Big money and guns

Print


The NRA, the Russian investigation, power, money, corruption, influence on elections, Trump and the 2016 campaign. What could possibly go wrong?

If this allegation is true, it shows how far the corporate gun lobby will go to gain and hold on to their influence over our political system. From the article about the FBI investigation into the influence of Russian money, the NRA and the Trump election:

However, the NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump – triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that was money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors.

Two people with close connections to the powerful gun lobby said its total election spending actually approached or exceeded $70 million. The reporting gap could be explained by the fact that independent groups are not required to reveal how much they spend on Internet ads or field operations, including get-out-the-vote efforts.

We know that Trump attended the NRA’s annual meeting to lie about his support for their dangerous policies. And we know he received a large campaign donation from the organization along with support by way of letting supporters know that they should vote for this unfit man:

A supporter of restrictions on guns before he entered politics, Mr. Trump became a fierce champion of gun rights during his bid for the White House, earning early backing — and $30 million in campaign support — from the powerful lobbying group.

“Only one candidate in the general election came to speak to you, and that candidate is now the president of the United States, standing before you,” Mr. Trump said. “You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you.”

There it is for all to see.

This is simply corrupt and absolutely not OK. We need to keep our eyes and ears open.

The book, “Dark Money” reveals the extent to which this is happening in our democracy, if you can call it that given that money is buying elections and influencing important decisions on behalf of the American people. From the review of the book:

A careful exposé of the libertarian agenda, spearheaded by the Koch brothers, to “impose their minority views on the majority by other means.”

As people who read my blog know, I often talk about how the gun lobby represents a distinct minority of Americans and even gun owners. But their agenda is about money and influence which works against the majority. For decades that money and influence has bought us terrible policies that are dangerous to public health and safety. Such laws as “Stand Your Ground” and ” Constitutional Carry” allow people with guns to get away with murder and for people to openly carry guns in public places where most people do not want them. And if the agenda of passing “Concealed Carry Reciprocity” were to move forward and get the support of the Senate, just about anyone would be allowed to carry loaded guns wherever they go.

These are the wishes forced on us by the minority who have money. Money talks.

Left in the wake of all of this are the victims. But victims don’t talk. Sometimes they have a voice and survivors like former Representative Gabby Giffords, for example, speak as well as they can in demanding common sense in the halls of Congress and state legislatures.

Unfortunately for us, her voice and the voices of others like her are not loud enough compared to the voices of money. Many of our politicians are lapdogs for the gun lobby. I posted this Brady Campaign video in my last post as well. It is still relevant:

Woe unto us if we let the money continue to influence the safety and well being of the public. The bodies are piling up in front of our eyes.

In Minnesota a few days ago, the combination of icy roads, an accident, and guns came together to lead to the death of a young driver:

What happened next was spelled out Wednesday in a criminal complaint that said Weiss, 25, of Rochester, who has a legal permit to carry a gun, shot the teenage driver of the other car at point-blank range when a confrontation flared.

The Olmsted County attorney charged Weiss, who says he acted in self-defense, with second-degree murder in the death of Muhammed Rahim, 17, the middle child of a family that fled Iraq six years ago. The charge is a felony that, with a conviction, carries a potential prison sentence of three to 40 years.

Weiss was arrested and jailed. He has since been released on bail.

Rahim’s passenger told police that he thought Weiss wanted to fight after the collision. He said he and Rahim threatened Weiss and that Rahim even dared Weiss to shoot him. There were no punches thrown, according to police, but Weiss said Rahim shoved him once in the chest.

Incidents like this should not lead to death. This was an accident, a misunderstanding, perhaps some strong words. But if one man had not had a gun, the other would be alive today. And claiming self defense may or may not work here. The victim was unarmed and only ( maybe) had words with the shooter. Is that enough to kill someone?

But Minnesota does not have a Stand Your Ground law. We have fought against it for many years in the face of fierce support by the corporate gun lobby’s influence on some of our state legislators. Would this man be able  to get away with murder with no trial if a Stand Your Ground law was in place?

This is yet another of those “good guys” with guns that Wayne LaPierre so famously and nonsensically said after the shooting of 20 first graders, held up when pretending that only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns:

Sigh.

Sometimes even in states with Stand Your Ground laws, shooters have not gotten away with murder. The case of Jordan Davis, shot in Florida by a gun permit holder because of teens sitting in a car playing loud music, showed that murdering an unarmed person who simply annoyed someone isn’t an excuse.

We are better than this.

The confluence of the Russia investigation into their influence on our 2016 election, with the NRA is an interesting situation. If the findings come out showing that it was, indeed, true, we need to hold the NRA responsible for their actions and expose the truth about dark money and guns.

 

UPDATE:

This New York Times article expands on the possible collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians through the NRA:

It’s important not to get carried away, if only because a scenario in which the Russian investigation ensnares the N.R.A., probably the most influential conservative group in the United States, seems a bit too much like Resistance fan fiction, too delicious to be true. Indeed, if it is true, it has devastating implications for the entire Republican Party, since many officeholders enjoy lavish financial support from the N.R.A. Still, an N.R.A. role in Russiagate would explain a few things, including why the N.R.A. has, in recent years, developed such a close relationship with Russia.

Follow the Money. People are dying. The gun industry profits. Gun laws are loosened. People unfit for office are elected with the help of the gun lobby. Our leaders are afraid to pass laws to save lives and protect us all from senseless gun violence.

The insatiable quest for profits for the gun industry, power and control of our democratic process may end in a very bad way. It would not be a surprise to most people who have come to understand that the NRA is not a gun rights group any more. It is an arm of the Republican party and is run by extremists.

Extremism in our legislatures

Caroon
Published in the Duluth News Tribune

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good guy with a gun?

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

He is in prison. Good guy with a gun?

Florida has a Stand Your Ground law.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Extremism. Good guy with a gun?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Enough

 

 

Bleak Friday

Basic RGB(Apologies for the formatting. Something went wrong with WordPress while posting.)

Yes, America, we just finished what is supposed to be a peaceful family holiday. As for me, it was one of the better Thanksgivings we have had. Our cabin has become the gathering place for our family so everyone converged in our small place for the holiday week-end. We managed to cook the dinner in our small kitchen and it was one of the best and tastiest yet. There were no arguments- no violence. Laughter, kids sliding and playing outside in the snow and memory making times.

Black Friday is here. Shopping has begun and deals are happening all over the internet and in stores. Americans love deals on things. The holidays are officially upon us, like it or not. As I wrote in my last post, the holidays mean something very different to victims and survivors of gun violence. Just as with any disease or accidental death, the unexpected loss of a loved one is very difficult at holiday times. Since my focus here is on gun safety reform and gun violence prevention, I write about the loss of loved ones in violent, often preventable deaths due to shootings.

