Bullets are flying

flying_bulletYes they are. It’s getting more difficult to explain the gun culture in America. When there is an auto accident and the one at fault gets out of his rolled car and shoots and kills the woman in the other car, we have to wonder what in the h#$% is going on? I just can’t wrap my head around this kind of violence and stupidity. Why did this happen? The accident was enough wasn’t it? Maybe alcohol? Maybe a whole lot of anger directed at the wrong person? Maybe just a gun at the ready to use just in case one causes an accident and needs to get rid of the evidence?

Where is common sense?

But even worse than this is the shooting death of a young mother in Chicago while bullets were flying intended for others:

Nykea Aldridge, 32, a mother of four, was pushing a baby stroller Friday afternoon on Chicago’s South Side when she was shot. Police said she was not the intended target of the shooting. Aldridge’s child was not struck by the gunfire.

Police said the two men charged with murder — Darwin Sorells, 26, and Derren Sorells, 22 — were both on parole and affiliated with the Gangster Disciples gang. They appeared in court Sunday and were ordered held without bail.

This is such an awful tragedy. I watched a news show with an interview of the woman’s mother who talked with tears streaming down her cheeks.

It’s insanity. Yes, the shooters were gang members. Yes a lot of gang members are armed. And yes, they shoot other people. Why? How do they get their guns? Legally? From people who sell guns from the trunk of their cars like these opportunistic gun buyers at a Minneapolis gun buyback?

Or from this guy who was trafficking guns from Indiana into Chicago. Indiana has lax gun laws. Illinois’ laws are stronger. And this man was supplying guns to gangs. From the article:

A suburban Chicago man has been sentenced to nearly 17 years in federal prison for buying hundreds of firearms and high-capacity magazines from gun shows in Indiana and selling them illegally in Chicago. (…) The 24-year-old is from South Holland. He was convicted of dealing firearms without a federal license, illegally transporting firearms across state lines and interstate travel to sell guns without a license.

The woman was doing what she was supposed to be doing on a week-end day- walking a baby in a stroller. Mothers walking their babies in strollers should be safe from stray bullets flying in their neighborhoods.

And let’s address the real problem- guns and the easy access to them. But Presidential candidate Donald Trump doesn’t want to talk about the guns. It’s all about himself and not the victims. He wants votes and thinks he can get them by letting people know that he predicted things like this would happen. He says he can protect people from being shot but he doesn’t say how. Nothing but empty rhetoric seemingly addressed at people of color in neighborhoods like this one in Chicago and in large urban cities all over America.

What about the guns Mr. Trump? What will you do about the guns and the bullets? How will you protect young mothers walking their babies? This great article from the Star Tribune quotes the Chicago Police Chief asking Mr. Trump what his plan is ,if he has one, to stop the killings:

On Monday morning, Trump posted on Twitter about crime in inner cities “reaching record levels,” which is untrue. While killings have increased in major cities across the country this year — as they did last year — crime rates still remain far below what they were just a few decades ago.

Facts matter. Yes we have crime but the rates are lower than they have been for many years. Conflating crime rates with shooting rates is an old trick of the corporate gun lobby used to deflect the real problem with guns and bullets in our country. Shootings are not just about criminals with guns. Some of the gun rights advocates who read my blog tried to tell me that my ex brother-in-law was a criminal because he shot and killed my sister. He was not a criminal until he pulled the trigger and the bullets ended up in my sister’s body. People who commit suicide by gun are not criminals. Small children who find their parents’ guns and shoot their siblings like this incident ( for just one of many) are not criminals. Domestic shootings like my sister’s are not often committed by criminals but by angry, jealous mostly men upset with a spouse or partner trying to leave the relationship.

How will we all protect anyone from an angry divorced guy who decides to shoot bullets into the air in mid-day in the Minneapolis suburb of Eagan? How?  He was shot and killed by police. How do we protect our families from crazies with guns? Why do so many people think they can do things like this in the first place? Without the gun, what would have happened? He would be alive most likely. Was this a suicide by cop? We don’t know. He endangered the lives of many innocent people while shooting those bullets around near the apartment building.

