Blogging for gun safety reform and changing the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities. Common sense gun laws and gun safety reform and gun rights are not mutually exclusive.
The NRA, the Russian investigation, power, money, corruption, influence on elections, Trump and the 2016 campaign. What could possibly go wrong?
If this allegation is true, it shows how far the corporate gun lobby will go to gain and hold on to their influence over our political system. From the article about the FBI investigation into the influence of Russian money, the NRA and the Trump election:
However, the NRA reported spending a record $55 million on the 2016 elections, including $30 million to support Trump – triple what the group devoted to backing Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential race. Most of that was money was spent by an arm of the NRA that is not required to disclose its donors.
Two people with close connections to the powerful gun lobby said its total election spending actually approached or exceeded $70 million. The reporting gap could be explained by the fact that independent groups are not required to reveal how much they spend on Internet ads or field operations, including get-out-the-vote efforts.
We know that Trump attended the NRA’s annual meeting to lie about his support for their dangerous policies. And we know he received a large campaign donation from the organization along with support by way of letting supporters know that they should vote for this unfit man:
A supporter of restrictions on guns before he entered politics, Mr. Trump became a fierce champion of gun rights during his bid for the White House, earning early backing — and $30 million in campaign support — from the powerful lobbying group.
“Only one candidate in the general election came to speak to you, and that candidate is now the president of the United States, standing before you,” Mr. Trump said. “You came through for me, and I am going to come through for you.”
There it is for all to see.
This is simply corrupt and absolutely not OK. We need to keep our eyes and ears open.
The book, “Dark Money” reveals the extent to which this is happening in our democracy, if you can call it that given that money is buying elections and influencing important decisions on behalf of the American people. From the review of the book:
A careful exposé of the libertarian agenda, spearheaded by the Koch brothers, to “impose their minority views on the majority by other means.”
As people who read my blog know, I often talk about how the gun lobby represents a distinct minority of Americans and even gun owners. But their agenda is about money and influence which works against the majority. For decades that money and influence has bought us terrible policies that are dangerous to public health and safety. Such laws as “Stand Your Ground” and ” Constitutional Carry” allow people with guns to get away with murder and for people to openly carry guns in public places where most people do not want them. And if the agenda of passing “Concealed Carry Reciprocity” were to move forward and get the support of the Senate, just about anyone would be allowed to carry loaded guns wherever they go.
These are the wishes forced on us by the minority who have money. Money talks.
Left in the wake of all of this are the victims. But victims don’t talk. Sometimes they have a voice and survivors like former Representative Gabby Giffords, for example, speak as well as they can in demanding common sense in the halls of Congress and state legislatures.
Unfortunately for us, her voice and the voices of others like her are not loud enough compared to the voices of money. Many of our politicians are lapdogs for the gun lobby. I posted this Brady Campaign video in my last post as well. It is still relevant:
Woe unto us if we let the money continue to influence the safety and well being of the public. The bodies are piling up in front of our eyes.
What happened next was spelled out Wednesday in a criminal complaint that said Weiss, 25, of Rochester, who has a legal permit to carry a gun, shot the teenage driver of the other car at point-blank range when a confrontation flared.
The Olmsted County attorney charged Weiss, who says he acted in self-defense, with second-degree murder in the death of Muhammed Rahim, 17, the middle child of a family that fled Iraq six years ago. The charge is a felony that, with a conviction, carries a potential prison sentence of three to 40 years.
Weiss was arrested and jailed. He has since been released on bail.
Rahim’s passenger told police that he thought Weiss wanted to fight after the collision. He said he and Rahim threatened Weiss and that Rahim even dared Weiss to shoot him. There were no punches thrown, according to police, but Weiss said Rahim shoved him once in the chest.
Incidents like this should not lead to death. This was an accident, a misunderstanding, perhaps some strong words. But if one man had not had a gun, the other would be alive today. And claiming self defense may or may not work here. The victim was unarmed and only ( maybe) had words with the shooter. Is that enough to kill someone?
But Minnesota does not have a Stand Your Ground law. We have fought against it for many years in the face of fierce support by the corporate gun lobby’s influence on some of our state legislators. Would this man be able to get away with murder with no trial if a Stand Your Ground law was in place?
Sometimes even in states with Stand Your Ground laws, shooters have not gotten away with murder. The case of Jordan Davis, shot in Florida by a gun permit holder because of teens sitting in a car playing loud music, showed that murdering an unarmed person who simply annoyed someone isn’t an excuse.
We are better than this.
The confluence of the Russia investigation into their influence on our 2016 election, with the NRA is an interesting situation. If the findings come out showing that it was, indeed, true, we need to hold the NRA responsible for their actions and expose the truth about dark money and guns.
It’s important not to get carried away, if only because a scenario in which the Russian investigation ensnares the N.R.A., probably the most influential conservative group in the United States, seems a bit too much like Resistance fan fiction, too delicious to be true. Indeed, if it is true, it has devastating implications for the entire Republican Party, since many officeholders enjoy lavish financial support from the N.R.A. Still, an N.R.A. role in Russiagate would explain a few things, including why the N.R.A. has, in recent years, developed such a close relationship with Russia.
Follow the Money. People are dying. The gun industry profits. Gun laws are loosened. People unfit for office are elected with the help of the gun lobby. Our leaders are afraid to pass laws to save lives and protect us all from senseless gun violence.
The insatiable quest for profits for the gun industry, power and control of our democratic process may end in a very bad way. It would not be a surprise to most people who have come to understand that the NRA is not a gun rights group any more. It is an arm of the Republican party and is run by extremists.
I have written many times about Stand Your Ground laws. As more states are now passing these laws more people will be in danger of being shot and injured or killed senselessly. Not that any shooting makes much sense. This story from The Trace, highlights an example of the first “Stand Your Ground” case in Missouri after their new law passed:
Missouri was the first state to pass a “stand your ground” law since the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida brought notoriety to such legislation in 2013. Before taking that step, Missouri law followed the “castle doctrine,” which says that a person may shoot an intruder to his home, if perceiving the situation as life-threatening.
Schoeneberg, for his part, is worried about gun owners understanding that the new, more permissive “stand your ground” law still has limits. “I think that people think this is a license to do more than they’re really allowed,” he says.
This is the story of so many other similar cases. Can you shoot someone because of a cell phone robbery? If you can, should you? Can you shoot someone who is sitting drunk in the car in your garage? Should you? Can you shoot someone who has broken into your house and is taking a shower in your very own shower? Should you?
The answer is yes if you want to face the consequences. If someone else’s life is worth so little that you would take it over things like this we have a serious public health and safety problem and a problem with the morality of taking human lives. Some people think this is OK.
Some legislators in Minnesota are lapdogs for the gun lobby and will get a floor vote in the House on Stand Your Ground in the next few days. Why? Because rights…….Because ALEC…… Because the corporate gun lobby agenda…..
It’s that simple but it’s really that complicated.
Minnesota nice? Not so much. Because once you have the idea in your head that you can now shoot someone who you perceive to be a danger ( even if they really aren’t) you can shoot first and ask questions later.There is nothing about Stand Your Ground laws that are good for public safety and the health of our communities. In fact, the laws make our communities and families less safe.
But common sense about these things does not exist in the minds of those who have decided that laws like this are OK.
