End Family Fire in Minnesota

It’s hard not to despair every day about the deaths due to firearms. Minnesota has had a rough week but then, who hasn’t when it comes to gun violence? I have been asked how I don’t get too depressed or how do I keep myself healthy emotionally, mentally and even physically faced with the involvement with the gun violence prevention movement?

The last question first- my family, friends, faith community, local community and statewide and national gun violence prevention friends keep each other healthy. We mourn. We ring bells. We act. We support each other and carry on in the names of the victims. For what else can we do? Everyone handles the stresses differently. I immerse myself in photography, exercise, reading books, spending time at our cabin and with our family enjoying watching my grandchildren grow into fun and productive human beings. Their sports activities keep us busy. Their school activities- musical and otherwise are an outlet and provide happiness. Travel is also a great way to forget about the violence and the world’s problems.

Now to the first about Minnesota. This week 2 Minnesota law enforcement officers used guns to kill themselves. Suicide by gun. Not uncommon as it turns out. But 2 in one week- unrelated to each other? From the article:

A study released in September found that police officers are at a higher risk of suicide than any other profession.The rate of 13 out of 100,000 deaths by suicide in the general population rises to 17 out of 100,000 for police officers, with 167 police officers taking their own lives in 2018.

Police officers risk their lives every day on the job. They see the carnage caused by homicides, suicides, domestic abuse, auto accidents and the like. It has to be very stressful to experience this every day on the job. The unexpected happens and officers respond.

Officers also have easy access to guns. When contemplating suicide, if there is an easy way out, a gun is the fastest and most efficient.

So what should we do about this? Police departments are providing officers with ways of handling stress and dealing with their emotional health. It is not enough and more recognition of the serious risks should be discussed more openly. It is difficult for people trained to be tough and authoritative to admit that they have vulnerabilities and difficulties handling their stressful and dangerous jobs.

Brady’s End Family Fire is a program designed for discussion of the risks of guns in the home. No matter who the gun owner happens to me, a better understanding of the actual risks posed when a gun for self protection or used on the job can still cause unintentional or intentional deaths.

So that is the lesson for some Minnesota teens who last week in St. Paul “accidentally” pulled the trigger on a stolen gun and killed a friend. This tragedy was so avoidable in many ways:

The St. Paul Police Department says Jones-Morris was shot Wednesday afternoon at a home on the 100 block of Annapolis Street, near the city’s border with West St. Paul. Police say a 15-year-old boy told investigators he accidentally shot Jones-Morris while playing with a gun that he didn’t know was loaded.

That teen and a 16-year-old boy were charged in the shooting Thursday. The criminal complaint says the 16-year-old admitted to stealing the gun from an SUV last week. Both are being held at the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center.

“So many people are just broken down and shocked,” said friend Alex Hogg.

How many times does “so many people are just broken down and shocked” have to be quoted in an article about the gun death of one of our teens whose life’s potential will never be reached? This young man was a football and basketball star at his school and had many friends. His personality was a happy one- making others laugh.

Let’s talk about some of the precursors of this avoidable death. The teens stole a gun from a car. That was illegal. What about the “responsible” gun owner who left a gun in his/her car easy to steal? What is his/her responsibility here? Every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first pass through the hands of an adult. Teens can’t buy guns. Stealing is one easy way to get one.

Second, teens cannot be responsible with guns. Guns are not toys to be “played with”. Everyone who touches a gun should have some kind of training on how to operate a deadly weapon and the risks of having one in their hands. How often do we hear about people who did not realize there was a bullet in the chamber?

Efforts to safety proof guns have been rebuffed by the corporate gun lobby. Smart guns could save lives and in this case, would have. But the technology is not there yet. My opinion is that if we can create the will and technology to send Americans to the moon and into space, we can develop better guns that will keep us safer.

Safe storage of guns whether in cars or homes would save lives and this case would have. Stronger laws for safe storage and mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns would save lives. But we aren’t passing those laws in many places either.

And it doesn’t have to be a law. It’s just common sense really isn’t it? Responsible gun owners understand that their guns are to be respected and gun safety is key to avoid the gun incidents I have written about here. But even in the hands of responsible gun owners, things go wrong. Combined with anger over just about anything, a domestic abuse, a bad grade in school, despair, depression, drug and alcohol use, or “playing” with a gun and/or cleaning a gun, tragedy and heartbreak can be an unfortunate and deadly outcome.

There was one more incident this week in Oklahoma that I want to talk about. Yet another 3 year old found a gun left carelessly in a bathroom in a public place.:

The restaurant, located near May Avenue and Grand Boulevard, has a sign on the door that reads, “No handguns,” but a customer brought one in anyway and left it behind by mistake.

“I got a call from my daughter, and she was quite alarmed.” Dennis Pealor said.

