International Women’s Day

Today is a day to celebrate women all over the world. We have only to look a few decades back to when women in America finally got the vote after years of protesting, organizing, and being arrested to understand why we need a day of celebration of women. Women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton persisted in spite of the men who were as determined that they should not be able to vote as they were that they had the right to vote. They are role models to all women even today.

Women are superheroes- they are working mothers, they are stay at home mothers, they are sisters and grandmas who serve as CEOs, and in all professions that just decades ago were almost all occupied by men. The world has changed thanks to the persistence of women.

I am a proud member of the League of Women Voters in my community. The League has served to educate, engage and activate women on issues of concern- not just women’s issues- all issues. Many women leaders and elected leaders have come from that organization over the years. I stand on the shoulders of many great women leaders and organizers.Don

Of course, the Million Mom March was the springboard for many of us now and remaining involved in the gun violence prevention movement. One woman, Donna Dees Thomases, after seeing small children being led out of a Jewish Community Center day care center in L.A. in 1999 after a shooter wounded several inside, got a permit for a march on the Mall in D.C. And then the Columbine shooting happened. Mothers ( and parents) all over the country watched in horror as kids were shot down in a school in Colorado. And then they got mad and got organized.

The rest is history. I attended the march in 2000 in Washington D.C. and was moved, angered, and energized after observing so many victims and survivors of gun violence with names of loved ones killed by bullets on their hats, shirts and signs. Some of the mothers of kids injured in the day care center are still involved with gun violence prevention. We are now merged with Brady and there are chapters all over the country populated by mothers and others. We persist in pushing for stronger gun laws all over the country, including in my own state of Minnesota.

Brady is celebrating the women who got involved and stayed involved in videos sent out to supporters before the coming 20th anniversary of the Million Mom March. After the 2000 march, the organization name was changed to Brady because of the efforts of Sarah Brady, wife of James Brady, President Reagan’s Press Secretary, shot in the assassination attempt on Reagan’s life in 1981. Sarah persisted in her efforts to get the Brady Law passed and finally won. The law has been in effect since 1994.

And Brady’s capable leader is Kris Brown, a powerful and effective woman leading one of the country’s oldest gun violence prevention organization.

Spurred on by the horrendous shooting of 20 young children at Sandy Hook Elementary school in 2012, Moms Demand Action for GunSense in America was founded by Shannon Watts. Hundreds of thousands of women and others belong to chapters of MDA in every state in the country.

Women have been victims of many domestic and other shootings. My sister was just one of many of these women. Victims of domestic violence are FIVE times more likely to be murdered if their abuser obtains a gun according to Brady.

According to Giffords ( an organization formed after a woman Congress member, Gabby Giffords, was shot and severely wounded in a mass shooting in 2011):

The firearm homicide rate for women in the US is nearly 16 times higher than that in other high-income countries.
Laws that prohibit firearms after a domestic violence restraining order is issued are associated with a 13% decrease in firearm intimate partner homicides.

As long as the Senate refuses to act on bills that will keep guns away from domestic abusers, women will continue to be at risk. For the first time since the Violence of Women Act passed in 1994 the Senate has refused to pass this bill. From this New York Times article:

“The bill has three broad, but simple, goals: to make streets safer for women; to make homes safer for women; and to protect women’s civil rights,” Joseph R. Biden Jr., one of the bill’s sponsors when he was a Delaware senator, said in 1990.

That summer, survivors delivered stirring testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. At the time, the Senate had only two women and the proposal had little support from women’s groups or civil rights groups.

There is one reason why Senator Mitch McConnell and most Republicans refuse to re-authorize the act:

There’s already a law on the books to keep guns out of the hands of spouses convicted of such crimes, and Democrats and some Republicans have long wanted to extend that restriction to partners. But the National Rifle Association is opposed, and that’s why the bill is stalled in the Senate.

“The objection doesn’t make any sense if the idea is to be consistent and to protect women,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) told VICE News. “At this point, we don’t see why we wouldn’t close that loophole.”

Are we going to let a minority of gun owners and Americans decide what is best for women? If the violence was happening to men, would the act be stalled? I think we know the answer. The same is true of women’s health care and women making their own decisions about their bodies. The fact that men want to control women’s bodies is just another example of why we must celebrate women on this day.

Everyone is affected by gun violence- men, women, transgender and GLBTQ Americans of all ages and races. But when it comes to domestic violence, it is most often the women who become the victims. And many of our mass shootings are spawned by a domestic dispute:

But scientists say the real problem is that violent, impulsive, and angry men are getting their hands on guns.

