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.

From sea to shining sea

From Gun Violence Archive Facebook page

Please read the updates at the end of this post. There have been 2 more mass shootings within the last 24 hours.

“…America, America God shed his grace on thee. And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”

That patriotic song came to mind this past week as mass shootings took the lives of many Americans from one coast to the other and in the middle:

At least eight people were killed, and 46 were injured, in mass shootings that spanned the country from Washington, DC, to Kennewick, Washington, according to the Gun Violence Archive’s tally. The organization defines a mass shooting as a single incident in which at least four people are shot not including the gunman.

The numbers follow a trend seen every summer in America — as temperatures heat up, killings become more likely.

An analysis from The New York Times last year found that more than twice as many people were shot in northern cities such as Chicago when it’s hot as when it’s cold.

“Summer time an’ the livin’ is easy……”

The mass shootings happened in just a few days’ time. Shooting is easy in America.

At the Gilroy Garlic Festival 3 were killed and 12 injured by bullets when a 19 year old with an assault rifle cut his way through a security fence to inflict carnage on innocent food fair attendees. Two were children. He bought his gun in Nevada where the minimum age for purchasing a rifle ( even an assault rifle) is 19. In California, where the shooting occurred, he could not have bought that same rifle until he was 21. One can argue that no one should be able to buy an AK-47 weapon meant for war.

Only in America can we find people who have survived 2 mass shootings in the span of less than 2 years as was highlighted in the linked article above:

After surviving the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, three friends were not expecting history to repeat itself two years later.

In 2017, Christopher and George Cook were in Las Vegas during the Route 91 Harvest festival, an outdoor country music concert, when a gunman fired into the crowd killing 58 and injuring more than 500. They managed to escape with no injuries. (…) Sunday, the brothers attended the Gilroy Garlic Festival when a gunman opened fire. Three people were killed and 12 injured.

Physically the Cook brothers escaped unharmed, however mentally, Christopher told CNN he’s been dealing with a wave of emotions.

“You think you’re grateful for everything you have until something like this happens,” he said.

America the beautiful. An American tragedy.

The first linked article goes on to list the mass shootings all over the U.S. including:

4 shot and injured in Washington D.C.

4 injured in Chicago

4 injured in Uniontown, PA

1 dead, 5 injured in Philadelphia

1 dead, 3 injured in Wichita, Kansas

1 killed, 11 injured in Brooklyn, N.Y.

1 killed, 3 injured in Kennewick, WA

The article missed a shooting in Wisconsin when 5 were killed and 2 injured in Chippewa County, WI.

And yet, no action on passage of a federal assault weapons ban, criminal background check bill or Extreme Risk Protection Order bill.

Where is common sense?

And no action in the MInnesota Senate whose leadership refused to take up any gun safety reform bills.

Where is common sense?

It is true in our America the beautiful that 8 children a day are shot (some injured, some dead).

It is true in America the beautiful that 100 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries. Hundreds more are injured daily.

From the Brady site: ” Every year, 113,108 people are shot.

The chart above comes from Gun Violence Archive. Why do we need a site to keep track of American shootings? What a sad state of affairs. We have had 248 mass shootings so far this year according to Gun Violence Archive. It is August 1st and day 213. Let that sink in.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Americans are demanding that leaders stand up and do their jobs to keep us all safe so we can enjoy going to festivals, state fairs, schools, work, concerts, movies, etc. without fear of being shot.

In my state of Minnesota officials of the Minnesota state fair are ready to take more precautions realizing that with the crowds who attend every day, because anything can happen:

Katie Galioto at the Star Tribune checks in on local event officials and law enforcement following the recent shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival: “A State Fair spokesperson said Minnesota’s famed get-together, which attracted more than 2 million people last summer, involves the coordination of federal, state and local agencies. 

The gun rights advocates have tried to convince Minnesota State Fair officials that they should be allowed to carry loaded guns at the Fair. They have been turned down. Just imagine the chaos if someone or many armed citizens started shooting bullets around in a crowd of running people. I can’t , but they must imagine themselves as heroes. They are wrong.

This is America the beautiful. This is the America where just about anyone can get their hands on a gun of any type to inflict mass carnage, pain and grief on innocent families all over our beautiful country.

