Hearings in Congress

Congress has finally, after 2 years or more, begun the work they were elected to do. Previous Republican led committees have failed us. Democrats tried in 2013 after the shooting of 20 first graders. But the NRA choked that effort and Republicans refused. The issue of gun violence has turned partisan even though gun deaths take the lives of anyone no matter what their political stripe is. The NRA became an arm of the Republican party and made sure that Trump got elected. And Trump failed to even mention gun violence in his state of the union address. Unbelievable given the numbers and the mass shootings.

The Democrats are in charge of the House now and this week there have been hearings on just about every major issue of our times. Thank goodness we are going to hear the truth and from expert witnesses. Some in Congress have not wanted the truth because it exposes inconvenient facts.

Of course my interest was on the H.R. 8 hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. It was, as one could expect, not without some fireworks and angry exchanges. It was the first hearing on expanding background checks to all gun sales since 2011. The first witness was Aalaya Eastmond, a Parkland shooting survivor. Aalaya saved herself by staying hidden under the dead body of a classmate. Just imagine that, if you can. This is a teen-aged girl who testified like the calm, articulate young adult she has become. You can watch the hearing here.

Other witnesses laid out the reasons why requiring a background check on all gun sales is one very good way to stop people who shouldn’t be able to get guns from getting guns anyway. Many other things can be done to stop this inane public health epidemic. Dr. Joseph Sakran, a trauma surgeon, survivor of a shooting and board member of the Brady Campaign testified to the committee using his experiences and expertise:

Firearm injury and death in America is not only a disease,1 but a public health crisis in the United States. Every day, an average of 109 individuals are killed and more than 240 people suffer injuries secondary to firearm violence.23 While the United States is a world leader in many arenas, we are failing when it comes to firearm injury prevention. Firearm-related injury and death is a public health problem creating a vast burden of disease across the spectrum of ages and socioeconomic groups in this country. Additionally, firearm-related violence has a substantial economic burden of over 229 billion dollars per year to the United States health care system.45 Most concerning despite advances in trauma systems and health care capabilities, the fatality rate secondary to firearms has not significantly changed or improved.67  (…)We have both the opportunity and responsibility to comprehensively address gun violence as the true public health crisis that it is. This is not a Democrat versus Republican issue. It’s a uniquely American issue and it is uniquely in each of your hands to help fix it.
The America I’m fighting for is one where parents no longer have to fear the phone call that my parents received, that the Parkland parents received, and literally hundreds of others in communities across this country are receiving every single day. As a trauma surgeon, I have to look into the eyes of these parents and it’s nothing less than heartbreaking. The medical community implores you: the time for action is now. There is no one solution to this complex health problem, which is why we must come together as a country to build consensus and support and develop a research informed, data-driven, approach so that we can help you, as our policy-makers, to ensure the public safety of Americans all across this great nation.

One would never know that the issue is not a Republican vs. Democratic issue during the hearing. Republican committee member Matt Gaetz threw in specious comments about illegal immigrants shooting Americans and even went to “the wall”. This set off a series of interruptions by some of the Parkland parents in the hearing room. In turn, Representative Gaetz pointed his finger at the aggrieved parents and wanted them thrown out. This was a low point of the hearing. The one year anniversary of the Parkland shooting is next week. Where is any kind of empathy or concern for those people?

Does Rep. Gaetz understand that if background checks on all gun sales are required, those illegal immigrants will have a much harder time getting their hands on guns. Since they are prohibited purchasers, they would no longer be able to get guns through private sellers. Yes, there are guns out there to be had but where do they come from in the first place? They don’t fall out of the sky. All guns start as legal purchases ( even those bought from private sellers in states that allow that since it is not so far illegal) . From there, they get into the illegal market or in the wrong hands through straw purchasing, through “bad apple” gun dealers, by being stolen, or trafficked on the street. Requiring background checks on all gun sales will stop some of these other ways that guns get into the wrong hands.

And further, of course Rep. Gaetz is wrong to try to compare any shootings by illegal immigrants with the overall shooting deaths of American citizens by American citizens. There is no comparison.

Other specious comments from committee members and expert witnesses alike caught my attention. In fact, outright lies were told. The following are those lies and deceptions:

Background checks on all gun sales will lead to gun registration. Actually since the Brady Law was enacted and started working to require background checks on sales at federally licensed firearms dealers, there has been no gun registration. The expanded background checks will be the same ones now already in existence. There will be no gun registration.

Background checks on all gun sales will affect law abiding citizens who want to carry guns for self defense. How would that happen? If someone who is law abiding wants to carry a gun, they should not be affected by the requirement to get a background check on said gun. It’s only those who shouldn’t have guns in the first place who will be affected by H.R. 8.

There are millions of defensive gun uses every year, therefore guns are needed to protect people. Actually no. This has been debunked over and over and over again. It’s not true and it’s never been proven. But the gun rights advocates trot it out frequently. Professor Joyce Malcom of George Mason University School of Law came to the hearing with this information for the committee. If there were millions per year we would know about it and hear about it in media and police reports. The Gun Violence Archive is actually keeping track of these numbers and here is what they have found. So far this year there have been 130 defensive gun uses. These are the ones actually reported and verified. That’s the best way to use data. The professor who testified at the hearing admitted that her numbers were mostly anecdotal. Hmmm.

The reason gun deaths decreased after the mid 1990s is because so many states passed conceal and carry laws.  This was also claimed by Professor Malcom ( see above). There is no proof of this either. Those on the side of gun safety reform can also say that the Brady Law was enacted and began to work to require background checks on all gun sales during that time as well.