The gun extremists have been standing their ground as they push ludicrous and dangerous bills through our state legislatures and Congress. Consider permitless carry which did not make it far in the Minnesota House. From this article in The Trace:
The concept, rooted in constitutional originalism, assumes that the authors of the Second Amendment envisioned an unfettered right to wield a gun for personal defense. In this view, any limitation on an individual’s right to carry guns, however small, is unjust. Full stop. As such, passing constitutional-carry legislation is seen by proponents as a restoration, not an expansion, of gun freedoms.
As with the “campus carry” movement, the push for permitless carry has come from the grassroots more than from the National Rifle Association. While the nation’s largest gun lobby champions the latest bills in its press releases, local lobbyists who take the NRA’s absolutist rhetoric at face value find themselves chafing at its corporate model of working hand-in-glove with establishment politicians.
The resulting friction has fed into the upheaval taking place within gun politics (and American conservatism as a whole) since the rise of the Tea Party, which has left the NRA frequently following, rather than steering, the emboldened extremes of its coalition. Activists in several states told The Trace that the NRA — which did not respond to requests for comment for this story — has not helped their cause. In one state, they point to direct evidence that the NRA has undercut their proposals.
Hmmm. Even the NRA does not like these bills? It looks like Stand Your Ground is dead in the Minnesota legislature for this session. I wonder why? Many of us have sent post cards, sent emails and made phone calls. We have visited offices, held rallies against these dangerous bills, and held up signs outside of the House chambers. It is not a popular bill but again, pushed by extremists.
Then who are these extremists? They are in the minority when it comes to support for sensible gun laws. They are not members of your grandfather’s or even your father’s NRA. They are anti-Obama, anti government, anti immigration fanatics pushing for laws that they believe would allow them to protect themselves from zombies and “the other”. Scary stuff if you ask me. They are the “don’t tread on me” guys. They carry the Gadsden Flag for effect and as a symbol understood by other extremists. Take a look in case you don’t know about it:
A local gun owner and now former NRA member wrote this great piece the other day in my local paper. He understands common sense and extremism and he has chosen the former. From his opinion piece:
The measure was supported by the NRA and its favored legislators. For decades I was a member of the National Rifle Association and had its conspicuous round insignia on my cars and trucks. I was even enrolled into the “National Rifle Association of America Millennium Honor Roll.” It wasn’t that I thought the NRA and its members had some ill intent when I decided to discontinue my membership; it was because of the evermore unlikeable image of the NRA to many people. An organization that used to mostly represented hunters and sport shooters, and even wildlife conservation has become a spokesperson for the manufacturers and marketers of military-like assault weapons. If you want to see this trend, just go to a gun show and see all the black and camouflaged semi-automatics that are replacing the aesthetically appealing guns with contoured fine wooden stocks and elegant inlays and engraving. These new quasi-machine guns have all sorts of unusual configurations and often are collapsible to be more easily concealed. The guns displayed at shows more and more like those in news photos of confiscated gang weapons.
Another sad aspect with the NRA: after every major shooting tragedy, out comes its leader, Wayne LaPierre, to warn us that the Constitution will be in jeopardy if some sensible legislation to reduce gun violence is passed.
The NRA does not represent gun owners any more and they are beginning to wise up as more and more extreme bills are pushed in our legislatures and Congress.
And the writer sums up the culture of gun extremism nicely as he says:
The stated purpose of the permitless carry bill in St. Paul is public safety. But this will not be achieved by having even more gun carriers who won’t bother with gun-safety training or the permitting process or who may be mentally ill.
Statistics notwithstanding, even an occasional widely reported “accident” — such as the Target shopper wounded when another customer’s gun went off or the horror of the Walmart shopper whose child got the pistol out of her purse and killed himself — has even more of us deciding we would prefer not to have guns casually carried around by the firearms-inept. It also defies logic to pretend that evermore pervasive guns will reduce the incidence of bar and road-rage shootings and urban gunfights.
The proposed law in Minnesota would have other adverse effects: Even more of those annoying, black-and-white “guns not allowed” signs would crop up. More potential visitors might think Minnesota is returning to gunslinging Wild-West days. The perception could grow stronger that we gun owners aren’t satisfied to have our guns safely at home, out with us hunting, or at a safe shooting range. And it certainly would not enhance our image of “Minnesota Nice.”
( The political cartoon at the top accompanied this opinion piece and certainly does express the truth of the permitless carry bills).
How will we know “good guys” with guns from “bad guys” with guns if everyone is armed and no one has training or a permit. Further they can “stand their ground” and shoot someone without consequence. ( Or so they are led to believe).
The shooters made a terrible mistake and their mistaken ideas or perceptions turned deadly costing lives and sending them to prison. If you are prepared to go to prison over your deadly mistake, then by all means, carry a gun with no training or permit and stand your ground over perceived fear. Try to explain it to a jury and live with what you did.
For the right-winger who wants to feel tough on terrorism but soft on guns, this tension has long been difficult to resolve. It became a lot harder at the beginning of May, when ISIS openly praised the U.S.’ lack of gun control. In response, the NRA released a video trotting out a wild conspiracy theory, claiming that ISIS is praising lax gun laws in an effort to dupe gullible Americans into supporting gun control.
Ludicrous. Dangerous. Stupid. You can’t make this stuff up.
Kirkersville Police Chief Steven Eric DiSario died from a shotgun wound outside the nursing home. Nurse Marlina Medrano, who had previously sought protective orders against Hartless in connection with domestic violence cases, was shot multiple times with a handgun and a shotgun. Nurse’s aide Cindy Krantz was killed with a shotgun.
More than 60 guns. Domestic violence and protective orders. Police chief shot and killed and 2 others and then himself.
Extremism. Good guy with a gun?
And speaking of extremists, Donald Trump is actually considering appointing one of them (Sheriff David Clarke) to a high position in the Department of Homeland Security according to this article from The Trace:
Clarke’s resume as a public safety official is riddled with scandals and accusations of serious abuse. In May, a grand jury recommended that Clarke face criminal charges for his role in the death of a mentally ill inmate at the county jail after guards withheld water from the man for a week. In 2013, a woman falsely accused of drunken driving by one of Clarke’s deputies — the officer had crashed into her while watching a movie in his car — sued Clarke for civil rights violations. The outspoken sheriff, an avid Dallas Cowboys fan, also drew criticism after he had deputies detain a man who asked why he didn’t support Wisconsin’s own Green Bay Packers. After 15 years in office, he was headed toward a possible 2018 re-election campaign with two-thirds of local voters disapproving of his performance.
But as a right-wing firebrand, Clarke’s star has been steadily rising. He owes that in no small part to the National Rifle Association. Clarke, a regular Fox News contributor and public speaker, is part of a stable of public figures tapped by the NRA as the group has expanded its purview beyond gun rights and claimed for itself a role as a conservative vanguard that eagerly jumps into many of the nation’s most divisive cultural and ideological fights. (…)
Riding the NRA’s platform to national prominence, Clarke has used his turn in the spotlight to compare Black Lives Matter to ISIS (he called people protesting police shootings, “subhuman creeps”) and echo the NRA in dubiously linking immigration to violent crime. At a mid-October 2016 campaign rally, when Trump’s poll numbers were sinking, Clarke warned that the election would be rigged. “It’s pitchfork and torches times,” he said.
