Safe Memorial Day celebrations

Memorial Day is about honoring and remembering our war veterans for their service and for those who were killed in the line of duty. The photo is one I took when we visited the American cemetery at Normandy. I will never forget seeing all of those crosses and the reverence felt while visitors walked amongst the graves of the soldiers whose lives were lost during the D-Day invasion that was the beginning of the end of World War ll.

My dad was a World War ll veteran who served in North Africa and Italy. His PTSD became noticed by my brother and me as we grew old enough to understand what those middle of the night panic attacks meant. Neither my mom or my dad mentioned the attacks to us as if we couldn’t hear him struggling to breathe in the quiet of the night. Today I remember him and his service to the country when it called. He enlisted in his 30s and risked his life for the cause.

My dad was a hunter and avid outdoorsman. He taught me how to shoot at targets when I was a teen-ager. I think he really wanted me to hunt with him and my mom, also an avid hunter. But I didn’t really like the feel of shooting a gun so I never did hunt with them.

My brother, on the other hand, became the hunter that I was not. He spent a lot of time with my mom and dad walking the woods partridge and deer hunting. There was a deer shack somewhere in the woods of northern Minnesota that hosted my family and their friends. They had fond memories of those days.

My brother is a veteran of the VietNam war and now lives with Parkinson’s Disease, loss of vision and PTSD, among other things, at a Veterans’ home in Minnesota. He never got over what he experienced in VietNam. When we sold the house where he lived with my mother, we discovered his collection of hunting guns and one pistol. Given his difficulties with panic attacks, alcoholism and PTSD, we decided to keep his guns at our home, locked and unloaded. There is no question in my mind that he would have used one of those guns on himself if they had been available to him.

Since our older sister had been shot and killed in a domestic shooting, certainly the last thing we needed was another family member killed by a bullet. He knew we had the guns and agreed that we should have them. After we moved from our own home, his guns were given to a friend where they are stored safely. I asked that he not sell them or give them to anyone without a background check, and given that he has common sense, he said he would comply with my request.

On this Memorial Day, I honor the service of Americans whose lives were taken in the line of duty. War left many, including my own family, with the mental scars that affected their lives forever. Neither my brother or my dad were interested in guns for self defense. They were hunters and it did not occur to them that they should have guns around the house for self defense. But neither of them stored their guns in a safe either. That was not thought of much in those days but now we know more about how easily guns are accessed by kids and teens who use guns for suicide or in unintentional shootings. And we know personally how guns can be used in domestic disputes.

Veterans commit gun suicides with alarmingly high frequency. And guns are the most often used method. From Giffords:

Today more than 6,000 American veterans die by suicide each year, and nearly 70% of these deaths involve firearms. From 2005 to 2017, the veteran suicide rate increased by nearly 41%. We must do more to protect the veterans who risked their lives to protect us.

Our factsheet outlines ways in which we as a nation can do better. 

Research suggests that having a gun in the home triples a person’s overall risk of suicide, and nearly half of all veterans own firearms. Because 85% of gun suicide attempts end in death, when individuals in crisis reach for a gun, they rarely

Easy access to guns is clearly a risk factor.

Over this week-end there is no doubt that more people will lose their lives to bullets. Two Miami area teens were killed in “accidental” gun discharges. There are no accidents with guns. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. From the article:

“This is a tragedy that should not happen and cannot happen again,” Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said. “Please be mindful of weapons in your house, the fact that the kids are home, they’re being schooled at home, they don’t have a lot of extra activities to be doing, they become curious and these are the things that can happen.”

Yes, these things can and do happen. Responsible gun owners keep their guns stored safely away from the hands of kids and teens and others who could be a danger to themselves or others. And, of course, storing guns in a safe prevents stolen guns from being used in a gun crime or shooting.

Please stay safe on this Memorial Day and also stay healthy from the spread of coronavirus. Remember to practice gun safety, social distancing and wearing masks. What we do individually is also for the common good. And common sense will save lives.

May Day with guns

Use this free printable May Day Basket to celebrate May Day ...

Happy May Day. As per my last post, the armed protesters are still protesting and causing a fuss about the life saving stay at home orders. Yesterday they outdid themselves by showing up armed in great numbers and almost literally breaking into the Michigan state Capitol building where the state legislature was in session.

It was not a pretty picture. In fact it frightened most of America when they saw the heavily armed men with assault style rifles and more- some said automatic weapons- carried around their shoulders and across their chests. Yes, open carry is allowed in Michigan, but come on. This was no ordinary protest. Some Senators donned bullet proof vests out of fear of these home grown terrorists standing in the balcony above them with their guns. From the above article:

While not all the protesters were armed, there were some armed men in the crowd inside. Michigan is an open-carry state, and people are allowed to openly carry inside the state Capitol, though signs and banners are banned from the building to prevent potential damage to the architecture.

Democratic state Sen. Dayna Polehanki tweeted that some of her colleagues had worn bulletproof vests to cast their votes.

And, of course, Trump weighed in on twitter because he can’t help himself calling them good people just like he did during the Charlottesville protests. No. They are not good people:

In a tweet on Friday morning, President Donald Trump described protesters in Michigan as “very good people” and suggested that the governor should strike a deal with them.

On Thursday, hundreds of protesters — many of them carrying guns — descended on the Michigan Capitol to oppose Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s extension of the state’s stay-at-home order by another two weeks, to May 15.

“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire,” Trump wrote. “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

No. The Governor of Michigan should not give a little to these dangerous terrorists. They can be angry. But they can’t be angry while armed to the teeth making threats to capitol police and yelling in their faces spewing who knows what at them. That is why we wear masks. Upwards of 25% of coronavirus victims are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic.

Elected officials need not back down to armed crazed angry white guys with guns. Intimidation with guns is not new but going after our elected officials over the stay at home orders is a new dangerous thing. As it turns out these folks may become sick or make someone else sick with coronavirus and those who get it will spread to others leading to the death of some and leading to filling up hospitals with sick people that they can’t really handle.

This movement is sick and twisted.

