What is the N.R.A. doing?

mafiaAs the Russian investigation by Congress and the special counsel Robert Mueller continue, we are learning about the extent of the influence of the Russians into corners we did not necessarily expect. But we shouldn’t be surprised at anything. Ever since Trump was elected it’s been a surprise a day and daily chaos and dysfunction, if not corruption.

Is that by design, incompetence, craziness or whatever other word has been used to describe what is going on? Kleptocracy has been mentioned as a cause for this American travesty. It’s so hard to determine what is going on but things are coming into closer focus.

It’s becoming more difficult to discern the difference between the NRA and the Republican party of late. What exists today is not your father’s or grandfather’s NRA. Back in the day, the NRA was a sportsmen’s organization, supporting hunting and shooting sports and training people ( and kids) how to properly handle their guns and be safe with them while hunting and shooting for sport.

Today? Not so much. A hostile take-over of the organization occurred in 1977 and it hasn’t been the same since.

After the corporate gun lobby managed to get laws passed to allow just about anyone to carry guns in most of our states, the NRA stood to make some money by offering classes to instruct prospective permit holders how to safely carry loaded guns in public and about the laws in a particular state. (You can even get a free gun on this site if you sign up).

Sigh.

One wonders, as an aside, what will happen if the NRA and the corporate gun lobby gets HR 38 ( Concealed Carry Reciprocity) or “arm anyone” bill passed into law? Why? Because 13 states don’t even require any hours of training before allowing someone to pack heat in public places and 3 have some version of the idea of “constitutional carry”. What will happen to the NRA revenue stream if classes are not required? They can hope that the bill to allow the legalization of gun silencers passes ( which by all rights it should not after the Las Vegas shooting) so a new source of revenue will open up.

That bill, too, is the clever theft of language to change something into something it isn’t. You just have to love that the bill is named the “Hearing Protection Act“.  The bill was included in a House Natural Resources Committee bill called the SHARE Act. Seriously- what do gun silencers have to do with natural resources? Another theft and co-opting of language. The goal is to remove gun silencers from the National Firearms Act which was passed for good reason after the mafia used gun silencers and machine guns to silence their enemies.

We get it. If we allow silencers ( and then possibly machine guns) to be sold like every other firearms instead of the now very strict regulations,  the consequences will be dangerous. Because of that law, it is extremely rare but not unheard of for them to be used in crimes. 

Back to “constitutional carry”. This is the stealing of a right ( second amendment) as written in our Constitution to make it into something it was not intended for. Tricky but we get it. It is the theft of the right to be safe and to make sure those who carry loaded guns are at the least, minimally trained to carry that deadly weapon.

You would think this is only common sense. But you would be wrong.

What about bump stocks? They are still being sold. Will Congress pass a law requiring at the least, a Brady background check before purchasing? Or will they be outlawed all together after the Las Vegas shooting?

This is insanity and more mass shootings waiting to happen.

The NRA has become an arm of the Republican party. That is pretty well known. But in the last few days we have discovered that a prominent member of their organization helped arrange a meeting between a Trump campaign leader and a Russian for the alleged purpose of helping Trump get elected.

This is like a spy novel. The intrigue is fascinating. Now we know what we have suspected. The NRA is an extremist organization and not in existence to just support shooting and hunting sports. They are a lobbying organization with a lot of power, control and influence in Congress and on our sitting President. This is dangerous.

As shooting deaths rise and lapdog politicians work to help the NRA and others in the corporate gun lobby with profits and more influence, we are becoming less and less safe from gun violence. I say this is an untenable situation.

Sigh.

Let’s take a look at the above linked article about Russian influence in the 2016 election:

 A conservative operative trumpeting his close ties to the National Rifle Association and Russia told a Trump campaign adviser last year that he could arrange a back-channel meeting between Donald J. Trump and Vladimir V. Putin, the Russian president, according to an email sent to the Trump campaign.

A May 2016 email to the campaign adviser, Rick Dearborn, bore the subject line “Kremlin Connection.” In it, the N.R.A. member said he wanted the advice of Mr. Dearborn and Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, then a foreign policy adviser to Mr. Trump and Mr. Dearborn’s longtime boss, about how to proceed in connecting the two leaders.

Russia, he wrote, was “quietly but actively seeking a dialogue with the U.S.” and would attempt to use the N.R.A.’s annual convention in Louisville, Ky., to make “ ‘first contact.’ ” The email, which was among a trove of campaign-related documents turned over to investigators on Capitol Hill, was described in detail to The New York Times. (…)

The emailed outreach from the conservative operative to Mr. Dearborn came far earlier, around the same time that Russians were trying to make other connections to the Trump campaign. Another contact came through an American advocate for Christian and veterans causes, and together, the outreach shows how, as Mr. Trump closed in on the nomination, Russians were using three foundational pillars of the Republican Party — guns, veterans and Christian conservatives — to try to make contact with his unorthodox campaign.

You really can’t make this stuff up.

The hypocritical calling for Hillary Clinton to reveal her ” acid washed” emails or lock her up is coming back to bite the Republicans and their supporters.

There are really no coincidences here. More from the article:

Indeed, evidence does appear to show deep ties between Mr. Erickson, the N.R.A. and the Russian gun rights community that were formed in the years when many American conservatives, put off by the Obama administration’s policies, were increasingly looking to Mr. Putin as an example of a strong leader opposing immigration, terrorism and gay rights.

The N.R.A. was one of Mr. Trump’s biggest backers during the campaign, spending tens of millions of dollars to help elect him.

Follow the money. Follow the influential lobbyists and you will get to the bottom of the mystery. For it’s nothing short of a mystery as to what is going on today. There is no common sense in any of this intrigue. There is danger. There is collusion. There is corruption. There is trouble.

If this is what we have become, God help us. We are no longer a democracy.

Guns should not be influencing national elections or our local or state elections. No Mr. Wayne LaPierre, the guys with the guns should not be making the rules. This is insanity itself and we must #resist.

Lock them up

familyjewelsLock up those guns. It turns out that stolen guns account for a lot of crime guns. Here is a new report from The Trace about that very thing. This is a long and comprehensive article but just a few highlights about something we already know:

American gun owners, preoccupied with self-defense, are inadvertently arming the very criminals they fear.

Hundreds of thousands of firearms stolen from the homes and vehicles of legal owners are flowing each year into underground markets, and the numbers are rising. Those weapons often end up in the hands of people prohibited from possessing guns. Many are later used to injure and kill. (…)

Thefts from gun stores have commanded much of the media and legislative attention in recent years, spurred by stories about burglars ramming cars through storefronts and carting away duffel bags full of rifles and handguns. But the great majority of guns stolen each year in the United States are taken from everyday owners.

So for those legal gun owners who love to blame those guns on the streets for gun crimes and murders, check out your own homes and cars first. It’s also a reminder that when we allowed the gun lobby to loosen gun laws in many of our states, we made this happen. In many states, where shall issue concealed/carry laws are in place, guns can be kept in cars- locked up of course. But, duh, don’t you suppose those intent on stealing guns know this? Many stolen guns come from car break-ins.

In the image in this post, the homeowner has his own handgun out ready to shoot someone who may be breaking into his home. As it turns out, most home invasions happen when the homeowners are not at home making the idea that a gun is needed to protect from home invasions. It is rare that a gun is used in that way. Too often those guns end up shooting a loved one.

My state of Minnesota is one where gun carry permit holders can keep their guns in their cars.

