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

 

 

Another anniversary-Columbine

Columbines blooming fresh in the springtime. Colorado state flower.In my recent post, I wrote about the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Tech mass shooting. That mass shooting occurred on April 16, 2007- ten years ago.

“April is the cruelest month” wrote T.S. Eliot.  The poet could never have predicted how true that has become for America. The poem deals with depression and what April can mean for those who are suffering from depression. Eliot’s poem takes on new meaning considering those who suffer from grief and loss over loved ones shot and killed and/or injured in the month of April. There are too many to count since 1999.

Today is the anniversary of the Columbine shooting. Yes, remember that mass shooting? It was the first school shooting to really capture Americans as it unfolded almost in real time. It was the first one that made people wonder how it could have happened and also what in God’s name could we do to stop school shooters from randomly shooting classmates.

An article with facts about Columbine provides us with the basics about the shooting. There are facts in the article but they were not fast. It was a slow moving shooting that day. The grief of the families and friends has not healed fast. Grief is under the surface until something triggers the day. A birthday. A holiday. And today, an anniversary of that day.

The article names the victims. They were somebody’s son, daughter, niece, nephew, sister, brother, father, uncle, friend. They were real people who in an instant became named victims.

Cassie Bernall, 17
Steven Curnow, 14
Corey DePooter, 17
Kelly Fleming, 16
Matthew Kechter, 16
Daniel Mauser, 15
Daniel Rohrbough, 15
William “Dave” Sanders, 47
Rachel Scott, 17
Isaiah Shoels, 18
John Tomlin, 16
Lauren Townsend, 18
Kyle Velasquez, 16

We must also remember that 20 were injured and now live with their memories and injuries- physical and emotional.

Some have already forgotten and don’t want us to remember. Others will never forget. Just as I will never forget the night I learned that my sister had been shot and killed. That memory never goes away.

And those of us who have lost a loved one look back and wonder what could have stopped the event? Was there anything anyone could have done? Can we make sure other families don’t have to remember these anniversaries?

We could, at the least,  try to stop the shooters from easily accessing guns they shouldn’t have in the first place.

Here is how the Columbine shooters obtained their guns, being too young to purchase on their own:

Robyn Anderson, a friend of Klebold and Harris, bought the shotguns and the Hi-Point 9mm Carbine at The Tanner Gun Show in December of 1998 from unlicensed sellers. Because Anderson purchased the guns for someone else, the transition constituted an illegal “straw purchase.” Klebold and Harris bought the TEC-DC9 from a pizza shop employee named Mark Manes, who knew they were too young to purchase the assault pistol, but nevertheless sold it to them for $500.

They planned ahead. Nobody knew. That is often the case but also too often someone knew that something was not right but didn’t report it or do anything about it. From the “fast facts” article above, a statement from the mother of one of the shooters:

In the first television interview since her son Dylan killed 13 people at Columbine High School, Susan Klebold speaks to Diane Sawyer. Klebold states that “If I had recognized that Dylan was experiencing some real mental distress, he would not have been there,” she says. “He would’ve gotten help. I don’t ever, for a moment, mean to imply that I’m not conscious of the fact that he was a killer, because I am.”

We have done little or nothing to change gun laws and our gun culture in spite of horrendous mass shooting after mass shooting. We see the same things. We talk about the same things. We watch the coverage of shootings repeatedly on the news but nothing changes. The gun lobby says it’s not the guns,stupid and we couldn’t stop these shootings no matter what we do. And Presidents attend memorial services. And families grieve. And politicians put their heads in the sand and hope no one asks them what they want to do to stop shootings from happening so families don’t have to continue remembering the day their loved ones were shot. And we go on and on and on……

This article urges passage of stronger laws and points out that states that have laws requiring all gun sales to go through a background check have fewer shootings. In other words, laws do matter. Facts matter. From the article:

Research shows that background checks are effective when it comes to saving lives. States with universal background check laws experience 48 percent less gun trafficking, 47 percent fewer deaths of women shot by intimate partners, and 17 percent fewer firearms involved in aggravated assaults. States with universal background check requirements also have a 53 percent lower gun suicide rate, and 31 percent fewer suicides per capita than states without these laws.

