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

 

 

A close call

close callA few weeks ago, my daughter called me late in the evening to share some text messages from parents of kids at her own children’s middle school. The messages were in regard to a possible threat by a new student at the school who had apparently told other students that he intended to bring a gun to school and shoot kids. Naturally the reaction was panic and concern. Some parents had decided not to send their kids to school the next day. I advised that parents needed to speak with the principal to insure that he had done what he needed to do to deal with the situation. He had received many phone calls that night and actually, during the day some students went to him with their concerns about the student.

This is exactly what is supposed to happen. Students need to Speak Up and tell someone that a student is talking about shooting kids. Too often students try to protect other students or just don’t tell out of fear or indifference or thinking that it won’t happen. But in most school shootings other students knew ahead of the shooting. The Brady Campaign has a Speak Up program for students to report anonymously that another student intends to shoot other kids:

Although the hotline provides the mechanism through which students can report potentially life-saving information, it is critical that students are also provided with the motivation to do so. Our comprehensive public awareness campaign works to combat destructive social norms, such as the fear of retaliation or being labeled a “snitch.” The campaign sends the powerful message that students can and should “SPEAK UP” against violence.

Let me get back to this story. The principal had phoned the parents of the boy who had made the threat and the decision was that the student would not be in school the next day.

As the incident unfolded, my daughter chose to send her kids to school but did not tell them about the incident, trying not to panic them. But once they got on the bus, this was the topic of discussion. My grandson texted my daughter to ask if she knew that a boy intended to shoot kids at the school that day and my granddaughter asked her to come and pick her up because she was going to die. Some of this can be chalked up to pre-teen and teen-aged dramatic behavior and a tendency to overreact to things. But much of it can also be chalked up to the real fear that a school shooting  could, and does, happen anywhere.

During the day, she reassured the kids that they would be OK and I even got in on a group text exchange. Eventually my daughter went to the school during a break from work and spoke with the school resource officer. That officer was there on site as were other officers just in case. She was calmed by this discussion and nothing happened that day.

But it could have. We are a family who has already lost one loved one to a shooting. This close call was more upsetting to my daughter and to me because we know how it feels to hear that a loved one has been shot.

Too many school shootings have taken innocent children from their parents leaving them living around the hole left by their deaths. Since Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and the many other school shootings, parents understand the risk is all too real.

Only in America do parents have to be regularly concerned that an actual shooting could take their children away or leave them injured or forever scarred by witnessing a shooting. We are all suffering from PTSD from all of the shootings we see directly or indirectly on news media stories.

In 68% of school shootings the shooters get their guns from home. That means keeping guns away from potential school shooters is in the hands of parents or another responsible adult.  Adults can make school shootings less likely and less frequent by thinking about what they are doing with their own guns and how they are stored. Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill.

Just a little bit of common sense can stop shootings and stop kids from getting a loaded gun to take to school. Unless we change how we talk about potential and actual threats and think differently about the risks of guns in the home, the media will continue to report on school shootings. It doesn’t have to be this way.

We are better than this. The incident I described above was of concern to my family but ended with some lessons learned. Kids can speak up, adults must listen and act, parents talk to administrators and administrators call law enforcement. Authorities and school officials did their job and students were brave enough and scared enough to know what to do. Sometimes kids are smarter than the adults.

And I will end by suggesting that all parents find out more information about the ASK campaign so they can feel comfortable asking if there are loaded, unlocked guns in the homes where their children play and hang-out. Kids are curious; just telling them to stay away from guns does not work. It’s up to the adults to be responsible. It’s easy to do and asking can save lives. Millions of our children live in homes where guns are present.

Our children are both the victims and perpetrators of avoidable shootings in numbers that should alarm us. The corporate gun lobby is not alarmed. Many in Congress are not alarmed about something that should have all hands on deck to solve a very serious public health and safety epidemic. It is “not an accident” when children and teens gain access to guns and avoidably shoot or injure other children or even adults. Or to bring a gun to school, which happens on a regular basis in America. This article from The Trace has tracked how many times children and teens brought guns to their schools:

From August through mid-June, there were at least 269 incidents in which elementary, middle, and high school students were caught with guns on school grounds. That figure is an update to the March tally of 185 such incidents in the first five months of the school year. (Some incidents involved multiple students and multiple guns.)

In 2016, 269 incidents of kids bringing guns to school and this does not include any intentional school shootings:

Swanson, like many other gun safety advocates and researchers, believes government policy should focus on addressing Americans’ easy access to guns. Preventing tragedies like Sandy Hook requires more than expanding resources for mental health, he said ― the U.S. needs more laws restricting guns in households that include “at-risk” individuals. Swanson cited Lanza, who used his mother’s guns to carry out his attack, as an example of why this matters.

“A law like that would allow police officers to take away some of these guns,” Swanson said. “We shouldn’t have to live in a society where people have such easy access to such an efficient killing machine.”

