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?

 

Guns in airports- the new normal?

Sanity Insanity Means Health Care And AdvertisementAs it turns out 44 states allow permit holders to carry guns in the common unsecured areas at airports across the country. Coincidentally, Florida is not one of them. But that didn’t factor into the mass shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale airport yesterday.

I have been wondering ,since I assume the gun lobby reaction might be this-would someone with a loaded gun, assuming they had not been on a flight because guns are not allowed for passengers traveling on planes, had stopped the shooter? Very doubtful. As we have seen now after watching many videos and hearing from travelers, panic and chaos ensued. People ran, abandoning their luggage, wherever they could to save themselves from being shot. They ended on the tarmac, parking areas, hiding behind cars or luggage. They grabbed their children, their mothers, their friends and ran. That is the first response to an active shooter. Keep yourself and your family from being shot.

Adding one more person with a gun to the mix of panic and chaos would have assured even more confusion and possibly more deaths and injuries.

5 people are dead and 8 injured by bullets. Others were injured in the rush to escape. More families are grieving. More families are worried at the sides of hospital beds. More people affected by gun violence in America.

Minnesotans were affected by this shooting. Names of the victims have not been released yet. But we have heard from Minnesotans who were on the Delta flight that began in Anchorage, Alaska. They witnessed the shooting and the death and the chaos. Some were going on a cruise to take advantage of warmer weather during this frigid Minnesota January. Their cruise will now be different than they intended. Why?

Gun violence has a ripple effect. Those who were at that baggage claim area witnessed people dying after being shot in the head point blank. One man said he smelled the smoke from the bullets fired and thought the shooter was just behind him. He will never forget that. Some passengers spent hours on the tarmac or sheltered in place. Some passengers spent hours on planes parked on the tarmac.

Those at the baggage claim most likely thought that gun violence would never affect them. But in America, mass shootings happen at least every week and shootings happen every day. 90 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries from homicides, suicides and “accidental” gun discharges.

Gun violence affects more than those directly hit by a bullet and their loved ones and friends. As it turns out, it affects all of us. We watch, horrified, on a regular basis as mass shooting after mass shooting takes place on live TV. The coverage is 24/7. We are all traumatized. Some suffer from PTSD after every one of these events, thinking of their own loved one who was shot in the head or torso and died from the injuries.

Is this the new normal?

Let’s talk about guns at airports. Guns can be packed in checked luggage at U.S. airports. If you intend to do this you must declare that you have a gun packed in your checked luggage. It must be in a hard sided locked case without ammunition which must be separate. The shooter appeared to have grabbed his luggage off the carousel and gone into a bathroom where he unpacked the gun, loaded it and started randomly shooting- reloading twice.

Yes, someone could have walked into that baggage claim area with a loaded gun having parked a car or arrived by taxi and done the same thing. Guns everywhere is the norm in America and people are carrying guns everywhere. That is what the corporate gun lobby has imposed on Americans with the help of the lapdog politicians who believed in the lies and deceptions that more guns make us safer. And what we have is mass shootings in every public place in our country and also, actually more frequently, in private homes all over the country. They occur most often in guns allowed zones as it turns out.

The gun lobby yells that these shootings only happen in gun free zones. In the case of this particular shooting, they are right. But in most cases, they are wrong. Don’t believe them.

On a personal level, my sister’s shooting death happened in a guns allowed zone- a private home where most shootings occur actually.

Because gun carrying has increased with almost every state having passed laws to allow ordinary citizens to carry guns, people do carry their guns around. If they are responsible, they will know where that gun is at all times and make sure it does not fall out of their pants or their purse, etc.  That is why it is so ludicrous that so many airline passengers say they “forgot” they had a gun in their carry-on luggage. I urge you to read this TSA blog for more information.

