No to open carry and ammunition

It’s finally happening. The business community and corporate America have decided that they don’t want to deal with guns and ammunition. Can you blame them? Quite a lot of businesses have suffered through horrendous shootings or have had incidents that make them less safe and uncomfortable.

Let’s take the position released by Walmart earlier this week:

Walmart stepped forcefully into the national gun debate on Tuesday, saying it would stop selling ammunition that can be used in military-style assault rifles, would discourage its customers from openly carrying guns in its stores and would call on Congress to increase background checks and consider a new assault rifle ban.
One month ago, a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart store in El Paso, a massacre that put pressure on the company to respond to the wave of mass shootings across the country. It is the nation’s biggest retailer, and a large seller of firearms and ammunition.
Walmart said it made the announcement after weeks of discussion and research about how best to respond. The decision is in line with public opinion polls that favor more gun controls, and advocates, gun violence victims and others have increasingly called for action.

Walmart clarified the statement about ammunition magazines:

“Our assortment will remain focused on the needs of hunting and sport shooting enthusiasts,” Garcia told the Washington Free Beacon. “It will include rifles used for deer hunting and shotguns, much of the ammunition they require, as well as hunting and sporting accessories and apparel. In other words, if we sell the firearm, we will sell the ammunition for it unless that ammunition, such as the .223 caliber and 5.56 caliber that, while commonly used in some hunting rifles, can also be used in large-capacity magazines on military-style weapons, and also the .300 Blackout, 7.62×39 and .224 Valkyrie which can also be used in military-style rifles.”

This is exactly what they should have done after the massacre at one of their stores in El Paso, Texas. Who wants to have a mass shooting inside of your store? Not only are your employees at risk, but your customers as well. Let’s just say it’s pretty bad for business not to mention the horrendous loss of life.

In addition, when a class action lawsuit against your business is looming, the incentive is great to prevent another shooting for which you could be liable. See this article:

The move came after survivors of a mass shooting at an El Paso filed a lawsuit against the mega-retailer late last month. 
In the lawsuit, which was brought against Walmart Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Texas LLC, the victims said that they were not seeking monetary compensation but instead the reason as to why the store did not have more adequate security measures in place to prevent the shooting.

Remember that a man armed to the teeth and wearing a protective vest showed up at a Missouri Walmart store days after the El Paso shooting.

Who needs it?

There’s a choice to be made here. Either all businesses and all places where the public gathers install security measures like metal detectors and screening or they prevent the need for this in the first place by denying people carrying guns around in their businesses.

So this week in a matter of a few days a bunch of businesses and corporations decided to stand up to the insanity of our gun culture and say a big fat NO.

Prior to Walmart, Dick’s Sporting Goods had already taken a stand. It actually helped their business:

More than a year after calls to boycott Dick’s Sporting Goods, the retailer announced that profits increased to their strongest showing since 2016, information that could prove important for America’s largest retailer, Walmart.

This happened after the Parkland shooting. Last week, the local Fleet Farm took a stand. They are no longer advertising assault style rifles and they will not allow a gun to be sold after 3 days if the sale is delayed because the paperwork has not been returned. This is called the default proceed and it is exactly how the shooter of 9 people at a Charleston church got his gun. He was a prohibited purchaser. Why take a chance? The families of the Charleston victims can now sue the government for this loophole in the background check bill that allowed their loved ones to be murdered.

Then came Krogers, Wegmans, Walgreens and CVS- all in one day:

The retailers are among a growing number of U.S. companies, such as Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) and Bank of America (BAC.N), that are responding to calls for action to help curtail the rash of gun violence that has plagued the nation, risking backlash from powerful gun owners’ groups as politicians consider options.
“We are joining other retailers in asking our customers to no longer openly carry firearms into our stores other than authorized law enforcement officials,” Walgreens said in an emailed statement. (…) CVS Health echoed the sentiment saying, “We join a growing chorus of businesses in requesting that our customers, other than authorized law enforcement personnel, do not bring firearms into our stores.”
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Target stores had already taken a stand in 2014:

As you’ve likely seen in the media, there has been a debate about whether guests in communities that permit “open carry” should be allowed to bring firearms into Target stores. Our approach has always been to follow local laws, and of course, we will continue to do so. But starting today we will also respectfully request that guests not bring firearms to Target – even in communities where it is permitted by law.
We’ve listened carefully to the nuances of this debate and respect the protected rights of everyone involved. In return, we are asking for help in fulfilling our goal to create an atmosphere that is safe and inviting for our guests and team members.
This is a complicated issue, but it boils down to a simple belief: Bringing firearms to Target creates an environment that is at odds with the family-friendly shopping and work experience we strive to create.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Who will be next? We shall see. You can bet that gun violence prevention activists are not sitting still. The slippery slope has gone the way of loose gun laws and it happened quickly as state after state passed concealed carry laws. Many of those laws also allowed for open carrying of guns, including my own state of Minnesota. The bottom line is that customers don’t like seeing people carrying guns around while they are shopping. Let’s take a look at some of the problems with open carry.

