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.

Happy Mother’s Day

pitcher_flwrs_csIt’s that day when we remember our mothers. Mothers deserve our respect. Everyone has one for one thing. My sister was shot and killed in 1992, leaving behind 3 children and 3 step children. Her grandchildren were born after her death so they never got to know her and her adult children do not have a mother to whom to send flowers and a card.

Mothers started a movement in 2000 with the Million Mom March which I attended. It was on Mother’s Day and was meant to call attention to the fact that mothers cared a lot about losing children, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and others to gunshot injuries. All we wanted were some common sense gun measures that would save lives. President Clinton and Hillary Clinton were there that day to support the mostly mothers in the crowd,

The mother who started the movement, Donna Dees-Thomases was so incensed about the shooting at the Jewish Community Day Care in 1999 that she got a permit for the march thinking that maybe 50,000 would show up. And then Columbine happened. And then the country was tuned in to school shootings and 750.000 showed up on the National Mall to demand changes to our gun laws.

Some of the mothers whose children survived the shooting at the Jewish Community Center marched in 2000 and have remained active in efforts to stop gun violence.

But Congress chose not to listen to the mothers who marched that day.

The Brady Campaign merged with the Million Mom March and its’ chapters continue to work for gun safety reform.

One small measure passed after the Virginia Tech shooting- to require states to send the records of those who were adjudicated mentally ill to the FBI data base so people like the shooter of 32 at Virginia Tech would be prohibited from buying guns at Federally Licensed Dealers only. Many mothers lost children on that day and some of them whose children survived have become activists for gun violence prevention.

Let us not forget though that this symbolic measure is not enough to stop someone intent on harming others from getting guns from private sellers at gun shows or on-line. Because…..rights?

And then the Aurora theater shooting happened. I have come to know one mother who lost her only daughter (Jessica Ghawi) in that horrific shooting. Her mother Sandy has been working ever since so that other mothers won’t suffer the pain she has suffered.

After that shooting, what did Congress do?

Right.

 

 

And then 20 small children were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2014. Mothers lost their precious children in what has become a marker for the cowardice of Congress failing mothers and others by not passing a background check bill that came before them.

The NRA opposed the bill. Enough said.

I know the mother of a young TV journalist, Allison Parker, who was shot on live TV by someone who should not have had a gun. Her anguish is palpable but Barbara is not deterred by the cowardice of our leaders.

The meaning of mother’s day for those mothers and the families of mothers who have lost their lives to gun violence is forever changed.

After Sandy Hook, Shannon Watts started a movement called Moms Demand Action. Shannon Watts is a mother. So are most of the members of MDA. They are also fathers, brothers, sisters, and others who work to prevent gun violence. She is also threatened and mocked by the NRA and others who must be quite unnerved by hundreds of thousands of mothers demanding change.

What has happened since then? Some states have passed universal background check laws. Some have passed assault weapons bans.. Some have passed Extreme Risk Protection Orders. 

But in defiance of the majority and of mothers, many states have also made it easier for people who shouldn’t have guns to get them. 

Shameful.

 

It’s more than a shame. Shame is not enough for the lack of leadership and courage by many of our leaders. The mothers and others in the groups I have mentioned represent the 97% of us who are asking for change in the name of the dead and injured. The corporate gun lobby and specifically the NRA represents about 7% of gun owners and even fewer of the entire nation.

 

Mothers and women continue their efforts to demand change. The Women’s March after the inaugural of our 45th President in protest the election of a man who does not support issues that affect most women and their families. Many mothers were there that day and our kids watched as we marched in DC and all over America in one of the biggest marches in DC. Gun safety reform was one of the issues and continues to one of the issues of concern for the Women’s March.

The student movement that began on Valentine’s Day of this year after the Parkland shooting has stirred up the country and changed everything. The mothers of those students are proud of their kids and the courage they exhibit that our leaders have not. Again- a record breaking crowd in DC came out on March 24th to March For Our Lives and let our leaders know that change must happen.

