Another anniversary

photo of BarbaraEvery year on this day, I write a memorial to my sister, Barbara Lund. I try not to dwell on the day my sister was murdered by her estranged husband. It was a day that changed the “age of innocence” about gun violence for our family. I mean, really, who ever thinks that a family member will be shot to death? My sister was in her second marriage but trying to get out of it after more than 20 years together with the man who would eventually kill her. The most vulnerable and dangerous time for women is when they are leaving or attempting to leave a relationship.

I wish we had all known then what we know now. I have no idea whether a tragedy could have been averted but I have learned that not doing something is not an option.

On Aug. 5th of 1992 my sister, now in a new relationship after a long and protracted and contentious divorce process, drove to her estranged husband’s home to deliver some paperwork that he needed to sign. ( He was also in a new relationship) She went with her partner because, as we learned later, she was actually nervous about her estranged husband. She knew he had guns in his home. Apparently, something I learned later but was not aware of, he did keep a lot of guns around his house.

We don’t know some of the details because my estranged brother-in-law killed himself months after the shootings of my sister and her partner leaving us with a lot of unanswered questions. ( That is another story) We do know that he said he thought he was killing her lawyers and doesn’t remember much except that he sort of blanked out during the shooting. That is often said by shooters. The loud noise. The sudden death. The blood. The chaos.

There is much more but you don’t need to know all of the details to know that when a gun is at the ready, disputes over relationships and divorces turn deadly in an instant. Even the shooters are surprised by it and often take their own lives at the same time in desperation. Taking a human life ( or two) is something no one, unless maybe those serving in the military or law enforcement, expects will happen.

What I know now is that my life changed as I got involved with advocacy groups like the Brady Campaign  and Protect Minnesota and others to prevent families from devastating, insidious, tragic, senseless and mostly preventable shootings.

There are ways to keep guns away from people who should not have them and change the conversation about the risks of guns in homes. Brady background checks will and do save lives if we expect that all buyers should have one no matter what.  Extreme Risk Protection Orders (Red Flag laws) also can save lives. Look at what has happened in Florida just since the laws passed there in response to the Parkland shooting and the pressure put on lawmakers by the outspoken and courageous students:

Hundreds of gun owners in Florida have been ordered to give up their guns under a new law that took effect after the deadly Parkland shooting in February, according to a report published Monday.

The Risk Protection Order, signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott just three weeks after a gunman killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas, aims to temporarily remove weapons from gun owners who have been deemed by a judge to possibly be a threat to themselves or others.

 

Yes. We can save lives.

Let’s do it together.

There are many issues before us during this chaotic election season. Gun violence is just one of them that has now taken hold and supported by the majority of Americans. Lawmakers are feeling this and have become more outspoken about the issue. I am a Democrat. For many years I have been working on my own elected leaders to be bold and speak out. It is finally happening. It took many years of advocating, meetings, vigils, sending emails, making phone calls and insisting on change.

That is what we have to do with so many other issues like health care, immigration, the economy, getting big money out of our politics, medicare, social security and the environment. It won’t happen overnight but suddenly it will take hold.

The Parkland shooting has moved the needle at long last on the issue of preventing gun violence. It wasn’t the Sandy Hook shooting or the Aurora theater shooting or the Las Vegas shooting or the Pulse Nightclub shooting, many of which took more lives than the Parkland shooting. But it was an accumulation that threw the public over the edge. Thanks to those courageous and outspoken students for the change we are seeing in our country.

It takes us all working together raising our voices and persistence.

We all have our stories to tell. Some are about the loss of life due to bullets. Some about insidious diseases or conditions. Some are about suicide by any means. Some are about immigration or about health care or about losing a job or about cancer, or Parkinson’s, or depression or Alzheimer’s or heart disease. All of these are in my family. Many of these are in families of people I know and care about.

At some point there is an intersection of the issues and that is this-  making us all safer, healthier and caring for one another when it needs to happen.

Gun violence is a public health epidemic where it intersects with health care. Gun violence is an economic issue as deaths by gun cost our law enforcement, legal and health care system a lot of money. Gun violence has an intersection with immigration. Gun violence has an intersection with education as so many of the mass shootings have happened in our schools. Gun violence has an obvious intersection with domestic abuse and violence.  

And to add to this list, gun violence intersects with terrorism and national security because we know terrorists can buy guns in the U.S. and we aren’t stopping them from doing so because of a big gap in our laws. This is a matter of national security as well. And if we don’t think the fomenting of fear and paranoia against the media and the increased presence of militia and other hate groups who are armed isn’t another big issue, we are not paying attention to a serious problem.

And yes, gun violence intersects with big money in politics as the NRA has become a lobbying and big money influencer in our politics and elections. That is why so many of our leaders won’t stand up and do the right thing.

We don’t need a repeat of what happened last August in Charlottesville but the same group is gathering in Oregon and a “Unite the Right” rally on the National Mall in D.C. next week-end. Let’s hope nothing goes wrong.

Many of these issues are the American tragedy. Failure to deal with all of them is failure to keep America safe and do the right thing for our citizens.school

When common sense prevails, we will all be better off.

On this day I remember not only my beautiful sister Barbara Lund but all my friends and people I don’t know who have suffered the grief of the sudden, unexpected and violent death of a loved one from bullets shot out of guns that are too readily available.

As my former Senator Paul Wellstone said, ” We all do better when we all do better.

Nothing could be more true.

 

UPDATE:

I posted this before I went to church this morning and I was inspired by the service to write more.  It was the annual outdoor service under a tent near the vegetable and wild flower garden planted behind the parking lot. There was great music, a wonderful children’s time, a great sermon and the closeness of the congregation gathered together in this sweet sultry summer morning. The minister of my church reminded the congregation that this was the 27th anniversary of her first service at our church.

In an odd confluence of events, it was one year after she began her ministry that my sister was murdered. On August 7th after our family finally learned of the news of the murder and all family members were informed, I called my minister to share what had happened with her. Her response was as it always is with her- so supportive and caring and kind and gentle with just the right things to say. After all of that, though, she told me that her husband, who had not yet moved to Duluth because he hadn’t found a job yet, was on his job as a Police Officer in Minnetonka, Minnesota on August 6th. He was one of the first officers to enter the home of my estranged brother-in-law, now taken to the mental ward of a Twin Cities area hospital by his lawyers ( another long story). He was one of the first officers to find her body and that of her partner. He was there. He saw the horrific scene.