This is America- the land of the free and the land of the armed.

I don’t find this beautiful. I’m sure you don’t either. Please contact your elected officials and demand action. That is the only way we can make America safe again.

Update:

As you are reading my post I am adding yet another deadly mass shooting happening right now. El Paso, Texas is the scene of the latest carnage on a beautiful summer day. A Walmart store to be specific where at least one has died and 18 or more are injured in a mass shooting with an AK-47 rifle. Do I have to mention an assault weapons ban?

Another update about the El Paso shooting– it appears now that 20 are dead and 26 injured. The type of rifle has not been definitively identified but some reports say it was an AK-47. With that many dead, it is likely:

20 people were killed in the shooting.

Officials are exploring capital murder charges.

Authorities are investigating a manifesto in connection with the shooting.

Hospitals and emergency workers are treating victims.

Witnesses described the violent scene.

El Paso has been at the center of the migrant crisis.

Officials expressed their sympathies.

Who knew that I would be writing about a 2nd mass shooting within a 24 hour period. Dayton, Ohio was the scene for the latest one leaving 9 dead and others injured. As more information becomes available I will write more. But here is what we know so far:

Unconfirmed eyewitness accounts indicated a person who was denied entry at a bar opened fire. Police said the shooting took place after 1 a.m.

Anger and guns don’t go together. Why did this angry man have a long gun as it was reported in another article? Why would he shoot people at a bar because he couldn’t get in? Why did he have a gun in the first place?

Defying the gun lobby talking points, he was most likely not mentally ill. He was angry. And because we have such easy access to guns in our country, this is possible.

THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

Violence against women and babies

Yes. In America, babies get shot. Toddlers pick up guns and shoot themselves or others or get shot and the NRA tried to stop the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Just another day in America.

Let’s look at all of these one by one.

In Alabama, a 6 month old baby was shot and killed by her own father.

Yes. This actually happened. From the article:

Police in Alabama confirm that over the weekend, a 6-month-old girl was fatally shot by her father, who then turned the gun on himself in an apparent murder-suicide.

There was a domestic dispute, following the filing of a restraining order that ended in a homicide of a baby and a suicide of the father. Too awful for words. Who shoots a 6 month old baby?

Domestic abusers are particularly dangerous with guns. And yet, some Republican members of the House and soon the Senate, voted or will vote against the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The NRA decided to get involved and scored the vote. But the diminished NRA representing an ever smaller and extreme group of gun owners, lost. Who’s afraid of the NRA? Who’s afraid of those bullies? 33 Republicans joined the Democrats ( except for Collin Peterson of Minnesota- not my Rep.) in voting for common sense and were not afraid of the NRA.

Rep. Eric Swalwell is not afraid of the NRA though he was threatened by an NRA member He even tweeted out the voicemail message left by the guy who felt the need to try to intimidate the outspoken California Congressman. Listen to what he says and tell me that this is OK.

What is wrong with these guys with their guns? Intimidation and bullying is not OK and we call BS on these folks. The gun lobby does not apparently care if babies and women are shot to death over domestic disputes. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn by their actions.

And I don’t want to forget that yesterday was the anniversary of the shooting death of Martin Luther King Jr. Please remember how easy it was for his shooter to get his gun even though he was a felon. What has changed?

Oh- and I wanted to highlight the most ridiculous irresponsible incident with guns that is hard to beat. There have been many other such follies but this one is right up there with the best ( or worst). From the article:

A police affidavit says the two men are neighbors and were drinking on a deck Sunday when Ferris told Hicks to shoot him with a .22-caliber rifle while Ferris wore the vest. The affidavit says the shot left a red mark on Ferris’ chest and that he was angry because it hurt. 

Duh. Alcohol and drugs do not go together, nor does being stupid with guns. This happened in Arkansas where gun laws are pretty loose. The state also has a high rate of gun deaths.

I will be away from my blog again for a 2 week trip to Greece. I have already written about the gun laws in Greece when I took a previous trip there. They are much more strict than those in America, thank goodness. Also very few people die from gunshot injuries in Greece. (I had trouble finding current information) There is common sense regarding gun laws in other parts of the world.

