A historic day

On this day in 1963, President John Kennedy was assassinated. I will never forget that day and the days that followed. In my home town, anyway, the news flew around fast. School was dismissed and I think there was no school for quite a few days afterward as the nation was in mourning. Still sticking in my mind is sitting with my parents watching the T.V. in our living room when Jack Ruby shot and killed the shooter on live TV before our very eyes. I always remember my sister letting out a scream of disbelief. We had never seen anything like this before on live T.V.- only in movies and T.V. shows.

How times have changed. We now see shootings on live T.V. and the coverage of them almost 24 hours a day. President Kennedy’s shooting shocked us all. These things don’t happen in America. Could Oswald have been a legal purchaser of a gun? He ordered it from a mail order catalog:

 Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, with a mail-order Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5 millimeter bolt-action rifle, for which he paid $19.95 plus shipping and handling.

Fifty years later, obtaining guns via mail is less common because the U.S. Postal Service imposes major restrictions on firearms shipments.

But despite a myriad of federal and state laws regulating gun transactions, buying a firearm via the Internet is commonplace.

Where Oswald mailed his money order with a coupon torn from an ad in the National Rifle Association‘s American Rifleman magazine, troubled individuals today can search online and similarly get their hands on powerful weapons with no questions asked, gun control advocates claim.

Even back then the NRA was involved in gun deaths though they were still doing more reasonable things like supporting hunters and teaching gun safety classes. I imagine there weren’t as many people then to worry about ordering a bolt action rifle because we just didn’t have mass shootings then. Now we have military style assault rifles available at places like Armslist.com so just about anyone can get their hands on one of these weapons of mass destruction with no background check.

By the way, when I googled Armslist I took a look at the front page. Here is the problem. There is a photo of a gun that looks sort of like a military pistol- maybe a semi-automatic? held by a guy wearing gloves. The wording on the photo goes like this: ” GEAR FOR YOUR DAILY GUNFIGHT”.

Really? This is the difference between 1963 and today.

Right.

The article about Kennedy’s assassination (above) was written in 2013 and 7 years later, nothing has changed. Let’s remember that since Robert Kennedy, President Kennedy’s brother, was assassinated in 1968 more Americans have died from gunshot injuries than all American military members who have died in an American war combined. Stunning.

Now the country mourns shootings of famous people, shootings of relatives and friends, suicide deaths of Veterans, farmers, police officers, “accidental” shootings of children, mass shootings at schools and malls and domestic murders like the one that took the life of my sister.

American Presidents are much more protected now than in 1963. The Secret Service has increased in numbers and the type of protection they provide. Cars outfitted with armour and other protections are taken so a President’s life is not in as much danger. The armoured vehicle used is actually called “The Beast”. Still though, I worry that no matter who our President is, all it takes is one person bent on doing harm with a gun easily obtained to change history.

Back to President Kennedy’s assassination. As with all gun deaths, life changes irreversibly. His family was never the same. They remained in the limelight. Jackie Kennedy could hardly live her life and eventually, of course married Aristotle Onassis, an unlikely match for her. And tragically the young John Kennedy died in an airplane crash in 1999. The Kennedy family suffered a lot of losses and still the younger generations are into politics, causes and sometimes trouble.

Today we remember the lost potential of the life of John F. Kennedy. We will never know what he could have accomplished or if he would have won re-election and make further contributions to our country. Looking back, we now see a man who was in almost constant pain that he didn’t show. We also know of his affairs about which some knew but have now been revealed. He was an imperfect man. He was an imperfect President.

But because he died so young and so tragically, there is a fairy tale aspect to his life and his legacy. Today we remember his life and his Presidency and understand that since 1963, no other President has been killed by gunfire but attempts have been made on several Presidents including famously on the life of President Reagan which led eventually to the passing of the Brady Law. Jim Brady, then President Reagan’s press secretary was badly injured and lived his life changed forever by a bullet. He and his wife Sarah worked tirelessly to pass the Brady bill into law and finally in 1993 it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

A gun was used also to threaten the life of President Gerald Ford.

One would think that after this violent history of gun violence in America we would have the common sense to pass much stronger gun laws. But such is not the case.

I have hope that in time the majority will win and laws to prevent gun violence will pass in the U.S. Congress and be signed into law by a President who cares more for saving lives than saving his (her) own political skin.