Many of the shooters behind the deadliest mass shootings in modern America (listed below) committed violence against women, threatened violence against women, or disparaged women.

Suicides become homicide/suicides as well as (mostly) men who are angry, depressed or upset about a relationship or something else are suicidal but also shoot someone else:

In a comparison of homicides-suicides in the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States (using NVDRS data), major differences — e.g., Switzerland and the U.S. have much higher rates of homicide-suicide than the Netherlands — are explainable by the availability of firearms.

The bottom line is that women are often the ones on the front lines of the fight against gun violence. They are also on the front lines of those affected by gun violence. Today is a day to remember and celebrate women all over the world who have fought against violence against women and for women’s rights. Being a woman in many countries is dangerous and difficult. When heroes like Malala Yousafzei step up, it gives other women and girls the courage to do the same. She was the victim of a terrible shooting and survived to speak up. And, of course, it took a Swedish teen-ager, Greta Thunberg, to lead the world wide effort against climate change.

Women are about 50% of the population but still not where we should be regarding influence and leadership on the most important issues of the day. If even half of the world’s and our own country’s leaders were women, I believe many issues would be looked at and solved differently.

The day after President Trump was sworn in as the 45th President, a million women and others (including myself) marched in Washington D.C. bringing in more people than attended the inauguration. Several hundred thousand others marched in cities all over the world in concert with the march in D.C. Women have led the way against a misogynistic man whose reputation with women and statements made during the campaign angered and invigorated women to act. The march organizers held workshops on running for office and run they did. The historic 2018 election saw 90 newly elected women take office in Congress.

When women run for office they serve as role models to girls and women as well. The 2020 Presidential race is an example of how difficult it is to run as a woman to lead our country. It’s discouraging that so many believe that a woman cannot be the Commander in Chief. That’s nonsense. Women are tough. Maybe that’s the problem. When women challenge men in a relationship or in a primary or a debate, too often they become victims of the status quo.

We can and should get the background check bill passed into law in the U.S. Senate to keep guns away from domestic abusers and others who should not have them. In addition Red Flag or Extreme Risk Protection Order laws have been passed in many states but should be passed in all to allow for the removal of guns from domestic abusers by law enforcement after a judge determines they could be a danger to themselves or others. Women would be safer if these bills are enacted into law.

Everyone would be safer, of course. But today is the day to celebrate women.

I applaud all women who put their names and faces into the public sphere to speak up for what’s right and for the changes we deserve. It’s not easy. Women are often criticized unfairly and suffer from discrimination because of simply being a woman. Please say thank you to a woman today.

Traveling with your gun

It seems that the American public is no longer safe no matter where they are. A California shooting on a Greyhound bus may be a first for the scene of a mass shooting– One dead and 5 injured. Until firearms carry laws passed in the early 2000s in many states, there weren’t so many shootings in public places. Shootings took place at home mostly in the form of domestic shootings or suicides. They still do but mass shootings have become a regular happening. The Columbine school shooting was one of the first mass (school) shootings that caught the attention of the public in a big way because so many victims were left dead and they were kids.

Speaking of guns and buses, does anyone remember last winter’s incident involving a school bus driver and a “law abiding” carry holder in Minnesota?:

A Minnesota man who shot and wounded a school bus driver on a Minneapolis freeway during a snowstorm has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison.

Thirty-two-year-old Kenneth Lilly, of St. Paul, pleaded guilty in August to first-degree assault for the February attack that left Thomas Benson deaf in one ear and unable to continue working as a bus driver due to nerve damage in his hand.

Another article about the shooting says this about the shooter:

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office says Lilly was cleared in a previous shooting, in which he shot and killed a 16-year-old armed robbery suspect in 2015. At that time, the county attorney found that no criminal charges were “appropriate.”

It appears that the man, a supposed security guard, has a trigger finger and should not have had that gun on that day. His anger combined with a gun has now left him serving time.

Unfortunately and tragically times are changing. Guns are so easily and readily available to just about anyone. No matter if they can pass a background check- they can get a gun. No matter if they are a domestic abuser- they can get a gun. No matter if they are dangerously mentally ill or a felon, they can get a gun. No matter if they live in a state with strong gun laws, they can get a gun. California is one of those states where gun deaths are actually low compared to some states and were strong gun laws have been passed. But the weak laws in neighboring states allow guns to come into California anyway:

California has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. But the tragedy that played out on Sunday, in which three people were killed and 12 wounded, illustrated a familiar problem for states that have ratcheted up their own gun laws in recent years, only to see them neutralized by neighboring states with more lax rules.