And as we know, shootings don’t take a holidays. This year was no exception. In Kentucky, 2 were shot dead at a football game :

Gunfire erupted at an annual Thanksgiving Day football game in Kentucky, leaving two dead and four others wounded, Louisville Metro Police said Thursday.

A West Virginia man shot and killed a teen for bumping into him:

William Ronald Pulliam appeared unrepentant after fatally shooting a teenager during a confrontation outside a West Virginia discount store.

“The way I look at it, that’s another piece of trash off the street,” Pulliam allegedly told police, according to a criminal complaint.
But the 62-year-old man, in a jailhouse interview with CNN affiliate WCHS, categorically denied making that statement. He said he feared for his life when 15-year-old James Means allegedly pulled a gun on him. The complaint did not say Means had a gun.
This is “Stand Your Ground” on steroids. Without that gun, the teen would be alive today. Tell me again that more guns have made us safer and that an armed society is a polite society. These are lies perpetrated by the corporate gun lobby and their lackeys in Congress and our legislatures. A teen should not be dead over unsupported fear that he had a gun.

The incident began about 6 p.m. on Thursday. Local news station KOLO reported that “there was apparently a dispute over a parking spot” and said police characterized the shooting as a road rage incident.

Reno Police said two vehicles stopped near the exit of the parking lot, The Associated Press reported. It said: “Police said both persons involved were armed with weapons and a 33-year-old man was shot dead at the scene.”

 So much for “responsible” gun toting Americans with permits to carry.
Of course it makes no common sense but that is not what is driving our gun culture. Because if we practiced common sense, these kinds of shootings would be much more rare.
The Twin Cities area of Minnesota also saw 2 shootings right before the Thanksgiving holiday. One man was shot  and killed in his home and a woman was shot and injured in her workplace by her ex-husband. One was a domestic shooting which occur regularly in our country of guns. The other has not yet been determined but it appears that the victim may have been known by his shooter.
There are more that I likely missed or just did not report. About 80 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries.
So what should we do? Just let these kinds of shootings happen without making the slightest attempt to prevent them? Or without doing any meaningful and scientific research into the causes and effects of gun violence? Or without trying to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them?
Just because shootings have not yet affected you does mean that one day, you or someone you know or love could be a victim of a senseless and avoidable shooting. That means that you should be joining in efforts to prevent and reduce gun violence of all kinds- whether homicide, suicide, terrorism, or “accidental”.
It doesn’t have to be like this. The only reason it is is because as a country, we have let the corporate gun lobby and its lapdogs in Congress and legislatures have their way. Lies, deception, fear, paranoia and profits have kept us from saving lives. And we disagree on how that plays out in our everyday lives.
As it turns out, guns are deadly weapons and are dangerous products sold without proper vetting in too many cases and without any training required. The gun lobby has succeeded in getting some of us to think it’s OK for people with no training whatsoever or going through a permitting process to carry loaded guns on our streets.  The gun industry and lobby has convinced some of their lapdogs and members/minions that the shooting of 20 first graders and 6 educators was not enough to change our gun policy. Even the shooting of one of their own, Gabby Giffords, was not enough for Congress to act. I guess it wasn’t enough that 12 people were shot and killed at a Colorado movie theater or that 49 were killed at a GLBT nightclub and ……..
When is enough? What is enough?
It’s a bleak America if you really think hard about this.
And if we believe that President-elect Trump is going to drain the swamp of industry profits at the cost of human lives and lobbyist influence on our Congress and legislators, then I have a bridge to see you in Brooklyn. The NRA spent a lot of money to get him elected and if we think that won’t produce good results for them, we are dreaming. The interesting thing is that the opposite effect may be the result of Trump’s election. Minorities are now buying more guns to ostensibly protect themselves from the potential for more racism and acts of violence, hate crimes or intolerance towards them:

Scott, an African-American, is one of many minorities who have been flocking to gun stores to protect themselves, afraid Trump’s victory will incite more hate crimes.

“You feel that racists now feel like they can attack us just because the president is doing it,” Earl Curtis, the owner of Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly, Virginia, told NBC News.

Gun store owners told NBC News that since November 8 they’re seeing up to four times as many black and minority customers — and black gun groups are reporting double the normal number of attendees at their meetings since the election.

This proliferation of weapons is just not good for America. It is a vicious circle that leads not to self protection but to more gun incidents and more injuries and deaths. We know that more guns has not led to fewer gun deaths but more. 
Back to the gun lobby, in this new article in The Trace, we see how the NRA actually cleverly and deceptively has worked for decades to make sure someone like Trump got elected. Sociologist and writer, Scott Meltzer, is interviewed for this article. Let’s take a look fat his observations from the linked article:

Yeah, I think the really interesting dynamic that the NRA has in its rhetoric and its language is that it frames itself and its members as victims of this culture war that’s removing guns and giving special rights to women and people of color and gays and lesbians. Its members are the new minority, they’re the new victims.

The flip side for the NRA is that it also frames its members as heroes, as freedom fighters. The group labels itself as the oldest civil rights organization in the country. It’s essentially a religion, it’s a faith. It’s a fundamental belief system, it’s the religion of freedom — that they have to literally fight ’til the death. That’s what Heston was saying with “from my cold, dead hands,” right? There are not a lot of other single-issue interest groups that would use that kind of rhetoric.

That kind of rhetoric is not based on fact but on raw emotion, fear, power, and loss of control. I get it that many good Americans own guns for hunting and self protection but again, most Americans have not bought into this kind of rhetoric and do understand that gun owning, gun rights and reasonable restrictions on guns and gun owners are not mutually exclusive.  It is because we want to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our families safe that we can agree on this. But what that means seems to be where we can’t meet in the middle. If this is about culture, it is essential that we are talking about the risk of guns and ways to prevent people from getting shot.
#Enough. Let’s get to work to change the conversation, the culture and policy so we can protect our children and families from devastating gun violence.

Wake up calls about gun violence

alarm_clockDoes anyone think through the results of our lax gun laws? I know I do but, as a country, we have been so steeped in a unique gun culture that we have lost our way. It’s time to wake up to the reality of what our lax gun laws actually mean.

I ran across an editorial from the Washington Post comparing the recent Colorado Springs shooting with the recent California campus stabbing. Four people were stabbed by someone wielding a knife on a campus and will survive. Not so for the victims of the Colorado man who walked plainly down the streets of Colorado Springs with an openly carried gun that was legal to carry. From the article:

Imagine if Colorado weren’t so permissive in allowing people to openly display guns. Would that 911 operator have recognized the danger more quickly and would lives have been saved?

