Las Vegas costs

Costs - Puzzle with Missing Piece through Loupe.Las Vegas is known for its’ casinos, hotels and restaurants where people go to ( hopefully) make some money and spend some money on shows featuring singers and other stars.

It is also now known for the cost of loose gun laws, bump fire stocks and lasting emotional, physical and health care costs for the victims and survivors of the nation’s deadliest mass shooting. The dead have been buried, leaving families with the actual financial cost of a funeral. And now the families and friends are spending their time and energy wondering why this happened to their loved one and how they will spend the rest of their lives without that person.

The sounds of weeping.

The survivors are traumatized and many will need counseling. They can’t get the scene out of their heads- the noise of the gunfire- the noise of the screaming- the noise of the dead and injured- the noise of people running for their lives-the noise of the sirens. And some will face astronomical financial costs as long as they live.

We all pay.

Thanks to the corporate gun lobby and the lack of courage of many in Congress, the carnage continues every day and Americans pay billions every year to cover the costs of the shootings.

But I digress.

In this article there is a video where the sounds of screaming and the rapid fire of the gun are heard. It was frightening.

The sound of Congress doing something about changing gun laws after the massacre?

Silence.

The sound of the media 4 weeks out- silence.

We have already forgotten the Las Vegas shooting.

This is an American tragedy.

The victims and survivors have not forgotten. Time will tell if their voices will join the thousands of others who have experienced the loss of a loved one or friend, the injuries from bullets or the trauma of being at the scene of the shooting.

This is the cost of not doing anything about gun violence in America.

Listen to the “Sounds of Silence.”

We will not be silent.

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut along with Connecticut Senator Blumenthal and Illinois Senator Dick Durbin made some noise this week by introducing yet another bill to extend Brady background checks to all gun sales.

It appears that Congress will be silent on banning bump stocks even though they made some noise about it.

It is inexcusable that we have allowed them to get away with ignoring their responsibilities for protecting the public against insanely loose gun laws and allowing just about anyone to purchase just about any gun or accessory they want because they are cowards.

There will be a cost for this abrogation of responsibilities.

Congress members should pay with their seats. The rest of us are paying with our lives and the loss of loved ones.

There is no common sense.

Let Congress members visit this woman whose life is forever changed by the shooting as she sits in her wheelchair in therapy knowing she will likely never walk again. Let them hear her story. Let them understand that our healthcare system is broken and will not pay for this woman’s care for the rest of her life.

Would they be silent if this were one of their own?

Would they pay what it takes to prevent shootings in America?

The victims went to a concert the night of October 1st. They were not silent that night until after the bullets started flying and the carnage began. They had to do things they never thought possible( article from National Public Radio):

SIEGEL: First, had you experienced anything like this, and did you sense your training kicking in at all during the – during this?

LACY: I’ve never experienced anything at this magnitude. I’ve seen a lot in 20 years in Saudi Arabia, Honduras, Panama, Turkey but nothing like this where you’re supposed to be out having a good time and you don’t expect something like this to happen. My training kicked in immediately, and I bolted and looked towards the – where the shots were being fired from. And then I started trying to assess the wounded and trying to get people out of the area so we could take care of those that needed help and get those others that could move out of the area so they were not – no longer in harm’s way.

The man was in the military and said this to the interviewer:

LACY: You know, if you want to describe what war is, I guess this is what looks like war but on a civilian scale. These people didn’t deserve it. And I’m just glad that there were true Americans that stayed behind and helped those that were wounded and helped the individuals that were deceased.

It was worse than war- on a civilian scale, as he said.

This woman came close to death. She describes the scene– listen to her, Congress members. Or can’t you bear the thought of the blood and carnage? Her family talks of how much this will cost and whether they will be able to afford the cost. Loss of work, loss of mobility, loss of functioning in everyday life, loss of freedom, loss of security. From the article:

At the hospital, people were lined up along the wall. “Just so many people, just stacked, and blood—just tons and tons of blood,” Sheppard said. She was lying on a gurney next to a girl who had been shot multiple times in the leg. “I was breathing really hard, and I was like, screaming and making noise, and I was really, really, really, really, really, really struggling.” She hollered that she was going to throw up, was given a bucket, and began vomiting blood. An X-ray machine was brought into the room. She heard someone say, “Surgery, immediately.” Her last memory before she woke up, five days later, is of a doctor—no one at the hospital knows who it was—grabbing her face with both hands, looking in her eyes, and telling her, “You’re gonna fucking make it. You’re gonna fucking do this.”

