Guns on the campaign trail

boatsinkI’ve been away from my blog for a bit because of a family member with health problems who has needed our care and attention. It wasn’t the controversial pneumonia like Hillary Clinton contracted on the campaign trail. The hyperbolic flap over that was not only ludicrous, it was cynical and deplorable.

But the issue of guns seems to have taken a bit of a back seat in the daily chaos of this Presidential campaign, not ever seen before in American history. The lies are daily. As a Hillary Clinton supporter, I am not talking about her. Believe me.

But last night one of the most frightening things I heard was Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump’s statement that the guns should be taken away from Hillary Clinton’s secret service agents. Deplorable. From the article:

Trump has long incorrectly suggested his Democratic opponent wants to overturn the Second Amendment and take away Americans’ right to own guns. At a rally in Miami, he again riffed about confiscating the agents’ guns and then went further.

“I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm, right?” Trump asked the crowd. “Take their guns away, she doesn’t want guns. Take their — and let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away. OK, it would be very dangerous.”

Really? See what happens to her?

Deplorable.

Never said before by a Presidential candidate.

Where is common sense?

What about Trump’s own secret service protection? Do they carry guns as well? Does he need protection as well? Would he want to be out there campaigning without that protection?

This is absolutely deplorable and dangerous. Suggesting violence against another candidate is not OK- Period.

Why is Donald Trump getting away with this loose and dangerous talk? He shouldn’t be. But he is held to a lower standard than his opponent. We have come to expect Trump to spew hatred and say dangerous, irresponsible, uninformed, and outright false things. For the life of me, I don’t get why we accept that he can say things like he did early in his campaign about shooting someone on 5th Avenue and not losing his support.

This is not funny. It’s serious business. Does he mean what he says? Or does he say what he means?

Have we actually sunk to this low level of discourse?

Sad and deplorable.

Insanity.

The thing is, real Americans are shot every day. About 90 a day and over 32,000 a year.

So do the gun rights extremists believe this dangerous talk? The answer is yes. Many of them are armed to the teeth and ready to fight their own government. Many of them hated President Obama. Some have threatened his life. All Presidents receive threats against their lives. The internet has made things more complicated for the secret service protection that we must have for our President. Just as candidates should be protected for very obvious reasons.

What we can’t accept is someone running for the Presidency who automatically receives the protection of the Secret Service to be making his own dangerous remarks about his opponent’s protection. Cynical and dangerous talk.

President Obama is our first Black President. Donald Trump has ramped up the fear and hatred of our first Black President by starting a birther movement that has dangerous and bigoted implications. Yesterday he tried to say that he now believed that President Obama was born in America.

To quote from Linus ( Charlie Brown character) in the Great Pumpkin:

Linus: Each year, the Great Pumpkin rises out of the pumpkin patch that he thinks is the most sincere. He’s gotta pick this one. He’s got to. I don’t see how a pumpkin patch can be more sincere than this one. You can look around and there’s not a sign of hypocrisy. Nothing but sincerity as far as the eye can see.”

Halloween is coming fairly soon. Let’s not let the candidate who represents fear and would be one of the scariest Presidents, if elected, in American history. We ought to take a lesson from Linus. We need to pick the candidate who is sincere and is not cynical and dangerous when talking to the American public. Pick the candidate who seeks the sincere pumpkin patch and is without hypocrisy.

This is a turning point. It should have been long ago that Americans called Trump out for his lies but maybe now it will finally happen. The media is finally fed up as well they should be and perhaps now they will actually report on the lies of the man who could actually become our next President.

He is lying about Hillary Clinton’s wanting to take guns away. It is simply not true. Period. One can’t find her saying anything of the sort. But the lie has become a thing. Shame on those who believe this.

And this includes some of our own esteemed members of Congress who have been lied to and deceived into this dangerous idea. I wonder if they, too, are as cynical as Donald Trump and don’t really believe the lies from the corporate gun lobby but are using it to gain votes.

While Congress was away on the longest recess in history, over 4500 Americans lost their lives to gunshot injuries. The Brady Campaign and others made it clear that this was not OK. And as a result of actions taken by supporters of common sense gun measures, Congress members are paying attention and some are actually now realizing the truth that their own constituents want them to support Brady background checks for all gun sales. Check out what happened this week as a result of pressure from the Brady Campaign and the realization of the truth about gun violence:

After a one-on-one meeting with Brady Campaign President Dan Gross, Congressman David Jolly (R-FL) officially filed to cosponsor H.R. 1217, a bill to expand Brady background checks to gun sales at gun shows and online.

And guess what, some of their own constituents are also being shot on a daily basis.

In trying to deal with a family illness and thinking about other things in my life, the Presidential campaign has gone off the rails. Actually it went off the rails the minute Donald Trump became the Republican Presidential candidate. He is showing every day why the Republicans made a dangerous mistake in choosing him. If elected, he would be the most unqualified, inexperienced, and clown-like person ever to be elected to become leader of the free world.

Loose lips sink ships. We just can’t let our ship sink.

Please support common sense, reason, qualifications, experience, truth and sanity this fall. Gun violence is an issue of grave national consequence to our public health and safety. It’s time to be serious about the devastation to so many of our families. It’s time to get serious about the person who can lead us and make the changes that are necessary to prevent some of the rampant gun violence while not violating the rights of law abiding citizens to use their guns for legal purposes.

It’s also past time to stop listening to the lies. Donald Trump cannot be allowed to get away with his loose and dangerous statements that imply that something could happen to Hillary Clinton because of her common sense stance on gun violence prevention.

Let’s get to work. We can’t let the ship sink with a dangerous captain on board.

Shooting anniversaries

Alison ParkerAnniversaries marking the death of a loved one in a heinous shooting are so difficult. Over time it does get easier but the date is always there somewhere, called up at odd moments. August 5th is my day to remember a shooting anniversary.

Yesterday marked the one year anniversary of the senseless shooting ( aren’t they all?) of journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward on live TV in Roanoke, Virginia. This is one we will remember if are paying attention. No shooting is OK and rarely are they justified. But to watch it happen on live TV as if watching a fiction show was something unusual, even for America.

Thank you to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for the above image.

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.

Alison’s shooting death reminds of us of how vulnerable innocent people can be when someone with a grudge gets his hands on a gun and acts.  It is far too easy in America to act on a grudge and far too easy for a “disturbed” person to get a gun,  as Alison and Adam’s shooter did:

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.

They are wrong. It’s a gun lobby myth that only a good guy with a gun can save us all from bad guys with guns. The gun lobby claim that if only someone had had a gun in situations like this one, when the shooter unexpectedly approached the journalists and the woman they were interviewing is false::

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……

Sigh.

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.

What is it about angry men, guns and the desire to seek revenge or harm someone?  From the article:

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.”

Or suicidal people with guns who shoot others and sometimes themselves?

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.

Activist mommies

mommy activistThis morning one of the commenters who reads my blog but rarely gets published called me an “activist Mommie”.  Check it out here:

Why is your only response to post a link and text to an NRA sponsored site? I’ve not proffered anything of the sort….I asked you where is the primary source foundation for the gun control lobby’s assertions, where it regards the 2nd Amendment?

Read any of the Framers debates over the intent and verbiage during the ratification of the 2nd Amendment; then read a bit of at least one of the philosophical influences as directly and explicitly admitted by said Framers. I recommend Algernon Sidney.

