Guns at the borders

I have written before about how the loose gun laws in the U.S. actually are contributing to our border crisis. Here’s how (from an article in Common Dreams:

The link between homicide and migration is captured in this startling ratio from the Inter-American Dialogue in 2018: In Honduras, a 1 percent increase in homicides drives up migration by 120 percent. (…) But what I had not, and certainly should have, grasped is our nation’s central role in generating fear by allowing a flood of US weapons to continue across our southern border. The flood into Mexico alone includes “[m]ore than 212,000 illegal firearms” from the U.S. each year owing to “straw purchases,” observes the Los Angeles Times. 

Central America is hardest hit.

There, gun laws are comparatively strict, yet “homicide rates are among the highest on earth.” In El Salvador, with the world’s highest rate, almost half of weapons found at the country’s crime scenes are from the U.S. officials here estimate.

And more, from the article, that is pretty significant because it refers to how crime guns used in drug trafficking, homicide and terrorizing citizens in Mexico and other Central American countries come from our very own country:

The country has only one gun store. Located in Mexico City, it is guarded by the army. Seventy percent of guns seized in Mexico were originally sold in the U.S.—most of them in Texas, California, and Arizona according to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 

“Once in Mexico, these weapons end up in the hands of drug cartels or get shipped to gangs in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador,” says The Associated Press. In Honduras, “armed holdups on public transportation are a regular occurrence, where nearly half of the unregistered weapons originated in the U.S.,” reports the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.. 

“The number of firearms smuggled from the United States was so significant that nearly half of American gun dealers rely on that business to stay afloat,” reported the University of San Diego in 2013.

The author wonders why this is not more widely known. It is simple. The NRA and its lapdog politicians have conveniently sought to blame others for the problem. The outrage over what what was named Operation Fast and Furious, an ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives) operation to try to stem the sale of illegal guns used by the Mexican drug cartel to reap terror and violence and allow for more drugs to come into our own country was part of this blame game.

Though the Obama administration, the ATF and former AG Eric Holder are not blameless, trying to understand how guns get into Mexico illegally adding to the violence this was a worthy operation it seems to me:

Because federal law prohibits the ATF and local law enforcement agencies from releasing the results of crime gun traces, firearm trafficking patterns are hidden from public view. The trove of records reviewed by The Trace tell two clear stories: High-volume gun traffickers often depend on a single retail gun dealer for most of their wares. And rarely do those gun sellers face consequences.   (…) “It’s one big operation. You’ve got drugs — cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin — coming up from South America and Central America to the U.S., which is a big consumer. And then you have money and guns going south,” said a former ATF official who worked in Mexico during the period in question. He spoke to The Trace on condition of anonymity because he still consults with law enforcement. “Guns are the tool of the trade,” he said. “People aren’t killing each other with machetes.”

A Minnesota man ( from the above article) trafficked guns he purchased at one gun store in southern Minnesota but he got caught.

Beginning in 2007, a Minnesota man named Paul Giovanni De La Rosa began purchasing guns and delivering them to a business partner who lived near Mexico City. In court documents, he was accused of smuggling more than 100 firearms over the course of 20 trips. The weapons included more than 40 Five-seveN pistols, which are favored by drug cartels because they fire a cartridge that can pierce body armor. After De La Rosa was caught at the Laredo border crossing with weapons hidden inside furniture, he was prosecuted and sentenced to three years in prison. He did not respond to a request for comment sent to his attorney.

Dozens of De La Rosa’s purchases were included in the trove of ATF records reviewed by The Trace. Of the 34 weapons tracked in that dataset, 28 were sold by a single store: Hart Brothers, in the town of Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Hart Brothers is now out of business. I wonder why.

From the quote in the above article from The Trace, this is key: ” Because federal law prohibits the ATF and local law enforcement agencies from releasing the results of crime gun traces, firearm trafficking patterns are hidden from public view.”

