Clowns amongst us

clownHappy Halloween.

Yesterday I wrote about scary things happening politically on the eve of Halloween. It’s still scary out there and getting worse.

This morning I had a conversation with my daughter who was unaware of the scare about clown masks and almost bought one for her teen-aged son. Quickly she realized this would not be a good idea, thankfully. Then she read an article about people in clown costumes threatening small children and committing crimes and got more alarmed, wondering about human nature in general and the lunacy of our country of late. She is not alone.

When people dressed as clowns or using Facebook posts as clowns threatening to commit school shootings or other violent threats, we have a problem. It’s bad enough that people without masks make these threats but using a clown mask/costume to hide an identity makes it more frightening.

I don’t know about you but I was always creeped out by the Joker of Batman movies. And many people are genuinely afraid of clowns. But now there is more than good reason to be afraid of people in clown outfits or acting like clowns.

We can ‘t escape the association of The Dark Knight with the 2012 shooting in the Aurora theater that claimed the lives of 12 during the midnight showing of the The Dark Knight Rises.  That was truly frightening and tragic, to say the least. I can’t even go there without thinking about friends who lost their loved ones in that shooting.

Who needs this kind of frightening stuff on a holiday that is supposed to be for kids but has been co-opted by adults whose intentions are sometimes evil or dangerous? But do people need to arm themselves against clowns now? A group of Florida parents have decided that carrying guns around while their kids trick or treat is the way to go. This seems like a bad idea to me because mistakenly shooting an innocent person is the more likely scenario than actually needing a gun to protect oneself from a clown with bad intentions. From the article:

Brevard County authorities say clown fears could endanger someone who is dressing up as a clown as a joke. Palm Bay Police Lt. Mike Banish fears that someone dressing like a clown could end up getting seriously injured.

“The problem is that someone dressed like a clown could scare someone and there’s a possibility, a possibility you could end up with someone getting shot,” Bandish said. “A person could think that they’re about to get robbed.”

Whatever happened to common sense? Why does everything have to become fearful and threatening?

The election is scary enough and is leaving many Americans with an uncertain and sick feeling in the pits of their stomachs. When people feel unsettled about things, they also feel fearful and maybe think that arming themselves is the answer. But we know already that more guns have not made us safer,  contrary to what the corporate gun lobby would have you believe.

But, as usual, we are afraid of the wrong things. We should be afraid that just anyone can purchase a firearm with no proof that they are not felons, adjudicated mentally ill, a domestic abuser, a terrorist or someone who should not be able to get a gun. Private gun sellers can sell guns to anyone with no background checks at on-line sites or at gun shows. We have made this possible because our elected leaders are afraid of the corporate gun lobby’s influence on their own election or re-election and so they listen to those who do not represent that majority of us who want background checks on all gun sales. 

Women should be especially afraid that their abusers can still get their hands on guns even after they have been deemed to be prohibited purchasers. This article by The Trace shows how easy that is:

This scenario is not unusual. Under federal law, anyone convicted of domestic violence or subject to a domestic violence protective order is prohibited from possessing a gun. But abusers are often able to buy a firearm anyway, or are allowed to keep one they already own, and they end up using it to shoot a wife, girlfriend, or other intimate partner.

So how is it that known abusers, convicted of a crime or subject to a restraining order, come to have a firearm in their possession? Often, they are able to exploit gaps in the federal background check system or in state laws designed to remove firearms from abusers’ homes. Here are seven ways that commonly happens.

Read the seven ways and then know why our laws need to change.

Scary.

This sad story of a young Colorado man with severe mental illness who shot people up last Halloween is an example of why we need laws  (like this California law) that will allow family members to report someone who could be dangerous to him/herself or others allowing for guns to be removed.

Four years ago, the parents of Japanese exchange student, Yoshihiro Hattori, shot and killed when he went to the wrong house for a Halloween party, urged Americans to pass stronger gun laws:

The heartbreak led Yoshihiro’s parents to lobby for a change in US gun laws. They collected nearly 2 million Japanese signatures calling for tighter gun control, and personally handed them over to then President Bill Clinton. They donated compensation from their civil trial to anti-gun groups, and continue to support their efforts from afar.

Yet, on a recent trip back to Baton Rouge, Mieko Hattori said she was shocked to learn more than two dozen states had enacted “Stand your ground” laws that expand a person’s right to self-defense.

Twenty-four years after this tragic shooting, we are still in the same place we were that Halloween of 1992.

The clowns of the corporate gun lobby are still scaring American elected leaders into being afraid to enact the laws that could save lives.

#Enough.

This year, the shootings have already begun:

2 shot and killed at a New York Halloween party.

It’s scary enough out there with the election in its’ last week before we elect a new President. But if you want to be more scared, read journalist Benjy Sarlin ‘s piece about Donald Trump’s violent and vengeful rhetoric:

It has also expressed itself at Trump’s rallies, where supporters have reflected the candidate’s harsh tone.

“We’re all Second Amendment pros, we want our country back like he just said, and she’s not going to give it to us,” a Trump voter, Tammy Wilson, said at a Florida rally this month after predicting people would “rise up” if Trump loses.

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment for this story. With Trump’s language heating up in the final days and his list of enemies growing fast, some civil rights groups and law enforcement officials are raising fears that things could get out of hand.

“We are concerned about the possibility of violence on Election Day and afterwards,” Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center told NBC News. (…)

Twice Trump has made jokes that seem to float the notion of Clinton being assassinated. In August he suggested “Second Amendment people” could prevent her from filling a Supreme Court seat. It was widely perceived as a reference to violence, although the campaign denied that was his intent. In September, he said Clinton’s bodyguards should disarm and then “see what happens to her.”

