Guns and the midterm elections

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eek- a mouse! Run.

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

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

Go figure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh yes, the NRA is the Republican party.

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

And this is who some of our lawmakers fear?

Get a spine.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks NRA and spineless politicians.

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

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

#Enough

We can prevent senseless shootings

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

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

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

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

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

Senseless. What was this man doing with a gun?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why did this shooter have a gun?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Watch one of the videos:

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

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

We just can’t afford to let that happen.

Another anniversary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Yes. We can save lives.

Let’s do it together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nothing could be more true.

 

UPDATE:

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

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

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

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

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

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

church service

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

 

Red flags

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Gun stories in newspaper headlines

Breaking News Shows At This Time And InfoAs I was reading my local newspaper on-line  yesterday, 2 headlines caught my attention.

The first is a veteran’s story- one of many involving veterans with PTSD and guns. From the story:

 

The former National Guard soldier and Iraq War veteran shot and killed his father, Rick Defiel, on June 1, 2016, in the family’s home in Fergus Falls, Minn.

He was found not guilty due to mental deficiency and was committed to the Minnesota Security Hospital as mentally ill and dangerous.

Defiel spoke to a reporter as he explained why he shot and killed his father. His claim is that he killed his own father in self defense. But his family members say otherwise:

She said Dustin had a psychotic break caused by untreated post-traumatic stress disorder, and only God knows what’s in his mind.

“This is his truth,” Tammy Defiel said. “It’s just not the truth.”

This is a hard story for me. My brother, a Viet Nam veteran, has PTSD along with many other health problems, some of which are service related. I know that PTSD is very real and his sometimes delusional reactions to things around him make it difficult to ascertain what is real and what isn’t. But further, veterans with PTSD should not be around guns. The reporter said that the shooter “found” a gun.

Looking for protection, Defiel found a gun. He opened the door and saw his dad on the bed, yelling and swearing.

“I pointed the gun and shot. He started to get up, so I pointed the gun and shot again. I shot him twice,” Defiel said, to keep his dad from coming after him.

Defiel said he went into “military mode,” feeling his life was in danger.

Here is the story as reported at the time of the shooting. It was a “high powered rifle” used in the shooting and the story in the linked article does not fit with the shooter’s story. From this story about the shooting:

Steven Kalenberg, the fiancé of Dustin’s sister, told authorities that the family has been terrified of Dustin Defiel. At one time, Ricardo Defiel had firearms in the house, but removed them because of Dustin. Kalenberg also said Dustin’s brother and sister were so afraid of him that they did not give out their home addresses or telephone numbers and had limited contact with him.

An investigator who spoke to Defiel shortly before midnight Wednesday found him calm and emotionless.

Defiel, according to court records and media accounts, has had run-ins with the law for theft, drunken driving and violation of a restraining order. He was the subject of several civil commitment hearings. He was arrested by West Fargo police in September of 2014 after a woman noticed him peeking into garages in her neighborhood.

The family wisely removed firearms from their home. But the shooter had one anyway in spite of his arrests and his psychotic break.

There are people who should not have guns, period. And why anyone “needs” an AR-15 ostensibly for self defense is beyond me and most of the American public.

The second story is of a local man who was sentenced for firing off off 36 rounds with an assault style rifle- yes I said 36 rounds- in an attempt to kill his wife. How did he not succeed? From the story:

Rusty George Kallis, 41, of Proctor pleaded guilty in December to a charge of attempted premeditated first-degree murder. He admitted that he threatened his girlfriend and two children with the firearm before firing off more than three-dozen rounds at the woman, missing her but striking a house across the street, and later pointing the weapon at a neighbor.

Kallis was facing trial on 10 felony charges, with jury selection entering its second day, when he entered the plea on Dec. 13.

And yet another man who should not have had a gun got his hands on a gun anyway. All were lucky that no one is dead as a result of this man’s anger. Anger and guns don’t mix.

Guns are readily available to just about anyone in America.

Many of the nation’s homicides are due to domestic disputes. This one I know because of my own sister’s shooting in a domestic dispute.

From the article:

In all, an average of at least 760 Americans are shot to death by current or former partners each year, a 2016 Associated Press analysis of national and state law enforcement data found. These numbers are probably an undercount, since not all agencies provide data. Nearly 75% of the victims in domestic violence shootings are the current wives or girlfriends of the men who killed them, the Associated Press found. Shooting deaths of men are much less frequent.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If we required Brady background checks on all gun sales, require safe storage of guns to avoid them being stolen or found by someone who could be dangerous to themselves or others, strengthen straw purchasing laws and pass Gun Violence Protective Orders or Extreme Risk Protective Orders, we could prevent some shootings.