Where are our values when it comes to the ease with which people take another human life and we do nothing about it? Isn’t this something that rises to the top of our agenda? If not, why not?

The fact that I am writing about this and these incidents even happened shows the serious public health and safety problem we are facing. And these are only just a few of thousands happening every year everywhere in America. Note that the apartment tenants in Eagan, Minnesota were surprised that this could have happened in their neighborhood. Don’t people know that with over 300 million guns in America things like this are inevitable? From the article about the Eagan shooting ( above):

The incident shocked residents in what some described as a peaceful neighborhood.

“I am a lifelong Eaganite, and we rarely have an incident like this,” said Jim Carlson, the state senator for District 51, which includes Eagan. Carlson was knocking on doors with a group of volunteers when the shooting erupted nearby.

And yes, those volunteers could have been injured or worse by flying bullets.

When will the gun lobby help out with this? Why do they convince just about everyone that owning a guns is an OK thing without making sure everyone has a background check and proper training to operate a deadly weapon? Why do we have such a cavalier attitude towards deadly weapons? Rights? Why are we not discussing the inherent risk of owning a deadly weapon and making sure they are not only stored safely but that those who have them can be responsible with them? We legislate safety with cars so that everyone has to be trained properly and take a test to get a license. Cars are registered and when transferred to a new owner, paper work is required by the state and kept on file.

What we need is to break down the resistance to sensible measures to make sure we are safe from devastating gun violence in our neighborhoods; and that people who shouldn’t have guns aren’t shooting bullets off with them on the streets in our neighborhoods. I think we can do this. We have done it with many other things we deem to be potentially dangerous to our safety or our health. We sent people to the moon and into outer space. We can figure this out.

Let’s get to work. We’ve had #Enough of the denial and inaction.

UPDATE:

Just after I posted this I saw this article from The Trace which gives us some hope:

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, the gun industry’s top trade group, is partnering for the first time with the leading suicide prevention nonprofit organization in the U.S. The ambitious goal of the collaboration: averting nearly 10,000 deaths over the next decade.

The program, initiated by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, will strive to educate people on the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, and provide guidance on how best to talk to someone who may be considering trying to end his or her own life, says Robert Gebbia, the chief executive of AFSP.

Notably, the program will also recommend blocking family members who are suicidal from accessing firearms by, for example, emphasizing the importance of securely locking guns away. It is not clear whether the AFSP guidance will include specific suggestions about how to remove weapons from potentially suicidal people. The NSSF, which represents thousands of gun dealers and manufacturers, provided input into the program and is also promoting it.

It is past time for this to happen but acknowledging the public health problem of gun suicides is a big step forward from this gun industry leader. We can hope that the corporate gun lobby will follow this group and get involved in reducing and preventing gun deaths. Common sense may just be breaking out.

 

Gun insanity reigns

Open CarryThe political cartoon I have used here is going around on social media. It is a pretty good depiction of what most people think about the guys who openly carry their assault rifles in public to make some kind of point that eludes the sane majority. And it also points to the insanity of our gun culture. Just as gun deaths are going up, so are the attempts to weaken gun laws and “normalize” gun carrying in public. It’s antithetical to the real problem of gun violence in our communities and definitely not what we need.

What we need in our country is a serious national discussion about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities- not the insanity taking place in communities across America. Why is it happening? The answer is important. What or who are these guys afraid of? Their behavior makes no sense given that crime is going down in our country for many reasons. And President Obama has not taken away anyone’s guns during his two terms. The gun lobby has made claims about why we need an armed America but they are specious- not supported by the facts.

On the other hand gun deaths are going up for many reasons. And most of the deaths are suicides or homicides among people who know each other rather than random acts of violence by “the  (feared) other”. People like themselves ( “good guys with guns”) are shooting people on a regular basis intentionally or not (accidents). Shouldn’t we examine what is going on here and then deal with this national public health epidemic in ways that will affect lives and make us safer?