Trump has also shown unprecedented tolerance for supporters who engage in more overt threats. He enthusiastically defended the character of an adviser, Al Baldasaro, after he repeatedly said Clinton “should be shot by a firing squad,” even after his campaign distanced itself from the remarks.

And more from this article should have us all concerned this Halloween and on election day and beyond:

This fear is especially pronounced because Trump has cast such a wide net in picking targets, and they often have a racial, ethnic, or religious component. He’s regularly made false claims about American Muslims celebrating terrorism or refusing to turn in an attacker and warned that “other communities” — almost invariably cities with large minority populations — are out to steal the election. Recently, Trump told Fox News “illegal immigrants are voting all over the country.”

“What happens on Nov. 9 is anyone’s guess, but some of these trend lines of mainstreaming and broadening bigotry and incidents of violence and hints of a dark conspiracy are very concerning,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in an interview.

The clownish and dangerous behavior and rhetoric of a major party candidate for President of the United States is no Halloween joke. It’s for real and it’s frightening. He has convinced some of his supporters that violence just may be the solution to his falsified and perceived paranoia about election results.

We are better than this.

My suggestions? Pass a law to require Brady background checks on all gun sales.Don’t dress as a clown on Halloween. Don’t carry your gun around on Halloween. Don’t mistake a fake clown for a real clown. Use your common sense and stay safe.

 

About flying bullets

bullet holesYes, it’s true. There are bullets literally flying around in some of our neighborhoods at will with no end in sight. Eventually they stop but they really don’t know where to stop and sometimes stop in an unintended place. Of course, if bullets stop at an intended target, that is also very bad and often deadly.

The gun rights advocates love to refer to Chicago and all of the gun deaths there to make their case that Chicago ( and Illinois) have strong gun laws, so why all the deaths? That’s a good question.

A recent senseless shooting, as if they all are not, points to the ease with which guns fall into the hands of those who intend harm. A young Chicago area teen who had participated in a campaign to end the violence, was shot in the back by a stray bullet in his neighborhood. The bullet was apparently intended for someone else who could have also been killed or injured. This young boy will never be the same. Nor will his family and friends. He was trying to stop the very thing that happened to him from happening. From the article with a quote from the shot boy- Zarriel Trotter:

In a 2015 public service announcement, Trotter spoke out against gun violence.

“I don’t want to live in my community where I have to keep on hearing of people getting shot and people getting killed,” Trotter said in the video.

Good grief.

Why are so many bullets flying in some of our communities? Where are the guns and bullets coming from?

For one thing, all guns start out as legal purchases. Guns go from manufacturers to licensed gun dealers where they are sold with background checks. Private sellers get their gun collections (hopefully) by undergoing background checks at a federally licensed firearms dealer and then often sell them to people who are not required to undergo a background check in most states. It’s easy. Just like that a transaction is made with no background check and the seller has no idea to whom he/she is selling a deadly weapon.

For some reason, the gun rights extremists love to claim that this does not happen. But in most states, in fact, it does. In Illinois, since I brought it up earlier, all gun sales require background checks or verification of a Firearms Owner Identification card at gun shows-even private sellers. So then, where are the guns coming from that are used in the many shootings in Chicago neighborhoods? Presumably the shooters and those committing crimes are not law abiding gun owners?

Gun trafficking from states with looser gun laws, is, of course, the undeniable answer to the question. This great article from The Trace shows the map of recovered crime guns and from where they enter the city of Chicago and the state of Illinois. A small number even come from my state of Minnesota. Apart from private no background check sales, straw purchasing and allowing illegal sales also provides guns to our streets. So “bad apple” gun shops like Chuck’s Gun Shop and Pistol Range in Riverdale outside of Chicago provide many of the crime guns used to kill innocent people inside the city of Chicago. A small number of gun shops like Chuck’s in states all over our country, knowingly allow straw purchasing or other bad practices that provide guns to those who shouldn’t have them. From the article:

The suit claims that the stores are not forced to be vigilant about sales to minors and to straw purchasers—those who buy guns for others who aren’t allowed to. The stores are immune from lawsuits for the results of their gun sales thanks to a law, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, pushed through Congress in October 2005 at the behest of the gun industry. So the plaintiffs are going after the cities where the stores are located to force them to institute common sense rules to prevent improper gun sales. In Illinois, municipal governments, not the state, are responsible for making such laws.

But something can be done about this. So why not? If the gun lobby is correct that criminals can always get guns, why would they object to common sense measures to make sure they don’t get them?  Here are the measures demanded in the above mentioned law suit against the bad apple gun dealers:

The suit suggests several changes in the cities’ gun ordinances. As outlined by the Tribune, they are:

–Mandating background checks for all gun store employees;

–Deterring theft through adequate surveillance and exterior lighting;

–Training managers and employees to identify signs of straw purchasing;

–Requiring dealers to maintain an alphabetical log of all gun sales where the gun was later recovered at a crime;

–Requiring mandatory inspections of a store’s inventory to help detect theft and trafficking of guns, and;

–Requiring video cameras to record the point of sale to discourage buyers who may use false identification.

But in a depressing admission to reality, here is a quote from the article: “The suit will be a tough one to win, according to George Mocsary, a law professor at Southern Illinois University who specializes in firearms law. He told the Tribune that for a civil rights claim to work, there generally has to be an intent to harm a particular individual or community, such as African-Americans.  “I suspect that it will be dismissed,” he said.”

Sigh.