Yet gun violence prevention efforts will likely encounter even more resistance under the incoming Donald Trump administration, with its close ties to the National Rifle Association, the most influential gun lobby in the country.

The NRA was Trump’s largest outside financial backer during the 2016 presidential race, spending more than $30 million to help his campaign.

“[The NRA] is going to expect something in return for that investment,” Watts said. “They’re going to have a champion in the White House.”

I referred to the Children’s Firearms Safety Alliance in my last post and I will refer to it again. From the site:

AS OF MAY 10, 2017, THIS YEAR:
37 KIDS KILLED
68 KIDS INJURED
5 ADULTS INJURED
1 ADULT KILLED

2016 TOTALS:
121 KIDS KILLED
176 KIDS INJURED
21 ADULTS SHOT….ALL BY KIDS

There are far too many close calls with guns involving children and teens. And there are far too many actual shooting incidents involving our children and teens.

The real tragedy here is that too many in Congress, and now our very own President, don’t care about the children. That is an American tragedy.

Follow the money. Money and power over our children.

Children go to school to learn, form relationships with other children, participate in enriching activities and to become responsible future adults. They should not have to be concerned for their own safety or that another student threatens to bring a gun to school to shoot them. Children are anxious enough about far too many things. This should not be one of them.

Who is protecting our children?

Keeping our kids safe is the primary job of parents and other adults. It’s one of the primary jobs of our elected leaders as well. If it isn’t, shame on them all.

It’s past time to step up and do the right thing.

Another anniversary-Columbine

Columbines blooming fresh in the springtime. Colorado state flower.In my recent post, I wrote about the 10th anniversary of the Virginia Tech mass shooting. That mass shooting occurred on April 16, 2007- ten years ago.

“April is the cruelest month” wrote T.S. Eliot.  The poet could never have predicted how true that has become for America. The poem deals with depression and what April can mean for those who are suffering from depression. Eliot’s poem takes on new meaning considering those who suffer from grief and loss over loved ones shot and killed and/or injured in the month of April. There are too many to count since 1999.

Today is the anniversary of the Columbine shooting. Yes, remember that mass shooting? It was the first school shooting to really capture Americans as it unfolded almost in real time. It was the first one that made people wonder how it could have happened and also what in God’s name could we do to stop school shooters from randomly shooting classmates.

An article with facts about Columbine provides us with the basics about the shooting. There are facts in the article but they were not fast. It was a slow moving shooting that day. The grief of the families and friends has not healed fast. Grief is under the surface until something triggers the day. A birthday. A holiday. And today, an anniversary of that day.

The article names the victims. They were somebody’s son, daughter, niece, nephew, sister, brother, father, uncle, friend. They were real people who in an instant became named victims.

Cassie Bernall, 17
Steven Curnow, 14
Corey DePooter, 17
Kelly Fleming, 16
Matthew Kechter, 16
Daniel Mauser, 15
Daniel Rohrbough, 15
William “Dave” Sanders, 47
Rachel Scott, 17
Isaiah Shoels, 18
John Tomlin, 16
Lauren Townsend, 18
Kyle Velasquez, 16

We must also remember that 20 were injured and now live with their memories and injuries- physical and emotional.

Some have already forgotten and don’t want us to remember. Others will never forget. Just as I will never forget the night I learned that my sister had been shot and killed. That memory never goes away.

And those of us who have lost a loved one look back and wonder what could have stopped the event? Was there anything anyone could have done? Can we make sure other families don’t have to remember these anniversaries?

We could, at the least,  try to stop the shooters from easily accessing guns they shouldn’t have in the first place.

Here is how the Columbine shooters obtained their guns, being too young to purchase on their own:

Robyn Anderson, a friend of Klebold and Harris, bought the shotguns and the Hi-Point 9mm Carbine at The Tanner Gun Show in December of 1998 from unlicensed sellers. Because Anderson purchased the guns for someone else, the transition constituted an illegal “straw purchase.” Klebold and Harris bought the TEC-DC9 from a pizza shop employee named Mark Manes, who knew they were too young to purchase the assault pistol, but nevertheless sold it to them for $500.

They planned ahead. Nobody knew. That is often the case but also too often someone knew that something was not right but didn’t report it or do anything about it. From the “fast facts” article above, a statement from the mother of one of the shooters:

In the first television interview since her son Dylan killed 13 people at Columbine High School, Susan Klebold speaks to Diane Sawyer. Klebold states that “If I had recognized that Dylan was experiencing some real mental distress, he would not have been there,” she says. “He would’ve gotten help. I don’t ever, for a moment, mean to imply that I’m not conscious of the fact that he was a killer, because I am.”

