Asking about guns

Have you asked if there are unlocked loaded guns in the homes where your children or grandchildren hang-out? Have you stored your own guns so people who should not have guns don’t get their hands on them?

Today is ASK day. Every year on the summer solstice, Brady holds ASK day. Asking if there are unsecured guns around is a life saving measure. Every day, children find guns in their own homes or the homes of someone else. Children are curious. They can find anything. Check out this video from End Family Fire.

8 children a day are shot with guns they should not have had access to. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Why are so many adults with gun so reckless and irresponsible? Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill others. They should be treated that way rather than just another thing that is lying around the house.

Safe storage also prevents suicides. If guns are inaccessible or difficult to find, a suicidal person may not act on the spur of the moment. Since most gun deaths are suicides, this is an important life saving measures.

Health Care providers should be asking simple questions during histories and physicals. Are there guns in your home? Are they locked up away from ammunition? I am not just talking about pediatricians. I am talking about adults who may be suicidal or in the midst of marital strife. Asking a simple question could save a life. But the NRA does not want health care providers asking this life saving question. Why not?:

For their part, Wintemute and his colleagues did not argue that doctors should tell patients to stop owning guns. Rather, as Wintemute told The Post, doctors should educate themselves about gun ownership, in order to offer nonjudgmental advice on safe gun storage. Plus, no matter how many times a doctor asks patients about their firearm safety, as Eugene Volokh noted in The Post in December 2015, the guns will not vanish.

There are so many unanswered questions about guns and gun violence. That is why it was so important that last week the U..S House passed a larger bill that contained $50 million for CDC research into gun violence. Gun rights advocates don’t like research. Why not? Good question. One that is unanswered except for postulation that they are afraid that research will show what we already know- that guns are a risk to those who own them. And that guns are killing too many Americans causing a public health epidemic. But let’s take a look at how the Dickey Amendment has affected government research:

“The NRA told everybody, ‘You either can do research, or you can keep your guns. But if you let the research go forward, you will all lose all of your guns,’ ” Rosenberg tells Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Instead of completely shutting down the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Rosenberg says Congress presented the Dickey Amendment as a compromise. But the center’s budget was eventually cut by $2.5 million, and Rosenberg was fired in 1999.

Jay Dickey, the Republican congressman from Arkansas who spearheaded the legislation, told NPR in 2015 that he regretted his role in pushing through the provision.

“It wasn’t necessary that all research stop,” Dickey said. “It just couldn’t be the collection of data so that they can advocate gun control. That’s all we were talking about. But for some reason, it just stopped altogether.”

Research will lead to a safer America, not banning guns. Good grief.

I have one last question, just for this post- why would a “law abiding” Washington gun owner do something like this man did?

“We got into an argument about putting a gate up in the kitchen to block the baby because he is mobile,” Wilson told investigators.

Wilson said he told his daughter it was unfeasible to do a structural change, court documents say.

“Wendall Wilson executed his adult daughter over a petty argument about the installation of [a] baby gate,” prosecutors said in court documents.

Wilson said his daughter had a tendency to “escalate” their arguments and said this particular argument got out of hand, according to court documents.

Why? Without the gun, she would be alive. Look at the photo in the article of the police officer carrying the 13 month old baby away from the scene. Most shootings occur between people who know each other in moments of anger.

Why?

Where is common sense?

Gun lobby conundrum

Brady Campaign memeIt’s really hard to keep up with all of the shootings and the articles written about the American gun culture as it is revealed in front of our very eyes. Our leaders are abandoning their citizens.

Actually most of us woke up long ago. It’s those who are afraid who are sleeping at the helm of public health and safety.  It’s those who can do something about it who have allowed themselves to be placed in the pocket of a group that doesn’t seem to care about all of the shootings. For if they did, they would start supporting common sense measures- or, as one person I read recently said, just plain laws to keep us safe.

Why do we have to say common sense when it should be an unspoken truth that our leaders will do all they can to protect us from things that can kill and injure us. They can’t protect all of us and they can’t stop all shootings but they sure as heck can get to work to stop some of the killings and act like adults instead of being led around by the nose by the ultra conservatives, the gun extremists and the gun lobby.

What does the corporate gun lobby (NRA)  say about shootings of and by police, of GLBTQ Americans, women and children?  Action is not on their calendar or their radar.  Instead, Congress took a 7 week vacation while people continue to die. The Brady Campaign has it right in the meme I have included here. How many more people will die while our Congress doesn’t do their jobs?

The Gun Violence Archive tells us that 2016 has been bloody. Our streets and homes have seen blood running in them. A speaker at a local Black Lives Matter event I attended on Friday and at which I spoke, stated the obvious. Everyone’s blood is red. Black people, brown people, white people and all people bleed red. toll of gun deaths

The gun lobby doesn’t want us to think about any of this. Nor do they want us to do research about any of it. The likely findings will be that too many Americans are shot to death every day and it’s because of the easy access to guns and lax gun laws that allow for this to happen.

It’s about a culture. It’s about guns. When will it stop? And when will we do something about it to get it to stop?

Here is an excerpt of my remarks at the vigil in my city on Friday night:

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said this: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”
He was right. We are living now in a country full of fear- fear of each other; fear of those who don’t look like us; fear of law enforcement; fear of black people; fear of white people; fear of the government; fear that if you don’t have a gun and someone else does, you are going to be at risk; fear that everyone is armed so then everyone needs to be armed to protect themselves from others who are armed.

Police officers fear that everyone could be armed. Too many are and the result is senseless death by bullets.Bullets are flying in some of our neighborhoods. Innocent people like Birdell Beeks, a beloved grandmother was shot and killed by a stray bullet while sitting in her car in Northeast Minneapolis. Last week, after the tragic and heinous shooting of Philander Castile, 2 babies were shot in their father’s car when bullets were fired in North Minneapolis. A 2 year old died and a 15 month old was injured. (…)

The gun lobby is profiting off of our fears. They are encouraging, to the tune of over $14 billion dollars a year, the arming of America. They are promoting fear of “the other” to get people to buy guns. And the result is an armed society where no one knows who is the good guy with a gun and who is a bad guy with a gun anymore. An armed society is not a polite society.