Once and only once, I had the nerve to talk to him about the crime scene. I think I didn’t really want to know the details. I wanted to remember her as the vibrant, beautiful, talented, high spirited sister I knew who was trying to be happy. The last time I saw her was at my daughter’s graduation from high school less than 2 months before her murder.

This morning’s church service was a reminder to me about how supportive my minister and everyone in my church has been to me over the years. One year after my sister’s murder, I asked my minister to lead a celebration of life for my sister on the shore of Lake Superior. Friends and family attended. The minister read the eulogy from my sister’s memorial service as it was held quite privately in a church in the Twin Cities so not many of my friends attended.

Since that time, our chapter has held many vigils and events around gun violence prevention and I have led many mission moments about gun violence- too many. My minister has spoken many times at our vigils and has spoken out publicly about this issue. Gun violence has a ripple effect you see. The people in my church are affected by what happened to me and they support my efforts and they support stronger gun laws and preventing shootings.

I am humbled today by all of the emotions and the memories. I know that the majority is with me. If only the leaders of our country would step up and be with us so we can save lives.

church service

fullsizeoutput_8c3b
Vigil for Las Vegas shooting victims at my church in Oct. 2017

 

A big fat NO to 3D guns and other gun rights dangers

3D gun
from CNN.com

Technology could change the gun safety reform movement and the conversation about guns and gun violence.  In the words of the young man who created plans for how to make 3D guns on printers: 

 

“I want to reserve a space for the humane. I hope I would react humanely. And I hope it would affect me. But does that lead me to apologise for what was done? And I appeal back to standard discussions about respect for civil liberties. What does that mean? It means people will abuse these rights. But what does it mean, as a structural feature, to have access to military weapons as a society? I’m not trying to brush it off but it means accepting people will abuse their liberties, but that’s why they deserve protection. If no one is going to abuse a gun, it wouldn’t be a right worth protecting. If no one was going to make a speech, we wouldn’t need to defend the principle of freedom of speech. The same thing with the right to be secure in your possessions.”

The problem with Wilson’s argument is that’s it’s an argument, one that you might formulate in the sixth-form debating society. And on the other side, there would be a dead person. Your mother, perhaps. Or your son who, if it hadn’t been for Wilson, and his desire to push the boundaries of internet freedom further, would still be alive. But I can’t get through on this point.

Coming from an avowed libertarian and anarchist, these are worrisome words. “The right to secure your possessions” is an interesting turn on language. Given that every day, there are incidents where otherwise “law abiding gun owners” don’t secure their possessions and people end up dead, what in the world does this guy mean?

The thing is, guns are deadly weapons designed to kill people. Do people have a right to secure opioids in their possession if they are illegally obtained? Can one do anything with them if they so choose?  From the article:

Criminal laws often change because of shifting societal attitudes or in response to other events. One example is the decriminalization and reduced penalties involved in possessing small amounts of marijuana. But the destruction caused by the opioid epidemic and explosion in prescription drug misuse and abuse has led to the opposite result. Louisiana laws regarding possession of heroin, opiates, and prescription drugs have become harsher, and prosecutors throughout the state have been aggressively seeking convictions as part of efforts to fight the crisis.

It is not hard to understand why law enforcement is attacking these crimes so vigorously. In 2016, for the first time in history, more people died in New Orleans from drug overdoses than were killed in homicides. It is estimated that 175 Americans die from opioid overdoses every single day, and the personal and economic damage caused by opioid abuse is astronomical.

If you are arrested for possession of heroin or the unlawful possession of opioids or other prescription medications, you could be facing hefty fines, significant time behind bars, and other serious consequences.

And so, there are shifting societal attitudes in response to gun violence. In fact, 97% of Americans agree that we ought to require a criminal Brady background check every time a gun is sold. That doesn’t happen as we all know. Private sellers are allowed to sell guns in their possession to anyone who wants to buy them. It could be a felon. It could be a domestic abuser. It could be someone who has been adjudicated mentally ill. The seller wouldn’t know that of course, unless the buyer was subjected to an easy and quick background check through the FBI’s National Instant Check System.

But if one can possess a plastic gun made at home on a 3D printer, who is to know anything about the person who has made that gun?

The plans for such guns will be allowed to be posted on-line starting on Aug. 1st. Thanks Trump.

What could possibly go wrong? From the article:

Last month, the agency agreed to settle a multi-year legal battle with Texan Cody Wilson, who claimed in a lawsuit the government infringed on his right to free speech for posting the programming code online to print a 3D gun. He was ordered to take it down for violating US export laws.

The administration said in the settlement, which was not made public but provided by his attorneys to certain media outlets, that Mr Wilson’s charity group Defense Distributed could post the code online and it agreed to pay $40,000 of his legal fees.

And further:

“The government fought us all the way and then all of the sudden folded their tent,” Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation, a gun rights group who assisted Mr Wilson on the case, told CNN.

Though the lawsuit had been filed during the Obama administration, Mr Gottlieb said much of the case had been handled by career civil servants not political appointees of Mr Trump.

Anyone remember that the NRA spent over $30 million to make sure Trump was elected? 

Thanks NRA.

Was it Russian money as is asked in the above article?:

The F.B.I. and special counsel Robert Mueller are investigating meetings between N.R.A. officials and powerful Russian operatives, trying to determine if those contacts had anything to do with the gun group spending $30 million to help elect Donald Trumptriple what it invested on behalf of Mitt Romneyin 2012. The use of foreign money in American political campaigns is illegal. One encounter of particular interest to investigators is between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian banker at an N.R.A. dinner. (…) Torshin—who Spanish authorities wanted to arrest in 2013 on money-laundering allegations—made energetic efforts to ingratiate himself with the Trump campaign. (Torshin was never charged and has denied any wrongdoing in the money-laundering case.) He met Donald Trump Jr. at a private dinner during the N.R.A.’s convention in Louisville, Kentucky, in May 2016. Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Trump Jr., has dismissed the conversation between his client and Torshin as “all gun-related small talk.”

