Can we talk about gun safety?

safety hazardsOf course I write often about gun violence in general on this blog. It is why I write and why I do what I do. 89 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries. That is indisputable. Never mind. The gun lobby doesn’t want to talk about the “accidental” discharges or the suicides. Accidents with guns are apparently not supposed to happen. But happen they do. And death by gun suicide? It’s happening every day. Guns are the most common method and the most lethal and the most successful. That is not much published since gun suicide deaths don’t often make news and not considered to be crimes.

Can we talk about gun safety like we talk about other safety hazards in our every day lives? There are warning signs all around us about the problems with guns but we are purposely ignoring them at our peril and the for the sake of the lives of innocent Americans.

What we need is more attention paid to the causes and effects of gun violence at the least. But the gun lobby doesn’t want that either. It might blow a hole in their mantra that guns make us all safer. That is why the private research into the causes and effects of gun violence is becoming so important to preventing at least some of our daily victims from becoming a victim. Dr. Garen Wintemute from UC Davis is a hero. He has invested over 1 million dollars of his own money to do important research.

Among the research into gun violence is Dr. Wintemute’s research about the relationship between alcohol use and gun violence. For the evidence, just read local media reports. This one, for example, is proof positive:

“NEVER mix guns & booze,” said the militia member, who calls himself Joe Bleaugh. “Charles got drunk and belligerent and took away his friend’s sidearm and threatened him with it; at which time his friend drew his backup weapon and fired to defend his own life. This is why it is a ‪#‎felony‬ for an intoxicated person to be in possession of a firearm. Guns and booze do not mix. End of story, and unfortunately the end of Charles’ life. What a waste, & by his own hand!”

Texas law prohibits licensed gun owners from carrying firearms while intoxicated, regardless of whether the weapon is holstered or concealed.

Carter and Smith had been organizing the march, which they hoped would remove President Barack Obama and congressional leaders from office ahead of November’s elections.

You can’t make this stuff up. Were these guys both law abiding permit holding citizens? Just asking. How can we stop armed citizens from drinking while carrying? We have laws about this but just as with drinking while driving a vehicle, not everyone follows the law. It does seem as if this one was self defense. But if neither of these guys had been armed, this could have resulted in a fight without a death.

Even the best gun safety trainers cannot stop accidental gun discharges apparently. And that is a real problem in our country. Far too many people walk away from a gun store or after buying a gun from a private seller without the faintest notion of the potential harm that can come from improper training or handling of a gun. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill and injure. What don’t we get about that? Take this incident at the best of the best gun training facilities- Sig Sauer- where a man “accidentally” discharged a gun while training with the best and shot himself in the leg.

I am particularly saddened by an “accidental “discharge that killed the 8 year old grandson of a Kentucky Brady Campaign chapter activist. It sounds like an investigation may reveal more details. These, and all shootings, are in the category of senseless and often avoidable losses of life. And they happen far too often in our gun soaked country.

Just read “Accidents Happen Guns Kill” if you don’t believe me. It’s only January 14th.

But never mind reality. You should really look at this video of Wayne LaPierre letting NRA members know that the end is near. FEAR.

Good grief. In what kind of world does this guy live? Not mine, that’s for sure, thankfully. Our gun culture is out of control as written by Professor Henry Giroux in this great piece:

Gun violence in the United States has produced a culture soaked in blood – a culture that threatens everyone and extends from accidental deaths, suicides and domestic violence to mass shootings. In late December, a woman in St. Cloud, Florida, fatally shot her own daughter after mistaking her for an intruder. Less than a month earlier, on December 2, in San Bernardino, California, was the mass shooting that left 14 people dead and more than 20 wounded. And just two months before that, on October 1, nine people were killed and seven wounded in a mass shooting at a community college in Roseburg, Oregon.

Mass shootings have become routine in the United States and speak to a society that relies on violence to feed the coffers of the merchants of death. Given the profits made by arms manufacturers, the defense industry, gun dealers and the lobbyists who represent them in Congress, it comes as no surprise that the culture of violence cannot be abstracted from either the culture of business or the corruption of politics. Violence runs through US society like an electric current offering instant pleasure from all cultural sources, whether it be the nightly news or a television series that glorifies serial killers.