Further, the gun lobby has made sure that the ATF- the agency responsible for monitoring and regulating licensed dealers, is vastly understaffed and underfunded. Why? Good question for which I don’t have an answer. From the article:

“If you want an agency to be small and ineffective at what it does, the ATF is really the model,” says Robert J. Spitzer, author of The Politics of Gun Control. Spitzer, a political science professor at the State University of New York College at Cortland, says the ATF’s critics, in particular the National Rifle Association (NRA), have been “extremely successful at demonizing, belittling and hemming in the ATF as a government regulatory agency.” The result, he says, is an agency with insufficient staff and resources, whose agents are “hamstrung” by laws and rules that make it difficult or impossible to fulfill their mission.

So we have an agency that could make this better but thanks to the ever deceptive gun lobby, they are “hamstrung” in their job. Lives are being lost every day thanks in part to these ludicrous efforts to actually stop us from preventing gun deaths and injuries.

The sad reality is that young people in communities of color in large urban cities are affected by gun violence in greater numbers than their counterparts. This is not OK. We know that gun violence can strike anyone of any race, age, or socioeconomic level. Domestic violence, suicides and homicides occur everywhere. But we also know that we must address the availability of guns in affected communities if we are to be serious about saving at least some lives. In my state of Minnesota, young children of color have been killed by stray bullets flying around in their neighborhoods, leaving families to mourn the lost potential of their children.

One June night of 2012, Terrell Mayes, Jr., 3 years old, of Minneapolis, was hit by a bullet that came through the siding of his home. He died. From the article:

“You keep ’em in, you keep ’em in, but yet and still that bullet, that devil, came right through the wall and took my baby,” said Marsha Mayes,…..”

Babies dying from bullets…..

This article suggests that gunfire is common in the neighborhood where 3 year old Terrell was shot and killed. Are we at war? Gunshots should not be common in any of our communities. Is there any explanation at all for how an 11 year old girl can be shot and killed by a stray bullet while she is sitting in her home doing her homework as happened to Tyesha Edwards of St. Paul in 2002?

There is no explanation for this kind of senseless violence. Even passing stronger gun laws will not change some of this. We don’t have throw- away lives. Our children are our future. We must protect them from violent and avoidable deaths.

A gun culture that has been formed over many years’ time and with the help of a corporate gun lobby that wields too much money and influence will be difficult to change. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. It’s past time for far too many. But lives can be saved with common sense and resolve. No one should be afraid to challenge the false notions that we shouldn’t do anything about our national public health epidemic because it won’t work. If that were the case, we wouldn’t try to solve any of our public health and safety problems. Life would be a free for all with no laws or rules for anything. People would be dying from all kinds of preventable diseases and accidents. That is not who we are as Americans.

It’s a ridiculous deception that nothing can change because of the second amendment. The second amendment to our Constitution was written before 90 Americans a day died from gunshot injuries due to homicides, suicides and “accidental” discharges or shootings. It was written before the common sale of semi-automatic assault type guns to average citizens. It was written before there were 300 million plus guns in the hands of Americans. It was written before regular mass shootings in our schools and public places. It was written before some of our leaders decided it was a good idea for just anyone to be able to buy guns without making sure they are people who should be prohibited from having a gun. It was written before the “wisdom” of the corporate gun lobby pushed our state legislators to pass laws to allow people to carry loaded guns around into every nook and cranny of our communities. You get the picture.

We’ve had #Enough of this. Communities and organizations working together can change the conversation and change the culture about guns and gun violence. As long as guns and bullets are so available and seen as “necessary” in some communities, our children will be at risk. Perhaps when children and teens see adults getting serious about addressing the violence epidemic, they will model what they see. For
every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first come through the hands of an adult.

Here are some things you can do:

  • Stand up and demand change.
  • Join an organization working for change.
  • Talk about the risk of guns in the home.
  • ASK if there are guns where your children or teens hang out.
  • Store your guns safely away from children and teens and to keep them from being stolen.
  • Talk to your friends during difficult domestic issues to make sure guns are not readily available.
  • Tell your legislators and Congress members that you expect them to support legislation to require background checks on all gun sales.
  • Support other legislation to make sure guns are not easily accessible to domestic abusers, felons, those adjudicated mentally ill, gang members, and others who should not have guns.

 

Together we can do this.

 

UPDATE:

Of course, it was a holiday week-end but one wouldn’t anticipate that 5 people were shot in Minneapolis over the holiday. It’s true. And some truly stunning facts:

The shooting comes as gun-related violence has risen in Minneapolis — much like in other Midwestern cities, such as Cleveland and Chicago.

Fifty-four people have been shot in Minneapolis through March 21, the last day for which police data were available, an 86 percent increase over the same period last year. In north Minneapolis alone, 43 people were injured in shootings, compared with 15 last year, police records show.

Meanwhile, the city is also coping with a rise in violent crime, which has jumped 5.3 percent compared to this time last year. In downtown, serious crimes like aggravated assaults and rapes have increased 21 percent, while the Second and Third police precincts have seen a sharp rise in the number of robberies, records show.

Bullets flew in Minneapolis last week-end. One dead and 4 injured. It’s time for that to stop.

Hillary derangement syndrome

derangedSome people hate Hillary Clinton. They hate her with a fervor that is unreasonable and over the top. Often there is no reasoning with these folks, many of them Bernie Sanders supporters. I just can’t figure out that kind of hatred. I don’t hate Bernie Sanders. I don’t hate Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or Donald Trump. I vehemently disagree with their policies and their tactics. And I am actually fearful for our country if Donald Trump were to be elected our President. It is beyond my capability to comprehend that this could happen.

