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.

 

 

Listen up- The last school shooting

listenLet’s make the Parkland shooting the last school shooting said one of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school students interviewed after 17 of his school classmates were slaughtered.

The last school shooting took the lives of 17 Parkland, Florida students and educators and traumatized the entire nation. The injured will recover, some with life long debilitating injuries, others left with only the trauma. We are all traumatized.

The thing is, Columbine should have been the last school shooting. Virginia Tech should have been the last school shooting. Sandy Hook for sure should have been the last school shooting. Our kids are sitting ducks. But ducks are better protected from bullets than kids given that duck hunters must use a plug to prevent a hunter from using more than 3 shots at a time. It’s to sustain the duck population for future hunters.

Who is sustaining the population of our children?

Something is different this time. Teachers, students, parents, law enforcement and the media- all speaking out in stronger and more urgent voices asking the “adults” in Congress to act on behalf of our children.

Insanity is the word that comes to mind.

We are all exhausted but we are not numb and we are not stupid. We understand what is going on here. We get that our loose gun laws are killing our precious human resources and snuffing out the potential of dozens of kids to live a productive life with their friends and family.

Last night 300 people came out for a vigil outside of NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia. Some of my friends were there.

1000 people came out in Parkland to honor the victims. But without action, none of this matters.

Speaking of the NRA, I can’t even begin to add up the media articles and stories about how much that organization has contributed to the mayhem and carnage. The time has come to turn on the corporate gun lobby, whose profit motive has become the main reason for existence. It is not your father’s or your grandfather’s NRA any more.

Listen to the voices of gun owners and former NRA members.

Listen to the voice of just one teacher:

Don’t tell me teachers should be carrying weapons in the classroom — we’re not police.

It’s our job to assign books, create lessons and lead discussions that make students think critically and help them see the world a little differently: I want them to read “The Outsiders” in my class and remember it when they’re adults and their kids are reading it.

Don’t tell me there’s nothing we can do about guns. Yes, Americans have a constitutional right to bear arms — but it’s not limitless. And we all have the right to live.

Listen to the voice of the Broward County Sheriff:

““If you’re an elected official, and you want to keep things the way they are ― if you want to keep gun laws as they are now ― you will not get re-elected in Broward County,” Israel told a crowd that erupted in cheers.”

Listen to the voice of just one parent:

“Stop accepting blood money.”

Listen to the students. They are our future. They are being massacred in every more frequent mass shootings. But they are fighting back:

“Please, this is the 18th one this year. That’s unacceptable. We’re children. You guys are the adults,” David Hogg said during an interview on CNN.

And well they should. Read this frightening article about real and not so real threats made by students after the Parkland shooting.  My God. What is going on? Where are the adults in the room?

Remember that every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Talk about the influence of even the Russians in our gun violence epidemic in America.

The NRA has a connection with the Russians.

The NRA has connections with our President. The Brady Center went to court to get a white paper written with the help of the NRA presented to the President right before his inauguration.

So can we talk?

Talk about Brady background checks.

Talk about Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

Talk about Assault Rifles:

Equally important for a gunman looking to do a lot of damage in a hurry: AR-15-style weapons are fed with box magazines that can be swapped out quickly. The standard magazine holds 30 rounds. Equipped in this way, a gunman can fire more than a hundred rounds in minutes.

The Parkland shooter had “countless magazines” for his AR-15, the local sheriff said. And there is still one more reason the weapons are so popular in states like Florida: They are easy to buy — and for Nikolas Cruz, 19, the shooting suspect, far easier to obtain than a handgun.

The Washington Post goes further about another assault weapons ban:

He calls the results “staggering.” Compared with the 10-year period before the ban, the number of gun massacres during the ban period fell by 37 percent, and the number of people dying from gun massacres fell by 43 percent. But after the ban lapsed in 2004, the numbers shot up again — an astonishing 183 percent increase in massacres and a 239 percent increase in massacre deaths. (…)

On a scale of effectiveness ranging from 1 (not effective) to 10 (highly effective), the expert panel gave an average score of 6.8 to both an assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity magazines, the highest ratings among the nearly 30 policies surveyed. (…) More strikingly, substantial numbers of gun owners supported the measures as well: 48 percent of gun owners in that poll said they would support a ban on assault style weapons, and 44 percent said they favored a ban on high-capacity magazines. A Quinnipiac poll conducted later in the year showed similar numbers.

Talk about research on the causes and effects of gun violence.

Talk about how much money our leaders are getting from the NRA.

Ask all candidates what their plans are for preventing shootings and saving lives.

And yes, talk about the Second Amendment:

Ideally we would also rethink the Second Amendment in an age where firearms are far more lethal than in the 18th century and where we no longer require minutemen to protect our liberties from the redcoats. But it’s not necessary to repeal the Second Amendment. The courts have consistently upheld gun regulations in the past, including a federal assault-weapon ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004 and a Maryland ban that went into effect in 2013.

Yet instead of instituting such common-sense safeguards, Congress is moving in the opposite direction. Early in 2017, Congress passed and President Trump signed a bill that revoked an Obama-era regulation that would have made it harder for mentally ill people to buy guns. Toward the end of the year, the House passed legislation that would force every state to honor concealed-carry permits — meaning that a resident of Oklahoma could pack heat in the District of Columbia or New York City.