Where is common sense?

But back to stolen guns.

I understand that hundreds of millions of Americans own guns and a small majority of Americans own a large majority of the guns. But for God’s sake- lock them up.

More guns+more mass shootings+more shootings in general= about 100 dead Americans a day.

In my hometown of Duluth, a robbery of a home not too far from where I live ended with 3 arrested and one person who escaped. A friend who lives close to the home where the robbery occurred told me that a shotgun was found lying in the back yard at the scene. She has 2 small children and guessed that there about 20 kids who live within blocks of the crime scene. The thought that a shotgun was found where, had police not found the stolen items, could have been found by a young child was concerning to her.

In addition to the stolen shotgun,  a handgun and a rifle were found in the yard the next day. They appear to have been stolen from the home. The one who got away left his jeans behind in a neighbor’s garage. There have no further articles about the robbery to confirm this information so this is hearsay but most likely true.

The moral of the story is that there are more guns on the streets being traced to crimes and shootings. A lot of them are coming from “law abiding” gun owners are not responsible enough to lock up their guns securely where they can’t be stolen.

Passing laws to require the reporting of lost and stolen guns could prevent some of the many stolen guns used in crimes and help law enforcement trace crime guns to their sources for the sake of accountability. This is not rocket science. It’s a no brainer and common sense. 

From the above-linked article:

Nine states and Washington, D.C., have enacted laws to partially fill this gap and require gun dealers to implement some specific security measures, but such steps fall short of a comprehensive solution to the rising rate of firearm theft from gun stores.33 Congress should enact legislation that mandates certain security requirements for licensed gun dealers and gives ATF the authority to ensure compliance with these requirements. In July 2017, Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) introduced legislation that would require licensed gun dealers to store guns in a secure manner when their stores are closed and also would direct the U.S. attorney general to promulgate regulations requiring additional security measures.34 In addition to passing this legislation, Congress should remove the rider on ATF’s budget that prevents the agency from requiring gun dealers to conduct an annual inventory reconciliation, a commonsense business practice that would help ensure that dealers are keeping track of their dangerous inventory.35 Finally, Congress should provide ATF with the resources required to conduct regular compliance inspections of gun dealers to ensure that all dealers are complying with applicable laws and regulations and to help dealers identify potential security weaknesses before thefts occur.36   

And further, from the article:

The lack of mandatory reporting of stolen guns also enables gun trafficking and straw purchasing by eliminating accountability and allowing individuals whose guns end up used in connection with crime to simply say that the guns were stolen. To help ensure a more accurate assessment of the prevalence of gun theft in the United States, Congress and state legislatures should enact laws requiring all gun owners to promptly report stolen or lost guns to law enforcement. This provision was included in a number of bills introduced in the last Congress, including the Fix Gun Checks Act of 2016, which was introduced by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA).49 A June 2016 poll commissioned by The New York Times found that 88 percent of voters support this policy.50

If you have seen the 2002 film, “American Gun” you understand the path a stolen gun can take to become the weapon of a murder from being a legally owned gun. Too often, the consequences of guns stolen from gun dealers and individual gun owners are tragic.

One way to prevent this is for everyone to think about what they are doing with their guns. Until we all get that there is a risk to gun ownership as well as a right and a responsibility, we will continue to see people die due to gunshot injuries. There are suggestions in the article above about taking care that guns are not stolen.

We can a lot better to prevent guns from entering the black market and being trafficked on our streets. The fact that we aren’t is leading to senseless and avoidable gun deaths and injuries. It doesn’t have to be this way.

No common sense

peacockIn what world is it OK for a teacher to take young children on a field trip to a gun range? It’s not normal to do this and trying to teach children about history by exposing them to loaded guns when they can’t handle that responsibility or understand the true risks of loaded guns is deplorable. There is no common sense in this very flawed and potentially dangerous decision:

 

Holdheide Academy owner Tammy Dorsten told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Wednesday’s controversial trip to Hi-Caliber Firearms was intended to “enrich” the children, who were learning about Annie Oakley, Bill Pecos and Davy Crockett, per Georgia’s required curriculum.

Dorsten said she got the idea after students at the Woodstock school thought the sharpshooters’ firing skills were simple.

Why would there even be a discussion with second graders about sharp shooting skills? If people want to talk about this at home, go ahead as long as it comes with the discussion about how dangerous guns are in the hands of anyone, let alone second graders. But teaching about this in a school lesson? No words.

Let’s review how many children have died because of gunshot injuries just this year. The Gun Violence Archive site is keeping track of all of this, thank goodness. If it weren’t for the media and sites like GVA we wouldn’t know what is actually going on in our country. The numbers collected so far in 2017 equal 478 for children aged 0-11 injured or killed by a firearm.

What about this do some folks not understand? This is just not the way things happened decades ago while I was a child. Why? Because there were not a lot of handguns sitting around in people’s homes. There were plenty of hunting guns, including in my own house since I was raised by a hunting family. But it was very rare to hear about small children finding a gun around and “playing” with it and shooting him/herself or someone else. It just didn’t happen.

How did we get here? Simple. The corporate gun lobby changed organizations like the NRA into a lobby for the gun industry instead of a group to support shooting and hunting sports. When hunting waned and gun sales declined, there had to be a way to encourage gun sales. That way was to convince average Americans that they needed a gun for self defense. And then to convince legislators that the next step was for the carrying of those guns into public places because…… well, because of all the lurking dangerous shadows and trolls, zombies and dangerous people not like themselves out and about ready to pounce.

Follow the money.

Oh, and then there is the unhinged idea that the government is coming to do harm in the face our first Black President or any Democratic President, for that matter. Because the NRA and other pro gun rights groups have become an arm of the Republican party and, in particular, the far right extremists.

We have seen this in action when armed citizens roam our streets with long guns strapped around their bodies or handguns openly holstered to remind us that they can protect us all or that they mean to intimidate anyone out there who is watching.

The most recent display of the gun rights extremists in action took place in Charlottesville during the KKK/neo nazi/alt right event that ended in the death of one woman. Watching armed “militia” members strut on the streets displaying their weapons like a male Peacock displaying its’ beautiful feathers was a scary sight indeed. It was meant to be that way. Have gun will travel and intimidate.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is also keeping track of these folks. Somebody has to. Many are armed and potentially dangerous and they intend to cause trouble if they believe in their own fears and paranoia about the government. One question to ask is if they are “well regulated” which is the illusive phrase in the second amendment is about.

As the above linked article highlights, we have a serious problem in our country because we have failed to have an adult reasonable discussion about what it means to be well regulated. And so as a nation we are failing our children and grandchildren. We allow children to be killed and to kill every day in numbers that would have caused other reasonable democratic countries not at war to regulate and regulate fast.

We should be alarmed about this. Instead, we continue on the deadly path we are now on because the corporate gun lobby has convinced scared and lapdog politicians to ignore a national public health and safety epidemic. Instead, some insist that more guns will make us safer and that sham has become the narrative for gun rights.

The narrative needs to change if we are to save our children and families from the devastation of gun tragedies. And, of course, we need to include the entire nation because we aren’t saving our adults either.

We have to get this right. Facts matter.

For example, guns for self defense are much much more likely to be used to kill or injure someone in the home or the gun’s owner than to be used for self defense.