Really? “Gun related small talk”? Doubtful.

Since the above linked article was written, we now know about an actual Russian spy who spent some time getting to know leaders from the NRA and other conservative folks who had influence into the Trump campaign. I wrote my last post about this.

So back to 3D guns. Is there any common sense at all to allowing anyone to make a gun in the comfort of their own home?

The answer just has to be NO. People who will be a danger to themselves or others, if they have the funds to invest in the required printer, could make a gun like this and carry out a crime against an innocent person(s). This is just not the kind of America we want or should have. Gun rights do not include anything that anyone wants to do. There are limits.

And speaking of limits and the NRA, can we touch for a minute on the tragic incident in Florida, the gunshine state, involving a white man who shot and killed a black man in a dispute over a parking space?  Because of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, the shooter will most likely go free. There is still another step but the sheriff has said he will not charge the man with murder because of this law. Read below:

Sheriff’s detectives said Michael Drejka, 47, approached Jacobs while her boyfriend Markeis McGlockton, and the couple’s 5-year-old son, Markeis Jr., went into the store. Drejka and Jacobs began arguing about her parking in the handicapped parking space.
Witnesses told police that McGlockton came outside, walked over to Drejka while he was arguing and “forcibly pushed” Drejka, causing him to fall.
“This is a violent push, this wasn’t a shove, this wasn’t just a tap,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a Friday press conference.
In response, the news release stated, Drejka pulled out a handgun while he was on the ground and shot McGlockton in the chest.
“Witnesses say McGlockton walked back into the convenient store where he collapsed,” the release stated. He was taken to a hospital where he died.
The state of Florida has made it even harder for victims’ families to get a hearing in court over the murder of an unarmed ( most often) loved one:
The framework of Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law was changed this year, Gualtieri said. Before, the defendant/shooter used “stand your ground” as a defense and had to prove they were in fear of further body harm, the law now says the state attorney has to provide “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant/shooter is not entitled to “stand your ground” immunities.
“Nowhere else is there anything like this in criminal law where somebody asserts something and the burden then shifts to the other person,” Gualtieri said. “That’s a very heavy standard and it puts the burden on the state.”
Gualtieri said the case will go to the state attorney. Meanwhile, “Drejka will not be charged, will not be arrested by us … either (the state attorney) will concur or not and if he concurs, there will be no arrest.”
Thanks NRA.
Over 30,000 Americans are killed by bullets every year. It is a health care epidemic.
And we are doing nothing but making it worse. And by we, I mean the NRA lapdogs in Congress and our state legislatures. 
Elections are coming. Vote for candidates who will actually care about saving lives. Gun rights and gun safety reform are not mutually exclusive no matter what the corporate gun lobby would like you to believe.
UPDATE:
All 3 of the major gun violence prevention groups are working together to make sure the instructions for making 3D guns do not go up on a website as has been allowed by our government. Thanks to the Brady Center, Everytown and Giffords for working together to keep America safe from senseless shootings.:

WASHINGTON– Attorneys representing the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety and Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence have informed a Texas federal court that they anticipate filing legal action within days related to a settlement that would allow new designs for downloadable, untraceable guns to become public and available world-wide as early as August 1. The gun safety organizations urged the court to consider the public safety and national security risks posed by the settlement, which would let Defense Distributed —a company run by a self-proclaimed anarchist who wants to undermine gun safety laws —post its gun blueprints online in the form of Computer Aided Design files.

“[T]his settlement is far from ordinary,” the gun safety organizations write in a letter available here. “It is dangerous, irreparable and – as the government itself has emphatically argued for years – raises issues of national defense and national security of the highest order.  It is also, we believe, illegal.”

This is very good news indeed. National security is at stake here. What kind of country to we want? I would argue that we don’t want people making 3D guns in their living rooms and potentially committing acts of terror on the American public.

Vote them out

Time cover
Time magazine

This week, the Minnesota House Public Safety committee did not have the courage to take a vote on whether to move a background check bill and a Gun Violence Protection Order bill out of committee for a vote. Those who voted against taking the bills off the table where they had been since hearings about a month ago were cowardly, afraid, insensitive, clueless, and tone deaf. If they don’t get what the student movement is about, they will find out. After the vote in the committee, red and orange shirted Moms Demand Action and Protect Minnesota volunteers got up and walked out chanting “Vote them out.”

The students have made a difference in Minnesota and all over the country. Their voices are resonating in the halls of our legislatures and Congress. Were it not for students politely asking why the Minnesota Senate would not hear the gun safety bills sitting in committee and being “escorted” out of the room, the Senator Democratic minority leader Tom Bakk may not have written this extraordinary piece in today’s Duluth News Tribune,:

I want it to be clear: I support these students’ efforts to motivate the institution into holding hearings. I support several common-sense gun-safety measures. And I’d welcome another opportunity for bipartisan compromise in the state Senate. We owe it our students.

It is not lost on Senator Bakk that there will be at least 2 student marches today in small towns in his district, in the middle of hunting and gun owning country. There will be at least 13 marches today all over Minnesota. Let the student voices be heard. They will make the difference.

We’ve had #enough of this equivocating, avoidance, and ignoring a national public health epidemic that is killing our kids. We will remember in November the cowardice of these legislators. The student movement is staring them in the face. Tomorrow it is expected that tens of thousands of people will be marching all over our country to demand action and common sense from our leaders. March For Our Lives is happening. I marched in the Million Mom March in 2000 with 750,000 others who had hope. But nothing happened. Why? The Republicans were in control of the House and Senate and paid allegiance to the corporate gun lobby. They abrogated their responsibility to our kids. The Columbine school shooting had occurred shortly before the march. Even that could not persuade them.

The Million Mom March chapters merged with the Brady Campaign in chapters all over the country. We are actively involved with the students who are planning the marches all over the country and with the students who have come to DC to march. By hosting workshops, speakers and events, they are helping the students hone their messaging and their skills as well as registering them to vote. All of the gun violence prevention groups are involved with this effort. It is to support the kids. They are leading and we should get out of the way. Many of them will be voting in November and this issue will be at the top of their priorities.

