Hopeful and thankful

As bleak as things seem right now in our country, I have hope that common sense will win over corruption, gun violence, climate change denial, affordable health care opponents and the many other politically charged issues of our time. In the end, right usually wins but it is going to take a lot of hard work.

Something interesting is happening now. The latest polling on impeachment shows a difference between men and women when it comes to support for it.

And the poll marks the first time that more than 60% of women have said they backed impeaching Trump and removing him from office (61% say so now, compared with 56% in October and 51% in May), even as a majority of men remain opposed to impeachment (53% oppose it).

In my opinion women look at verbal abuse, sexual abuse, domestic violence, gun violence, the economy, family leave, affordable child care, corruption, health care, freedom to choose, and a myriad of other problems to solve differently from men. That is because they are much more often the victims than men. Inequality has a way of changing your life view. Minority groups of all kinds understand that perfectly well.

The day after President Trump was inaugurated I participated in the Women’s March, sitting on a bus from Duluth to DC and back to make my voice heard. Along with more than a million others- mostly women but also men and children, we let America know that we were not in support of a man who exhibited bullying, boorish, abusive and intolerant behavior during the campaign and still, to this day.

According to what I have seen the Women’s March organization, going strong still after the March in January of 2017. Watch for more in the coming weeks.

Also going strong is March For Our Lives, formed after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida in 2017. Their Facebook and Twitter feeds are active with thousands of supporters. And the members, some whose names are better known than others, have written a plan for Congress to enact on gun safety reform. It is called a Peace Plan for a Safer America. The name of their plan says it all. There is hope when our young people can write legislation for a safer America that is better and more comprehensive than the adults have come up so far.

Gun violence prevention groups are stronger than ever making a big difference in the lives of Americans and also on the political scene. Brady and Moms Demand Action and Giffords canvassed in the state of Virginia in the 2019 recent election that turned the legislature blue. Candidates were endorsed and campaign contributions came from individuals and groups alike. It worked. It is one of the first times the gun lobby has been outspent and out maneuvered. There is hope.

Businesses have stepped up to the plate as they have watched our kids and communities experience horrendous mass shootings. Dick’s Sporting Goods stopped selling assault rifles and the business is booming. This is totally contrary to the corporate gun lobby mantra that gun sales are necessary for businesses to make a profit. The corporate nature of the corporate gun lobby is not doing so well with their messaging. Not selling guns sends a message that some people just don’t want to buy them and don’t feel comfortable when a store is selling them.

After the shooting at an El Paso, Texas Walmart, a decision was made to stop selling ammunition for assault style rifles and handguns. ( they had previously stopped selling assault rifles). And open carriers of guns are not welcome in their stores. That is a good move considering how many “accidental” gun discharges have happened inside of Walmart stores. What is it with Walmart stores and guns? There was just a recent shooting at a Walmart in Oklahoma leaving 3 dead. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Other businesses have stood up to the perceived power and control of the gun lobby by saying they don’t want people openly carrying their loaded guns inside. Shoppers really don’t want to see people with guns while they are just running errands, often with their children. Here is a list of those who have decided that guns inside are not a great idea for their business. The logic of the gun rights advocates isn’t making much sense any more since we understand that a gun in a business or school is more likely to be used against those inside than in self defense but never mind- some believe their gun must be at the ready at all times no matter what they are doing. From the article:

“With this world being the way it is, we’ve got to protect ourselves,” said Howard, who worked as a construction supervisor until he broke his back on the job 15 years ago. “I haven’t had to shoot anybody yet, but you never know. I’ve keep a fire extinguisher in my house even though I’ve never had to use it.”

The thing is, the world in America has regular shootings that could not have been prevented by having a gun on your person. The mistake they are making is the assumption they will have time to plan to shoot someone who opens fire suddenly in a public place with absolutely no warning and no time to act. It’s a myth. See my post about this- 16 seconds with a gun.

Health care providers have stepped up to say: #ThisIsOurLane after the NRA had the nerve to tell them that they should stay in their lane regarding gun violence prevention. In other words, don’t talk to patients about the risks of guns to their health and well being. Physicians and other health care providers were having none of it and decided to fight back. It is their lane, of course, but never mind- the NRA doesn’t want anyone interfering in their desire to normalize guns, carrying of guns in public and, apparently shootings.

But some don’t want us to feel hopeful. The NRA and corporate gun lobby keeps pounding the drum of fear and paranoia about any gun safety reform. Gun sales have gone down because Donald Trump, as President, is not going to take away their guns like Obama did. Remember when he did that?

Back to my first thoughts about women wanting the changes we deserve and the nation we ought to have- without fear of being shot, abused, left without economic security, there is discussion in the article about economic prosperity and that Americans are feeling good about the economy while at the same time so many are sleeping on the streets and not able to take care of their families adequately:

In his Thanksgiving proclamation for 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt expressed gratitude for the nation’s turn “to things spiritual” in the previous year. “We can truly say, ‘What profiteth it a nation if it gain the whole world and lose its own soul?’ ” FDR wrote.

That was in the depths of the Great Depression, and Roosevelt was the incumbent. The task facing Roosevelt’s political heirs is to make the case that the same principle applies during times of plenty.