In the wake of Trump’s victory, reports emerged that Clarke had travelled to Russia and Israel in late 2015 with a delegation of gun-rights A-listers, including the former NRA president David Keene. In Russia, the group met with representatives of the much smaller Russian gun-rights community, including Dmitry Rogozin, a Russian deputy prime minister who supervises the defense industry and is under sanctions from the United States for his role in the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.
Clarke’s expenses for the trip, estimated at nearly $40,000, were paid for with funds from the NRA’s top tier of donors, the Ring of Freedom, and the Right to Bear Arms, a Russian gun-rights organization.
What are they thinking? If this is the kind of law enforcement officer running things in Milwaukee and then possibly at a national level, or public safety is in serious trouble. We don’t need these kinds of extremists getting away with running important institutions and departments anywhere.
It would be a travesty if Clarke is appointed and doesn’t need Senate confirmation. The Trump administration is in enough hot water over their failure to properly and thoroughly vet at least one high level official ( General Michael Flynn). This carelessness and obedience to power and money is absolutely not draining the swamp. It is overflowing what we already have and leading to cynicism and decision making based on power, control and money.
Who’s in charge? Where is common sense? What kind of communities do we want for our children and families?
If the Trump administration stands their ground about Clarke, we will know exactly why their is potential corruption and total lack of decorum and concern for our country’s security. Trump himself has potentially compromised our national security by allegedly giving classified information to the Russians. What could possibly go wrong with Sheriff Clarke in town?
It’s absolutely necessary that we have qualified, serious and ethical people running our country. Homeland security is serious business. Putting a gun extremist in a high level position is ludicrous. Is this a payback for support of the NRA? Just asking.
Our safety and democracy depend on it and we must demand that our safety comes first before adherence to the agenda of an extremist group.
The majority of gun owners and the majority of Americans don’t want extreme and dangerous gun bills.
It’s time to stand up and stand against extremism wherever it rears its’ head.
Join groups like Protect Minnesota, working to end gun violence in my state. And the Brady Campaign, a chapter of which I lead in Minnesota and sit on the national board. The Brady Center’s new Disarm Hate and Arm People with Facts crowdrise campaign. The facts are that guns in homes and on our streets are causing risk to our families and communities. This crowdrise campaign is in part in memory of the 49 people shot and killed at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando last June 11th. As we approach the first anniversary of that shooting, it’s important to remember how easily one hateful extremist could snuff out so many lives.
I remember the day well. August 26th of last year. I remember it because this particular shooting reminded me so viscerally of my own sister’s shooting. I cried when I began hearing the news and know that many other of my friends who have lost loved ones to a shooting felt the same way. Yet one more family had just joined us in the club we didn’t want to belong to in the first place. But Alison and Adams’ deaths happening live on TV was too close to thinking about how it must have been for our own loved ones. We grieved for the friends and relatives of Alison and Adam while we grieved for our own sister, brother, father, mother, daughter, son, niece, nephew, uncle or aunt.
Over the past year, I have met Alison’s parents, Barbara and Andy Parker on several occasions. I have also met and spoken with Chris Hurst, Alison’s fiancé at the time of the shooting. They are all fine and gentle people who have been brave enough to step forward, soon after Alison’s shooting to call for strengthening our gun laws. The pain in their faces is always behind their smiles as they speak of the lovely Alison and her aspiring career as a journalist. Their commitment to gun safety reform is also passionate and fierce.
Overton said the gunman was “disturbed in some way.” Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, speaking on WTOP, described Flanagan as a “disgruntled” employee. Jeff Marks, WDBJ’s general manager, said during a live broadcast on the station that Flanagan “was sort of looking out for people to say something he could take offense to.”
Marks said Flanagan was fired after “many incidents of his anger coming to the fore.”
“He did not take that well,” he said.
Why is it so easy? Because our America gun culture has evolved, along with the laws that allow just about anyone to buy a gun, to the point where we do very little to screen out those who should not be able to buy a gun. Because the corporate gun lobby has managed to get their friends in Congress to do their bidding, we have come to assume that anyone can be responsible with a deadly weapon. Because owning a gun is a right in America, we have come to assume that means that right can’t be denied to anyone. Because we have come to think we can’t deny a right to a deadly weapon to anyone, we let anyone get a gun easily.
This video from Real Sports shows how easy it is for a 13 year old to walk into a gun show and legally buy a gun from a private seller with no background check to show that he is not old enough to buy or own that gun. This is ludicrous, dangerous and absolutely why we need to stop the private seller loopholes in our gun laws. You can see it for yourself here:
And we are letting this happen. And we look the other way when people who are considered to be “law abiding” gun owners flip out or get angry over a grudge and shoot someone. The gun lobby says that every case like this is just an anomaly. They claim that only criminals with guns shoot people.
Tragically, a record number of Americans subscribe to some version of this mythology, with 63 percent (67 percent of men polled and 58 percent of women) believing that guns truly do make them safer. The public’s confidence in firearms, however, is woefully misguided: The evidence overwhelmingly shows that guns leave everybody less safe, including their owners.
A study from October 2013 analyzed data from 27 developed nations to examine the impact of firearm prevalence on the mortality rate. It found an extremely strong direct relationship between the number of firearms and firearm deaths. The paper concludes: “The current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis that guns make a nation safer.” This finding is bolstered by several previous studies that have revealed a significant link between gun ownership and firearm-related deaths. This international comparison is especially harrowing for women and children, who die from gun violence in America at far higher rates than in other countries.
If only Alison and Adam had been armed……
Where is common sense?
Work place shootings happen far too often in our country. There is a long list of them, at least one of which occurred in my own state of Minnesota when an angry employee showed up at Accent Signage and shot and killed 6 people and left 3 others injured. I also know the Rahamim family and have seen the pain of their grief over the years since that shooting. The anniversary of that shooting is coming on September 27th and I know that that day is so difficult for all of them.
One of the most significant findings was the three-way association between individuals who owned multiple guns, carried a gun outside of the home and expressed a pattern of angry, impulsive behavior. Study participants who owned six or more guns were found to be four times more likely to carry guns outside of the home and to be in the high-risk anger group than participants who owned one firearm.
Participants who were considered to have a high risk for impulsive anger responded affirmatively to some or all of the following questions: “I have tantrums or angry outbursts;” “Sometimes I get so angry I break or smash things;” and “I lose my temper and get into physical fights.”
Every day, on average, 90 Americans die from gunshot injuries, including suicide. The Gun Violence Archive keeps tracks of these shootings. Thank goodness someone is doing this because the denial from the gun lobby that these shootings happen in such high numbers often goes without fact checking. The chart on the site shows an up-to-date accounting of gun deaths, including suicides where that information is possible to gather. You can click on the graph and see where the shootings have happened and more about each incident.
The thing is, these are real people with real families who are grieving for their loved ones every day and reminded of that person on anniversaries, holidays, and special family occasions.
Only in America do we mark anniversaries of mass shootings and very high profile public shootings like that of Alison Parker and Adam Ward. They have become synonymous with an American gun culture that has evolved over time with deadly consequences. We don’t have to shrug our shoulders and say nothing can be done because….rights. We know that we can not only change our gun laws, but we are changing the conversation and we can change the culture. Most gun owners are with us and agree with our proposals.
