The yin and yang of gun policy

yinJust like the current political situation has left many of us, and I would suggest, the entire country reeling in confusion and chaos, so, too, gun policy has done the same. The gun  lobby is set to overturn just about anything that makes common sense when it comes to gun policy. A bill which passed through both houses of Congress and set to be signed by our current President, undid something our last President did to try to stem the tide of gun violence. President Obama’s executive order was meant to keep people with very serious mental health disabilities from being able to legally purchase guns by placing their names on the list of prohibited purchasers in the National Instant Check System. It was not meant as an evil attempt to confiscate guns or take away anyone’s rights to own guns who should be responsible with guns.

But, as these things go, it got caught up in the politics of gun policy. I found this article by Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence to be a very good summary of the provision and where we are now. Let me quote from what he wrote for Huffington Post:

I have felt this discomfort listening to the recent public debate about the Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that prohibited those with a mental health disability and an appointed representative payee from purchasing or possessing firearms. The policy, which Congress recently voted to repeal, was the Obama administration’s effort to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. President Obama deserves a lot of credit for doing everything in his power to reduce America’s gun violence epidemic. Unfortunately, by focusing the prohibition directly on a mental health disability, the rule furthered the mistaken belief that mental illness is a major cause of violence. (…)  I have felt this discomfort listening to the recent public debate about the Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that prohibited those with a mental health disability and an appointed representative payee from purchasing or possessing firearms. The policy, which Congress recently voted to repeal, was the Obama administration’s effort to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. President Obama deserves a lot of credit for doing everything in his power to reduce America’s gun violence epidemic. Unfortunately, by focusing the prohibition directly on a mental health disability, the rule furthered the mistaken belief that mental illness is a major cause of violence.

Certainly the efforts of the gun lobby to overturn a provision meant to be life saving are fraught with the past history and statements of those in the lobby who have claimed that we ought to just center our efforts to prevent gun violence on mental illness:

Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, envisioned people with “an eating disorder” being barred from buying a gun. To the contrary, the rule was focused narrowly on disabled individuals who require a trustee for personal management. They would have had the right to appeal. Senator Grassley himself noted last year the flaws in the background check database when he proposed greater cooperation among federal agencies with relevant information.

“The Republicans are so hypocritical on this issue,” said Senator Christopher Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut. He has fought for both stronger gun controls and better mental health care in the aftermath of the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Conn. A mentally troubled individual used a legally purchased assault weapon and shot to death 20 children and six school workers. The disability rule was a response to that tragedy after Congress refused to tighten gun safety laws.

Ah- the hypocrisy.

Sigh.

And so, this provision, though not perfect, was centered on the concerns that some people are, indeed, potentially dangerous to themselves or others. There are ways to deal with this conundrum and public health and safety concern without throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water. Horwitz suggests Gun Violence Restraining Orders or, in Minnesota, a proposed Gun Violence Protection Order bill, to deal with concerns that family members have about a loved one who could become dangerous if they have access to a firearm.

The article ends like this:

Prohibitions on gun ownership are critically important. The United States’ gun laws include far too many loopholes that allow dangerous people to do harm. But the laws we support should be based on research and focused on dangerous behavior – not genetics, not diagnoses. If we want our movement to succeed, a data-driven strategy is the only way forward.

Yes. We have work to do. It does not have be either/or. It should be a rational discussion about how we can save lives and protect families and communities from insidious gun violence that takes the lives of 33,000 of us- most due to suicide.

All of this is the opening salvo in what will surely be attempts by the corporate gun lobby to weaken gun laws in the states and through federal legislation. We will not be safer as a result.

And that is why we need to recognize the risk of guns in the home and guns in the hands of people who could become dangerous to themselves or others. So the other side of this week’s gun policy was a Florida court decision that overturned a previous Florida court decision that allowed the bill, nicknamed “Docs vs. Glocks”, to stop physicians and healthcare providers from talking to patients about the risks of guns to their families. Just as physicians, physician assistants, nurses ask questions about whether we feel safe in our homes when going for our annual physicals, they should be able to ask about guns. They ask about smoking, alcohol use, bike helmets, stored poisons, seat belts, child car seats, and many other things that could cause harm to our health or well being.

From the above-linked article:

Stop for a moment and consider that the Second Amendment injury here lies not in the possibility that a physician can do anything to take away anyone’s gun, but in the outside chance that she will use her knowledge of actual medical evidence to suggest that guns can kill people and her patient might listen to her. This is literally an argument for a constitutional right not to learn stuff from people who know stuff because you might then feel bad about the stuff you own.

It is a fact that firearms injuries take the lives of almost as many, if not more of us than auto accidents. Domestic shootings take the lives of far too many (mostly) women. Gun suicides are a very real risk to families.

So the recent ruling was a victory for common sense and first amendment rights of those who provide healthcare to practice their profession as they were taught and as they are charged to do by their Hippocratic Oath.

Lawyers for the Brady Center were involved in this case and did a great job of defending the rights of professionals to do their jobs and to keep us safe from devastating gun violence. More toddlers have shot Americans than terrorists. Isn’t this a national public health and safety epidemic? Is there any rational reason to keep this from happening however we can?

Below is from the Brady Center’s statement, in its’ entirety,  about the ruling:

Today, in a landmark decision with national repercussions, a federal appeals court struck down an NRA-backed Florida law that restricted doctors from talking to their patients about the risks of guns. The decision by the full panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta is a victory for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Ropes & Gray, who brought the lawsuit on behalf of doctors who believed the law violated their First Amendment rights.

Wollschlaeger v. Scott was filed on June 6, 2011, challenging the Florida law, under which doctors can be censored, fined, and have their licenses to practice medicine revoked if the Florida Board of Medicine found they violated the law.

