In memory- Las Vegas victims

Las Vegas 2Today we remember the 58 innocent Americans whose lives were lost senselessly in the devastating shooting at a concert in Las Vegas. One year ago today, the carnage once again captured the nation’s attention and left us horrified as the news filtered out.

Who could imagine that one man standing high above the crowd in a hotel room with a high powered rifle fitted with a bump stock could do so much damage? It’s an American tragedy and it happens with such frequency that we grow numb.

Before the Las Vegas shooting became the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, the Pulse Nightclub shooting ended with 49 dead. Soon to follow would the Sutherland, Texas church shooting and then the Parkland, Florida school shooting. 

Between them, 151 innocent Americans were left dead.

How many more will it take before we do something about the daily carnage?

Of course, about 38,000 Americans, give or take, have lost their lives to bullets since the Las Vegas shooting. It should frighten and concern us that the number of the dead bodies is increasing in recent years.

Our collective common sense tells us that we can be better than this. The fact that we aren’t even trying is a travesty.

Elections are coming up soon enough. The issue of gun violence has become a major issue of concern in elections after the Parkland students made us all sit up and notice. Their efforts to register voters and get out the vote have been impressive to say the least. Students are registering students in large numbers at high schools and campuses all over America:

But youth voter registration has surged since the Parkland shooting, according to an analysis by the consulting group TargetSmart. Among 39 states where data is available, voter registration by 18-29-year-olds went up an average 2.2 percent, the group found. In Pennsylvania, which has a race for governor and House and Senate races that could determine which party controls each chamber next year, youth registration rose 16.1 percent. In Florida, the hike was eight percent; in Colorado, 2.3 percent, and in Ohio, the rise was six percent.

 

“I absolutely think 2018 is going to be different,” both in terms of young voter participation and the impact of the gun issue, says Isabelle James, political director for Giffords, a gun-safety group founded by the former congresswoman. “Young people are engaged at an unprecedented level, and it started before Parkland,” she says.

Protect Minnesota is now involved with voter registration all over the state. National gun violence prevention groups, like the Brady Campaign, are also registering voters. It is encouraging to see the young people so involved and making gun violence an issue in this year’s election.

Yesterday, the Duluth News Tribune ran an opinion piece that I wrote with the co-president of our local Brady Campaign chapter also working with Protect Minnesota.

Here is what we said:

 

Local View: Elect leaders who will change the culture of gun violence

A year ago tomorrow, on Oct. 1, 2017, a man in a hotel room in Las Vegas, high above a gathering of concertgoers, unleashed 1,100 rounds of bullets at anyone in his high-powered rifle’s sights. Using a bump stock to make his rifle more deadly, he killed 58 people and injured 851 in a matter of minutes. Concert attendees scrambled to safety or hid under bodies to avoid the bullets. The injured still suffer from physical and psychological wounds, and the trauma ripples through friends and families.

This tragedy was added to a pile that already included the Pulse nightclub and numerous shootings in schools, churches, theaters, and places of work. After a while one becomes weary.

We all have heard arguments over why these happen and what should be done about them. There is no doubt it’s a very complex, multilayered public health issue that needs to be addressed from many angles.

However, there is one common denominator: the gun. If any of these shooters had been thwarted from getting a deadly weapon, maybe some of their victims would be alive today.

Keeping guns out of the hands of people intent on doing harm is a daunting task. There are some safeguards in place, but they have loopholes. Any attempts to close those loopholes or pass new laws that might keep guns away from those who cannot handle them responsibly have proven to be almost impossible. Our elected officials have stonewalled changes, in spite of a majority of the public, including gun owners, wanting more safeguards. Through financial support, the powerful gun lobby has maintained a tight grip on our elected leaders.

It is understandable, when faced with the complexity of the gun-violence epidemic, to do nothing. But we ignore this issue at our own peril.

There are small steps we can take that would, in time, make a difference. Some common-sense measures include requiring background checks on all sales, requiring waiting periods for gun purchases, and enacting extreme-risk protection orders so guns can be temporarily taken from people who could be dangerous to themselves or others.

In addition, the bump stock feature, the unregulated add-on device that allowed the Las Vegas shooter to unleash numerous bullets in seconds, needs to be banned. At the very least it should be tightly regulated.

As we remember the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, let us also remember that it doesn’t have to be this way. It is up to us to elect leaders who will be the voices calling for laws to protect their constituents. With our support they can change the culture of gun violence and the conversation about the role of guns in our everyday lives.