When it comes to gun violence, we have lost many souls in senseless acts of violence. We have also lost our soul in the seeming acceptance and refusal to do anything about the moral crisis and national epidemic of gun violence. Those of us who care about gun violence and have experienced the death of someone close to us have volunteered and worked tirelessly to make change happen. To some extent we have succeeded. The conversation has changed. Just as it did about auto safety and bans on smoking in public places, the majority of Americans get that something must be done.

More states have passed background check, Extreme Risk Protection Orders and other laws that have reduced some of the violence. But we are not doing enough. Decades of listening to the NRA and allowing them to shape the conversation has led to a country where gun violence is actually on the rise and mass shootings are happening with increasing regularity. As that happens the public is becoming more supportive of doing something about it as the lapdog politicians for the gun lobby dig in and stand firm against all odds.

Times are changing. I still have hope. I am thankful for my family- for my grandchildren who so far have been safe from tragedy. My family, like many others, have suffered from suicide, homicide, divorces, and minor difficulties that, in the long term, have made us stronger. We carry on because we have hope and love.

I wish a Happy Thanksgiving to all. And I do mean that. For some odd ( and cynical) reason President Trump seems to think us “liberals” are at war with Thanksgiving. Not me. He is making it up to drive another wedge between us. Thanksgiving is no time to do that. Let’s just enjoy the holiday and each other.

This holiday time of the year is difficult for families sensing the missed presence of a loved one or a friend and that empty chair that should have been for their son, daughter, mother, father, grandchild.

We are better than this. We are resilient. We will pass stronger gun laws. I have hope that our young people will lead the charge. And when women are put in charge of things, a different view prevails and we move towards more peaceful solutions to our problems. We will deal with a corrupt President now under impeachment. Our democracy is under attack but so far has held. We must make sure it stays that way. We will resist and persist.

End Family Fire in Minnesota

It’s hard not to despair every day about the deaths due to firearms. Minnesota has had a rough week but then, who hasn’t when it comes to gun violence? I have been asked how I don’t get too depressed or how do I keep myself healthy emotionally, mentally and even physically faced with the involvement with the gun violence prevention movement?

The last question first- my family, friends, faith community, local community and statewide and national gun violence prevention friends keep each other healthy. We mourn. We ring bells. We act. We support each other and carry on in the names of the victims. For what else can we do? Everyone handles the stresses differently. I immerse myself in photography, exercise, reading books, spending time at our cabin and with our family enjoying watching my grandchildren grow into fun and productive human beings. Their sports activities keep us busy. Their school activities- musical and otherwise are an outlet and provide happiness. Travel is also a great way to forget about the violence and the world’s problems.

Now to the first about Minnesota. This week 2 Minnesota law enforcement officers used guns to kill themselves. Suicide by gun. Not uncommon as it turns out. But 2 in one week- unrelated to each other? From the article:

A study released in September found that police officers are at a higher risk of suicide than any other profession.The rate of 13 out of 100,000 deaths by suicide in the general population rises to 17 out of 100,000 for police officers, with 167 police officers taking their own lives in 2018.

Police officers risk their lives every day on the job. They see the carnage caused by homicides, suicides, domestic abuse, auto accidents and the like. It has to be very stressful to experience this every day on the job. The unexpected happens and officers respond.

Officers also have easy access to guns. When contemplating suicide, if there is an easy way out, a gun is the fastest and most efficient.

So what should we do about this? Police departments are providing officers with ways of handling stress and dealing with their emotional health. It is not enough and more recognition of the serious risks should be discussed more openly. It is difficult for people trained to be tough and authoritative to admit that they have vulnerabilities and difficulties handling their stressful and dangerous jobs.

Brady’s End Family Fire is a program designed for discussion of the risks of guns in the home. No matter who the gun owner happens to me, a better understanding of the actual risks posed when a gun for self protection or used on the job can still cause unintentional or intentional deaths.

So that is the lesson for some Minnesota teens who last week in St. Paul “accidentally” pulled the trigger on a stolen gun and killed a friend. This tragedy was so avoidable in many ways:

The St. Paul Police Department says Jones-Morris was shot Wednesday afternoon at a home on the 100 block of Annapolis Street, near the city’s border with West St. Paul. Police say a 15-year-old boy told investigators he accidentally shot Jones-Morris while playing with a gun that he didn’t know was loaded.

That teen and a 16-year-old boy were charged in the shooting Thursday. The criminal complaint says the 16-year-old admitted to stealing the gun from an SUV last week. Both are being held at the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center.

“So many people are just broken down and shocked,” said friend Alex Hogg.

How many times does “so many people are just broken down and shocked” have to be quoted in an article about the gun death of one of our teens whose life’s potential will never be reached? This young man was a football and basketball star at his school and had many friends. His personality was a happy one- making others laugh.

Let’s talk about some of the precursors of this avoidable death. The teens stole a gun from a car. That was illegal. What about the “responsible” gun owner who left a gun in his/her car easy to steal? What is his/her responsibility here? Every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first pass through the hands of an adult. Teens can’t buy guns. Stealing is one easy way to get one.

