Conspiracies and connections

conspiracyA lunatic conspiracy theory promoted on the internet brought a North Carolina man with an AR-15 into a popular Washington DC pizza restaurant to check it out for himself. Naturally it didn’t go well.

 

 

 

Police say the conspiracy theory led to violence Sunday when a North Carolina man fired a rifle in the restaurant as he sought to investigate the accusations. No one was injured, and the man was arrested.

Flynn Jr., who has accompanied his father to presidential transition meetings inside Trump Tower and lists the presidential transition website as part of his Twitter bio, tweeted Sunday night that, “Until #Pizzagate proven to be false, it’ll remain a story.”

Trump’s team had no immediate response to questions about the conspiracy theory or the younger Flynn’s role in the presidential transition.

Hmmm. How is all of this connected? During the Presidential election there were more conspiracy theories appearing in fake news sights and shared on social media than in past elections. Is it a coincidence that most of them came from the right wing of our country? And is it a coincidence that some of President-elect Trump’s advisors have engaged in writing them, tweeting them, sharing them and promoting them to others?

It was just a matter of time before a lunatic with a gun would connect the dots and react to a fake news conspiracy theory. This could have been much much worse.

But what could possibly go wrong with a gun nut internet troll, a ridiculous and dangerous conspiracy theory pushed by even those in the “mainstream” and easy access to AR-15s? Let’s see what the latest is from this Washington Post article:

She understands freedom of speech, Ousmaal replied in an email, but “derogatory libelous and hateful blogs and emails should not and cannot qualify.”

The officer replied once more, suggesting she ask the other owners if they knew who was behind the “disruption.”

“I don’t have anymore options to give unfortunately,” he wrote.

Ousmaal couldn’t believe it. She feared her family or staff could be harmed.

“Literally,” she said, “death threats.”

This should not be the new normal. But I fear it is. The connection between the hateful election rhetoric, stirred up by the far right and their very own candidate and now President elect Donald Trump, is the connection. The gun lobby is connected to the far right and now to the Republican Congress and our next President. There is no mistaking that. If this is what they have in mind, get ready for a tumultuous and dangerous 4 years. It will not be pretty.

When the free press is threatened by people with guns whose anger is fomented by the man at the top and his advisors, we are not a democracy any longer. The connections are real. Subscribing to conspiracy theories is dangerous and they are not real. But when fact becomes fiction and fiction becomes fact as I wrote about in my last post, this is what we have. Is this what we want? I know I don’t and I know the majority does not. But the majority apparently didn’t care about this when voting for Donald Trump. Or did they even understand that this was the world we would inherit after Jan. 20, 2017? I doubt it.

Dana Milbank wrote this for the Washington Post this morning:

There was a time when threats against journalists, like threats of any sort of political violence, were exceedingly rare. But in Trump’s America, such threats are neither rare nor idle.

If you doubt that, consider the events in recent days at Comet Ping Pong, the family pizza place in Northwest Washington I’ve been frequenting with my daughter ever since she was a toddler a decade ago. Lately, the owner and staff at Comet — and those of other businesses on the block — have been getting death threats, spurred by radio host Alex Jones, a conspiracy theorist with close ties to the president-elect. (…)

Trump is not directly responsible for every violent word or action of his followers. But he foments violence. As The Post’s executive editor, Marty Baron, has noted, when Trump refers to journalists as “the lowest form of life,” “scum” and the enemy, “it is no wonder that some members of our staff [at The Post] and at other news organizations received vile insults and threats of personal harm so worrisome that extra security was required.”

Trump, during the campaign, fantasized about Clinton and her judicial nominees being assassinated. He boasted that “I bring rage out” in people, and his violent rallies proved it. Since the election, Trump has falsely accused the media of inciting violence. At his speech in Ohio last week he denounced the “dishonest” media no fewer than six times. (…)

Now we are beginning to see the consequences of the rage and paranoia Trump has encouraged: A disturbed man fires an assault weapon in a place where tots play ping-pong. The only “crime” of the owner, James Alefantis, was to be a Clinton supporter who had, the WikiLeaks hack exposed, discussed with Clinton aide John Podesta the possibility of hosting a Clinton fundraiser.

Frightening.  Dangerous.  Outrageous. Deplorable.