The shootings have continued unabated since the Columbine shooting first awoke our collective conscience about the horror of school shootings. Since then, regular school mass shootings and mass shootings at other places have become commonplace in our country. And many of us have worked tirelessly to make the changes we deserve in the name of the victims. We have been waiting for the young people to get involved but we did not expect it to look like this.

Today I will march with the students and community for the sake of my dead sister and all of the other victims of gun violence. I will march for all of those Parkland students and students from Minnesota and all 50 states who will be in DC for this momentous occasion. And it will be momentous!

Today is also the anniversary of a school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas, leaving 5 dead. Since the shooters were so young- 11 and 13, – so young to become mass shooters. From the article:

The two were reportedly planning a shooting and getaway, with news reports at the time detailing how Johnson took his parents’ car and the boys broke into Golden’s grandparents’ home where his grandfather kept his guns unlocked. One of the pair then pulled the fire alarm at lunch and opened fire when people started to flee.

“They were hiding in bushes and shooting at us,” Spencer said. “We didn’t know what was going on. It was an ambush. It was chaos.

How do young boys like this get ideas like those described above? The gun came from the home of a grandfather where they were unlocked. In 1998 this was the 2nd deadliest mass shooting in our history. How things have changed. Columbine happened in 1999.

If you read the entire article you will see that these two shooters (Jonesboro) are now adult men, out after serving 10 years and both wanting to possess or possessing firearms:

As for Johnson, he obtained a firearm at some point after his release. After a traffic stop in Arkansas in 2007, he was arrested for possessing a firearm in the presence of a controlled substance. The lawyer who represented him in that case, Jack Schisler, told ABC News that in more than 20 years of practicing law, he has never seen that charge used. When asked why that particular charge was used, Schisler said: “Because he’s Mitchell Johnson, Jonesboro school shooter. That’s my opinion.”

“They were looking at the fact that because he was a juvenile when he got involved in the Jonesboro school shooting and, essentially, got out when he was 21 years old, that didn’t sit well with a lot of people. And I think they thought this would be probably the most powerful charge,” Schisler said.

“….that didn’t sit well with a lot of people.” I wonder why? When you kill 5 innocent people for no reason at all, you shouldn’t have guns, period. It sounds like Johnson was not thinking that as a murderer, he ought not to use a controlled substance with a gun in his possession.

Where is common sense?

This week a 16 year old Minnesota boy took a loaded handgun to school and was caught and arrested. Could we have had a mass school shooting in Minnesota? Yes. Of course. Why else does a 16 year old bring a gun to school? How and why does he even have a gun in his possession? Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. On the same day the Minnesota legislature refused to consider common sense, a 17 year old Maryland teen brought a gun he took from home ( belonged to his father) and shot and injured one boy and critically injured a girl with whom he had been in a relationship. She has now died. The boy died when a school resource officer shot him.

Far too often relationships end in shootings. That is the story of my sister. If a gun is not present, relationships are less likely to end in death.

After the march tomorrow I will be leaving on a trip to Florida, the gunshine state, with my family. I will likely be away from my blog but the way things have been going I may actually have to write while away. As we now know, Governor Rick Scott, up for re-election, signed a law to make Florida safer. This was in direct response to the Parkland students raising their voices and challenging the adults to do something to stop the shootings. But I will be watchful given that Florida’s gun death rate is higher than in Minnesota at 26th out of 50 states.

Congress passed some weak provisions in the omnibus bill just signed by President Trump hoping we will go away and not bother him or them any more. That is where they are wrong. We see what they did. Their weak kneed and limp response is shameful. We noticed. From the article:

The three provisions drew a lukewarm response from gun-control advocates. On the one hand, they were encouraged that a Republican majority resolutely opposed to restrictions on gun access felt compelled to pass even a modest, bipartisan bill in that direction. But they worried that the move would sap momentum for more expansive changes they believe are necessary to actually prevent gun violence and mass shootings.

“Congress clearly feels the pressure from Americans demanding action, but these baby steps forward aren’t enough,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Congress needs to buck the NRA and go big on gun safety. If they don’t, voters will throw them out.”

Just last week Congress introduced the WOOFF bill after a dog died in an overhead compartment on an airplane. Really? One dog dies and Congress introduces an immediate bill to deal keeping pets safe. But 17 kids die in a mass school shooting and- nothing? This is lunacy.

As I board my plane I will think about all of this in perspective. Things are so out of whack when we care more about pets than we do about our kids. We have a serious public health epidemic called gun violence. Now at least the CDC will get to maybe do some research but with no funding, maybe not? We know the cause and we know the effects. The cause is too easy access to the way too many guns in America. The effect? – shootings and dead people.

Congress and the President nibbled around the edges. They did little to affect the change that is required to protect our students from harm. Congress, do no harm. Voters are watching and voters care. Nothing will be the same after the Parkland shooting and today’s marches.

#Neveragain

As I soak up the sun in Florida I will think about the students who were massacred at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I will celebrate that the response by our country’s teens and the adults who support them was immediate and forceful. And I will be saddened by the totally inadequate and irresponsible response by our Congress and state legislatures.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas, for whom the now infamous high school is named, had it right:

Marjory Stoneman Douglas

 

 

It’s the kids, stupid

March for Our Lives
from the Brady Campaign

What do our leaders not get about the movement that is taking place in our country right now? Why are they ignoring the voices of the kids who understand the sound of an AR-15 killing their friends? Why do they continue to mouth the same old tired NRA talking points when pretending that nothing can be done as did Senator Ted Cruz yesterday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe?

 

Cruz was wrong but was smooth in his lies and deceptions brought to him and us by the NRA and corporate gun lobby. We aren’t having it. #WeCallBS. 

I have been working with teens and young adults in my city to support their plans for student Walk-outs on March 14th and a local March For Our Lives on March 24th. With each exchange with the students I have become more impressed with their energy and resolve to do something about the lack of action on laws and actions that would protect them from shootings in their schools.

Adults want to support these kids knowing that their voices are being heard and that they are the leaders for this cause. Many national gun violence prevention organizations and other organizations are lining up to co-sponsor the walk-outs and marches.

Kids are afraid. Why wouldn’t they be? They are the targets and sitting ducks for school shooters who have killed students all over our country in surprise attacks against their own classmates. They are also able to get their hands on guns far too easily.

