Where do terrorists live?

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Image from USA Today

It turns out that American terrorists mostly live in several states though the Southern Poverty Law Center keeps track of insurrectionists, militia groups, and terrorists in all 50 states. Check out the map for where they live in your own state. Let’s take a look at this article about the most recent of our mass terror attacks– that being the shooting up of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. From the article:

Among dozens of avowedly Christian, anti-Semitic, and right-wing terrorists cataloged by the Anti-Defamation League and theSouthern Poverty Law Center, you’ll find many from these two states: Charles Robert Barefoot Jr., a North Carolina Klan leader who was convicted in 2012 on charges involving firearms, explosives, and violent conspiracy. Kody Brittingham, a Marine at Camp Lejeune who confessed to plotting the assassination of President Obama. Paul Chastain, a South Carolina militiaman who tried to acquire plastic explosives and threatened to kill federal officials. Steve Bixby, a violent activist from an anti-Semitic household, who gunned down two police officers in Abbeville, South Carolina. Daniel Schertz, a klansman arrested in Greenville, South Carolina, and later convicted, on weapons charges involving racist bomb plots.

And then there’s Dylann Roof. After allegedly murdering nine black people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church this summer, Roof drove more than three hours north, to Shelby, North Carolina. Nobody stopped him at the state border. The boundary between North and South Carolina, like the boundary between Syria and Iraq, is a joke.

North and South Carolina apparently host a good number of home grown terrorists. What is it about these states? Loose gun laws for one. Ultra conservative political persuasion for another. Clinging to the Confederate Flag and what it stands for as the Charleston church shooting ramped up for yet another. There is so much important information in this article for us to digest. We can only hope that our politicians will actually digest it and think about what they are saying. Denying Syrian refugees entrance into our country will not solve our problem with home grown terrorism. As it turns out, according to the above article:” Of the 77 people killed in these 27 incidents, two-thirds died at the hands of anti-abortion fanatics, “Christian Identity” zealots, white anti-Semites, or other right-wing militants.”

Yikes. Congress- we have a problem. Are you watching and listening?

There are militia groups and terror cells in all 50 states. But then there are the “lone wolf” types like the shooter in Colorado Springs who fly under the radar, basically unknown or little known to law enforcement. But they can ALL get their hands on weapons in the US. That is why we have so many more of these attacks than other countries. In the above article, the author hones in on the basic reason for the existence of the militia groups- they are afraid for their second amendment rights. Because surely President Obama and those awful gun grabbers are going to take away their guns and their rights. 

It’s already happening, right? We are coming for their guns. According to the NRA and other gun lobby groups, this is the scenario of the immediate future. From this article by Josh Horwitz of Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the NRA is encouraging insurrectionism:

An even more disturbing NRA revelation was largely ignored by media last week, however. On October 20, the NRA tweeted a link to a blog post by North Carolinian and former PJ Media writer Bob Owens with the text, “Make no mistake, anti-gunners are ‘calling for forcible disarmament.'”

The blog post, titled, “Gun Confiscation Fantasies are Fast-Tracking the Democrat Party to Destruction,” is a deeply insurrectionist screed in which Owens fantasizes about a violent civil war with Democrats who support gun reform.

If you believe this, I have a bridge to sell you…..

And then there are the Open Carry extremists who insist on walking our streets with their military style weapons. Remember the one who killed 3 people last month in Colorado Springs?

Also apparently “law abiding” militia members are not so safe with their own guns. In North Dakota, one member shot another– too much alcohol, militia mentality and guns just are not a good mix. From the article: ” “They have some very different beliefs about the world. Their beliefs didn’t mix.””

Sigh. When your politics don’t mix and you are armed, tragedy happens. What about this are we not understanding?

We are war with each other. A portion of our own citizens are armed and ready to fight those who are in another camp, or of another political or religious persuasion, or another color, or another ideological position about abortion, terrorism, gun rights or immigration.

For the sake of common sense and public health and safety, we just have to be dealing with the true dangers before us every day. Can a group of Black Lives Matter protesters not gather together without fear of alleged white supremacists shooting at them? Is there a possibility they won’t even be charged for shooting and injuring 5 black people? Insanity.

Can women not go to an abortion clinic for needed health care procedures and sometimes abortions ( legal under the law) without fear of being shot up? Can refugees or immigrants not go to public places without fear of being beat up because they look different?  Several disturbing anti-Muslim incidents have surfaced lately and they will surely increase in number if the gun rights extremists, Presidential candidates and politicians keeping fanning the flames of hate, intolerance and insurrectionism.

It is now revealed that the Colorado Springs shooter ranted about “no more body parts.” Remember where that came from? I do. Fake videos.

This one happened in Minnesota when a Muslim woman was beaten by a beer mug by an intolerant woman customer.

A Muslim cab driver was shot and injured by a gun guy in Pittsburgh because he was a Muslim.

We are living in an unsettling time in American history. Terror attacks abroad are of obvious concern. But the anger and concern should be turned inward towards our own policies and dangerous rhetoric. It’s past time for this to change. Let’s get to work and demand that our lawmakers do something that will actually keep us safe.

This will be cross posted on commongunsense.com.

