16 seconds with a gun

From the Gun Violence Archive Facebook page

Another teen-ager got his hand on a gun he should not have had and came to his school to shoot some of his classmates. It’s an all too familiar scenario that plays out regularly in America. He shot himself with the gun only after shooting 5 kids and now 2 of those kids are dead. He is in grave condition in the hospital.

For what? Why? Where did he get the gun? He was 15- or I should say that according to media reports he turned 16 today. Happy birthday.

The media reported about the shooting and the usual “experts” were invited to talk about the shooting. Some of them actually mentioned that easy access to guns is one very huge factor in school shootings. But many avoided speaking the word “guns”. It is the guns. Most school shooters get their guns from home but we will find out more about where this teen got his gone as more information becomes available. This article reports that there were guns in the home. The gun was a .45 semi-automatic pistol. From the first article linked above:

A lack of gun safety at home also has played a big role in school shootings. Guns in the home “is a very important element that has been lost in the current debate,” said J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist and FBI consultant. He sees the problem in the combination of a troubled adolescent, unsecured firearms, general disorganization at home, and “then you increase the risk, of course, of him being able to easily access a weapon.

The shooter’s father died 2 years ago presumably leaving his guns behind. We don’t yet have information about how those guns were stored or who was in possession of the guns in the home. But from the article we learn this: ” Law enforcement officials have not shared any information about how the suspected shooter obtained the gun used in Thursday’s assault. The 16-year-old couldn’t have legally bought it himself: In California, licensed dealers cannot sell a firearm to anyone under age 21.”

Safe storage of guns is a no brainer. Making sure kids who may be experiencing problems of some kind can’t access guns is another. Brady’s End Family Fire is a program to highlight the risks of guns in homes:

Family fire is preventable, and that’s exactly what our End Family Fire initiative aims to do. Brady’s End Family Fire initiative is designed to drive social change and save lives, educating and encouraging gun owners about safe gun storage. We believe ending family fire is in our hands to solve. We’re calling on gun owners and non-gun owners alike to unite—to talk about safe storage practices, save lives, and End Family Fire once and for all.

In this case family fire includes a gun allegedly taken from the family home where it was not safely stored and brought somewhere else to shoot people.

One parent in the linked story above said what is always said:” It’s stressful and overwhelming.” That it is. More kids and families grieving. More with PTSD. In the article about the shooter and the guns, here is a quote: “He doesn’t seem like the kind of kid to do this,” Risley said.”

That is often said as well about mass shooters or any shooter. It was said about my now deceased former brother-in-law after he shot and killed my sister.

There is no common sense when it comes to trying to understand these kind of shootings or any shootings actually. One of the things in common is a gun. Easy access to guns. The other is, from the article above:

There have already been at least 30 resulting in death or injury in 2019

I was just made aware this article from the Washington Post that I wanted my readers to see:

The shooting is at least the seventh to take place on U.S. school grounds since the start of the academic year, according to a Washington Post analysis, and the first fatal shooting on a campus since students arrived back at school. More than 233,000 schoolchildren have been exposed to gun violence at their own schools since the shooting at Columbine High in 1999.

More than 233,000 students have experienced gun violence at school since Columbine

“We need to say ‘no more.’ This is a tragic event that happens too frequently,” said Capt. Robert Lewis of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. “When are we going to come together as a community … to say ‘no more’?”

The thing is, we have come together to say “no more”. But our leaders are not listening. They refuse to take up meaningful legislation that would save lives. The fact that 90% of Americans agree on this is stunning. We are polarized about just about everything. The fact that our leaders represent the very small group of gun rights advocates and right wing extremists falsely saying that anything we do to save lives from gun violence would take away their rights or their guns is a sham and a travesty. It is am American tragedy.

And one more thing about this shooting that must be said- these type of shootings happen with so much shock, surprise and rapidity that it is almost impossible to respond. The fact that the gun jammed saved lives and the fact that law enforcement was there so quickly also saved lives. But think about the time it took to wreak such deadly havoc:

At an early evening news conference, authorities said just 16 seconds passed from the time the shooter drew his gun and when he shot himself. They said that the shooting was contained to the quad and that they had no information about a connection between the shooter and his victims.

More from the article:

“When I was in the situation, I didn’t feel scared, and that’s the saddest part,” Carzola said. “I felt like everyone was going to go through this at some point and this was my turn.”

When is it your child’s “turn”? Why is it any child’s turn?

Our kids should not have to live like this every day. Nor should their parents or their communities. There is a ripple effect that gets wider and wider as relatives of victims, law enforcement, health care providers, emergency responders and others all feel the awful and devastating effects of just one of these shootings.

UPDATE:

As always happens after mass shootings, the situation is fluid and more information comes forward. We now know that the shooter died of his self inflicted gunshot injuries. We also now know that a teacher used a gunshot injury kit that was in her classroom to likely save the life of one of the injured students. It’s come to this. Rather than protect our precious kids from shooters by preventing easy access to guns we are distributing kits to stem the flow of blood from the bodies of said precious kids. We have it all backwards. Thanks NRA.