May Day is a day of hope for the coming summer and celebrating spring. It has also been used a show of military force by some communist countries. The day itself has an interesting and controversial history.

Here are some photos of May Day celebrations and photos from around the world showing differences in the emphasis of the day.

Decades ago, my husband and I took a 3 month tour of Europe with another couple and encountered a May Day parade in the former Yugoslavia featuring tanks and a military show of force. I have never forgotten feeling very uncomfortable and a little fearful because, of course, this does not happen in America.

But yesterday, perhaps it did. A show of force of military style weapons meant to intimidate, pure and simply. It is the talk of the world now. Protests have taken place in other parts of the world for the same reason as people here are doing. But they were and are not carrying guns around wearing camo clothing.

There is no common sense in what is going on right now in our country. The President has botched the response to the coronavirus outbreak in so many ways that I can’t list them. He only cares about his re-election which is pretty obvious. Tens of thousands have died and many other sickened. The PTSD will be overwhelming for the country and Americans.

Angry white men with guns only adds to the anxiety and the PTSD. It is not OK. It is not right. It should be illegal but we have allowed laws to pass that make this all legal. And now we see what it means. The NRA and corporate gun lobby made sure that that happened and some are now involved in encouraging the armed protests. Will these people stay silent in the coming months leading up to the election?

I am worried about what is going to happen with these “good guys” with guns if things don’t go their way.

It’s May. We are just flattening the curve of coronavirus deaths. We are not done with this malignant disease in any way, shape or form. We have a long ways to go.It’s time to practice patience even though it is extremely difficult. It’s time to be together about what we need to do as Americans because we are truly all in this together. What you do today could affect me tomorrow. It could affect your cousin or your neighbor or your sister or your mother.

Guns are not needed now. In fact more guns will not and do not make us safer. Gun violence has continued apace during this crisis even though crime has gone down. Suicide hotlines are experiencing a huge increase in calls. Domestic abuse hotlines as well. We know that the majority of suicides and domestic homicides are by gun.

The other day a physician, Dr. Sarah Breen, committed suicide in reaction to what she was seeing every day on the front line. She had also contracted the virus herself. The method of her suicide has not been reported. But in this article it is clearly stated that another health care provider used a gun to kill himself:

Two days earlier, a Bronx EMT witnessing the virus’ ruthless toll fatally shot himself with a gun belonging to his retired NYPD cop dad.

We will see more of this, sadly. Guns and a coronavirus pandemic do not got together and should not. Please don’t buy a gun because of the pandemic. Guns are a risk in your home and now more than ever. Check End Family Fire about the risks and the solutions. Please store guns safely. Please don’t act in a moment of anger or despair. So far we have lost more than 60,000 Americans. We will lose many more. And we will lost more to gun violence.

“Side with Safety”.

Gun deaths are avoidable and preventable. Coronavirus can be avoided if the proper measures are practiced. In the end, a majority of Americans may be affected one way or another by the virus until a vaccine is developed. That is a ways away.

Put away your guns. Stay safe. Stop intimidating and making things dangerous and threatening to others. The folks who are doing this are foolish and look foolish.

We are better than this.

Enjoy May Day and be hopeful that if we all act together we can go together into our new future where maybe nothing will be the same.

In remembrance of Dr. Sarah Breen.

Lasting effects of gun violence

Today is the “anniversary” of the attempt to assassinate President Reagan. As we know, President Reagan survived the shooting and was back at work leading the country within the following month. But it was never the same for James Brady, President Reagan’s press secretary who suffered grievous injuries on March 30, 1981:

Besides Reagan, White House Press Secretary James BradySecret Service agent Tim McCarthy, and police officer Thomas Delahanty were also wounded. All three survived, but Brady suffered brain damage and was permanently disabled; Brady’s death in 2014 was considered a homicide because it was ultimately caused by this injury

His life became that of a survivor with continuing health and physical challenges. He retained his sense of humor and did the best he could to be cheerful. I met Brady once at a lunch for Brady United Against Gun Violence and spoke with him briefly. It was hard to understand him as his speech production was affected by his injuries. It was such an honor to be able to speak with him and meet him for the first time.

Sarah Brady became a force in the effort to get the Brady law eventually passed after 6 tries in 7 years. Because of her tireless and selfless efforts, we are safer now from gun violence. That is what drove her to keep going back to Congress to demand that something be done to stop people, like the man who shot her husband, from getting guns in the first place.

I served with Sarah on the Brady board and came to appreciate her wry humor, her feisty personality and plain spokenness. She was not afraid to speak up, to criticize when she thought something was wrong, to be appreciative when things were done right, and to engage in the important discussions about gun violence prevention. Sarah died in 2015 from cancer.

Since the shooting on March 30, 1981 that left Jim Brady permanently disabled, over one million Americans have died of gunshot injuries.

After the Brady Bill was enacted into law in 1993, a system of instant background checks on gun purchasers was set up by the FBI. The database includes the following:

  1. Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  2. Is a fugitive from justice;
  3. Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
  4. Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution;
  5. Is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
  6. Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
  7. Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced U.S. citizenship;
  8. Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner, or;
  9. Has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

These prohibited gun purchaser categories are used by federally licensed firearms dealers to check the status of someone who wants to buy a gun. At the point of purchase, the buyer completes a Form 4473 to complete the purchase.

Because of the passage of the Brady law, over 3 million people seeking to purchase a gun from a licensed firearms dealer have been prohibited from doing so because they fall into one of the above categories. There is no question that Brady background checks have and do save lives.

As of the time of Sarah Brady’s death she was working on, along with many others in the gun violence prevention movement, expanding this system of background checks to all private sellers. What is generally referred to as a loophole in the law allows for private sellers to sell guns to anyone without requiring a background check. This loophole is equivalent to allowing some physicians, some teachers, some public accountants, some other professionals to practice their careers without being checked out to make sure they are not a felon, a domestic abuser, an illegal drug user, etc. That is the way it should be.

