The Charleston 9

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We are better than this.

In memory:

Rev. Clementa Pinckney

Rev. Sharonda Singleton

Myra Thompson

Tywanza Sanders

Ethel Lee Lance

Cynthia Hurd

Rev. Daniel L. Simmons Sr.

Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor

Susie Jackson

Look at their faces. Say their names.

Shooting Anniversary again

Today another shooting anniversary is upon us- that of the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise who was at a baseball practice for a Congressional baseball game. One other person was injured and one was killed in the shooting. The shooter was a left-wing activist:

Hodgkinson was a left-wing activist[10][11] from Belleville, Illinois, while Scalise was a Republican member of Congress. The Virginia Attorney General concluded Hodgkinson’s attack was “an act of terrorism…fueled by rage against Republican legislators”.[12] Scalise was the first sitting member of Congress to have been shot since Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords was shot in 2011

In America we have home grown terrorists who account for more shootings than any foreign terrorists in spite of what the right wing and Wayne LaPierre want us to believe:

From 2009 through 2018, right-wing extremists accounted for 73 percent of such killings, according to the ADL, compared with 23 percent for Islamists and 3 percent for left-wing extremists. In other words, most terrorist attacks in the United States, and most deaths from terrorist attacks, are caused by white extremists. But they do not cause the sort of nationwide panic that helped Trump win the 2016 election and helped the GOP expand its Senate majority in the midterms.

When white extremists kill, politicians do not demand that they be racially profiled. They do not call for bans on white people coming to the United States. They do not insist that white people’s freedom of movement be restricted, their houses of worship be surveilled, their leaders be banned from holding public office, or their neighborhoods be “secured” and occupied by armed agents of the state. And they do not demand that taxpayers foot the bill for a massive, symbolic monument that will register America’s official disdain for white people in perpetuity.

We should be talking about where the guns come from that flow in Mexico and the Central American countries from where so many migrants are coming and trying to get into the U.S. For the most part they are not rapists and murderers as President Trump continues to say in spite of the facts to the contrary. And many of these migrants are trying to escape the violence that is happening in their countries in part due to the guns that come in from us. We have a vicious circle. These migrants, if they end up being able to stay in the U.S. will live in a country where the gun death rates are among the highest of any democratized country not at war.

Let’s take a look at the above linked article about guns flowing into Mexico:

report from the Center of American Progress found that the United States was the primary source of weapons used in crime in Mexico and Canada. Other countries in Central America can also trace a large proportion of guns seized in crimes to the United States. For example, the report found that from 2014 to 2016, 49 percent of crime guns seized in El Salvador were originally purchased in the U.S. In Honduras, 45 percent of guns recovered in crime scenes were traced to the United States as well. (…) On paper it’s significantly harder to legally purchase a firearm in Mexico than it is in the United States. So if it’s so difficult to buy a gun in Mexico, where do all of the country’s guns come from? The answer has as much if not more to do with U.S. gun policy than with Mexico’s, though the issue is rarely brought up in America’s political debates over gun control and border security.

The right to own guns is in Mexico’s constitution, as it is in the U.S., but Mexican gun laws are highly restrictive. The Mexican army is the only entity allowed to sell guns in the country, either to private security firms, private citizens or to local police. In fact, there is only one legal gun store in the country, which is also run by the Mexican army and located in Mexico City. Assault weapons and any weapon more powerful than a .38 caliber gun is banned from personal use, with few exceptions. Only the military is allowed to use high-powered firearms. (…) So-called “straw purchasers” play a key role in firearms trafficking from the U.S. to Mexico and other points south. Typically “straw purchasers” are intermediary or middleman buyers who purchase and execute all the paperwork required for a legal firearm transaction on behalf of someone else. These purchasers are usually American citizens who adhere to U.S. gun laws, including passing a background check or meeting other applicable federal and state gun laws.

In many cases, “traffickers will run a ring of straw buyers,” said Kristen Rand, the legislative director for the Violence Policy Center. “The traffickers are exploiting the background check system because they just find people who can have the background check, and as long as they don’t raise suspicion with the dealer, then it’s difficult to identify that this is illegal.”

If we pass stronger gun laws we would not only reduce the violence here at home but in other countries as well. And perhaps our immigration problem would also be affected.