This great article published in the Scientific American ( yes-science, evidence, facts) counters most of the corporate gun lobby’s specious arguments about defensive gun use and crime and more guns leading to less crime and violence. From the article:

A closer look at the who, what, where and why of gun violence also sheds some light on the self-defense claim. Most Americans with concealed carry permits are white men living in rural areas, yet it is young black men in urban areas who disproportionately encounter violence. Violent crimes are also geographically concentrated: Between 1980 and 2008, half of all of Boston’s gun violence occurred on only 3 percent of the city’s streets and intersections. And in Seattle, over a 14-year-period, every single juvenile crime incident took place on less than 5 percent of street segments. In other words, most people carrying guns have only a small chance of encountering situations in which they could use them for self-defense. (…) The belief that more guns lead to fewer crimes is founded on the idea that guns are dangerous when bad guys have them, so we should get more guns into the hands of good guys. Yet Cook, the Duke economist, says this good guy/bad guy dichotomy is a false and dangerous one. Even upstanding American citizens are only human—they can “lose their temper, or exercise poor judgment, or misinterpret a situation, or have a few drinks,” he explains, and if they’re carrying guns when they do, bad things can ensue. In 2013 in Ionia, Mich., a road rage incident led two drivers—both concealed carry permit holders—to get out of their cars, take out their guns and kill each other.

This one I know for sure. An everyday ordinary argument during a contentious divorce and an armed estranged husband led to my sister’s death. A road rage incident in Minneapolis along the I35 freeway led to the shooting and injuring of a school bus driver. The shooter is claiming self defense which law enforcement has found to be totally untrue ( and I would say insane) This man is the poster child for what is wrong with our gun carrying minority of citizens who believe they need these guns for self defense and they are lowering the crime rate by having their loaded guns with them at all times.

Clearly the gun lobby and their spokespeople are wrong about what they are saying.

Women need guns to protect themselves from being raped.  A young woman testified to this at the committee hearing. She also claimed that expanding background checks would be a “financial burden”. She is wrong on both counts. Her first argument has also been debunked over and over again. The financial burden argument is also specious. Why is it not a burden to get a $25 (on average) background check when buying at a federally licensed firearms dealer. If one can afford to buy a gun, one can afford to get the background check. Just as if one can afford a car, one can afford to get the title, registration and insurance. If not, don’t buy one.

Just this one article explains:

However, since rape seems to be Dana Loesch’s main concern, we can focus more on that. When it comes to rape, well, it is most likely to occur in states that have the most relaxed gun laws. For every woman who could, theoretically, fend a man off with a gun, there is a man who could intimidate a woman into having sex with a gun. One woman, during debates about whether or not guns should be allowed on college campuses, claimed, “If my rapist had a gun at school, I have no doubt I would be dead.”
Even if the manufacturers make them a cute shade of pink, guns are not tools that are helpful to women. They kill far more women than they save. But Dana Loesch is right about one thing—the world can be a dangerous place for women. Rape is horrible. And one way to help make the world safer for women is to make weapons like guns harder for dangerous people to get.

Also in this article is the commonly known fact that” Women are 100 times more likely to be fatally shot by a man with a gun than use one for self defense.”

There are facts. There are too many gun deaths. Too many guns are leading to too many people dying from gunshot injuries. Stronger gun laws have been shown to reduce and prevent gun deaths. It is undeniable.

In the end, common sense will lead us to stronger gun laws and safer communities. That is what this is about. It is not about registration, or charging people too much, or taking away the right to use a gun for self defense, or owning a gun to reduce crime and shootings. It is about making sure that guns are not used to harm others- mostly known to the shooters- or are used in absolutely senseless deaths like the many mass shootings, the “unintentional” shootings of and by children, suicides that can be prevented, in domestic disputes, to kill young men of color, in road rage and all of the other preventable uses of guns.

It’s about the guns. It’s about gun violence. It’s about public health and safety. It’s about facts and evidence. It’s about saving lives. Even one life. It could be someone you know or love next time.

America- home of mass shootings and land of the dead

You can’t make up what is happening in our country on so many fronts. There’s “the wall”. There’s “the shutdown”. There’s “Roger Stone”. There are “Trump’s tweets”. There’s the news of “the opioid crisis”. There’s “the ubiquitous chaos”. There is the “immigration debacle”. There are “Presidential candidate announcements”.

But lost in all of this news is the fact that in our country mass shootings have continued unabated and, one might say, with increasing frequency. They have barely been a blip in the news because of all of the other news. But some have noticed. Axios, for example. posted this article to highlight another violent and deadly week in America:

A rash of mass shooting incidents across the United States was forced under the radar last week as cable news largely focused on the indictment of former Trump political adviser Roger Stone and the end of the longest government shutdown in modern history.


The big picture: A number of last week’s mass shooting incidents and threats specifically targeted women and other family members, highlighting the harrowing statistic that women in the U.S. are 16 times more likely to be killed by gun violence than in other developed countries.

Women in America are at risk for their lives from the men in their lives. There is not a question about this in case someone wants to ask one. I sit on the board of Domestic Abuse Intervention Program, home of the Duluth model, The model has been made famous because it works. Men who abuse are arrested and if ordered by the court, must attend group sessions to learn how to change their aggressive and violent behavior. If men can change their behaviors women will be safer. And if the country is accountable for making sure that domestic abusers can’t get their hands on guns, we will all be safer. Should that be controversial?

