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

 

 

Guns in everyday life

at the RotundaUnfortunately “everyday shootings” and other incidents involving guns leave families devastated or lead us to wonder why so many American guns lead to so much gun crime and injuries and deaths.

Where to start? How about this one? A Colorado woman was charged with 35 felonies the other day because of stupidity and dangerousness with guns:

A woman was charged with selling stolen guns out of a parking lot and a man was charged with threatening his girlfriend’s family, and another man was charged with trespassing and acting out, according to reports. They all made their first court appearances on Monday with 35th District Court Judge Jack Barker presiding.

Meredith M. Atwell, 37, of Huttig, was arrested Friday and charged with selling nine stolen firearms, and potentially more, said Capt. Charlie Phillips of the Union County Sheriff’s Office. (…)

Phillips added 13 counts of possession of a firearm by a certain person and 13 counts of theft of a firearm, making a total of 35 felony counts.

Deputies say they have connected Atwell to stolen guns from Camden, Magnolia, El Dorado, and other parts of Union County.

“And all of this was to supply a drug habit,” Phillips said.

Deputies are looking for more guns and seeking out more arrests connected with the case.

You can’t make this stuff up. If we want to know where crime guns come from, here is just one incident about stolen guns and a whole bunch of other crimes all to “supply a drug habit.”  Guns and drugs are a bad mix. We should do something about both. Luckily for all this did not lead to someone losing a life. But given time, it would have.

And did you hear the one about the Minnesota man who shot at a letter carrier’s car and then somehow was found dead in his home of a gunshot wound? :

Authorities say the mail carrier was making deliveries late Monday morning when gunshots shattered the rear window of his vehicle in Polk County. A deputy who responded was confronted by Huderle armed with a rifle. Huderle fired at the deputy, striking the squad car.

Investigators say an officer with the Pine to Prairie Drug Task Force returned fire. Huderle was later found dead outside his home with a high-powered rifle.

Why? I guess it’s “have gun, will shoot”. Be careful out there.

How about a Minnesota border patrol agent who used his own service gun and shot and killed himself in broad daylight in the parking lot of the border crossing area?:

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer apparently shot and killed himself in the parking area of the U.S. port of entry at the Pigeon River on Sunday afternoon. (…) “This is an extremely tough loss,” Eliasen said, describing the deceased as a veteran officer who had lived in the region for some time. “He was well-known and respected in the community and protective service agencies, and our hearts and prayers are with his family, colleagues and community during this difficult time.”

Veteran officer or not, legal gun owner or not, this sad and tragic case is why we have so many gun deaths in America. Over half of all gun deaths are suicide. We are not having an adult conversation about the risks of guns and how having a gun can result in a homicide, accidental shooting or suicide close to home. Suicide by gun is most often fatal- there is no chance to change your mind or have a second chance at life. Now another Minnesota family is devastated and to the outside world, nothing seemed to be wrong. If there were mental health or other problems that led to the fatal decision of the officer, it’s an American tragedy that the man had a gun convenient to him to end his life.

Gun violence restraining ( or protective) orders can save lives.  Sometimes families and friends know when someone is having mental illness problems or other problems that would make that person a danger to him or herself. They could report the person to law enforcement and guns can be temporarily removed.

But we are not passing laws that will allow that to happen. Why? The corporate gun lobby and their lapdogs in Congress and legislators all over America don’t represent the majority of people who understand that common sense laws could save lives.

Too sad and disturbing really.

The American political world is so topsy turvy right now with every day and almost every hour of every day bringing us more scary and disturbing revelations about our own President that these incidents almost feel trivial. They are not to those involved.

Take, for example, the recent London terror attack also involving  gunfire. The only one to die by gunfire was the perpetrator who was shot by an officer. London officers usually do not carry guns but some near the Parliament buildings do actually carry guns now. This deliberate decision was decided out of common sense and the idea that public safety does not depend on guns. From the above article:

And yet more than 90 percent of the capital’s police officers carry out their daily duties without a gun. Most rely on other tools to keep their city safe: canisters of mace, handcuffs, batons and occasionally stun-guns. (…)

Giving everyday police officers guns sends the wrong message to communities, so this thinking goes, and can actually cause more problems than it solves.