Congressman Scalise survived his shooting and is back in the halls of Congress on this 2nd anniversary. He loves his job. Instead of changing his views on gun safety reform though , he dug in more deeply:

Echoing comments made by other congressional Republicans and the White House, Scalise said that lawmakers should focus on supporting victims and law enforcement before advocating for a legislative response.

“Because first of all you’ve got to recognize that when there’s a tragedy like this, the first thing we should be thinking about is praying for the people who were injured and doing whatever we can to help them, to help law enforcement. We shouldn’t first be thinking of promoting our political agenda,” Scalise said.

Scalise’s congressional website notes that his support gun rights has earned him an A-plus rating from the National Rifle Association. The bills he has supported over the years would ease interstate gun sales and ensure national reciprocity for concealed-carry permit holders. 

No. Prayers? What good does that do. This is a deflection and denial of the actual public health epidemic of gun violence. The old mantra that we shouldn’t talk about “gun control” after a mass shooting is becoming laughable considering that since 2013 there has been only one full week without one.:

Since 2013, there has been only one full calendar week — the week of January 5, 2014 — without a mass shooting.

The longest respite was 11 days between January 8, 2013, and January 18, 2013, when no mass shootings were reported, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

This, of course, does not include shootings like Congressman Scalise”s or my sister’s or my friend’s father who committed suicide by gun or the other 100 a day who die every day from gunshot injuries.

Gun violence prevention groups and their partners continue to hold vigils, ring bells, light candles, bring candles, march, rally, speak out but yet they ignore our voices and our pleas.

Congressman Scalise voted against H.R. 8 requiring background checks on all gun sales and H.R. 1112 to close the Charleston loophole allowing shooters like the one who massacred nine innocent people at Mother Emmanuel AMA Church in Charleston. How could anyone vote against these bills?

He has received campaign money from the NRA to the tune of over $36,000. Is that why?

Next week is the 4th anniversary of the Charleston hate shooting. I will write more then.

If we talk about all of this, we just might have to do something about it. And that would make all the common sense in the world. And it would stop the flow of guns into the hands of those who should not have them. It would also likely lead to a drop of gun sales. God forbid that should happen. And what would Congress members like Steve Scalise do with the financial and other support from the NRA?

Given the revelations about continued corrupt practices of the NRA Scalise and others would be much better off morally if they stopped accepting support from the organization. They don’t seem to care about that. Watch this:

So as we think about mass shooting anniversaries or personal anniversaries of loved ones who have been murdered or killed by suicide or an “accidental shooting” let’s also remember that we need an anniversary of a day when the full Congress votes to reduce and prevent gun violence and thinks more about the country than their own elections.

No more thoughts and prayers. We want action.

Gone but not forgotten

Bell and rocksWhile I was away from my blog several important shooting anniversaries came and went. As time goes by after mass shootings or any shooting, the memories fade and we forget about the pain and the national debate about gun violence. That is how the gun lobby wants it. Calling attention to anniversaries and remembering victims is a painful reminder that, as a country, we are doing virtually nothing to stop the next one from happening.

In fact, a mass shooting occurred just the other day in New Jersey. An all night Art Fair, which is a yearly event, attracted not just art lovers but gun lovers. An alleged “neighborhood dispute” (gang related) ended with 17 injured by bullets and the death of the shooter ( by police). In spite of New Jersey’s strict gun laws there are still shootings as there are in every state. When over 300 million guns are floating around in our country it is becoming easier and easier for shootings like this to take place anywhere.

Gun rights advocates do like to blame most shootings on gangs. They are wrong of course but I’m sure this will happen with this shooting.

My local chapter held a wonderful and meaningful event to mark the 2nd anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. As the names of the victims were read by a Spanish speaking university professor, the bell was rung in memory. All of the names were written on rainbow colored rocks displayed on a table. 49 families remembered the day two years ago when they learned of the death of their loved ones. It was the worst mass shooting by number until the Las Vegas mass shooting surpassed the number of victims.

We can’t forget about the victims, most from the GLBTQ+ community and of Hispanic origin. There has been debate about whether the shooting was homophobic in nature, a “terror” attack or something else. It really doesn’t matter. It was a mass shooting of innocent people who were just living their lives.

Let’s get one thing clear. Mass shootings like the Pulse nightclub shooting are domestic terror attacks. We should call it like it is.

Also, on June 17th, the 3rd anniversary of the Charleston church shooting passed with little notice. For the 9 families of those who lost their lives that day, it was not unnoticed. Anniversaries like that never are. We can’t forget this awful hate crime against members of a Black church. And we remember Cynthia, Clementa, Susie, Ethel, DePayne, Tywanza, Daniel, Sharonda, and Myra.