We also now know the names of the shooter ( which I will not post or say) and the victims who died. Say their names.

Dominic Blackwell. Age 14.

Gracie Anne Muehlberger. Age 16

Their images will forever be stopped in time as was my sister’s and they will never grow older or reach their potential.

In memory of Dominic and Gracie.

Domestic terror attacks

Extremism - Word on Red Puzzles.In the last few weeks it is becoming more and more obvious that the terror in America is coming from far right extremists. It was already obvious to most of us but as the bodies pile up, we have to call BS and talk truth.

There’s been another shooting. (Yawn) The bodies have barely been laid to rest from the last one at Tree of Life Synagogue and now 2 more. A far right Tallahassee ( Florida again) man decided to shoot up a Yoga studio. That makes just one more place where people who shouldn’t have guns can get them and shoot people going about their every day business.

From the article:

The man who shot dead two women at a yoga studio in Tallahassee, Florida, on Friday before killing himself was a far-right extremist and self-proclaimed misogynist who railed against women, black people, and immigrants in a series of online videos and songs.

Surprised? Not me. It’s a pattern. White men with what appear to be identity problems and far right views who seem to hate women, Jews, Black people, Muslims, and immigrants want to actually kill them because………

When the President of the United States continues his daily and almost hourly diatribes and hate speech at political rallies designed to foment hate and fear, what can we expect?

There’s a list of shootings like this. Only some are listed below.

Charleston church shooting- because they were black…

Sikh Temple shooting- because they were Hindu….

Shooting of 2 black men in Kentucky because they were black….

Pulse Nightclub shooting just because apparently. The shooter wanted to go to DisneyWorld but decided on a gay Latino bar…..

Las Vegas shooting for whatever reason…..

………………….

I left this post for a while because of the elections and came back to have to write about the latest mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, CA. 12 are dead. The shooter was a white man- a “good guy” with a gun. He was not a prohibited purchaser. Though he had some apparent problems with mental health, he was able to purchase a gun. There are Extreme Risk Protection Orders in California but they are only as good as the education of the public who need to know they can use them.

Really, this is domestic terrorism. I have seen enough interviews with survivors who have cried and just can’t believe they survived. They are terrorized and will likely suffer from PTSD.

It the skin color of these terrorists had been brown or black, we would be having a different conversation. If they were Muslim or from the Middle East we would be talking terrorism.

We must call this as it is- terrorism. It is white guys with guns. These are the invaders. The corporate gun lobby extremists have invaded our country and we are terrorized.:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people died from gun deaths in 2016 (38,658) than from prescription opioids (around 14,400). And 13,686 of the people killed by guns that year were under the age of 19. Even if you believe in the premise of self-protection or “haters gonna hate, thugs gonna thug,” when you extract the criminal element from total gun deaths, 495 of those deaths were unintentional, and another 22,938 were suicides.

The grand total of U.S. deaths from terrorism and extremist activities over the last decade is 71.

In fact, if you added up the numbers of every American casualty of terrorism since 1865, the numbers of gun deaths in 2016 alone would dwarf it.

Let’s call this what it is:

The NRA’s crusade against gun reform has nothing to do with the will of the people. It is an ideological war that kills and injures thousands of innocent people every year. It is based on a fundamentalist interpretation of the Second Amendment not shared by the American people.

This is, unfortunately, America. It doesn’t have to be this way but here we are again.

From the Brady Campaign about the Thousand Oaks shooting:

“Waking up to news of a mass shooting is becoming frighteningly close to a daily occurrence in America. We mourn the deaths of the 12 people murdered and what some are reporting as another 12 injured, and yet we know there is so much more we could do to prevent these tragedies. This should have been a night for college students to enjoy themselves, but instead the Ventura County community is left broken and grieving. From synagogues to yoga studios to schools to dance halls, as long as gaps in our federal gun laws remain, every single one of us is vulnerable. Gun violence is a public health epidemic, and we need comprehensive solutions. We have to pass stronger laws, and we have to enforce the ones we have. We cannot wait for the next House of Representatives to take office – we expect and demand that Congress enact Brady’s three-point plan to take meaningful action to end these mass shootings. We don’t have a moment to wait.”

There will be a new Congress- a Democratic House. Expect gun safety reform laws to be on the agenda. When lapdog Republicans and maybe some scared Democrats vote against what the majority wants, they will be held accountable. We are not willing to let politicians get away with this any longer. There have been 307 mass shootings and it’s the 312th day of the year according to the Gun Violence Archive.

This is insanity itself.

Where is common sense?

(More on the recent elections soon)

Shootings at work

Laptop Screen with Safety Database Concept.Are you safe from a shooting while at work?

In the last 24 hours there have been 3 shootings at a place of work. Disgruntled employee? Get a gun? Domestic dispute? Get a gun and go to the place of work where person with whom you are in a relationship works and shoot her/him and others.