And talk about all of these things with common sense conversations and actions.

Talk about the insanity of American gun laws and shootings as the rest of the world is watching this insanity unfold. This article highlights an Australian perspective into our shootings.

Do we love our children as much as we love our guns? That is a very important question that needs an answer.

Make this the last school shooting. Because the last one has started a movement and a conversation that is not going away. The accumulation of bodies and inaction by Congress and state legislatures if finally just too much for a nation that sees more gun violence than any other democratized country not at war. Our kids are the victims of knock-off military style weapons used in war. As one friend said, our children have become war correspondents, live streaming a shooter killing their friends and texting parents as the shooting occurs.

With the help of adults, students are going to take national action as the Women’s March has organized a national student walk-out set for March 14th.

We shouldn’t have to do this. This is an American tragedy.

Listen up Mr. President. Spend more than 6 minutes “listening” to the victims of the shooting at the Parkland hospital. Your tone deaf anemic, robotic statement a day after the shooting did not even mention the word guns or gun violence. Your lack of passion and empathy was disheartening and disturbing. Have a nice week-end on the golf course at Mar-a-Lago.

We are better than this.

We have had #Enough.

And it continues unabated

spinning.jpgAs Congress and the country turn to the trivialities of our current President’s insanity over soldiers shot and killed in Niger, the shootings right here at home go on and on and on and on……

4 were injured at a Minneapolis bus stop.

Another mass shooting, this time in Maryland, took the lives of 3 and injured another 3. 

The shooter was heading towards a school when he was caught.

Yawn.

Sigh.

Just another few days in America. The death toll mounts. We do nothing. The President creates chaos about virtually everything. Congress fails to act on anything.

Remember the Las Vegas mass massacre?

We have moved on. Now to the Opioid death epidemic. Let’s do something about the deaths from opioids that are decimating our communities. Let’s set up a task force.

But Guns?

Crickets.

The families and friends of the worst mass shooting in American history have not moved on. They have just buried their loved ones. Children are missing their parents. Parents are missing their children. Siblings are grieving for their siblings.

There is a deep hole in the hearts of Americans all over the country.

Congress is at the bottom of that deep dark hole that is called avoiding action on something they could do something about. But they can’t do anything about a President run amok acting more crazy every day.

If the President tweeted about solutions to gun violence like he attacks anyone who has the nerve to disagree with him, we would be doing something tomorrow.

Alas, that will never happen.

Congress is at fault. Congress sits by and watches our country go deeper and deeper into some place we do not recognize any more.

We have huge problems that are sitting right in front of us every day. No action. No words. No nothing.

We are going around and around and around and around and getting nothing done on anything. Not health care. Not national security. Not gun violence. Not diplomacy. Not the economy. Nothing.

The free press is under attack. We do nothing.

Today and tomorrow and the day after that, about 90 Americans will die each day from gunshot injuries. That many or more will die from the opioid epidemic. Soldiers are dying. People will lose their health care. People still live in poverty. Kids and teens will shoot themselves or someone else with a gun left unsecured.

We can do something but we don’t.

One bit of good news is that the Brady Center’s ASK campaign has been found to be the most effective campaign for awareness of safe storage of guns.

So let’s talk about the risks of guns in homes. Let’s talk about simple things that can be done to save lives. Congress refuses to act. We can act.

Where is common sense?

 

 

“Enough is enough”

Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Shooting
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – NOVEMBER 27: People are rescued near the scene of a shooting at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs Friday November 27, 2015. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

This is cross posted at Commongunsense.com

President Obama has issued a statement about the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs. I am going to include it in it’s entirety, below:

“The last thing Americans should have to do, over the holidays or any day, is comfort the families of people killed by gun violence — people who woke up in the morning and bid their loved ones goodbye with no idea it would be for the last time.

And yet, two days after Thanksgiving, that’s what we are forced to do again.

We don’t yet know what this particular gunman’s so-called motive was for shooting twelve people, or for terrorizing an entire community, when he opened fire with an assault weapon and took hostages at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado. What we do know is that he killed a cop in the line of duty, along with two of the citizens that police officer was trying to protect.  We know that law enforcement saved lives, as so many of them do every day, all across America.  And we know that more Americans and their families had fear forced upon them.

This is not normal.  We can’t let it become normal.  If we truly care about this — if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience — then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them.  Period.  Enough is enough.

May God bless Officer Garrett Swasey and the Americans he tried to save — and may He grant the rest of us the courage to do the same thing.”

The President is speaking truth to the gun lobby’s power. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do this. If we don’t deal with our own domestic terror attacks, occurring almost daily now, then we will have failed our children and our citizens.

The identity of the shooter has been released, along with a photo. Please note that this was a white man and not a Syrian refugee or a foreign terrorist.  He had an AK-47. So who should we fear more? Syrian families with young children trying to escape the torture and violence happening in their own country or (mostly) white home grown terrorists shooting innocent people up in places all over our country. For surely, there was terror involved in the hours long siege at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

I’m sure my readers will remember that just a month ago, on a different holiday, the streets of Colorado Springs were the scene of yet another act of terror committed by a young white man walking around with an assault rifle as if it was normal.  But, alas, he could have been just an every day open gun carrier exercising his rights until suddenly he wasn’t. America at its’ worst.