We have done little or nothing to change gun laws and our gun culture in spite of horrendous mass shooting after mass shooting. We see the same things. We talk about the same things. We watch the coverage of shootings repeatedly on the news but nothing changes. The gun lobby says it’s not the guns,stupid and we couldn’t stop these shootings no matter what we do. And Presidents attend memorial services. And families grieve. And politicians put their heads in the sand and hope no one asks them what they want to do to stop shootings from happening so families don’t have to continue remembering the day their loved ones were shot. And we go on and on and on……

This article urges passage of stronger laws and points out that states that have laws requiring all gun sales to go through a background check have fewer shootings. In other words, laws do matter. Facts matter. From the article:

Research shows that background checks are effective when it comes to saving lives. States with universal background check laws experience 48 percent less gun trafficking, 47 percent fewer deaths of women shot by intimate partners, and 17 percent fewer firearms involved in aggravated assaults. States with universal background check requirements also have a 53 percent lower gun suicide rate, and 31 percent fewer suicides per capita than states without these laws.

We CAN do something. We can pass stronger gun laws such as requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales. We can pass Gun Violence Protection Orders so that families and friends can ask that guns be taken from those who could be dangerous to themselves or others. We can pass stronger laws against straw purchasing. We can wake people up to the fact that if something doesn’t seem right, it isn’t and action is necessary. We can identify that there are risks to owning guns and casually selling them to just anyone. We can hold “bad apple gun dealers” accountable and make sure guns are not being sold or exchanged with people who clearly should not have them and end as crime guns.

We can’t let Columbine be forgotten. That is what the gun lobby wants. If we forget the victims- their names and faces, maybe we will just go along and do nothing to cause “trouble” for politicians. They want to avoid the unavoidable. They want to gain the favor of the gun lobby who represent an increasingly small group of Americans who think that the “guys with the guns make the rules.”  Or they just don’t want to deal with what has become a national public health epidemic. It is not and will not be easy. But that does not mean we shouldn’t do it.

Victims continue to speak out but who is listening to them? Tom Mauser, father, of  Columbine victim Daniel Mauser, has reached out to the NRA and wants them to listen. To no avail. With every subsequent mass shooting, he will comfort other parents if they ask for him to do that. He understands. He is active in the movement to prevent gun violence. In his words ( from the article):

“For the first 10 days, I didn’t speak to the media at all. I was just in shock. […] And then suddenly, I was so angry knowing that the NRA was meeting in town that I went and spoke in front of 12,000 people.

[…]It can be shocking. After I spoke, I suddenly realized I’m going to start getting calls from the media, I’m going to start getting people who are angry at me. You really have to be prepared for that.

[…]It can get pretty overwhelming. When you become an activist, you tell your story a lot. You live that story every day anyhow, it’s not like you don’t think of your loss. But when you go in front of other people and speak about it, it’s so much more. “

We have our stories. We have the facts on our side. But the facts and our stories don’t seem to be enough. They should be but we are living in a world where big money speaks and makes policy that advantages corporations and thumbs its’ corporate and political nose at the victims and survivors.

The truth is that on April 20, 1999, 12 students and one teacher were brutally and shockingly and unexpectedly murdered for no reason other than two seemingly angry and possibly mentally ill young men wanted to shoot other kids. There is no other explanation.

What say you gun lobbyists and gun extremists? Is this OK with you? Is it just about mental illness? What if these two couldn’t have so easily accessed guns? What then?

The Columbine is Colorado’s state flower, thus the name of the school. Often names of flowers have significant meanings. For the Columbine flower there is a message:

Wherever your journey takes you stay steadfast in your faith, love and friendships. Believe in things that are not yet seen.

We have not yet seen the majority of America’s leaders step up to the challenge of gun violence. There is actually common ground on solving the issue of gun violence. The majority understands that doing something about this epidemic will save lives.

Where is common sense?

Virginia Tech-moving stones

Virginia TechIt’s Easter tomorrow for those who practice the Christian faith. It’s also the Passover season for Jews. What will the victims and survivors of the Virginia Tech shooting be doing and thinking about on the 10 year anniversary of what was our nation’s most deadly and heinous mass shooting until the Sandy Hook shooting took the lives of 20 first graders and 6 educators and the Orlando nightclub shooting took the lives of 50- yes 50 innocent Americans?

When will we ever learn?

The grief of the Virginia Tech shooting victims is matched by the grief of 90 families a day after a gunshot injury became a gun death due to homicide, suicide or an “accidental” gun discharge. This is the daily carnage and the daily news in America in spite of holidays, families pleading for common sense and brave elected leaders willing to stand up to the corporate gun lobby and demand that the devastation be, at the least, reduced and at the most prevented.

We know there is no way to stop all shootings but shouldn’t we at least try? When a public health epidemic that takes the lives of so many people every year (32,000-33,000) we always get busy to study why and then recommend changes or cures that can prevent the cause of the disease or cause of death.