A new generation is stepping up to demand action. The Parkland students led the way in bravery and activism to show adults that change can happen if our voices are loud and clear. Our leaders need to listen to the majority of us who are telling them that we want change and we want action.

We ask our candidates to stop their campaigns for 58 minutes on Monday, Oct. 1 to remember the victims. We ask them to consider that this is not a zero-sum game. The Second Amendment can coexist with the rights of all of us to be safe from gun violence.

In the name of the 58 victims who died tragically one year ago, we invite candidates and elected leaders to work with us, their constituents, to reduce gun violence.

Joan Peterson and Mary Streufert are co-presidents of the Northland Chapter of the Brady Campaign/Protect MN. Both the Duluth women have lost family members to gun violence.

For the families of the victims and for the survivors, their lives have been dark since the shooting one year ago. They are suffering from PTSD and other emotional and physical difficulties that just won’t go away:

Fudenberg heard the gunshots through his phone. Popping sounds. He can’t forget them. His protocol has been to show up at any scene if there were two or more dead. The investigator told him there were at least 20. Maybe more.

Cheney saw his friend absorb the news. His face locked in an expression he’d never seen.

“The change in him was instant,” Cheney said. “We had been talking and joking and, suddenly, it was gone.”

Fudenberg was dropped off first by the driver. Cheney didn’t see him again until he was on television, giving updates on the deceased. It would be two more weeks before he would see his friend again in person. Over that dinner, Cheney would see some cracks.

The veteran coroner would cry. It wouldn’t be the last time.

This is the ripple effect of gun violence that we don’t deal with well.
Remember the names of the victims and demand that your candidates and leaders take a stand on gun safety reform.
So on this day, our country has experienced 2 mass shootings.
#Enough
 

 

 

 

3 + 9 equals mass shooting

Protect MinnesotaYesterday another mass shooting happened in America. It is probably not a surprise that it happened again in Florida. The gun laws in Florida are particularly loose ones and Florida has become the laboratory of the NRA’s agenda, thanks to NRA Board member Marion Hammer.

But things are changing even in Florida after the Parkland students and the country stood up and said “no more”in marches and student walkouts all over America that came from the March For Our Lives movement.

A shooter decided to direct his anger or frustration or whatever the heck he was thinking at innocent other people who were just hanging out at a gaming tournament in Jacksonville, Florida. And so now we have to think twice about going to gaming events as well as schools, shopping malls, churches, parks, stores, being in homes, workplaces, colleges, preschools, and other places where American citizens go everyday.

It is unquestionable that too many guns and too easy access to guns by just about everyone is leading to an unsafe society. It is also an impolite and violent society. The culture of the corporate gun lobby is what the problem actually is. When so many people can buy so many guns of most any type so easily, we can expect to see just about every corner of our country experiencing gun deaths and injuries.

In Jacksonville, Florida yesterday, 2 were shot dead by the shooter who shot himself and 11 were injured, 9 by gunfire.

The 2 innocent people who died of their gunshot injuries were Taylor Robinson and Eli Clayton. Look at their faces and say their names.

In a live recording from the scene, gunshots can be heard and then screaming and the sound of people running. That is what the first reaction is- run for your life. If anyone had a gun there, they didn’t use it to stop the carnage. It would be rare if they did.

And the sound of bullets firing from a gun, screaming and running have become part of the American landscape.

The math is not good for shootings in Florida- or anywhere else for that matter.  The Parkland shooting has changed the landscape about gun safety reform in our country. It’s only been 6 months since that heinous shooting. And it’s only been about a week since a shooting at a high school football game in Jacksonville left 1 shot dead and 2 injured in an apparent gang member shooting:

“It is shocking. I was actually here, at the game,” Superintendent Diana Greene told the Times Union. “It was a great game and for it to end in violence like this is just unfortunate, and quite frankly, we should all be saying unacceptable.”

The superintendent said everyone coming into the game had to undergo a magnetic detector wand search and that security inside the game area was tight.

“This is a community issue,” Greene said. “I need parents, students to stand up. If you see something, say something.”

Friday’s shooting followed by one week a shooting at a high school football game in Palm Beach County, Fla., where two adults were wounded.

Really? A shooting the week before at another Florida football game before the Jacksonville shooting?

I would say it’s an understatement that this is a community issue important enough for parents and students to stand up and say something.

Where is common sense?

And let’s ask the obvious question. Where are all of the guns coming from?  Stolen? Trafficking? Straw purchasing? Private sale with not background check? Whatever the source, we can do something about all of it if we put our minds together and decide to stand up for common sense and right.