Simply playing narratives between the NRA and activist Mommies is lazy.

First of all, this kind of demeaning and misogynistic comment is not rare coming from gun rights extremists. I have been called all kinds of names, including the “c” word, as has my dead sister. They think we are “weak” according to this commenter who calls himself “Constitutional Insurgent”, whatever that means. He believes he knows more about the constitution than the rest of us yet refused to provide any evidence of what he was claiming. He got mad when I provided him with a site supported by the NRA.  Whatever.

We are not going to sit home baking cookies and doing what some think is what women should be doing.

But I did look up something about Algernon Sidney, as “Insurgent” suggested but provided me with no links. Just as I suspected, Sidney, who died in 1683, was a limited government guy :

“Furthermore, Sidney believed that civil government should have limited jurisdiction. He said the, “only ends for which governments are constituted and obedience rendered to them, are the obtaining of justice and protection.” This suggests a limited civil government whose primary purpose is to 1) render legal justice through its court system and 2) provide for the safety of its citizens. We can also conclude from Sidney that, if a government fails to accomplish these basic components, obedience to that government is no longer required.”

So we are supposed to base current gun policy on writings from the 17th century read by our founding fathers? I’m sure they read a lot of scholarly research in forming the Constitution. The Constitution is an incredible document reflecting both limited government and the need for a strong federal government. It was a compromise that has worked pretty well for our country. But as I pointed out in my last post, the  Constitution, in my opinion, can (and has) change with the times. And since guns have changed dramatically, laws need to reflect our current culture and life, not that of those who lived in the 17th century. I like to read about history as well. But I can also see that, while it is important to know what came before us, it is also important that we deal with present problems.

The second amendment and its’ various interpretations, is thrown up as the reason why we can’t do anything about all of the carnage in our country. That is a weak and unsupported argument that has won the argument for far too long. The second amendment does not guarantee a God given right to own whatever gun one wants by anyone who wants to carry anywhere one wants to. If someone can find a reference to guns in the Bible or other early Biblical, Jewish, Muslim or any other religious teachings, let me know. And don’t send me the stuff about taking up swords. That is a nonsensical argument, at best.

This article in The Trace, written by a law scholar, says this about recent second amendment rulings in the Supreme Court:

Assuming that Heller remains on the books, what does it mean for the future of gun rights and gun regulation in the United States? Probably not as much as supporters of gun regulation fear, nor as much as gun rights proponents want. Despite broad claims about its likely impact, the “individual right” interpretation of the Second Amendment has not radically changed the legal landscape. Roughly 95 percent of Second Amendment challenges brought since Heller have failed, and the evolving doctrine leaves ample room for reasonable gun regulations. The primary obstacles to stronger gun laws remain political, not constitutional.

But back to hateful rhetoric, it comes straight from the top. One of the NRA Board members, Ted Nugent, is famous for this offensive , racist, anti-semitic, and rude comments when he “performs” in public or otherwise speaks at NRA events or on NRA radio. There is pushback for an upcoming appearance by Nugent in my state of Minnesota as well there should be.

Yesterday the Republican nominee for President, Mr. Donald J. Trump, intimated that the Muslim mother of a solder killed in Iraq didn’t speak out at the Democratic National Convention when she stood beside her husband, Khizr Kahn because she was Muslim. This, of course, is a typical dog whistle issued by Trump and others like him.

Kahn, speaking at the DNC, took on Trump’s offensive remarks about a Muslim ban in America considering that his own son, a Muslim, signed up to fight in Iraq for his own country of America and was killed in combat. It was a powerful and emotional moment for all of us. But Trump and his ilk don’t like to be challenged by the facts and the truth. So they fight back with offensive lies meant to deflect the truth of the matter. In the process they tear down Muslims, people of color, women and anyone who doesn’t think or look like them.

After the convention, both of the Kahns were interviewed by Lawrence O’Donnel on MSNBC. Mrs. Kahn spoke and spoke powerfully about the pain she has experienced and how hard it is for her to talk about her son. Mr. Kahn said that she was the strong one and helped him write his speech.

If this had not been a Muslim couple on stage and only one person spoke, would Trump have attacked them? We know the answer.

When will this stop? Will someone be shot? I’m just wondering.

This kind of fear mongering and offensive rhetoric is coming straight from the man at the top of the Republican ticket. Why are other Republicans not speaking out against this? That question needs to be answered.

Just as the NRA leadership is not speaking out against Nugents’ offenses and vile remarks, it comes from the top. And it implicates everyone who doesn’t speak out.

So then, why allow these type of comments on articles on the web? Many are too vile to say out loud. Take this attack on Massachusetts Attorney General   who had the nerve to speak out in favor of an assault weapons ban. God forbid! Another activist Mommy in favor of stopping people from getting shot in a mass shooting by an angry young male. Check it out:

“Another [expletive] woman passing laws based off emotional bias this is why woman[sic] should not have leading roles they’re emotionally to [sic] weak,” wrote a grammatically challenged charmer.

They’ve called Healey ugly, her agenda satanic, and taunted her for being gay. One person tweeted that he’d like to hire a homeless man to rape and disembowel the attorney general alive. A commenter on a gun nut blog tracked down her home address and posted it. (…)

They don’t attack only women, of course.

“A day doesn’t go by that I am not called the worst kind of Jew on the planet,” said John Rosenthal, the longtime gun control activist. “I’m ‘a Jew faggot,’ or I ‘should have been killed in an oven.’ It’s disgusting.”

And then the article ended with this cogent assessment:

Oh, good grief, you may be thinking, Can’t you just ignore them? These are just fringe-dwelling fools. They can’t even spell. The thing is, the fringe is wide. And when somebody sends you a note threatening you with rape and murder, it can get to you, even if you’ve grown inured to garden-variety torment.

You’re not supposed to admit this, of course. You’re damned if you call these cretins out — it gives them oxygen, makes you seem like a victim — and damned if you don’t, because they just keep doing it. The world, especially online, is replete with men who straight-up hate women.

For her part, Healey has opted for oxygen deprivation, declining to comment on the torrents of misogyny. She did say she was determined to keep fighting to control the spread of weapons designed to mow down as many people as possible. Which guarantees further abuse.

“I am not going to back down,” she said. “I believe this is right and appropriate and lawful and something we need to do.”

Good for Healey. We need to stand up to these attacks and stand together. But now we have a woman nominee who is likely to win the race for the White House. They will hate her every bit as much as they have hated our first Black President. It won’t be pretty.

I, for one, am proud to be an activist Mommy and Grandmother. There are a lot of us and the majority of men, gun owners and NRA members have joined us in our support of legislation that would stop and prevent some of our daily carnage. If those right wing gun activists oppose that, then the weakness is theirs, not ours. Congress is the weak link here but that is going to change soon.

The Million Mom March, which I attended in 2000 on the Mall in Washington DC was a pivotal moment in the movement to prevent gun violence. It brought mothers and others together as one to oppose the overly powerful and influential gun lobby whose weakening of gun policy and opposition to anything that would save lives had kept our Congress from acting.  Chapters were formed all over the country and are now affiliated with the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, named for Jim Brady who was shot in an assassination attempt against President Reagan. The gun nuts hated Sarah Brady. She was regularly attacked and abused by them. She was a strong woman who apparently threatened their world.

After the Sandy Hook shooting, Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America, affiliated with Everytown for Gun Safety has brought millions more into the movement for sanity.