And speaking of other parts of the world and guns, a Wisconsin woman will likely be doing jail time after stupidly carrying a gun with her on a cruise to the Cayman Islands where guns are not allowed. Her excuse? I can carry my gun in Wisconsin. I thought I could take it with me wherever I go.

She was wrong of course. Only in America can people carry guns wherever they go. From the article: ” Guns and ammunition are strictly regulated in the Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica, as several other visitors have learned recently. “

She had no common sense and now she is in trouble and according to the above linked article, she is not the only American gun permit holder to get into trouble for traveling with guns.

I have a question. What is so dangerous on a cruise ship that someone needs to carry a gun on board. Are the Caymans dangerous? It turns out that they have little crime but there is the usual pickpocketing of tourists found anywhere that having a gun on one’s person would do little to prevent; unless Americans want to shoot pickpocketers. Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist, comes to mind when I think of pickpockets. “You’ve got to pick a pocket or two.” I have experienced this while traveling but carrying a gun never occurred to me.

And before I go, I wanted to say that we saw no armed people while on our trip to the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and the other places we visited in Utah and Arizona. Because the danger in those places is not something having a gun could prevent. Three people died at the Grand Canyon after we left the Park. Two fell to their deaths into the Canyon. How horrible. I can see how this can happen as there are so many narrow trails and outlooks with no guard rails or barriers. It was a bit icy and muddy leading to some slippery conditions on the Bright Angel Trail when we hiked it. People need to be careful of course.

Something else happened on our trip though that really affected me. While traveling I learned of the death by suicide of one of the fathers of a Sandy Hook victim. He was searching for answers after his daughter was so brutally massacred by one young man with a bunch of bullets and firearms.

In the few weeks before that 2 Parkland students also took their lives- all by firearm ( the easiest and quickest way to die). This is the ripple effect of gun violence. It is also a reminder that suicide by firearm takes the lives of many Americans and in fact, is the majority of gun deaths in America. I was so saddened by these deaths. It happened that we visited the Chapel of the Holy Cross built up near the beautiful rock formations of Sedona, Arizona. It was a small, beautiful chapel in an awe-inspiring location. Inside were the usual red candles to light in memory of someone. Though I am not Catholic, I decided to light 3 candles in memory of the victims of shootings in the aftermath of mass shootings.

Please remember that the PTSD caused by losing a loved one in a heinous and violent shooting is real. It is yet another reason why we must prevent and reduce shootings to save lives.

While I am gone, gun deaths and injuries will continue. The Gun Violence Archive continues to keep track and here is the latest. So far the numbers are alarmingly high as they have been for decades.

From Gun Violence Archive

Be careful out there if you are traveling and make sure that you and your family are safe from gun violence at home. If you have a gun, please lock it up away from the hands of children and teens and from those who want to steal them. I will end by referring my readers to Brady’s End Family Fire, a campaign to highlight the dangers and risks of guns.

Dangerous times

It took me a while to calm down after I heard about the woman ( Shannon Lee Goessling) our President has nominated for appointment to the Office of the Violence Against Women. It’s upside down world ever since President Trump was elected. His appointees typically are not qualified to hold the positions they hold or to which they have been appointed. Ms. Goessling is absolutely wrong for the job. And my readers may remember that my sister was shot and killed in a domestic shooting where a gun would have done her no good at all.

Is this payback to the NRA for their funding of his election to the presidency? Just asking.

Brady has issued a statement opposing the nominee:

While working as counsel for the Southeastern Legal Foundation, a public interest law firm with a record of advocating for extreme gun rights, Goessling wrote an amicus brief in District of Columbia v. Hellerarguing that women in domestic violence situations should arm themselves against their abusers, relying on research that was more than 30 years old. Following the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, Goessling told a Florida House panel that “my best friend is my Glock” as she waved her concealed weapons permit and NRA membership card in the air. Goessling also filed an amicus brief opposing same-sex marriages, and the foundation took on multiple cases for groups and businesses targeting immigrants and other Americans who speak a language other than English.