Dan Gross, President of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said, “The gun lobby and its lap dogs don’t want Americans to know the truth about the danger of guns in the home because it will hurt their bottom line. The fact is, guns are far more likely to kill a child or family member than protect them. We are pleased the Court recognized Americans have a constitutional right to hear the truth about guns, and the gun lobby has no right to silence doctors or keep patients in the dark. We will continue to work with the medical community to get the truth out, to protect American children and families from the scourge of gun violence.”

Jonathan Lowy, co-counsel in the case and Director of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s Legal Action Project, said: “Today’s ruling is an important victory for public safety and free speech rights, and a crushing defeat for the corporate gun lobby and the politicians who do its bidding. Politicians and special interest lobbies have no business standing between doctors and their patients, or keeping doctors from telling people the truth about the risks of guns or other products. Doctors have the right to decide how best to advice patients about risks that may endanger their families, and parents have a right to full information so they can make smart, informed decisions about how to keep their families safe.”

Ropes & Gray partner Doug Hallward-Driemeier said, “This decision is critical to the health and safety of Florida families. It makes clear that the First Amendment does not allow the government, on the basis of politics, to interfere with a doctor providing her best medical advice to her patient.”

Nancy Evans, Brady Campaign Sarasota Chapter president, said, “This is an incredible victory not only for Florida doctors but for our entire nation. I joined the fight a year ago because I believe our doctors should be able to have any conversations necessary to keep their patients healthy and safe. I am so thankful the court struck down this terrible law.”

The lawsuit was brought by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the firms law Ropes & Gray LLP and Astigarraga Davis, on behalf of individual Florida doctors, as well as organizations representing 11,000 Florida health care providers, including the Florida Pediatric Society/Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, Florida Chapter, and the American College of Physicians, Florida Chapter. Douglas Hallward-Driemeier of Ropes and Gray argued the case as lead counsel for the Plaintiffs.

In 2012, a trial judge in the Southern District of Florida held that the law was unconstitutional and granted a preliminary injunction. In 2014 a divided three judge panel of the 11th Circuit reversed. The full 11th Circuit heard the case en banc in 2016.

Numerous studies have proven that a gun in the home actually makes its residents less safe — 89% of unintentional shooting deaths of children occur in the home. The reality is that a gun in the home is more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide, or accidental shooting, than in self-defense. Recent research has shown that one third of all households with children under the age of 18 have a firearm, and more than 40% of these households store their guns unlocked.

So there we have it. The yin and yang of gun policy in America. I believe these opposing views of our world affect almost all of us. Who among us does not have a family member or a close friend who we feel could be, perhaps temporarily, potentially dangerous if they have access to a firearm? Who among us does not trust their physicians or healthcare providers to do what they were trained to do professionally to keep us healthy and safe?

If you want to understand the wide ranging ripple effect of gun violence and the financial, emotional and physical toll it takes on individuals, families, communities and our health care system ( which costs us all financially) take a look at this amazing story of a man who received a face transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota after attempting a gun suicide. Ironically his new face came from another young man who died from gunshot injuries in a gun suicide.

This is an emotional story at the least…. the ripple effect of gun violence.

There are no evil motives here. There are only sincere and fact-based attempts to prevent gun violence and the effects it has on our families and communities.

But we have a world where it’s us vs. them with no common sense conversation or policy in the middle. We are talking about our families and our children and grandchildren. Let’s look at what the true interests are on both sides of this issue and come down on the side of public health and safety, not profits or power.

 

 

An agenda of lies

flying-monkeysSo, it seems that lies are what will form the policies important to Americans in the new administration. I have cited some of the many myths and lies promoted by the corporate gun lobby, most specifically by Mr. Wayne LaPierre. Now LaPierre has a seat in the White House so he is whispering his lies into the ears of the President and, on that basis, new rules and policies will be issued. They are already starting.

The House voted to overturn an Obama administration order that those on Social Security disability benefits who cannot manage their affairs should not be able to buy guns legally.:

The rule sought to limit the ability of those with mental illness to purchase guns but drew criticism for casting too wide a net and not providing the opportunity for due process. Opponents of the rule, including the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, also said the broad range of reasons that could be used to designate someone for the SSA database include conditions that should not stop a gun purchase.

The question is, do we err on the side of safety or not? Brady background checks save lives. There is a reason for them. There are some people who should not have guns, period. If this is an overreach as some have claimed, why not find a middle ground or a place where safety comes first. The corporate gun lobby is just waiting to roll back all gun safety regulations. Guns everywhere owned and carried by anyone is their alternative fact. It flies in the face of common sense and safety.

But never mind. Common sense is nowhere to be seen and will be nowhere to be seen for years. The public safety and health of our nation’s citizens is at risk. We will not be safer when people who are so disabled, mentally, that they can’t manage their affairs own and carry guns around. In what world does that even compute?

Take my brother, for example. His increasingly fragile health due to Parkinson’s Disease with concomitant mental problems and some dementia, should deem him unsafe with a gun. Luckily his guns are stored at a friend’s home so I will not worry about this as his sister and caretaker. There are days when he mentions suicide. For him, access to a gun would be dangerous to himself and others. His balance is awful, he falls frequently, sometimes he has episodes of hallucinations due to his PTSD and Parkinsons’.

But the gun lobby thinks this is just okey dokey for all of us.

They are wrong but they will get their way. Sadly, that is what things have come to in America. Caring for people’s health and safety finds itself at the bottom of the list of priorities. It’s all about profit and stroking the egos and fund raising of cronies.