I happen to support Hillary Clinton. Her positions fall into line with mine, for the most part. Especially her views about guns and gun violence. There are a few things on which I will disagree with her. No politician is pure. They disappoint us because we want them to represent everything we believe. We want to trust them. And then reality happens. Debate happens. Compromise happens. And soon enough, we are not happy.

Wayne LaPierre and the gun rights extremists have had Obama derangement syndrome since the day he was elected ( or before). Claims of gun confiscation and hysteria over gun rights have been flung around for 8 years. Interestingly, guns have not been confiscated nor have rights been taken from anyone but those who should not have guns.

I wrote in my last post about some people who should not have guns- domestic abusers. There are too many deaths of American (mostly) women every day because an angry, deranged, suicidal, depressed, drunk or otherwise spouse, partner, ex spouse, ex partner, sibling or other family member had access to a gun. Tragedies are happening all around us. And we are turning our heads. Actually most people feel helpless to do anything until we educate them and they realize that guns in the home are more dangerous for homicide, suicide and accidental shootings than for self defense. This new article from The Trace confirms this:

A recent study published in The Journal of Preventive Medicine offers new support for the argument that owning a gun does not make you safer. The study, led by David Hemenway, Ph.D., of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, examines data from the National Crime Victimization Survey — an annual survey of 90,000 households — and shows not only that so-called “defensive gun use” (DGU) rarely protects a person from harm, but also that such incidents are much more rare than gun advocates claim.

A 2014 Gallup poll suggests that Americans increasingly perceive owning firearms as an effective means of self-defense — having a gun makes one less likely to become a victim of a crime. But as Hemenway’s study demonstrates, this belief is not supported by crime statistics. Contrary to what many gun advocates argue, the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) data reveals that having a gun provides no statistically significant benefit to a would-be victim during a criminal confrontation.

Perception is not reality. Facts matter as it turns out and can save lives. More from the article:

In his new NCVS study, Hemenway also found that defensive gun use is exceedingly infrequent. While smaller private surveys estimated that there are up to 2.5 million DGUs on an annual basis, the NCVS data indicates that victims used guns defensively in less than 1 percent of attempted or completed crimes, with an annual total of less than 70,000. (…)

The only thing we can know for sure is what we have empirical data on: Namely, that there is a reliable floor for defensive gun use estimates at around 1,600 a year. In addition, according to the most recent data on defensive gun use, we have reliable evidence showing that owning a firearm does not give individuals any significant advantage in a criminal confrontation, and they are no less likely to lose property or be injured by using a gun in self defense.

This being the case, why take the chance that something like this awful tragedy in Minnesota could happen to your family. From the story:

Everyone in the community is struggling to explain what would cause the 17-year-old boy, David Cunningham to do this. His father, Tom Cunningham, didn’t want to speak on camera. But he gave us some clues about his son’s growing despondence.

Tom Cunningham is trying desperately to cope with the horrifying scene. Returning from town, he saw the family’s German shepherd dead on the back step. Inside lay the bodies of his two teenage children.

“No, we have no motive at this point,” Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze said.

Two teens are dead. A 17 year old boy was despondent. He had access to a gun. More investigation will reveal what kind of gun it was and where it came from. And now another family and community are devastated. Guns are dangerous. They are designed to kill. And kill they do. Yes, a gun by itself doesn’t kill  unless there is some sort of discharge of a gun that ends up killing some by accident like this one where an Iowa Veteran dropped a gun that discharged and the bullet killed him. This is only one of many like this. People with guns kill many people and themselves every day in our country. They are not killing people very often with knives, hammers, clubs, chairs, or other heavy items. It’s the guns.

And I can’t leave this topic until I write about the one of the Washington man taking a selfie with a gun who ended up dead as a result.  Uffda. Be careful out there.

So what does any of this have to do with Hillary derangement syndrome? Mr. Wayne LaPierre, Executive VP of the NRA is at it again. He delivered yet another speech at this year’s CPAC conference making old, tired and false claims about Hillary Clinton coming for your guns. Let’s take a look at what he said:

The trigger-happy head of the National Rifle Association warned women Thursday that they face a dangerous future should Hillary Clinton wind up in the White House.

“All of America’s women, you aren’t free if you aren’t free to defend yourself,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said during a rambling speech Thursday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. “If President Obama, Hillary Clinton or anyone else denies you that right, they don’t really care about you at all.”

Good grief. Is he serious? Women in America are more likely to be shot and killed by a partner than in any other democratized country in the world. But never mind. Common sense is not one of LaPierre’s strong suits. More from the article:

LaPierre, speaking at a conference hall where weapons were banned, took aim at Clinton, telling the Democratic front-runner to “bring it on” in the fight over gun control.

“All of America’s women, you aren’t free if you aren’t free to defend yourself,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said during a rambling speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

“All of America’s women, you aren’t free if you aren’t free to defend yourself,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said during a rambling speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

“Mrs. Clinton, if you want to come after the NRA, and if you want to fight over the God-given rights of America’s 100 million gun owners, if you want to turn this election into a bare-knuckled brawl for the survival of our constitutional freedoms, bring it on,” LaPierre said. “We aren’t going anywhere, and we aren’t hard to find.”

Is this a challenge? And God-given? Find me a place in the Bible or other religious writings about guns being given to people by God. This is stupid and dangerous rhetoric and also ludicrous. LaPierre just can’t fathom that people who want to pass laws to prevent shootings aren’t coming for his guns. American women should be very afraid when Wayne LaPierre ramps up fear and paranoia as he does when he speaks.

