Not rocket science

rocketscientist_01So where were we? Oh yes, talking about why it’s a myth that more guns make us safer.

It’s difficult to discern and predict who may become dangerous with a gun. I know that from personal experience. But there does come a point where we ought to err on the side of preventing a potential tragedy.

There really are some people who should not have guns. One would think that would be a no-brainer and an area of agreement. One would be right. Even NRA members- 74% of them or so- believe that all gun sales should have Brady background checks to keep guns out of the hands of people who could be dangerous with them or who have abused them in the past, committed a felony, abused a partner, spent time in a mental institution, a fugitive from justice, or a teen-ager.

So who opposes such a reasonable measure? The corporate gun lobby of course. Their reasons? A lie.

Not selling guns to prohibited individuals is really a good idea for the public safety and health of our citizens. But sell them we do. Private sellers can set up tables at gun shows and flea markets or sell guns through on-line sites like Armslist.com And they can sell their guns to anyone they want to without asking them for ID or requiring a background check. Whenever this comes up the gun lobby insists that having private sellers do the same background checks that federally licensed dealers have been doing now for 23 years now ( enactment of the Brady law) it will lead to certain gun registration or ( YIKES!!) confiscation.

Such nonsense has filled the void of reasonable conversation for so many years that some actually believe this lie. But I have also found that the other lie perpetrated by the gun lobby that all gun sales do require background checks is believed by many.

They do not of course. Private sales account for about 40% of gun sales. No background check, no ID, have gun will travel. That is simply not OK and makes no sense.

So making sure we are not dealing with alternative facts but rather the truth and the facts will make us safer. Of course, the other lie is that any research into the causes and effects of gun violence are fake news or fake science. That is because those kinds of studies do not support the idea that more guns make us safer and everyone should have one.

This is not rocket science. This is about safety and stopping shootings. It’s that simple.

Take, for example, the oft repeated lies of the gun lobby and those who believe them about Chicago gun crime and/or other crime. There is an insistence that Chicago and Illinois have strong gun laws but the crime rate and shootings are high so, obviously ( to them) strong gun laws don’t work.

They would be wrong. In spite of stronger gun laws than some neighboring states, Chicago’s murder rate is high. The overall crime rate is not,  as President Trump asserts ( and lies about) the highest it has been in 45-47years. In fact, it is at it’s lowest with a peak last year. Why? There are many reasons for what is happening in Chicago. One of them is that 60% of the guns come in to the city from surrounding states with looser gun laws.

Maybe this chart from The Trace will explain things even better. Note that Chicago has fewer gun crimes than many other cities in America. Why does the administration and Republicans as well pick on Chicago? Shall we take a guess given where the other cities are? I’m just saying.

chicago-murders

If we don’t try to stop some of this by passing a national law to require Brady background checks on all gun sales, cities and states that have strong gun laws cannot stop or prevent some of the deadly carnage resulting from guns coming in from somewhere else.

In my own city, there have been 5 shootings in 2 weeks.Read what the police chief had to say about this:

Sunday’s incident is the fifth shooting in Duluth that resulted in injuries in the past 16 days, with at least two additional armed robberies reported during that time. Duluth officials have called the latest outbreak of gunplay a statistical anomaly, noting overall crime rates are dropping. Police Chief Mike Tusken, however, has said there has been an uptick in gun-related activity. Police confiscated more than twice as many firearms from criminals in 2016 compared to 2015, the chief said.

Tusken did not comment to reporters Sunday but did post on his Facebook page: “I empathize how these incidents create fear and angst. Those who use guns to settle disputes harm not only their intended victims but also rob our neighborhoods of a sense of security. For these reasons, we pursue these criminals with great vigor.”

In this article, Chief Tusken is quoted:

“What concerns me is that you have a proliferation of more guns accessible by more people who should not own them, and then that human factor that there’s a propensity — and what appears to be no reluctance whatsoever — to use them,” he said.

Tusken, though, reiterated that he considers the recent rash of gun crimes to be a “tremendous anomaly.” He stressed that none of the shootings were considered random.

Yes, there are people who should not own guns. And yes, most shootings are not random but rather among people who know each other. I know that from personal experience. And facts and research show it to be true. From the linked article:

This is, in many ways, intuitive: The prevalence of guns can cause petty arguments and conflicts to escalate into deadly encounters. People of every country get into arguments and fights with friends, family, and peers. But in the US, it’s much more likely that someone will get angry at an argument, pull out a gun, and kill someone.

These three studies aren’t the only ones to reach similar conclusions. Multiple reviews of the research, including the Harvard Injury Control Research Center’s aggregation of the evidence, have consistently found a correlation between gun ownership and gun deaths — including homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings — after controlling for other factors.

So arguments among friends and family members can lead to deaths by firearms which cause the majority of homicides.

So to another myth- buy a gun for self defense and you will be safer. Fake news. Buy a gun for self defense and you and your family are more at risk for being shot:

Tragically, a record number of Americans subscribe to some version of this mythology, with 63 percent (67 percent of men polled and 58 percent of women) believing that guns truly do make them safer. The public’s confidence in firearms, however, is woefully misguided: The evidence overwhelmingly shows that guns leave everybody less safe, including their owners.

 

A study from October 2013 analyzed data from 27 developed nations to examine the impact of firearm prevalence on the mortality rate. It found an extremely strong direct relationship between the number of firearms and firearm deaths. The paper concludes: “The current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis that guns make a nation safer.” This finding is bolstered by several previous studies that have revealed a significant link between gun ownership and firearm-related deaths. This international comparison is especially harrowing for women and children, who die from gun violence in America at far higher rates than in other countries.

Facts matter- or they should. But we are living in a new country now where alternative facts and fake science have risen to new prominence and it comes right from the top.

Do the gun rights advocates think this is OK? I’m just asking. Because it sure seems like it. If they don’t think it’s OK, why are they not insisting that we make common sense changes to keep our families and communities safer from devastating gun violence.