One of the misperceptions that accompanies a mass shooting is that those affected are divided into the victims, who are killed, and the survivors, who live. The news cycle moves on—as it already has, a month later—and the collective notion, insofar as anyone who wasn’t there or didn’t lose a loved one thinks about it, is that those who survived are in the process of moving on, too. But, for those who were injured, existence is transformed.

“…and I was, like, screaming and making noise….”

The silence of Congress is deafening.

Whose rights come first? The right for anyone to own and carry any gun wherever they want and to shoot innocent people? Or the right to live free from gun violence in our communities?

I know my answer. Congress is silent.

 

“Good” grief

Charlie BrownI often use the words “good grief” to describe my anger, frustration, distaste, exasperation, disbelief and any number of other emotions when other words do not suffice.

Charlie Brown, the iconic character in Charles Schultz’s  Peanuts cartoons, which also became television specials, used this term often to express his frustration.

So how do these words find themselves into my post today? How does the funeral of a friend, a summit on gun violence as a public health issue, a hunting accident, an officer’s response to tragedy,  a racist incident at a Minnesota college, a road rage incident, the acquittal of a St. Louis police officer, tabling at a local festival and a gun suicide intersect?

Grief. Anger. Victims. Awe. Inspiration. Organizing. Keeping children safe from gun injuries and death.

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a friend. We met his family at church many years ago and his wife, in particular, became my friend and a member of my church book group. As she always does at funerals, my minister wove his story of love, compassion for his family and community, his humor, his fun loving life style and his courage in the face of his cancer diagnosis into the sermon. He was a volunteer firefighter and a Viet Nam veteran. No one was left without a tissue. We were all touched by his 3 adult daughters telling us about their dad and his 3 sons-in-law reading the verses. There were so many things we hadn’t known about our friend and it took his death for us to find out. He was an avid hunter, fisherman, outdoorsman, volunteer, grandparent to 6, and good man who made his mark on his circle of friends and the community at large. The grief of this family over the loss of a man who died too young will continue through their lives and they will live with the hole left by his death.

Grief is grief no matter how a death happened. With my friend it was cancer. There are many causes of death, of course. Suicides take the lives of way too many Americans and are on the rise in Minnesota. In Minnesota suicides by gun account for about 75% of gun deaths.

One of the topics of the Protect Minnesota 2 day summit I attended last week about gun violence and public health was the prevalence of gun suicides across the country and in Minnesota. There was much discussion about access to loaded guns, discussions about how much mental illness contributes to suicides and about other conditions or behaviors that contribute to suicides and suicides by gun.

An article in the Washington Post written by the wife of a gun suicide victim says it all:

I believe my husband’s decision to end his life two years ago was made seconds before it happened. His fate was sealed only when he reached for one of his guns for the last time. Once the hammer started to fall, that was it.

When our American gun culture doesn’t consider the risks of guns to those who should so clearly not have them, we have a serious public health crisis. Yes, it is a crisis.

I do not oppose the Second Amendment, but we desperately need to start changing the conversation about gun ownership in this country. My husband was a casualty of a jacked-up marketing fable that convinces men, women and children that their castles are unsafe unless they are guarded with guns.

Far more guns kill people in suicides, accidents, mistakes or fits of rage than from an intruder in the night. Families, partners and friends must acknowledge this reality when discussing having guns in the home. We also need politicians to support policies that give families the power they need to save their loved ones.

We can save our loved ones by enacting sensible and common sense measures such as requiring a Brady background check on all gun sales and Gun Violence Protective Orders. In fact, these make so much common sense that the majority of Americans and even gun owners agree. We can prevent at least some of the grief of gun deaths and injuries.