It’s dangerous for women when guns are in the home or even when they have their own gun for self protection. This, of course, is the opposite of what the gun lobby claims. They are wrong. Also from the Brady statement- about women and guns:

When there is a gun in a home with a history of domestic violence, there is a 500 percent higher chance that a woman will be murdered.
In 2016, one out of every three women murdered was killed by an intimate partner with a gun.
Women who were killed by a spouse, intimate partner, or a close relative were seven times more likely to have lived in homes with guns.
2015 study found that “there is no clear evidence that in the hands of victims, firearms are protective,” and recommended instead prohibited abusers from accessing guns.
The LGBTQ+ community reports high levels of intimate partner violence, and African American women experience intimate partner violence at a rate 35 percent higher than white women.

These are facts supported by research. Appointing someone who does not regard the facts and, in fact, will act against common sense and known facts about violence against women is appalling. This is the opposite of what is needed to keep women safe from violence. I urge the President to retract this nomination.

I want to move from violence against women to violence against Muslims and others not like us. The horrendous, tragic and heart wrenching shooting and deaths of 49 innocent people in New Zealand is now the topic of conversation in the media.

It’s worth discussing the influence of our own country’s culture on what is going on in other countries. This article highlights the manifesto left by the shooter before the shooting and the apparent influence of American hate shootings and racism on his actions far away from America:

Portions of the ghastly attack at the downtown mosque were broadcast live on social media by a man who police confirmed had also released a manifesto railing against Muslims and immigrants. The 74-page document states that he was following the example of notorious right-wing extremists, including Dylann Roof, who murdered nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., in 2015. (my edit of name)

The manifesto, littered with conspiracy theories about white birthrates and “white genocide,” is the latest sign that a lethal vision of white nationalism has spread internationally. Its title, “The Great Replacement,” echoes the rallying cry of, among others, the torch-bearing protesters who marched in Charlottesville in 2017.


The digital platforms apparently enlisted in the shooting highlight a distinctly 21st-century dimension of mass gun violence — one sure to put more pressure on social media companies already under scrutiny about how they police their services.

Of course we need to talk about New Zealand’s gun laws here. From the above linked article:

Gun laws in New Zealand are more stringent than they are in the United States, but not as strict as regulations in Australia and much of Europe. In 2017, more than 1.5 million guns were held by civilians in New Zealand, according to a tracking website maintained by the University of Sydney School of Public Health.

New restrictions came into effect, including on military-style semiautomatic weapons, after what was previously the deadliest shooting in New Zealand’s modern history. In 1990, 13 people were killed in the seaside town of Aramoana when a resident, David Gray, went on a shooting spree after an argument with a neighbor.


Violent crime is rare in New Zealand, compared to the rest of the world. Murders in the country fell to a 40-year low of 35 in 2017, police said, a rate of seven deaths for every 1 million people.

Another article I found revealed that New Zealand is home to many guns- 1 per every 3 citizens. A license is required to own a gun and carrying one is strictly regulated. Nonetheless people can purchase semi-automatic weapons. Because this shooting happened in a country that has no amendment guaranteeing a right to bear arms, I am guessing that changes are coming. In spite of yesterday’s mass shooting though, “New Zealand also has a low murder rate, with a total of 35 homicides in 2017 — fewer than the number of people who died in Friday’s double mosque attack.”

I am editing this post to include an article about the New Zealand Prime Minister’s determination to strengthen the gun laws, as I predicted would happen:

Jacinda Ardern said at a press conference early on Saturday that she would consider banning semi-automatic firearms altogether after the alleged gunman behind the shootings obtained five guns legally.
“I can tell you one thing right now: our gun laws will change,” said Ardern. “There have been attempts to change our laws in 2005, 2012 and after an inquiry in 2017. Now is the time for change.”

Ardern said the alleged shooter was found to have used five guns that he appeared to legally own under a “category A” licence obtained in November 2017. He appeared to have begun buying guns the following month, she said.
The guns taken from the alleged perpetrator included two semi-automatic guns and two shotguns, the prime minister said. Answering questions from reporters, Ardern said all options to restrict gun violence would be considered.

The attack was “one of New Zealand’s darkest days” according to this article.

America has had so many “darkest days” they are too numerous to count. And what has changed? Nothing. In fact, the U.S. Senate has an opportunity to have a hearing on and vote on 2 bills recently passed in the House- HR 8 and HR 1112. We will wait to see if they have the courage to do what everyone knows is the right thing to do.