The Violence Policy Center, linked here, is keeping track. Of course gun rights extremists think this is #fakenews. Their problem is that facts are stubborn things. When we dive into them, we find the truth. From the link above:

The use of guns in self-defense by private citizens is extremely rare. VPC research has found a gun is far more likely to be used in a homicide or suicide than in a justifiable homicide. More guns are stolen each year than are used in self-defense.

The gun lobby seeks to expand the carrying of concealed, loaded handguns into an ever-increasing number of public spaces, while at the same time blocking any restrictions on the availability of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. The main argument used to advance these policies is that guns are a common and effective tool for self-defense. This argument is false.

A series of VPC studies on guns and self-defense thoroughly disprove the NRA myth. These studies analyze national data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).

From the above linked fact based article: ” When analyzing the most reliable data available, what is most striking is that in a nation of more than 300 million guns, how rarely firearms are used in self-defense.”

But never mind facts and common sense.

The Brady Campaign published a report called The Truth About Kids and Guns. 

Yes. There are truths that cannot be ignored. If we care about the next generation, we will deal with guns and gun violence as a serious public health epidemic. The truth is that kids are dying every day in avoidable, senseless shootings.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. With rights come responsibilities. There are way too many gun owners, adults and parents who are just not responsible with their guns. As a result, our children are dying. Too many adults don’t realize that guns are too often not securely stored, loaded, just waiting for a young curious child to find.

The ASK campaign is all about responsible gun ownership and the education of parents and adults about the risks of loaded and unsecured guns to our children.

The result of this ignorance and willful irresponsibility is deadly.

There is no excuse for taking second graders to a gun range on a field trip. Children have died or shot someone else at gun ranges or in homes or cars or public places under the “watchful” eyes of adults.

Remember when a nine year old girl was allowed to shoot an Uzi at a gun range and shot and killed the instructor?

Remember when a father brought his 8 year old son to a gun show to shoot a machine gun and the boy ended up dead?

Remember when that 4 year old Florida boy was playing with a loaded gun in the back seat of his gun rights activist mother and “accidentally” shot her in the back?

Remember when that 2 year old idaho boy found a loaded gun in his mother’s purse ( for self defense) and shot and killed his very own mother?

One of these incidents is one too many. And these incidents are just a very few of far too many.

Guns are not meant for small children.

The prevalence of gun deaths among small children is an American tragedy in which the gun rights extremists have convinced some amongst us that the second amendment means unfettered rights for anyone to own and bear a firearm with no regulations whatsoever. This is a sham and a lie. And it’s leading to the deaths of our children.

 

25 years later- unhappy anniversary

crying womanThis will be a long post. But then again, 25 years is a long time since the death of my sister. It’s a long time to have worked on gun violence prevention. It’s a long time living with the fact that we seem to be febile in the face of the gun lobby influence and have allowed lapdog politicians to do their bidding. And while the fight to prevent gun violence continues so do the deaths due to firearms injuries.

Too many families  mark the anniversaries of the death of a loved one to gun violence. What an unhappy anniversary. It brings back the memories of the phone call and/or the visit from law enforcement announcing that a shooting had taken the life of your child, parent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, grandchild or grandparent or a good friend. Gun violence has a ripple effect so the broader community and sometimes the entire country is affected by heinous shootings. It is in our consciousness and our collective memories and our collective culture.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the shooting death of my sister, Barbara. She was a beautiful lively, talented artist and pilot. She was a biker, a very good downhill skier, a tennis player, a beauty queen, a mother and step-mother, very involved in her community and a world traveler. In high school her friends called her Bugs. I still am not sure why. Because she grew up in Duluth, some of her friends still live here and I run into them occasionally. They always have fond memories to share of her as she was loved by many.

In spite of the fact that her estranged husband ( 2nd husband) killed her, the adult children from her first marriage and adult child from her second marriage along with the adult children from his first marriage remain close to each other. His first wife has taken on the role of grandmother to the grandchildren my sister never met. My husband, my children and I all remain close with all of them. It was because of my sister’s ability to love and draw people together that we have remained a close family.

We could have been angry and divorced ourselves from his family, but my mother was forgiving to a fault and kept them all close. The thing is, we loved them all and had no idea that my soon to be ex brother-in-law was capable of shooting and killing two people. That is how it often is. Family members are surprised proclaiming that the shooter was such a nice person or a quiet guy or the family seemed to be so happy. What went wrong? It was so unexpected. That is the risk of having a gun so accessible in situations of anger and domestic disputes.:

DID YOU KNOW?  Keeping a gun in the home raises the risk of homicide.

    • States with the highest levels of gun ownership have 114 percent higher firearm homicide rates and 60 percent higher homicide rates than states with the lowest gun ownership (Miller, Hemenway, and Azrael, 2007, pp. 659, 660).
    • The risk of homicide is three times higher in homes with firearms (Kellermann, 1993, p. 1084).
  • Higher gun ownership puts both men and women at a higher risk for homicide, particularly gun homicide (Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Injury Control Research Center, 2009).

Stunning.

I will always remember the night of the phone call about my sister’s death- actually on August 6 because her body and that of her friend were not discovered until the next day. When my nephew told me that my sister had died I assumed it was a plane crash since she was a pilot. Or anything else besides a shooting. How can one imagine that happening to a loved one? The violence. I often wonder how it would have been for her in the seconds before death after 1,2 and then a third bullet entered her body. Unimaginable. I can’t go there.photo of Barbara

Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill people. I won’t repeat the figures here again but we know that a lot of people die needlessly from firearm injuries. We also know that we are NOT helpless to change the trajectory of the number of gun deaths. More guns means more gun deaths. That is just a common sense fact.

We are not dealing in common sense though. Tragically we are dealing with a powerful and well funded corporate gun lobby that has become an arm of the extreme right wing of our nation. They use the second amendment as cover for their ever increasingly extreme agenda, aimed at arming anyone everywhere. We will not be safer as a country.

On this 25th anniversary of my sister’s death, I want to also remember the 5 year anniversary of the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin,   6 died that day because of a hate filled white supremacist who killed just because. That is the American tragedy playing out regularly every day, week, month and year.

This shooting was just one of the very many mass shootings in America. Only in America is this a regular part of a nation’s culture. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I have some suggestions:

Stop making this about the second amendment. It is about preventing gun deaths and injuries.

Stop the ludicrous assertion that passing a universal background check to require Brady background checks for all gun sales will inevitably lead to gun confiscation. That is a lie.

Challenge the NRA and other extreme gun rights groups when they cross over a line and stoke up lies and fear. Take this latest from Dana Loesch of NRA TV, for just one example:

Dana Loesch, spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, is yet again making headlines for controversial reasons. On Friday, during an interview with Grant Stichfield on the NRA TV channel, Loesch equated penalizing gun owners with shaming rape victims. Her comments were in response to a study conducted by the Center for American Progress indicating an increased rate of gun thefts in Southern states — with most of the stolen firearms ending up illegally trafficked and utilized in robberies and violent crimes. Texas, Georgia, and Florida topped the list with over 8,100 thefts of licensed firearms between 2012 and 2016. The Center for American Progress suggested implementing laws enforcing stricter storage guidelines for gun owners.

Loesch argued that focusing on gun owners rather than on those stealing the guns is analogous to shaming victims of sexual assault:

Good grief. What nonsense. No wonder some gun owners are moving away from this organization.

So we should encourage more reasonable gun owners who generally agree with the gun violence prevention groups to raise their voices. Many believe the NRA has become too extreme for them and have left the organization. Here is just one who wrote about his displeasure with the NRA:

As a gun owner and defender of the Second Amendment, I’m here to tell you the NRA has lost its ever-loving mind.