In the past few weeks since the Parkland shooting there have been numerous incidents of threats to schools by young kids. In Minnesota, one particularly alarming incident involved a 13 year old Vadnais Heights boy who had threatened to shoot up a school:

The father of a Vadnais Heights boy who allegedly threatened to shoot up his school owned several illegal firearms and kept loaded guns out in the open, according to charges filed Monday.

Christopher Stowe, 41, was charged in Ramsey County District Court with two felony counts of prohibited possession of machine guns and short-barreled shotguns and one count of gross misdemeanor negligent storage of firearms where a child can access them.

Authorities on Friday seized a cache of firearms, ammunition and at least two explosive devices from Stowe’s split-level home on Desoto Street. Some of the firearms were unsecured, and a ballistic vest was also recovered, authorities said. (…) “During the execution of the search warrant, law enforcement officers also observed that several of the firearms were a [sic] loaded and located out in the open and accessible to children in the home,” the charges said. “[The boy] was home alone when law enforcement officers first arrived to execute the search warrant.”

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. What was this family planning? And what were they thinking? Some gun owners have a total lack of common sense when it comes to storing their guns safely away from the hands of children. This family seemed clueless about the guns that were left loaded laying around their home. There are no excuses for this behavior around lethal weapons. Had this boy shot up his classmates at his school, I am quite sure they would have thought differently about their own lack of common sense.

The stakes are high. What is it about the risk of loaded guns in homes that some people don’t understand? I say it’s the gun culture gone wrong. It’s the Senator Ted Cruz nonsensical arguments that filter down to some gun owners who are vulnerable to the lies and paranoia spewed by the lobbyists and leaders of the NRA.

The AR-15s used in recent mass shootings take more lives at once which is why they are used. A Parkland physician wrote this article about the damage done to body tissue and organs when bullets come from assault type rifles. From the article:

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the mass-shooting victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, and was bleeding extensively. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage? (…) Routine handgun injuries leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks through the victim’s body that are roughly the size of the bullet. If the bullet does not directly hit something crucial like the heart or the aorta, and the victim does not bleed to death before being transported to our care at the trauma center, chances are that we can save him. The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different: They travel at a higher velocity and are far more lethal than routine bullets fired from a handgun. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than—and imparting more than three times the energy of—a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun. An AR-15 rifle outfitted with a magazine with 50 rounds allows many more lethal bullets to be delivered quickly without reloading.

This is why the kids are scared. This is why the kids, parents and teachers know that trying to make ordinary hunting rifles seem the same as assault style rifles is “BS”. This is why the kids are angry.

The kids are not having it. There have been small walk-outs and protests all over the country. Just yesterday, hundreds (some say 2000) students from 2 high schools in St Paul, Minnesota walked to the state Capitol to express their anger and frustration:

“We’ve sat through many school shootings, and we’ve watched, and we’ve listened and we’ve waited for something to change, and nothing has changed,” said one of the organizers, Clare Fitzpatrick, a 18-year-old senior from Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul. (…)

“I just hope that we can change this. I just hope that everybody that they can make this work, and we can change the gun violence. And find out a way to keep guns away from schools.”

Fitzpatrick said students want the Minnesota Legislature to take action.

“We’ve received silence from our legislators that can’t pass a bill to help our students, and I think our first priority should be passing legislation that’s going to help save lives of students.”

Another article explains that other students joined the students who walked to the Capitol adding to the crowd to make it around 5000 students-and it’s not even the day of the March For Our Lives! From the article:

Arie Walker, a sophomore from St. Paul Academy and Summit School, said the mass shootings have instilled fear in her. Before she comes to school, she said, she thinks about what students could be thinking. She said this has made it hard for her to trust her peers.

“It builds tension,” Walker said. “We shouldn’t be scared that someone is going to come to school and shoot us.”

Tension is the least of what is happening.

And yet another source about this walk-out:

“As a group of students, we come here today with total diversity of opinion,” Doyle said in an interview. “As you look around, there are people here with signs with specific demands. As a group, we’re here to promote legislative action. I don’t think that high schoolers should have to write the bills for legislators. That’s why they’re in there. And that’s why we’re out here — to encourage them to write those bills.”

No, high schoolers shouldn’t have to write bills but right now I am thinking they could do a much better job of it than the legislators who have no courage or conviction.

Will we invest in our kids? More from the linked article:

As seen elsewhere, the school shooting in Florida seems to have triggered a rash of copycat threats. At least 21 threats have been made against Minnesota schools in the last three weeks, resulting in recent lockdowns and school closures at Minneapolis’ Patrick Henry High School, schools in the Cambridge-Isanti Public Schools and Orono Public Schools districts.

In response to Governor Dayton’s safe schools request, a Superintendent had this to say ( from thea article):

Speaking in support of Dayton’s proposal, Orono Public Schools Superintendent Karen Orcutt said it’s important that schools are given flexibility in how they invest in safety and security features because no two schools’ needs are exactly the same. But having recently endured a lockdown that lasted nearly six hours as police and the FBI investigated a “serious shooting threat” coming from inside one of the district’s buildings, she says it became clear that more needs to be done.

“All of these things we had going for us did not assure nor comfort the parents of these children, who spent the whole day under a threat and a lockdown,” she said.

Our kids are under threat almost every day. The adults are not listening or doing nearly enough.

Listen to the kids. They are leading the adults and we should listen to them. They are wiser than the adults and they are affected by gun violence in ways adults are not. There have been 18 incidents of guns firing at or in schools already this year alone. And it’s only March. Here’s one that just happened in Alabama.

We can expect to see more shootings in schools and everywhere else for that matter. We can also expect to see many thousands of students involved in Walk-outs scheduled for March 14th at 10:00 a.m. in each time zone. So far, as I write, students at 2300 schools will walk out of classes for 17 minutes and each will do something different during their protests.

On March 24th it is expected that there could be 500,000 students and others in Washington D.C. at a March For Our Lives. Marches will occur in cities all over the country and the world for that matter. People are angry. They want their voices to be heard and they want our leaders to act. They have had #Enough.

Why are they not acting? Have we been taken hostage by a hostile enemy? Have some of our leaders lost their mandate to protect their constituents from harm? Apparently.