We are living in a new world full of guns, violence and threats by people with guns. It is not the world of our founding fathers who saw fit to add the Second Amendment to our Bill of Rights. Those founding fathers did not anticipate the types of weapons now on our streets. The connection between the meaning of the second amendment to the reality of everyday life has been hijacked by those who want profit and control.

Let’s take a look , for example, at the connection between the sale of high powered handguns and an increase in these kind of guns found at crime scenes?:

Data collected by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, and obtained by The Trace, shows a sharp uptick in the number of high-caliber guns recovered by police in just the last few years. From 2012 to 2015, the number of 9mm and .40-caliber weapons found by police at crime scenes and during investigations grew by 30 and 39 percent respectively. Those were greater increases than any other commonly recovered kind of guns. While .22s are still the second most frequently recovered pistol, the quantity of these guns confiscated by police stayed virtually flat.

Criminals are obtaining powerful, higher capacity weapons in greater numbers for the same reason as police and legal buyers, says David Hureau, a SUNY-Albany sociologist who studies the illegal firearms market.

“Demand is shifting because supply is shifting,” Hureau says. “Bigger, badder guns are just more available on the secondary market.”

If you build them, they will buy them. Did the supply come first or the demand?

Why do we need “badder” guns again? Why did the man who walked into the DC pizza restaurant need that AR-15 again? Self protection? Insurrection? Lunacy? Intolerance of others? Taking care of business himself? Taking the law into his own hands?

And do I need to mention again that these type of guns and weaponry are available to anyone who wants them because we do not require Brady background checks on all gun sales?

This is the “new normal” in America. Is this what we bargained for when we left the corporate gun lobby to write our policy laws about guns and gun violence? There is a connection between the ties of the gun industry to the gun lobby and to lapdog politicians who did and do their bidding.

We are not safer now. We ought to be scared enough to be ever vigilant and to hold our leaders responsible when we see the connections to violence perpetrated by weakening gun laws, bad policy and a gun culture that is out of control.

If a free press is threatened by our leader at the top, the outcome will not be a good one. If a restaurant owner is threatened and harassed by gun nut trolls the outcome will not be a good one. When more and more high powered guns are encouraged in more and more public places, the outcome will not be a good one.

Join me and others who are working on gun violence prevention and who will remain vigilant and active in promoting common sense.

For surely what I have written about above flies in the face of common sense and of the public good. The American people have a right to be protected from insidious and dangerous people who would do them harm based on false conspiracy theories and dangerous rhetoric from the NRA and our leaders. If our own leaders will not keep us safe from devastating shootings and violence, who will?

Thanksgiving memories

Rowan branchSo many Americans will have empty seats at their Thanksgiving tables this year because of senseless acts of gun violence. Some will be because of gun suicides, the most common form of gun violence in America. I send my hugs and condolences to those families. But wishes, hugs and forms of sympathetic expressions are just not enough.

And for the families of the 4 officers who were shot in just one day, 2 of whom were allegedly targeted by some ill intentioned person with a gun, there will be no normal Thanksgiving and maybe not for many years. One officer died from his injuries. From the article:

McManus said he believed Marconi was slain because he was a police officer.

“I think the uniform was the target, and the first person who happened along was the person he targeted,” McManus said. (…)

In St. Louis, a police sergeant was hospitalized in critical condition but expected to survive after being shot twice in the face Sunday night in what the police chief called an “ambush.”

In America ambushes by armed people against armed law enforcement officers have happened with some regularity.  Tacoma. Philadelphia. Pittsburgh. Iowa. New York. And others. So much for having a gun for protection ( as do officers) keeping you from getting shot by someone else with a gun.

Families are grieving. They have lost sons, brothers, uncles, fathers. They have lost sisters, mothers, daughters and aunts. And many of the deaths were avoidable if we only would put our heads together to prevent a portion of the devastation. We can do it. Of course we can. But we haven’t. It is an American tragedy that has been playing out for decades.

Those of us who have lost loved ones to gun violence can be thankful for the memories that make us both sad and happy. We can be thankful that we still have other family members and friends and that we can make the most of what we have. I know I am thankful for all of the wonderful people I have met over the years through my volunteer work with various gun violence prevention organizations. I feel thankful that there is a network of victims and survivors nation-wide who can share their stories and help each other get through the bad times. And I am thankful that so many of them have become stronger people as a result of their stories and their advocacy.