We CAN do something. We can pass stronger gun laws such as requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales. We can pass Gun Violence Protection Orders so that families and friends can ask that guns be taken from those who could be dangerous to themselves or others. We can pass stronger laws against straw purchasing. We can wake people up to the fact that if something doesn’t seem right, it isn’t and action is necessary. We can identify that there are risks to owning guns and casually selling them to just anyone. We can hold “bad apple gun dealers” accountable and make sure guns are not being sold or exchanged with people who clearly should not have them and end as crime guns.

We can’t let Columbine be forgotten. That is what the gun lobby wants. If we forget the victims- their names and faces, maybe we will just go along and do nothing to cause “trouble” for politicians. They want to avoid the unavoidable. They want to gain the favor of the gun lobby who represent an increasingly small group of Americans who think that the “guys with the guns make the rules.”  Or they just don’t want to deal with what has become a national public health epidemic. It is not and will not be easy. But that does not mean we shouldn’t do it.

Victims continue to speak out but who is listening to them? Tom Mauser, father, of  Columbine victim Daniel Mauser, has reached out to the NRA and wants them to listen. To no avail. With every subsequent mass shooting, he will comfort other parents if they ask for him to do that. He understands. He is active in the movement to prevent gun violence. In his words ( from the article):

“For the first 10 days, I didn’t speak to the media at all. I was just in shock. […] And then suddenly, I was so angry knowing that the NRA was meeting in town that I went and spoke in front of 12,000 people.

[…]It can be shocking. After I spoke, I suddenly realized I’m going to start getting calls from the media, I’m going to start getting people who are angry at me. You really have to be prepared for that.

[…]It can get pretty overwhelming. When you become an activist, you tell your story a lot. You live that story every day anyhow, it’s not like you don’t think of your loss. But when you go in front of other people and speak about it, it’s so much more. “

We have our stories. We have the facts on our side. But the facts and our stories don’t seem to be enough. They should be but we are living in a world where big money speaks and makes policy that advantages corporations and thumbs its’ corporate and political nose at the victims and survivors.

The truth is that on April 20, 1999, 12 students and one teacher were brutally and shockingly and unexpectedly murdered for no reason other than two seemingly angry and possibly mentally ill young men wanted to shoot other kids. There is no other explanation.

What say you gun lobbyists and gun extremists? Is this OK with you? Is it just about mental illness? What if these two couldn’t have so easily accessed guns? What then?

The Columbine is Colorado’s state flower, thus the name of the school. Often names of flowers have significant meanings. For the Columbine flower there is a message:

Wherever your journey takes you stay steadfast in your faith, love and friendships. Believe in things that are not yet seen.

We have not yet seen the majority of America’s leaders step up to the challenge of gun violence. There is actually common ground on solving the issue of gun violence. The majority understands that doing something about this epidemic will save lives.

Where is common sense?

Guns kill people

Killing - Text on Red Puzzles.

Yes they do. Guns are the only product sold to consumers that are not regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. They are also in a unique category called deadly weapons that mostly includes guns and certain types of knives. Guns are designed to inflict harm and kill people ( or animals in the case of hunting). I write this often on my blog. When I post actual articles about “accidental” discharges or incidents involving so called “law abiding” gun owners I get the usual remarks from gun rights folks. They agree that these incidents are irresponsible and careless.

Maybe they shouldn’t have had a gun? No, that is usually not mentioned because the goal of the gun lobby and gun rights extremists is for just about anyone to have guns and have them just about anywhere. And so that is the push- selling guns to as many people as possible without apparent regard to whether that person knows even the tiniest thing about a gun before walking away with one.

