Background checks and gingerbread houses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Trace has published this article about ALICE training:

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

And more:

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

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

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

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

Knives, tusks, guns and terror attacks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can’t make this stuff up.

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

Stunning.

#DoSomething

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

perpetrated by someone who displayed prior warning signs;

intermingled with acts of domestic violence; and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We have a serious unsolved problem.

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

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

We are better than this. Where is common sense?

Podcasts about gun violence

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

But let me summarize a bit of what I said:

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

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

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

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

The Charleston 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are better than this.

In memory:

Rev. Clementa Pinckney

Rev. Sharonda Singleton

Myra Thompson

Tywanza Sanders

Ethel Lee Lance

Cynthia Hurd

Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr.

Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor

Susie Jackson

Look at their faces. Say their names.

Gun laws in Arizona and Utah

I could write about so many things given the current situation. By that I mean the continuing carnage like the death of a young St. Paul man who was trying to get a gun away from a domestic abuser to protect his cousin. But oh well, these happen every day. No big deal.

Or I could write about going to the Westminster Town Hall Forum on Tuesday to hear Parkland student David Hogg speak. I will just say that it was a happening. These forums are quite famous and held in a beautiful church in downtown Minneapolis. Hogg was very warmly and enthusiastically received getting 3 standing ovations. He spoke with clarity and passion.

Or I could write about how Congressman Steve King predicted violence between red and blue states- like a Civil War.

Or I could write about the news that New Zealand has banned semi-automatic rifles from sale and eventually possession just six days after the massacre that killed 50 people in Christchurch.

Commonsense never seen in America.

Or I could write about the Minnesota man, armed with 2 stolen guns ( from friends) terrorized his ex girlfriend claiming he was going to take people to hell. Luckily no one is dead but an officer was injured in a scuffle with the man.

Yes. This happened. Lock up those guns. Don’t let friends use your guns.

Or I could write about a conversation I had with a local Republican when I was seeking more information about an upcoming fundraiser for my Congressman where a gun raffle will be part of the fundraiser. When I asked what type of gun would be raffled he said it is usually an AR-15 but not sure this time. He also admitted that whoever won the raffle would be required to undergo a background check. Good news and bad news. This was announced on the same day as the New Zealand massacre.

So we continued our “conversation” when the man got defensive and started in on all kinds of NRA myths about background checks including that they would lead to registration. And that is was mentally ill people who committed the mass shootings. That the Nazis took guns from the Jews because of registration. That the guns used by the Mexican cartel were coming into our country from Mexico. That there are lots of gun dealers in Mexico despite my telling him that there were not- there is only one gun dealer in Mexico and most of the guns come from the U.S. And finally that the NRA got the original Brady background check bill passed.

It was a frustrating conversation based on his total denial of the facts and his insistence that guns would be registered and confiscated if we extend the very same Brady background checks to private gun sales. At least he admitted he didn’t want domestic abusers and adjudicated mentally ill people to have guns but then didn’t seem to think it was a good idea to make sure they didn’t get their guns by requiring background checks on all gun sales.

Sigh.

But instead I am going to write about gun laws in 2 states I am going to visit in a few days. I have done this many times before when traveling. We will be taking a family trip to the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Zion National Park.

So let’s take a look at Arizona where we are going first. Giffords Law Center has this report about the gun laws in Arizona:

In 2016, Arizona had the 16th highest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. In addition, based on 2016 Firearms Trace Data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Arizona had the 9th highest rate of crime gun exports among the states – meaning that crime guns originally sold in Arizona were recovered after being used in crimes in other states at the 9th highest rate among the states. Arizona exports crime guns at a rate that is more than double the national average, and more than double the rate at which it imports crime guns from other states.

Famously of course, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot and seriously injured at a Tucson Congress on Your Corner event. The shooter did not have to get a permit to carry his gun (because it is not required in Arizona) and ammunition that fateful day when 6 people were killed by bullets. He shouldn’t have had a gun. Enough said.