Although there are higher numbers of armed police guarding Parliament, the attacker who rushed the gates Wednesday was shot dead by a relatively rare member of the country’s security forces — one who had been trained to use a firearm.

Some of these gun-wielding officers patrol the city in pairs, others are members of crack response teams — units dressed in body-armor, helmets and carrying long rifles — who are called to the scene of violent incidents like these.

In most instances, they don’t use their weapons.

So different from our own armed society and along with it, heavily armed law enforcement officers. More from the article:

It’s a world away from the United States, where cops killed 1,092 people in 2016, according to figures compiled by The Guardian.

Of course it’s easier for police to remain unarmed if civilians do the same. Out of every 100 people in Britain, fewer than four of them owns a firearm, according to GunPolicy.org, a project run by Australia’s University of Sydney. In the U.S. there is more than one gun per person.

Ah. There’s the rub. Fewer gun owning citizens means less need for officers to carry guns and fewer gun deaths. Such common sense is needed in America right now. Instead, we have the opposite. Read below.

Predictably the NRA’s first response to the London attack is…. you guessed it….more guns for Americans. If only those victims would have sensed a car coming towards them to mow them down, they could have shot at the driver. Or if only someone had stopped to shoot at the victim as he went after the officer with a knife instead of running away from the danger as they were told to do. Sadly an officer is dead but another officer trained with a gun shot the alleged terrorist.

We ought to be thinking about how we can stop terror attacks without having guns enter every conversation. The real conversation about guns should be about preventing our own homegrown terror due to the number of mass shootings, domestic shootings, shootings of young men of color,  easy access to guns by children and teens, and gun suicides. But we have the NRA and the corporate gun lobby putting their fear and paranoia front and center to stop the conversation we should be having.

And speaking of the NRA, this great article from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence points out the connection between health care and guns:

While mental illness is not a significant risk factor for violence against others, mental illness does increase the risk of suicide. About 90 percent of those who die from suicide experienced symptoms of mental illness prior to their death, and these individuals are often undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, untreated, or undertreated. Speaker Ryan’s American Health Care Act (AHCA), which is expected to come up for a vote today, fails those at risk of suicide by stripping mental health care from individuals who depend on it.

In drafting the AHCA, House Republicans had the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to improved mental health care. They had the opportunity to prioritize individuals living with behavioral health problems. They had the opportunity to save lives.

But, predictably, they didn’t take it.

The Republican health care did not pass for lack of votes in their own caucus and lack of leadership. In addition, the bill was a horribly written bill designed to rig the system in favor of the wealthy and take health care away from the poor, middle class and sick people. Such cynicism is unacceptable and proved to be fatal to the passage of the bill, thank goodness. Mental illness health care has improved under the ACA and would have suffered under the now dead Republican health care act.

You may remember that NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre tried to excuse and deny the Sandy Hook shooting of 20 first graders by passing it off to mental illness ( and presumably not much to do with access to guns):

At moments, the NRA and supporters almost sounded like liberal gun-control advocates. “We have a mental health system in this country that has completely and totally collapsed,” Mr LaPierre told NBC television on December 23rd last year, days after the Newtown murders. The NRA backs the FBI-run instant background checks system used by gun dealers when selling firearms, Mr LaPierre noted. It supports putting all those adjudicated mentally incompetent into the system, and deplores the fact that many states are still putting only a small number of records into the system. (…)

Mr LaPierre’s line is both clear and not. He supports improving the quality of the federal database used for background checks, but opposes using that same database more often, calling any talk of universal background checks a ruse paving the way for the creation of the national gun register that the government craves, so it can confiscate America’s guns.

He talks of improving mental-health treatment, but then uses the harshest possible language to describe the mentally ill, telling NBC:

We have no national database of these lunatics… We have a completely cracked mentally ill system that’s got these monsters walking the streets.

So what is really going on? Interviewing the Democratic governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, he accused the NRA of a “bait-and-switch”, in which the gun lobby is trying to appear constructive without allowing any gun rules to change.