The shooting of a woman sitting Congressman, Gabby Giffords, started a movement formed by Giffords and her husband Mark Kelly- Americans for Responsible Solutions. Her voice is strong and powerful when she speaks and her story resonates. Gun activists don’t like her either.

Other organizations are active and include mommies, daddies, aunts, uncles, sisters, brothers, grandparents, nieces, nephews and friends of people who have been shot. What the gun rights extremists don’t like about us is that we are the majority and we are changing the conversation that they have had to themselves for far too long. Our influence is now changing the minds and hearts of our elected leaders and a tipping point is upon us.

We are all attacked on a regular basis by those who fear our power to change their small minority of resistance to reasonable changes to gun laws and their fear of tyranny, people not like them, zombies and their own shadows.

This kind of shameful, ludicrous, fact free attack has to be challenged and called out for what it is. Hate. Fear. Sexist. Racist. Offensive. Rude. Unacceptable. Who are the weak ones who are so afraid of the mothers and others who want to do something about the shootings?

Where is common sense?

 

UPDATE:

Since I wrote about Donald Trump demeaning the mother of a Muslim soldier here is her response from an article:

In an opinion piece published Sunday on The Washington Post’s website, Ghazala Khan responded directly to Trump.

“Donald Trump has asked why I did not speak at the Democratic convention. He said he would like to hear from me. Here is my answer to Donald Trump: Because without saying a thing, all the world, all America, felt my pain. I am a Gold Star mother. Whoever saw me felt me in their heart,” she wrote.

She said Trump is “ignorant” when he talks about Islam. Trump has called for banning Muslims from entering the United States.

“If he studied the real Islam and Koran, all the ideas he gets from terrorists would change, because terrorism is a different religion.” she wrote. “Donald Trump said he has made a lot of sacrifices. He doesn’t know what the word sacrifice means.”

On Sunday, Khizr Khan defended his wife’s silence at the convention, telling CNN that she is ill, has high blood pressure and cannot keep herself composed when she sees images of her son.

I suggest that the extremists stop their demeaning, misogynistic, rude and offensive comments. But first, those at the top have to stop. Who will stop them?

 

UPDATE #2

In Oregon, a woman Governor can’t support gun laws that will save lives without receiving threats against her life. Remember, the guys with the guns are likely the ones making the threats. This is simply not OK. From the article:

“Instead of voicing passionate opinions or dissent as part of exercising free speech, they express intent to cause her harm, ugly threats of physical violence and death,” said Kristen Grainger, Brown’s communications director. “Potentially dangerous individuals have attempted to breach security perimeters on more than one occasion.”

Grainger and others say Brown’s role in calling for an end to this winter’s armed occupation near Burns, along with her recent backing of three gun-control bills, appear to have ramped up threats.

I will let it speak for itself.

 

Gun lobby conundrum

Brady Campaign memeIt’s really hard to keep up with all of the shootings and the articles written about the American gun culture as it is revealed in front of our very eyes. Our leaders are abandoning their citizens.

Actually most of us woke up long ago. It’s those who are afraid who are sleeping at the helm of public health and safety.  It’s those who can do something about it who have allowed themselves to be placed in the pocket of a group that doesn’t seem to care about all of the shootings. For if they did, they would start supporting common sense measures- or, as one person I read recently said, just plain laws to keep us safe.

Why do we have to say common sense when it should be an unspoken truth that our leaders will do all they can to protect us from things that can kill and injure us. They can’t protect all of us and they can’t stop all shootings but they sure as heck can get to work to stop some of the killings and act like adults instead of being led around by the nose by the ultra conservatives, the gun extremists and the gun lobby.

What does the corporate gun lobby (NRA)  say about shootings of and by police, of GLBTQ Americans, women and children?  Action is not on their calendar or their radar.  Instead, Congress took a 7 week vacation while people continue to die. The Brady Campaign has it right in the meme I have included here. How many more people will die while our Congress doesn’t do their jobs?

The Gun Violence Archive tells us that 2016 has been bloody. Our streets and homes have seen blood running in them. A speaker at a local Black Lives Matter event I attended on Friday and at which I spoke, stated the obvious. Everyone’s blood is red. Black people, brown people, white people and all people bleed red. toll of gun deaths

The gun lobby doesn’t want us to think about any of this. Nor do they want us to do research about any of it. The likely findings will be that too many Americans are shot to death every day and it’s because of the easy access to guns and lax gun laws that allow for this to happen.

It’s about a culture. It’s about guns. When will it stop? And when will we do something about it to get it to stop?

Here is an excerpt of my remarks at the vigil in my city on Friday night:

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said this: “There is nothing to fear but fear itself.”
He was right. We are living now in a country full of fear- fear of each other; fear of those who don’t look like us; fear of law enforcement; fear of black people; fear of white people; fear of the government; fear that if you don’t have a gun and someone else does, you are going to be at risk; fear that everyone is armed so then everyone needs to be armed to protect themselves from others who are armed.

Police officers fear that everyone could be armed. Too many are and the result is senseless death by bullets.Bullets are flying in some of our neighborhoods. Innocent people like Birdell Beeks, a beloved grandmother was shot and killed by a stray bullet while sitting in her car in Northeast Minneapolis. Last week, after the tragic and heinous shooting of Philander Castile, 2 babies were shot in their father’s car when bullets were fired in North Minneapolis. A 2 year old died and a 15 month old was injured. (…)

The gun lobby is profiting off of our fears. They are encouraging, to the tune of over $14 billion dollars a year, the arming of America. They are promoting fear of “the other” to get people to buy guns. And the result is an armed society where no one knows who is the good guy with a gun and who is a bad guy with a gun anymore. An armed society is not a polite society.

One of the officers who attended this event told me during a conversation that the police department has to have more guns and more high caliber weapons like assault rifles now to keep up with what citizens have. Indeed, in Duluth, a man was arrested after making threats with an AR-15 on Friday night:

Police executed a search warrant at Davis’ residence and found a loaded Hi-Point brand 9 mm assault rifle between the mattress and box spring of his bed, the complaint said. Officers said the serial number had been scratched off the weapon, which appeared to be fully automatic and fully functional.

Fully automatic? Luckily that did not result in a shooting but it easily could have.

Everyone is afraid of everyone else. They have good reason. I just learned of the shooting death of 3 Baton Rouge, LA police officers. A man apparently walking around with an assault style rifle opened fire on the officers. A bystander called to report this person. How did she know the difference between a good guy with a gun and a bad guy with a gun? More on this later but several days ago, Baton Rouge police were put on alert when there was a threat of a shooting of officers. People were arrested after they had stolen guns:

Authorities in Baton Rouge said this week that a teenager accused of stealing guns during a burglary told investigators that he and others involved were seeking bullets to shoot officers there. Officials said that they deemed this threat to be so credible that it shaped their response to protests over the death of Alton Sterling.

Police say that they arrested three people related to the theft, which occurred early Saturday morning at a pawn shop more than 2 miles from the food mart where Sterling was fatally shot by officers four days earlier.

These are our nation’s young people. What is happening in our country? Teens and guns are not a good mix.

People have had #Enough. It’s past time to do something.

A high school freshman wrote this one. Please read it and listen to the voices of our children. They know more than many of the adults in the country. From her letter:

We shouldn’t ban guns totally, as that would jeopardize the basic need of self-defense, but we should not give unlimited access to all sorts of guns in the name of the Constitution. Our neighbor Canada has restricted certain guns from civilian use. In the past year Canada had 172 deaths related to firearms, whereas the United States had 12,236 firearms-related deaths. We ought to follow our neighbor in restricting certain assault rifles and administering appropriate background checks. This way we can ensure the safety of our people and respect our constitutional right.

