Minnesota nice?

minnesota-niceThe last few days has revealed the lunacy of an armed society in Minnesota. Not that it isn’t happening in every state of our “great” country every day. But the last few days have been particularly concerning. Let’s take a look at the Minnesota gun culture as it has been reported in news stories.

First up- a Winona man apparently was shot by an “accidental” discharge and has now died of his gunshot injuries. There are no “accidental” gun discharges. There are avoidable, senseless accidents with guns that shouldn’t have happened. Why? Because guns are deadly weapons designed to kill or injure humans or animals. They must be taken seriously and their owners must not “play” with them or clean them without knowing if there is a round in the chamber, or get them out while drinking, or let children access them and all of those other common sense admonitions that go with dangerous things.

Second- a first grader brought a gun to a St. Paul school where it discharged, injuring the floor tiles and luckily not another child or adult. As we said when I was writing for the Kid Shootings blog- Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. This is lunacy.

Third- a shooting took place at an Anoka area gas station. Law enforcement engaged in the high speed chase on highways and freeways ending with a crash and the suspect being shot and injured by law enforcement.

And now the same St. Cloud mall that suffered the September mass stabbing incident was under lock-down because a man was seen with a gun.

Shortly after 7 p.m., St. Cloud police Sgt. Jason Burke said in a news release that ““Initial information is that a male and female were in an argument outside the mall by the food court. During the argument, two males unknown to them approached, one of the males lifted the front of his shirt and showed the couple a gun in his waistband. The gun was not pointed at the couple, no threats were made, and no injuries have been reported.

It will be interesting to find out who these 2 reported guys with guns were.

And as an aside, people arguing in malls should take it outside or in private so they don’t frighten people around them. Fear is all around us now after the most contentious election in recent history. The corporate gun lobby has helped stoke that fear and suspicion that could lead to us being less safe rather than safer:

Trump bore little resemblance to the lifelong heartland conservatives whom the NRA typically backed. He was an Ivy League-educated real estate heir with a gold-plated private jet and a foreign, former-model third wife. Trump and Melania had wed at a glamorous ceremony where Bill and Hillary Clinton had been among the guests. A proud New York City resident, Trump didn’t seem to have much regard for the attachments many Americans felt towards guns, never mind the policy purity the NRA demands of other candidates. In a 2000 book, he’d even written, “I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.”

But from the outset of his campaign, Trump adopted an incendiary message that matched the NRA’s own. He hurled invectives at establishment politicians in both parties. He described a once-great nation under assault and in sharp decline, rhetoric that electrified white Americans brimming with grievance.

This is our President-elect.

Sigh.

We will not be safer with more guns around us in this atmosphere of fear.

But I digress.

Another fatal shooting in North Minneapolis yesterday adds up to a very violent year in that section of Minneapolis that has residents very concerned for their own safety. From the article:

For the third day in a row, the pop-pop-pop of gunfire punctuated the midday calm near a north Minneapolis strip mall, this time leaving a young man dead and detectives searching for answers.

This is simply not the kind of communities we want for our children and families. The proliferation of guns on our streets is a serious public health and safety epidemic. No one is immune from it. It adds to the fear and suspicion of others and spirals out of control.

And last, the Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile has been charged with manslaughter:

In an extraordinary move by a Minnesota prosecutor, authorities said the officer, not the civilian, is to blame for the tragic events that turned a traffic stop in a Twin Cities suburb into a flash point in the national debate over racial profiling and police use of force.

You may remember that the shooting of Castile resulted in demonstrations on the streets of Minnesota and all over the country for that matter. These are incidents that have escalated all over America. Unarmed and armed men of color have been shot by officers in what seems like increasing frequency. Race plays a role. Armed citizens plays a role. Fear plays a role. There should be some very serious conversations about what all of this means for the safety of Americans. Will we have them? Will we ignore this at the peril of our communities?