Let’s just enforce the laws already on the books (unless we don’t like them) and not try to solve the problem of easy access to guns because…. rights.

We need to fix our background check system, our mental health system, our healthcare system,  our lack of attention to stolen guns and straw purchasing along with gun trafficking and many other policies that can make us safer. But do we?

No.

As an aside, there are fixes to Obamacare that can keep the good things about the law, including paying for mental health care, but change the things that have not worked. But for the far right, it is all or nothing and no adult conversations to try to find middle ground.

The sad reality in America is that there are places where people can meet in the middle because the public actually is in the middle on health care, on guns, on access to women’s health care, the environment and so many other crucial issues. As long as we have fealty to ideological extreme positions on these issues, we will be worse off.

We just have to be better than this.

Back to public health and gun violence, Protect Minnesota and volunteers from the Brady Campaign chapters , the public health community and other organizations had a great lobby day this past week with health care providers and others visiting their legislators The volunteers delivered packets containing the lists of reasons gun carry permits have been denied or revoked by county. Each legislator got a packet containing information about the county they represent. Research and facts matter. This is information the gun lobby does not want known. But it is now.

About 200 people gathered in the Capitol rotunda for a rousing rally and to hear fantastic speakers from the public health community as well as victims of gun violence. If only the public could hear the many amazing speeches about the effects of gun violence and the “cure” for gun violence.

One of the speakers, Athena Adkins, spoke about the tragic and avoidable death of a young law clerk last spring n the office where her husband works .  She spoke about the horror when learning that the bullets were intended for her husband:

According to the criminal complaint, Petersen had hired attorney Dan Adkins from the law firm but was “displeased with the way his case was being handled.” He expressed his concerns to Adkins via phone calls and text messages before and on Thursday.

“On the afternoon of April 7, Petersen fired [Adkins] by text message and demanded his money back,” the complaint said. “Petersen expressed a belief that [Adkins] was ignoring his messages.”

Adkins was in court at the time and couldn’t respond to Petersen, according to the complaint.

When Petersen arrived at the law firm, located above St. Paul’s historic W.A. Frost & Company restaurant in the 300 block of Selby Avenue, he apparently found only Passauer. Adkins and colleague James Gempeler arrived at the firm just after the shooting and found Passauer fatally wounded, sitting in his desk chair. He was pronounced dead at 4:30 p.m. (…) “It’s unbelievable,” he said Friday of what transpired in the law office. “Gun violence is totally out of control. It’s amazing how it impacts the victim, the victim’s family, the whole neighborhood.”

Yes. It is amazing isn’t it? The impact of gun violence is like a whirlpool sucking everyone into it. The bullets were intended for Adkins but the law clerk was there and in the way of the shooter’s anger and desire for retribution for a perceived wrong. A gun made this all so quick and easy.

The shooter was a prohibited purchaser.:

Petersen has a lengthy and violent criminal past that includes convictions for drive-by shooting, second-degree assault, carrying a pistol without a permit, first-degree damage to property, aiding and abetting in the sale of narcotics, fleeing police in a motor vehicle, drunken driving and disorderly conduct, court records show.

Sigh.

These are the people who could be able to carry loaded guns in public if some in the Minnesota legislature have their way. We won’t know the “good guys” with guns from the “bad guys” with guns in a permitless system. It’s easy for the “bad guys” to access guns with no background checks and carry them around to shoot someone with whom they have a beef. Way too easy.

Another speaker, a Youth Program Developer and Mental Health worker at HCMC  (Hennepin County Medical Center) spoke about the proliferation of guns in the neighborhoods of color. He spoke about how easy it is for the youth to get cheap guns on the streets and the need to prevent that. Guns don’t fall from the sky. They all start out as legal purchases  and get onto the streets from traffickers who obtained their guns with no background checks ( or even with them), straw purchasing or stealing them.