And tomorrow, the President will show up in home town for a rally. He will bring with him the usual fear, anger and paranoia. Many of us are organizing rallies and events of our own to speak out against the policies of the GOP party and the President. In light of the immigration debacle and attention paid to the disgraceful and shameful separation of children from their parents, we will be showing our opposition to this and other policies with which we disagree. Of course gun violence prevention is just one since there has been no action in spite of the many kids separated from their parents after being shot to death. And their fathers. We can’t forget the pain suffered by the fathers who couldn’t have their children with them on Father’s Day because of a deadly bullet to their bodies.

Many mamas and papas are missing their children every day. We should not be a country that countenances the awful policy adopted by the administration regarding immigrant children. The cries heard on the tape now made public are haunting. 

Just as we are haunted by the deaths of small children and of teens that occur on a regular basis in our country. We are better than this as a country and should not accept that there is nothing we can do. Our voices are crying out for action. Our voices are crying out for compassion and for caring. Our voices call out for common sense. 

Tomorrow is the summer solstice. In my city, we are having a Soulstice event to feed our souls with music, poetry, speeches and a large get together of those who are wanting change and compassion.

June 21st is ASK day. Parents can save lives by asking if there are unsecured loaded guns where kids can access them. And teens should ask their parents and their parents’ friends if their own guns are secured as well. Teen gun suicide is a leading cause of death and a senseless avoidable death.

Asking will save lives.

We have had #Enough and we call BS every day that no action is taken.

As an addendum to my post I am including a few photos of one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited in the Banff National Park in Canada. It was worth the trip to find so much peace and beauty in one place and not have to worry about gun toting visitors to disturb the peace.

A broken background check system

Background checks workThe shooting of 26 at a small church in Texas is now history and America has turned to other things. That is the way things go here. The victims and survivors have not forgotten though. If we let this shooting, like all of the other mass shootings and every day shootings go the way of Wikipedia and move on, we can expect to see many more.

What will we do about saving lives land preventing shootings?

We are not helpless to fix this national public health epidemic. Some laws are broken and need to be fixed and we need some new laws that, in this political atmosphere are unlikely to be passed.

Our background check system for gun purchases is broken. There is absolutely no rational reason not to require a background check on every single gun sale. We require them for adopting a pet, for a whole lot of other important jobs and responsibilities. But because the corporate gun lobby has co-opted any common sense discussion about reforms to our gun policy and gun culture, we have allowed people to buy guns without background checks all over our country.

easier to get a gun,,,

The Charleston loophole has not been fixed even after 8 were shot and killed in a small Charleston, South Carolina church in 2015:

Roof was able to buy the weapon after the investigator assigned to complete his background check wasn’t able to find his police record, which contained a confession for drug possession. Under federal law, NICS has three business days to finish vetting a gun buyer, or the sale can proceed. When the deadline expired with his background check still incomplete, Roof got his gun.

Last summer, the story of Roof’s dead-end background check helped expose a loophole that annually allows upwards of 3,000 persons deemed too risky to own a gun to acquire a firearm via so-called “default proceed” sales.

And so, we see the results every day. There really are hardly words to describe the shooting in a small church in the small Texas town of Sutherland, Texas. How can one family lose 8 people at once in a shooting? How can a shooter shoot and kill and 18 month old baby?

The shooter had serious problems while in the air force:

Devin Patrick Kelley’s June 2012 escape from Peak Behavioral Health Systems in New Mexico occurred months after he was accused of abusing his ex-wife and her child, according to an El Paso Police Department report obtained by CNN affiliate KVIA on Tuesday.
Kelley was picked up after the Santa Teresa, New Mexico, facility listed him as missing. The documents said officers had been warned that Kelley was a danger to himself and others and that he had sneaked firearms onto Holloman Air Force Base, where he had reportedly threatened his commanders.

All of this and he was able to buy guns.

This is America. This is not normal or inevitable. This is a public health epidemic of huge proportions. Americans and Texans are angry, sad, upset, shocked,

There is no doubt that we need to make some serious changes and make it harder for certain people to get guns. It wouldn’t hurt law abiding citizens if it was harder for them to get a gun either for the good of the whole and for saving lives. If people go through background checks and lengthy processes for other things in their lives, they can do the same to acquire a gun. This is a no brainer and the majority concur.