As with other public health and safety campaigns, if we change the conversation and the culture, we can save lives by also changing the laws. That is how we got laws requiring seat belts, air bags and other safety features in cars. The result? Reduced deaths and injuries.It is also how we got a massive change in the way we treat tobacco. It’s not OK any more for smokers to smoke inside where non-smokers come to be at risk for health problems.
And it’s not OK for the shootings that take the lives of our loved ones and leave us marking shooting anniversaries to continue without addressing how we can change things to reduce the violence- the deaths- the injuries- the emotional and psychological trauma- the physical after affects of survivors- the cost to our country in the billions- and the pain and the grief.
And while so many are marking anniversaries of shootings, Congress is taking a break from its’ job in the longest recess ever. Why? Good question. But we are not letting them get away with it. Two weeks ago there was a #DisarmHate rally in DC to mark the 2 month anniversary of the Orlando nightclub shooting that took the lives of 49 Americans. And today is the Day of Unity Rally in DC where rally participants will gather at NRA lobbying headquarters in DC to protest that organizations resistance to strong life saving gun laws. We have had activities all over the country to remind Congress members that we expect them to do their jobs and pass life saving measures to keep us safe from the gun violence that is devastating far too many families and communities. While Congress is away, almost 4000 Americans will die from gunshot injuries.
We have had #Enough.
Let’s get to work. Join me and the many people (many of whom are victims and survivors) working on gun safety reform.
In the last few weeks, we have had far too many instances of active shooters and shootings taking the lives of many. I guess some folks only consider active shootings to be mass shootings. In my previous blog post, I suggested that every shooting is an active shooter incident since by their very nature, they involve the action of someone with a lethal weapon that shoots bullets from a gun, often at another human being.
So the post of the gun incident on the Facebook page of concern was one where a man went outside of his house, shot 2 shots from his gun into the ground and then went back inside. Of course, there was a report of shots fired. No one was sure what happened. Was it inside of the home? What was it about? Was anyone at risk? Who knew? Every day in America people are shot inside and outside of their homes. And hearing gunshots has become the new normal but also a reason for people who hear them to fear the worst.
In the end, the man was found asleep and drunk during the morning hours after the gun discharge and was charged with a domestic disturbance. A 7 week old baby was inside.
Whether or not the gun rights advocates object to the idea that shootings are active events is no matter really. The shooting incident n the small town of Elko in Minnesota could easily have ended in injury or death. When a gun is available in domestic situations, when someone has been drinking, when someone is angry, when someone wants to “solve a problem”, it often ends badly.
But some of the commenters on the Protect Minnesota Facebook page thought it was just another small town incident that should be ignored. Really? Should we ignore a drunk person who could have just as easily have injured or killed family members with that gun? Then what would we have called the incident?
Shootings are not passive. They are active.There is action when a bullet is activated by the gun trigger. The trigger pulled by someone who is actively pulling it causes the action of the bullet rapidly moving through the gun barrel in order to find its’ target.
I suggest that if someone does not like the idea of active shootings referring to all shooting incidents, they ought to consider, as many of them say, that guns don’t kill people. People kill people. They sure do. People with guns have taken action far too many times to kill others.
A little common sense, or a lot for that matter, will go a long way to making sure people aren’t being shot on a daily basis. There are no excuses for anyone shooting off a gun recklessly.
When I read some of the ugly comments made by some of the commenters it was pretty clear that they wanted to shout out their views and they were angry. Many were deleted by the page administrators for good reason. Who needs that kind of attack? That hatred? That kind of language? That anger? The untruths expressed with no facts to back them up? The attempt to take over the discussion as is often the case on blogs, Facebook pages and articles about gun violence prevention is common. And it is almost always ugly and offensive.
This is no way to stop the shootings. It only adds to the divisiveness of any reasonable discussion about how to save lives and prevent shootings.
Comments and discussion are one thing if they are meant to openly discuss differences and come to solutions to our national gun violence epidemic. We are not just talking about a small problem here. We are talking about 90 Americans a day dying from gunshot injuries. We are talking about young black men being killed by officers and by other young black men. We are talking about police officers being killed by black men, white men, inmates and others. We are talking about domestic disputes that often end in death. We are talking about the thousands of people who take their own lives with guns every year. We are talking about our toddlers and children shooting others or themselves. We are talking about intolerant and angry young men shooting gay people, young children, theater goers and college students and shoppers with guns, often easily obtained. We are talking about people on known terror watch lists being able to access guns without our being able to stop them. We are talking about felons, domestic abusers, those who are dangerously mentally ill, fugitives and others who can buy guns every day with no background checks. We are talking about what should be peaceful protests over shootings turning violent themselves. We are talking about our police officers being outgunned on the streets and fearing for their own lives. We are talking about the fact that officers understand that almost anyone they encounter could be armed. We are talking about the fact that too many people have armed themselves out of fear of the government and/or law enforcement. We are talking about fear and paranoia and mistrust of others. We are talking about open carriers walking around during the Dallas protest with assault rifles over the shoulders confusing police when the shooting began.
Who are the good guys with guns any more?
We have a serious problem. That is what comments should be about. How can we solve this problem together?
And speaking of action, there has been little of it in Congress regarding gun violence. Action is needed and needed immediately.
We are better than this. Americans are nearing a tipping point and becoming more and more impatient with the leaders at the state and federal level who could do something about our national crisis of active shootings but instead have become passive out of fear of the corporate gun lobby.
The last few days have been difficult and heart-breaking to say the least. In my home state of Minnesota of course, a black man was shot to death by a police officer after being stopped for allegedly having a broken tail light. Really? So much to say here that I can hardly say it all. The victim had a legal permit to carry a gun around. He announced that he had that permit. Why? He didn’t have to according to Minnesota law. But he was a black man with a gun. Perhaps he was afraid that if he was found with a gun on his person, things would get hairy for him. He was right.
Would he have been alive had he not had that permit to carry and announced that he did to the officer? We don’t know. I’m just thinking out loud.
Four guys with assault style weapons and high capacity magazines were like snipers gunning down officers on purpose- armed officers.
We know that it is easy to get assault rifles and high capacity magazines in America- far too easy. We have made it easy. We allowed the Assault Weapons Ban to expire. What has happened since? Numerous shootings of innocent school children, movie goers, military members, officers, LGBTQ citizens, and others. That’s what our lack of common sense has done.
And, as a reminder to my readers, most of these guns were legally obtained by otherwise “law abiding” gun owners.
Good guys with guns are as bad as bad guys with guns.
The least we can do is to keep guns away from the “bad guys”. But what do we do about the good guys?
Only in America. It’s about the guns. It’s about a gun culture and a culture of fear and hatred that, when combined, leads to tragic shootings and senseless loss of lives. From this editorial in the Baltimore Sun:
We are in the deep end, my fellow Americans, drowning in anger and frustration, guns and violence. I don’t know about you, but when I woke up this morning and read the news from Dallas, I felt like the country had tipped toward anarchy.
The U.S. is an exceptional country, all right. Exceptional for its political, social and racial polarization. Exceptional in its acceptance of gun ownership.
You can feel despondent. You can feel hopeless.