One of the officers who attended this event told me during a conversation that the police department has to have more guns and more high caliber weapons like assault rifles now to keep up with what citizens have. Indeed, in Duluth, a man was arrested after making threats with an AR-15 on Friday night:

Police executed a search warrant at Davis’ residence and found a loaded Hi-Point brand 9 mm assault rifle between the mattress and box spring of his bed, the complaint said. Officers said the serial number had been scratched off the weapon, which appeared to be fully automatic and fully functional.

Fully automatic? Luckily that did not result in a shooting but it easily could have.

Everyone is afraid of everyone else. They have good reason. I just learned of the shooting death of 3 Baton Rouge, LA police officers. A man apparently walking around with an assault style rifle opened fire on the officers. A bystander called to report this person. How did she know the difference between a good guy with a gun and a bad guy with a gun? More on this later but several days ago, Baton Rouge police were put on alert when there was a threat of a shooting of officers. People were arrested after they had stolen guns:

Authorities in Baton Rouge said this week that a teenager accused of stealing guns during a burglary told investigators that he and others involved were seeking bullets to shoot officers there. Officials said that they deemed this threat to be so credible that it shaped their response to protests over the death of Alton Sterling.

Police say that they arrested three people related to the theft, which occurred early Saturday morning at a pawn shop more than 2 miles from the food mart where Sterling was fatally shot by officers four days earlier.

These are our nation’s young people. What is happening in our country? Teens and guns are not a good mix.

People have had #Enough. It’s past time to do something.

A high school freshman wrote this one. Please read it and listen to the voices of our children. They know more than many of the adults in the country. From her letter:

We shouldn’t ban guns totally, as that would jeopardize the basic need of self-defense, but we should not give unlimited access to all sorts of guns in the name of the Constitution. Our neighbor Canada has restricted certain guns from civilian use. In the past year Canada had 172 deaths related to firearms, whereas the United States had 12,236 firearms-related deaths. We ought to follow our neighbor in restricting certain assault rifles and administering appropriate background checks. This way we can ensure the safety of our people and respect our constitutional right.

An older gentleman, known to me, wrote this one, with equal reasonable arguments in favor of gun safety reform and gun violence prevention:

How much, we need to ask ourselves, was Johnson responsible for these killings? And how much are our laws, our militarism and our elected officials responsible? If the United States is “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” does this mean we are free to shoot one another: white police shooting young blacks, unbalanced blacks shooting white police, husbands and boyfriends shooting wives and girlfriends, so many people shooting so many other people — and so freely? Not bravely, certainly, but cowardly.

The New York Times quoted the police chief of Milwaukee on July 8: “We’re the most heavily armed violent society in the history of Western civilization.”

Who is responsible for that?

Indeed. Who is responsible? Not the over 90% who want reasonable gun laws. How about our leaders? How about the gun lobby? How about our culture of guns?

They are right. They make more common sense than our own leaders. Why aren’t they saying things like this? Good question. Apparently they don’t have the backbone to stand for what is right.

Here is a short list of some of the latest shootings for your perusal:

One woman killed and others injured in separate events in Minneapolis last night.

12 shot and injured near Cleveland in one night. Yes, you read that right. Cleveland where the Republican Convention starts tomorrow.

2 people are dead from gunshot injuries in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Teens playing the latest game to hit American culture, Pokemon Go, sitting in their car playing the game experience shots fired by a man who got suspicious. Does one just shoot off one’s gun if one has even a little suspicion that something could be wrong before finding out or calling 911? When a gun is present, the potential is there for something bad to happen.

What does the gun lobby have to say about these?

What does the gun lobby say about the armed citizens in Dallas who were mistaken for perpetrators when gunfire began, leaving 5 officers dead?

What does the gun lobby say about the fact that a black man, Philando Castile, had a legal permit to carry a gun and when he told this to the Falcon Heights, MN officer. Who knows what that officer was thinking when he shot and killed Castile? We do know that officers assume that just about anyone could be armed when they make a traffic stop.  At this point, there are many unanswered questions but one is why the gun lobby did not stand up to defend this shooting of a legal gun permit holder?

And while we are on the topic of permits to carry, I have been talking to quite a few people about the fact that they get their permits to carry but they choose not to carry those guns around with them. Many of them said they like the training they get and they get their permits just in case they decide to carry. But for many reasons, they don’t want to carry- guns are heavy, they are hot, they get cold in cold weather, it’s inconvenient, it’s an awesome responsibility, and other reasons. So try as the gun lobby does to get everyone armed, they have not succeeded. It is about 4-5% of our population who have their permits to carry but many of them don’t carry a gun.

The gun lobby is caught in a conundrum of their own making. When lies and deceptions have been foisted on us about the safety of all gun owners and how guns will protect us from harm and then they don’t, what is their answer?

When people carry guns to protect themselves from others with guns, and get shot anyway, what is their answer? When police officers assume everyone is armed and then shoot someone who is armed for one reason or another (or potentially no good reason) what is their answer? When an otherwise supposedly legal gun carrier has access to military style weapons and targets and kills officers after the shootings of 2 black men, what is their answer?

When the political party conventions coming up allow for people to open carry guns in the second layer of security and now everyone is worried about what could happen, what is their answer? The Cleveland Police union has asked for Open Carry in Ohio to be suspended during the Republican National Convention. Now we are seeing the results of what our corporate gun lobby has done to our country.  Who can blame the officers?

The head of one of Cleveland’s largest police unions is calling on Ohio Gov. John Kasich to temporarily restrict the state’s open carry gun laws during this week’s Republican National Convention following Sunday’s shooting in Louisiana that killed three officers and wounded at least three others.