Shootings at football games

School has started and so has the school shooting season. If kids are in school, in America we know that means kids will be shot. What a sorry state of affairs. This is #NOTNORMAL; except that it is. It’s Homecoming season as well so in Duluth the local high schools and colleges are celebrating at football games.

The thing is, every week since school has started again there has been a shooting at or near a football game. The fifth one just happened.

For at least the fifth week in a row, a shooting has taken place during a high school football game.
Two teens injured in Philadelphia are the latest victims in a string of shootings that have taken place at or near high school football games across the country. (…) The sound of the gunshots sent people running across the field as the P.A. announcer called on spectators to evacuate.

Just look at the photo in the linked article above and you will see the panic as the crowd was told to get out of the stadium. This is America. Football is like Apple Pie and mothers- very popular in our country- just like music concerts, shopping malls, attending church, schools, grocery stores and just hanging out with friends and family.

So I have a question. Where are all of these guns coming from that end up in the hands of our children and others who should not be anywhere near guns? Maybe they fall from the sky? I just read this great article in response to a tweet made by former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. First here is the tweet:

screen shot of actual tweet from Twitter

From the article:

“BEHOLD,” said a thundering voice from a cloud. (Madison had resumed taking his notes at this point, which is how we know this.) The heavens parted. An enormous hand stretched forth, holding a mysterious black object, long and pointed like a stick.
“I’M GIVING YOU THIS,” the hand said. “A GIFT, FROM ME TO YOU, THAT NO ONE CAN EVER TAKE AWAY.”

Today is Sunday. Many Christians attend church on this day. They sing. They worship. They give thanks. They raise concerns about the world. They listen to sermons and they socialize. Do any of these people thank God for guns? Apparently some actually believe this nonsense.

Speaking of nonsense before I circle back to football games and guns, I had a conversation this week with a man who shall not be named about how guns make it into the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. His thesis is that background checks won’t stop the guns that are used in crime and shootings. (even though since the Brady Law has prevented the sale of over 3 million guns to prohibited purchasers since it was enacted).

To continue with this idea that background checks are ineffective he proclaimed that most crime guns are stolen. He was right about that one according to this article from Everytown:

Estimates from various sources suggest that between 200,000 and 500,000 guns are stolen from individuals each year.1 The most recent nationally representative survey found that approximately 380,000 guns are stolen from private gun owners every year.2
Gun owners were three times more likely to have a gun stolen if they carried a gun in the last month compared to gun owners who did not carry.3
Research suggests that nearly one-quarter of stolen guns are taken from cars and other vehicles.4,5
In addition to theft from private owners, approximately 18,700 firearms are reported lost or stolen from licensed gun dealers each year, according to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF).6

We did not discuss further this stolen gun thing and what we can do about it. Since most of the stolen guns come from law abiding gun owners, it’s time for them to admit that they could be contributing to the problem of crime guns. Safe storage is key to this. When more guns are owned, more will be stolen. More guns are not making us safer if they are not secured safely away from kids and others who can’t handle them. The result is school shootings, suicides, homicides and “accidental” shootings many by children who find unsecured guns in their own homes.

End Family Fire is a program to educate gun owners about the risk of guns in homes. ASK is a program that encourages parents to ask if there are unsecured loaded guns in homes where their children and teens play and hang out.

And crime guns that come from a small percentage of gun dealers who are not following codes of conduct and the law are a problem. Brady is working on that one.

There are solutions to many of the shootings that happen everywhere in America. They are in front of us but not much is being done about this epidemic of shootings. In fact it is in our hands and the hands of our elected leaders to pass laws and start changing the conversation about the dangers of guns in our communities.

And finally, the man from my conversation claimed, as do many gun rights activists, that crime guns are coming across our southern border from Mexico. This one really bothers me a lot because it is so untrue. Guns are actually going the other way from out country into Mexico and other countries to our south where they are being used in drug trafficking, homicides and to intimidate many in those countries. Many are leaving those countries because it is too dangerous to live there. From the article:

Research shows that a majority of guns in Mexico can be traced to the U.S. A report from the U.S Government Accountability Office showed that 70 percent of guns seized in Mexico by Mexican authorities and submitted for tracing have a U.S. origin. This percentage remains consistent, said Bradley Engelbert, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. And the Trump has administration has recently taken steps to ease rules on gun exports, which enables manufacturers to sell guns in Mexico and Central America countries.
report from the Center of American Progress found that the United States was the primary source of weapons used in crime in Mexico and Canada. Other countries in Central America can also trace a large proportion of guns seized in crimes to the United States. For example, the report found that from 2014 to 2016, 49 percent of crime guns seized in El Salvador were originally purchased in the U.S. In Honduras, 45 percent of guns recovered in crime scenes were traced to the United States as well.