UPDATE:

Many are writing similar articles and posts about America’s home grown terrorists after the Planned Parenthood shooting. This one notes even higher numbers of attacks than I had reported from above articles:

Though terrorism perpetrated by Muslims receives a disproportionate amount of attention from politicians and reporters, the reality is that right-wing extremists pose a much greater threat to people in the United States than terrorists connected to ISIS or similar organizations. As UNC Professor Charles Kurzman and Duke Professor David Schanzer explained last June in the New York Times, Islam-inspired terror attacks “accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.” Meanwhile, “right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.” (…)

Kurzman and Schanzer also surveyed hundreds of law enforcement agencies regarding their assessment of various threats. Of the 382 agencies they spoke with, “74 percent reported anti-government extremism as one of the top three terrorist threats in their jurisdiction,” while only “39 percent listed extremism connected with Al Qaeda or like-minded terrorist organizations.”

Meanwhile, the percentage of refugees that are connected to terrorist plots is vanishingly small.

Let’s get our priorities straight. They are now misplaced and misunderstood by people who should know better.

 

Armed flag carriers and other gun bullies

confederate flag-NRAThere is something about the gun extremists that just doesn’t fit with reality.  Take this small town in Virginia where residents have been forced to accept a gun shop they don’t want. From this article:

Cherrydale is the latest in a series of suburban areas that have tried to prevent firearms proprietors from coming to town. These efforts generally fail, mainly because of state laws. The mayor of Evanston, Illinois, recently tried to impose a ban on gun ranges in the Chicago suburb, but when it became clear that the measure wouldn’t withstand a legal challenge, the town adopted regulations this month that pushed ranges to the outskirts of town. Pleasant Hill, California, in San Francisco’s East Bay, tried to adopt a similar statute in 2013, and was sued by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry trade group. The lawsuit is ongoing.

“Part of the strategy of gun-rights advocates is to normalize guns,” says Adam Winkler, a lawyer and the author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms. “Having gun stores in every community makes them less odd” to non-gun-owners, Winkler says.

“Less odd.” Hardly. It’s just not normal to have guns everywhere and gun stores in places where people don’t want them. This is the bullying of America by the corporate gun lobby and gun extremists. It’s not about the second amendment any more.

And speaking of gun bullies,  what is the message by a group of armed guys outside of an Arizona Walmart store on Sunday? From the article:

The Arizona Republic reports that Jon Ritzheimer organized the Sunday afternoon protest of Walmart’s decision. Ritzheimer is a former Marine who staged a contentious rally outside a Phoenix mosque in May.

His group of self-proclaimed “patriots,” some of them armed, waved the rebel flag alongside the American one while chanting “U-S-A.”

Are these true patriots? Do we want these folks to be carrying guns around in public? Are they good guys with guns? And didn’t we just go through a national tragedy when 9 black Americans were shot and killed by a Confederate flag waver in Charleston, South Carolina? And isn’t the South Carolina legislature about to vote to take the Confederate flag down from the South Carolina state house?

At least Walmart and other businesses are showing some common sense when it comes to the aftermath of the Charleston shooting. A community is still grieving and family members are mourning the loss of loved ones. A young man who proudly exhibited photos of himself with the Confederate flag shot and killed 9 innocent black people in a Charleston church.

The guys in the article I linked to above represent a group of Americans who are in the minority but who should concern us all. Their views of the country do not reflect the majority but they get a lot of attention. And the worst of it is, sometimes these are the guys who commit heinous acts of violence because of their extremist views. They are ready for battle  a confrontation. Why? Rights? Bullies? Ideology? Hatred? Insurrectionist ideas? The guys with the guns get to make the rules according to Mr. Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association:

So what are the rules according to these folks? Loaded guns in public places intimidate and frighten the average person, not make them more comfortable around guns. Is that part of the game? Who wins and who loses in this stupid and dangerous game?

But back to the flag issue. There are reasons why the Confederate flag should not be sold at Walmart stores or other stores or should not be flown anywhere. The history is not a patriotic one, by the way. There is a long complicated history of this particular Confederate battle flag highlighted in a Snopes.com article:

However, the fact remains that the Confederate battle flag has long since become the pre-eminent symbol of the Confederacy and what it stood for, and across the span of several decades it has been co-opted by segregationist and white supremacist groups such as the Dixiecrats, the KKK, and the Aryan Nation. Certainly one can be a racist or a white supremacist without associating himself with “Southern Pride” or a Confederate battle flag, but for better or worse, no one group is any more “authorized” to use the Confederate battle flag as their symbol than another: the Confederate government and its military forces ceased to exist 150 years ago and therefore have no say or control over the usage of the Southern Cross.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans may sincerely object to the Confederate battle flag’s use by Neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other extremist groups, and perhaps some of the men who fought and died for the Confederacy would as well if they were alive today. But just as with the swastika, it’s likely to be a very, very long time before that symbol can be reclaimed and regarded in anything approaching a neutral manner, and probably not until the social issues underlying the public perception of that symbol have been more thoroughly canvassed.

The problem with this flag is those who are flaunting it are trying to make a point. And it’s not a point for the winning team.

Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign has called for the flag to come down but Gross also calls for the conversation about what happened in Charleston a few weeks ago to include keeping guns away from people who should not have them in the first place. The gun lobby would like that part of the conversation to go away. It’s not a winner for them to talk about gun extremists killing people in crimes of hatred and racism. It’s not a winner when kids shoot themselves or others in “accidental” gun discharges. It’s not a winner when young white men shoot small children in schools, in shopping malls, in colleges, in churches or other places of worship, or in movie theaters. It’s not a winner when “good guys” with guns shoot their partners/spouses in crimes of passion. It’s not a winner when “good guys” with guns shoot themselves in large numbers. There are no winners.

