July 4, 2016- Who will protect the children?

Happy 4th of July Card, Traditional American Banner

On this Independence Day, I will again remind my readers that what goes up must come down. My friend Joe Jaskolka knows this all too well. His story is told here by my friend who writes the New Trajectory blog. Joe survived the bullet that lodged in his brain that New Years’ Eve of 1999 when he was just 11 years old. Someone celebrating their second amendment rights changed Joe’s life forever. I have met Joe and his father. I know how his life is now. Who protected him that night from someone with a gun? No one could have predicted this.

As The Trace wrote last New Years, the odds are low of being hit by a bullet fired into the air:

But if the odds of being hit by celebratory gunfire are indeed low, so too are the odds of ever being caught for engaging in it in the U.S. Cases where authorities can precisely pinpoint the location of the gun — let alone identify the shooter — are incredibly rare. The legal consequences for those who do get caught are mixed, with charges ranging from the misdemeanor to felony level and fines ranging widely.

And why do people do this in the first place? On one level, the answer is the obvious one: It’s recklessness, frequently abetted by drunkenness.

People may actually not realize that the bullets they launch into the air will inevitably land somewhere, with potentially disastrous results. But on another level, there are basic economics at work.

Many municipalities ban outright the sale of another New Year’s staple: fireworks. That means residents have to be able to afford to travel outside city limits or even cross state lines in order to buy them. Meanwhile, ammunition can be plentiful, already at hand, and, in many cases, simply cheaper.

But when guns, celebration and possibly alcohol are mixed together with people whose rights don’t come with responsibilities, these kinds of shootings happen often enough that we should be very concerned that your child or grandchild could be affected next.

Anyone with common sense should understand that bullets shot into the air do come down somewhere. What are they thinking? Not much apparently. Those guns bought for self protection more often than not end up harming or killing some other innocent American citizen. 

So my purpose in writing about this is that, before I met Joe Jaskolka, I never thought about the possibility that someone would be injured or killed by celebratory gunfire. I want others to know that this is possible and to make sure there are not armed people nearby celebrating on our national holidays by shooting bullets into the air.

Fireworks also injure people every year. Interestingly, this article reveals some statistics about fireworks injuries:

As states have relaxed laws related to fireworks sales over the past decade, emergency doctors saw an increase in both the number and severity of fireworks-related injuries among young people, the data show.
They determined that the number of patients under age 21 treated and released by emergency departments between 2006 and 2012 rose modestly: from 4.28 per 100,000 people in 2006 to 5.12 in 2012. Significantly larger increases were seen in injuries requiring inpatient hospital admission, which skyrocketed (if you’ll pardon the pun) from 29% of cases in 2006 to 50% in 2012.

Laws matter as it turns out and are there for good reason- to protect children from avoidable injuries and death.

Rights come with responsibilities. On this day when we celebrate freedom, independence and love of country, we should take our responsibilities very seriously.

A few days ago, a story circulated about a 3 year old Kansas child who was visiting a home in Tennessee with his parents. Unfortunately and tragically for all concerned, the boy found a loaded gun in the home, not stored away from small hands, and he shot himself in the face.

He died.

What caught my attention on the news story video was the sign in front of the house that promoted the owner’s second amendment rights with the saying: “protected by the second amendment”.

Who was there to protect that child from the owner’s second amendment rights?

The second amendment does not, according to the gun lobby, guarantee the right of the rest of us to be safe from those who promote it with no restrictions, regulations or moderation.

This is not acceptable and should not be accepted as fact.

Who will protect our children from those who are not practicing their second amendment rights responsibly? Most gun owners are safe and responsible. But many of them refuse to participate in efforts to make sure all are responsible.

What can we do?

Pass safe storage laws so guns must be stored safely or there will be a penalty.

Pass Child Access Prevention Laws and enforce them to make adults responsible for leaving loaded guns within easy reach of children.

Make sure all gun sales come with a Brady background check.