At least in Florida, nicknamed the “gunshine state” the kids got to the legislators and they passed a bill that will help prevent some shootings. They could have gone further to save lives but this is a first step and a slippery slope to common sense. In spite of Marion Hammer, the legislators acted. Finally the voices of those who matter were heard. The NRA be damned.

The NRA has dug in its’ heels as it usually does. No capitulation for them. No compromising either. Just listen to their spokeswoman, Dana Loesch,  threaten the media and others on NRA TV:

“To the politicians who would rather watch America burn than lose one ounce of their own personal power, to the late night posts that think their opinion is the only opinions that matter.

“To the Joy-Ann Reids, the Morning Joes, the Mikas. To those who stain honest reporting with partisanship.

“To those who bring bias and propaganda to CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times… your time is running out. The clock starts now.”

She then turns over the sand timer before the screen fades to black and a message appears promoting Loesch’s new show on NRATV.

Perhaps the NRA’s time is running out.

No wonder so many people and businesses are distancing themselves from the organization.

The majority of people are supportive of reasonable gun laws understanding that the second amendment does not preclude passing laws to keep our children safe.

Health care providers who deal with kids and teens understand the risks and the public health aspect of gun violence. This Minnesota group of physicians has come forward to urge more research on gun violence. They understand the need to keep kids and teens safe from gun violence since they are the ones who deal with the injured and the dead. They also understand the devastation to bodies caused by bullets in ways that we cannot. A physician from Parkland, Florida, wrote this piece about the damage done to victims since she has seen it and we have not.

This is about our kids. If we can’t do the right thing for our kids, who are we? Kids are demanding action in ways that adults have not been able to. Our next generation is being snuffed out by senseless and avoidable shootings. Our kids are becoming shooters. The lost potential is staggering, not to mention the cost in not only dollars, but dealing with the aftermath of shootings and the PTSD that will be with some of these kids for years. Watching a friend or fellow student bleed out from a gunshot wound right in front of your eyes can’t be unseen.

Do this for our kids. It’s the only thing we can do. And do it right to make it matter.

Listen to the kids in one of the videos from the March For Our Lives site. #Whatif #Neveragain :

 

A Scarlet Letter

letter A in flamesThe novel, The Scarlet Letter, is a poignant reminder of how public shame can change everything. Even public shame isn’t working for the NRA lapdogs who lap at the feet of an organization that has kept the nation from doing anything about the school shootings, the mass shootings, the domestic shootings, the suicides, the “accidental” shootings, police shootings- you get the picture.

Students from Parkland, Florida, tried to see Florida Governor Scott when they visited Tallahassee but naturally, Scott did not have the courage to see the faces of anguished students demanding action. They started chanting, “shame, shame, shame.” Though the Governor was at the funeral of one of the slain students, one does have to wonder if he would have met with these students. Time will tell. What we know is that Governor Scott has taken a lot of money from the NRA. Many in Congress are in the same group who should wear the letter A on their chests.

A rating of A or A+ means something to the 1.5% of Americans who happen to be NRA members. That’s it folks. A tiny tiny sliver of Americans and gun owners care about the rating from the NRA. So why do our leaders even listen to them?

The times, they are a changing.

We’re not buying it any more.

Governor Scott and many others, are reconsidering their allegiance to the NRA. Are they finally getting it? Time will tell.

Scott has done the bidding of the NRA for years, listening to the strident voice of Marian Hammer, NRA lobbyist who has worked for decades to make Florida one of the most gun friendly states in the country.

It has been suggested that the politicians who receive an “A” rating from the NRA should wear it like a scarlet letter of shame:

I’m not opposed to the Second Amendment (do read the article in today’s Commoner Call on the actual history of the amendment. It ain’t what you think it is). I am a gun owner. I am even a long ago former member of the NRA. And I support those courageous and morally clear high school students demanding reform and sanity. Any democrat — office holder or member — who refuses to stand with those students against the attacks of the right wing extremists and shun the NRA and their dirty money should leave the party. They are beneath what the party should be about. Really, if the party ever wants to rise to power again they have to stop renting out its soul for dollars.

Shame on them all for persisting with their nonsensical, fact-free assersians and fear mongering after 17 students were hunted and massacred like animals in Parkland, Florida. Even their own mouthpiece, Dana Loesch, was no match for those students and parents  who didn’t get the message that we should be polite to these people who have been so responsible for the carnage in America. From the article:

Exactly one year ago, the National Rifle Association excitedly announced that it had tapped Dana Loesch, a conservative commentator and radio host, to serve as its spokeswoman. She had all the right chops for the job: razor-sharp public speaking skills, a devoted online following, and, most importantly, an extensive track record of fervently defending the Second Amendment, which guarantees the right to bear arms.

Long respected in conservative circles for her brash political commentary and unapologetic gun rights advocacy, Loesch gained broader attention last year with a pair of inflammatory NRA ads that critics said could incite violence against the organization’s perceived opponents.

But it wasn’t until Wednesday night that Loesch’s role as the public face of the country’s preeminent gun rights organization was truly put to the test. (…)

But her advocacy often spirals into extremes. Her book compares gun control efforts to Nazi and Stalinist propaganda, and she inveighs against what she calls “the tragedy caucus,” a broad assortment of liberal “gun grabbers” who, in her eyes, exploit mass shootings “as a tactic to take away law-abiding citizens’ guns.”

She pretended to be empathetic on the CNN town hall meeting but the very next day, here is what the real Dana Loesch told ardent supporters at the CPAC meeting:

“I want to make this super obvious point,” Loesch said. “The government has proven that they cannot keep you safe. And yet, some people want all of us to disarm. You heard that town hall last night. They cheered the confiscation of firearms. And it was over 5,000 people.”

“I had to have a security detail to get out,” she said of the Sunrise, Fla. event. “I wouldn’t be able to exit that if I didn’t have a private security detail. There were people rushing the stage and screaming burn her. And I came there to talk solutions and I still am going to continue that conversation on solutions as the NRA has been doing since before I was alive.”

Really Dana Loesch? More hyperbole and blame. That is the game they play and they play it well. But we aren’t buying it.