Back to flags.There are other flags carried and flown by the gun extremists. The Gadsden flag– “don’t tread on me” is seen in photos with armed gun extremists. This often goes with Molon Labe or Greek for “come and take it.”

A Nevada couple draped one of their shooting victims (2014 spree shooting) with the Gadsden flag. The message is clear.

Anarcho-Gadsden_flag.svg

What does this actually mean? Some gun activists who read my blog use the term molon labe. The message is that if you try to do anything with reasonable gun laws, we will fight you and the government and we will challenge anyone who tries to “come and take” guns away. Or else. Or else what? These seem to be small groups of people who organize around the idea that the government is out to take their guns and they make their point by walking around with openly carried loaded guns and flags. It’s the Texas Open Carry or Open Carry Tarrant County groups and others like them in other states. They like to think of themselves as patriots but patriots don’t intend to arm themselves to fight against their own country. The Civil War ended in 1865.

The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps track of militia groups, home grown terrorists and insurrectionist activity which mostly involves armed Americans. The Coaltion to Stop Gun Violence keeps an Insurrectionist Timeline. Here is the latest entry on that site:

May 28, 2015—As the Texas legislature debates whether to allow residents to openly carry handguns in public without a permit, background check or training, Open Carry Tarrant County leader Kory Watkins posts a message to Facebook “calling for the arrest of every elected official in Texas that voted against open carry.” Watkins adds, “They should be arrested, charged with treason and should face a punishment that could result in being hung from the tree of liberty.”

Sigh.

Some members of the NRA Board of Directors have made uncivil, offensive and insurrectionist statements. Check them out here. Ted Nugent, of course, is the most famous of the NRA Board members whose comments continue to get attention. Threatening to gun down a U.S. Senator is his latest outrageous and threatening comment. But he keeps getting elected to the Board so the membership must accept what he is saying since they don’t disavow him.

It’s not just the NRA. It’s other gun rights groups who have become more and more extreme of late. There’s Larry Pratt of Gun Owners of America. Here’s the latest from him:

Gun Owners of America’s Larry Pratt, who said earlier this year that “the Second Amendment was designed for people just like” President Obama and his fellow Democrats, repeated the sentiment yesterday, saying that the only thing currently saving America is that President Obama knows that “if he goes too far” he’ll face an armed revolt.

Pratt told Houston-based radio host Sam Malone that if Obama doesn’t implement any “gun grabs” before he leaves office, “it won’t be for want of trying.”

Sigh.

There are others but you get my point. 

Back to gun bullies. The guys with the guns and the flags are making a statement. They are saying that they can carry their guns anywhere they want and they can do it while also carrying a symbol of racism and intolerance and it’s all legal. That’s because our state legislators have gone along with the insane idea that carrying guns around in public is “normal”. It’s not normal. It’s crazy. In combination with symbols of racism and insurrectionism, it does not make for a good picture of America.

So in real life then, when a young man walks around in a neighborhood carrying a long gun, should people be alarmed? We don’t know enough yet about the young man who was walking in a Kansas neighborhood with a long gun. He shot a woman and her daughter and then walked away. We don’t know yet if he was a “good guy” with a gun or a “bad guy” with a gun. But then, if we normalize the open carrying of guns in public this may the result. How do we tell whether guys carrying guns in neighborhoods have evil intent or are just doing it to make a point?

So to summarize- there are guys carrying guns and Confederate flags protesting a business decision to stop selling confederate stuff after the Charleston shooting. There are guys ( and sometimes women) carrying guns and other flags with symbols meant to intimidate, to bully and to make a point in public places in our country. There are guys carrying guns in our neighborhoods who sometimes shoot innocent people. And there are people forcing communities to have gun shops when they don’t want them in places where they shop or hang out with their families. And this is normal?

Yes, there are gun rights. Yes, there are gun shops, most of whom follow the rules and sell guns to people who are required to undergo background checks. Yes, there are people who enjoy shooting sports, hunting, collecting guns and who own guns for self defense. Yes, most gun owners are safe and responsible with their guns.

But there are also extremists who have something else in mind with their guns. There are people who can’t be safe and responsible with guns who are able to easily access them all over our country. In America, we determine elections and make decisions by using a process of voting and democratic governments. We don’t change our government at the end of a gun barrel. The last time we tried this was 150 years ago when the Civil War was fought leaving hundreds of thousands of dead Americans. We are not at war. We don’t need guns everywhere. We don’t want insurrectionists with their guns and flags displayed in public. We do need safer communities and we need stronger gun laws.

The gun bullies ( extremists) go too far. The corporate gun lobby is promoting fear and paranoia. Hate groups are promoting intolerance and racism. Americans are dying from gunshot injuries at alarming rates every day. Victims are telling their stories and trying to make a difference. Politicians are afraid to speak up for fear of losing money and support from a group of people who represent the minority of us. And we are not doing anything to stop the carnage.