Second, teens cannot be responsible with guns. Guns are not toys to be “played with”. Everyone who touches a gun should have some kind of training on how to operate a deadly weapon and the risks of having one in their hands. How often do we hear about people who did not realize there was a bullet in the chamber?

Efforts to safety proof guns have been rebuffed by the corporate gun lobby. Smart guns could save lives and in this case, would have. But the technology is not there yet. My opinion is that if we can create the will and technology to send Americans to the moon and into space, we can develop better guns that will keep us safer.

Safe storage of guns whether in cars or homes would save lives and this case would have. Stronger laws for safe storage and mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns would save lives. But we aren’t passing those laws in many places either.

And it doesn’t have to be a law. It’s just common sense really isn’t it? Responsible gun owners understand that their guns are to be respected and gun safety is key to avoid the gun incidents I have written about here. But even in the hands of responsible gun owners, things go wrong. Combined with anger over just about anything, a domestic abuse, a bad grade in school, despair, depression, drug and alcohol use, or “playing” with a gun and/or cleaning a gun, tragedy and heartbreak can be an unfortunate and deadly outcome.

There was one more incident this week in Oklahoma that I want to talk about. Yet another 3 year old found a gun left carelessly in a bathroom in a public place.:

The restaurant, located near May Avenue and Grand Boulevard, has a sign on the door that reads, “No handguns,” but a customer brought one in anyway and left it behind by mistake.

“I got a call from my daughter, and she was quite alarmed.” Dennis Pealor said.

Pealor told KOCO 5 that his daughter’s family was eating brunch Sunday at La Baguette when his son-in-law escorted their 3-year-old to the bathroom.

“Immediately, she points to this item on the toilet paper holder and says, ‘Daddy. What’s that?'” Pealor said.

According to a police report, a semi-automatic handgun was found in the stall. The report states that a 77-year-old man from Duncan used the restroom and left the restaurant, forgetting the weapon was in there.

No handguns allowed but someone who thought he could ignore the law brought his gun in anyway? Why? What is so dangerous about a restaurant? And then he leaves the gun in the toilet stall? Good grief. This is what happens when more people carry guns around in public. We are not safer.

These incidents have become too common place but also had the owners understood the risks of guns by applying the End Family Fire tenets, carelessness that could have led to an awful outcome would be avoided.

And my last concern is about the irresponsible United States Senate for its’ failure to pass the Violence Against Women Act. This has never happened before. Too many women and children lose their lives to domestic violence- and most to firearms. This is national disgrace:

The bill would eliminate the so-called boyfriend loophole by expanding a current ban on firearm purchases for spouses or formerly married partners convicted of abuse or under a restraining order to include dating partners who were never legally married.

More than 30 House Republicans voted for the measure. But the opposition from most House Republicans, as well as the NRA, made it unlikely it would pass the GOP-controlled Senate.

Of course. The NRA.

For 30 years, Minnesota has been keeping track of the numbers of people who have died from domestic violence:

Known for years as the annual Femicide Report, it started in 1989 as a way to fill in a gap in reporting gender-bias violence against women and girls. There was no other state or national group collecting this kind of data at the time, and to this day no state agency collects comparable data.

“Every month or so a woman, and or her children, and or her partner or mother or neighbor got killed, and it was like a flash in the pan,” said Julie Tilley, who first decided to start collecting the names as a staffer at the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

“One of our goals was not only to honor the victims of this horrendous violence but to make this violence visible. It was so clear to us at that time that people weren’t seeing what was happening all around us.”

The Clothesline Project is a visual display of tee shirts designed by family or friends of a victim of domestic or sexual violence. We must make the violence visible. I once found my sister’s name on a tee shirt at a display by the project. It was a very emotional moment for me as I held on to the shirt with her name as the clothesline stretched out with the many other names.

We must say their names and see their faces. It’s the stories of the victims that should change the conversation. That is why I do this advocacy.

Today I remember Minnesotans:

Da’Qwan Jones-Morris, 17

South St. Paul PD Officer Cory Slifko

Rogers PD Officer Blake Neumann

We all remember the many victims of mass shootings that have occurred in November- Thousand Oaks, CA one year ago on Nov. 7 leaving 12 dead, Sutherland Springs,Texas church shooting 2 years ago on Nov. 5 leaving 26 dead and 20 wounded ( for just 2). Minnesota has seen an upsurge in shooting deaths this year. What will we do about it? That remains to be seen but we have to #dosomething. It’s in our hands to make our kids, teens and communities safer.

We are better than this.

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.

Is it too extreme to speak the truth about gun violence?

personal photo of book

In my last post I wrote about the businesses who have decided to “come out” and tell their customers that they want nothing to do with their openly carried guns in their places of business. This would not have happened a month ago. But after the heinous shooting at an El Paso Walmart, it became obvious that any business could be the next one found in a Wikipedia entry for a mass shooting site. Who wants that to be your legacy?

Now the tide is coming in and it’s turning. A few days ago, 150 chief executives of some of America’s largest companies sent a letter to the Senate telling them that it’s “simply unacceptable” to not act on bills that could stop some of the gun violence that is affecting their customers and their businesses.