Utah- the state that provides gun carry permits to many people from other states. Seems like a fine idea, right? One can pass a test on-line without even touching a gun or going to Utah and be able to carry a gun in states all over the country:

Fifteen years after the Utah Legislature loosened rules on concealed firearm permits by waiving residency and other requirements, the state is increasingly attracting firearm owners from throughout the country. Nearly half of the 241,811 permits granted by the state are now held by nonresidents, according to the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification, which administers the permits. (…) Another source of contention is that the class does not require any actual shooting. One could conceivably obtain a Utah permit without ever having fired a gun. Nevada
 and New Mexico
 recently stopped honoring Utah permits because the class does not meet its live-fire requirements.
“Residents of other states should be aware that people who have a Utah concealed-weapon permit may not have actually fired a weapon,” said Dee Rowland, chairwoman of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah. “I think that would be quite shocking to members of the public.”

Utah has the 24th highest rate of gun deaths in the country.

Remember when Utah decided to allow teachers to carry guns in schools ( one of the few states that do) and shortly after the law passed a teacher’s gun fired while she was in the bathroom at her school, injuring only herself ( luckily). I do.

Sigh.

So off we go on our trip. I am looking forward to seeing this beautiful section of our country. Spring is just beginning in Minnesota with snow still on the ground. Maybe when I get back, the snow will be gone. Wishful thinking but hopeful. I would like to say the same about our own Congress and my state legislature having the will to pass laws that over 90% of Americans and Minnesotans want. Time will tell.

By Diliff – taken by Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=305224

They’re coming for your cows and your guns

By Famartin – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27101259

Yes. It’s true. The Democrats ( aka socialists to some) are coming for your cows. That was uttered at the annual CPAC event which always brings out the worst of the conservatives trying to foment the worst fears and paranoia of the attendees.

Several speakers but most notably, former Trump “advisor” and ultra conservative Sebastian Gorka, did it with a flare.

“They want to take your pickup truck. They want to rebuild your home. They want to take away your hamburgers,” former White House aide Sebastian Gorka declared at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday. “This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved.”

Yes. He said that. Red meat for the right. If we think that Stalin had any idea about pick-up trucks or hamburgers, we are dealing in fake news.

Am I missing something? Is there something radical about trying to save our planet for our grandchildren? The majority of scientists agree that climate change is real. Increasing numbers of Americans believe Climate Change is real but just don’t know what to do about it. Is there something radical about making sure all of us have affordable access to health care? Is there something radical about wanting to save lives? Facts are stubborn. It takes years of research and advocacy to change the hearts and minds of the public about issues of major importance to citizens. These are not radical ideas but ideas based on facts and what’s best for us all. I think that is what the founding fathers had in mind. It’s really important to deal in facts when talking about the effects of laws or ideas presented that are not laws such as the Green New Deal.

Speaking of facts and what’s in the best interest of the public writ large, this week was an emotional and satisfying victory for common sense after HR 8 and HR 1112 passed in the U.S House of Representatives. I was in DC for a celebration of the anniversary of the passage of the Brady Law 25 years ago on Feb. 28th. It was great to be in a room full of activists who had and have worked so hard to make sure that all gun sales have background checks. It was a historic week for gun safety reform and public health and safety.

My own Congressman, Pete Stauber, in 2 visits I made with him earlier this week ( one at O’Hare and one in his office on Capitol Hill) had never heard of Armslist.com. That is simply not OK. Because sites like Armslist.com are responsible for selling a pretty good number of firearms, ammunitions and accessories with no background checks. We have no idea if a private seller on the site connects with a felon, domestic abuser or someone who is adjudicated mentally ill and transfers a firearm to that person. The site is one of the problems with our background check system, that if fixed by Congress, would stop this kind of sale from happening.