Do gun rights advocates think the man who shot into a crowd of Black Lives Matters protesters in Minnesota because he was a racist and wanted to prove a point is OK with a gun?  Remember, he was a “good guy” with a gun. From the article:

Texts and photos taken from Scarsella’s cellphone and computer, many of which were not presented at trial, show a deeply racist man who talked about being part of a “reserve militia.” He took selfies with his gun in his waistband, wrote frequently about shooting blacks and was passionate about the gun he would eventually use to shoot protesters.

Frightening at best. Some people should not have guns. And when they use them in this way, they should not be able to claim self defense and get away with it. But the gun lobby thinks it would perfectly OK for someone like this to get away with shooting someone because…. Stand Your Ground– coming up for consideration in a state near you, including Minnesota.

Communities of color are rightly concerned and fearful of these kind of alternative facts and lies. They are more at risk now because we are not dealing with science and facts.

(I am editing this to include another great article about the dangers of guns compared to the dangers of terrorists). Nicholas Kristof New York Times writer) wrote this today:

Above all, fear spouses: Husbands are incomparably more deadly in America than jihadist terrorists.

And husbands are so deadly in part because in America they have ready access to firearms, even when they have a history of violence. In other countries, brutish husbands put wives in hospitals; in America, they put them in graves.

Yet Trump is raging about a risk from refugees that seems manageable, even as he talks about relaxing rules on another threat, guns, that is infinitely more lethal.

“I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools,” Trump said last year. “My first day, it gets signed, O.K., my first day.” Trump hasn’t in fact signed such an order, but his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, backed him up at her confirmation hearing last month, saying that guns might be necessary in schools because of “potential grizzlies.”

Domestic violence takes more lives than grizzly bears or terrorists. This is not rocket science. It doesn’t have to be this way and we must demand the truth and the facts.

It is so clear that more guns are not making us safer and particularly more guns in the hands of people who clearly have no business with a gun anywhere. So why are some of our leaders supporting measures to make it so easy for loaded guns to be in the hands of so many people?  It doesn’t seem to matter that the public is not demanding armed people in every nook and cranny of their communities. The public really is not comfortable with armed people with little or no training and no vetting via a background check walking around everywhere with their guns strapped openly to their bodies.

This is home grown terrorism. We lose more people to gunshot injuries that occur because of even law abiding gun owners who shoot a loved one, allow a toddler to get their small hands on a gun, or leave a gun available for a teen to use in a suicide than to terrorists coming in from other countries. And we are going to perform “extreme vetting” on immigrants, most of whom are not coming across our borders to do harm to others, but not on people who buy guns that are used to shoot another human being?

This is not rocket science. But it is science and fact that America is a country where more citizens own guns than any other democratized country not at war and also a higher gun death rate than almost any other nation:

Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries, a new study finds.

There you have it. Facts. Science. Proof.

Until we are allowed by those in charge to deal with facts and science, nothing will change. It is downright frightening that facts are being changed or denied to suit the agenda of those who believe in the lies. Or do they? Is this about money? Likely. Is it about power and influence over elected officials and the voting public? Likely.

We are better than this. The pressure to tell the truth will continue with those who believe we are not safer with more guns everywhere carried into places where we hang out with our families and friends. And that happens to be the majority of Americans.

We will raise our voices. We will make noise. We will demand the truth and the facts and hold our leaders responsible for their choices that make Americans less safe.

 

 

#WhyIMarch

photo of BarbaraI will be going to Washington DC on a bus from Duluth, Minnesota. There are two full buses of women traveling by bus who will sleep and eat on the bus to make our voices heard. We could have filled a third bus but the company could not find enough buses for those interested. In addition to the two full buses ( about 106 riders) there is another bus sponsored by a different group and a large group who are flying to DC. 8 buses are traveling from the Twin Cities area as well. There are now 1800 buses registered to arrive at RFK stadium Saturday morning and at least 200,000 who will be in DC to make sure the incoming President @realDonaldTrump understands that we will not sit back and allow issues that affect women and children to be weakened and eliminated.

Why do we march?

Why are we willing to sleep for 2 nights on a bus with other like minded women? Each person on the bus will have their own reason to march.

We march in solidarity with women concerned about the many issues that will be under attack starting on Jan. 20th.

We are concerned and even alarmed at the campaign rhetoric and now the rhetoric of a man who will be our next President. We know that we must raise our voices to let the incoming administration hear our message about women’s  rights and all we have held dear and worked for over the last 8 years. Progress was made. We don’t want it to be taken away.

I march in memory of my beautiful sister, whose shooting death in a domestic shooting almost 25 years ago now has left a vacuum in my life and a burning passion to prevent gun violence. Unfortunately Congress and elected leaders have been working on opposing life saving measures like Brady background checks, public health and safety education about guns, safe storage, stopping bad apple gun dealers, and ways to keep women and our communities safer from gun violence.

 

My sister, Barbara Lund,  would have done this for me and for her family. She was a loving mother and friend- someone who brought people together. Her life was taken suddenly and violently in a domestic shooting during a difficult divorce. My ex brother-in-law, now deceased, shot her out of anger and depression. A gun(s) was available to him and he chose to use it. Women are much more likely to die in a domestic dispute when a gun is present in the home:

Women in the United States are 11 times more likely to be murdered with guns than women in other high-income countries. The presence of a firearm during a domestic violence incident increases the likelihood of a homicide by 500 percent. Guns are also regularly used in non-fatal incidents of domestic violence, with researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health concluding in a study from 2000 that “hostile gun displays against family members may be more common than gun use in self-defense, and that hostile gun displays are often acts of domestic violence directed against women.”

And yet the myth that guns make women safer persists.

Myths will prevail when the corporate gun lobby takes a seat at the table of the incoming President. Governing by myth will make us less safe.

That should concern us all.

90 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries from homicides, suicides and accidental discharges.  Women, children, young black men, older white men, toddlers, everyone. Everyone is at risk if we weaken our gun laws even more under the new administration.

#Enough

We will march because women play an integral role in keeping their communities and their children safe from devastating gun violence.

My sister’s story is the story of many women across America. It is the story that we shouldn’t have to tell but we are a reluctant group of members of a club of families of gun violence victims. We are victims. We are survivors. We will be marching for common sense.