So put on your game faces and let’s get to work on crafting, supporting and passing a policy that will save lives. Brady background checks have prevented the sale of 3 million guns since the system was authorized and set up.

 

What is wrong with us? Every day we watch the carnage. A few days ago a family was wiped out in Scottsdale Arizona over financial troubles.

They were a nice young family with small children. And now they are no longer.

Just another daily domestic shooting.

This is not normal. It’s time to do something quickly before it’s a friend of yours or a family member who picks up a gun and uses it to “solve a problem.”

Ask your Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 4240 and your Senators to co-sponsor S. 2009 to expand and fix the Brady background check system.

Charleston- another mass shooting anniversary

Charleston shootingIt is difficult to try to remember the dates of all of the mass shootings in America. You see, mass shootings have happened in every month of the year and almost every week of every month. And when we honor and remember the victims of the high profile mass shootings we don’t want to forget or dishonor the victims of “everyday” shootings- about 90 per day as it turns out.

I just wrote a post about the one year anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. And then the shooting happened at the baseball practice and left a U.S. Congressman ( and others) critically injured. And then a mass shooting happened in San Francisco at a UPS building. And then the verdict in the Philando Castile case left a community reeling when the officer involved was acquitted. This case highlights the tensions between people of color and law enforcement- something about which we need to deal seriously and purposefully.

When will it end?

The mass shooting at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina was a particularly brutal and heinous shooting because of the fact that a group of Black members of the church welcomed the shooter into their fold as they were innocently praying in the church. And then, he shot them brutally in a heinous and unforgivable hate crime.

Churches should be places where people can gather without fear of being shot. In America no place is a place where people can gather without fear of being shot. Baseball practices, schools, malls, cars, parks, college campuses, workplaces, office buildings and homes are all vulnerable to shooters with anger, hate and revenge in their hearts. And when guns are so easily accessible, it is all too easy.

The shooter of the 9 people that were killed that day two years ago should not have been able to purchase his gun. But because the gun lobby lapdogs in Congress made sure there was a loophole in our gun laws, he got his gun anyway. We know the result. From the article:

Nearly three thousands guns were sold to people with criminal records, mental illnesses or other prohibitive circumstances in 2015, according to the FBI’s latest operations report on background checks, released in late September.

That’s the result of what many see as a flaw in the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). At licensed firearm dealers–but not private shows or sales, including those facilitated online–a background check is required to determine the prospective buyer’s eligibility. Data show that roughly 90 percent of these checks come back with an answer immediately, but the remainder are delayed so the FBI can further investigate eligibility.

If three business days pass without a verdict from the FBI, licensed dealers can sell the gun anyway, unless prohibited by local law. If the background check later comes back negative, federal authorities are supposed to retrieve the weapon. (…)

Since 1998, the delayed denial provision has put a total of 58,779 guns in the wrong hands

What are we doing about this? Some members of the South Carolina legislature tried by proposing a bill to close this loophole in gun laws.:

“Lawful gun owners should applaud this legislation. The only people who should fear this legislation are people who are unfit to carry a gun,” said Sen. Marlon Kimpson, D-Charleston, one of the co-sponsors of the bipartisan bill, along with Sen. Greg Gregory, R-Lancaster.

Alas, the bill failed. Gun lobby lapdogs won’t even stand up for the victims of one of the worst mass shootings in our country.

Common sense tells us that we must stop this practice and prevent shootings wherever we can. But the NRA defends the indefensible.

What does it mean to honor with action? Passing this bill would be one big action and it should happen in Congress.

But quietly, other actions are taking place to honor the victims. From the linked article above about the second anniversary of the shooting:

Taylor, a retired nurse, once worked in hospice, but, like so many here, still struggles with the heavy yoke of loss that clings to the regal crimson and dark wood sanctuary.

“We’ve just got to face the reality. Death is hard for everybody,” she says. “It’s something you never get over. We all hurt. But we’ve got to move on.”

She tries to heal by honoring those who died.

Before Pinckney’s death, Taylor was helping him launch a new community outreach. Since his death, she has continued to organize what is now called the Clementa C. Pinckney Community Health Fair each year. She also expanded the outreach to include feeding people facing homelessness. Pinckney’s wife and younger daughter, who both survived the shooting by hiding in his secretary’s office, have attended the health fairs along with his father and older daughter.