In our “new America” anything goes for the gun lobby. They have been drooling about this moment for a long time. This article from The Trace pretty much sums it up:

They’ve become viable because we’ve seen a rightward shift in American politics, generally speaking. Ideas that are viable today would have been seen as far too extreme 20 years ago. The rightwing itself has become far more conservative. There’s all kinds of data on this. Democrats, ideologically, are pretty much where they’ve been over the last 20 years. But Republicans have become far more conservative. That’s part of the reason why Trump won. The gun bills the NRA pushes are part of this larger rightward shift — that, and the never-ending drumbeat from NRA that gun rights are under attack. The inevitable consequence of all the apocalyptic rhetoric is that you continually move toward what would have been considered an extremist agenda in years gone by. Part of the reason the NRA keeps moving in that directions is that it has gotten much of what it wants. The NRA has to keep developing new measures to enact to have a purpose, maintain support, and keep the base motivated.

Follow the money and the influence.

So we have a power hungry President who sows conflict and chaos and owes the gun lobby who sow fear and paranoia. Not a good combination.

People who have narcissistic character disorder, as many ascribe to our new President, use “flying monkeys” to scare the public and intimidate them into believing in their false statements and agendas. A former family member of mine is a narcissist. There is no way to argue with people who exhibit these traits. They are always right even if they are patently wrong and their flying monkeys and sycophants agree and even foment more fear and lying. Blaming the victims and gaslighting are their MO.

We are here now.

Take last night’s appearance by Presidential advisor Kellyann Conway on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews . When asked about the extreme and controversial immigration executive order, her defense, and indeed the reason it was done had to do with a non-existent massacre in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Unfortunately Matthews did not call her out on her bold and blatant lie but others did.

Below is from the Brady Campaign President, Dan Gross:

Conway’s comments were made during an interview on MSNBC during which she also stated, “You just look at what’s happened in Orlando in San Bernardino…and avert your gaze…and look the other way and say ‘eh, things happen.” We agree, which is why, in light of the “Bowling Green Massacre,” we are calling on the administration to take action to keep guns out of dangerous hands, including terrorists. It could start by signing this draft Executive Order.

The draft Executive Order would be based on facts and a willingness to prevent gun violence and save lives. But we know that alternative facts are the name of the game at the White House now. Conway did not get away with her lie. And it’s possible she actually believes that this event occurred which is even more frightening.

Does she (and to Trump’s flying monkeys) know that 33,000 Americans a year are killed by gunshot injuries? Do they know that toddlers kill more people with guns than terrorist? Of course not. Or if they do, either they don’t believe in the truth or they have chosen to ignore it because of their dangerous agenda.

Shouldn’t we be doing something about this urgently? It’s an American tragedy and a public health crisis. Where are the executive orders?

Conway also lied about the Orlando shooter, who she frequently cites as a reason we need draconian immigration rules. The Orlando shooter was born in America. How would extreme vetting at the border have stopped him from shooting up 49 gay people at a nightclub?

Simply put- it is a lie.

Being surrounded by liars, conspiracy theorists  and flying monkeys will lead to destruction from within. Meanwhile, how will the country fare?

It’s going to be a long 4 years, if our President lasts that long. A President who lies and believes in his lies or lies intentionally or lies to protect himself or lies to promote a dangerous agenda will soon be caught with one too many of them.

It’s only been 2 weeks. The nation is suffering from PTSD. And if that is also by design, the meanness and evilness of that is hard to square with a country based on democratic principles and the rule of law.

We are better than this.

 

 

Women marching for freedom from gun violence

march-photoI marched in the Women’s March on Saturday for my sister. I marched in the Women’s March in DC for all of the women who have been shot and killed by firearms. I marched for friends who have lost daughters, sisters, brothers, parents or children in senseless gun violence. I marched because I don’t want families to lose loved ones in a sudden and violent death. I marched because Congress and state legislators have not been listening to the voices of the victims. I marched because I know women and men all over America who are members of a club we didn’t choose. I marched to raise my voice loudly and clearly and to join with others in solidarity for women’s rights to be safe in their homes.

My sister was a feisty woman. She would have marched with me or for me if she had not been shot and killed in 1992 by her estranged husband. Women are 11 times more likely to lose their lives to gun violence than women in other countries. Why is that? Because Americans have more more guns in their homes than in other countries and they are not often stored safely locked and unloaded. Why is that? Because the corporate gun lobby has deceived us by making the case that guns in homes for self protection will protect people from harm. Instead, those guns get used more often to kill someone in the home than to be used to scare off a home invader.

As a Brady Campaign chapter leader, Brady Campaign/Center Board of Trustees member, Board member of Protect Minnesota and Domestic Abuse Intervention Program, I carried many people’s names with me because they wanted to be part of the march. I asked and they answered. Over 100 of my friends and family members asked to have their names on my sign. It was because of my passionate advocacy to prevent gun violence and in memory of my sister that so many wanted to “march” with me.

Thousands of Brady Campaign chapter members marched in cities all over America and came to DC to be a part of the most historic march in our country. Many of them were victims who were marching for loved ones. The surreal crush of marchers prevented us from meeting up as I had thought I could do. If I could have polled the marchers, I am certain that every one of them would have supported requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales. We know that a vast majority of Americans agree to that.

About 100 women were willing to endure 2 nights on a bus with little sleep, living on snacks and fast food and cramped quarters to become a part of this large movement.It was a movement created by @realDonaldTrump himself:

That man is in power now. He is slowly reshaping his press coverage to his specifications, floating the idea of “putting in his own security and intelligence community,” whatever that might mean, and praising authoritarian leaders who crack down on dissident populations. The Women’s March will be remembered as a global rebuke to this administration and the manifestation of a massive political will to resist. But if it does what protests should — if it provokes a response — much more will have to come from it.

But I digress.

Before I left on the bus, my family expressed concern about my safety considering that sometimes “protests” and marches turn ugly and violence breaks out. I was more concerned about finding bathrooms and making sure I would not lose my friends. But as we walked from our where our bus was parked at RFK stadium to the beginning of the march, it was obvious that this was going to be something huge. I will never forget all of the bus riders starting their own march as we found our way to Independence Avenue. I will never forget the residents of the row houses standing on their lawns thanking us for coming. I will never forget the man who asked if he could hug me as I walked by his house. I will never forget the volunteers of a neighborhood high school opening up the school for marchers so we could use their bathrooms and get information.