The TSA reports that in the week between Christmas and Jan. 4th alone, they found 53 guns in carry-ons. In 2015, according to the linked blog above:

Also significant, 2,653 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country, averaging more than seven firearms per day. Of those, 2,198 (83 percent)were loaded. Firearms were intercepted at a total of 236 airports; 12 more airports than last year. There was a 20 percent increase in firearm discoveries from 2014’s total of2,212. Pictured are just some of the firearms discovered in 2015.

Wow. They have found many guns with rounds chambered and ready to go. Check out the photos provided on the blog. Grenades? Yes. Why not?

Where is common sense?

If you are a responsible gun owner, you will know where your gun is and you will also know that there are many things that cannot be brought on board airplanes. I travel enough to be very careful about what I take in my carry-ons because I don’t want to be stopped and frisked or have my carry-on luggage searched. It is annoying to me as a traveler when someone takes something they shouldn’t in their carry-ons because it slows the TSA line down and adds to the stress of traveling.

But I am happy that the TSA does such a good job of checking these things. I don’t want people armed on my flights nor do I want a grenade to go off on my flight. Remember that this happened after the terror attack of 9/11 to keep us safe. And yet, more people are terrorized by gun violence in a few weeks time than died in the attacks of 9/11. And, for goodness sake, more toddlers kill people with guns left for them to access by an adult than terrorists.

Insanity.

All of this is the result of our unique and deadly gun culture. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can actually prevent and reduce gun violence by enacting stronger laws about the people who buy and carry guns. I saw a recent meme using the gun lobby’s claim that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Yes they do. That is why we need to keep some people from getting their hands on guns.

The shooter at the Ft. Lauderdale airport for example, we now know had some severe mental health problems. He had served in the National Guard and served a year in Iraq. He came back a changed man and even checked himself into a mental facility after telling the FBI in Alaska that he heard voices in his head.He had gone AWOL several times and got a general discharge ( likely for mental health reasons).  And yet, he was able to buy a gun. In Alaska a permit is not required to carry a gun. Good idea?

The shooter had domestic problems with his girlfriend in Alaska where he had lived and was a security guard. There were some misdemeanors on his record.

There has been a report that the shooter was a permit to carry holder. Some of the gun rights folks on Twitter feeds have disputed that. Alaska does not require a permit as such to carry a gun  for anyone over 21 who can legally possess a firearm so most likely the shooter could carry that gun, permit or not. No training requirements or classes required. Just carry a gun if you over 21.

Does this shooter look like someone who should be able to buy and carry a gun?

We can do something about this. The shooter’s family knew about his difficulties and mental health problems. There is a life saving measure that is called Gun Violence Restraining Order or Gun Violence Protective Order. Several states have passed such laws. In Minnesota it has been proposed but the legislature refused to hear it and take a vote.

The shooter’s guns could have been removed from his possession temporarily under a law like this and his name could have been placed on the list of prohibited purchasers through our FBI’s national instant check system. Of course, we also need to require that every gun purchase go through a Brady background check in order to fully save lives. Why? Because the NICS list is only for federally licensed firearms dealers. Private sellers do not have to require life saving background checks.

If we can save lives, why would we not? Do we really want those who are dangerously mentally ill carrying guns around in public places and shooting innocent Americans? If not, why do legislators refuse to hear bills that could prevent this?

We have a choice. Insanity or sanity. I know what I choose.

Ask your elected leaders to save lives. If they refuse to vote on this life saving measure, ask them why? They must be held accountable for refusing to consider options that could potentially save innocent lives.

What is normal shouldn’t be. In this year when a President who is turning everything upside down under the guise of shaking things up, we are experiencing abnormal behavior. We can’t normalize it because it could be dangerous for our democracy. Just as we can’t normalize gun violence and pretend we can’t do a thing about it.

Ask President-elect Trump if he has more than thoughts and prayers after mass shootings. He will be faced with as many, if not more, than President Obama faced during his 8 years in office. That is reality, not fiction. Tweeting about it is not enough Mr. Trump. Do something and stop tweeting.