In America, instead, we are making things worse by loosening gun laws at the state and federal level. Why? Good question. I don’t really believe that the gun lobby wants people to die. They couldn’t could they? They must be affected by the photos and videos of all of the shootings that take place on a regular basis everywhere.

So why do they resist gun safety reform and efforts to prevent shootings so vigorously?

It’s a question that we must ask and it needs an answer.

Following the money is one answer. Power and control is another.

Meanwhile, while we are trying to figure out how to work around the money and profits of the gun industry and the outsized power of the NRA and other organizations, mass shootings continue unabated:

Perhaps because Virginia Tech’s fatality count was so high, most of the school shootings that followed didn’t receive the attention they might have in the decade prior to the massacre.

Are these kinds of shooting becoming normalized to the public or is it they don’t want to hear about them because they feel helpless to do anything about them? They are NOT normal and we can’t let them become normal. It is simply not normal for someone to walk into a school and spray bullets around killing random, or sometimes, selected victims.

And of course, the “everyday” shootings happen without much media coverage and every day, ordinary people’s lives are changed forever. You may know some of these people. They are living close to you- in your neighborhoods and communities. They are remembering lost loved ones every day. This is not normal.

Memorials to victims have become normal. Flowers, candles, teddy bears, hearts, cards, bell ringings, stones.

Memorials sprout up all over the country. In the case of Virginia Tech it was stones. From the article in The Trace:

Without realizing it, the kids at Virginia Tech were propelled by the same instinct that leaves mourners in America’s cities searching their surroundings for a way to honor shooting victims whose deaths often go unnoticed outside their neighborhoods. In Lexington, Kentucky, last fall, high schoolers laced track shoes to a chain link fence in homage to a slain 15-year-old runner, Trinity Gay. After a homicide in New York City, lampposts sprouted roses and sidewalks glittered with liquor bottles. In Cincinnati, a menagerie of stuffed animals was deployed to guard the home of a 9-year-old. (…)

The permanent memorial was dedicated with a ceremony on August 19, 2007, four months and three days after the massacre. Thousands of people gathered on the lawn that day, sporting their Hokie colors of maroon and orange. The university president spoke. A bell tolled 32 times. Each original stone had been placed in a mahogany box with a hinged lid, like a miniature coffin. Later, the boxes would be delivered to the families of the victims.

Uma Loganathan can hardly remember the dedication; grief seems to have blurred many of her memories from that time. What she does remember is that first semicircle of stones set earnestly upon the grass, their rough edges befitting of her sorrow.

“Befitting of her sorrow”…. Can anything befit the sorrow we all feel after losing a loved one to gun violence? Or having a close call as did my friend Lori Hass, mother of a Virginia Tech survivor?

Like other survivors, I got into this GVP movement because of what happened. But that’s in the past and what we’re working for is a future where there’s less gun violence and where we’re doing more to prevent it. Our goals are to take the evidence and the policies that work and begin to apply as many as are appropriate. For example, we understand that domestic violence situations become exponentially more lethal when there’s a firearm introduced. Road rage with a firearm can turn lethal. Confrontation in the streets become lethal when there’s a firearm. Toddlers have killed more Americans than terrorists if you look at the numbers over time — all because somebody was careless and left firearms out and unsecured.

Lori Haas speaks during a vigil outside the U.S. Capitol on April 16, 2013, to remember those murdered and demand congressional action on gun legislation.

ALAMY

We want policies that make us all safer. We think domestic abusers shouldn’t have access to guns. We think that there should be a background check on all buyers — how do you stop a prohibited buyer from purchasing a gun if you don’t do a background check to figure out if he or she is prohibited? We believe that you should have to have hands-on training around concealed carry. We think there should be penalties so that gun owners must properly store and secure their firearms so that children can’t get access to them. We think there should be limitations on the type of firepower that everyday citizens can carry on our street. The efficacy of a lot of those policies have been proven in other states and those states have fewer deaths. New York’s gun death rate per 100,000 is in the low, low single digits. Virginia’s is 10.9.

It’s devastating for all of the families, me included, to relive the trauma each time another school shooting occurs. And you can’t help but relive it. What we’re also really traumatized by is the fact that someone else is now added to the club nobody wants to be in: the one where your loved one’s been shot and killed or injured. But [that] club is strong, the club is active, the club is compassionate and supportive. I know dozens of families from dozens of mass shootings. Every day we have gun violence in America, so there is a camaraderie that’s very understood by those [who have experienced it].

Ten years ago tomorrow, the feelings will re-emerge of how things went down that day ten years ago. Lori gives a very moving testimony to how one family experienced the horrendous shooting of 32.

Tomorrow will also be Easter. A stone figures prominently in the Easter story. Stones can be moved but they are hard to move and they are hard to destroy. Tombstones are made of stone for a reason. They signify a marker where a loved one is buried and they are there mostly forever. So are the memories of our lost loved ones.