Today is the anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. If you were alive then, you can’t forget where you were or the aftermath of that tragedy. Just thinking about it now makes me anxious because the days right after the assassination were so potently sad and full of fear and anxiety for Americans. We watched much of it unfold on national television which made it all the more horrible.

The Kennedy family has suffered 2 such assassinations and have had empty seats around their Thanksgiving tables for a long long time. The pain and memories never go away. My family has had an empty chair for almost 24 years now. Holidays are always times that bring forth memories and now, we can mostly find happy ones. But the hole left in our hearts never goes away.

And so it is in America.

We could strengthen our laws to stop at least some people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them by requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales. But we aren’t doing that. We could do more about lost and stolen gun legislation and launching public health campaigns about the dangers of not storing guns safely at home. ( 400 guns were stolen by teens from the home of a felon who could not possess them.)

Does one person need 400 guns? What was the felon going to do with these guns? How and why did this felon even have these guns given that he can’t legally buy them from federally licensed firearms dealers? And what were the teens planning to do with them?

Sigh.

We could be talking more about the danger of unlocked, loaded guns in homes where children live. Why aren’t we doing more about this? The gun lobby doesn’t really like this kind of talk.

We could be talking more about the risk of loaded guns for people who may have mental or physical health problems that could make them dangerous to themselves or others. But we aren’t really doing much about that either.

The thing is, most Americans have common sense and actually want something to be done. The Center for American Progress did a post election poll of Trump and Clinton voters. The results may surprise some people but not me. I know that all polling, at least about gun violence prevention measures, has been the same for decades. They show strong support from Republicans, Democrats, gun owners, non gun owners and even NRA members for requiring background checks on all gun sales.

102 Pass legislation requiring background checks on all gun sales, including those sold online or at gun shows. ……………………………………………………… 57 31 9 3 88 12 76 Trump Voters………………………………………………… 47 35 12 6 82 18 64 Clinton Voters ……………………………………………….. 68 25 5 1 93 7 87

What about this does the gun lobby and its’ minions in Congress and state legislators not get?

Oh right. It’s the gun industry and the corporate gun lobby that have those folks at their mercy. How sad is that? And Donald Trump says he’s going to “drain the swamp”?

I have my doubts. If he decides to stay beholden to the lobbyists of the gun industry who manage to get their way in spite of what the public wants and in spite of the continuing gun violence epidemic in our country, he will be adding swamp monsters and filling it up.

But victims and survivors move on with their lives. Many of them work hard for gun violence prevention measures and speak out against the deceptions presented by the corporate gun lobby. More guns do not make us safer. There is proof of that in every day incidents that leave innocent people dead from their gunshot injuries. An armed society is certainly not a polite society and gun free zones do not lead to more gun deaths.

Let’s be thankful for those who have common sense. Let’s be hopeful that our Congress and state legislators stop following the money and being lapdogs for the gun lobby. Let’s also be hopeful that President-elect Donald Trump will be willing to shake things up regarding the gun lobby’s influence on our country’s gun policies.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Be safe out there. As I often write, gun violence does not take a holiday.

Post election musings

3d image Tolerance issues concept word cloud backgroundWell, I am finally coming out of my post election funk- at least for a while. I was among millions who were shocked and feeling numb after the election of Donald Trump. I know I am in my own bubble as are most people. We tend to socialize and communicate with people who think like us. To say this is a game changer is putting it mildly.

I need a reset in many ways. Not only did my candidate (s) lose, but I have been dealing with a major health crisis of a close family member. So I am feeling pretty out of sorts and in a fog after last week.

All of that aside though, there are a few things I need to say.

The NRA ( and corporate gun lobby) now have a seat in the White House. They spent a lot of money to get that seat. But then again, the NRA does not represent its’ own members. It represents the gun lobby and the gun industry. 74% of NRA members believe what I believe about background checks.  But this is not about the people in spite of what Donald Trump fooled his supporters into believing. It’s about power and control and greed. Follow the money.