Similarly, imagine what would have occurred if the attacker at the University of California at Merced had wielded a gun instead of a hunting knife. Would there have been fatalities instead of injuries, and would there have been additional victims before the attacker could be stopped? Indeed, would the construction worker who bravely broke up the attack have been able to do so if a gun were involved and not a knife?

Where is the knife lobby when you need it? Death by knifings/stabbings are very low compared to firearms. The obvious is before us. Gun laws would matter and would save lives. But we are living in a country where rights come before public safety. Is this what we really thought would happen when our state legislators loosened our gun laws in a slippery slope that has led to the spectacle of armed citizens on our streets?

What do we think of when armed men (mostly men) are walking armed on the streets of our communities? I think of countries at war. And I do believe that we are war with ourselves in America. How can we think otherwise? When more Americans have lost their lives since 1968 to gun violence than all Americans who have died in all American wars since the Revolutionary War, we know we have a real public health and safety epidemic that we are not addressing with any kind of common sense.

When small children continue to shoot themselves or someone else because of easy access to a gun, we have a serious problem. When teens and middle aged white men have access to guns, they are shooting themselves at an alarming rate. 

Will we admit that guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people and animals? Even in hunting season, there are accidents because bullets are projectiles coming from guns that kill animals but sometimes kill or injure hunters or innocent bystanders. One such happened in my own state of Minnesota when a slug hit a hunter instead of a deer. Luckily for all the man will live. Gun safety is of the utmost importance but isn’t always followed by gun owners.

Every one who holds a gun should have required gun safety classes before they can own or carry a gun. I will remind my readers that the gun lobby is actually working to do away with training requirements for those who carry guns in public. And we don’t require any prior experience or training before someone walks out the door of a gun shop with a gun. Never mind those who get their guns without a Brady background check because we have no idea who these folks are or whether they are allowed to purchase guns let alone be able to be responsible with them once they have them.

Not only is the gun lobby keeping us snoozing when it comes to gun safety reform, they are ramping up the fear and paranoia to those who believe it. It sells guns. Take a look at this post from Mike the Gun Guy for the contradictions in our country when it comes to gun rights and gun safety reform. Mike is a guy the gun lobby/extremists hate. Why? He is a gun owner who is speaking the inconvenient truths about guns and gun laws. He is a supporter of gun violence prevention and yet lives in the world of guns. A majority of gun owners are like Mike. From his latest blog post after attending a vigil at the National Cathedral in DC and then attending a Pennsylvania gun show:

The point is that the two sides in the gun debate are more different than any two populations that we could identify as having different viewpoints on any public policy issue at all.  When it comes to gun violence, incidentally, what’s funny is that we all seem able to discuss in reasonable tones whether as a country we need to have a ready supply of really big weapons – planes, tanks, nukes – to make the world a safer place.  It’s when we get down to safety on our own street corners with the little weapons that rhetorical ugliness and angry epithets tend to shape the debate.

Somehow over the last twenty years the reaction to people getting killed or injured with guns has turned ugly, raucous and mean.  But hasn’t the discussion of all policy issues become more nasty and abrasive since a certain Kenyan signed a lease at for an apartment in the People’s House?

The issue of gun rights has become not just about guns but about politics. When most Republicans agree that gun rights are more important than gun safety reform, it’s political. Republican Presidential candidates are tripping all over themselves to be the most extreme NRA supporter. The opposite is happening with the Democratic candidates who are trying to outdo each other to be the one with the worst rating from the NRA. It’s become part of the far right’s take over of the Republican party. The fear and paranoia spewing after our first Black President was elected is not only offensive- it’s frightening.

A friend attended a recent gun show and took photos there, which the gun show operators hate. Why? Because what she got photos of were incendiary bumper stickers, hate posters, Confederate flags, rows and rows of assault rifles for sale, tee shirts for sales with slogans like this: “Hillary for prison, 2016″, ” Liberty Freedom Family My right to own a firearm has  more value than your  entitlement to Food Stamps.” Sellers at gun shows not only sell guns and ammunition they sell fear, hate, insurrectionist ideas and paranoia. In addition, a good number of those sellers are private sellers who most often sell their wares without requiring a background check. That is grounds for fear.

This is the extreme view of gun rights that we are allowing to take over any rational discussion we could be having and deserve to have. But, as Bob Dylan wrote in one of his songs,  “the times, they are a changin’.” His words couldn’t be more appropriate for 2015. From the song lyrics ( linked above):

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside and it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’

Yes, Congress has stalled and a lot of Americans are being hurt because of the snoozing of our politicians. There is a battle for the messaging about gun rights vs. gun safety reform. There shouldn’t be. The two are not mutually exclusive and can co-exist. Tell that to the extremists and your politicians.

America, we need to wake up. We’ve had many wake-up calls over the years. But apparently we have hit the snooze button. We are napping through a serious public health and safety epidemic. I sense that the public is waking up, however. We’ve had #enough.

We’re late for a very important date that can save lives.

Armed America- not polite at all

polite?An armed society is a polite society? Anyone with common sense knows this to be untrue. Let’s look at an article in “The Truth About Guns” about this oft used statement:

The accuracy of that image of an “armed/polite” society in the 19th Century West is not only debatable, it’s irrelevant: There are plenty of “armed societies” in the modern-day world, and most of them can be described as anything but “polite.” (…)

But there’s another problem with the “Armed society=Polite society” equation. Assume arguendo that the saying is true. Ignore the above evidence to the contrary and say, for the moment, that people are more polite when they know there’s lots of heat being packed.

What does that say about us, as gun owners? After all, the tiresome refrain of all anti-concealed-carry arguments is that if more ‘ordinary’ people are packing pistols, they will whip them out and start firing on the flimsiest pretext. Cut me off in traffic? BLAM! Take the last drop of half-and-half at Starbucks? BLAM! Look at me funny? BLAM!

Gun owners [rightly] view this assumption as dangerous nonsense, that the vast majority of people jumping through all the hoops necessary to obtain a CCW permit are sober, rational, and caring adults who would never allow their emotions to take hold of them and cause them to use deadly force inappropriately. Even when they’re not sober, rational or caring.

But doesn’t that Heinlein aphorism say otherwise? Doesn’t it imply, at least on its face, that the whole reason an armed society is a polite society is that in an armed society, the penalty for “impoliteness” might be summary execution?

So this gun owning blogger believes that the statement is generally wrong but he offers a qualifier:

If anything, the saying is backwards. Being “polite”—having a shared set of values that includes placing a high value on peaceful civic discourse—is a necessary pre-condition for the arming of a society. Arms in a “polite” society remain the tools of good citizens to defend themselves against bad ones. But arming a society without those shared values is a recipe for chaos, for violence for, well, Somalia, Beirut, Pakistan et al.

