Home for the holidays

It’s always hard to write at this time of the year knowing that so many people will not be at home for the holidays- not at anyone’s home. At the end of the year, the news is not really good is it? A Government shut-down and an unpredictable and unhinged President causing the markets to tank right before the Christian holiday of Christmas. The retirement in protest of our Secretary of Defense, causing shock waves the world over. Common sense has flown the coop, so to speak.

And to add to the chaos and bad news, gun death rates are up to a level not seen in a long long time. The CDC is keeping track. The latest numbers show that our nation’s lax gun laws and our gun culture are contributing to the pile of bodies getting higher and higher. Gun suicides take the most lives followed by homicides and then unintentional shootings. Most if not all are preventable and senseless.

Our leaders are adding to the chaos and the problems by not having the spine to stand up to the corporate gun lobby and its’ minions who cry stupid things like: Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

Well yes. Too true. And the point of this nonsensical myth that is pushed?

Guns make it all too easy and too quick. An “ordinary” argument between two people can turn deadly in a second when a gun is involved. Anger and guns don’t go together. Domestic disputes and guns don’t go together. Young men with mass shootings on their minds don’t go together with guns. Alcohol and drugs and guns don’t go together. Dangerous mental illness and guns don’t go together. Children and guns don’t go together.

But together is where we find the collision that leads to senseless gun deaths and injuries. We have a public health epidemic. If almost 40,000 people died from auto accidents, wouldn’t we do something? Oh right, we did. If tens of thousands died from smoking and second- hand smoke wouldn’t we do something? Oh right, we did. If we knew that lettuce caused Salmonella, wouldn’t we do something? Oh right… If baby toys have parts that come off easily and can lead to choking deaths, wouldn’t we do something? Oh right again.

So what is it about gun violence that paralyzes us? Fear of the gun lobby? Yes. Fear of not being elected again? Yes. Fear of the mythical power of the gun extremists? Yes. Fear to challenge the current conversation around gun violence? Yes. Fear of having guns taken away ( by the gun rights extremists)? Yes. Being uninformed about the facts? Yes. Fear of compromise? Yes. Fear of having difficult conversations? Yes. Fear of the second amendment? Yes.

All of these and more. But we aren’t having it any more. Gun safety reform or gun violence prevention is on the front burner. Too many mass shootings and too many daily accounts of deadly disputes and too many families affected by shooting deaths is leading to a different conversation.

Too many gun owners are sick and tired of the fear and paranoia coming from the gun lobby. Too many gun owners are also sick of the devastation of gun violence and don’t like to be lumped in with the extremists who refuse to do anything.

As it turns out, it’s almost unanimous that we want our leaders to pass stronger gun laws. 97% after the Parkland shooting! That many Americans can’t agree on anything else

There are common sense solutions to our public health epidemic. And they will be pursued vigorously. In the name of our family members and friends and the far too many victims, we will continue to demand action to stop the carnage.

Not all solutions involve legislation. Awareness of the risks of guns to gun owners must become the new narrative to save lives. The Brady Campaign’s End Family Fire is a new way to talk about this. ASKing if there is an unsecured loaded gun in the homes where your children and teens play and hang out can save lives from gun deaths. Safely storing guns to keep them away from children, teens and from being stolen can save lives. Most school shooters get their guns from home.

And the big thing is changing the conversation and the narrative around the role of guns and gun violence in our country full of guns and gun violence.

You can’t know what’s like to not have a loved one be home with you for the holidays because their life was snuffed out in a violent and unexpected shooting unless suddenly you do. In case you think this can’t happen to you, think again. In case you think a mass shooting or a domestic shooting can’t happen to someone you know or love, think again. In case you think your teen-aged child or elderly parent won’t find a loaded gun and take their own life, think again. In case you think your brother or father or sister, home after serving our country in the military won’t suffer from PTSD and decide to use a loaded gun to end it all, think again.

One person in my family will be missing for the holidays because she was shot and killed in a domestic shooting. Her grandchildren never got to meet her. They will only know of her through photos and stories. She was vibrant, beautiful, talented, smart, unafraid to speak out and unafraid to fight for herself. And now we are without her.

Parents of young children and teens whose lives have been ended by bullets will never know the potential of that child or teen. Lives lost are lost potential and future contributions to society. Gun violence has a ripple effect and about now, we are all affected by the violence because we can’t avoid what is going on around us.

I wish my readers and followers a happy holiday and safe travels if you are going home for the holidays or if your family is coming home to you. I also wish a safe and peaceful Christmas free of shootings. One year, when we pass stronger gun laws and stop being afraid of the corporate gun lobby, that will be possible.

A place at the table

It’s the day before Thanksgiving. We are at our cabin for a family Thanksgiving and we will enjoy sliding, hiking in the snow, snowshoeing and just hanging out as a family. It’s long time since the shooting death of my sister. We think of her at holiday times knowing that there will be a place for her in our hearts but not at our table. It has become the new normal for her grown kids and their children to have Thanksgiving without her.

But we are all thankful for our full and happy lives in spite of her being missing from the table.