What’s normal in America? Let’s look at a few recent incidents involving gun owners for how normal these shootings have become.

A “law abiding” gun carrier shot a waitress at a Mississippi waffle restaurant because she asked him not to smoke inside. She died.

A South Carolina felon who should not have had a gun in the first place, got away with murder because of Stand Your Ground legislation.

Bloggers and others are keeping track of this nonsense. David Waldman of the Daily Kos’ GunFail is finding the “accidental” discharges by law abiding gun owners and reporting on them. I have written far too many times about such negligent and irresponsible gun owner failures to use their guns in a safe manner.

The only conclusions we can draw from the mass terror shootings like the one at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, men walking the streets with assault rifles, terrorists access to guns in American, “accidental “gun discharges, domestic shootings, gun suicides, toddlers shooting themselves or others is that we have a gun problem in our country. We are not using common sense or the necessary outrage and courage to change much of anything about easy access to guns. Why not? The corporate gun lobby, of course.

The public discourse has become more and more loud and violent towards refugees, people of color, women, Planned Parenthood clinics, President Obama and politicians who don’t agree with people mostly on the far right spectrum of politics. Inevitably this is going to lead to shootings or threats of violence towards all of the above. What happened in Colorado Springs may be one example. Threats of violence had already caused this clinic to take very strong security measures. Clinics across the country are now in fear of the next terror attack because of this one. That is the purpose of terror attacks.

How can we separate the fear, intolerance, terror, racism and violence mongering from what happened in Minneapolis in the shooting attack against Minneapolis Black Lives Matter protesters?

We can’t.

What’s different about the Colorado Springs shooting and the recent Paris terror attacks? Not much. We are afraid of the wrong terrorists. It’s no secret that I am a liberal person. But that aside, it is the Republican candidates for President who are ramping up the fear and violence with their own statements. Check out this blog post from Amanda Gailey writing for Crooks and Liars:

Combined with gun lobby propaganda and increasingly threatening militia groups, the American right wing is fomenting racial and ethnic violence and insurrectionism that threatens the core values of our country.

The corporate gun lobby, mostly the NRA, is also responsible for much of the fear and paranoia exhibited in recent shootings. From the article above, written by Ana Marie Cox for The Guardian:

“The NRA is no longer concerned with merely protecting the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms – the gun lobby wants to use those arms on its fellow citizens. Or, as the NRA thinks of them: “the bad guys”.

It is useless to argue that the NRA is only targeting criminals with that line, because the NRA has defined “good guys” so narrowly as to only include the NRA itself. What does that make everyone else?

“I ask you,” LaPierre grimaced at the end of his litany of doom. “Do you trust this government to protect you?”

This is not one of the items the membership voted upon. Indeed, Wayne LaPierre’s confidence in making this question rhetorical is one of its most frightening aspects, though of course it’s his prescription that truly alarmed me:

We are on our own. That is a certainty, no less certain than the absolute truth – a fact the powerful political and media elites continue to deny, just as sure as they would deny our right to save our very lives. The life or death truth that when you’re on your own, the surest way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun!

You cannot defend this as anything other than the dangerous ravings of a madman. LaPierre’s description of the world is demonstrably untrue, and not just in concrete, objective terms. To cite just one example: crime rates in the US have been falling for 20 years – a statistic that some gun rights advocates brandish as proof of the selectively defined cliché, “more guns, less crime.” Just as troubling is LaPierre’s internal inconsistency about what it means for NRA members to be “on their own”.”

Yes, America, we have a serious problem. Violent and fear mongering rhetoric is fueling the flames of intolerance and insurrectionism in our country. In combination with far too easy access to guns of all types, we have created a monster that is now rearing its’ ugly head.

It’s past time for us, as Americans, to decide on our morals and values. Do we value the right of people to live without devastating gun violence or do we value gun rights more? I know my answer.

We are better than this. Well, we should be anyway. The fact that we aren’t is frightening. If this continues, we will not be living in a democracy for much longer.

We have had #Enough

More kid shootings

kids and starsI have been a writer for the Kid Shootings blog which has now remained silent for a while. Those of us writing could not keep up with all of the shooting incidents along with everything else we were doing. But today I noticed a number of incidents that I wanted to write about.

The first is the shooting of a South Dakota school principal by a student. Luckily for all, the principal only sustained a minor injury. It could have been much worse for all concerned. As more details come out we will learn where the boy got the gun. A good guess is that he got it at home. The Brady Center’s report, The Truth About Kids and Guns found that 2/3 of school shooters get their guns in their own home or the home of a relative. This is not OK. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Kids can’t buy or own guns, thank goodness. They are just not responsible enough to handle guns. Too many adults are irresponsible with their guns- why would we believe kids would be any safer?

The parents of this boy should be having a lot of thoughts right around now. Will they change what they think about gun safety reform? Will common sense happen? Time will tell.

Meanwhile back in Washington state, the father of a 15 year old teen who shot and killed 4 classmates last fall was convicted on gun charges because it was his gun that was used by his son to murder classmates and shoot himself. Why should anyone have been shocked by this verdict? If adults can’t be responsible with deadly weapons, they should be held accountable. Maybe then we will find that parents will either not have guns around when they have young kids and teens or they will make darned sure those guns are completely inaccessible to their kids.