Brady and The Trace as well as other organizations have received some ATF trace data through a FOIA request. We have known why the ATF needs to be stronger, not weaker as the NRA minions in Congress want the organization to be-because the Republicans pushed through the Tiahrt amendment which passed in 2003. Why would the corporate gun lobby and some members of Congress not want us to know about crime gun traces? We know the answer. Information is not a friend of corruption, greed and illegal activity,

The ATF is vastly underfunded and under staffed on purpose. Thank you NRA and lapdog politicians.

Laying blame at the feet of others is the M.O. used by those who want power and control and are willing to corrupt the conversation for their own selfish agenda. Hating President Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder was ubiquitous and overt. Republican leadership did everything they could to discredit our first Black President. They held Holder in contempt of Congress.

And Trump hating and now attacking those who are trying to get to the bottom of his immigration mess at the border is shameless at the least. Rep. Elijah Cummings was holding him and his administration responsible for the horrendous conditions at border detention centers. The detention centers are a stain on our democracy and our history.

Let’s be clear. What is happening now at the border is not the fault of the ATF, President Obama or AG Eric Holder. President Trump, his sycophants in the administration and his Republican minions have made the situation much worse and now, of course, blame everyone but themselves. That is actually how Rep. Elijah Cummings found himself the subject of more of Trump’s offensive and racist Tweets. Comparing Baltimore with the border situation is a shameless way of diverting attention away from the terrible problems created by the Tweeter in Chief.

The Baltimore Sun pushed back in a great editorial piece laying it out like it is. We all must push back on what is happening at the border, what our President is tweeting, and the overt racism and intolerance as well as attacks on entire cities and members of Congress totally unbefitting a President, let alone anyone else.

Finally, while we would not sink to name-calling in the Trumpian manner — or ruefully point out that he failed to spell the congressman’s name correctly (it’s Cummings, not Cumming) — we would tell the most dishonest man to ever occupy the Oval Office, the mocker of war heroes, the gleeful grabber of women’s private parts, the serial bankrupter of businesses, the useful idiot of Vladimir Putin and the guy who insisted there are “good people” among murderous neo-Nazis that he’s still not fooling most Americans into believing he’s even slightly competent in his current post. Or that he possesses a scintilla of integrity. Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one.

We all must step forward and take responsibility for the terrible situation at the border and in our impoverished cities. Passing strong gun laws would help fix both violent situations at home and in neighboring countries. We can see how guns make it into the Baltimore area but we are not doing anything about it:

“I would say approximately 60 percent statewide of firearms that are seized by Maryland law enforcement are not Maryland guns, that goes up exponentially in places like Baltimore City and Prince George’s County,” Lopez said.

Maryland has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. Buyers are required to wait seven days after purchase to actually take possession of a handgun. There is no instant background check, and buyers are limited to one purchase per month.

Laws are far more lax in states to the south and west.

In West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, background checks are instant, and there is no waiting period and no limit on how many guns you can purchase at once.

The disparity between gun laws state by state complicates the effort to reduce gun violence, currently an urgent priority in Baltimore.

There is no shortage of supply. (…) “It’s not difficult at all,” Guy said. “Not only are those that are involved in intentionally violent activities have quick access to guns, even those kids that are fearful that if they are not protecting themselves, that they could be another victim, but it’s easy for them to get guns too.”

Passing a federal universal background check law requiring that every buyer is checked out to make sure he/she is not a prohibited purchaser would save lives. That makes common sense. Passing and enforcing straw purchasing and gun trafficking laws would help stop some of the sales of guns that end up in Mexico and other Central American countries. These laws would also prevent some of the trafficking into our major urban areas. Holding irresponsible gun dealers accountable also will stop the practice of selling to those who can’t and shouldn’t get their hands on guns. These same laws would affect violence in our urban centers all over the country.