“We are sending a letter to Gov. Kasich requesting assistance from him. He could very easily do some kind of executive order or something — I don’t care if it’s constitutional or not at this point,” Stephen Loomis, president of Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, told CNN. “They can fight about it after the RNC or they can lift it after the RNC, but I want him to absolutely outlaw open-carry in Cuyahoga County until this RNC is over.”
Governor Kasich says he doesn’t have the power to protect the officers and citizens by suspending Open Carry or even concealed carry at that ( which officers actually fear more) for the duration of the convention. Of course not. Even suspending the rights of some people ( a distinct minority) in order to save lives is not possible. Governors have tried to restrict voting laws, also Constitutional, and rights of women to exercise their Constitutional right to choose abortion, but guns? Not so much.
Let common sense win. Officers lives are at risk. Was the Baton Rouge shooting an ambush? Are we at war?
(Speaking of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, does anyone find it ludicrous that real guns can be carried but tennis balls and toy guns are banned in the perimeter of the convention area? )
Everyone’s lives are at risk. This is the insanity of our American gun culture. Why should anyone carry assault rifles around in public wearing fatigues or dressed all in black? Who are they or who do they think they are? And body armor was apparently found on one of the suspects in Baton Rouge. Why is body armor available to citizens? There is no reason to buy it or wear it than to know you are going to need it in a shooting.
Our country is experiencing a very bloody time right now. What are we going to do? Nothing is not an option. What will the gun lobby do now? Please don’t let them bring forth their tired old arguments about more guns making us safer or leading to a polite society or only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns or passing any law will lead directly to gun confiscation. Please.
We just have to be better than this. It’s time to #DisarmHate and demand a safe society for our families, our children, our grandchildren, people of all colors, races, religions, sexual preference, law enforcement officers, women…..
We are weary of the news reports. We are tired of the shootings, the grief, the press conferences, the statements from politicians, the 24/7 news coverage, and we are afraid of the next national gun tragedy.

#NRAAM NRA Convention, 2016 version

liarIf it’s May, it must be NRA convention time. The lies have just begun.So far, it has proven to be the usual with the exception of a certain Presidential candidate who showed up and spoke from notes he doesn’t usually use. From this article:

 

Trump also made it clear he wanted to woo the pro-gun crowd — but he seemed bored by his prepared remarks during his speech, joking about teleprompters before veering off onto other topics throughout the speech and even belittling his own remarks.

What did he say? More lies. But the crowd loved the lies and were excited to applaud a man whose transformation from a real estate guy who used to be in favor of common sense when it came to gun violence to a full-on card carrying NRA gun guy. He was, of course, endorsed by the NRA.

Whatever.

The lies? Let’s take them one at a time:

Donald Trump will make gun free zones guns allowed zones immediately upon taking the oath of office. Will that include his own properties? Will that include the annual NRA convention where guns are not allowed? It will, apparently include schools where it’s always a good idea for gun toters and teachers to be armed.

If this was such a good idea, why in the world are we the most dangerous country in the world when it comes to gun violence? Is this the great America Trump wants for us? How about this? Let’s make America safe again, a new slogan from Moms Demand Action. While the NRA is talking about more guns everywhere, a group of gun violence prevention activists will hold a screening of Katie Couric’s film, Under the Gun. featuring victims of gun violence telling their poignant stories.

We have more guns per person ( though many of those guns are owned by fewer people) already than any other country in the civilized and democratized world. And this kind of illogic fails to speak the truth. Most gun deaths are in guns allowed zones already. Take domestic shootings, many of which occur inside of homes. Or gun suicides, which often occur in a home where a gun is not only allowed but easily accessible to use in a suicide. Homes are not gun free zones since anyone can have a gun inside of their own home. I know that from personal experience.

Or gun ranges where people are killing themselves with increasing frequency?

Or how about hospitals, which are mostly gun free, where people like this lady who carried a gun in spite of the gun free zone, “accidentally” discharged her weapon injuring an innocent person.

Or what about cars? Are they gun free? Nope. Remember this one and this one where a toddler got their hands on a gun and shot their own parent? Or the guy who “accidentally” discharged his gun while sitting in his car waiting for his wife. Or the woman who was adjusting her bra gun holster and shot and killed herself?  Gun free zone? You decide.

Or how about taking selfies with your phone? Presumably the place where this happened was not a gun free zone.

Bars and restaurants in many states allow concealed guns inside. It hasn’t worked out particularly well as in this case, or this one. Or this one where a man forgot he had his gun when it fell from his jacket pocket in a restaurant ( presumably not a gun free zone) badly injuring one of the customers whose injuries will be life long. Or this Kansas man ( “law abiding gun owner) whose gun went off in a restaurant injuring his own wife. There are pages and pages of incidents like these if you look on the internet. Most of them occur in guns allowed zones. But if they occur in “gun free zones” who can one defend oneself from a stupid and dangerous gun carrier who believes he/she has a right to carry a loaded gun in public and then makes a terrible and sometimes deadly mistake. There’s no accounting for stupidity. But stupidity with a loaded gun is very serious stuff.

#Enough

Let’s move on to some more lies. Trump is making claims that Hillary Clinton wants to confiscate all guns and take away American’s right to own guns. Silly Donald. He knows better. But pandering to the minority of gun owners who are extreme in their positions is his ticket, he believes, to winning the election. Most NRA members don’t believe this and actually support requiring background checks on all gun sales. Shhhh. Don’t tell the Donald this. It doesn’t fit with his new-found support of gun rights.

Oh, and then there’s the lie about Hillary Clinton wanting violent criminals to go free. Just because he says so does not make it true. But never mind. Trying to make women fear crime in order to drive them to gun stores to buy a gun or to the polling booths is cynical at best and doesn’t deal with the truth that women are more at risk when there are guns in the home. But here is what Donald said anyway to get votes from women:

“In trying to overturn the Second Amendment, Hillary Clinton is telling everyone — and every woman living in a dangerous community — that she doesn’t have the right to defend herself,” Mr. Trump said. “So you have a woman living in a community, a rough community, a bad community — sorry, you can’t defend yourself.”

Trump has had a lot of trouble with his support from women because of his many comments and insults since his entry into the Presidential race.

It’s also the usual suspects who come calling at this display of gun extremism. Of course, it wouldn’t be an NRA convention without good old Wayne LaPierre whose annual speeches to convention goers never fail to drum up fear and paranoia. And then the list of politicians who have to pay homage to this group of gun extremists shows how our leaders are so afraid to admit that the second amendment actually can co-exist with gun rights as it has for many years now.

Sigh.

