Loopholes

After traveling in Greece, I am recovering from jet lag and getting back to my life. Nothing stopped in the U.S. while I was gone of course. The Mueller report was released with all of the concomitant and expected chaos and controversy. The weather was awful in Minnesota while I was gone. Actually the weather was cool and a bit rainy in Greece for the first part of our trip and our guide explained that the snow capped mountains we saw were very unusual for April in Greece. In a normal year, there is not snow on the mountains in April there. But this was not a normal year.

Clearly it is not a normal year in the U.S. A President and presidency is run amok. The Mueller report revealed that there were enough instances of obstruction of justice to make us all know that this is not normal. And there is no excuse for calling it not normal because what is happening is frightening and dangerous to our democracy. But never mind, the President and his sycophants carry on as if there is nothing to see here even though it is as obvious as a large wart on someone’s nose that we have a serious crisis on our hands.

Speaking of crises- the coverage of the NRA convention, going on as I write, has been amusing and interesting. It reveals an organization also run amok.

From the article:

Turmoil racking the National Rifle Association is threatening to turn the group’s annual convention into outright civil war, as insurgents maneuver to oust Wayne LaPierre, the foremost voice of the American gun rights movement.
The confrontation pits Mr. LaPierre, the organization’s longtime chief executive, against its recently installed president, Oliver L. North, the central figure in the Reagan-era Iran-contra affair, who remains a hero to many on the right.
Behind it is a widening crisis involving a legal battle between the N.R.A. and its most influential contractor, Ackerman McQueen, amid renewed threats from regulators in New York, where the N.R.A. is chartered, to investigate the group’s tax-exempt status. With contributions lagging, the N.R.A. is also facing an increasingly well-financed gun control movement, motivated by a string of mass shootings.

Count me as not sad about this state of affairs. The NRA has stopped common sense gun legislation for way too long for its’ own financial and political purposes. They are not considering the loss of life in increasingly large numbers, spewing hate and paranoia instead of working with us to find solutions to our national gun violence epidemic. It’s time for a reckoning. They have wielded undue influence and money for decades as the bodies pile up. The American public is against what they are doing but some of our lapdog politicians are too afraid to stand up. That is changing though as the U.S House passed several gun laws in the new Congress to keep people who could be dangerous with guns from getting them. The Minnesota House is poised to do the same and other states have passed recent laws to make their residents safe from shootings.

The second amendment is NOT sacrosanct as we are finding out. Laws have passed in spite of the now weakened NRA. The organization has veered off course and they are eating their own. The NRA allegedly took money from the Russians. That is a scandal worth investigating. They have misused their non-profit status over and over again. We all know about the money they take in from gun manufacturers and now, possibly foreign countries.

And meanwhile, during the now controversial and as usual, hateful NRA annual convention, Maria Butina, Russian operative(?) was sentenced to 18 months in prison. She tried to claim she was not a spy. If that is true, pigs will fly. Butina’s job was to get to the Trump campaign via the NRA which the Russians knew could happen. Because of course, the NRA gave more money to Trump’s campaign than has ever been given to any other campaign.

They exploited campaign finance loopholes and now they are getting caught. As is explained in the above article Giffords is taking them on in a lawsuit. It’s about time for accountability:

The worst news for the NRA, however, may be a new lawsuit filed against the Federal Exchange Commission. The FEC is being sued by nonprofit group, Giffords, for failing to uphold financial laws allegedly broken by the NRA.

Back to the second amendment, misusing its’ meaning is ripe for those who are true believers in the hype about an amendment written in the late 1800s when powder guns were the norm. Look, for example, at an article about a Minnesota teen ( 16 years old) who wore a shirt to school displaying the American flag with bullets and handgrenades instead of stars of stripes. Patriotic? NOT. Considering the number of school shootings and lockdowns that our kids must endure, this is plain and simply provocative and meant to be so. From the article:

Valerius said he wore the sweatshirt as a show of support for the Second Amendment, and feels that there should be a “loophole” in the dress code for that type of expression. He wore it to school again Friday.