Many victims and survivors will be having a sad Thanksgiving this year because a loved one was shot and killed. The latest mass shooting ( it’s ridiculous that we even have to mention the latest mass shooting) in Thousand Oaks, CA has left 13 families and many friends without a person who they expected to be at their Thanksgiving table. And to add literal insult to injury, many had to evacuate the area because of the wild fires:

Throughout the day, I drove all over the region talking to the gunman’s neighbors and to survivors, including some who had already survived a previous mass shooting. It was the second mass shooting I had reported on within the span of three weeks. And once again it was a huge story, with around-the-clock television coverage. (…)  Then, just after 3 a.m., I awoke to a voice on a gurgly loudspeaker: “We are under mandatory evacuation orders. Please collect your bags and exit immediately.” (…) It took several minutes for me to realize I had been in the same parking lot earlier that day, looking for loved ones of those who died at the Borderline Bar. Few there wanted to speak with me. As one worker put it, “It really can’t get much worse.”
An hour or so later, it did. As I drove down the 101 Freeway, flames were easily visible from both sides. Thousands of people were evacuated from Thousand Oaks, including those who had survived the shooting the night before. It was even worse in the northern part of the state, where an inferno trapped people trying to escape in their cars, likely killing hundreds.

Should not a mass shooting be enough for one area to experience? The trauma to so many people will cause them pain and suffering for many years. 

And our President has done nothing to help heal the area with his crass and insensitive remarks about the devastation from the fire by trying to blame those affected. The idea that raking the “floor of the forest” would have prevented the fires is both ridiculous and preposterous and has been roundly criticized by Americans and Finns. ( Using the Finnish President as his foil, he claimed that he told him (Trump) that they take care of their forests by raking the floors of the forest- and then called it forestation as if he knew exactly what that meant. There are really no words for this debacle,

The Finns have a sense of humor at least and saw this disturbing behavior for what it was. Take a look at the photos and tweets from some of them.

In addition, along the lines of nonsensical comments from Trump,  I’m sure he would have claimed that if only one of those students had been armed while dancing and enjoying themselves at a local bar this tragedy could have been averted. I’m sure he knew that the first 2 victims were security guards? 

Soon after the Thousand Oaks shooting, a man decided to shoot up a Yoga studio where innocent women were shot and killed:

According to police, Scott Paul Beierle, 40, walked into Hot Yoga Tallahassee on Friday evening and opened fire, killing two people and wounding five others before turning the gun on himself. (…) According to The New York Times, Beierle was sympathetic toward Elliot Rodger, who killed six people and wounded 14 others in 2014 near the University of California, Santa Barbara. Rodger had written a manifesto in which he lamented his virginity, which he blamed on the “cruelness of women.”
Beierle said that as an adolescent he could relate to “this endless wasteland that breeds this longing and this frustration,” The New York Times reported.
He recounted a string of instances in which he was personally rejected.

He shot himself as well. He was able to get a gun easily because that’s the way it is in America. Guns=shootings.

And then after that a domestic dispute ended in a mass shooting at Chicago area hospital killing the intended victim, an Emergency Room physician and others.  

And then after that there were several shootings in Minnesota of a pregnant woman and a Pokemon Go player minding their own business.

And after that 1 was shot dead and 4 injured in downtown Denver.

And then there is a new (Neo-Nazi) video game that allows players to kill GLBTQ people:

As reported by the Angry White Men blog, one of the game’s levels involves shooting people inside a gay club called “LGBTQ+ Agenda HQ.” The action is strongly reminiscent of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, in June 2016 when 49 people were killed.
Another mission involves killing journalists inside the offices of the “Fake News Network,” a reference to the term Trump uses to attack media organizations such as CNN. The New York offices of CNN were recently sent a pipe bomb as part of an alleged plot targeting Trump critics and key Democrat figures, including former president Barack Obama and former secretary of state Hilary Clinton.

Disgusting and frightening. Is this the America we deserve?

You can’t make these scenarios up.

After the recent mass shooting, and particularly the Thousand Oaks shooting, the CEO of the Toms shoe company decided to have a seat at the table of gun safety reform. In an appearance with Jimmy Fallon he announced that he would be contributing millions to organizations working on gun violence prevention. 

Notice the emotion about the Thousand Oaks shooting shown by Blake Mycoskie when he realized that this latest of our nation’s mass shootings was too close for comfort.

Here’s the thing. Shootings are happening everywhere at anytime. No one is safe. More guns is not the answer. That is clear because the number of victims of gun violence is rising, not decreasing. Americans are waking up to the reality of our gun culture. It’s not a culture. It’s tyranny according to the author (Jack Holmes) of this piece:


This is the America we have made for ourselves. You can survive one mass shooting—an unprecedented atrocity which left 59 dead and 527 wounded—only to find yourself the victim in another one because you chose the wrong bar on the wrong night to go dancing with your friends. If you’re an American, you can be shot anywhere: at school, at the mall, at a concert, at the movie theater. To be an American is to know that when you venture outside, you have a better chance than the citizen of any other country in the developed world of being shot by a complete and total stranger with easy access to incredibly powerful weaponry. (…) That’s why the response from the NRA and their Republican allies after every mass shooting is that no measure that would restrict the number of guns sold will work. Nothing that would deem certain citizens unworthy of gun ownership—a history of violence, worrying signs of mental illness—can be made disqualifying by an act of Congress. The only solution, they tell us, is more guns. We should arm teachers. We should have armed guards. We should all be armed, even in bars. Did you notice all these solutions lead to gun manufacturers selling more guns? The desired outcome is a relentlessly militarized society, where every citizen must be armed at all times to ensure their own safety, and you can shoot someone who scares you in the supermarket parking lot. (…) Should the women at that Tallahassee yoga studio have been strapped while they assumed the Downward Dog? Should the college kids at the Thousand Oaks’ Borderline Bar & Grill have all brought their own weapons, pawing at the safety while they danced to Jason Aldean, waiting for the would-be mass murderer to enter so…everyone could shoot through the packed crowd back at him? After the Texas shooting, gun fanatics held up the case of two men who confronted the shooter outside with AR-15s of their own as evidence that the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. This was held up as a positive scenario, of America’s Gun Culture Working: that a man with a history of violence shot 26 people to death in the pews of a church, but that two other guys with guns stopped him killing even more. (…) No, like all the great American marketing tactics, it’s rooted in breathless deception. The gun is no antidote to the fear. The gun is the fear. Its proponents hold it up as the last line of defense against a tyrannical government. Never mind that even an AR-15 won’t be much use against a dedicated military force equipped with tanks and Predator drones. It is a fantasy peddled by people who spend their whole lives trumpeting their love of freedom, and hold it up as the only legitimate value in a democracy. A world where everyone could be out to get you, and you can’t leave your house unarmed, is not a free world. It is tyranny.

This is what we have become. A country where regular mass shootings shock us into tears and immobility to do anything. But this is not true. We can do something and we will. More and more people are asking for a seat at the table. Corporations, health care providers, students, educators, gun owners, people of color, GLBTQ Americans, religious organizations, faith leaders, victims. We are all in this together. Shootings are #inour lane

The name of my blog is commongunsense for a reason. Common sense will prevail. When those who agree that stronger gun laws and changing the conversation about guns and gun violence away from what has been the corporate gun lobby led narrative join the table, we can and will save lives. That is the bottom line. That is what this is all about.

Too many families are missing loved ones at their Thanksgiving tables. They should be at the table but suddenly and violently they were killed. Others will unfortunately join the club of victims and survivors. 

Moving forward, we must demand that our lapdog politicians join the table and the conversation. We must make sure that all have a seat at the table if they truly care about our public health epidemic.

Have a happy Thanksgiving and join us at the table. We know that shootings will not take a holiday but I hope for safety for your families.

Shootings at work

Laptop Screen with Safety Database Concept.Are you safe from a shooting while at work?

In the last 24 hours there have been 3 shootings at a place of work. Disgruntled employee? Get a gun? Domestic dispute? Get a gun and go to the place of work where person with whom you are in a relationship works and shoot her/him and others.

No problem. Easy access to guns makes this all possible.

In Minnesota the worst workplace shooting happened on September 27th, 2012. The anniversary of the Accent Signage shooting is coming right up.

Family and friends will be have to face the memories of that deadly day and relive the experience as they have for the past 6 years. Four were murdered. The gunman shot himself and died at the scene. Four were injured, and one of the injured died later.

I have come to know some of the victims’ family members. We are bound together now because we are in a unique club of people whose family members have been senselessly murdered by bullets.

It’s hard to move on from your own memories when the shootings continue as a reminder.

In the last 24 hours there have been 3 workplace shootings.

In Wisconsin, a man walked into a software company and shot and injured 4. He was shot by police at the scene.

In Aberdeen, Maryland, 3 innocent people were shot dead at a Rite Aid distribution center. 4 were injured and the shooter shot herself and later died. It is unusual for the shooter to be a female but not unusual for some sort of problem to end in a deadly shooting. The woman was a temporary employee. I’m sure we will learn more about her and maybe what led to the shooting.

From the above linked article:

“It’s very real. You don’t know where it’s going to happen, who it’s going to happen to. It’s just very scary and I just pray for all of them. They will need all the strength they can muster to get through this,” said neighbor Brigitte Kent. “You don’t know what’s going on in her mind, and a lot of times you don’t know. You don’t see any type of warning signs to watch for. People just suffer in silence.”

Another woman who lives in the neighborhood spoke with 11 News, but did not want to be identified.

“What makes someone do something like that? What is it? Twenty six years old. You haven’t done anything at 26. Nothing at all at 26,” the neighbor said. “Every time you hear something, it comes closer to somebody else’s home, somebody else’s school, workplace. It comes closer. It’s right here! I had no clue that her family lived this close.”

You don’t know where it’s going to happen. It’s more than scary. It is a serious national public health and safety epidemic left ignored by our leaders at all levels of government. Why? The question has to be asked and answers must come.