I am despondent but not feeling hopeless. As someone who has lost a sister in a domestic shooting, I have been re-traumatized by these latest shootings. I watched the now viral video taken by the girlfriend of Philando Castile. I watched the blood ooze from his shirt. I heard his dying moans and breaths. What if there was a video of my sister’s last moans and breaths? What if?
And who will protect the children as I asked in my last post? There was a 4 year old girl in the back seat of Philando Castile’s car who saw him shot and watched him die. How can we forget the children who witness such awful murder in their young lives?
“We’re not going to rush it,” the Wisconsin Republican said at a news conference. “We’re going to get it right. And that’s what we’re working on with our members.”
No rush. Every day 90 Americans die from gunshot injuries.
No rush. 5 officers were just gunned down in Dallas.
No rush. 49 LGBTQ Americans were just gunned down at a nightclub in Orlando.
No rush, Speaker Ryan.
Before the Dallas shootings but after the Minnesota shooting, the words of Protect Minnesota’s Executive Director Rev. Nancy Nord Bence, were sent out to supporters. She was urging us to look at the Philando Castile shooting from many perspectives. But in the end, it’s all about the guns. Here is the email sent out last night titled “Thoughts on the death of Philando Castile:
July 7, 2016
Posted by Rev. Nancy Nord Bence, Executive Director
“Another terrible tragedy occurred last night, this time in our own backyard, when Philando Castile was shot dead by a police officer in Falcon Heights. Philando was a much loved 32-year-old cafeteria supervisor at a St. Paul Montessori school who was black. According to police reports, he was pulled over for a tail light violation and a handgun was “recovered at the scene.” According to his girlfriend, the officer shot Philando as he reached for his identification as per the officer’s request. Philando was armed, but had clearly announced that he had a permit to carry a handgun. His girlfriend, sitting next to him in the car with her young child in the backseat, streamed a video of Philando as he slumped over, bleeding, having been shot four times point blank. The video allows us to hear the officer yell at her and then handcuff and detain her, while she narrates, weeps and prays that Philando will survive. It is difficult to watch.
Because this awful incident involved gun violence, Protect Minnesota is expected to make a definitive statement and “take sides” on the issue. At this time, with so much still unknown, I am not prepared to do either. But I do have some thoughts to share. What follows isn’t short and pithy–I’m a pastor after all!– but I hope you’ll find it helpful.
1. On Racism
This was the second questionable shooting of a black man by police in the U.S. in as many days. According to the Washington Post, there have been 509 police killings in America so far this year, with African Americans being killed at a rate 2-1/2 times greater than whites. President Obama today said that African Americans are 30% more likely than whites to be pulled over and three times more likely to be searched by the police. Whatever other particulars arise, racism cannot be discounted as a key element of this tragedy. Often-hidden but always present, racism is like a strand of barbed wire woven into the fabric of our society. Its barbs catch, tear and hold back every institution, organization and individual as we strive to move forward towards justice. Since it would be naive to think that law enforcement does not reflect the racist attitudes that permeate our culture, this incident cries out for a full investigation by the Department of Justice. But nothing is black and white: according to Philando’s girlfriend in the video, the officer was Asian American. It’s safe to assume that he also experiences racial discrimination on a regular basis. At this time we cannot know how that factors into the equation.
2. On Police
There are approximately 1 million working police officers and law enforcement professionals in the United States, the vast majority of whom honorably serve and protect their communities. The risks they face have increased in recent years due to the ubiquity of firearms. More guns are being carried around in public now than at any time in our history, including during frontier times and the days of the “wild west”. Police officers now have to assume that anyone they detain may be carrying a gun and present a threat to their life. And the threat is real. According the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, shooting deaths of members of the U.S. law-enforcement community have increased significantly in recent years. For the first time in 2014, shootings comprised the leading cause of death for law enforcement personnel on the job, with ambush-style shooting attacks increasing the most. According to a 2010 press release issued by the San Mateo County, California, Sheriff’s Office,
“the law enforcement response is one of ‘hypervigilant urgency’… Should the gun carrying person fail to comply with a law enforcement instruction or move in a way that could be construed as threatening, the police are forced to respond in kind for their own protection. It’s well and good in hindsight to say the gun carrier was simply “exercising their rights” but the result could be deadly.”
That is a perfect description of what appears to have happened last night. Philando Castile was exercising his right to carry a firearm in Minnesota with a legal permit. He was totally within his rights and fully complying with both the law and the officer’s instructions when he was shot. The officer seems to have reacted with lethal “hypervigilant urgency” when he heard Philando announce that he had a permit to carry. Sadly, this is not unusual in the circumstance. According to gun violence expert David Hemenway in his book Private Guns, Public Health,
“Police officers, who receive large amounts of training, are still often inadequately prepared to handle ambiguous but potentially dangerous situations. Intense stress, confusion and fear are inherent in most possible shooting situations. Heart rates skyrocket, and it’s difficult to think clearly and to act deliberately. Not surprisingly, even police make serious mistakes.”
So even as we demand justice for the killing of Philando Castile, we can have compassion for the frightened officer who shot him.
3. On the NRA and the gun lobby.
In its continuing efforts to arm America in order to generate more profits for the gun industry, the gun lobby has done much to perpetuate two distructive myths that I believe may have played a role in Philando Castile’s tragic death.
Myth number 1: Gun violence is really just a “black on black” violence problem.
The NRA loves to quote statistics about how many black people kill other black people. Why? Because it feeds the fear that blacks are dangerous so we must carry guns to protect ourselves against them. In reality, according to FBI’s most recent statistics, 84% of white murder victims are killed by white people, compared to 90% of black murder victims who are killed by black people. Whites are six times more likely to be murdered by another white person as by a black person. And here’s the kicker: 82% of gun deaths in Minnesota are suicides, an overwhelmingly white phenomenon. Unfortunately, we never hear about the epidemic of “white on white” gun violence, but the “black on black” myth has been swallowed whole by the media. The image of the scary black man with a gun has become a psychological meme in white America–and the gun lobby seems to be fine with that. How do I know? Listen to their deafening silence in response to Philando’s shooting. A permit-holding, law abiding American who was exercising his 2nd Amendment right was shot point blank by a police officer for no other reason than stating that he had a permit to carry. Where is the NRA’s outrage? Have they joined the Black Lives Matter protesters outside the Governor’s mansion?
Myth number 2: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
We hear the NRA trumpet that after every terrible shooting. Well, this time it was a “good guy” with a gun who did the terrible shooting. If a licensed police officer who has completed many hours of firearms training and testing on justified and unjustified shootings could over-react to such deadly effect, how can we expect untrained “amateurs” to respond with measured self-control when faced with a real or imagined threat? This is the aspect of Philando Castile’s death that falls within the missional scope of Protect Minnesota. Our task is to counter the myth that more guns equal more safety. They don’t. More guns equal more gun tragedies. More gun crimes. More mass shootings. More domestic gun murders. More black on black gun violence. More white on white gun violence. More gun suicides. More unintentional gun deaths of children. And yes, more police shootings. The common denominator is the gun.
We at Protect Minnesota join President Obama, Governor Dayton and the larger gun violence prevention community in expressing our deepest condolences to the family of Philando Castile. We grieve at the senseless loss of a good man who was loved by the children at the school where he worked. We weep at the thought of the trauma that his girlfriend and her young child have experienced and will relive every time the video is played. Our prayers are with all people of color in our community who have been wounded by yet another apparently unjustified shooting of a black man by law enforcement. Our hearts are open as well for the dedicated and honorable police officers throughout our state and nation who will now face greater suspicion and increased risks.