And speaking of changes coming, the parents of the children massacred in the Sandy Hook shooting won a victory yesterday when a judge determined that the parents of the victims can pursue a lawsuit against Remington:

In the 4-3 ruling, the justices agreed with a lower court judge’s decision to dismiss most of the claims raised by the families, but also found that the sweeping federal protections did not prevent the families from bringing a lawsuit based on wrongful marketing claims. The court ruled that the case can move ahead based on a state law regarding unfair trade practices.

There is something cynical and dangerous about the marketing of military style assault weapons. On the one hand, they are marketed as weapons of war designed to enhance one’s manhood and make one much more powerful in combat situations. Are we at war on our streets? I suppose one could answer yes to that question given the daily carnage. But to hype guns as weapons to ready the buyer for combat situations or exhibit their manhood is just plain wrong and dangerous.

But the other side of this nonsensical marketing is that the gun lobby really doesn’t like it when these guns are referred to as military style weapons trying to convince us that they are just “common sporting rifles.” These are glaring attempts to deceive and confuse. We understand that these guns are meant to kill as many people as possible. They are not meant for hunting; so for the gun lobby and gun rights advocates to argue that is just another of their deceptions and lies to get people to buy the guns and try to stop any legislation to ban or regulate certain of these guns. Follow the money.

And I will end where I began- with what the President is doing about violence in America. Yesterday he made a statement that many believe is a call to violence by the man who should be leading us to less violence and peaceful solutions to problems. Stoking anger is disturbing and even more disturbing when it comes right from the top. Trump supporters turn themselves into pretzels trying to defend him. Check out this conversation with one of the President’s leading staffers about the President’s rhetoric:

But Conway wouldn’t do it.  
“You’re just reading into it like you usually do,” she said. “He was talking about how peaceful and gentle many people are who are otherwise tough.”
Conway also asked for the quote, but when Cuomo tried to read it, she immediately interrupted him.
“Christopher, he didn’t threaten and he’s not threatening violence,” she said, then claimed Cuomo was defending violence. 
“I give up,” Cuomo repeatedly said. 

More deceptions and lies. It’s insanity and confusion and obfuscation and absurd all at once.

We aren’t buying it. Today I went to a community gathering of support for our local Muslim community knowing that they would be grieving the loss of their brothers and sisters killed in the New Zealand mass shooting. They were so grateful that we came with our signs and our flowers. Graciously they invited us inside to join them at their prayer service. It was solemn and a meaningful service about hate crimes and gun violence. The wife of the Imam said in an interview with a local TV station that people should use their guns on animals, not humans. The Imam noted that these types of hate crimes are crimes against all of us no matter what religion. We ought to be able to worship without fear of being gunned down by people who hate us because of our religion, race, gender or sexual preference.

Gun violence affects everyone indiscriminately. But certain mass shootings are crimes against one group of people and done in hate towards that group to foment more hate. They are easy to accomplish when weapons of mass destruction are so readily available.

I say “Disarm Hate”. I say disarm domestic abusers. I say disarm those who shouldn’t have guns. We know who they are. I say disarm the fear mongering and rhetoric coming from the gun lobby that foments ideas and actions that can turn into buying and using deadly weapons to kill other human beings. I say disarm anyone who has hate in their hearts and minds against people not like them.

We are better than this. Join Brady. Join Protect Minnesota. Join other gun violence groups. “Take action, not sides.”

They’re coming for your cows and your guns

By Famartin – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=27101259

Yes. It’s true. The Democrats ( aka socialists to some) are coming for your cows. That was uttered at the annual CPAC event which always brings out the worst of the conservatives trying to foment the worst fears and paranoia of the attendees.

Several speakers but most notably, former Trump “advisor” and ultra conservative Sebastian Gorka, did it with a flare.

“They want to take your pickup truck. They want to rebuild your home. They want to take away your hamburgers,” former White House aide Sebastian Gorka declared at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday. “This is what Stalin dreamt about but never achieved.”

Yes. He said that. Red meat for the right. If we think that Stalin had any idea about pick-up trucks or hamburgers, we are dealing in fake news.