Pealor told KOCO 5 that his daughter’s family was eating brunch Sunday at La Baguette when his son-in-law escorted their 3-year-old to the bathroom.

“Immediately, she points to this item on the toilet paper holder and says, ‘Daddy. What’s that?'” Pealor said.

According to a police report, a semi-automatic handgun was found in the stall. The report states that a 77-year-old man from Duncan used the restroom and left the restaurant, forgetting the weapon was in there.

No handguns allowed but someone who thought he could ignore the law brought his gun in anyway? Why? What is so dangerous about a restaurant? And then he leaves the gun in the toilet stall? Good grief. This is what happens when more people carry guns around in public. We are not safer.

These incidents have become too common place but also had the owners understood the risks of guns by applying the End Family Fire tenets, carelessness that could have led to an awful outcome would be avoided.

And my last concern is about the irresponsible United States Senate for its’ failure to pass the Violence Against Women Act. This has never happened before. Too many women and children lose their lives to domestic violence- and most to firearms. This is national disgrace:

The bill would eliminate the so-called boyfriend loophole by expanding a current ban on firearm purchases for spouses or formerly married partners convicted of abuse or under a restraining order to include dating partners who were never legally married.

More than 30 House Republicans voted for the measure. But the opposition from most House Republicans, as well as the NRA, made it unlikely it would pass the GOP-controlled Senate.

Of course. The NRA.

For 30 years, Minnesota has been keeping track of the numbers of people who have died from domestic violence:

Known for years as the annual Femicide Report, it started in 1989 as a way to fill in a gap in reporting gender-bias violence against women and girls. There was no other state or national group collecting this kind of data at the time, and to this day no state agency collects comparable data.

“Every month or so a woman, and or her children, and or her partner or mother or neighbor got killed, and it was like a flash in the pan,” said Julie Tilley, who first decided to start collecting the names as a staffer at the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

“One of our goals was not only to honor the victims of this horrendous violence but to make this violence visible. It was so clear to us at that time that people weren’t seeing what was happening all around us.”

The Clothesline Project is a visual display of tee shirts designed by family or friends of a victim of domestic or sexual violence. We must make the violence visible. I once found my sister’s name on a tee shirt at a display by the project. It was a very emotional moment for me as I held on to the shirt with her name as the clothesline stretched out with the many other names.

We must say their names and see their faces. It’s the stories of the victims that should change the conversation. That is why I do this advocacy.

Today I remember Minnesotans:

Da’Qwan Jones-Morris, 17

South St. Paul PD Officer Cory Slifko

Rogers PD Officer Blake Neumann

We all remember the many victims of mass shootings that have occurred in November- Thousand Oaks, CA one year ago on Nov. 7 leaving 12 dead, Sutherland Springs,Texas church shooting 2 years ago on Nov. 5 leaving 26 dead and 20 wounded ( for just 2). Minnesota has seen an upsurge in shooting deaths this year. What will we do about it? That remains to be seen but we have to #dosomething. It’s in our hands to make our kids, teens and communities safer.

We are better than this.

From sea to shining sea

From Gun Violence Archive Facebook page

Please read the updates at the end of this post. There have been 2 more mass shootings within the last 24 hours.

“…America, America God shed his grace on thee. And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”

That patriotic song came to mind this past week as mass shootings took the lives of many Americans from one coast to the other and in the middle:

At least eight people were killed, and 46 were injured, in mass shootings that spanned the country from Washington, DC, to Kennewick, Washington, according to the Gun Violence Archive’s tally. The organization defines a mass shooting as a single incident in which at least four people are shot not including the gunman.

The numbers follow a trend seen every summer in America — as temperatures heat up, killings become more likely.

An analysis from The New York Times last year found that more than twice as many people were shot in northern cities such as Chicago when it’s hot as when it’s cold.

“Summer time an’ the livin’ is easy……”

The mass shootings happened in just a few days’ time. Shooting is easy in America.

At the Gilroy Garlic Festival 3 were killed and 12 injured by bullets when a 19 year old with an assault rifle cut his way through a security fence to inflict carnage on innocent food fair attendees. Two were children. He bought his gun in Nevada where the minimum age for purchasing a rifle ( even an assault rifle) is 19. In California, where the shooting occurred, he could not have bought that same rifle until he was 21. One can argue that no one should be able to buy an AK-47 weapon meant for war.

Only in America can we find people who have survived 2 mass shootings in the span of less than 2 years as was highlighted in the linked article above:

After surviving the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, three friends were not expecting history to repeat itself two years later.

In 2017, Christopher and George Cook were in Las Vegas during the Route 91 Harvest festival, an outdoor country music concert, when a gunman fired into the crowd killing 58 and injuring more than 500. They managed to escape with no injuries. (…) Sunday, the brothers attended the Gilroy Garlic Festival when a gunman opened fire. Three people were killed and 12 injured.

