Anniversaries of gun safety reform

On Thursday this week it will have been one year since the U.S. House of Representatives voted on and passed the universal background check bill.

It is also the anniversary of the enactment of the Brady background check bill on Feb. 28, 1994.

Federally and in many states, criminal background checks on the sale of guns are not required for all gun sales. There is a private sale loophole that is big enough for 22% of sales to go through. That means that anyone can purchase a gun through a private sale at a gun show, on-line or at a flea market (the most frequently used venues):

But as effective as the original Brady Bill has proven, its current structure has resulted in several loopholes in the background check system of today. Today, one in five gun sales are conducted without a background check — through gun shows, private sales, and over the internet in online sales. More than 90 percent of Americans agree that anyone who buys a gun — no matter where or how — should go through a Brady Background Check. But loopholes in our nation’s gun laws mean that too often guns fall into the wrong hands.

Gun rights advocates often argue that we already do background checks on all gun sales. They are wrong. Are they willfully wrong or do they just not know the facts? Or are they lying? Hard to know.

They also argue that criminals will get guns anyway no matter if we pass the law. Let’s look at that deceptive argument:

“Background checks work,” Rep. Mike Thompson of California, the lead Democratic author on the background checks bill, said on the House floor. “Every day, they stop 170 felons and 50 domestic abusers from getting a gun from a licensed dealer. But, in some states, those same people can go into a gun show or go online and buy a gun without a background check. This bill will help stop them from doing so.

“Some will argue that criminals won’t follow the law,” he said. “If that is the case, then why do we have laws against murder? People still commit murder. Why do we have laws against stealing? People still steal. This is flawed logic. Don’t fall for it.”

The truth is that the Brady background check bill was written with an exception for private sales of guns. In 1993 it seemed that the NRA won that point with the idea in mind that private sales would not result in selling to prohibited purchasers or if they did, maybe it didn’t matter? Who knows?

It matters. Now, private sellers often have collections as large as the federally licensed dealer next to them at a gun show. Or they advertise their guns, ammunition and other accessories like silencers on Armslist.com and make a sale without checking ID or doing a background check. For some reason there are gun rights advocates who don’t appear to know about Armslist.com. There are also elected representatives who don’t understand it. I have educated a few of them about on-line sales. When writing new laws, it’s key to know what is in them before either voting for or advocating against.

It is disingenuous to argue that we already do background checks on all gun sales. In case the opponents believe or lie about the reason people like me support bills to require a background check on all gun sales here is the real reason. Background checks can save lives.

Why not require a background check on all gun sales? What is the reason to be against it? Rights…..confiscation…..registration. All wrong. There is no reason that makes any common sense to be against requiring a simple background check that takes just minutes on a gun sale.

Now let’s look at the Charleston loophole bill. This bill, passed on 2/28/19, closes the loophole in current law that allows a default proceed of a gun sale. In plain language, it allows someone whose background is questionable but whose information doesn’t come into the NICS within 3 days to walk away with the gun. Thus did the shooter of 9 people at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, get his gun. He was a white supremacist and a prohibited purchaser. And he devastated the lives of 9 families in just a few seconds.

The bill would make the time longer before letting someone walk away with a gun if there are “red flags” in that person’s background:

Critics of the current system say the Charleston shooter would have been barred from obtaining the gun had investigators had more time to dig into his record and discovered his drug arrest.

We have been waiting a year now for Senator McConnell to take these bills out from under the dust of his desk and bring them to the floor of the Senate for a vote. Why won’t he? Ask him.

Does President Trump want the bills to pass? No. Does the NRA want the bills to pass? No. Do the far right extremists want the bills to pass? No. Does the American public want the bills to pass?

YES.

Coincidentally, Protect Minnesota will be holding a lobby day on Thursday to rally the House to pass the criminal background check bill and the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill- both of which will save lives. The Senate, of course, has refused to take up the bills so far. But we are pressing on and intend to keep pushing for common sense to happen sooner rather than later.

So let’s get on with it. According to the Gun Violence Archive, so far this year there have been over 6000 gun deaths and more injuries. That is more than last year at this time. And so, what will we do? Turn our backs on victims and survivors and say we don’t care? Or say we care and then do nothing? Or continue to take money and influence from the corporate gun lobby to stop the bills?

What will it be? Lives or rights? We all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The time is now. The time is 20 or 30 years ago.

This is an American tragedy and a public health epidemic crying out for a solution.