The nation’s largest firearms organization began its slide into moral degeneracy as late as the early 2000s, when actor Charlton Heston became its five-term president (a feat for which the NRA’s rules had to be changed to allow him to serve longer), before going public with his battle with Alzheimer’s disease and retiring. Under Heston’s firebrand leadership, the NRA’s rhetoric shifted its focus from working with lawmakers across the country to defend Second Amendment rights, to recasting the group as the front-line warrior in a crusade against the entire progressive movement in a culture war that they claimed had engulfed the country. (…)

A responsible NRA would be working for, not against, universal background checks on all firearms sales. As a responsible gun owner, it’s my job to ensure anyone I transfer a weapon to is in fact legally permitted to possess one. That’s the bare minimum due diligence that should be expected of me, and the vast majority of Americans and even gun owners agree. But not the NRA.

Pass the law to close the gap with Brady background checks that now allows private sellers to sell guns without knowing whether the buyer is a felon, a domestic abuser or someone dangerously mentally ill.

Pass laws to require safe storage of guns.

Strengthen gun trafficking laws.

Crack down on straw purchasing. The Brady Center won a settlement against a Florida gun dealer and announced it today. The message from the gun dealer who sold a gun through a straw purchase which was used in a fatal shooting:

“We must exercise great caution and due diligence with great responsibility in preventing firearms from getting in the wrong hands of people who seek to harm us all. I support laws that protect our Second Amendment and the laws that protect our society from criminal elements who would abuse that right to the detriment of others. I encourage all gun dealers, including the new owner of my gun shop, to implement such measures.”

Hold every gun dealer and every gun owner responsible for being safe with guns and business practices. Lives can be saved.

Educate parents about ASKing if there are loaded, unsecured guns in homes where their children play. One big question could save a life.

Form coalitions of like minded people who are interested in keeping people from shooting themselves or others such as faith groups, gun owners, law enforcement, mental health organizations, domestic violence associations, health care providers, communities of color, LGBTQ community, educators, parents, business leaders and other gun violence prevention groups.

Crack down on irresponsible gun dealers. (See above article about the Brady Center settlement against an irresponsible gun dealer)

Don’t loosen gun carry permit laws. New research suggests that the passage of the conceal (and open) carry laws have led to more gun violence.

Change the conversation about the risks of guns to families and communities. Push back when bad advice or faulty information is in the public domain like the recent Dear Abby column about kids and guns. After the Brady Campaign and other organizations and volunteers weighed in Abby wrote a column with new advice and changed her mind. 

Remember the victims and survivors and make sure their stories are told. They are the voices of the movement to prevent shootings.

Stop saying our thoughts and prayers are with you and do something about the gun violence epidemic. TAKE ACTION.

Join one of the many gun violence prevention groups working to end gun violence at the local, state and national level. Join them in sending emails, postcards, making phone calls, lobbying at offices, tabling, speaking out, going to rallies, bell ringings, other events. They need you.

Work together for common sense.

I will end by suggesting that the current culture of incivility, sometimes including our own friends, on social media is disturbing. It starts from the top. With a President who has mentioned violence at rallies and said that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue without losing supporters, we have hit some new lows in civility. With trolls making rude and offensive comments when they disagree with someone, how can we have a civil society? It’s a frightening trend.

With members of both parties attacking each other and then the other party, how can we expect civility? With more armed people walking around with loaded guns in public, can we expect civility?

Social media allows a platform for organizing and promoting causes as well as keeping in touch with each other. But when it also becomes a platform for open criticism of even other friendly organizations or candidates or friends and family members, how can we expect people to settle disputes peacefully and without use of force? With the wide gap between Americans politically, the fear and paranoia is real. What we don’t need is ramping it up to include the idea of violence against each other and particularly with guns. Gun rights and the second amendment go only so far. The NRA’s leaders and lobbyists and other gun rights organizations have increasingly associated themselves with one political party in our country. The rhetoric has become more violent and suggestive of “second amendment remedies”. Why? The question should be asked and answered.

We are better than this. I am sure we all want to leave our country and the world a better and safer place for our children and grandchildren. That is what my sister would have wanted and that is why I am persisting. In her name I carry on. I stand on the legacy and lost lives of the 825,000 Americans who have died from gunshot injuries since 1992. That’s right. 25 multiplied by 33,000 is that much. In 1992 when my sister was shot and killed gun deaths were actually higher than 33,000 per year.

And last, I want to pay tribute to Jim Brady who died 3 years ago yesterday. I met him once and immediately was taken by his sense of humor and engaging personality even as he suffered from the decades long firearm injuries he suffered in the assassination attempt on the life of President Reagan. Jim and his wife Sarah persisted in spite of the terrible situation in which they found themselves, and got the Brady Law passed. Lives have been saved as a result.

I honor all victims of gun violence on this anniversary of my sister’s shooting death. Many things have changed since her death but one thing has not- gun violence is a thing. It’s a thing that needs fixing.

Shed a tear. Ring the bell. Light a candle. Pick a flower. Think for a minute the horror of losing a loved one in a shooting. And then take action and do something about it.

Stunts and games with guns are deadly

dominoesSometimes when I read accounts of really stupid and dangerous incidents with guns, I want to cry. Take this Minnesota story for just one of many examples:

A woman shot and killed her boyfriend in a “stunt” gone tragically wrong allegedly to increase their presence on YouTube:

As part of a young couple’s quest for YouTube fame, a 19-year-old woman shot at a book her boyfriend was holding against his chest, killing him at close range outside their northwestern Minnesota home. (…)

Ruiz held up the book — described by County Attorney James Brue as a hardcover encyclopedia — and Perez pulled the trigger on a .50-caliber Desert Eagle pistol, trying to see whether the bullet would go through, according to the criminal complaint.

A few hours before the shooting, a posting went up on Perez’s Twitter account that read: “Me and Pedro are probably going to shoot one of the most dangerous videos ever. HIS idea not MINE.” The note included two wide-eyed emoji faces and another of an eye-covering monkey with a gaping mouth.

No words.

They rolled the dice and tragically lost.

Playing games while carrying is also a bad idea. Someone got mad at friends while playing dominoes in Las Vegas and got a gun from his car to shoot and kill two people. No joke.

Two men in their 20s died Sunday night after an argument broke out over a game of dominoes at a northeast Las Vegas home, Las Vegas police said.

Officers responded about 7:20 p.m. to a shooting call at the home on the 4400 block of Wendy Lane, near East Craig and North Walnut roads, according to Metropolitan Police Department homicide Lt. Dan McGrath.

After the argument began, another man retrieved a gun from his car, went back inside the home and opened fire, McGrath said. Detectives are working to “positively identify” and arrest the suspected shooter, who knew the men killed.

Who knew a simple game of dominoes could become deadly? My husband’s aunt and his mother used to have real arguments over their games of Cribbage while at their cabin. I’m sure glad neither of them had a gun. Because guns are dangerous and deadly. What is it about that that some people just can’t understand? The American gun culture is out of control.

On my old blog site, I wrote about a board game gone terribly wrong in Minnesota.

Becoming angry while playing friendly games with friends or family should not result in death or injury. But this is the American gun culture. It is out of control.