In another article about LaPierre’s speech, Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence says it all:

Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said: “It’s the same populist, fear-mongering speech. It’s amazing to me that Wayne LaPierre has been making the same speech for 25 years. We have a complex problem of gun violence in America and the only come to the table with: ‘We need more freedom.’ It sounds more hollow every time he says it.”

More reaction from his speech addresses the reality of gun violence in American and the total obstruction of the gun lobby to do anything real about it:

LaPierre’s remarks were condemned by the Newtown Action Alliance, a gun control pressure group formed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook killings. It’s chairperson, Po Murray, said: “Wayne LaPierre supported universal background checks until the NRA decided to pursue an extreme agenda of arming anyone, anywhere and everywhere. He will say and do anything to elect a president who will promote the gun lobby’s efforts to put guns everywhere in a greedy pursuit of corporate profits for the gun industry. His job is to fire up the NRA supporters with fear, lies and rhetoric.

“Currently, Hillary Clinton is the only presidential candidate who stands with the families and communities impacted by gun violence. She is pushing for sensible gun laws. Justice Antonin Scalia stated, ‘Like most rights, the right secured by the second amendment is not unlimited …’ and Connecticut passed the second strongest gun laws after the Sandy Hook tragedy.”

Murray added: “Meanwhile, the NRA is aggressively pursuing an agenda to put guns on campuses and allowing anyone to carry guns without permits. In an era of increased mass shootings, voters have a clear choice this November. We choose Hillary Clinton.”

Since the Sandy Hook shooting, rather than armed security guards protecting children from a shooter, which has not happened once since that shooting, this has happened instead:

A gun of a security guard was left in a school bathroom.

An officer’s gun discharged in a school.

But never mind. LaPierre said this about children and school shootings:

Recalling the shooting of 20 young children and six of their adult carers at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut in 2012, LaPierre said the NRA was unfairly attacked and blamed. “I simply and honestly proposed that our schools, our children, should be protected at least as much as our jewellery stores or banks or stadiums, and maybe the Oscars in Hollywood the other night. The national news media savaged me. What parent wouldn’t feel safer dropping their kids off at school with a police car parked out front? (…) He went on: “As a result, millions of our children go to school today, no longer the sitting ducks of the worst and most dangerous of all lies – gun-free zones. The news media, protected by their own armed security, will never admit it, but today, millions of children are safer for one reason: the NRA. The overwhelming majority of Americans agree with the simple truth that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. The politicians and the media be damned!”

Thousands of children have died of gunshot injuries in their own homes since the Sandy Hook shooting because LaPierre and the gun lobby has convinced them that guns in the home will protect them from evil lurking around every corner. LaPierre’s claims that the media savaged him is ridiculous. If they criticized him, it was for good reason. His words ring false.

You just can’t make this stuff up. The overwhelming majority of Americans actually do NOT agree that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” In fact the majority of Americans agree that we should require background checks on all gun sales to prevent some of our shootings.

We can only guess at what LaPierre meant by the last line in the highlighted paragraph above- more of the same angry rhetoric that means nothing.

We are better than this and we’ve had #enough of the ugly lying rhetoric. This is about saving lives.

 

 

Hate filled gun talk

3d image hate speech issues concept word cloud background

I have been writing this blog for quite a few years now. When I first started writing on my other platform ( commongunsense.com) I didn’t know the nuances of blogging. So I just let people comment as anonymous commenters and comment they did. It took me a while to figure out that I could make sure commenters signed on with their names ( or at least a pseudonym). And I learned to moderate comments.

What I got and what I learned is that there is sub culture of gun rights extremism that includes people who are willing to say, and maybe do, anything in defense of their “God given and inalienable” gun rights. I have been called the worst names possible and demeaned, diminished, attacked, offended and (just a few times) threatened. The people on the other end of those comments must have thought I would give in and change my mind or stop writing or run away scared. I am a woman. That entered in. They thought they could intimidate a little woman who didn’t know what she was talking about.

And these are the (mostly) guys with the guns.

It’s nasty out here in the blogging world. Especially if you dare to challenge the gun rights extremists and their ideas. When I write, I link to websites or articles to defend and corroborate my views and my assertions. It’s not hard to find the hundreds of articles about actual shootings about which I write in my blog. For example, in today’s Star Tribune there is an article about a Fargo, N.D. police officer who was shot and killed yesterday in an alleged domestic incident. But more, from the article, reveals something else:

Todd said he was confident that Schumacher meant to shoot at officers.

“I doubt it was random,” said the chief, somber with a strip of black tape around the badge on his chest, symbol of a fallen colleague. “There was a squad car that was shot up [earlier] in a different location than where Officer Moszer was hit.”

This is disturbing, if true. What is going on when our culture has made things like this possible? Earlier in the article we learn that the man who shot the officer should not have been able to have guns. From the article:

Schumacher has a criminal history that includes a conviction for negligent homicide for the October 1988 shooting of a 17-year-old boy, Maynard Clauthier. Schumacher was sentenced in 1991 to five years in prison, court records show.

There is a serious unaddressed problem in our country. We are making it easy for people like this to get their hands on guns. Anger, hostility, and illegal behavior just do not go with guns. And now a young police officer is senselessly dead. The shooter maybe took his own life but that has not yet been determined. And the people of Fargo, police and law enforcement officers,  family, friends and neighbors ( who were terrified by what was going on in their neighborhood) and the community have suffered the ripple effect of gun violence.