There is no easy, definitive statement to make except this: In the wake of this tragedy, we will continue to do our job. We will counter the false claims of the gun lobby. We will build a statewide network of people and organizations who support sensible gun legislation. We will speak out against and work to prevent gun violence in Minnesota. I invite you to join us.”
The false claims of the gun lobby have us in this position. How do officers deal with armed citizens? Often they are outgunned by people on the streets. How do communities deal with more heavily armed young men in their communities? How do the young men in affected communities get their guns so easily and why do they feel like they need them? Why are officers so quick to stop people of color for minor traffic violations? Why are officers more afraid of black people with guns than white people with guns?
“Would this have happened if … the driver and passenger were white?” he asked. “I don’t think it would’ve. So I’m forced to confront and I think all of us in Minnesota are forced to confront that this kind of racism exists.”
“Let me just say, even as yesterday I spoke about our need to be concerned, as all Americans, about racial discrimination in our criminal justice system. I also said our police have an extremely difficult job and the vast majority do their job in outstanding fashion,” he continued. “We also know when people are armed with powerful weapons, unfortunately it makes attacks like these more deadly and more tragic. And in the days ahead we are going to have to consider those realities as well.”
This is about racism. This is about intolerance. This is about fear. And this is, at the least, about guns.
We now know that there was a single gunman in Dallas. He had served in the military. He had lots of guns. He claimed he wanted to shoot white people ( he was black). One lone man with extreme and out of the mainstream ideas( and a loner according to neighbors) could do this much damage because he could buy an assault style rifle with many rounds of high capacity magazines. He knew what he was doing. He knew he could inflict a lot of damage on a lot of people. From the article above:
Micah Xavier Johnson didn’t have a criminal record and apparently acted alone in the carefully planned ambush during a march downtown, a law enforcement official, who was not authorized to comment publicly, told USA TODAY earlier Friday. Seven other officers and two civilians were also wounded.
In a statement Friday afternoon, Dallas police confirmed the identity of the gunman and said he was described as a loner by some who knew him. Detectives were in the process of analyzing the information in the journal, the statement said. (…)
Johnson’s Facebook account included the names Fahed Hassen and Richard GRIFFIN or Professor Griff, the Dallas Police Department said in the statement. GRIFFIN, who embraces a “radical form of Afrocentrism,” police said, also authored a book titled A Warrior’s Tapestry.
Extremism of any kind and guns and ammunition are a lethal mix. We have proof of that over and over again. But we are still waiting to act.
There are so many articles and incidents every day that I really don’t know where to begin most of the time when deciding on a topic for a post. So today I am going to just write about odds and ends. Because the American gun issue is so complicated and full of controversies and oddities, it seems appropriate to write about the oddities and then also about the ends that can help change the oddities in our gun laws and our unique gun culture.
Police in Norway fired their guns only twice last year – and no one was hurt – new statistics which reveal the country’s low level of gun use have shown.
Norwegian officers drew their weapons just 42 times in 2014, the lowest number of times in the last 12 years. Only two people were killed in police shootings in the same period.
The majority of Norway’s police, like forces in Britain, Ireland and Iceland, patrol unarmed and carry guns only under special circumstances.
In the US, where officers are armed at all times, 547 people have been killed by police during the first six months of 2015 alone, 503 of them by gunshot.
Why isn’t this proof that more guns have not made us safer? It is, of course but the gun lobby can’t deal with this truth. No other country has the insane culture of that of the U.S., thank goodness. And more, about officers themselves being shot:
US police are faced with greater day-to-day violence than most developed countries. In 2013, 30 officers were fatally shot while on duty.
The last time a British officer was killed by gunshot was in 2012 when two female police constables were shot in Manchester.
Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said in a statement at the time, “Sadly we know from the experience in America and other countries that having armed officers certainly does not mean, sadly, that police officers do not end up getting shot.”
So there’s that oddity. But the post hasn’t ended. Now I want to talk about “good guys” with guns in my neck of the woods. The following article is a caution to anyone who wants to mow their lawn too early in the morning:
A 57-year-old Ely man was charged July 6 in State District Court in Virginia after admitting to police that he pointed a shotgun at another man mowing a lawn.
James Brobin was arrested July 2 in Ely after a victim and another witness said Brobin raised a shotgun at the man mowing grass on the corner of Central Avenue and East Harvey Street in Ely. (…)
Jason Carlson told Ely police that Brobin came within approximately 20 yards of Carlson and raised the gun for approximately 20 seconds. Carlson and his brother began cutting grass at a residence at approximately 7 a.m.
After he lowered the gun, said the complaint, Brobin “made a slashing motion across his neck with his right hand.” He then walked back across the street and into his home at 13 West Harvey St., said the complaint.
A Minnesota man ambushed his 17-year-old neighbor, shooting her three times, hours after she asked him to not ride his lawn mower through her yard, prosecutors say.
Chad Pickering, 40, told investigators the teen was “a bitch” who “threatened him” Monday afternoon, before he “went over to (her house) and knelt down by a pine tree … and ‘I waited, and I waited and I waited,’” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported.
Apparently lawn mowing can cause enough anger to armed “good guys” with guns that they actually believe they can shoot someone over that anger.
Under the category of “you just can’t make this stuff up” here, now, is a machine gun lawn mower.Let’s take a look:
Eric Johnston is a retired firefighter and police officer from Arizona currently residing in the Texas Hills region. Johnston decries paranoia, saying “We are not far-wing, ‘Oh God, arm ourselves, get in camouflage, block the streets. We’re doing more of a neighborhood watch kind of thing. We are going to find a central location and set up an area and just cruise the streets, drive up and down the highway through Bastrop…most of us are legal concealed-carry folks, but we’re not going to be running up and down the street with automatic rifles.” This mentality ascends all the way to the governor’s office – as Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered the Texas State Guard to monitor Jade Helm 15 back in April.
Can we think about the “mentality” of even the Governor of Texas?
The woman, 38, was camping with her boyfriend in Box Elder Canyon of the Stansbury Mountains west of Grantsville when the boyfriend tried to instruct her in firearms use, said Tooele County sheriff’s Lt. Ron Johnson. The woman first tried shooting a BB gun and then moved to a .22-caliber rifle, Johnson said.
“He handed it to her, and she placed it between her legs,” Johnson said. “When she went to stand, she grabbed it around the trigger guard. It discharged into her chin and exited through the bridge of her nose.”
Oops. Clearly we are not safer when there are more guns around. There are way too many irresponsible people handling guns out there. I would say the other campers are lucky that bullet didn’t end anywhere else. If this man was teaching his girlfriend gun safety one has to wonder how responsible he is himself as a gun owner. And we all know that alcohol and guns just don’t mix. Unfortunately this is not an oddity. It’s a normal, almost every day occurrence in our country.
Investigators said about a dozen teens were able to cut through a chain at the east gate of the Central Florida Fairgrounds and make their way into the Orlando Gun Show expo building, smashing through a window with a brick. They walked out with 26 guns.