Physically the Cook brothers escaped unharmed, however mentally, Christopher told CNN he’s been dealing with a wave of emotions.

“You think you’re grateful for everything you have until something like this happens,” he said.

America the beautiful. An American tragedy.

The first linked article goes on to list the mass shootings all over the U.S. including:

4 shot and injured in Washington D.C.

4 injured in Chicago

4 injured in Uniontown, PA

1 dead, 5 injured in Philadelphia

1 dead, 3 injured in Wichita, Kansas

1 killed, 11 injured in Brooklyn, N.Y.

1 killed, 3 injured in Kennewick, WA

The article missed a shooting in Wisconsin when 5 were killed and 2 injured in Chippewa County, WI.

And yet, no action on passage of a federal assault weapons ban, criminal background check bill or Extreme Risk Protection Order bill.

Where is common sense?

And no action in the MInnesota Senate whose leadership refused to take up any gun safety reform bills.

Where is common sense?

It is true in our America the beautiful that 8 children a day are shot (some injured, some dead).

It is true in America the beautiful that 100 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries. Hundreds more are injured daily.

From the Brady site: ” Every year, 113,108 people are shot.

The chart above comes from Gun Violence Archive. Why do we need a site to keep track of American shootings? What a sad state of affairs. We have had 248 mass shootings so far this year according to Gun Violence Archive. It is August 1st and day 213. Let that sink in.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Americans are demanding that leaders stand up and do their jobs to keep us all safe so we can enjoy going to festivals, state fairs, schools, work, concerts, movies, etc. without fear of being shot.

In my state of Minnesota officials of the Minnesota state fair are ready to take more precautions realizing that with the crowds who attend every day, because anything can happen:

Katie Galioto at the Star Tribune checks in on local event officials and law enforcement following the recent shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival: “A State Fair spokesperson said Minnesota’s famed get-together, which attracted more than 2 million people last summer, involves the coordination of federal, state and local agencies. 

The gun rights advocates have tried to convince Minnesota State Fair officials that they should be allowed to carry loaded guns at the Fair. They have been turned down. Just imagine the chaos if someone or many armed citizens started shooting bullets around in a crowd of running people. I can’t , but they must imagine themselves as heroes. They are wrong.

This is America the beautiful. This is the America where just about anyone can get their hands on a gun of any type to inflict mass carnage, pain and grief on innocent families all over our beautiful country.

This is America- the land of the free and the land of the armed.

I don’t find this beautiful. I’m sure you don’t either. Please contact your elected officials and demand action. That is the only way we can make America safe again.

Update:

As you are reading my post I am adding yet another deadly mass shooting happening right now. El Paso, Texas is the scene of the latest carnage on a beautiful summer day. A Walmart store to be specific where at least one has died and 18 or more are injured in a mass shooting with an AK-47 rifle. Do I have to mention an assault weapons ban?

Another update about the El Paso shooting– it appears now that 20 are dead and 26 injured. The type of rifle has not been definitively identified but some reports say it was an AK-47. With that many dead, it is likely:

20 people were killed in the shooting.

Officials are exploring capital murder charges.

Authorities are investigating a manifesto in connection with the shooting.

Hospitals and emergency workers are treating victims.

Witnesses described the violent scene.

El Paso has been at the center of the migrant crisis.

Officials expressed their sympathies.

Who knew that I would be writing about a 2nd mass shooting within a 24 hour period. Dayton, Ohio was the scene for the latest one leaving 9 dead and others injured. As more information becomes available I will write more. But here is what we know so far:

Unconfirmed eyewitness accounts indicated a person who was denied entry at a bar opened fire. Police said the shooting took place after 1 a.m.

Anger and guns don’t go together. Why did this angry man have a long gun as it was reported in another article? Why would he shoot people at a bar because he couldn’t get in? Why did he have a gun in the first place?

Defying the gun lobby talking points, he was most likely not mentally ill. He was angry. And because we have such easy access to guns in our country, this is possible.

THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

Reunification

posted on Facebook page of GVPers for Pro GVP Candidates

Well, here is a different word to describe how parents can find out if their child was the one shot in a school shooting- a reunification center. The parents who are not reunified will then know that their son or daughter was the victim of yet another school shooting.

What parent wants that to happen? NONE.

What about Congress members and the Minnesota House and Senate members beholden to the NRA who refuse to support common sense legislation that will save lives and potentially stop a school shooter? What if they had to go to one of these centers waiting to see if they would be reunited with their kids?

That was the scene yesterday at the STEM school in Colorado where 2 kids from the school got their hands on a gun and decided to shoot their classmates. One is dead. Kendrick Castillo. Say his name. From the article:

Ms. Giasolli said Mr. Castillo’s split-second decision to lunge for the gunman gave the other students a precious few seconds of cover to dive under their desks or rush the gunman. Ms. Giasolli said a cluster of boys then tackled the gunman, allowing her and others to flee the classroom.