Let’s be clear. There is one gun shop in all of Mexico:

Like the 2nd Amendment in the United States, Mexico’s Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, but it also stipulates that federal law “will determine the cases, conditions, requirements and places” of gun ownership. For many Mexicans, even those who love guns, the thought of an unfettered right to owning one is perplexing.

Claiming that crime guns are coming across our southern border is a foil for building the wall to keep illegal immigrants from entering our country. It is essential that we talk about the truth when dealing with matters of such grave importance.

Guns are not falling from the sky from a God who wants people to use them to shoot other human beings. And until we confront all of the lies and deceptions about the source of crime guns or legally owned guns that are killing 100 people a day, the carnage will continue. Immigrants are NOT bringing guns with them. They are fleeing from them in their home countries.

After the rash of shootings at football games, 2 shooting in DC , one with an AK-47 ( not allowed in the nation’s capital), and the recent high profile mass shootings in Texas and Ohio, the conversation is centering around what to do about assault style weapons that can be legally purchased in our country by just about anyone and now more frequently the weapon of choice by shooters.

But the times are changing. Walmart and Dick’s Sporting Goods are no longer selling these weapons of war and the ammunition used by shooters. And in a surprise announcement this week, Colt is going to stop the production of AR-15s in what they said was a market driven decision:

Despite their statement, experts wonder whether the company made the decision with other factors in mind.
“The public is getting very alarmed about what’s happening with assault rifles in the hands of potential mass shooters,” John Donohue, a Stanford Law professor with expertise in gun policy, tells TIME. “Colt may just be feeling better to get out of that particular market, and they’re offering this purely economic manufacturing argument rather than addressing the political realities right now as the justification for this decision.”

Who wants to be the manufacturer of a gun used in a heinous mass shooting? Who wants to be the seller of that gun? In my last post I addressed the changing culture and conversation because businesses and corporations are finally standing up for common sense about guns and shootings.

This week the House Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing on assault weapons. I will be there. In addition there will be a rally to end gun violence at the Capitol attended by hundreds from all over the country. I will be there as well. Today I will be tabling at a local Fall Fest with other chapter members to talk about what can be done to prevent gun violence. We will have materials about ASK and End Family Fire as well as what Minnesotans can do to demand that the Minnesota Senate hear and vote on the 2 bills passed last session by the House about background checks and Extreme Risk Protection Orders. The majority wants this to happen and people are more than happy to sign on.

It’s exhausting to the country to hear about the daily carnage. It is NOT NORMAL for kids and others to carry guns to football games and start shooting at people. It is #NOT NORMAL for the public to have to race to safety when hearing the pop of gunshots in public places.

That being the case, what should we do? There are solutions staring us in the face. Congress must #DoSomething to pass laws that can make us safer. Gun owners must do their part. Gun dealers and manufacturers must do their part. Parents must do their part. Educators and health care providers must do their part. Corporations must do their part.

It’s in our collective hands.

The Charleston 9

Today is the 4th anniversary of yet another heinous shooting and hate crime in America. The shooting of 9 innocent people at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston was one of a now increasing number of hate shootings that reveal the racist underbelly of America. The shooter had a gun he should not have had but because of a loophole in the law which we now call the Charleston loophole, he got his gun anyway from a federally licensed firearms dealer. Had he not been able to get the gun from the dealer, he could have gone on-line or to a gun show where guns are readily available from private sellers with no required background check.

Let’s look at more from the above linked article:

Under current federal law, people who buy a gun from a licensed dealer have to go through a background check. The FBI has up to three days to complete this check. But if it doesn’t, gun dealers are allowed to sell the firearm anyway. Many sellers choose not to, but some do proceed with the sale even if a background check wasn’t completed.