But I digress. There was a third shooting at a workplace- this time in a Pennsylvania court building lobby. Four were injured and the gunman shot and killed by law enforcement:

Fayette County District Attorney Richard Bower said the gunman walked up to the building, which houses the office of District Magistrate Daniel Shimshock, and shot a Masontown police officer in a lobby and then shot two men and a woman.

Another police officer from the German Township police department who ran into the building then shot the suspect several times, and the suspect died from his wounds, officials said.

The suspect was charged with strangulation, assault and other charges stemming from a domestic incident several weeks ago and he was due to have a hearing on Wednesday, Bower said.

A presumably armed officer was shot and injured. The suspect clearly should not have had access to a gun but in America, it’s easy to get one no matter who you are or how dangerous you could be with a deadly weapon.

Speaking of courthouse shootings and domestic shootings, the aunt of a friend of mine was shot and killed at the Hennepin County courthouse by a woman who should not have had access to a gun. That anniversary is coming up on September 29th. It’s been 15 years since that shooting happened and still her family members grieve and relive the day they got the news. From the article:

“The evidence shows that defendant Berkovitz came into the Hennepin County Government Center that morning with a loaded gun, and with obsessive resentment against the two victims,” says Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar.

The complaint details a scene where Berkovitz waited on the 17th floor with a century-old loaded gun she’d bought this past summer at a gun show — a .38-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver she’d learned to use by shooting target practice. Kordell and Hendrickson appear to have had safety concerns when they arrived that morning. The two asked a security officer to accompany them to the 17th floor, which he did.

Lori Wachter, Hendrickson’s sister, said her brother was concerned about Berkovitz. “He did mention her and we called her the ‘crazy lady’ because she was harassing him quite a bit,” she said. “He did screen his calls. So when we’d call him, we’d always get the answering machine, and when he found out it was us calling, he would answer and start talking. That’s all we knew about her.”

Seriously- where is common sense? Why do have to keep writing about these shootings? Why has nothing happened? Why do I have to keep asking that?

You may remember another recent workplace shooting. A gunman shot up innocent people at a newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland in June. 

5 were left dead and 3 injured. The gunman was apprehended.

The victims and survivors are crying out for change. The country is asking for stronger gun laws. Congress looks the other way. The corporate gun lobby is lapping at their feet yelling that gun laws won’t change anything.

They are wrong. They are spineless. They are cowards in the face of money and influence.

Until we get serious and extend and pass a stronger Brady background check law to insist that all gun sales get a background check, we will have shootings. Until we pass Extreme Risk Protection Order laws that will keep guns away from people who could be a danger to themselves or others, we will have shootings. Until we admit that every gun owner needs training before they walk away from a gun sale, we will have shootings. Until we make sure all guns are safely secured to keep them out of the hands of children, teens and from those who steal them from homes, we will have shootings. (ASK campaign) Until we admit that there are risks to owning guns and having them around in the home, we will have more shootings (End Family Fire).  Until we allow the necessary research into the causes and effects of gun violence, we will have shootings. Until we allow victims to bring lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers who are irresponsible, we will have shootings. Until we enforce the laws already on the books, we will have shootings.

Until our elected leaders stop being lapdogs for the gun industry, we will have shootings.

We are better than this.

Guns and the midterm elections

FrightenedThe primary election in my state is history now. Many Democrats who have decided it is in their best interest to support reasonable gun safety reform were elected. I am happy about this. All over the country, (mostly) Democrats ran on the issue of guns safety reform or at the least decided not to run away from it:

 

 

 

“To win campaigns you need to have candidates who are their district. And so candidates should most certainly talk about the economic issues that we face,” said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), the head of the Democrats’ gun-violence prevention task force. “But they also need to talk about things that are important to the people they want to represent, and keeping your kids alive is certainly one of those issues.”

Minnesota candidates for Governor in the primary election ran on the gun issue or changed their minds about their previous positions to get elected. The candidate who had the worst record on gun safety reform and an A rating from the NRA came in third- for many reasons but her A rating did not sit well with Minnesotans. From the article:

“I’ve always gotten an F from the NRA, and Minnesotans need to know who is going to stand with them on this issue,” Murphy said in the final pre-primary ­debate this week.

Walz has said he has evolved on the gun issue and always been a pro-labor liberal on other issues. “The NRA you see now is not the NRA when they were teaching us gun safety classes when we were growing up,” he told the state news website MinnPost last year. On the trail, he says his experience attracting votes in a part of the state that little resembles the urban center of Minneapolis will help him not just win, but build consensus when he does.

The race heated up with the last-minute candidacy of Lori Swanson, the state’s longtime attorney general, who usually received positive NRA ratings. Dogged by accusations over whether she politicized her office, Swanson does not portray herself as a moderate; her final ad blitz includes one accusing Walz of failing to “stand up to Trump” by skipping House votes, and a super PAC supporting her campaign has sent out mail that pairs the years of Walz’s NRA endorsements with the years of deadly school shootings.

Tim Walz won the primary. He will need to stand firm and have a spine.

The Minnesota gun rights  folks ran this dark ad against Joe Radinovich who won the 8th Congressional district DFL primary. It’s so full of bull puckey I hardly know where to start. But this is the fear and paranoia that the NRA is instilling in its’ members and the false attacks we can expect from now until November.