A loophole? Let’s talk about loopholes that allow anyone, even domestic abusers, teens, felons and those adjudicated mentally ill to purchase any kind of gun they want and then use it to kill people. That is a loophole.

An example of this wonderful loophole in our gun laws is the vigilante extremist who was arrested at the New Mexico border with Mexico for essentially kidnapping asylum seekers. He was a felon with a gun. Where did he get the gun? Easy enough in America. From the article:

Hector Balderas, New Mexico’s attorney general, said federal agents had arrested the leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins, who had been operating under the alias Johnny Horton Jr. Mr. Balderas said in a statement that Mr. Hopkins was arrested on charges of firearms possession by a felon.

Sigh. Innocent people are terrorized every day by gun extremists. We have our very own home grown terrorists who think they can do anything with their guns and their rights. Only in America.

Trump has been busy encouraging this danger by speaking total falsehoods, fear and paranoia at the NRA convention. It was sickening, actually, to watch and hear but the gun toting crowd loved it. Er, uh, oops- they can’t carry their guns at NRA conventions because……?

Trump also announced during this crazy speech that he would make the world less safe by refusing to sign on to the U.N. Small Arms Treaty which NRA lapdogs in Congress and now the Presidency claim will take away gun rights in America. I like this reasoning from the article quoted from the Protect Minnesota Facebook page because it explains the second amendment and gun rights nonsense so well:

” 1) The NRA, on behalf of gun manufacturers, gets Trump to revoke the small arms trafficking agreement. 2) Arms manufacturers get rich selling guns to gangs in countries like Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. 3) Armed gangs make life unbearable for the citizens in those countries. Thousands are forced to leave and walk across a continent to “safety” in the US. 4) Trump convinces Americans the these asylum-seekers are dangerous criminals. 5) Frightened Americans buy more guns to protect their families. 6) Arms manufacturers get even richer. The NRA has done its job.”

This is the fact checking of his speech which is always necessary because Trump never tells the truth while speaking to his base:

Members of MS-13, a violent street gang, are a tiny fraction of the number of people apprehended while trying to illegally cross the southwestern border.
In the 2019 fiscal year thus far, border officials apprehended more than 360,000 people trying to illegally cross the border. Of those people, 221, or 0.06 percent, were MS-13 members.

(See above statement from Protect Minnesota)

(…) The 2014 Arms Trade Treaty regulates international sales of conventional weapons (like tanks, combat vehicles, warships, missiles and firearms). It does not “surrender American sovereignty” over gun laws to the United Nations or hand enforcement powers over guns to “foreign bureaucrats.”
The United States was a signatory to the treaty, but did not ratify it as 101 other nations have. Mr. Trump withdrew the United States’ signature during his speech.
The treaty aims to establish international norms for regulating arms sales between countries and addressing illegal arms sales. It prohibits selling weapons to nations that are under arms embargoes or will use them to commit genocide, terrorism, war crimes or attacks against civilians. (…) “It has absolutely no effect on U.S. domestic gun laws,” said Daryl G. Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, which supports the treaty.
Adam Winkler, a Second Amendment expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, agreed and noted that withdrawing the United States as a signatory would have very little impact given that the Senate never ratified the treaty. What Mr. Trump is relinquishing, Mr. Kimball said, is a seat at the international table to set global standards and better enforcement in countries most affected by the illegal arms trade. (…)

You can watch a video of his entrance when someone in the audience throws a cell phone at the President. Thank God no guns are allowed inside of the convention.

Well, back to loophole nonsense. Why would the NRA want to have this woman teaching gun safety to others? She shot an unarmed person and got away with it- another loophole. From the article:

A former Tulsa police officer acquitted in the shooting death of an unarmed man is expected to teach a National Rifle Association course next month.