The President made some initial noise but as always, he sputters and spouts and preens for the cameras and then does nothing. Or worse, he goes in the opposite direction.

How can you raise the hopes of victims and survivors and then crash them after such a horrendous shooting?

Shameful and cynical.

We’ve collectively had #Enough. We know we are better than this but our leaders are failing us. They are letting mothers and others die senseless and avoidable deaths because they lack the courage of the mothers, students and others who are raising their voices and fighting back.

They are letting our children be sitting ducks in our schools. They are failing the next generation.

But change is coming. Mothers will not be silent. Remember the origin of this holiday:

The origins of Mother’s Day as celebrated in the United States date back to the 19th century. In the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children.

These clubs later became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.

Another precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe. In 1870 Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873 Howe campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.

Mothers and others just want our leaders to do the right thing. Doing it soon will save the lives of many.

It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the Star Tribune editorial board published this piece for today’s edition:

Gun violence is not a Democrat-vs.-Republican issue. It’s not a rural-vs.-urban issue. And despite what leaders are telling you, there is ample time left to pass legislation that would make a real difference. When they need to beat the clock, legislators pass massive bills in minutes with virtually no discussion. That’s not an ideal way to legislate, but make no mistake, it happens. Avoiding debate all session and then claiming a lack of time is cowardly and falls short of the leadership Minnesotans expect.

Republicans should pass their school security package as a stand-alone bill, knowing Gov. Mark Dayton would sign it. They should pass enhanced criminal-background checks. That issue has been discussed for years at the Capitol.

“What is it going to take in Minnesota and American society to curb gun violence?” Serier asked an editorial writer. “In our schools we have to have active-shooter drills for kindergartners. That is one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever heard of. If that’s the world we’re living in, it’s time to change it.”

Will it take mothers losing more children and children losing more mothers?

The answer is yes since nothing is being done to stop the devastation.

Pass the bills supported by almost everyone. Give mothers a gift that will last forever. Give flowers and gifts but the lasting gift of knowing that we can prevent some of the senseless shootings in our communities will at the least give mothers peace of mind.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone. Enjoy your families. Keep working for common sense and making our families safe from gun violence.

Keep marching and keep advocating.

Gun rights odds and ends and white terrorism

odd

This post has been edited since first posted.

 Walmart store, allegedly and reportedly in Evanston, Indiana put up a display of rifles touting them as part of their going back to school marketing. How odd. How disturbing. A woman took a photo, it went viral, and voila- we have the gun rights culture out front and center for the bold and clueless treatment of guns. The linked article reports that Walmart apologized and the display was taken down but also wondered if it was a fake photo or doctored in some way. Both cannot be true and the mystery remains.

But why go there at all? The thing is, it’s so believable that there would be a marketing display of this sort that naturally people were upset. In the midst of all of the heinous shootings involving kids and the thought of one’s own child as a victim of a school shooting or the shooter for that matter, why go there?

The answer is… gun rights. What is odd about that display anyway? Isn’t it normal for guns to be marketed like this to increase sales? Never mind that it might be offensive to many.

Many are not only offended but many have experienced gun violence in their lives. Shooting anniversaries come and go and it’s one more year since the death or injury of a loved one. Yet another such shooting anniversary occurred with little notice. In 1999 a White Supremacist with hate in his heart and on his mind decided to shoot at kids and teens at a Jewish Community Center day care in L.A.  Five were wounded after 70 shots were fired. It’s quite amazing that more people weren’t injured or killed. The children of two friends were among the wounded. These are mothers I have met through my network of gun violence prevention advocates. The son of one of them, only of pre-school age has now grown into a wonderful young man with nothing but some physical and emotional scars left. The other was a teen girl who is now happily married and doing fine. But the feelings never go away and the scars and memories are still there. The horror of the phone call that your child has been shot lives just below the surface.

It was this shooting that motivated Donna Dees Thomases to start planning what has become one of the largest marches on the National Mall- the Million Mom March. which took place in May of 2000. And the movement continues. Activists and advocates lobby, march and organize still today for non-violence and common sense solutions to gun violence.