This is huge:

The letter — which urges the Republican-controlled Senate to enact bills already introduced in the Democrat-led House of Representatives — is the most concerted effort by the business community to enter the gun debate, one of the most polarizing issues in the nation and one that was long considered off limits.

It’s been “off limits” for far too long. The corporate gun lobby has made it so. And our elected leaders and many influential business leaders and others, for that matter, who could have made a difference decades ago have now decided to weigh in.

The thing is, the public has been ahead of elected leaders for decades now. Look at the latest poll which is just one of many showing the same results over the last few decades. Support is undeniable. But deny does Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump and the Republicans who have run out of excuses.

Why has it taken so long to act? Sometimes this is the way the system works I guess. But it does take bold action and a constant drumbeat of advocacy and also, I guess, one too many mass shootings, before it enters the collective consciousness of a country exhausted by the carnage.

When shootings in Dayton, Ohio, El Paso, Texas and then Odessa, Texas showed how people with AR-15s can inflict so much damage to human bodies in such a short time happened in rapid succession that appeared to be too much even for business leaders.

Let’s be clear. It’s been too much ever since the Columbine shooting became one of the first mass shootings to get the attention of the country. When our kids became the targets and the victims, mothers marched on DC in the Million Mom March in 2000. We were horrified at the shooting at a Jewish Day Care Center in California followed by the Columbine shooting and one brave woman, Donna Dees Thomases, stepped forward to lead the charge.

But that was 20 years ago. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from gunshot injuries needlessly. We let the NRA lead the conversation with the second amendment as their foil to stop any common sense action to stop the next shooting. We let the gun lobby continue to protect gun manufacturer profits over lives. We let our leaders get away with avoiding any discussion about the role guns actually play in gun violence.

We are all to blame for this in a way. The Democrats got scared that if they touched the “third rail” of gun violence they would lose their seats. Never mind that thousands lost their loved ones. We tried. We have held rallies and hundreds of vigils. We have lobbied at the state and federal level. We have sent letters, made phone calls, visited with our leaders, lit candles, rang bells, and demanded action. We have lie-ins and sit-ins and stood up for common sense. We have protested in the streets of our towns and in the nation’s Capitol.

Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot and severely wounded at a Tucson gathering outside of a mall and a group named for her and now called Giffords was formed. After the totally unimaginable happened at Sandy Hook elementary school a new group of mothers and others began- Moms Demand Action and Everytown.

Together, groups who have been working for decades like Brady, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and many independent state groups (States United) have been joined by a host of other groups to demand action. We are making a difference. Congress is now hearing us but the Republicans are not listening.

Even a few months ago, Democrats vying to become our next President would not have touched the issue of gun violence. But something happened after the Parkland shooting. The student survivors fought back and made their voices loud and clear. March For Our Lives joined the others and it was hard to ignore their young and articulate voices.

The tide is changing. At this week’s Democratic debate, candidates tripped all over themselves to be the one with the best plan for preventing gun violence. The loudest voice was that of former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke who represented El Paso. El Paso, the site of the mass shooting at a Walmart that was carried out by a White Supremacist whose rhetoric matched that of our sitting President. O’Rourke suspended his campaign to be with the victims in El Paso and it changed him.

Sitting with those whose sisters, brothers, children, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, cousins and friends have just been shot and killed so suddenly and violently is hard work. Who among us wants to listen to those stories? But we must hear their stories if change is to happen. And it was so clear that the shooter in the El Paso incident should not have had a gun. It was so clear that the Dayton shooter should not have had a gun but they both got them anyway.

And then, the Odessa shooting showed us how, if we had passed a law requiring a background check on every gun sale, we could have prevented the shooting death of 7 innocent people and the permanent disfigurement of the face of a 17 month old baby.

So when Beto O’Rourke described sitting with the mother of a 15 year old girl as she died from the horrendous injuries caused by bullets from an AR-15, it was too much. There were so many injured people because AR-15s can do that- shoot as many people as possible in as short a time as possible, that ambulances couldn’t respond to the mayhem. And so, the 15 year old died as her mother watched her bleed to death.

And now we have the famous statement made by Beto O’Rourke calling for a mandatory buyback of AR-15s and AK-47 assault style weapons originally meant for war. His description of why these weapons have been used and are used by the military was something we have not heard a candidate say before. His passion was genuine and heard loudly and clearly.

Even some Democrats came unglued and are wringing their hands. Oh my- what will happen now? Will we lose voters? Did we make people too angry? Will we lose the Presidency? What should we do about this perceived threat to gun rights? I guess time will tell how this shakes out. At the least it started a very important discussion about weapons designed for war in the hands of civilians.

What Beto O’Rourke did was “accidentally” or on purpose speak the truth. The public knows that it is AR-15s that have been used in many of our mass shootings. The public at large does not want these weapons in circulation so they get into the hands of people who intend mass carnage. Even many gun owners don’t want them, don’t need them, and are willing to give them up.

O’Rourke’s loud call was heard by a sitting Texas state Senator who issued a tweet heard ’round the country.

And this, dear readers, is why we need to act and act soon. When gun rights extremists occupy our state houses and Congress and believe they can own any weapon they want to own with no restrictions and then issue threatening rhetoric at candidates for office, we have turned a very dangerous corner.