The above article was referring to the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival last July where 3 were shot dead and 17 wounded. Have gun will travel to other states. Have gun will travel on buses and to malls and Congress on your Corner events like the one that killed 6 and left U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and others permanently injured and disabled.

The gun lobby, of course, will tell you that the world is dangerous so you must carry a gun to protect yourself or have one at the ready at home. The opposite is true of course. Many times “law abiding” gun owners and gun carriers are the shooters. “Unintentional shootings” happen far too often. Mistaken identity has left more than a few dead or injured. It happens primarily in America where gun rights advocates insist that the second amendment protects them and allows them to have guns no matter what.

A Super Bowl ad funded by the Michael Bloomberg campaign got it right. Watch the ad for yourself:

Galandrian Kemp who speaks about George, her murdered son, ends with these words: “You have a right to live. No one has a right to take your life and dreams”

Exactly. That is what this is all about. There is no need to travel with a gun. One can’t even compare defensive gun uses to the number of daily gun deaths. Bodies are piling up as I write. They are killed on buses, in cars, in homes, in malls, on the streets, in schools and offices, in hospitals, in every corner of America. But rarely are guns used in self defense. According to the Gun Violence Archive, as of today 3583 Americans have died by firearm. There have been 132 defensive gun uses. Common sense tells us that guns are more often used to kill someone than in self defense.

Yes, some choose to carry firearms. And sometimes they are used in legitimate self defense. Mostly the firearms in homes and carried are never fired to kill or injure another human being and most gun owners are safe with their guns.

We can stipulate to all of that. But given that the number of gun deaths and injuries are the highest in our country of all industrialized democratized countries in the world, it is worth discussing why the minority of gun owners ( more extreme in their positions) resist attempts to prevent and cure our national public health epidemic. Given that we all have the right to our lives and dreams it seems like a no brainer.

There is a responsibility to safely store and handle lethal weapons. With rights come responsibilities. Lives can be saved if gun owners think twice or three times before using a gun in anger, disputes, depression or against themselves. Lives are changed in just an instant when a gun is the weapon.

There is also a responsibility to reign in your rhetoric when you are an elected leader. For example, it’s a pretty dangerous idea for a state lawmaker to say it’s legal to shoot communists. We don’t have to use much imagination to know who he is talking about. (And who, really are communists? We know the right and Trump are going to use that word to describe the Democratic candidate no matter who he or she is. Let’s take a look:

Rep. Rodney Garcia, a state lawmaker in Montana, told a roomful of Republicans he believes the U.S. Constitution says socialists can be jailed or shot simply for being socialists. Garcia initially made the statement at an election event, then he reiterated it to a Billings Gazette reporter. And then, (…) Garcia was not able to say where he finds that in the Constitution, the Billings Gazette reported.

Anthony Johnstone, a law professor at the University of Montana, told The Washington Post that “nothing in the Constitution of the United States authorizes the government to punish socialists or anyone else on the basis of their political beliefs.” In fact, the First Amendment prohibits punishing political speech, and the Constitution of Montana “expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of political beliefs,” Johnstone said. All state lawmakers swear an oath to uphold those doctrines.

Never mind….. rights.

He should get an ethics violation at the least. And does he have a carry permit? I question how he will use it if confronted with a candidate running for office who is in the left position of many Democrats. You don’t get so shoot people with whom you disagree politically. You just don’t.

Unless of course your are Donald Trump who believes he can shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose his supporters.

You can’t make this stuff up.

After experiencing the anger of Minnesotans 2 weeks ago at a hearing that I mentioned in my last post, I get the feeling that we can’t overcome this anger to get to a solution that will move us forward towards saving lives. We are not the enemy as one man told one of the bus riders who traveled to Hibbing, Minnesota to attend a hearing on gun bills. We disagree about how to get to the solution. If those folks are truly law abiding gun owners, they have nothing to fear. But the NRA and right wing extreme talking points have fueled anger, fear, paranoia, misinformation and hyperbole.

In the end, we ought to be safe traveling on buses and in the mall, and in our homes, and our kids should be safe from shootings in their schools. Arming more people is just not the solution. And allowing easy access to guns for those who clearly should not have them is just plain stupid and dangerous.

Our better angels should prevail. In my city, there will be a Better Angels training to get people on opposite sides of controversial issues to engage and try to get to some place where we can agree. Our country has become so polarized over the last few decades that I wonder if that is even possible. The current occupant of the White House tweets many times a day to foment the polarization. Never before has a President been so demeaning and called so many people names. Never before has a President engaged in hourly lies to misinform the public and cause damage to the national psyche. And never before has a President encouraged violence in tweets or excused it for that matter.