As kids go back to school, they will be facing another year where no parent knows whether their child will make it home after school. Children are fearful of being shot. In my last post, I discussed products sold to protect our children from harm. And I also discussed the ludicrous notion proposed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to spend federal funds to arm teachers.

How many kids are affected by gun violence every day? 8. Eight is 8 too many. The numbers are too high and shouldn’t add up to death or injury by bullets. How many kids have lost their lives so far this year to bullets? According to the Gun Violence Archive= 2236. 

Until we decide that the best way forward is prevention rather than taking measures after the fact or measures that deal with a shooting in progress, we will not protect our children and our citizens from gun violence.

The Brady Campaign’s new campaign to talk about the risks of family fire- End Family Fire- is a way to look at gun violence from the prevention and public health aspect as it should be. Passing stronger laws can prevent shootings. All gun violence prevention organizations at the state and federal level are promoting prevention measures and proactive measures to save lives.

Speaking of the Brady Campaign, here is a statement about the Jacksonville shooting:

“Americans deserve to be safe, whether at school, a football game, a club, an airport, an art exhibition, a church, a workplace, a concert, or — as of today — a gaming tournament. We await the details of this shooter’s plans and how he got his gun, but we already know that far more gun deaths happen every day in America than among any other industrialized nation. We can stop the shootings if we enforce our existing gun laws, including the Brady background check system, and eliminate the gaps in our our nation’s laws that make it far too easy for dangerous people to get firearms to use as killing machines.”

Protect Minnesota is urging young people and students to get involved in a new text program. Check out the meme above for more information. The Brady Campaign also has a text for action program (877-877) as do most other groups.  Brady’s #TeamEnough is a good way to get involved for young people.

Many good things are going on and I’m proud to be part of it all.

But where are Congress and our legislators?

We are better than this.

#Enough

Another anniversary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Yes. We can save lives.

Let’s do it together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing could be more true.

 

UPDATE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

church service

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

 

In support of safe communities

register to voteWe have a problem ( we have many actually) in the country with so many senior Americans living in homes with guns. In my last post, I wrote about the need for Red Flag laws in order to save lives. A fine example of how these laws work to save lives is this incident of a woman whose husband “accidentally” shot her in the stomach. He had dementia but still she brought out his guns at his request so he could look at them. Unfortunately for all, he picked up one of the guns, pulled the trigger and shot his wife in the stomach. She lived. And yet, she was OK with this because she didn’t want to take away his dignity. But what’s more important here?

Education of the public is needed to explain the provisions of these kinds of laws. Families of gun owners often don’t believe that a loved one could possibly be a danger or pose a risk. But why take a risk with lethal weapons? From the article:

About a year before the shooting, Dee reluctantly took away his car keys. When he still insisted on driving, she sold the car. When he wanted to check on their guns, she locked them in their safe in a shed behind the house and changed the combination.

Dee did the right thing in taking away the car keys. She could have avoided getting shot had she not taken the guns out of the locked gun safe.

At the end of the piece, a common sense discussion occurs with another woman who made the decision to sell her husband’s guns. And further, the article ends with an interview with a physician and the dilemma about talking to elderly patients about guns in the home. This may the time to remind my readers that the NRA has tried to stop physicians from asking about guns in homes. Why? Second amendment I guess.

There really are some people who should not have guns.

This is a no brainer. Of course we have to have these discussions. And of course health care providers should talk to patients about the risk of guns in the home. And of course we need to pass more Red Flag laws. It’s all a matter of common sense and has nothing to do with rights. It’s about safer families and communities.

The Parkland students are touring the country with the Road to Change tour this summer. They are also talking about safer communities wherever they go. There are many ways to have safer communities. One is to pass stronger gun laws. These students understand that because they experienced a tragedy on Feb. 14th at their school and nothing has been the same since.

They are asking, “When is this going to end?”

Good question.

While the students were in Minneapolis, I went to a picnic and met some of them. It was great to chat a bit with Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, two of the outspoken Parkland students who have become heroes to many. I had a particularly good conversation with a student from Chicago who joined the tour as the group stopped there on their tour. We talked about easy access to guns, about the homicides in Chicago, about the difference between urban gun violence and gun suicides which can be prevalent in more urban areas. In the end, it’s the bullets that take lives whether homicide or suicide.

We agreed that we would all be safer if we passed a federal background check law to stop guns from states with more lenient gun laws making their way into states like Illinois with stronger gun laws. Chuck’s gun shop came up as the Brady Campaign has organized some protests there to show how Bad Apple Gun Dealers can add to urban gun violence.