And yet, the hyperbole and fear shouted out by members of Congress was as if these kinds of sales were not happening. They are. But never mind the facts. When one is endorsed by the NRA and makes promises, as my Congress member has, we can expect them to vote against common sense measures. Don’t be fooled by any language that might seem conciliatory. When we follow the money, the truth is revealed.

The current President of the NRA, the infamous liar Oliver North, claimed at the CPAC conference, that all guns would be confiscated if HR 8 became law.

“Our opponents ought to call themselves the vanguard of the disarm America movement,” North said. “They’re not going to be content to simply ignore the last four words of the Second Amendment, they want to repeal all 27 words and confiscate every firearm in the country.”

Yikes. They’re coming for your guns. Of course there is no basis in fact for that statement and it won’t happen, but never mind the facts. And who is this amorphous “they” who are coming?

Others proclaimed that if the bill became law, law abiding gun owners would go to jail for transferring firearms to family members. This is not in the bill and it is fleshed out in the bill language that family members are exempt from requiring background checks before a transfer but never mind the facts.

I heard from my own Congressman that the cost for background checks would be raised to $500.00 if the bill passed into law. NO. That is nowhere in the language of the bill and will not happen.

Listen up. These are the same background checks that most law abiding gun owners submit to when purchasing their firearms from federally licensed dealers. What’s the fuss? How will law abiding gun owners be affected if private sellers ask them to go through a background check?

They won’t. But never mind the facts.

Equally nonsensical arguments came out of the mouths of Minnesota Representatives of the House Public Safety committee on Wednesday evening at a hearing about HF 8 and HF 9. You would have thought that the sky was falling. Conspiracy theories were uttered. False claims of rights and firearms being taken were issued. Denial that on-line sales without background checks happen at all. ( See Armslist.com)

The bills passed anyway. The tired and false arguments from gun lobby supported elected leaders have been debunked for decades. Nevertheless, they persist. And they try new ones on as bills come forward that they can’t possibly support because….. rights….. money from the NRA…… angry, armed gun rights activists.

As Protect Minnesota and Moms Demand Action activists gathered for the hearings this week, they wore stickers on their shirts that said “Unarmed and Unafraid”. Indeed. The gun rights activists wore tee shirts that said “shall not be infringed”. They forgot the rest of the second amendment wording- “well regulated militia”.

What is to fear anyway? Women and grandmothers and young men and students wearing orange shirts? The machinations the gun rights folks went through to make sure they could come to the meeting armed to prove some kind of point that eludes most reasonable people was on full display in Minnesota.

We are not coming for your guns. Give it up. Keep them if you are law abiding and be responsible for what happens to them at home and in public. Don’t do what this guy did.  

Ouch to say the least. There are no “accidents” with firearms.

Don’t say what conservative attorney Joseph diGenova said on FOX news:

Speaking to conservative pundit Laura Ingraham, diGenova summed up his best advice to friends: “I vote, and I buy guns. And that’s what you should do.”


Yes, people are stockpiling guns for some kind of war with their own government apparently. Seems like a bad idea to me but whatever. And then sometimes you get caught doing the wrong thing with your stockpile like this Minnesota “law abiding” gun owner and elected county commissioner did:

Among the items found inside Hamer’s shop were: 
3 grams of methamphetamine.
Several pipes commonly used to smoke drugs.
Two scales which tested positive for meth.
Green leafy substance believed to be synthetic marijuana.
55 firearms, including a loaded 9mm pistol.

Guns and drugs often go together but they are a lethal combination and a really bad idea. I wonder what will happen to that stockpile of guns now?

Or don’t say what this Minnesota House member said at a gun rights rally:

“Some days, you feel like the frog in the boiling water. Just exactly how long are they going to just keep notching it up a degree here, and a degree here and a degree here until you’ve had enough? That line is for each of us to decide, each on our own terms,” Republican state representative Cal Bahr said during a Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus rally on Saturday. “There’s a lot of us in this room that have had enough, and it’s time to start riding herd on the rest of these people that want to take your rights away from you. They will not go quietly into the good night. They need to be kicked to the curb and stomped on and run over a few times,” he added, drawing cheers from the crowd. 
He then invoked Paul Revere and the American revolution in his closing remarks. 