No problem. Easy access to guns makes this all possible.

In Minnesota the worst workplace shooting happened on September 27th, 2012. The anniversary of the Accent Signage shooting is coming right up.

Family and friends will be have to face the memories of that deadly day and relive the experience as they have for the past 6 years. Four were murdered. The gunman shot himself and died at the scene. Four were injured, and one of the injured died later.

I have come to know some of the victims’ family members. We are bound together now because we are in a unique club of people whose family members have been senselessly murdered by bullets.

It’s hard to move on from your own memories when the shootings continue as a reminder.

In the last 24 hours there have been 3 workplace shootings.

In Wisconsin, a man walked into a software company and shot and injured 4. He was shot by police at the scene.

In Aberdeen, Maryland, 3 innocent people were shot dead at a Rite Aid distribution center. 4 were injured and the shooter shot herself and later died. It is unusual for the shooter to be a female but not unusual for some sort of problem to end in a deadly shooting. The woman was a temporary employee. I’m sure we will learn more about her and maybe what led to the shooting.

From the above linked article:

“It’s very real. You don’t know where it’s going to happen, who it’s going to happen to. It’s just very scary and I just pray for all of them. They will need all the strength they can muster to get through this,” said neighbor Brigitte Kent. “You don’t know what’s going on in her mind, and a lot of times you don’t know. You don’t see any type of warning signs to watch for. People just suffer in silence.”

Another woman who lives in the neighborhood spoke with 11 News, but did not want to be identified.

“What makes someone do something like that? What is it? Twenty six years old. You haven’t done anything at 26. Nothing at all at 26,” the neighbor said. “Every time you hear something, it comes closer to somebody else’s home, somebody else’s school, workplace. It comes closer. It’s right here! I had no clue that her family lived this close.”

You don’t know where it’s going to happen. It’s more than scary. It is a serious national public health and safety epidemic left ignored by our leaders at all levels of government. Why? The question has to be asked and answers must come.

But I digress. There was a third shooting at a workplace- this time in a Pennsylvania court building lobby. Four were injured and the gunman shot and killed by law enforcement:

Fayette County District Attorney Richard Bower said the gunman walked up to the building, which houses the office of District Magistrate Daniel Shimshock, and shot a Masontown police officer in a lobby and then shot two men and a woman.

Another police officer from the German Township police department who ran into the building then shot the suspect several times, and the suspect died from his wounds, officials said.

The suspect was charged with strangulation, assault and other charges stemming from a domestic incident several weeks ago and he was due to have a hearing on Wednesday, Bower said.

A presumably armed officer was shot and injured. The suspect clearly should not have had access to a gun but in America, it’s easy to get one no matter who you are or how dangerous you could be with a deadly weapon.

Speaking of courthouse shootings and domestic shootings, the aunt of a friend of mine was shot and killed at the Hennepin County courthouse by a woman who should not have had access to a gun. That anniversary is coming up on September 29th. It’s been 15 years since that shooting happened and still her family members grieve and relive the day they got the news. From the article:

“The evidence shows that defendant Berkovitz came into the Hennepin County Government Center that morning with a loaded gun, and with obsessive resentment against the two victims,” says Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar.

The complaint details a scene where Berkovitz waited on the 17th floor with a century-old loaded gun she’d bought this past summer at a gun show — a .38-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver she’d learned to use by shooting target practice. Kordell and Hendrickson appear to have had safety concerns when they arrived that morning. The two asked a security officer to accompany them to the 17th floor, which he did.

Lori Wachter, Hendrickson’s sister, said her brother was concerned about Berkovitz. “He did mention her and we called her the ‘crazy lady’ because she was harassing him quite a bit,” she said. “He did screen his calls. So when we’d call him, we’d always get the answering machine, and when he found out it was us calling, he would answer and start talking. That’s all we knew about her.”

Seriously- where is common sense? Why do have to keep writing about these shootings? Why has nothing happened? Why do I have to keep asking that?

You may remember another recent workplace shooting. A gunman shot up innocent people at a newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland in June. 

5 were left dead and 3 injured. The gunman was apprehended.

The victims and survivors are crying out for change. The country is asking for stronger gun laws. Congress looks the other way. The corporate gun lobby is lapping at their feet yelling that gun laws won’t change anything.

They are wrong. They are spineless. They are cowards in the face of money and influence.

Until we get serious and extend and pass a stronger Brady background check law to insist that all gun sales get a background check, we will have shootings. Until we pass Extreme Risk Protection Order laws that will keep guns away from people who could be a danger to themselves or others, we will have shootings. Until we admit that every gun owner needs training before they walk away from a gun sale, we will have shootings. Until we make sure all guns are safely secured to keep them out of the hands of children, teens and from those who steal them from homes, we will have shootings. (ASK campaign) Until we admit that there are risks to owning guns and having them around in the home, we will have more shootings (End Family Fire).  Until we allow the necessary research into the causes and effects of gun violence, we will have shootings. Until we allow victims to bring lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers who are irresponsible, we will have shootings. Until we enforce the laws already on the books, we will have shootings.