And I saw no guns anywhere, thankfully. Guns in a large crowd would be a recipe for an accident or senseless tragedy. But the corporate gun lobby, of course, would have encouraged armed citizens to march. Because….rights. Marches all over the country were peaceful, polite, almost cheerful and very friendly events. That was one of the hallmarks of the march. Police officers thanked us for coming and we thanked them for being there to protect us, to answer questions, and to control the very large number of marchers.

Marching in DC on Saturday was an honor and a truly overwhelming experience for me. Like the Million Mom March, the Women’s March changed my life. I know that my advocacy is not for naught. I know that Americans with common sense –safe families and safe communities free of devastating gun violence. I know that we can all make a difference if we stand together and make our collective voices heard.

It was clear to me that the only way to make that happen is take steps to make it happen- both large and small. This is not the time to sit back and let others do the work. This is the time to get involved. The Brady Campaign and Protect Minnesota have been my way to be involved. As a victim of gun violence I have spoken out for many years as a chapter activist and worked hard to advocate for victims and survivors. I know many who have done the same. And now I know that millions more activists were born last Saturday and they are ready to act on the many issues that @realDonaldTrump is determined to affect.

If you marched anywhere in the country, thank you.

If you marched or if you didn’t march, this is no time to be silent. Now is the time to speak up and contact your local, state and federal elected leaders about what your concerns. Tell them in a simple message about what you want to see happen and say you are a voter and so are your friends and families.

This is how change will happen. Let’s get to work.

No more silence- remembering Sandy Hook

newtown-imageJust because @realDonaldTrump was elected to be our next President doesn’t mean the gun violence prevention groups are going away. In fact, they will be louder than ever. They must be because lives depend on it.

Gun violence will not stop. Mass shootings will continue. Our families and communities will not be safe from gun violence until we do the right thing.

26 children and educators are shot and Congress does nothing.

33,000 Americans will die every year unless Congress does the right thing.

No more silence.

Today is the 4th anniversary of what most can agree was the worst mass shooting in our country though it took fewer lives than some of the other mass shootings. You know what I’m talking about.

Sandy Hook, December 14, 2012.

20 first graders brutally shot to death and 6 educators who tried to protect them.

We should not have to protect our school children from gun massacres. America is unique in that we have more mass shootings than any other democratized country not at war. And when a mass shooting happens other countries with common sense do something to at least try to stop the next one. And in most cases, it has worked.

Of course. That is because common sense informs most of us. The fact that our Congress could not even pass a simple law to require background checks on all gun sales several months after the Sandy Hook shooting is a shameful and hideous black mark in our history.

So we are here again- mourning, lighting candles, speaking, singing, ringing bells, marching, writing emails and letters and making phone calls. Making noise.

There will be events all over the country today. You can check it out here. Newtown Action Alliance was formed after the Sandy Hook shooting and invites victims from all over the country to Washington D.C. for the national vigil. It is a sober and reflective day with tears and hugs. It is a remembrance of all victims of gun violence. It is a reminder that our leaders have not done the right thing.

It has been 4 years and yet our leaders have not done the right thing.

My local chapter viewed the award winning film, “Newtown” on Sunday. It was a powerful testament to the resilience and resolve of the survivors of that shooting. Everyone grieves differently and at their own pace. Some choose to do so in silence. Some have become activists. None will ever be the same. And again, we see the ripple effect of gun violence in the Newtown community. Every one of our elected leaders should be required to view the film.

We rang the bell 26 times. We discussed what we will do next and why we haven’t done the right thing yet. The attendees were frustrated and puzzled. They want action. They want change. They want our leaders to do the right thing.

Today we will hold a candlelight vigil at a local church.

The sad thing is, that even if those leaders who are lapdogs for the corporate gun lobby did view the film, ring a bell, light a candle or attend a vigil, it may not crack through their refusal to buck the gun lobby to do the right thing. They know the right thing. Will they do the right thing?

Sigh.

The Brady Campaign has this to say about the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting:

“In the wake of this unthinkable tragedy, America demanded action from Congress. And when Congress failed to act, Americans took matters into their own hands. With a successful vote in Nevada this fall, seven states have expanded Brady background checks to all gun sales since the attack on Sandy Hook Elementary. Today, half of all Americans live in states where Brady background checks are ensuring felons, domestic abusers, and dangerously mentally ill people can’t buy guns. We’ll continue this state-by-state march until Congress steps up and finishes the job for all Americans.

“Some in the gun lobby’s world might see Newtown’s tragedy, and others since, to be the unavoidable consequences of ‘doing business’ today. We don’t accept that. The Brady Campaign and an overwhelming majority of the American people have a different vision, and we’re not giving up. Buoyed by four years of inspired progress, we fight on to make this the better, safer nation that the children and educators we honor today deserved.”

The American people want Congress and state legislators to listen to them and do the right thing. 

But will they?

Will they read these names and see these photos today?

remember-newtown-ct

In memory:

1. Charlotte Bacon (DOB 2/22/06)

2. Daniel Barden (9/25/05)

3. Rachel Davino (7/17/83)

4. Olivia Engel (7/18/06)

5. Josephine Gay (12/11/05)

6. Ana M. Marquez-Greene (4/4/06)

7. Dylan Hockley (3/8/06)

8. Dawn Hocksprung (6/28/65)

9. Madeleine F. Hsu (7/10/06)

10. Catherine V. Hubbard (6/8/06)

11. Chase Kowalski (10/31/05)

12. Jesse Lewis (6/30/06)

13. James Mattioli (3/22/06)

14. Grace McDonnell (11/04/05)

15. AnneMarie Murphy (07/25/60)

16. Emilie Parker (5/12/06)

17. Jack Pinto (5/6/06)

18. Noah Pozner (11/20/06)

19. Caroline Previdi (9/7/06)

20. Jessica Rekos (5/10/06)

21. Avielle Richman (10/17/06)

22. Lauren Russeau (6/1982)

23. Mary Sherlach (2/11/56)

24. Victoria Soto (11/4/85)

25. Benjamin Wheeler (9/12/06)

26. Allison N. Wyatt (7/3/06)

 

No more silence. Listen to our voices. Look at the photos. Read the names. Hear our stories.