Especially now with the coronavirus outbreak, we certainly want patients to be treated by licensed professionals. And especially now when the Health and Human Services Department has deemed that gunshops are essential businesses with a surge in gun sales, we should want all gun sales to have a background check. These are stressful, dangerous and perilous times in the history of our country. There is a lot of fear and misinformation floating around as well as anxiety, depression and anger. When President Trump pronounced on Saturday that we was concerned about the potential for suicides, he forgot to mention that he had not shut down gun shops to make the means for suicide less likely. Whether he is right or wrong doesn’t it make common sense to stop one of the most efficient methods of suicide by shutting down gun shops? Suicide by gun accounts for at least half of all suicides; suicide by gun accounts for the majority of our gun deaths.

Something does not make sense with passing a law that made so much common sense and then letting some gun sales go without the checks that save lives. Something does not make sense in letting people who could be dangerous to themselves or others to buy a gun from a private seller without making sure that person can be responsible and safe. Something does not make sense that in this time of uncertainty, some counties across our states are declaring themselves second amendment sanctuaries to law enforcement ostensibly will not have to enact laws already on the books or new laws passed in many states to save lives.

Some things do not make sense. The shooting of Jim Brady did not make sense. My sister’s shooting did not make sense. The mass shootings at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Las Vegas, El Paso, Virginia Beach, Red Lake, Parkland, and all of the others so frequently occurring in our country don’t make any sense. Something does not make sense about stockpiling guns in this time of uncertainty. Something does not make sense about a public health epidemic out of control not receiving the attention it deserved and deserves.

But in this time of another public health pandemic, most things are shut down and on hold, including actions in Congress and state legislatures to deal with gun violence prevention. We will not forget. We will keep working on keeping Americans safe long after the current epidemic slows. A piece written by Jonathan Lowy from the Brady Center explains why this is so crucial:

The risks are great that guns will be stored unsafely and accessible to children and others who should not have access to them. And your semiautomatic can’t fend off the coronavirus, no matter how large your ammunition magazine is.

But there is an even more fundamental problem that may be at play with at least some of the binge-buying of guns. Some have a sense, it appears, that society may break down under the weight of this pandemic, and Americans will end up fighting each other for supplies, or food, or to maintain safety.  

In this post-apocalyptic Hobbesian state, guns will be needed. This is the same worldview that the National Rifle Association has been stoking for decades to fuel the notion that a gun is necessary for self-protection, evidenced by an inflammatory tweet last week. Some will even add, that is what the Framers intended when they wrote the Second Amendment into our Constitution. (…) And when we come out of this coronavirus, we must recommit to repairing the breaches of our society and establishing a caring community in which Americans recognize we are in this together, as a nation and, indeed, a world. Stockpiling firearms is not the answer and is contradictory to the very notions of government and society upon which our nation was founded.

Lowy is so right. We will come out of this on the other side. Many hundreds of thousands will have died or been changed forever by this time in our history. It would be an added tragedy to add gun avoidable and senseless deaths to coronavirus deaths.

The toll will be more than we can imagine right now. The toll of gun deaths has been more than we can fathom for decades. The bell tolls for the hundreds of thousands who will die or be affected.

Please be safe and healthy. These are difficult times. Having a gun in the home right now can make households and families less safe. If you own a gun please store it securely and unloaded. Please don’t let children or teens get their hands on a gun right now or ever. End Family Fire is working on awareness of the risks of guns in homes.

Sarah Brady knew the risks of guns owned by those who shouldn’t have them. I know the risks of guns in homes with domestic and marital strife. Too many parents have found out the hard way about the risks of guns to children who accessed them in curious moments. Too many families have found that a suicide by gun has forever changed their lives. Too many mass shootings have proven why we need to continue this national discussion about gun violence.

International Women’s Day

Today is a day to celebrate women all over the world. We have only to look a few decades back to when women in America finally got the vote after years of protesting, organizing, and being arrested to understand why we need a day of celebration of women. Women like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton persisted in spite of the men who were as determined that they should not be able to vote as they were that they had the right to vote. They are role models to all women even today.

Women are superheroes- they are working mothers, they are stay at home mothers, they are sisters and grandmas who serve as CEOs, and in all professions that just decades ago were almost all occupied by men. The world has changed thanks to the persistence of women.

I am a proud member of the League of Women Voters in my community. The League has served to educate, engage and activate women on issues of concern- not just women’s issues- all issues. Many women leaders and elected leaders have come from that organization over the years. I stand on the shoulders of many great women leaders and organizers.Don

Of course, the Million Mom March was the springboard for many of us now and remaining involved in the gun violence prevention movement. One woman, Donna Dees Thomases, after seeing small children being led out of a Jewish Community Center day care center in L.A. in 1999 after a shooter wounded several inside, got a permit for a march on the Mall in D.C. And then the Columbine shooting happened. Mothers ( and parents) all over the country watched in horror as kids were shot down in a school in Colorado. And then they got mad and got organized.

The rest is history. I attended the march in 2000 in Washington D.C. and was moved, angered, and energized after observing so many victims and survivors of gun violence with names of loved ones killed by bullets on their hats, shirts and signs. Some of the mothers of kids injured in the day care center are still involved with gun violence prevention. We are now merged with Brady and there are chapters all over the country populated by mothers and others. We persist in pushing for stronger gun laws all over the country, including in my own state of Minnesota.

Brady is celebrating the women who got involved and stayed involved in videos sent out to supporters before the coming 20th anniversary of the Million Mom March. After the 2000 march, the organization name was changed to Brady because of the efforts of Sarah Brady, wife of James Brady, President Reagan’s Press Secretary, shot in the assassination attempt on Reagan’s life in 1981. Sarah persisted in her efforts to get the Brady Law passed and finally won. The law has been in effect since 1994.

And Brady’s capable leader is Kris Brown, a powerful and effective woman leading one of the country’s oldest gun violence prevention organization.

Spurred on by the horrendous shooting of 20 young children at Sandy Hook Elementary school in 2012, Moms Demand Action for GunSense in America was founded by Shannon Watts. Hundreds of thousands of women and others belong to chapters of MDA in every state in the country.

Women have been victims of many domestic and other shootings. My sister was just one of many of these women. Victims of domestic violence are FIVE times more likely to be murdered if their abuser obtains a gun according to Brady.