It has taken a while but there is evidence that since more permissive carry laws have passed violent crime has increased. It has also become much easier for armed people in public places to shoot someone with whom they have a minor (or major) disagreement.

(I am updating my post to include this incident in West Virginia which proves my point that carrying guns in public is a really dangerous idea):

The wife of a West Virginia pastor is facing charges of reckless endangerment after she allegedly fired a gun during an argument with another pastor’s wife in the parking lot of New Life Apostolic Church in Oak Hill this May.
According to The Register Herald, 44-year-old Melinda Frye Toney pulled out a pistol during the altercation when it accidentally discharged. Toney is married to New Life pastor Earl Toney. The other woman, Lori Haywood, is married to the same church’s youth pastor, David Haywood.

Police say the argument was due to a simmering disagreement, and the women’s husbands suggested that the two get together to hash it out. Details on the dispute are thin and Haywood would only say they “had a disagreement, and when we sat down to talk, I called her out, and she lost it.”
The gun reportedly went off when Earl tried to wrestle the gun out of his wife’s hand after she retrieved it from her car.

Guns are dangerous weapons. The 2 women were lucky that no one was killed. As the article pointed out, there were also children in the parking lot. What if one had been hit by a bullet?

This article was written by a man who decided to do some much needed research into the effectiveness of carrying loaded guns in public. He came to a conclusion not unlike what most people believe:

As I drove from Scottsboro to Atlanta to catch my flight home, I kept turning over what I had seen and learned. Although we do not yet know exactly how guns affect us, the notion that more guns lead to less crime is almost certainly incorrect. The research on guns is not uniform, and we could certainly use more of it. But when all but a few studies point in the same direction, we can feel confident that the arrow is aiming at the truth—which is, in this case, that guns do not inhibit crime and violence but instead make it worse.
The popular gun-advocacy bumper sticker says that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people”—and it is, in fact, true. People, all of us, lead complicated lives, misinterpret situations, get angry, make mistakes. And when a mistake involves pulling a trigger, the damage can’t be undone. Unlike my Glock-aided attack on the zombie at the gun range, life is not target practice.

That pretty much sums it up and it’s why businesses are taking a hard look at having customers carrying guns into their stores.

When the debate happened in Minnesota in 2003, I was involved and opposed the “shall issue” law that eventually passed. At the time, the supporters of the bill claimed that gun violence prevention activists were saying that blood would be running in the streets. We didn’t say that. But I would argue that blood is running in our streets. Gun homicides and suicides have increased in Minnesota in recent years.

Just a few days ago, three people were injured when gunfire erupted outside the gates of the State Fair on the last night of the fair:

“Everybody was put at risk,” Linders said. “This was incredibly concerning…shockingly brazen…audacious isn’t even a strong enough word. We’re lucky that more people weren’t injured or killed.” 

When people carry guns in public, this is the result. There are incidents, too numerous to list, of “accidental” discharges of firearms by “law abiding” gun owners in public places that put themselves and others at risk. That is why businesses need to assure that their customers are safe. Here is just one of many:

On September 3, a man wearing a loaded gun in his pants waistband accidentally shot himself in a University City grocery store. The man, who was hit in the leg, survived. A fellow shopper was wounded by debris from the blast.

More guns have not made us safer anywhere.

And while I’m at it, it is of utmost importance that we pass universal background checks and Extreme Risk Protection orders, both of which could have worked in the case of the Odessa shooter. He bought his AR-15 from a private seller because he could not pass a background check. Now authorities believe they have found that private seller. If you were a private seller would you want to be found as the person who sold a mass shooter his gun that killed 7 and injured many more? I think not. Passing these laws is insurance and assurance that everyone who buys a gun from a dealer of any sort can pass a background check.

We can, of course, and I have, talked about other ways people get their guns. But for now, this is #Enough.

We’ve reached a tipping point. Change is coming. Once corporations get involved in the movement of gun violence prevention, everything will change. It already has. We are all sick of the carnage and mayhem. We are sick of mass shooting after mass shooting after mass shooting. We are sick of seeing guns and hearing gun rights activists try to tell us that their guns will make us all safer. We are tired of it all. And the majority is sick that their elected leaders refuse to hear them and deal with our country’s public health epidemic.