The Brady Campaign’s End Family Fire can also work to educate the public about the risk of guns in homes to gun owners. For, as the Axios article points out, it’s about women at risk. And children are at risk if women are at risk. Other family members are at risk. Innocent people are at risk.

Here is a video showing how easy it is for kids to get their hands on guns in homes. Anyone can get their hands on an unsecured and loaded gun and cause a death or an injury. It’s that simple. It’s that quick. It’s that deadly.

The thing is, we can do something about all of this but we aren’t- so far anyway. There is finally hope that Congress and state legislators are actually ready to stand up to the gun lobby and the decades’ long hold it has had on our elected leaders and the national conversation about gun safety reform.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

As to incidents of recent mass shootings, mostly domestic related, listed in the Axios article, the Brady Campaign released a statement about the lastest of the shootings which took place near Baton Rouge, Louisiana:

“The fact that there have already been more than 1,000 shooting deaths this year is astounding in the worst way. And now, two families in Louisiana have been destroyed because, yet again, a dangerous person was able to gain access to a gun. That this happened in a state that features some of the most lax gun laws in the country is, sadly, unsurprising. We owe it to the victims of this heinous crime to offer more than thoughts and prayers – we owe it to them to determine how the shooter obtained his firearm, and then to work to pass stronger legislation to make sure that this sort of shooting spree cannot again take place in Louisiana.” (…) Louisiana has ranked as the third deadliest state in the country for gun violence, with 987 firearm deaths in 2016 and 21.2 firearm deaths per 100,000 people.

Louisiana has lax gun laws as pointed out in the statement. Why? Good question. We know the answer. “Rights” Spineless politicians to stand up the corporate gun lobby. Controversial? The noisy gun rights extremists who actually represent a very small percentage of Americans, including gun owners. Money, power and control.

And just when I thought I was done writing this post another incident of a mass shooting came across my Facebook feed. 5- yes 5 Houston police officers were shot in an incident in which the suspect was shot dead(today):

“This evening’s horrific attack on police officers is a solemn reminder of the service and sacrifice our brave men and women in law enforcement make every day to keep us safe,” he said in the statement. 

True. It’s also a reminder that we are living in a deadly country where mass shootings are happening every day and we’re doing nothing about it. It’s crazy making and ludicrous and just plain unacceptable. When will it stop?

It’s time for common sense and logic to be the guidepost for how we treat deadly weapons in our country. Guns kill, period. They are the only product on the market designed to kill and yet are treated as if they are just a “tool” to be used by whoever wants to have a gun or carry one. The cavalier attitude towards guns and gun ownership is killing us.

We are better than this.

Background checks for all

It’s about time bills are introduced into Congress and my own Minnesota state legislature. In fact, it’s a national tragedy that our elected leaders have not passed bills requiring that every gun sale go through the process of finding out whether the buyer of a legal weapon should own one.

As the sign says, “the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a Congress with a spine”. So far Congress has been spineless. Yes, there was a bill written in 2013 after the Sandy Hook shooting but the NRA backed out at the end leaving not enough votes to get a bill passed after the nation’s most heinous mass shooting.

And mass shooting after mass shooting; domestic shooting after domestic shooting; suicide after suicide with a gun; “unintentional” shootings of toddlers by toddlers; stupid gun mistakes after mistakes; veteran suicide after suicide’ gang shootings after gang shootings and here we are today with gun deaths on the rise.

We are better than this.

On Tuesday I drove to the state Capitol in St. Paul for a welcome back and lobby day. Between the Minnesota Moms Demand Action and Protect Minnesota along with a group of us from the Northland Brady Campaign/Protect Minnesota chapter, we were well represented. As hundreds gathered in the rotunda of the Capitol and outside of the chambers there were chants, lots of signs, enthusiastic volunteers and a lot of energy. Legislators knew we were there. Post cards were delivered to Representatives, Senators and the Governor asking for support for the bills that will be introduced this week for background checks on all gun sales and an Extreme Risk Protection Order bill.

Almost at the same time, H.R. 8 was introduced in the U.S House on the 8th anniversary of the shooting of then Congresswoman Gabby Giffords.

Let us remember the 6 who were senselessly murdered 8 years ago on January 8th because a young man who should not have had a gun had one anyway.: Christina- Taylor Green; Judge John Roll; Gabe Zimmerman; Phyllis Schneck; Dorothy Morris; Dorwan Stoddard.

All of the national groups were gathered at the U.S. Capitol, as well as supportive Congress members. One of these was Congresswoman Lucy McBath from Georgia. Now there’s a woman with a spine. After her son Jordan Davis was shot and killed for sitting in a car playing loud music while black, Lucy got involved with Everytown for Gun Safety. And now, she is an elected leader with a spine. I am proud to know her and proud that she will actually stand up and do the right thing.

She is not alone. The country is with her. 97% of us want background checks for all gun sales. Why are the other 3% opposed to something that makes so much common sense? Several of them the 3% were at the Minnesota Capitol on Tuesday filming us, intimidating volunteers and telling their supporters the usual nasty nonsense about our groups. They were heard to say: “They want it all”. What does that mean? What we want are measures that will save lives and will not affect them- if they are law abiding individuals. On the Facebook page of Minnesota Gun Rights, as soon as the videos were posted, the comments started coming in. Such rational comments like- Did they leave their children at home watching videos while they are at the Capitol? Really? Women can’t go out of the house now without the criticism and approval of the gun rights extremists? What year is it again?