Yep. I am one of those opponents of his perceived rights that Representative Bahr wants to kick to the curb and get stomped on and run over. Don’t say those things in defense of gun rights and carrying loaded guns around in public.

Don’t let your young child get a gun and do this.

The brothers were playing with a loaded handgun at their Pahokee apartment in Fremd Village, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, WPTV5 reported Wednesday evening.
The older brother, age 7, was apparently accidentally shot by his younger brother.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Just “google” child shoots sibling with gun and see the long list. You can do it by state or in general. It’s stunning how many irresponsible gun owners don’t understand the risk of guns in their homes. Perhaps they should be introduced to EndFamilyFire.

Don’t use your gun in a moment of anger and shoot your partner or someone else or threaten someone or get mad when a dog urinates on you.

Don’t do that with your gun. Be safe and responsible. That’s all we ask. If you want to keep your firearms and your rights, stay law abiding. It is only those who aren’t who will lose their rights and possibly their firearms. Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill animals or people. They should be sold only to people who will use them legally and are law abiding.

And people like the shooter at the Aurora, Illinois workplace should not have guns. He slipped through the cracks. All we want is to strengthen the laws already on the books and pass new ones to keep that from happening.

Don’t do any of the above with your gun. Store guns safely away from hands of kids, teens and people who may be dangerous to themselves or others.Be safe and responsible. That’s all we ask. If you want to keep your firearms and your rights, stay law abiding. It is only those who aren’t who will lose their rights and possibly their firearms. Guns should be sold only to people who will use them legally and are law abiding.

But do remember that law abiding gun owners like my now deceased and ex brother-in-law can become felons in a matter of seconds for using a gun to kill people.

It could happen to you. Think about it. Wouldn’t you want as much as possible done to prevent your own loved one from being avoidably and senselessly killed in a violent and sudden shooting incident? I believe the answer is yes. And guess what, 97% of Americans are on my side.

We have come to expect that our cars will be as safe and laws have passed that require safety measures for our cars. Why? We don’t like it when our loved ones are killed in avoidable accidents. And lawsuits have held car manufacturers responsible for safety. There are laws to keep smokers from smoking in public places. Those laws keep us all safer. There are laws to keep children safe from defective products. There are laws against driving while drunk. These are all public health and safety laws that we know have worked to prevent senseless accidents and incidents. That is what stronger gun laws would do. We are pretty united about these laws.

This week the Brady Campaign launched a re-brand and is now Brady, United Against Gun Violence. Sarah and Jim Brady would be proud of the organization they helped to found. There is a lot of history with passing stronger gun laws and we celebrated that history this week in many ways. Check out this wonderful video:

We know that the country is actually united against gun violence. Check out the new Brady website. I love the “Take action, not sides” and “It’s in our hands.”

It is in our hands.

No one is coming for your cows, your hamburgers, your guns. Don’t believe it. It’s not true.

W

Let’s build a wall against gun violence

I say it’s time for a wall. This wall would be an invisible wall around our kids, our schools, work places, in homes, and everywhere people are shot. It should be around people like the Coast Guard member who is a right wing extremist ready to kill as many Americans as possible– but just liberal media and lawmakers. The wall in this case would stop him from shooting people by making sure he doesn’t have guns. From the story:

A 49-year-old Coast Guard lieutenant charged with stockpiling weapons and drugs is being described as a “domestic terrorist” who was planning “to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country,” according to court documents filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland on Tuesday.
Federal prosecutors say Christopher Paul Hasson, a self-described white nationalist living in Silver Spring, Md., was amassing firearms since at least 2017, while cultivating plans to launch a widespread attack on prominent Democratic lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and several high-profile television anchors from MSNBC and CNN.