There is so much more to the above article that should be read and quoted. But here is a bit more after the author explains the militarization of our society and the overall corporate influences that have changed who we are as a country. From the article:

Warlike values no longer suggest a pathological entanglement with a kind of mad irrationality or danger. On the contrary, they have become a matter of common sense. For instance, the US government is willing to lock down a major city such as Boston in order to catch a terrorist or prevent a terrorist attack, but refuses to pass gun control bills that would significantly lower the number of Americans who die each year as a result of gun violence.As Michael Cohen observes, it is truly a symptom of irrationality when politicians can lose their heads over the threat of terrorism, even sacrificing civil liberties, but ignore the fact that “30,000 Americans die in gun violence every year (compared to the 17 who died [in 2012] in terrorist attacks).” It gets worse.

As the threat of terrorism is used by the US government to construct a surveillance state, suspend civil liberties and accelerate the forces of authoritarianism, the fear of personal and collective violence has no rational bearing on addressing the morbid acceleration of gun violence. In fact, the fear of terrorism appears to feed a toxic culture of violence produced, in part, by the wide and unchecked availability of guns. The United States’ fascination with guns and violence functions as a form of sport and entertainment, while gun culture offers a false promise of security. In this logic, one not only kills terrorists with drones, but also makes sure that patriotic Americans are individually armed so they can use force to protect themselves against the apparitions whipped up by right-wing politicians, pundits and the corporate-controlled media.

This lengthy and thoughtful article exposes the reality of our country for those who benefit from exploiting the fear and paranoia of American citizens to profit for themselves. It’s the world in which we live but it doesn’t have to be this way.  We don’t have to accept the world of the corporate gun lobby telling citizens that if only they buy that gun for self defense, all will be well with the world and families will be safer. For the truth does not bear this out.

Here’s reality. A man “accidentally” shot his own 14 year old son and will not be held responsible. He thought his son was an intruder.

Sigh.

It’s time to challenge the status quo in a big way and one way would be to change the conversation about guns and gun violence, to allow research about the causes and effects of gun violence, to make sure that Americans understand the actual risks to them when buying and carrying a gun, to make sure that proper training will actually serve to make people more responsible with their guns, to strengthen rather than weaken gun laws, to stop the practice of allowing armed citizens in all of our public spaces, to make appropriate laws to keep us all safer and to have a society less focused on violence and more focused on how to prevent it in the first place.

We are better than this.

Where is common sense?

“Enough is enough”

Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood Shooting
COLORADO SPRINGS, CO – NOVEMBER 27: People are rescued near the scene of a shooting at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs Friday November 27, 2015. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

This is cross posted at Commongunsense.com

President Obama has issued a statement about the Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs. I am going to include it in it’s entirety, below:

“The last thing Americans should have to do, over the holidays or any day, is comfort the families of people killed by gun violence — people who woke up in the morning and bid their loved ones goodbye with no idea it would be for the last time.

And yet, two days after Thanksgiving, that’s what we are forced to do again.

We don’t yet know what this particular gunman’s so-called motive was for shooting twelve people, or for terrorizing an entire community, when he opened fire with an assault weapon and took hostages at a Planned Parenthood center in Colorado. What we do know is that he killed a cop in the line of duty, along with two of the citizens that police officer was trying to protect.  We know that law enforcement saved lives, as so many of them do every day, all across America.  And we know that more Americans and their families had fear forced upon them.

This is not normal.  We can’t let it become normal.  If we truly care about this — if we’re going to offer up our thoughts and prayers again, for God knows how many times, with a truly clean conscience — then we have to do something about the easy accessibility of weapons of war on our streets to people who have no business wielding them.  Period.  Enough is enough.

May God bless Officer Garrett Swasey and the Americans he tried to save — and may He grant the rest of us the courage to do the same thing.”

The President is speaking truth to the gun lobby’s power. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do this. If we don’t deal with our own domestic terror attacks, occurring almost daily now, then we will have failed our children and our citizens.

The identity of the shooter has been released, along with a photo. Please note that this was a white man and not a Syrian refugee or a foreign terrorist.  He had an AK-47. So who should we fear more? Syrian families with young children trying to escape the torture and violence happening in their own country or (mostly) white home grown terrorists shooting innocent people up in places all over our country. For surely, there was terror involved in the hours long siege at the Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs.

I’m sure my readers will remember that just a month ago, on a different holiday, the streets of Colorado Springs were the scene of yet another act of terror committed by a young white man walking around with an assault rifle as if it was normal.  But, alas, he could have been just an every day open gun carrier exercising his rights until suddenly he wasn’t. America at its’ worst.

What’s normal in America? Let’s look at a few recent incidents involving gun owners for how normal these shootings have become.

A “law abiding” gun carrier shot a waitress at a Mississippi waffle restaurant because she asked him not to smoke inside. She died.