I have met many people who have marched, lobbied, advocated for, organized for, pleaded for, cried for, written about, been interviewed about a lost loved one and for stronger gun laws that could save lives. They know that passing stronger laws can save lives.

One of my fellow Minnesota advocates, Rachael Joseph, has done all of the above in memory of her aunt who was shot and killed by a family member in 2003. She will be marching on Saturday. Here are Rachael’s words and a photo of her aunt:

“I’m marching in Washington D.C. for my aunt, Shelley Joseph-Kordell who was shot and killed at the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis, MN on September 29, 2003. Gun violence in this country is a women’s issue. Gun violence disproportionately affects women, who are 16 times more likely to be shot and killed in America than in any other developed nation.  I’ll march because women are the vast majority of mass shooting victims, which more often than not involves domestic violence. In an average month, 50 women are shot to death by a current or former partner. As a survivor, a woman and as a mom, I demand safety for our families and communities. The gun lobby’s leadership agenda is a direct threat to women everywhere. I am marching to send a message to our nation’s leaders – in Congress, in statehouses and in corporate boardrooms across the country – that women will not stand on the sidelines while our safety and the safety of our families and communities is jeopardized by the gun lobby’s dangerous agenda to allow guns for anyone, anywhere, anytime – no questions asked. I’ll march until women and children in this country feel safe.”

Rachael and I and many others will march in DC and cities all over America ( and the world for that matter) to demand that our elected officials do something to cut gun deaths in half by 2025. It can be done. Will they have the will? Will they find the way? We are concerned that a new administration and Congress will not only not have the will but will make us less safe by weakening our gun laws.

rachaels-auntRachael’s aunt would be proud of her niece’s activism and advocacy.

In memory of Shelley and Barbara.

We will march and we will not forget.

Responsible gun owners?

Clipboard with Rules And Regulations Concept. 3D.All gun owners should be responsible with their deadly weapons. Unfortunately for way too many victims, they are not. With rights come responsibilities but you wouldn’t know it by the actual incidents of gun deaths and injuries. And, of course, the dangerous and false insinuations and rhetoric coming through the corporate gun lobby makes the situation worse. 

Most countries recognize the dangers and risks of guns in the home and/or carrying loaded guns around in public. As a result, there are many laws and regulations making sure that those who do get permission to buy guns know what they are doing and are not those who shouldn’t be able to come near a firearm.

And gun deaths are few and far between in countries that have strong laws and regulations.

Not so in the good old U. S. of A. Shamefully and tragically, we let just about anyone buy and carry guns. What’s the big deal right? Until suddenly it is a big deal.

Take this one example ( and it IS just one of thousands). A Portland, Maine columnist and physician was showing a teen-ager his gun and is now dead as a result of his carelessness:

Harmon, a steadfast defender of gun rights and champion of conservative viewpoints, was a longtime Maine Sunday Telegram and Press Herald editor and columnist. He worked for the newspapers for 41 years before retiring in 2011, although he continued writing a weekly column.

The teenage boy and his father, both from North Berwick, were visiting Harmon’s home at the time of the shooting, police said. Detectives said they have been cooperating with the investigation and will be undergoing more questioning on Thursday.

Harmon’s wife, Margaret Harmon, declined Thursday to discuss details of the shooting, calling it an “accidental tragedy.”

There are no accidents when it comes to gunshot injuries. Or at least they should be at a minimum instead of almost every day stories in the news. Guns are the only product on the market designed specifically to kill another human being ( or an animal). What is it that we don’t get about that in America?

Actually most people do get it and want more strong regulations on gun owners and the guns themselves. They don’t want them taken away. They just don’t want people getting shot to death.

When there are so many guns around there will be so many gun deaths and injuries. This is not rocket science. It is real and it’s common sense. In this crazy and frightening world of fake news and denial of actual facts that make a difference to our health and well being, we just can’t afford to have irresponsibility with deadly weapons.

Until we change the conversation and make it perfectly clear to anyone who walks out of a gun shop that what they do with that gun could affect their own or someone else’s life forever, there will be irresponsible behavior with guns. But then, folks who get their guns on-line or at a gun store from a private seller don’t even undergo a Brady background check, for goodness sakes.

What kind of country and what kind of communities do we want? Do we want to excuse the death of a loved one because he/she was reckless or irresponsible with a gun and just say it was an accident so never mind?

Do we want shootings in our urban neighborhoods to become normalized and pretend there is nothing we can so let’s not? I don’t think so. Check out this article about the uptick of shootings in some Chicago neighborhoods:

“We should be embarrassed as a city, every single one of us, that we’ve allowed this city to become the poster boy of violence in America,” said the Rev. Michael Pfleger, an activist and pastor of a Catholic church on the South Side. “Are we just going to shake our heads and say, ‘What a terrible year in Chicago?’”

Father Pfleger, who often spars with elected officials, said he was searching for fresh ways to draw attention to the plague of gun violence. He is planning a rally on Saturday on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile, a downtown avenue lined with high-end shops and restaurants, that will be attended by marchers carrying two-foot-high wooden crosses bearing the names of victims. Some victims’ relatives are expected to attend.

And yet, where is the shame? Where is the embarrassment? Where is the action? Where are the responsible gun owners and elected leaders?

Where is common sense?

Responsibility means passing laws that will keep us safer from gun violence. Responsibility means stronger regulations on people who can buy and own guns. Responsibility means not letting your brother have a gun if you know he is experiencing alcoholism, severe mental illness, a marriage or relationship break-up, anger or some other problem that may cause him to use a gun to “solve” whatever it is that is bothering him. Responsibility means safely storing guns away from the hands of small children and teens. Responsibility means making sure all who carry guns in public are regulated to make sure they are not prohibited persons and properly trained to carry  deadly weapon in public. Responsibility means stopping “bad apple” gun dealers from getting away with selling guns knowingly to those who shouldn’t have them. Responsibility means asking if there is an unlocked, loaded gun where your children play. Responsibility means not handling your gun inside of your house or letting someone else who doesn’t know anything much about guns handle one in your presence. Responsibility means knowing where your gun is at all times.