Tomorrow, please remember these 32. See their photos. Say their names.

We Will Not Forget

Families have approved and released these official biographies and photos of our 32 fallen Hokies. Please join us in remembering and honoring their lives by clicking on their names or photos.

And then work with Lori Hass, Colin Goddard, Andy Goddard and the millions of us involved in preventing the next one of these shootings. Colin has been an advocate for gun violence prevention since he was shot and injured in the shooting. The film, Living for 32, features Colin’s story and his efforts to expose the lack of Brady background checks on all gun sales.

We should not have to erect stone memorials to victims. We should not have to move stones to get the attention of the public and elected leaders about our deadly gun violence epidemic. We should expect that our leaders do this without question in the name of the victims and common sense. If we are to change the conversation and change the culture, we need more than memorials, thoughts, prayers, flowers, etc.

WE NEED ACTION. Get involved in the name of the victims and just because losing 90 Americans a day to gunshot injuries is not normal and not acceptable. Let’s get to work.

 

Minnesota’s latest gun madness

madnessWe ought to be angry. We ought to be outraged over the madness that is gun violence. There are a lot of things about which to feel outrage in this political atmosphere. One of them just has to be the continuing devastation of gun violence in our country- in every state. We ought to be outraged that we aren’t talking about the risks of gun ownership that causes so many senseless and avoidable deaths and injuries. We ought to be outraged that so many people who should not be able to get their hands on guns get them anyway because we have failed to pass measures to stop them.

For example-  A St. Thomas University  (Minnesota)  student, handling a gun in a dorm ( where guns are not allowed by the way) “accidentally “discharged the gun and injured another student when a bullet went through the wall of a dorm room.

Accidental? Seems purposeful to me when someone brings a gun into a place where they are not allowed and then takes it out for some reason and irresponsibly shoots an innocent person. More from the article:

A University of St. Thomas student was accidentally shot Friday night inside a residence hall, authorities said.

The student was injured seriously enough to require surgery after a gun was accidentally discharged in another room, sending a bullet through a wall in Flynn Hall, the university said Saturday.

Guns don’t shoot people of course. People do.

In St. Paul a family is decimated and devastated by a domestic homicide/suicide committed during a custody battle over a young child:

Hernandez Foster said that the 20-year-old man suspected of killing her family members was involved in an intense custody dispute with one of the slain young women over the 18-month-old girl. Accounts from her and others who knew the family reveal the night’s carnage as a sprawling act of domestic violence. (…)

“Our lives will never be the same again,” she said. “I want to make sure that the investigation prevails and that we find all the details of the madness that happened.”

Their names are Maria McIntosh,  Wade McIntosh, Olivia McIntosh.

Madness it is. It happens every day in America because we have done nothing to stop it.

This more recent article details the angry phone call between the parents of the young child before the shooting occurred. It appeared that there had also been domestic abuse but not documented.

Yes, it was purposeful and happened because of anger, anxiety, custody of a child, loss of control and…. an available gun.

Two people shot at each other in Prior Lake, MN from their cars and were injured:

Witnesses reported seeing gunfire coming from one of the vehicles and directed toward the other around 8 p.m. on County Road 21 near Carriage Hills Parkway, said Police Chief Mark Elliott.

Why? We will hopefully find out but the reason doesn’t really matter does it? All we know is that these two irresponsible gun owners decided to “solve a problem” with guns fired from moving cars not thinking about where the bullets would end up. Bullets do fly for long distances and often hit innocent “targets”.

And it was purposeful.

In another Minnesota shooting, something strange happened:

The charging document continues that Johnson cooperated with police, saying he met Glover at Don’s Car Wash a couple months ago. Johnson said he was the manager there, and had recently fired Glover. He also explained that he was letting Glover live in his garage, adding Glover was “a really good guy” and had gotten “caught up in some s***”. Johnson said another friend made allegations that Glover had stolen some coins and was going to come over to see if they were there.

“I got worried,” court documents say Johnson tells detectives. “I grabbed my gun and I loaded it and it was sitting in the garage.”

The documents also say Johnson admitted to snorting methamphetamine earlier that day. He goes on, describing how he started boxing up Glover’s belongings that were in the garage, also talking about how he thought Glover may have tampered with the ammunition in his gun. Johnson says Glover arrived about a half hour later, walked up to the garage and an argument broke out over the theft accusations.

Glover, documents say, pushed past Johnson, saying he was going through his stuff to look for drugs. Johnson says Glover came out of the room in the garage, Johnson held the pistol up and Glover said “you pull a pistol on me?” and “I’m going to break your f****** neck”. Johnson told police Glover was 4-5 feet away and he pulled the trigger, but the gun misfired. Documents say Glover took a breath and froze. Johnson says he started pulling the trigger again, this time the gun firing, Glover saying “you shot me” over and over. Johnson said Glover started towards him then, and Johnson fired two more times.