We are better than this. Something has to change in our country. It looks like, at the least, the idea that a state government can fly a flag that symbolizes racism and hate has been challenged and we are having an important discussion about the use of the Confederate battle flag in public places. The discussion can’t end there. There are too many symbols of violence and hate being exhibited in public places in America. We should have a right to peace and tranquility in our communities. Most gun owners are reasonable people who don’t participate in offensive, intimidating and provocative behavior with their guns in public places. Most Americans find that kind of behavior anti-American.

So let’s work together to stop this insanity and work together to prevent the gun violence that is devastating our communities.

UPDATE:

Since I first posted this, the South Carolina legislature voted to take down the Confederate flag that flies in their Capitol square. So let’s hope others will do the same and stop flying the flag.

UPDATE:

I am not the only one to think of the gun lobby and gun extremists as bullies. This article calls it like it is:

We cower before the bully. We feel helpless against the bully. The president of the United States, Congress and police forces around the country can do nothing. Even when the work of the bully produces tragedy after tragedy, the bully grows stronger, sucking strength from the lives of its victims. And the bully gloats.

In April 2007, a deranged young man with a gun went on a rampage at Virginia Tech, killing 32 people and injuring around two dozen more in what remains the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. The response of our national bully, the National Rifle Association (NRA), when a horrified nation thought tighter gun control laws might be in order? “We won’t be pushed around,” insisted Bully-in-Chief Wayne LaPierre.

In July 2012, when another young man slaughtered 12 people and injured 58 others in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, the bully proclaimed, preposterously, “There is absolutely no correlation between guns and shooting deaths. Zero. None.” Just six months later, after yet another young man massacred 27 people—including 20 little kids—at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., the defiant bully said that schools needed more guns, for protection. The bully added that parents who lost their 6-year-olds were politicizing their victimhood and serving as “human shields” for the gun safety movement.  (…)

The bully also has money. Since 1990, the NRA has donated $21 million to politicians, 83 percent of it to Republicans. The gun control lobby doesn’t come close: $1.9 million to politicians, 94 percentto Democrats. Such largesse seems to blind our anti-tax conservatives to the cost of gun violence to our economy: at least $229 billion a year, according to an analysis byMother Jones, when you add up emergency and medical care, prison and criminal justice costs, lost wages, insurance, legal fees, police investigations and the like. That’s about $700 per American per year; in a state like Wyoming with a high rate of gun violence, it’s twice that.

The bully wants us to accept this as the new normal: that we adopt an armed, militarized lifestyle. It will repeatedly threaten and intimidate our government and us to advance this lethal political agenda. It’s time to name the NRA as a bully, treat it as a bully and stand up to it as a bully, to get beyond its deadly blockage of desperately needed gun safety laws in our country.

“Celebrating” our unique American gun culture

Today we celebrate Independence Day. And since I write about guns and gun violence, I am suggesting that we could also celebrate saving lives through common sense gun measures that won’t take away the freedom to lawfully own a gun. This freedom should be extended to those who are responsible and can prove they can be safe with their guns. And we can do this, much like other advanced countries have done. The fact that we haven’t is unique to America- and not in a good way. Reasonable people can put their heads together to reduce the daily carnage due to reckless and irresponsible gun use and ownership. So on this national holiday, consider common sense and common ground.

I have included a meme in this post with some “language” but it gets to a point that needs to be made.

The image at the end of this post been posted on social media sites. The language is not mine. It is a quote from gun owner and author Stephen King who supports common sense gun measures and is not afraid to say so. His quotes get to the inanity of our gun culture:

“How paranoid do you want to be? How many guns does it take to make you feel safe? And how do you simultaneously keep them loaded and close at hand, but still out of reach of your inquisitive children or grandchildren? Are you sure you wouldn’t do better with a really good burglar alarm? It’s true you have to remember to set the darn thing before you go to bed, but think of this — if you happened to mistake your wife or live-in partner for a crazed drug addict, you couldn’t shoot her with a burglar alarm.”

Inanity with guns kills people. Some days you could almost laugh if you didn’t cry about the stupidity of some people with their guns. For example, in what possible way could a loaded gun be in any way similar to a cup of coffee? Check out what this Florida man said when arrested for carrying his loaded gun around at Daytona Beach:

Ray was charged with misdemeanor open carrying of weapons, the arrest affidavit said.

Ray also did not have a concealed weapons permit, police said. The weapon had a 30-round magazine with a round in the chamber, police said.

Police said Ray was trying to “push the envelope as to what is lawful under Florida law, and to gain a reaction from the public and law enforcement.”

Ray said he was not trying to hurt anyone and is a big proponent of Second Amendment rights.

He said if guns were everywhere, people would be more comfortable being around them.
“It’s like a cup of coffee,” he said. “People are not afraid of a cup of coffee. They know what it is. It’s everywhere. If guns were everywhere criminals will think twice about taking people’s lives.”

When a patron at the Burger King on North Atlantic Avenue asked Ray why he was carrying the gun, he replied that it was “to guard against all the crazies out there,” records show.

Just when you thought you’d heard everything. I guess the gun lobby has succeeded in so dumbing down the arguments about gun owning and carrying that even this seems to make sense to some. I don’t have to get into why a loaded gun with a 30 round magazine carried on one’s person is different from carrying a cup of coffee around do I? But this craziness is what gives some of the gun extremists their excuse for what they are doing. There is no excuse. Anyone with common sense understands that the average American is just not going to get used to people carrying assault rifles around where they live, play, work, learn, shop and worship. Why? Because in the real world, there are people carrying these things into the places where we are with our families who have shot and killed people. I don’t know about you but if I see someone carrying a cup of coffee around, I know for sure I won’t be killed by that person with the coffee in his/her hands. It is simply not normal for people to be carrying loaded assault rifles around in public.