Now Taylor has eyes on expanding both outreaches. In August, she hopes to hold a health fair for children returning to school. In November, she wants to begin holding the homeless event monthly.

Emanuel needs it. The broader community needs it. And Pinckney would have wanted it.

“Everybody knows Clementa Pinckney was a community man,” Taylor says. “That was just his heart. He loved to help people in the community. He was full of love and grace and kindness.”

Taylor wants to ensure that, away from the spotlight, Emanuel lives out that commitment. She isn’t alone.

Away from the spotlight of high profile publicized shootings like that at Mother Emanuel church, people are trying to heal and take action. Their loved ones live on in their hearts leaving a hole that will never be filled.

I have met Clementa Pinckney’s wife who is a quiet beautiful woman trying to raise her children alone after the horror of that day two years ago. I have met others who are working with the Charleston community to prevent gun violence. I honor all of them and grieve with their survivors as they remember and try to forget this day. To the victims:

Rev. Clementa Pinckney

Cynthia Hurd

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton

Tywanza Sanders

Myra Thompson

Ethel Lee Lance

Rev. Daniel L. Simmons

Rev. Depayne Middleton-Doctor

Susie Jackson

 

We are at war with each other

crossIt’s no secret. The political atmosphere was hateful and angry before the Orlando shooting. Now it’s worse. We are war with each other. History will look back on the America of the 2000s and write about how we turned our backs on the millions of victims of gun violence and their families. Historians will write about how a country allowed the massacre of 20 first graders to happen without trying to do something to prevent the next one. History will not be kind when it comes to America and mass shootings and gun violence in general.

If we lined up the crosses of all Americans killed by gun violence since 1968, they would form a field larger than that at Normandy (France), Gettysburg, Appomattox, Arlington and other cemeteries combined where fallen American military personnel are buried.

Are we at war?

Today is the first anniversary of the Charleston church shooting that took the lives of 9 innocent Americans while praying at Mother Emanuel church. History will write about how our weak gun laws allowed a young man with hate and racism in his heart to buy a gun in spite of his prohibited purchaser status. Thanks to the corporate gun lobby and their minions in Congress, a three day default proceed provision was written into the Brady law. What that means is that if the record keeping and data bases don’t communicate with each other and get information into the law enforcement system by 3 days after the purchase of a gun, the purchaser can walk away with the gun anyway.

Nine precious lives were taken because of that provision in our law that makes absolutely no common sense. But in America, sales and profits of selling guns takes precedent over saving lives.

Today, the families of the 9 killed in Charleston are remembering their loved ones. Here is one article written by the brother of one of the victims in remembrance.:

We may be back here again soon. Not in Charleston, not in a church, but somewhere in our country someone is going to experience some type of pain simply because of the proliferation of guns, and the Achilles heel of our country, racism, that we can’t seem to get past. So we got to not just forgive and forget, but we have to remember to continue to fight for those things that make our society better today than it was yesterday.

What will historians write about how we responded to this crime of hate and racism?

I wrote in my last post that things were changing concerning guns and the conversation about gun violence after the Orlando shooting. No sooner had I posted my article than a filibuster broke out in the U.S. Senate led by Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Senator Murphy was in attendance when the families of the first graders massacred at Sandy Hook learned that theirs were the 20 who didn’t come out alive. He is not going to forget or let us forget about that heinous and bloody day in American history.

Has the accumulation of all of the mass shootings in recent years just been too much? Are we, at long last, ready to do something?

It looks like there may be a vote now on some gun safety reform provisions as a result of that filibuster. At the least, the conversation changed for 15 hours when 40 Democratic Senators, 2 Republicans and 1 independent joined in and articulately and passionately talked about our national gun violence scourge. They stood with the victims. They spoke for the victims’ families. They spoke for the majority of Americans who can see that change has to happen in order to stop the daily war in our streets and our homes and public places.

Even the generals are weighing in. General Stanley McCrystal wrote this piece for the New York Times today. From his opinion piece comes something very important to the conversation about guns in America:

Here at home, many of us are alarmed by the carnage. We are alarmed by loopholes that let felons and domestic abusers get hold of guns without a background check. We are alarmed that a known or suspected terrorist can go to a federally licensed firearms dealer where background checks are conducted, pass that background check, legally purchase a firearm and walk out the door.

