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.

Constant carnage

PrintI must give credit to my friend Kandi for this phrase. She messaged me about a toddler shot and injured in St. Cloud, Minnesota. What the heck? A toddler. But yes, constant carnage and it’s just another day.

From the article:

 

Through investigation, police say it appears the shooting was accidental due to negligent storage of a firearm. Authorities said they believe the child accidentally shot himself with a loaded firearm that was within his reach. The boy is still hospitalized in stable condition.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. This adult had a felony conviction on his record. He can’t own guns legally. But he had one anyway and allowed access to it by his toddler child.

Just another day in America.

Where is common sense?

Toddlers cannot be responsible enough to handle guns, period. (see story above) In my neighboring state of Wisconsin ( I can see it from my windows) toddlers can now hunt. What could possibly go wrong?

In Northern California, a gunman shot up people at 7 crime scenes, ending at an elementary school, where he injured 2 children. At the end of this spree ( mass) shooting, 5 were dead and 10 injured. It barely made the news. Why? Maybe because only 4 died?

From the article:

“I really don’t know what his motive was,” Mr. Johnston said. “I think he was just on a rampage. I think he had a desire to kill as many people as he could.” (…)

Mr. Johnston said that investigators had reviewed video from the school’s security system that showed the gunman walking the hallways and entering a restroom, but appearing to get frustrated that the classroom doors were locked.

The school went on lockdown at the sound of gunfire, Mr. Johnston said.

“We would have had a horrific blood bath in that school if that school hadn’t taken the action when they did,” he said.

The alarming thing here is that the man manufactured his own assault weapons at home. How? Here’s how:

The AK-47, perhaps the world’s best-known gun, is so easy to make and so hard to break that the Soviet-designed original has spawned countless variants, updated and modified versions churned out by factories all over the globe. Although US customs laws ban importing the weapons, parts kits—which include most original components of a Kalashnikov variant—are legal. So is reassembling them, as long as no more than 10 foreign-made components are used and they are mounted on a new receiver, the box-shaped central frame that holds the gun’s key mechanics. There are no fussy irritations like, say, passing a background check to buy a kit. And because we’re assembling the guns for our own “personal use,” whatever that may entail, we’re not required to stamp in serial numbers. These rifles are totally untraceable, and even under California’s stringent assault weapons ban, that’s perfectly within the law.

This is lunacy. Time to pass laws to make this illegal.

The shooting in California started with a shooting of the man’s wife. Too often mass shootings are the result of domestic violence that lead to anger and the shooter takes it out on innocent Americans.

And to make matters even more ridiculous, our very own President tweeted condolences to the wrong community after the shooting in California. Either there are so many mass shootings of late that he can’t keep track of them or he is being his usual uninformed and hopelessly unprepared for his job. From the article:

Mr. Trump’s Twitter response, which has since been deleted from his account but is timestamped at 11:34 p.m. on November 14, mentioned another mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, which occurred on November 5, killing 26 people and injuring 20 more.

“May God be with the people of Sutherland Springs, Texas. The FBI and Law Enforcement has arrived,” Mr. Trump wrote in the tweet, offering thoughts and prayers to the wrong town.

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I thought that his tweets were part of the official Presidential record. Can he delete these lies and misinformation? That is a huge problem right now. The misinformation about shootings and gun policy are ubiquitous in the public sphere. Just take for example the usual talking point from the far right extremists that since California is a liberal state with strong gun laws, how does a shooting like this happen? Remember that the shooter made his own guns. And further, many of the guns used in crimes in California come from other states where gun laws are much weaker. In spite of that, California’s gun death rate is lower than in most other states.

But never mind the facts. And these are the folks, and the President, who love to accuse others of #fakenews. The hypocrisy is hard to stomach.

We have passed laws to keep guns away from domestic abusers but there are ways to get around it and there are too many loopholes that allow these angry folks to buy ( or manufacture) guns anyway. Too often someone in their lives know that they are potentially dangerous with guns. We could pass Gun Violence Protection Orders to make it harder for them to have guns. Will we?

We could save lives and prevent shootings.

On the political front, we will have 2 new Democratic governors who spoke openly about their support for gun violence prevention measures. And they won- not by a small margin. Talking about guns works. The public found that issue to be one of their top issues. Finally.

No need to be afraid to talk about gun violence. How can it be avoided when the constant carnage is killing so many people that soon enough all of us will know someone who has been shot.

We can actually do something about all of this. The public does understand that which is why they voted for candidates who spoke out about solutions. As a public health issue, gun violence needs a cure. The American Medical Association is becoming more concerned about deaths and injuries due to gunshots as well they should. In a new article, the Journal of the American Medical Association writes that physicians should treat gun violence like a public health problem and look for the cause of it like in other illnesses:

Guns kill people. More background checks; more hotel, school, and venue security; more restrictions on the number and types of guns that individuals can own; and development of “smart guns” may help decrease firearm violence. But the key to reducing firearm deaths in the United States is to understand and reduce exposure to the cause, just like in any epidemic, and in this case that is guns.

The constant gushing of gun deaths has hollowed out a huge hole in America. Every day, toddlers shot with a gun found in the home. Every day, women killed by abusers. Every day, guns used in suicides. Every day, every day, every day, every day………..

This column by conservative columnist David Frum opines on actions taken in America after all of the mass shootings. It is not what you would think is common sense:

So it’s not at all true that “nothing changes.” In fact, a remarkable research paper published in 2016 by Harvard’s Michael Luca, Deepak Malhotra, and Christopher Poliquin found that between 1989 and 2014, the most probable policy response to a mass shooting was a loosening of gun laws. (…)

This may explain why gun advocates insist that the immediate aftermath of a spectacular massacre is “too soon” for the gun discussion. They want the pain and grief and fear to ebb. They want ordinary citizens to look away. Then, when things are quiet, the gun advocates will go to work, to bring more guns to places where alcohol is served, where children are cared for, where students are taught, where God is worshipped. More killings bring more guns. More guns do more killing. It’s a cycle the nation has endured for a long time, and there is little reason to hope that the atrocity in Las Vegas will check or reverse it.

Ordinary citizens cannot look away. They must be noisy and insistent that our gun laws are strengthened, not loosened.

This is a moment in time that can make a difference. The constant carnage is digging a deep hole in our collective memories and day to day lives. Stay constant in the demands to act to prevent gun deaths and injuries.

And to our elected leaders, we must demand that they represent the vast majority of Americans ( almost 100%!) who support requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales and strongly support many other common sense measures to end the carnage. This Quinnipiac poll is stunning in that it reveals the truth about how our leaders have failed us:

That marks the highest level of support since Quinnipiac first asked the question in February 2013 in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that left 20 children and six adults dead.

Let’s get to work and do what almost all Americans know is the right thing to do.

The corporate gun lobby should not be calling the “shots”.

As I write this,  Senators Chris Murphy and John Cornyn are working on a bill that would fix some of the problems in our background check system that allowed the shooter at the Texas church to get a gun he shouldn’t have had. I’m all for it.It’s a fix around the margins but it’s a fix. It’s so interesting that when a shooting happens in a Senator’s state, he/she is under pressure to act ( Senator John Cornyn). Wouldn’t it be great if all Senators wanted to act whether the shooting happened in their state or another of our 50 states because they do, of course.

The constant carnage is killing us.