The gun lobby did not win everywhere they spent money, however and several gun safety reform measures left to the voters to decide, passed. Washington state,  Nevada and California passed stronger gun laws.  In Nevada a referendum requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales passed (see linked article) and a similar measure almost passed in Maine. Most of the time when voters are asked directly they want stronger gun laws. Voters are not beholden to the corporate gun lobby.

My own Congressman Rick Nolan won in spite of massive spending by the NRA against him. Others won re-election or election running unafraid of the gun lobby.

Interestingly sales of guns and ammunition started dropping right after Trump was elected. What’s that about? No more need to hate the government and be prepared to fight against it? No more need for self defense from zombies that look like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama? Confidence that guns will not be taken even if they wouldn’t have been anyway? No more fear of the “other”?

Never mind common sense.

Let’s look at the above linked article:

Before the election, “there was a widespread expectation that Hillary would win and some gun retailers began to stock up, expecting strong demand surge from the prospect of tightening gun control under a Hillary Clinton administration,” said Rommel Dionisio, a gun industry analyst for Wunderlich Securites.

“Obviously, that’s not going to happen,” he said. Now that Trump will be president and Republicans will control both houses of Congress, he said demand for guns will probably drop over the next year or two.

Go figure. What’s good for the goose is evidently not so good for the gander.

So far there have been no politically motivated shootings as were threatened if Hillary Clinton won the election. I wrote about this fear in my last postBut one anti-Trump protester did issue some threatening words. This is not OK. There should be no talk about using violence and threatening to kill people over elections from either side of the issue or the aisle. In America, because of the sheer number of guns and people with guns, it could actually happen.

As much as I do not like Donald Trump, I urge people on both sides to put aside talk like this and think about their words. Words matter. Trump knows that because he used all kinds of incendiary words during the election. He made a lot of promises and stoked a lot of fear. Already, he is making noises about walking back some of his promises but the fear he stoked is now a part of our political culture in a way it never was before.

The NRA was right there with him and have been for years in spite of Trump’s support for common sense gun legislation before he became a candidate and had to curry favor with the gun lobby.

So now, Trump has joined with the corporate gun lobby in his statements during the campaign to incite fear and anger. This incendiary and fear filled language has made gun toting Americans afraid of their own shadows. This article from The Trace explains:

It was a pitch that found a welcome audience among Americans primed by years of bilious NRA rhetoric. Rage at elites has long been the crucial context for the organization’s gun rights message, the force it has used to mobilize its membership. It’s not just that gun rights must be protected, NRA leaders argue — it’s that they must be defended from political leaders and journalists who have contempt for everyday people’s values and ideas of how America should look.

“Something has gone terribly wrong in our country,” the group’s executive vice president, Wayne LaPierre, said at its 2012 annual meeting, held in St. Louis. “Almost every aspect of American freedom is in some state of decline.” The NRA alone, he declared, stood ready to lead the fight against tyranny imposed by the “global elitists and all their friends in the White House” who were conspiring to “hide the truth we all know in our gut.” Of course, LaPierre sniped, “No politician in any party will tell you that.”

Don’t trust anyone.

And since the NRA is well funded by the gun industry, they were able to spend a boat load of money in this election. More from the above article:

What has gone less noticed is how the group has succeeding in stoking populist furor that spills well beyond the people on its email list.

“Both the NRA and Trump promote a nostalgia for something that has been lost,” sociologist Scott Melzer, author of the 2012 book Gun Crusaders: The NRA’s Culture War, tells The Trace. The gun group and its candidate speak to “this white rural conservative population that feels left behind by economic shifts and cultural shifts. These changes pose a threat to their identity.”

Melzer says the NRA has figured out how to mobilize people by fostering a sense that they are threatened by outsiders. “That makes them the most effective social force in conservatism, and they’ve done so with language that Trump used,” he said. The NRA seized on this rhetoric to fuel its interest group politics.

Trump brought it to the larger arena of mainstream politics, then rode it to the Oval Office. (…)

By the Friday before the election, Clinton was considered the overwhelming favorite to win the White House. That morning, the NRA issued a familiar call to its millions of members: Vote for Trump not just to protect gun rights, but to stick it to the establishment.

Yup. The establishment. Who are they? If Donald Trump isn’t part of a certain kind of establishment, who is? Those who voted for Trump were fooled into believing lies and deceptions.