Speaking of common sense solutions to violence, how can we hope that will happen when white supremacists gather together to foment hate, racism and intolerance.  But that is what they will do this week-end in an alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

There are concerns about public safety of course as there will be counter protesters as well. Hopefully no gun carrying or gunshots at these rallies. From the article:

Thomas asked that protesters from both camps to pledge to remain nonviolent.

“I urge groups on both sides to publicly commit to a nonviolent assembly,” he said. “Your commitment may influence the small minority that may seek to jeopardize public safety and will also serve to strengthen bonds throughout our community, reduce a growing cloud of fear, and emotionally disarm those who would delight in provoking others towards violent actions.”

Yet, yesterday, Trump’s deputy assistant and counterterrorism adviser, Sebastian Gorka, ridiculed the idea of lone-wolf terrorists and played down the threat of white supremacist violence.
Lone wolf shootings have become more common in America. They should be rare and odd but they are not. There are angry people fueled by white supremacist leanings, terrorist group leanings, anger over politics, race, a grievance against law enforcement or an organization and loosely associated with such groups who have wrecked havoc on innocent Americans. Take a look at this article:

Lone wolf attacks are rare — there have been perhaps 100 successful politically motivated attacks pulled off by a solo actor in the United States since the 1940s. But they began attracting special attention from the national security community more than a decade ago when Al Qaeda started encouraging them. By 2010, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta declared that lone wolf attacks could pose “the main threat to this country.” The next year, President Barack Obama laid out the problem on CNN: “When you’ve got one person who is deranged or driven by a hateful ideology, they can do a lot of damage, and it’s a lot harder to trace those lone wolf operators.”

Researchers believe lone wolf attackers are fundamentally different than people who participate in organized political violence. In an effort to better understand the phenomenon, the Department of Justice has funded two groups of researchers to compile databases of historic lone wolf attacks, so they can be analyzed for trends, psychological profiles — and, the authorities hope, insight into how to prevent them.

We all know that Donald Trump changed his views about gun policy as he was seeking to be our President. Of course he did. Follow the money and power. As an aside, our President has changed his position on many issues and one doesn’t know what will come out of his mouth at any given moment. Lies, #fakenews, incendiary rhetoric, ramping up war rhetoric, blaming others, bullying others, criticizing his own “friends” and allies, throwing people under the bus for his own expediency and blurting out mistruths that could end us all up in a lot of trouble. It is not only odd but disconcerting and quite scary.

(Maybe I should buy a gun!)   grrr

But I digress. It does no good to ignore or deny that these kinds of attacks take place. The shooters are most often angry men and often known to have mental illness. And they have access to guns because… it’s America where gun rights trump the right of all of us to be safe from attacks by people wielding guns in order to hurt others. Ignoring and denying that these incidents happen gives an excuse for doing nothing about them.

More from the above-linked article:

In the early years, a high percentage of lone wolf attacks employed explosives. But that has changed: “The lone wolf’s preferred weaponry is now a staggering range of high-velocity firearms,” Hamm and Spaaij write.

They attribute this trend to controls on the purchase of bomb-making materials enacted after the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995 and the permissiveness of U.S. gun laws.

“Permissiveness of U.S. gun laws…” This is the truth but the gun rights extremists want our laws to be even more permissive so that anyone can buy and carry guns everywhere. This is not normal. It is odd compared to almost all other democratized countries not at war.

When the commander in chief keeps changing his own mind about guns and gun policy and ramping up fear and paranoia, of course we have more violent and intolerant rhetoric. The gun culture we have is not the gun culture we should have. There is no reason why we can’t all work together to at least try to stop some of the shootings. Changing the conversation and working towards making guns accessible only to those who can reasonably handle them and are not under the category of felons, domestic abusers, known terrorists ( on the terror no-fly list), adjudicated mentally ill, drug abusers, or potentially dangerous to themselves or others would save lives.

That should not be so difficult. It’s all about common sense.