It doesn’t have to be this way. But it is. Back to the topic at hand of the ugliness of the gun culture. Unless you’ve been under a rock, you likely know that the Bundy group was finally arrested in Oregon. Nice bunch of guys, those. From the article:

After repeatedly threatening to shoot himself, complaining that he couldn’t get marijuana, and ranting about UFOs, drone strikes in Pakistan, leaking nuclear plants and the government “chemically mutating people,” the last occupier, David Fry, 27, lit a cigarette, shouted “Hallelujah” and walked out of his barricaded encampment into FBI custody.

Sigh.

And the guy who started some of this nonsense when he refused to pay the government for grazing fees in Nevada, Cliven Bundy himself, has also been finally arrested.

These are the guys with the guns fomenting fear, paranoia, anger and conspiracy theories. They get support from many of the gun lobby groups, most especially the NRA who allows the infamous Ted Nugent to remain on their board of directors in spite of a continual rant of offensive, racist comments and posts on social media. His latest has certainly gone over the line of common decency as if the others didn’t. But when will people like him be marginalized by their own? The NRA must like the dangerous soup brewed up guys like Nugent. Why? Does it lead to more people joining their organization? Or maybe buying more guns to protect themselves from the folks in the cross hairs of Nugent’s rants?

Here is the latest one from the linked article above:

Nugent, an outspoken Second Amendment advocate, posted a photo on Facebook earlier this week calling Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), “Jew York City Mayor Mikey Bloomberg,” former senator Carl Levin (D-Mich.) and Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, among many others, “punks” who would “deny us the basic human right to self defense and to keep and bear arms while many of them have paid hired armed security.”

The Israeli flag appears over or next to each of the 12 faces in the photo, which is the same one that has been shared many times in white suprema­cist cir­cles, according to the Anti-Defamation League.

The post prompted applause from anti-Semitic and neo-Nazi groups.

Sigh.

One of Nugent’s targets in his post was Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign. Here is his comment about what Nugent did:

Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, took aim at Nugent as well after being featured in the Facebook post.

“Ted Nugent’s latest comments go beyond being anti-Semitic — they are ignorant and do nothing but fuel hate,” Gross said in a statement. “Personally, I am repulsed — my brother was shot and seriously wounded in a religiously-motivated mass shooting on the observation deck of the Empire State Building. Reasonable people on both sides of the debate recognize Mr. Nugent’s comments for what they are: hate speech and nothing more.”

Is this the kind of country we want? We are more polarized than ever and the rhetoric in the Presidential campaign certainly isn’t helping us work together better for the common good. Common sense seems to be out the window for many folks.

If we truly care about our country and the fact that bullets from guns are taking the lives of way too many Americans, we will come together and work out solutions that make sense. A recent article shows evidence that Americans are dying younger than people in other democratized countries because of guns, drugs and cars. Is this OK with us? Is it OK with us that an 18 year old boy on a hoverboard had a gun and lost his balance, sending a bullet into the head of his 13 year old cousin, killing him?

Is it OK that with us that an American woman is shot every 16 hours by a romantic partner?

We just can’t tolerate what is going on right now. We’ve had #enough of this stupid and dangerous rhetoric which sometimes leads to actual shooting deaths.

We are better than this.

The ripple effect of devastation from guns post July 4th holiday

Water ripples background
Water ripples background

Gun violence has a ripple effect that spreads far beyond the victim and the immediate family. It is a public health epidemic. The corporate gun lobby is part of this ripple effect because were it not for their fierce opposition to doing the right thing to reduce and prevent gun violence, the ripple would be smaller. But the carnage continues daily and does not take a holiday.

Let’s review what happened in the past few days.

In Chicago, 10 were killed and 54 injured from bullets.

All over the country, young children were shot and killed or seriously injured in “accidental” shootings. Here’s a list of the ones we know about.

In Texas, a 3 year old found his grandfathers’s gun and shot himself in the face.

A 7 year old Chicago boy was shot and killed by stray bullets meant for someone else.

A 3 year old Michigan boy found a loaded gun in his home and shot and killed himself.

A 9 year old Florida boy was shot and injured by his 11 year old brother.

A 12 year old Texas boy shot himself in the leg as he was walking along a street. What in God’s name was this boy doing with a gun on the street? This is insane, to say the least.

A 14 year old Milwaukee boy is dead from a gunshot wound over a Facebook argument about a girl.

Under the category of “good guys with guns” comes the following:

A Wisconsin man was arrested for threatening to shoot “the usurper” President Obama when he spoke in LaCrosse last week. – an alleged “good guy” with a gun carrying out his rights.

A Texas man was shot and killed after carrying an assault rifle into a Texas hotel and shooting one person.– a “good guy” with a gun exercising his rights or someone with evil intent? It’s hard to know because anyone can carry an assault rifle around in Texas.

A Florida open carrier was arrested for terrorizing families at the popular Daytona Beach. Why carry an assault rifle at a place like this? ” Christopher Ray cited the fishing and hunting provision of Florida law that allows people coming from or going to fishing or hunting expeditions to have guns.” Good grief. It must be pretty dangerous on the beach and you just never know about those trolls and zombies lurking at hunting and fishing spots.

This is the America the corporate gun lobby and gun extremists have created.

In other tragic gun news:

A teen aged Georgia girl ( honor student) was struck by a stray bullet during July 4th celebratory gun fire and died. She was sitting on a couch in her own home. I wrote a previous post and have written before about celebratory gun fire on holidays. This is insane. But when so many people have guns everywhere and think it’s OK to bring them to public places to “celebrate” this is what we get.

I am adding this “celebratory gunfire” shooting. A 9 year old Tennessee girl was shot during a July 4th celebration. 