Stand Your Ground laws disproportionately affect people of color. None of us would be safer if that bill became law but some members of the House Public Safety Committee prefer to only think about their own self defense in public where the need for a gun is rare indeed. Most shootings happen in homes or in places where no one has a chance to react given the surprise effect of gun violence. In spite of what the gun lobby loves to say, and did say in the public hearing regarding this bill, guns bought for self defense more often get used to harm someone known to or loved by the shooter. From this report( linked)  by the Violence Policy Center:

The center also dives into the thorny thicket of how often the presence of a gun stops a crime — either violent or against property, such as a burglary — from happening. The gun lobby trots out an annual figure of 2.5 million such instances. But an analysis of five years’ worth of stats collected by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey puts the number much, much lower — about 67,740 times a year. (…) So what conclusions can we draw from this? The notion that a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun is a romanticized vision of the nature of violent crime.

So far the two dangerous and unpopular bills are not included in an Omnibus Public Safety bill but we know that the gun lobby minions are pressing for their inclusion. Most members of the legislature do not want to have to vote on these measures. They understand that they are NRA and corporate gun lobby bills pushed onto the public but not sought by the public. Never mind. The gun lobby wants its’ way. They want more loaded guns in public carried by people who shouldn’t have them and they want people to be able to shoot first and ask questions later. It defies common sense and the facts.

#Factsmatter. People are dying every day in American and on average, one a day in Minnesota. This is simply not OK. More and more people are discovering the truth about the extreme agenda of far right politicians and pushing back.

Minnesota not so nice

people_1_night_visitI was unable to attend the hearings on permitless carry and Stand Your Ground at the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee on Wednesday. I watched much of the testimony streaming on the House website. It was the usual back and forth by gun rights advocates and gun violence prevention advocates. Some things never change.

But things will change if several bills heard in the Minnesota House Public Safety Committee are given a yes vote. We may not know how individual members would vote on each bill since they were laid over to be likely included in a larger omnibus public safety bill. That is the way to hide controversial bills which may not pass through the entire body to pass anyway. And it’s a way to force a vote on unpopular policies. They can’t vote against something that also includes good stuff. This is politics and it’s the way it works. But we don’t have to accept it.

You know that real people have lost loved ones when firearms are used to kill them in senseless acts of violence. That is why we ( since I also have lost a sister in a domestic shooting) don’t want to make it easier for other families to lose loved ones like in the testimony of Rev. Rolf Olson, who I know personally. Here is his testimony ( from the above link) :

The new law would allow gun owners to legally carry weapons in public without a permit. It generated emotional testimony, including from Richfield Lutheran Church pastor Rev. Rolf Olson, whose daughter was murdered answering a Craigslist ad.

“People who couldn’t pass a criminal background check and have never learned how to handle a gun safely would be able to carry one in public,” Olson said. “How would that protect public safety?”

He brought a photo of his beautiful daughter and displayed it during his testimony. Did the legislators look at Katherine Olson’s photo? Did they care?

No answers, of course, from those who want the bill to pass. None of them have lost a loved one and several of them were packing heat at the hearing. Remember, there was not a public clamor for people who are not trained or go through a background check to carry loaded guns in public. It will simply NOT protect public safety. Rev. Olson knows about that.

If politicians are so afraid to take votes on individual bills or not allow amendments on bills, it just has to mean that they understand the bills are really not popular and their other members will not vote on them when they stand alone.

If you want to see the testimony, view it below.

The first bill heard yesterday was H.F. 0188 , Permitless Carry.  Much of the testimony centered on the fact that it is a natural constitutional right to carry a gun so really no restrictions should be placed on those who get to carry a loaded, lethal weapon around with them in public. The “arguments” from my side of the issue were made for us by one of pro gun rights testifiers. He said that we would say the Heller Supreme Court decision had some language in it that puts some limits on the right to keep and bear arms. He would be right. But he asked the legislators to ignore this and remember that when we point out the some of the words of the late Justice Scalia, writing for the majority should be ignored. Just pay attention to the totality of what the bill really means. Here, in Scalia’s own words, is why the pro gun advocates want to ignore his words:

The late justice also more generally offered the belief that “like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.” It is “not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.” For instance, Scalia said concealment laws were permitted at the time of the Constitution’s ratification and should be permitted today.