Eek- a mouse! Run.

Joe and his family have been touched by gun violence in a major way. He owns guns, he hunts but he understands that gun safety reform does not lead to gun confiscation and registration as is claimed because he has common sense. He also knows that gun safety reform and gun rights are not mutually exclusive.

Joe’s opponent Pete Stauber, “having been grazed by a bullet in the head as a police officer” is running on gun rights. 

Go figure.

When Mr. Stauber was a police officer, he came to a vigil held by our chapter a few years ago. He rang the bell for officers who had been shot and injured or killed while in the line of duty. More guns have not made police officers feel safer. This year is no exception to the shootings of officers in the line of duty.

Let’s see how much corporate money Mr. Stauber will take from the NRA.

The thing is, officers would be safer if common sense gun laws were passed. Requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales would keep guns away from those who should not have them in the first place. Tightening up straw purchasing and trafficking laws would keep guns out of the hands of many who should not have them. Passing Extreme Risk Protection Orders would allow for law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from those who could be a danger to themselves or others ( including officers). Many deaths of officers come when answering calls about domestic abuse. These are among the most dangerous calls for officers, not to mention the women on the other side of that gun.

Safe storage of guns is also a key ingredient to preventing shootings and keeping stolen guns from getting onto the streets of our communities. There is so much that can be done to save lives without stepping on the rights of people to own guns if they are responsible and law abiding. I wrote about this in my last post.

It’s such a simple thing that can save lives and talking about this and the risk of guns in homes is not something from which to run but something that must be talked about in order to change the culture and the conversation. Candidates who speak honestly about keeping our kids and families safe will win elections.

On election night I spoke with a group of Democrats about this and mentioned for how many decades I had personally been working to get the party to embrace what the majority of Minnesotans and American voters have said they want. Many thousands of us have been diligently working with our own elected leaders to give them a spine about the issue of gun safety reform. It is beginning to work.

Republicans are running on opposing any gun safety reform life saving measures. If you think this seems perverse, you are right. Why would this be? What is the problem with life saving measures that will both keep us safe and allow law abiding Americans to have guns if they so choose?

Oh yes, the NRA is the Republican party.

The Republican party is afraid of the corporate gun lobby which is now enmeshed in the national scandal involving a Russian women, Maria Butina,, who infiltrated the NRA. Oh, and then there’s the issue of Russian money in the NRA coffers. Oh, and then there’s the problems with the NRA providing insurance to gun carriers ( Carry Guard) just in case, you know, a shooting happens while you are carrying a gun.

And this is who some of our lawmakers fear?

Get a spine.

The corporate gun lobby hides behind the second amendment whenever a bill or a suggest measure comes before their leadership. They pretend they might support such measures as in 2013 when Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey thought they had support for a watered down bill to require background checks on all gun sales.  They were blind -sided by the fake NRA support of the bill and have been afraid to bring it up again because…….. lapdog politicians who have no spine.

In the wake of the murder of 20 first graders and 6 educators at Sandy Hook elementary school, the Senate lacked the backbone to do the right thing.

The cynicism and spineless fear of the NRA continues in the wake of the Parkland shooting that came on the heels of the Las Vegas and Sutherland, Texas church shooting. Trump uttered empty words and nothing happened.

This is the country we have but not the country we want or deserve. This is the country that weakened our gun laws (spineless politicians) so just about anyone can carry a gun around wherever they go under the auspices of self protection. And yet, every day, irresponsible gun owners make deadly and serious decisions about how to use their guns.

This is the country where a silly argument about Aretha Franklin ( after her death yesterday) can lead to a shooting.

Without that gun, an argument would have been an argument. With that gun, an argument could have been deadly.

Thanks NRA and spineless politicians.

This is not who we are but at the moment, as long as certain of our elected leaders have no spine to stand up the corporate NRA and other gun rights groups, shootings will continue unabated. As long as certain of our elected leaders run away from what the majority of us want, we will see senseless and avoidable shootings.

Common sense has been replaced by fear and complacency. I don’t think Americans are going to let this happen in the long term. The Trump Presidency has made spineless politicians look like the cowards and controlling people they are. But it has also brought new energy to the Democrats who are standing up strong and tall for what is right and good about our country.

#Enough

We can prevent senseless shootings

GVAToday is the 19th anniversary of the shooting at a Los Angeles Jewish Community Center that injured 3 children, a teen counselor and an office worker, 

People and kids just going about their daily lives when a White Supremacist opened fire. It was the shooting that propelled the Million Mom March as its’ founder Donna Dees Thomases watched in horror as those young children were led away from the scene holding on each other’s hands. 

”It was too much to bear,” she said this week at her home in this wealthy suburban community. ”This is what life has become in America. You can’t send your kids to nursery school anymore and expect them to be safe.”

A few days after the shootings, Ms. Dees-Thomases turned her emotions into action. She scribbled a strategy on the back of an envelope: a plan to send thousands of mothers to Washington to pressure legislators into enacting tougher gun legislation. A week later, she applied to the National Park Service to hold the Million Mom March on May 14.