Never before has social media and more mobility been a factor in some of the violence and polarization. People travel with their guns to shoot people, to attend rallies, to attend hearings and they come from out of state and from far away.

Take this article from the Star Tribune about the increasing gang violence in the Twin Cities:

She offered another, simpler explanation: As society becomes more mobile, many young gang members, lacking stable housing, are staying with relatives or girlfriends around the metro area. (…)

Bill Finney, another Ramsey County undersheriff and former St. Paul police chief, suspects that teens feuding online set up meeting spots at transit stations along the light-rail line to settle their differences in person. Last year, he witnessed such an encounter as two boys wielding knives greeted another pair getting off the train. The attack resulted in a stabbing, Finney said.

Before the internet, graffiti was the medium of choice to diss a rival, experts say. The emboldened could, under the cover of darkness, spray paint an anonymous message on an adversary’s property.

But an explosion of social media has accelerated those disputes. Today, teens flock to Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube to disrespect one another through flashy rap videos without ever leaving their homes. The words are not veiled, and neither is the poster. Retribution is swift.

At the end of the above article mention is made about getting the guns off the streets. That is really the main problem here. Easy access to guns allows the violence to increase and results in tragic loss of life. The gun rights extremists often write off gang violence as an excuse to do nothing about the violence. Gang members have families who love them and when they die, their families mourn for them. We can’t just write off a whole group of citizens. Sometimes the violence of gangs harms and kills innocent people like the mother of my friend Bunny Beeks who as sitting in her car when a bullet flying in the street hit her and killed her.

Never before has there been such an outright display of weaponry as we have seen in Virginia and Kentucky in the past few weeks. A meme is going around with a photo of the armed Kentuckians going around the metal detectors at the state Capitol while others, unarmed, had to go through the detectors. And by armed, I mean AR-15s strapped around their shoulders and chests. Check out the photos in the linked articles and tell me if you would feel safer surrounded by these folks. You can’t make this stuff up.

It is not normal nor should it become normal. It will take elected leaders to step up and call out this dangerous and bullying behavior if the rest of us are to feel safe. I have been told by some in the gun rights community that I should not fear being surrounded by people carrying guns. They are, after all, law abiding citizens. My response? If I feel unsafe surrounded by armed citizens then I feel unsafe. They don’t seem to understand that the majority of us do not care to see people carrying guns around in public. And particularly people dressed in masks and military gear.

We are not at war- or not yet anyway. But I fear that with the increased polarization and the increase in armed rallies and citizens ready to engage in civil war, we just may see one.

That would be tragic to say the least.

We are better than this.

UPDATE:

I need to add something to my original post that supports my view that we don’t need armed people everywhere to respond to crises. According to this article. the Greyhound bus driver in the incident where a shooter killed 1 and injured 5 was unarmed. He talked the shooter down without a gun pointed at him:

After the gunman opened fire, the bus driver pulled over to the shoulder and “was able to persuade the shooter” to get off the bus, Sgt. Brian Pennings with the California Highway Patrol said during a news conference Monday morning.

The suspect “voluntarily” got off the bus, leaving a black handgun behind, Pennings said. Officers located him on the shoulder and took him into custody without incident.

The bus driver, who was not injured, “handled the situation professionally and appropriately to minimize any more possible victims,” Pennings said.

Even if the driver had been armed, how was he to respond with a gun while driving the bus and keeping the other passengers safe? This is the myth of the gun lobby suggesting that if only someone had a gun…….

Back to school with guns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So it’s come to this.

Where is common sense?

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

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

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

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

So it’s come to this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Schizophrenia about guns and solutions to gun violence

As we could have expected, nothing is happening so far to prevent the next mass shooting which will inevitably come- likely soon. Well, I should take that back. Something is happening- it’s happening minute by minute.

It’s all about the President. Since the El Paso and Dayton shootings he has changed his mind and changed his messaging at least a half dozen times. Background checks are on. We have a strong background check system already. Background checks are off the table. It’s mental illness. That’s what pulls the trigger. And the latest is a ridiculous scheme to detect changes in people’s mental moods that could result in some sort of awful violent event which will kill people.

Here is that scheme, introduced into the public realm just this afternoon:

The White House has been briefed on a proposal to develop a way to identify early signs of changes in people with mental illness that could lead to violent behavior.
Supporters see the plan as a way President Trump could move the ball forward on gun control following recent mass shootings as efforts seem to be flagging to impose harsher restrictions such as background checks on gun purchases.