Hostility at gun bill hearings

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

To continue where I left off in my last post, the threats and hostile acts by a minority of angry gun rights extremists continue. We now have information that revealed that one of the organizers of the extremist group “The Base” has lived in Russia and has been directing operations of the group from there:

The FBI has described the group as a “racially motivated violent extremist group” that “seeks to accelerate the downfall of the United States government, incite a race war, and establish a white ethno-state.” (…) One video posted online in March 2019 shows Nazzaro in Russia wearing a T-shirt with Vladimir Putin’s face and the words, “Russia, absolute power.”

“The Base” is considered to be a neo nazi militia group watched by the Southern Poverty Law Center and some of whose members were arrested before the pro gun rally in Virginia last week:

In the days leading up to the rally, the FBI arrested multiple members of “The Base,” a white nationalist group where some members hold neo-Nazi beliefs. Court documents show some members discussed attending the rally in Richmond with the intent of killing people.

The pro gun rally ended without violence, miraculously given the anger, tension and guns that were mixed in with the annual “lobby” day sponsored by the Virginia Citizens Defense League. Prominent on the website of the vcdl is this statement: ” The 2020 Legislative Session started January 8, 2020 and represents the greatest threat to gun rights Virginians have faced in modern times! 

The “funny” thing about “The Base” operations coming from a man living in Russia, who appears to really like Putin, is that we know that the Russians tried to influence the 2016 election by sending one of their own to influence the election through the NRA. Remember Maria Butina? The Russians do understand that gun rights go together with Republicans and that money and power go together. Sowing discord and even violence in America is one of Putin’s aims. Can we say he is succeeding to a certain degree? And can we say that President Trump is helping out by tweeting his support of this movement of violence against Americans?

This is about more than gun rights.

The thing is, there are no threats to gun rights when laws like universal Brady background checks and Extreme Risk Protection Order bills are passed in the name of public safety. Not one of these folks can tell us how this will affect their very own gun rights or those of their friends- at least no reason that makes any sense and is factual.

I had this “discussion” this week- on Tuesday- when the Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on 4 gun bills in Hibbing, Minnesota, home of Bob Dylan located 1.5 hours to the north of my city of Duluth. The Republican leaders opined that holding the hearing in Hibbing would give rural folks a chance to speak up about gun issues:

Senate Republican leaders said they opted to hold the hearing after years of “dogging” from all sides of the issue and they chose Hibbing because they wanted rural constituents to have a stronger voice in the debate.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that it just isn’t true. I have been going to hearings at the Minnesota state Capitol for many years. There are just as many rural and urban gun owners and leaders there as the people like myself speaking for common sense gun legislation. People travel to wherever the hearings are held to make their viewpoints known.

Metropolitan gun lobbyists traveled to Hibbing to testify. Very few local gun owners testified. Instead, they brought in a lobbyist from NRA headquarters to speak on behalf of gun rights. Two men from the Twin Cities area testified on behalf of the gun owners of Minnesota. Some rented hotel rooms so they could make it to Hibbing for the hearing. Only two speakers on the side of gun violence prevention were from outside of northern Minnesota. One was state Public Safety commissioner John Harrington and the other was a woman whose father was shot 3 years ago. She lives in a small town north of the Twin Cities.

So when one of the gun rights “extremists” in the room asked why the Duluth Police Chief was there to testify, the answer is that he is at least from close by. Why was an NRA national spokesperson at the hearing?

The Hibbing hearing, unfortunately, magnified a stereotype about gun owners that most gun owners hate and don’t fit into. There were hundreds of angry men and women, some armed, in a smallish standing room only room brandishing their anger and bullying tactics from the beginning. One man interjected himself into a press conference held by the Democratic Senator (Ron Latz) who was bringing the background check and extreme risk protection order bills to the committee. This man yelled out questions and comments often yelling over the press. He did the same as I was being interviewed by a local T.V. reporter. Did I have to answer his questions just because he was there to bully and intimidate? No. But he insisted on a “conversation” with me about the hackneyed “slippery slope” argument.

At the beginning of the hearing, a man sitting in front of me yelled, “Where is the flag? No flag no respect. I’m outa here.” And he got up and left.

Nice.