Immigration, violence, poverty and guns go together. They shouldn’t but they do. President Trump just connected the border situation with urban poverty and violence. In many ways he is right but he doesn’t know it. His intent was to denigrate, attack and criticize and his Tweets have only drawn attention to the atrocious conditions in both places. Plus I’m pretty sure he did not want us all to know that his own son-in-law Jared Kushner is partly responsible for the “rat infested” living conditions in Baltimore. Seriously- you really can’t make this stuff up.

It’s in our hands to affect change. We don’t have to accept what has become an untenable situation. Holding our leaders accountable for their negligence is key to making change happen.

Take action. Not sides.

Yes, Virginia, there is a robust gun violence prevention majority

Posted with permission of a friend who attended the event

Yesterday the state of Virginia had a great opportunity to do the right thing after the mass shooting at Virginia Beach. Governor Northam called a special session to take up common sense gun bills supported by the majority of Virginians.

I just love the spin spun by the pro gun Republicans about the special session ( from the article abobve):

“This was purely a political stunt by the governor to bring us in to try to address gun violence,” Del. Terry Kilgore said. “To truly address gun violence and its root causes, you need to look at it over a longer period of time.”

“Over a longer period of time”? That is the favorite pro gun excuse for putting off dealing with the daily carnage happening all over the country. It’s been 20 years since the Columbine school shooting. Is that a long enough period of time to wait to deal with gun violence? Since Columbine, (given between 30,000 and 40,000 yearly gun deaths,) I took 35,000 average yearly gun deaths times 20 = 700,000 dead Americans. Is that enough for the pro gun lobby before we act?

Anyway, back to majority support for gun safety reform bills, Brady released polling data showing this to be true:

Leading up to the special session, Brady released polling of four key districts – HD 66 (represented by Speaker Cox), SD 3 (represented by Leader Norment), and SD 7 and 8 (encompassing Virginia Beach) – showing that Virginians want to see common-sense gun safety laws enacted in the Commonwealth. The full results can be found here, but highlights included:

83 percent of respondents – including 73 percent of Donald Trump voters – support an extreme risk law allowing family members or law enforcement to ask a judge to temporarily suspend a person’s access to guns if they have evidence that the person poses a significant threat to themselves or others;

62 percent – including 61 percent of respondents in Sen. Norment’s district – support banning the sale of military style semi-automatic assault weapons;

63 percent – including more than half of gun owners – support banning high-capacity magazines that hold over 10 bullets, such as the ones used in the Virginia Beach shooting;

67 percent – including 63 percent of respondents in Speaker Cox’s district – support allowing local jurisdictions to ban guns from public buildings and events and enforce that ban by detecting guns and restricting entry.

The majority of their constituents want them to act.

There were about 1000 gun violence prevention advocates at the planned hearings, many coming by the busload. The NRA, of course, denied and lied about how many people were there. Why? Because that is how they manage to skew the truth to get their way. Never mind public safety and public health. It’s all about power, influence, fear and paranoia.

Before the Republican majority leaders in the House and the Senate unceremoniously adjourned without hearing any bills, Delegate Chris Hurst gave a powerful and passionate speech on the floor before the hundreds in the gallery. Hurst was the boyfriend of Alison Parker, the reporter who was shot and murdered on live TV in Roanoke, Virginia in August of 2015. He ran on a platform of gun safety reform and won election to the Virginia House of Delegates. Please watch his amazingly cogent remarks in support of the bills not taken up by the Virginia Republicans:

Who are these people representing anyway? Not the majority of Virginians. Not the victims of the Virginia Beach mass shooting or their families and friends. Not the memory of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, killed on live TV or their families and friends. Not the next door neighbor who shot himself in a suicide because he was feeling hopeless. Not the families of women shot in domestic shootings in anger over a relationship. Not the kids who grab a parents’ loaded gun left out carelessly and end up dying from the bullets in that gun.

No. They are representing themselves and their fear that the weakened and corrupt corporate gun lobby might turn on them and work against them. Or maybe they actually believe the stupidity of the gun rights extremists who insist that passing any reasonable gun law will lead to registration and confiscation. They won’t, but never mind.