This is how it is now in America. A student sacrifices him/herself selflessly and manages to save other lives. Is this the way our kids should be spending their school days? This is war. Like soldiers sacrificing themselves.

And by the way, the shooters at the STEM school were a juvenile female and an adult ( 18 years old I believe) male? What the heck? Where did the guns come from. Most school shooters get their guns at home.

Last week it was Riley Howell at the University of North Carolina.

Heroes all. But why? For what? It’s not for a worthy cause. it is an act of violence perpetrated on innocent people who die “in the line of duty.” It’s the 3rd mass shooting in that many weeks where one person sacrificed him/herself to save someone else. Remember the synagogue shooting in California? It’s hard to think back that far- 11 days- because of the frequency of mass shootings. Read more:

The nation’s three latest mass shootings, each occurring over an 11-day span beginning at the Chabad of Poway temple on April 27, have given us our latest heroes – just like shootings at a high school in Parkland, Florida, a Waffle House in Nashville, Tennessee, a synagogue in Pittsburgh and elsewhere did last year. 

Who will be the hero next week? Who will be the victims next week? Who will it be tomorrow or next week? Your friend? Your child? Your neighbor’s? Your cousin’s? Your legislator’s? Your banker’s? Your health care provider’s?

These lives lost are lost potential and a lost future. We can’t get them back. We don’t know how they would have contributed to their communities. They won’t go to college or work at a job of their choice. They won’t be at holiday events with their families. They represent the thousands who die senselessly every day in our country.

So how about you? Have you experienced a shooting or do you know someone who has been murdered or used a gun in suicide? Do you know someone whose child found a loaded gun at home and shot someone or him/herself with that gun? Do you know someone who carries a gun around recklessly and the gun fires while in her purse injuring her husband? ( I have written blog posts about these kinds of incidents)

What will you do? How will you react? What will you feel if you have to go to a reunification center to find your child after a school shooting? Would you sacrifice your life for the common good? A photo of the reunification center after the STEM shooting has been posted in several places. It is an unimaginable scene.

There is PTSD. When I posted the article about the latest school shooting yesterday, friends commented that they are feeling traumatized after a near shooting incident at a high school in Duluth in early April.

The trauma is palpable and real. Our kids are sitting ducks. Places of worship are vulnerable to shooters. We do have shootings in places of business, in places of worship, in malls, but school shootings seem to be the most often used for shooters who think they have a reason to kill people.

The corporate gun lobby and gun rights advocates would have us believe that an armed individual could save the day. It rarely happens due to confusion, adrenalin, panic, not being in the place at the time of a shooting,

I have an idea. Instead of arming more people which is what the gun lobby wants so having guns everywhere becomes normal ( and adds to profits), let’s pass stronger gun laws to stop the shootings in the first place. Let’s change the conversation about gun violence in America. Let’s change our culture of guns everywhere. It can be done. In fact, we must do it if we care about our kids and grandkids.

This is not normal. Say it after me- this is NOT normal.

Gun laws in Arizona and Utah

I could write about so many things given the current situation. By that I mean the continuing carnage like the death of a young St. Paul man who was trying to get a gun away from a domestic abuser to protect his cousin. But oh well, these happen every day. No big deal.

Or I could write about going to the Westminster Town Hall Forum on Tuesday to hear Parkland student David Hogg speak. I will just say that it was a happening. These forums are quite famous and held in a beautiful church in downtown Minneapolis. Hogg was very warmly and enthusiastically received getting 3 standing ovations. He spoke with clarity and passion.

Or I could write about how Congressman Steve King predicted violence between red and blue states- like a Civil War.

Or I could write about the news that New Zealand has banned semi-automatic rifles from sale and eventually possession just six days after the massacre that killed 50 people in Christchurch.

Commonsense never seen in America.

Or I could write about the Minnesota man, armed with 2 stolen guns ( from friends) terrorized his ex girlfriend claiming he was going to take people to hell. Luckily no one is dead but an officer was injured in a scuffle with the man.

Yes. This happened. Lock up those guns. Don’t let friends use your guns.

Or I could write about a conversation I had with a local Republican when I was seeking more information about an upcoming fundraiser for my Congressman where a gun raffle will be part of the fundraiser. When I asked what type of gun would be raffled he said it is usually an AR-15 but not sure this time. He also admitted that whoever won the raffle would be required to undergo a background check. Good news and bad news. This was announced on the same day as the New Zealand massacre.

So we continued our “conversation” when the man got defensive and started in on all kinds of NRA myths about background checks including that they would lead to registration. And that is was mentally ill people who committed the mass shootings. That the Nazis took guns from the Jews because of registration. That the guns used by the Mexican cartel were coming into our country from Mexico. That there are lots of gun dealers in Mexico despite my telling him that there were not- there is only one gun dealer in Mexico and most of the guns come from the U.S. And finally that the NRA got the original Brady background check bill passed.