I’m sure these folks are regular people with families they love just like I do and my friends do. They go to work and send their kids to school. Unfortunately the area where they live is economically depressed with many mining jobs lost leaving lots of anger and frustration. But something seems to happen to them whenever guns and gun safety reform come up. At the hearing, many insisted on being loud and interrupting and not listening. The others applauded their uncivil behavior. Our very own President has given “permission” for this kind of behavior. He is modeling it whenever he speaks. So what can we expect?

When any of us ( there were about 50 of us from the Duluth and Iron Range area in orange Protect Minnesota shirts and red Moms Demand Action shirts) were engaged by them, they mostly tried to shout over us.

I was on a bus that took many who had never attended a hearing before or never been in a roomful of angry armed people. Some were quite intimidated and worried about this. I can’t blame them. The crowd was racaus, rude, belligerent, and boorish as they interrupted the proceedings, yelled out comments and questions, insisted on answers, and several came close to being ejected. The Democratic Senator Ron Latz was personally verbally attacked by many.

The chair of the committee, Senator Limmer, lost control at the outset and never regained it. Here is my letter to the editor about that:

Sen. Limmer and the Republican Senate were under pressure to hear the bills, given that gun-safety reform is at the top of the list of concerns for Minnesotans and Americans; 84% of Minnesotans support requiring background checks on all gun sales. The group of angry folks who came to the Hibbing hearing reflected a minority of Minnesotans and gun owners.

Their angry voices reflected fear of losing something. Our fear is of losing lives to senseless gun violence.

As I said in my letter, one of our supporters was poked in the back by a man behind her who kept asking what she thought of comments made by one of his own. This is physical harassment. One man clapped his hands right next to the ears of a friend of mine sitting in front of her. Others booed at victims and even at the Chief of Police. They had no compunction about doing this-so sure were they that they deserved their rights to intimidate and bully others.

I am a League of Women Voters debate and forum moderator. We practice the Speak Your Peace Rules of Civility Project and state them at the beginning of every event. This hearing was the total opposite of peace and civility.

What is this fear and anger really about? As I have said probably thousands of times in this blog and in other places, if these people are law abiding citizens they will not have to worry about a thing. If they believe it is inconvenient to show a permit to purchase a gun at a licensed dealer and also to a private seller, I wonder how they feel when they stand in line at the license bureau to renew their driver’s license or their car license plate?

It’s inconvenient to bury a loved one who was shot. It’s inconvenient to read about your family in the newspaper and have reporters surround your family to take photos. It’s inconvenient to go to court where the killers of your loved ones stand trial and you have to re-live the trauma. It’s inconvenient to have to go through the personal effects of your loved one and decide how to part with their things. It’s inconvenient to have to speak with your back to a hostile crowd in a hearing room of armed people and know their anger over perceived loss of rights extends to you.

It took me several days to recover from the day at the hearing. The righteous and obnoxious folks we encountered at the hearing have no empathy for what it feels like to be surrounded by people with misplaced anger and hostility. We are not the enemy. We disagree about how to approach public safety. But we know the majority happens to be with us. We wish them no harm or ill will. We are not angry with them except when they verbally attack one of us. We do not want their guns. Their rights will not be taken away.

But too many of our loved ones are.

There is no need for them to threaten us or bully us. It’s not necessary. They will have their guns if they go through background checks. If they, in a moment of anger or mental anguish, may harm themselves or someone else, they may have guns temporarily removed for their own safety. Because if one of those “law abiding” gun owners shoots someone in a moment of anger, they will never be the same. Their lives will be as upended as the victim but killing another human being is a very serious thing and an awesome responsibility.

They don’t have to argue with us about defensive gun uses, or tell us that people kill themselves with knives too, (but check the lethality of guns compared to knives- apples to oranges) or about the Dickey Amendment or about the myth about the slippery slope as they did last Tuesday. Those are side issues and deflect from the bottom line. And we do have facts that are not being considered by those who insist we are wrong and the enemy.

In America, we shoot too many of our own. Too many of our own die by gun suicide. We want to change that and, contrary to NRA hype, it can be done without interfering with rights and gun ownership.

Too many of our own are shot “accidentally” ( 4 year Indiana old boy dies when shot by father’s gun while wrestling) What law owning and carrying father intends for that to happen? But seriously, what was he thinking? If you refuse to listen to those of us just trying to tell you that guns are a risk and needed to be treated as a threat to your own safety or that of your family, perhaps these regular incidents would not happen and more children would be alive. If a gun carrier is so cavalier about safety that he carries his gun in his pants ( without a holster apparently?) bad things happen. What gun carrier wrestles with is little boy wearing a gun?