See if you can figure this one out. It seems that drugs were a factor. Paranoia. Anger. Suspicion. And a gun was available. Two men who had worked together, one for the other, are now forever linked together by a shooting. One is dead. The other is charged for murder. Nothing will ever be the same. And for what?

I guess one could always say that shootings are strange because they are not normal. The gun lobby seems to believe they are because as long as their second amendment rights are preserved there are bound to be some consequences. The consequences are death and injuries.

But one more- A Grand Rapids father with diagnosed depression over many years had a gun. He used it to kill himself and shoot and injure his own son:

Both parties had been shot in the head in an attempted murder-suicide scenario, said Sgt. Bob Stein, an investigator with the Grand Rapids Police Department. The boy remained in critical condition Friday in a Duluth hospital, Stein added.

“He’d been suffering with depression since the age of 14,” said Stein of the elder Krauss.

A 9mm handgun was found at the scene and is presumed to have been the weapon involved, Stein said. The man had a valid permit to carry a concealed weapon and had purchased the gun on March 22, Stein said.

Is this what we have come to expect now? People with guns in their homes can and do use them to commit tragic acts like this one which would have been far more difficult without that gun accessible. Another Minnesota family is devastated by gun violence and will never be the same.

It was purposeful. The shooter had a valid Minnesota permit to carry that gun. He was supposed to be safe and responsible with the gun. But he wasn’t. Why did he have a permit? Under the loose “shall issue” permitting system in Minnesota it is assumed that people who get their permits do not have problems that could make them dangerous to themselves or others. This is not the case, of course.

I can’t leave this post without writing about the latest news story that barely got a mention in the media because of all of the other strange things going on in the national news. But another domestic dispute spilled into a workplace at a San Bernardino elementary school where a teacher, the shooter and an innocent 8 year old boy are dead. The shooter apparently had a domestic dispute with his estranged wife:

“He came in, and very, very quickly upon entering the classroom started shooting,” Burguan said.
Anderson also reloaded after firing what is believed to have been a .357-caliber revolver, the police chief said.
Burguan said preliminary information indicates the two were recently married.
“I’m told that their marriage was relatively short. They’ve only been married for a few months and they’ve been separated for about the last month, month-and-a-half, roughly, when this incident took place,” he said. “But there’s nobody that in the investigation has come forward to say that they saw this coming.”
Her name was Karen Smith.
The thing is, people often don’t see it coming. But when a gun is available to settle what the shooter believes is a problem or is jealous or angry or depressed, things happen quickly and we learn the story later. I know this one from personal experience. (Her name was Barbara Lund).
In addition, this shooter should definitely not have had a gun:
The police chief said Anderson “does have a criminal history.”
Court records showed that he had faced criminal charges of brandishing a weapon, assault and crimes against public peace in 2013, with those charges later “dismissed or not prosecuted.” There had also been two petitions for temporary restraining orders filed against him by women in previous years.
California does have strict gun laws. We don’t know how or where he got his gun. Guns are often available to those who want them through many channels. And since we have not chosen to close the channels, we have come to expect that these things will happen.
We do have some facts that matter about guns and domestic violence however that should make us all pause- and then get to work. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence has this to say:

Guns pose a particular threat in the hands of domestic abusers.1

  • Abused women are five times more likely to be killed by their abuser if the abuser owns a firearm.2
  • Domestic violence assaults involving a gun are 12 times more likely to result in death than those involving other weapons or bodily force.3
  • More than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide victims between 1980 and 2008 were killed with firearms.4
  • In 2011, nearly two-thirds of women killed with guns were killed by their intimate partners.5
Whether purposeful or accidental, what I know and what the stories tell us is that we need a whole lot more common sense and courage to prevent some of these shootings. Both seem to be in short supply.
Some states, including my own, have passed laws to remove guns from domestic abusers. This seems like a very good idea given what we know. But until we pass even more laws, such as universal Brady background check laws to prevent prohibited purchasers from getting their hands on guns no matter where they go to buy them, we are failing women and children. And one bill that has been introduced in Minnesota ( and other states and passed in California) is a Gun Violence Protection Order. Of course as long as lapdog politicians are in charge of legislatures and the Congress, this, too, does not even see the light of day. And we are failing our families because of this lack of courage and conviction.
As long as we let the gun lobby make the rules and hijack the conversation, we are failing our families.
I don’t know about you, but I will not stop working to prevent and reduce the devastating gun violence that has affected so many families and communities in my state and in our country. It doesn’t have to be this way and I just know we are better than this.
Are you angry and outraged yet?
Let’s get to work and insist that our leaders do something about our serious public health epidemic of gun violence.

Gun lobby distractions

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No matter common sense.

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

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

The answer, of course, is NO.