I know that our next President rails at rules and regulations. But they are there for a reason. Mostly it is for the health and safety of the public. Regulations on businesses are there so we don’t get screwed. Remember the financial crisis of 2008? I do. All too well. Regulations on energy companies are there so we don’t have the kind of pollution seen in Beijing almost every day. Regulations on speed limits, seat belts, air bags and other car safety measures are there to stop and lower injuries or deaths from auto accidents. Regulations about smoking in public places are there go protect us from deadly diseases. Regulations on poisons, outlet covers, cribs, toys and other products that could harm young children are there for a reason.

Without regulations, laws and rules, it’s a free for all. Leaving it up to private industry to regulate themselves only serves their own bottom line and interests. What happens to the rest of us?

The Trace has a year-end report with some gun violence statistics that should make everyone understand that we need to do much more about our gun culture and guns in our country. This publication is responsible for a good deal of research in the area of gun violence that others cannot or are not doing. If we are to do the responsible thing and try to prevent and reduce gun deaths and injuries, these are to what we need to turn our attention. There is no denying these facts:

We’re hungry for the data that can help us better understand gun violence in America, and when we find something that informs our thinking, we are eager to share it with our readers. Here are 10 facts and figures that helped shape our reporting this year.

You can read the ten facts, including about domestic gun violence and the effect on women, the effect of shootings on black communities, many Americans falsely think background checks are required on all gun sales, why people buy guns, etc.

Unless we are allowed and/or demand to have hearings and discuss this national public health tragedy, things will not change. You may remember that some Democrats in Congress held a sit-in last June to call attention to the fact that the Republicans had not allowed discussions or votes on gun violence prevention. The result?  A lot of attention to some brave leaders who actually went against the rules in desperation to try to get some new laws and regulations.

But the Republicans ( House Speaker Paul Ryan) want to silence them and any kind of protest regarding controversial issues. Shame on them. What goes around may come around. Representative Ryan doesn’t want a vote and he doesn’t apparently want to do anything about gun violence. He is willing to silence those who do. And those who ar making noise are speaking for those who have been silenced by a gun.

These same leaders have been shamelessly blocking the usual rules in the House and Senate for the last 8 years to try to keep President Obama from governing and doing something about gun violence and a whole lot of other important issues. I guess they only like their own rules.

Surely we are better than this. If you believe as I do that no one wants to be shot or have a loved one or good friend shot to death or injured, then you ought to be making noise and not being silent or being silenced.

Let’s get to work. Lives depend on it.

 

Tis the season….

Christmas horizontal banners backgroundIt’s the Christmas season. And, oh yes, the Chanukah season and the approach of the new year. Here in my neck of the woods, we are expecting a major winter ice/snow/rain storm event on Christmas day which will interfere with the holiday celebrations tomorrow.

But nothing interferes more with the holidays than the shooting of a loved one. I write often about how shootings don’t take a holiday. They happen every day in our beloved country. Easter, Halloween, Memorial Day, Labor Day, New Years, Christmas, whatever. 90 a day die from gunshot injuries.

Merry Christmas.

In Faribault, Minnesota a family is grieving the loss of two loved ones after a murder/suicide occurred a few days before the holiday. It was another domestic shooting. The shooter took guns and ammunition from his son’s home and gunned down his ex-wife at her place of work and then shot and killed himself. He was an ex police officer:

The shootings took place less than a week after Barbara Larson served her former husband with a harassment restraining order, Pederson said. The couple divorced in 2014.

Richard Larson retired from the city’s police department in 2008 after serving Faribault for about 25 years, Pederson said. He was a captain when he retired.

Sigh.

Another police officer’s gun was used by his 2 year old child to kill himself “accidentally”. The Cleveland family will be mourning the senseless and avoidable loss of their precious child all over irresponsible storage of a gun the child should never have accessed:

The boy is the son of a 54-year-old Cleveland police officer, Jose “Tony” Pedro, who was hired in 1993. Cleveland police said the gun was the officer’s service weapon.

Aren’t these the “good guys” with guns? I’m just asking.

Where is common sense?

Guns are a risk to those who choose to own them. With rights come responsibilities. What is it that we don’t get about that in America?

But I digress because I wanted to write about a shooting closer to my home. In Cloquet, Minnesota:

A victim, who police said was in his 30s, was found inside a residence with multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to a Duluth hospital, where he was pronounced dead.(…) “I don’t believe it was a random act,” Ferrell said a few hours after the shooting. “I’m sure they are aware of each other. I just don’t know what the circumstances are or what led up to the shooting.”

Most shootings happen between people who know each other. Guns for self defense are often used against someone known to the shooter. The myth of the gun lobby’s mantra that more guns make us safer is just that. A myth. A deadly myth as it turns out.

More guns are clearly not making us safer. An armed society is clearly not a polite society.

And more families are mourning the senseless loss of a loved one at a holiday time that is supposed to be merry and happy. Not for many.

I’m sure I don’t have to remind my readers that the holidays can be sad and depressing for many. And gun suicides account for the majority of gun deaths in America:

Despite an alarming uptick in homicides in some urban areas in the last few years, violent death rates are significantly lower than they were in the 1990s. There is one notable exception to this trend. Suicide rates for men and women have steadily increased for the past 15 years.

The statistics are bleak. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. From ages 10 to 34, it is the second leading cause. Last year, at least 40,000 people in the U.S. died by suicide. From 1999 to 2014, the suicide rate for men and women jumped 24 percent.

Guns make it all so easy.

Also I shouldn’t have to remind my readers that toddlers have killed more people than terrorists in America:

According to the Washington Post, our nation’s nurseries are housing more than just unbearable levels of cuteness: Twenty-three people have been shot by toddlers in the U.S. since the start of 2016 — exactly 23 more than have been shot by Muslim terrorists over the same period.

So please tell me again how it is that a gun in the home for self defense will make the owners safer from strangers, home invaders, terrorists or zombies? I don’t buy it.