He must be devastated. How tragic this is and my heart goes out to all of them. This will be their nightmare for the rest of their lives.

Where is common sense?

That is all we are asking.

I tried to tell one of the angry men about the Gun Violence Archive and that he should look at it to see how many people have died from gun violence compared to defensive uses of guns. He talked over me and didn’t want to hear it but I am going to leave you with this just in case.

He told me I should join the NRA after I tried to tell him the truth. I told him I would not do that and that my sister had been shot to death in a domestic shooting. He did not know what to do with this information but sometimes one must be blunt to get the point across.

To shoot or not to shoot, that is the question

After the shooting at the church in White Settlement, Texas there has been a lot of discussion, misinformation, tweeting and assertions made about how the shooter was shot. We know now that a trained security guard shot the shooter. We also know that it appears that there were other armed parishioners at the ready. We don’t know if the victims were actually armed though one article suggested that one of them was a member of security “force” used in that particular church. The man who shot the shooter actually trained the others and was an ex law enforcement officer who knew what he was doing.

Had police officers come to the scene, they would have done the same. And yes, we have to admit that the security guard did something good. Can we say that he was skilled and maybe also lucky? He took one shot and aimed at the head of the shooter, according to some reports. He hit the target and stopped the shooter from doing more damage, if that is what he intended..

We know that after the Sutherland Springs church shooting Texas passed a law allowing guns in churches. Texas has other gun laws- looser rather than stronger.

And we know now that the shooter was a prohibited purchaser. But Texas has not passed a universal background check or Extreme Risk Protection Order to stop people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them anyway and shooting up churches and schools and malls and Walmarts and other places of businesses.

But that’s the way it is. This article explains what I have been thinking about and highlights the controversy over arming people in churches and everywhere else for that matter. From the article:

The reality of Wilson’s heroism is a lot more complex. He wasn’t just an ordinary parishioner, as gun advocates may want you to believe. The church’s volunteer security team member is a firearms instructor, gun range owner and former reserve deputy with a local sheriff’s department, according to a New York Times detailed account.  

In other words, he’s exactly the kind of man you want around with a firearm. But we know nothing about the at least six other parishioners who also appeared to draw their handguns at West Freeway Church of Christ in White Settlement, Texas. (…) And that’s terrifying.

Why is it terrifying? Because anyone can carry a gun into churches now and other places. How do we know if they are “good guys” with guns or bad guys with guns? If the man who shot those parishioners carried a gun inside the church and intended harm, no one would have said a thing because….. rights:

But have we really reached a point when each of us need to carry a firearm anywhere we go? Gun advocates certainly think so. They point to Wilson and the new Texas law that allows him and others to carry firearms inside the church.

And of course our very own President tweeted about the heroism of Jack Smith. He tweeted the NRA line. The President likes heroes and tough guys. He has made that clear many times over the past 3 years. He, and the corporate gun lobby, would rather there be a hero saving the day, though not stopping the shooting in the first place as they claim armed citizens will do, than to pass laws to stop shooters from getting a gun in the first place.

We will wait to see if he invites Smith the White House or invites him to one of his campaign rallies to showcase his tough guys, heroes, and pardoned Navy Seals.

The shooter was a prohibited purchaser. Where did he get the gun?:

The gunman at West Freeway Church of Christ, 43-year-old Keith Thomas Kinnunen, apparently had a long criminal history, including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Authorities say they’re still investigating the motive of Sunday’s shooting, and there were no immediate details about how he got the firearm he used at the church.

And this, from the article, is the main point of it all isn’t it?:

We know firearms are readily available to anyone who wants one, really. And that’s part of the problem. Sunday’s shooting isn’t just about Jack Wilson’s heroism. It’s about how Kinnunen got a hold of a weapon in the first place, given his criminal record.

The shooter was also mentally unstable and had been ordered to receive treatment as well as having a restraining order against him from his former wife.

These are all reasons this man should not have been able to get a gun in the first place. Why aren’t we talking about that? We must talk about that. Because if we don’t the shootings will continue unabated and continue to end in senseless gun deaths and injuries.

Texas gun laws changed to take the state and common sense backwards:

Texas also doesn’t require gun owners to obtain a license or register their firearms. Law enforcement in the state does not have any discretion to deny a concealed carry permit.

In addition, if a Texas gun purchaser already has a concealed carry permit, a background check is not required. Like many other states, Texas does not require a background check for private sales or sales at gun shows.