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

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

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

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

That is what we should be talking about now.

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

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

We are better than this.

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

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

photo of Barbara

 

 

Guns and the Capitol

Basic RGBShots were fired near the U.S. Capitol yesterday. This is all in a usual day in our country. Luckily no one was injured as officers fired at a woman driving erratically and attempting to harm officers. Bullets flying on our streets is never a good idea no matter who fires them. People are understandably frightened when they hear nearby gunfire.But officers took care of the situation as is their job. From the article:

 

 

“It was high anxiety,” said Yanta, who planned to discuss farming issues with Cuellar. “I didn’t get shaken up until I went into the building and realized what had transpired right in front of me.

“To be so close to something like that was very frazzling.”

People know what it means when they hear gunfire.

Inside the Capitol our lawmakers are up to doing the bidding of the corporate gun lobby again. When aren’t they? Let’s take a look.

The nomination of Judge Gorsuch, is, of course, being scored by the NRA:

The National Rifle Association is investing $1 million of its own money in the Senate confirmation battle over Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee.

The group announced Tuesday that it’s buying up ads supporting Gorsuch in the states of Indiana, North Dakota, Missouri and Montana — all states Trump won in 2016 where Democratic senators are up for re-election in 2018.

None of the four senators has indicated their intentions on the nominee.

“Judge Gorsuch is an outstanding nominee and will protect our fundamental right to keep and bear arms,” Chris Cox, the executive director of the NRA’s lobbying arm, said in a statement. “We will be fully activating our five million members in support of his confirmation.”

They obviously believe that if Gorsuch is seated on the Supreme Court, he will act in their favor on gun deals. The NRA and others in the gun lobby spent a lot of money to get Donald Trump elected. They just knew he would do their bidding and he has not disappointed. Nor has Congress.

They must have forgotten that the man Gorsuch is replacing, Justice Antonin Scalia, made it clear that strong gun laws are constitutional.

The House voted to take the names of Veterans who have been diagnosed with severe mental illness off of the NICS list of prohibited gun purchasers. This makes perfect sense, don’t you think? I mean, it’s not as if veterans aren’t killing themselves with guns in great numbers. And sometimes others as well. Seems to make common sense to me and a whole lot of other Americans that protecting our Veterans from using a gun to end their own life is just a terrible and tragic idea. The overall suicide rate amongst our Veterans is high. Even some well-known military generals objected to this bill:

Earlier in the week, a coalition led by retired Gens. Stanley McChrystal, David Petraeus, Peter Chiarelli, and Wesley Clark wrote a letter to lawmakers saying the proposal would “put America’s veterans who need our support the most in harm’s way, by providing them with easy access to firearms.”

But Roe argued that in many cases, veterans who are deemed unable to handle their finances can be indirectly barred from buying a weapon, even if they pose no real threat to the public.

“It’s hard enough for some people to admit they need help,” he said. “Imagine how much more difficult it is when they fear they will be stigmatized and isolated … (or) that a VA bureaucrat may decide that they are incompetent and take away their constitutional rights.”

Stigmatized? I get the idea here. People with mental health issues do not want to be stigmatized and they shouldn’t be. But I don’t get the idea that one feels isolated without a gun. I don’t and most people I know don’t. Somehow I can’t believe that owning a firearm when one is deemed severely mentally ill and not being able to handle one’s own financial affairs is at the top of the needs list. If it is, one needs to wonder if that person should not have a gun in the first place. Some people should not be able to access guns.

Firearms make it so much easier and veterans are familiar with their use. From this article:

Dr. Charles Engel: Six of 10 gun-related deaths are suicides, and about half of all suicides are gun-related. Most suicides occur on impulse, and the availability of a gun makes it all too easy for a person experiencing suicidal thoughts to act on that impulse. Some have speculated that perhaps one reason that suicide is elevated among military personnel and veterans is their experience with guns. Exchanging hostile fire in battle, especially the experience of killing, may represent an important psychological threshold. The tragic psychological familiarity that comes with crossing that threshold may well increase the likelihood of subsequent self-inflicted injury in someone already thinking about suicide.

The Senate may or may not take up this bill and do something with it. Time will tell if this becomes a law. We will not be safer. Nor will our Veterans and their families. It is backwards and ludicrous that some believe the Veterans in this small category would be safer with a gun.

But never mind public safety. Some in Congress don’t care about that because they have taken a whole lot of money from the corporate gun lobby and are threatened by them if they don’t vote the right way.

The very same gun lobby minions in Congress seem to think it is a good idea to grant reciprocity for gun permit holders nationally. I think this is a very bad idea and so do many others. I agree with Everytown for Gun Safety and other organizations:

“Reciprocity would have a profound impact on state public safety, making the state with the weakest standards into the law of the land, and letting criminals and other dangerous people carry concealed guns in every state in the country,” the gun control group Every Town for Gun Safety said in a statement.