In the Portland, Oregon area a mother shot her own son to death. What is going on? This is beyond tragic. From the article with a quote from the boy’s father:

Jake, he said, was special to his mother. “She loved him more than anything in the world,” Ryan told KOIN 6 News.

The night of the shooting, Ryan said he got some strange texts from Dianne. So he called Jake.

His last words, Ryan said, were, “Dad. Come.”

There was screaming in the background, he said, and he tried to get there – but it was too late.

Too late indeed. It is always too late. The mother was unstable and “broken” according to the father ( they were divorced). This is a case for the passage of a gun violence restraining order law so that family members can make sure people like this mother can’t access guns or can have them taken from her.

We can’t get these lives back. It’s too late. It’s past time to be talking about solutions to our epidemic of gun violence in America. At the least we can make attempts to keep guns away from people who can be dangerous with them and who we know should not have them. There are just some people who should not have guns- period. Until our elected leaders do what they know is right, kids will shoot other kids or teachers or their parents or themselves and parents may even shoot their own kids.

The corporate gun lobby is lying to people when they make claims that guns make them safer. It is simply not true. It’s time to challenge this faulty assertion and call them out for their deceptions in the name of profits for the gun industry. Saving lives comes before making profits.

Our kids are our future. They are future stars- future leaders- future teachers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, Presidents, elected officials, law enforcement officers- and professions we have not even thought about. We will be gone from this world by the time some of these kids are responsible adults. What kind of world do we want for them? What will be our legacy? Will we leave them with safer communities or with the violence that is far too common today? I know what my answer is.

UPDATE:

A 15 year old Indiana high school student was found with a gun in school. Where do we think this gun came from? I think we know.

As I am writing I am hearing about at least 10 dead in a campus shooting in Oregon. I will write more about this next but can hardly think.

Gun suicides must be taken seriously

National Suicide prevention weekFor far too long, we have ignored one of our country’s most serious public health problems- gun suicides. This week is Suicide Prevention Awareness week. Are we paying attention? The Brady Center has a new report out about the reality of suicide by gun which takes more lives than gun homicides. Let’s take a look at some of the points made in the report:

A gun in the home makes a suicide three times more likely according, to a 28-page report released today by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence. The Truth About Suicide and Guns finds that while gun ownership alone presents the greatest risk, when combined with the impulsive nature of suicide and the effectiveness of a gun, the combination is deadly. In fact, 71% of people who attempt suicide do so within an hour after making the decision. Further, death results 91% of the time when a gun is used because injuries are instantaneous and leave little time for medical intervention or for the victim to reconsider their decision.

“A gun in the home makes it too easy for someone to find a permanent and tragic solution to a temporary feeling. This report is not about the right to bear arms; it’s about arming people with facts,” said Brady Center President Dan Gross. “The facts are clear — there is one, surefire way to drastically reduce the number of Americans who die from suicide each year and, simultaneously, make American homes safer: Keep guns out of the home or store them safely.”

Suicide by gun has increased since 2007 which is affirmed by many reports. When I spoke to my own Police Chief, he confirmed that he had been seeing more local gun suicides. The report from Brady has some numbers:

A closer examination of the causes of these deaths reveals some important trends. Over the past decade, the rate of firearm homicide has continued a steady decline. At the same time, the firearm suicide rate has begun rising, increasing more than 13 percent between 2007 and 2013. The combination of these two trends is keeping the overall gun death rate essentially stagnant.

Access to firearms clearly increases the risk of suicide as the report highlights:

Intervention during this time of acute risk is key to saving lives. Most people who attempt suicide don’t really want to die, they are just so overwhelmed by their emotions they feel unable to cope. Indeed, the vast majority of people who make it through a suicidal crisis do not go on to die by suicide. A systematic review of 70 studies following patients after a non-fatal attempt found that, on average, only 7 percent (range: 5 to 11 percent) eventually died by suicide, whereas 70 percent did not attempt again.

A common misconception is that people who want to die will find a way to kill themselves, with or without a gun. However, studies suggest that the risk of method substitution is low. If a person’s preferred suicide method is unavailable, it is unlikely they will switch to a different one. Even if another method is used it is likely to be less lethal, thus increasing the odds of survival. (…)

Research has shown that reducing firearm availability can lead to reductions in firearm suicide rates. In one study, researchers measured the impact of changes in household firearm ownership on suicide rates in the United States between 1981 and 2002. They found that each 10 percent reduction in firearm prevalence was associated with significant declines in rates of firearm suicide (4.2 percent) and overall suicide (2.5 percent). The effect was even greater among children ages 0 to 19. A more recent study of suicide on college and university campuses between 2004 and 2009 revealed substantially lower suicide rates for students compared to all 20- to 24-yearolds. These differences were attributed to the ninefold decrease in firearm availability on campuses versus homes.

The availability of guns clearly makes a difference. Guns are more lethal than other methods of suicide and, as the report reveals, 90% of those who attempt suicide but fail don’t try again. So we can’t listen to those who say we shouldn’t deal with the risk of firearms since people will just use other means to kill themselves. It is simply not true based on the research.