Until our elected leaders stop being lapdogs for the gun industry, we will have shootings.

We are better than this.

But for the guns…..

american-flag-gun-stockBut for the guns, thousands of Americans would be alive today to live their lives as the rest of us are doing. They would be singing, dancing, working, studying, playing, shopping, eating, loving, reading books, traveling, and just living.

Take this young man from Chicago-Delmonte Johnson for one example:

Mr. Johnson, a 19-year-old who loved to sing and dance, who was an athlete and a budding social activist, will not get to see that vision realized. He was shot and killed Wednesday after playing basketball near his home.

Image
Delmonte Johnson, in red, with his family in an undated photo.

Mr. Johnson’s death was tragic and unnecessary and enraging. It was also the sort of death that’s become far too common in America, and in particular in Mr. Johnson’s hometown, where more than 2,000 people have been shot so far this year, nearly 400 of them fatally. While mass shootings involving high-powered guns and high death tolls have claimed an outsize portion of the nation’s collective grief — and its headlines — street shootings like the one that killed Delmonte Johnson are far more common.

Yes. Far too common.

And then take this man who was minding his own business when a cop walked into the wrong apartment ( she thought it was her own), saw him there and shot and killed him. This one has to be almost a first, or is it?:

Amber Guyger, who is white, was off-duty when she shot Botham Shem Jean, a black man, in his apartment, police said Thursday. Guyger told police she thought she was entering her own apartment not realizing she was on the wrong floor. Upon encountering Jean, she thought her home was being burglarized and opened fire, according to police.
Botham, a 26-year-old native of St. Lucia, was unarmed. He died at a hospital.

Enter the NRA with their lame and usual excuse- if only the victim had also been armed, all would have been hunky dory:

“This could have been very different if Botham Jean had been, say, he was a law-abiding gun owner and he saw somebody coming into his apartment,” Loesch said on NRATV’s Relentless on Monday. “I don’t think there’s any context that the actions would have been justified. If I see somebody coming into my house and I’m not expecting them and they’re walking in like they own the place, I would—I would act to defend myself.”

Social media users balked at the suggestion that a gun could have saved Jean, who was born on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

“If Botham Jean had a gun and killed a police officer he’d be in jail held without bond and Trump would be nonstop tweeting about that immigrant who killed that poor cop,” Comedian Sarah Cooper tweeted in response to Loesch’s remarks.

Sometimes the NRA’s line of reasoning is so ridiculous as to be unbelievable and totally unhinged. As if people are sitting around in their own apartments armed just in case someone happens to come in who doesn’t belong there and, of course, be totally prepared for a cop with a gun. ( Oh right- that is what the NRA and gun rights advocates believe).

I think they can retire this argument. It makes no common sense and it’s stupid.

The mother of Philando Castile challenged the flawed reasoning of Dana Loesch- mouthpiece for the NRA:

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch is “asinine” to suggest Botham Jean might still be alive today if only he was “a law-abiding gun owner,” Valerie Castile told the Daily News. (…)

Castile is the mother of Philando Castile, the Minnesota public school employee who had a valid concealed carry permit when he was shot to death by a police officer during a routine traffic stop in Minnesota two years ago.

“My son was a licensed gun owner and it didn’t help him. He’s dead because he gave that information to an officer,” Castile said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, called out the NRA spokeswoman for being "one-sided."
Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, called out the NRA spokeswoman for being “one-sided.” (CRAIG LASSIG / Getty Images)

 

Castile called Loesch “reckless” and “one-sided” for using Jean’s tragic death to further the NRA’s agenda.

“(Jean) was in his own home. Inside a nice building with security. He had a right to feel safe in his own home. He wasn’t expecting someone to come in uninvited. He shouldn’t have to always keep a gun on his hip. That’s asinine,” Castile said.

“That officer was dead wrong. Just hold her accountable. Don’t try to spin the story. My son was a good guy, and (the NRA) tried to spin it. The truth is, he’s dead for being honest and telling the truth,” she said.

Reckless is a great word for the NRA’s claims. Loesch was actually suggesting that Jean should have shot a police officer. What would have happened then? A black man with a gun shooting an officer? Stand your ground laws don’t work out so well for people of color.

And then take these Twin Cities area victims all shot in one short period time:

“It’s unacceptable,” Frey said. “Gun violence is one of the most insidious issues we have confronting our country and our response as a city is gong to be swift and strong.”

His comments came as police scrambled to ward off any retaliatory violence after a weekend in which 10 people were shot, four of them fatally. Most of the shootings occurred over a 48-hour stretch on Friday and Saturday.

It’s the guns. It’s actually the bullets from the guns that are killing all of these people-mostly innocent of wrongdoing but now dead. California wants to do something about the bullets. That liberal bastion of a state has managed to pass some of the nation’s strongest gun laws and also has one of the lowest gun death rates in the country. Gun rights advocates love to criticize the laws in California because they don’t seem to stop all shootings. But they have it all wrong. What is going on in California is saving lives. California has lower gun death rates than most other states.