It was a frustrating conversation based on his total denial of the facts and his insistence that guns would be registered and confiscated if we extend the very same Brady background checks to private gun sales. At least he admitted he didn’t want domestic abusers and adjudicated mentally ill people to have guns but then didn’t seem to think it was a good idea to make sure they didn’t get their guns by requiring background checks on all gun sales.

Sigh.

But instead I am going to write about gun laws in 2 states I am going to visit in a few days. I have done this many times before when traveling. We will be taking a family trip to the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Zion National Park.

So let’s take a look at Arizona where we are going first. Giffords Law Center has this report about the gun laws in Arizona:

In 2016, Arizona had the 16th highest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. In addition, based on 2016 Firearms Trace Data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, Arizona had the 9th highest rate of crime gun exports among the states – meaning that crime guns originally sold in Arizona were recovered after being used in crimes in other states at the 9th highest rate among the states. Arizona exports crime guns at a rate that is more than double the national average, and more than double the rate at which it imports crime guns from other states.

Famously of course, former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot and seriously injured at a Tucson Congress on Your Corner event. The shooter did not have to get a permit to carry his gun (because it is not required in Arizona) and ammunition that fateful day when 6 people were killed by bullets. He shouldn’t have had a gun. Enough said.

Utah- the state that provides gun carry permits to many people from other states. Seems like a fine idea, right? One can pass a test on-line without even touching a gun or going to Utah and be able to carry a gun in states all over the country:

Fifteen years after the Utah Legislature loosened rules on concealed firearm permits by waiving residency and other requirements, the state is increasingly attracting firearm owners from throughout the country. Nearly half of the 241,811 permits granted by the state are now held by nonresidents, according to the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification, which administers the permits. (…) Another source of contention is that the class does not require any actual shooting. One could conceivably obtain a Utah permit without ever having fired a gun. Nevada
 and New Mexico
 recently stopped honoring Utah permits because the class does not meet its live-fire requirements.
“Residents of other states should be aware that people who have a Utah concealed-weapon permit may not have actually fired a weapon,” said Dee Rowland, chairwoman of the Gun Violence Prevention Center of Utah. “I think that would be quite shocking to members of the public.”

Utah has the 24th highest rate of gun deaths in the country.

Remember when Utah decided to allow teachers to carry guns in schools ( one of the few states that do) and shortly after the law passed a teacher’s gun fired while she was in the bathroom at her school, injuring only herself ( luckily). I do.

Sigh.

So off we go on our trip. I am looking forward to seeing this beautiful section of our country. Spring is just beginning in Minnesota with snow still on the ground. Maybe when I get back, the snow will be gone. Wishful thinking but hopeful. I would like to say the same about our own Congress and my state legislature having the will to pass laws that over 90% of Americans and Minnesotans want. Time will tell.

By Diliff – taken by Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=305224

Pearls and guns

Earlier this week, a group of New Hampshire legislators donned their pearls to mock gun violence prevention advocates. Yes, it’s true. A bunch of men did this thinking they were so clever. Other words come to mind but misogyny is at the top of the list. Because gun violence prevention groups have many women leading the charge, some gun rights advocates have decided that women can be intimidated and mocked with no repercussions. That’s the way it is.

Here is the article with photos of the men who wore their pearls:

Images from the statehouse — where legislators were considering arguments over a bill that would make it easier to take guns away from potentially dangerous people — caromed across social media as critics lobbed accusations of sexism and insensitivity at the necklace-wearing men.
The implication was clear, they said: These politicians thought gun-control activists were “clutching their pearls” in overwrought and self-righteous outrage — and, specifically, female outrage.
The advocates, who were volunteers with the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said they felt mocked, as if some of the lawmakers were not interested in hearing how gun violence has affected their lives.

I wonder if any of those men have been affected by gun violence? I wonder if they had been, would they have still worn those pearls? The fact is, I have never worn pearls while advocating for common sense gun legislation or lobbying or visiting with Congress members or legislators or speaking at a meeting or holding a vigil. I have never seen any other woman do so either. But I have seen many men come dressed with armed pistols in holsters at hearings.

But then this was uttered in defense of the pearl wearing ( from the article):

Online, members of the Women’s Defense League of New Hampshire, a pro-guns organization, have said Watts and other Moms Demand Action members have it all wrong: the pearls symbolize opposition to the bill itself and support for the Second Amendment and the Women’s Defense League — support for women, not denigration of them.
“The PEARLS are in support of the Women’s Defense League. Women who ACTUALLY PROMOTE GUN SAFETY and WOMEN’S RIGHTS,” tweeted Kimberly Morin, president of the group.