Gun rights to some people seems to mean no responsibility with that deadly weapon. Allowing guns to be accessible to small children is inviting tragedy. Every day in America, guns fall into small hands. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Take one of the latest incidents ending badly:

A Kansas City 5 year old is dead by his own hands when he found a gun in his home and shot himself. Without the kind of discussion, research, common sense measures to prevent shootings and whatever it takes to stop this irresponsible gun behavior we can expect our children to continue to suffer from gunshot injuries and deaths.

A 16 year old Mississippi teen fatally shot his 6 year old brother to “scare” him: 

Craft illegally came into possession of the handgun, according to Gulfport police Chief Leonard Papania. The teen has been charged with manslaughter.

How do 16 year olds access guns? That question must be asked and answered. They should not have guns, period. But this is gun rights in America. Solutions can be found if we have good research into the problem, talk about the risks of guns in homes, attack gun trafficking, lost and stolen guns, straw purchasing and require Brady background checks on all gun sales.

This writer for Forbes has written about this American tragedy and the denial of it in America.:

 

Today, 19 children will die or receive emergency treatment for a gunshot wound in the U.S. And tomorrow, another 19 will. And then another 19 the next day. In fact, 91% of all children who die from firearms in high-income countries across the world come from the United States, and guns are the third leading cause of death for all children between ages 1 and 17. Those are a handful of the sobering statistics reported in a new study on gun violence in Pediatrics.

Yet the myth persists that the freedom to own a gun without a universal requirement of background checks or a legal requirement to store those guns safely and out of children’s reach supersedes the lives of American children. Until the U.S. as a whole decides to recognize and accept what the tremendous cost of current lenient gun laws is, more than 1,000 more children will die next year. And the year after that. (Read here how to reduce your child’s risk.)

Yes. We have gun rights and we also have gun rights myths. Guns are killing us and most especially, our children. This is not OK. It’s odd. It’s not normal. We can do something about it if we stop the denial and raise our voices. It doesn’t have to be this way. Young children should not die from gunshot injuries, robbing them of a future and their families of watching them grow up to contribute to society. Young children dying from gunshot injuries should be rare and odd.

Try ASKing if there are loaded unsecured guns where your children play and make sure you, yourself lock your guns away, unloaded, from curious hands or from theft.

And speaking of young children being shot, this awful incident happened in Cleveland when a road rage incident ended with the shooting of a 4 year old:

A 4-year-old boy is in serious condition after he was shot in the head in an apparent road rage incident overnight in Cleveland, Ohio, the Cleveland Police Department said.

Police said the shooting happened while a mother was driving her 4-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter.

After the mother honked her horn to pass another car blocking the road, that car allegedly followed the mother onto the freeway and fired shots into the woman’s car, police said.

What is wrong with us? Why are people driving on our roads armed? What is so dangerous out there to warrant this kind of behavior? This is a gun culture gone wrong.

A friend posted a photo on her Facebook page of a man open carrying at a dog park to which she took her dog. She had never seen someone open carrying a loaded gun before and found it odd. It is. It’s not normal. Others on her Facebook page were not aware that people can open carry guns in many states and were upset and disgusted to see this photo. People don’t like seeing armed citizens around where they go to work, play, learn, worship and hang out.

Commenters on her page wondered what is so dangerous at a dog park? Will the man have to shoot another dog? Will a dog owner make him angry? Will that gun “accidentally” fall off of his belt  (not sure how gun is attached to belt)  when he leans over or chases the dog? There are no “accidental gun discharges but nevertheless they happen. I write about these incidents too often and they should be odd. Why aren’t they?

I have posted this photo with permission from my friend.

man at dog park

Should this be normal? A minority of Americans practice their gun rights by carrying concealed or openly. So far instances of having to use carried guns for self defense are rare compared to the risk of having guns around in the home. But the reason given by many gun rights activists is that they must own and carry their guns for self defense.

( This was added after I first posted) And then stuff like this happens.:

A pistol-packing senior tried to reserve a parking space in Queens Wednesday by firing off a few rounds.

Yvonne Cosby, 76, let off two gunshots from the window of her Brookville home because she was angry that a man had parked outside her house, cops said.