I want to end with where I began- with our trip to Greece where the origin of the phrase “Molon Labe” began:

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC), one of the most famous battles in history . King Leonidas of Sparta said the phrase Molon Labe (means “Come and take them” in ancient Greek) to Xerxes I of Persia 2492 years ago when the Persians asked the Spartans to lay down their arms and surrender.

The second amendment apologists have misused this one as well. We visited the site where the battle of Thermopylae took place and where this phrase was used in its’ original context.

The “second amendment” folks claim this phrase for their own purposes which is to let people know that they will resist any attempts to take away their guns or their rights as if that is going to happen. It is yet another loophole in language that has been exploited for political purposes.

The photo shows the famous statue of King Leonidas.

Resisting common sense and any attempts to keep the rest of us safe from danger and shootings by exploiting the meanings of language is disingenuous at the least. They are like the goats ( in photo from my trip taken on the Greek island of Kefalonia) who take risks, follow the ersatz leader and sometimes do dangerous things that could hurt the herd.

Working together works out better in the end for all of us. In Greece and in most other democratized countries, they think the U.S is just crazy when it comes to guns. Our guides told us that in Greece, it is very hard to get a gun of any kind. They are only used for hunting and not much for that , as it turns out. When it comes to semi-automatic assault rifles, they proclaimed their dangerousness and surprise that in America, just about anyone could have one. They don’t believe that guns are necessary for much of anything in Greece and their gun death rate , among the lowest in the world, proves that they have common sense. The ancient Greeks were very wise as are the modern Greeks that we encountered on our trip.

And so it is always instructive to travel for many reasons but getting a perspective on what’s going on at home is useful and mind expanding. We are a country unto our own when it comes to loopholes and gun laws.

Violence against women and babies

Yes. In America, babies get shot. Toddlers pick up guns and shoot themselves or others or get shot and the NRA tried to stop the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Just another day in America.

Let’s look at all of these one by one.

In Alabama, a 6 month old baby was shot and killed by her own father.

Yes. This actually happened. From the article:

Police in Alabama confirm that over the weekend, a 6-month-old girl was fatally shot by her father, who then turned the gun on himself in an apparent murder-suicide.

There was a domestic dispute, following the filing of a restraining order that ended in a homicide of a baby and a suicide of the father. Too awful for words. Who shoots a 6 month old baby?

Domestic abusers are particularly dangerous with guns. And yet, some Republican members of the House and soon the Senate, voted or will vote against the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The NRA decided to get involved and scored the vote. But the diminished NRA representing an ever smaller and extreme group of gun owners, lost. Who’s afraid of the NRA? Who’s afraid of those bullies? 33 Republicans joined the Democrats ( except for Collin Peterson of Minnesota- not my Rep.) in voting for common sense and were not afraid of the NRA.

Rep. Eric Swalwell is not afraid of the NRA though he was threatened by an NRA member He even tweeted out the voicemail message left by the guy who felt the need to try to intimidate the outspoken California Congressman. Listen to what he says and tell me that this is OK.

What is wrong with these guys with their guns? Intimidation and bullying is not OK and we call BS on these folks. The gun lobby does not apparently care if babies and women are shot to death over domestic disputes. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn by their actions.

And I don’t want to forget that yesterday was the anniversary of the shooting death of Martin Luther King Jr. Please remember how easy it was for his shooter to get his gun even though he was a felon. What has changed?

Oh- and I wanted to highlight the most ridiculous irresponsible incident with guns that is hard to beat. There have been many other such follies but this one is right up there with the best ( or worst). From the article:

A police affidavit says the two men are neighbors and were drinking on a deck Sunday when Ferris told Hicks to shoot him with a .22-caliber rifle while Ferris wore the vest. The affidavit says the shot left a red mark on Ferris’ chest and that he was angry because it hurt. 

Duh. Alcohol and drugs do not go together, nor does being stupid with guns. This happened in Arkansas where gun laws are pretty loose. The state also has a high rate of gun deaths.

