In support of safe communities

register to voteWe have a problem ( we have many actually) in the country with so many senior Americans living in homes with guns. In my last post, I wrote about the need for Red Flag laws in order to save lives. A fine example of how these laws work to save lives is this incident of a woman whose husband “accidentally” shot her in the stomach. He had dementia but still she brought out his guns at his request so he could look at them. Unfortunately for all, he picked up one of the guns, pulled the trigger and shot his wife in the stomach. She lived. And yet, she was OK with this because she didn’t want to take away his dignity. But what’s more important here?

Education of the public is needed to explain the provisions of these kinds of laws. Families of gun owners often don’t believe that a loved one could possibly be a danger or pose a risk. But why take a risk with lethal weapons? From the article:

About a year before the shooting, Dee reluctantly took away his car keys. When he still insisted on driving, she sold the car. When he wanted to check on their guns, she locked them in their safe in a shed behind the house and changed the combination.

Dee did the right thing in taking away the car keys. She could have avoided getting shot had she not taken the guns out of the locked gun safe.

At the end of the piece, a common sense discussion occurs with another woman who made the decision to sell her husband’s guns. And further, the article ends with an interview with a physician and the dilemma about talking to elderly patients about guns in the home. This may the time to remind my readers that the NRA has tried to stop physicians from asking about guns in homes. Why? Second amendment I guess.

There really are some people who should not have guns.

This is a no brainer. Of course we have to have these discussions. And of course health care providers should talk to patients about the risk of guns in the home. And of course we need to pass more Red Flag laws. It’s all a matter of common sense and has nothing to do with rights. It’s about safer families and communities.

The Parkland students are touring the country with the Road to Change tour this summer. They are also talking about safer communities wherever they go. There are many ways to have safer communities. One is to pass stronger gun laws. These students understand that because they experienced a tragedy on Feb. 14th at their school and nothing has been the same since.

They are asking, “When is this going to end?”

Good question.

While the students were in Minneapolis, I went to a picnic and met some of them. It was great to chat a bit with Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, two of the outspoken Parkland students who have become heroes to many. I had a particularly good conversation with a student from Chicago who joined the tour as the group stopped there on their tour. We talked about easy access to guns, about the homicides in Chicago, about the difference between urban gun violence and gun suicides which can be prevalent in more urban areas. In the end, it’s the bullets that take lives whether homicide or suicide.

We agreed that we would all be safer if we passed a federal background check law to stop guns from states with more lenient gun laws making their way into states like Illinois with stronger gun laws. Chuck’s gun shop came up as the Brady Campaign has organized some protests there to show how Bad Apple Gun Dealers can add to urban gun violence.

While the students were in Minneapolis they did several things. One of the major goals is to register young people to vote in order to make the changes we need. They did register voters. They also attended a vigil for Thurman Blevins, the man shot by police in Minneapolis in a confrontation that turned deadly. To date there are conflicting reports about this shooting and it appears that the body camera footage of the officers will be released soon. Clearly guns cause a lot of conflict, a lot of heartache, a lot of tragedy and senseless violence in our communities no matter who is shooting them.  There are too many guns out there and as a result there are too many shootings. There is also fear about the too many guns in our communities leading to more fear from citizens and officers alike often leading to more shootings.

There were also more active shooting incidents last year than in previous years. This should come as no surprise to most of us and particularly not to the Parkland community or any community where recent shootings have taken place.This new FBI report released recently has the facts about this. From the article:

Active shooting incidents have continued to plague the nation but last year, there were 30 incidents across the U.S. — the highest number since the FBI began tracking the phenomenon. Last year also broke a record for the highest death toll in any single year.

“Faced with so many tragedies, society routinely wrestles with a fundamental question: can anything be done to prevent attacks on our loved ones, our children, our schools, our churches, concerts and communities?” the study says. “There is cause for hope because there is something that can be done.”

And also of interest is the fact that most of the shooters in these incidents got their guns legally ( though maybe shouldn’t have):

The 30-page report examines active shooter incidents from 2000 to 2013 and suspects in 63 cases, finding suspects showed signs before they attacked but law enforcement wasn’t notified in more than half the cases until it was too late.

Forty percent of suspects purchased a firearm or multiple guns legally for the sole purpose of an attack. Another 35 percent already legally owned a gun before planning an attack, meaning 75 percent of active shooter incidents reviewed by the FBI legally owned the gun they used in the attack.

The remaining suspects stole, borrowed or purchased a weapon illegally.

It’s so easy to get guns in America. If one intends to carry out a shooting, one can do it without a problem. Speaking of legal and illegal guns, the Heller decision is now 10 years old. 

The Supreme Court decided in Heller the second amendment could be interpreted to mean that individuals have the right to have guns in their homes, more or less ignoring the section of the amendment that deals with a “well regulated militia” as had been an established precedent previous to the decision.

The above linked article from the Brady Center discusses that decision and what it has meant for our country’s gun laws and public safety.