Do the right thing.

#endgunviolence

#honorwithaction

Background checks work

Map pointer with Check mark.Yes they do. Some of my readers think they don’t. I have yet to hear a reason that is based on facts and common sense. These folks do buy guns from Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers they tell me and are willing to submit themselves to the “terribly inconvenient” process of the 3 minute phone call.

Today is the anniversary of the enactment of the Brady Law. Since that day 23 years ago, according to the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence, 3 million gun buyers have been stopped from buying a gun legally from a licensed dealer. That is no small thing. Stopping a felon, domestic abuser, someone who is or has been adjudicated and/or dangerously mentally ill from getting a gun saves lives. One would think that would be a good thing.

But interestingly and inexplicably, those same folks who have submitted to legal background checks are against the very same checks from private sellers at gun shows, flea markets or on-line. They try to tell me there is something different about a private seller asking for a Brady background check from a buyer. There is not. In most states that have passed a law to require background checks on all gun sales the private seller takes a buyer to a licensed dealer for the phone call to the FBI’s instant check system.

Easy peasy.

Also background checks do NOT lead to gun registration or confiscation. In the 23 years of requiring gun purchasers to undergo a simple background check, that has not happened.

Another gun lobby myth.

And speaking of myths, there is new research to dispel the one that shooters look for gun free zones where no guns are allowed to carry out mass shootings. That is not true. It’s interesting that when research is actually done, we get facts that can make a difference to our public health and safety. The Trace wrote about it today:

The Johns Hopkins study warns that introducing more guns on campus could have the unintended consequence of risking the safety of the students and faculty that gun-rights supporters say they are there to protect. Research shows that college students are at an increased risk for suicide and prone to impulsive behavior. One report, cited by the authors, found that firearms were the most common means of suicide among males, accounting for for almost a third of suicides by college students of that demographic. College students are also susceptible to risky behaviors — such as alcohol or drug abuse — which have strong associations with increased levels of violence.

This is common sense.  The corporate gun lobby turns common sense on its’ head and makes fiction out of facts. We are, according to this article, in a “post truth” era in our country. Fact has become fiction. Fiction has become fact. President-elect Trump has lied about most everything during the campaign and then taken some of it back telling us this is what he meant in the first place. Black is white. The sky is under us now and the ground is above us.

From the article:

This effect is known as the “illusion of truth” – when you hear certain information so many times, you believe it, regardless of its accuracy. Political lies stay with us not because of their authenticity, but because manipulative campaign strategists understand psychology.

The majority of the time, this information works against our best interest. (…)

Just this week, The Oxford Dictionary sealed our fate by naming “post-truth” the word of the year, defining it as:

“Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

The greatest problem of our future is not political; it is not economic; it is not even rational. It’s the battle of fact versus fiction.

Sadly, a Trump victory illustrates that we are no longer able to distinguish between the two.

The above is an opinion piece by Samuel C. Spitale writing for the Huffington Post. I happen to agree with it.

Brady background checks work. But about 40% of sales don’t require a background check. That is not OK. Every person who adopts a pet must get a background check. Every person who works with children in churches must go through a background check. Physicians and accountants go through background checks. There are no exceptions. Why should there be exceptions for the purchase of a deadly weapon designed to kill another human being?

Background checks provide useful information in order to keep us and our children safe from fraud, sexual predators, those who would do us harm, those who can’t and won’t be responsible. That’s a good thing. It’s all about public health and safety.

Let’s make up up and down down. Believe in the facts which tell us that when we restrict access to guns to only those who can handle them responsibly and safely, we can prevent some of the daily carnage from gunshot injuries. If we push the conversation towards gun safety reform- meaning reforming the practices of law abiding gun owners to make sure all guns are locked and unloaded away from the hands of children and teens and to keep them from being stolen and used in a crime. If we talk about the risks of guns to their owners providing the research and the facts that access to a loaded gun can result in an avoidable suicide or accidental gun discharge we can expect fewer gun deaths and injuries. If we talk the facts about gun free zones, we turn fiction into action and keep guns away from places they are not needed or should be.

The facts support the above. It is not fiction or myth that gun violence can be reduced and prevented if we pass stronger gun laws and stand stronger against the myths and fiction as promoted by the gun lobby.

Let’s get to work and deal with the facts. It’s past time to Finish the Job and require background checks on all gun sales.

 

UPDATE:

As always, one of my readers whose comments are not approved by me for various reasons, made a claim that the Brady Campaign is lying about how many gun purchases have been stopped legally since the Brady Law took effect in 1994. Here is the low down on that based on facts from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence ( which employs lawyers who do research into gun violence):

Since the enactment of the Brady law on March 1, 1994, through December 31, 2012, background checks blocked more than 2.4 million prohibited purchasers like domestic abusers, convicted felons, mentally ill persons, and other dangerous individuals from purchasing a firearm or receiving a permit to purchase or carry a firearm.1

In 2012 alone, background checks blocked 192,043 prohibited persons from gaining access to firearms,2 including 82,000 felons or roughly 225 felons every day.3

Statistics reported by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence confirm that background checks work and have had a significant positive impact on national crime rates. Before the Brady law was enacted, America’s gun homicide rate was on a dramatic rise, increasing by 55 percent from 1984 to 1993 even as non-gun homicides were falling over this period.4 After Brady background checks were required, however, gun murders began to steadily decline and ultimately fell by 32 percent from 1993 to 2006.5 The rate of robberies and aggravated assaults committed with firearms also decreased by 42 percent over this period.6

Now one can argue that crime rates were on the decrease already for other reasons but surely a law that has stopped felons, domestic abusers and others who shouldn’t have guns made it harder for these folks to get guns that end up used in crimes. So when we combine efforts to stem the devastation of gun crimes, we can save lives. If the folks who want to argue about this have better ideas, I’m all ears.