The issue that Scalia left future courts to grapple with is what constitutes a protected weapon. He wrote that the Constitution protects weapons that could be carried and were in common use. What he didn’t say in the opinion—and what the court has deferred ruling on—is whether an AR-15 fits the bill for a common weapon. On one hand, it’s certainly not rare. There are more than a million in circulation. On the other hand, it’s not as ubiquitous as ordinary rifles and handguns. At some point, the John Roberts court will wrestle with the questions Scalia left unanswered, or the justices will leave it to the political process.

So far the gun rights advocates and their lapdog politicians in the Minnesota legislature have not suggested the open carrying of AR-15s but I’m sure they would like to- and most likely without a permit or training either. That’s the way it goes in the world of the “guys with the guns make the rules”. (Wayne LaPierre):

Common sense does allow for people being able to read the entire opinion, including the words of the conservative Justice Scalia. Just because you don’t like the words doesn’t mean he didn’t write them. And it doesn’t mean that having regulations and restrictions on some guns, who may carry them and where they may carry is unconstitutional.

I thought that one of the best questions was asked by Representative Hillstrom who wondered how officers would know if someone who was packing heat when asked or when pulled over in a car was legally able to carry if there was no permit to show. One of the bill’s authors, Professor Joe Olson, looked puzzled and really couldn’t answer the question. Isn’t that the main point? How will we know the “good guys” with guns from the “bad guys with guns”? (Wayne LaPierre again) Carrying without permits means no mandatory training, no background check in order to get the permit, and allowing 18 year olds to now carry guns. What could possibly go wrong?

Maybe this?:

A University of Central Florida fraternity was suspended after one of its members was accused of holding a gun barrel to a student’s head as part of a pledge activity, according to documents released by the school.

The argument on the pro gun side was the usual- there has been no blood running in the streets since conceal and carry was passed in Minnesota in 2003 and 2005 ( repassed after Church lawsuit)  except when there is. About one Minnesotan a day dies from a gunshot injury and this has been a pretty deadly year so far. Domestic homicides, gang and drug related shootings, and accidental discharges are among the many shootings that occur in our state, less regularly than in some states, but regular enough to be of concern. And suicide by gun accounts for 80% of the gun deaths, but never mind them. Conceal and carry holders can and do commit suicide by gun. Besides, why isn’t one senseless death one too many?

Minnesota gun permit holders have killed themselves or others as it turns out and also been denied for some pretty interesting and good reasons. That information was given to each legislator on the committee. And they might appeal their denial and win:

Since 2003, at least 299 people deemed too dangerous or otherwise unfit for a gun-carry permit were able to obtain them on appeal to the sheriff or a judge, a Star Tribune analysis shows.

In a system that prosecutors say is heavily weighted in favor of permit seekers, it’s nearly impossible to find out why the denials are overturned. State law protects the privacy of gun owners, prohibiting law enforcement from releasing any data that could identify them — even if they have criminal records.

In Hennepin County, one applicant had a felony conviction for manufacturing and dealing crack cocaine. Another in Ramsey County was suspected of shooting at a law enforcement officer. An Olmsted County applicant was a confirmed gang member. Each got a permit on appeal.

Yup. And those people could be carrying without a permit if the bill passes.

But never mind. Let’s proceed to make it easier for those folks to have and carry guns around in public.

Sigh.

I suppose we could have brought former Representative Gabby Giffords in to testify given that she was shot by a young man who shouldn’t have had a gun but was allowed to carry one anyway in Arizona, a permitless carry state. His mental illness wasn’t enough to adjudicate him and make him a prohibited buyer. So he was legally carrying a gun but with no apparent training and no permit to carry it because…. rights.

But why deal with actual cases? They don’t seem to matter when the corporate gun lobby comes to town to testify, as they did in Minnesota.

The argument that one has to get a Brady background check when buying a gun anyway so if you carry said gun, you should be good to go, was trotted out. Really? Where is common sense?

A new study shows that about 22% of gun sales go without a Brady background check. That is down from the 40% we have been using, lacking more current research. But finally,  we have this figure from a Harvard study:

For years, politicians and researchers have estimated that as many as 40% of gun transfers are conducted without a background check – a statistic based on an extrapolation from a 1994 survey. Gun rights activists had decried that estimate as outdated and inaccurate.