And what a day to mention this given that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement today. What will this mean for gun rights and gun violence prevention? Here is the statement from the Brady Campaign about Kennedy’s retirement from the bench.  From the statement:

“President Trump has made no secret of his desires to reshape the Supreme Court to be hostile to common sense gun laws. Indeed, the NRA and the gun lobby are already celebrating today’s announcement. We will see what the coming weeks hold and who is appointed to the nation’s highest court, but rest assured – we will continue the fight to protect Americans’ right to be safe from gun violence. Brady has been fighting in the courts for 30 years, and we aren’t going anywhere. We’re up to the challenge.”

We are up to the challenges facing us and will continue our work to keep our families and communities safe from devastating gun violence. We stand behind the students in their efforts to make changes. We stand with the rule of law. We stand with common sense. We stand with the victims.

And we stand with the rights of everyone qualified to be able to vote. For that is the way to make the changes that are needed in our communities and to public health and safety. We must protect that right above all things. Pay attention to what is going on around you and do whatever it takes to make sure our rights to safe communities, our rights to vote, our rights to health care, women’s rights, civil rights, workers rights, rights to marry who we love, and the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are preserved. Our democracy is under siege. We have to work to save lives and our democracy.

 

 

Robert Kennedy Jr. – 50 years later

Robert_F._Kennedy_grave_in_Arlington_National_CemeteryIt’s been 50 years since the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. I remember when it happened. It was only a few months after the shooting of Martin Luther King so the nation had just experienced the loss of another great leader. It was one of those times in American life when things stopped for a while and people cried and mourned in disbelief.

Since Robert Kennedy was killed, over 1.5 million Americans have died from gunshot injuries. 

And it continues.

Bobby’s family somehow moved on with the grace and dignity shown after the assassination of President John Kennedy. Now, another brother. Another father. Another uncle. Another husband. Another cousin.

I had the honor to serve on the Brady Board of Trustees with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the oldest of the Kennedy children. She became a strong advocate for gun violence prevention and many other causes in which she believes. Here are some of her reflections on this momentous anniversary:

“‘How do we make moral choices? How do we help our fellow human being?'” Townsend said. “That is the most meaningful thing you can do.”

And it was their faith in the answers he offered that helped him build a coalition that’s implausible, if not impossible, to imagine today. “He could speak to white working class men and women because they trusted him that he would fight for them, and he also fought for African-Americans,” said Townsend. “If you talked to those who met him, you never sensed that he felt he was better than you. He was with you.”

Stopping the shootings of our children and innocent Americans is a moral choice. Our job is to help our fellow human beings do the right thing. That is why I am doing this work and remaining a fierce advocate for gun safety reform that can save lives.

And I believe that Bobby Kennedy would not have been influenced by the corporate gun lobby. In 1968 the NRA was a very different kind of organization than what it has now become. When Kennedy ran for President the NRA was an organization to support hunters and teach gun safety. Now it is an extremist group that accounts for about 1.8% of Americans with influence it should not have. We need more leaders like Bobby Kennedy to stand up to the corporate gun lobby instead of the lapdogs we have sitting in their seats refusing to stand up for the victims of gun violence.

Tomorrow the country will mark the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death with a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

Many will be there to share their memories, to represent victims, to praise Robert Kennedy. From the linked article:

On Wednesday, Kerry Kennedy will join former president Bill Clinton at her father’s resting place in Arlington National Cemetery, for a memorial service marking the 50th anniversary of his death. Civil rights hero John Lewis, 78, and 18-year-old gun control activist Emma González will be among those reading quotations from the slain senator’s works. Two are inscribed in granite near the plain white cross at his grave: “Some men see things as they are and ask ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’” and: “… each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope …”

It is so fitting that one of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting survivors will be in attendance. For she would have been honored by the Bobby Kennedy of 1968. She represents those whose voices can’t be heard just as Kennedy’s voice was taken from him far too soon. He would have stood with the victims and survivors and cried with them and acted on their behalf.

His potential to be a great leader was snuffed out in seconds by a gunman. Bullets end lives quickly leaving memories, legacies, unrealized potential and talent behind in aftermath.

What could have been different about our country if Bobby Kennedy had become our President? It may be an exercise in futility to wonder that but it’s interesting to think about what could have been given his positions and his passion for justice.

Compared to what we have now, our country would be a different place. We might actually have passion for people who need our help. We might actually be doing something about racism, about gun violence, about immigration and social justice.

The people seemed to sense that about Kennedy as his body was carried by train across the country while thousands of Americans waved and grieved along the side of the tracks.

My last post was about memories of gun violence victims. Bobby Kennedy was a gun violence victim.

Today I remember him and think about what could have been. I was honored to be invited to attend the ceremony but was unable to attend. I will be watching as it is televised.

Today we should all remember that our country does not have to tolerate this senseless loss of life. We can prevent shootings. We can do something about easy access to guns. We can pass stronger gun laws. We can change the conversation and the culture of gun violence. We can save lives. We can be a country with common sense approaches to the gun violence epidemic affecting our country.

We remember Robert F. Kennedy.