Research has generally shown that states with higher levels of gun ownership experience higher numbers of gun homicides and suicides.

Texas currently ranks in the middle in terms of firearm mortality according to the CDC.

In addition, recent research from Columbia University finds states with more permissive gun laws experience higher numbers of mass shootings.

Gun laws matter.

I also want to talk about why so many shooters are angry men? It’s the combination of anger and easy access to guns.

Common sense tells us that we don’t want everyone to be armed. Imagine the chaos if everyone was shooting at everyone else at the church, as they almost did according to reports. This is insanity itself.

We have failed the country by not dealing with the causes of our national epidemic of gun violence before the shootings rather than during the shootings.

To shoot or not to shoot. We have choices to make as a country. Are we going to allow the corporate gun lobby to decide how our country will be or are we going to follow the wishes of the majority and do something about our gun culture and lack of gun laws in order to save us from senseless and avoidable shootings?

My post would not be complete without reporting on the usual and totally avoidable shootings of innocent people in celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve. A 61 year old woman ( and, according to the article-one toddler injured and a 31 year old woman also killed) was shot by a bullet that someone made a deadly decision to shoot out of his gun to celebrate New Year’s Eve. Why do people do this? Aren’t these the good guys with guns we were talking about earlier?

2020 is picking up where 2019 left off with shootings already listed in the Gun Violence Archive charts– 91 deaths so far and the day is not over yet.

Stop the shootings. Make a decision. Do the right thing elected leaders.

( I have struck through the name of the shooter because we should not be naming the shooters )

Let us remember the names of the two victims: Anton “Tony” Wallace, 64, and Richard White, 67.

Accountability for guns and comments

Accountability on Black Chalkboard. Black Chalkboard with Accountability Concept. 3d Rendering.

Of course we know by now that President Trump has been impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. Abuse of power and obstruction of Congress are the impeachment articles. Can we talk about abuse of responsibility and language in our current hyperbolic and partisan atmosphere?

Whatever you think about impeachment at the least the comments should be measured since the public and social media get to hear what you have to say with the speed of light. Such is the case with comparisons to Jesus and the bombing of Pearl Harbor during last night’s vote.

And so, when a Colorado radio talk show host said that he wished for a school shooting in the midst of the impeachment vote, his comments were taken seriously:

Denver radio host Chuck Bonniwell began a segment of his afternoon radio show Tuesday by lamenting the “never-ending impeachment of Donald Trump,” and then saying, “You know, you wish for a nice school shooting to interrupt the monopoly.”

Chuck tried to walk it back but he failed miserably showing his total lack of empathy and common sense.:

Bonniwell hasn’t apologized on air yet, but immediately after Hayden’s response to his comment, he told his audience that he meant shootings in “which no one would be hurt.”

You can’t make this stuff up.

In this era of a President and a party that seems to think anything goes and accountability for their insane and cruel remarks doesn’t happen quickly enough, it was refreshing to find out that Chuck’s show was canceled.

No Chuck, you can’t joke about school shootings. It’s not done in a polite and democratic society. But the bully in Chief has made remarks like this one “normal”. They are not normal. It’s been said that Trump could shoot someone on 5th Avenue ( NYC) and get away with it. God help us if that is actually true.

The lack of accountability for words and actions is more than concerning. It’s dangerous. Going forward in this divided country where incendiary language could result in a tragedy, everyone needs to be accountable for what they say and do. Our democracy depends on it.

School shootings have made the lives of our kids dangerous. Shootings at home has made the lives of our kids dangerous. Gun suicides have made the lives of our teens dangerous. Easy access to guns has made our country dangerous. There are real consequences for not being accountable.

And so let’s talk about not being accountable with guns. I want to highlight this awful story about a father who left a loaded gun around for one of his children to find. The child shot his sister dead. And the father? He hid in the basement with his AR-15 at the ready:

Pataskala police had received 60 phone calls to that address involving guns and knives since 2009, according to the bond recommendation.

You can’t make this stuff up.

What about an Extreme Risk Protection Order law Ohio?

And lastly, I want to highlight a story, just released, about a private security company that has managed to “lose” over 600 guns in possession of their security agents. What kind of accountability is this? Well, here is what happened with some of the guns that were “lost and/or stolen”:

The largest private security company in the world can’t keep track of its guns.