In America I thought we rolled up our sleeves and worked together on things that kill our children, sisters, brothers and friends. Why? Because we don’t want our loved ones dying from something preventable.  Or we engage and rally supporters and the public to educate them about the causes and effects of serious problems and then ask our elected leaders to make changes to laws, if that is what’s needed. Or maybe it’s not a law. Maybe it’s awareness that will lead to changes in behavior that can also save lives or prevent injuries. But the gun lobby has seen fit to prevent research about saving lives due to gun violence. And that is insane and troubling to say the least.

Certainly that is what happened when MADD called attention to the insanity of drunk drivers being responsible for the deaths of their children. Recent changes to our acceptance of same sex couples have led to changes in our marriage laws to allow people to marry who they love. We now recognize that second hand smoke can cause health problems. Public health campaigns encourage cancer screening tests which can save lives. Some of these efforts resulted in laws, others not.

Something interesting is happening with awareness about gun deaths and injuries, much of which changed after the shooting of 20 small children at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. The public is far more engaged on this issue and new polling has shown continued and mostly unchanged support for changes in laws that could save lives. With more groups and organizations pushing for change, it is inevitable that change will happen. But there’s an opposite push by a minority of well funded and increasingly bold gun extremists that makes no sense given the facts. Rather than trying to prevent gun injuries and deaths by highlighting the risks of guns, these zealots are exposing America to an underbelly of extremism that is potentially dangerous and certainly not in the mainstream or the interest of public health and safety.

Meanwhile things are getting crazier and crazier in gun world. What is the deal with the open carry activists anyway? They are pretty much making fools of themselves while also calling attention to the potential dangerous result of laws that have made it possible for gun extremists to carry any kind of gun they want to carry in public places. Our legislators should be re-thinking their favoring of the corporate gun lobby’s nonsensical notion that openly ( or concealed) carrying loaded guns in public places is a good idea. The “proof is in the pudding”.

I don’t have to give all of the examples of permit to carry holders having problems with their guns in public places do I? It’s been written about by me and many others repeatedly. But further, in a civil society not at war citizens don’t carry loaded guns around in public. I’ve traveled in countries where armed military are on the runways at airports or in public places because of unrest and potential violence. Is that us?

Take this confrontation with law enforcement in Abeline, Texas by open carriers. From the article:

Grisham tells officers that he is within his rights to loiter roadside with high-powered weapons. “This is public property,” Grisham says. The cop, however, informs Grisham that he has actually been standing on private property, and that he and his cohorts are guilty of criminal trespassing.

Grisham asks why cops felt compelled to give a warning armed with AR-15s. When police pointed out Grisham too was in possession of a large weapon, he dismissed the concern since the gun was “on [his] back.”

“I’m a law-abiding citizen. I’m minding my own business,” Grisham complains to police. “Do you know why I’m feeling this way right now?”

“I feel threatened,” Grisham explains loudly, “because you are a police officer and you have people with rifles here that are threatening me.”

Grisham and his partners in crime elected to leave rather than escalate their dispute with law enforcement. But when he gets to his car — a silver minivan with an Open Carry Texas logo on the front driver’s side door — Grisham turns back toward cops to shout at them first before getting in. “You guys wanna come up on us like we’re some sorta terrorists, then I’m gonna respond in kind,” Grisham yells toward police, before exchanging a few more tense words, and driving off.

That last utterance from Grisham pretty much says it all doesn’t it? What kind of sane person who doesn’t want to call attention to himself or who isn’t looking for a confrontation does this? Grisham has had his problems with the law. When the new carry law is enacted in Texas will he even be able to carry a pistol legally? From the article:

That being said, it seems like Mr. Watkins and Open Carry Texas leader CJ Grisham, two men who’ve dedicated much of their adult lives to being radical anti-government wackos fighting for gun rights in Texas, might finally be getting their wish as a current proposal would pave the way for Texans to openly carry handguns. There’s just one slight catch – neither man would qualify to do so under the proposed law. Under current laws anyone convicted of a Class A or B misdemeanor is prohibited from carrying concealed handguns for 5 years, and anyone arrested on either of those charges loses their concealed license until the case is resolved. Well it just so happens that Grisham was arrested during a hike carrying an AR-15 and charged with interfering with an officer’s duties, while Watkins was arrested this past September while he and his group of anti-government activists were out harassing police officers in Arlington, Texas. It’s believed that the requirements under this new proposal would mirror the state’s current laws concerning concealed handgun licenses, which means that if convicted, neither Grisham or Watkins would be allowed to openly carry handguns for at least 5 years. Naturally, neither man believes that any form of license should be required to carry guns. As always they’ll cite the “shall not be infringed” fragment of the Second Amendment – while completely ignoring the whole “well regulated” part at the very beginning.

These are the “law abiding” “good guys” with guns who are promoting ever more lax gun laws so that they can do whatever they want with their guns. People can’t do whatever they want with anything in our country. We have laws for a reason. That’s a democracy in action.

The Open Carry nonsense is gaining traction- but not for the reasons the Open Carry folks want. Check out this parody about Open Carry on a recent Daily Show segment. The Texas pool party incident that has everyone talking took on a different meaning looking at it through the lens of satire about Open Carry. And can we talk about the totally different reaction by one set of Texas police officers towards mostly black teens in a disturbance at a swimming pool and another set of Texas police officers towards a bunch of insane men carrying assault rifles and yelling at and harassing the officers?

Something is wrong in America.

Here’s another “law abiding” good guy with a gun waiting to break a law. I thought that was just for criminals. Remember another gun lobby myth- that if we make stronger gun laws, the criminals won’t follow them anyway. Based on that mythical analysis we should not have any laws I guess. But I digress. An Open Carry Missouri activist, looking all “svelt” decked out in his finest, decided that the law about not allowing people with guns in his local zoo was just not for him:

In April, Open Carry activists marched on the Ohio State university campus to ‘educate’ kids attending school there. When a man named John informed the group that children as young as 5-years-old will be attending dance classes nearby, and politely requested that those participating leave their weapons in their vehicles until right before the walk, Jeffry Smith declined.

He said, “If children are scared, then it is because they’ve been socialized to be so.”

“It’s a zoo, not an amusement park. It’s a zoological institution. The difference between the zoo and Six Flags is that the zoo is public,” Smith said.

Under Missouri law, guns are prohibited in amusement parks, but Smith questions if the zoo is actually categorized as one. (…) The St. Louis Zoo said that it bans all weapons.

I guess when you are a white guy with an AR-15 and a pistol on your hip,you can do anything you dang well please with that gun. And why do people need guns in zoos? Maybe a peacock will get out of control and attack? Or a lion could escape I suppose. Or worse- a bear. I mean, we have bears and deer in my  back yard regularly where I live but I don’t need my gun to get rid of them nor would I use it that way. Or armed at an amusement park? You just never know when you might get stuck at the top of the ferris wheel and need to shoot yourself to safety. Insanity.

No, this guy is just strutting and showing off because he thinks he can. He mistakenly believes that his second amendment rights include doing anything he wants with his guns. And he believes that we should just socialize everyone to love having people like him around everywhere we go. And as for the kids, they will learn that we are a country at war with ourselves over gun rights- a war not seen anywhere else in the world. Wars in other parts of the world are where people actually get killed with those AR-15s or loaded guns in public. Oh right……..Sandy Hook. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Gabby Giffords. Aurora Theater…………..

Or there’s the NRA’s own Ted Nugent exclaiming on his Facebook page that President Obama should be assassinated. He’s done this before, of course, and got the attention of the Secret Service. One day, his rantings just may result in a tragedy. Do these folks actually think through what they are saying or is the fear and paranoia real? Hard to tell. Nugent is a performer- and a bad one at that.

So how to counter this insanity? Here’s an idea from a University of North Dakota professor that is worth considering. Refusing to enter an eating establishment or other business that allows folks with openly carried weapons inside is one thing. Walking out without paying may work, it may not. The businesses are stuck with the laws in their states but most could post signs that say guns are not allowed or welcomed inside. But the gun rights extremists say they can and will ignore those signs and carry anyway. The laws are not meant for them. Insanity reigns.