This July 4th holiday there are warnings out about possible ISIS attacks in America. Why wouldn’t a member of a terrorist or hate group also walk around on our streets with a loaded assault rifle in public places with evil intent? How will we know the difference?  We also have our own “home grown” terrorists ready to commit heinous acts and hate crimes. Our country just experienced one of the most awful hate crimes in recent history in Charleston, South Carolina. It was one young man, loaded with hate, intolerance, racism and anger and also a loaded gun.

For more American gun inanity check out the comments made by House Speaker John Boehner after the House voted to block any funding for the CDC to do research into the causes and effects of gun violence:

Listen, the CDC is there to look at diseases that need to be dealt with to protect the public health. I’m sorry, but a gun is not a disease. And guns don’t kill people; people do. And when people use weapons in a horrible way, we should condemn the actions of the individual, not blame the action on some weapon. Listen, there are hundreds of millions of weapons in America. They’re there. And they’re going to be there. They’re protected under the Second Amendment. But people who use weapons in an inappropriate or illegal way ought to be dealt with severely.

“I’m sorry but a gun is not a disease….” Really? Can we dumb down the conversation any more than this? You can almost see the strings attached to Boehner’s arms with the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre behind the curtain moving Boehner’s mouth. This is so ridiculous as to be unbelievable. But this is the unique American gun culture that we celebrate along with other American “freedoms” and ways of like.

A gun is not a disease. It’s also not a cup of coffee. Or a spoon.

But the mayhem and tragedy caused by people with guns is surely a disease in America. It is a public health epidemic that we are ignoring at our peril. What we can’t do is let elected officials get away with their nonsensical statements about guns and gun violence that belie the facts. And we can’t let people who are carrying loaded assault rifles around in public get away with their swaggering attempts to “normalize” what they are doing. They are a distinct minority who have been led to believe that they have a right to do this because… second amendment. This nonsensical reasoning is an insane interpretation of the amendment and does a disservice to the founding fathers who wrote our Constitution.

Dr. Vivek Murthy, whose confirmation to become our Surgeon General was held up by the gun lobby because he dared to state the obvious- that gun violence is a public health issue, said it again at a recent conference:

“I said that gun violence is a public health issue, and I’ll say it again today.”

Dr. Murthy is right. He is about changing the conversation in American. Gun violence and the toll it takes on our communities is very real. It’s not going away but we can at the least try to reduce and prevent some of it. Not to do so is unpatriotic.

The thing is,we can have a gun culture and we can have guns. We have more of them than any other advanced country not at war. But we can also have common sense when it comes to regulating guns and their owners. Most gun owners are safe and use their guns for recreation and sport. But enough of them are not that we owe it to our American values to prevent them from shooting their own family members, or black people in a church, or movie goers, or young school children, or people who practice a different religion, or college students or people shopping in malls, or themselves….. And that would also be an American thing to do.

This week-end we will be celebrating our country’s independence. It’s obvious that freedom and liberty mean different things to different people. I think we can all agree though that none of us want to be shot. Passing sensible legislation to keep guns away from people who should’t have them does nothing to take away the freedoms of those who do not have bad intent. But when the conversation is dumbed down and the research is blocked so that we can’t, as a country, deal with our public health epidemic of shootings, that takes away the ability to be free from devastating gun violence.

Let’s get this straight. The NRA/corporate gun lobby has foisted a huge deception on Americans and most especially on our elected leaders. Please read this Washington Post article about the difference between what they say and what is actually happening in the real world of gun violence.It was written by a woman who took an NRA self defense class:

The NRA’s approach to personal safety assumes crime can be prevented by ever-present fear. The instruction suggests that threats are everywhere beyond our front door, making the advice impractical for anyone interested in leaving her home. Rather than refusing to be a victim, the seminar can make one feel as though they’re always a victim.

An entire section of the course manual is devoted to telling people never to open their home’s doors to strangers, even a UPS driver who needs a signature. And yet, a subsequent chapter advises people who are being followed to “go to the nearest lighted building or home for help.” What if the nearest home is occupied by a person who follows NRA advice and doesn’t open the door for strangers? We were advised to have a hotel employee accompany us to our rooms, yet beware of someone who may be posing as a hotel employee as a ploy to gain access to our rooms. (…)

The impracticality of the NRA’s advice aside, its rules aren’t an effective way of preventing most interpersonal crime. The course suggests that, to avoid becoming a victim, you should fear strangers. But most violent crimes are committed by a relative, friend or acquaintance of the victim. Every piece of safety advice the NRA gave would be relevant only if the assailant was a stranger, and yet nearly two out of three violent crimes are perpetrated by someone the victim knows.

Further, what epidemic of violence in public restrooms and hotel rooms justifies always employing a buddy system? Certainly, you can find news stories about crimes committed in these places, but generally, crime statistics show that public areas are safe. Just 12 percent of violent crimes are committed in commercial areas – including bars, gas stations and banks – and just 0.1 percent occur in hotel or motel rooms, according to federal data. Meanwhile, 43 percent of violent crime occurs in or near a familiar private residence, whether your own, a friend’s or a relative’s.