And I keep reading about more incidents so am adding one more to the list of celebratory gunfire on the Fourth of July. This time it’s a 7 year old Nebraska boy who was injured by a stray bullet. From the article:

Judging by the size and depth of the wound, police believe it was fired into the air from a five-mile radius, which would include Omaha.

“Just to be in your own yard and get struck by a bullet from the sky, you know, it is supposed to be fireworks coming from the sky, not bullets,” said grandfather Jim Riddle. “We thought it was a firework that hit him right here and then all of the sudden we found out it was a bullet laying on the floor after she lifted up the cloth, putting pressure on the blood.”

Senseless. Avoidable.

Where is common sense?

It’s not just kids who got shot over the holiday week-end. An awful incident happened in Hollywood, CA on Sunday when a man came behind a man and woman walking on the street and shot her in the head with a shotgun.

An apparent domestic shooting left 4 adults dead in South Carolina.

The man with a felony record who shot and killed a young woman on a San Francisco Pier claims he found the gun in a tee shirt and the gun went off when he picked it up. First of all, if that was true, what in the heck was a gun doing wrapped in a tee shirt on a very busy tourist and local attraction? Secondly, if this unbelievable tale is not true, what was this felon doing with a gun in the first place? Questions need to be asked and answered.

Five people were injured from bullets outside of Minneapolis bars on Saturday night. Guns and alcohol just don’t go together.

Chicago had a deadly week-end. Check out this article:

Looking weary and visibly frustrated, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy delivered a press conference Sunday afternoon addressing the high levels of gun violence Fourth of July weekend in Chicago, attributing much of it to lax gun laws.

As of 3 p.m. Sunday, Chicago police confirmed nine shooting deaths and at least 40 others wounded in shootings since Thursday afternoon. Earlier this week, McCarthy promised “all hands on deck” for the holiday weekend. (…) McCarthy displayed an array of firearms on a table at the press conference, saying that Chicago Police seized “about one illegal gun per hour” over Fourth of July weekend thus far. (…)

He used one shooting, “an absolute tragedy,” to illustrate his point — the slaying of 7-year-old Amari Brown in Humboldt Park Saturday night.

Amari was shot, along with a 26-year-old woman, just before midnight. Sunday morning, police said they were not the intended targets of the shooting; McCarthy confirmed that police believe the target was Amari’s father, who he said is a “ranking gang member” with 45 previous arrests, including for illegal gun possession.

McCarthy said he was most recently arrested on a gun charge in April, but then released the next day. “If Mr. Brown is in custody,” McCarthy said, “his son is alive. That’s not the case. Quite frankly, he shouldn’t have been on the street.

“It’s real simple,” he continued. “Gun possessors are potential murderers. If they don’t learn a lesson for carrying the gun, they keep carrying the gun. They get into an argument, now instead of fighting, they shoot.”

McCarthy said there need to be stricter gun laws and blamed “the gun lobby” for the lack of political motivation to pass them.

There is blame to go around and the corporate gun lobby is right in the middle of it. The Brady Campaign held a recent rally outside of Chuck’s gun shop outside of Chicago to highlight “bad apple gun dealers” who contribute to the carnage.

This Chicago mom comments on the violence in Chicago and how her children have to live as a result:

Lula Hill has a strategy for keeping her three sons alive.

It begins just before they leave for school in the morning. She rubs their foreheads with anointing oil and says a prayer that God might protect them when they are not in her sight.

Then there are the more practical steps, like teaching the boys to stay away from the windows of their own home, on the South Side Chicago neighborhood of Roseland. Jaden, the youngest, who is 8, knows why.

“A man might have a gun in his hand, and he can look through the window and see me and he can shoot,” he said. “That makes me feel, like, scared because I don’t want to get killed.”

These are the practicalities of life and family as another summer of violence breaks over Chicago.

Unfortunately, prayers will not keep her kids safe. Changing the laws and the conversation are the only hope this mother, and the many other parents like her have. Kids should not have to worry about being too close to windows in their homes because of bullets flying on the streets or for fear of someone with a gun looking in and aiming at him/her. This is the America we have, though. In some urban areas, kids are growing up with gun violence all around them.

My good friend and fellow activist for gun violence prevention posted about the “ripple effect” of the shooting that changed her life when her daughter got access to a gun and shot and killed herself leaving behind children and a grieving family and friends. It was 4 years ago today and my friend posted all of the things she is angry about that her daughter or her grandchildren or herself can no longer do. From her Facebook post ( just some of what she wrote):

” Every day I miss hearing her come in the door calling out Mom! Even the times when she was angry. I miss the time she changed the ringtone on my phone for her to play Stewie (from Family Guy) yelling out Mom in so many different and annoying ways. I miss that her kids may not always remember the different facets of Angela. I miss listening to her laugh as she would play dominoes with her friend Jodie, or giggle with her kids and when they were upset she would get them laughing by telling them not to laugh, she would say do not laugh, whatever you do DO not laugh, I do not want to see you laugh and in no time they would be giggling so sweetly. I remember her coming over and the kids running in all excited that they had rescued a turtle. They saw one on the side of the road so Angela pulled over and carried it across the street so it would not get run over by a car. I asked her are you sure that was where he was headed and she laughed. I miss her so much not only because of the times we spent together, but for the times we will miss.
I am angry that it has been 4 years and nothing has changed.

I am angry that I have friends that have been working hard to make changes since 1989 and nothing has changed.

I am angry that the system failed my daughter and so many other daughters and sons, siblings and spouses, so many loved ones.

I am angry my grandchildren are growing up and my daughter is missing all of it.(…)

I am angry that like her siblings, her children will meet milestones in their lives and like their Aunt and Uncles there will be someone missing.