The Gun Violence Archive is keeping track of gun deaths and injuries in America in case you don’t believe the numbers. 356 children under 11 have been killed or injured by guns in 2016 so far. 11 in the last week alone have been killed.

Stunning. Shocking.

Surely we are better than this and if so, we need to work much harder to change these statistics. For the statistics are real children with real families. They are not just statistics.

If there is a gun in the home for hunting or sport, the onus is on the owner to lock it up away from the hands of toddlers, people who are experiencing domestic problems, people experiencing severe mental difficulties, suicidal teens or adults, or thieves.

In America, our cavalier attitude about guns and gun rights is leading us to deadly outcomes.

There are too many empty chairs around holiday tables every year. The one belonging to my sister has been empty for 24 years now. But we remember her fondly for her hosting amazing Christmas gatherings full of fun and holiday chaos.

Tis the season to be jolly. Hopefully you will all have a jolly holiday no matter what you celebrate.

And may the grinch not spoil things for your family.

Merry Christmas ( and yes, I am a liberal and Donald Trump didn’t just allow me to say that to my friends). Happy Chanukah. Happy Kwanzaa and everything else.

Stay safe and warm out there wherever you are.

 

Clowns amongst us

clownHappy Halloween.

Yesterday I wrote about scary things happening politically on the eve of Halloween. It’s still scary out there and getting worse.

This morning I had a conversation with my daughter who was unaware of the scare about clown masks and almost bought one for her teen-aged son. Quickly she realized this would not be a good idea, thankfully. Then she read an article about people in clown costumes threatening small children and committing crimes and got more alarmed, wondering about human nature in general and the lunacy of our country of late. She is not alone.

When people dressed as clowns or using Facebook posts as clowns threatening to commit school shootings or other violent threats, we have a problem. It’s bad enough that people without masks make these threats but using a clown mask/costume to hide an identity makes it more frightening.

I don’t know about you but I was always creeped out by the Joker of Batman movies. And many people are genuinely afraid of clowns. But now there is more than good reason to be afraid of people in clown outfits or acting like clowns.

We can ‘t escape the association of The Dark Knight with the 2012 shooting in the Aurora theater that claimed the lives of 12 during the midnight showing of the The Dark Knight Rises.  That was truly frightening and tragic, to say the least. I can’t even go there without thinking about friends who lost their loved ones in that shooting.

Who needs this kind of frightening stuff on a holiday that is supposed to be for kids but has been co-opted by adults whose intentions are sometimes evil or dangerous? But do people need to arm themselves against clowns now? A group of Florida parents have decided that carrying guns around while their kids trick or treat is the way to go. This seems like a bad idea to me because mistakenly shooting an innocent person is the more likely scenario than actually needing a gun to protect oneself from a clown with bad intentions. From the article:

Brevard County authorities say clown fears could endanger someone who is dressing up as a clown as a joke. Palm Bay Police Lt. Mike Banish fears that someone dressing like a clown could end up getting seriously injured.

“The problem is that someone dressed like a clown could scare someone and there’s a possibility, a possibility you could end up with someone getting shot,” Bandish said. “A person could think that they’re about to get robbed.”

Whatever happened to common sense? Why does everything have to become fearful and threatening?

The election is scary enough and is leaving many Americans with an uncertain and sick feeling in the pits of their stomachs. When people feel unsettled about things, they also feel fearful and maybe think that arming themselves is the answer. But we know already that more guns have not made us safer,  contrary to what the corporate gun lobby would have you believe.

But, as usual, we are afraid of the wrong things. We should be afraid that just anyone can purchase a firearm with no proof that they are not felons, adjudicated mentally ill, a domestic abuser, a terrorist or someone who should not be able to get a gun. Private gun sellers can sell guns to anyone with no background checks at on-line sites or at gun shows. We have made this possible because our elected leaders are afraid of the corporate gun lobby’s influence on their own election or re-election and so they listen to those who do not represent that majority of us who want background checks on all gun sales. 

Women should be especially afraid that their abusers can still get their hands on guns even after they have been deemed to be prohibited purchasers. This article by The Trace shows how easy that is:

This scenario is not unusual. Under federal law, anyone convicted of domestic violence or subject to a domestic violence protective order is prohibited from possessing a gun. But abusers are often able to buy a firearm anyway, or are allowed to keep one they already own, and they end up using it to shoot a wife, girlfriend, or other intimate partner.

So how is it that known abusers, convicted of a crime or subject to a restraining order, come to have a firearm in their possession? Often, they are able to exploit gaps in the federal background check system or in state laws designed to remove firearms from abusers’ homes. Here are seven ways that commonly happens.

Read the seven ways and then know why our laws need to change.

Scary.

This sad story of a young Colorado man with severe mental illness who shot people up last Halloween is an example of why we need laws  (like this California law) that will allow family members to report someone who could be dangerous to him/herself or others allowing for guns to be removed.

Four years ago, the parents of Japanese exchange student, Yoshihiro Hattori, shot and killed when he went to the wrong house for a Halloween party, urged Americans to pass stronger gun laws:

The heartbreak led Yoshihiro’s parents to lobby for a change in US gun laws. They collected nearly 2 million Japanese signatures calling for tighter gun control, and personally handed them over to then President Bill Clinton. They donated compensation from their civil trial to anti-gun groups, and continue to support their efforts from afar.

Yet, on a recent trip back to Baton Rouge, Mieko Hattori said she was shocked to learn more than two dozen states had enacted “Stand your ground” laws that expand a person’s right to self-defense.

Twenty-four years after this tragic shooting, we are still in the same place we were that Halloween of 1992.

The clowns of the corporate gun lobby are still scaring American elected leaders into being afraid to enact the laws that could save lives.

#Enough.

This year, the shootings have already begun:

2 shot and killed at a New York Halloween party.

It’s scary enough out there with the election in its’ last week before we elect a new President. But if you want to be more scared, read journalist Benjy Sarlin ‘s piece about Donald Trump’s violent and vengeful rhetoric:

It has also expressed itself at Trump’s rallies, where supporters have reflected the candidate’s harsh tone.