I am proud to know so many people who showed up at the Virginia capital to demand that something be done about our gun violence public health epidemic. They, and we, will not go away. This is not about gun rights. This is about common sense and doing the right thing for families and communities. This is about saving lives, period.

They are cowards:

Brady president and Virginia resident Kris Brown, who witnessed the special session in Richmond in person today, stated,

“Today, Tommy Norment and Kirk Cox revealed themselves as nothing short of cowards. They refused to take even the smallest actions that would honor the victims of the Virginia Beach shooting, not to mention the victims of gun violence in Virginia every single day. Even if the Assembly committees recommend any bills, Norment and Cox have made clear that they won’t take any action until after Election Day. But if these ‘leaders’ won’t enact solutions that their own constituents are demanding, then we’re going to fight tooth and nail for representatives who will. There are 119 days between now and Election Day, and we are going to work every single one of them to ensure that the next time these votes come around, we’re going to see real and meaningful action instead of this shameful nonsense.”

If those in opposition want to make up reasons the bills should not get a hearing, they can keep trying to deceive the public. But the public isn’t having it any more. The public is sickened by the carnage. This is not the America we want. Thanks to lapdog politicians, it is the America we have.

Things are changing. Gun violence is now a top issue in the elections and will be in 2020. Now we know, however, that the NRA allegedly used influence and money from the Russians to get their candidate(s) elected last time. We are watching the NRA. So is the country. There is a new narrative about the corrupt pro gun organization.

Virginia is a microcosm of sentiment and opinions in most other states in our country. Polling has told us for years that the majority is in favor of passing stronger gun laws. So let’s do it then.

We are watching.

Guns for entertainment

Yesterday President Trump actually told British media personality Piers Morgan in an interview that AR-15s are used for entertainment. Yes. He said that. He is parroting what the gun lobby is trying to sell to us about the necessity for these weapons meant for war. And coincidentally the President was in Britain, and then in Normandy, to celebrate the 75th anniversary of D-Day where thousands of U.S., British and Canadian troops were shot on the Omaha, Utah and Gold beaches.

Let’s look at Trump’s words from the linked article:

“In London you have stabbings. I read an article…they said your hospital is a sea of blood…Piers, when somebody has a gun illegally and the others [don’t] they have no chance. The bad guys are not getting rid of their guns…The people who obey the laws are sitting ducks. The thing I think about the most is Paris…if there was a gun on the other side.”

Deflect, deflect, deceive, lie, deflect, blame someone else, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…….

Where is common sense? Inexplicably he also tried to slough off any criticism of America’s public health gun violence epidemic by blaming the British for all the blood running in England from knife deaths. Good grief. You just can’t make this stuff up but this is also the gun lobby’s turning the conversation away from all of the blood running in the streets and homes of Americans from gun violence.

According to the above article knife deaths are up in the UK and so are gun deaths- they are up to 29. America’s are up,too- about 40,000! No comparison.

My brother fought in Viet Nam and was under fire much of the time he was there. He came home with Malaria and now suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and PTSD. He doesn’t think of assault rifles as entertainment. To him they mean death and destruction.

My Dad was a World War ll Veteran. He served in an Infantry Brigade in North Africa and Italy. He rarely talked about the horrors of war but clearly suffered from Panic Attacks. He was involved in a lot of gunfire as they marched over the mountains and into Rome. He did not live long enough to mourn the death of my sister who was murdered in a domestic shooting. I am quite sure he would have been horrified at the proliferation of shootings and mass shootings, some of which were the result of shooters using AR-15s to kill as many people as possible in as short a time period as possible.