According to Giffords ( an organization formed after a woman Congress member, Gabby Giffords, was shot and severely wounded in a mass shooting in 2011):

The firearm homicide rate for women in the US is nearly 16 times higher than that in other high-income countries.
Laws that prohibit firearms after a domestic violence restraining order is issued are associated with a 13% decrease in firearm intimate partner homicides.

As long as the Senate refuses to act on bills that will keep guns away from domestic abusers, women will continue to be at risk. For the first time since the Violence of Women Act passed in 1994 the Senate has refused to pass this bill. From this New York Times article:

“The bill has three broad, but simple, goals: to make streets safer for women; to make homes safer for women; and to protect women’s civil rights,” Joseph R. Biden Jr., one of the bill’s sponsors when he was a Delaware senator, said in 1990.

That summer, survivors delivered stirring testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee. At the time, the Senate had only two women and the proposal had little support from women’s groups or civil rights groups.

There is one reason why Senator Mitch McConnell and most Republicans refuse to re-authorize the act:

There’s already a law on the books to keep guns out of the hands of spouses convicted of such crimes, and Democrats and some Republicans have long wanted to extend that restriction to partners. But the National Rifle Association is opposed, and that’s why the bill is stalled in the Senate.

“The objection doesn’t make any sense if the idea is to be consistent and to protect women,” Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) told VICE News. “At this point, we don’t see why we wouldn’t close that loophole.”

Are we going to let a minority of gun owners and Americans decide what is best for women? If the violence was happening to men, would the act be stalled? I think we know the answer. The same is true of women’s health care and women making their own decisions about their bodies. The fact that men want to control women’s bodies is just another example of why we must celebrate women on this day.

Everyone is affected by gun violence- men, women, transgender and GLBTQ Americans of all ages and races. But when it comes to domestic violence, it is most often the women who become the victims. And many of our mass shootings are spawned by a domestic dispute:

But scientists say the real problem is that violent, impulsive, and angry men are getting their hands on guns.

Many of the shooters behind the deadliest mass shootings in modern America (listed below) committed violence against women, threatened violence against women, or disparaged women.

Suicides become homicide/suicides as well as (mostly) men who are angry, depressed or upset about a relationship or something else are suicidal but also shoot someone else:

In a comparison of homicides-suicides in the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States (using NVDRS data), major differences — e.g., Switzerland and the U.S. have much higher rates of homicide-suicide than the Netherlands — are explainable by the availability of firearms.

The bottom line is that women are often the ones on the front lines of the fight against gun violence. They are also on the front lines of those affected by gun violence. Today is a day to remember and celebrate women all over the world who have fought against violence against women and for women’s rights. Being a woman in many countries is dangerous and difficult. When heroes like Malala Yousafzei step up, it gives other women and girls the courage to do the same. She was the victim of a terrible shooting and survived to speak up. And, of course, it took a Swedish teen-ager, Greta Thunberg, to lead the world wide effort against climate change.

Women are about 50% of the population but still not where we should be regarding influence and leadership on the most important issues of the day. If even half of the world’s and our own country’s leaders were women, I believe many issues would be looked at and solved differently.

The day after President Trump was sworn in as the 45th President, a million women and others (including myself) marched in Washington D.C. bringing in more people than attended the inauguration. Several hundred thousand others marched in cities all over the world in concert with the march in D.C. Women have led the way against a misogynistic man whose reputation with women and statements made during the campaign angered and invigorated women to act. The march organizers held workshops on running for office and run they did. The historic 2018 election saw 90 newly elected women take office in Congress.

When women run for office they serve as role models to girls and women as well. The 2020 Presidential race is an example of how difficult it is to run as a woman to lead our country. It’s discouraging that so many believe that a woman cannot be the Commander in Chief. That’s nonsense. Women are tough. Maybe that’s the problem. When women challenge men in a relationship or in a primary or a debate, too often they become victims of the status quo.

We can and should get the background check bill passed into law in the U.S. Senate to keep guns away from domestic abusers and others who should not have them. In addition Red Flag or Extreme Risk Protection Order laws have been passed in many states but should be passed in all to allow for the removal of guns from domestic abusers by law enforcement after a judge determines they could be a danger to themselves or others. Women would be safer if these bills are enacted into law.

Everyone would be safer, of course. But today is the day to celebrate women.

I applaud all women who put their names and faces into the public sphere to speak up for what’s right and for the changes we deserve. It’s not easy. Women are often criticized unfairly and suffer from discrimination because of simply being a woman. Please say thank you to a woman today.

No holiday break from shootings

From EndFamiyFire.org

It happens every Christmas. Yes, Santa Claus comes and leaves gifts. Families get together and celebrate. Some families, of course, do not celebrate Christmas but a different religious or cultural tradition like Hanukkah or Kwanza. But there is no celebration for a family in Florida where a murder/suicide took the lives of 3 in front of 4 innocent children who can’t unsee what they saw:

“It’s safe to say the holidays oftentimes put stressors on families and individuals and how they respond to those situations is, obviously, difficult and taking into account the lives it impacts is tremendous,” he added, according to The Ledger.

It’s also safe to say that easy access to guns and the idea that a gun can “solve a problem” or gets used in a suicide or in anger is a factor. It has to be factored in because you just don’t read about a hanging murder/suicide or rarely if ever about a knifing murder/suicide.

PTSD is real. Kids are exposed to shootings and the after-effects every day. It is not a pretty picture to see dead bodies with gunshot wounds.

It’s the guns. It’s “family fire”. It’s our country’s fascination with guns and the promotion of guns by the corporate gun lobby. It’s our lack of strong gun laws that can not only prevent some people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them but the idea that it’s OK for anyone to have a gun for any purpose.

It’s a total lack of any common sense when it comes to the gun culture, gun laws and how people perceive gun ownership as a right no matter what.

We all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Did I mention that this shooting was in Florida? I wrote about shootings in Florida in my last post. Florida, the state of the gun lobby on steroids.

Happy holidays.