We want common sense now. #DoSomething. Our elected leaders who resist passing stronger gun laws are running out of arguments and excuses. There are none.

Excuses for no gun safety reform

Yesterday a group from our Northland Brady chapter associated also with Protect Minnesota stood on a busy corner near our Congressman’s district office. We were there as part of Brady’s and other national gun violence prevention groups’ Week-end of Action. The actions were to demand that the Senate come back early from their summer break to pass the laws that the House passed in February- namely the universal background check and Charleston loophole bills. My Congressman Pete Stauber voted against these 2 life saving measures.

Thus we were there, after gathering only one and half weeks ago in a local rally against hate and violence which was a well attended plea for action and to ask our leaders to #DOSOMETHING about the carnage. Several mass shootings in a row have changed the conversation ( again) and more of the public are demanding action.

But now, the House Judiciary Committee will be coming back from recess early to consider several common sense gun bills. The Extreme Risk Protection Order bill and perhaps an Assault Weapons Ban and/or restrictions on the size of ammunition magazines will be discussed.

After standing with our signs on the corner and getting mostly positive honks and waves, we went to Congressman Stauber’s office with a packet of information and a letter stating what we wanted him to do. We ended up having an impromptu meeting with his staffer. It was a good meeting- informative and revealing.

We spoke about all kinds of things as victims, a veteran, a clergy member, several health care providers, a woman of color, grandparents, parents and concerned citizens expressed our frustration and outrage over the do nothing Senate and the lack of votes in favor of bills that would make a difference. In the discussion we made it clear that we don’t believe that any one of these measures on their own will “cure” the epidemic of gun violence. But the fact that we have done nothing for decades has fueled the current epidemic and made it more lethal.

And then we heard some of the usual Republican and gun lobby excuses for why these bills won’t work or why the Congressman doesn’t believe the bills before him are the right ones ( in spite of research showing the effectiveness of them and the overwhelming public support for the measures that passed in the House). The first of these is the idea that we can’t deal with the gun problem until we deal with mental illness. President Trump himself said that mental illness pulled the trigger in the latest mass shooting, not the guns. That is absurd on its’ face but it is also patently not true. It’s not mental illness. It’s mostly angry white men who have access to guns they should not have.

Here’s the truth about mental illness and shootings:

In response, mental health experts repeated what they have said after previous mass shootings: Most people with mental illness are not violent, they are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than perpetrators, and access to firearms is a big part of the problem.
“Until we begin to have our political leaders speaking more accurately to these issues, it’s up to us to put the facts out there,” said Arthur Evans, chief executive officer of the American Psychological Association.
Evans agreed that red flag laws , also known as extreme risk protection orders, are a worthwhile step. Seventeen states and the District of Columbia have such laws, according to the nonprofit Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, and some have used the laws to temporarily disarm people who have threatened violence.
But Evans and others said terms like “monsters” add to stigma that keeps people from getting treatment. (…)

A country’s rate of gun ownership is a far better predictor of public mass shootings than indicators of mental illness, said Adam Lankford, a University of Alabama criminologist who published a 2016 analysis of data from 171 countries.
“If mental illness were the driving factor, we would expect the countries with highest suicide rates to have higher rates of public mass shootings. That’s not what we see,” Lankford said.
Instead, Lankford found, gun ownership per person is the best predictor.
Lankford called Trump’s emphasis on mental illness “too simplistic.”

It’s the guns.

Since our rally last week, another mass shooting occurred in Philadelphia where 6 officers were injured by one man with an assault rifle ( again). The shooter was a man who should not have had a gun in the first place given numerous firearms charges against him. So how did he get that gun? From the article:

The suspect was identified by Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner as Maurice Hill, 36. Krasner said Hill had an extensive criminal history, including drug, gun and robbery charges. Krasner said Hill should not have been on the streets but stopped short of saying there was any specific failure by law enforcement.

My Congressman is a former police officer. He, of all people, should be more concerned that officers are at great risk when they are outgunned on the streets. This year alone 31 officers have been killed by shooters. 175 have been injured. And yesterday yet another officer shooting occurred where 2 Missouri officers were shot while delivering eviction papers.