Part of my healing after the election was to spend time with fellow grievers. I knew I would find some at my church. What I found were people concerned about issues of peace and justice, the environment, racism, GLBTQ, violence, intolerance and those things Christians ( at least the ones in my church) care about. I was reassured that many groups and individuals in my church and my community are still planning to work hard to make sure hate doesn’t trump love and tolerance.

I am concerned about some local school students involved in racial slurs and hate speech. Who are the role models for our children? If we have a national bully sitting in the Oval Office, how can expect our children to aspire to better ways of doing thing and respecting their fellow students? If we have a President who surrounds himself with and listens to white nationalists and hate groups ( David Duke, KKK and others) how can we expect our kids and adults as well to respect their fellow human beings?

Calls have been made for Trump to step up to a microphone and speak to the nation to calm the unrest and intolerance. Marches and protests are taking place all over America, including in my own small city. People need to be reassured that Trump’s administration will not operate like his campaign did. If it does the country will be less safe and more unstable. That never leads to good things.

A friend in church who adopted a child from Tibet when she was a baby told me that her daughter, now a college student in Washington state, called home scared of how she would be treated. Her daughter thought maybe should buy some pepper spray for her safety since she was now fearing a backlash against students who look like her.

These are frightening times for your youth and our children. The fear extends to adults as well. We are better than this. We must be for our children and grandchildren. And when fear is felt by both sides for different reasons, it may not lead to peace and civil order. But some students are joining the protests against a Trump presidency and what it will mean for their future.

This gives me hope.

We absolutely need common sense now more than ever. Gun violence prevention groups nationally and at the state level will be fighting battles to loosen gun laws that need to be strengthened instead. People will still be shot- Republicans and Democrats alike and our national public health epidemic will not get better if we don’t take measures to stem the tide of violence. Civility does not come at the end of a gun barrel so making it easier for anyone to access guns will not result in safer and more civil communities.

The idea that armed citizens who are not trained to carry loaded guns on our streets and are barely vetted to do so should alarm us all. But in Trump country, this is what we will have. Please read this if you think we will all be safer. From the article:

Advocates analogize their preferred system of “reciprocity” to drivers’ licenses, which are issued by individual states but accepted by all 50. But this comparison elides how disparate the standards for concealed-carry licenses are from state-to-state — and the fact that, in ten states, you can carry a gun with no license at all.

It’s not clear whether a national reciprocity law would completely gut local gun restrictions. While the legislation would allow out-of-state visitors to flout local firearm laws, advocates for gun control remain hopeful that state governments would retain the power to enforce more stringent regulations on their own residents. The challenge there would be to block any workaround that might allow a New York City resident to take a trip to Virginia, secure a permit, and come home with a legal handgun in tow.

If that isn’t enough for us all to digest, think about the fact that a man who is in charge of one of our nation’s most right wing publications, Breitbart News, will be whispering into the ear of our next President. When White nationalists, the Ku Klux Klan and other alt-right and militia type groups are in charge of our country, it’s time to think about who we are as a country. Groups concerned about anti-semitic sentiments are concerned as they should be.

The Southern Poverty Law Center will be a watchdog and sounding the alarm if things go the way they are hoping it won’t. Read here:

But it’s not just sieg-heiling Nazis and cross-burning Klansmen who should trouble Americans concerned about what a Trump victory portends. It’s also the more polite, suit-wearing extremists who move in mainstream political circles and already have their nose under the Trump tent.

They’re people like Kris Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state who birthed the viciously discriminatory, unconstitutional anti-immigrant laws enacted by Arizona, Alabama and other states several years ago; and Ken Blackwell, the former Ohio secretary of state who is now a senior fellow at the rabidly anti-LGBT  Family Research Council. Both are reportedly serving as key members of Trump’s transition team.

As is customary, Trump has pledged to be a president “for all Americans.”

Will we have a President who stands up to hate, extremism, fear mongering, violence and intolerance?

Time will tell.

This is not the country most people voted for. Hillary won the popular vote by almost 2 million votes.

#Enough.