But please do remember that the gun lobby supported President elect Trump by giving him tons of money and he owes them now. That’s called “draining the swamp” er uh……

President Obama’s response to this latest one at least mentioned the number of mass shootings we endure in our country:

“We’re heartbroken for families who have been affected,” Obama said in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

The president commented on the frequency of mass shootings in the US saying, “These tragedies have happened too often during the eight years that I’ve been president.

In an interview published by the BBC in 2015, Obama called the rise in mass shootings during his presidency his biggest frustration.

And yes, those of us working on gun violence prevention comment after tragedies such as the Ft. Lauderdale shooting and take criticism for “using” a tragedy to further our agenda. What? There is not a day  when we don’t have gun violence. Mass shootings are so frequent that if we wait until a different time we will never be able to talk about gun violence. And that is the agenda of the gun lobby and it’s minions. They don’t want us to talk about gun tragedies and gun deaths. This does not fit into their own scenario that guns make us safer. And so they try to stop us.

We will not be stopped.

My agenda is saving lives and living in a sane country. What’s yours?

So we will write and talk about the inconvenience of gun deaths, mass shootings, suicides, domestic homicides, toddlers killing people in increasing numbers, guns found in carry-on bags, irresponsible gun owners, the effects of weak gun laws and whatever it takes to save lives. For if even one life is saved by our “agenda” we will have accomplished something important.

What we want is action- not thoughts and prayers. Check out the images below that were posted on Twitter feeds and Facebook yesterday.

garbage-truck

screenshot-2017-01-07-08-17-29

Florida and guns

 I have been on a family trip to Marco Island, Florida this past week. It has one of the best and most beautiful beaches in the US. There are sea shells everywhere and a wide beach of hard white sand. Some call the state of Florida the “gun shine” state. I was expecting to see people walking around with holstered guns. But I have not seen one person with a gun. In fact, guns are not welcome on the beaches as my photo indicates. Why in God’s name would someone want to bring a gun to this beautiful pristine place?

But never mind all of that. So far at least, Florida remains a state without open carry. And in another modicum of common sense, the legislature failed to pass a campus carry law. It’s always nice to see the gun lobby get turned down in their efforts to get guns into every nook and cranny of our communities. I see more guns carried in public places in Minnesota than I have here in Florida.

Florida is known for looser gun laws and more gun deaths than many states. It is the home to the shootings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis- the shooters of both young black men claimed as self defense. Luckily for the family of Jordan Davis, the shooter did not get away with murder. And we know about what a fine upstanding citizen George Zimmerman is. Florida is a laboratory for the NRA. What we see in Florida often shows up in other states. That is what Stand Your Ground in Florida started. A national trend.

Lately there was an awful shooting here on Dec 31st in Florida when a mother shot her daughter in what she thought was a self defense shooting. Yes. This is more often the case than guns used for actual self defense. All gun deaths are terrible tragedies. But theses kinds of “accidental” shootings are avoidable and totally senseless.

So I am wondering if it’s true that a lot of people carry guns in Florida or if that is just another gun lobby myth and exaggeration?  Politifact found that Florida does, indeed, have the largest number of carry permits in the country. So I could be surrounded by armed people- or not. It wouldn’t be much different than sitting in a legislative hearing room in the Minnesota Capitol.

Common sense tells us, of course, that carrying while enjoying  life with the family isn’t a good idea. And it can’t be much fun to always be worried about danger lurking everywhere. Kids running around playing. People in kayaks, paddle boards, parasailing, sipping Pina Coladas, and all of those relaxing things people do. Having a gun at the ready is just not one of them.

Meanwhile back in Minnesota, gun carriers are shoveling 12 inches of snow.

Tomorrow I will fly back home to deal with whatever bills are proposed in Minnesota. Let’s hope we can pass a background check bill to require that all gun buyers undergo a criminal background check. That is one way to save lives and keep everyone who wants to buy or sell a gun honest and law abiding. There’s nothing wrong with that idea though we know the “registration” and “confiscation” argument has already been raised by the gun lobbyists. It isn’t true. Time for all of us to take a break from the old arguments, relax, and have the reasonable conversation we should be having.