While the students were in Minneapolis they did several things. One of the major goals is to register young people to vote in order to make the changes we need. They did register voters. They also attended a vigil for Thurman Blevins, the man shot by police in Minneapolis in a confrontation that turned deadly. To date there are conflicting reports about this shooting and it appears that the body camera footage of the officers will be released soon. Clearly guns cause a lot of conflict, a lot of heartache, a lot of tragedy and senseless violence in our communities no matter who is shooting them.  There are too many guns out there and as a result there are too many shootings. There is also fear about the too many guns in our communities leading to more fear from citizens and officers alike often leading to more shootings.

There were also more active shooting incidents last year than in previous years. This should come as no surprise to most of us and particularly not to the Parkland community or any community where recent shootings have taken place.This new FBI report released recently has the facts about this. From the article:

Active shooting incidents have continued to plague the nation but last year, there were 30 incidents across the U.S. — the highest number since the FBI began tracking the phenomenon. Last year also broke a record for the highest death toll in any single year.

“Faced with so many tragedies, society routinely wrestles with a fundamental question: can anything be done to prevent attacks on our loved ones, our children, our schools, our churches, concerts and communities?” the study says. “There is cause for hope because there is something that can be done.”

And also of interest is the fact that most of the shooters in these incidents got their guns legally ( though maybe shouldn’t have):

The 30-page report examines active shooter incidents from 2000 to 2013 and suspects in 63 cases, finding suspects showed signs before they attacked but law enforcement wasn’t notified in more than half the cases until it was too late.

Forty percent of suspects purchased a firearm or multiple guns legally for the sole purpose of an attack. Another 35 percent already legally owned a gun before planning an attack, meaning 75 percent of active shooter incidents reviewed by the FBI legally owned the gun they used in the attack.

The remaining suspects stole, borrowed or purchased a weapon illegally.

It’s so easy to get guns in America. If one intends to carry out a shooting, one can do it without a problem. Speaking of legal and illegal guns, the Heller decision is now 10 years old. 

The Supreme Court decided in Heller the second amendment could be interpreted to mean that individuals have the right to have guns in their homes, more or less ignoring the section of the amendment that deals with a “well regulated militia” as had been an established precedent previous to the decision.

The above linked article from the Brady Center discusses that decision and what it has meant for our country’s gun laws and public safety.

And what a day to mention this given that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement today. What will this mean for gun rights and gun violence prevention? Here is the statement from the Brady Campaign about Kennedy’s retirement from the bench.  From the statement:

“President Trump has made no secret of his desires to reshape the Supreme Court to be hostile to common sense gun laws. Indeed, the NRA and the gun lobby are already celebrating today’s announcement. We will see what the coming weeks hold and who is appointed to the nation’s highest court, but rest assured – we will continue the fight to protect Americans’ right to be safe from gun violence. Brady has been fighting in the courts for 30 years, and we aren’t going anywhere. We’re up to the challenge.”

We are up to the challenges facing us and will continue our work to keep our families and communities safe from devastating gun violence. We stand behind the students in their efforts to make changes. We stand with the rule of law. We stand with common sense. We stand with the victims.

And we stand with the rights of everyone qualified to be able to vote. For that is the way to make the changes that are needed in our communities and to public health and safety. We must protect that right above all things. Pay attention to what is going on around you and do whatever it takes to make sure our rights to safe communities, our rights to vote, our rights to health care, women’s rights, civil rights, workers rights, rights to marry who we love, and the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are preserved. Our democracy is under siege. We have to work to save lives and our democracy.

 

 

Do Something

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Michael Ciaglo/Houston Chronicle via AP

There are hardly words any more. All I know is that I almost felt numb after today’s school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. 10 are left dead and 10 injured. How can we endure this again and again and again and again.

We can’t.

We must do something. We can’t go numb. The Star Tribune published this editorial today after the shooting. I couldn’t agree more. Please don’t go numb:

Instead, a busy school morning was shattered by gunfire, and now 10 people are dead, mostly students, and more wounded. Some escaped by running, at a teacher’s instruction, to the theater department’s storage room, where they huddled while the smell of gunpowder hung in the air. Paige Curry, according to the Houston Chronicle, hid for half an hour, “on the phone with my mom the whole time.” Imagine being the mother who gets that early morning call from a terrified child who might be gunned down while you’re still on the phone with her. A daughter who is relying on your voice to calm her even as you wonder whether you will ever hear her voice again.

Imagine.

Can you?