And the consequences are clear: One of their missing guns was held to a woman’s head as a man threatened to rape her. Another was used to pistol-whip a pizza delivery driver. A third ended the lives of two men playing video games.

Before they were used to hurt or kill people, each of these guns was assigned to a security guard whose job was to protect the public. Then they were stolen from G4S, a company that brings in billions of dollars with promises of “securing your world.”

Surely this company realizes that guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people and that everyone who carries one or uses one in their employ must be accountable for their weapon?

And surely this company realizes that safe storage of guns saves lives and is crucial for responsible gun owners.

From the article about the company’s agreement about accountability:

Under a firearms license with the federal government, G4S is supposed to make sure its weapons are secure and accounted for at all times, like gun shops do. But the company saves time and does more business by shifting much of that responsibility to individual guards, trusting them to safely store the weapons at home.

Too often, they don’t.

No. They always have to be accountable for their weapons.

In these times of anything goes, we all have to accountable for our actions and our words. Words matter. Our own President uses incendiary and dangerous language in his campaign rallies. Last night was no exception. This is not who we are. Chuck’s language was not OK. The consequence was quick. The father left a gun out for a child. The consequence was deadly. A large security firm has “lost” guns they promised they would not because they wanted to save time and money. The consequence was deadly.

We are better than this.

Background checks and gingerbread houses

Yesterday I stopped to pick up my best friend at her house. Her son-in-law and granddaughter were outside of her door picking up her background check form that would be submitted to her granddaughter’s teacher so that she could enter the school building to help with her granddaughter’s 3rd grade class make gingerbread houses.

Her granddaughter was quite clear that this was required because of the near school shooting that happened last spring in Duluth. In a matter of fact voice she stated that her school had to go on a “soft” lock-down because someone with a gun was in the nearby high school. All Duluth schools went on lock-down that day. No one connected with the schools has forgotten what happened that day. Duluth could have been in the news for a mass shooting of innocent school children but because law enforcement acted quickly and relative reported the man to law enforcement the man was arrested before he could do any serious harm.

The harm done still lives inside of students and teachers. As I wrote in my last post, one of the students who huddled with friends in the orchestra room fearing she was going to die, has not forgotten. PTSD is real. Kids go to school wondering if there will be a shooting that day. It is no at the top of their minds most likely but it lurks under the surface.

And companies are profiting from this fear by training educators and children to participate in lock-down drills that make them responsible for stopping a shooter, not the elected leaders who could actually do something about it. I will write more about this later.

And by do something, I mean pass the universal background check bill passed by the U.S. House last February. Minnesota Senators could pass the background check sitting idle on their desks as well after the House passed the bill last spring. But common sense is not happening when it should given the gun violence epidemic.

Does it make any sense, for example, that a man who has served time for various felony offenses, can walk into a Duluth bar and threaten people with a gun?:

At the time of the incident, Curry was on supervised release for a federal conviction for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. He also has convictions in Minnesota for attempted second-degree burglary, aiding and abetting second-degree assault and escape from custody.

Could or should this man have passed a background check at a federally licensed firearms dealers? No. Could he get a gun anyway? Yes. And that is our problem and the foolishness and danger of not requiring background checks on all gun sales but getting them on volunteers in our schools.

The thing is, the man who was caught at a high school in Duluth last year passed a first background check so he could coach kids with disabilities. But a more thorough check may have found him to be someone who should not be in schools working with kids if not more. An Extreme Risk Protection Order could have prevented him from having guns given that he was reported by a family member for comments he had made. In addition, he appeared to have mental health difficulties that should have prevented him from having a gun.

Miller, the defense attorney, said his client has mental health diagnoses and believes that he was not thinking clearly at the time he made the statements. He added that he does not believe the weapons were actually capable of fully automatic fire, indicating a probable cause challenge would likely be made to that charge.

“…fully automatic fire…” What are we thinking? Why should any gun or any gun kit that could make a gun capable of automatic fire be available to anyone?

We know requiring background checks on all gun sales will not save every life. But not to require them is an abrogation of our responsibility of a polite and democratic society. We all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is being able to help your granddaughter make a gingerbread house in her school classroom without fear of being shot.

Rather than do the right thing and do whatever is necessary to make guns harder to access for those who should not have them,we engage companies to train our children to fight off school shooters.