There is other research to indicate that fewer denials of gun purchases have occurred in recent years. There may be a good reason for that based on this Everytown article:

However, between 2000 and 2013, the share of total background checks denied fell by more than half, from 1.6% to 0.7%. This is consistent with the hypothesis that criminals are increasingly aware that a background check will block them from buying guns at licensed dealers—and are seeking guns from unlicensed sellers online and at gun

shows, where no background checks are required under current law. In a September 2013 investigation of illegal online gun sales, Felon Seeks Firearm, Everytown found that 1 in 30 people seeking guns from unlicensed sellers on the national website Armslist.com had a criminal record or domestic violence history that prohibited gun ownership. This is nearly four times the share of people seeking firearms at licensed dealers who are prohibited and blocked by the background check system. (…)

Seems like a very good case for requiring background checks on all gun sales. And why not? Who will it hurt? Not law abiding gun owners no matter what they say. It will stop those who shouldn’t have deadly weapons and won’t be responsible but will be potentially dangerous.

Resisting a reasonable provision that will save lives is antithetical to public health and safety. If those who resist give some fact-based reasoning to show otherwise, then maybe we can have a discussion. But as long as their only reason is that more gun sales will profit the gun industry and hysteria about guns being confiscated then we can’t have the discussion. Further what is the gun industry going to do now that they have a gun friendly Congress and President? What will they come up with now to scare people into buying guns and being against common sense?

 

Minnesota nice?

minnesota-niceThe last few days has revealed the lunacy of an armed society in Minnesota. Not that it isn’t happening in every state of our “great” country every day. But the last few days have been particularly concerning. Let’s take a look at the Minnesota gun culture as it has been reported in news stories.

First up- a Winona man apparently was shot by an “accidental” discharge and has now died of his gunshot injuries. There are no “accidental” gun discharges. There are avoidable, senseless accidents with guns that shouldn’t have happened. Why? Because guns are deadly weapons designed to kill or injure humans or animals. They must be taken seriously and their owners must not “play” with them or clean them without knowing if there is a round in the chamber, or get them out while drinking, or let children access them and all of those other common sense admonitions that go with dangerous things.

Second- a first grader brought a gun to a St. Paul school where it discharged, injuring the floor tiles and luckily not another child or adult. As we said when I was writing for the Kid Shootings blog- Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. This is lunacy.

Third- a shooting took place at an Anoka area gas station. Law enforcement engaged in the high speed chase on highways and freeways ending with a crash and the suspect being shot and injured by law enforcement.

And now the same St. Cloud mall that suffered the September mass stabbing incident was under lock-down because a man was seen with a gun.

Shortly after 7 p.m., St. Cloud police Sgt. Jason Burke said in a news release that ““Initial information is that a male and female were in an argument outside the mall by the food court. During the argument, two males unknown to them approached, one of the males lifted the front of his shirt and showed the couple a gun in his waistband. The gun was not pointed at the couple, no threats were made, and no injuries have been reported.

It will be interesting to find out who these 2 reported guys with guns were.

And as an aside, people arguing in malls should take it outside or in private so they don’t frighten people around them. Fear is all around us now after the most contentious election in recent history. The corporate gun lobby has helped stoke that fear and suspicion that could lead to us being less safe rather than safer:

Trump bore little resemblance to the lifelong heartland conservatives whom the NRA typically backed. He was an Ivy League-educated real estate heir with a gold-plated private jet and a foreign, former-model third wife. Trump and Melania had wed at a glamorous ceremony where Bill and Hillary Clinton had been among the guests. A proud New York City resident, Trump didn’t seem to have much regard for the attachments many Americans felt towards guns, never mind the policy purity the NRA demands of other candidates. In a 2000 book, he’d even written, “I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.”

But from the outset of his campaign, Trump adopted an incendiary message that matched the NRA’s own. He hurled invectives at establishment politicians in both parties. He described a once-great nation under assault and in sharp decline, rhetoric that electrified white Americans brimming with grievance.

This is our President-elect.

Sigh.

We will not be safer with more guns around us in this atmosphere of fear.

But I digress.

Another fatal shooting in North Minneapolis yesterday adds up to a very violent year in that section of Minneapolis that has residents very concerned for their own safety. From the article:

For the third day in a row, the pop-pop-pop of gunfire punctuated the midday calm near a north Minneapolis strip mall, this time leaving a young man dead and detectives searching for answers.

This is simply not the kind of communities we want for our children and families. The proliferation of guns on our streets is a serious public health and safety epidemic. No one is immune from it. It adds to the fear and suspicion of others and spirals out of control.

And last, the Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile has been charged with manslaughter:

In an extraordinary move by a Minnesota prosecutor, authorities said the officer, not the civilian, is to blame for the tragic events that turned a traffic stop in a Twin Cities suburb into a flash point in the national debate over racial profiling and police use of force.

You may remember that the shooting of Castile resulted in demonstrations on the streets of Minnesota and all over the country for that matter. These are incidents that have escalated all over America. Unarmed and armed men of color have been shot by officers in what seems like increasing frequency. Race plays a role. Armed citizens plays a role. Fear plays a role. There should be some very serious conversations about what all of this means for the safety of Americans. Will we have them? Will we ignore this at the peril of our communities?