An older gentleman, known to me, wrote this one, with equal reasonable arguments in favor of gun safety reform and gun violence prevention:

How much, we need to ask ourselves, was Johnson responsible for these killings? And how much are our laws, our militarism and our elected officials responsible? If the United States is “the land of the free and the home of the brave,” does this mean we are free to shoot one another: white police shooting young blacks, unbalanced blacks shooting white police, husbands and boyfriends shooting wives and girlfriends, so many people shooting so many other people — and so freely? Not bravely, certainly, but cowardly.

The New York Times quoted the police chief of Milwaukee on July 8: “We’re the most heavily armed violent society in the history of Western civilization.”

Who is responsible for that?

Indeed. Who is responsible? Not the over 90% who want reasonable gun laws. How about our leaders? How about the gun lobby? How about our culture of guns?

They are right. They make more common sense than our own leaders. Why aren’t they saying things like this? Good question. Apparently they don’t have the backbone to stand for what is right.

Here is a short list of some of the latest shootings for your perusal:

One woman killed and others injured in separate events in Minneapolis last night.

12 shot and injured near Cleveland in one night. Yes, you read that right. Cleveland where the Republican Convention starts tomorrow.

2 people are dead from gunshot injuries in St. Joseph, Missouri.

Teens playing the latest game to hit American culture, Pokemon Go, sitting in their car playing the game experience shots fired by a man who got suspicious. Does one just shoot off one’s gun if one has even a little suspicion that something could be wrong before finding out or calling 911? When a gun is present, the potential is there for something bad to happen.

What does the gun lobby have to say about these?

What does the gun lobby say about the armed citizens in Dallas who were mistaken for perpetrators when gunfire began, leaving 5 officers dead?

What does the gun lobby say about the fact that a black man, Philando Castile, had a legal permit to carry a gun and when he told this to the Falcon Heights, MN officer. Who knows what that officer was thinking when he shot and killed Castile? We do know that officers assume that just about anyone could be armed when they make a traffic stop.  At this point, there are many unanswered questions but one is why the gun lobby did not stand up to defend this shooting of a legal gun permit holder?

And while we are on the topic of permits to carry, I have been talking to quite a few people about the fact that they get their permits to carry but they choose not to carry those guns around with them. Many of them said they like the training they get and they get their permits just in case they decide to carry. But for many reasons, they don’t want to carry- guns are heavy, they are hot, they get cold in cold weather, it’s inconvenient, it’s an awesome responsibility, and other reasons. So try as the gun lobby does to get everyone armed, they have not succeeded. It is about 4-5% of our population who have their permits to carry but many of them don’t carry a gun.

The gun lobby is caught in a conundrum of their own making. When lies and deceptions have been foisted on us about the safety of all gun owners and how guns will protect us from harm and then they don’t, what is their answer?

When people carry guns to protect themselves from others with guns, and get shot anyway, what is their answer? When police officers assume everyone is armed and then shoot someone who is armed for one reason or another (or potentially no good reason) what is their answer? When an otherwise supposedly legal gun carrier has access to military style weapons and targets and kills officers after the shootings of 2 black men, what is their answer?

When the political party conventions coming up allow for people to open carry guns in the second layer of security and now everyone is worried about what could happen, what is their answer? The Cleveland Police union has asked for Open Carry in Ohio to be suspended during the Republican National Convention. Now we are seeing the results of what our corporate gun lobby has done to our country.  Who can blame the officers?

The head of one of Cleveland’s largest police unions is calling on Ohio Gov. John Kasich to temporarily restrict the state’s open carry gun laws during this week’s Republican National Convention following Sunday’s shooting in Louisiana that killed three officers and wounded at least three others.

“We are sending a letter to Gov. Kasich requesting assistance from him. He could very easily do some kind of executive order or something — I don’t care if it’s constitutional or not at this point,” Stephen Loomis, president of Cleveland Police Patrolmen’s Association, told CNN. “They can fight about it after the RNC or they can lift it after the RNC, but I want him to absolutely outlaw open-carry in Cuyahoga County until this RNC is over.”
Governor Kasich says he doesn’t have the power to protect the officers and citizens by suspending Open Carry or even concealed carry at that ( which officers actually fear more) for the duration of the convention. Of course not. Even suspending the rights of some people ( a distinct minority) in order to save lives is not possible. Governors have tried to restrict voting laws, also Constitutional, and rights of women to exercise their Constitutional right to choose abortion, but guns? Not so much.
Let common sense win. Officers lives are at risk. Was the Baton Rouge shooting an ambush? Are we at war?
(Speaking of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, does anyone find it ludicrous that real guns can be carried but tennis balls and toy guns are banned in the perimeter of the convention area? )
Everyone’s lives are at risk. This is the insanity of our American gun culture. Why should anyone carry assault rifles around in public wearing fatigues or dressed all in black? Who are they or who do they think they are? And body armor was apparently found on one of the suspects in Baton Rouge. Why is body armor available to citizens? There is no reason to buy it or wear it than to know you are going to need it in a shooting.
Our country is experiencing a very bloody time right now. What are we going to do? Nothing is not an option. What will the gun lobby do now? Please don’t let them bring forth their tired old arguments about more guns making us safer or leading to a polite society or only good guys with guns can stop bad guys with guns or passing any law will lead directly to gun confiscation. Please.
We just have to be better than this. It’s time to #DisarmHate and demand a safe society for our families, our children, our grandchildren, people of all colors, races, religions, sexual preference, law enforcement officers, women…..
We are weary of the news reports. We are tired of the shootings, the grief, the press conferences, the statements from politicians, the 24/7 news coverage, and we are afraid of the next national gun tragedy.

It’s about the guns

little boyThe 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.

Philando Castile was his name. He was a beloved cafeteria worker in a St. Paul Montessori School. A role model to children.

Now he is dead.

So many unanswered questions. We don’t know why he kept saying that he had this permit to carry, or so his girlfriend said he was saying.

The gun lobby has been working hard to arm every American just in case….. Castile must have thought his gun and his legal permit would protect him from harm. It didn’t.

Where is the gun lobby’s outrage over these shootings? Are they standing with the Black Lives Matters protest in St. Paul because a man with a legal permit to carry was shot to death by an officer? Nope.

We don’t know why the officer fired his gun when Philando allegedly moved his hand towards his pocket for his ID.

We just don’t know everything. People react to situations in many different ways.

We do know that when a gun is present, things often go wrong.

We do also know that more guns are not making us safer.

We understand that there is racism abounding in our American communities fomented by fear and paranoia of “others”. We do know that the gun lobby is making it worse.

We do know that one Presidential candidate in the name of Mr. Donald Trump has said that the Orlando tragic shooting could have been lessened or averted if only someone had been armed.

Ludicrous.

And then came Dallas last night. Armed officers were gunned down by a couple of citizens ( or that is what we know so far) who seemed to have been upset by the peaceful Black Lives Matters protest over the Minnesota and Louisiana shootings of black men.

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.

Hypocrisy.

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?

What if this was your loved one as President Obama said in a speech given last night before the Dallas shooting. What if? What if our elected leaders were made to watch videos and see photos of the victims’ last dying breaths? What if this was one of theirs?