Pass laws to make sure domestic abusers don’t have guns. Children ( and women) are often shot during domestic shootings.

ASK  if there are unsecured, loaded guns in the homes where your children play.

Require everyone who buys a gun to have training with a firearm before walking out of the gun store or gun show with said gun.

Restrict the number of rounds allowed to be used with firearms.

Restrict the features that can be added to assault type rifles to turn them into weapons of mass destruction.

Charge gun owners whose guns are used by children to kill themselves or others.

Contact your elected leaders and demand that they act to save the children.

Join an organization working to prevent gun violence. It’s about prevention.

Understand that any restrictions on firearms does not lead to confiscation of guns or taking away second amendment rights. Remember that these are myths promoted by the corporate gun lobby.

Report anyone using a gun irresponsibly at a celebratory community or family event.

Don’t assume anything. Take irresponsible gun use seriously. With rights come responsibilities.

Change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in America.

On this day of national celebration, please remember that we are better than this and must act to keep our children safe from devastating gun violence.

A new NRA website called sharethesafety.org is promoting the purchase of guns for others who can’t “afford” them. This is the exact opposite of everything we know about gun safety. A brazen attempt to arm people in neighborhoods where supposedly people can’t afford guns is a ludicrous and dangerous promotion of gun sales to make a profit off of death and injury. We already know that our young people of color in these kinds of neighborhoods are already quite heavily armed and causing death and mayhem every day in inner city urban neighborhoods.

Minneapolis has seen an increase in shootings in affected neighborhoods this year. Recently a beloved woman, Birdell Beeks, was shot by a stray bullet in her neighborhood. All we need are more guns legally or illegally owned  killing innocent people.

Please read the Violence Policy Center’s “Blood Money” if you don’t believe me.

It’s not sharing the safety. It’s sharing the death.

This is the American we have. Is this the America we deserve to have or want? I think not.

Remember that more people have died from gunshot injuries in American than all Americans who have died in wars. Is this patriotic and love of country?

Only in American, the nation we are celebrating today, do shootings of and by toddlers take more lives than terrorists do:

In the US in 2015, more people were shot and killed by toddlers than by terrorists. In 2013, the New York Times reported on children shot by other children: “Children shot accidentally – usually by other children – are collateral casualties of the accessibility of guns in America, their deaths all the more devastating for being eminently preventable.”

Children and innocent Americans should not be collateral damage. If we take this seriously like we do death by any other cause,  we will do something about it. If we love our country and are patriotic, we will do whatever it takes to save our children from a country dripping in guns and bleeding from gun deaths and injuries like no other country not at war.

#Enough.

Be safe out there today and Happy Fourth of July.

 

UPDATE:

Disclaimer- It turns out that the website, sharethesafety.com is a hoax and a parody about the NRA.  Sometimes parodies reflect the truth and in this case, we can all believe that the NRA would promote the buying of guns for people who can’t afford them because they often use that myth as a way to complain about gun restrictions. What I also find interesting is that low-income Americans can barely afford clothing, food and the necessities of life. It’s likely they won’t need a gun to live their daily lives. The other point is that there are young people who don’t have a lot of money to afford guns but can easily get them on the streets cheaply. Easy access to guns for those who shouldn’t be able to get them is a serious public health and safety problem in our country. Guns are weapons designed to kill other people. They should be expensive and more difficult to access.

According to the above article, the NRA has filed an official complaint about the men who launched this hoax website. It hit too close to home apparently.

Bullets and fireworks

Fireworks set to glow with hearts and stars on a black background
Fireworks set to glow with hearts and stars on a black background

July 4th is the iconic American holiday. I plan to spend it with my family at our cabin enjoying the sun and the water as well as time spent together. We will go to a nearby fireworks display as will millions of Americans. Every year, people are harmed by fireworks of some kind. Last year, several were killed, including this Detroit man. From the article:

It happened following a barbecue on Plainview. A witness says the victim picked up an explosive to set it off when it shot in his direction.