Oops. Only in America do we have the odd problem practice of thousands of guns being exhibited at large gun shows. Stolen guns end up as crime guns. Obviously this is another one of those things we need to work on to improve gun safety and improve the overall safety of our communities. To that end, I suggest we put our heads together to figure out how to keep guns from being stolen from gun shows, gun shops, homes, cars,etc. When we are awash with guns, this is a serious problem.
Aside from these inanities about people with guns, “accidental” shootings, lawn mowers, Jade Helm, stolen guns and others, let’s look at a real tragedy that could have possibly been averted if we had stronger gun laws. The Charleston shooter should not have been able to get his gun legally from a federally licensed firearms dealer. But here is how he could have been stopped from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence:
State Reporting Improvements: Many states fail to report essential information like criminal history, mental health status, domestic violence records, and, especially important in the Charleston case, illicitdrug abuse records to the agencies that perform background checks. Increasing NICS funding and changing federal law to require states to report relevant records to the NICS system will close this dangerous gap in the background checks system.
Universal Background Checks: The best way to save lives from gun violence is require background checks on all private sales, including online and at gun shows. South Carolina has abysmal gun laws (we gave them an F on our 2014 Gun Law State Scorecard), and had the Charleston shooter failed his background check at the gun shop (as he should have), he still would have easily been able to purchase a gun through a private sale, where no background check is required. Eighteen states currently have some form of private sale background checks, but until we pass this smart gun law everywhere, we cannot act surprised when dangerous criminals get their hands on deadly weapons so easily.
“Dylann Roof’s arrest on a drug charge, combined with his admission of prior drug use, should have prevented him from buying a gun, and it’s a tragedy that is not what happened. This news underscores the urgency of the message that Charleston families and the Brady Campaign took to Capitol Hill this week: Congress must vote now on H.R. 1217.
Yes. We can actually do something about the oddities and the insanity of our gun culture.
Mr. Comey’s revelation should, first, inspire a lot of soul-searching among federal law enforcement. They aren’t responsible for Mr. Roof’s virulent racism, but they failed in the narrow area of responsibility that the nation entrusted to them. Congress has stifled the study of gun violence and theenforcement of gun laws in the past. But this appears to be a the fault of a poorly operating database.
Mr. Comey’s admission should also drive home what should be an obvious point: A tightened, functional background-check system and other simple measures would erect real and practical barriers to people attempting to buy guns for nefarious purposes. If the system had worked correctly in this case, Mr. Roof would have been turned away at the gun store counter. If Congress had tightened up the system’s rules years ago, he would have had a harder time looking elsewhere, such as at gun shows. If federal and state lawmakers weren’t so in thrall to the pro-gun fringe, friends, family members and other potential sources would have faced clear and high penalties for giving Mr. Roof a weapon without taking him to a gun store to get checked out first.
It’s entirely appropriate to talk about imposing basic gun laws in the wake of any mass shooting. All of them underline the fact that guns are shockingly efficient killing machines that no responsible government would ignore. Even if better gun laws wouldn’t prevent every rampage or end street crime, they would certainly cut down on gun deaths from all sorts of causes by making it tougher to obtain and use firearms illegally. (…) But in the case of Mr. Roof, gun activists now can’t easily fall back on the argument that better gun laws couldn’t have helped. Maybe Mr. Roof would have been so determined to start a race war that he would have eventually found a gun. Maybe not. What’s clear is that it didn’t have to be so simple for him. The country should have tried harder to stop him — and should be trying harder to stop the other Dylann Roofs still out there. That means law enforcement can’t be asleep at the switch. And it means that Congress should finally pass more common-sense gun limits that would make it harder to skirt the system.
9 Black men and women are dead. Our background check system has a serious flaw. People who shouldn’t get guns get them anyway. Congress does nothing. People continue to die. And we have a broken system of gun laws fostered by the corporate gun lobby and our own elected leaders. This is not only insane but totally unacceptable and should be at odds with our American values. We just have to be better than this.
“We are shocked and saddened by today’s acts of domestic terrorism at a Navy Reserve center and a military recruitment center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. As information continues to unfold, our thoughts are with the victims who are reportedly members of the military and law enforcement, as well as their families and the Chattanooga community.”
“We do not yet know how the shooter obtained his firearm. As the details continue to unfold in Tennessee, it is already clear that this is another reminder of the work that needs to be done to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. We owe it to the men and women at our military installations, in our communities, and to the 89 people killed every day by guns to take action now.”
Cherrydale is the latest in a series of suburban areas that have tried to prevent firearms proprietors from coming to town. These efforts generally fail, mainly because of state laws. The mayor of Evanston, Illinois, recently tried to impose a ban on gun ranges in the Chicago suburb, but when it became clear that the measure wouldn’t withstand a legal challenge, the town adopted regulations this month that pushed ranges to the outskirts of town. Pleasant Hill, California, in San Francisco’s East Bay, tried to adopt a similar statute in 2013, and was sued by the National Shooting Sports Foundation, an industry trade group. The lawsuit is ongoing.
“Part of the strategy of gun-rights advocates is to normalize guns,” says Adam Winkler, a lawyer and the author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms. “Having gun stores in every community makes them less odd” to non-gun-owners, Winkler says.
“Less odd.” Hardly. It’s just not normal to have guns everywhere and gun stores in places where people don’t want them. This is the bullying of America by the corporate gun lobby and gun extremists. It’s not about the second amendment any more.
The Arizona Republic reports that Jon Ritzheimer organized the Sunday afternoon protest of Walmart’s decision. Ritzheimer is a former Marine who staged a contentious rally outside a Phoenix mosque in May.
His group of self-proclaimed “patriots,” some of them armed, waved the rebel flag alongside the American one while chanting “U-S-A.”
Are these true patriots? Do we want these folks to be carrying guns around in public? Are they good guys with guns? And didn’t we just go through a national tragedy when 9 black Americans were shot and killed by a Confederate flag waver in Charleston, South Carolina? And isn’t the South Carolina legislature about to vote to take the Confederate flag down from the South Carolina state house?
At least Walmart and other businesses are showing some common sense when it comes to the aftermath of the Charleston shooting. A community is still grieving and family members are mourning the loss of loved ones. A young man who proudly exhibited photos of himself with the Confederate flag shot and killed 9 innocent black people in a Charleston church.
The guys in the article I linked to above represent a group of Americans who are in the minority but who should concern us all. Their views of the country do not reflect the majority but they get a lot of attention. And the worst of it is, sometimes these are the guys who commit heinous acts of violence because of their extremist views. They are ready for battle a confrontation. Why? Rights? Bullies? Ideology? Hatred? Insurrectionist ideas? The guys with the guns get to make the rules according to Mr. Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association:
So what are the rules according to these folks? Loaded guns in public places intimidate and frighten the average person, not make them more comfortable around guns. Is that part of the game? Who wins and who loses in this stupid and dangerous game?
However, the fact remains that the Confederate battle flag has long since become the pre-eminent symbol of the Confederacy and what it stood for, and across the span of several decades it has been co-opted by segregationist and white supremacist groups such as the Dixiecrats, the KKK, and the Aryan Nation. Certainly one can be a racist or a white supremacist without associating himself with “Southern Pride” or a Confederate battle flag, but for better or worse, no one group is any more “authorized” to use the Confederate battle flag as their symbol than another: the Confederate government and its military forces ceased to exist 150 years ago and therefore have no say or control over the usage of the Southern Cross.