First of all- gun control? This is about people control. And it’s gun violence prevention. Second, how does one detect early signs of change in people with mental illness? What is mental illness?

The idea that we are blaming mass shootings and the daily gun violence carnage on mental illness has been debunked over and over again. Here is just one article about that myth:

Just 3 to 5 percent of violent acts can be attributed to mental health problems, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, whereas mentally ill people are more than 10 times more likely to be victims of violent crime than are the general population.
“Social contagion,” or the spread of violent ideas, is another strong contributor to gun violence, according to researchers.
Carla Marie Manly, a Santa Rosa-based psychologist, defines social contagion as “the spread of attitudes, behaviors, or ideas via conformity and imitation,” in an interview with Healthline.
““The shooters become driven to study previous perpetrators to learn their methods and to obtain validation,” she said in the Healthline interview. “Given our society’s media-driven focus, mass shooters seek the infamy that will come with their actions — the same notoriety given to prior shooters.”

But never mind. The President, in his unhinged and crazy way of thinking keeps right on going. He wants to make it about mental illness, not guns.

There is something else to think about here from the article above:

The Suzanne Wright Foundation re-approached the administration last week and proposed that HARPA include a “Safe Home” — “Stopping Aberrant Fatal Events by Helping Overcome Mental Extremes” — project. Officials discussed the proposal at the White House last week, said two people familiar with the discussions. These people and others spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the conversations.
The attempt to use volunteer data to identify “neurobehavioral signs” of “someone headed toward a violent explosive act” would be a four-year project costing an estimated $40 million to $60 million, according to Geoffrey Ling, the lead scientific adviser on HARPA and a founding director of DARPA’s Biological Technologies Office. (…) Mental illness can sometimes be a factor in such violent acts, experts say, but it is rarely a predictor — most studies show that no more than a quarter of mass shooters have a diagnosed mental illness. More commonly shared attributes of mass shooters include a strong sense of resentment, desire for notoriety, obsession with other shooters, a history of domestic violence, narcissism and access to firearms.

Further- this project is being pushed inside the White House without any research or concern that it won’t work. But whatever:

Trump has reacted “very positively” to the HARPA proposal, according to a person with knowledge of the discussions and has been “sold on the concept.” But it’s unclear whether the president has reviewed the new “Safe Home” component of the proposal and creating an entire agency would be a huge lift in Congress. (…) Trump has a close personal relationship with Bob Wright, who founded the Suzanne Wright Foundation after his wife passed away from pancreatic cancer. Wright is the former chair of NBC and was in that job while Trump headlined “The Apprentice.”

Ah yes, here’s the rub. He’s close personal friends with the founder of the foundation that this project is about. Now we understand. But have they thought about hipaa laws? Have they thought about how people won’t “volunteer” this information? Have they thought about mining data on people that is private and could be used to actually harm someone? From the article:

The idea is for the agency to develop a “sensor suite” using advanced artificial intelligence to try to identify changes in mental status that could make an individual more prone to violent behavior. The research would ultimately be opened to the public.
HARPA would develop “breakthrough technologies with high specificity and sensitivity for early diagnosis of neuropsychiatric violence,” says a copy of the proposal. “A multi-modality solution, along with real-time data analytics, is needed to achieve such an accurate diagnosis.” (…)

Those familiar with the project stressed it would not collect sensitive health data about individuals without their permission. The government is simply trying to identify risk factors when it comes to mental health that could indicate violent behavior, they said.
“Privacy must be safeguarded. Profiling must be avoided. Data protection capabilities will be the cornerstone of this effort.”

I don’t believe this for a minute, do you? Facebook and other forms of social media have been collecting data on us for a long time now to target us for political reasons or to market goods to us. What is to stop this silly plan from getting private health data from people and using it to place them in an institution?

Red Flag or Extreme Risk Protection Orders would allow family members o report a family member who could be a danger to themselves or others for whatever reason- severe mental illness, maybe dementia, anger issues, relationship difficulties, domestic violence, etc. This proposed bill, already passed in the House, would deal with easy access to guns by people who should not have them. And, according to the above article, it is working. This is common sense.

Trump and his handlers, enablers and sycophants are avoiding using the word guns at any cost. They don’t want to anger the corporate gun lobby after all. Don’t get Wayne LaPierre angry. The organization he leads is “they who should be obeyed” or else. But the NRA’s Board members are abandoning ship and members are leaving in the face of charges of corruption and financial mismanagement.