“I tried to notify the media, the legislature, anyone I could that legalizing these powerful professional-grade fireworks is wrong for Michigan,” said retired police sergeant David Malhalab. “There is no price you can put on a life, a hand, a child, an eye, a mother or a father.”

So legislatures also have regulated certain types of fireworks because of their potential to harm citizens. There are known risks, including fires started by fireworks. This report, including numbers for injuries, deaths and fires, shows the dangers of fireworks. In 2014 over 10,000 people were treated for fireworks related injuries and 11 people died. Young children were among the highest age group treated for injuries. Most of these were from misuse or malfunctioning of the fireworks.

So the take away here is that caution should be practiced when using fireworks. Because of dry conditions, the state of Oregon is warning citizens about potential fireworks bans if conditions become worse.

So we know that fireworks can be harmful and hopefully your own family will be safe from any injuries or problems associated with the usual fireworks displays or family celebrations with smaller fireworks.

We also know that guns can be harmful and celebratory gunfire on this holiday has caused “accidental” injuries and deaths. Given that gun owners should understand that bullets that are fired into the air must come down somewhere, it’s really hard to understand why celebratory gunfire still occurs. Warnings are already issued in some places:

The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office will be taking a zero tolerance stance on any and all illegal gun use and gun crime during the holiday.

“There are many ways to safely celebrate with family and friends. Discharging  a firearm is NOT one of them,” said Sheriff Al Nienhuis.  “It’s just too easy for people to get hurt.  Leave the firearms at home, in a safe and secure location.”

Good advice. But it will not be followed by some who feel the need to bring their guns with them wherever they go. From the reports above, the risks of being injured by fireworks are greater than any risk of having to use a gun for self defense in a public place where families gather to enjoy the holiday celebrations.

For example, this Missouri woman was injured when someone at the July 4th celebration she was attending stupidly shot a gun into the air and the bullet that came down lodged in her face:

A stray bullet hit a Missouri woman just under her eye while she was watching fireworks on Independence Day.

The bullet is thought to have come from a rambunctious reveler who shot his gun into the air to honor our freedoms. Spoiler alert: Celebratory gunfire is not one of them.

“I’m sure they were celebrating,” Janet Brewer told the Daily News. “There was no one around us who had guns. It had to come from a distance.”

Brewer, of Fenton, is not against the Second Amendment but thinks irresponsible gun ownership is “way out of hand.”

“We are trying to get out there just how dangerous shooting something in the air can be,” she said. “I’m just lucky to be here. If it were an inch higher, it would have gone through my eye and gone through my head and killed me.”

The second amendment does not guarantee that one can do anything with one’s gun. With rights come responsibilities. Let’s look at more incidents involving stupid and dangerous behavior with guns on July 4th.

An 11 year old Kansas girl died when a bullet fired from over a mile away hit her and killed her during a July 4th celebration. Here is a quote from the girl’s mother:” “A gun is not a toy; it should not be out at any point of celebration, because that’s how my daughter lost her life. A bullet traveled quite a distance and hit her in the neck,” she said.”

A gun is not a toy. It’s a weapon designed to kill and needs to be treated as such. Here’s an article about a 7 year old Virginia child who was killed by July 4th celebratory gun fire and about celebratory gun fire in general. Gun rights advocates and gun violence prevention advocates all agree that people should not shoot guns into the air.

My state of Minnesota has passed some strict regulations about where certain kinds of fireworks can be used and which ones are banned. Some fireworks are not allowed in public places and some are banned for private citizens. So here’s a question? Most fireworks are not allowed in public spaces but loaded guns are. Does this make any sense? I say no. It’s time to think through what public safety actually means. If it’s not safe for fireworks in public, why is it safe to allow people to carry guns in public places? Isn’t it time for this to change?

July 4th should be a holiday for fun and time with families and friends. And it should be a safe time for all. So be careful out there with fireworks and take the advice of the Sheriff from the above article: “Leave the firearms at home in a safe and secure location.”

Happy 4th to all.