Or the best one is that we are paid by that terrible liberal philanthropist George Soros. Seriously. Why are we such a threat to them? They don’t believe that we volunteer our time for this noble and just cause. I mean, how can so many people show up if they aren’t paid? If I had been paid for all of my volunteering over the past 2 decades, I would be a millionaire. Instead, I spend my own money on gas, supplies, donations, tee shirts and other swag, so that I can represent my organizations and advocate for common sense gun laws.

Oh, and then a state legislator actually said this in an article about the proposed laws:

” House Republicans, meanwhile, blasted the proposals. Rep. Tim Miller, R-Prinsburg, said Minnesotans should be concerned that Democrats are trying “to take your freedoms, to take your money, to take your guns and to take your children” by forcing them into state-backed early educational care.”

Really? This is such nonsense, fear and paranoia. Plus it’s “fake news”. It’s a lie. I wonder where he got this stuff? ( Wayne LaPierre? Donald Trump? Rush Limbaugh? Sean Hannity?)

What we need here is a common understanding of the problem. The problem is that 1 out of 5 guns are sold with no background check. That would be like 1 out of 5 people going into a separate TSA line at the airport with no screening whatsoever. The number was greater until a few years ago when more states passed laws requiring background checks on all gun sales.

Brady background checks do save lives but they won’t prevent all gun deaths and injuries. 

There need to be other life saving measures to reduce the number of gun deaths and end gun violence. Extreme Risk Protection Orders will save lives. Waiting periods would save lives. Raising the age for purchase of handguns and assault rifles to 21 would save lives. Restricting the sale of some types of assault type rifles would save lives. So would banning bump stocks. Not allowing so many people to carry guns in public places would save lives. Asking if there are loaded, unsecured guns where your children play will save lives. Safe storage of guns will save lives. Stronger gun trafficking laws will save lives. Public awareness and education about the risk of guns in the home such as End Family Fire will save lives. Research about gun violence will save lives. Allowing law enforcement to share crime date with each other sill save lives. Reminding patients when they go to their health care providers that guns could be a risk to their health will save lives.

Yes, we want it all. We want whatever it takes to save lives. We don’t want to ban guns and take away rights. But let us remember that we are the only civilized democratized country that doesn’t have all of the above and more in the interest of public safety and health.

Let us also remember that background checks are required for a reason in many other areas of our common lives. One needs a background check to work with kids in churches and schools. One needs a background check to adopt a pet. One needs a background check to get a job in certain sectors like public accounting. One needs a background check to be a health care provider. This is for our common protection and safety.

The Brady Campaign has put a good chart together about background checks that will help with our understanding of for what we are asking. Here it is:

The “gun guys” don’t like background checks. They themselves buy guns with background checks when they to to a federally licensed dealer. Why would they object if all sales required a check to make sure the person who will have a loaded weapon is not a prohibited purchaser who could be dangerous to others? What do you say gun guys? ( standing above the crowd with their video cameras)

At Minnesota state Capitol with Protect Minnesota
Protect Minnesota, Brady Campaign, Moms Demand Action supporters
Video by Joan Peterson

It’s time to act.

In the video, you can hear the voices of the gun rights guys speaking loudly about something- not sure what- but they were drowned out by voices for common sense.

We want action. We want all gun sales to have a background check. We want Extreme Risk Protection Orders. There are many more things that can be done to save lives from gunshot injuries due to bullets. What we want now is simple and won’t even do enough. Progress is slow but it is coming. Change is coming. The country wants change as was evidenced by the November elections.

Let’s get to work.

Home for the holidays

It’s always hard to write at this time of the year knowing that so many people will not be at home for the holidays- not at anyone’s home. At the end of the year, the news is not really good is it? A Government shut-down and an unpredictable and unhinged President causing the markets to tank right before the Christian holiday of Christmas. The retirement in protest of our Secretary of Defense, causing shock waves the world over. Common sense has flown the coop, so to speak.

And to add to the chaos and bad news, gun death rates are up to a level not seen in a long long time. The CDC is keeping track. The latest numbers show that our nation’s lax gun laws and our gun culture are contributing to the pile of bodies getting higher and higher. Gun suicides take the most lives followed by homicides and then unintentional shootings. Most if not all are preventable and senseless.

Our leaders are adding to the chaos and the problems by not having the spine to stand up to the corporate gun lobby and its’ minions who cry stupid things like: Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

Well yes. Too true. And the point of this nonsensical myth that is pushed?

Guns make it all too easy and too quick. An “ordinary” argument between two people can turn deadly in a second when a gun is involved. Anger and guns don’t go together. Domestic disputes and guns don’t go together. Young men with mass shootings on their minds don’t go together with guns. Alcohol and drugs and guns don’t go together. Dangerous mental illness and guns don’t go together. Children and guns don’t go together.

But together is where we find the collision that leads to senseless gun deaths and injuries. We have a public health epidemic. If almost 40,000 people died from auto accidents, wouldn’t we do something? Oh right, we did. If tens of thousands died from smoking and second- hand smoke wouldn’t we do something? Oh right, we did. If we knew that lettuce caused Salmonella, wouldn’t we do something? Oh right… If baby toys have parts that come off easily and can lead to choking deaths, wouldn’t we do something? Oh right again.

So what is it about gun violence that paralyzes us? Fear of the gun lobby? Yes. Fear of not being elected again? Yes. Fear of the mythical power of the gun extremists? Yes. Fear to challenge the current conversation around gun violence? Yes. Fear of having guns taken away ( by the gun rights extremists)? Yes. Being uninformed about the facts? Yes. Fear of compromise? Yes. Fear of having difficult conversations? Yes. Fear of the second amendment? Yes.