Thankfully the House Judiciary Committee is going to come back to Washington early to deal with our public health epidemic. Whether the Senate, controlled by the “grim reaper” will ever take up the bills already passed in the House is unlikely. But the shootings will continue and they will be held accountable for not acting.

Since Congress has not acted beginning after the Columbine shooting, there have been 349 people have died in mass shootings. In “overall” gun deaths, however, using 19 years times an average of 33,000 = 627,000 gun deaths.

Congress must #DO SOMETHING. The country is demanding. Two recent polls show interesting results given who ordered the polls. The first is a Fox news poll showing broad support for the gun measures already passed and proposed in Congress:

A Fox News poll found that “overwhelming and bipartisan majorities of voters” support background checks on gun buyers, as well as taking guns from people who could pose a danger.
The numbers are indeed overwhelming, in the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton.

For starters, 90 percent of those surveyed favor criminal background checks on all buyers, and 81 percent want “red flag” laws that allow police to seize guns from people shown to be a danger to themselves or others. (…)

hen we come to the partisan divide. While Democrats most often blame easy access to guns (79 percent), white nationalism (62) and Trump (59), Republicans point to inadequate mental health services (60 percent) and bad parenting (54); just 32 percent fault easy access to guns.
On just about any other issue, 90 percent approval would translate into congressional action. But the politics of gun control have always been treacherous, and as even the most horrendous mass shooting—Las Vegas, Orlando, and so many others—fades into the past, Washington politicians find it easier not to act.

Bad parenting? Good grief.

The second poll by a Republican firm shows more strong support by suburban women for common sense gun laws:

72 percent said they think gun laws should be stricter, compared to four percent who said they should be less strict and 23 percent who said they should be kept as they are now.
55 percent said they think stricter gun laws would help prevent gun violence.
90 percent support requiring universal background checks for gun purchases at gun shows or other private sales, which would require all gun owners to file with a national firearms registry.
88 percent said they would support requiring a 48-hour waiting period between the purchase of a firearm and when the buyer can take possession of that gun.
84 percent back a national red flag law that would permit law enforcement to temporarily retain firearms from a person who may present a danger to others or themselves.
76 percent said they would ban the purchase and use of semi-automatic assault-style weapons like the AK-47 and the AR-15.
And 72 percent would support banning the sale and possession of high-capacity or extended ammunition magazines, which allow guns to shoot more than 10 bullets before needing to be reloaded. (…)

“Suburban women have made it clear that they are ready for Congress to address the gun violence epidemic plaguing this country,” said Sarah Chamberlain, the president and chief executive of the Republican Main Street Partnership, in an email. “Our mission is to equip our members of Congress with pertinent information like this polling so that they may best address the needs of their suburban districts by crafting appropriate legislative responses.”

The public is making it clear. But it couldn’t be more muddled. With changes in rhetoric and tweets every few hours, there is no cogent policy ideas, no proposals to save lives, no empathy towards victims, no understanding of the severity of the public health epidemic we are experiencing.

It’s sad. More than that, it’s maddening and it’s causing chaos and exhaustion not to mention depression. Oops, I should be careful if I say that because the new agency being pushed by the foundation that has the President’s attention might put me into some category of mental illness requiring an institution or whatever they propose to do with people who show early signs of mental illness. I might become violent.

We are experiencing national PTSD and schizophrenia. The person who is talking about mental illness linked to gun violence is becoming increasingly erratic and it should concern us all.

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

Posted with permission of a friend who attended the event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The majority of their constituents want them to act.

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

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

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

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

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

They are cowards:

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

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

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

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

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

We are watching.

Columbine

state_flower_144419Today will be a different kind of remembrance for the Columbine mass shooting anniversary. It’s been 19 years now since the image of students with their hands raised over their heads emerged from the scene of a horrendous massacre that took the lives of 13 at Columbine High School. That was the first of the many such images to follow.

This year, the Parkland school shooting survivors have made the Columbine shooting anniversary something different. Different because the Parkland massacre that took the lives of 17 is the latest of a long list of horrible and devastating school shootings. And the Parkland students have started a movement that has changed everything. This day will be a day of activism from students on yet another student led walkout from school day.

Various activities are planned for the day. There will be walkouts, rallies, actions taken and whatever the students have decided works best for them. Never before on the anniversary of the Columbine shooting have there been nation-wide activism like we will see today.

The movement continues. The carnage continues. As long as the carnage continues, the movement will continue. As long as our leaders refuse to act, students will lead us to action to stop the carnage.

As long as common sense is ignored, the movement will continue. As long as the lapdog politicians keep ignoring the movement, the movement will grow.