We should all be horrified that our President thinks AR-15s are for entertainment when they are weapons that don’t belong in the hands of ordinary citizens, gun rights or not. Did the founding fathers anticipate this kind of carnage when they wrote their infamous and now controversial words? Would they have been able to predict that since 1968 when Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated, more Americans have been killed by guns than all American wars combined? Yesterday was the 51st anniversary of his shooting. I will never forget that awful day as America mourned the shooting death of a second Kennedy brother. I don’t believe he would have been in favor of the sale and use of semi-automatic assault rifles for common use.

(added since first posted) I just ran across this relevant article about gun deaths compared to American deaths on D-Day:

Some 2,501 Americans gave their lives that day, according to historic estimates. Another 1,913 soldiers from other Allied countries also died, bringing the total death toll from the immediate invasion to 4,414.

It took until late April before the number of people killed by guns in the United States in 2019 topped that number, according to data collected by the Gun Violence Archive. (This data excludes suicides.)

This is so stunning that there are really no good words to talk about it.

Let’s take a look at guns used for “entertainment”:

Does anyone remember when a little girl “accidentally” shot and killed the gun range instructor with an Uzi which her parents allowed her to shoot? The man’s family is suing the girl’s family for allowing her to shoot the gun? Did he not have a responsibility to say No to letting a 9 year old shoot an Uzi for fun? Presumably that was for entertainment.

Too many other incidents like this have happened to enumerate here. Guns are not for entertainment. Their sole purpose is to kill animals or humans. That is what they are designed to do.

There are so many other things that people can do for entertainment. Bowling. Movies. Sports. Music. Theater. Playing games with friends. And yes, I get that some like to shoot guns for fun at gun ranges. But the slippery slope has created a gun culture where military style weapons have become common place for just about anyone who wants one. That is not entertainment.

The President is wrong. The gun lobby is wrong. Guns are not their playthings that they can do anything they want to do with them.

It’s been 100 days since the House passed H.R. 8 to require background checks on all gun sales. The Senate companion bill, S. 42 is in limbo because……rights? fear? paranoia? power and influence? campaign contributions?

How about saving lives? Does that figure into any of this. Here is today’s press release from Brady about 100 days passing since the House passed the life saving bill:

In the 100 days since the House passed H.R. 8 in a bipartisan vote:*

10,000 people have been shot and killed;

21,000 people were injured by gunfire;

400 children and teenagers (1-17) were killed in shootings;

800 children and teens were shot in family fire;

6,100 Americans died from suicide with a firearm, with another 1,000 attempting.

A reminder to my readers- this is NOT NORMAL. This is a public health epidemic. The Republicans in the Senate are letting America down. They seem to feel no shame or responsibility when mass shootings occur every week or so and 12 or more innocent people are mowed down for no apparent reason except a gun was readily available. And for the domestic related gun deaths and for the suicides by gun and the little children shooting each other with a gun found at home. They have no conscience.

We are better than this.

Twelve more

It’s happened again. News programs were interrupted with news of a mass workplace shooting in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Sigh.

Tears. Weeping.

Grief.

Exhaustion.

Devastation.

Cries for doing something.

Statements from gun violence prevention groups and elected leaders who care about lives of innocent people taken in a matter of second.

Brady.

Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

Statements about the incident- a gunfight. A silencer used. People couldn’t tell how close the shooter was thanks to the silencer. The NRA and its’ lapdog politicians floated a bill to make silencers easier to obtain. But then the Las Vegas shooting happened. And now this.

Extended magazines. More weapons found at the shooter’s home.

Why do we allow extended magazines again? For what are they useful other than shooting as many people as possible in a very short time?

Workplace shootings are becoming more common. What should businesses do? Read this:

There were 1553 firearm workplace homicides during the study period. Robbery crime trended downward from 2011 to 2015. In contrast, non-robbery crimes constituted almost 50% of the homicides and trended upward in recent years. Customers and co-workers were the most frequent perpetrators of non-robbery crimes, most after an argument. While customers and co-workers who commit these crimes were often armed at the time of the argument, some were not and retrieved a firearm from an unspecified location before committing a homicide. Thus, immediate and ready firearm access was commonly observed in argumentative workplace deaths.
Conclusions
Limiting firearm access in the workplace is a possible measure for preventing deadly workplace violence and should be considered as part of a comprehensive strategy for addressing this reemerging public health concern.