Let’s review. Firearm deaths account for the majority of overall homicides in our country. Guns make a difference.

Suicide by gun accounts for the majority of overall gun deaths in America.

America has more mass shootings than any other developed country not at war.

America has more guns per capita than most other countries and the most gun deaths per capita.

And I want to end by remembering the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting that occurred on this date 5 years ago..

Twelve died and 3 injured because of a gunman who should not have had a gun:

The government contractor who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yardlast week was driven by delusions that he was being controlled by low-frequency radio waves and scratched the words “End the torment!” on the barrel of the shotgun he used, the FBI said Wednesday, offering new, chilling details of the attack.

Valerie Parlave, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said that Aaron Alexis, 34, began the shooting knowing he would be killed. A search of Alexis’s electronic devices, she said, indicated that he was “prepared to die during the attack and that he accepted death as the inevitable consequence of his actions.”

In America, people like this have easy access to guns.

Let us all take a moment and remember the victims.

It’s the guns. We can’t avoid the truth. But then, for some in today’s American political craziness truth is not truth any more.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Stand up for the truth and for action. Tell your candidates you want them to do something about gun violence. And by that I mean do something. Don’t pander to the nation’s large corporate gun lobby. It’s a paper tiger. The majority of Americans do actually understand that we have a serious problem with guns and loose gun laws.

#Enough

Armed intimidation of students

intimidationWhat makes a group of grown men so afraid? A group of students traveling the country advocating for gun safety reform. It’s called #RoadToChange.

It’s really almost comical if it wasn’t also threatening and intimidating. Check out the photo of the vehicle used by a bunch of armed gun extremists who are following the Parkland students around as they rally the public for gun safety reform.:

 

“The hostile environment created toward gun advocates in the Northeast is not unlike the hostile environments a black man would have experienced in the South hundreds of years ago,” he said Tuesday.

Good grief. So not true. And more:

The Georgia trooper was far friendlier. In another video taken by someone in Melchior’s entourage, the trooper said he saw Melchior drive past in the armored vehicle — missing the replica machine gun at that point but still with Utah Gun Exchange logos on the side — and thought “I gotta talk to this guy.”

The Georgia officer had a tattoo that appears to be the logo of a paramilitary organization called The Three Percenters, which bills itself as a national defense organization. He ended up signing the truck and left with a T-shirt for the gun exchange.

In Melchior’s view, it showed a divide among members of law enforcement.

“We received different treatment under the law based on who we encountered,” Melchior said. “That’s problematic.”

I couldn’t disagree more. What’s problematic is that the Georgia officer shrugged off the lunacy and the potentially dangerous and intimidating vehicle as they harass students around the country. And what’s more, is the tattoo sported by the officer showing where his sympathies lie- presumably not with common sense gun legislation.

This is not normal and not necessary. No one is going to take guns away from law abiding citizens. What is their point? In case you missed it, there was a good back and forth conversation as written on Twitter that a Parkland student posted. In the end, a gun rights advocate and a gun safety reform minded student survivor could agree on some basic truths. That is what can be accomplished if we put our heads together. It’s hard to do that if guys come around armed and driving wannabe tanks.

This is not child’s play or funny. This is serious business involving intimidation and armed citizens so afraid themselves that they are trying to get others to be afraid. But the students are not afraid.

This is also how true change will happen. Kudos to the Parkland students who are having these amazing common sense conversations.

Interesting, groups of gun rights advocates have attracted very small numbers of people to their counter protests. It’s about time that they stop pushing for their extreme views which the majority of Americans have rejected. And most gun owners actually agree with the goals of the Parkland students.

And speaking of the Parkland shooting, it’s time to talk more about the attitude towards allowing the teen shooter to buy his guns. His mother has been called now an enabler as she allowed the troubled teen to purchase his guns. She is now dead and so did not know about what those guns she thought he should have did to 17 innocent people.

From the article:

“His mother was an enabler, and his mother contributed to this significantly,” Gualtieri said at a Tuesday meeting of the commission, held at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. “To the point where at one time when they said that he wanted to buy a gun and the counselors from the school said he shouldn’t have a gun, his mother said ‘I don’t care. If he wants a gun, he can have a gun.’”

But a review of Nikolas Cruz’s psychiatric memos show it wasn’t as simple or uncontested as that. His mother initially resisted and they battled over the issue.

A mental health counselor paid a visit to the Cruz home in September 2016 when Nikolas Cruz acted out because his mother refused to take him to get a state-issued ID, which he would have needed to buy a gun. He turned 18 that month, legally old enough to make the purchase on his own. (…)

“I’m not concerned, and l’m not afraid,” she said. “My son has pellet guns and has always respected the rules of where they can and can’t be used.”

The school’s JROTC program already had banned Cruz from firing guns with the group during shooting practice.