At the Protect Minnesota summit we heard from a panel of survivors, each of whom had lost a loved one to gun violence or had survived a shooting. To say the least, it was powerful and emotional and full of the grief of the survivors. This is why those in the gun violence prevention movement do what we do. We really don’t want others to feel the grief we have all felt.

survivors

There is a lot of grief to go around and some of it is actually in the form of anger. At the Protect Minnesota summit mentioned above there were local and national speakers highlighting ways in which we can reduce and prevent urban gun violence. Much of it was based on the racism associated with shootings in urban areas. And a lot of time was spent on how and why young men of color “need” guns that often end up in the wrong hands or in gun crimes, and worse, gun tragedies.

So when the “shooting” incident reported by a security guard at St. Catherine’s College in St. Paul made the media rounds, it first appeared to be another school shooting. A campus was locked down and law enforcement were called to the scene looking for the perpetrator. As it turned out, the perpetrator was the security guard himself who had irresponsibly brought his own firearm to work and “accidentally” discharged it, shooting himself in the shoulder.  He said he was afraid he would lose his job if he reported the truth and so he fabricated a shooter- of course a young black man wearing a hoodie:

Police arrested Ahlers, 25, on Wednesday, after he told investigators during questioning that he accidentally shot himself with his handgun and lied about it because he feared losing his job, according to St. Paul police. St. Kate’s prohibits people, including security guards, from carrying guns on campus.

St. Kate’s terminated Ahlers on Thursday. University President Becky Roloff said in a statement that the university “strongly condemns racial discrimination, racial stereotyping, and racial profiling of any kind. The statements attributed to the former employee concerning the race of an alleged suspect are deeply troubling and do not reflect our values.”

The man lost his job. A campus was locked down for nothing. Police were involved in an unnecessary search for a black man. And there are no “accidental” shootings. There is irresponsible handling of a deadly weapon however.

A St. Catherine University security guard put African-American men at risk of being hurt or killed during an intense manhunt in St. Paul, after he allegedly falsely accused a black male of shooting him, community leaders said Friday.

There were real implications to what Brent Patrick Ahlers told police, said community activist Robert McClain. He received calls regarding three people stopped by police during the search for the “suspect” Tuesday night, including by officers with guns drawn.

“When they look for someone who they assume is an active shooter, they don’t look in a nice way,” McClain said. “They don’t stop and ask questions in a nice way, so you victimize people who haven’t done a thing.

Good grief.

Law enforcement officers are a part of our communities and there to serve us and protect us from harm. Sometimes that does not work out well and there are plenty of recent incidents of officer involved shootings of young black men gone wrong that have left families and communities grieving. The latest outcry has come in St. Louis where the last two days have seen protests after the acquittal of an officer who shot and killed a black man.

We have a lot of work to do regarding relationships between law enforcement and communities of color. It is understandable that people of color are angry over the acquittals of officers after shootings of black men. This is a uniquely American problem and it is because of all of the guns in our communities. Officers are armed and citizens are armed. It doesn’t work out well and racism plays a part. When everyone is armed, too many people do not feel safe.

But officers are often involved in non-violent support of their communities. A story in the Duluth News Tribune caught my attention this morning. It is written by a female officer who comforted a young girl during the rescue of her father and sister in their drownings in Lake Superior. Officers are often traumatized by tragic incidents and sometimes even leave the force. But this officer chose to write a beautiful story about how she spent hours with a young girl who had lost her father and sister. Thanks goodness for officers like this one and their dedication to their communities and the victims of tragic incidents.

There was a law enforcement panel at the Protect Minnesota summit last week. All participants were caring, dedicated and educated individuals who cared a lot about how gun violence affects their communities and they are working to lessen the impact of gun crimes and gun violence. They all agreed that they saw too many gun suicides and too much urban violence and they want to work with us to solve important problems and lessen the grief that devastates families and communities.

And we know that many officers are themselves victims of shootings when trying to intervene in incidents or in actual ambushes by people who hate officers or have a grudge of some kind.  We have our very own home-grown terrorists. This is yet another element to our gun violence epidemic that we are ignoring at the risk of losing lives.

Good grief.