Look at the photo accompanying the piece. LOOK AT THE PHOTO. WHAT IF THAT WERE YOU?

It could be- that’s the thing.

This is a media release written for our local press:

On March 24th 2018, about 1000 students and community members marched in Duluth Minnesota, saying that we have had ENOUGH of innocent students losing their lives to gun violence in America. Months later, it’s happened again, this time in a Texas school. Students at this school claimed they weren’t surprised that it happened to them.

Please join us June 2nd for National Gun Violence Awareness Day and lend your voice to demanding much needed change. https://www.facebook.com/events/192992358010479/

March For Our Lives Duluth, the Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota chapter and Moms Demand Action Duluth chapter are saddened and angered by yet another mass school shooting in America. Kids should not be sitting ducks and have to endure the fear of bullets in their schools and classrooms. After the Parkland school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 17 students were killed. Now 10 more families will have to suffer the devastation of the loss of a loved one.

This is the 22nd school shooting of the year already. We are also concerned with the 96 Americans, 8 of them children, who lose their lives to bullets every day in our country. A few days ago a 7 year old first grader in Plymouth, Minnesota found a loaded gun in a box and shot and killed himself. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

It is unavoidable to talk about the role of guns in our national public health crisis. Please see this article by columnist David Frum. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/05/its-the-guns/560771/?utm_source=atlfb

The Minnesota legislature had several chances to pass a universal background check and Extreme Risk Protection Order bill but failed 90% of Minnesotans by refusing to vote them out of committee or bring them to the floor. This is not OK with us.

The fact that gun injuries have taken more lives than U. S. service members is simply outrageous. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/05/18/2018-has-been-deadlier-for-schoolchildren-than-service-members/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.53767397c367

Elected leaders are responsible for bringing life saving bills to votes. The fact that they have not should be a wake-up call to us all. 97% of Americans support universal background checks. Only 1.5% of Americans are NRA members. Most gun owners and NRA members support these life saving measures.

We are calling on our elected leaders to act immediately to pass life saving bills. We are also calling on Minnesotans and Americans to listen to these young leaders who are demanding change.

June 2nd is National Wear Orange and Gun Violence Awareness Day. In Duluth, activists and the public will be standing on the corners of Lake Avenue and Superior St. from 10:00 a.m. to Noon holding signs and wearing orange to demand change to our gun laws and our gun culture. We urge people who are fed up with the inaction of our leaders to come and wave a sign in solidarity with the families who are hurting and grieving after this horrendous loss of life in Santa Fe, Texas.

 

We are tired of being tired of the carnage.

The whole country has had #Enough.

After Parkland we said #Neveragain.

But here we are again.

Where is common sense?

Our hearts are broken.

Protect Minnesota is holding a rally today to demand the change Minnesotans deserve before the session is over.

The Minnesota legislature is scrambling to finish the session. Will they finish without enacting any gun safety reform measures? If so, shame on them.

I end with the statement from the Brady Campaign:

Brady Campaign co-presidents Kris Brown and Avery Gardiner stated:

“We are heartbroken today. Once again, children are shot in their school. Once again, another mass shooting has grabbed the headlines, and meanwhile, so many other shootings go by without any attention. We’ve asked this time and time again – what will it take? What will it take for Congress to step up and do their jobs to protect innocent children from gun violence? Our hearts go out to the victims and their loved ones today, and we fervently hope that perhaps this is the day when our elected officials stand and take action.”

Do something.

 

Happy Mother’s Day

pitcher_flwrs_csIt’s that day when we remember our mothers. Mothers deserve our respect. Everyone has one for one thing. My sister was shot and killed in 1992, leaving behind 3 children and 3 step children. Her grandchildren were born after her death so they never got to know her and her adult children do not have a mother to whom to send flowers and a card.

Mothers started a movement in 2000 with the Million Mom March which I attended. It was on Mother’s Day and was meant to call attention to the fact that mothers cared a lot about losing children, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and others to gunshot injuries. All we wanted were some common sense gun measures that would save lives. President Clinton and Hillary Clinton were there that day to support the mostly mothers in the crowd,

The mother who started the movement, Donna Dees-Thomases was so incensed about the shooting at the Jewish Community Day Care in 1999 that she got a permit for the march thinking that maybe 50,000 would show up. And then Columbine happened. And then the country was tuned in to school shootings and 750.000 showed up on the National Mall to demand changes to our gun laws.

Some of the mothers whose children survived the shooting at the Jewish Community Center marched in 2000 and have remained active in efforts to stop gun violence.

But Congress chose not to listen to the mothers who marched that day.