A longtime friend of Lynda Cruz’s said she thought Lynda Cruz gave in to her son’s desire to buy a gun because she feared him. He had been physically violent with her, according to Broward Sheriff’s Office records and recent witness statements.

“I think she was afraid of him, actually,” the friend said.

His mother was wrong. She should have been concerned. More people should be concerned about how easy it is to get their hands on guns and use them to murder others. This is simply not OK.

None of this is OK. It’s time for it all to change. The only way it will change is to change the lapdog politicians who are afraid of the corporate gun lobby and armed people like the guys traveling the country in a look alike army tank to intimidate kids who are just trying to stop the shootings.

We are better than this.

The perfect storm

sunThough the sun is out in my neck of the woods and we are about to have a gorgeous early fall day, it feels bad in much of the country. It feels unsettling and people are apprehensive.

Wildfires are consuming many areas of the western U.S., including in Glacier Park where I visited with my grandchildren last summer. The area around beautiful Lake MacDonald is experiencing flames and smoke and there is concern about the historic lodge there which we visited while we were in the Park. One other historic lodge, the Sperry Chalet, has already burned. Friends are posting photos on Facebook of ash from the fires in Washington and Montana falling on their decks and homes. Another friend told me that her son lives in the Columbia River Gorge and they are worried about his home. Some people can’t be outside because of the smoke and ash.

Here is my photo of the Lake MacDonald lodge.  IMG_3034

Ordinarily this news would occupy the 24/7 cycles but Hurricane Harvey came along devastating the Houston area. We hardly had time to digest that awful tragedy before the warnings came about Irma. The survivors of Harvey are still in shelters, many having lost their homes and belongings. It will be a very long time for recovery.

But Irma. I can’t come up with any words that haven’t already been used to describe this monster storm. I have been watching the news on and off all day as things unfold in front of our eyes. Surely this will be horrific for millions.

And so September has been a bad month so far. Oh- there was a major earthquake in Mexico while we were paying attention to Irma warnings.

Some friends and family members have homes or condos in Florida. I have spoken with many of them and so far they are safe but the fury has not yet begun. To be continued….

But hey, people can feel good about the fact that Governor Scott has made sure they can all carry their concealed guns without a permit during the emergency of the hurricane. That’s reassuring. Because why in the world does someone need a gun while hunkering down sheltered in place during one of the nation’s worst ever hurricanes? Because- rights……..

And as if on cue, a Sheriff had to warn Floridians not to actually shoot their guns at the hurricane because of a ludicrous “event” created urging people to do just that. Really sometimes you just can’t make up the lunacy of some gun rights enthusiasts. I can actually envision this happening, can’t you? Because that is how far afield gun rights extremists have gone. It would be great if shooting at a hurricane would make it go away. This is not funny. Lives are at risk.

Where is common sense?

It almost didn’t seem relevant to write about gun violence incidents which continue unabated in spite of the natural disasters around us. So I wasn’t going to write for a while. But then this story came to my attention from Columbia, South Carolina that just begs for our attention. A two year old found a loaded gun in his home and shot and killed himself. Unfortunately incidents like this happen far too frequently and often no one knows they have happened. The boy’s father, bereft at the shooting, then shot and killed himself.

This is unimaginable. There are no words to express the grief and heartache of this family.

Too easy access to loaded guns become everyday tragedies.

But there are words to express the total lunacy of some gun owners in our country. As I have said, most gun owners are responsible with their guns. But the gun culture encourages loaded guns around homes and people are not responsible with their guns. There is no mandatory training to operate deadly weapons designed to kill people. Owning a gun is an awesome responsibility. Firearms are deadly weapons and need to be treated with great respect. All it takes is an instant and a family is changed forever.

It is mandatory to go through driver’s education and to get a permit while learning to drive. It is mandatory to pass a test in order to drive a vehicle because of course, accidents can happen and it’s just plain a good idea to make sure people are as safe as they can be on the roads. We all know that this does not assure that there are no accidents. So on the other end, it is now mandatory for car manufacturers to install seat belts and air bags and other safety features and mandatory for us to wear those seat belts. It is saving lives. That’s a good thing.

Sadly we are not focused on the right thing when talking about gun violence. The conversation becomes polarized immediately with people on both sides blaming and making statements that don’t make common sense. What if we focused on the victims instead of on whose side politicians are on as they try to avoid or make policy? When we do focus on people instead of policy and objects, we understand that families all over America have suffered the devastation of gun violence. At some point they don’t care what the politicians or the the gun rights or gun violence prevention sides are saying. They just want their loved ones back. Impossible.

This article found that most articles about gun violence focus on policy instead of on the victims and survivors. 

There is much good advice at the end of this article but I picked out these to highlight:

Depoliticize gun violence by appealing to common values. Sidestep political opposition by crafting messages that emphasize universal values like safety, opportunity and freedom from fear. Focus on storytelling instead of data. Highlighting personal stories will bring statistics to life, create empathy and overcome stereotypes about who is impacted by gun violence.