I am going to digress for a second here because today is the anniversary of the Columbine shooting. I wrote about April anniversaries in my last post. The Columbine shooting was the one that we saw endless video of through media outlets. Who can forget the images of teens walking out of a school building with their hands up or running in some cases or trying to get out of the windows of the building to safety? And images of the memorials and the aftermath of our country’s in a series of heinous school shootings.This was a visual reminder that indeed, guns do kill people. Here is a disturbing video from surveillance cameras in the Columbine High School cafeteria before, during and after the shooting took place. That day, guns killed 13 and injured many others and left an indelible imprint on the American psyche.

When it’s real people and we see it live or almost in real time, it’s different than watching people get shot on TV shows or movies and now, videos and video games. But truth is stranger and more real than fiction. States United to Prevent Gun Violence produced a film about the effect of real shootings called “Gun Crazy“. Watch as film goers sit in the theater with popcorn seeing real shootings rather than a violent movie. When it’s real, it’s too much. When real people have to see the real bodies of a child or a loved one who has been shot and killed by bullets, it’s  unforgettable. Nothing is ever the same.

Yes. Disturbing. We are gun crazy.

Back to guns killing people, why do people buy and own guns and who are they? Some are gun collectors. I know a few of those folks and they are nice people whose passion happens to be collecting guns- some older antique guns, some modern guns. You can really only use one at a time but if you like to handle he guns, work on them, look at them, admire them, take them to the gun range and shoot them or take them hunting, that is one thing. Some are hunters and that is the only reason they own guns. My family falls into that category. Some buy guns for target shooting and sport. And some buy guns for self defense. Still others buy many guns just in case they need them to fight against their own government. And, as it turns out, many of these people support common sense gun laws.

And unfortunately, some buy guns to kill someone they know and even love and that is the only reason they buy or access a gun. Such was the tragic case of a Minnesota man who went out and bought a gun so he could shoot his family and himself in a murder/suicide. He bought that gun one day before the shooting knowing what he was going to do. Without that gun, he must have thought he could not have accomplished this awful thing.

Can we stop incidents like this? Not all of them of course. But we do live in a country abundant with guns at the ready for anyone who wants to shoot someone or his/herself. Some people know exactly what they are going to do with a gun. Others are just careless or irresponsible as has been mentioned. But whatever else we say or don’t say or intimate or excuse, we must say the truth. Guns are dangerous and can kill or otherwise harm someone known to the owner whether or not they intend it.

So when I read this article, it resonated with me. I particularly liked the title: “Guns are designed to kill so why are we shocked when they do?” From the article:

In our national mythology, guns are symbols of liberty and autonomy, self-determination and control. When they harm us and there is no obvious person to blame, we want to believe they only do so “somehow.” Such linguistic tics subtly attribute gun failure and misuse to forces beyond our control, which is more comforting than admitting they are born of the choices we make.

The article ends this way:

Gun accidents happen because we live in close proximity to machines designed to kill; they eventually will do what they were made to do, though perhaps not at a time our choosing. Whenever this happens, the true culprit is obvious: A culture that refuses to learn the lessons of its past.

At a time of our choosing is an important phrase. Some shootings are actually accomplished at times the shooter has chosen and even thought about ahead of time. Many are not. Many are spur of the moment shootings that happen in an instant of anger or in the muddled thinking of depression or having too much alcohol or mishandling a gun or just leaving it sitting somewhere where it can be used at a time not chosen to kill or injure someone. That’s how it is with guns. They kill people. One killed my sister. Or I should say the bullets from that gun- 3 of them- caused internal injuries that killed her almost instantly. The person with that gun that day was angry over a contentious divorce. We don’t know what prompted it since there was not a trial where we could hear from him in his own words why he picked up a gun that day and shot two people. We don’t know if he met them at his door with his gun when they came to deliver some papers and got them inside the house. He killed himself 3 months after the shooting. What we do know is that he shot and killed two people while angry and depressed. Without that gun accessible, two people would not have died that day almost 23 years ago.