Please stay safe and put your guns away at least for this week or so. But maybe think about the fact that if you own a gun, you might just use it in despair, anger, or in a suicidal family tragedy. Responsible gun ownership comes with safe storage, not using the gun in anger or during family disputes or disputes with friends. It means not taking your gun with you everywhere you go because it is more likely to be used against you or someone you know or love than it self defense.

And don’t tell me that doesn’t happen.

It happens every single day in America.

Just check out the Gun Violence Archive for the facts.

Facts matter. Lives matter. Research matters. Responsibility matters. Safe storage matters. Laws matter. Common sense matters.

Just a few more broken hearts

We’ve had another of those weeks. We’ve had just a few too many shootings and more than a few broken hearts. It’s America after all. What do we expect? We’ve also had some scary incidents like this one where a woman with a gun decided to threaten a McDonald’s employee over giving her jelly instead of ketchup. I mean wouldn’t that just make you so mad that you would want to kill someone? And if you had a gun you could.

She should have her gun rights and permit to carry taken away from her. She is clearly dangerous to others. From the article:

She was arrested Tuesday and charged with three counts of aggravated assault and unlawful possession of a weapon.

Oh right. She possessed the weapon unlawfully. How does that happen? Where did she get her gun?

Another “law abiding gun owner” was in the news this past week for leaving her gun around for her toddler to find. The toddler, thinking it was a toy gun, put it in his mouth and shot and killed himself last year. The Colorado woman was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Responsible gun owners lock up their guns so toddlers can’t find them. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Kids and guns don’t go together well.

We had another mass shooting at a military base. There have been a number of these. Pensacola Navy Base suffered through it this time. A Saudi air force member in the U.S. for training at the base opened fire and killed 3, injured 8 and law enforcement then killed him. Sound familiar?

Investigations are continuing about whether this was a terror attack on the U.S. I believe all mass shootings are terror attacks but if this shooter was associated with an actual known terrorist group, then it will likely be labeled a terror attack. I believe that would the first official one since 9/11. Time will tell. He bought his gun legally by the way. Sometimes legal guns and law abiding gun owners do bad things with their guns. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill others.

One thing of grave concern is this:

The night before the attack, Lieutenant Alshamrani showed videos of mass shootings at a dinner party, according to a person who was briefed on the investigation.

Only in America could a would-be mass shooter have videos of mass shootings available to him. Only in America. Only in America can we have so much to write about regarding shootings and firearms incidents. Only in America do these things happen so regularly that we often pay them attention briefly and move on. We’ve already moved on.

Oh yes, there was almost another mass shooting in San Diego last week but the potential shooter stupidly posted things on his Facebook page that were alarming. Police were able to gain a search warrant:

Steve Andrew Homoki, 30, was arrested and charged with multiple felony assault weapons charges, possession of a high capacity magazine, and child endangerment.

San Diego Police say Homoki posted graphic videos online depicting assault weapons being pointed at unknowing pedestrians outside The Sofia Hotel in downtown San Diego.

California has passed an Extreme Risk Protection Order so law enforcement can take guns away from those who are a danger to themselves or others. Gun laws work. Thank goodness we didn’t have to wake up to yet another mass shooting last week.

So with more broken hearts this past week, the victims and survivors’ families will never move on. That’s the American tragedy. I wrote an opinion piece for my local newspaper last week after 2 heinous domestic shooting incidents in Minneapolis. It sickened me to think of a father, as I wrote in my last post, shooting his young sons as he greeted them at the door and they ran out into the snow. We ought to all be outraged by this. Many of us are. But not the ones who can do something about it- namely the Republican led U.S. Senate.

Last week was the annual national vigil for victims of gun violence started after the Sandy Hook shooting 7 years ago. As is the tradition, victims come forth with photos of their loved ones and speak their names. There are speakers and reflections about gun violence- once again. It’s a broken record and it’s broken hearts over and over and over again.

In Duluth we will have a community gathering on Friday to highlight how gun violence affects us all. It does. If we had any common sense we wouldn’t let it continue unabated.

So this was last week. A new week has begun. No doubt there will be “just a few shootings” again.

It’s in our hands to do the right thing. We will keep pushing, lighting candles, demanding action, ringing bells, writing articles, testifying at hearings, lobbying, rallying and whatever it takes.

A historic day

On this day in 1963, President John Kennedy was assassinated. I will never forget that day and the days that followed. In my home town, anyway, the news flew around fast. School was dismissed and I think there was no school for quite a few days afterward as the nation was in mourning. Still sticking in my mind is sitting with my parents watching the T.V. in our living room when Jack Ruby shot and killed the shooter on live TV before our very eyes. I always remember my sister letting out a scream of disbelief. We had never seen anything like this before on live T.V.- only in movies and T.V. shows.

How times have changed. We now see shootings on live T.V. and the coverage of them almost 24 hours a day. President Kennedy’s shooting shocked us all. These things don’t happen in America. Could Oswald have been a legal purchaser of a gun? He ordered it from a mail order catalog:

 Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, with a mail-order Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5 millimeter bolt-action rifle, for which he paid $19.95 plus shipping and handling.

Fifty years later, obtaining guns via mail is less common because the U.S. Postal Service imposes major restrictions on firearms shipments.

But despite a myriad of federal and state laws regulating gun transactions, buying a firearm via the Internet is commonplace.

Where Oswald mailed his money order with a coupon torn from an ad in the National Rifle Association‘s American Rifleman magazine, troubled individuals today can search online and similarly get their hands on powerful weapons with no questions asked, gun control advocates claim.

Even back then the NRA was involved in gun deaths though they were still doing more reasonable things like supporting hunters and teaching gun safety classes. I imagine there weren’t as many people then to worry about ordering a bolt action rifle because we just didn’t have mass shootings then. Now we have military style assault rifles available at places like Armslist.com so just about anyone can get their hands on one of these weapons of mass destruction with no background check.

By the way, when I googled Armslist I took a look at the front page. Here is the problem. There is a photo of a gun that looks sort of like a military pistol- maybe a semi-automatic? held by a guy wearing gloves. The wording on the photo goes like this: ” GEAR FOR YOUR DAILY GUNFIGHT”.