The gun lobby is purposely hiding the facts or blocking ways to find them. I know for a fact that the gun violence that affected my family was committed in a home and committed by someone who knew and once loved my sister who was also a “law abiding” gun owner until suddenly he wasn’t. Should my sister have been more afraid of all of those monsters, zombies, felons or whoever is lurking in public bathrooms and hotel corridors than she was of her estranged husband?

Mike the Gun Guy also takes issue with the NRA’s notion of gun safety. He wonders about the ASK campaign and the BeSmart program, both programs encouraging safe storage of guns. The reason? The NRA’s safety program wants people to have their loaded guns at the ready at all times. This just does not work when locking guns securely away from kids and teens. It’s a unique American conundrum but one that does not have to totally befuddle us and stop us from acting in the interest of public health and safety like virtually all other countries have done.

What is the answer here? More guns are not making us safer. The gun lobby promotes more guns and in many cases, more loaded guns around wherever gun owners determine there is fear for their personal safety (everywhere).

Where is the common ground? Clearly the conversation has to change in order to change our unique gun culture. On this July 4th holiday, let’s think about how that can happen.

The incidents below are incidents involving “law abiding” gun owners. In no other country would these incidents be allowed or the people involved in them to have guns in the first place.

A 90 year old Florida man was arrested for threatening someone with his gun. He was a “legal” gun permit holder who did not have his right to carry taken from him 5 years ago when he threatened someone else. He shouldn’t have had a permit or a gun. Was he in any kind of state to handle his responsibility with that gun and that permit? Luckily no one got hurt but is that the point? In America …rights trump public safety.

A Vermont firearms instructor was seriously injured when one of his students shot him. The article does not mention if he was armed at the time. The woman was adjudicated mentally ill so couldn’t legally own firearms. But she could use a gun at a gun range because no background checks are required to shoot guns at a range in Vermont. This article is the “poster child ” for all that can go wrong in our unique American culture of guns.

Or this Iowa gun owner- Didn’t we determine just recently ( and for decades before that)that the display of Confederate flags can be incendiary and racist? And when guys with guns worship that flag, it could mean all sorts of bad things. Come on. We all understand why he was doing this. The fact that our laws allow for this kind of offensive behavior should be a wake-up call to us all. But here is his excuse:

He tells Siouxland News he’s is doing this to show support for the first and second amendment.

He says he’s been walking at least once a week since 2011, mainly in Le Mars, but he has walked in Sioux City and Iowa City.

Cornish adds that all he sees in the media is negative stories and not much support for the first and second amendment, so this is a way for him to show support for the open carry law.

America is better than this. Our founding fathers did not anticipate their words being twisted to support the kind of behavior exhibited by stupid people with guns and the corporate gun lobby whose main mission has little to do with keeping America safe from senseless violence and everything to do with protecting the gun industry. From the linked article:

It is time for opponents of gun control to stop mindlessly shouting “The Second Amendment!!” as if that ends the discussion. It does not. Just as there is no First Amendment right to falsely yell fire in a crowded theatre, there is no Second Amendment right to carry an AK-47 there.

And that is only the beginning of what the Second Amendment does not guarantee.

Extreme behavior like the one in the article above, using the excuse that the second amendment gives him the right, should not be tolerated by an America dealing with the epidemic of gun violence and racism that should be of great concern to us all.

So on this Fourth of July, I urge you to think about how the world has changed since our Constitution was written and why we need to look at the enduring words written by the authors in the context of current reality.

Stay safe out there. Beware of people carrying spoons and cups of coffee. You never know what might happen. And don’t catch the gun disease.

Stephen King quote

As if by providence, I just came across this article about the “social gun culture” in America showing who the average gun owner is in America and where the guns are found for the most part. This researcher is thinking as I am:

Kalesan’s study defined “social gun culture” as a phenomenon in which friends or family would think less of you if you didn’t own a gun, and if your social life with friends and family involved guns. Any survey participant who answered “yes” to any of these statements was categorized as being part of social gun culture.

Figuring out the dynamics at play in social gun culture, according to Kalesan, will be key to sparking social change about the attitudes and practices that inform gun ownership in the first place. She said educating Americans about the health dangers of having a firearm in their homes will change the way people feel about gun ownership, which in turn could drive laws that make guns more difficult to obtain.

“A public health approach, much like the anti-tobacco effort, is necessary, first to facilitate a social change and then political will to form effective policies,” Kalesan told HuffPost. “We also need research to understand the public health consequences in different communities and to identify effective social interventions in different populations.”

And the bottom line for the writer of the article is this:

“In 2013 alone, 33,636 persons were killed using a gun, while 84,258 were shot non-fatally,” said Kalesan. “Those who are injured have a difficult journey during recovery, some remaining paraplegic and injured often with PTSD for the rest of their lives.”

Nothing more needs to be said.

The numbing and silencing of America

DSC_0196On Monday my chapter of the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence ( also affiliated with Protect Minnesota) organized and held a bell ringing in memory of the 9 victims of the Charleston Mother Emanuel church shooting. It was well attended and very powerful. There were 3 local clergy from different faith persuasions giving remarks as well as the pastor of the local AME church where we held the event. Another community activist involved in the community of color also made remarks. As is our tradition, we had 9 people from those gathered come to the front of the church and hold a photo of each of the 9 victims. When they said their names, our bell was rung. We finished by ringing the bell for all other victims and survivors and joined in a hopeful song.