”We can’t just be sitting around our kitchens, crying about gun violence,” she said. ”We have to do something.”

Senseless. What was this man doing with a gun?

Over my years of advocacy I have met the parents of one of the children and of the teen girl involved in the shooting. They have also become activists and remain so even after their children are adults.

But the trauma never goes away. The memories are always there. That is the insidious nature of gun violence. The ripple effects spread widely and affect many.

In my last post, I wrote about my sister’s shooting death anniversary on Aug. 5th. It has been 26 years for me. For others it has not been as long. Here are just a few other August shootings that we ought to remember if we care about victims and their families and the devastation of gun violence in our families and communities:

On August 5th, 2012 six innocent people were killed and 3 injured by bullets in a hate crime shooting at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. 

This was another hate shooting. What was this man doing with a gun?

On August 6th, 1996 the daughter of a friend of mine in Duluth was shot and killed by her estranged husband as his anger increased over an ended relationship. Alcohol was a factor as well as the rage of a husband or partner when a woman is leaving him. This is the story we read far too often in local media reports. It is my story. It is the story of my friend. It is the story of thousands of Americans.

Why did he have a gun? It was too easy to buy one with no background check at a local Walmart store.

And on August 26th Alison Parker and Adam Ward were shot and killed on live TV as they were reporting a story for a CBS affiliate in Roanoke, Virginia. I have come to know Alison’s parents. They have been amazing advocates for common sense in the memory of their beautiful young daughter. The wounds are deep for them as they have lived around the hole left by their daughter’s untimely and violent death. Alison’s boyfriend, Chris Hurst ran on a platform of gun violence prevention and won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. He will not be a lapdog for the gun lobby.

Why did this shooter have a gun?

Of course there are others. The Gun Violence Archive is keeping track. If you check out this report from the last 72 hours, you can see the long list of shootings all over our country and it’s only August 10th.

These incidents happen every day of every month. It’s an American tragedy.

Why remember these shootings or any shootings for that matter? The gun lobby wants us to forget that this many people are shot and killed on a regular basis because then we might go away and stop pushing for reasonable laws to stop the carnage.

The corporate gun lobby has no common sense when it comes to guns and gun violence. That is becoming increasingly obvious as we learn more about the involvement of the NRA in the Russian meddling into our 2016 Presidential election. Apparently anything goes for the organization that was supposed to be supporting law abiding gun owners.

Who are they? It’s past time to expose the gun lobby’s single focus on suppressing any talk of or actions that would lead to saving lives by supporting lapdog politicians who will do their bidding. Things are changing however as candidates have decided they can run on the issue of common sense gun legislation and win. That’s because the public has finally had #enough and the accumulation of bodies from mass shootings is more than we can take.

On 8/8/18 the Brady Center released its’ new campaign called End Family Fire.

End Family Fire is about safe storage of guns. The thing is, too many people are not responsible with deadly weapons. Check out this story about the campaign:

The new campaign, “End Family Fire,” begins on Wednesday and aims to educate the public on the importance of safe firearm storage. “Family fire,” a phrase created for the campaign, refers to shootings that cause injury or death and involve improperly stored or misused guns found in the home.

“We want everyone who is driving down the street, listening to the radio, watching TV, to hear this term, to go to our website and to internalize what family fire is,” said Kris Brown, a president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the gun control organization leading a coalition of groups behind the campaign, which it produced in partnership with the Ad Council, the nonprofit.

Watch one of the videos:

8 children a day are killed or injured by guns. Is that the America we want? The answer, of course is a resounding NO. But what are we going to do?

The narrative must change in order for the issue to change our elected leaders and also our national conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our American society. This campaign is like MADD and the campaign on second hand smoke. They both changed the culture, the conversation and the laws. Social norm change comes slowly and while we are waiting, people are dying.

We just can’t afford to let that happen.

Another anniversary

photo of BarbaraEvery year on this day, I write a memorial to my sister, Barbara Lund. I try not to dwell on the day my sister was murdered by her estranged husband. It was a day that changed the “age of innocence” about gun violence for our family. I mean, really, who ever thinks that a family member will be shot to death? My sister was in her second marriage but trying to get out of it after more than 20 years together with the man who would eventually kill her. The most vulnerable and dangerous time for women is when they are leaving or attempting to leave a relationship.

I wish we had all known then what we know now. I have no idea whether a tragedy could have been averted but I have learned that not doing something is not an option.

On Aug. 5th of 1992 my sister, now in a new relationship after a long and protracted and contentious divorce process, drove to her estranged husband’s home to deliver some paperwork that he needed to sign. ( He was also in a new relationship) She went with her partner because, as we learned later, she was actually nervous about her estranged husband. She knew he had guns in his home. Apparently, something I learned later but was not aware of, he did keep a lot of guns around his house.

We don’t know some of the details because my estranged brother-in-law killed himself months after the shootings of my sister and her partner leaving us with a lot of unanswered questions. ( That is another story) We do know that he said he thought he was killing her lawyers and doesn’t remember much except that he sort of blanked out during the shooting. That is often said by shooters. The loud noise. The sudden death. The blood. The chaos.