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Assault Weapons Ban and the 15th anniversary of its’ death. which was famously allowed to sunset in 2004 after only 10 years of keeping us safer from weapons designed for war. The gun lobby keeps trying to tell us that these weapons don’t kill many people compared to other guns. They tell us that they love them and we hate them because they are scary looking. They tell us that they need them for hunting and sport.

No. When they kill, they kill many at a time and the bullets do much more damage to human tissue. That is why the military likes them.

No. They are not good for hunting.

No. They are not needed by anyone for self defense or sport.

Here are some facts offered by Brady that were sent out on social media yesterday:

“In shootings with assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, 155% more people are shot and 47% more people are killed. These weapons of war were designed for mass destruction. (…) According to the @nytimes, the federal assault weapon ban — which ran from Sept. 13, 1994 to Sept. 13, 2004 — was associated with a 25% drop in gun massacres and 40% percent drop in fatalities.  (…) On September 13, 2004, Congress let the federal assault weapons ban expire. In the decade after, America saw a 347% increase in fatalities in gun massacres. Enough is enough. Congress: it’s past time to end this bloodshed and #BanAssaultWeapons now! “

Yes. We can save lives if we ban assault weapons. Yes. We can save lives if we pass universal background check and red flag laws. Yes. We can do this. Yes. It’s past time. Yes. Beto O’Rourke said something that people are talking about. Was it too extreme?

Was it to extreme for 53 Americans to be shot in mass shootings just in August?

Is it too extreme that the Republicans have stopped every reasonable gun bill coming their way and let Americans die as a result?

Is it too extreme to let the NRA write our gun bills?

Is ti too extreme that the NRA had help from Russia to get our current President get elected?

Is it too extreme that our President swings like a pendulum whenever a mass shooting happens and then fails to act?

Is the cost of an assault weapons buy-back too extreme?

Is the actual cost in billions of dollars attributed to gun violence and all that happens in the aftermath too extreme?

Is it too extreme that a group of student survivors had to write their own plan, in the absence of action from Congress, to stop gun violence?

Is it too extreme that a book, “If I Don’t Make It, I Love You” was published because children are texting their parents in terror during lock-down drills and during actual shootings? Survivors who wrote in the book are not extreme people. They are average Americans who have experienced the terror of school shootings and survived to tell their stories.

Is it too extreme that our children are the targets of mass shooters?

Is it too extreme that the American Federation of Teachers, March For Our Lives and Brady teamed up to run an ad in Politico showing a student hiding under a desk during a lock-down drill?

Is it too extreme that our schools have been forced to have these drills in the first place because our leaders refuse to act to prevent school shooters from getting guns in the first place?

I know the answers. I own the book pictured above and know some of the people who wrote sections of that book. I understand that even still, decades after shootings, they do not forget the terror. I also know some people affected by mass shootings and “everyday shootings” like my own sister’s. I know the emotional and financial trauma suffered by too many. I have met some of the survivors of these shootings and seen the sadness in their eyes.

You know the answers. The public understands. The Democrats are not afraid anymore. American business leaders are not afraid anymore. Teachers, parents and students are not afraid to speak out. Survivors are not afraid. The stakes are high. Lives are at stake.

The only ones still afraid of the corporate gun lobby are the ones who can make the difference.They are afraid they will lose their power and influence and yes, campaign donations. If they won’t act, we will. We will make sure they are voted out of office and left to wonder what happened and why they refused to act on our nation’s epidemic of gun violence.

#Enough

Back to school with guns

School is starting all over our country. In some school districts, staff can bring their guns to school. This has not worked out as expected in so many places but facts don’t seem to matter when it comes to guns and school safety.

As I always say, there are no “accidents” with guns. Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill animals or humans.

School safety has taken on a whole new definition in the days of school shootings. Since the Columbine shooting in 1999 and now the 20th anniversary, about 700.000 Americans have died from gunshot injuries- a good proportion of them our precious students. Congress has still not acted since Columbine, thus the large toll of human life.

We all remember the Columbine shooting as the marker for our “new normal” where kids are shot up regularly in our schools. It is also a new normal for the victims and the trauma never goes away.

While I was working as a special educator in my local school district, lockdown drills were a part of our routine. Schools are not necessarily made for the type of safety needed from a school shooter. No building is actually. Schools and kids are not bulletproof.

Remember the slaughter of 20 first graders and 6 educators at Sandy Hook elementary school in 2012? That surely is another important marker is school shootings because no one could believe that Congress would DO NOTHING after that heinous shooting. And remember when Wayne LaPierre said “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun”? That was , in a way, a new low in NRA opposition to common sense gun laws. The NRA and Republicans and some Democrats stopped support for doing the right thing even though the nation supported action.

And then came the Parkland school shooting on Feb. 14, 2018. This massacre of 17 high school students changed things forever. This time the students were old enough to fight back and fight back they did. They started a national movement and a huge country wide March For Our Lives. And now, because the adults are doing nothing, they have their own well thought out plan for stopping school shootings and every day shootings.