ThinkProgress, which obtained data from the FBI, found the FBI in 2018 failed to complete 276,000 background checks within the three-day window. That’s around 3 percent of background checks, out of the more than 8.2 million in 2018 — which is typical, based on data going back to 2014.

The loophole allowed a self-described white supremacist to obtain the gun he used to kill nine people at a predominantly black church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015. He had admitted to drug possession prior to the gun purchase, which should have prohibited him from buying a gun — but the FBI couldn’t complete his background check in time, and the seller allowed him to buy a gun anyway.

When the Brady law passed, loopholes were a part of the bill, thanks to the NRA. Why sell a gun after 3 days if the records don’t come through? If there is not a problem with the sale, it takes about 3 minutes to be cleared by the FBI National Instant Check System but the run rights extremists want to make sure that just about anyone can get a gun. The result: (See below)

Thousands of people are dead because of our loose gun laws. Mass shootings continue and are on the uptick. So are domestic shootings, suicide by gun and “accidental” shootings. The number of careless gun owners who make deadly mistakes are also increasing. The fact that the majority of our states have loose conceal and carry laws has let that happen.

Congress had a chance to change our gun laws to make sure a White Supremacist like the shooter of the 9 victims in the church in Charleston won’t be able to get a gun. The House passed the bill. The Senate didn’t even have a hearing. Why not?

Ask Senator Mitch McConnell. 90% of Americans want stronger gun laws.

It’s time for us all to let those Republican Senators who failed the country that we are watching and will hold them accountable for their lack of action to save lives. Every day a vote is delayed 100 more Americans die from gunshot injuries.

Never mind. Campaign donations and fear of a failing NRA inform the current U.S. Senate. There is no common sense. There is really no word to describe this failure.

If they care about the victims and survivors, they will act. If not, we will see more shootings like the one that happened 4 years ago today in a small church in Charleston, South Carolina.

I met the wife of Rev. Clementa Pinckney at an event in D.C. just a year after the shooting. She is a lovely, quiet spoken woman. Here are her words almost 4 years after she and her 6 year old daughter hid in the pastor’s office during that fateful prayer meeting:

In the beginning, you’re in denial. You don’t always register when things happen. Especially as traumatic as the Charleston shooting. You just kind of think to yourself, “Did this happen to me?”

To be honest, at first, I was a little in denial that it really happened at all. I can tell you that I immediately went into mom mode to protect and be there for my two girls, which was and still is my first priority. I can remember getting home that night and seeing police cars everywhere in our yard and allowing my girls to briefly look out the window as I tried to explain to them the reality of what had happened.

So many Americans suffer from the ripple effect of gun violence. PTSD is 2 real. And we are failing to treat that adequately as well. Recently 2 Parkland school shooting survivors committed suicide by gun. Living with the trauma can be debilitating and overwhelming without good care.

We are better than this.

In memory:

Rev. Clementa Pinckney

Rev. Sharonda Singleton

Myra Thompson

Tywanza Sanders

Ethel Lee Lance

Cynthia Hurd

Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr.

Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor

Susie Jackson

Look at their faces. Say their names.

Hearings in Congress

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just this one article explains:

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

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

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

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

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

NRA news

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

25 years later- unhappy anniversary

crying womanThis will be a long post. But then again, 25 years is a long time since the death of my sister. It’s a long time to have worked on gun violence prevention. It’s a long time living with the fact that we seem to be febile in the face of the gun lobby influence and have allowed lapdog politicians to do their bidding. And while the fight to prevent gun violence continues so do the deaths due to firearms injuries.

Too many families  mark the anniversaries of the death of a loved one to gun violence. What an unhappy anniversary. It brings back the memories of the phone call and/or the visit from law enforcement announcing that a shooting had taken the life of your child, parent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, grandchild or grandparent or a good friend. Gun violence has a ripple effect so the broader community and sometimes the entire country is affected by heinous shootings. It is in our consciousness and our collective memories and our collective culture.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the shooting death of my sister, Barbara. She was a beautiful lively, talented artist and pilot. She was a biker, a very good downhill skier, a tennis player, a beauty queen, a mother and step-mother, very involved in her community and a world traveler. In high school her friends called her Bugs. I still am not sure why. Because she grew up in Duluth, some of her friends still live here and I run into them occasionally. They always have fond memories to share of her as she was loved by many.