The thing is, a civil society is a society where people help each other and care about each other enough to not to harm or inflict violence on others. Certainly having guns openly carried discourages the idea of civility. How can one have a serious conversation with someone displaying an AR-15 over their shoulder? And why an assault rifle? There is a clear message sent by the carrier of these guns. Don’t mess with me. “Molon Labe”- come and take it. We get the message. It’s flawed and full of potential problems. Our message is that we don’t want you carrying these guns around with you in places where our families hang out. Leave them at home where you can use them for self defense, or um,  for whatever people think they need them. 

As I said before, we need a serious national discussion that is beginning to happen in spite of efforts to stop it ( by the corporate gun lobby). There are films and plays in the works. There are publications and studies. There are protests. There are blogs and new web sites. There are Tweets and Facebook pages and new studies showing consistent support for common sense when it comes to stronger gun laws.

June is gun violence awareness month. June 21st is ASK day encouraging parents to ask about loaded unsecured guns in homes where their children play. We have had more than enough incidents of kids “accidentally” killing kids to know how important it is to ASK. On June 22nd, HBO will run a documentary about gun violence victims. titled “Requiem for the Dead”.  The film is full of incidents taken from news media reports and Facebook and Twitter links to actual deaths of real people. As long as real people die every day, these kinds of films will be important as a documentation of the facts.

Please join me in efforts to take the insanity out of our gun culture and gun laws. Too many people are dying every day. What we need are cool, sane, calm and reasonable voices with the facts at hand if we are to influence the decisions made about gun policy. Lives depend on our getting this right.

UPDATE:

I am updating this post to include this blog post by Mike the Gun Guy. It’s all about the appearance of Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign on Sean Hannity’s FOX news show the other night. From the blog:

But nice-sounding platitudes aside, I find it interesting that someone as pro-gun as Hannity would give Dan Gross an opportunity to appear before a large Fox audience to prove, if nothing else, that he’s not Lucifer in disguise.  Because although Hannity threw in a couple of red-meat comments that are de rigueur on Fox when anyone mentions guns, such as his fear of the ‘slippery slope’ of gun control, he basically let Dan tell the audience how much gun owners had in common with supporters of the Brady Campaign, which is entirely contrary to what usually erupts from the NRA.

Ever since the Brady law was voted in 1994, the NRA and other pro-gun groups have kept up a steady drumbeat of anti-Brady commentary designed to convince gun owners that any expansion of background checks is nothing short of a conspiracy to take away all guns.  Here’s a typical comment from the NRA in 2013 after Brady mounted a video to mark the 20th anniversary of the original background-check law:  “The Brady Campaign’s proposed expansion of federal background checks would force even many family and friends to get government permission for firearm transfers amongst each other and subject all lawful gun transfers to federal paperwork and recordkeeping requirements, the prerequisites for a national registry.”  Of course this statement is simply untrue, but it plays directly into the old slippery-slope gun control nonsense that Hannity found necessary to mention on the show.

I have been saying recently that the smartest thing Brady and Everytown have done is to move into the safety space which until now was owned lock, stock and barrel (pardon the pun) by the NRA. But while everyone’s in favor of safety, there’s one safety issue which puts the two sides as far apart as the Brand Canyon’s rims, and Hannity gave it away when he said that no matter how many laws were passed to prevent guns from getting into the ‘wrong hands,’ criminals wouldn’t obey laws anyway, so what was the point of passing more laws?

The pro-gun community falls back on this argument every time that any new measure is proposed that would increase regulation of guns.  The problem is that if we only passed laws that criminals would obey, there wouldn’t be any laws at all. Which is actually what the pro-gun community would prefer as regards gun ownership, particularly when a Democrat happens to be renting living space at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C.

You may remember that I wrote something very similar earlier in this post. It’s true. Another gun lobby myth that doesn’t hold water. It’s time, as I have said before, to de-mythify the gun lobby arguments so we can deal with the facts when dealing with saving lives.