The new survey, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, found that the current proportion of gun sales conducted without a background check is about half of the figure cited by prominent Democratic gun control advocates, including Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

It also found that gun owners in states that require background checks on all private gun sales were much less likely to report acquiring a gun without a background check than those in states with no universal background check law – a potential indication that efforts to boost screenings at the local level are succeeding, even in the absence of federal legislation. (…)

The new survey also found that in states that had passed universal screening laws by 1 July 2013, just 26% of gun owners said they had obtained a gun through a private sale without a background check, compared to 57% of purchasers who live in states without such requirements.

Overall, researchers found that half of guns transferred privately in all states within the past two years were obtained without a background check.

So a gun purchased without a background check through a private sale, a straw purchase, stolen or trafficked in some way can now be carried in public by its’ owner. Yes. It’s true. There is no way to make sure the person carrying can pass a background check if they don’t have to have one in order to get a permit.

Sigh.

And then, for the hearing on HF 0238, the ubiquitous Stand Your Ground bill, the gun lobby trotted out the discredited John Lott who runs around testifying in favor of the idea that more guns make us safer. And surely, people have the right not to retreat in a potentially dangerous situation but the bill would allow a situation perceived to be dangerous to shoot without retreating as has been in law. Shoot first and then find out if the person ( who may now be dead) was armed or meant bodily harm.

A testifier on my side, Rachael Joseph, testified about the shooting of her aunt Shelly, killed in 2003 in the Hennepin County Courthouse. I have included her story here in my blog before. But then she went on to talk about the danger to people of color and immigrants who, because they are considered the “other” by far too many people, are at risk when Stand Your Ground laws are enacted. We already know about Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. Rachael wanted to talk about the recent shooting of 5 black men at a Minneapolis Black Lives Matter gathering in 2015. Four white men drove to the Twin Cities with the idea in mind of causing trouble. They shot into the crowd, injuring 5 and then tried to claim that they themselves were in danger from unarmed people in the crowd.

This seemed to bother one of the legislators who claimed that people in the crowd instigated the shooting and therefore this case should apparently not be used. It must have been a surprise to him when a jury didn’t believe that and recently convicted one of the men involved in the shooting. 

But never mind actual cases.

One of the more interesting and disturbing testimonies came from a young man who claimed to be a hunter and gun owner. He suggested that it was time to shoot the bad people and become a state of lynching again. It was so offensive that the crowd murmured and booed and one legislator interrupted to say he should stop his offensive remarks. Check it out:

One speaker, identifying himself as Ross Koon of West St. Paul, caused perhaps the greatest disturbance of the hearing when he went on a tirade in ostensible support of the “stand your ground” bill.

After talking about the need of frontiersmen to bear arms against “marauding savages” or defend against “a lawless uprising of our valuable workforce,” he added, “It was not lightly that we took to weapons and rope to ensure the purity of our nation.”

The tirade caused those in the audience to wonder aloud whether Koon was a plant or trying to be ironic, with others saying it was hard to tell these days.

Chairman Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, and Rep. John Considine, DFL-Mankato, took the man seriously.

“Mr. Chair … this testimony is offensive,” Considine cut in over the speaker.

“Maybe to you but not to a lot of people in the room. We never shut down any of the opposition, we’re certainly not going to shut down … ” Cornish said.

“Marauding savages and talking about lynching black people?” Considine asked.

The speaker then took his tirade up a notch, saying “As we face hordes of illegals and so-called refugees, it is of the utmost importance that we be granted broad liberties to kill with impunity. … It’s time to kill the scary people. It’s time to make Minnesota lynch again.”

“All right … yeah that was rather offensive, but last time we had these hearings if we shut anybody down on either side we’d get booed and hissed, so I thought I’d just let him rave on,” Cornish said.

It turns out that he was using satire in his testimony and was not affiliated with either of the sides who signed up speakers for their remarks. His satire did make a point, however, even if we don’t like it. But the committee chair didn’t think his remarks were offensive to a lot of people in the room?

Sigh.