Now veterans are speaking out. Last Friday, two days before the tragedy in Orlando, a new initiative, the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense, led by the Navy combat veteran Capt. Mark Kelly and his wife, the former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was announced. Those of us serving on its advisory committee come from every branch of our military and virtually every rank. We are trained in the use of firearms, and many of us have served in combat. And we all think our country must do more to save lives from being cut short by gun violence.

Are we alarmed enough to do something at long last?

Listen to the voices of common sense and experience. Those on the side of the corporate gun lobby are most often also strong supporters of our military. Not that the rest of us aren’t but those who oppose reasonable gun measures can often be heard to proclaim themselves as patriotic Americans- more patriotic than the rest of us. What’s so patriotic about allowing our citizens to be massacred by people who shouldn’t have guns?

The inanity of the conversation about gun violence in our country has been taking place for far too long. Not any more. People are joining gun violence prevention organizations in large numbers asking what they can do to help. Spontaneous rallies have occurred. Monetary donations have been received. Hundreds of thousands of calls were made to Senators in 24 hours urging participation in the filibuster and what will hopefully be upcoming votes.

We have had #Enough. Action is needed. No more words and thoughts and prayers.

And no more blaming President Obama for what happened in Orlando. Shamefully Arizona Senator John McCain ( among others) has gone over the line of common sense and sanity to join in some of the lunacy regarding the Orlando shooting. From the article:

Sen. John McCain said Thursday that President Barack Obama was “directly responsible” for the massacre at the gay nightclub in Orlando, though McCain later said he “misspoke.” “Barack Obama is directly responsible for it because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al Qaeda went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures — utter failures, by pulling everybody out of Iraq, thinking that conflicts end just because you leave. So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies,” McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Really Senator McCain?

We are better than this.

There is a gun culture that has promoted the civilian ownership of weapons of war that is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. For 10 years we had a ban on these kinds of guns but our weak politicians, with pressure from the gun lobby let it lapse. Since then these weapons designed for use in war time have been used to kill countless Americans. Sandy Hook. Aurora.San Bernardino….. It doesn’t have to be this way.

This Boston Globe editorial is asking for us to return to sanity and common sense when it comes to military style assault rifles:

There is nothing more American today than a mass shooting, the quickest way for the wicked among us to join the ranks of the reviled. Their motives are many, but their opportunity is limited only by their gun and ammunition magazine brand preference. In this country, the federal government limits duck hunters to weapons that carry only three shells, to protect the duck population. But you can buy an assault weapon in seven minutes and an unlimited number of bullets to fire with it. For every McDonald’s in the United States, there are four federally licensed gun dealers and an untold number of unregulated private dealers who can legally sell an unlimited number of guns out of their homes, backpacks, and car trunks without requiring a criminal background check or proof of ID.

These weren’t the guns, and this wasn’t the America, that the Founders foresaw. That is why we need a new assault weapons ban, written for the realities we face in 2016.

What did the founding fathers envision? Gun rights extremists tell us that what we have now is exactly what was meant by the founding fathers when they wrote the second amendment. That is, in part, responsible for what happened in Orlando.

There is a weak system of regulating who gets guns that is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Racism and hatred is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando.

Presidential politics and extreme rhetoric is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. One of our Presidential candidates is fear mongering and hating certain groups even thought they aren’t responsible for what happened in Orlando. (“Trump’s discourse, both leading up to and following the Orlando shooting, begins with a pathos of fear but ends with an appeal to anger.”)

We are better than this.

Even tolerance of anti-government groups and support for them has allowed the current culture to get a foot hold in American and leads to other acts of violence. For example, the stand-off by armed Americans proclaiming it was all about the federal government taking something from them, was not only ignored but even supported by some on the right and Donald Trump himself:

That chummy relationship with extremists didn’t start with Malheur. In fact, Donald Trump expressed admiration for Cliven Bundy at the time of the 2014 confrontation between his armed supporters and law enforcement officers over Bundy’s refusal to pay grazing fees for his cattle on government land.

“I like him, I like his spirit, his spunk…I respect him,” Trump told Fox News in April that year. Bundy’s sons led the Malheur standoff, which eventually resulted in their arrest and the killing of one of the occupiers at a roadblock by state police.

“Republican Congressional leaders have done nothing to combat this growing threat,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) “Indeed, they ignored a Democratic request … to hold a Natural Resources Committee hearing on this issue.”

History will judge us for this kind of anti-government extremism.