A woman once asked me why I didn’t think they ( my sister and her friend) could have been killed as easily with a knife. Maybe she was thinking of the now famous case where O.J. Simpson was on trial for killing his ex-wife and another man with a knife. He was not found guilty as we know but someone killed those two people and we are not sure how it was managed. Most knives are not really designed to kill people but they do kill. At a much lower rate than guns in spite of the nonsensical arguments that come from the other side about that. There have been “mass knifings” which have most often injured the people who were attacked but not killed them. One such happened in China on the same day as the Sandy Hook shooting that killed 26 innocent people. In China, 23 were injured and none killed.

And the answer is “no” to the woman who asked me, by the way. My now deceased brother-in-law was able to threaten and intimidate two people with a gun because it’s hard to run away from someone with a gun. A gun can be shot from close up or far away. Bullets have long trajectories. That is why they are so effective.

I’m writing and talking about common sense solutions to our gun violence epidemic. One of the things that has to be talked about is the risk of guns to their owners and others in the vicinity. I have asked whether guns are accessible when I hear of someone in a contentious divorce or domestic situation. At least some of our leaders recognize that domestic abusers certain should not have guns. In Minnesota and a handful of other states recent laws were passed to allow law enforcement to take guns away from domestic abusers who have exhibited behaviors that resulted in a restraining order and/or order for protection. Even the gun friendly legislators supported these laws and came together to make women and children safer from those who should not have guns. Hopefully that is a realization that guns can be a risk and can become deadly quickly in domestic disputes.

There are many ways we can deal with our gun violence epidemic if we treat it as the public health problem that it is. Passing laws requiring background checks on all gun sales is one. Requiring and encouraging safe storage of guns. Stopping bad apple gun dealers and stopping gun trafficking is another. Education about the risks of guns, of course, would help. Asking if there are unsecured loaded guns in the homes where your children play. Suicide awareness programs recognizing that access to guns can result in a senseless avoidable death. And this is not just about the NRA’s Eddie Eagle program which was the subject of a recent segment of Samantha Bee’s Full Frontal show.

I hope you will join me in supporting solutions that will stop the proliferation of guns in our communities and the devastating gun violence that is taking too many lives.

 

April- shooting anniversaries and an important birthday

April foolEvery April, some families have to stop what they are doing and remember an awful anniversary. The country also remembers certain April dates as those of mass shootings and violent events that we can’t forget:

April 13- Thomas Jefferson’s birthday

April 15- Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent shooting of one of the perpetrators and eventual capture and shooting of the other

April 16- Virginia Tech shooting

April 19- Oklahoma City bombing by gun rights extremist

April 20- Columbine shooting

April is a cruel month according to poet T.S. Eliot:

 