There are hardly words for this kind of thinking. And where was our President, the one who actually has promoted violence at his rallies and who demeans people and attacks the media and liberal lawmakers? What was his statement condemning this?

Would he have commented if the terrorist was targeting him, or Mitch McConnell or Rush Limbaugh? This is a heinous domestic act of terrorism in the works and he says nothing? He wants to build his wall to keep out all of those illegal immigrants who are committing crimes, raping women, shooting people and are generally worse people than our citizens.

We need a wall to keep domestic terrorists from acts of violence against innocent Americans who they hate for whatever reason. But when your own President is encouraging this, perhaps we need a wall around him. We need a wall around his tweets. We need a wall around his angry fallacious nonsensical comments in short segments at cabinet meetings or on the White House Lawn on his way to a rally where he ramps up fear and paranoia.

We need a wall around our current gun culture which promotes the owning and carrying guns by everyone. We need a wall to keep the corporate gun lobby from spewing lies about current legislation before Congress. For example, H.R. 8 which will require background checks on all gun sales has an exception for family member transfers of firearms. Nonetheless, the message coming from pro gun lobby Congress members is the opposite.. They tell us in meetings ( and yes, they have done this) that their father will have to go to jail if he gives his guns to his son. NO. WRONG. This is a myth. But they believe it. We tell them otherwise to set the record straight to break through the wall of ignorance and false interpretations.

Facts matter. They are stubborn things. But in order to change things to get common sense legislation passed in this country and my state, we must get above, over, under and around the wall stopping gun safety reform.

Do we want to save lives or not? That is the question.

The answer is education, changing the conversation, changing the culture and changing the laws. Of course it also means changing our Congress members if they hide behind the wall of power, influence and money of the NRA and the corporate gun lobby.

Yes. We need a wall. It will not be the ridiculous wall that the President envisions and has promised his base. That wall may never happen anyway because of the insistence of our President on avoiding the legal way to get funding for his vanity project. Going around Congress to declare a national emergency was a power grab of epic proportions not seen before.

And yes, it has been mentioned that a Democratic President could declare a national gun violence emergency and start passing laws to make sure we are all safer. Or, God forbid, take guns away from dangerous and prohibited people. The right wing media is already all a twitter with any mention of this idea.

The NRA is sort of like the President in that way. They have grabbed power through lies over decades and fomented myths that got traction until the majority started seeing through them and insisted on the truth. After the Parkland shooting, the students showed us the way to challenge these common misperceptions and how to speak more boldly. And that is what it will take to break through the wall.

Next week the Democratic led House will vote on H.R. 8 and it will pass. The Republican led Senate will be afraid of the wall of myths and influence to do the right thing. They keep their power by allowing themselves to be influenced by a corrupt organization allegedly in concert with the Russians to get Trump elected President.

They will stand behind their wall of ignorance and spineless allegiance to the extremists who demand their support.

It’s time to build a wall around our communities to keep innocent children and adults from being shot- just because. Easy access to guns is the wall of tragedy and violence that has left families bereft and dealing with life long trauma. It’s time to tear down the wall of influence of the corporate gun lobby and the extreme philosophy that took over too many in Congress in the last few decades.

We have memorial walls for military victims. We build walls in memory of other victims. We have walls of flowers and crosses after mass shootings. Some believe we should have a national memorial wall to gun violence victims. There are certainly enough of them to deserve a very long wall- longer than the VietNam wall since more have died from bullets since 1968 than in all American wars in total.

Walls keep people out and they keep people in, depending on the situation. Which do we want?

Change will start next week. It’s way past time but it’s encouraging nonetheless.

We are the majority. We are united against gun violence. We want common sense. We want public health and safety. We want gun safety reform. We want the truth. We want the facts. We want to prevent and reduce gun violence.