I call BS. This just can’t be believed. We all know what the wearing of the pearls was all about and it wasn’t in support of women. The very bill they proclaimed opposition to will serve to protect women from harm. It’s an Extreme Risk Protection Order bill meant to keep people who could be dangerous to themselves or others from having or purchasing guns. This includes the many women who fear for their lives from domestic abuse and partners/spouses who might kill them with a firearm. From the article:

The bill, known as a “red flag” law, would allow family members and law enforcement agencies to obtain court orders that restrict gun access for individuals who may pose an immediate risk to themselves or others. If New Hampshire adopts the legislation, it would join 14 states that have done so, many in the wake of deadly mass shootings.

You can’t make this stuff up. Pearls. Not pearls of wisdom. Pearls of wisdom and common sense tell us that too many people are dying and are injured by bullets. Here are just a few of the recent shooting incidents in America that point to exactly why we need to pass stronger gun laws and change the culture around guns and gun violence:

And those are just a few of the many more happening every day in America. at increasing frequency. If guns made us safer, why are these incidents happening?

These people, and everyone really, should check out End Family Fire to learn about the risk of loaded guns to themselves and others. If you decide to bring a gun into your home or carry it around with you, don’t you already understand those risks? It should be automatic but the gun lobby prefers to have people believe they will be invincible with their guns. Why is there no training required before walking out of a gun store or from a gun show with a deadly weapon? Or before allowing people to carry guns in public in many states?

But back to pearls, as I began this post.Pearls have a symbolism as described in this article:

Pearls symbolize wisdom acquired through experience. They are believed to attract wealth and luck as well as offer protection. Known for their calming effect, pearls can balance one’s karma, strengthen relationships, and keep children safe. The pearl is also said to symbolize the purity, generosity, integrity, and loyalty of its wearer.

I think I’ll wear my pearls more often.

#Enough

Hearings in Congress

Congress has finally, after 2 years or more, begun the work they were elected to do. Previous Republican led committees have failed us. Democrats tried in 2013 after the shooting of 20 first graders. But the NRA choked that effort and Republicans refused. The issue of gun violence has turned partisan even though gun deaths take the lives of anyone no matter what their political stripe is. The NRA became an arm of the Republican party and made sure that Trump got elected. And Trump failed to even mention gun violence in his state of the union address. Unbelievable given the numbers and the mass shootings.

The Democrats are in charge of the House now and this week there have been hearings on just about every major issue of our times. Thank goodness we are going to hear the truth and from expert witnesses. Some in Congress have not wanted the truth because it exposes inconvenient facts.

Of course my interest was on the H.R. 8 hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. It was, as one could expect, not without some fireworks and angry exchanges. It was the first hearing on expanding background checks to all gun sales since 2011. The first witness was Aalaya Eastmond, a Parkland shooting survivor. Aalaya saved herself by staying hidden under the dead body of a classmate. Just imagine that, if you can. This is a teen-aged girl who testified like the calm, articulate young adult she has become. You can watch the hearing here.

Other witnesses laid out the reasons why requiring a background check on all gun sales is one very good way to stop people who shouldn’t be able to get guns from getting guns anyway. Many other things can be done to stop this inane public health epidemic. Dr. Joseph Sakran, a trauma surgeon, survivor of a shooting and board member of the Brady Campaign testified to the committee using his experiences and expertise:

Firearm injury and death in America is not only a disease,1 but a public health crisis in the United States. Every day, an average of 109 individuals are killed and more than 240 people suffer injuries secondary to firearm violence.23 While the United States is a world leader in many arenas, we are failing when it comes to firearm injury prevention. Firearm-related injury and death is a public health problem creating a vast burden of disease across the spectrum of ages and socioeconomic groups in this country. Additionally, firearm-related violence has a substantial economic burden of over 229 billion dollars per year to the United States health care system.45 Most concerning despite advances in trauma systems and health care capabilities, the fatality rate secondary to firearms has not significantly changed or improved.67  (…)We have both the opportunity and responsibility to comprehensively address gun violence as the true public health crisis that it is. This is not a Democrat versus Republican issue. It’s a uniquely American issue and it is uniquely in each of your hands to help fix it.
The America I’m fighting for is one where parents no longer have to fear the phone call that my parents received, that the Parkland parents received, and literally hundreds of others in communities across this country are receiving every single day. As a trauma surgeon, I have to look into the eyes of these parents and it’s nothing less than heartbreaking. The medical community implores you: the time for action is now. There is no one solution to this complex health problem, which is why we must come together as a country to build consensus and support and develop a research informed, data-driven, approach so that we can help you, as our policy-makers, to ensure the public safety of Americans all across this great nation.

One would never know that the issue is not a Republican vs. Democratic issue during the hearing. Republican committee member Matt Gaetz threw in specious comments about illegal immigrants shooting Americans and even went to “the wall”. This set off a series of interruptions by some of the Parkland parents in the hearing room. In turn, Representative Gaetz pointed his finger at the aggrieved parents and wanted them thrown out. This was a low point of the hearing. The one year anniversary of the Parkland shooting is next week. Where is any kind of empathy or concern for those people?