The Trace has published this article about ALICE training:

Drills can also be traumatic for the children involved, and schools considering training options have the difficult task of weighing the need for protection from intruders against the risk of doing further harm. “There is no evidence that lockdown drills with kids learning to barricade or defend themselves enhances security,” said Dr. Nancy Rappaport, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. And the drills “may have unintended consequences of creating terror for students.”

And more:

There are no national standards or specific licensing requirements dictating who can or can’t start an active shooter training company, he said, which is part of the problem. “People are claiming to be subject matter experts because they feel they are, or have written a book,” he said.

Czyz said he is so convinced that teachers are the ones who need to be prepared that he doesn’t train children in active shooter drills, only in preventative measures and situational awareness. He doesn’t want to risk training a potential shooter, and was spooked by reports that the Parkland shooter may have used his knowledge of the school’s drill procedure to guide his attack. (The gunman reportedly set off the fire alarm before his rampage, which may have complicated the school’s lockdown.)

This is all about the kids. If we can’t protect them from being shot, who are we? All kids should be able to go about their business of being students and not worry about being shot. The fact that we have to have lock-down drills using techniques from companies like ALICE is a statement about us. New information about these kinds of trainings should make us wonder what we are doing to our kids.

I know my friend had a great time with her granddaughter and I assume all were safe. And let’s hope that everyone stays safe for the remainder of the school year of 2019.

Just a few more broken hearts

We’ve had another of those weeks. We’ve had just a few too many shootings and more than a few broken hearts. It’s America after all. What do we expect? We’ve also had some scary incidents like this one where a woman with a gun decided to threaten a McDonald’s employee over giving her jelly instead of ketchup. I mean wouldn’t that just make you so mad that you would want to kill someone? And if you had a gun you could.

She should have her gun rights and permit to carry taken away from her. She is clearly dangerous to others. From the article:

She was arrested Tuesday and charged with three counts of aggravated assault and unlawful possession of a weapon.

Oh right. She possessed the weapon unlawfully. How does that happen? Where did she get her gun?

Another “law abiding gun owner” was in the news this past week for leaving her gun around for her toddler to find. The toddler, thinking it was a toy gun, put it in his mouth and shot and killed himself last year. The Colorado woman was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Responsible gun owners lock up their guns so toddlers can’t find them. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Kids and guns don’t go together well.

We had another mass shooting at a military base. There have been a number of these. Pensacola Navy Base suffered through it this time. A Saudi air force member in the U.S. for training at the base opened fire and killed 3, injured 8 and law enforcement then killed him. Sound familiar?

Investigations are continuing about whether this was a terror attack on the U.S. I believe all mass shootings are terror attacks but if this shooter was associated with an actual known terrorist group, then it will likely be labeled a terror attack. I believe that would the first official one since 9/11. Time will tell. He bought his gun legally by the way. Sometimes legal guns and law abiding gun owners do bad things with their guns. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill others.

One thing of grave concern is this:

The night before the attack, Lieutenant Alshamrani showed videos of mass shootings at a dinner party, according to a person who was briefed on the investigation.

Only in America could a would-be mass shooter have videos of mass shootings available to him. Only in America. Only in America can we have so much to write about regarding shootings and firearms incidents. Only in America do these things happen so regularly that we often pay them attention briefly and move on. We’ve already moved on.

Oh yes, there was almost another mass shooting in San Diego last week but the potential shooter stupidly posted things on his Facebook page that were alarming. Police were able to gain a search warrant:

Steve Andrew Homoki, 30, was arrested and charged with multiple felony assault weapons charges, possession of a high capacity magazine, and child endangerment.

San Diego Police say Homoki posted graphic videos online depicting assault weapons being pointed at unknowing pedestrians outside The Sofia Hotel in downtown San Diego.

California has passed an Extreme Risk Protection Order so law enforcement can take guns away from those who are a danger to themselves or others. Gun laws work. Thank goodness we didn’t have to wake up to yet another mass shooting last week.

So with more broken hearts this past week, the victims and survivors’ families will never move on. That’s the American tragedy. I wrote an opinion piece for my local newspaper last week after 2 heinous domestic shooting incidents in Minneapolis. It sickened me to think of a father, as I wrote in my last post, shooting his young sons as he greeted them at the door and they ran out into the snow. We ought to all be outraged by this. Many of us are. But not the ones who can do something about it- namely the Republican led U.S. Senate.