I will be away from my blog again for a 2 week trip to Greece. I have already written about the gun laws in Greece when I took a previous trip there. They are much more strict than those in America, thank goodness. Also very few people die from gunshot injuries in Greece. (I had trouble finding current information) There is common sense regarding gun laws in other parts of the world.

And speaking of other parts of the world and guns, a Wisconsin woman will likely be doing jail time after stupidly carrying a gun with her on a cruise to the Cayman Islands where guns are not allowed. Her excuse? I can carry my gun in Wisconsin. I thought I could take it with me wherever I go.

She was wrong of course. Only in America can people carry guns wherever they go. From the article: ” Guns and ammunition are strictly regulated in the Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica, as several other visitors have learned recently. “

She had no common sense and now she is in trouble and according to the above linked article, she is not the only American gun permit holder to get into trouble for traveling with guns.

I have a question. What is so dangerous on a cruise ship that someone needs to carry a gun on board. Are the Caymans dangerous? It turns out that they have little crime but there is the usual pickpocketing of tourists found anywhere that having a gun on one’s person would do little to prevent; unless Americans want to shoot pickpocketers. Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist, comes to mind when I think of pickpockets. “You’ve got to pick a pocket or two.” I have experienced this while traveling but carrying a gun never occurred to me.

And before I go, I wanted to say that we saw no armed people while on our trip to the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and the other places we visited in Utah and Arizona. Because the danger in those places is not something having a gun could prevent. Three people died at the Grand Canyon after we left the Park. Two fell to their deaths into the Canyon. How horrible. I can see how this can happen as there are so many narrow trails and outlooks with no guard rails or barriers. It was a bit icy and muddy leading to some slippery conditions on the Bright Angel Trail when we hiked it. People need to be careful of course.

Something else happened on our trip though that really affected me. While traveling I learned of the death by suicide of one of the fathers of a Sandy Hook victim. He was searching for answers after his daughter was so brutally massacred by one young man with a bunch of bullets and firearms.

In the few weeks before that 2 Parkland students also took their lives- all by firearm ( the easiest and quickest way to die). This is the ripple effect of gun violence. It is also a reminder that suicide by firearm takes the lives of many Americans and in fact, is the majority of gun deaths in America. I was so saddened by these deaths. It happened that we visited the Chapel of the Holy Cross built up near the beautiful rock formations of Sedona, Arizona. It was a small, beautiful chapel in an awe-inspiring location. Inside were the usual red candles to light in memory of someone. Though I am not Catholic, I decided to light 3 candles in memory of the victims of shootings in the aftermath of mass shootings.

Please remember that the PTSD caused by losing a loved one in a heinous and violent shooting is real. It is yet another reason why we must prevent and reduce shootings to save lives.

While I am gone, gun deaths and injuries will continue. The Gun Violence Archive continues to keep track and here is the latest. So far the numbers are alarmingly high as they have been for decades.

From Gun Violence Archive

Be careful out there if you are traveling and make sure that you and your family are safe from gun violence at home. If you have a gun, please lock it up away from the hands of children and teens and from those who want to steal them. I will end by referring my readers to Brady’s End Family Fire, a campaign to highlight the dangers and risks of guns.

Dangerous times

It took me a while to calm down after I heard about the woman ( Shannon Lee Goessling) our President has nominated for appointment to the Office of the Violence Against Women. It’s upside down world ever since President Trump was elected. His appointees typically are not qualified to hold the positions they hold or to which they have been appointed. Ms. Goessling is absolutely wrong for the job. And my readers may remember that my sister was shot and killed in a domestic shooting where a gun would have done her no good at all.

Is this payback to the NRA for their funding of his election to the presidency? Just asking.

Brady has issued a statement opposing the nominee:

While working as counsel for the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm with a record of advocating for extreme gun rights, Goessling wrote an amicus brief in District of Columbia v. Hellerarguing that women in domestic violence situations should arm themselves against their abusers, relying on research that was more than 30 years old. Following the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, Goessling told a Florida House panel that “my best friend is my Glock” as she waved her concealed weapons permit and NRA membership card in the air. Goessling also filed an amicus brief opposing same-sex marriages, and the foundation took on multiple cases for groups and businesses targeting immigrants and other Americans who speak a language other than English.