“An armed society is a polite society” sounds cute. It sounds witty and cool.  It impresses all the gun enthusiasts on the bulletin boards. It makes for a great t-shirt to wear at the gun show. But it’s just not true and if it was, it would be a bigger argument against arming ordinary citizens than anything the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence could possibly devise.

Hmmmm. So the problem with the writer’s logic is that everyone in America who has a permit to carry a gun has shared values. The arguments are mounting every day in our country against this argument. It’s not just the Brady Campaign “devising” the arguments. The public has had #enough. And the writer ignores the fact that the gun rights extremists are pushing for permit less carry in many states and some already have this dangerous law. The public is not clamoring for these laws. It’s the corporate gun lobby who represents an decreasing minority of gun owners who push these laws in state legislatures:

Given its high profile, it’s easy to assume that the NRA represents the voice of American gun owners. But in fact, the organization’s membership numbers and survey data point a different picture. Only a small fraction of the nation’s gun owners are NRA members. Even among NRA members, there is widespread dissent from some key points of the organization’s orthodoxy. And on many gun control issues, the majority of gun owners who aren’taffiliated with the NRA hold opinions closer to those of non-gun owners than to those of NRA members.

Let’s start with the membership numbers. In recent years the NRA has said it has 5 million dues-paying members. There’s some reason to be skeptical of this figure, but let’s assume 5 million is right.  Those 5 million members only comprise somewhere between 6 and 7 percent of American gun owners. That would imply that the overwhelming majority of American gun owners — over 90 percent of them — do not belong to the NRA.

1 in 10 gun owners belong to the NRA. Amazing. Take note elected leaders. As I spent time at a table at a local conference attended by 2600 people, I spent some time talking to gun owners who agreed with the literature we were passing out and our views on the issue of gun violence prevention. None of the people we talked to belonged to the NRA and, in fact, they said they don’t like the organization at all. One man told me that the gun rights extremists, like open carriers, are ruining it for the rest of the law abiding gun owners and hunters who just want to use their guns for hunting and sport. They believe in safety and saving lives before they pledge allegiance to an organization that does not represent them.

But I digress.

Let’s take a look at the last week of the American armed and impolite society.

The Minneapolis- St. Paul area have seen at least 5 gun deaths in the last week. That was before the most recent week-end shootings:

And if that was not enough, an Aitken area Sheriff’s deputy was shot and killed by a suspect who had terrorized his wife days before. The man had been hospitalized because of concern about his behavior. More from the story:

A week before he killed an Aitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy at the St. Cloud Hospital, felon Danny L. Hammond, 50, terrorized his wife and threatened to kill her after she told him she wanted to leave their marriage of 12 years, authorities said.

Korena Hammond told authorities that her husband went into a rage on Oct. 10 after she told him her plans. He held her hostage at their home overnight, pointing a 9-millimeter pistol at her head, forcing her to eat food that he said was poisoned and capturing her when she managed to flee the locked house. The next morning she went to her father’s house after Hammond agreed to let her go, according to a criminal complaint released Monday. (…)

A week later, Hammond was at St. Cloud Hospital early Sunday morning. He was not in custody at the time, and was being treated for medical reasons related to a domestic incident, according to authorities. Hammond was being supervised by law enforcement at the request of hospital staff.

According to the Aitkin County Sheriff’s Office, Hammond got out of bed and then struggled with Aitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Steven M. Sandberg, 60. He somehow took control of Sandberg’s gun and fired several shots. Sandberg was fatally struck by at least one bullet. A St. Cloud Hospital security guard shot Hammond with a Taser. Hammond fell unconscious as a result and despite lifesaving efforts died in the hospital.

This is yet another case of domestic abuse that could have ended with the shooting of this man’s wife but instead tragically ended with the shooting of a law enforcement officer. And the old myth of an armed person being able to protect him/herself is proven wrong over and over again by incidents such as this one. The officer got into a fight with the suspect but the suspect got his hands on the deputy’s gun and was able to shoot him. It’s not the first time this has happened. Being armed does not guarantee that one can keep oneself safe.

It’s not only Minnesota. These kinds of incidents are happening everywhere. You can’t make some of them up because they point to the risk of guns in public places and in homes.

I am adding this one which just crossed my “desk”. A new gun permit holder shot himself in the leg while attending a movie in a Kansas theater:

A man was transported to Salina Regional Health Center on Friday night after he apparently accidentally shot himself in the leg midway through a movie at Central Mall.

Salina Police Department watch commander Sean Furbeck said the incident remains under investigation, but the gunshot wound likely was self-inflicted. He said police were not seeking anyone else in connection with the incident, which occurred at about 8:30 p.m. in one of the small theaters behind the ticket sales area. (…) “I feel really sorry that guy shot himself, but at least he didn’t shoot someone else,” Myers said. “That would have been 10 times worse.”

10 times worse. We have had 10 times worse actually. Remember the Aurora theater shooting?

Let’s start with a shooting at a ZombieCon event in Florida– Florida again which has some of the loosest gun laws in the country. From the article:

Chaos broke out at a zombie-themed street festival in downtown Fort Myers, Florida, after shooting left one man dead and five other people wounded.

Crowds of festivalgoers fled screaming through the streets after the shots rang out late Saturday at ZombiCon.

“It cleared out fast and cop cars and ambulances came,” said Savannah Holden, who watched the panic unfold from a hotel balcony.

One man died of a gunshot wound at the scene, police said, and five other people suffered non-life-threatening injuries. Four of them were taken to Lee Memorial Hospital for treatment.

Seriously. This is ludicrous. Notice that what most people did was to run away rather than try to shoot the shooter. Why? They were taken by surprise. They had no idea from where the shots came and their first reaction was to flee.

On another note, remember that gun extremists love to shoot at zombies on the gun range. They have zombies that are the faces and bodies of famous people like President Obama. Check out this site called Bleeding Zombies. There are the torsos of football players, terrorists, Nazis, etc. Why? What do shooters imagine while shooting at these targets? I think we know. This is our American gun culture gone totally out of whack.

Follow the money.

And then there was this shooting at the historical Tombstone, Arizona site:

Two people were shot in Tombstone, Arizona, during a gunfight reenactment when one of the actors allegedly used real bullets.

One of the actors, Tom Carter, was late to the performance and his weapon wasn’t checked, according to News 4 Tucson. During the shootout, he allegedly hit actor Ken Curtis with a real bullet.

Both were members of the Tombstone Vigilantes performance group.

“The Vigilantes immediately stopped the show and Tom was relieved of his weapon,” Bob Randall, the city’s marshall, said in a statement cited by the Tucson Sentinel. “During inspection of his weapon, it was discovered that there was one live round in the cylinder withfive expended casings indicating the gun had held six live rounds prior to the skit.” (…) Mayor Dusty Escapule told the Sentinel that the Vigilantes won’t be allowed to perform reenactments “until it can be determined all weapons are safely loaded with blank ammunition as required.”