And what about those NRA leaders and Board members? Here’s a nice list so you can see who they are and who they represent. Ted Nugent, of course, is one of the loud mouth NRA Board members who offends people and issues racial and sexist slurs on a regular basis. And in late breaking news, Nugent was re-elected to the NRA Board with the 2nd highest vote total. That tells us everything we need to know about the participants at the convention and their willingness to support hate, racism and crudity.

And of course, if we follow the money to find out how the NRA is actually funded we don’t have to look much further than executives of Sturm-Ruger who presented the NRA-ILA with a nice 4 million dollar check. 

The displays are the usual- guns and more guns. And don’t forget those ugly displays of bleeding look-alike gun targets (women, Barack Obama, etc) , hyped up slogans and swag with anti-Obama sayings and more ludicrous lies about those who support the idea that 30,000 American gun deaths are too many.

In Louisville, Kentucky, the site of the annual convention this year, it’s been a bad year for gun deaths:

“We are having an epidemic,” says Michelle Unseld Thomas, a resident of the South Side.

The violence in Louisville right now is “unprecedented,” says Brown, the police major.

But never mind. The NRA doesn’t get involved in trying to prevent this upward trend of people shooting other people. One has to wonder if their insular world includes anyone who has become a victim of a gun death by suicide, homicide, or an “accidental” shooting. Likely not.

And the shootings continue unabated. Children are shooting themselves or each other daily. Domestic shootings are taking the lives of innocent women and children. Suicides account for the majority of gun deaths. Young men in communities of color are the victims of way too many shootings thanks to easy access to guns and mass shootings happen in America like in no other country in the world.

One of the biggest lies is that guns don’t affect suicide rates and that suicides should not be considered to be gun violence. That is false. Studies confirm that access to guns makes suicide easier and, of course, deadlier. A new study from the Journal of Public Health confirms this. If only the NRA could admit that guns contribute to the majority of gun deaths in America and believe in research and studies that deal with public health and safety. But denial and outright deception by the corporate gun lobby has kept the government from studying important issues like this. Follow the money for the reasons.

But never mind the truth. This convention is all about convincing those in attendance and those who get the NRA’s mailings and emails that America will only be safer if more people own guns to protect themselves from the government and all of those evil shadows lurking around every corner in every nook and cranny. Never mind that those guns are much more likely to be used against you or someone around you than in self defense.

And those militia groups and people who actually do believe the government is coming for your guns? I feel sorry for their fear. It must be difficult to live in a world where that kind of fear prompts people to have their own arsenals. It’s  a burden to have to live this way. Plus, it sometimes leads to home grown terrorism as in this deadly incident in Nevada.

Are we safer because of the hyped fear and paranoia spewed by gun rights extremists and those who speak at NRA conventions?

A recent study of angry behavior which received responses from gun owners and non gun owners revealed what we all most likely believe to be the truth. There are a lot of angry (mostly men) with guns carried for “self defense” who just may use them for something else. From the article by “Mike the Gun Guy”:

Where the number of guns owned by individuals seemed to be a real risk issue can be found in the correlation between number of guns owned, engaging in any of the three anger indicators and carrying a gun outside the home. The good news in this survey was that less than 5 percent of the respondents reported that they walked around with a gun. The not-so-good news is that folks who owned six or more guns and carried a concealed weapon reported that they engaged in at least one of the three impulsive behaviors four times more frequently than persons who owned five or fewer guns.

This study and others about anger and guns lends the lie to the idea that guns will make us safer. Way too often angry people with guns shoot others in an instant because they can. And that is the real America.

We can’t afford to lie about gun violence. And we sure as heck cannot afford to have one of our major political party candidates for President of the United States lying about something this serious.It is a national public health and safety epidemic that is largely going untreated because of the lies. Are we on the side of a safer America or one that allows lies and deceptions to determine policies and treatment that can save lives? This election will determine on whose side we are.

 

 

 

 

Denial about gun deaths

man escaping realityIn my last post I referenced a “conversation” I had with a gun rights supporter while standing in line for the Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on two bills that would keep guns away from dangerous people.  I want to talk about the denial of the gun rights community about what “universal” background checks actually mean.

I also want to talk about other lies and denials. The same man waiting in line with us to get into the committee hearing actually responded to my comment that I grew up in a hunting family and that my husband owned hunting guns by telling me I was lying to him. Really? Apparently he felt he could say anything and knew my life better than I did. There is no conversing with people like this. For what purpose would this man deny a comment made by someone about their own life and their own truth? It was incomprehensible.

Pretending and denying reality just won’t make the facts go away and doing so for a political purpose or for some unproven fear of rights being taken is disingenuous. And the corporate gun lobby has another reason for this denial- profits. Profits over saving lives is a vision for America that will keep people dying and keep people buying their guns out of fear and paranoia.

Inexcusable.

Some folks think gun violence prevention supporters are lying about everything. The facts and the truth don’t fit with their pre-conceived notions and fear and paranoia served up to them by the far right media and the gun lobby itself in the person of Mr. Wayne LaPierre. I mean, do they really believe this crap? Check out this new ad put out by the NRA after the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs and just before San Bernardino terror shooting:

“Innocents like us,” LaPierre says, addressing his NRA members directly to camera, “will continue to be slaughtered in concert halls, sports stadiums, restaurants and airplanes.”

“They will come to where we worship,” LaPierre warns as ominous music waves over blurred images of American everyday life, “where we educate and where we live.”

“But when evil knocks on our doors, Americans have a power no other people on the planet share,” LaPierre proudly proclaims, touting the Second Amendment. “Let fate decide if mercy is offered to the demons at our door.”

Good grief. Or you can check out this insanity yourself if you want to watch the video of the ad:

The denial and lies were obvious during the Minnesota hearing when the opposition to the two bills heard by the committee called the “universal background check” bill ( which it wasn’t called by the way) the “universal registration bill”. The committee chair and sponsor of the bill, Senator Ron Latz, made it quite clear that there was no registration in the bill. One can’t find that word or even anything that resembles gun registration in the language of the bill. But never mind. Denial and accusations of lies were thrown around copiously by those who testified in opposition to a bill that would be intended to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them. Do they actually want felons, those who are adjudicated mentally ill, domestic abusers and other prohibited people to get their hands on guns? I just can’t wrap my head around such faulty reasoning.