Really? This is the difference between 1963 and today.

Right.

The article about Kennedy’s assassination (above) was written in 2013 and 7 years later, nothing has changed. Let’s remember that since Robert Kennedy, President Kennedy’s brother, was assassinated in 1968 more Americans have died from gunshot injuries than all American military members who have died in an American war combined. Stunning.

Now the country mourns shootings of famous people, shootings of relatives and friends, suicide deaths of Veterans, farmers, police officers, “accidental” shootings of children, mass shootings at schools and malls and domestic murders like the one that took the life of my sister.

American Presidents are much more protected now than in 1963. The Secret Service has increased in numbers and the type of protection they provide. Cars outfitted with armour and other protections are taken so a President’s life is not in as much danger. The armoured vehicle used is actually called “The Beast”. Still though, I worry that no matter who our President is, all it takes is one person bent on doing harm with a gun easily obtained to change history.

Back to President Kennedy’s assassination. As with all gun deaths, life changes irreversibly. His family was never the same. They remained in the limelight. Jackie Kennedy could hardly live her life and eventually, of course married Aristotle Onassis, an unlikely match for her. And tragically the young John Kennedy died in an airplane crash in 1999. The Kennedy family suffered a lot of losses and still the younger generations are into politics, causes and sometimes trouble.

Today we remember the lost potential of the life of John F. Kennedy. We will never know what he could have accomplished or if he would have won re-election and make further contributions to our country. Looking back, we now see a man who was in almost constant pain that he didn’t show. We also know of his affairs about which some knew but have now been revealed. He was an imperfect man. He was an imperfect President.

But because he died so young and so tragically, there is a fairy tale aspect to his life and his legacy. Today we remember his life and his Presidency and understand that since 1963, no other President has been killed by gunfire but attempts have been made on several Presidents including famously on the life of President Reagan which led eventually to the passing of the Brady Law. Jim Brady, then President Reagan’s press secretary was badly injured and lived his life changed forever by a bullet. He and his wife Sarah worked tirelessly to pass the Brady bill into law and finally in 1993 it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

A gun was used also to threaten the life of President Gerald Ford.

One would think that after this violent history of gun violence in America we would have the common sense to pass much stronger gun laws. But such is not the case.

I have hope that in time the majority will win and laws to prevent gun violence will pass in the U.S. Congress and be signed into law by a President who cares more for saving lives than saving his (her) own political skin.

Remembering the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting

Today is the anniversary of one of our nation’s ugliest hate crimes- the shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh one year ago today. It is yet one more anniversary of a heinous mass shooting where Americans are reminded of the easy access to guns to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible. Only in America does this happen on an almost daily basis. In fact there really isn’t one day of the year when there is not an anniversary of a mass shooting.

But I digress. A hate crime against one group, one religion, one political group, one group based on sexual preference, etc. is un American and our own brand of terrorism. That day one year ago, it was Jews who were the target of a gunman:

Mr. Leger was the most visibly wounded that morning of Oct. 27, 2018, when a gunman killed 11 Jews and wounded other worshipers and police officers at the Tree of Life / Or L’Simcha synagogue building in Squirrel Hill. Among the dead were members of all three congregations sharing the building — New Light, Tree of Life and Mr. Leger’s own Dor Hadash.

The victims were Tree of Life members Rose Mallinger, 97, of Squirrel Hill, husband and wife Sylvan Simon, 86, and Bernice Simon, 84, of Wilkinsburg, Joyce Fineberg, 75, of Oakland, Irving Younger, 69, of Mount Washington, brothers Cecil Rosenthal, 59, of Squirrel Hill and David Rosenthal, 54, of Squirrel Hill; New Light Congregation members Melvin Wax, 87, of Squirrel Hill, Daniel Stein, 71, of Squirrel Hill, Richard Gottfried, 65, of Ross; and Congregation Dor Hadash member Jerry Rabinowitz, 66, of Edgewood.

There were several memorials in Duluth after this shooting- one outdoors with the community and a bell ringing naming each victim. The other took place a few days later at our local synagogue with an interdenominational service in the small space crammed with community members and leaders. Both were touching reminders of how the Jewish community is affected by hate and threats to their existence.

The shooter used the weapon of choice for mass shootings- an AR-15, was anti-Semitic and had posted on a social media site about his hate for Jews. From this entry in Wikipedia:

The immediate rise in the months of August to October was connected to the 2018 US midterm elections,[35] with a similar rise having occurred during the 2016 US election,[30] with the midterms being a “rallying point” for far-right extremists to organize efforts to spread antisemitism among the populace online.[31] The intervening years between 2016 and 2018 saw rising indicators of antisemitism in American public life, including a 57% rise in antisemitic incidents in 2017[33][32] in context of rising hate crimes against other groups including Muslims and African Americans as reported by the FBI,[33] a wave of vandalizations of hundreds of Jewish gravestones in Pennsylvania and Missouri,[31] and a doubling of antisemitic incidents on university campuses.[34] In 2017, the widely publicized Charlottesville riots featured Nazi symbolssalutes, and the slogan “Blood and Soil“,[34] amid explicit and implicitly racist and antisemitic rhetoric. Online, the reports found a large proportion of the antisemitic material was spread through the medium of conspiracy theories concerning wealthy Jewish individuals including billionaire George Soros, with Columbia University’s Jon Albright claiming these represented the “worst sample” of all the hate speech he had seen on Instagram.[30]

Do I have to remind my readers that the 2020 election is about one year away? Do I have to remind my readers that our very own President engages in the language of hate and violence in general and demeans his opponents, the media, anyone who disagrees with him, calling them names and intimating that violence might just be OK? And so, some of his followers actually may take action. Pray for a peaceful and safe election.

One such recent example came from a major league baseball umpire – one of Trump’s followers, who made a threat on social media about using his gun to shoot people if Trump should be impeached:

Drake posted this message to Twitter on Tuesday: “I will be buying an AR-15 tomorrow, because if you impeach MY PRESIDENT this way, YOU WILL HAVE ANOTHER CIVAL WAR!!! #MAGA2020”

Drake later deleted the post.