It’s not President Obama. It’s those who hate him. More from the above article:

“This antigovernment movement has exploded since President Obama took office. In 2008, we documented approximately 150 radical antigovernment groups. Last year, we counted almost 1,000,” he added. “The movement is dangerous. It includes almost 300 armed militia groups committed to resisting what they see as a tyrannical federal government.”

Thompson pointedly compared the anti-government crowd with foreign, and foreign-inspired, terrorists. Domestic terrorists have the same goal, he said, “to harm and incite fear within our borders.”

Congress, he said, “must take this growing threat seriously and take action.”

Our politicians weak spines are in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Individuals who have become self radicalized and terror groups who want us to be terrorized by actions of unstable angry young men who have troubled pasts and intolerance of others are in part responsible for what happened in Orlando:

Oppositional. Lacks remorse. Verbally abusive. These are some of the terms teachers and school counselors used to describe a young Omar Mateen, according to elementary and middle school records.

Mateen, who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday in the worstmass shooting in modern U.S. history, had a troubling record of behavioral issues throughout his elementary and middle school years, ranging from simply disrupting class to outright aggressive conflicts with classmates.

Our almost total ignoring of the hundreds of thousands of gun violence victims is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Fear and paranoia promoted by the corporate gun lobby and extremists on the right are in part to blame for what happened in Orlando.

All we know is that blame is not going to change the fact that too many Americans have been killed in mass shootings and every day shootings. We need to deal with fear, paranoia, hate, racism, misogyny, anti-gay sentiments, terror, intolerance, mental health and whatever else causes someone to kill others. But to ignore the guns is a national shame and putting our heads in the sand.

This can’t be the new normal. We can’t let it be. We will do whatever it takes. The nation is asking for our leaders to do something. Increased interest in strongly regulating assault style rifles and high capacity magazines has surfaced. The gun lobby hates any renewed discussion but we are not going to let the gun lobby lead that discussion. A majority of Americans want something to happen.

Something has changed. New ways of invoking terror in Americans has sparked a national conversation but I am concerned that it has further divided us and made the conversation more hate-filled and acrimonious than ever.

We are better than this.

The conversation about guns is changing

-isn't it strange?The Orlando shooting was just one of many on June 12th, 2016. According to Vox.com, it was one of 43:

What got much less coverage, though, were the 42 other reported shootings that happened yesterday. According to news reports collected by the Gun Violence Archive and Vox, these shootings resulted in an additional 18 deaths and 41 injuries. At least five of those killed were children.

These shootings, albeit more granular, paint a tragic picture of just how common gun violence is in the United States — and how it claims thousands of lives annually, outside of mass shootings.

Only in America. Is it strange? It should be but too many think it’s normal. It’s NOT normal. It can’t stay this way.

Times are changing.

I have been inundated and overwhelmed with emails, Facebook posts, conference calls and Tweets about the shooting in Orlando. I participated in a vigil at my local college where a large group of supports of the LGBTQ community gathered to express their sorrow and their support for unity after (now) 49 people lost their lives in the nation’s worst mass shooting. Our Mayor read the names of the dead as a combined gay/lesbian family rang the bell. It was emotional. The dead had names. They have loved ones and friends left to mourn for them and forever have to live without them now.

#Enough

The politicians are yapping and talking common sense. As I write this, the Senate Democrats are filibustering on the floor about gun violence and gun violence prevention measures. Thank God. Something is actually happening. Even Fox’s own Bill O’Reilly is talking common sense

We have said this before so I almost hate to write this. Is this the tipping point we have long been waiting for? Has the country finally had more than #Enough? This point should have been reached long long ago. Thanks to the corporate gun lobby and our timid and frightened elected officials. we have allowed people to die needlessly and avoidably for decades.

Some Republican Congress members are coming forward to change their positions regarding some gun violence prevention measures. At the least, closing a gap in our federal gun law that allows those on the terror watch list to be able to legally purchase guns must happen. Does it make any sense that we can see and know that these folks are buying guns but we can’t stop them from buying the guns that they could use in an act of terror?

You know the answer.

We do not know for sure the motive of the Orlando shooter. He was, according to his first wife, mentally unstable, angry, capable of domestic abuse, and perhaps confused about his own sexuality. She did not hear him talking about terrorism. If this was an act that related to terror, he was self radicalized and not associated formally with ISIS or any other terror group. Some have tried to claim otherwise. If this was man was an actual member of one of these groups, then the talking points are different.