I think it’s time to take a look at this comedy segment from Inside Amy Schumer from her Comedy Central show.

The truth. Thank you Amy Schumer.

But back to the man in line with me who got increasingly angry when I challenged his “facts”. He “explained” to me that all of the gun violence in Minnesota is due to gang shootings. Now admittedly there have been a good number of shootings in the Twin Cities area involving gang activity. But according to Gun Violence Archive, there have been a good number of shootings in greater Minnesota as well in communities all over our state. Avon, Duluth, Waseca, Rochester, Shakopee, Plymouth and many other communities not named.

This man must have conveniently forgotten the recent heinous shooting of a woman in Plymouth, Minnesota as she tried to get away from her fiancee, angry over something that happened in a bar. She was shot to death right on a busy street as people watched. Not a gang shooting.

He must have conveniently forgotten the shooting that happened last week when a husband shot and killed his wife in a domestic shooting in Ramsey, Minnesota and then himself- in front of their young children. Not a gang shooting.

He must have conveniently forgotten the shooting incident last winter at a resort in Tofte, Minnesota when a man with a permit to carry shot and killed another man at a company party. Not a gang shooting.

There are so many more but I don’t room for them here. These gun rights folks also conveniently ( or inconveniently) forget that 80% of gun deaths in Minnesota are suicides. Teens and older men are the most frequent victims of gun suicides. That is an inconvenient truth.

And here is another inconvenient truth. Gang shooting victims are not the majority of gun violence victims. From this article by Evan DeFillipis for Huffington Post:

The most recent Centers for Disease Control study on this subject lends further credence to our claim. It examined five cities that met the criterion for having a high prevalence of gang homicides: Los Angeles, California; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Long Beach, California; Oakland, California; and Newark, New Jersey. In these cities, a total of 856 gang and 2,077 non-gang homicides were identified and included in the analyses. So, even when examining cities with the largest gang problems, gang homicides only accounted for 29 percent of the total for the period under consideration (2003-2008). For the nation as a whole it would be much smaller.

(…) The 80 percent of gang-related gun homicides figure purporting to support Loesch’s claim, then, is not only false, but off by nearly a factor of five. The direct opposite is necessarily true: more than 80 percent of gun homicides are non-gang related. While gang violence is still a serious problem that needs to be addressed, it is disingenuous to assert that the vast majority of our gun problem (even excluding suicides) is caused by gangs.

In spite of this, LaPierre’s proposed solution to gun violence is to “contact every U.S. Attorney and ask them to bring at least 10 cases per month against drug dealers, gang members and other violent felons caught illegally possessing firearms.”

And the article ends with this truth:

Gun advocates’ blind focus on gangs, drugs and violent felons overlooks the larger gun problem facing America. It is irresponsible and disingenuous for some of us to brush off our staggering death toll from firearms merely as the product of gangs or even violent criminals. Recognizing America’s high homicide rate for what it is — a gun problem — is the first step in solving it.

The man in line showed me an article from one of his own conservative sites that made a claim that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that gang deaths were the majority of gun deaths. The article I have quoted is the truth. The CDC has reported no such thing. This man apparently has digested what Mr. Wayne La Pierre and others in the gun lobby are suggesting in denial of the truth.

And this, dear readers, is why we are making little progress in any common sense solutions to our national public health and safety epidemic. It is also why we need very good and credible research on the effects of guns and gun violence in our country. But the gun lobby has cleverly managed to even halt that. This is just not OK. We shouldn’t accept this kind of faulty reasoning when the truth is staring us in the face.

We have a gun problem in America. It is not like in any other democratized country not at war. It is inconvenient to some. It is tragic and devastating to many.

We are better than this.

Road rage in Minnesota

RoadrageIt’s happened again. Someone decided to take out their anger over a traffic problem with a gun. Why do people carry guns in their cars? That is the question. Let’s look at what happened in Minneapolis yesterday:

 

A 39-year-old woman who honked at a vehicle that cut her off was shot four times in rush-hour traffic on Hennepin Avenue in Minneapolis Tuesday.

Police spokesman John Elder said the woman was southbound near Groveland Avenue at 5 p.m. when she was cut off by a beige four-door Jeep Cherokee with tinted windows.

She honked at the car, which then slowed down next to her driver side, and a passenger shot at her multiple times with a black handgun, Elder said. The victim, who was shot three times in the arm and once in the stomach, drove several blocks and called 911. She is hospitalized and expected to survive her injuries, police said.

The shooter has not been found yet but no doubt he will be. When he is, many questions need to be asked. Was he a law abiding permit holder? Was the gun legally obtained or illegally obtained. How did he get the gun? And the biggest question- why shoot someone over a honk?

This is not the first time road rage incidents have ended in injury or death by gun and not the first time in Minnesota. Five women were shot at in January as they were being driven on a freeway in an Uber car- just in January of this year. The shooter has not yet been found.

I could list many more in Minnesota and in states all over the country but you get the picture.

So shouldn’t we be able to drive on roads and freeways without fear of being shot? I say the answer is a resounding YES. So why allow guns in cars in the first place? Before Minnesota passed a law in 2005 to allow “law abiding” gun owners to carry guns around with them wherever they go, this was just not happening. Or if it was, it was pretty rare. Sure, some who have illegal guns have likely been carrying guns around all along. But now we have made it part of our every day culture as if it is normal. It’s not.

Further, we have not even discussed children finding guns in their parents’ cars or permit holders shooting themselves while fiddling with guns in their cars. It happens often and I have written about this before. Most recently a Florida child found his mother’s gun in her car and shot it off “accidentally” sending a bullet flying through the front seat, injuring his gun loving mother in the back.

Senseless.

If you look at the image in this post, you can see a man shaking his fist. No one died or was injured as a result. But when a gun is there at the ready, the result is very different. And that is the problem with allowing guns everywhere we play, drive, live, learn, work, eat and walk.