All of these and more. But we aren’t having it any more. Gun safety reform or gun violence prevention is on the front burner. Too many mass shootings and too many daily accounts of deadly disputes and too many families affected by shooting deaths is leading to a different conversation.

Too many gun owners are sick and tired of the fear and paranoia coming from the gun lobby. Too many gun owners are also sick of the devastation of gun violence and don’t like to be lumped in with the extremists who refuse to do anything.

As it turns out, it’s almost unanimous that we want our leaders to pass stronger gun laws. 97% after the Parkland shooting! That many Americans can’t agree on anything else

There are common sense solutions to our public health epidemic. And they will be pursued vigorously. In the name of our family members and friends and the far too many victims, we will continue to demand action to stop the carnage.

Not all solutions involve legislation. Awareness of the risks of guns to gun owners must become the new narrative to save lives. The Brady Campaign’s End Family Fire is a new way to talk about this. ASKing if there is an unsecured loaded gun in the homes where your children and teens play and hang out can save lives from gun deaths. Safely storing guns to keep them away from children, teens and from being stolen can save lives. Most school shooters get their guns from home.

And the big thing is changing the conversation and the narrative around the role of guns and gun violence in our country full of guns and gun violence.

You can’t know what’s like to not have a loved one be home with you for the holidays because their life was snuffed out in a violent and unexpected shooting unless suddenly you do. In case you think this can’t happen to you, think again. In case you think a mass shooting or a domestic shooting can’t happen to someone you know or love, think again. In case you think your teen-aged child or elderly parent won’t find a loaded gun and take their own life, think again. In case you think your brother or father or sister, home after serving our country in the military won’t suffer from PTSD and decide to use a loaded gun to end it all, think again.

One person in my family will be missing for the holidays because she was shot and killed in a domestic shooting. Her grandchildren never got to meet her. They will only know of her through photos and stories. She was vibrant, beautiful, talented, smart, unafraid to speak out and unafraid to fight for herself. And now we are without her.

Parents of young children and teens whose lives have been ended by bullets will never know the potential of that child or teen. Lives lost are lost potential and future contributions to society. Gun violence has a ripple effect and about now, we are all affected by the violence because we can’t avoid what is going on around us.

I wish my readers and followers a happy holiday and safe travels if you are going home for the holidays or if your family is coming home to you. I also wish a safe and peaceful Christmas free of shootings. One year, when we pass stronger gun laws and stop being afraid of the corporate gun lobby, that will be possible.

NRA news

This morning we learned the news that former President George H.W. Bush has died. I am not a Republican and did not support President Bush’s policies but he served with honor and integrity and was an honest man. Many Americans look back to those days and remember that at the least, there was not corruption, daily lies and chaos. 

George H.W. Bush had the integrity to resign from the NRA when the organization made verbal attacks against law enforcement after the Oklahoma City bombings. He wrote a letter resigning his life membership from the NRA.:

I am a gun owner and an avid hunter. Over the years I have agreed with most of N.R.A.’s objectives, particularly your educational and training efforts, and your fundamental stance in favor of owning guns.


However, your broadside against Federal agents deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor; and it offends my concept of service to country. It indirectly slanders a wide array of government law enforcement officials, who are out there, day and night, laying their lives on the line for all of us.


How refreshing. The current occupant of the White House is so far from doing anything honestly and above board that we look back at former Presidents who have the courage of their convictions with admiration.

I believe we could actually expect the opposite from our current President. Anything for his base. And who is his base? Are the NRA extreme gun rights advocates a large part of his base? Let’s take a look at the number of members of the organization compared to the total U.S. population. From an article written by Mike Weisser ( Mike the Gun Guy) in the Huffington Post in 2017:

Now since the NRA itself claims only to have 5 million members, how do we explain that all of a sudden the organization has added 9 million more to its membership rolls? Here’s how the NRA is handling it as of today: “we have millions more Americans who support us and will tell pollsters they are members, even when they are not.” And to underscore this point, the NRA website also linked to a story from The Washington Times (a real, balanced piece of journalism) which states that the Pew report shows that 21 percent of gun owners had contacted a public official about gun policy at some point in their lives, but only 12 percent of the non-owners said they did.

Another article posted after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida analyzed the numbers game played by the NRA in order to make the organization seem bigger and more powerful than it actually is:

Still, if there are an estimated 55 million gun owners in the U.S., even at 5 million members the NRA would account for less than 10 percent of the gun owning community.
“Let’s say it’s 10 million [members],” said Ware, the South Carolinian gun owner. “That’s still a fraction of the gun owners out there.”

A fraction of the gun owners out there- that is significant. If this is the organization that has successfully bought and paid for many of our elected leaders and represents a fraction of gun owners and even fewer Americans, we ought to be yelling from the roof tops to demand the action that over 90% of Americans want. 

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Brady Law. Back in 1993, even the NRA supported the idea that if someone wanted to buy a gun their background should be checked out to make sure they were not a felon, a domestic abuser, someone who was adjudicated mentally ill, etc. This was a no brainer. But when the law passed, with support of the NRA, there was an exception for private sellers of guns. That exception has proven to be deadly. There are many examples of mass shooters, domestic abusers and others who got guns through private sales and used them to murder innocent people. Columbine. Wisconsin Spa shooting. Charleston church shooting……..