I can feel things changing. I can feel the outpouring of actions and activity of those who just know that this time their voices are going to be heard. I can feel the national sadness and anger over this latest mass shooting. I can feel things changing.

Can you? If not, you are not paying attention.

And if you don’t want things to change out of some conviction that stopping people who shouldn’t have guns from being able to get them will limit your own rights, then I don’t have time for you. Things are changing.

We can’t have a reasonable discussion if you believe that the government is coming for your guns.

We can’t have a reasonable discussion if you believe that requiring a simple Brady background check on all gun sales will lead to gun registration, then I don’t have time for you. You are wrong.

If you believe, as Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump has foolishly proclaimed using gun lobby talking points that if someone had had a gun in that Orlando nightclub they could have saved themselves and others or stopped the shooter, then I can’t talk to you.

Support has increased in the last few days for an assault weapons ban. Are you one of the minority who doesn’t want that to happen? If not, is there a discussion to be had or will you dig in your heals and insist that it won’t do any good anyway?

If you believe that passing any common sense law will lead to gun confiscation, then I don’t have time for you.

If you believe that just anyone should be able to buy any gun, then I don’t want to talk to you.

If you believe that assault style rifles formerly used in war are weapons to be used by everyday citizens for hunting, then I don’t have time to you.

If you believe you need guns that fire hundreds of rounds of bullets in just one minute, then I don’t have time for you.

If you believe that the lives lost in shootings every day is the price we have to pay for your  “inalienable” second amendment rights, then I can’t talk to you.

If you believe the second amendment means there can be no restrictions on types of guns, who can buy them, and where they can be carried, go away. I can’t talk to you.

We are done listening to the lies, fear and paranoia coming from the mouths of gun extremists. They are in the minority but their voices have risen far above where they deserve to be given the reality of gun violence in America.

Times are changing.

On June 17th, just a few days from now, we will mourn again for the lives of the 9 black Americans taken by another young man with hate in his heart who managed to get his hands on a gun. We will remember those shot at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina.

We are better than this.

Watch here as CNN’s Anderson Cooper breaks down while reading the names of the victims.

Let us remember the names of the fallen:

Edward Sotomayer Jr.

Stanley Almodovar III

Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo

Akyra Monet Murray

Luis S. Vielma

Juan Ramon Guerrero

Christopher Andrew Leinonen

Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera

Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz

Kimberly Morris

Eddie Jamoldroy Justice

Enrique Rios

Anthony Luis Laureano Disla

Jonathan Antonio Camuy Vega

Yilmary Rodriguez Solivan

Cory James Connell

Mercedez Marisol Flores

Deonka Deidra Drayton

Miguel Angel Honorato

Jason Benjamin Josaphat

Darryl Roman Burt II

Jean Carlos Mendez Perez

Luis Daniel Wilson-Leon

Oscar A Aracena-Montero

Simon Adrian Carrillo Fernandez

Shane Evan Tomlinson

Amanda Alvear

Martin Benitez Torres

Gilberto Ramon Silva Menendez

Javier Jorge-Reyes

Tevin Eurgene Crosby

Franky Jimmy Dejesus Velazquez

Xavier Emmanuel Serrano Rosado

Joel Rayon Paniagua

Juan P. Rivera Velazquez a

Luis Daniel Conde

Juan Chevez-Martinez

Jerald Arthur Wright

Leroy Valentin Fernandez

Jean C. Nives Rodriguez

Rodolfo Ayala-Ayala

Brenda Lee Marquez McCool

Angel L. Candelario-Padro

Frank Hernandez

Paul Terrell Henry

Antonio Davon Brown

Christopher Joseph Sanfeliz

Alejandro Barrios-Martinez

Geraldo A. Ortiz-Jimenez

My list of victims’ names has never been this long.

May they rest in peace. May their families learn to heal over time and live around the hole left in their hearts by the loss of someone they loved as a son, daughter, sister, brother, grandchild or friend.

May we rise up in unity and say #WeAreOrlando

This shooting has gone to our hearts and souls.

The soul of America has been badly wounded. What will we do about it?

Times are changing.

Will you be there to keep more Americans alive and safe from gun violence at gatherings of people of all colors, races, sexual orientation, age and gender?

Times are changing.

There is so much more to say. I haven’t even started in on assault type rifles and the ease with which we sell them in America or why they are necessary for anyone to own. That is for another post.

Times are changing.