I have great respect for our law enforcement officers and have written frequently about officers under assault by armed citizens. The job of our officers is made all the more dangerous by so many armed Americans and it has led to a vicious circle of arming up to protect themselves from citizens who are allowed to carry their guns in public places or are involved in domestic disputes. Armed citizenry is not the norm in other democratized countries and therefore, law enforcement officers are not often the target of ambushes. In fact, in some countries, officers are not armed. Interestingly, there are far fewer gun deaths in almost all over democratized countries not at war. Coincidence?

What is particularly disturbing is the number of ambushes of American officers leading to tragic deaths of officers:

The attacks on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge that left eight officers dead earlier this month sent waves of fear through law enforcement agencies across the country, with departments ordering officers to double up on patrols as a safety measure.

These deaths contributed to a grim tally this year. Through last week, 32 officers were shot and killed in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, a nonprofit group that tracks these deaths. More than half of the officers fatally shot died in ambushes, the group said in a report released Thursday.

President-elect Donald Trump will have to deal with this American tragedy. Time will tell if he will and if he does, how he will.

An armed society is not a polite society. Our children and families should not have to be exposed to this kind of violence and potential violence. This is lunacy, not niceness.

“Minnesota nice” is a myth.

These are only the gun deaths we know about. About 80% of gun deaths in Minnesota are suicides. These are not usually reported in the media unless they are homicide/suicides, often occurring in domestic shootings. Passing stronger gun laws reduces gun homicides and suicides as it turns out.

But requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales is under assault. The continued myths coming from the corporate gun lobby don’t make us safer.

Who are we? Do we care about our fellow citizens no matter who they are? There are certain truths that should be self-evident. One of them is that we have a moral responsibility to protect our citizens from those who would do them harm and I am not just talking about terrorism. The truth is that toddlers have killed more of their fellow Americans than terrorists:

According to the Washington Post, our nation’s nurseries are housing more than just unbearable levels of cuteness: Twenty-three people have been shot by toddlers in the U.S. since the start of 2016 — exactly 23 more than have been shot by Muslim terrorists over the same period.

Please look at the map in the above linked article showing that in “red states” that typically have looser gun laws, more shootings by toddlers have occurred. Coincidence?

Banning Muslims and deporting Mexicans, as our President-elect and apparently many in the Republican party want to do to protect us will not change this.

The Brady Campaign and other gun violence prevention organizations have solutions that often don’t involve legislation. Check out what can be done to make us safer by making sure guns are locked and stored away from tiny hands and the hands of others who should not have access to guns.

As I wrote about in my last post, things will not be getting better now that the corporate gun lobby believes they have a seat in the White House. How will that make us safer? It won’t. I have yet to hear how plans to repeal strong gun laws will result in fewer shootings and fewer deaths. In fact, the opposite is true.

But we are now living in a country where lies and deception are taken for the truth. It’s a scary time for those of us who have been working for peaceful solutions and safer communities. It’s downright sobering that in a country where “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is under assault.

Election day violence?

voteThis post has been edited since first posted.

 

Will we have violence in the Nov. 8th election? If we do, it will be a first. But then, in this election almost everything is a first. For starters, an Arkansas Republican Trump supporting “poll watcher” told voters to go home while standing in front of a polling place. This guy is a gun toting man who has used his gun to threaten before. From the article:

Burks and many Arkansas Democrats want Soffer removed from the country election commission, however, the latest flap is just the most recent in a long list of complaints involving the 74-year-old Republican.

After Soffer brandished a loaded gun at a meeting in April, Democrats have tried to have him removed from the election commission. Webb appointed Soffer to a second 4-year term on the commission in June.

Let’s get this straight- this man was reappointed to the election commission.

Sigh.

Last night, there was a kerfuffle at a Trump rally in Reno, Nevada. Let’s take a look at what happened and what Trump and his supporters said happened- two different things as it turns out:

The man whose protest saw Donald Trump rushed off the stage by Secret Service agents has said the Republican nominee’s supporters turned on him when he held up a sign reading: “Republicans against Trump”.

The man, who identified himself as Austyn Crites from Reno, told the Guardian he was holding the sign at a rally when Trump supporters wrestled him to the ground.

The 33-year-old – who says he has been a registered Republican for about six years – said he was kicked, punched and choked, and feared for his life when the crowd turned on him at the gathering in Reno, Nevada.  (…)

Crites said when he was on the ground he heard someone yell “something about a gun” and he kept telling those on top of him that he had merely been holding a sign.

He was unaware, until the Guardian told him, that Trump had been ushered from the stage amid the mayhem.

For his part, Crites said he felt relieved when police arrived and placed him in handcuffs, but said officers had to fend off Trump supporters who continued to attack him. “As I was taken from the room, people are just looking at me like I’m a demon,” he said.

He said he was taken to the back of the auditorium, searched, subjected to a background check and then swiftly released.

Of course, if there is an actual threat with a gun that must be taken seriously. Why someone in the crowd thought there was a gun is still a question. The Secret Service did the right thing and thankfully Donald Trump is safe.

But then came the inevitable false and dangerous tweets began by Trump’s campaign with lies spewed that Trump was the victim of an assassination attempt:

But amid the chaos, some people seemed sure. Within minutes, at least two top Trump campaign voices — Donald Trump Jr., and top social media aide Dan Scavino — passed along unsubstantiated claims that the GOP nominee had just survived an “assassination attempt.” (…)  Someone on the scene had shouted that there was a gun. But there wasn’t, as the Secret Service soon confirmed.

Deplorable.

The implication and actual tweet that the incident involved a Hillary supporter is false. The man who was ushered out of the rally is a Republican who fears what a Donald Trump presidency would be for our country.