Since the passage of the law, according to Mark Glaze, writing for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

Under the current law, only people who buy their guns from federally licensed gun dealers are required by federal law to pass a background check. Unlicensed “private sellers” who sell at gun shows or over the Internet, are not required to conduct checks – a major gap that has grown exponentially larger as a portion of the marketplace for guns has moved online and away from bricks-and-mortar dealers.
Felons and other prohibited purchasers are well aware of this private sale loophole – and they exploit it every day. Researchers have estimated that as many as 22% of gun sales are conducted by private sellers – with no background checks and no questions asked.
In response to this lethal gap in the law, 20 states and the District of Columbia have acted to expand background checks to include at least some private sales, including those conducted by unlicensed sellers at gun shows, on the Internet and anywhere else.
And these laws are saving lives: when, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting massacre, Connecticut enacted a universal background check system, the state saw a 40% reduction in gun homicides and a 15% reduction in gun suicides.
Overall, from 2009 to 2012, states that required background checks on all handgun sales or permits had 35% fewer gun deaths per capita than states without that background check requirement.
Researchers have also found that, after adjusting for population, states that require background checks on all handgun sales experience less than half as many mass shooting incidents (52% fewer) as states without that background check requirement. (…) Brady background checks are more popular in America than pizza. A 2018 Quinnipiac poll showed that 97% of Americans support universal checks, including 97% of gun owners. And a 2012 survey by GOP pollster Frank Luntz found that even 74% of NRA members support this common-sense reform.
And we know voters have their eye on this issue. Polls both before and after the 2018 midterms showed gun safety was one of the top issues for voters. And a survey of 11 battleground House districts conducted by the Brady Campaign and the American Federation of Teachers showed that voters were much more likely to support candidates who support universal checks.

Change and common sense are coming to America. The 2018 elections will prove to be a game changer in America for many reasons. 

The news of the day is happening fast and furiously. Much of it is related to the Mueller investigation into whether our very own President colluded with the Russians and now, as a result of the investigation, there may actually be attempts at obstruction of justice.

Buried in some of this news was this one about the Russian woman, Maria Butina,  who allegedly attempted to help the Russians gain access to the President through the NRA. It should be more alarming that this happened but then, it’s become such an everyday occurrence that alarm has become complacency or else not wanting  to know.

Let’s look at what this article is saying about the consequences to the country and to the NRA once Butina spills her knowledge:

Prosecutors now allege that Torshin was, in fact, directing Butina’s gun rights networking in the US, as part of a Russian influence effort. If the government wants to get to the bottom of whether the NRA was getting Russian money to boost Trump, Butina may possess valuable information about Torshin’s role in the alleged scheme. (…) Butina, as Torshin’s collaborator and as Erickson’s partner, was smack dab in the middle of this effort in May 2016. In fact, during this same month, Butina herself was part of a group that unsuccessfully sought a meeting with the Trump campaign. So it’s likely she could shed light on Erickson’s and the NRA’s efforts to connect Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin. (…) Though the campaign declined, Butina went to the event. During the audience Q&A, she asked Trump a question about whether he had plans to continue Russian sanctions, which Butina called “damaging” to both the American and Russia economies. Trump reassured her that he didn’t think the sanctions were needed. In May 2016, as the NRA hosted its convention in Louisville, Butina briefly met with Donald Trump Jr., and gave a speech at a NRA fundraiser involving Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin

I don’t know about you but I smell trouble ahead for Butina, the administration and the NRA. The organization is now having financial and legal problems related both to this investigation and the intense scrutiny placed on the NRA after the Parkland shooting. The activated students have not been shy about going after the powerful interest lobby. And it’s past time for that to happen. But it took the future generation to do what many of the adults have been unable to do. 

This article explains more about the NRA’s financial problems:

More noteworthy than its drop in contributions, though, was its decline in membership dues. The NRA took in more than $128 million in dues last year—a significant sum, but down considerably from the $163 million it took in the year prior. That decline, more than the drop in direct contributions, appears to indicate a dwindling, if still formidable, base of public support. Asked for comment on the decline, an NRA spokesperson pointed to reporting showing that the organization’s magazine subscriptions have shot up this year, interpreted as an indicator of an accompanying membership surge. (…) That loss in funding comes at a tricky political moment for the organization. Rarely has the NRA had so staunch an ally in the White House. But the group, which built significant political heft on the back of Obama-era threats to key gun-rights priorities, has also become a lightning rod in the still-raging debate over gun control and mass shootings in the U.S. And several recently elected House Democrats ran explicitly on pledges to go after the gun lobby when in office.
Under President Trump, the NRA has also adopted a more aggressive advocacy posture exceeding its traditional focus on gun-rights issues exclusively. It recently launched a stand-alone political commentary platform, NRA TV, that has veered into culture-war issues at best tangentially related to the Second Amendment.


So where are we? I say we are at an important time in our country’s history. One cannot avoid the sense that the corruption, lies and coverups are coming to a head. The involvement of the NRA in some of this news will not be good for the organization- once a respected group that supported gun safety and hunters. Things have changed. The country is going to experience more chaos and controversy.

When the truth is revealed, let’s hope that Americans will have the common sense to handle whatever happens peacefully without violence. There is a worry that those gun rights extremists, many of whom own many guns just in case they need them for an insurrection, may not stay on the sidelines:

“It seems like this is a theme that’s kind of resonating out there — that the militias feel there is an impending civil war that’s brewing between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, the militia versus antifa,” Johnson said. “That’s very concerning when you have a movement that is as well-armed [as militias], and conducts paramilitary training, and stockpiling and prepping and everything else. When you have them getting paranoid and discussing the possibility of a civil war, it’s not out of the realm of possibility of them actually trying trying to instigate it or provoke it.”