No wonder 141 public health institutions, including the Minnesota Public Health Association, have signed a letter to Congress asking for an end to the funding prohibition for the Centers for Disease Control to study the causes and effects of gun violence. It is the health care providers who treat the injured and deal with the deaths. They understand perfectly well that bullets cause death and injury. They deal with health risks every day and they want some answers. They also understand that, like other public health epidemics, we can do something about it if we understand how it is caused. That is the American way. It’s all about common sense. We all deserve the questions and the answers and most importantly, the victims deserve a chance at live so their families will not be left with a large hole in their lives due to the shooting of a loved one.

If you believe its normal for people to be shooting at innocent drivers and passengers while they are going about their daily business, you are part of the problem. But since I know that most of you agree with me, the time is now to express your frustration and concern over a public health and safety issue that many of our leaders have chosen to ignore. Lives can be saved. And lives are taken every day in senseless avoidable incidents like the ones above.

If you’ve had #Enough of this craziness, let your legislators and Congress members know that you expect them to stand up for the victims and not the gun lobby whose interest lies in profits over saving lives. Get involved. Speak up. Write letters. Send emails. Make phone calls. Join a gun violence prevention group. That is how change will happen. A bill to require background checks on all gun sales is sitting in the Minnesota legislature waiting for a hearing. Protect Minnesota supports this legislation and is asking legislators to sign on and bring it to a hearing. It won’t get a hearing if you don’t make some noise. Similar background check bills are sitting in Congress waiting for enough co-sponsors to bring them to committee hearings. That won’t happen if you don’t make noise.

Under the gun- getting our heads out of the sand

head_sand_110731When Congress and the gun lobby can decide for the nation that an agency that studies and makes recommendations about public health issues should not study gun violence, we have a serious problem. One wonders why it has taken so long for this national disgrace to get the attention it deserves? Why have we let this happen? Because this stuff flies under the radar and the public does not know or understand the extent to which the gun lobby has gone to get its’ way.

After the Sandy Hook shooting in December of 2012, something changed in this country. The gun lobby has been under more well deserved scrutiny than ever before and that scrutiny is not complementary. I’m talking about the fear of retribution about even mentioning the idea that we should study the causes and effects of gun violence, of course.

An article from The Trace examined what is going on at the CDC ( Centers for Disease Control) and found some known and unknown facts that should concern us very much if we care about saving lives and preventing the devastation of gun violence. From the article:

“It was the leadership of CDC who stopped the agency from doing gun violence research,” Mark Rosenberg, a founder of the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the division of the agency responsible for its work on the subject, tells The Trace. “Right now, there is nothing stopping them from addressing this life-and-death national problem.”

How much latitude the CDC has to pursue gun violence research is hardly an academic argument. The CDC is the nation’s leading public health agency, with a yearly budget of more than $11 billion. The failure of the CDC to invest in studies of gun violence has greatly inhibited the ability of social scientists, law enforcement agencies, and policymakers to understand the scope and causes of shootings — while also limiting understanding of interventions that might save lives.

How could this happen in a country that values research and being on the leading edge of solving public health problems?

The CDC was one of the first agencies to study gun violence as a public health issue. In 1992, Rosenberg and five colleagues launched the Division of Violence Prevention at the Injury Center, operating out of a converted men’s room with a yearly budget of around $260,000. Without any political impediments, they began to focus on identifying the root causes of firearm deaths and the best methods to prevent them.

One of the first studies that the division funded was “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home.” Published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1993, the research found that the mere presence of a gun in a home increased the risk of a firearm-related death by 2.7 percent, and suicide fivefold — a “huge” increase, according to Rosenberg.

The NRA was furious about the findings, which it viewed as biased. The gun organization launched a campaign to shut down the Injury Center, an effort soon joined by two conservative groups led by pro-gun medical professionals,Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership and Doctors for Integrity and Policy Research. The latter famously called CDC investigators “liars masquerading in lab coats.” The NRA and the conservative doctors’ groups began pressuring members of Congress to stop the CDC’s gun violence research. By 1995, eight senators had signed on to the cause. The next year, 1996, Republican Representative Jay Dickey of Arkansas introduced the amendment bearing his name as a rider to an appropriations bill.

Notably, the Dickey Amendment did not immediately lead to a total stoppage of gun violence research by the CDC, as Satcher kept a few existing initiatives alive. But when Satcher left the CDC in 1998, Rosenberg says, his departure marked the end of substantive gun research at the agency. The new director, Jeffrey Koplan, had little interest in continuing the agency’s work on gun violence prevention, Rosenberg says.

 Ah. Now it makes sense. Or not. More…

In his 2017 budget request, President Obama requested $10 million specifically for gun violence research at the CDC — which works out to roughly 0.1 percent of the agency’s total funding allotment. Rosenberg believes that rather than waiting for a Republican-controlled Congress to grant Obama’s request, the CDC could immediately divert that sum from other programs to jumpstart new studies.

“They could do that in the blink of an eye,” he says.

Satcher, the CDC director who sought to shield gun research from cuts, says he understands Rosenberg’s viewpoint — but also knows firsthand how political realities can shape agency policy.

“I think it could be feasible, but the question is, how would it affect their budget?” he asks. “How would Congress punish the CDC for that? It would be easy for me to criticize the CDC, and I’m tempted to do that. But I also know the kind of risks they’re facing.”

Ok. Now we are getting at the truth of the matter. The CDC would be punished by Congress for using money in its’ budget for research into the causes and effects of gun violence.

Sigh.

So it’s a risk to study gun violence? And if the research shows that it’s a risk to have loaded guns lying around at home, what does that mean for the public health and safety? What does that mean for the corporate gun lobby and gun manufacturers? What does that mean for the American gun culture? And most important of all, what does that mean for saving lives? Hmmm.

Where is common sense? Why would one lobby group get to decide on vital national research into the causes of one of our nation’s most serious national public health epidemics. For what other cause takes the lives of 30,000 Americans and doesn’t get the attention and the concern it should have? And why is a lobby group so afraid of what the research would divulge if given a chance? What would be the result? Would Americans begin to take their heads out of the sand and see that guns in homes are an actual risk to their families and communities? How awful would that be? Perhaps only 20,000 Americans would lose their lives to bullets or suffer from fewer injuries that cost us all billions every year. Would that be so bad?