There is much more but you don’t need to know all of the details to know that when a gun is at the ready, disputes over relationships and divorces turn deadly in an instant. Even the shooters are surprised by it and often take their own lives at the same time in desperation. Taking a human life ( or two) is something no one, unless maybe those serving in the military or law enforcement, expects will happen.

What I know now is that my life changed as I got involved with advocacy groups like the Brady Campaign  and Protect Minnesota and others to prevent families from devastating, insidious, tragic, senseless and mostly preventable shootings.

There are ways to keep guns away from people who should not have them and change the conversation about the risks of guns in homes. Brady background checks will and do save lives if we expect that all buyers should have one no matter what.  Extreme Risk Protection Orders (Red Flag laws) also can save lives. Look at what has happened in Florida just since the laws passed there in response to the Parkland shooting and the pressure put on lawmakers by the outspoken and courageous students:

Hundreds of gun owners in Florida have been ordered to give up their guns under a new law that took effect after the deadly Parkland shooting in February, according to a report published Monday.

The Risk Protection Order, signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott just three weeks after a gunman killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas, aims to temporarily remove weapons from gun owners who have been deemed by a judge to possibly be a threat to themselves or others.

 

Yes. We can save lives.

Let’s do it together.

There are many issues before us during this chaotic election season. Gun violence is just one of them that has now taken hold and supported by the majority of Americans. Lawmakers are feeling this and have become more outspoken about the issue. I am a Democrat. For many years I have been working on my own elected leaders to be bold and speak out. It is finally happening. It took many years of advocating, meetings, vigils, sending emails, making phone calls and insisting on change.

That is what we have to do with so many other issues like health care, immigration, the economy, getting big money out of our politics, medicare, social security and the environment. It won’t happen overnight but suddenly it will take hold.

The Parkland shooting has moved the needle at long last on the issue of preventing gun violence. It wasn’t the Sandy Hook shooting or the Aurora theater shooting or the Las Vegas shooting or the Pulse Nightclub shooting, many of which took more lives than the Parkland shooting. But it was an accumulation that threw the public over the edge. Thanks to those courageous and outspoken students for the change we are seeing in our country.

It takes us all working together raising our voices and persistence.

We all have our stories to tell. Some are about the loss of life due to bullets. Some about insidious diseases or conditions. Some are about suicide by any means. Some are about immigration or about health care or about losing a job or about cancer, or Parkinson’s, or depression or Alzheimer’s or heart disease. All of these are in my family. Many of these are in families of people I know and care about.

At some point there is an intersection of the issues and that is this-  making us all safer, healthier and caring for one another when it needs to happen.

Gun violence is a public health epidemic where it intersects with health care. Gun violence is an economic issue as deaths by gun cost our law enforcement, legal and health care system a lot of money. Gun violence has an intersection with immigration. Gun violence has an intersection with education as so many of the mass shootings have happened in our schools. Gun violence has an obvious intersection with domestic abuse and violence.  

And to add to this list, gun violence intersects with terrorism and national security because we know terrorists can buy guns in the U.S. and we aren’t stopping them from doing so because of a big gap in our laws. This is a matter of national security as well. And if we don’t think the fomenting of fear and paranoia against the media and the increased presence of militia and other hate groups who are armed isn’t another big issue, we are not paying attention to a serious problem.

And yes, gun violence intersects with big money in politics as the NRA has become a lobbying and big money influencer in our politics and elections. That is why so many of our leaders won’t stand up and do the right thing.

We don’t need a repeat of what happened last August in Charlottesville but the same group is gathering in Oregon and a “Unite the Right” rally on the National Mall in D.C. next week-end. Let’s hope nothing goes wrong.

Many of these issues are the American tragedy. Failure to deal with all of them is failure to keep America safe and do the right thing for our citizens.school

When common sense prevails, we will all be better off.

On this day I remember not only my beautiful sister Barbara Lund but all my friends and people I don’t know who have suffered the grief of the sudden, unexpected and violent death of a loved one from bullets shot out of guns that are too readily available.

As my former Senator Paul Wellstone said, ” We all do better when we all do better.

Nothing could be more true.

 

UPDATE:

I posted this before I went to church this morning and I was inspired by the service to write more.  It was the annual outdoor service under a tent near the vegetable and wild flower garden planted behind the parking lot. There was great music, a wonderful children’s time, a great sermon and the closeness of the congregation gathered together in this sweet sultry summer morning. The minister of my church reminded the congregation that this was the 27th anniversary of her first service at our church.

In an odd confluence of events, it was one year after she began her ministry that my sister was murdered. On August 7th after our family finally learned of the news of the murder and all family members were informed, I called my minister to share what had happened with her. Her response was as it always is with her- so supportive and caring and kind and gentle with just the right things to say. After all of that, though, she told me that her husband, who had not yet moved to Duluth because he hadn’t found a job yet, was on his job as a Police Officer in Minnetonka, Minnesota on August 6th. He was one of the first officers to enter the home of my estranged brother-in-law, now taken to the mental ward of a Twin Cities area hospital by his lawyers ( another long story). He was one of the first officers to find her body and that of her partner. He was there. He saw the horrific scene.