Miraculously, Cosby missed her target. Police were eventually able to calm her down and take her into custody, cops said.

It’s very clear that some people should not have guns. We need to re-think the idea that just anybody can pack heat and have a gun for “self defense”. This woman’s family will now hopefully understand that she is dangerous to herself or others and should have her gun removed from her home.

There is something wrong with a gun culture where there are almost more guns than people. And to make it worse gun ownership has gone down and now fewer people own more guns per person. Normal? There is something wrong when gun deaths happen at such a rate as to be a national public health epidemic that we ignore and deny at our peril. There is something wrong with idolizing guns and gun rights to the point that we dare not challenge it or those who believe in the myths.

Gun rights and gun responsibility along with sensible gun laws can go hand in hand. They are not mutually exclusive. Since most gun owners agree with this, we ought to be on our way to sensible solutions, right?

haha

There is nothing funny about it. In the end, this is about saving lives and need not set gun rights against the right to be free from devastating gun violence.

 

UPDATE:

Sadly, as predicted, violence has broken out at the “alt-right neo-nazi rally in Charlottesville, VA. The Governor has declared a state of emergency.

 

This is not who we are as a country and what is happening is truly frightening. From an article posted last night:

A group of three dozen self-described “militia” – men who were wearing full camouflage and were armed with long guns – said they were there to help keep the peace, but they also did not break up the fights.

There were vicious clashes on Market Street in front of Emancipation Park, where the rally was to begin at noon. A large contingent of white nationalist rallygoers holding shields and swinging wooden clubs rushed through a line of counterprotesters. (..,)

Tensions began Friday night, as several hundred white supremacists chanted “White lives matter!” “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” as they carried torches marched in a parade through the University of Virginia campus.

The fast-paced march was made up almost exclusively of men in their 20s and 30s, though there were some who looked to be in their mid-teens.

Very frightening. Where do we live? This is America but then again, this is not America.

 

ANOTHER UPDATE:

There is enough material here for a new post but I will add to this one instead. The NRA has decided to continue its’ offensive, rude, threatening and dangerous rhetoric by suggesting that North Korea should bomb California instead of Guam. The NRA has become an extremist group that supports violence and they are the “good guys with the guns”?   From the article:

Stinchfield later deleted the tweet and then apologized.

“It was meant as a joke and I regret it,” he told the New York Daily News. “What’s going on with North Korea is no laughing matter.”

 NO. It was not meant as a joke. He got caught. He meant it and it’s NOT FUNNY. Just as President Trump claimed that it was a good thing that Putin cut all of those embassy jobs because they were trying to cut the State Department budget and later tried to claim that it was satire. NO. It was NOT SATIRE. He meant it. Apparently he also told the Governor of Guam that this tough talk would be good for tourism there as well. NOT SATIRE. Stupid and dangerous talk.
Words matter. Words often lead to actions. We are seeing it play out in real time in Charlottesville, Virginia. No Mr. LaPierre, “the guys with the guns make the rules”-
NOT.  We’ve had it with this hate, intolerance, paranoia and threats of violence. This is not who we are.

 

 

 

 

The epitome of our gun culture

JCC shooting15 years ago today, a White Supremacist shot up a Jewish Community Center day care center and injured small children. This is the shooting that caught the attention of Donna Dees Thomases who then went on to organize the Million Mom March in May of 2000. Since that time, thousands of Americans have been involved in the issue of gun violence prevention. And since that time, about 200,000 more Americans have died from gunshot injuries with Congress taking the back seat instead of driving the conversation that we need to have.

And so , the American gun culture keeps giving us shooting after shooting, mass shooting after mass shooting, and more dead and injured citizens. Americans are numb to the carnage because it is happening too often. People feel helpless to do anything about it since our politicians are so afraid to take the bully pulpit they have and speak out for change.

Let’s take a glimpse at what went on in our country over the past few days if you don’t believe me.