We already know that the gun lobby does not like Physicians talking to their patients about the risks of guns in the home. They have done in Florida what they would like to do everywhere- punish Physicians for doing their jobs. From the article:

When a Florida pediatrician asked the same question — “Do you have guns in the home?” — during a checkup in 2010, the reply from a mother of three was sharp: None of your business. She objected to the query as “very invasive,”complaining to her local newspaper, “Whether I have a gun has nothing to do with the health of my child.”

And so began what’s come to be known as the Docs vs. Glocks dispute. In 2011, after a lobbying push by the National Rifle Association, Florida passed the Firearm Owners’ Privacy Act, restricting physicians from asking about gun ownership and from counseling about gun safety in routine appointments. Potential penalties include fines, suspension and loss of a medical license. A federal judge blocked the law as an unconstitutional restriction of doctors’ speech. Then an appeals court panel overturned the ruling, emphasizing patients’ rights to own guns and to privacy.

This Florida case is just the latest example of how the politics of guns have affected physicians’ ability to bring science to bear on what experts can see plainly: That gun violence is a public health issue. The full U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit is now preparing to hear the case, and legislators in at least 12 states have expressed interest in similar bills. So it’s worth correcting what lawmakers and the court panel misunderstand about the doctor-patient relationship and about the relevance of firearms to pediatric care — in a country where more than 2 million children live in homes with unsecured guns.

There are reasons for health care providers to discuss common safety and risk factors with their patients and patients’ families. More from the article ( written by a Pediatrician for the Washington Post):

But beyond responding to immediate warning signs, responsible doctors need to be able to counsel patients on matters that pose the greatest statistical risks to their health and well-being. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Americans 65 years and older, so doctors talk to their elderly patients about healthy eating habits, regular exercise and smoking cessation. For children between the ages of 1 and 14, the leading cause of death is unintentional injury, a category that includes car accidents, suffocation, burns, drowning and gunshot wounds.

As pediatricians, we counsel parents about all of these issues. We explain how to properly install car seats. We caution against children playing with plastic bags. We teach about safe water temperature. We discuss safety around pools.

Gun safety is no different from any of these topics. Comprehensive numbers on gun accidents are hard to come by, in part because National Rifle Association lobbying and limited funding has deterred the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting firearm research. But outside research found that in 2015, children accidentally shot themselves or someone else at least 278 times, averaging more than five times a week. By some estimates, keeping guns locked up and unloaded could prevent 70 percent of unintentional shooting deaths among children.

Sometimes parents aren’t aware that their gun storage practices are unsafe. During one recent appointment at our clinic, a mother said she wasn’t sure if there were any guns in her home. Her father is a police officer, she said, and there might have been one or two in a closet. In a 2006 study published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, nearly a quarter of parents who reported that their children had not handled a household gun were contradicted by their children.

Would it be so bad to recognize that suicide by gun takes more lives than homicide by gun? Would it be so bad to admit that too many self proclaimed “law abiding” gun owners are leaving guns out for children and teens to access, causing avoidable and totally senseless loss of life? Would that be so bad?

Until we make this one of our most important issues and the focus of attention and research, the devastation of gun violence will continue unabated. Until the corporate gun lobby comes forward to help do something about this public health and safety epidemic, they can’t be taken seriously when they claim that they teach safety with guns.

In case you haven’t noticed, it isn’t working. Kids are still getting their hands on guns and killing or injuring themselves and others. Domestic abusers are still gaining access to guns and shooting intimate partners on a regular basis. Teens and older males are still shooting themselves in suicides that don’t have to be but continue because of easy access to guns- the method most often used and most effective for the taking of one’s own life. Our military members will still be shooting themselves because of lack of services, PTSD, depression and battle wounds. In this article about the Minnesota National Guard and the high number of suicides, this quote says what we know but don’t talk about often enough:

Most have been men. The average age of victims was 26 — much younger than the middle-aged males in the general population who kill themselves. The most common cause of death — a self-inflicted gunshot.

Can we talk about this openly without fear of being attacked by the gun lobby? Lives depend on the answer.

Meanwhile, gangs will continue shooting at each other and often taking innocent lives in the process. Law enforcement will still shoot innocent people when it’s not necessary. Armed citizens will roam our streets with guns so law enforcement officers feel the need to protect themselves. People will still come up with ways to manufacture ever smaller, more concealable pistols for public use. The gun lobby will still convince elected leaders with their heads planted firmly in the sand and in the campaign money trough that guns should be carried everywhere we go. Researchers will still be fearful that if they dare consider the idea that we should have a better understanding of what causes most of our gun deaths and how we can prevent them, they will lose their funding or suffer from the offensive and vile vendettas against them from gun extremists.

And those of us who are publicly writing, speaking and taking actions against the gun violence that is so obviously a public health epidemic will still be called names and suffer from the hateful comments from the gun extremists.

But the majority of Americans are now on the side of common sense. That is little solace when their leaders refuse to act on behalf of victims and survivors and do the right thing. Elections are coming soon. Vote for #gunsense and make sure you know how your candidates stand on saving lives and supporting the public health and safety of their constituents. We can’t let the gun extremists win any longer. Threats of violence, fear of a minority of gun owners, attacking candidates who stand with the majority- not acceptable any more.

Take your heads out of the sand. Lives depend on it. We have had #Enough of this nonsense in the name of profit and power. Let’s get to work and demand the change our country deserves.

Why gun research matters

ПечатьGuns matter. Gun deaths matter. Gun laws matter. Lives matter. Data matters. Research matters. Facts matter. What is becoming more and more necessary is good research into the causes and effects of gun violence in America.

Remember that Congress passed a law in 1996 to stifle and halt research by the CDC into what causes so much gun violence in our country. Representative Jay Dickey, who at the time pushed this law, was beholden to the corporate gun lobby and did their bidding. Now that he doesn’t have to worry about their bullying tactics any more he understands that the law was detrimental to our public health and safety and has said so publicly. Good for him. Let’s take a look:

“It is my position that somehow or someway we should slowly but methodically fund such research until a solution is reached,” he wrote in a letter released through the office of Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.). “Doing nothing is no longer an acceptable solution.” (…)

The former GOP congressman, 75, reached at home Thursday, said “political purposes” should have never gotten in the way of the issue. He conceded he “should have done something” to see that the research continue.