It’s dangerous for women when guns are in the home or even when they have their own gun for self protection. This, of course, is the opposite of what the gun lobby claims. They are wrong. Also from the Brady statement- about women and guns:

When there is a gun in a home with a history of domestic violence, there is a 500 percent higher chance that a woman will be murdered.
In 2016, one out of every three women murdered was killed by an intimate partner with a gun.
Women who were killed by a spouse, intimate partner, or a close relative were seven times more likely to have lived in homes with guns.
2015 study found that “there is no clear evidence that in the hands of victims, firearms are protective,” and recommended instead prohibited abusers from accessing guns.
The LGBTQ+ community reports high levels of intimate partner violence, and African American women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35 percent higher than white women.

These are facts supported by research. Appointing someone who does not regard the facts and, in fact, will act against common sense and known facts about violence against women is appalling. This is the opposite of what is needed to keep women safe from violence. I urge the President to retract this nomination.

I want to move from violence against women to violence against Muslims and others not like us. The horrendous, tragic and heart wrenching shooting and deaths of 49 innocent people in New Zealand is now the topic of conversation in the media.

It’s worth discussing the influence of our own country’s culture on what is going on in other countries. This article highlights the manifesto left by the shooter before the shooting and the apparent influence of American hate shootings and racism on his actions far away from America:

Portions of the ghastly attack at the downtown mosque were broadcast live on social media by a man who police confirmed had also released a manifesto railing against Muslims and immigrants. The 74-page document states that he was following the example of notorious right-wing extremists, including Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. (my edit of name)

The manifesto, littered with conspiracy theories about white birthrates and “white genocide,” is the latest sign that a lethal vision of white nationalism has spread internationally. Its title, “The Great Replacement,” echoes the rallying cry of, among others, the torch-bearing protesters who marched in Charlottesville in 2017.


The digital platforms apparently enlisted in the shooting highlight a distinctly 21st-century dimension of mass gun violence — one sure to put more pressure on social media companies already under scrutiny about how they police their services.

Of course we need to talk about New Zealand’s gun laws here. From the above linked article:

Gun laws in New Zealand are more stringent than they are in the United States, but not as strict as regulations in Australia and much of Europe. In 2017, more than 1.5 million guns were held by civilians in New Zealand, according to a tracking website maintained by the University of Sydney School of Public Health.

New restrictions came into effect, including on military-style semiautomatic weapons, after what was previously the deadliest shooting in New Zealand’s modern history. In 1990, 13 people were killed in the seaside town of Aramoana when a resident, David Gray, went on a shooting spree after an argument with a neighbor.


Violent crime is rare in New Zealand, compared to the rest of the world. Murders in the country fell to a 40-year low of 35 in 2017, police said, a rate of seven deaths for every 1 million people.

Another article I found revealed that New Zealand is home to many guns- 1 per every 3 citizens. A license is required to own a gun and carrying one is strictly regulated. Nonetheless people can purchase semi-automatic weapons. Because this shooting happened in a country that has no amendment guaranteeing a right to bear arms, I am guessing that changes are coming. In spite of yesterday’s mass shooting though, “New Zealand also has a low murder rate, with a total of 35 homicides in 2017 — fewer than the number of people who died in Friday’s double mosque attack.”

I am editing this post to include an article about the New Zealand Prime Minister’s determination to strengthen the gun laws, as I predicted would happen:

Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference early on Saturday that she would consider banning semi-automatic firearms altogether after the alleged gunman behind the shootings obtained five guns legally.
“I can tell you one thing right now: our gun laws will change,” said Ardern. “There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change.”