Where is common sense?

As the shooting was happening, our local Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota chapter, together with Moms Demand Action and the Duluth Federation of Teachers was holding a Wear Orange kick-off for June as gun violence prevention awareness month.

Speakers were amazing. Two students stepped to the microphone to talk about how it is for students in these days of mass school shootings. A 7th grade girl read a poem she had written after the Parkland shooting. A high school junior spoke of student lockdowns and how frightening they are. He asked where the elected leaders were and cited the large contribution given by the NRA to our newly elected Republican Congressman who voted against the House passed background check and Charleston loophole bills.

Powerful statements from our kids. And adults have failed them.

The Mayor read a proclamation making June 7th gun violence prevention awareness day in Duluth. The city of Duluth posted this on their Facebook page and what were the comments by the insensitive gun rights extremists? She’s taking away guns and rights.

Be quiet. Stop it. No one’s guns will be taken away. Stop trying to scare and intimidate. We are not listening any more. They are a very distinct minority.

The School Superintendent spoke of a near tragedy in one of the Duluth schools when a credible threat occurred and a man was arrested inside of the school. Authorities found guns in his car in the school parking lot.

Shame on those who refuse to move- who refuse to acknowledge our public health epidemic because they are beholden to a failed and corrupt gun rights organization. They are listening to an ever decreasing minority of gun rights extremists.

Former Republican Congressman David Jolly got it right. Our gun laws are broken. If we care about innocent lives and all lives, we will fix our broken system like other democratized countries have done.

President Trump responds to the shooting?

Democratic Presidential candidates are heartsick and furious.

So are we all. The majority of us know that passing stronger gun laws and changing our gun culture will not take away rights to own guns. The insistence that the second amendment means no gun laws allows daily carnage.

A writer for CNN says that we have a cult of guns in America. He is so right:

None of this will stop unless the cult of guns is curbed.
This won’t be easy; the cult has a lot of money behind it. The money pours in from the “devout”: small-time contributions to the NRA that amount to hundreds of millions of dollars each year. This money is used, in our skewed version of democracy, to influence politicians, who are only too happy to be bought.
Our Congress is swamped with men and women, our so-called representatives, who do not represent the majority view, which is that guns must be curtailed.

According to Gun Violence Archive this is the 150th mass shooting of the year. That happened before half of 2019 is over. We still have 7 months for the bodies to add up.

This is NOT NORMAL.

After posting this post I found another post by Shaun King who wrote about how we handle mass shootings in America:

That’s the game we play. To get through dinner, to get through a movie or a game, to get through quality time with our loved ones, we must temporarily suspend our knowledge that people are being slaughtered all around us. We speak of the Wild Wild West as some nostalgic era of the past, but we’re living it. The United States is the only nation in the world that has more guns than people. And it shows. Americans are shooting and killing themselves and killing others with guns at a pace that should be treated as a dire National Emergency. If we just enacted a fraction of the basic standards and norms held by the rest of the world, our nation would be so much safer.

Who have we become as a nation, as people with moral compasses, as people of compassion for others, as people who espouse non-violence?

Who do we want to be? Is this it? Reading names of victims after every mass shooting? Posting photos of those who lost their lives yesterday in “everyday shootings”?

I think not. We are better than this.

At this morning’s press conference in Virginia Beach, the names and photos of the victims were released by the City Manager of the city who said their names in with an emotional voice:

“They leave a void that will never be filled,” Hansen said. 

Too many voids.

Wear Orange on June 7th for gun violence prevention awareness. Wear it for the victims. Wear it for Hadiye Pendleton whose family started the observance of the day. Do your part. Get activated, Make noise and most of all, hold elected officials accountable for their inaction.