The grief that comes with a violent and sudden death never goes away. Another story in the Duluth News Tribune this morning was so poignant and difficult but I am grateful for the man who told his story of grief over an accidental shooting that took the life of his son while hunting decades ago:

He allowed Mark to move ahead a few steps. Just then, a grouse flushed along the trail.

“When a grouse flushes, your instinct is to be quick,” Kern said.

He was. He shouldered his shotgun and swung on the fleeing bird. In that split-second, he wasn’t aware that Mark had moved directly into the path of his shot.

“I shot him right in the back of the head,” Kern said. “Killed him instantly.”

He speaks openly about that day, not without showing some emotion. He shares his story with others from time to time. He hopes it might serve as a powerful reminder to other hunters about the importance of safe gun handling, about being aware of where one’s hunting partners are, about understanding the finality of an ill-advised shot.

…”the finality of an ill-advised shot.” Bullets are often final.

Hunting season is happening right now in Minnesota. Every year we hear of hunting accidents involving guns and too often it is one family member or a friend shooting another family member or friend. The guilt and pain that comes with that must be unimaginable. But this man goes on with his life as best he can and lives forever with his grief. More from the linked story:

Over the years, Kern has regained his inner strength and a sense of who he is. He believes strongly that each of us has “a force” within. A kind of energy. A spirit.

He cannot, of course, forget what happened on that long-ago September day. He doesn’t try to bury the memory. He fully acknowledges the reality of what he did.

“This happened to me,” he says.

The loss of a child is too painful to consider but it has happened to members of my family and to friends. Most have thankfully not been due to gun deaths. Yesterday my chapter set up a table at a local event to educated the public about how they can reduce the chances that a child will be “accidentally” shot in the home of friends. The ASK campaign encourages parents and gives them the language to ask that awkward question. Most gun owning families actually think this is a good idea and if they are storing their guns unloaded and secured, they can avoid the awful tragedy of an “accidental” shooting. It was ( and is) well received and allowed us to have many great conversations with parents and others about the risks of unsecured guns and other issues related to guns and gun violence.  ASK

Every day in America about 7 children a day die from gunshot injuries. Some survive and survive with lifetime physical and emotional injuries and PTSD. (PTSD was a topic of discussion also at the Northstar conference on gun violence and public health.) A road rage shooting that is now being reported in the media has left one innocent little boy with terrible head injuries but hopefully not with long term disabilities related to the shooting. The article is titled: ” Children Under Fire”.

Good grief.

How can this be a title for a story? It can be because in America, people carry guns around with them in their cars. And stupidly and tragically, they shoot other people when they get angry over their driving.  From the article:

“Stop!” Hill screamed, turning to check on her son, who, just before midnight on Aug. 6, had become one of the nearly two dozen children shot — intentionally, accidentally or randomly — every day in the United States. What follows almost all of those incidents are frantic efforts to save the lives of kids wounded in homes and schools, on street corners and playgrounds, at movie theaters and shopping centers.

Good grief.

(…) On average, 23 children were shot each day in the United States in 2015, according to a Post review of the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That’s at least one bullet striking a growing body every 63 minutes.

In total, an estimated 8,400 children were hit, and more died — 1,458 — than in any year since at least 2010. That death toll exceeds the entire number of U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan this decade.

Many incidents, though, never become public because they happen in small towns or the injuries aren’t deemed newsworthy or the triggers are pulled by teens committing suicide.

Caring for children wounded by gunfire comes with a substantial price tag. Ted Miller, an economist who has studied the topic for nearly 30 years, estimated that the medical and mental health costs for just the 2015 victims will exceed $290 million.

Good grief.

There is nothing good about grief. In America, the grief of families because of gun violence is remarkable, avoidable, preventable, and a national public health epidemic. We can do something about all of this but a minority of gun extremists and the corporate gun lobby get in the way of common sense. I wonder if they read about these incidents or have experienced the grief associated with gun deaths? I don’t wish it on anyone but stories must be told in order to make change.

In this post I have told quite a few stories. They involve victims, law enforcement officers, survivors, the grief experienced by the family of my friend, children, communities and families.