Does Rep. Gaetz understand that if background checks on all gun sales are required, those illegal immigrants will have a much harder time getting their hands on guns. Since they are prohibited purchasers, they would no longer be able to get guns through private sellers. Yes, there are guns out there to be had but where do they come from in the first place? They don’t fall out of the sky. All guns start as legal purchases ( even those bought from private sellers in states that allow that since it is not so far illegal) . From there, they get into the illegal market or in the wrong hands through straw purchasing, through “bad apple” gun dealers, by being stolen, or trafficked on the street. Requiring background checks on all gun sales will stop some of these other ways that guns get into the wrong hands.

And further, of course Rep. Gaetz is wrong to try to compare any shootings by illegal immigrants with the overall shooting deaths of American citizens by American citizens. There is no comparison.

Other specious comments from committee members and expert witnesses alike caught my attention. In fact, outright lies were told. The following are those lies and deceptions:

Background checks on all gun sales will lead to gun registration. Actually since the Brady Law was enacted and started working to require background checks on sales at federally licensed firearms dealers, there has been no gun registration. The expanded background checks will be the same ones now already in existence. There will be no gun registration.

Background checks on all gun sales will affect law abiding citizens who want to carry guns for self defense. How would that happen? If someone who is law abiding wants to carry a gun, they should not be affected by the requirement to get a background check on said gun. It’s only those who shouldn’t have guns in the first place who will be affected by H.R. 8.

There are millions of defensive gun uses every year, therefore guns are needed to protect people. Actually no. This has been debunked over and over and over again. It’s not true and it’s never been proven. But the gun rights advocates trot it out frequently. Professor Joyce Malcom of George Mason University School of Law came to the hearing with this information for the committee. If there were millions per year we would know about it and hear about it in media and police reports. The Gun Violence Archive is actually keeping track of these numbers and here is what they have found. So far this year there have been 130 defensive gun uses. These are the ones actually reported and verified. That’s the best way to use data. The professor who testified at the hearing admitted that her numbers were mostly anecdotal. Hmmm.

The reason gun deaths decreased after the mid 1990s is because so many states passed conceal and carry laws.  This was also claimed by Professor Malcom ( see above). There is no proof of this either. Those on the side of gun safety reform can also say that the Brady Law was enacted and began to work to require background checks on all gun sales during that time as well.

This great article published in the Scientific American ( yes-science, evidence, facts) counters most of the corporate gun lobby’s specious arguments about defensive gun use and crime and more guns leading to less crime and violence. From the article:

A closer look at the who, what, where and why of gun violence also sheds some light on the self-defense claim. Most Americans with concealed carry permits are white men living in rural areas, yet it is young black men in urban areas who disproportionately encounter violence. Violent crimes are also geographically concentrated: Between 1980 and 2008, half of all of Boston’s gun violence occurred on only 3 percent of the city’s streets and intersections. And in Seattle, over a 14-year-period, every single juvenile crime incident took place on less than 5 percent of street segments. In other words, most people carrying guns have only a small chance of encountering situations in which they could use them for self-defense. (…) The belief that more guns lead to fewer crimes is founded on the idea that guns are dangerous when bad guys have them, so we should get more guns into the hands of good guys. Yet Cook, the Duke economist, says this good guy/bad guy dichotomy is a false and dangerous one. Even upstanding American citizens are only human—they can “lose their temper, or exercise poor judgment, or misinterpret a situation, or have a few drinks,” he explains, and if they’re carrying guns when they do, bad things can ensue. In 2013 in Ionia, Mich., a road rage incident led two drivers—both concealed carry permit holders—to get out of their cars, take out their guns and kill each other.

This one I know for sure. An everyday ordinary argument during a contentious divorce and an armed estranged husband led to my sister’s death. A road rage incident in Minneapolis along the I35 freeway led to the shooting and injuring of a school bus driver. The shooter is claiming self defense which law enforcement has found to be totally untrue ( and I would say insane) This man is the poster child for what is wrong with our gun carrying minority of citizens who believe they need these guns for self defense and they are lowering the crime rate by having their loaded guns with them at all times.

Clearly the gun lobby and their spokespeople are wrong about what they are saying.

Women need guns to protect themselves from being raped.  A young woman testified to this at the committee hearing. She also claimed that expanding background checks would be a “financial burden”. She is wrong on both counts. Her first argument has also been debunked over and over again. The financial burden argument is also specious. Why is it not a burden to get a $25 (on average) background check when buying at a federally licensed firearms dealer. If one can afford to buy a gun, one can afford to get the background check. Just as if one can afford a car, one can afford to get the title, registration and insurance. If not, don’t buy one.

