun, it wouldn’t be a right worth protecting. If no one was going to make a speech, we wouldn’t need to defend the principle of freedom of speech. The same thing with the right to be secure in your possessions.”

The problem with Wilson’s argument is that’s it’s an argument, one that you might formulate in the sixth-form debating society. And on the other side, there would be a dead person. Your mother, perhaps. Or your son who, if it hadn’t been for Wilson, and his desire to push the boundaries of internet freedom further, would still be alive. But I can’t get through on this point.

Coming from an avowed libertarian and anarchist, these are worrisome words. “The right to secure your possessions” is an interesting turn on language. Given that every day, there are incidents where otherwise “law abiding gun owners” don’t secure their possessions and people end up dead, what in the world does this guy mean?

The thing is, guns are deadly weapons designed to kill people. Do people have a right to secure opioids in their possession if they are illegally obtained? Can one do anything with them if they so choose?  From the article:

Criminal laws often change because of shifting societal attitudes or in response to other events. One example is the decriminalization and reduced penalties involved in possessing small amounts of marijuana. But the destruction caused by the opioid epidemic and explosion in prescription drug misuse and abuse has led to the opposite result. Louisiana laws regarding possession of heroin, opiates, and prescription drugs have become harsher, and prosecutors throughout the state have been aggressively seeking convictions as part of efforts to fight the crisis.

It is not hard to understand why law enforcement is attacking these crimes so vigorously. In 2016, for the first time in history, more people died in New Orleans from drug overdoses than were killed in homicides. It is estimated that 175 Americans die from opioid overdoses every single day, and the personal and economic damage caused by opioid abuse is astronomical.

If you are arrested for possession of heroin or the unlawful possession of opioids or other prescription medications, you could be facing hefty fines, significant time behind bars, and other serious consequences.

And so, there are shifting societal attitudes in response to gun violence. In fact, 97% of Americans agree that we ought to require a criminal Brady background check every time a gun is sold. That doesn’t happen as we all know. Private sellers are allowed to sell guns in their possession to anyone who wants to buy them. It could be a felon. It could be a domestic abuser. It could be someone who has been adjudicated mentally ill. The seller wouldn’t know that of course, unless the buyer was subjected to an easy and quick background check through the FBI’s National Instant Check System.

But if one can possess a plastic gun made at home on a 3D printer, who is to know anything about the person who has made that gun?

The plans for such guns will be allowed to be posted on-line starting on Aug. 1st. Thanks Trump.

What could possibly go wrong? From the article:

Last month, the agency agreed to settle a multi-year legal battle with Texan Cody Wilson, who claimed in a lawsuit the government infringed on his right to free speech for posting the programming code online to print a 3D gun. He was ordered to take it down for violating US export laws.

The administration said in the settlement, which was not made public but provided by his attorneys to certain media outlets, that Mr Wilson’s charity group Defense Distributed could post the code online and it agreed to pay $40,000 of his legal fees.

And further:

“The government fought us all the way and then all of the sudden folded their tent,” Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation, a gun rights group who assisted Mr Wilson on the case, told CNN.

Though the lawsuit had been filed during the Obama administration, Mr Gottlieb said much of the case had been handled by career civil servants not political appointees of Mr Trump.

Anyone remember that the NRA spent over $30 million to make sure Trump was elected? 

Thanks NRA.

Was it Russian money as is asked in the above article?:

The F.B.I. and special counsel Robert Mueller are investigating meetings between N.R.A. officials and powerful Russian operatives, trying to determine if those contacts had anything to do with the gun group spending $30 million to help elect Donald Trumptriple what it invested on behalf of Mitt Romneyin 2012. The use of foreign money in American political campaigns is illegal. One encounter of particular interest to investigators is between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian banker at an N.R.A. dinner. (…) Torshin—who Spanish authorities wanted to arrest in 2013 on money-laundering allegations—made energetic efforts to ingratiate himself with the Trump campaign. (Torshin was never charged and has denied any wrongdoing in the money-laundering case.) He met Donald Trump Jr. at a private dinner during the N.R.A.’s convention in Louisville, Kentucky, in May 2016. Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Trump Jr., has dismissed the conversation between his client and Torshin as “all gun-related small talk.”