As part of the release of this new report, a father speaks in a video about his 13 year old son who shot himself on impulse with a gun the father had forgotten he had in the house. Below is the story told by Farid Naib    :

Cayman Naib had a bad day. He found a gun and used it on impulse to shoot and kill himself. Now his father is telling his story. If only there had not been a gun handy. Guns make it much easier and are more lethal than other potential methods of suicide. From this linked article about guns and suicide:

The harrowing fact of suicide demands a story: “Why?” But from a public health perspective, an equally illuminating question is “How?” Intent matters, but so does method, because the method by which one attempts suicide has a great deal to do with whether one lives or dies. What makes guns the most common mode of suicide in this country? The answer: They are both lethal and accessible. About one in three American households contains a gun. The price of this easy access is high. Gun owners and their families are much more likely to kill themselves than are non-gun-owners. A 2008 study by Miller and David Hemenway, HICRC director and author of the book Private Guns, Public Health, found that rates of firearm suicides in states with the highest rates of gun ownership are 3.7 times higher for men and 7.9 times higher for women, compared with states with the lowest gun ownership—though the rates of non-firearm suicides are about the same. A gun in the home raises the suicide risk for everyone: gun owner, spouse and children alike.

Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill. There is a risk to having them that must be discussed.

Stories are important if we are to change the conversation, change the culture of guns and change laws to save lives. As I wrote in my last post, this is what the gun lobby doesn’t like. Victims’ families are supposed to be quiet and not tell their stories. They are inconvenient and painful. It’s difficult to watch and listen to Naib’s story but if we are to make change, stories like his and the many others who have lost someone to a gun suicide must be told.

A friend who I met through my work at Protect Minnesota, has worked to call attention to gun suicides since her daughter used a gun to take her own life. I asked her for a statement and this is what she said:

Angela’s life did not have to end, along with so many others that have died from self inflicted gunshot wounds.   If the legislatures listened to someone other than the NRA and the gun manufactures, if they had then Angela would be alive because at least one of the four hospital stays the last year of her life would have come out on a background check and she would not have been able to purchase a gun and use it to end her life.
The medications she was on where more regulated than the gun and bullet she used to end her life.  In 2011 Angela was 1 of 19,900 people that committed suicide by gun, that number has grown every year.  Every year 64% of gun violence deaths nationwide are suicide.
Please reach out to someone you know is struggling, if you are struggling please reach out to a friend or family member or call the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1 (800) 273-8255.

Yes, background checks can work to keep suicidal people from getting guns. In fact, in states with expanded background checks, gun suicides were reduced:

Background checks are the most effective way to restrict access to firearms. An estimated 40 percent of gun sales in the United States are completed without background checks. “One of the conclusions of the study is consistent with a key observation Everytown made a year ago: that background check laws are associated with reduced rates of firearm injury and death including suicides,” said Ted Alcorn, Research Director, Everytown for Gun Safety. “Everytown’s research shows that in states with background check requirements, people are safer: controlling for population, there are 48 percent fewer gun suicides in states that require background checks for private handgun sales than in states that do not.”

In 2013 alone, 21,2175 people killed themselves with a firearm. That makes up 51 percent of all suicides from that year. (…)

Suicides involving firearms are fatal 85 percent of the time, compared with less than 3 percent for pills, according to the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. “If someone in the home is contemplating suicide doesn’t have access to a firearm, it’s likely that they will be attempting with less lethal means,” said Everitt. “Ninety percent of people who survive an initial suicide attempt will not go on to complete another attempt. Being able to intervene after a potential first attempt is very important,” Everitt said.

There’s really no doubt about it. We can prevent some of our nation’s suicide deaths by passing stronger gun laws and making people aware of the risk of easily accessed loaded guns in homes.

It’s also important to note that some of our mass shootings and many domestic related shootings result in suicide. From the first linked article:

Mass murder is a form of suicide in that the perpetrator of such atrocities is often an enraged and fatalistic individual who intends to die at the scene of the massacre. From this perspective, the increase in mass shootings over the last ten years is very consistent with the increase in suicide.

An example of a mass shooting that ended in multiple homicides and the suicide of the shooter was the Milwaukee area mass spa shooting which was also a domestic related shooting.  The firearm was obtained without a background check through Armslist.com by the shooter. The result was 3 dead and 4 injured, including the wife of the shooter. The shooter couldn’t buy a gun through a licensed dealer because he was a domestic abuser. Easy access to guns makes these kind of shootings easier to accomplish.

There are many other mass shootings like this one. And domestic murder/suicides are just part of our daily media coverage all over the country. In fact, there was just a recent domestic incident in California involving a firefighter who shot his wife, a sheriff’s deputy, and then himself. Guns and suicidal individuals are a really dangerous combination.

So what can we do about this? From the Brady Center’s report:

Limiting access to firearms has been shown to reduce suicide rates in many countries outside the U.S., including Australia, Canada, Israel, and New Zealand. A study of the Israeli Defense Forces found that a change in policy, requiring firearms to be stored on base while soldiers took their weekend leave, resulted in a 40 percent decrease in suicide. Much of this decrease could be attributed to the policy change since the weekday suicide rate did not change significantly. Following a 1996 firearm massacre in which 35 people were killed, additional regulations were passed that made gun laws stronger and more uniform across Australia. The reforms included a ban on semi-automatic and pump-action rifles and shotguns, a national gun buyback program, registration of all guns, and background checks on all gun sales. Researchers found that the new gun laws accelerated the rate of decline for suicide by firearm, doubling it from 3 percent to 7.4 percent per year. (…)

A broad consensus exists among leading public health experts that means reduction is an essential component of any comprehensive suicide prevention strategy. According to the World Health Organization’s global report on suicide prevention, “Restriction of access to means plays an important role in suicide prevention, particularly in the case of suicides that are impulsive.” In the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, a joint report issued by the U.S. Surgeon General and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, one of the 11 goals outlined was to “promote efforts to reduce access to lethal means of suicide among individuals with identified suicide risk.”