A shooting in a small North Carolina city is the epitome of the American gun culture. A young father, drunk, shot and killed his two young sons and then himself. In reading the story, several things jumped out for me. The man told neighbors he was paranoid about someone breaking into his house. He was constantly shooting guns in his back yard, bothering and frightening the neighbors and often while drinking. Are there laws about stuff like this? Can people shoot off their guns in the city limits? If so, why? If not, why didn’t someone call law enforcement? Should this man have been allowed to have guns? Shooting while drunk just has to be against some law- reckless endangerment? Or is this just an example of the gun culture we have that people are willing to accept this dangerous and stupid behavior?

Now 2 innocent little children are dead. Senseless. Avoidable.

New research (from the Armed With Reason blog)  is showing that shootings by people who are under the influence of alcohol are more frequent than shootings by those with dangerous mental illness:

Several studies have established the relationship between alcohol abuse and firearm-related crimes. Just as an individual is severely handicapped while operating a car under the influence, these studies found that similar failures in judgment and impulse control manifest during the operation of a firearm. Research shows that the risk of homicide, suicide, and violent death by all causes is significantly elevated with chronic alcohol abuse. Another studyfound a causal relationship between alcohol abuse and “impulsive” crimes such as assault and property damage.

Garen Wintemute, a professor of emergency medicine who runs the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis, has conducted two recent studies on alcohol use among gun owners and how it might impact their behavior. In 2011, using data from the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System — an annual survey of risk-related behaviors conducted by the Centers of Disease Control — for eight states and more than 15,000 respondents, he found that gun owners are significantly more likely than non-firearm owners to have five or more drinks on one occasion, to drink and drive, and have 60 or more drinks per month.

Additionally, in 2015, Wintemute discovered that firearm owners who drink excessively had a history of risky behavior, including higher rates of non-traffic offenses, an overall higher risk of arrest, and greater reported “trouble with the police.” Alcohol abuse, the 2011 study found, also leads to risky behavior with guns: For instance, alcohol intoxication is likely to impair a firearm owner’s “decision-to-shoot” judgment. And while Wintemute didn’t seek a direct link between alcohol abuse and gun violence, he did conclude that of the nearly 400,000 firearm-related deaths between 1997 and 2009, “it is probable that more than a third of these deaths involved alcohol.”

Our country is awash in guns. It’s inevitable that a father who has abused alcohol and is fascinated with guns, will eventually shoot and kill people he loves. It happens. It doesn’t have to but in our American gun culture the unspeakable happens.

This past week-end there were several mass shootings not being talked about by national media.  A Texas man who shouldn’t have had a gun got upset when an ex partner changed the locks on the house. That’s a good reason to shoot and kill 8 people right? Why not? Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill other people. And kill they do. Guns in the hands of guys like this are more than dangerous. Given that this guy had a record and was likely on the prohibited purchasers list, how did he get his gun?

This is the American gun culture.

And up in Vermont, 4 were shot and killed by a disturbed woman upset with the social services department. Have gun, will shoot. 3 were relatives of the shooter. 1 was a Social Worker. From the article:

Sobel was shot and killed after work Friday outside a state office building in Barre. She handled a case for the state Department for Children and Families in which Herring lost custody of her 9-year-old daughter, authorities said.

“I think all Vermonters are as shocked, dismayed, horrified and grief-stricken as all of us are,” Shumlin said. “I cannot remember, in my lifetime, four people being murdered by the same alleged perpetrator.”

The person in the quote needs only tune in to the national media to find out that 4 people are killed by the same alleged perpetrator all the time in this American gun culture.

Arguments about who owns a $20 dresser resulted in a shooting incident in Oklahoma- with an AR-15 for goodness’ sake.

This is the American gun culture.

3 people are dead in a presumed domestic shooting in Kileen, Texas.

This is the American gun culture.

Sigh.

In yet another “officer involved shooting” at the one year anniversary of the Michael Brown shooting, a man was shot and injured in Ferguson. A demonstration turned violent and law enforcement reacted. A young man started running and fired at police resulting in the shooting. This is unfortunate all the way around. Again, where do these young people get their guns? This one was, as many are, stolen. From the article:

On Monday, Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch denounced the shootings, saying that “violence obscures any message of peaceful protest and places the community, as well as the officers who seek to protect it, in harm’s way.