E.J Dionne, columnist for the Washington Post says it just right:

How come only one side of the supposed culture war on guns is required to exude respect for the other? Because the culture-war argument is largely a gimmick pushed by the gun lobby as a way of demonizing its opponents. None of us who endorse stronger gun laws wants to disrupt anybody else’s way of life. And none of the measures we are proposing would do that. (…) What truly alarms the gun lobby is that many steps to curb the scourge of gun violence enjoy broad support, from those who own guns as well as those who don’t. A Quinnipiac poll released on Tuesday, for example, found that 97 percent of Americans favor background checks for all gun buyers. While the survey showed the highest level of approval for background checks in some time, it is not an outlier. Background checks have long been embraced by 85 to 95 percent of us. Quinnipiac, by the way, also showed that 66 percent of voters support stricter gun laws, up from 47 percent in December 2015.

We aren’t buying the BS any more. Things are changing.

Yesterday I attended lobby day and a rally at the Minnesota state legislature as a member of Protect Minnesota and the Brady Campaign. It was one of the largest rallies held in recent years at the Capitol. The energy and commitment to change were palpable. Over 1000 people came to our rally and chanted and demanded action. It was reflective of the mood of the general public. Our legislators knew we there as we walked the halls in our orange shirts and visited our legislator’s offices. The day was inspiring for many and most especially for those who had never attended an event like this or darkened the doors of the Capitol.

Two days before our rally 300 Moms Demand Action members had a lobby day. Between us, the message was clear. We aren’t buying the NRA talking points and the BS any more.

Schools all over Minnesota have received threats on social media including my own grandson’s school. This is not OK. This is not normal. One school district was on lock down as they dealt with a threat. How frightening for the students and parents. Even though the threats were not credible, there were a lot of frightened parents and students. Why? Because we all know that the next school shooting is just around the corner at a school near you.

The idea that kids can buy AR-15s, knock off military style weapons is horrifying. It has been for decades but now the tide is turning. The public is fed up and understands the true nature of these weapons. They are not meant for hunting or self defense. Don’t believe the gun lobby or the gun extremists when they tell you that. #WeCallBS. They have gotten away with this for far too long. Their time is up.

The NRA is becoming less relevant as well it should be. Companies are cutting off business ties with this national organization of terror and fear mongering. Soon enough, an organization that represents a tiny tiny proportion of NRA members and gun owners, will fade to exist. We will be better off for it.

Follow the money. For way too long, the NRA’s deceptive claims and partnerships with the gun manufacturers has resulted in their ability to influence public policy about gun violence and kept the country from being able to save the lives of our children.

They can try to blame the “socialists” as did NRA’s Executive V.P at CPAC yesterday. Why listen to this lunatic? Who is he anyway? He represents power and influence which is fast fading away.

But we aren’t buying it.

And our very own President mimics the ludicrous arguments that, in his own estimation ( not based on anything) that 20-40% of teachers should now carry loaded guns in our schools. Where did that come from? And then he amazingly and stupidly pronounced at a meeting at the White House that all of those retired Marines who are teaching in our schools should be armed. Seriously? He is dead wrong. Who are all of these retired Marines? There may be some retired or discharged military members teaching in our schools but I doubt the numbers are what Trump pulled out of his empty hat.

Craziness is all around us.

And we’re not buying it.

Where is common sense? It’s in the halls of our legislatures. It’s in Parkland, Florida. It’s all over our media sources and it’s in American homes and schools. It’s all around us. It will be on March 14th when students will walk out of classes. It will be on March 24th when students will March their lives in DC and all over the country. It will be on April 20th. It will be everyday.

We want action NOW. Not yesterday or tomorrow- NOW.

We’ve had #Enough.

#WeCallBS

#NeverAgain

The perfect storm

sunThough the sun is out in my neck of the woods and we are about to have a gorgeous early fall day, it feels bad in much of the country. It feels unsettling and people are apprehensive.

Wildfires are consuming many areas of the western U.S., including in Glacier Park where I visited with my grandchildren last summer. The area around beautiful Lake MacDonald is experiencing flames and smoke and there is concern about the historic lodge there which we visited while we were in the Park. One other historic lodge, the Sperry Chalet, has already burned. Friends are posting photos on Facebook of ash from the fires in Washington and Montana falling on their decks and homes. Another friend told me that her son lives in the Columbia River Gorge and they are worried about his home. Some people can’t be outside because of the smoke and ash.

Here is my photo of the Lake MacDonald lodge.  IMG_3034

Ordinarily this news would occupy the 24/7 cycles but Hurricane Harvey came along devastating the Houston area. We hardly had time to digest that awful tragedy before the warnings came about Irma. The survivors of Harvey are still in shelters, many having lost their homes and belongings. It will be a very long time for recovery.

But Irma. I can’t come up with any words that haven’t already been used to describe this monster storm. I have been watching the news on and off all day as things unfold in front of our eyes. Surely this will be horrific for millions.

And so September has been a bad month so far. Oh- there was a major earthquake in Mexico while we were paying attention to Irma warnings.

Some friends and family members have homes or condos in Florida. I have spoken with many of them and so far they are safe but the fury has not yet begun. To be continued….

But hey, people can feel good about the fact that Governor Scott has made sure they can all carry their concealed guns without a permit during the emergency of the hurricane. That’s reassuring. Because why in the world does someone need a gun while hunkering down sheltered in place during one of the nation’s worst ever hurricanes? Because- rights……..

And as if on cue, a Sheriff had to warn Floridians not to actually shoot their guns at the hurricane because of a ludicrous “event” created urging people to do just that. Really sometimes you just can’t make up the lunacy of some gun rights enthusiasts. I can actually envision this happening, can’t you? Because that is how far afield gun rights extremists have gone. It would be great if shooting at a hurricane would make it go away. This is not funny. Lives are at risk.

Where is common sense?

It almost didn’t seem relevant to write about gun violence incidents which continue unabated in spite of the natural disasters around us. So I wasn’t going to write for a while. But then this story came to my attention from Columbia, South Carolina that just begs for our attention. A two year old found a loaded gun in his home and shot and killed himself. Unfortunately incidents like this happen far too frequently and often no one knows they have happened. The boy’s father, bereft at the shooting, then shot and killed himself.

This is unimaginable. There are no words to express the grief and heartache of this family.