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
This of course refers to the spring weather which has been particularly cruel in Minnesota this year. We are one day wearing winter coats and boots and shoveling and the next sitting outside in short sleeves and enjoying the spring sun.
But for the victims of these now famous shootings and attacks, April is unforgettable. How can we forget the 32 shot dead at Virginia Tech? How can we forget the first big school shooting that left 12 dead and the country reeling? How can we forget the Oklahoma bombing that left 168 innocent people dead. The man who committed this heinous act was a gun extremist and had anti-government sentiments. The Boston Marathon Bombing did end with shootings and left 3 people there to watch the finish of the race dead.
And what does Thomas Jefferson’s birthday have to do with any of this? Let’s take a look at this article that dispels the myths associated with some of his quotes that are used by gun extremists and far right political extremists:
Saul Cornell, a professor at Fordham University, said some quotations may need context, especially those from the “losing side” of debates. He added that he believes both sides of the gun conversation tend to oversimplify the Founding Fathers’ historical intent.
“Without being too professorial about it,” he said, “depending on what theory of the Constitution we use, you can get very different interpretations of the Second Amendment.”
Cornell, who is the Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History at the school, said the Constitution incorporates lessons learned while the nation was under the Articles of Confederation. He said the turmoil of Shays’ Rebellion stirred up fears of mob rule among many leaders.
He also compared the militias of early America to a form of taxation, saying that citizens had what Jefferson referred to as a “right and duty” to be armed. That is, they were required to buy weapons in addition to being allowed to possess them. Militia membership was often compulsory, Cornell said.
He questions whether the Founding Fathers would have welcomed the idea of people taking up arms against their newly hatched constitutional government instead of using governmental procedure to settle differences, which sometimes is referred to as the “ballots vs. bullets” debate.
The quote that has sometimes been used by extremists is: ” The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” So what does that mean? From this article in the Huffington Post by Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:
Those who hold the belief that the Second Amendment gives them an individual right to take violent action against our government should it lapse into “tyranny” have isolated Jefferson’s “tree of liberty” quote in order to justify a radical ideology. The truth is that Jefferson’s views on private rebellion were far more thoughtful and nuanced. While scholars like Saul Cornell have acknowledged that Jefferson affirmed an individual right to keep arms for private purposes, he never described disorganized or spontaneous insurrection as a right. Jefferson instead envisioned“a universally armed citizenry organized into well-regulated militia units based on a system of ‘ward republics’” as a deterrent against “usurpers” and a key guarantor of a healthy republic.
In today’s hyperbolic and sometimes even violence-prone political environment it is important to understand that armed Americans ready to fight against their own government or for a particular candidate is not a democracy. We use ballots- not bullets- and hopefully common sense, to change our leaders. Our Founding Fathers wanted it that way. I doubt that they envisioned armed Americans ready to fight their own government or use their guns to intimidate and bully other Americans.

Some wonder if April has some significance when it comes to violence. This article explores that idea and comes to the conclusion that in America, at least, mass shootings occur in any and every month and we know that shootings happen every day of every month to the tune of 90 a day.

For my family August was a cruel month. For others it was December when 20 first graders and 6 educators were shot dead by a young angry mentally disturbed man who should not have had access to guns.

Gun violence is cruel and devastating. In American it is particularly and uniquely so.It doesn’t have to be that way. We shouldn’t be thinking about certain months or certain dates in light of violent events that took place then. Too many families hate the anniversaries of the shooting deaths of their loved ones or friends.

It’s past time to change the conversation and do something. Today a petition with 200,000 signatures to ask Congress to repeal the PLCAA law was delivered. A protest outside of the hotel where the NSSF was meeting also happened. The National Shooting Sports Foundation opposed the Senate background check bill in 2013 much to the great consternation of gun violence prevention activists and victims. It is located in Newtown, Connecticut where the Sandy Hook shooting took place.

April is a busy month for activists whose mission it is to call attention to our American public health epidemic and ask our leaders to do something about it. The month starts out with April Fools’ Day. We will not be fooled by the false and deceptive rhetoric of the corporate gun lobby. And we can’t let our elected leaders be fooled either. It is no joke to have a loved one’s life cut short by a bullet. And that is why we are acting today, this month and every month.

Check out the Facebook page of Newtown Action Alliance and the Twitter feed of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for photos showing the activists working for victims. This is what change looks like. Let’s keep going and make it happen.

Guns and mass shootings- as American as apple pie and country music

apple_pie_american_flagIt’s the land of “milk and honey”. It’s the land of the free. It’s the land of rock and roll and country music. It’s the land of apple pie and barbecue. It’s the land of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. It’s the land of wide open spaces and crowded cities. It’s the land of cowboys. It’s the land of slaves. It’s the land of Native American reservations. It’s the land of plenty and the land of slums. It’s the land of oceans, mountains, deserts and lakes. It’s the land of guns. It’s the land of school shootings. It’s the land of child shootings and gun suicides. It’s the land of domestic shootings and officer shootings. It’s the land of the corporate gun lobby.