I am angry that every day new people join our ranks of grieving survivors….
I am angry at the people and politicians that believe we want to take away everyone’s guns and abolish the 2nd Amendment, because they believe this false information people will continue to die every day from gun violence.

I am angry that since Sandy Hook there have been at least 125 school shootings and nothing has changed. (…)

I am angry that to some the answer is we need to arm more people…. Yet the death rate by gun violence keeps climbing.

I am told guns don’t kill people, people kill people…. With this I cannot argue, so let’s cut the gun violence by keeping guns out of the hands of those that should not have a gun. Felons, domestic abusers, those that are considered a danger to themselves or others.

I am angry that gun owners think because they are responsible gun owners that we shouldn’t have universal background checks. It isn’t the responsible gun owners I fear, it is the irresponsible ones. The ones that leave their guns where children can find them and use them. Those who will without a second thought give guns to anyone and call it their constitutional right and not give it a second thought as to what could happen. We have laws about stealing and robbery and those aren’t in place to stop the lawful…

I am angry when people look at me and say if she hadn’t had a a gun she still would have committed suicide…. Yes that is possible she may still have but then again had she chosen another method she could have possibly changed her mind.

I am angry that in 2012 – 32,288 people died from gun violence and 64% of them where suicides and yet people still will say to me she could have picked another way…. When there is a gun in the home it is more likely to be used in suicide, domestic violence or accidently than in defense.

We need to work together, we need to sit down and discuss and find an equitable solution. We need a universal background check that would prevent a lot of senseless murders and suicides. We need more education on gun safety to protect our children from accidental shootings.

In 2013 there were 41,149 suicides: 10,062 were by suffocation – 6,637 were by poisoning (pills) – 21,175 were by gun…. Do you still think we do not need a background check that includes severe depression and severe mental illness?

Please lets open the discussion and save lives.”

Diane’s daughter had serious mental illness and had been hospitalized. Yet she was able to purchase a gun anyway. And now, Diane is living with the ripple effects of the violence that takes way too many lives and leaves families and communities devastated.

Suicide by gun takes more lives than homicide by gun. It is a serious national public health problem. Easy access to guns makes it all too easy to take your own life and leave behind the devastating ripple effects.

I am angry that Diane had to post this today. I am angry that many of us have been working for many years to get our elected leaders to stand with us and do the right thing. I’m angry that too many of our leaders have chosen the money and the corporate gun lobby over common sense. I’m angry that the devastation continues unabated because we have not had the courage to have a serious national conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our country.

Diane’s voice is just one of many. She is representing a lot of Americans and also a majority of Americans who just know that what we are doing now is not working and we need to work for change.

If anyone wants to know why the majority of Americans want something to change about our gun culture and our gun laws, just read what I wrote. And then read this article about why we are doing virtually nothing- post Charleston and post Sandy Hook and post Aurora and post the daily parade of gun deaths and injuries:

All of this has produced a certain level of cynicism among those who support gun restrictions, as expressed by the President when he said he didn’t expect reforms any time soon.

Each time that a massacre has occurred, we have seen not only a striking mobilization against any new restrictions but an equally striking absence of strong pressure to address this issue.

A significant number of liberal Democrats, who in previous years had strongly supported gun control, have remained noticeably silent on the issue. They are resigned to defeat.

The President often finds himself standing alone when calling for gun control. But those who say federal legislators can “never” pass gun restrictions should look to moments like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 or the Affordable Care Act of 2010 to see how those predictions can turn out to be wrong.

The good news is that there has been some progress in states like Maryland and New York, which have attempted to move forward even as gridlock reigns supreme on Capitol Hill. But for an effective response to the kind of gun tragedies we see so often, supporters will need stronger mobilization to counteract what their opponents have achieved.

The country needs to do a better job dealing with its gun problem. Otherwise, it will be all too soon that we’ll find ourselves going through this again.

We can write and think about this all we want to. But what we need is action. Lives depend upon us putting our heads together to do the right thing. In the name of the victims, this needs to change. Act now to ask Congress to pass a universal background check bill. Act now to work with your own state legislators to pass a similar law. We can save lives if we stand together and have the will. Will we?

We are better than this.

UPDATE:

This article adds to the gun deaths by stray bullets over the holiday week-end. A Colorado man about to roast marshmallows with his family at a camp site was hit by a stray bullet and died of his injuries. From the article:

Family members said they had heard distant gunshots a while before Martin collapsed. They reported the gunfire to a ranger, because using firearms is prohibited in that area of the national forest.

Now, the family is urging whoever fired the errant shot to come forward.

“It just happened. You never know when you’re going to go. You can be sitting at a campfire waiting to roast marshmallows with your grandchildren talking to your son in law and you’re just done,” Carlie said.

At this time, sheriff’s officials said it appears that Martin was killed by an errant bullet fired by an unknown person. They do not believed it was intentional at this time. However, that has not been ruled out, sheriff’s officials said.

Does anyone remember that our Congress passed a bill allowing guns in our national parks? Seems like a great idea because… rights. Where is the right to be free from stray bullets while camping in our nation’s parks? There really are places where guns are not needed.

UPDATE #2:

The articles keep coming. In what can only be called a senseless, stupid and dangerous incident, a South Carolina man getting even with a group for shooting bullets into the air over the July 4th holiday shot off his own gun at a car, hitting and injuring his own friend.

This is one of the results of the guns everywhere American culture.

UPDATE #3:

The reports of celebratory gunfire injuries keep coming in. In the Kansas City area, it appears that 3 people were injured by stray bullets flying in their neighborhoods. All were lucky no one was killed. This is the definition of insanity.