So someone from a permitless carry state where no background checks or training are required to carry a permit will now be able to carry in states that have much stronger gun laws. What could possibly go wrong?

People like George Zimmerman, infamous for his shooting of an unarmed black teen-ager, will be coming to a state near you. You will not be safer as a result. This is the antithesis of public safety.

And then there is the attempt by the gun lobby and it’s lapdogs in Congress to re-introduce silencers into our national gun culture.:

Not everyone is convinced that shooting-related hearing loss is a problem that needs another solution.

“You already have the answer,” said Kris Brown, chief strategy officer at the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “There are things available on the market to protect hearing.”

The people who want to make silencers more easily available point to a range of other tactical benefits. Silencers decrease a weapon’s recoil and improve its accuracy, the American Suppressor Association says on its website. This lets shooters fire in rapid succession without losing track of the target, as silencer manufacturers note. Suppressors also reduce muzzle flash, allowing shooters to better disguise their location in low-light settings.

Although supporters of silencers tout these latter advantages in terms of sport shooting, the same characteristics might also appeal to a mass shooter or other criminal.

“There could be some instance where somebody uses it for nefarious purposes,” said Jack Rinchich, president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. “They don’t want a loud report or a muzzle flash or a blast ― say a sniper or someone trying to shoot at police officers or other people from a distance ― and they want to suppress that noise.”

I’m sure that you remember the mafia shootings in the 1930s. Machine guns and silencers were regularly used to commit heinous crimes against innocent or unarmed victims. As a result, the nation decided that making these two types of firearms/accessories very difficult to obtain would be a good idea, thus the Gun Control Act of 1934. Since then, few, if any crimes and shootings have involved machine guns or silencers.

We have to remember that we don’t have universal background checks as a federal law. Until we do, if we make silencers legal to buy without the current strong restrictions, they will end up in the hands of those who should not have them. Why? Because they will be subject to sales with no background checks, as are all types of guns, because of private sellers on-line or at gun shows and other such venues. Who would get their hands on these then? We know the answer.

To say this is a bill that would protect hearing is ludicrous. There are many products that can protect hearing when shooting a gun at the range or while hunting.  Hunters want to hear other hunters shooting so they know where they are located and as self protection. In addition, the muting of a gun’s loud noise would make it more dangerous when a mass shooting is occurring. It was the noise of the bullets expelled from the assault rifle that alerted the teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary School that a shooter was in the building so they could do their best to hide and save the children. It was the sound of gunfire that led officers to the location of the Virginia Tech shooter.

The gun lobby if using fake news to tell us the only way to protect hearing while hunting ( yes they try to make this sound normal by relating it to hunting) is to buy a silencer. Nonsense. My husband lost some high frequency hearing in one ear while hunting as a youth and young man. I do understand that people can lose their hearing from gunshots. A good friend of mine became permanently deaf when her father shot off an assault rifle at a range very close to her head. She has had a profound hearing loss since then and her life was changed forever. That was a senseless and careless use of a gun which she readily admits.

So yes, it is true that shooting a gun frequently, or even irregularly, can cause hearing problems. But to use selling gun silencers as a hearing protection and public safety bill is disingenuous.

Again I go back to the path that follows the money. The silencer ( suppressor) industry would love to sell more of their products and can’t wait for that to happen. As fewer people own guns, the gun industry needs a market for their goods. That lurks behind most of the gun lobby pushed legislation. If you watch the video here you can see that opinions about silencers, aka suppressors,  are all over the place as to need, personal preference, ability to buy them, cost, etc.

And further Donald Trump Jr. is making the case for gun silencers.  That can’t hurt the cause in our current political configuration. The corporate gun lobby now has a seat in the White House.

I admit that many don’t see the harm in the use of silencers. They point to other countries, mostly European, who allow silencers. But those countries also have universal background check laws and other strong restrictions which make it unlikely that silencers would find their ways into the illegal market or into the hands of people who should not have guns.

I agree with the writer of this article.  This is a solution looking for a problem and looking for a way to make money.

Aren’t Congress members and our legislators charged with the safety of the public in their states and in the country as a whole? How did the narrative get high-jacked to make some people think that allowing more armed people, some with no training, to roam our streets and public places where families and the general public shop, work, go to school, have appointments with accountants, physicians, lawyers, tax preparers, other business people located in our cities?

It’s not normal for people to be carrying guns around in public no matter what the gun lobby claims. They want it to be normal. But it’s not. They have not convinced that many people so far as the public is largely in favor of common sense when it comes to gun laws and public safety.

As I said in my last post, it is a topsy turvy world as of the November. Literally everything is under attack. What we don’t need are people who are scared, feeling ill at ease, anxious, nervous, angry or depressed to get themselves armed and dangerous. And we don’t need the people who believe this is OK to be making gun policy.