The Brady Campaign merged with the Million Mom March and its’ chapters continue to work for gun safety reform.

One small measure passed after the Virginia Tech shooting- to require states to send the records of those who were adjudicated mentally ill to the FBI data base so people like the shooter of 32 at Virginia Tech would be prohibited from buying guns at Federally Licensed Dealers only. Many mothers lost children on that day and some of them whose children survived have become activists for gun violence prevention.

Let us not forget though that this symbolic measure is not enough to stop someone intent on harming others from getting guns from private sellers at gun shows or on-line. Because…..rights?

And then the Aurora theater shooting happened. I have come to know one mother who lost her only daughter (Jessica Ghawi) in that horrific shooting. Her mother Sandy has been working ever since so that other mothers won’t suffer the pain she has suffered.

After that shooting, what did Congress do?

Right.

 

 

And then 20 small children were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2014. Mothers lost their precious children in what has become a marker for the cowardice of Congress failing mothers and others by not passing a background check bill that came before them.

The NRA opposed the bill. Enough said.

I know the mother of a young TV journalist, Allison Parker, who was shot on live TV by someone who should not have had a gun. Her anguish is palpable but Barbara is not deterred by the cowardice of our leaders.

The meaning of mother’s day for those mothers and the families of mothers who have lost their lives to gun violence is forever changed.

After Sandy Hook, Shannon Watts started a movement called Moms Demand Action. Shannon Watts is a mother. So are most of the members of MDA. They are also fathers, brothers, sisters, and others who work to prevent gun violence. She is also threatened and mocked by the NRA and others who must be quite unnerved by hundreds of thousands of mothers demanding change.

What has happened since then? Some states have passed universal background check laws. Some have passed assault weapons bans.. Some have passed Extreme Risk Protection Orders. 

But in defiance of the majority and of mothers, many states have also made it easier for people who shouldn’t have guns to get them. 

Shameful.

 

It’s more than a shame. Shame is not enough for the lack of leadership and courage by many of our leaders. The mothers and others in the groups I have mentioned represent the 97% of us who are asking for change in the name of the dead and injured. The corporate gun lobby and specifically the NRA represents about 7% of gun owners and even fewer of the entire nation.

 

Mothers and women continue their efforts to demand change. The Women’s March after the inaugural of our 45th President in protest the election of a man who does not support issues that affect most women and their families. Many mothers were there that day and our kids watched as we marched in DC and all over America in one of the biggest marches in DC. Gun safety reform was one of the issues and continues to one of the issues of concern for the Women’s March.

The student movement that began on Valentine’s Day of this year after the Parkland shooting has stirred up the country and changed everything. The mothers of those students are proud of their kids and the courage they exhibit that our leaders have not. Again- a record breaking crowd in DC came out on March 24th to March For Our Lives and let our leaders know that change must happen.

The President made some initial noise but as always, he sputters and spouts and preens for the cameras and then does nothing. Or worse, he goes in the opposite direction.

How can you raise the hopes of victims and survivors and then crash them after such a horrendous shooting?

Shameful and cynical.

We’ve collectively had #Enough. We know we are better than this but our leaders are failing us. They are letting mothers and others die senseless and avoidable deaths because they lack the courage of the mothers, students and others who are raising their voices and fighting back.

They are letting our children be sitting ducks in our schools. They are failing the next generation.

But change is coming. Mothers will not be silent. Remember the origin of this holiday:

The origins of Mother’s Day as celebrated in the United States date back to the 19th century. In the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children.

These clubs later became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.

Another precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe. In 1870 Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873 Howe campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.

Mothers and others just want our leaders to do the right thing. Doing it soon will save the lives of many.

It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the Star Tribune editorial board published this piece for today’s edition:

Gun violence is not a Democrat-vs.-Republican issue. It’s not a rural-vs.-urban issue. And despite what leaders are telling you, there is ample time left to pass legislation that would make a real difference. When they need to beat the clock, legislators pass massive bills in minutes with virtually no discussion. That’s not an ideal way to legislate, but make no mistake, it happens. Avoiding debate all session and then claiming a lack of time is cowardly and falls short of the leadership Minnesotans expect.

Republicans should pass their school security package as a stand-alone bill, knowing Gov. Mark Dayton would sign it. They should pass enhanced criminal-background checks. That issue has been discussed for years at the Capitol.

“What is it going to take in Minnesota and American society to curb gun violence?” Serier asked an editorial writer. “In our schools we have to have active-shooter drills for kindergartners. That is one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever heard of. If that’s the world we’re living in, it’s time to change it.”