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?

What if Congress just straight up passed stronger gun laws without pandering to the corporate gun lobby as House Speaker Paul Ryan just did:

“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.

Shame.

Heartbreak.

Outrage.

Tears.

Sorrow.

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?

Governor Mark Dayton boldly said it like it is in his press conference yesterday:

“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.”

Today, President Obama said it like it is in his statement:

“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.”

Realities. More guns are NOT making us safer. The gun lobby is dead wrong.

This is about racism. This is about intolerance. This is about fear. And this is, at the least, about guns.

 

UPDATE:

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.

Why?

 

 

July 4, 2016- Who will protect the children?

Happy 4th of July Card, Traditional American Banner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He died.

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

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

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

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

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

What can we do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Enough.

Be safe out there today and Happy Fourth of July.

 

UPDATE:

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

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

Who do you trust?

PrintApparently there are many in America who trust no one but themselves. Trust in government has been eroded over years, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes not. But it’s clear that the minority of Americans who oppose background checks on all gun sales actually believe it will lead to confiscation of their guns.

The Trace has again done some research into who the people are who oppose those on the terror watch list from being stopped from getting guns and those who oppose background checks on all gun sales. Results were interesting but not necessarily surprising.From the article:

The Pew Research Center provided The Trace with a breakout of respondents to a July 2015 poll who indicated opposition to expanded background checks. The numbers show that people who oppose requiring checks at gun shows are more likely to be male, white, and lack a college degree than those that support such laws.

Among opponents of expanded checks, the gender split is 57 percent male to 42 percent female.

Forty-nine percent were white, 15 percent were black. In that same pool, those whose schooling stopped at high school were nearly five times as likely to oppose background checks at gun shows than those with a college degree.

By a nearly two-to-one margin, opponents of background checks at gun shows are also less likely to say that they do not live in a gun-owning household.

I have a question for these folks. Do you honestly think that those who have been identified as known terrorists should be able to purchase guns legally from licensed dealers?

Do you really think it is more important to protect the rights of those few who are on the list by mistake than to protect the next 50 people gathered together in a public place from being shot by someone who has terrorist leanings?

The Orlando shooting is still being investigated as to whether the shooter was a terrorists but he clearly had some leanings in that direction. There is no proof that the shooting was directed by any terror group.

That being said, the shooter was also mentally unstable according to many, angry, according to many, and a domestic abuser according to his first wife. There are many reasons why this guy should not have had a gun. But we have made it easy for anyone to get a gun no matter what. The Brady law had a built in loophole put there on purpose by the gun lobby. It allowed for private sellers of guns to not have to require background checks on sales.

So do you honestly believe people who shouldn’t have guns should be able to get them anyway with no background check?

Do you really believe that the very same Brady background check you have been getting for many years now when you buy a gun from a licensed seller will lead to gun registration or confiscation if a private seller requires the check?

Do you honestly believe that only “good guys” with guns can stop “bad guys” with guns?

Do you believe that everyone who legally buys a gun will be safe with that gun?

Do you really believe the government is coming for your guns?

Do you actually believe that your small arsenal of guns would protect you against that scenario should it actually happen?

Do you understand that your guns are more likely to be used to shoot someone close to you than to be used in self defense?

Do you really believe in the fear and paranoia foisted on you by the corporate gun lobby?

Do you trust that this guy is telling you the truth?:

I’m just asking.

Common sense indicates that background checks on all gun sales will only affect those who shouldn’t have guns. It also is proven that in states ( and in countries) where background checks on all gun sales are required, lives are saved. Yes, it’s true. Lives are saved.

Do you honestly want to save lives and prevent gun violence? Do you want to prevent your teen-ager from committing suicide with one of your guns? Do you want to keep your child from getting your loaded gun and shooting him/herself or a friend or sibling? Do you want to keep someone from stealing your gun and using it in a crime? Do you care about the lives of young black people who are dying in great numbers from bullets because guns are so readily available to them? Do you want to keep your neighbor from “accidentally” discharging his/her gun and having the bullet come flying through your wall, or hitting you in the leg in a public place? Do you trust that your child or grandchild will absolutely not pick up a loaded gun and fire it?

Who do you trust? Do you trust everyone with a gun? Do you trust people who have bought their guns legally though they shouldn’t have one? Do you trust that your armed neighbor is not going to have too much to drink and bring out his gun and shoot you? Do you trust the young man next door who just might have terrorist leanings, with his gun? Do you trust the mentally unstable young man who lives down the street with guns?

It comes down to what we are willing to do to save lives and keep our children and communities safe from mass shootings like that that just happened in Orlando and from the tens of thousands of suicides, domestic homicides, gang shootings, “accidental discharges” of guns leading to death and injury, home grown terror attacks, actual terror attacks, and other shootings. I trust that passing stronger laws will save lives and prevent shootings. My trust is backed up by the facts.

I happen to trust the government. I am not afraid of the government. I am not afraid of armed people lurking around every corner to shoot me. Government is not perfect. But going it alone and living life with the fear and paranoia so many people experience must be exhausting. By nature I am a positive person. I have lost a sister in a domestic shooting that should have made me distrustful but instead it made me resolved to do something to keep other families from experiencing what my family has.

And I trust that the Senate Democrats did the right thing when they forced a vote on Monday. The amendments failed but their resolve is a model of what can be done when there is resolve and a moral imperative from the majority of Americans on your side. I trust the House Democrats who are, as I write, having a “sit-in” on the House floor to force a vote on the no-fly, no-buy bill and an expanded background check bill. It sounds like a vote will happen:

In a move rich with historic symbolism, Lewis, a Democratic congressman from Georgia, and fellow Democrats sat down at the front of the chamber in an unusual demonstration of civil disobedience challenging Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary. Sometimes you have to make a way out of no way. We have been too quiet for too long,” Lewis said. “There comes a time when you have to say something, when you have to make a little noise, when you have to move your feet. This is the time. Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more.”
I trust Representative John Lewis because he has brought the issue of gun violence right where it belongs- at the forefront of our political arena. Just like Senator Chris Murphy did last week when he began the successful filibuster that led to the Senate votes this week.

I trust that eventually we will get this right and sit down and stand up for victims. I trust that this time, the gun lobby and its’ minions are not going to dominate the conversation. Why? Because Americans have had #Enough and want to #DisarmHate.

Who do you trust?

Do you trust those who are standing ( or sitting down for) the victims who want the carnage and massacres to stop or those whose profits depend on selling guns and keeping people fearful and paranoid about gun confiscation?

#NoBillNoBreak

Watching the House members who are sitting in the House chamber is inspiring to the millions of Americans who want stronger gun laws. We have lost trust in our leaders and the system to do something about the daily carnage and regular massacres. There is no excuse for doing nothing except in some sort of twisted belief in the corporate gun lobby’s lies and deceptions.

And I am very proud of some of my Minnesota delegation for taking part in this historic action. Times are changing and the voices of the majority are being heard loudly and clearly.

It’s about time. How many tens and hundreds of thousands more Americans will need to die before our leaders vote for common sense?

#NRAAM NRA Convention, 2016 version

liarIf it’s May, it must be NRA convention time. The lies have just begun.So far, it has proven to be the usual with the exception of a certain Presidential candidate who showed up and spoke from notes he doesn’t usually use. From this article:

 

Trump also made it clear he wanted to woo the pro-gun crowd — but he seemed bored by his prepared remarks during his speech, joking about teleprompters before veering off onto other topics throughout the speech and even belittling his own remarks.