We don’t have to shrug our shoulders and believe that there is nothing to be done or no solutions. There are. Take a look at these suggestions from the Brady report:

Considerable evidence links the presence of a firearm in the home with increased risk of adolescent suicide. A review of data from case-control studies reveals that adolescents who died by suicide were four to five times more likely to have a gun in the home, even after adjusting for potentially confounding variables, such as previous mental health problems. Although suicide and mental illness can be closely related, 40 percent of suicide completers under the age of 16 were found to have no known„ psychiatric disorder. For young people without mental illness, a loaded gun in the home was found to increase suicide risk 32 times.These data show that for many young people the availability of a gun in the home is the most significant predictor of suicide.

Educating parents about lethal means reduction should be an important part of any effort to prevent adolescent suicide. Many parents are unaware of the risks of having a gun in the home, particularly for older adolescents. Therefore, parents should be encouraged to store household firearms safely (locked and unloaded, with ammunition stored separately) or to remove them altogether. In one study, keeping guns locked and unloaded was found to have a protective effect, reducing odds of death by 73 percent and 70 percent, respectively. However, removing firearms from the home is the most reliable and most effective way to prevent youth suicide.

Brady’s Suicide-Proof Your Home campaign provides simple, practical steps that all parents can take to reduce a child’s risk of suicide at home, such as removing or locking up firearms and medications. It builds on the familiar concept of childproofing, with the goal of showing parents that much as locking a cabinet can keep curious toddlers safe from harmful chemicals, locking a gun and securing ammunition separately can keep a troubled teen from making a deadly mistake.

If we don’t take the public health problem of suicide seriously, we will be neglecting our youth and others whose lives could be saved by some simple common sense solutions. We have far too many deadly mistakes in America. Senseless deaths like those I have written about here leave families devastated and often wracked with guilt. It doesn’t have to be this way. I hope you will join the Brady Campaign/Center and other organizations working to prevent gun violence to educated the public about solutions that can make a difference.

Law suits and the gun lobby

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In 2005 Congress passed a law opposed by many, including the gun violence prevention organizations around the country. It was difficult for the general public and Congress to really grasp. But when the “guys with the guns make the rules” that is often the case. This law is the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms law, aka the Immunity Law ( Gun Industry Immunity). Here is what this law does:

In the years before passage of the act, victims of firearms violence in the United States had successfully sued manufacturers and dealers for negligence on the grounds that they should have foreseen that their products would be diverted to criminal use.[2] The purpose of the act is to prevent firearms manufacturers and dealers from being held liable for negligence when crimes have been committed with their products. However, both manufacturers and dealers can still be held liable for damages resulting from defective products, breach of contract, criminal misconduct, and other actions for which they are directly responsible in much the same manner that any U.S. based manufacturer of consumer products (i.e. automobiles, appliances, power tools, etc.) are held responsible.

Here is more about the law:

While opponents of the measure said it singles out the gun industry for special protection, Mr. LaPierre said the protection is necessary because, unlike auto manufacturers or pharmaceutical companies, American firearms makers “don’t have deep pockets,” and the industry would be at risk simply from the cost of fighting the lawsuits.

But opponents called the bill shameful — “bought and paid for by the N.R.A.,” in the words of Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts. Representative Chris Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, whose constituents include victims of the 2002 sniper shootings in Washington and its suburbs, called the measure “a cruel hoax” on victims of gun violence.

“I went to a lot of memorial services during that period of time,” Mr. Van Hollen said. “I’ve met with family members. To tell them that their cases were frivolous is, I think, to add insult to injury.”

Eight of the sniper victims or their relatives won a $2.5 million legal settlement from the manufacturer of the gun used in the shootings and the dealer in Washington State who sold it. Mr. LaPierre said that suit would have been permitted under the law passed Thursday. But the lawyer who brought it, Dennis Henigan of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, disagreed.

Mr. Henigan said that while the dealer had violated federal law, the bill would have prevented the suit nonetheless because the violations did not pertain directly to the weapon used in the sniper shootings. He said he intended to challenge the bill on constitutional grounds, arguing that it deprives states of their right to legislate and deprives victims of their right to sue.

As our country is experiencing more, not fewer, gun deaths and injuries and as the mass shootings keep piling up, this Media Matters article wonders why we aren’t paying more attention to this gun lobby law. From the article:

The Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act favors an industry that, at best, turns a blind eye to business practices that place profit over victims. As Forbes admits, the result is that “gun manufacturers have won double-barreled protection from Congress against the type of lawsuits that bedevil the makers of everything from toys to tractor-trailers.” Although legal experts like Andrew Cohen, posting in The Atlantic, are starting to highlight this unnecessary and unprecedented immunity for the gun industry, further attention would better inform current calls to hold gun companies accountable in court. As leaders of Congress state that “every idea should be on the table” in attempting to prevent another tragedy like the Newtown massacre, major news outlets should investigate why the gun industry remains shielded by law from the consequences of its irresponsible business practices in a way that other industries are not.