Will it take mothers losing more children and children losing more mothers?

The answer is yes since nothing is being done to stop the devastation.

Pass the bills supported by almost everyone. Give mothers a gift that will last forever. Give flowers and gifts but the lasting gift of knowing that we can prevent some of the senseless shootings in our communities will at the least give mothers peace of mind.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone. Enjoy your families. Keep working for common sense and making our families safe from gun violence.

Keep marching and keep advocating.

NRA convention hypocrisy

nogunsat NRAWell, it’s that time of year again. The NRA convention trots out good old Wayne LaPierre, bearer of fear and paranoia, to whip up the crowd and make everyone want to go right out to buy a gun to protect themselves from all of the evilness out there. It’s mostly in the form of Democrats and those silly liberal gun violence prevention activists. We are a scary bunch for sure. We’re coming for their guns but just haven’t figured out how to find out where they are and how we would get them.

Never mind. They say we’re still coming. It’s going to be Armegeddon for sure. Or maybe a Civil War. That would be fun.

And for the first time in history, a sitting President addressed the convention for the 3rd time ( once as a candidate). Does anyone remember when the President sat in a room in the White House assuring victims and survivors after the Parkland shooting that he would do something about the epidemic of gun violence? Yes. He said he would. And then he taunted politicians about their fear of the NRA. What’s to be afraid of anyway?

Let’s watch what the President said and then reflect on the 180 degree turn around after spending time with NRA leaders:

We are talking about the lives of our children. Such hypocrisy and disingenuous ( and even lies) are disturbing to say the least. We are better than this.

Trump also believes (in his speech to the NRA) that the NRA just loves the country. Take a look:

“This is a great organization that loves this country,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Dallas. “The NRA is a truly great organization that loves this country. And we have a record crowd.”

This is Trump’s fourth consecutive address to the NRA’s annual meeting, but his first remarks to the group since the tragic Parkland, Florida, high school shooting that left 17 dead and sparked a national student-led push for gun law reform.

“The world is watching and we’re going to come up with a solution,” Trump assured a group of people affected by the nation’s deadliest school shootings during an emotional White House listening session one week after the attack.

Not true. Trump will NOT come up with a solution. He’s lying. Neither will the country loving NRA. They have shown us time after time that they don’t care about the lives lost. Remember when Charleston Heston went to the NRA convention in Denver right after the Columbine shooting? I do. So do the victims and survivors of that shooting. You can see his famous remarks:

Back to the meeting the President had with victims and survivors- He suggested a few good measures that would actually save lives and prevent some of those victims and survivors from having to advocate for preventing devastating shootings. What happened? The NRA came calling. And soon enough, Trump stopped talking about preventing shootings and was back to his bluster and hypocrisy.

#WeCallBS

And does it make any sense at all for the President to carry on at the convention so soon after all of the talk about gun violence in light of so many recent mass shootings? Here are a few of his ludicrous remarks:

Mr. Trump, as he has in the past, made the case for arming teachers, and getting rid of gun-free zones.

He also mourned the Parkland shooting victims.

“Our entire nation was filled with shock and grief by the monstrous attack on a high school in Parkland, Florida,” Mr. Trump said. “We mourn for the victims and their families.”

WHAT? Come on.

Back to the NRA convention, the crowd got a double barreled pleasure since VP Pence also showed up. Have you ever seen Pence with a gun by the way? Does he even hunt? I don’t know if he has much in the line of gun creds but he sure has been cozy with the NRA. 

And neither does Trump. But what they do have is Republican extremism and that’s what the NRA is all about today.

They are not your grandfather’s NRA. They are all about fear and terror:

You don’t have to be a media critic to parse the message: The NRA was casting virtually everyone but gun-owning conservatives as enemies of the state, seemingly encouraging its audience to arm themselves against their fellow Americans. Women’s March Co-President Tamika Mallory, a single black mother from New York, published an open letter on the group’s web site calling on the NRA to take the video down. “The video you sponsored,” she wrote, “suggests armed violence against communities of color, progressives, and anyone who does not agree with this administration’s policies.”

“I’m here to tell you: Not a chance,” replied Grant Stinchfield, Loesch’s angry-white-male counterpart, in an NRA TV video that called Mallory out by name, along with Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson. “We don’t apologize for warning America about chaos creators who want to impose their will upon us through their violence and lies.”