And I haven’t even touched on domestic shootings like the one that took my sister’s life. But they, too, happen every day. More grief.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is October– soon. I will write more then.

We are better than this.

Happy gun violence free Labor Day

PrintThe Labor Day holiday is upon us already. It’s cool here in Minnesota now at night so we are reminded that fall is also coming on the heels of a rather wet summer. The Hurricane season also reminds us that fall is here. Hurricane Harvey has produced mass flooding and devastation to millions of families in Texas and now other states. We continue to see more severe storms and heavy rainfalls as some deny that we should try to do something to about what the majority of scientists agree appears to be climate change.

But facts don’t bother some in our country, including our own President who used his appearance in Texas as a mini campaign rally rather than showing empathy for the victims and re-assuring them as is the role of the Comforter in Chief during national emergencies.

But I digress. On the home front in Minnesota we have seen more than the usual number of shootings and incidents showing that, as we know, more guns do not make us safer. For example, earlier in August a man was minding his own business waiting for a bus when a fight broke out. During the fight, a gun was fired, hitting him in the stomach and leaving him with injuries from which he is still recovering:

Porwall was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center’s trauma center in Minneapolis and was released Monday. Porwall, who will always have the bullet lodged in his stomach, is recovering from his injuries at his Minneapolis home, with his mother, Kathy Porwall, and his two cats Kirby and Lopez at his side.

Porwall’s father Cy said his son is the most peaceful person in the world and has never been in a fight or been in trouble.

The victim will have the bullet in his stomach now likely forever and it could cause recurring health problems and financial difficulties. Gun injuries cost Americans billions every year:

A new study sheds light on just how much gun-related injuries cost the United States, from the health care system to victims’ families.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health on Tuesday, showed that between 2006 and 2014, the costs and financial burden of firearm injuries reached a total of $6.61 billion — and that was just for initial hospitalizations.
This, of course, does not include the psychological and emotional damage done when someone is badly injured or dies. Often PTSD is associated with gun violence victims and survivors. A traumatic, sudden and violent incident can do that. The walking wounded are amongst us wherever we go.
We can cut the costs of gun violence by cutting gun violence. It can be done with the right elected leaders who are not afraid of the corporate gun lobby. I have written often about measures that can be taken to save lives and keep people from being injured. Here is my list:
  • a waiting period before the gun is transferred to make sure the buyer isn’t in a rush to shoot someone
  • pass measures to require reporting of lost and stolen guns
  • pass stronger straw purchasing laws
  • strengthen gun trafficking laws
  • gun owners storing their guns safely at home
  • gun owners being more responsible when carrying guns in public to assure that their gun does not accidentally discharge
  • educating parents about the risks of loaded, unsecured guns in the homes where their children play
  • treating gun violence as a public health epidemic
  • limiting the number of guns sold at one time
  • passing Gun Violence Protection Order laws
  • changing the conversation generally about the risks of guns
  • require a mandatory training course for everyone who buys a gun
  • discussing the fact that most gun deaths are suicide and how we can prevent that

Did you think I forgot one of the most important ways to keep a gun away from people who shouldn’t have one?

Requiring a Brady background check on ALL gun sales, no matter where, to assure that those who buy a gun are not prohibited from owning one.

If you don’t think that is a good idea, you are in a distinct minority of Americans who don’t. And, as if we need a poster child for why this is important, take a look at this Minnesota “law abiding” gun owner who was caught “red handed” buying many guns in a short period of time and ostensibly falling through more than a few cracks ( otherwise known as loopholes in the law):

A high ranking professor and department head at the University of Minnesota is facing charges for going on an illegal gun buying spree.

The purchases would have been perfectly legal, except Massoud Amin is under felony indictment.

That should have banned him from buying guns.(…)

Investigators say Amin – who his attorney describes as a gun hobbyist – bought 14 handguns from seven separate gun shops across the metro in a two-and-a-half-week span this summer.

He was under a felony indictment at the time, accused of providing fabricated financial documents in his divorce.

Yet that first gun purchase came just six days after he was charged with forgery.