And aren’t you tired of other lame and shameful excuses or blaming from Republicans to deflect the reality of our national public health epidemic? They even have memos showing how to respond to constituents such as this one, blaming the left, when we know that most of the politically motivated shootings have come from people with far right political views. In fact, Trump has been mentioned by criminals as a reason for their crimes:

But a nationwide review conducted by ABC News has identified at least 36 criminal cases where Trump was invoked in direct connection with violent acts, threats of violence or allegations of assault.
In nine cases, perpetrators hailed Trump in the midst or immediate aftermath of physically attacking innocent victims. In another 10 cases, perpetrators cheered or defended Trump while taunting or threatening others. And in another 10 cases, Trump and his rhetoric were cited in court to explain a defendant’s violent or threatening behavior.

White supremacy, hate crimes and other acts of political violence are American terrorism. We have to face that reality. There is no excuse for not doing anything about this.

And yes, we can stop some of these shooters from getting guns in the first place. If we close some loopholes making it easier for them to buy guns themselves or get them from others who may buy them legally ( and private sales with no background checks are legal in many states, including my own) we can stop some sales. If we enforce straw purchasing laws more stringently, we can stop some guns from going where they shouldn’t. If gun owners safely store their guns, we can stop some of the guns from being stolen and ending up where they shouldn’t. If we pass Red Flag laws, we can temporarily remove guns from people who could be dangerous to themselves or others. If we pass restrictions on ammunition magazines, we can, at the least, prevent shooters from taking dozens of lives at a time in a short time period. If we make sure the ATF can do their job properly with adequate funding and personnel, gun dealers will be held more accountable for bad behavior. If we litigate cases where gun dealers have sold guns knowingly to those who shouldn’t have them, we can stop some shootings.

It’s a package and it needs to be. But as we discussed at our meeting yesterday, we can’t say criminals won’t follow the laws anyway as an excuse not to pass laws. If that is the case, why have laws at all? People do wear their seat belts for the most part. It’s the law. People don’t smoke in public places. It’s the law. People stop on red lights because it’s the law. If you don’t follow the law, you may become a felon. But we are not a lawless society. That’s no excuse.

And then there was this given as an excuse. We all must work hard to keep illegal guns from coming into our country from the Canadian and Mexican borders. I had to ask again if that is what I heard. This is an excuse. We don’t need to do anything about our own country’s gun laws because the guns are coming across the borders into our country?

I was astounded at this one because it is the exact opposite of what is true. The guns flowing into Mexico and Canada are coming mainly from the U.S because our gun laws are so much weaker than theirs. Check out this article in the Christian Science Monitor about what is actually happening:

American guns bought from vendors in the U.S. and then smuggled illegally abroad are a fact of life across the Americas. According to an analysis by the Center for American Progress, using data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), some 70% of guns recovered by law enforcement in Mexico and sent to the ATF for tracing between 2011 and 2016 were originally purchased from a licensed dealer in the U.S. Some estimates put the number of U.S. weapons smuggled from the U.S. into Mexico at over 200,000 a year.
Mexican officials, in their fight against drug violence, have long pleaded with the U.S. to stem the southward flow of guns. Former President Felipe Calderón famously had a billboard erected in Ciudad Juárez, across the border from El Paso, that read “No More Weapons,” spelled out with confiscated, destroyed weapons. (…)

That is also despite research showing that when the U.S. assault weapon ban expired in 2004, Mexican municipalities on the border with the U.S. saw a spike in homicides, he says.

“I do see some recognition now that this is beyond drugs, and that guns play a major, major role,” Mr. Weigend says. That includes think tanks, students, and civil society groups speaking out more against the implications of U.S. gun flows to Mexico. (…)

Weaker gun regulations in the U.S. have long undermined Canada’s much stricter rules, as guns get trafficked north. Last week Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction Minister Bill Blair said Canada could reduce violence with more money towards stopping guns from the U.S., which he called “the greatest arsenal in the world.”

So no. We don’t have a problem with illegal guns coming into our country from the nations who share our border. It is the other way around. And further, the fact that so many guns make into Mexico and other Central American countries have caused violence there which many are trying to flee to get into our country. And then if they get into our country their lives are at risk here because of the hate and racist rhetoric against people of color fomented right from the top.

It is also part and parcel of our illegal drug problem.

These are flimsy excuses designed as cop-outs. What our Congress members who are beholden to the NRA, as mine is, are trying to do is to deflect the conversation away from the truth. We have a problem with guns in America. Such easy access makes it easier for just about anybody to get a gun.

Minnesotans and Americans ( and this includes Republicans and gun owners by the way) support stronger gun laws. We want our Congress members to represent the majority of people in their districts. Just because the gun rights advocates make more noise does not mean they are the majority. In fact they are a small minority of the constituents all over the country.

There are no excuses. There never have been but now, more than ever, we are sick and tired of the carnage affecting almost all of us.

#DO DOMETHING.