Right. Guns are dangerous. When will that simple fact become part of our everyday language? Until it does, zombies- real or not and cowboys- real or not- will be shot every day.

And let’s get our history straight. The re-enactment of a shooting at the historical town of Tombstone is most likely a myth. Here’s the truth about guns and the “Wild West”.

This article in Politico after the shooting of Gabby Giffords in Tucson, Arizona written by historian Katherine Benton-Cohen sheds light on what really happened in Tombstone:

Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik, during a press conference about the Tucson shootings, called Arizona “the Tombstone of the United States.”

Some journalists gave the word a lowercase “t,” but the sheriff was clearly referring to the infamous silver-mining town 70 miles from Tucson — site of the shootout at the OK Corral. (…)

The irony of Dupnik’s remark is that Tombstone lawmakers in the 1880s did more to combat gun violence than the Arizona government does today.

For all the talk of the “Wild West,” the policymakers of 1880 Tombstone—and many other Western towns—were ardent supporters of gun control. When people now compare things to the “shootout at the OK Corral,” they mean vigilante violence by gunfire. But this is exactly what the Tombstone town council had been trying to avoid.

In late 1880, as regional violence ratcheted up, Tombstone strengthened its existing ban on concealed weapons to outlaw the carrying of any deadly weapons within the town limits. The Earps (who were Republicans) and Doc Holliday maintained that they were acting as law officers—not citizen vigilantes—when they shot their opponents. That is to say, they were sworn officers whose jobs included enforcement of Tombstone’s gun laws.

Today, in contrast, Arizonans can legally buy guns without licenses, and are able to carry concealed weapons without a permit. The state bans cities from passing their own, stricter laws. The legislature will consider a bill this session that would force schools to allow guns on campus — like Pima Community College, which the alleged shooter attended. (…) Arizonans, myself included, love to tout their vaunted independence and Western values. But when we perpetuate the idea that Arizona is some unchanging Wild West, we fall into the trap of a myth that only serves to embolden those who refuse to support commonsense restrictions on purchasing firearms.

Thanks to Arizona’s lax permit to carry laws, the Tucson shooter could carry his gun with little or no training. What shared values are involved in not requiring Brady background checks or some kind of knowledge of guns and how to shoot them before allowing people to carry guns around in public places? Carrying a gun in public places is an awesome and dangerous responsibility. This is the opposite of common sense. 

Just like the myth of an armed society being a polite society, so is the myth of gun wielding cowboys in the American western frontier. Yes, shootings happened. But there were also laws to address where and who could carry guns in towns. What are Western values?  Are they any different than the values held dear by the majority of Americans who know that keeping their children and communities safe from the devastation of gun violence is more important to an insane adherence to the second amendment.

The gun nuts and nutty rhetoric and logic

nutsOregon just passed a new law requiring background checks on all gun sales. This makes 7 states plus the District of Columbia having now required that all gun sales have background checks. It’s more than interesting to watch the gun nuts go all nutty about the idea that everyone now needs to go through a background check when purchasing a gun. These folks take it all personally as if the law was meant to punish them. Think about it. How could a law that requires Brady background checks,which most of these folks already undergo when purchasing their guns at federally licensed firearms dealers, punish them? What about the tired old mantra that we need to enforce the laws already on the books?- an excuse to stop progress towards safer communities. It’s backwards thinking promoted by the corporate gun lobby. Don’t believe them. This law will only stop people who shouldn’t be able to purchase guns from purchasing them anyway.

Gun nuts have been getting away with these talking points for many years. Apparently they don’t like laws that get in the way of unfettered access to guns. They want their guns with no hassle, no laws in the way.

The thing is, this nutty way of thinking allows felons, adjudicated mentally ill people, domestic abusers, and others who shouldn’t have guns to get them easily. The Million Mom March and Brady Chapters have been advocating for expanding Brady background checks for the last 15 years. Even after the horrific shooting of 20 first graders at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, the gun lobby stood in the way of common sense. Our Senators couldn’t even muster support for something that made so much sense and was a compromise piece of legislation, after spending time with the parents of the nation’s most horrific shooting. Shame on them all.

Other groups have joined the fray since May 14, 2000 increasing the number of people advocating openly and loudly for Brady background checks and other measures to keep our children and our communities safe from devastating gun violence. Most of these got involved after the shooting in Newtown because they, like the rest of us, were horrified that something like this could happen in our country. They are getting a dose of the gun lobby’s nuttiness that the rest of us have experienced for many years. They are also experiencing the fierce opposition to even the smallest measures to make us safer.

Together we are having an impact however. We welcome the new folks who have joined us in the fray. We already know that the general public and even gun owners and NRA members are with us. For at least 15 years, polling has been consistent about that. We also already know that some of our politicians have been cowed by the corporate gun lobby whose minions speak of gun confiscation and taking away rights if we just but pass small but reasonable measures to keep the majority safe.

What we need now is for the gun nuttery to be openly recognized. We can look to this recent article in the Washington Post about a “constitutional” Wisconsin Sheriff and his extreme nutty views about guns and gun violence for what the minority is thinking. His views are crazy and unsubstantiated but somehow he continues to be re-elected. Let’s take a look:

Less than 24 hours after Officers Benjamin J. Deen, 34, and Liquori Tate, 24, of the Hattiesburg Police Department were gunned down during a traffic stop, Milwakuee County Sheriff David A. Clarke linked the deaths to events in Ferguson, Mo., and said in a series of tweets that the president is to blame.

[Four suspects in custody after shooting deaths of two Mississippi police officers]

“Obama started this war on police intentionally,” Clarke wrote. “Right in line with his community agitating.”

Clarke, a conservative folk hero who has predicted that a second American revolution will be fought over gun rights, is a regular Fox News guest with55,000 followers on Twitter. In 2013, he ran radio ads telling people to fight back against violent criminals instead of relying on 911, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

America’s 1st Freedom, an NRA publication, has called the outspoken Clarke “NRA’s Favorite Sheriff.” Earlier this year, he was presented with the Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Right then. The NRA leaders love this guy. He is a perfect foil for their extreme views about the world. And he is encouraging people to protect themselves from all of those violent criminals out there waiting to get them rather than to rely on his very own services as a Sheriff. You really can’t make this stuff up.  From this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. set off alarm bells Friday with a radio spot some view as a call for citizens to arm themselves.

In the radio ad, Clarke tells residents personal safety isn’t a spectator sport anymore, and that “I need you in the game.”

“With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option,” Clarke intones.

“You could beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back.”