Should these bills pass the legislature and get to the Governor’s desk, we can hope for the sake of public safety that he won’t buy the arguments. Time will tell. Meanwhile, the NRA and corporate gun lobby are making the rounds to states all over our country pushing for these ridiculous laws.

We will have to think harder about what happens if our kids ring the wrong doorbell or run through someone’s yard after dark or try to sell candy to a neighbor. We will have to think harder about whether someone we see carrying a loaded holstered gun in public was actually trained to carry that gun, knows anything about guns or can pass a background check.

82% of Minnesotans support background checks on all gun sales. I can safely say that the public does not want these bills.

We will not be safer.

 

 

 

 

The “Be Attitudes”- changing the conversation

PrintDeja Vu. There are protests erupting all over America over the Muslim ban issued by executive order on Friday resulting in detaining immigrants from 7 Muslim countries.

How many protests and marches will it take for our President to understand that we don’t want this? He is wrong. His administration is wrong. His right hand man, Steve Bannon, a conspiracy theorist and alt right extremist, is in charge of the circus. He is now right in the thick of making decisions crucial to our national security. Very scary.

What could possibly go wrong?

We are seeing what is going wrong.

The sermon at my church service this morning was titled, “Be Attitudes”. The texts for the day were from Micah 6:1-8 and Matthew 5:1-12. I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve but I am a Christian and I practice my religion freely because America is a democracy. The past week has revealed to us that our democracy is at risk. That scares me. And that is why my church service was so important this morning. We all felt it. We all knew it. We all wanted what is happening to stop. We were emotional. We were hopeful that things might change.

I am not going to go out and buy a gun though. That is not the way out of this. The corporate gun lobby and @realDonaldTrump preach fear and intolerance. When people are afraid of “the other” they do things that could be dangerous. Guns for self defense against zombies and the scary dudes lurking around every corner get used more often to shoot someone known to the shooter in an accidental shooting, a homicide, or a suicide. And those are facts-inconvenient and scary as they are. That should frighten those who buy guns to use against someone else because they are not like oneself. That is what is bothering me. I am frightened for our country.

What with a Muslim ban, putting Steve Bannon in a national security position, repealing “Obamacare”, suggesting removing sanctions from Russia, an investigation into non-existent voter fraud, talk about nuclear weapons and taking oil from a sovereign country ( as just a few of the past week’s executive orders or tweets) we have plenty to fear.

The first week of the new administration was chaotic and unsettling. That is how dangerous egomaniacs seize power. But I take heart in the protests at airports and in cities all over the country again this week-end on the heels of the Women’s March. I wrote my last post about my experience in DC at that march.

This is a movement. It is peaceful but those involved know that this is not the country we want. In one day we went from a democracy to an oligarchy. Sowing the seeds of discontent has worked well for @realDonaldTrump and alternative facts are spewed by he and his actors with every word uttered.

Sales of the book 1984 went through the roof. We are here. 2017. We are in a world where the extremist amongst us have seized power ( well- were elected but Trump is obsessed with making sure he somehow steals back those 3 million votes he lost to Hillary) They are over reaching and are drunk with their power. It’s enough to make those of us who don’t see guns as a solution to think twice about it.

Will this get worse?  Most certainly before it gets better because Trump spokeswoman KellyAnn Conway said we should just get used to this kind of dictatorship-like behavior of her boss. It’s just the beginning? Phew.

What could possibly go wrong?

What with the corporate gun lobby out pushing for no permits for gun permit carriers, carrying assault rifles on our streets and pushing for guns to be carried in all the places where we feel safe with our families and where guns don’t belong, armed citizens will be roaming our streets and public places and we won’t know the “good guys with guns” from the “bad guys with guns.” Oh yes, also Stand Your Ground laws are rearing their ugly heads. What with intolerance of minorities and “the other” what could possibly go wrong?

Our new President has unleashed a monster. He has opened the gates for anger, fear and intolerance and the corporate gun lobby has a seat at the table. What does a “gun friendly” administration mean?

What could possibly go wrong?