And if we are not even interested in preventing at least some of our nation’s daily shootings, we are not doing the job of protecting our families.

What we need is a whole lot of common sense and the courage to take on one of our nation’s worst public health epidemics.

What I read in one edition of a local paper is just the tip of the iceberg. These stories often don’t grab the attention of the public or the media because they have become so common place that we just read and move on. But real people’s lives are affected by these every day shootings. A veteran with PTSD tells his story. But his family, telling a different story, now suffers from their own PTSD after losing a loved one to bullets. The family who was terrorized by an angry man with an AR-15 was lucky to get out alive. But they will never forget the horror of the day a man with a gun threatened to kill them.

It is not acceptable to think there is nothing that can be done to stop shootings. That is what the corporate gun lobby would have you believe.

They are wrong.

Many of our daily shootings are not “breaking news”. They are buried amidst many other stories. But they are breaking news to the families who are involved. And they break the hearts of way too many people every day.

It is #NotNormal and not inevitable that we read headlines about shootings in our local newspapers all over our country.

We are better than this and we have had #Enough.

 

 

Revelations about mass shootings

revelationIt is not always easy to find out what was in the minds of mass shooters. If only we knew before the massacres of innocent people. But in America, and in the words of many on the side of gun rights, we would rather punish the shooters after the massacre than prevent it in the first place.

 

It’s good to try to assess what went wrong and what went right after national tragedies because that can lead to improvements and prevention. Thus, we now have more information about the Las Vegas shooter:

An FBI special agent wrote in one affidavit seeking a search warrant that “the methodical nature of the planning employed by Paddock, coupled with his efforts to undermine the preceding investigation, are factors indicative of a level of sophistication which is commonly found in mass casualty events such as this.”

Paddock purchased the items used in his attack during the year leading up to it, the FBI said, and a large share of the ammunition and accessories he amassed appear to have been bought online. Federal authorities said Paddock used “anonymously attributed communications devices,” destroyed or concealed digital storage and had at least three cellphones in the hotel suite where he opened fire.

This is possible in America. No other country makes it so easy to access high powered weapons with bump stocks and ammunition to just about anyone who wants it and can come up with the money. This is not normal. It’s not inevitable because we can stop it if we have the will.

Instead we have lapdog politicians all too eager to do the bidding of the corporate gun lobby which throws lots of money and influence in exchange for power and control over our system of gun laws. The Brady Campaign’s video is appropriate here ( from link above):

Coincidentally, a new report was released about the Sandy Hook shooting.

The report is basically a recap of how law enforcement and school officials handled the massacre of 20 first graders and 6 educators. Only in America is this even a thing. Wouldn’t it be great to prevent these shootings in the first place instead of writing about how to respond to them and then a look back at what went wrong? What went wrong was that the shooter had his guns in the first place.

We know how we can fix some of our gun ailments. We could prevent at least some of our mass shootings by passing laws to allow family members to report a loved one who has anger problems, mental health problems or domestic related problems so that guns can be taken from the person. This is called Extreme Risk Protection Orders 

A no brainer. Lives can be saved.

California, Washington and Oregon have passed laws like this and Connecticut already has this law. It is working already.

A no brainer.

Some mass shootings are the result of domestic disputes:

Devin Patrick Kelley, who shot and killed 26 people at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, earlier this month, had been convicted in a military court of domestic violence and should have been ineligible to own a gun. He’s far from the only mass shooter with a history of abuse and violence toward women and family members.

And two observers recently told WTOP that holes in the system mean that authorities are missing chances to keep guns out of the hands of abusers. (…)

Sheryl Gay Stolberg, a reporter for The New York Times, said that underreporting of domestic violence in the military is only one gap in the system that may be putting guns in the hands of people who should be forbidden them by federal law.

study from the gun-safety group Everytown for Gun Safety found that 54 percent of mass shootings were related to domestic violence.

2015 Huffington Post analysis found that 64 percent of mass shooting victims are women and children, whereas women make up only about 15 percent of all shooting victims and children 7 percent. (See a partial list below.)

Indeed, Webster pointed out, the most common kind of mass shooting — defined as one in which more than four people are killed, not including the shooter — is itself an act of domestic violence, “in which the assailant is attacking a family member or a partner or a formerly intimate partner.”

Some of these mass shootings are related to anti-government or extremist positions by people with many guns who exhibit anger and other behaviors that indicate they could be dangerous. This article reveals a report from the Southern Poverty Law Center about domestic disputes and extremists:

Shooting attacks in CaliforniaNew MexicoVirginia and Pennsylvania occurred with regularity in December, resulting in 13 deaths (including three extremists killed by police) and more than 20 injuries. All of these incidents garnered national media coverage, but few reporters shed light on how extremist ideology likely played a role in the suspects’ violent rampages against family members, police, and neighbors.