This is about California but can be extrapolated to every state. The difference would be that California has strong gun laws which does cause some complacency. Other states with much weaker gun laws also seem to be complacent but unwilling to do something to save lives by not passing stronger gun laws.

We can actually save people from dying or being injured from firearms with the right conversation and the right policies. The narrative needs to shift to how to save lives. That is what this is all about. Personally my family have been hunters and gun owners. My husband owns hunting guns which are locked safely away in a safe without the ammunition. This is just common sense. We don’t want grandchildren to find those guns. We don’t want them to be stolen and in the hands of those who should not handle them or can’t be responsible with them.

This is simple. It is not rocket science. It’s common sense. As I watch coverage of the coming wrath of Irma, I have heard those who have decided not to leave their homes or heed the warnings. I pray they will be safe but know that some will not because they opted not to be responsible. The same is true of firearms owners. Policy is made for all to protect us from ourselves and others. Laws and rules are not punitive on the front end. They are there to protect us.

Let’s protect our children and families. And let’s pray for the potential victims and survivors of Irma.

The sun will come out- maybe not tomorrow but it will come out in Florida and reveal the devastation. It will shed a bright light on what is needed from us as a country to help the millions affected by hurricanes, flooding, loss of property, belongings and most likely lives. As a country, we will work together to rebuild. Lives can not be replaced but belongings can. My sister’s life cannot be replaced after her shooting death. But we have our memories of her vivacious and beautiful personality and yes, a few of her belongings to bring us pleasure.

Happy gun violence free Labor Day

PrintThe Labor Day holiday is upon us already. It’s cool here in Minnesota now at night so we are reminded that fall is also coming on the heels of a rather wet summer. The Hurricane season also reminds us that fall is here. Hurricane Harvey has produced mass flooding and devastation to millions of families in Texas and now other states. We continue to see more severe storms and heavy rainfalls as some deny that we should try to do something to about what the majority of scientists agree appears to be climate change.

But facts don’t bother some in our country, including our own President who used his appearance in Texas as a mini campaign rally rather than showing empathy for the victims and re-assuring them as is the role of the Comforter in Chief during national emergencies.

But I digress. On the home front in Minnesota we have seen more than the usual number of shootings and incidents showing that, as we know, more guns do not make us safer. For example, earlier in August a man was minding his own business waiting for a bus when a fight broke out. During the fight, a gun was fired, hitting him in the stomach and leaving him with injuries from which he is still recovering:

Porwall was transported to Hennepin County Medical Center’s trauma center in Minneapolis and was released Monday. Porwall, who will always have the bullet lodged in his stomach, is recovering from his injuries at his Minneapolis home, with his mother, Kathy Porwall, and his two cats Kirby and Lopez at his side.

Porwall’s father Cy said his son is the most peaceful person in the world and has never been in a fight or been in trouble.

The victim will have the bullet in his stomach now likely forever and it could cause recurring health problems and financial difficulties. Gun injuries cost Americans billions every year:

A new study sheds light on just how much gun-related injuries cost the United States, from the health care system to victims’ families.
The study, published in the American Journal of Public Health on Tuesday, showed that between 2006 and 2014, the costs and financial burden of firearm injuries reached a total of $6.61 billion — and that was just for initial hospitalizations.
This, of course, does not include the psychological and emotional damage done when someone is badly injured or dies. Often PTSD is associated with gun violence victims and survivors. A traumatic, sudden and violent incident can do that. The walking wounded are amongst us wherever we go.
We can cut the costs of gun violence by cutting gun violence. It can be done with the right elected leaders who are not afraid of the corporate gun lobby. I have written often about measures that can be taken to save lives and keep people from being injured. Here is my list:
  • a waiting period before the gun is transferred to make sure the buyer isn’t in a rush to shoot someone
  • pass measures to require reporting of lost and stolen guns
  • pass stronger straw purchasing laws
  • strengthen gun trafficking laws
  • gun owners storing their guns safely at home
  • gun owners being more responsible when carrying guns in public to assure that their gun does not accidentally discharge
  • educating parents about the risks of loaded, unsecured guns in the homes where their children play
  • treating gun violence as a public health epidemic
  • limiting the number of guns sold at one time
  • passing Gun Violence Protection Order laws
  • changing the conversation generally about the risks of guns
  • require a mandatory training course for everyone who buys a gun
  • discussing the fact that most gun deaths are suicide and how we can prevent that

Did you think I forgot one of the most important ways to keep a gun away from people who shouldn’t have one?

Requiring a Brady background check on ALL gun sales, no matter where, to assure that those who buy a gun are not prohibited from owning one.

If you don’t think that is a good idea, you are in a distinct minority of Americans who don’t. And, as if we need a poster child for why this is important, take a look at this Minnesota “law abiding” gun owner who was caught “red handed” buying many guns in a short period of time and ostensibly falling through more than a few cracks ( otherwise known as loopholes in the law):

A high ranking professor and department head at the University of Minnesota is facing charges for going on an illegal gun buying spree.