Clarke urges listeners to take a firearm safety course and handle a firearm “so you can defend yourself until we get there.”

“You have a duty to protect yourself and your family. We’re partners now. Can I count on you?”

The thing is, what Clarke says is simply not true. Continue reading the article. This is the fear and paranoia that the corporate  gun lobby needs in order to stay in business. It’s what we in the world of gun violence prevention movement have been fighting against. The fact that our politicians have been duped into believing this nutty rhetoric should be alarming and a lesson for why we need to keep working to advocate for what we know is right.

The gun lobby has actually become more nutty in the 15 years since I have been involved. They have gained ground by weakening gun laws all over the country claiming that any law to strengthen our safety is a violation of their rights. Their other specious claim is that any stronger gun law punishes their own. That, of course, is not true and ridiculous but they manage to get away with it because of our own lawmakers’ lack of backbone when it comees to challenging this “logic”. Here are just a few of the inane efforts to deceive gun owners, the public and lawmakers:

George Zimmerman made the news again. This time, he was on the other end of a gun nut who shot at him in a claimed road rage incident in Florida. The shooter has been in other disputes with Zimmerman and claimed “self defense.” Ha! You just can’t make this stuff up. It’s just plain nuts that Zimmerman was not held legally accountable for the death of an innocent Black teen-ager and even nuttier that he is out and about causing more trouble.

How many more incidents should be tolerated for the man who has already killed another human being?  This is the 4th one since he killed Trayvon Martin. Some people should not have guns and yes, they should lose their gun rights. This is a guy who is the poster child for what can go wrong in our twisted and dangerous gun culture. We don’t need Stand Your Ground laws so people like Zimmerman can walk away from a murder. We don’t need guns everywhere carried by anyone.

Maine’s Governor, along with 5 others, signed on to an amicus brief to attempt to repeal California’s strong conceal/carry law- claiming punishment for gun owners. Nuts.

The NRA’s own Wayne LaPierre is lying again- using a false conspiracy theory claiming that President Obama is out to ban all ammunition sales. He’s wrong but never mind. Nuts.

The Tennessee Governor signed a law also similar to one signed in Indiana to interfere with federal gun regulations because, you know, states shouldn’t follow federal law. How this benefits gun owners and law abiding citizens is not spelled out. It will actually benefit the felons and others who should not have guns. My theory is that this is on purpose so when felons have more guns, the gun lobby can hysterically cry that more citizens need their guns for self protection against the felons with guns. It’s nuts. What could possibly go wrong?

And in a cynical attempt to roll back “knife rights” the NRA is involved in legislative measures to allow possession of more dangerous knives for “law abiding” citizens. Nuts. From the article:

“I don’t see knives posing that big of a danger to the public,” Representative Harold Dutton Jr., who sponsored the bill, said in an interview. “Now that we’re going to let everybody have a gun, I think we ought to set knives free.”

This twisted “logic” is actually more nutty than we think. The gun nuts like to argue that knives take more lives than guns. They are wrong of course and it can be easily proven. The claim is that knives kill more people than long guns. That would be true. But total gun homicides in this FBI report from 2011 were 8523 compared to total knife homicides of 1694.

Here’s my theory. If we allow more dangerous knives we will certainly have a rise in deaths from knives. Then the gun lobby can say that knives are just as lethal as guns so what’s the problem?

The thing is, these measures increase the likelihood of deaths and injuries to innocent people all over our country. It’s just plain nuts.

We are better than this. But arguing with nuts is just nuts. It isn’t worth the argument. The problem is that our legislators refuse to use logic and get cowed by the nuts. They are bullied into taking positions counter to public health and safety. And what we will surely see is an increase in deaths and injuries. In states with strong gun laws and fewer guns, there are fewer gun deaths. The same is true in most other civilized, developed democratized countries not at war. We have the proof. We just need our elected leaders to speak the truth and not be afraid of the nuts.

Isn’t it past time to speak the truth and get on with ways to save lives? Why are the gun nuts winning the argument with our elected leaders? They shouldn’t be. If you believe, like most Americans do, that too many of our leaders are lapdogs for the gun lobby, please let them know how you feel. Also please join a group working on preventing gun violence. As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Million Mom March, I see a strong and committed group of Americans who are not going away. We are stronger than ever and we will call out the nutty gun logic so we can base policy on facts.

UPDATE:

I found this article that was written along the same theme that I wrote about in this post. That would be that the gun lobby’s fueling of fear and paranoia is a vicious circle. When the fear causes more guns and more guns cause fear, we have a serious problem. We are not talking about just any consumer product. We are talking about deadly weapons designed to kill people. From the article:

The gun rights movement warns of a society riddled with pervasive threats—increasingly, they come from police officers, or their absence, or their recklessness. And the NRA gets its way: there are more guns on our streets than ever. This in turn makes the job of policing that much harder—and the possibility of police violence more frequent. Perhaps police might retreat from criminal encounters, which increasingly risk turning out badly—where someone dies, or they are charged with a crime. Either way, the gun rights movement will bellow that we need still more guns and more armed citizens. Despairing in the face of criminal and police violence, African Americans appear to be joining this view.

We are mired in a classic negative feedback loop. The gun rights movement is good at making its predictions come true. It bemoans a society delivered unto violence, coming from every corner, and will make sure of that.

This is more than nutty. It’s dangerous and unacceptable. I know we can do better.

UPDATE:

I am going to update this post both as another example of the nuttiness and stupidity of the gun nuts and in response to a comment made that I shouldn’t call all hard core gun guys nutty. This is the new mantra from the NRA who do say they represent about 4 million members, more or less- Hillary Clinton is now going to take away the guns that Barack Obama didn’t manage to get his cold dead hands on. From the article:

The NRA then baselessly links this non-existent firearm registry scheme to gun confiscation, declaring, “Gun registration has been considered the holy grail — the queen on the chessboard and the key to the kingdom — by every gun-ban group, every genocidal regime and every would-be tyrant around the world since King George sent his redcoats to seize the colonists’ arms at Lexington and Concord. That’s not hyperbole. It’s history.”

The article concludes, “Hillary Clinton’s apparent ultimate aim is as direct and undeviating as an argon laser: ‘Universal’ background checks … which depend on universal gun registration … which inevitably, invariably, leads to gun confiscation.”

So we will now be hearing this for the upcoming election cycle because the NRA’s leaders have to find a way to gin up the fear and paranoia to make sure to protect gun sales and the industry. It’s just plain nuts. The worst of it is that so many people believe it. I suppose they didn’t notice that President Obama did not actually manage to get their guns. Never mind the facts and common sense.