We are numb in this country. We hardly know how to respond any more to these kinds of shootings. But this one seemed different. 9 people were targeted because of the color of their skin. I have not seen this much activity on-line, on social media, in the American media, in media from around the world in events held, in comments made- ever since I have been involved in the issue of gun violence prevention. It has stunned me. People want to talk about it. A friend stopped me in the grocery store. She wanted to talk about it. People saw me on TV as I was interviewed about the bell ringing. The public is outraged and numb.

We have been numbed down and dumbed down after years of these kind of shootings. But this time, things are happening. In a surprise move, Governor Nikki Haley of South Carolina made an unexpected statement yesterday with her support for taking down the confederate flag from the Capitol area. She was given accolades. I ask what took so long?  Black Americans have had to endure the insult of the flag that represents so much historical pain and suffering for too many years. It’s inexcusable.  And, what’s worse, politicians have supported it- some out of ignorance, some say it’s out of respect for history ( which ignores a big chunk of that history) some out of fear of those on the far right who seem to be still fighting the Civil War.

(As an aside, we need to also understand that Governor Haley has signed some of the country’s weakest gun laws. As a result South Carolina has among the country’s highest number of gun deaths.)

Along with removing the Confederate flag, Governor Hailey should also be looking at some changes to her state’s gun laws.

Regarding the Confederate flag, though, quickly Walmart, Sears, Amazon and now Ebay are removing any confederate stuff from their stores or on-line site. Guns, not so much. They will still sell guns- the instrument of the terror and White Supremacist act that occurred last week in Charleston. Shouldn’t we wonder why they were selling this stuff in the first place? Why did it take a heinous race based shooting to begin a national discussion that should have happened long ago?

What I want to know is whether those same items representing the Confederacy will still be sold at gun shows across the country? Will we still see photos of guys like this, strutting around with the hateful flag plus their AR-15s? How offensive can you get? Or remember the prom goers posing for a photo with their guns and that flag? Or this “good guy” with a gun who pulled his gun out and pointed it at young kids who made fun of the Confederate flag image on his truck?

Offensive stuff for sure.

It’s been a week now. And the country has been reeling with the uproar caused by this shooting. The Charleston community has reacted with grace and peacefully, even using the word forgiveness and sometimes hope. That is what we heard at our bell ringing event on Monday.

Maybe this time there is hope. Adam Gopnik wrote this for the New Yorker:

Against this, of course, was the suggestion, by a board member of the National Rifle Association, that responsibility for the massacre lay with the clergyman within the church, for opposing laws that would allow “concealed carry” in places of worship. Had he not taken that stand, the argument runs, there would have been a pitched gun battle in the church—a better thing, apparently, even though it would have only fulfilled the gunman’s mad fantasies of race war. Pitched gun battles in a Charleston church or a Connecticut elementary school, of the sort that some in the N.R.A. apparently dream of, would more likely be horrific blood baths, with crossfire and injured bystanders, not some well-tuned and well-timed action-movie scenario.
The reason that we have gun massacres in numbers wildly out of proportion to any other rich country is because we have too many guns. When gun massacres have happened elsewhere—as they sometimes have, in Canada and Scotland and Australia and elsewhere—the common-sense response has been to change the laws, and, almost always, after the laws are changed the massacres end. In the United States, they continue. It seems like a good bet that changing the law here would change that.

In the areas of gun crime where there has been extended study, we know for certain that serious gun control works to end, or at least limit, gun violence. It is as robust a correlation as any in the social sciences, as sure a thing, as I’ve written before, as knowing that antibiotics act to limit and end infections. You go looking for sane counterarguments in favor of overarmed America and find that none exist. Guns don’t protect anyone from anything. Their presence simply increases the odds of domestic tragedy, of a domestic altercation turning into a homicide (or a suicide). The data confirms what common sense suggests: not even the most desperately paranoid among us could possibly be perpetually prepared for an actual home invasion—as very rare as such incidents actually are. The fantasy of the armed homeowner bravely repelling the evil armed intruder is just that. The number of justified homicides is overwhelmed by the number of gun tragedies. In 2012, thirteen states, including New Jersey and New York, reported no justifiable homicides at all. Not one. The notion that gun possession could stop, rather than increase, the number of casualties in the home is another fantasy created by violent movies and television programs, and is only possible in them. (Violent crime is dropping under the gun-control regimes in Europe and Canada as well, just as it has in the States. We’re still the only country that has gun massacres so routinely that our leader has to figure out what new thing he can say each time out.)

Gopnik goes on to write about the Confederate flag and why people who still pledge allegiance to it and to their own gun fetishes and fear and paranoia are so dangerous:

Another, parallel claim—what might be called the insurrectionist one—insists that guns are necessary to enforce a constitutional right to threaten and subvert the duly elected government as gun owners might see fit. This is a view that one Abraham Lincoln rather fiercely resisted, and put an end to in the eighteen-sixties. Amid the arguments over the Confederate battle flag flying in Charleston, the one that insists that the flag represents, above all, an effort to make slavery a permanent state for black people is probably the most relevant. But it’s also worth remembering that the defeat of the Confederacy involved exactly the defeat of the notion that the threat of insurrection was ever to be regarded as an acceptable political act. As Lincoln said, in his first inaugural, “No government proper ever had a provision in its organic law for its own termination.” You can’t say you need to have a gun to threaten the government.