The purchases would have been perfectly legal, except Massoud Amin is under felony indictment.

That should have banned him from buying guns.(…)

Investigators say Amin – who his attorney describes as a gun hobbyist – bought 14 handguns from seven separate gun shops across the metro in a two-and-a-half-week span this summer.

He was under a felony indictment at the time, accused of providing fabricated financial documents in his divorce.

Yet that first gun purchase came just six days after he was charged with forgery.

The federal form required when purchasing a gun from a federally licensed firearms dealer asks the buyer to be honest when filling in the information such as: Are you a felon? Yes or No. Have you been charged with domestic abuse? Yes or No. Are you adjudicated mentally ill? Yes or No. And others.

This is a set-up for someone who falls into one of these categories to lie. It is a federal offense to lie on the form. One way to get around this is to buy from an unlicensed seller who doesn’t ask these questions or do a background check.

The National Instant Check System run by the FBI is then involved when the seller submits the information to the system to check for the accuracy of this information and either approve the purchase or deny the purchase. This has worked to deny millions of people from buying guns they shouldn’t have since the Brady Law was enacted in 1993.

But the system has some gaps that need to be fixed. One is that in some states, like Minnesota, getting a permit to carry a gun, requiring a background check once a year from law enforcement and a new permit every 5 years, also allows the buyer to avoid a NICS check when purchasing guns. And that is how a University of Minnesota professor with a felony charge was able to buy 14 guns in 2 weeks from 7 different gun shops.

We can only guess at why there was a need for that many firearms but the man’s lawyer claimed that he was a gun hobbyist and then this:

Amin’s attorney tells 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that he did have a permit to carry, but would not comment on whether or not it was valid.

New this year in Minnesota, the permit to carry is enough to bypass the extra background check at the point of purchase since permit holders have already been screened.

Right then. People’s lives change, as this man’s did. Suddenly he became a felon:

He was under a felony indictment at the time, accused of providing fabricated financial documents in his divorce.

This does not sound like someone who should have a bunch of guns lying around. I know exactly how that can turn out. This is why my sister was shot and killed.

It doesn’t have to be like this. All we need is some common sense. As it turns out, most gun owners do have common sense and are safe with their guns. Most gun owners also agree with measures that will strengthen our gun laws to assure that all are safer and don’t suffer from the devastation of gun deaths and injuries. They are not threatened by tightening our laws because they are law abiding, practice safe gun usage and storage and use their guns for hunting and other shooting sports. It’s a small group who make it difficult for the majority. And as long as that small group sides with the gun extremists in the corporate gun lobby and refuses to support what most of us want, we will continue to see senseless and avoidable gun deaths and injuries.

What we need is for all of us to have the same safety standards, just like we do when getting a driver’s license or a professional license. There are no exceptions. All are treated the same. Everyone has to go through the TSA checkpoints at airports. All cars must know have seatbelts, airbags and other safety features. All toys and products are expected to pass safety standards to keep us all safe.  Smoking is prohibited in public places for the overall health of all of us. Background checks are required for child care providers and volunteers who work with children for the safety of all. Even adopting a pet requires strict standards.

Firearms should be no exception to protections that can keep us all safe. Purchasers and owners of firearms should be expected to be safe and responsible with their guns. The only way to do that is to impose standards and laws. Guns are the only product on the market actually designed to kill people ( and animals). Other things are used to kill and injure people but are not designed to do so.

We can prevent gun injuries and deaths if we put our collective minds to the effort.

I’m all in.

Oh- and stay safe out there this Labor Day. If you are going to a gun range to shoot, be safe. If you are purchasing a gun, make sure you understand that basic safety rules of owning a gun. If you are feeling angry at someone or wanting to get even or if you have had too much to drink, don’t bring your gun.

Remember why we have a national holiday this week-end. We celebrate those who labor on our behalf to keep us healthy, safe, financially viable, work on our streets and build our buildings and houses, put out fires, teach our children, take care of our children, and many others. Thanks to everyone who is working to provide economic viability to their families and contribute to the America we love. Unfortunately, gun violence never takes a holiday so there will be the inevitable shootings covered in news media all over our country.

And please think of ways to contribute to victims of Hurricane Harvey. There are many credible and trusted sites for you to do that. I contributed through fund sponsored by the United Church of Christ ( I attend a UCC church). We all need to dig deep to help others since one day, we ourselves, could become victims of a national disaster like Harvey.

And ( added after first posting) the usual scares and concerns about looting in the aftermath of natural disasters has people going for their guns and ammunition:

Hurricane Harvey may have moved on from East Texas, but the flood waters are only beginning to recede. Millions are scrambling for essentials like drinking water and food. Some, with worries about the ability of strained law enforcement to keep the peace, are in search of bullets.

“Our phones are blowing off the hook,” said James Hillin, the owner of Full Armor Firearms in Houston, which made it through the storm without flooding. “What people want is ammo. People want to arm up and protect themselves from the looters.”

We can only hope that there will be no shootings to add to the devastation of the storm.