One of my favorite sources, The Trace, posted an article today about how research has shown that more “law abiding” conceal and carry gun permit holders have actually contributed to more crime:

In a new working paper published on June 21 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics at Stanford Law School ran that data through four different statistical models  — including one developed by Lott for More Guns, Less Crime — and came back with an unambiguous conclusion: states that made it easier for their citizens to go armed in public had higher levels of non-fatal violent crime than those states that restricted the right to carry. The exception was the narrower category of murder; there, the researchers determined that any effect on homicide rates by expanded gun-carry policies is statistically insignificant.

While other studies conducted since 1994 have undermined Lott’s thesis, the new paper is the most comprehensive and assertive debunking of the more-guns-less-crime formula.

“For years, the question has been, is there any public safety benefit to right to carry laws? That is now settled,” said paper’s lead author, John Donohue. “The answer is no.”

I am not surprised but know that there will be pushback from the gun rights community because this debunks their notions that more guns= less crime when actual research says “NO”.

New polling from Pew research reveals how the country is very divided about some things concerning guns and unified about others:

Republicans and Democrats find rare common ground on some gun policy proposals in the U.S. Large majorities in both parties continue to favor preventing people with mental illnesses from buying guns, barring gun purchases by people on federal no-fly or watch lists, and background checks for private gun sales and sales at gun shows.

Yet there are sharp partisan differences on several other issues – particularly on whether to let people carry concealed guns in more places and to allow teachers and officials to carry guns in K-12 schools, a new Pew Research Center survey has found.

And Republicans and Democrats have stark, fundamental differences on questions relating to the causes of gun violence – and even whether gun violence is a serious problem in the country.

In what world do people not think gun violence is a serious problem? Just asking……

How did gun violence prevention and gun policy get to be a Republican/Democratic issue dividing the country? Just asking……

Because gun violence does not discriminate between political parties. Republicans and Democrats ( and Independents) alike are shot and killed every day. They also shoot people every day. My now ex and deceased brother-in-law was a Republican. My sister was a Democrat. Gun violence is an issue that affects us all but the corporate gun lobby has become a favored Republican organization:

That partisan split could provide a hint as to why Republicans are so united today behind the NRA. Some of America’s biggest social-issue shifts have been driven by motives other than ideology; young people regardless of party have buoyed America’s increasing tolerance of same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization, for example.

Gun rights, by contrast, have magnetized Americans toward the political poles. So Republicans might be naturally lining up with the more conservative factions in their party on everything from gun rights to immigration.

But Republicans also have a fairly complex relationship with gun laws. And in fact, the shift described above might undersell it.

Witness their changes over time on the idea of protecting gun ownership versus controlling it. Republicans’ lines are much squigglier than Democrats. But the trend among Republicans since 2008 is clear as day: gun rights over gun control. What was an even split seven years ago is now a 3-to-1 edge in favor of gun rights.

It’s an American tragedy that a public health gun death epidemic is treated as a partisan issue.

But is it? Let’s take a look at more recent polling from Quinnipiac showing more broad support for gun safety reform issues. In this poll and others, Americans broadly rejected the Republican health care plan- even Republicans. Americans seem to agree that the plan is a really bad idea for them. And they also agreed about most policies to prevent gun deaths. Let’s take a look from the linked article:

American voters support 94 – 5 percent, including 92 – 8 percent among voters in households where there is a gun, background checks for all gun buyers. Support is over 90 percent in every listed group.

It’s too easy to buy a gun in the U.S. today, 57 percent of voters say, while 6 percent say it’s too difficult and 32 percent say it’s about right.

If more people carried guns, the U.S. would be less safe, 57 percent of voters say, while 35 percent say the nation would be safer.

American voters say 79 – 17 percent that the way people talk about politics in the U.S. today contributes to violence. This belief is strongly held among all listed groups.

The recent shooting of a U.S. Congressman and several other people in Virginia will have no impact on how people talk about politics, 53 percent of voters say, while 11 percent say it will have a positive impact and 31 percent say it will have a negative impact.

This is agreement that we should be doing more to reduce and prevent gun violence. So why aren’t we? We know the answer. And speaking of politics contributing to violence, there has been much discussion today after our very own President again tweeted out some offensive things against two media personalities. The White House response was the usual defensive one claiming that the President doesn’t advocate violence. Quite a few Republican leaders denounced the tweets but until their actions follow their words, this will continue unabated. And we will all be the worse for it.

Words matter. Did we elect a fighter to be a our President? ( I did not vote for #45) I don’t even know what that means. Presidents are not supposed to openly fight with the press, with women, with anyone who talks about him/her. This President thinks he is still a candidate and a businessman. His thin skin has become his worst enemy leading him to bully, intimidate, tweet inappropriate and offensive words and alienate most of the country. Does he realize that he is actually the President of the United States?

Self restraint and discipline is what is needed. Being tough with world leaders when necessary, with Congress when necessary, with his cabinet members when necessary, but not with the American people and the press. But being tough does not mean being tough like a schoolyard bully. It doesn’t mean throwing verbal punches at innocent people.

And, by the way, a free press is protected in the First Amendment and necessary for a democracy. Any leader who thinks otherwise is flirting with the kind of authoritarianism that is just not American.

And where are his supporters? Do they believe this behavior is OK? It’s not under any standards.

Of course we can all find video and media clips of the President advocating violence and egging on his supporters.

(As an aside, the President was wrong about Mika Brzezinski bleeding on New Year’s Eve.) And here is an article written by Joe Scarborough and Mika in today’s Washington Post asking some serious questions about the President’s dangerous tweets.

This is an embarrassing, sad, unprecedented, unPresidential, offensive, deplorable, vulgar, appalling state of affairs and lack of discipline and common sense that we can’t tolerate. If words that encourage violence come from the top, some people take them seriously and do likewise. We have become an angry, impolite and intolerant country. Having more guns around does not make this any better.

Gun violence often happens when people are angry and intolerant of others or feel that vengeance is the way to make it better. Too many young people are out on our streets with guns used to get even or vent anger.

So back to what is going on in my state of Minnesota….. The St. Paul Police Chief has verified what most of us in the gun violence prevention movement know to be true. Gun violence is a public health crisis:

While addressing the St. Paul City Council, Police Chief Todd Axtell called a significant rise in gun violence a, “public health crisis.”

“As of Wednesday, the number of gunshots fired is up 61 percent, homicides are up and the number of guns recovered off the street is 286,” Axtell said. (…)

Axtell also noted that half of the city’s 13 homicide victims this year were teenagers and the suspects in most of those crimes were teenaged perpetrators as well. The chief added that the summer season may see a rise in gun violence.

“Just last night alone … we had three arrests, five shots fired incidents throughout the city and three guns were recovered,” Axtell said. “This is just one night of work.”

How do teen-agers get their guns? From irresponsible adults. Stealing. Buying on the street from others who have bought guns legally or got them illegally themselves. From their homes. From a relative. From a friend. Any of these scenarios is likely and something we must address as communities and as a country. Guns don’t fall from the sky. All guns start out as legal purchases. From there, too many of them get into the hands of children, teens, criminals and others who should not have access to guns.

This is an American tragedy. It is not happening in other democratized countries.

Our gun culture is not a game or a stunt. We have serious problems that are not being addressed and people are dying every day senselessly and avoidably. It doesn’t help that rhetoric is ramping up and becoming more and more angry and hyperbolic.

Along that line, we need to talk about the latest video from the NRA by their new young star, Dana Loesch.  