But companies are making a profit trying to make everything bullet proof. I mean, why not? If we refuse to stop people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them with the result that we are all less safe in public places, why not try to bullet proof people? Thus, there are bullet proof backpacks that make parents feel better about sending their kids to school and making sure they come home again.

I hope everyone understands that backpacks are not with the kids all day. Some are in closets in elementary classrooms and some are in lockers where they will be inaccessible. During some classes, backpacks may not be allowed or usable. Lunch time? Likely not wearing a backpack. Phy Ed class? Not wearing a backpack.

In addition, the company that makes them actually tested whether the backpacks would stop a bullet. Note that the backpack was on the front of the dummy, not the back where kids wear them. And also note that the backpack did not stop bullets from an AR-15, the weapon of choice for mass shooters.

So much for those. They have been pulled from the shelves in some places.

Companies are also profiting on training programs such as ALICE. I have written about this one before. ALICE is mostly to train kids and staff to take measures that could make them less safe from a shooter. It makes some sense on the face of it but in reality often the “countering” techniques like throwing something at the shooter, or interrupting the shooter can work in reverse.

We do hear about people interrupting shooters by hitting them with a chair from behind or tackling them as in the Tucson mall shooting. That does sometimes work.

But we are talking here about kids taking the responsibility for saving themselves instead of the adults who can do something about the gun violence epidemic preventing the easy access to guns in the first place.

Some Colorado school districts have provided buckets of kitty litter and tourniquets so kids can survive from the bleeding from a gunshot wound and go to the bathroom if they are trapped in a classroom for a long time.

The buckets are just one strategy teachers are being taught to respond to lockdowns and school shootings. Lopez says she was also given a Sharpie marker to indicate what time a tourniquet was applied to a bleeding student, and candy to give diabetic students to maintain their blood sugar during a long lockdown.

So it’s come to this.

Where is common sense?

As kids head back to school, it will be inevitable that school shootings will begin again. There are some things that can be done and I’m not sure the above measures are the right ones. Lockdown drills happen regularly and they are scaring our kids:

Over the past two decades, the drills have ramped up in intensity — with some schools going so far as to use fake blood and fire blanks at students. A drill last month at an Indiana school prompted outrage when teachers were shot execution-style with pellet guns, leaving them injured.

At the same time, students’ anxieties have swelled. Some are not told that the lockdowns are just drills, prompting them to send what they believe are final goodbyes over text to their parents or faint or throw up. Others are afraid to go to school in the days following the drills.
As a result, a growing number of schools are experimenting with ways to lessen the toll of the drills while still doing everything possible to keep students safe. For some school districts, that means using age-appropriate language; for others, it involves having guidance counselors or school psychologists available during and after the drills.

In a recently released video, by Brady, “Morning Routine”, the morning routine includes putting a bullet proof vest on a little girl as she goes out the door for her school day. The father watches with a worried look on his face:

So it’s come to this.

We all have PTSD from shootings and the ripple effect has grown so wide that we are all affected by shootings in one way or the other. We are raising a generation of lockdown kids and increasing anxiety about going to school.

We have done little if anything to stop school shootings. There are some things that can be done that don’t require lockdowns or laws.

Parents must store their guns safely at home since most school shooters get their guns from home. Talk about End Family Fire as a way to discuss the risks of guns in the home.

If you see something, say something. In the weeks since the El Paso and Dayton shootings dozens of people have been arrested for threats made to shoot up people in public places. One such threat came from an Albert Lea, Minnesota 15 year old girl who made threats on social media to shoot up a school.

I don’t believe that arming staff is a good way to deal with active shooters either. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to be in the right place during a shooting and also to be able to actually hit a moving human being also shooting at you. There have been many instances of staff members leaving loaded guns in bathrooms or accidentally discharging their guns. In last May’s Colorado STEM school shooting an armed guard accidentally shot one of the students. He should not have had his gun:

In a statement, STEM School Highlands Ranch said it didn’t know the guard was armed until the shooting occurred May 7 on the campus that includes students from kindergarten through high school.
“While it is more common to have armed security personnel at high schools, it is uncommon at elementary schools,” the statement issued Monday said. “Given the diverse population at our school, we made the decision to request an unarmed guard in an effort to balance these different interests.”

There are many reasons that arming staff is not a good idea.

Let’s just say it like it is. Our politicians need to DO SOMETHING to protect us from gun violence. It can be done in conjunction with respecting gun rights. The bottom line is that gun rights in the clothing of the second amendment, has stopped us from protecting the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Since January of 2019 there have been 22 school shootings according to his article. That does not include the beginning of the last school year from September through December. What we want is to reduce that number through new laws, awareness, safety practices, safe storage, and any other method we can use.

This is about saving lives and protecting our children. For the sake of my grandchildren and yours and your children, it’s time to get involved and engage. Let’s get to work.

AR-15s are popular

Senator Pat Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, issued a new excuse for why the Senate should not take up a bill to ban assault rifles and ammunition- because they are popular. From the article:

On Fox News on Tuesday, Toomey shared his renewed push for legislation for background checks for gun show and online purchases, but when asked about a ban to assault weapons, he rejected the idea because the firearms were too popular. 