An article about how America dealt with the Columbine shooting caught my attention this morning.  Yesterday was the 16th anniversary of that heinous shooting that seemed to be a marker for all that followed. It is why so many Americans showed up to march on Mothers’ Day of 2000 in the Million Mom March. Americans were horrified that they could watch a mass school shooting on TV and wanted not to do that again. We were hopeful that common sense would prevail and something would change. What seemed to change was the fervor of the gun rights extremists in the face of possibilities to do something about school shootings and everyday shootings. Instead of working together to stop the violence, the gun lobby dug in its’ heels and ever since has become more and more resistant and militant. Their iconic leader, Wayne LaPierre appears to be more unhinged with every passing NRA convention and every mass shooting.

But I digress. More from the first linked article, above:

After Columbine there was a general sense that something had to be done. That kids getting killed at school was a thing we weren’t going to be okay with. “Never again,” as they say.

It wasn’t some fanciful impossibility. The British did it after Dunblane. And so we did that. Everyone got together and passed sweeping gun control legislation and there was never another mass shooting in America.

Except not really. Because the “never again” response—though shared by many—was not shared by all. (…)

Both responses, “never again” and “don’t bother trying,” offer statements about the USA. The former says “America is the greatest country on Earth. We went to the moon. Surely, we can stop kids from getting shot to death at school! If the Brits can do it, so can we. ” The latter says, “No, we can’t. We’re America. The greatest country on Earth and the cost of the liberty that makes us so is that our kids may get shot to death at school.”

Every time there is another mass shooting and nothing happens it becomes a little easier to believe that the “don’t bother” crowd is right.

Don’t bother.

It’s OK by us if our kids may not come home on a day we put them on the school bus and expect to see them later that day at home. It’s OK by us if 3 year olds shoot one year olds. It’s OK by us if law abiding gun owners shoot themselves when adjusting bra holsters or guns fall out of pockets and shoot private parts. It’s OK by us if a 2 year old shoots his own mother after finding her loaded gun in a special purse for carrying a gun around  in public. It’s OK by us if stray bullets kill kids in their homes while they are sleeping. It’s OK by us if a gun nut father shoots and kills his own 3 year old daughter “accidentally”. It’s OK by us if domestic abusers use guns to kill their intimate partners. It’s OK by us if our young men of color are shooting each other on our city streets. It’s OK by us if police officers shoot to kill unarmed young Black men. It’s OK by us if police officers are shot and killed in ambushes. It’s OK by us if teens shoot themselves over a bad day with a gun found at home. It’s OK by us if innocent people are killed in road rage incidents. It’s OK by us if a grandpa shoots his own granddaughter when he mistakes her for a robber. It’s OK by us for a white guy patrolling a neighborhood to kill an unarmed black teen. It’s OK by us when a volunteer reserve sheriff’s deputy mistakes a taser for a real gun and shoots and kills a black man. It’s OK by us for gun nuts to carry assault rifles around in public places where families gather. It’s OK by us when……

And when someone bothers to do something about our nation’s public health and safety epidemic, it’s not OK with the gun rights extremists. It’s not OK with the gun lobby to suggest that gun safety reform will make us safer without infringing on their “God given” rights to do anything they want with their lethal weapons. Apparently it’s not OK for performers to have the freedom to perform benefit concerts for causes of their choice.

The gun nuts have come unglued over country singer Tim McGraw’s upcoming performance to benefit the Sandy Hook Promise organization. I wrote about this in my previous post but the furor is worse than ever. It’s bothersome that facts don’t matter in this case. Of course the Sandy Hook Promise is not “anti-gun” but that doesn’t bother the gun nuts.

So let’s be bothered by the extremism and myths about gun violence. We should be bothered enough to do something about this national epidemic. Changing the conversation is a first step. Even that would bother the gun extremists. Strengthening our laws to reduce and prevent some of our gun violence would not be bothersome to gun rights no matter what is hyped about it. Let’s make America the land of gun safety reform and the public health of our children and families. That we haven’t bothered to do that so far is a national tragedy.

Virginia Tech remembered – and other April shootings

Virgina TechAs poet T. S. Eliot wrote, “April is the cruelest month.” It’s true. It’s so disturbing that the month needs to be remembered for so many shootings:

April 2, 2014- the second Fort Hood shooting that killed 4, including the shooter and injured 16 more.

