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.

Armadillos and the targets of bullets

armadillo

I’ll get to the Armadillo in a minute. But first….

A man walking a hiking trail in Arizona was hit by a bullet from somewhere in the distance. The bullet is still lodged in one of his wounded legs and now he is wondering if the bullet came from a nearby shooting range. From the article:

Sawyer said he was hiking the Max Delta Loop Trail around 10:30 a.m. on a Saturday, he didn’t immediately realize he was shot.

“I was like I don’t know what’s wrong; something’s wrong with my legs,” said Sawyer.

The bullet went all the way through his right leg and lodged in his left leg. He manages to make his way down the mountain and to a ranger station where he called for help.

There are two gun ranges north of the trail at the base of South Mountain. One belongs to the Phoenix Police Academy; the other is a private gun club called the Phoenix Rod and Gun Club.

Investigators say no one was shooting at the Police Academy at the time.

According to a police report, detectives believe the bullet that hit Sawyer came from the gun club, as does Sawyer’s attorney Garvey Biggers.

“We know for a fact there were three competitions going on, all ages were shooting that day, from children to adults… so if you have an inexperienced shooter, you could easily lose control of your weapon,” said attorney Garvey Biggers.

Sawyer’s legal team says the range is exactly 540 meters from where Sawyer says he was on the trail.

Is it possible for a bullet to travel 540 meters?

“Yes, no doubt about it,” said Biggers.

Of course, the owners of the gun range are disputing the hiker’s story. They wouldn’t want to be held responsible for flying bullets that travel far enough to hit innocent hikers on walking trails.

In my neck of the woods, we often hear gun fire at our cabin and at the cabins of good friends. There are more than a few shooting ranges in our area. People love to shoot their guns at targets or practice their shooting skills before hunting season or just for sport. And they are mostly safe. But guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill. Bullets travel far and often stop when they hit an innocent person at a distance. There need to be very strict regulations and safety practices for those who shoot guns at shooting ranges or those who choose to fire off their guns for fun on private property.

Remember this one? Florida law comes down on the side of allowing gun owners to shoot off their guns in residential neighborhoods close to families and children. Where is common sense? From the article:

That changed in 2011 when Gov. Rick Scott signed a measure putting teeth into the state restriction. Now local officials could be fined, removed from office and held responsible for their own legal bills if they’re sued over local gun ordinances.

In January, Volusia County municipal managers began communicating by email about the issue of the firing of guns on private property. Ponce Inlet Town Manager Jeaneen Witt wrote in a Jan. 10 email to South Daytona City Manager Joe Yarbrough that a resident in her city was setting up a shooting range on his property. Witt expressed her concern over the powerlessness of local governments to control the use of firearms and suggested lobbying legislators to set a criteria such as lot sizes and buffers.

This is the gun lobby at work “protecting” us all and it’s state legislators failure to stand up to the gun lobby.

Where is the right of people to feel safe in their neighborhoods from potential flying bullets?

It happens. This Kentucky woman was lucky she didn’t get hit by a stray bullet while using the bathroom:

A Lexington woman says a neighbor target practicing in his yard shot a bullet into her home over the weekend.

Fairshinda McLaughlin said she and her family were outside enjoying the spring weather at their home on Lexington’s outskirts Sunday afternoon when they heard a loud noise.

“I thought it was a bomb. I thought a propane tank or something exploded, It was that loud,” she said.

That sound was a stray bullet crashing through her bathroom window.

McLaughlin called the police, and officers discovered the source of the bullet – a neighbor about a mile away firing at targets in his yard.

McLaughlin said she was just about to go use that bathroom.

Seriously folks. Can we talk about this dangerous culture of anything goes with guns anywhere? I could provide many more such inane and dangerous examples.

And then, of course, this one went around on social media because it was so stupid and ridiculous:

A Georgia woman was accidentally shot by her son-in-law on Sunday while he was attempting to shoot an armadillo.

According to WALB, 54-year-old Larry McElroy was outside when he fired his 9 mm pistol at the armadillo. The bullet killed the animal and ricocheted off of its shell.

The bullet then struck a nearby fence, went through the back door of his mother-in-law’s home, through the recliner she was sitting in and struck her in the back.

Fortunately for all, she was not badly hurt. Bullets don’t know where to stop. Can we talk about gun safety reform?

Recently in Vermont, a 6 year old boy was doing some target shooting with his family when he was accidentally shot:

The boy, his father and two other children were taking turns shooting at a target with a .22 caliber pistol, under the supervision of the father.

While the boy was shooting, the handgun failed to discharge. The child subsequently lowered the still-loaded firearm, but before his father could intervene, the gun discharged. The bullet hit the boy in the lower leg, White said.

Some of my critics would tell me that it’s OK for 6 year olds to be out shooting at targets. I would argue otherwise. Supervised or not, 6 year olds don’t seem old enough to handle the responsibility of holding a deadly weapon. Guns and kids just don’t go together well. Numerous incidents of “accidental” shootings by children are reported every day in media sources. I write about them. I also write about how these can be avoided.