When our elected leaders realize that this is real and this is powerful enough to change the practices of businesses like Dick’s Sporting Goods, Citibank, Bank of America, and others, they will be on the wrong side of history, of public support, and the wrong side of a public health epidemic that is growing every day they fail to act.

When our leaders and others realize that attacking the victims is simply not OK and will be challenged with consequences (Laura Ingraham, conservative Missouri talk show host), things will change.

For decades the NRA and others in their orbit have felt free to attack victims and viciously go after anyone who disagrees with them. NRATV is just one example of this hate. Alex Jones, conservative conspiracy theorist,  is another. The spotlight is on them right now but they continue with their hate speech and attacks until at some point there will be a consequence for their hate and fear filled paranoid rants.

As long as I am able, I will act in the memory of my sister and all of the victims of the shootings before, during and after the Columbine massacre.

Today we all remember all victims. Today the country mourns and the country acts. Today we remember.

In order of how they were killed:

Rachel Scott
Daniel Rohrbough
Dave Sanders*
Kyle Velasquez
Steven Curnow
Cassie Bernall
Isaiah Shoels
Matthew Kechter
Lauren Townsend
John Tomlin
Kelly Fleming
Daniel Mauser
Corey Depooter

Remember. Mourn. Act. Rally. Walkout. March. Send postcards. Make phone calls. Thank businesses. Get involved. Stay involved.

#Enough #Neveragain

Never again will the nation let our leaders get away with their willful inaction, their willful adherence to the myths of a once powerful gun lobby and lack of the courage to do the right thing in the name of the victims of gun violence.

Vote them out

Time cover
Time magazine

This week, the Minnesota House Public Safety committee did not have the courage to take a vote on whether to move a background check bill and a Gun Violence Protection Order bill out of committee for a vote. Those who voted against taking the bills off the table where they had been since hearings about a month ago were cowardly, afraid, insensitive, clueless, and tone deaf. If they don’t get what the student movement is about, they will find out. After the vote in the committee, red and orange shirted Moms Demand Action and Protect Minnesota volunteers got up and walked out chanting “Vote them out.”

The students have made a difference in Minnesota and all over the country. Their voices are resonating in the halls of our legislatures and Congress. Were it not for students politely asking why the Minnesota Senate would not hear the gun safety bills sitting in committee and being “escorted” out of the room, the Senator Democratic minority leader Tom Bakk may not have written this extraordinary piece in today’s Duluth News Tribune,:

I want it to be clear: I support these students’ efforts to motivate the institution into holding hearings. I support several common-sense gun-safety measures. And I’d welcome another opportunity for bipartisan compromise in the state Senate. We owe it our students.

It is not lost on Senator Bakk that there will be at least 2 student marches today in small towns in his district, in the middle of hunting and gun owning country. There will be at least 13 marches today all over Minnesota. Let the student voices be heard. They will make the difference.

We’ve had #enough of this equivocating, avoidance, and ignoring a national public health epidemic that is killing our kids. We will remember in November the cowardice of these legislators. The student movement is staring them in the face. Tomorrow it is expected that tens of thousands of people will be marching all over our country to demand action and common sense from our leaders. March For Our Lives is happening. I marched in the Million Mom March in 2000 with 750,000 others who had hope. But nothing happened. Why? The Republicans were in control of the House and Senate and paid allegiance to the corporate gun lobby. They abrogated their responsibility to our kids. The Columbine school shooting had occurred shortly before the march. Even that could not persuade them.

The Million Mom March chapters merged with the Brady Campaign in chapters all over the country. We are actively involved with the students who are planning the marches all over the country and with the students who have come to DC to march. By hosting workshops, speakers and events, they are helping the students hone their messaging and their skills as well as registering them to vote. All of the gun violence prevention groups are involved with this effort. It is to support the kids. They are leading and we should get out of the way. Many of them will be voting in November and this issue will be at the top of their priorities.

The shootings have continued unabated since the Columbine shooting first awoke our collective conscience about the horror of school shootings. Since then, regular school mass shootings and mass shootings at other places have become commonplace in our country. And many of us have worked tirelessly to make the changes we deserve in the name of the victims. We have been waiting for the young people to get involved but we did not expect it to look like this.

Today I will march with the students and community for the sake of my dead sister and all of the other victims of gun violence. I will march for all of those Parkland students and students from Minnesota and all 50 states who will be in DC for this momentous occasion. And it will be momentous!