Ardern said the alleged shooter was found to have used five guns that he appeared to legally own under a “category A” licence obtained in November 2017. He appeared to have begun buying guns the following month, she said.
The guns taken from the alleged perpetrator included two semi-automatic guns and two shotguns, the prime minister said. Answering questions from reporters, Ardern said all options to restrict gun violence would be considered.

The attack was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” according to this article.

America has had so many “darkest days” they are too numerous to count. And what has changed? Nothing. In fact, the U.S. Senate has an opportunity to have a hearing on and vote on 2 bills recently passed in the House- HR 8 and HR 1112. We will wait to see if they have the courage to do what everyone knows is the right thing to do.

And speaking of changes coming, the parents of the children massacred in the Sandy Hook shooting won a victory yesterday when a judge determined that the parents of the victims can pursue a lawsuit against Remington:

In the 4-3 ruling, the justices agreed with a lower court judge’s decision to dismiss most of the claims raised by the families, but also found that the sweeping federal protections did not prevent the families from bringing a lawsuit based on wrongful marketing claims. The court ruled that the case can move ahead based on a state law regarding unfair trade practices.

There is something cynical and dangerous about the marketing of military style assault weapons. On the one hand, they are marketed as weapons of war designed to enhance one’s manhood and make one much more powerful in combat situations. Are we at war on our streets? I suppose one could answer yes to that question given the daily carnage. But to hype guns as weapons to ready the buyer for combat situations or exhibit their manhood is just plain wrong and dangerous.

But the other side of this nonsensical marketing is that the gun lobby really doesn’t like it when these guns are referred to as military style weapons trying to convince us that they are just “common sporting rifles.” These are glaring attempts to deceive and confuse. We understand that these guns are meant to kill as many people as possible. They are not meant for hunting; so for the gun lobby and gun rights advocates to argue that is just another of their deceptions and lies to get people to buy the guns and try to stop any legislation to ban or regulate certain of these guns. Follow the money.

And I will end where I began- with what the President is doing about violence in America. Yesterday he made a statement that many believe is a call to violence by the man who should be leading us to less violence and peaceful solutions to problems. Stoking anger is disturbing and even more disturbing when it comes right from the top. Trump supporters turn themselves into pretzels trying to defend him. Check out this conversation with one of the President’s leading staffers about the President’s rhetoric:

But Conway wouldn’t do it.  
“You’re just reading into it like you usually do,” she said. “He was talking about how peaceful and gentle many people are who are otherwise tough.”
Conway also asked for the quote, but when Cuomo tried to read it, she immediately interrupted him.
“Christopher, he didn’t threaten and he’s not threatening violence,” she said, then claimed Cuomo was defending violence. 
“I give up,” Cuomo repeatedly said. 

More deceptions and lies. It’s insanity and confusion and obfuscation and absurd all at once.

We aren’t buying it. Today I went to a community gathering of support for our local Muslim community knowing that they would be grieving the loss of their brothers and sisters killed in the New Zealand mass shooting. They were so grateful that we came with our signs and our flowers. Graciously they invited us inside to join them at their prayer service. It was solemn and a meaningful service about hate crimes and gun violence. The wife of the Imam said in an interview with a local TV station that people should use their guns on animals, not humans. The Imam noted that these types of hate crimes are crimes against all of us no matter what religion. We ought to be able to worship without fear of being gunned down by people who hate us because of our religion, race, gender or sexual preference.

Gun violence affects everyone indiscriminately. But certain mass shootings are crimes against one group of people and done in hate towards that group to foment more hate. They are easy to accomplish when weapons of mass destruction are so readily available.

I say “Disarm Hate”. I say disarm domestic abusers. I say disarm those who shouldn’t have guns. We know who they are. I say disarm the fear mongering and rhetoric coming from the gun lobby that foments ideas and actions that can turn into buying and using deadly weapons to kill other human beings. I say disarm anyone who has hate in their hearts and minds against people not like them.

We are better than this. Join Brady. Join Protect Minnesota. Join other gun violence groups. “Take action, not sides.”