In a series of tweets Thursday, Drake apologized to victims of gun violence, fellow umpires and his family, and acknowledged he had caused a controversy for MLB.

His apology seemed insincere to me. It’s too late once those words have been written. We understand exactly what he meant. An AR-15 is the weapon of choice for mass shooters. He just may have done this had he not been called out publicly and he should be watched closely just in case. Now he has tainted his own career and reputation and also his own family and the umpires’ league.

This- all because of hate of others. This- all because we have no common sense when it comes to restricting the sale of assault rifles or checking to make sure that everyone can pass a background check. This- America the violent.

And of course, there was another mass shooting last night at a party to celebrate the homecoming at Texas A&M. “Only” 2 are dead but 12 injured. Good grief. Young adults and teens can’t celebrate parties without gunfire and death? From the article:

Authorities believe the shooter may have been targeting just one person at the party of about 750 people outside Greenville, 15 miles (24 kilometers) southwest of a satellite campus of the Texas A&M University System, and that others may have been shot at random, Hunt County Sheriff Randy Meeks said. Authorities were still looking for the suspect, Meeks said, and had not yet identified him.

This happens far too often as it did in my sister’s shooting- one person was the target but often others are also shot just because they happened to be there and because it can be done so easily with guns as the weapon.

Today we remember the victims of one hate crime. Others followed including the shooting at Poway Synagogue in April of 2019 leaving one dead and three injured. Take a guess at the weapon used. If you guessed an AR-15 you are right.

And this, dear readers, is why many of us want an assault weapons ban. It is getting harder and harder to defend the use of these types of guns for any purpose other than killing many people at a time.

I will leave you with this- we are better than this. It is in our hands to stop the carnage. So let’s do something about this and demand that our leaders do the same. I don’t know how many more will be killed before we get this right and neither do you. It can and does happen anywhere.

Hate crimes are on the rise. Domestic terrorist shootings are on the rise:

It’s time to dismantle the artificial legal wall between domestic and international terrorism. Violent ideology that’s headed toward violent action and facilitated by websites, blogs, chat rooms, or other forums needs to be addressed regardless of its origins in racism, hate, religion and left or right-wing extremism. Let’s have one law that treats all violent ideologies the same and makes acting on those ideologies a crime.

This is the United States of America. We can’t let this continue as is. What is happening to our country? Please join me in doing everything you can do to stop and prevent hate crimes, domestic terrorism, domestic shootings, suicides, “accidental” shootings that occur in large numbers in America.

And remember the victims and survivors on this mournful day of remembrance. Say their names. None of them or their families and the community will ever be the same.

Podcasts about gun violence

Brady has started a podcast to highlight the voices and the programs of gun violence prevention. It’s a good way to get the word out to those who support changing the law and the conversation around the role of guns and gun violence in our society. I was honored to be one of the first voices to be able to speak about my story and my experiences over the years. There have been many. You can listen to my voice here.

But let me summarize a bit of what I said:

  1. I have a story to tell and so do the thousands and thousands of other victims and survivors. Domestic shootings take the lives of too many women every day so my story is the story of many.
  2. Telling our stories is important because it makes the deceased victims come “alive” and “tell their stories” so that the public and politicians can better understand the devastation to families and communities from gun violence.
  3. Understanding how devastating it is for families to experience the sudden, unexpected and violent death of a loved one from bullets will lead to the changes we deserve to keep us all safer.
  4. Many of us in the movement of gun violence prevention have worked for decades to stop bad bills promoted by the corporate gun lobby, advocate for bills to prevent some of the shootings and in many cases to help pass common sense bills that save lives. We know they save lives because we have the numbers to show it.
  5. After the Sandy Hook shooting, other groups formed and helped to advocate for sensible gun laws and have added their voices and visibility in state houses and Congress.
  6. What seems to have made the biggest change is what happened with the student voices after the shooting in Parkland, Florida. Those kids have been relentless and powerful and have given those of us involved for so many years new ways to talk about gun violence prevention. I admire those youthful voices and have come to know them well in my own community.
  7. In Minnesota we have had ups and downs since our chapter formed in 2000 after the Million Mom March. After the passage of the conceal and carry law in Minnesota and the federal sunsetting of the assault weapons ban in 2004 in close proximity, some of the air went out of our balloons. But we have picked up and carried on and stopped some bad bills. We now have new focus after our House passed the background check and Extreme Risk and Protection Order bills in the last session. We will push hard to get them passed in the state Senate in the upcoming session. Senators will have to explain why they would be against bills that would not take away the rights of “law abiding” gun owners. Gun rights and gun violence prevention are not mutually exclusive.
  8. Our country is suffering from PTSD from all of the mass shootings taking place on a regular basis. Our kids certainly are negatively affected by the shootings and sometimes get killed by school shooters. School active shooter drills are causing more distress and anxiety for our kids. We should question some of the programs used and focus on where the shooters get their guns so we can stop them. In the majority of school shootings, the guns come from the home of the shooter. It’a a no brainer to lock guns away safely from the hands of kids, teens and those who might steal them to be used in a gun crime.
  9. One of my heroes in the movement is Sarah Brady who served on the Brady board for part of my terms as a board member. She was a feisty woman whose opinions were made known at meetings. She worked hard with her husband Jim to get the Brady background check bill passed and for that, we are all safer.
  10. What I hope to see in a world where the best will happen is that all purchasers of a gun of any kind must first pass a background check. There is no reason not to do this that makes any sense at all. In addition, we can save lives if we pay attention to the risks of guns for people who could be a danger to themselves or others and make sure that their guns can be temporarily removed while the danger passes. Too many shootings are spur of the moment shootings that happen while someone is under stress, angry over a difficult situation like a contentious divorce that caused my now deceased brother-in-law to shoot my sister. We can make a difference and save lives.

I would encourage my readers to listen to the RedBlue & Brady podcasts. I believe they will provide a lot of insight into the issues and the people who are involved. The stories will make a difference and change the conversation as we must do if we are to make progress.