Domestic violence among extremists is common. Yet, the phenomenon is not well-understood or publicized. In the immediate aftermath of these types of incidents, authorities too often overlook and regularly dismiss connections between the suspect’s violent behavior and his extremist affiliation. Few elaborate on how extremist beliefs may have played a role in the suspect’s temperament and violent behavior – fueling the suspect’s anger and self-justifying violent action. Since mental illness can be a contributing factor in extremist attacks, authorities oftentimes quickly focus on that aspect of the suspect’s behavior, which provides for an easy explanation leading to a quicker resolution of their investigation.

I expressed my concern in my last post about anti-government sentiment, racism, hate and intolerance as exhibited by our President last week. I was hoping that his ramping up of this rhetoric, along with the NRA’s new focus on race, liberals and immigrants, didn’t lead to violence. Looks like it already has.

It’s called insurrection.

This is the America we have, not the America we deserve to have. The very fact that a report has to be written about how to respond to mass shootings is very sad, to say the least.

And an updated count of Americans killed so far by gunshot injuries this year ( it’s only January 14th) ( homicides) is 542 according to the Gun Violence Archive. In my last post of 2 days ago, the number was 436. Yes, America, we have a problem- we are ignoring a public health epidemic right before our very eyes. And we are ignoring it at the cost of human lives.

The thing is, we already know most of this and we have been talking about it for far too long. The time is past for action. We also know that there are things that can be done to prevent shootings and reduce the numbers who are killed. And those measures are supported by a majority of Americans- even gun owners and Republicans.

This is a no-brainer.

Where are those brave leaders who will stand up for the victims and stop the carnage?

Where is common sense?

New Year’s Eve lunacy

BitmojiThis post has been updated to reflect new information.

Every year, New Year’s Eve results in deadly shootings. We live in America where we have come to expect this lunacy. Let’s take a quick look at what happened today before we get more information to flesh out what actually happened. A Sheriff’s deputy was killed and 4 injured in a domestic dispute in Littleton, Colorado. If this city sounds familiar it’s because it is the home of a deadly high school shooting- Columbine.

From the article:

Five deputies were shot, one fatally, after they responded to a report of a domestic disturbance on Sunday morning in a suburb of Denver, officials said.

The gunman was shot by deputies and was “believed to be deceased,” the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office said on Facebook. Two civilians were also shot by the suspect, the Sheriff’s Office said. (…)  Deputies had responded to a call of a domestic disturbance around 5:15 a.m. at the Copper Canyon Apartments on County Line Road in Highlands Ranch, the Sheriff’s Office said in a statement on Facebook.

Domestic disputes are the cause of many shooting deaths of law enforcement officers. They are among the most dangerous for officers and for women, of course, because they are most often the victims in these types of shootings.

From the above article:

The most dangerous time, the time when we’re getting killed the most often, is in the approach. It’s the ambush. Often they know we’re coming, so we don’t park right out front.

The nature of the crime adds another complication. Domestic violence is about one person’s desire to control another. The police officer who arrives at the scene is taking away some of that control.

Guns provide the ultimate control, of course, and that is the purpose.

Speaking of dangers to women, research shows how often they are threatened, injured and/or killed by partners:

When it comes to gun violence against women, the United States is the most dangerous country in the developed world. Domestic violence affects millions of women across the country, and guns in the hands of domestic abusers can turn abuse into murder. Indeed, the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely that the woman will be killed. And the deadly mix of guns and domestic violence is exacerbated by America’s weak gun laws: women in the U.S. are 16 times more likely to be shot and killed than are women in other developed nations.

It’s only common sense that guns should be hard to access for domestic abusers or men who are angry over loss of control in a relationship. That one I know for sure having experienced the death of my sister in a domestic shooting. She hasn’t celebrated New Year’s Eve for decades and we haven’t been able to ring in the new year with her.

And this just came to my attention. A 12 year old girl shot and killed a 16 year old girl with a loaded gun she found in an unlocked car:

Police responded to a shooting call at an apartment at 3:25 a.m. and found several juvenile girls inside along with the 12-year-old’s grandmother, who is the tenant, police said in a news release.

According to a preliminary investigation, the group of juvenile girls snuck out of the apartment without the grandmother’s knowledge, went to a nearby parking lot and began pulling on car door handles, police said.

They found an unlocked vehicle and burglarized it. Police said a loaded semi-automatic pistol was taken during the burglary.

The girls brought the gun back to the apartment where police say the 12-year-old is alleged to have handled it and pointed it at other girls when the gun discharged, killing Wilson.

There is so much wrong with this scenario that I hardly have the words for it.

More guns= more gun deaths. That is the bottom line.