But yesterday I was heartened by my conversations with folks in my community who came out in large numbers to a League of Women Voters’ sponsored Citizens in Action Workshop. Young people and people never involved before are ready to get involved. I was one of the speakers educating people about how to get involved in gun violence prevention efforts. When I was done, a man in the back of the room motioned for me to come and speak with him. We spent about 20 minutes discussing his revelations and suggestions.

The man teaches hunting safety courses and has for years. He has studied gun accidents and worries about the possibilities. That is because his grandfather was killed in a hunting accident. As I was speaking it occurred to him that he had been affected by gun violence and had never thought about it that way. One of his friends had also died in a hunting accident and he, himself, came close once to mistaking a hunter for a squirrel scurrying and making noise in the woods. It scared him.

Dying by gunshot injury is a violent, bloody and sudden death. It is violence to the body and the survivors suffer often from PTSD, a sort of violence to the psyche. Many people are affected by insidious and preventable gun violence.

The man and I talked about gun safety. He has many guns but they are very carefully locked and unloaded with ammunition far away from the hands of his young children.Unfortunately he has friends who do not do that and was interested in the ASK campaign that I spoke about. He strongly believes in Brady background checks for all guns but also has many friends who do a lot of trading and selling guns amongst themselves and is not sure that is a good idea. From there we discussed trafficking, stolen guns and bad apple gun dealers and I think he learned a lot from me that he didn’t know.

Now  he wants to know more and be involved and I hope he will be. This is what changing the conversation is all about. It’s common sense discussions in a polite and peaceful manner than can lead to safer communities.

So back to the beginning. Micah 6 Verse 8:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,[b]
    and to walk humbly with your God?

Do Justice. Love Kindness and walk humbly with your God. Today, Muslims are banned from entering our country. Tomorrow, who’s next? What is this intolerance? How will it end? Will those who foment intolerance use weapons to subject those whose religion and culture are different?

Gideon Lichfield wrote this poem for Trump’s inauguration:

First Trump came for the women
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a woman.

Then Trump came for the people with disabilities
And I did not speak out
Because I did not have a disability.

Then Trump came for the African Americans
And I did not speak out
Because I was not African American.

Then Trump came for the Mexicans
And I did not speak out
Because I was not Mexican.

Then Trump came for the Muslims
And I did not speak out
Because I was not Muslim.

Then Trump came for the gay, bi, and trans people
And I did not speak out
Because I was not gay, bi or trans.*

Then Trump came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew.**

Then Trump came for the journalists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a journalist.***

Then Trump came for the judges
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a judge.

And now Trump is coming for the Constitution of the United States
And if I do not speak out, what am I?

Sigh.

Back to the “Beattitudes” from Matthew– From verses 11 and 12:

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Today we offered prayers for our leaders and our country that intolerance and persecution would not become the way we deal with immigration and those who need our help.

I thought we were better than this. Was I ( am I) wrong? Have we become this kind of country in just one week? What is the answer?

We are seeing it on the streets. We are seeing it in post card writing gatherings, marches, phone calls and letters. We want it all to be peaceful. When our leaders are stoking this kind of fear and intolerance, it does foment anger and horror.

Violence is not the answer. Guns are not the answer. More people with more guns is not the answer. People want to feel safe from violence, persecution and intolerance. Immigrants should be welcome here. 3 of my grandparents were immigrants.

Further, what was the immediacy of these executive orders? Did we have a terror attack I did not know about? And the countries from where most of the previous attackers came from are not on the list of those banned from entering our country. What kind of sense does this make?

Here’s a fact:

Toddlers have killed more people than those on the list of banned immigrants:

Toddlers have shot about one person a week for the past two years and by May, toddlers were behind more U.S. shootings in 2016 than Muslim terrorists were.

The problem speaks to the ubiquity and normalcy of guns in the U.S. and childrens’ access to loaded guns, shooting — sometimes fatally — either themselves or others.

And this is going around on Facebook:

shootings-by-immigrants

There’s more.

When an administration issues a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day without mentioning Jews and then issues an executive order to ban Muslims, we have a very serious situation. The fact that administration talking heads are trying to “clarify” what all of this means without any apology or admitting that they have just created chaos and dystopia is frightening and dangerous.

We are less safe because of our new President.

I can only pray for peace and non-violence.