I have great respect for our law enforcement officers and have written frequently about officers under assault by armed citizens. The job of our officers is made all the more dangerous by so many armed Americans and it has led to a vicious circle of arming up to protect themselves from citizens who are allowed to carry their guns in public places or are involved in domestic disputes. Armed citizenry is not the norm in other democratized countries and therefore, law enforcement officers are not often the target of ambushes. In fact, in some countries, officers are not armed. Interestingly, there are far fewer gun deaths in almost all over democratized countries not at war. Coincidence?

What is particularly disturbing is the number of ambushes of American officers leading to tragic deaths of officers:

The attacks on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge that left eight officers dead earlier this month sent waves of fear through law enforcement agencies across the country, with departments ordering officers to double up on patrols as a safety measure.

These deaths contributed to a grim tally this year. Through last week, 32 officers were shot and killed in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, a nonprofit group that tracks these deaths. More than half of the officers fatally shot died in ambushes, the group said in a report released Thursday.

President-elect Donald Trump will have to deal with this American tragedy. Time will tell if he will and if he does, how he will.

An armed society is not a polite society. Our children and families should not have to be exposed to this kind of violence and potential violence. This is lunacy, not niceness.

“Minnesota nice” is a myth.

These are only the gun deaths we know about. About 80% of gun deaths in Minnesota are suicides. These are not usually reported in the media unless they are homicide/suicides, often occurring in domestic shootings. Passing stronger gun laws reduces gun homicides and suicides as it turns out.

But requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales is under assault. The continued myths coming from the corporate gun lobby don’t make us safer.

Who are we? Do we care about our fellow citizens no matter who they are? There are certain truths that should be self-evident. One of them is that we have a moral responsibility to protect our citizens from those who would do them harm and I am not just talking about terrorism. The truth is that toddlers have killed more of their fellow Americans than terrorists:

According to the Washington Post, our nation’s nurseries are housing more than just unbearable levels of cuteness: Twenty-three people have been shot by toddlers in the U.S. since the start of 2016 — exactly 23 more than have been shot by Muslim terrorists over the same period.

Please look at the map in the above linked article showing that in “red states” that typically have looser gun laws, more shootings by toddlers have occurred. Coincidence?

Banning Muslims and deporting Mexicans, as our President-elect and apparently many in the Republican party want to do to protect us will not change this.

The Brady Campaign and other gun violence prevention organizations have solutions that often don’t involve legislation. Check out what can be done to make us safer by making sure guns are locked and stored away from tiny hands and the hands of others who should not have access to guns.

As I wrote about in my last post, things will not be getting better now that the corporate gun lobby believes they have a seat in the White House. How will that make us safer? It won’t. I have yet to hear how plans to repeal strong gun laws will result in fewer shootings and fewer deaths. In fact, the opposite is true.

But we are now living in a country where lies and deception are taken for the truth. It’s a scary time for those of us who have been working for peaceful solutions and safer communities. It’s downright sobering that in a country where “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is under assault.

Scared to death of the dentist

Dentist2Has anyone seen “Little Shop of Horrors”? The mocking and funny musical about a sadistic dentist is amusing and a bit of the truth. Note that a gun was not used as intended because Seymour ( character in the play) could not bring himself to shoot Orin. Instead he killed him with nitrous oxide.

But back to dentists and the fear of them. People don’t seem to like to go to the dentist. Often it involves pain. And there’s a bit of humiliation as one sits in the chair, captive to a drill or a clamp. Having someone fool around with your mouth is disconcerting.

Apparently some gun carrying Americans feel unusually afraid of dentists to the point of packing heat while sitting in the chair. Nothing really good can come of carrying a gun around everywhere one goes and then, either forgetting the gun is in your pocket or knowingly carrying one around unholstered out of “necessity”  or fear. So one Ohio man found out the horror of packing while under the influence of  nitrous oxide. You can’t make this stuff up. From the article:

James White, 72, apparently thought he heard his cellphone ring, and when he went to answer it, he somehow fired his gun.

In a 911 call obtained by the station, an employee at New Carlisle Dental Group can be heard saying, “we have a patient here who accidentally shot himself with a gun.”

Big oops.

And more:

White has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, but now it looks like the dentist office is going to have a stricter policy about allowing weapons in the building.