What did he say? More lies. But the crowd loved the lies and were excited to applaud a man whose transformation from a real estate guy who used to be in favor of common sense when it came to gun violence to a full-on card carrying NRA gun guy. He was, of course, endorsed by the NRA.

Whatever.

The lies? Let’s take them one at a time:

Donald Trump will make gun free zones guns allowed zones immediately upon taking the oath of office. Will that include his own properties? Will that include the annual NRA convention where guns are not allowed? It will, apparently include schools where it’s always a good idea for gun toters and teachers to be armed.

If this was such a good idea, why in the world are we the most dangerous country in the world when it comes to gun violence? Is this the great America Trump wants for us? How about this? Let’s make America safe again, a new slogan from Moms Demand Action. While the NRA is talking about more guns everywhere, a group of gun violence prevention activists will hold a screening of Katie Couric’s film, Under the Gun. featuring victims of gun violence telling their poignant stories.

We have more guns per person ( though many of those guns are owned by fewer people) already than any other country in the civilized and democratized world. And this kind of illogic fails to speak the truth. Most gun deaths are in guns allowed zones already. Take domestic shootings, many of which occur inside of homes. Or gun suicides, which often occur in a home where a gun is not only allowed but easily accessible to use in a suicide. Homes are not gun free zones since anyone can have a gun inside of their own home. I know that from personal experience.

Or gun ranges where people are killing themselves with increasing frequency?

Or how about hospitals, which are mostly gun free, where people like this lady who carried a gun in spite of the gun free zone, “accidentally” discharged her weapon injuring an innocent person.

Or what about cars? Are they gun free? Nope. Remember this one and this one where a toddler got their hands on a gun and shot their own parent? Or the guy who “accidentally” discharged his gun while sitting in his car waiting for his wife. Or the woman who was adjusting her bra gun holster and shot and killed herself?  Gun free zone? You decide.

Or how about taking selfies with your phone? Presumably the place where this happened was not a gun free zone.

Bars and restaurants in many states allow concealed guns inside. It hasn’t worked out particularly well as in this case, or this one. Or this one where a man forgot he had his gun when it fell from his jacket pocket in a restaurant ( presumably not a gun free zone) badly injuring one of the customers whose injuries will be life long. Or this Kansas man ( “law abiding gun owner) whose gun went off in a restaurant injuring his own wife. There are pages and pages of incidents like these if you look on the internet. Most of them occur in guns allowed zones. But if they occur in “gun free zones” who can one defend oneself from a stupid and dangerous gun carrier who believes he/she has a right to carry a loaded gun in public and then makes a terrible and sometimes deadly mistake. There’s no accounting for stupidity. But stupidity with a loaded gun is very serious stuff.

#Enough

Let’s move on to some more lies. Trump is making claims that Hillary Clinton wants to confiscate all guns and take away American’s right to own guns. Silly Donald. He knows better. But pandering to the minority of gun owners who are extreme in their positions is his ticket, he believes, to winning the election. Most NRA members don’t believe this and actually support requiring background checks on all gun sales. Shhhh. Don’t tell the Donald this. It doesn’t fit with his new-found support of gun rights.

Oh, and then there’s the lie about Hillary Clinton wanting violent criminals to go free. Just because he says so does not make it true. But never mind. Trying to make women fear crime in order to drive them to gun stores to buy a gun or to the polling booths is cynical at best and doesn’t deal with the truth that women are more at risk when there are guns in the home. But here is what Donald said anyway to get votes from women:

“In trying to overturn the Second Amendment, Hillary Clinton is telling everyone — and every woman living in a dangerous community — that she doesn’t have the right to defend herself,” Mr. Trump said. “So you have a woman living in a community, a rough community, a bad community — sorry, you can’t defend yourself.”

Trump has had a lot of trouble with his support from women because of his many comments and insults since his entry into the Presidential race.

It’s also the usual suspects who come calling at this display of gun extremism. Of course, it wouldn’t be an NRA convention without good old Wayne LaPierre whose annual speeches to convention goers never fail to drum up fear and paranoia. And then the list of politicians who have to pay homage to this group of gun extremists shows how our leaders are so afraid to admit that the second amendment actually can co-exist with gun rights as it has for many years now.

Sigh.

And what about those NRA leaders and Board members? Here’s a nice list so you can see who they are and who they represent. Ted Nugent, of course, is one of the loud mouth NRA Board members who offends people and issues racial and sexist slurs on a regular basis. And in late breaking news, Nugent was re-elected to the NRA Board with the 2nd highest vote total. That tells us everything we need to know about the participants at the convention and their willingness to support hate, racism and crudity.

And of course, if we follow the money to find out how the NRA is actually funded we don’t have to look much further than executives of Sturm-Ruger who presented the NRA-ILA with a nice 4 million dollar check. 

The displays are the usual- guns and more guns. And don’t forget those ugly displays of bleeding look-alike gun targets (women, Barack Obama, etc) , hyped up slogans and swag with anti-Obama sayings and more ludicrous lies about those who support the idea that 30,000 American gun deaths are too many.

In Louisville, Kentucky, the site of the annual convention this year, it’s been a bad year for gun deaths:

“We are having an epidemic,” says Michelle Unseld Thomas, a resident of the South Side.

The violence in Louisville right now is “unprecedented,” says Brown, the police major.

But never mind. The NRA doesn’t get involved in trying to prevent this upward trend of people shooting other people. One has to wonder if their insular world includes anyone who has become a victim of a gun death by suicide, homicide, or an “accidental” shooting. Likely not.

And the shootings continue unabated. Children are shooting themselves or each other daily. Domestic shootings are taking the lives of innocent women and children. Suicides account for the majority of gun deaths. Young men in communities of color are the victims of way too many shootings thanks to easy access to guns and mass shootings happen in America like in no other country in the world.

One of the biggest lies is that guns don’t affect suicide rates and that suicides should not be considered to be gun violence. That is false. Studies confirm that access to guns makes suicide easier and, of course, deadlier. A new study from the Journal of Public Health confirms this. If only the NRA could admit that guns contribute to the majority of gun deaths in America and believe in research and studies that deal with public health and safety. But denial and outright deception by the corporate gun lobby has kept the government from studying important issues like this. Follow the money for the reasons.

But never mind the truth. This convention is all about convincing those in attendance and those who get the NRA’s mailings and emails that America will only be safer if more people own guns to protect themselves from the government and all of those evil shadows lurking around every corner in every nook and cranny. Never mind that those guns are much more likely to be used against you or someone around you than in self defense.

And those militia groups and people who actually do believe the government is coming for your guns? I feel sorry for their fear. It must be difficult to live in a world where that kind of fear prompts people to have their own arsenals. It’s  a burden to have to live this way. Plus, it sometimes leads to home grown terrorism as in this deadly incident in Nevada.

Are we safer because of the hyped fear and paranoia spewed by gun rights extremists and those who speak at NRA conventions?

A recent study of angry behavior which received responses from gun owners and non gun owners revealed what we all most likely believe to be the truth. There are a lot of angry (mostly men) with guns carried for “self defense” who just may use them for something else. From the article by “Mike the Gun Guy”:

Where the number of guns owned by individuals seemed to be a real risk issue can be found in the correlation between number of guns owned, engaging in any of the three anger indicators and carrying a gun outside the home. The good news in this survey was that less than 5 percent of the respondents reported that they walked around with a gun. The not-so-good news is that folks who owned six or more guns and carried a concealed weapon reported that they engaged in at least one of the three impulsive behaviors four times more frequently than persons who owned five or fewer guns.