Can we talk about advocating violence and encouraging armed insurrection in America? Here is what Loesch is saying under the umbrella of the NRA. I do love the hypocrisy:

In other words, Loesch is telling us that she and the NRA appropriated the imagery of a clenched first, even though when it’s associated with the left, it stands, in her mind, for violent protest or being a whiny loser. She also urges her critics to “take a Midol” and “get a grip,” which is wild advice coming from a woman who made an eight-minute video sitting three inches from a camera yelling about leftists lighting garbage can fires.

But it’s a call to arms that is alarming here and considering the political atmosphere, it wouldn’t take much for a terrible incident to start something we don’t want to see in America. This is no game. This is serious stuff , so for Loesch to feign surprise at the pushback is dishonest and cynical. More from the linked article:

The NRA is getting a little of the sweet, white-hot outrage they so crave with a new and deranged ad featuring their spokesperson, pundit Dana Loesch. The ad explicitly positions Real Americans against the violent, lying left, and—given that it’s an ad for a gun lobbying organization—it reads a lot like a call to take up arms against those menacing liberals. But who is Dana Loesch, why is she in my face, and where does this fit in with the proud tradition of batshit NRA ads?

Who is she? Who is anybody who uses a media platform to encourage violence while representing an organization that encourages the sale of the weapons that cause the violence in this country?

The domino effect of gun violence is all too real  and it’s making us less safe. The dangerous rhetoric we are hearing every day is contributing to a sense of unease and mistrust. The potential for actual violence based on the rhetoric is also real.

Too many families and communities are suffering devastating loss from gun injuries and death. We ought to be discouraging violent and hyperbolic talk instead of hearing it from the top and in ads meant to cause anger and fear of others.

We are better than this.

Extremism in our legislatures

Caroon
Published in the Duluth News Tribune

I have written many times about Stand Your Ground laws. As more states are now passing these laws more people will be in danger of being shot and injured or killed senselessly. Not that any shooting makes much sense.  This story from The Trace, highlights an example of the first “Stand Your Ground” case in Missouri after their new law passed:

Missouri was the first state to pass a “stand your ground” law since the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida brought notoriety to such legislation in 2013. Before taking that step, Missouri law followed the “castle doctrine,” which says that a person may shoot an intruder to his home, if perceiving the situation as life-threatening.

Schoeneberg, for his part, is worried about gun owners understanding that the new, more permissive “stand your ground” law still has limits. “I think that people think this is a license to do more than they’re really allowed,” he says.

This is the story of so many other similar cases. Can you shoot someone because of a cell phone robbery? If you can, should you? Can you shoot someone who is sitting drunk in the car in your garage? Should you? Can you shoot someone who has broken into your house and is taking a shower in your very own shower? Should you?

The answer is yes if you want to face the consequences.  If someone else’s life is worth so little that you would take it over things like this we have a serious public health and safety problem and a problem with the morality of taking human lives.  Some people think this is OK.

Some legislators in Minnesota are lapdogs for the gun lobby and will get a floor vote in the House on Stand Your Ground in the next few days. Why? Because rights…….Because ALEC…… Because the corporate gun lobby agenda…..

It’s that simple but it’s really that complicated.

Minnesota nice? Not so much. Because once you have the idea in your head that you can now shoot someone who you perceive to be a danger ( even if they really aren’t) you can shoot first and ask questions later.There is nothing about Stand Your Ground laws that are good for public safety and the health of our communities. In fact, the laws make our communities and families less safe.

But common sense about these things does not exist in the minds of those who have decided that laws like this are OK.

The gun extremists have been standing their ground as they push ludicrous and dangerous bills through our state legislatures and Congress. Consider permitless carry which did not make it far in the Minnesota House. From this article in The Trace:

The concept, rooted in constitutional originalism, assumes that the authors of the Second Amendment envisioned an unfettered right to wield a gun for personal defense. In this view, any limitation on an individual’s right to carry guns, however small, is unjust. Full stop. As such, passing constitutional-carry legislation is seen by proponents as a restoration, not an expansion, of gun freedoms.

As with the “campus carry” movement, the push for permitless carry has come from the grassroots more than from the National Rifle Association. While the nation’s largest gun lobby champions the latest bills in its press releases, local lobbyists who take the NRA’s absolutist rhetoric at face value find themselves chafing at its corporate model of working hand-in-glove with establishment politicians.

The resulting friction has fed into the upheaval taking place within gun politics (and American conservatism as a whole) since the rise of the Tea Party, which has left the NRA frequently following, rather than steering, the emboldened extremes of its coalition. Activists in several states told The Trace that the NRA — which did not respond to requests for comment for this story — has not helped their cause. In one state, they point to direct evidence that the NRA has undercut their proposals.

Hmmm. Even the NRA does not like these bills? It looks like Stand Your Ground is dead in the Minnesota legislature for this session. I wonder why? Many of us have sent post cards, sent emails and made phone calls. We have visited offices, held rallies against these dangerous bills, and held up signs outside of the House chambers. It is not a popular bill but again, pushed by extremists.

Then who are these extremists? They are in the minority when it comes to support for sensible gun laws. They are not members of your grandfather’s or even your father’s NRA. They are anti-Obama, anti government, anti immigration fanatics pushing for laws that they believe would allow them to protect themselves from zombies and “the other”. Scary stuff if you ask me. They are the “don’t tread on me” guys. They carry the Gadsden Flag for effect and as a symbol understood by other extremists.  Take a look in case you don’t know about it:  Anarcho-Gadsden_flag.svg

A local gun owner and now former NRA member wrote this great piece the other day in my local paper. He understands common sense and extremism and he has chosen the former. From his opinion piece:

The measure was supported by the NRA and its favored legislators. For decades I was a member of the National Rifle Association and had its conspicuous round insignia on my cars and trucks. I was even enrolled into the “National Rifle Association of America Millennium Honor Roll.” It wasn’t that I thought the NRA and its members had some ill intent when I decided to discontinue my membership; it was because of the evermore unlikeable image of the NRA to many people. An organization that used to mostly represented hunters and sport shooters, and even wildlife conservation has become a spokesperson for the manufacturers and marketers of military-like assault weapons. If you want to see this trend, just go to a gun show and see all the black and camouflaged semi-automatics that are replacing the aesthetically appealing guns with contoured fine wooden stocks and elegant inlays and engraving. These new quasi-machine guns have all sorts of unusual configurations and often are collapsible to be more easily concealed. The guns displayed at shows more and more like those in news photos of confiscated gang weapons.

Another sad aspect with the NRA: after every major shooting tragedy, out comes its leader, Wayne LaPierre, to warn us that the Constitution will be in jeopardy if some sensible legislation to reduce gun violence is passed.

The NRA does not represent gun owners any more and they are beginning to wise up as more and more extreme bills are pushed in our legislatures and Congress.

And the writer sums up the culture of gun extremism nicely as he says:

The stated purpose of the permitless carry bill in St. Paul is public safety. But this will not be achieved by having even more gun carriers who won’t bother with gun-safety training or the permitting process or who may be mentally ill.

Statistics notwithstanding, even an occasional widely reported “accident” — such as the Target shopper wounded when another customer’s gun went off or the horror of the Walmart shopper whose child got the pistol out of her purse and killed himself — has even more of us deciding we would prefer not to have guns casually carried around by the firearms-inept. It also defies logic to pretend that evermore pervasive guns will reduce the incidence of bar and road-rage shootings and urban gunfights.