The irony of the gun lobby “logic”

irony_megaphone_137602Oh the irony. It is playing out every day. What the gun lobby says about more guns making us safer is plainly not happening. Sure, there are the occasional incidents of a law abiding gun owner using a gun for legitimate self defense. Those on my side are not arguing that that is not the case. We are arguing that more often than not, a gun is used with bad intent to harm others and a gun in many situations emboldens the person with the gun and escalates a situation. In addition, guns are not needed in many volatile situations to change the outcome.

Yesterday a student brought a gun to a school in a Seattle suburb and fired off a few rounds. The boy was stopped by an unarmed teacher who tackled him before he could do anyone, including himself, harm. From the article:

A 16-year-old boy who fired two gunshots Monday inside a Washington state high school, hitting no one before a teacher tackled him, told detectives he never intended to hurt any students, a police spokesman said.

Three other staff members at North Thurston High School in Lacey, about 60 miles southwest of Seattle, quickly helped subdue the teen.

The boy told detectives “there were some issues in personal relationships,” Lacey police Cmdr. Jim Mack told The Olympian newspaper. Asked if the shooting could have been an attempt at “suicide by cop,” Mack said, “It definitely could have been.”

How would a teacher with a gun have changed this situation? Would the teacher have had a gun holstered on their person as some suggest should be the case? Would a teacher whose gun was stored somewhere in the school not near where the incident occurred have had the time, training or inclination ( given the fear and with adrenalin surging) to get to a gun? And then what? Would a teacher have shot this student? This appears to be a student with some problems who now will hopefully get some help. His life was changed by the incident. Other students lives have changed as well. But no one is dead. And a gun was not needed to stop the student with a gun.

By the way, where did this young student get his gun? Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Others lives have been changed by bullets. This Texas man shot his own wife believing her to be a burglar in his home. This, by the way, is not the first of similar types of shootings. From the article:

According to the Harris County Sheriff’s Office, the man was sleeping when he woke up to the sound of someone “scuffling” downstairs.

Deputies said he saw the front door open so he grabbed his gun thinking a burglar had broken in.

But when he fired, his target was his wife.

So far no charges have been filed. And that brings me to other such “accidental” shootings where no charges occurred or were rejected after a “law abiding” gun owner mistakenly shot someone. Sure, people have gun rights. Do they have rights to be irresponsible with their guns and then not be held responsible? This incident also highlights the irony of the “logic” that having a loaded gun around the home for self defense too often results in the injury or death of someone living in the home.

And what is the “logic” to people like this guy, ostensibly a “law abiding” gun owner, holding a neighborhood hostage bringing out a SWAT team to disarm the situation?:

Around 8:30 a.m. Monday, police were called out to 58 Randall Road after a gas worker who attempted to shut off gas service was threatened with a gun.

Several SWAT teams, a bomb squad and negotiators were called out to help. More than 20 shots were reportedly fired from inside the house toward officers and SWAT vehicles, police said.

Surrounding houses were asked to evacuate the area. Officials say Parker was believed to be armed with a high-powered rifle and possibly explosive devices.

All because of an angry guy with a gun- or from the sounds of it, someone who should not have had a gun, threatening law enforcement and a city worker with his loaded gun. It’s harder to carry out threats like this with some other kind of weapon or object. But when so many people succumb to the fear and paranoia promoted by the gun lobby, people like this use their guns with bad intent rather than in self defense. We all know how things can go terribly wrong with one armed citizen making threats. This is the America we have. Is this the America we deserve?

Speaking of the armed America we have and holding gun owners responsible when something goes wrong, Amanda Gailey of Nebraskans Against Gun Violence, has written an article wondering about why negligence with guns is rarely prosecuted or found to be legal negligence:

Every year many gun owners, like Wilson, unintentionally cause death and injury yet face no legal consequences. In criminal and civil courts, the legal system often fails to hold negligent gun owners accountable for such harm.Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit effort that combs through more than a thousand media sources to collect information about gun violence, has verified more than 1,500 accidental shooting incidents in 2014. Data on the legal outcomes of these shootings is sketchy, but many cases of unprosecuted unintentional shootings are available—dozens from the first two months of 2014 alone remain unprosecuted.

The past decade has seen legal measures to prevent gun negligence systematically dismantled. The 2005 Protection of Legal Commerce in Arms Act statutorily inoculated gun manufacturers and dealers from most claims of negligence in gun deaths. This is even more dangerous than it may first sound. Many people unfamiliar with guns assume that they are designed with simple safeguards against unintentional shootings, but this is not always the case. Glock handguns, for example, have no external safety: If a round is chambered and the trigger is squeezed, the gun fires. As Aaron Walsh, a criminal defense attorney in Augusta, Georgia, put it, “With any other product in the world there would be no Glock company because they would be sued out of existence. You don’t have a safety? That can’t be right.”  (…) Yet some of these cases are appalling. A man in Washington practiced drawing a loaded handgun and unintentionally shot and killed his girlfriend’s daughter. A man in Florida twirled a handgun on his finger and killed a pregnant woman. A man in New Mexico handed a loaded rifle to his six-year-old daughter, who unintentionally shot her sister in the neck. None of these gun owners was prosecuted. The district attorney in the New Mexico case told the Farmington Times, “The father did not follow basic and universally accepted firearm safety rules” but “the problem is that the standard for criminal negligence is higher.”

Ah yes. The 2005 “Immunity Bill” that offers protections to the gun industry that no other industry enjoys. Silly me. Shoot someone by accident? No worries. Rights will protect you. A gun discharges accidentally? No problem. The immunized gun industry will protect the industry, not the shooter or the weapon.

There is much more in this article that is worth considering. Ms. Gailey, like the majority of us and actually the majority of gun owners, knows that people who are negligent with guns should be held accountable. She writes about the fact that gun owners ‘ negligence is treated differently than in other cases of negligence resulting in the death of an innocent person:

When a surviving family member does sue a negligent gun owner for the death of a child or spouse, their lawsuits often fail. Andrew McClurg, a law professor at the University of Memphis, has written extensively on what he sees as a “right to be negligent” that has arisen from the failure of courts to hold negligent gun owners accountable. McClurg sees these rulings as flagrant violations of tort principles that result from strange mistakes in reasoning about risk—judges have ruled in favor of negligent gun owners because specific chains of events were unforeseeable. (…)

Findings in other civil cases against negligent gun owners suggest that political sensibilities motivate some decisions by the court. In one case McClurg examined, a gun owner kept a loaded handgun next to a tray of change in his bedroom, which he allowed his teenage daughter to raid for spending money. Sometimes she did this with her boyfriend; eventually, the boyfriend took the gun and used it to rob and murder a man who was leaving a restaurant. The victim’s family sued the girl’s father for leaving a loaded gun lying around where he knew minors could access it. The court declined to hold him liable, saying it was “not persuaded that society is prepared to extend the duties of gun owners that far.” This reasoning was not based on principles of liability, but on what the court thought the implications would be for gun ownership in America.