For example, the same type of gun used in the Newtown shooting was used by the 2002 Washington, D.C., snipers to shoot more than a dozen people. But if it had been in effect at the time, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act would have blocked the lawsuit filed by the victims against the gun maker and dealer, and prevented the settlement they received. On this point, the questions of Denise Johnson, the widow of one of the snipers’ victims, are still relevant:

I’m confident that the criminal justice system will work to punish the people who killed my husband. But the civil justice system must also be allowed to work. Those who share responsibility for my husband’s death must also be held accountable.

[…]

I and families of other sniper victims have sued these gun sellers. I hope that by holding them accountable, we can cause others to behave more responsibly, and that future tragedies such as mine will be prevented. I understood when I filed the case that I was not guaranteed victory, but that’s OK. All I wanted was my day in court. But if [the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act] is enacted, the courthouse door will be slammed in my face.

No other industry enjoys the protections that the gun industry is seeking. Gun sellers and manufacturers shouldn’t be above the law. If any other product injured my husband and irresponsible sellers played a part, I would be able to bring a case in court. But because Conrad was shot with a gun, my lawsuit would not be allowed. Those who sell guns that are sought by criminals need to be more careful than sellers of other products, not less careful.

I call on Congress to protect my rights and the rights of other victims of gun violence. There’s nothing frivolous about how bad gun dealers behave. And there’s nothing frivolous about my case.

The gun industry does not need to be more protected than any other industry. If victims file law suits, the courts can sort it out like they do for other industries who are sometimes sued by victims who are harmed by a product. The tobacco industry was found to be liable for deleterious health effects caused by their products. The same with the auto industry. Why does Congress treat the gun industry differently?  The corporate gun lobby may complain that they don’t have deep pockets but that is really not the case. The gun industry seems to be thriving thanks in part to the protections it has received from our own elected leaders who are afraid to stand up for the victims. And also thanks to the fear and paranoia sold to some in America that fuels the sale of firearms. And in a sick twist, many of these firearm sales increase after high profile mass shootings.

At some level, our elected leaders must know and understand this information. Do they also know how much gun deaths and injuries cost Americans?  Our leaders need to know it all in order to make informed decisions. There has been controversy in the past week or so about one such leader who happens to be running for President- Senator Bernie Sanders.  Sanders voted in favor of the 2005 law that protects the gun industry and has been having problems because of it. He also voted against the Brady Bill.

The 2005 law has come to the forefront in a recent lawsuit filed by the parents of one of the Aurora theater shooting victims against an ammunition company.  From the article:

A federal judge ordered the parents of a Aurora, Colorado, theater shooting victim to pay court costs and attorney fees as a result of a lawsuit filed last year, and the defendants in the case say the family owes around a quarter of a million dollars. (…)

The lawsuit was part a larger effort by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence to expose unscrupulous gun dealers that ignore obvious warning signs and sell to customers with malicious intentions.

The plaintiffs, Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter, 24-year-old Jessica Ghawi, was killed in the shooting, filed suit in September, but a senior district judge dismissed the claims last month.

The judge cited the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act in the ruling, a law passed in 2005 to shield gun makers and retailers from liability for injuries caused by a third party with their products.

On-line purchases like this are way too easy and come with no background checks:

“We’re different than other cultures,” said Dudley Brown, executive director of Rocky Mountain Gun Owners, which advocates for firearms owners’ rights. “We do allow Americans to possess the accoutrements that our military generally has.”

Gun rights activists like Brown celebrate that freedom, but even some involved in the trade are troubled by how easily Holmes stocked up for his alleged rampage.

Chad Weinman runs TacticalGear.com, which caters to police officers looking to augment their equipment, members of the military who don’t want to wait on permission from the bureaucracy for new combat gear, and hobbyists like survivalists and paintballers. The site receives “thousands” of orders daily, sometimes from entire platoons that are about to deploy to war zones.

On July 2, Holmes placed a $306 order with the site for a combat vest, magazine holders and a knife, paying extra for expedited two-day shipping to his Aurora apartment. The order, Weinman said, didn’t stand out.

“There’s a whole range of consumers who have an appetite for these products, and 99.9 percent of them are law-abiding citizens,” Weinman said. But he said that “it makes me sick” that Holmes bought material from him. He added that he doesn’t sell guns or ammunition and that he was “shocked” at the amount of bullets that Holmes allegedly bought online.

Authorities say all of Holmes’ purchases were legal – and there is no official system to track whether people are stockpiling vast amounts of firepower.

This statement ( above) should concern us: “”There’s a whole range of consumers who have an appetite for these products, and 99.9 percent of them are law-abiding citizens,””. Law abiding or not, why is there an appetite for these products in the first place? Doesn’t that tell us something about our insane American gun culture? Who needs these kinds of products? And if you are law abiding and want them, a background check or further scrutiny should not be a bother to you. But…rights.