Am I missing something? Is there something radical about trying to save our planet for our grandchildren? The majority of scientists agree that climate change is real. Increasing numbers of Americans believe Climate Change is real but just don’t know what to do about it. Is there something radical about making sure all of us have affordable access to health care? Is there something radical about wanting to save lives? Facts are stubborn. It takes years of research and advocacy to change the hearts and minds of the public about issues of major importance to citizens. These are not radical ideas but ideas based on facts and what’s best for us all. I think that is what the founding fathers had in mind. It’s really important to deal in facts when talking about the effects of laws or ideas presented that are not laws such as the Green New Deal.

Speaking of facts and what’s in the best interest of the public writ large, this week was an emotional and satisfying victory for common sense after HR 8 and HR 1112 passed in the U.S House of Representatives. I was in DC for a celebration of the anniversary of the passage of the Brady Law 25 years ago on Feb. 28th. It was great to be in a room full of activists who had and have worked so hard to make sure that all gun sales have background checks. It was a historic week for gun safety reform and public health and safety.

My own Congressman, Pete Stauber, in 2 visits I made with him earlier this week ( one at O’Hare and one in his office on Capitol Hill) had never heard of Armslist.com. That is simply not OK. Because sites like Armslist.com are responsible for selling a pretty good number of firearms, ammunitions and accessories with no background checks. We have no idea if a private seller on the site connects with a felon, domestic abuser or someone who is adjudicated mentally ill and transfers a firearm to that person. The site is one of the problems with our background check system, that if fixed by Congress, would stop this kind of sale from happening.

And yet, the hyperbole and fear shouted out by members of Congress was as if these kinds of sales were not happening. They are. But never mind the facts. When one is endorsed by the NRA and makes promises, as my Congress member has, we can expect them to vote against common sense measures. Don’t be fooled by any language that might seem conciliatory. When we follow the money, the truth is revealed.

The current President of the NRA, the infamous liar Oliver North, claimed at the CPAC conference, that all guns would be confiscated if HR 8 became law.

“Our opponents ought to call themselves the vanguard of the disarm America movement,” North said. “They’re not going to be content to simply ignore the last four words of the Second Amendment, they want to repeal all 27 words and confiscate every firearm in the country.”

Yikes. They’re coming for your guns. Of course there is no basis in fact for that statement and it won’t happen, but never mind the facts. And who is this amorphous “they” who are coming?

Others proclaimed that if the bill became law, law abiding gun owners would go to jail for transferring firearms to family members. This is not in the bill and it is fleshed out in the bill language that family members are exempt from requiring background checks before a transfer but never mind the facts.

I heard from my own Congressman that the cost for background checks would be raised to $500.00 if the bill passed into law. NO. That is nowhere in the language of the bill and will not happen.

Listen up. These are the same background checks that most law abiding gun owners submit to when purchasing their firearms from federally licensed dealers. What’s the fuss? How will law abiding gun owners be affected if private sellers ask them to go through a background check?

They won’t. But never mind the facts.

Equally nonsensical arguments came out of the mouths of Minnesota Representatives of the House Public Safety committee on Wednesday evening at a hearing about HF 8 and HF 9. You would have thought that the sky was falling. Conspiracy theories were uttered. False claims of rights and firearms being taken were issued. Denial that on-line sales without background checks happen at all. ( See Armslist.com)

The bills passed anyway. The tired and false arguments from gun lobby supported elected leaders have been debunked for decades. Nevertheless, they persist. And they try new ones on as bills come forward that they can’t possibly support because….. rights….. money from the NRA…… angry, armed gun rights activists.

As Protect Minnesota and Moms Demand Action activists gathered for the hearings this week, they wore stickers on their shirts that said “Unarmed and Unafraid”. Indeed. The gun rights activists wore tee shirts that said “shall not be infringed”. They forgot the rest of the second amendment wording- “well regulated militia”.

What is to fear anyway? Women and grandmothers and young men and students wearing orange shirts? The machinations the gun rights folks went through to make sure they could come to the meeting armed to prove some kind of point that eludes most reasonable people was on full display in Minnesota.

We are not coming for your guns. Give it up. Keep them if you are law abiding and be responsible for what happens to them at home and in public. Don’t do what this guy did.  

Ouch to say the least. There are no “accidents” with firearms.

Don’t say what conservative attorney Joseph diGenova said on FOX news:

Speaking to conservative pundit Laura Ingraham, diGenova summed up his best advice to friends: “I vote, and I buy guns. And that’s what you should do.”