In spite of the fact that her estranged husband ( 2nd husband) killed her, the adult children from her first marriage and adult child from her second marriage along with the adult children from his first marriage remain close to each other. His first wife has taken on the role of grandmother to the grandchildren my sister never met. My husband, my children and I all remain close with all of them. It was because of my sister’s ability to love and draw people together that we have remained a close family.

We could have been angry and divorced ourselves from his family, but my mother was forgiving to a fault and kept them all close. The thing is, we loved them all and had no idea that my soon to be ex brother-in-law was capable of shooting and killing two people. That is how it often is. Family members are surprised proclaiming that the shooter was such a nice person or a quiet guy or the family seemed to be so happy. What went wrong? It was so unexpected. That is the risk of having a gun so accessible in situations of anger and domestic disputes.:

DID YOU KNOW?  Keeping a gun in the home raises the risk of homicide.

    • States with the highest levels of gun ownership have 114 percent higher firearm homicide rates and 60 percent higher homicide rates than states with the lowest gun ownership (Miller, Hemenway, and Azrael, 2007, pp. 659, 660).
    • The risk of homicide is three times higher in homes with firearms (Kellermann, 1993, p. 1084).
  • Higher gun ownership puts both men and women at a higher risk for homicide, particularly gun homicide (Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Injury Control Research Center, 2009).

Stunning.

I will always remember the night of the phone call about my sister’s death- actually on August 6 because her body and that of her friend were not discovered until the next day. When my nephew told me that my sister had died I assumed it was a plane crash since she was a pilot. Or anything else besides a shooting. How can one imagine that happening to a loved one? The violence. I often wonder how it would have been for her in the seconds before death after 1,2 and then a third bullet entered her body. Unimaginable. I can’t go there.photo of Barbara

Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill people. I won’t repeat the figures here again but we know that a lot of people die needlessly from firearm injuries. We also know that we are NOT helpless to change the trajectory of the number of gun deaths. More guns means more gun deaths. That is just a common sense fact.

We are not dealing in common sense though. Tragically we are dealing with a powerful and well funded corporate gun lobby that has become an arm of the extreme right wing of our nation. They use the second amendment as cover for their ever increasingly extreme agenda, aimed at arming anyone everywhere. We will not be safer as a country.

On this 25th anniversary of my sister’s death, I want to also remember the 5 year anniversary of the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin,   6 died that day because of a hate filled white supremacist who killed just because. That is the American tragedy playing out regularly every day, week, month and year.

This shooting was just one of the very many mass shootings in America. Only in America is this a regular part of a nation’s culture. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I have some suggestions:

Stop making this about the second amendment. It is about preventing gun deaths and injuries.

Stop the ludicrous assertion that passing a universal background check to require Brady background checks for all gun sales will inevitably lead to gun confiscation. That is a lie.

Challenge the NRA and other extreme gun rights groups when they cross over a line and stoke up lies and fear. Take this latest from Dana Loesch of NRA TV, for just one example:

Dana Loesch, spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, is yet again making headlines for controversial reasons. On Friday, during an interview with Grant Stichfield on the NRA TV channel, Loesch equated penalizing gun owners with shaming rape victims. Her comments were in response to a study conducted by the Center for American Progress indicating an increased rate of gun thefts in Southern states — with most of the stolen firearms ending up illegally trafficked and utilized in robberies and violent crimes. Texas, Georgia, and Florida topped the list with over 8,100 thefts of licensed firearms between 2012 and 2016. The Center for American Progress suggested implementing laws enforcing stricter storage guidelines for gun owners.

Loesch argued that focusing on gun owners rather than on those stealing the guns is analogous to shaming victims of sexual assault:

Good grief. What nonsense. No wonder some gun owners are moving away from this organization.

So we should encourage more reasonable gun owners who generally agree with the gun violence prevention groups to raise their voices. Many believe the NRA has become too extreme for them and have left the organization. Here is just one who wrote about his displeasure with the NRA:

As a gun owner and defender of the Second Amendment, I’m here to tell you the NRA has lost its ever-loving mind.