It is so clear that the majority of Americans want change to happen. The only way the majority will be represented in the halls of state capitols and in Congress is for the voices of those who believe we can save lives with stronger gun laws are louder than the voices of the corporate gun lobby. Remember that the NRA and corporate gun lobby represent a very small minority of Americans and gun owners.

So speak up and speak out. Listen to how we can make change. Get involved and take action, not sides. It’s in our hands to make change happen. Let’s do this.

A “memoraversary”

The last week has been a difficult one for the entire country. For victims and survivors it has been worse than difficult. High profile shootings bring back too many memories. The press coverage, the constant conversation about the guns, bullets, the victims, the injuries…

PTSD is what I call it. I believe the entire country is experiencing PTSD after the last week of mass shootings. The nonsensical talk about video games, lack of praying in school, mental illness and every other excuse offered by those who refuse to talk about the root of the problem is enough to make us sick. We know what the problem is. We have experienced it.

It’s the guns stupid. Plain and simply it’s easy access to guns. The hate shooting in El Paso was a horrendous act of violence directed at immigrants, people of color, hispanic people- the “other”. An assault rifle. Premeditated murder. Unrepentant killer. A legal gun purchase.

We’ve heard it ad nauseum before- hundreds of times.

The shooting in Dayton appears to be a domestic related shooting but the premeditation involving body armour, an assault rifle with a 100 round drum magazine is inexplicable. Why?

In talking about the high profile mass shootings, we often forget about the “everyday” shootings happening regularly. Over 100 a day. The domestic homicides. The suicides. The unintentional shootings by kids, officer involved shootings. They are all around us every day. They leave victims and survivors in their wake. They leave a ripple effect going wider and wider. With all of the shootings, there are few of us remaining who have not been affected by a shooting.

I am one of those people feeling the PTSD in the past week. Thoughts of my own family dealing with the domestic shooting of my sister came back. The phone call came back. It brought back the days between the shooting and the funeral and the days following dealing with the after effects and grief and moving forward.

Moving forward for me was getting involved and working with Brady and Protect Minnesota to prevent shootings in any form. It has been a long and frustrating journey. We go round and round and make small steps towards progress because we are swimming upstream against a formidable force of opposition and a culture of guns that stops us from doing what almost everyone knows is the right thing to do.

Today is the anniversary of the shooting death of my sister, Barbara Lund. What should we call the anniversary of the death of a loved one? That question was asked recently in a group of Brady chapter leaders. Anniversary seems like not quite the right word. Every year on this date I write about my sister, who was murdered by her estranged husband on Aug. 5, 1992.

It’s been a long time but we miss her still. I can still hear her voice and remember her vivacious personality at family events. She was a force. She was a beauty queen. She was a skier, an artist, a mother, a sister, a wife, an ex-wife, a step-mom, a tennis player, a pilot, an entertainer, politically active, and an all around adventurous person. People never forgot her once they met her.

She would have been a fierce advocate for doing the right thing in my memory had I died before her by some untimely violent death. She would have worked for background checks on all gun sales and the many issues that have been in the forefront in the decades since her death.

But a stronger background check system would not have stopped my sister’s shooting. Her estranged husband was a legal gun owner. Perhaps an Extreme Risk Protection Order law however could have prevented what happened that day in August in 1992. There had been a restraining order. He was becoming aggressive with phone messages to her. He was becoming, in general, more resistant to the divorce proceedings even being in contempt of court for refusing to comply with the proceedings. They were separated by then and she told friends she was worried about his guns.

But using his guns to kill her and her friend because he was angry? Why? Where is common sense?

Others have similar stories with somewhat different details. Some women survive the bullets. Many do not. Domestic murders often involve more than one person and most often happen when a woman is trying to leave the relationship- whether marriage or not. Sometimes it takes a half dozen times to actually leave. When children, money and pets are involved, it’s difficult to leave.

I have learned a lot since Aug. 5, 1992. Now we all know more and we all know that we can do something about this carnage. If there is a difficulty in the relationship and the man ( for it is almost always the man) owns guns, we must think differently. We must be hyper aware. If there is a threat to the gun owners’ self or others, if Extreme Risk Protection Orders are law, guns can be removed, at least temporarily.

A woman is 5 times more likely to be killed in intimate violence situations when a gun is present. In my sister’s case there was no physical violence but rather increasing signs of anger and depression over his losing control of money and control.

If there is a difficult relationship between domestic partners or spouses, a gun can make it deadly instantly. Getting away from the relationship or getting guns away from the person who could be a danger to themselves or others is of utmost importance.

End Family Fire is a new campaign to highlight the risks of guns in the home. These risks are for suicide, domestic homicide, school shootings (most school shooters get their guns from their own homes) or “accidental gun discharges”. Considering the risks there is no reason not to be more cautious about guns in the home. At the very least they need to be stored safely ( in a metal gun case) and/or with a trigger lock and away from ammunition.

Too many gun owners think their loaded guns must be at the ready at home just in case. This flawed thinking leads to way too many avoidable deaths and injuries. A gun is much more likely to be used against you or someone in the home than in self defense.

You may think that something like this can never happen in your family or your community. You may be right. But if I were you I would err on the side of safety and caution to prevent personal tragedy. None of the families of the tragic and deadly mass shootings and “everyday” shootings ever thought it would happen to them either. My last post was about the rash of mass shootings in the last week. Since I wrote that post, dozens more have died of gunshot injuries.

We don’t have to live like this. But we do have to demand that our leaders make sure our lives are safe from preventable gun violence. Our personal responsibility is to be aware, be safe, be sensible around guns, and don’t do anything stupid or dangerous. Lives depend on getting this right.

Our leaders’ responsibility is to pass laws to make it less easy for people who should not have guns to get them. It is to make it harder to get guns. It should be. Guns are lethal weapons and they are responsible for horrendous carnage. This is national public health emergency and we must do something.

In memory of my sister and the many thousands of Americans who have died from gunshot injuries since her death and before, I demand action. I honor the lives lost with action.