Yes, people are stockpiling guns for some kind of war with their own government apparently. Seems like a bad idea to me but whatever. And then sometimes you get caught doing the wrong thing with your stockpile like this Minnesota “law abiding” gun owner and elected county commissioner did:

Among the items found inside Hamer’s shop were: 
3 grams of methamphetamine.
Several pipes commonly used to smoke drugs.
Two scales which tested positive for meth.
Green leafy substance believed to be synthetic marijuana.
55 firearms, including a loaded 9mm pistol.

Guns and drugs often go together but they are a lethal combination and a really bad idea. I wonder what will happen to that stockpile of guns now?

Or don’t say what this Minnesota House member said at a gun rights rally:

“Some days, you feel like the frog in the boiling water. Just exactly how long are they going to just keep notching it up a degree here, and a degree here and a degree here until you’ve had enough? That line is for each of us to decide, each on our own terms,” Republican state representative Cal Bahr said during a Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus rally on Saturday. “There’s a lot of us in this room that have had enough, and it’s time to start riding herd on the rest of these people that want to take your rights away from you. They will not go quietly into the good night. They need to be kicked to the curb and stomped on and run over a few times,” he added, drawing cheers from the crowd. 
He then invoked Paul Revere and the American revolution in his closing remarks. 

Yep. I am one of those opponents of his perceived rights that Representative Bahr wants to kick to the curb and get stomped on and run over. Don’t say those things in defense of gun rights and carrying loaded guns around in public.

Don’t let your young child get a gun and do this.

The brothers were playing with a loaded handgun at their Pahokee apartment in Fremd Village, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office, WPTV5 reported Wednesday evening.
The older brother, age 7, was apparently accidentally shot by his younger brother.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Just “google” child shoots sibling with gun and see the long list. You can do it by state or in general. It’s stunning how many irresponsible gun owners don’t understand the risk of guns in their homes. Perhaps they should be introduced to EndFamilyFire.

Don’t use your gun in a moment of anger and shoot your partner or someone else or threaten someone or get mad when a dog urinates on you.

Don’t do that with your gun. Be safe and responsible. That’s all we ask. If you want to keep your firearms and your rights, stay law abiding. It is only those who aren’t who will lose their rights and possibly their firearms. Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill animals or people. They should be sold only to people who will use them legally and are law abiding.

And people like the shooter at the Aurora, Illinois workplace should not have guns. He slipped through the cracks. All we want is to strengthen the laws already on the books and pass new ones to keep that from happening.

Don’t do any of the above with your gun. Store guns safely away from hands of kids, teens and people who may be dangerous to themselves or others.Be safe and responsible. That’s all we ask. If you want to keep your firearms and your rights, stay law abiding. It is only those who aren’t who will lose their rights and possibly their firearms. Guns should be sold only to people who will use them legally and are law abiding.

But do remember that law abiding gun owners like my now deceased and ex brother-in-law can become felons in a matter of seconds for using a gun to kill people.

It could happen to you. Think about it. Wouldn’t you want as much as possible done to prevent your own loved one from being avoidably and senselessly killed in a violent and sudden shooting incident? I believe the answer is yes. And guess what, 97% of Americans are on my side.

We have come to expect that our cars will be as safe and laws have passed that require safety measures for our cars. Why? We don’t like it when our loved ones are killed in avoidable accidents. And lawsuits have held car manufacturers responsible for safety. There are laws to keep smokers from smoking in public places. Those laws keep us all safer. There are laws to keep children safe from defective products. There are laws against driving while drunk. These are all public health and safety laws that we know have worked to prevent senseless accidents and incidents. That is what stronger gun laws would do. We are pretty united about these laws.

This week the Brady Campaign launched a re-brand and is now Brady, United Against Gun Violence. Sarah and Jim Brady would be proud of the organization they helped to found. There is a lot of history with passing stronger gun laws and we celebrated that history this week in many ways. Check out this wonderful video:

We know that the country is actually united against gun violence. Check out the new Brady website. I love the “Take action, not sides” and “It’s in our hands.”

It is in our hands.

No one is coming for your cows, your hamburgers, your guns. Don’t believe it. It’s not true.

W