And so I end where I began- with my tribute to former President George H.W. Bush and his honor and integrity. And with my concern that the current occupant of the White House and the related investigations into corruption, collusions and possible obstruction of justice could lead to possible violence. The NRA is in the middle of both my tribute and my concerns about the current situation.

Domestic terror attacks

Extremism - Word on Red Puzzles.In the last few weeks it is becoming more and more obvious that the terror in America is coming from far right extremists. It was already obvious to most of us but as the bodies pile up, we have to call BS and talk truth.

There’s been another shooting. (Yawn) The bodies have barely been laid to rest from the last one at Tree of Life Synagogue and now 2 more. A far right Tallahassee ( Florida again) man decided to shoot up a Yoga studio. That makes just one more place where people who shouldn’t have guns can get them and shoot people going about their every day business.

From the article:

The man who shot dead two women at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, on Friday before killing himself was a far-right extremist and self-proclaimed misogynist who railed against women, black people, and immigrants in a series of online videos and songs.

Surprised? Not me. It’s a pattern. White men with what appear to be identity problems and far right views who seem to hate women, Jews, Black people, Muslims, and immigrants want to actually kill them because………

When the President of the United States continues his daily and almost hourly diatribes and hate speech at political rallies designed to foment hate and fear, what can we expect?

There’s a list of shootings like this. Only some are listed below.

Charleston church shooting- because they were black…

Sikh Temple shooting- because they were Hindu….

Shooting of 2 black men in Kentucky because they were black….

Pulse Nightclub shooting just because apparently. The shooter wanted to go to DisneyWorld but decided on a gay Latino bar…..

Las Vegas shooting for whatever reason…..

………………….

I left this post for a while because of the elections and came back to have to write about the latest mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, CA. 12 are dead. The shooter was a white man- a “good guy” with a gun. He was not a prohibited purchaser. Though he had some apparent problems with mental health, he was able to purchase a gun. There are Extreme Risk Protection Orders in California but they are only as good as the education of the public who need to know they can use them.

Really, this is domestic terrorism. I have seen enough interviews with survivors who have cried and just can’t believe they survived. They are terrorized and will likely suffer from PTSD.

It the skin color of these terrorists had been brown or black, we would be having a different conversation. If they were Muslim or from the Middle East we would be talking terrorism.

We must call this as it is- terrorism. It is white guys with guns. These are the invaders. The corporate gun lobby extremists have invaded our country and we are terrorized.:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people died from gun deaths in 2016 (38,658) than from prescription opioids (around 14,400). And 13,686 of the people killed by guns that year were under the age of 19. Even if you believe in the premise of self-protection or “haters gonna hate, thugs gonna thug,” when you extract the criminal element from total gun deaths, 495 of those deaths were unintentional, and another 22,938 were suicides.

The grand total of U.S. deaths from terrorism and extremist activities over the last decade is 71.

In fact, if you added up the numbers of every American casualty of terrorism since 1865, the numbers of gun deaths in 2016 alone would dwarf it.

Let’s call this what it is:

The NRA’s crusade against gun reform has nothing to do with the will of the people. It is an ideological war that kills and injures thousands of innocent people every year. It is based on a fundamentalist interpretation of the Second Amendment not shared by the American people.

This is, unfortunately, America. It doesn’t have to be this way but here we are again.

From the Brady Campaign about the Thousand Oaks shooting:

“Waking up to news of a mass shooting is becoming frighteningly close to a daily occurrence in America. We mourn the deaths of the 12 people murdered and what some are reporting as another 12 injured, and yet we know there is so much more we could do to prevent these tragedies. This should have been a night for college students to enjoy themselves, but instead the Ventura County community is left broken and grieving. From synagogues to yoga studios to schools to dance halls, as long as gaps in our federal gun laws remain, every single one of us is vulnerable. Gun violence is a public health epidemic, and we need comprehensive solutions. We have to pass stronger laws, and we have to enforce the ones we have. We cannot wait for the next House of Representatives to take office – we expect and demand that Congress enact Brady’s three-point plan to take meaningful action to end these mass shootings. We don’t have a moment to wait.”

There will be a new Congress- a Democratic House. Expect gun safety reform laws to be on the agenda. When lapdog Republicans and maybe some scared Democrats vote against what the majority wants, they will be held accountable. We are not willing to let politicians get away with this any longer. There have been 307 mass shootings and it’s the 312th day of the year according to the Gun Violence Archive.

This is insanity itself.

Where is common sense?

(More on the recent elections soon)

Guns and potato chips

potatochips_005350I frequently run into stories about people getting shot in arguments about simple things or objects just because. I have written about arguments over lawn mowers, garbage cans, property ( that’s a more common cause for a shooting), dogs, etc. But here is a new reason for shooting someone- eating my potato chips. Yes. It’s true. A South Carolina man shot and seriously injured his cousin after said cousin ate the chips he told him not to eat.

But the story started changing after the victim recovered enough for further questioning. The teen told investigators that Langdale shot him after warning him not to eat his salt and vinegar potato chips.

 

“Do not touch my chips, or I’ll shoot you,” Langdale allegedly told the victim according to a sheriff’s incident report, obtained by the Charleston Post and Courier.

People are killed for much more serious arguments actually. My sister is dead over a serious argument during a contentious divorce. No one should die because of that but a gun and several rounds of ammunition were available to my now dead estranged brother-in-law. And the result was 2 dead people. All because of money and a divorce.