Today is also the anniversary of a school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas, leaving 5 dead. Since the shooters were so young- 11 and 13, – so young to become mass shooters. From the article:

The two were reportedly planning a shooting and getaway, with news reports at the time detailing how Johnson took his parents’ car and the boys broke into Golden’s grandparents’ home where his grandfather kept his guns unlocked. One of the pair then pulled the fire alarm at lunch and opened fire when people started to flee.

“They were hiding in bushes and shooting at us,” Spencer said. “We didn’t know what was going on. It was an ambush. It was chaos.

How do young boys like this get ideas like those described above? The gun came from the home of a grandfather where they were unlocked. In 1998 this was the 2nd deadliest mass shooting in our history. How things have changed. Columbine happened in 1999.

If you read the entire article you will see that these two shooters (Jonesboro) are now adult men, out after serving 10 years and both wanting to possess or possessing firearms:

As for Johnson, he obtained a firearm at some point after his release. After a traffic stop in Arkansas in 2007, he was arrested for possessing a firearm in the presence of a controlled substance. The lawyer who represented him in that case, Jack Schisler, told ABC News that in more than 20 years of practicing law, he has never seen that charge used. When asked why that particular charge was used, Schisler said: “Because he’s Mitchell Johnson, Jonesboro school shooter. That’s my opinion.”

“They were looking at the fact that because he was a juvenile when he got involved in the Jonesboro school shooting and, essentially, got out when he was 21 years old, that didn’t sit well with a lot of people. And I think they thought this would be probably the most powerful charge,” Schisler said.

“….that didn’t sit well with a lot of people.” I wonder why? When you kill 5 innocent people for no reason at all, you shouldn’t have guns, period. It sounds like Johnson was not thinking that as a murderer, he ought not to use a controlled substance with a gun in his possession.

Where is common sense?

This week a 16 year old Minnesota boy took a loaded handgun to school and was caught and arrested. Could we have had a mass school shooting in Minnesota? Yes. Of course. Why else does a 16 year old bring a gun to school? How and why does he even have a gun in his possession? Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. On the same day the Minnesota legislature refused to consider common sense, a 17 year old Maryland teen brought a gun he took from home ( belonged to his father) and shot and injured one boy and critically injured a girl with whom he had been in a relationship. She has now died. The boy died when a school resource officer shot him.

Far too often relationships end in shootings. That is the story of my sister. If a gun is not present, relationships are less likely to end in death.

After the march tomorrow I will be leaving on a trip to Florida, the gunshine state, with my family. I will likely be away from my blog but the way things have been going I may actually have to write while away. As we now know, Governor Rick Scott, up for re-election, signed a law to make Florida safer. This was in direct response to the Parkland students raising their voices and challenging the adults to do something to stop the shootings. But I will be watchful given that Florida’s gun death rate is higher than in Minnesota at 26th out of 50 states.

Congress passed some weak provisions in the omnibus bill just signed by President Trump hoping we will go away and not bother him or them any more. That is where they are wrong. We see what they did. Their weak kneed and limp response is shameful. We noticed. From the article:

The three provisions drew a lukewarm response from gun-control advocates. On the one hand, they were encouraged that a Republican majority resolutely opposed to restrictions on gun access felt compelled to pass even a modest, bipartisan bill in that direction. But they worried that the move would sap momentum for more expansive changes they believe are necessary to actually prevent gun violence and mass shootings.

“Congress clearly feels the pressure from Americans demanding action, but these baby steps forward aren’t enough,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Congress needs to buck the NRA and go big on gun safety. If they don’t, voters will throw them out.”

Just last week Congress introduced the WOOFF bill after a dog died in an overhead compartment on an airplane. Really? One dog dies and Congress introduces an immediate bill to deal keeping pets safe. But 17 kids die in a mass school shooting and- nothing? This is lunacy.

As I board my plane I will think about all of this in perspective. Things are so out of whack when we care more about pets than we do about our kids. We have a serious public health epidemic called gun violence. Now at least the CDC will get to maybe do some research but with no funding, maybe not? We know the cause and we know the effects. The cause is too easy access to the way too many guns in America. The effect? – shootings and dead people.

Congress and the President nibbled around the edges. They did little to affect the change that is required to protect our students from harm. Congress, do no harm. Voters are watching and voters care. Nothing will be the same after the Parkland shooting and today’s marches.

#Neveragain

As I soak up the sun in Florida I will think about the students who were massacred at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I will celebrate that the response by our country’s teens and the adults who support them was immediate and forceful. And I will be saddened by the totally inadequate and irresponsible response by our Congress and state legislatures.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas, for whom the now infamous high school is named, had it right:

Marjory Stoneman Douglas