A South Carolina felon who should not have had a gun in the first place, got away with murder because of Stand Your Ground legislation.

Bloggers and others are keeping track of this nonsense. David Waldman of the Daily Kos’ GunFail is finding the “accidental” discharges by law abiding gun owners and reporting on them. I have written far too many times about such negligent and irresponsible gun owner failures to use their guns in a safe manner.

The only conclusions we can draw from the mass terror shootings like the one at the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood clinic, men walking the streets with assault rifles, terrorists access to guns in American, “accidental “gun discharges, domestic shootings, gun suicides, toddlers shooting themselves or others is that we have a gun problem in our country. We are not using common sense or the necessary outrage and courage to change much of anything about easy access to guns. Why not? The corporate gun lobby, of course.

The public discourse has become more and more loud and violent towards refugees, people of color, women, Planned Parenthood clinics, President Obama and politicians who don’t agree with people mostly on the far right spectrum of politics. Inevitably this is going to lead to shootings or threats of violence towards all of the above. What happened in Colorado Springs may be one example. Threats of violence had already caused this clinic to take very strong security measures. Clinics across the country are now in fear of the next terror attack because of this one. That is the purpose of terror attacks.

How can we separate the fear, intolerance, terror, racism and violence mongering from what happened in Minneapolis in the shooting attack against Minneapolis Black Lives Matter protesters?

We can’t.

What’s different about the Colorado Springs shooting and the recent Paris terror attacks? Not much. We are afraid of the wrong terrorists. It’s no secret that I am a liberal person. But that aside, it is the Republican candidates for President who are ramping up the fear and violence with their own statements. Check out this blog post from Amanda Gailey writing for Crooks and Liars:

Combined with gun lobby propaganda and increasingly threatening militia groups, the American right wing is fomenting racial and ethnic violence and insurrectionism that threatens the core values of our country.

The corporate gun lobby, mostly the NRA, is also responsible for much of the fear and paranoia exhibited in recent shootings. From the article above, written by Ana Marie Cox for The Guardian:

“The NRA is no longer concerned with merely protecting the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms – the gun lobby wants to use those arms on its fellow citizens. Or, as the NRA thinks of them: “the bad guys”.

It is useless to argue that the NRA is only targeting criminals with that line, because the NRA has defined “good guys” so narrowly as to only include the NRA itself. What does that make everyone else?

“I ask you,” LaPierre grimaced at the end of his litany of doom. “Do you trust this government to protect you?”

This is not one of the items the membership voted upon. Indeed, Wayne LaPierre’s confidence in making this question rhetorical is one of its most frightening aspects, though of course it’s his prescription that truly alarmed me:

We are on our own. That is a certainty, no less certain than the absolute truth – a fact the powerful political and media elites continue to deny, just as sure as they would deny our right to save our very lives. The life or death truth that when you’re on your own, the surest way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun!

You cannot defend this as anything other than the dangerous ravings of a madman. LaPierre’s description of the world is demonstrably untrue, and not just in concrete, objective terms. To cite just one example: crime rates in the US have been falling for 20 years – a statistic that some gun rights advocates brandish as proof of the selectively defined cliché, “more guns, less crime.” Just as troubling is LaPierre’s internal inconsistency about what it means for NRA members to be “on their own”.”

Yes, America, we have a serious problem. Violent and fear mongering rhetoric is fueling the flames of intolerance and insurrectionism in our country. In combination with far too easy access to guns of all types, we have created a monster that is now rearing its’ ugly head.

It’s past time for us, as Americans, to decide on our morals and values. Do we value the right of people to live without devastating gun violence or do we value gun rights more? I know my answer.

We are better than this. Well, we should be anyway. The fact that we aren’t is frightening. If this continues, we will not be living in a democracy for much longer.

We have had #Enough

Peace and justice on Thanksgiving

Puzzle Pieces: Justice Concept.

As Thanksgiving approaches we should all pause and think about what is going on right now in our country. The Paris terror attacks have elevated the fear, anger and paranoia of Americans for good reason. But since the terror attack, some of the reactions have been amazingly uneducated and utterly frightening. I have been writing about this in my last few blog posts.

But now terror has hit Minnesota in the form of an attack by armed (alleged) white supremacists in Minneapolis against members of the Black Lives Matters protest over the shooting of a young black man by police last week.

This is a domestic terror attack- there is not another word for it. When so many people have been encouraged to arm themselves for perceived threats to their safety, this is inevitable. When so much hate, anger and fear is spewed on the air waves every day, what do we expect? More guns have definitely not made us safer or more polite. We have a violent and racist society.