“They’re extremely popular, and so to ban an extremely popular firearm, I’m not going to support that,” said Toomey of assault weapons. “That would be an infringement on the rights of law-abiding citizens.”

On Fox News, @SenToomey says he’s not in favor of additional regulations on military-style weapons because “they’re extremely popular, and so to ban an extremely popular firearm — I’m not gong to support that.”

And while assault-style weapons like the AR-15 may be popular with gun enthusiasts, a majority of Pennsylvanians actually want them banned. According to a March 2018 poll from Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., 68 percent of registered voters support banning assault-style weapons in the state. 

Of that group, 61 percent strongly support such measures. Comparatively, the 2018 poll said that 27 percent oppose a ban in Pennsylvania. A March 2019 poll from F&M showed that 62 percent of Pennsylvanians support creating more laws that regulate gun ownership, while 35 percent oppose those laws. 

They are popular. They are popular for mass shootings and have been used in many of the recent ones. Isn”t it amazing that we even separate older mass shootings and more recent ones? From the article:

But in all of the latest incidents – Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012; San Bernardino, California, in 2015; Orlando, Florida, in 2016; Las Vegas, 2017; Sutherland Springs, Texas, 2017 -the attackers primarily used AR-15 semi-automatic rifles.

If not an AR-15 than and AK-47 or similar type of semi-automatic rifle that can fire off a bullet a second with every pull of the trigger. More people can be killed with these firearms in a shorter period of time. That is the point.

We had a ban on certain types of assault weapons but Congress unwisely let it lapse in 2004 when it sunsetted before it had a chance to really work. I believe that is why we are seeing mass shootings with assault rifles. There is no check on them at all. Just about anyone can buy one- background check or not.

They may be popular amongst those who just like to shoot them for sport. Some people get pleasure out of this kind of sport. Whatever. Maybe they can just shoot them at a gun range and not own one. Why own one of these ( or more as many in America do, actually)? To be ready for an insurrection against the government of course. Or to go out and kill as many people as possible in a short time.

Another mass shooting appeared to have been averted when a young white male ( as it almost always is) showed up at a Walmart ( again) in Missouri all set to go with body armour, an assault rifle and 100 rounds of ammunition:

Police in Springfield, Mo., arrested a 20-year-old man wearing body armor and carrying a loaded rifle — and more than 100 rounds of ammunition — at a Walmart store Thursday. Formal charges of making a terrorist threat in the first degree are now pending against Dmitriy Andreychenko, police say.

He thought he could “fool” people by walking around like this in the store? Not any more. We are all hyper aware and nervous when we see anyone carrying these guns around.

What about at least raising the age for purchase of these kinds of guns to 21? That would save lives.

In Texas people can walk around on the streets with AR-15s hanging from their bodies. Why? No one needs one of these. How do we know if the person means harm or not? We don’t of course.

This is insanity. What have we come to in America? Why have we let the influence of the corporate gun lobby do so much harm to the gun culture and to actual human beings. This is not the America we want. This is not how we should have to live.

In New York City, a motorcycle backfired near Times Square and everyone panicked and started running. Good grief. This is NOT NORMAL.

Well now, the pressure is on. The House is considering coming back into session to pass some stronger gun laws. They passed 2 background check bills last winter but the Senate refused to even have hearings. Until now. When over 10,000 calls get patched through to Mitch McConnell’s office in just a few days by Brady the pressure is on. Other organizations have also been patching calls through. If McConnell does anything about gun safety reform it won’t be because he wants to, it will be because he can’t not do what’s right and what the vast majority of Americans support.

This morning the President boasted about having a good relationship with the NRA:

“They’re really good people,” Trump said. “They’re great patriots. They love our country. They love our country so much. And frankly, I really think they’re going to get on board.”

Great patriots? No.

The way things are going with the NRA I don’t think that was a wise thing to say. But he is, after all, Donald Trump.

The organization is as corrupt as Trump himself. They are all about themselves and not about the public health crisis of gun violence. They don’t care a whit about the shootings as long as they maintain their base and their power and control.

Remember when President Trump told the victims of The Parkland shooting that he would pass a background check bill after that horrific shooting? Remember when the President talked to the NRA the next day? Remember when nothing happened?

Yes, Senator Toomey, AR-15s are popular. So what? As long as that is your attitude, Americans will continue to be killed in large numbers. If you had any common sense at all, you would stand up at long last and do the right thing. We can give you credit for trying after the Sandy Hook shooting. It didn’t work out so well when the NRA said NO. You should have learned your lesson then. What difference does it make what the NRA and its’ small number of gun owners want and threaten to do? They represent a scintilla of Americans.

It’s time for that to change. It’s time for all in Congress to stand against the weak and mythical arguments of the gun lobby. The time is past to publicly recognize that even gun owners and most NRA members want you to act.

Do something.

A “memoraversary”

The last week has been a difficult one for the entire country. For victims and survivors it has been worse than difficult. High profile shootings bring back too many memories. The press coverage, the constant conversation about the guns, bullets, the victims, the injuries…

PTSD is what I call it. I believe the entire country is experiencing PTSD after the last week of mass shootings. The nonsensical talk about video games, lack of praying in school, mental illness and every other excuse offered by those who refuse to talk about the root of the problem is enough to make us sick. We know what the problem is. We have experienced it.