The Sons of Confederate Veterans may sincerely object to the Confederate battle flag’s use by Neo-Nazis, skinheads, and other extremist groups, and perhaps some of the men who fought and died for the Confederacy would as well if they were alive today. But just as with the swastika, it’s likely to be a very, very long time before that symbol can be reclaimed and regarded in anything approaching a neutral manner, and probably not until the social issues underlying the public perception of that symbol have been more thoroughly canvassed.
The problem with this flag is those who are flaunting it are trying to make a point. And it’s not a point for the winning team.
Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign has called for the flag to come down but Gross also calls for the conversation about what happened in Charleston a few weeks ago to include keeping guns away from people who should not have them in the first place. The gun lobby would like that part of the conversation to go away. It’s not a winner for them to talk about gun extremists killing people in crimes of hatred and racism. It’s not a winner when kids shoot themselves or others in “accidental” gun discharges. It’s not a winner when young white men shoot small children in schools, in shopping malls, in colleges, in churches or other places of worship, or in movie theaters. It’s not a winner when “good guys” with guns shoot their partners/spouses in crimes of passion. It’s not a winner when “good guys” with guns shoot themselves in large numbers. There are no winners.
What does this actually mean? Some gun activists who read my blog use the term molon labe. The message is that if you try to do anything with reasonable gun laws, we will fight you and the government and we will challenge anyone who tries to “come and take” guns away. Or else. Or else what? These seem to be small groups of people who organize around the idea that the government is out to take their guns and they make their point by walking around with openly carried loaded guns and flags. It’s the Texas Open Carry or Open Carry Tarrant County groups and others like them in other states. They like to think of themselves as patriots but patriots don’t intend to arm themselves to fight against their own country. The Civil War ended in 1865.
Some members of the NRA Board of Directors have made uncivil, offensive and insurrectionist statements. Check them out here. Ted Nugent, of course, is the most famous of the NRA Board members whose comments continue to get attention. Threatening to gun down a U.S. Senator is his latest outrageous and threatening comment. But he keeps getting elected to the Board so the membership must accept what he is saying since they don’t disavow him.
Gun Owners of America’s Larry Pratt, who said earlier this year that “the Second Amendment was designed for people just like” President Obama and his fellow Democrats, repeated the sentiment yesterday, saying that the only thing currently saving America is that President Obama knows that “if he goes too far” he’ll face an armed revolt.
Back to gun bullies. The guys with the guns and the flags are making a statement. They are saying that they can carry their guns anywhere they want and they can do it while also carrying a symbol of racism and intolerance and it’s all legal. That’s because our state legislators have gone along with the insane idea that carrying guns around in public is “normal”. It’s not normal. It’s crazy. In combination with symbols of racism and insurrectionism, it does not make for a good picture of America.
So in real life then, when a young man walks around in a neighborhood carrying a long gun, should people be alarmed? We don’t know enough yet about the young man who was walking in a Kansas neighborhood with a long gun. He shot a woman and her daughter and then walked away. We don’t know yet if he was a “good guy” with a gun or a “bad guy” with a gun. But then, if we normalize the open carrying of guns in public this may the result. How do we tell whether guys carrying guns in neighborhoods have evil intent or are just doing it to make a point?
So to summarize- there are guys carrying guns and Confederate flags protesting a business decision to stop selling confederate stuff after the Charleston shooting. There are guys ( and sometimes women) carrying guns and other flags with symbols meant to intimidate, to bully and to make a point in public places in our country. There are guys carrying guns in our neighborhoods who sometimes shoot innocent people. And there are people forcing communities to have gun shops when they don’t want them in places where they shop or hang out with their families. And this is normal?
Yes, there are gun rights. Yes, there are gun shops, most of whom follow the rules and sell guns to people who are required to undergo background checks. Yes, there are people who enjoy shooting sports, hunting, collecting guns and who own guns for self defense. Yes, most gun owners are safe and responsible with their guns.
But there are also extremists who have something else in mind with their guns. There are people who can’t be safe and responsible with guns who are able to easily access them all over our country. In America, we determine elections and make decisions by using a process of voting and democratic governments. We don’t change our government at the end of a gun barrel. The last time we tried this was 150 years ago when the Civil War was fought leaving hundreds of thousands of dead Americans. We are not at war. We don’t need guns everywhere. We don’t want insurrectionists with their guns and flags displayed in public. We do need safer communities and we need stronger gun laws.
The gun bullies ( extremists) go too far. The corporate gun lobby is promoting fear and paranoia. Hate groups are promoting intolerance and racism. Americans are dying from gunshot injuries at alarming rates every day. Victims are telling their stories and trying to make a difference. Politicians are afraid to speak up for fear of losing money and support from a group of people who represent the minority of us. And we are not doing anything to stop the carnage.
We are better than this. Something has to change in our country. It looks like, at the least, the idea that a state government can fly a flag that symbolizes racism and hate has been challenged and we are having an important discussion about the use of the Confederate battle flag in public places. The discussion can’t end there. There are too many symbols of violence and hate being exhibited in public places in America. We should have a right to peace and tranquility in our communities. Most gun owners are reasonable people who don’t participate in offensive, intimidating and provocative behavior with their guns in public places. Most Americans find that kind of behavior anti-American.
So let’s work together to stop this insanity and work together to prevent the gun violence that is devastating our communities.
I am not the only one to think of the gun lobby and gun extremists as bullies. This article calls it like it is:
We cower before the bully. We feel helpless against the bully. The president of the United States, Congress and police forces around the country can do nothing. Even when the work of the bully produces tragedy after tragedy, the bully grows stronger, sucking strength from the lives of its victims. And the bully gloats.
In April 2007, a deranged young man with a gun went on a rampage at Virginia Tech, killing 32 people and injuring around two dozen more in what remains the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. The response of our national bully, the National Rifle Association (NRA), when a horrified nation thought tighter gun control laws might be in order? “We won’t be pushed around,” insisted Bully-in-Chief Wayne LaPierre.
In July 2012, when another young man slaughtered 12 people and injured 58 others in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater, the bully proclaimed, preposterously, “There is absolutely no correlation between guns and shooting deaths. Zero. None.” Just six months later, after yet another young man massacred 27 people—including 20 little kids—at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., the defiant bully said that schools needed more guns, for protection. The bully added that parents who lost their 6-year-olds were politicizing their victimhood and serving as “human shields” for the gun safety movement. (…)
The bully also has money. Since 1990, the NRA has donated $21 million to politicians, 83 percent of it to Republicans. The gun control lobby doesn’t come close: $1.9 million to politicians, 94 percentto Democrats. Such largesse seems to blind our anti-tax conservatives to the cost of gun violence to our economy: at least $229 billion a year, according to an analysis byMother Jones, when you add up emergency and medical care, prison and criminal justice costs, lost wages, insurance, legal fees, police investigations and the like. That’s about $700 per American per year; in a state like Wyoming with a high rate of gun violence, it’s twice that.
The bully wants us to accept this as the new normal: that we adopt an armed, militarized lifestyle. It will repeatedly threaten and intimidate our government and us to advance this lethal political agenda. It’s time to name the NRA as a bully, treat it as a bully and stand up to it as a bully, to get beyond its deadly blockage of desperately needed gun safety laws in our country.