I really am not fond of vinegar flavored potato chips. They are sour tasting to me but many love them. I guess a man with a gun loved them a little too much and now he is arrested for attempted murder.

It is about the guns after all. This man was presumably a “good guy with a gun” until he wasn’t. That’s the thing. It only takes seconds to make that very serious decision to use a loaded deadly weapon in the heat of the moment to seriously injure or kill someone.

Each of us has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in America. Too often that right is taken from us for reasons that are beyond our control- like disease, weather ( Hurricane Michael), war, poor health, poverty, no health care, etc.

In our country, we can count on the daily carnage of gun violence as one way to take away life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Every day in our country is an American tragedy and yet we do nothing.

When will we ever learn? It’s not for lack of trying of course because many people like myself have been sounding the alarm and asking for common sense for decades now. And for that we have been treated like an “angry mob” and those bad people who will take away the guns of all of those “good people” and “law abiding” armed citizens.

The “angry mob” that our President and the GOP has now concocted as a reason not to vote for the Democrats is unarmed. The other angry mob walks around with AR15s strapped to their bodies and shows up in public places with loaded guns to intimidate the rest of us. Remember Charlottesville?

This is dangerous rhetoric fomented by our very own President and assisted by the corporate gun lobby with the promotion of fear and paranoia. Remember Wayne LaPierre and the “guys with the guns make the rules”?

No Mr. LaPierre. They don’t.

Let’s hope the rules are not made by armed citizens.  When that rhetoric is part of our national daily media, guys with guns get the idea that they just might be justified in shooting someone over potato chips or elections.

Elections are coming up. It’s October with less than a month to go. Peaceful and fair elections have always been the American way. Without that, we are not a democracy.

October is also Domestic Violence Awareness month.

The statistics are chilling. When a gun is in the home, women are at great risk during domestic arguments. 

This week I attended the annual fund raiser for Safe Haven which is a shelter for abused women in Duluth. Every year, either a woman who has been abused and used the shelter tells her story to the audience or a film is shown with interviews of some of the women who have been abused. Out of the 3 stories told by the women interviewed for this year’s film, 2 of them had experienced the terror of their abuser holding a gun to her head or having a gun aimed at her during the abusers abusive tirades. They lived to tell their stories.

A former District Court Judge was the keynote speaker for this event. He had seen a lot of domestic abuse cases over his years as a local attorney and then a judge. He spoke about seeing generations of men who had come before him as abusers- a grandfather, then his son and then his son. His message was that violence begets violence. Violence is not the way to win arguments or elections. But it can become the ultimate control over others.

I am adding this new report by the Brady Campaign about domestic violence and guns:

Every hour, 1,141 people become victims of domestic violence. About 3 people are shot and killed every single day by an intimate partner with a gun. Millions more are victimized, threatened, intimidated, or terrified into silence by the presence of one. They will survive with emotional (and sometimes physical) scars of the time that a person they loved hurt them. The stories of Sara, Kate, Rachael, and Kimberly are the voices of real people who have been affected by the intersection of domestic violence and guns in this country. Sara and Shelley didn’t survive their attacks. We owe a duty to them and to the survivors who lived. It is our job to call on Congress and state legislators to pass meaningful laws to prevent more men and women from becoming victims of domestic violence every year.

There is much much more to the above linked report including the real stories of women who have survived domestic violence- or not.

Loaded guns can become weapons of terror within seconds. The assumption is, or what I am told anyway by those who own guns for self protection, that a gun will be used to save the lives of one’s family during a robbery or an assault of some kind. But the thing is, owning a gun is risky business. Unless the owner is properly trained ( which many are not), stores guns securely in a safe away from the curious hands of a child or teen- or a burglar, they can be used to harm others. 

There are certain facts here. A gun in the home is more likely to be used to kill or injure oneself or someone in the home than it is to be used for self defense. There are real risks associated with gun ownership just like the risks of driving while drunk or smoking in public places.

Check out the Brady Campaign’s End Family Fire site to learn more about the risks.

And I will end with some observations I made while tabling a few days ago for Protect Minnesota at the St. Louis County Health and Human Services conference. This conference is attended by social workers and health care personnel from all over the state and is always full of people ready to learn. Our table was a popular one. Many stopped by to take information and have conversations.

One woman took lots of our information about safe storage of guns, ASK, and talking points about gun violence prevention. She told me she was a social worker who went into many homes of families who needed services for one reason or another. In one home, a woman lived alone with her children after being abused by her spouse. She told the social worker that she kept a loaded gun in the dresser drawer next to her bed just in case he came calling. This horrified the social worker as she asked the woman if her children were also in that bedroom. She said that her 3 year old slept with her.

So the social worker explained the risks of having this loaded gun around unsecured both to herself and her children. They went to a local Goodwill store and found a gun safe there for less than $10 and brought it home. The gun is now secured in this small safe hidden in the bedroom closet.

That is common sense.

Also at that 2 day conference, we gave away 200 trigger locks before 10:00 a.m. of the first day. People support what we do and what to be safe if they own guns.

Had that South Carolina man had his gun safely stored and not at the ready in his hands, his cousin would not have suffered serious injuries over a dispute about potato chips and the shooter would not have been arrested. Both lives have been forever changed because of the gun.

It doesn’t have to be this way. With some common sense and awareness about the risks of loaded guns we can save lives. With stronger gun laws, we can save lives.

That is the bottom line.