Indeed, political squeamishness about defining responsible gun ownership drives our failure to hold negligent gun owners accountable. It leads to statutes that protect recklessness among manufacturers and sellers, enables legislation that encourages gun proliferation, and shackles a legal system that ends up seeming more concerned about running afoul of the firearms lobby and its adherents than in protecting the public.

We do need to change this “squeamishness” to stand up to the corporate gun lobby. They have managed to make even negligence with a gun a right. It’s time for that kind of irresponsible attitude about guns to change. But instead, in many states, we are going the other way.

The corporate gun lobby has pushed for anyone to carry guns everywhere with little to no accountability, training or permit. This, of course, will suggest to a felon that he/she, too, can just strap their gun on their waists and walk around in public with no questions asked. Because there is a move afoot to allow those who do this to do so unencumbered by the fear that law enforcement can ask if you are actually a legal gun carrier, why wouldn’t someone with bad intent do this? Here’s another Texas case to consider:

Domestic terrorist Larry McQuilliams — an anti-immigration extremist who fired a machine gun at Austin Police headquarters, a federal courthouse, and the Mexican Consulate last November, before an Austin police officer shot him down — would have been safe from police scrutiny right up until the moment be began shooting had Texas lawmakers already passed the open carry law that’s about to land on Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.

That’s the opinion of Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo, who sat for an interview with Austin.com on Wednesday afternoon. His comments below follow a short essay published Tuesday in which Acevedo expresses dire concern about an amendment to House Bill 910 that would prevent police officers from asking people who are openly carrying handguns whether or not they’re licensed to do so. The Texas House passed that bill on Monday by a vote of 101-42, after defeating an amendment that would have allowed large cities to opt out.

Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo. Courtesy photo.

“If [Larry] McQuilliams had a pistol… The only way we would have stopped him [if HB 910 were law] is if he had brandished that weapon in a threatening manner,” Acevedo told Austin.com. “Obviously, he went so far as to shoot up occupied buildings, actually shooting at police officers in front of the main headquarters, but had he been walking around the federal building or the Mexican Consulate with just a gun on his hip, we would have never been able to ask him anything about the gun or about whether or not he had a permit to have the gun.”

This seems like a good policy, right? I mean- why not protect terrorists and felons with guns because- rights? This is the extent to which our elected leaders are going to protect gun rights and appease the gun lobby. The irony of all of this is that when gun rights are treated this way, we are encouraging vigilantism  and an “anything goes” culture that will not end well. This, of course, is the ideology behind Stand Your Ground Laws which have already shown that upstanding “law abiding” citizens like George Zimmerman can shoot an unarmed teen because- well, just because- and get away with it.

Reasonable gun owners understand the implication of proposed laws like this one- a gun shop owner from South Carolina commenting on the proposed bill to let anyone who wants to carry a gun carry one without training or a permit. He calls it reckless in the video interview in the link. Yes, it’s reckless. Why don’t our legislators understand this? They, themselves, are reckless when they are afraid to stand up to the gun lobby. What are they thinking? Where is common sense? In the video the gun shop owner said this: “…because I believe incidents will happen through untrained and uneducated people.” Great. Whatever. Does anyone care that “incidents will happen”?

There’s a pattern here, right? You can see it. Can our leaders see it? Or are they so blinded by fear of the corporate gun lobby that they have abrogated their responsibility for public safety to the industry itself whose main interest is profits? Logical?

Occasionally the justice system does work as with this Florida case of a 3 year old who found a gun in her mother’s purse and accidentally shot the mother:

The toddler had accidentally shot Gillilan with a handgun that she’d left in her purse, Davie police said.

Now, nearly three months after the Feb. 2 incident, Gillilan is charged with culpable negligence by storing or leaving a loaded firearm within easy reach of a minor.

Toddler shot mother, police say
Toddler shot mother, police say
Gillilan, who also has a 1-year-old son, told an investigator that the shooting, which happened at a home in the 4800 block of Southwest 59th Street in Davie, was her mistake.

“I should’ve never left the gun in my purse like that! I never do!” she was quoted as saying in a police report. “I’m just glad that I was the one who got shot, and not my boys!”

Gillilan said she usually kept the small-caliber, semi-automatic handgun in the trunk of her car, but she was in the process of transferring items to a new vehicle, according to police.

In front of the children, police said, she put the registered weapon in her purse in a bedroom. (…)

Gillilan is a state-licensed security officer with a firearms license, state records show. She told police that’s why she keeps a gun.

It doesn’t appear to matter that a gun owner is licensed or serving as a security or police officer. (girl shoots sister with father’s  loaded service gun). Negligence with guns is happening every day. Without charges brought in order to encourage better gun safety practices, they will continue. With over 300 million guns in circulation or sitting around somewhere, negligence with these lethal weapons is inevitable. Just as with other consumer products, people misuse them and cause injury and death. When a drunk driver kills someone in an auto accident, there are laws intended to hold that person responsible- criminal vehicular homicide. These statutes passed in states all over America are meant as public safety laws to discourage bad behavior while driving cars, not as punishment to those who follow the rules. Legislators used a lot of common sense when passing laws like these.

Some states have Child Access Prevention laws meant to hold parents responsible when a child accesses a gun and uses it to accidentally kill him/herself or someone else. They are often not enforced because of the guilt already felt by grieving parents for a dead child. Further, the NRA has often opposed such laws, believing, as I wrote in my previous post, that their Eddie Eagle program will be enough to stop kids from gaining access to an adult’s loaded gun:

I’m not saying the Eddie Eagle program doesn’t work. I’m saying that to use a totally non-validated safety program as an excuse for opposing CAP laws is shabby at best, harmful and unsafe at worst. The real reason that unintentional gun injuries have declined over the past twenty years is because gun makers have phased in more safety engineering (e.g., floating firing pins) and states now require additional safety features such as loaded chamber indicators and minimum trigger-pull weights. But neither factor invalidates Shannon’s call for more comprehensive CAP laws. If the NRA was really serious about representing all those responsible gun owners, they would welcome laws that require guns to be locked or locked away.

So, where were we? Ah yes. We were discussing the “logic” of the gun lobby’s arguments against gun safety reform. Ironically, their opposition to common sense gun safety laws has contributed to gun negligence because of a gun culture that encourages anyone to own guns without proper training and the known risks of loaded guns in homes and public places. Denying the research and the facts is not making us safer. Loosening gun laws will not do the trick.

This is all part and parcel of the national conversation we need to hold about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities. Until we face this public health and safety issue head on, without the encumbrance of the second amendment holding us hostage, we will not solve the problem. And solve it we must. Lives are at stake.