Dana Loesch, NRA TV personality and spokeswoman for fear, will be talking at the NRA convention. She represents the new face of the NRA since it has become an extremist organization. From the linked article:

The NRA of Loesch and Stinchfield would have been utterly unrecognizable to the organization’s membership as recently as 50 years ago. From its founding in 1871 throughout most of the twentieth century, the NRA was largely a firearms-safety and marksmanship-training organization. The NRA kept its members informed about legislation affecting gun owners, but it had no official lobbying arm, and it was a political nonentity. But with the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968, everything began to change.

Yes. And everything is beginning to chance the other way, at long last. Activists, including Victims groups will be visible and noisy outside of he NRA convention.

Carry Guard insurance, sold by the NRA, is now in trouble as well:

In a Wednesday announcement, the New York State Department of Financial Services said the NRA’s Carry Guard program “unlawfully provided liability insurance to gun owners for certain acts of intentional wrongdoing,” and that the group solicited coverage to New York residents without a license from the state. Lockton, the world’s largest privately held insurance brokerage, has agreed to pay the state $7 million for the violations, and will terminate Carry Guard policies held by New Yorkers.

Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo described the conduct as “an egregious violation of public policy.” (…)

Following the February mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Chubb disclosed that it had decided not to renew its contract to underwrite the program. Lockton also stated its intention to no longer act as broker and administrator for Carry Guard.

“It’s a major step back,” Peter Kochenburger, the executive director of the Insurance Law Center at the University of Connecticut Law School, told The Trace’s Mike Spies in February. “To keep this going, the NRA will have to find another insurance company to underwrite this. It’s hard to imagine another publicly traded company, or a company like State Farm, stepping in.”

It turns out that companies are not happy with the idea that they may have to pay out if some “good guy” with a gun shoots someone intentionally and gets away with it. I wonder why?

I wonder, by the way, if they will send Ted Nugent out to offend people? At least his images and some products with his name on them will be there.

Oh, and among the items featured on display at the shopping area of the convention is a gun that looks like a cell phone. I’m pretty sure I wrote about this before. But let’s marvel at the total lack of sensibility and common sense involved with this new weapon. What could possibly go wrong?

Does anyone remember the recent shooting of Stephon Clark?

What could possibly go wrong with a gun like this? I can’t even begin to enumerate how wrong this is.

Sigh.

Police officers, ever on the alert when they are in tense situations, have mistaken all kinds of common objects for guns.  It seems ridiculous on its’ face but it’s America where just about anyone can own and carry a gun.

Also featured at the NRA convention is a gun free zone. No good guys with guns to protect the President and Vice President. What are they afraid of?

The Brady Campaign has a great new report out with a timeline about what the NRA has been up to in the past year. The report, titled “Fear and Fanaticism; a year like no other” is spot on. Given the number of horrendous mass shootings in the past year, setting a record of the number of deaths (Las Vegas) the country has had a deadly year. The report includes a list of some of the shootings and the response by the NRA.

mass shooting image Brady

There’s a new atmosphere out there after the Parkland shooting. The majority of Americans have found their voices and they are speaking out. For too long, people resistant to the extremes of the NRA have remained quiet. It’s easier that way because the trolls and critics pounce and it’s not pretty.

Not this time. There are many people like me at the NRA convention this year letting them know how we feel. We aren’t having their nonsensical rhetoric and their myths. And we are getting ready for the fall elections when the issue of gun safety reform will be front and center. Candidates will have to decide on whose side they stand. Preventing shootings and protecting our families from devastation really has no side. It’s a human and moral issue and part of our American values. It’s not about gun sales. It’s not about rights. It’s not about power and control. It’s not about money and influence.

It’s about our lives. That is why students and others came out in very large numbers to March For Our Lives events all over out country. They are not done yet. In fact, they have only begun and many will be voters in the mid-term elections.

It’s Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

#NoRA

UPDATE:

I used the hashtag #NoRA but did not include the article referring to the latest effort against the powerful organization. A group of 100 celebrities and activists have sent a letter to Wayne LaPierre in which they have pledged to a series of actions to reduce the influence of the organization on politicians:

In an open letter to NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, which was first obtained by TIME, the more than 100 members of the newly formed NoRA Initiative — short for No Rifle Association — pledge to reduce the NRA’s influence in American politics through a series of voter registration drives, nationwide art campaigns, demonstrations and boycotts. (…) She says the group has “surprises up our sleeves,” including for events timed to the NRA’s annual convention in Dallas May 3-6. “When like-minded people come together for the common good and for a cause they believe in,” Milano said, “they can move mountains.”

I look forward to the actions and to changing the influence of the corporate gun lobby’s money and influence that has led to inaction to save lives.