The proposed law in Minnesota would have other adverse effects: Even more of those annoying, black-and-white “guns not allowed” signs would crop up. More potential visitors might think Minnesota is returning to gunslinging Wild-West days. The perception could grow stronger that we gun owners aren’t satisfied to have our guns safely at home, out with us hunting, or at a safe shooting range. And it certainly would not enhance our image of “Minnesota Nice.”

( The political cartoon at the top accompanied this opinion piece and certainly does express the truth of the permitless carry bills).

How will we know “good guys” with guns from “bad guys” with guns if everyone is armed and no one has training or a permit. Further they can “stand their ground” and shoot someone without consequence. ( Or so they are led to believe).

It doesn’t always work out well for those who have claimed justifiable self defense. One such case is the 2014 Minnesota man who was lying in wait for two teens who were burglarizing his house. He lured them to his basement and shot them dead and shot many times claiming it was in self defense. It was brutal and bloody.

He shot the teens multiple times point blank and referred to them as vermin.

Good guy with a gun?

He was found guilty by a jury and went to prison. Luckily for all, Minnesota did not have a Stand Your Ground law but even then, when it is so obvious that a killing is not justifiable as in the case of Jordan Davis in Florida, shot by a white man because he did not like the loud music a car full of black teens were playing. 

He is in prison. Good guy with a gun?

Florida has a Stand Your Ground law.

The shooters made a terrible mistake and their mistaken ideas or perceptions turned deadly costing lives and sending them to prison. If you are prepared to go to prison over your deadly mistake, then by all means, carry a gun with no training or permit and stand your ground over perceived fear. Try to explain it to a jury and live with what you did.

This is extremism. We don’t need it or want it in our communities. It is making us all less safe. Even terrorists are benefiting from the NRA/gun lobby extremism as ISIS is informing their members that they can easily by guns at American gun shows and on-line with no Brady background checks. This is what the NRA claimed:

For the right-winger who wants to feel tough on terrorism but soft on guns, this tension has long been difficult to resolve. It became a lot harder at the beginning of May, when ISIS openly praised the U.S.’ lack of gun control. In response, the NRA released a video trotting out a wild conspiracy theory, claiming that ISIS is praising lax gun laws in an effort to dupe gullible Americans into supporting gun control.

Ludicrous. Dangerous. Stupid. You can’t make this stuff up.

An Ohio man fits the description of an extremist and home grown terrorist. Check this out:

More than 60 guns were found in the home of a man who fatally shot his former girlfriend, her co-worker and a newly appointed police chief before turning a gun on himself, authorities said.

The guns were found Friday at the home of 43-year-old Thomas Hartless by sheriff’s deputies and investigators from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation hours after the killings at a nursing home in Kirkersville, The Newark Advocate reported.

Kirkersville Police Chief Steven Eric DiSario died from a shotgun wound outside the nursing home. Nurse Marlina Medrano, who had previously sought protective orders against Hartless in connection with domestic violence cases, was shot multiple times with a handgun and a shotgun. Nurse’s aide Cindy Krantz was killed with a shotgun.

More than 60 guns. Domestic violence and protective orders. Police chief shot and killed and 2 others and then himself.

Extremism. Good guy with a gun?

And speaking of extremists, Donald Trump is actually considering appointing one of them (Sheriff David Clarke) to a high position in the Department of Homeland Security according to this article from The Trace:

Clarke’s resume as a public safety official is riddled with scandals and accusations of serious abuse. In May, a grand jury recommended that Clarke face criminal charges for his role in the death of a mentally ill inmate at the county jail after guards withheld water from the man for a week. In 2013, a woman falsely accused of drunken driving by one of Clarke’s deputies — the officer had crashed into her while watching a movie in his car — sued Clarke for civil rights violations. The outspoken sheriff, an avid Dallas Cowboys fan, also drew criticism after he had deputies detain a man who asked why he didn’t support Wisconsin’s own Green Bay Packers. After 15 years in office, he was headed toward a possible 2018 re-election campaign with two-thirds of local voters disapproving of his performance.

But as a right-wing firebrand, Clarke’s star has been steadily rising. He owes that in no small part to the National Rifle Association. Clarke, a regular Fox News contributor and public speaker, is part of a stable of public figures tapped by the NRA as the group has expanded its purview beyond gun rights and claimed for itself a role as a conservative vanguard that eagerly jumps into many of the nation’s most divisive cultural and ideological fights. (…)

Riding the NRA’s platform to national prominence, Clarke has used his turn in the spotlight to compare Black Lives Matter to ISIS (he called people protesting police shootings, “subhuman creeps”) and echo the NRA in dubiously linking immigration to violent crime. At a mid-October 2016 campaign rally, when Trump’s poll numbers were sinking, Clarke warned that the election would be rigged. “It’s pitchfork and torches times,” he said.

In the wake of Trump’s victory, reports emerged that Clarke had travelled to Russia and Israel in late 2015 with a delegation of gun-rights A-listers, including the former NRA president David Keene. In Russia, the group met with representatives of the much smaller Russian gun-rights community, including Dmitry Rogozin, a Russian deputy prime minister who supervises the defense industry and is under sanctions from the United States for his role in the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Clarke’s expenses for the trip, estimated at nearly $40,000, were paid for with funds from the NRA’s top tier of donors, the Ring of Freedom, and the Right to Bear Arms, a Russian gun-rights organization.

What are they thinking? If this is the kind of law enforcement officer running things in Milwaukee and then possibly at a national level, or public safety is in serious trouble. We don’t need these kinds of extremists getting away with running important institutions and departments anywhere.

It would be a travesty if Clarke is appointed and doesn’t need Senate confirmation. The Trump administration is in enough hot water over their failure to properly and thoroughly vet at least one high level official ( General Michael Flynn). This carelessness and obedience to power and money is absolutely not draining the swamp. It is overflowing what we already have and leading to cynicism and decision making based on power, control and money.

Who’s in charge? Where is common sense? What kind of communities do we want for our children and families?

If the Trump administration stands their ground about Clarke, we will know exactly why their is potential corruption and total lack of decorum and concern for our country’s security. Trump himself has potentially compromised our national security by allegedly giving classified information to the Russians. What could possibly go wrong with Sheriff Clarke in town?

It’s absolutely necessary that we have qualified, serious and ethical people running our country. Homeland security is serious business. Putting a gun extremist in a high level position is ludicrous. Is this a payback for support of the NRA? Just asking.

Our safety and democracy depend on it and we must demand that our safety comes first before adherence to the agenda of an extremist group.

The majority of gun owners and the majority of Americans don’t want extreme and dangerous gun bills.

It’s time to stand up and stand against extremism wherever it rears its’ head.

Join groups like Protect Minnesota, working to end gun violence in my state. And the Brady Campaign, a chapter of which I lead in Minnesota and sit on the national board. The Brady Center’s new Disarm Hate and Arm People with Facts crowdrise campaign. The facts are that guns in homes and on our streets are causing risk to our families and communities. This crowdrise campaign is in part in memory of the 49 people shot and killed at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando last June 11th. As we approach the first anniversary of that shooting, it’s important to remember how easily one hateful extremist could snuff out so many lives.

#Enough

 

 

Gun lobby distractions

Motivational speechThis post has been edited to update it since it was first posted.