Really? “Gun related small talk”? Doubtful.

Since the above linked article was written, we now know about an actual Russian spy who spent some time getting to know leaders from the NRA and other conservative folks who had influence into the Trump campaign. I wrote my last post about this.

So back to 3D guns. Is there any common sense at all to allowing anyone to make a gun in the comfort of their own home?

The answer just has to be NO. People who will be a danger to themselves or others, if they have the funds to invest in the required printer, could make a gun like this and carry out a crime against an innocent person(s). This is just not the kind of America we want or should have. Gun rights do not include anything that anyone wants to do. There are limits.

And speaking of limits and the NRA, can we touch for a minute on the tragic incident in Florida, the gunshine state, involving a white man who shot and killed a black man in a dispute over a parking space?  Because of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, the shooter will most likely go free. There is still another step but the sheriff has said he will not charge the man with murder because of this law. Read below:

Sheriff’s detectives said Michael Drejka, 47, approached Jacobs while her boyfriend Markeis McGlockton, and the couple’s 5-year-old son, Markeis Jr., went into the store. Drejka and Jacobs began arguing about her parking in the handicapped parking space.
Witnesses told police that McGlockton came outside, walked over to Drejka while he was arguing and “forcibly pushed” Drejka, causing him to fall.
“This is a violent push, this wasn’t a shove, this wasn’t just a tap,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a Friday press conference.
In response, the news release stated, Drejka pulled out a handgun while he was on the ground and shot McGlockton in the chest.
“Witnesses say McGlockton walked back into the convenient store where he collapsed,” the release stated. He was taken to a hospital where he died.
The state of Florida has made it even harder for victims’ families to get a hearing in court over the murder of an unarmed ( most often) loved one:
The framework of Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law was changed this year, Gualtieri said. Before, the defendant/shooter used “stand your ground” as a defense and had to prove they were in fear of further body harm, the law now says the state attorney has to provide “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant/shooter is not entitled to “stand your ground” immunities.
“Nowhere else is there anything like this in criminal law where somebody asserts something and the burden then shifts to the other person,” Gualtieri said. “That’s a very heavy standard and it puts the burden on the state.”
Gualtieri said the case will go to the state attorney. Meanwhile, “Drejka will not be charged, will not be arrested by us … either (the state attorney) will concur or not and if he concurs, there will be no arrest.”
Thanks NRA.
Over 30,000 Americans are killed by bullets every year. It is a health care epidemic.
And we are doing nothing but making it worse. And by we, I mean the NRA lapdogs in Congress and our state legislatures. 
Elections are coming. Vote for candidates who will actually care about saving lives. Gun rights and gun safety reform are not mutually exclusive no matter what the corporate gun lobby would like you to believe.
UPDATE:
All 3 of the major gun violence prevention groups are working together to make sure the instructions for making 3D guns do not go up on a website as has been allowed by our government. Thanks to the Brady Center, Everytown and Giffords for working together to keep America safe from senseless shootings.:

WASHINGTON– Attorneys representing the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety and Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence have informed a Texas federal court that they anticipate filing legal action within days related to a settlement that would allow new designs for downloadable, untraceable guns to become public and available world-wide as early as August 1. The gun safety organizations urged the court to consider the public safety and national security risks posed by the settlement, which would let Defense Distributed —a company run by a self-proclaimed anarchist who wants to undermine gun safety laws —post its gun blueprints online in the form of Computer Aided Design files.

“[T]his settlement is far from ordinary,” the gun safety organizations write in a letter available here. “It is dangerous, irreparable and – as the government itself has emphatically argued for years – raises issues of national defense and national security of the highest order.  It is also, we believe, illegal.”

This is very good news indeed. National security is at stake here. What kind of country to we want? I would argue that we don’t want people making 3D guns in their living rooms and potentially committing acts of terror on the American public.