“We’re all Second Amendment pros, we want our country back like he just said, and she’s not going to give it to us,” a Trump voter, Tammy Wilson, said at a Florida rally this month after predicting people would “rise up” if Trump loses.

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment for this story. With Trump’s language heating up in the final days and his list of enemies growing fast, some civil rights groups and law enforcement officials are raising fears that things could get out of hand.

“We are concerned about the possibility of violence on Election Day and afterwards,” Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center told NBC News. (…)

Twice Trump has made jokes that seem to float the notion of Clinton being assassinated. In August he suggested “Second Amendment people” could prevent her from filling a Supreme Court seat. It was widely perceived as a reference to violence, although the campaign denied that was his intent. In September, he said Clinton’s bodyguards should disarm and then “see what happens to her.”

Trump has also shown unprecedented tolerance for supporters who engage in more overt threats. He enthusiastically defended the character of an adviser, Al Baldasaro, after he repeatedly said Clinton “should be shot by a firing squad,” even after his campaign distanced itself from the remarks.

And more from this article should have us all concerned this Halloween and on election day and beyond:

This fear is especially pronounced because Trump has cast such a wide net in picking targets, and they often have a racial, ethnic, or religious component. He’s regularly made false claims about American Muslims celebrating terrorism or refusing to turn in an attacker and warned that “other communities” — almost invariably cities with large minority populations — are out to steal the election. Recently, Trump told Fox News “illegal immigrants are voting all over the country.”

“What happens on Nov. 9 is anyone’s guess, but some of these trend lines of mainstreaming and broadening bigotry and incidents of violence and hints of a dark conspiracy are very concerning,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in an interview.

The clownish and dangerous behavior and rhetoric of a major party candidate for President of the United States is no Halloween joke. It’s for real and it’s frightening. He has convinced some of his supporters that violence just may be the solution to his falsified and perceived paranoia about election results.

We are better than this.

My suggestions? Pass a law to require Brady background checks on all gun sales.Don’t dress as a clown on Halloween. Don’t carry your gun around on Halloween. Don’t mistake a fake clown for a real clown. Use your common sense and stay safe.

 

Travel, guns and politics

templeI have been away from my blog because of a wonderful 2 week trip to Sicily and the Puglia region of southeast Italy- on the heel of the boot. To say the trip was amazing is an understatement. Sicily is a land of amazing beauty with small villages and even larger cities perched on the tops of mountains and hills. Mt. Etna is in the background of many cities sending it’s daily smoke and steam into the air as a warning that an eruption could happen soon but rarely does.mt-etna

We visited ancient Greek ruins, so old it’s hard to imagine the 7th and 8th century BC still showing in beautiful theaters, temples and other buildings. Sicily in particular and Italy in general is a melting pot- the land of the Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Ottomans, Turks and others who in century after century conquered and left behind different cultures and people of different heritages.

Our guides were amazing scholars and historians who knew this wonderful history and cone-roofsshared it with us as we toured castles, theaters, middle-ages hunting lodges ( castles of sorts), Roman temples, cities built with conical shaped roofs of the trulli in Alborobello and the Sassi built into cliffs and rocks of Matera and then Romanesque towns and villages ( Lecce) and volcano craters ( Taormina). The amazing ancient and more modern ( middle-ages to 18th century) churches were full of relics ( yes, real bones of saints and martyrs), beautiful mosaics, statues, columns, nitches and chapels, high wooden ceilings ( one made of papier maché) and other religious ornaments and details.

Among all of these were several UNESCO World Heritage sites and others to be named soon.

cielingThe gnarled ancient Olive trees, the cactus plants, snails that grow on stems, beautiful wild flowers and unusual varieties of pines and birch trees along with Italian oak trees lined the streets and countryside. Pistachio nuts, pine nuts, olives, almonds, grapes, walnuts and prickley pears theatergrow copiously along with the the usual vegetables. Orange and lemon trees were found in ancient ruins as well as hotel courtyards. The seaside towns were very beautiful and spoke also of ancient historical battles and discovery by other cultures. We discovered beautiful ceramics, linens, pottery, leather goods and art of the area that took its’ toll on our charge cards.

A group of 3 couples, friends who have traveled together on other European adventures, felt comfortable walking in the wide and very narrow streets and squares. Ristorantes, shops, trattoria, hotels and historical markers captured our attention. As in all of Italy, the food was served beautifully- much pasta, seafood, unusual combinations of spices and sauces, gelato, olives, cheeses, meats and cannoli filled us up and gelatotreated our taste buds to new sensations. And the wine- locally grown and served everywhere for lunch and dinner and in between. Italians love their wine. And so did we.

Since it is widely known that Sicily is the island of the Mafia, we asked questions about it and got a uniform response. The Mafia was much more of a violent and threatening force during the days of the 1920s and 1930s during the times of Victor Corleone who was made famous by the Godfather movies. Near Taormina, the town of Corleone exists but that is not where the movie was filmed. We saw the small village of Sacova perched high up on a hillside on our way back from our trip to Mt. Etna, where our guide told us the movie was filmed. There are even organized Godfather tours which we did not take.

Today the mafia appears to be more involved in politics and with business and corporate deals according to our guides. They are not seen and there are not shootings and other awful incidents associated with the earlier version of the mafia.

We know about the violence of the mafia from our own history when Al Capone was exacting revenge and carrying out “business” deals at the end of a gun barrel. Many lives were taken, even of close family members, to keep it in the family and seize power and control

Such is the case with guns. They make seizing power and control much easier and many wars have been fought to that end. In America, we have daily shootings, many domestic in nature, that are about control. The men ( and it is mostly men) who shoot spouses, girlfriends, significant others and family members do so out of anger and the need for control. Such was the case when my sister was shot by her estranged husband.

October is domestic violence awareness month. Many daily shootings in America are domestic in nature and often police officers get caught in the middle. Two such recent incidents that happened while I was traveling are reminders of the danger of domestic abusers with guns. One in Boston killed two officers. A recent ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court recognizes the danger of guns for domestic abusers.