Last week was the annual national vigil for victims of gun violence started after the Sandy Hook shooting 7 years ago. As is the tradition, victims come forth with photos of their loved ones and speak their names. There are speakers and reflections about gun violence- once again. It’s a broken record and it’s broken hearts over and over and over again.

In Duluth we will have a community gathering on Friday to highlight how gun violence affects us all. It does. If we had any common sense we wouldn’t let it continue unabated.

So this was last week. A new week has begun. No doubt there will be “just a few shootings” again.

It’s in our hands to do the right thing. We will keep pushing, lighting candles, demanding action, ringing bells, writing articles, testifying at hearings, lobbying, rallying and whatever it takes.

Podcasts about gun violence

Brady has started a podcast to highlight the voices and the programs of gun violence prevention. It’s a good way to get the word out to those who support changing the law and the conversation around the role of guns and gun violence in our society. I was honored to be one of the first voices to be able to speak about my story and my experiences over the years. There have been many. You can listen to my voice here.

But let me summarize a bit of what I said:

  1. I have a story to tell and so do the thousands and thousands of other victims and survivors. Domestic shootings take the lives of too many women every day so my story is the story of many.
  2. Telling our stories is important because it makes the deceased victims come “alive” and “tell their stories” so that the public and politicians can better understand the devastation to families and communities from gun violence.
  3. Understanding how devastating it is for families to experience the sudden, unexpected and violent death of a loved one from bullets will lead to the changes we deserve to keep us all safer.
  4. Many of us in the movement of gun violence prevention have worked for decades to stop bad bills promoted by the corporate gun lobby, advocate for bills to prevent some of the shootings and in many cases to help pass common sense bills that save lives. We know they save lives because we have the numbers to show it.
  5. After the Sandy Hook shooting, other groups formed and helped to advocate for sensible gun laws and have added their voices and visibility in state houses and Congress.
  6. What seems to have made the biggest change is what happened with the student voices after the shooting in Parkland, Florida. Those kids have been relentless and powerful and have given those of us involved for so many years new ways to talk about gun violence prevention. I admire those youthful voices and have come to know them well in my own community.
  7. In Minnesota we have had ups and downs since our chapter formed in 2000 after the Million Mom March. After the passage of the conceal and carry law in Minnesota and the federal sunsetting of the assault weapons ban in 2004 in close proximity, some of the air went out of our balloons. But we have picked up and carried on and stopped some bad bills. We now have new focus after our House passed the background check and Extreme Risk and Protection Order bills in the last session. We will push hard to get them passed in the state Senate in the upcoming session. Senators will have to explain why they would be against bills that would not take away the rights of “law abiding” gun owners. Gun rights and gun violence prevention are not mutually exclusive.
  8. Our country is suffering from PTSD from all of the mass shootings taking place on a regular basis. Our kids certainly are negatively affected by the shootings and sometimes get killed by school shooters. School active shooter drills are causing more distress and anxiety for our kids. We should question some of the programs used and focus on where the shooters get their guns so we can stop them. In the majority of school shootings, the guns come from the home of the shooter. It’a a no brainer to lock guns away safely from the hands of kids, teens and those who might steal them to be used in a gun crime.
  9. One of my heroes in the movement is Sarah Brady who served on the Brady board for part of my terms as a board member. She was a feisty woman whose opinions were made known at meetings. She worked hard with her husband Jim to get the Brady background check bill passed and for that, we are all safer.
  10. What I hope to see in a world where the best will happen is that all purchasers of a gun of any kind must first pass a background check. There is no reason not to do this that makes any sense at all. In addition, we can save lives if we pay attention to the risks of guns for people who could be a danger to themselves or others and make sure that their guns can be temporarily removed while the danger passes. Too many shootings are spur of the moment shootings that happen while someone is under stress, angry over a difficult situation like a contentious divorce that caused my now deceased brother-in-law to shoot my sister. We can make a difference and save lives.

I would encourage my readers to listen to the RedBlue & Brady podcasts. I believe they will provide a lot of insight into the issues and the people who are involved. The stories will make a difference and change the conversation as we must do if we are to make progress.

It is so clear that the majority of Americans want change to happen. The only way the majority will be represented in the halls of state capitols and in Congress is for the voices of those who believe we can save lives with stronger gun laws are louder than the voices of the corporate gun lobby. Remember that the NRA and corporate gun lobby represent a very small minority of Americans and gun owners.

So speak up and speak out. Listen to how we can make change. Get involved and take action, not sides. It’s in our hands to make change happen. Let’s do this.