Gopnik finishes with things I have written here many times before:

On most public issues, there are two reasonable views, even when one view seems, to put it mildly, cruel—the view, say, that poor people should be left without medical insurance. But on gun control there aren’t. All the facts are in; all the social science is long settled; the constitutional positions are clear, if contested, and the wiser way known and shared by mankind. On one side are facts, truth, and common sense. On the other, an obsession with dark fantasies of individual autonomy and power—the sheer fetishistic thrill of owning lethal weapons. On one side is the sanity and common sense shared by the entire world; on the other, murder and madness and a strange ongoing American mania. If we don’t change, then, well—it will happen again, again. And then again.

Will we choose sanity and common sense or will we choose madness?

A friend from Missouri, Stacey Newman, a state legislator, wrote this about the response from our political leaders:

Who is ultimately responsible for dozens of gun lobby sponsored bills advancing not just in Missouri each year but in other conservative legislatures? We are. Who is responsible for the many legislators who remain silent during floor debate, even though their districts suffer the most gun violence in the state? We are.

Who is responsible for a Congress which continually fails to advance policies like universal background checks even though 90 percent of us, including gun owners and NRA members, overwhelmingly support these common sense measures? We are.

Who is responsible for re-electing a Congress which ignores majority opinion in favor of standing with the gun lobby? We are. Who is responsible for the myth that one can’t get elected if they stand up to the profiteering of gun manufacturers? We are.

In our silence, we have forgotten that we hold the power to save lives.

Our power is our vote — the power that the majority of Americans don’t utilize unless it’s a sexy presidential election year. Most Americans have no clue who represents them in state houses (where most gun laws are being passed) or even in Congress, which is exactly how the NRA wants it. On top of that, the NRA knows exactly who votes and who doesn’t because voting records are public and available to anyone. (…)

Our silence on election days is increasing the carnage and suffering. We cannot afford more silence. Please help.

Silence is killing us.

Don’t be silent. Don’t be numb. Wake up. Stand up. Raise your voices. Make noise so your elected leaders hear you. Demand that they listen to the voices of reason whose concern is for the victims.

We have been dumbed down as well by the myths and illogical arguments foisted on our leaders and too many Americans by the corporate gun lobby. They have succeeded for too long now but the latest carnage in Charleston, South Carolina is pushing the country to speak out and speak the truths that have been too long ignored. We need the courage of conviction on the gun issue as is starting to happen on the flag issue. There is a right about some things in our culture that, when evil exposes the terrible wrong, just has to be acknowledged. There really is such a thing as common sense.

But instead of standing up for common sense, our legislators and Congress have left with us with a mess. What just happened in Mississippi where police can’t arrest a guy with a gun in a Walmart store who terrorizes the public points out how insane we have become when it comes to gun rights. And if that isn’t enough, Iowa has passed a law allowing blind people to carry guns in public because- rights…… Insane. It’s a mess.

These kinds of stories represent what’s gone terribly wrong about rights. These things shouldn’t be normal. The people don’t want this kind of behavior to be normal.

But we can fix what’s wrong. Our leaders have also been touched by the Charleston shootings in a way that perhaps they weren’t even touched after the Sandy Hook shooting. It’s a national shame that the corporate gun lobby stopped the country from acting according its’ conscience after the Sandy Hook shooting. Maybe this time the organization whose board member tried to blame the victims for the shooting will have to sit down and be quiet for a change. Senators Manchin and Toomey have admitted that they are willing to pursue gun safety reform legislation of some kind. Is there hope?

There just has to be change and there just has to be hope for our country. This family surely lost hope in a hurry on Father’s Day when a father who had a gun decided to shoot his children, his wife and himself for reasons we may never know. This. This is why we just have to change the conversation about guns and gun violence in our country.

Is the Charleston Mother Emanuel church shooting the one that was one too many? Is this the one? Are the other mass shootings that occurred on the week-end after the Charleston shooting too many for us? Is the murder/suicide of a young family ( just one of many that occur regularly) enough for us?

Will we decide we won’t continue to be numb and we refuse to be dumbed down and numbed by the gun lobby?

This article ends with a great quote that fits with everything I have written in this post about our political leaders and the need to have them stand up to the gun lobby:

Despite the assertion that pro-gun forces are winning the battle for public opinion, support for reasonable gun laws remains strong. According to a poll by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, 83 percent favored background checks for all gun sales, while 80 percent supported prohibiting anyone with a temporary domestic restraining order from buying a gun.

“It’s noteworthy that attitudes among gun owners were well over a majority for a whole range of different measures to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous individuals,” said Johns Hopkins associate professor Colleen Barry.

This fight isn’t lost, then. Far from it.

It’s time to speak up and speak out.

To fight fog with facts.

And to be every bit as determined as the other side.

It’s been foggy. It’s been numbing. It’s been void of the facts for far too long. But things are changing. We may be coming out of our numbness and our fog.

Most people have. Everytown for Gun Safety produced this video. Watch it. We can now add “Charleston”. Time to stop being numb.