If only our elected leaders would also recognize that we would be a much safer country and our families would suffer less devastation if we enacted stronger laws such as those in place in most other countries in the world. One of our guides was a scholar of the American constitution and knew a lot about the second amendment and the influence of the corporate gun lobby on our gun laws. He was astounded that we could not pass laws to keep guns away from people who should not have them. Recent police shootings were also something of concern to this guide and other Italians as they watch in concern and horror as young black men are shot by officers.

We have a problem not seen in most other democratized countries not at war.

In Italy, one must be licensed to own a gun and the gun must be registered. In addition, few people are allowed to carry guns outside of the home.

Back in the USA, the violence and carnage continues unabated in most places except for states that have passed strong gun laws. Political leaders and candidates are not running from the issue of guns and gun violence in this election though and the majority of Americans are beginning to use their voices to seize control of the violence. Americans have said in polls over many years that at the least, they want every gun buyer to go through a Brady background check.

We are on the rim of of the volcano of gun violence and need to get off to safety before more people are injured or killed by the eruptions. rim-of-volcano

As I reflect back on my wonderful trip, I realize that I was away from the daily news of shooting. The news in Italy was about Donald Trump and worry that he could actually be elected President of our country. One guide mentioned to us that Taormina in Sicily will be the sight of the G7 conference next May. We all hoped it would be President Hillary Clinton representing the USA at the conference. There is much worry in Italy about the American election and the recent video released about Trump’s sexual assaults. Italians are watching carefully. The second debate ran on Italian TV and the news was on the front page of all of the papers there.

Trump’s talk about a rigged election is leading to worry about actual violence on election day and afterwords. His failure to reign in the violent talk and false statements and insinuations about about Hillary’s views on guns and jailing her if he was elected is causing armed citizens to strap on their assault rifles and intimidate Democrat campaign headquarters in several places. ( And, oh yes, this is legal)This is not how elections work in America. The transfer of power does not happen at the end of a gun barrel.

Insanity.

What has happened to civility and common sense? It’s unsettling to read the news while traveling outside of the country and realize that the rest of the world is afraid of a major candidate for President because they don’t what it will mean for world stability and peace.

So as we move towards the election, we must all stand up for what is right and against the lies and hysteria that have not been seen in previous American elections. We all know that elections can be brutal but this time around, there is something very wrong. We all need this to be over and move on to governing a country full of citizens from all over the world who want to live an American dream that does not involved violence, intolerance, hatred, discrimination, racism, sexual assaults, talk of women’s private parts, terrorism, white supremacists, armed citizens patrolling the streets looking for something that has been hyped up by a candidate whose increasingly bizarre behavior should be a serious red flag to all of us.

We have work to do and it will take a while to recover from the ugliness of this campaign. Meanwhile, I have my memories of a trip to a beautiful and mostly peaceful part of the world. It wasn’t always so and the history of violence perpetrated by Italian rulers, most especially Mussolini, is not forgotten by Italians. But what they don’t have is gun violence. That’s an American thing and something about which we should not be proud.

Ciao for now.

More photos below:

columns

seaside

mosaics

olive-tree

Gun suicide prevention

suicide_20kThis week is National Suicide Prevention Week. We can’t talk suicide without talking about guns. Why? Because suicide by gun is the majority of gun deaths in America.

From this article in The Trace, written for this week of awareness about suicide:

 

In 2014, there were 42,773 suicides, and 21,334 of these were carried out with a gun, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Suicides comprise two-thirds of all gun deaths. The typical victim of a gun homicide is a young, black male. The typical suicide victim is a middle-aged white man. Roughly 80 percent of suicide victims are men, and 83 percent are white.

Young people are also at an elevated risk of gun suicide. Among those aged 10 to 19, there were 2,259 suicides in 2014. Nearly half of those deaths — 41 percent — involved firearms, according to data from the CDC. The only more common cause of death for young people is accidental injuries, a category that includes traffic accidents and drownings.

Some gun rights advocates deny these statistics, or I should say, ignore them. To them, suicide by guns don’t matter. I have heard in comments on my blog and in other places from some of these folks that if people want to kill themselves we should let them. This Philadelphia father (Farid Naib) would totally disagree with that:

The video, which coincides with National Suicide Prevention Week, highlights how quickly things can go wrong for kids, who lack the perspective to realize things are not as dire as they seem. Farid and his two children had just returned from a ski trip, and “life was about as good as it could be.” But after Cayman received an email from school saying he was failing a course, he found the gun, took it to a remote section of the family’s large property and killed himself. “This was in the space of 20 or 30 minutes,” says Farid, who’d always believed there’d be warning signs if a child was contemplating suicide. “There were none. Kids get upset. And they make bad decisions when they’re upset. Having a gun in house that they can access, you give them the ability to make that bad decision permanent.”
Read more at http://www.phillymag.com/news/2015/09/11/cayman-naib-father-brady-campaign-video/#EeE5Faq7t23YMw5s.99

Farid Naib has told this story very poignantly because, as you can imagine, the pain is almost unbearable. It was his own gun that he had for self protection. And now his son, Cayman is dead over a momentary bad day. I have seen Mr. Naib speak at a conference and heard him tell his story. It was not easy but he knew that telling his story may help others understand the risk of guns in their homes and the tragic results that could occur as a result.

As part of my work to prevent gun violence, I have met people from all over America who have lost loved ones to gun suicide. It is a violent death. And it is often avoidable. Suicides by gun count in the total number of gun deaths in America. Why would they not?

Mental health is certainly a public health and safety problem. Easy access to guns is also a public health and safety problem. The combination is lethal.

Please read this blog post by a young woman who lives with a mental health disorder and why she knows a gun would be a terrible idea for her. From the writings of Bryan Barks who works for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:

Now, after years of therapy and the right combination of medications, I have my bachelor’s degree, live in DC, and have been able to pursue a career in a field I am passionate about — gun violence prevention. I lead a normal life, though I am aware of my bipolar disorder every day and struggle with my moods often — even in periods of relative stability.