Just this one article explains:

However, since rape seems to be Dana Loesch’s main concern, we can focus more on that. When it comes to rape, well, it is most likely to occur in states that have the most relaxed gun laws. For every woman who could, theoretically, fend a man off with a gun, there is a man who could intimidate a woman into having sex with a gun. One woman, during debates about whether or not guns should be allowed on college campuses, claimed, “If my rapist had a gun at school, I have no doubt I would be dead.”
Even if the manufacturers make them a cute shade of pink, guns are not tools that are helpful to women. They kill far more women than they save. But Dana Loesch is right about one thing—the world can be a dangerous place for women. Rape is horrible. And one way to help make the world safer for women is to make weapons like guns harder for dangerous people to get.

Also in this article is the commonly known fact that” Women are 100 times more likely to be fatally shot by a man with a gun than use one for self defense.”

There are facts. There are too many gun deaths. Too many guns are leading to too many people dying from gunshot injuries. Stronger gun laws have been shown to reduce and prevent gun deaths. It is undeniable.

In the end, common sense will lead us to stronger gun laws and safer communities. That is what this is about. It is not about registration, or charging people too much, or taking away the right to use a gun for self defense, or owning a gun to reduce crime and shootings. It is about making sure that guns are not used to harm others- mostly known to the shooters- or are used in absolutely senseless deaths like the many mass shootings, the “unintentional” shootings of and by children, suicides that can be prevented, in domestic disputes, to kill young men of color, in road rage and all of the other preventable uses of guns.

It’s about the guns. It’s about gun violence. It’s about public health and safety. It’s about facts and evidence. It’s about saving lives. Even one life. It could be someone you know or love next time.

Memories

MemorialMemorial Day is a day to remember those who died while serving their country. It has turned into a different kind of holiday now. We remember all those who served and I remember my own father who did not die during his service in World War II but died decades later of natural causes. I remember my brother, who served in Viet Nam, and struggles still decades later with PTSD and Parkinson’s Disease and all that comes with those insidious conditions.

If we fail to remember those who have died before us we fail to think through the results of war and sending our service members into danger to ostensibly protect us all from harm. Some argue that wars in Iraq, Viet Nam and some others did not accomplish that end.

What about the war on our streets and in our homes? Evidence abounds that that is happening. Look at what just happened in New Orleans, as just one example of the hundreds and hundreds:

After the shooting stopped, the witness said, he saw one victim stumble out of the passenger side of the white car and collapse beneath the sign for the walking trail. A man exited the Kia, looked at a man slumped over the passenger seat of the white car, returned to the Kia and drove away.

Only then did the man in the white car move. “It was like he was playing dead until the shooter left,” said the witness said. “As soon as the burgundy car was gone, the driver opened the door and stuck his leg out, and I was just like, ‘Thank God’.” (…) “You have to be really bold to shoot someone in the middle of the day, with all these neighbors around, and drive off all slow and smooth,” the witness said. “I got a good look at that car, and the guy driving it. I was on the phone with 911 and told the dispatcher his license plate and everything. That’s a bold move, for real.” (…) “Never in a million years would I have expected to see something like this,” he said. “It’s scary. You never see anything like this. Stuff like this you see in movies and TV.

Bold? Crazy? Unthinkable? Senseless?

What kind of memories will these children have now?

And how about this child who narrowly escaped with a shrapnel wound when someone decided to go bowling while wearing his pistol? 

You just can’t make this stuff up.

There are no “accidents” when it comes to weapons of war or weapons carried around by everyday Americans in places where people should be safe.

It’s real life right here in America on the day we celebrate the heroes and victims of wars.

Grabbing children to save them from incoming bullets?

All of the above and worse.

We have guns by the thousands and people by the thousands with those guns gunning innocent people down in places where we should be safe from this kind of war-like violence.

More Americans have died from bullets right here on our own soil than American service members have died in wars in defense of our country.

Where is common sense?

Who will save our children?

There is none when it comes to gun violence. Lapdog politicians play with us every day. They issue thoughts and prayers and think that is enough. In fact, the town of Santa Fe in Texas where 10 were gunned down by a teen using his father’s guns got together and tried to pray away the violence.

I am a Christian but I understand that prayers are just not going to do it.

It is a shameful Memorial Day when politicians will attend services for fallen service members but refuse to act to save us all from devastating violence right in our communities and schools.

We need action and we need it now.

#Enough

Memories are painful for too many on this day. For our veterans. For our service members lost in wartime. For our children lost to school shooters. For our women lost in domestic shootings. For the innocent gathered in movie theaters, bowling alleys, hospitals, shopping malls, churches and in homes all over America.

There are memorials for our war heroes in our nation’s capitol and in cities all over America. And increasingly there are memorials now for victims of mass shootings. 

We leave flowers. We ring bells. We light candles. We march.

We remember.