The first question I want to ask is if adults really think children can handle guns? The second question I would ask is why we want young children near guns? The third question I would ask is why children aren’t participating in the activities more suitable to young children like just playing, riding bikes, going to the playground, playing soccer or softball or swimming, etc.?

And one important question to ask is if there are guns in the homes where your children play and hang-out? The Brady Center’s ASK campaign is encouraging parents to ask this very important question. It’s not a frivolous question nor should it be controversial. Here’s why. Yesterday charges were filed against an Idaho couple who left unsecured loaded guns around in their home which resulted in one child shooting and killing a friend:

Prosecutors are charging Rusty and Ashlee Lish with one count each of misdemeanor injury to a child for the accidental shooting death of Noelle Shawver that happened nine months ago.

Shawver died on July 30th after being accidentally shot in the chest by another five year old at Lish’s Chubbuck home.

According to police reports Noelle Shawver was playing with another 5-year-old in the master bedroom of the Lish’s Chubbuck home.

Court records say people in the home heard the gun go off and when they went into the room, they found Shawver with gunshot wound to the chest.

Shawver was taken to Portneuf Medical Center where she died from the wound.

Investigators say inside the master bedroom they found the .22 caliber rifle involved in the shooting, a loaded 12 gauge shotgun with a round in the chamber, a loaded 7 millimeter rifle and a loaded Glock handgun, all unsecured and within reach of the children. (…)

“Even though the adults weren’t actors they provided the setting that allowed this young boy to go in and point the gun and pull the trigger,” said Herzog.

According to police reports multiple officers at the scene located several loaded and unsecured guns in the master bedroom area of the home, where Shawver and the other child were playing.

“It’s a horrible tragedy,” says Herzog.

Police say of the four guns found in the room the children were playing all were within reach, and no locks or other security measures were located on any of the weapons. Herzog says he hopes this case brings awareness to gun safety.

“The Lish’s are going to be in a position where hopefully they can do some good and increase public awareness about firearms in the home and overall the community can get some benefit from it,” said Herzog.

Will these parents get involved in public awareness about the risks of loaded, unsecured guns in homes? We can only hope. They are poster parents for the reason parents ought to use common sense and ask about guns in other parents’ homes. No one ever believes something like this can happen. But happen it does- too frequently.

We need to have a serious national discussion about the public health and safety problems presented by the over 300 million guns owned by Americans. In no other country is this a problem. Why are we not having the discussion? One answer is pretty clear. The corporate gun lobby doesn’t want that discussion because if the risks of guns in homes is revealed and discussed, perhaps parents will think twice about buying guns for whatever reason they do. Yes, some people believe they need guns for self protection. They must believe the horror stories of home invasions, the need for guns to protect themselves from national disasters, from some invisible enemy or whatever the gun lobby is telling them.

The NRA’s own Wayne LaPierre has been busy warning Americans about all of the dangers out there that should remind people they must have guns to defend themselves. And he’s not afraid to mention the beheadings and murders committed by terrorists, or other such awful things that could actually befall us if we don’t have our guns for protection. See it for yourself below in his words at the 2015 CPAC conference:

I wonder if the parents ( above) now charged with recklessness and negligence with their guns believed that the nightmare the gun lobby warned them about was actually one that happened because of their own guns not because of something for which they thought they needed those guns? I wonder if that father who allowed his 6 year old to shoot at targets because, well because……. thought his own gun would injure his own child instead of some invisible enemy lurking dangerously outside of his home.

Aren’t we better than this? We need this discussion about the risks of guns. It is beginning in spite of gun lobby efforts to stop it. Here’s a great article by Harvard public health researcher David Hemenway about the public health risks of guns:

So I decided to determine objectively, through polling, whether there was scientific consensus on firearms. What I found won’t please the National Rifle Association. (…)

I also found widespread confidence that a gun in the home increases the risk that a woman living in the home will be a victim of homicide (72 percent agree, 11 percent disagree) and that a gun in the home makes it a more dangerous place to be (64 percent) rather than a safer place (5 percent). There is consensus that guns are not used in self-defense far more often than they are used in crime (73 percent vs. 8 percent) and that the change to more permissive gun carrying laws has not reduced crime rates (62 percent vs. 9 percent). Finally, there is consensus that strong gun laws reduce homicide (71 percent vs. 12 percent).

Of course, it’s possible to find researchers who side with the NRA in believing that guns make our society safer, rather than more dangerous. As I’ve shown, however, they’re in the minority.

Scientific consensus isn’t always right, but it’s our best guide to understanding the world. Can reporters please stop pretending that scientists, like politicians, are evenly divided on guns? We’re not.

OK. The evidence from researchers and professionals in many fields agree. Guns in the home are a risk to those in the home. Duh. There is evidence. What are we doing about it? So far, ignoring it but it can’t be ignored for much longer. It’s time for a change in the conversation that can lead to a change in both policy and our nation’s fascination with guns.