“The weekend’s events were peaceful and promoted a message of reconciliation and healing,” Ms. Lynch said in a statement. “But incidents of violence, such as we saw last night, are contrary to both that message, along with everything that all of us, including this group, have worked to achieve over the past year.”

And this, too, is the American gun culture. Young people with guns are in our neighborhoods shooting each other, shooting innocent people, shooting at police officers. Young people with guns obtained illegally most likely. Police officers are outgunned on our streets and sometimes overreact to the young people, some unarmed- some armed. And it seems that most of this is happening to black youth.

We cannot ignore this gun culture. It is killing our young people of all colors but mostly young black youth. It is a national tragedy that we are not addressing. It’s an issue of racial injustice and racial disparity. And it is an issue of too many guns accessible to people who should not have them.

Though I am not addressing gun suicides and “accidental” shootings in this post, those, too, are all part of our American gun culture. This is not a culture of which we should be proud. It should be a national embarrassment that we are not addressing  like other countries have done in the face of a public health and safety problem.

Is the epitome of our gun culture dead children? Small children being led across a street in a human chain after a crazed gunman tried to kill them? Drunk people firing off their guns in their yards every day? An angry woman shooting 4 people over losing custody of her child? An angry domestic abuser shooting 8 people because of a change of a door lock? Young black kids being shot by police officers? Police officers outgunned on our streets? Stolen guns leading to crime guns used in shootings?  Someone shooting off an AR-15 over a $20.00 dresser? PSTD suffered years after being shot at a day care center by a mad man?

What is the cost of our American gun culture?

Where is common sense?

Happy Anniversary Million Mom March

Million MOm MarchToday is the 15th anniversary of the Million Mom March. I have been writing about it and posting to Facebook pages about it. I want to share this video in the words of Donna Dees Thomases, founder of the Million Mom March, about why she decided to organize a march to end gun violence:

Donna was right. We weren’t doing enough to prevent the daily shooting incidents. When small children are attacked by a crazed gunman in a pre-school, something was ( and is) wrong with our American gun culture. Not long after the shooting incident at Granada Hills Jewish Community Center where young children were injured, the Columbine shooting happened. And then the shooting of 5 year old Kayla Rolland. They just kept coming and it was more than enough to get 750,000 plus Americans involved in one of the nation’s largest rallies on the Washington Mall.

We marched and we organized and we had hope. And then we learned that trying to break through the entrenched corporate gun culture was an uphill battle. We have had occasional victories, the latest of which is the passage of a new background check law in the state of Oregon.

We will continue working on passing stronger gun laws and countering the craziness of the corporate gun lobby. Why? Because lives depend on our staying the course and being there to get out the message that too many have died from gun violence and that we can save lives if we put our collective heads together to change the national conversation and tell the truth about the devastation of  gun violence in our communities.

In another article about the anniversary, Donna and other advocates talk more about the movement and about plans for the future. 

When I started this 15 years ago, 10 kids a day died from gunshot injuries. The number today is closer to 8. That is an improvement. But it’s not acceptable. What other public health epidemic gets treated like gun violence? It’s all about the fierce opposition of the corporate gun lobby and it’s bought and paid for politicians. That has not changed in the 15 years since the Million Mom March.

But never mind. We will continue working on safe storage, on getting parents to ASK if there is a gun where their children play and hang out, on laws to stop bad apple gun dealers from providing guns to dangerous people and to make sure all gun sales go through a Brady background check.

For this is the country most people want. It’s not what we have or deserve.

We are better than this.

Thanks to Donna Dees -Thomases and the many Million Mom March and Brady chapters all over the country for their devotion to this important cause. Thanks go to all of those politicians who have had the courage to speak up for common sense. Thanks to the physicians, lawyers, clergy, community activists, like minded groups, friends, families of victims and survivors for their willingness to support what we do. And thanks to those who have followed in our footsteps to make our country safer.