April 14, 2003- John McDonough High School shooting where a 15 year old student was shot and killed by 2 men with an AK47. 3 others were injured.

April 15, 2013 -The Boston Marathon bombing, of course, killed 3, injured many and caused terror to many. But it also did involve several shootings when one of the bombers shot and killed a police officer and the other suspect was shot and injured by law enforcement authorities after a long search that terrorized the Boston area for days.

April 16, 2007- The Virginia Tech shooting victims will be remembered again today on the 8th anniversary of the deadliest mass shooting in America. 32 were left dead and 17 others injured after the shooter, a severely mentally ill student who obtained a gun legally, opened fire on fellow students and professors before he shot himself.

And then, of course, we shouldn’t overlook the Oklahoma City bombing by gun extremist Timothy McVeigh on April 19, 1995 that killed 168 and injured 680. McVeigh was a gun rights extremist and militia member who was anti-government. In an interview with McVeigh years after the terror attack he admitted to the same rhetoric we hear from today’s gun rights extremists:

Once the Branch Dividian siege began in Waco, Texas, McVeigh became convinced that the government was the ultimate bully, trying to take away people’s guns.

McVeigh even drove to Waco during the siege.

“You feel a bond with this community. The bond is that they’re fellow gun owners and believe in gun rights and survivalists and freedom lovers,” said McVeigh.

Dan Herbeck: “The ultimate thing that sent him toward Oklahoma City was Waco with the Branch Dividian people being killed and he told us from that day forward he decided he was going to become a terrorist.”

McVeigh believed he and the Militia Movement were now at war with the U.S. government.

Sometimes these beliefs turn into action and unfortunately, that is what happened in Oklahoma City in 1995.

April 20, 1999- Two students obtained guns from a friend who bought them at a gun show with no background check, shot and killed 13 people and injured 21 at Columbine high school in Littleton, Colorado. This school shooting propelled a lot of Americans into action about gun safety reform and is still remembered today because it was the first school shooting in modern memory with so many victims and marks the beginning of an era of school shootings not seen in any other country in the world. You can see the list in this article, stunning because of the continued carnage and lack of action to prevent more of them.

April 25, 2003- Pittsburgh area junior high student shot his school principal and then himself at his school. The 14 year old carried 3 loaded handguns to school that day. The guns came from his own home.

This, of course, is just one month of 11. In America, we speak of school shootings and mass shootings as if they are just part of the landscape. That is the sad truth and it should be a shameful truth. But our elected leaders continue to ignore the facts about gun violence and vote with the corporate gun lobby instead of standing up for the victims and survivors.

Where is common sense?

Today we remember the victims of the Virginia Tech shooting. Tomorrow- others- and the next day and the next day and the next day……..

We are better than this. It’s past time to change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities. We can do something to reduce and prevent shootings. But we are not and that’s the American tragedy. Every day in America, another Virginia Tech happens when 32 Americans are killed in gun homicides. And that is only some of the 80 Americans who die daily from gunshot injuries. We have to get this right- lives depend on it.

Remembering:

Ross Abdallah Alameddine

Jamie Bishop

Brian Bluhm

Ryan Clark

Austin Cloyd

Jocelyne Couture-Nowak

Kevin Granata

Matthew Gwaltney

Caitlin Hammaren

Jeremy Herbstritt

Rachel Hill

Emily Jean Hilscher

Jarret Lane

Matt LaPorte

Henry Lee

Liviu Librescu

G.V. Loganathan

Partahi Lumbantoruan

Lauren McCain

Daniel O’Neil

Juan Ortiz

Minal Panchal

Daniel Perez Cueva

Erin Peterson

Mike Pohle

Julia Pryde

Mary Read

Reema Samaha

Waleed Shaalan

Leslie Sherman

Maxine Turner

Nicole White

I will also remember some friends I have met through my gun violence prevention work- the brother of a victim, the mother of a survivor and a survivor of the shooting.