This study and others about anger and guns lends the lie to the idea that guns will make us safer. Way too often angry people with guns shoot others in an instant because they can. And that is the real America.

We can’t afford to lie about gun violence. And we sure as heck cannot afford to have one of our major political party candidates for President of the United States lying about something this serious.It is a national public health and safety epidemic that is largely going untreated because of the lies. Are we on the side of a safer America or one that allows lies and deceptions to determine policies and treatment that can save lives? This election will determine on whose side we are.

 

 

 

 

Violence by bullets

Basic RGBWe live in a violent country.  Unfortunately, violence has always been in human nature. Various ways of committing violence over time have resulted in too many deaths to count. Why are we so violent? The search for answers to that question has been centuries long and will always be with us. But we are living in this time right now and so are dealing with what is front of our faces every day. There is an understanding that purposely killing another human being is violence no matter the method. When people die by bullet(s) their deaths cannot be called anything but violent.

Mike the Gun Guy has written a blog post about suicide by gun and whether or not it should be considered in the category of gun violence. It is important to make this point because most gun deaths in our country are due to suicide. If the gun lobby wants to lower the number of people they believe are killed by bullets, they throw out the numbers of suicides. It doesn’t fit with their idea that a gun for self defense in the home can be used in other ways rather than self defense. I will discuss this later in this post. For now, let’s look at what Mike has to say:

But let’s drop the euphemism and look at reality: “States with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm suicide and overall suicide.  This relationship held for both genders and all age groups.  It remained true after accounting for poverty, urbanization and unemployment.” The link between gun ownership and suicide is particularly evident among teens, according to researchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health, and the fastest-growing age-group prone to suicides are teens. Since 2007, the overall rate of gun suicide has increased by 12%, the gun suicide rate among teens is up by 42%.

First of all, in a paragraph previous to the one above, Mike writes about the National Shooting Sports Foundation actually offering safety tips to gun owners on its’ website and comes close to saying guns are a risk in homes. That’s good news. In a recent blog post, I argued that if people understood the risks of owning guns they would, at the least, be more aware of their responsibilities to keep guns locked up and away from small kids and teens. One of the age groups with high rates of gun suicides are teens.

But then, Mike talks about the use of the word violence to refer to gun suicides:

Don’t think that suicide isn’t gun violence?  Think again.  Here’s how violence is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary: “Behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.” Notice it doesn’t say ‘someone else,’ because that’s a crime called aggravated assault.

Violence means damage and there’s nothing out there that can damage someone as effectively or quickly as a gun, particularly when you don’t even have to aim.  As far as I’m concerned, at least when it comes to suicide, maybe the GVP community should just drop the ‘V.’

I say we don’t drop the “V”. Violence happens every day. But most of the violent deaths are committed with firearms. And most of the firearms deaths are suicides. There are solutions to this kind of violence. I write about them in almost every post. Common sense leads us to the conclusion that, since firearms are the cause of so many deaths and injuries, something should be done about the access to them, who should have them, how they are stored, how the firearms are sold, what sex, race and age group die in the highest numbers, etc. We are already doing some of this research but we need a lot more if we are to deal with gun violence as a public health epidemic.

So now I want to talk about the idea of guns for self defense since that is the reason a lot of people buy guns. The Violence Policy Center has released a new report about guns for self defense. From this press release about the study:

The study finds that in 2013, the most recent year for which data is available, there were only 211 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm reported to the SHR. Twenty states reported zero justifiable homicides in 2013. That year, there were 7,838 criminal firearm homicides.

In 2013, for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 37 criminal homicides. This ratio does not even take into account the tens of thousands of lives needlessly lost in gun suicides and unintentional shootings that year.

The study also finds only a tiny fraction of the intended victims of violent crime or property crime employ guns for self-defense. Over a three-year period from 2012 to 2014, less than one percent of victims of attempted or completed violent crimes used a firearm, and only 0.2 percent of victims of attempted or completed property crimes used a firearm.

“Self-defense is the big lie that the firearms industry and gun lobby use to promote gun sales. The fact is that any gun is far more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide, or unintentional killing than in a justifiable homicide,” states VPC Executive Director Josh Sugarmann. “A gun is far more likely to be stolen than used in self-defense.”

Guns are designed to kill people so if a gun is purchased for self defense isn’t that because the owner intends to use it at some point to kill or injure another human being? If people were warned about the risks like smokers are when they buy a pack of cigarettes, would it make a difference? Maybe. If people had mandatory training before being able to acquire a gun, would it make a difference? Maybe. So why not do these things because they certainly wouldn’t hurt anything and they just might prevent some senseless gun deaths?

When States United to Prevent Gun Violence set up a phony gun shop in New York City and explained to prospective gun buyers that the type of gun they wanted to buy was used in a recent mass shooting, the buyers changed their minds. Reality hit. Take a look:

Guns do have a history. All guns start out as a legal purchase but get into the illegal market in several ways- sold without a background check to someone who shouldn’t have a gun or to someone who intends to sell the gun without a background check to someone the seller does not know; stealing; straw purchase; trafficked on the street. If a gun doesn’t have its’ own personal history, the type of gun sold does and perversely, after a mass shooting, some Americans rush out to buy the very type of gun used in that mass shooting.

Where is common sense?

I watched  the movie American Gun. It is a movie that traces the history of a gun used to kill a man’s daughter. In the end ( spoiler alert) the gun used to kill his daughter was his own gun that had been stolen. Guns have histories.

Back to talking about the word violence. Many gun violence prevention organizations do use that word for a reason. People who die from gunshot injuries die a violent and usually sudden, unexpected death. There is no way around that. Whether the bullets came from a gun used in a suicide, a homicide or an “accidental” shooting, the bullets cause a violent reaction to a person’s body. And so we have:

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence

The Violence Policy Center

The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence

Protect Minnesota, Minnesotans working together to prevent gun violence

States United to Prevent Gun Violence

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

And many more too numerous to list here.

Violence is pervasive in America. Gun violence accounts for much of violence. Our media is littered with reports about shootings and shootings cause violence to the bodies of the victims. It is a violent death for sure. Bullets are designed to do damage to soft tissue inside of a person’s body.

A new study also suggests that gun violence is worse than we thought it was. Vox.com has reported here:

Beyond the implications for policy research, the findings are simply alarming. It’s hard to imagine that America’s gun violence problem is actually worse than we think, given that the country, even after the big drop in crime over the past few decades, still fares much worse than its developed peers. But this study shows that may be the case. At the very least, we’re not counting a lot of shootings as shootings.

How can we not count shootings as shootings? Sometimes when shootings result in only injuries or minor injuries, they are not counted. A shooting is a shooting because it results in less safe communities and a gun culture where too many people become victims of devastating violence that has a ripple effect.

Unless we have the common sense to talk about the issue for what it is, nothing will change. Perhaps if we showed photos taken by law enforcement at shooting scenes our legislators would change their minds about doing nothing about the violence. Perhaps if one of the gun rights extremists who argued with me at the hearing this week in the Minnesota Senate on the background check bill had seen a photo of my sister lying in a pool of blood at the shooting scene, he would have had just a little empathy for why I am trying to prevent gun deaths.