Mike the Gun Guy has written about the Minneapolis shooting. It’s something to consider. From his post:

If you don’t think there’s a connection between the Black Lives Matter protestor who was beaten up at a Trump rally in Alabama and the attempted killing of peaceful demonstrators in Minneapolis, then you haven’t been paying attention to the news or the Trump campaign.  When you stand up in front of a cheering-jeering audience and call someone a ‘jerk’ or a ‘dope’ or a ‘crazy’ because they yell something during your speech, you’ve abandoned any degree of public civility and are now just pandering to the lowest and meanest folks in the crowd. (…)

But they don’t have to keep quiet if they can go to a rally headlined by Trump.  And they don’t have to keep quiet when they walk up to a demonstration held by Black Lives Matter because another Black man may have been gunned down by the cops.  After all, these guys have a Constitutional right to call someone a name and they also have a Constitutional right to walk around with a gun.  Put those two rights together and you know what you get?  You get three young Black men in the hospital with gunshot wounds and the cops, in a shooting which took place right outside a police station, still looking for the guys who pulled out the guns.

It happened right outside the police station.  Think about that.

Didn’t these armed thugs know that armed police officers were nearby? Of course they did. They didn’t care. Their hate, racism and anger fueled them and combined with guns, it didn’t go well. The suspects have all been arrested.

We don’t know yet what exactly happened in the case of the shooting of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis. Both sides have a story to tell and evidence to bring. An investigation will hopefully bring some justice and peace to citizens of the 4th precinct.

No matter what happened to Jamar Clark, one can understand mistrust of officers by people of color given the incidents that have happened over many years’ time. The tenuous relationship between people of color and law enforcement has been much in the news all over our country.

A Chicago officer just turned himself into police over the shooting of a black teen in October of 2014. It turns out that the officer shot the teen 16 times, many of the bullets shot after the teen was lying dead on the street.

These are difficult times for America. When there are so many guns on our streets and in our homes, the inevitable result is mistrust of others. Yes, black teens and young men are dying in greater numbers than their white counterparts. Yes, white men are dying more often than their counterparts of color in gun suicides. Toddlers and small children are “accidentally” shooting themselves and others at an alarming rate. Mass shootings occupy our media spaces on a regular basis. Yes, white radicalized home grown terrorists are shooting people of color. Stand Your Ground laws are unmistakably aimed at people of color and affect them at a greater rate than white people.  And yes, black young men are also shooting each other and innocent people in gang related shootings all over America. Police officers are being shot by others in various scenarios. And police officers are sometimes shooting  young men of color in sometimes justified shootings, sometimes not.

The issue of race and guns needs to be examined so we can understand the issues faced by our communities of color. It is not without controversy as nothing is with gun rights and gun violence prevention. The Trace has written about the history of race and gun rights. It’s worth the read for a better understanding of what is going on in our own country right now.

It’s impossible not to connect the dots from this article with the summer shooting of 9 Black people at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina. It was an act of terror and it was an act of overt racism.

Home grown extremists are shooting Americans on a pretty regular basis.

We have a gun problem that is contributing to all of the above.

Minnesota has had a rough year for shootings. There have been many shootings in the communities of color. There have been horrific domestic shootings and the usual suicides which account for 80% of gun deaths in Minnesota. Just yesterday, a man in a domestic dispute was shot and killed by officers in a Minnesota suburb. Domestic cases are among the most dangerous for officers.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Getting a handle on our nation’s public health and safety gun violence epidemic won’t be easy. But we shouldn’t stop until we have the conversation we deserve about the causes and effects of devastating gun violence. Common sense and resolve have to lead the discussion.  Facts will be important but our sense of justice and common values should be at the forefront of the discussion and decision making.

You may have conversations around your Thanksgiving table with family and friends about the many controversial  topics surrounding us. There are terror attacks, Syrian refugees, what to do with old aunt Sally, how to deal with cousin Peter, what to do about Uncle Joe’s drinking, where to go shopping on Black Friday and other important and not so important topics. If shootings and gun violence come up there are some answers to some of your gun toting relatives in this article in The Trace. “Arming” yourself with the facts rather than arguing at an emotional level may make your Thanksgiving table conversation less confrontational.

This Thanksgiving is going to be very difficult for a lot of people who are missing a family member because of a deadly shooting. Please think of them while you are with your own family and friends. And stay safe this holiday season.

God help us all. We will need all the help we can get to deal with all of the tragedy and unrest surrounding us.