The federal form required when purchasing a gun from a federally licensed firearms dealer asks the buyer to be honest when filling in the information such as: Are you a felon? Yes or No. Have you been charged with domestic abuse? Yes or No. Are you adjudicated mentally ill? Yes or No. And others.

This is a set-up for someone who falls into one of these categories to lie. It is a federal offense to lie on the form. One way to get around this is to buy from an unlicensed seller who doesn’t ask these questions or do a background check.

The National Instant Check System run by the FBI is then involved when the seller submits the information to the system to check for the accuracy of this information and either approve the purchase or deny the purchase. This has worked to deny millions of people from buying guns they shouldn’t have since the Brady Law was enacted in 1993.

But the system has some gaps that need to be fixed. One is that in some states, like Minnesota, getting a permit to carry a gun, requiring a background check once a year from law enforcement and a new permit every 5 years, also allows the buyer to avoid a NICS check when purchasing guns. And that is how a University of Minnesota professor with a felony charge was able to buy 14 guns in 2 weeks from 7 different gun shops.

We can only guess at why there was a need for that many firearms but the man’s lawyer claimed that he was a gun hobbyist and then this:

Amin’s attorney tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that he did have a permit to carry, but would not comment on whether or not it was valid.

New this year in Minnesota, the permit to carry is enough to bypass the extra background check at the point of purchase since permit holders have already been screened.

Right then. People’s lives change, as this man’s did. Suddenly he became a felon:

He was under a felony indictment at the time, accused of providing fabricated financial documents in his divorce.

This does not sound like someone who should have a bunch of guns lying around. I know exactly how that can turn out. This is why my sister was shot and killed.

It doesn’t have to be like this. All we need is some common sense. As it turns out, most gun owners do have common sense and are safe with their guns. Most gun owners also agree with measures that will strengthen our gun laws to assure that all are safer and don’t suffer from the devastation of gun deaths and injuries. They are not threatened by tightening our laws because they are law abiding, practice safe gun usage and storage and use their guns for hunting and other shooting sports. It’s a small group who make it difficult for the majority. And as long as that small group sides with the gun extremists in the corporate gun lobby and refuses to support what most of us want, we will continue to see senseless and avoidable gun deaths and injuries.

What we need is for all of us to have the same safety standards, just like we do when getting a driver’s license or a professional license. There are no exceptions. All are treated the same. Everyone has to go through the TSA checkpoints at airports. All cars must know have seatbelts, airbags and other safety features. All toys and products are expected to pass safety standards to keep us all safe.  Smoking is prohibited in public places for the overall health of all of us. Background checks are required for child care providers and volunteers who work with children for the safety of all. Even adopting a pet requires strict standards.

Firearms should be no exception to protections that can keep us all safe. Purchasers and owners of firearms should be expected to be safe and responsible with their guns. The only way to do that is to impose standards and laws. Guns are the only product on the market actually designed to kill people ( and animals). Other things are used to kill and injure people but are not designed to do so.

We can prevent gun injuries and deaths if we put our collective minds to the effort.

I’m all in.

Oh- and stay safe out there this Labor Day. If you are going to a gun range to shoot, be safe. If you are purchasing a gun, make sure you understand that basic safety rules of owning a gun. If you are feeling angry at someone or wanting to get even or if you have had too much to drink, don’t bring your gun.

Remember why we have a national holiday this week-end. We celebrate those who labor on our behalf to keep us healthy, safe, financially viable, work on our streets and build our buildings and houses, put out fires, teach our children, take care of our children, and many others. Thanks to everyone who is working to provide economic viability to their families and contribute to the America we love. Unfortunately, gun violence never takes a holiday so there will be the inevitable shootings covered in news media all over our country.

And please think of ways to contribute to victims of Hurricane Harvey. There are many credible and trusted sites for you to do that. I contributed through fund sponsored by the United Church of Christ ( I attend a UCC church). We all need to dig deep to help others since one day, we ourselves, could become victims of a national disaster like Harvey.

And ( added after first posting) the usual scares and concerns about looting in the aftermath of natural disasters has people going for their guns and ammunition:

Hurricane Harvey may have moved on from East Texas, but the flood waters are only beginning to recede. Millions are scrambling for essentials like drinking water and food. Some, with worries about the ability of strained law enforcement to keep the peace, are in search of bullets.