More on this in my next post.

I just know we can do better than this. Not addressing gun violence as encompassing all kinds of gun deaths is putting our heads in the sand. More guns have not made us safer and to the affected families, no matter what the cause of the gun death, it was a shooting that took the life of a loved one in a dramatic, sudden, unexpected and violent way.

 

 

The truth about gun registration

Truth on Display of Vending Machine.

It’s that season again. You know- the Presidential election where myths and lies are being spouted as the truth. We are witnessing the dumbing down of American politics where one of the candidates is actually fomenting violence at his rallies- that would be one Donald Trump of course. Here is a comment that should be frightening to us all from an article I read this morning:

Several Trump fans vowed that the next time, they would come armed. Some warned that if Trump was not chosen by Republicans, a militia would rise up to take him to power. When an evicted protester appeared at the doors of the Peabody, it was like a scene out of Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery: gazing down at a sea of rage, the demonstrator descended the stairs and the crowd tensed to pounce.

American history is filled with ordinary people doing unspeakable things: a country where wholesome families treated lynchings as social occasions and witch trials as spectacles. As the voice of a demagogue blared from a theater, protesters were beaten and his supporters laughed, cheered and cheered. Trump proclaimed it good.

Extraordinary fury was unleashed by the ordinary, in plain sight, in the midday sun, and political darkness rose.

Yup. This sounds about right for some Trump fans who are ramped up by their candidate’s violent rhetoric and allowing violent protests at his rallies so he can make demeaning and racist comments about the protesters. This is just not OK.  Armed citizens at rallies or forming an angry militia for their candidate is not only dangerous and speaks of insurrection, it is ludicrous and should be alarming to us all.

Let’s make America nice again ( I have seen caps with this slogan on them).

What I wrote above is about a real situation and a possible threat and not a myth. But let’s talk about the oft promoted myth by the gun lobbyists that closing the private seller loophole in our gun laws will just inevitably and certainly lead to gun registration followed by, of course, confiscation of their guns. Check, for example, this article in City Pages, a Minnesota publication,  about the criminal background check bill introduced in the Minnesota legislature last week. A comment from the article goes like this:

At the same time that Latz and Schoen introduced their bill, the Minnesota Gun Owners Caucus launched the predictable shrieking in opposition.

“Senator Latz and Representative Schoen have unveiled a gun control bill that is being portrayed as a comprehensive gun safety measure. In fact, this bill is nothing more than a gun owner registration bill, requiring law-abiding citizens to submit government paperwork for any purchase or transfer of a firearm,” said executive director Bryan Strawser.

Yes. Predictable and wrong. Since 1994, federally licensed dealers have been required to perform Brady background checks on sales of guns. There was a provision in that bill that protected private sellers from requiring these criminal background checks because it was thought that collectors and occasional sellers should not need to go through the bother of the paper work ( which takes about 3 minutes).

But things have changed since 1994. There are many many more private sellers selling the same guns as federally licensed dealers without asking sellers to go through background checks. That allows for people to slip through the cracks who could be domestic abusers, felons, adjudicated mentally ill or other prohibited categories for gun buyers. Sellers have no idea to whom they are selling guns without that background check.

Further, the system now in place for over 20 years has not resulted in gun confiscation. That is the nonsensical part of this mythical argument. It hasn’t happened yet and it won’t happen under the new laws. It is not happening in the states that have passed laws requiring background checks on all gun sales. So why keep saying it? Because they have gotten away with it in the past. But we know better and we are telling people the truth.

The truth matters just as lives matter. In fact, the truth matters to save lives. Look at the photo in the article of 3 people who are friends of mine. They have all lost loved ones to bullets just as I have. There is a club of survivors that has a membership based on the devastation loss of a brother, daughter, sister, aunt, mother, father, child. The membership dues are high.

There is no doubt, based on facts, that background checks and other gun laws can save lives. Just this morning on CBS Sunday Morning, there was an interview with the former Prime Minister of Australia who changed the gun laws in his country just 6 weeks after the heinous mass shooting in Port Arthur,Tasmania. Since that time, there have been ZERO mass shootings and the gun homicide and suicide rates have gone down measurably and accountably.

Also on the CBS Sunday Morning show, there was an interview with the parents and boyfriend (Chris Hurst) of Alison Parker, the Virginia journalist who was shot on live TV. Alison’s shooting and that of cameraman Adam Ward, was a violent and live shooting that affected many Americans but most especially and tragically their family and friends. This is why we need to change something in our country. Where else do citizens watch shootings on live TV?  I have met Andy and Barbara Parker and Chris Hurst and admire them very much for their advocacy on behalf of the many victims of gun violence in America.

But back to gun registration….In the proposed federal background check law that passed in the U.S. Senate in 2013 ( 54 votes should be passage but because we need 60 votes to get anything done in the Senate, the bill failed to go forward) there was a provision specifically stating that there would be no registration of guns:

“If your private gun transaction is covered by Toomey-Schumer-Manchin (and virtually all will be) … you can assume you will be part of a national gun registry,” the lobbying group Gun Owners of America said. (The group added the name of Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y, one of the co-sponsors.)

Actually, the amendment outlawed any such registry. In fact, a registry was alreadyoutlawed, and the amendment extra outlawed it.

It declared that nothing in the legislation should be construed to “allow the establishment, directly or indirectly, of a federal firearms registry

But never mind. The NRA and others in the gun lobby got busy and opposed a law that could have saved lives because…..rights? Since the Sandy Hook school shooting which prompted this common sense bill, over 100,000 Americans have been shot and killed by bullets. Where were the rights of all of those people to the freedom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

No one on my side of this debate about saving lives believes that passing a background check bill would save all lives. What we are advocating is to save as many as is possible with background check laws, safe storage of guns, awareness about the risks of guns in homes for children and vulnerable or dangerous adults, suicide awareness, or whatever else it takes. But we are NOT pushing for gun registration. Though some would say that registration would work to save even more lives. Most other democratized countries not at war do require licensing and registration and other measures for the sake of public health and safety. And the result? Far far fewer gun deaths and injuries. And people are still allowed to own guns for hunting and sport shooting.

So let’s talk the truth. The majority of Minnesotans (82%) and Americans (90%+) want background checks on all gun sales. We have been held hostage by the corporate gun lobby. Or rather I should say that our legislators and Congress members have bought into the myths. Why? Follow the money and influence. It’s the American system at its’ worst. It not only leads to needless and avoidable gun deaths it leads to mythical thinking about other important issues of our day. As Minnesota Representative Dan Schoen said from the above linked article:

“You can’t lose faith that there’s an opportunity for people to see the wisdom in doing the right thing,” Schoen says. “Rep. Cornish and I actually have a really good working relationship on many issues. He has what he puts out in public, and we all know where that’s at. We have to convince legislators that their citizens will send them back to the state Capitol and they won’t be targeted because of their vote, that the outside interests’ money shouldn’t be the issue.”

Exactly. Thanks to Representative Schoen for speaking the truth. It’s time to hold our leaders and candidates responsible and accountable for their words and their actions. If they vote in favor of laws that allow dangerous people to be able to get their hands on guns, they should be called out. If they stand with victims and survivors they should be congratulated and voted back into office.

We have had #Enough. Lies, deceptions, myths, promotion of violence and dissembling can’t be the way we run our country. We are better than this.