The nation’s largest firearms organization began its slide into moral degeneracy as late as the early 2000s, when actor Charlton Heston became its five-term president (a feat for which the NRA’s rules had to be changed to allow him to serve longer), before going public with his battle with Alzheimer’s disease and retiring. Under Heston’s firebrand leadership, the NRA’s rhetoric shifted its focus from working with lawmakers across the country to defend Second Amendment rights, to recasting the group as the front-line warrior in a crusade against the entire progressive movement in a culture war that they claimed had engulfed the country. (…)

A responsible NRA would be working for, not against, universal background checks on all firearms sales. As a responsible gun owner, it’s my job to ensure anyone I transfer a weapon to is in fact legally permitted to possess one. That’s the bare minimum due diligence that should be expected of me, and the vast majority of Americans and even gun owners agree. But not the NRA.

Pass the law to close the gap with Brady background checks that now allows private sellers to sell guns without knowing whether the buyer is a felon, a domestic abuser or someone dangerously mentally ill.

Pass laws to require safe storage of guns.

Strengthen gun trafficking laws.

Crack down on straw purchasing. The Brady Center won a settlement against a Florida gun dealer and announced it today. The message from the gun dealer who sold a gun through a straw purchase which was used in a fatal shooting:

“We must exercise great caution and due diligence with great responsibility in preventing firearms from getting in the wrong hands of people who seek to harm us all. I support laws that protect our Second Amendment and the laws that protect our society from criminal elements who would abuse that right to the detriment of others. I encourage all gun dealers, including the new owner of my gun shop, to implement such measures.”

Hold every gun dealer and every gun owner responsible for being safe with guns and business practices. Lives can be saved.

Educate parents about ASKing if there are loaded, unsecured guns in homes where their children play. One big question could save a life.

Form coalitions of like minded people who are interested in keeping people from shooting themselves or others such as faith groups, gun owners, law enforcement, mental health organizations, domestic violence associations, health care providers, communities of color, LGBTQ community, educators, parents, business leaders and other gun violence prevention groups.

Crack down on irresponsible gun dealers. (See above article about the Brady Center settlement against an irresponsible gun dealer)

Don’t loosen gun carry permit laws. New research suggests that the passage of the conceal (and open) carry laws have led to more gun violence.

Change the conversation about the risks of guns to families and communities. Push back when bad advice or faulty information is in the public domain like the recent Dear Abby column about kids and guns. After the Brady Campaign and other organizations and volunteers weighed in Abby wrote a column with new advice and changed her mind. 

Remember the victims and survivors and make sure their stories are told. They are the voices of the movement to prevent shootings.

Stop saying our thoughts and prayers are with you and do something about the gun violence epidemic. TAKE ACTION.

Join one of the many gun violence prevention groups working to end gun violence at the local, state and national level. Join them in sending emails, postcards, making phone calls, lobbying at offices, tabling, speaking out, going to rallies, bell ringings, other events. They need you.

Work together for common sense.

I will end by suggesting that the current culture of incivility, sometimes including our own friends, on social media is disturbing. It starts from the top. With a President who has mentioned violence at rallies and said that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue without losing supporters, we have hit some new lows in civility. With trolls making rude and offensive comments when they disagree with someone, how can we have a civil society? It’s a frightening trend.

With members of both parties attacking each other and then the other party, how can we expect civility? With more armed people walking around with loaded guns in public, can we expect civility?

Social media allows a platform for organizing and promoting causes as well as keeping in touch with each other. But when it also becomes a platform for open criticism of even other friendly organizations or candidates or friends and family members, how can we expect people to settle disputes peacefully and without use of force? With the wide gap between Americans politically, the fear and paranoia is real. What we don’t need is ramping it up to include the idea of violence against each other and particularly with guns. Gun rights and the second amendment go only so far. The NRA’s leaders and lobbyists and other gun rights organizations have increasingly associated themselves with one political party in our country. The rhetoric has become more violent and suggestive of “second amendment remedies”. Why? The question should be asked and answered.

We are better than this. I am sure we all want to leave our country and the world a better and safer place for our children and grandchildren. That is what my sister would have wanted and that is why I am persisting. In her name I carry on. I stand on the legacy and lost lives of the 825,000 Americans who have died from gunshot injuries since 1992. That’s right. 25 multiplied by 33,000 is that much. In 1992 when my sister was shot and killed gun deaths were actually higher than 33,000 per year.