But never mind. This election has produced one candidate who says anything that pops into his head, lies on the stump and invokes rhetoric that gets the crowd chanting: “Lock her up.” The fact that so many people believe this is OK is what we ought to be frightened about as Americans. Trump may have been right when he said that he could step out onto 5th Avenue and shoot someone and not lose his support.:

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters,”

No candidate for election to the office of President of the United States has said anything even remotely similar to this.

Lying just invokes more fear and hyperbolic rhetoric. Some Americans have been riled up to the point of being in a frenzy for the past year with dangerous rhetoric like this. We don’t know whether someone unhinged or so angered after listening to these lies will take action.

But can we talk about the instigation of violence at Trump rallies? We have not seen this before in American elections. It is simply not OK. Talk is one thing but some supporters are also talking about using guns on election day and after the election if Trump does not win. This is not how we do democracy in America. I wrote about this in my last two posts.

This is deplorable and an American tragedy. We can’t accept talk of violence during our democratic elections. It’s not who we are. We should not sit by and let it happen and we need to demand that our media and our elected officials condemn the lies and fear mongering.

The Brady Campaign is asking for people to renounce violence in the election:

Supporters of the Brady Campaign are once again calling on Donald Trump and the RNC to renounce similar threats of violence and disavow those like Richard Burr who spew such hateful rhetoric.

Brady president Dan Gross said, “Americans are fed up with the vile and dangerous talk of political violence coming from Republicans on the campaign trail. And they’re scared of what might happen on election day, even cancelling class at schools with polling places over fear of violence.  (…) “In this country, we settle our political differences with ballots, not bullets or bombs. We debate our opponents on the issues; we don’t call for their assassination when we’re behind in the polls. Every day Trump and the Republican Party fail to renounce hateful and violent rhetoric, they encourage deadly violence.”

#Enough.

There’s something else you can if you see people with guns at polling places. You can text “GUNSDOWN” to 91990.:

According to The Washington Post, “many election officials across the country are, for the very first time, bracing for intimidation or even violence on Election Day,” and these fears are compounded given that “most states have no laws regarding guns in polling places.”

Under federal law it is illegal to intimidate people trying to vote with guns or by other means. (…)

Voters who text “GUNSDOWN” to 91990 will receive information on a national voter protection hotline (866-OUR-VOTE) operated by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. Appropriate reports will be passed on to law enforcement and election officials, and voters will have the opportunity, if they feel safe doing so, to share photos of voter intimidation on social media.

The project’s launch comes as several disturbing news reports raise the prospect of people carrying guns at the polls and engaging in other instances of possible voter intimidation — including calls from racist far-right  media outlets for an “army” of white nationalists to “watch” the polls:

Yikes.

Common sense about threats of violence and use of guns to intimidate voters may not prevail in this election cycle.

In addition to violent threats and rhetoric, there are other voter intimidation schemes coming from the Republicans who are quick to intimate that the election may be rigged and the outcome will be illegitimate. But the real threat is their own ugly and un-American attempts to suppress the vote. Courts are ruling agains these schemes but the damage has already  been done in many states.

On Tuesday we will find out how many “law abiding” gun permit holders show up at the polls to intimidate people. Yes, I said intimidate. Most people understand that openly carrying a gun at a polling place is akin to intimidation- that is how they feel regardless of whether that person has a permit or is actually a legal permit holder.  And remember that in many states permitless carry is allowed so a person carrying may not be so law abiding after all. If someone feels intimidated by an armed guy at a polling place, then it is intimidation.  This is the result of our American gun culture loosening laws to allow this to happen. But in this particular hyperbolic election with threats of violence being real and promoted by one party and its’ candidate, we have to take this seriously.

Take a look at what happened at a Virginia polling place:

A man wearing a Donald Trump shirt and carrying a weapon stood outside a voting location in Loudoun County, Virginia, on Friday. Authorities in the nation’s richest county are apparently OK with that.

Erika Cotti encountered the man when she went to vote at the county’s registrar’s office, she told The Huffington Post. Virginia doesn’t have early voting per se, but voters can cast in-person absentee ballots for a host of reasons, like if they’re going to be out of the county or city on Election Day.

“I had my 9-year-old son with me. I felt intimidated,” Cotti said. “And I had to explain to my 9-year-old why a man with a 357 magnum is standing outside the polling station.”

Cotti said the man offered her a Republican sample ballot, which she declined.

“He’s like, ‘Who are you going to vote for, crooked Hillary?’ And I was like, that’s really none of your business,” Cotti said, adding that the man was standing in the sidewalk outside of the office when they left and blocking their path.

This is not OK and it is intimidation. This is not what we do in America to get people to vote, or not to vote, as the case may be.

This is not the America we deserve. It’s time to stand up for common sense and the right of every American who is qualified to vote to be able to vote. In this country we don’t vote with our guns. We vote our conscience and hopefully armed with the facts about the candidates. No one can stop you from your right to vote. And most especially not armed vigilantes.

I am very concerned about Tuesday’s election- not just because I fear a Donald Trump win but because I fear that we will see violence.

We are better than this.

UPDATE:

I just read this Media Matters article featuring a new ad for Donald Trump about second amendment rights with none other than NRA Board member Ted Nugent:

A new advertisement from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump’s campaign about hunting and the Second Amendment features National Rifle Association board member Ted Nugent, who claims Hillary Clinton “will destroy the freedom that is uniquely American.” Earlier this year, Nugent called for Clinton to be hanged for treason.

The eight-minute video features other conservative media figures including Fox News host Sean Hannity, frequent Fox News guest and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, and Mark Geist, the co-author of 13 Hours, about the 2012 attacks on American diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya.

Insanity. Donald Trump has embraced the inflammatory rhetoric of an unhinged former musician whose offensive and threatening rhetoric has been known for years. And yet,  the NRA keeps him on their Board and Donald Trump thinks this is OK.

NOT.

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