Sandy and Lonnie Phillips lost her daughter, Jessica, that night in a movie theater. Her right to live was taken from her in just seconds by a man who could buy hundreds of rounds of ammunition on-line because- rights:

That’s right. Not only does U.S. federal law protect gun makers and sellers from being held responsible for selling arms to nutcases, terrorists and murderers, but the state of Colorado requires plaintiffs to pay them court costs for having the nerve to sue them! (…) The other problem, which Sachs does not specifically mention is that our nation’s lax gun laws — along with laws protecting gun makers and sellers — allow no recourse to victims of the weapons industries and the NRA gun lobby.

Americans can buy anything they want on-line no matter who they are. Guns and ammunition should be treated differently than other products because they are the only product designed to kill people. Why can’t we get this right? High profile shootings often highlight our weak gun laws. The recent Charleston shooting has exposed a flaw in the FBI’s national instant check system:

That is something that should outrage all Americans, black or white, gun owner or non-owner. Polls show voters overwhelming support a background check system that prevents serious criminals and the dangerously mentally ill from owning firearms. Yet the NICS isn’t getting the job done — failing about 228,000 times per year based on the latest FBI numbers. And that’s not even counting the sales from private sellers to private buyers (including those conducted in conjunction with gun shows) that, while restricted in Maryland, are unrestricted in 33 states by last count. According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, background checks only cover about 60 percent of gun sales. (…)

As troubling as the Confederate flag may be as a symbol of racism and oppression, a gun in the hands of a criminal or a dangerous psychotic poses a far more imminent danger. Fixing the background check — and closing the private sale loophole on a national basis — is no assault on Second Amendment rights. Rather, it would be a case of making existing law, one that’s been on the books for 22 years, function in the way that Congress intended. And qualified gun owners would have nothing to fear as they’d face no additional burden beyond a meaningful criminal background check while gaining the comfort that terrible armed rampages like the one that took place in South Carolina might be made less frequent.

Sometimes overlooked in discussions of this nation’s falling violent crime rate (and it’s fallen every year since 1994 on a per capita basis) is the role of Brady background checks that have denied guns to 2.4 million prospective buyers who were either convicted of felonies, were fugitives from the law or were determined to be dangerously mentally ill. Surely fixing the system will yield even better results, making it just a bit more difficult to walk into a church and kill six women and three men gathered for a Bible study. As important as taking down the Confederate flag may be on a symbolic level as a repudiation of the kind of white supremacy that Mr. Roof embraced, fixing the leaky background check system would save lives of all kinds and likely in large numbers.

Background checks on all gun sales can save lives.

We need to Finish the Job and require background checks on all gun sales. It’s the bullets and ammunition that actually kill.

Back to the gun lobby and lawsuits. Some lawsuits have worked in spite of the 2005 law. This Kansas lawsuit  puts gun sellers on notice that they need to make sure those who are buying their guns can pass a background check. From the article:

The owners of Baxter Gun and Pawn say they didn’t know Graham was a felon, and that they were convinced the grandmother was buying the gun as a gift for young Zeus. She filled out the form and passed the mandatory federal background check, as Graham waited.

“He paid cash for the gun, he carried out the gun, and he purchased the ammo,” Shirley says.

And just hours later, he used it to kill the boy, and himself.

“I lost my son,” Shirley says. “At the time, my only child. At the age of eight.”

She filed a negligence suit against the gun shop, and the Kanas Supreme Court eventually ruled that gun dealers must exercise the “highest standard of reasonable care” to keep weapons away from felons. That’s higher standard than had been in place.

She recently settled with the gun shop owners for $132,000.

“This case is hugely important,” says Jonathan Lowy with the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

He argues that gun control advocates face a veritable brick wall in Washington, where he says powerful gun rights lobbying groups consistently block gun control legislation. Civil litigation, he says, offers a chance to move the needle on restricting sales.

And more from the article: ” “Gun dealers can be held accountable when they irresponsibly supply a dangerous person. That is a powerful message,” he says.”

And what follows is a comment from a gun dealer about how this is not the norm and most gun dealers are responsible. It is only about 5% of gun dealers who are responsible for 90% of the crime guns. But that 5% comes with innocent victims losing their lives. There should be no tolerance for “bad apple” gun dealers. Clearly stopping these dealers from careless and dangerous business practices can save lives. It won’t bring the ones who were shot back and it won’t stop their families and friends from grieving for them, but if it will stop another family or more than one family from experiencing the devastation of gun violence, it is important and worth doing.

Lawsuits matter.

Reasonable people can agree that we need to keep people from being shot in any way we can. That being the case, our laws need to be stronger, not weaker. And our conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities needs to involve a discussion about everything we can do to stop the senseless violence that is devastating our communities. Common sense tells us we must have that conversation.

The thing is, we shouldn’t have to beg for our leaders to pass laws that can save lives. We shouldn’t have to sue bad apple gun dealers to get them to do the right thing. We shouldn’t have to remind gun owners to keep their guns locked away, unloaded, from kids and teens so they can’t “accidentally” shoot someone or themselves. (According to the Gun Violence Archive, there have been 994 “accidental shootings since January of this year; 371 children killed/injured in the same time period; 1269 teens (12-17) killed or injured since January.) Something has to change.

We are better than this.

Other countries have managed to get it right. We can too if we have the will and if our leaders do what they know is right in the face of a well funded and fierce corporate gun lobby.