It’s the guns stupid. Plain and simply it’s easy access to guns. The hate shooting in El Paso was a horrendous act of violence directed at immigrants, people of color, hispanic people- the “other”. An assault rifle. Premeditated murder. Unrepentant killer. A legal gun purchase.

We’ve heard it ad nauseum before- hundreds of times.

The shooting in Dayton appears to be a domestic related shooting but the premeditation involving body armour, an assault rifle with a 100 round drum magazine is inexplicable. Why?

In talking about the high profile mass shootings, we often forget about the “everyday” shootings happening regularly. Over 100 a day. The domestic homicides. The suicides. The unintentional shootings by kids, officer involved shootings. They are all around us every day. They leave victims and survivors in their wake. They leave a ripple effect going wider and wider. With all of the shootings, there are few of us remaining who have not been affected by a shooting.

I am one of those people feeling the PTSD in the past week. Thoughts of my own family dealing with the domestic shooting of my sister came back. The phone call came back. It brought back the days between the shooting and the funeral and the days following dealing with the after effects and grief and moving forward.

Moving forward for me was getting involved and working with Brady and Protect Minnesota to prevent shootings in any form. It has been a long and frustrating journey. We go round and round and make small steps towards progress because we are swimming upstream against a formidable force of opposition and a culture of guns that stops us from doing what almost everyone knows is the right thing to do.

Today is the anniversary of the shooting death of my sister, Barbara Lund. What should we call the anniversary of the death of a loved one? That question was asked recently in a group of Brady chapter leaders. Anniversary seems like not quite the right word. Every year on this date I write about my sister, who was murdered by her estranged husband on Aug. 5, 1992.

It’s been a long time but we miss her still. I can still hear her voice and remember her vivacious personality at family events. She was a force. She was a beauty queen. She was a skier, an artist, a mother, a sister, a wife, an ex-wife, a step-mom, a tennis player, a pilot, an entertainer, politically active, and an all around adventurous person. People never forgot her once they met her.

She would have been a fierce advocate for doing the right thing in my memory had I died before her by some untimely violent death. She would have worked for background checks on all gun sales and the many issues that have been in the forefront in the decades since her death.

But a stronger background check system would not have stopped my sister’s shooting. Her estranged husband was a legal gun owner. Perhaps an Extreme Risk Protection Order law however could have prevented what happened that day in August in 1992. There had been a restraining order. He was becoming aggressive with phone messages to her. He was becoming, in general, more resistant to the divorce proceedings even being in contempt of court for refusing to comply with the proceedings. They were separated by then and she told friends she was worried about his guns.

But using his guns to kill her and her friend because he was angry? Why? Where is common sense?

Others have similar stories with somewhat different details. Some women survive the bullets. Many do not. Domestic murders often involve more than one person and most often happen when a woman is trying to leave the relationship- whether marriage or not. Sometimes it takes a half dozen times to actually leave. When children, money and pets are involved, it’s difficult to leave.

I have learned a lot since Aug. 5, 1992. Now we all know more and we all know that we can do something about this carnage. If there is a difficulty in the relationship and the man ( for it is almost always the man) owns guns, we must think differently. We must be hyper aware. If there is a threat to the gun owners’ self or others, if Extreme Risk Protection Orders are law, guns can be removed, at least temporarily.

A woman is 5 times more likely to be killed in intimate violence situations when a gun is present. In my sister’s case there was no physical violence but rather increasing signs of anger and depression over his losing control of money and control.

If there is a difficult relationship between domestic partners or spouses, a gun can make it deadly instantly. Getting away from the relationship or getting guns away from the person who could be a danger to themselves or others is of utmost importance.

End Family Fire is a new campaign to highlight the risks of guns in the home. These risks are for suicide, domestic homicide, school shootings (most school shooters get their guns from their own homes) or “accidental gun discharges”. Considering the risks there is no reason not to be more cautious about guns in the home. At the very least they need to be stored safely ( in a metal gun case) and/or with a trigger lock and away from ammunition.

Too many gun owners think their loaded guns must be at the ready at home just in case. This flawed thinking leads to way too many avoidable deaths and injuries. A gun is much more likely to be used against you or someone in the home than in self defense.

You may think that something like this can never happen in your family or your community. You may be right. But if I were you I would err on the side of safety and caution to prevent personal tragedy. None of the families of the tragic and deadly mass shootings and “everyday” shootings ever thought it would happen to them either. My last post was about the rash of mass shootings in the last week. Since I wrote that post, dozens more have died of gunshot injuries.

We don’t have to live like this. But we do have to demand that our leaders make sure our lives are safe from preventable gun violence. Our personal responsibility is to be aware, be safe, be sensible around guns, and don’t do anything stupid or dangerous. Lives depend on getting this right.

Our leaders’ responsibility is to pass laws to make it less easy for people who should not have guns to get them. It is to make it harder to get guns. It should be. Guns are lethal weapons and they are responsible for horrendous carnage. This is national public health emergency and we must do something.

In memory of my sister and the many thousands of Americans who have died from gunshot injuries since her death and before, I demand action. I honor the lives lost with action.