While I try not to relive the most painful parts of my past, every time I think of the lives lost to suicide by firearms — nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths — I think about how different my story could have been if guns were involved. (…)

I know there are responsible, law-abiding individuals who have personal reasons for owning guns. But when someone in a household is in crisis, temporarily removing the quickest, most effective means of suicide can be life-saving. To call suicide inevitable is to give up on people with mental illness — people who could be successful, happy, full of life with the right treatment plan. Retrieving guns after the worst has passed is easy. Retrieving a life lost in a moment of desperation is impossible.

Guns matter. If family members and friends recognize some of the signs or understand that having a gun around during times of depression, crisis, family problems and other problems, lives could be saved. The image at the top shows the truth of the matter. Many people who survive suicide attempts don’t try to kill themselves again. A gun is much more lethal than other methods and ends in death more efficiently and quickly.

My brother-in-law committed suicide by jumping off a very high bridge. He knew it would be fatal and it was an awful event in the lives of our family. He was my husband’s only sibling. Between us we have each lost a sibling- one to suicide, one to homicide. We understand how devastating this loss of a loved one can be. We have handled our grief in different ways. My husband is more quiet and pensive and thinks about things we maybe could have done differently to recognize his brother’s depressed state and intentions. That’s typical when someone commits suicide.

Another brother-in-law , my sister’s first husband, had undiagnosed bi-polar disorder and could be angry and volatile. It was difficult to raise a family and deal with his ups and downs. He never owned guns for which we were all thankful. It was her second husband, with depression and a lot of anger who used his gun ( he owned many) and shot and killed her.

My brother, who served in the Viet Nam war has PTSD along with Parkinsons disease, depression and is now a former alcoholic. He owns many guns, even his service pistol. When we realized that his mental, emotional and physical status was such that he could become a danger to himself, we took the guns away and they have not yet been returned to him. He gave us permission to do this. Other families can do the same.

Which brings me to the issue of military suicides:

With nearly half of all suicides in the military having been committed with privately owned firearms, the Pentagon and Congress are moving to establish policies intended to separate at-risk service members from their personal weapons.

The issue is a thorny one for the Pentagon. Gun rights advocates and many service members fiercely oppose any policies that could be construed as limiting the private ownership of firearms.

But as suicides continue to rise this year, senior Defense Department officials are developing a suicide prevention campaign that will encourage friends and families of potentially suicidal service members to safely store or voluntarily remove personal firearms from their homes.

This is a serious public health and safety problem and guns cannot be ignored as part of the problem and the solution. But it is not something we can’t work to solve.

My path has been to get involved in ways to reduce gun deaths of all kinds by educating people, lobbying, learning about the issue, being involved in my local Brady Campaign chapter and the independent state group, Protect Minnesota as well as serving on the Board of Trustees of the Brady Campaign. I have traveled to Washington DC for meetings and conferences and meetings with my Congressional delegation many times. I have spoken to groups large and small, written OpEd pieces, testified at the state legislature, organized events, and many other things. It’s been a path of some victories and many challenges.

Because of the people I have met who have lost loved ones, I am determined to continue what I am doing to make a difference. Telling stories about the risks of guns to families is important. Many gun suicides are unreported in the media so we don’t often hear about them. Families are bereft, may feel “guilty” about a family suicide or reluctant to speak about it. But more family members are speaking out. And, as it turns out, laws can matter.

In states with strong gun laws and less gun ownership gun suicides are lower than in other states. A Harvard School of Public Heath study reflects the facts:

The lesson? Many lives would likely be saved if people disposed of their firearms, kept them locked away, or stored them outside the home. Says HSPH Professor of Health Policy David Hemenway, the ICRC’s director: “Studies show that most attempters act on impulse, in moments of panic or despair. Once the acute feelings ease, 90 percent do not go on to die by suicide.”

But few can survive a gun blast. That’s why the ICRC’s Catherine Barber has launched Means Matter, a campaign that asks the public to help prevent suicide deaths by adopting practices and policies that keep guns out of the hands of vulnerable adults and children. For details, visit www.meansmatter.org.

The Violence Policy Center confirms what the Harvard School of Public Health reported about the rate of gun ownership and the rate of gun deaths:

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

And far too often murders are also suicides in progress. Suicidal people with guns seem to want to take others with them. Their angry or depressed states of mind seek a final solution for their own problems by taking the lives of others. From this article:

What can we do to stop the killing? Murder-suicides are nearly always committed with a gun, and it is critical to stop potential killers from having easy access to firearms. One important step would be to restrict access to guns for individuals who have a history of domestic violence or have threatened suicide. Policymakers at the state and federal levels should pass stronger domestic violence prevention legislation to help keep guns away from domestic abusers. States should also establish domestic violence task forces. In addition, we need aggressive enforcement of laws that prohibit individuals with a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction or who are the subject of a restraining order for domestic violence from purchasing or possessing a firearm.

Finally, we should establish a comprehensive, nationwide database to track murder-suicides, in order to fully understand the scope of this problem and how we can stop it.

Suicide is commonly misperceived as a solitary, desperate act. Yet our research shows that murder-suicides claim the lives of spouses, intimate partners, and children — and nearly always involve a gun. We must immediately take steps to help prevent this especially horrific form of domestic violence.

As we study the issues of gun violence, we can learn more about the causes and effects and some are drawing a line from suicidal people to mass shootings. From this article:

Mass murder is a form of suicide in that the perpetrator of such atrocities is often an enraged and fatalistic individual who intends to die at the scene of the massacre. From this perspective, the increase in mass shootings over the last ten years is very consistent with the increase in suicide.

To sum this up, guns matter for those considering suicide. Gun suicides account for the majority of our country’s gun deaths. We don’t have to accept this nor should we. As a country we don’t sit back and accept the rate of death from auto accidents or smoking. We dig in and do something about reducing the chances of death and injury. Gun suicides are preventable. The fact that we are doing little to stop them is a sad commentary on our American gun culture. If we but do some common sense things and have the necessary national discussion we can save lives.

It’s past time to deal with the tragedy of suicide and gun suicides in particular. Let’s get to work. Join an organization working on gun violence prevention and get involved. The organization with which I am involved is the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and also the state independent group, Protect Minnesota. They can use your help, your energy, your financial donations and your talents.