Video shows fatal abuse by Oklahoma dentist, prosecutors say

“Going into a doctor’s office where you might be placed under some kind of medication, you might not want to carry a weapon in there,” Sgt. Christina Evans-Fisher of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office told WCMH. “Think of your safety and the safety of those around you.”

Too many legal gun carriers don’t think about safety. Why not? They think they are thinking about safety but they aren’t really doing that. They are exercising their right to be stupid and dangerous with a deadly weapon.

Where is common sense?

I have written about “accidental” gun discharges happening in many places in our country but a dentist’s office is not one of them- until now. “Law abiding” gun owners have carelessly discharged guns in bathrooms, Starbucks stores, hospitals, schools, stores, cars, at work, bars, restaurants, apartments, homes, on the streets, military recruiting centers,  and almost everywhere families gather to spend time together. Small children have killed siblings, themselves and others with guns found left loaded and within easy reach of children. Some idiots even post their “accidental” discharges on YouTube videos.

Now some of my readers will make comments about these folks being stupid with their guns and that they are the exception. Though that has a grain of truth to it, it seems to me that we ought to be doing whatever we can to make sure those “exceptions” ,which happen far too often, don’t become the rule. There should be no exceptions with guns. They are deadly weapons designed to kill and harm people.

I write often about instances like this one. It is simply not true that guns everywhere make us safer and protect us from harm. What is true is that many people with guns are carrying loaded deadly weapons around with them without thought to the risk to themselves or others. This dangerous behavior is promoted by the American corporate gun lobby and supported by our politicians.

These things don’t happen in other civilized countries. Why? People in other countries don’t consider that carrying guns around is a thing. It’s also not a right as the gun extremists claim it is here. Other countries also don’t have the high rate of gun deaths that we experience in America nor the mass shootings that occur way too often here.

Some have distorted the right to bear arms into the right to carry them everywhere regardless of the public’s right to be safe from armed citizens. What is required of the rest of us,who understand that loaded weapons everywhere are a risk to public safety, is to change the conversation and change the culture that has led to the current situation.

LWe’ve had #enough. The careless Ohio man who confused his phone for a gun only shot himself and the injuries were not serious. They could have been. Or the dentist working on his teeth could have been the true victim of the horror of a gun death.

This is a public health and safety problem that needs serious attention and study. My guess is that if there was a CDC study about the risks of gun carriers in public, it would reveal that they are actually not saving lives or preventing crime but increasing public health and safety risks. The Violence Policy Center has studied the numbers of justifiable self defense shootings compared to the number of gun deaths by suicide, homicide or unintentional. Here is the conclusion from data gathered of actual incidents:

The reality of self-defense gun use bears no resemblance to the exaggerated claims of the gun lobby and gun industry. The number of justifiable homicides that occur in our nation each year pale in comparison to criminal homicides, let alone gun suicides and fatal unintentional shootings. And contrary to the common stereotype promulgated by the gun lobby, those killed in justifiable homicide incidents don’t always fit the expected profile of an attack by a stranger: in 35.5 percent of the justifiable homicides that occurred in 2012 the persons shot were known to the shooter. The devastation guns inflict on our nation each and every year is clear: more than 33,000 dead, more than 81,000 wounded, and an untold number of lives traumatized and communities shattered. Unexamined claims of the efficacy and frequency of the self-defense use of firearms are the default rationale offered by the gun lobby and gun industry for this unceasing, bloody toll. The idea that firearms are frequently used in self-defense is the primary argument that the gun lobby and firearms industry use to expand the carrying of firearms into an ever-increasing number of public spaces and even to prevent the regulation of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Yet this argument is hollow and the assertions false. When analyzing the most reliable data available, what is most striking is that in a nation of more than 300 million guns, how rarely firearms are used in self-defense.14

Conclusion? Guns carried and owned for self defense get used more often to shoot someone intentionally, unintentionally, in a domestic shooting, suicide, by kids and by others who shouldn’t have guns in the first place. If we change the conversation, change the culture and have a serious discussion about how passing stronger laws can also send a message that, in America, we care about the lives of our citizens too much to let the carnage by bullets continue.

We are better than this.