Too easy access to loaded guns become everyday tragedies.

But there are words to express the total lunacy of some gun owners in our country. As I have said, most gun owners are responsible with their guns. But the gun culture encourages loaded guns around homes and people are not responsible with their guns. There is no mandatory training to operate deadly weapons designed to kill people. Owning a gun is an awesome responsibility. Firearms are deadly weapons and need to be treated with great respect. All it takes is an instant and a family is changed forever.

It is mandatory to go through driver’s education and to get a permit while learning to drive. It is mandatory to pass a test in order to drive a vehicle because of course, accidents can happen and it’s just plain a good idea to make sure people are as safe as they can be on the roads. We all know that this does not assure that there are no accidents. So on the other end, it is now mandatory for car manufacturers to install seat belts and air bags and other safety features and mandatory for us to wear those seat belts. It is saving lives. That’s a good thing.

Sadly we are not focused on the right thing when talking about gun violence. The conversation becomes polarized immediately with people on both sides blaming and making statements that don’t make common sense. What if we focused on the victims instead of on whose side politicians are on as they try to avoid or make policy? When we do focus on people instead of policy and objects, we understand that families all over America have suffered the devastation of gun violence. At some point they don’t care what the politicians or the the gun rights or gun violence prevention sides are saying. They just want their loved ones back. Impossible.

This article found that most articles about gun violence focus on policy instead of on the victims and survivors. 

There is much good advice at the end of this article but I picked out these to highlight:

Depoliticize gun violence by appealing to common values. Sidestep political opposition by crafting messages that emphasize universal values like safety, opportunity and freedom from fear. Focus on storytelling instead of data. Highlighting personal stories will bring statistics to life, create empathy and overcome stereotypes about who is impacted by gun violence.

This is about California but can be extrapolated to every state. The difference would be that California has strong gun laws which does cause some complacency. Other states with much weaker gun laws also seem to be complacent but unwilling to do something to save lives by not passing stronger gun laws.

We can actually save people from dying or being injured from firearms with the right conversation and the right policies. The narrative needs to shift to how to save lives. That is what this is all about. Personally my family have been hunters and gun owners. My husband owns hunting guns which are locked safely away in a safe without the ammunition. This is just common sense. We don’t want grandchildren to find those guns. We don’t want them to be stolen and in the hands of those who should not handle them or can’t be responsible with them.

This is simple. It is not rocket science. It’s common sense. As I watch coverage of the coming wrath of Irma, I have heard those who have decided not to leave their homes or heed the warnings. I pray they will be safe but know that some will not because they opted not to be responsible. The same is true of firearms owners. Policy is made for all to protect us from ourselves and others. Laws and rules are not punitive on the front end. They are there to protect us.

Let’s protect our children and families. And let’s pray for the potential victims and survivors of Irma.

The sun will come out- maybe not tomorrow but it will come out in Florida and reveal the devastation. It will shed a bright light on what is needed from us as a country to help the millions affected by hurricanes, flooding, loss of property, belongings and most likely lives. As a country, we will work together to rebuild. Lives can not be replaced but belongings can. My sister’s life cannot be replaced after her shooting death. But we have our memories of her vivacious and beautiful personality and yes, a few of her belongings to bring us pleasure.

Here comes the judge

judgeAs soon as I wrote this I could hear the cadence of the “Rowan and Martin Laugh Incomedy show skit starring Sammy Davis Jr.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Often when decisions about gun policy get to court, judges take a different look at what is going on and decide in the favor of public health and safety. That is as it should be. Law and order are important concepts to our American life and the judicial system. Laws need to be fair and decided on their merits and their constitutionality.

I wrote about the “docs vs. glocks” decision in my last post. It turns out that the first amendment right of a health care provider to practice medicine how they are taught and know is best to treat patients trumps the second amendment. People have a right to know about the risks of guns from those who understand that health care encompasses keeping people from killing themselves or others and keeping children from getting their hands on guns. There is nothing in it for physicians and other health care providers except practicing good health care. Since far too many parents neglect to understand the obvious risk of guns in the home and are irresponsible with their guns, someone has to protect the children.

This week another ruling came down upholding a Maryland assault weapons ban:

The en banc panel of the court, meeting in Richmond, overturned a three-judge panel that ruled against the law. In a 10-4 ruling, 4th Circuit judges sided with Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat who introduced the bill when he served in the state Senate in 2013.
The 10-member majority said assault weapons like those banned under the Maryland law were disproportionately used in mass shootings and in assaults on law enforcement officers. Judge Robert King, writing for the majority, said assault weapons are not protected under the Second Amendment.
Maryland’s ban on assault weapons still allows citizens to protect themselves “with a plethora of other firearms and ammunition,” King wrote. King cited shootings in Aurora, Colo.; San Bernardino, Calif.; Orlando, Fla.; Virginia Tech; Fort Hood, Texas; Binghampton, N.Y.; and Tucson, Ariz., the incident in which then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) was shot in the head.
Of course. This is common sense in action. The case was decided en Banc making it even stronger.
And more from the linked article:
“It is unthinkable that these weapons of war, weapons that caused the carnage in Newtown and in other communities across the country, would be protected by the Second Amendment,” Frosh said.
Unthinkable.
But the corporate gun lobby doesn’t care about the unthinkable. To them, anything goes if it means increasing sales and having more power. They equate it all with rights. Where are the rights of the rest of us to be safe from people who believe they can carry around a weapon of war on our streets ( as is done in some places) or take one into a school, a mall, a college campus or anywhere else and unload the high capacity magazine full of bullets into the bodies of innocent people. Now that is unthinkable.
I just hate to get into any kind of discussion about the second amendment because it just raises hackles and is usually unproductive.
This is about public safety. If anyone thinks our society is the same as it was when the amendment was written in 1791, please let me know. Or take a look at the States United to Prevent Gun Violence video below which I have included in other blog posts:
The world has changed. The world of guns has certainly changed. And the change has not made American citizens safer.
We will be judged by how we treated our fellow citizens and hopefully not how we failed to protect them from harm. We will be judged by the ways in which we saved our children from senseless harm, injury and death by any means.
Gun violence is insidious. Gun violence is a public health epidemic. Gun violence is preventable. The courts understand this.
Will our elected leaders?