And last, I want to pay tribute to Jim Brady who died 3 years ago yesterday. I met him once and immediately was taken by his sense of humor and engaging personality even as he suffered from the decades long firearm injuries he suffered in the assassination attempt on the life of President Reagan. Jim and his wife Sarah persisted in spite of the terrible situation in which they found themselves, and got the Brady Law passed. Lives have been saved as a result.

I honor all victims of gun violence on this anniversary of my sister’s shooting death. Many things have changed since her death but one thing has not- gun violence is a thing. It’s a thing that needs fixing.

Shed a tear. Ring the bell. Light a candle. Pick a flower. Think for a minute the horror of losing a loved one in a shooting. And then take action and do something about it.

Minnesotans and background checks

state-fair
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Minnesota State Fair attendees, a pretty good cross section of Minnesotans from all over the state, have once again confirmed that requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales is something that ought to happen. From the report released after the Fair closed:

 

2. Should criminal background checks be required on all gun sales, including private transactions and at gun shows? Yes…………………………………………… 86.2%……………… (5,556) No……………………………………………. 11.5%………………… (739) Undecided/No Opinion ………………. 2.3%………………….. (150)

These poll results are consistent with all other polls taken about this issue both in Minnesota and nationally. Not once have a clear majority of Minnesotans said they don’t want background checks on all gun sales. That being the case, what has been the response of our Minnesota legislators?

Sigh.

In 2013 the Minnesota legislature had an opportunity to pass a law to require background checks on all sales at gun shows and on-line. In spite of several polls showing strong support from Minnesotans taken by the Star Tribune and by KSTP news network, the bill never got a vote in the House.

Aren’t we better than this? A small minority of Minnesotans think, apparently, that felons, domestic abusers, those adjudicated mentally ill, fugitives and others who definitely should not have guns should be able to buy them anyway- and buy them legally. Or, is this denial? Or is it something else? What could it be?

Selling guns without background checks is not illegal if one is a private seller. Why? Because we have allowed our legislature to be bullied by the gun lobbyists and leaders who make false claims that requiring the very same background checks now performed by federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs)extended to private sellers would lead to gun registration and confiscation. This kind of ludicrous claim should not be accepted by our legislators any more.

Why have they believed it before? Fear. Fear of whom? Money? Influence? Fear of losing? The small minority of noisy gun owners who have drunk the kool aid of the far right have kept up this mantra of fear and paranoia for so many years that it is hard to break through it with the truth.

The truth is that Brady background checks will save lives if applied to all gun sales. The gun lobby hates the fact that over 2 million gun buyers have been prohibited from purchasing from federally licensed dealers since the Brady law took effect in 1994. What don’t they like? They have made false claims that those who have been denied shouldn’t have been. But this article from The Trace highlights the numbers and the reasons why someone was denied purchasing a firearm. Felons, fugitives, domestic abusers, illegal aliens, someone under indictment, unlawful users of controlled substances, and others have not been able to purchase guns from FFLs.

We should be thankful and relieved that these prohibited purchasers who tried to buy guns were denied. But they are NOT denied if buying from a private seller at a gun show, an on-line site, classified newspaper ad or flea market.

This is stupid, dangerous and ludicrous. It makes no common sense.

No one is saying that requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales will lead to no gun deaths. We know better. There are many ways for prohibited people to get guns. This is but one way to cut off an easy market for those who shouldn’t have guns. Not closing down this “loophole” is insanity at the least and dangerous and irresponsible at the most. And, of course, requiring background checks IS constitutional and has been for over 20 years.

It’s time for a change. The public understands this issue very well. Some in our Congress and legislatures are in denial and in the pockets of the corporate gun lobby and those who believe their gun rights include the potential need to overthrow their own government. These are strong views believed by some and they can have these views whether or not we require background checks on all gun sales. But they should not prevent us from passing laws that will save lives and change a culture that has included allowing easy access to guns by people who should not have it.

If we but follow the money we also see the influence of the gun manufacturers on the gun lobby and vice versa. If sales of guns are important enough to prevent our passing laws that will save lives, we need a change in the conversation, the culture and policy. There is no proof that gun sales will go down if background checks are required on all sales. Is there proof that law abiding gun buyers will stop buying guns from private sellers if they have to undergo a background check identical to the one they undergo at an FFL?

Questions need to be asked and answered. We’ve had #Enough.