“Our phones are blowing off the hook,” said James Hillin, the owner of Full Armor Firearms in Houston, which made it through the storm without flooding. “What people want is ammo. People want to arm up and protect themselves from the looters.”

We can only hope that there will be no shootings to add to the devastation of the storm.

 

What price guns and gun violence?

Rendered image of Dollar sign crumbling

There is a price ( in dollars) for getting a permit to carry a gun around in public as well there should be. It varies from state to state. The laws passed do require law enforcement and agencies to spend time and do the paperwork to allow people to carry their weapons around on our streets. Thus people pay for their permits. And training classes are offered, at least in Minnesota, by people who are in the business of providing the mandated training. Thus people pay for the training.

In my state of Minnesota, the cost for a permit from local law enforcement is $100. And then the cost of taking a class to get the required training is $99 plus an added cost to go to the gun range which is the business of providing a place for people to practice their shooting skills or just go to enjoy shooting their guns.

Take a look at this “grabagun” online gun site to see the general cost of a handgun. It looks like about $400-$500 for one of these. Assault type rifles are more expensive starting at around $800 and much more for some depending on accessories. And then there is the ammunition which can also be quite expensive. On this site, you can “shoot now and pay later” in order to finance your purchase of a firearm. This site does require the firearms to go to a federally licensed firearms dealer near the buyer where a Brady background check will be conducted for another $10-$30 or so. We all know that private buyers who don’t go through a licensed seller don’t pay that fee.

I found this site which attempts to summarize the cost of buying and owning guns. It is not cheap to get involved with shooting sports. But then, it’s not cheap to get involved in running, hockey, skiing, biking and all of the other things that people do for recreation and sport. It’s not cheap to smoke cigarettes or drink alcohol or do drugs. The difference being, of course, that firearms are designed to kill or harm another human being or animal ( if used for hunting).

As an aside I would like to point out that we are at the least attempting to cut the costs and the harm,, injury , health care costs and liability from most of the other things I listed above. Not so much with guns and shootings.

And the cost in dollars to our country for gun violence, according to this Mother Jones article? $299 billion:

And solving a crisis, as any expert will tell you, begins with data. That’s why the US government over the years has assessed the broad economic toll of a variety of major problems. Take motor vehicle crashes: Using statistical models to estimate a range of costs both tangible and more abstract—from property damage and traffic congestion to physical pain and lost quality of life—the Department of Transportation (DOT) published a 300-page studyestimating the “total value of societal harm” from this problem in 2010 at $871 billion. Similar research has been produced by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on the impact of air pollution, by the Department of Health and Human Services on the costs of domestic violence, and so on. But the government has mostly been mute on the economic toll of gun violence. HHS has assessed firearm-related hospitalizations, but its data is incomplete because some states don’t require hospitals to track gunshot injuries among the larger pool of patients treated for open wounds. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has also periodically made estimates using hospital data, but based on narrow sample sizes and covering only the medical and lost-work costs of gun victims.

Why the lack of solid data? A prime reason is that the National Rifle Association and other influential gun rights advocates have long pressured political leaders to shut down research related to firearms. (…)

In collaboration with Miller, Mother Jones crunched data from 2012 and found that the annual cost of gun violence in America exceeds $229 billion. Direct costs account for $8.6 billion—including long-term prison costs for people who commit assault and homicide using guns, which at $5.2 billion a year is the largest direct expense. Even before accounting for the more intangible costs of the violence, in other words, the average cost to taxpayers for a single gun homicide in America is nearly $400,000. And we pay for 32 of them every single day.

Indirect costs amount to at least $221 billion, about $169 billion of which comes from what researchers consider to be the impact on victims’ quality of life. Victims’ lost wages, which account for $49 billion annually, are the other major factor. Miller’s calculation for indirect costs, based on jury awards, values the average “statistical life” harmed by gun violence at about $6.2 million. That’s toward the lower end of the range for this analytical method, which is used widely by industry and government. (The EPA, for example, currently values a statistical life at $7.9 million, and the DOT uses $9.2 million.)