NRA LOBBYING LED TO LAW THAT STOPPED CDC FROM USING FEDERAL FUNDS TO STUDY GUN VIOLENCE

“Research will lead us to a solution,” Dickey said. “I have no idea what it’s going to be. I just couldn’t stay quiet any longer. It doesn’t look like anybody else is trying to get a solution.”

Dickey compared gun violence to car accidents. Highway regulation and research aren’t meant to deter car ownership — they’re meant for safety, he said.

“(Gun violence) is an insidious social problem that we have in America, and it’s getting worse, in my opinion,” he said.

Dickey said he was “almost numb” as reports emerged of Wednesday’s shooting in San Bernardino, Calif., in which 14 people were killed and 21 wounded.

“It’s just a shame … innocent people,” he said.

But years after that law went into effect, public shootings of 6 year olds in a school, Christian black people in churches, Muslims in homes, journalists on live TV, people sitting in movie theaters, horrendous domestic homicide/suicides, gang shootings in our inner cities, increased numbers of gun suicides by teens and rural white men, and toddlers killing themselves on a regular basis, the carnage continues unabated.

Former Representative Dickey spoke truth to power. He is right. It’s insidious and a shame. Too many innocent people are dying.

Others are doing the much needed research and presenting us with the proof that gun laws matter and can prevent some of the nation’s shootings. This New York Times comprehensive article, replete with useful charts and information, should be required reading for legislators and Congress:

In the past decade, Missouri has been a natural experiment in what happens when a state relaxes its gun control laws. For decades, it had one of the nation’s strongest measures to keep guns from dangerous people: a requirement that all handgun buyers get a gun permit by undergoing a background check in person at a sheriff’s office.

Here is one of the incredible graphs disproving the gun lobby’s argument that strict gun laws don’t matter. Gun trafficking from state to state is easy because we have made it easy. And thus, even if states or cities pass strong laws, gun violence continues. It’s a slippery slope.

Well researched graphs, maps and charts help us understand the causes and effects of our insidious and shameful national public health epidemic. For example:

An interactive map of where licensed gun dealers are located in the country makes it easy to find out how many there are near you.  As it turns out, there are more of them than there are grocery stores or McDonalds restaurants. It’s actually pretty darned convenient to find a gun dealer to do a Brady background check.

Minneapolis and St. Paul have had more gun homicides this year than in past years. And here’s a map to show where the shootings occurred:

More than 11 months later, with 2016 approaching, Minneapolis has seen 49 homicides this year, according to city data, considerably more than the 32 recorded in 2014 and the most since 2006.

St. Paul recorded 17 homicides in 2015, including a victim who died this year of an injury sustained in 2012, up from 13 in 2014.

Of the 65 homicides in both cities, 49 involved firearms. The rest were either stabbings or beatings.

The gun lobby often argues that guns are not responsible for the most homicides. They are wrong. Also, many of these gun deaths are happening in our core urban cities with the impacted communities being people of color.

Why does any of this matter? Because if we truly are serious about preventing the carnage, we need data to help us with solutions. Silencing research on guns and gun violence has a deadly affect on our communities. The corporate gun lobby’s insidious influence on policy is leading to devastating gun deaths and injuries.

We make it far too easy for citizens who shouldn’t have access to guns to get them anyway. Laws matter. With stronger laws will come a stronger public resolve that we take this seriously and we care about innocent people getting shot in our homes, schools, shopping malls, parking lots, hospitals, at holiday parties, churches, military bases, government buildings, etc. And please do remember that some of the shooters in these places obtained their guns legally. That is because in America we have such a cavalier and twisted outlook and attitude about guns because….. rights, because…. Congress, because…..second amendment absolutists, because…. corporate gun lobby, that there is a total lack of common sense.

More data lets us know which large cities have seen the most shootings of civilians by officers. Police departments all over America, including in Minneapolis, have been under fire for shootings of citizens, often black citizens. Looking at the data and learning from it can make our large cities safer.

It’s important to understand shootings by officers and shootings of officers so our communities can better deal with insidious gun violence that plagues our largest urban areas.

Here is information about how many officers have been killed in the line of duty and an interesting fact is that firearms have caused fewer deaths of officers in 2015 than in 2014. Traffic accidents have accounted for an increased number of officer deaths. And “other causes” have increased 70% over 2014. It seems like this is important information for the safety of officers while on duty.

Why again do we not want research and data on the subject of gun violence? You will have to ask people who hang around with the corporate gun lobby and your elected leaders. The answer is very important to public health and safety.

And while we are waiting for common sense to break out these are the daily reports in the media, on the internet or on blogs:

“Law abiding” DC area gun owner gets impatient when a holiday shopper has trouble with his credit card at an exit of a shopping mall and shoots at the man.

 

A Washington state man was arrested for possession an illegal gun and saying he wanted a .50 caliber rifle to shoot officers:

Today, the assistant U.S. attorney told the judge that Barbeau was trying to buy a .50 caliber rifle that would be quote “advantageous” in a shootout with law enforcement. And that he was seen in photos posing next to explosives that federal agents have yet to locate.

But hey, what’s the problem? These are readily available anywhere for the most part and his friends and family believe he is just trying to exercise his rights:

But his family says Barbeau is just trying to protect the rights of his fellow citizens, and sometimes gets caught up in inflammatory rhetoric.

“He gets pretty emotional when things are happening and injustices are happening around him. And he tends to say some things that maybe I wouldn’t say,” said Milam. ” But I don’t believe at all that he is out to start there is any part of him that is out to start anything with anybody.”

I, for one, am glad this guy is not on the loose with his guns.

Data matters. In the case above, the FBI had been following this guy because of threats to police officers. Not OK. Home grown terrorists have been responsible for more than a few high profile shootings in our country.

Research is happening now despite the gun lobby’s distaste for it and their resistance to facts. The tired old NRA and corporate gun lobby arguments are going to fall on deaf ears soon enough. Armed with research and facts, our country will demand, as the majority already have, that our leaders get down to business and do their jobs to keep us safe from devastating gun violence and terror attacks. This is not rocket science.