Once and only once, I had the nerve to talk to him about the crime scene. I think I didn’t really want to know the details. I wanted to remember her as the vibrant, beautiful, talented, high spirited sister I knew who was trying to be happy. The last time I saw her was at my daughter’s graduation from high school less than 2 months before her murder.

This morning’s church service was a reminder to me about how supportive my minister and everyone in my church has been to me over the years. One year after my sister’s murder, I asked my minister to lead a celebration of life for my sister on the shore of Lake Superior. Friends and family attended. The minister read the eulogy from my sister’s memorial service as it was held quite privately in a church in the Twin Cities so not many of my friends attended.

Since that time, our chapter has held many vigils and events around gun violence prevention and I have led many mission moments about gun violence- too many. My minister has spoken many times at our vigils and has spoken out publicly about this issue. Gun violence has a ripple effect you see. The people in my church are affected by what happened to me and they support my efforts and they support stronger gun laws and preventing shootings.

I am humbled today by all of the emotions and the memories. I know that the majority is with me. If only the leaders of our country would step up and be with us so we can save lives.

church service

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Vigil for Las Vegas shooting victims at my church in Oct. 2017

 

Red flags

red flagsAs the trauma and revelation that our country now is holding toddlers in what amount to interment camps, life goes on around us. This morning, an article in the news added to my sadness and outrage. A Washington woman was shot and killed by her estranged husband during a divorce.   

As the anniversary of my sister’s death approaches, this one added to my trauma and feeling that things have gone very awry in the America I love. From the article:

The suspect purchased a handgun in 2017 and kept it in a gun safe, according to court papers.

“I’m not requesting a restraining order regarding the gun but do request that he leave the gun in the gun safe until this matter is resolved,” Holly Martinez wrote in paperwork seeking a divorce.

How many times does happen in America? Too many to make any common sense. 

These are senseless avoidable deaths if we do the right thing. The right thing would be to pass “red flag” or Extreme Risk Protection Orders. If someone fears that a loved one could be a danger to themselves or others, guns can be temporarily removed pending a hearing. Had this woman taken advantage of a law like that, she may be alive today.

There were “red flags” all over the incident. Washington does have a Red Flag law but this victim apparently did not choose to use it.  Sometimes men don’t give warnings before they decide to use a gun to “take care of things.” Often people don’t believe someone they have loved and lived with just wouldn’t do something like happened here.

And to make sure that same person can’t just get a gun from an unlicensed seller, a Brady background check on all guns sales would be insurance that we can stop prohibited people from buying a gun even if one is temporarily removed for the safety of the gun owner and those around him/her.

The thing is, this can happen at any time with anyone anywhere. If a gun is readily available during a difficult relationship, it just may be use. That is why education is so important. For some shooters, it is a spur of the moment decision to shoot someone. For others it is premeditated. Either way, innocent victims are killed every day in situations like this one.

The gun lobby takes the stance that gun rights and due process are taken away with these kinds of laws. Do they even consider the lives taken of the people who are shot? The answer is no. Rights supersede lives. From the article:

The NRA’s stance felt like a betrayal to some. “The key point for red flag laws is that someone can be accused and have their guns confiscated. It is an anti-American proposal,” said Dudley Brown, president of the National Assn. for Gun Rights.

Red flag laws amount to a “removal of due process,” he said. “They think you might do something bad, so they’re going to take away your civil rights.”

Gun rights advocates hand out 30-round magazines at an event outside the Vermont Statehouse in Montpelier in March to protest gun-control laws. The measures, including a “red flag” law, were signed into law. (Lisa Rathke / Associated Press)

 

A nationwide study by Everytown for Gun Safety showed that 42% of the time, the suspect in mass shootings showed warning signs prior to the incident.

Stuff and nonsense. What’s unAmerican is the daily shootings that take the lives of 96 Americans.

We have to get this right. We can save lives if we stop listening to the corporate gun lobby. We can save lives if we have the courage to do the right thing.

While watching a news program this morning someone quoted this from Alexis deToqueville, a writer and philosopher:

Alexis de Tocqueville quotes “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.” “America is great because she is good. If America ceases to be good,America will cease to be great.”

A good America would not look the other way about the national public health epidemic of gun violence. A good America would do whatever it takes to save the lives of innocent people.

We’ve had #Enough. We’ve had enough of the fear, paranoia, lies, deceptions, cruelty, adherence to corporate America and money.  We’ve had enough of elected leaders who refuse to stand up and take charge of our country again to make it good and make it great. What is happening now is unsustainable all the way around.

Women should not be shot during a divorce. But when armed men feel a sense of power and control and feel outraged when a partner or wife wants to leave them women are not safe. Women are at higher risk to be killed by a partner/husband when a gun is in the home.

Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill and contrary to what the gun lobby would like us to believe, a gun in the home for self defense is used more often in a domestic shooting, suicide or “accidental shooting” than to be used to defend yourself in your home.

Let’s make America good again and do something to save lives. It’s not hard to imagine a better and safer America with fewer gun deaths.