Happy New Year’s eve everyone.

Remember other New Year’s shootings?

Some happen as a result of firing a bullet into the air in celebration of the new year. I will be happy when this year is over for many reasons but I won’t be shooting a gun into the air. For one thing, it’s too frigid to be outside long enough to do that in my neck of the woods.

My friend, Joe Jaskolka, was the victim of one of those celebratory bullets while a child in Philadelphia. He is now a young man who has suffered through numerous surgeries and his life was completely changed as the result of a lunatic thinking that a bullet fired into the air does not come down again. The laws of physics seem to have escaped some folks.

Instead of making us safer the minions of the corporate gun lobby are making moves to make it more dangerous for citizens to be safe. The passage of the Concealed Carry Reciprocity act in the House was such a measure. The public did not come to their representatives and ask for this. It would be forced down the throats of innocent citizens should it become law and pass in the Senate.

Caren and Tom Teves, whose son was massacred in the Colorado theater shooting, should know what dangers come from lunatics with guns. From the above linked article:

The deep sorrow the victims’ families feel knowing they will never see their loved one again is something that we know all too well. We have felt it every single day since our son, Alex, was shot and killed in the 2012 Aurora, Colo., movie theater mass shooting.

The night Alex was murdered, he and his girlfriend were attending a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” When the shooter began spraying bullets into the dark theater, Alex got to the floor but his girlfriend, Amanda, froze. Alex jumped back up and pulled her to safety, but as he did a bullet hit his forehead. (…)

Arizona has experienced firsthand the devastating effects of weakening concealed carry standards. In 2010, Arizona legislators repealed the state’s concealed carry permit requirement — and aggravated assaults committed with a firearm increased by 44 percent in the subsequent six years.

“Concealed carry reciprocity” would force each state to accept this dangerous “permitless carry” standard, even though 81 percent of Americans oppose allowing people to carry concealed guns without a permit, including top Arizona law enforcement officials.

2017 brought us the worst mass shooting in American history in Las Vegas as a lunatic with a gun shot and killed 58 innocent people attending a concert. This year, extra precautions ( at taxpayer expense) will be taken in Las Vegas to assure that this does not happen again.

Snipers on New Year’s Eve. Are we at war?

New York City will be taking similar precautions.

When lunatics with guns can fire off enough bullets to kill dozens at a time, this is what America is all about at the end of 2017.

Only in America.

Lunacy.

Check out what Utah is up to regarding gun rights as just one example of Red state legislators beholden to the NRA and the gun lobby. From the article:

The state lawmaker behind Utah’s .05 percent DUI threshold is preparing tweaks to the law that pertain not just to driving but also to carrying and firing a gun while intoxicated.

Rep. Norm Thurston seeks to carve out an exemption for people who are under the influence but use a weapon to defend themselves or someone else, he said Wednesday. (…)  “We’re looking at modifying it to say that there is an overriding feature that if you are using that dangerous weapon to defend yourself, or your home, or a family member, or another person, (then) that’s justifiable — that even if you’ve been drinking, you still have the right to defend yourself,” Thurston said.

Good grief. This is absolute lunacy. What could possibly go wrong? If there is any common sense left in Utah, this provision will not make it into the law or be removed if it does by people who have some sense and care about public safety

Americans are dying in increasing numbers every year from gunshot injuries. This is not normal. It is not acceptable. It is not inevitable. The new year can bring some better safety measures for all of us if we put our heads together and do what’s right and sensible. This is not about the second amendment or gun rights. This is about the rights of all of us to be safe from gun violence.

The Gun Violence Archive tells us that that 15,466 gun homicides and according to all other years, approximately 22,000 gun suicides. That makes over 37,000 Americans killed by guns.

I say good riddance to 2017. It was a particularly violent and tragic year.

Let’s make 2018 the year of making America safe again and raising our voices to demand action on strengthening, not loosening, gun laws. We have a serious public health epidemic that we have ignored for far too long.

We are dying as a result.

Happy New Year.

Stay safe out there.

 

UPDATE:

Another tragic shooting involving another teen accessing a gun he should not have had has left 4 people dead on New Year’s Eve:

A 16-year-old New Jersey boy armed with a semi-automatic rifle shot and killed his parents, sister and a family friend inside the home where they lived, authorities said Monday. Monmouth County Prosecutor Chris Gramiccioni said Monday that the teen will be charged with four counts of murder and a weapons offense stemming from the shooting that occurred late Sunday night, less than 20 minutes before midnight on New Year’s Eve in the shore town of Long Branch.

A possible motive for the shooting has not been disclosed. The rifle used in the shooting was legally registered to a resident of the house, Gramiccioni said.

Sigh.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Lock up those guns everyone.