 

Ever since Donald Trump was elected, chaos and distractions have been the rule and the name of the “game.” Lies, tweets, providing false news stories, ignoring or denying some very real dangers to our democracy from the Russian interference in our election, National Security Advisor fired, failed immigration orders, failed health care plan, etc. Not one department or policy area has been left alone. The long tentacles of those in absolute power are reaching far and wide. Gun policy is no exception. Licking their chops, the corporate gun lobby has pursued with some success an agenda that includes getting more guns into the hands of more people in more places. On the face of it, you have to wonder why anyone would want this. It makes no common sense that as a culture and civilized society we would choose to have loaded guns everywhere carried by just about anyone.

Executive VP of the NRA, Wayne LaPierre knows the rules well. He once said this and he meant it:

No Wayne. You made up the rules. This is not how Americans want our gun culture and our gun policy to be.

It seems to be of utmost importance to a minority of Americans who make claims that the second amendment gives them a right to do whatever they want with their guns because…. inalienable rights to own a gun.

Let’s talk a minute about rights. What are they? Is the meaning of the word clear to us all? I took a look at this Wikipedia article about the word rights:

There is considerable disagreement about what is meant precisely by the term rights. It has been used by different groups and thinkers for different purposes, with different and sometimes opposing definitions, and the precise definition of this principle, beyond having something to do with normative rules of some sort or another, is controversial.

And herein lies a basic problem with the arguments over gun rights. The several sides of the issue of gun rights and gun violence prevention would meet in the middle of the issue because that is where the majority stands and has stood for decades at least. In the interest of saving lives, the two sides approach it from different angles. One side, the majority, believes that people can have rights to own their guns but those rights come with responsibilities and common sense. The other side, claiming rights to the same life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness believes that that includes owning and carrying guns in order to protect their rights and lives.

Unfortunately for the one side, gun deaths are not decreasing and instead are staying the same year to year or increasing. More guns in more places carried and owned by more people who should not have them has not made us a safer nation. Those are facts. In states with more gun ownership and weaker gun laws, gun deaths are higher than in others on average. From the report from the Violence Policy Center:

“Year after year, the evidence is clear that states with fewer guns and strong gun laws have far lower rates of gun death,” says VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand. “States with strong gun violence prevention laws consistently have the lowest gun death rates in the nation. In states with weak gun laws and easy availability of guns, the rates of death by gunfire are far higher.”

The nationwide gun death rate in 2014 was 10.54. The total number of Americans killed by gunfire dipped to 33,599 in 2014 from 33,636 in 2013.

America’s gun death rates — both nationwide and in the states — dwarf those of other industrialized nations. The gun death rate in the United Kingdom was 0.23 per 100,000 in 2011, and in Australia the gun death rate was 0.93 per 100,000 in 2013. (These are the most recent years for which data is available. Data for these countries is available at GunPolicy.org, hosted by the Sydney School of Public Health at the University of Sydney in Australia.)

State gun death rates are calculated by dividing the number of gun deaths by the total state population and multiplying the result by 100,000 to obtain the rate per 100,000, which is the standard and accepted method for comparing fatal levels of gun violence.

Another report from the Violence Policy Center about the impacts of gun violence:

VPC research finds that in 2014, gun deaths even outpaced motor vehicle deaths in 21 states and the District of Columbia. Nationwide, motor vehicle deaths are on a steady decline thanks to proven public-health based injury prevention strategies informed by consumer product safety regulation standards designed to reduce death and injury.

To reduce the toll of gun violence in America, a similar public health approach is urgently needed. Today, guns are the only consumer products in the United States that do not have to meet federal health and safety standards. The federal government should regulate firearms for health and safety just like any other consumer product.

I met with a young man last week who had attended a meeting at which I spoke in January. He was interested in the issue of gun violence prevention from the point of view of a gun owner who agrees with background checks on all gun sales and other reasonable  measures. Several people he knows and even relatives have died in hunting accidents and gun suicides. He did not think of these as gun violence but has changed his thinking and understands that his involvement would be instructive for the cause of gun violence prevention.

On the same day as this man attended one of the Protect Minnesota trainings he also attended a conceal carry permit class. His take? He never wants to carry a gun. When the permit trainer and a lawyer explained the responsibility of a gun carrier if they decide to aim their gun at someone or actually shoot someone, he determined that that was not for him.

This gun owner does not see things as black and white but rather he sees the world from the point of view of someone who likes to hunt and own guns but understands that his rights are limited in the interest of public safety.

But some do see this as black and white and getting their way. A recent article from The Trace does a good job of outlining why the gun absolutists want to trample on the rights of the rest of us to be safe:

“We’re the Trumps,” he said. “We’re the grassroots.”

Like President Trump and his top advisor, Stephen Bannon, constitutional-carry activists are unconcerned by any wider distress their agenda may cause. Like the new White House, they see the trampling of existing norms as the removal of obstacles.

“Once you cross over this PC concept,”  Harris said, “then you have an enormous number of issues that come out of the gate.”

Those issues include the abolition of gun-free zones in schools, and deregulation of tightly controlled weapons categories, like suppressors and machine guns, which have been subject to strict laws for nearly a century. Rather than a drastic break with current public safety standards, he said, such changes would merely represent government “getting back on sound fundamental principles.”

This sums it up. Like Trump and his extreme advisors who want to disrupt just about everything our country has done or stood for in the last few decades, these gun absolutists want their way no matter what. No matter the lives lost as a result. No matter that public safety will be in danger. No matter that the majority of Americans don’t want what they want. No matter that over 32,000 Americans die every year from gunshot injuries. No matter that about 90 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries in gun suicides, homicides and “accidental” gun discharges.

No matter common sense.

This is where we are now. No compromising. No discussion. Executive orders or bills passed with no hearings, no expert testimony, no input from citizens. Just pass things and get your way no matter whose rights you trample or what process you didn’t follow.

People identified with severe mental illness and can’t manage their affairs can now purchase guns. People who don’t have permits to carry loaded guns around in public being able to carry everywhere and anywhere. Does any of this make any sense even with rights?

The answer, of course, is NO.

We are being distracted from the gun violence epidemic before us that we can actually address with strong gun policy and good research about the causes and effects of gun violence. We are being distracted by the agenda of the gun absolutists whose view of the world and the gun culture is far different from what Americans actually want and need.

Here is a great article from Peter Ambler of Americans for Responsible Solutions about the need for research and understanding the risks of owning guns:

It’s time for Congress to stop serving at the will of the gun lobby and to start providing the resources our institutions of public health need to understand our country’s gun violence epidemic so that we can do something about it.

Gun violence robs communities of their leaders, schools of their students, and families of their loved ones. We know that if we gave our scientists and researchers the opportunity, they would produce results. How much longer will we have to wait before we let them try?

That is what we should be talking about now.

With their very own nominee , Neil Gorsuch, about to take the oath of office for the next Supreme Court Justice, the gun lobby and gun abolutists must be feeling jubilant at getting their way once again. Time will tell if that works out for the absolutists.

Meanwhile, we need to work on the real problems and not the solutions looking for a problem.

We are better than this.

Let’s get to work. Join an organization that is working on gun violence prevention and gun safety reform. Listen to the facts and act when you see that your voices are not being heard. Make noise. Speak up. Stand up for the victims and their families and friends and ask your elected leaders to do the same. Ask them to hear the real stories of victims.

Just as Trump seemed to have changed his mind about his policy in Syria after seeing the photos and videos of children strangled after exposure to serin gas, show your leaders photos of those whose lives were lost to senseless gun violence. Here is my photo (of my sister who was shot in a domestic related shooting incident by her estranged husband):

photo of Barbara