In Arizona, if one legislator gets his way, those who want a permit to carry will be paid by the state to get one. Yes. You read that right. From the article:

Saying it promotes safety, the No. 2 House Republican wants the state to pay for Arizonans to get licensed to carry concealed weapons.

The proposal by House Majority Leader Steve Montenegro, R-Litchfield Park, would provide a dollar-for-dollar credit against state income taxes owed for the cost of training to get a CCW permit, up to $80. Put simply, any Arizonan who gets a permit could deduct that much from what he or she owes the state.

And if that person owes less than $80 at tax time, the difference would carry forward, reducing future tax liability.

Arizona law allows any adult to carry a concealed weapon.

I suppose we could also pay for drivers’ licenses and license plates and tabs as well. Why not? Would that promote citizens’ safety? And what, again, would this cost the state of Arizona? But never mind common sense because…….rights. This idea is so ludicrous that one wonders why it has even been floated. But then, the big gun lobby is always floating bills and ideas that will work to make our communities less safe. When profit comes before saving lives, this is what happens.

The cost of owning guns and getting a permit to carry is not cheap. And the cost to citizens in lost lives and the many other costs associated with shootings is also very high. Balancing rights with the rights of all of us to be safer in our communities is rarely part of the conversation we need to be having here. The public health approach and research would do a lot to advance the discussion in a way that would get people more on the same page. I think we can all agree that on one wants to be shot or to shoot someone else or to lose a loved one to bullets. It’s how we get there that leaves us with the gap in our thinking.

We can do better than this. A recent opinion piece in the Star Tribune asks us to do just that and the responses today mostly agree- even a gun permit holder. From the opinion piece:

Apples and oranges — comparing smoking to guns? (One is a choice, and the other is a “right,” protected by the Second Amendment.) No, not really; it’s about mind-sets. Because, taking that page out of the nonsmokers’ guide, even adults with “rights” can no longer smoke on an airplane or at church or in hospitals. Shopping malls have designated areas for smoking. That’s all because of the — wait for it — common good.

A person cannot smoke on school grounds, but in 18 states adults can legally carry guns onto school property — not to mention the likelihood that students illegally bring guns into schools. And there is no smoking in most religious institutions, and many have “no guns” signs posted, yet, let’s all pray that handgun is locked when it hits the floor or falls out of a purse. Or becomes an item to be investigated by a curious child.

We’ve managed to get a lot done when we’ve united for the health of all Americans. We took on the big tobacco companies. Clean indoor air is an example of what we can do when we put the common good ahead of the “wants” of a few. The National Rifle Association (NRA) wants more guns available and accessible; it “wants” less regulation and oversight. Bigger, faster and better weapons, more rounds. I and many people like me just want an end to the violence. I want lockdowns in classrooms to become obsolete.

You want a smoke? There is a time and a place for it, just as there is a time and a place for guns: at shooting ranges, at clay targets or tin cans on fence posts in the middle of nowhere, and during long-held family traditions of hunting.

So what can we all do to take the violence out of the guns? We desperately need to curb the “you can’t make me” attitude.” The “come and get it” grandstanding. (Thank you, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, and how much good did that little tantrum do? Another donation from the NRA?) That type of divisive rhetoric is part of the problem, not part of the solution. Gun owners and gun safety advocates should be able to sit down together, to look for reasonable compromises to end gun violence without resorting to name-calling and intimidation. I think we can agree to disagree on some issues; however, children shooting children is unacceptable. This is about the common good.

Where does the common good trump rights? It’s a good question. When 33,000+ Americans die yearly from gunshot injuries, something needs to be done. When children are shooting each other and themselves weekly or more, something needs to be done. When women and children are at risk for domestic shootings daily, we have a problem that needs addressing. What we are doing now is clearly not working. When young men of color are affected daily by gun deaths and injuries and have easy access to guns, something needs to be done. When the majority of gun deaths are because of suicides, something has to be done.

It’s past time to change the way we deal with gun safety and gun violence. We’ve had #enough. Let’s get to work.