Gunned down in America

Super Bald Eagle Character - 2America- the land of the free and home of the brave. Also the country of guns, guns, guns. The last few weeks have given us another full frontal view of what it means to “bear arms” in a country with almost as many guns as people. So here are just a few of the things that have happened that we need to think about:

So let’s review. Fewer Americans own the majority of guns in the land of the free. People are open carrying these guns in small numbers but have managed to pass laws to allow people without proper vetting to carry guns in public. And in states where standing your ground is considered to be brave, if a shooting should happen while the “law abiding” shooter claims self defense the shooter does not have to face the usual legal process for killing someone.

More mass shootings happen in the land of the free and home of the brave than in any other country and they have increased in frequency. Some lawmakers are willing to sacrifice common sense for their adherence to a powerful gun lobby that represents a distinct minority of Americans. Follow the money. Conceal and open carry laws allow for the proliferation of guns on our streets and in our neighborhood public places. And we have learned from a study cited in an article above that people who own and carry guns do so in fear of other people. Law enforcement officers can’t tell “good guys” with guns from “bad guys” with guns. And are black men legally carrying guns more likely to be deemed “bad guys” with guns than white guys with guns? I’m just asking.

“Law abiding” gun owners are not locking their guns safely away from being stolen by those who shouldn’t be able to get their hands on guns. We don’t pass laws that include mandatory reporting of lost and stolen guns and we have no laws requiring that guns be locked securely away from ammunition. Guns make it to the streets and the illegal market when they are stolen. Of course the fact that we allow those very same people who are deemed to be prohibited purchasers at a federally licensed firearms dealer to buy those very same guns from private sellers on-line or at gun shows and flea markets is ludicrous and dangerous.

We are free to own and carry guns in America. But we should be free from devastating gun violence as well. We don’t have to sit by and let this happen. The corporate gun lobby, through it’s lapdogs in Congress,  has suppressed research about the causes and effects of gun violence. Luckily for the brave amongst us, there are non-government researchers who are showing us the real problem with guns. They are a risk to those who own and carry them and become a risk to other innocent people as a result. We know, thanks to research and surveys done by credible sources, that fewer Americans own guns but own a lot of them on average. That being the case, how do we get our elected leaders to stop bowing to a very well funded and vocal lobby which represents mostly themselves and not average gun owners in the land of the free?

Maybe exposing their votes and their acceptance of campaign contributions from the gun lobby will help. The Brady Campaign has released a new lapdog scorecard showing who are the lapdogs for the gun lobby in Congress. Check it out. You can click on your own state and find out. The thing is, the majority of Americans, gun owners or not, and even NRA members, support strengthening our gun laws. If this is the land of the free and home of the brave, the brave need to speak out and do the right thing in the name of saving lives.

The model of fear is a bad idea when dealing with deadly weapons. Some in our country have ramped up fear of others, fear of those who don’t look like us, fear of shadows lurking in every corner awaiting a chance to get us. If you don’t believe me, you can look at this new campaign ad made by the NRA about why gun owners should fear Hillary Clinton and vote for Donald Trump. It’s another big lie but it gets people to the gun stores. Follow the money.

Fear is not a good way to make laws and change the conversation. It is counter productive and leads us to fear the wrong things. Why are we not fearful that just about anyone can gain access to a deadly weapon and carry it around in public or use it for bad intentions? Why are we not concerned that those on a no-fly list are not on the no-buy list for guns? Though not a perfect solution, it sure seems like we ought to be able to stop at least some dangerous people from being to get guns.

If you think all of this is insane, please get involved to make the changes we all deserve. That would be changes to gun laws to make them stronger so we can prevent some of the daily carnage. It also means changing the conversation to make people think twice about whether or not a gun for self defense makes sense for them. And if it does, at the least, make sure these folks have good training in using a deadly weapon designed to kill other people and have the common sense to lock up their guns unloaded to avoid stolen guns or someone, like a child or teen, accessing the gun. And make darned sure that dangerous people or those who could become dangerous to themselves or others either can’t get guns or have them removed until the danger is over or permanently, whichever happens first.

We have work to do. But we also have to counter erroneous claims by the corporate gun lobby that have become common talking points in our country. If we are the land of the free and home of the brave, we need to be brave enough to stand up for the truth and against those whose claims about freedom do not reflect reality.

Remembering my sister- victim of gun violence

photo of Barbara(I have edited this post at the encouragement of a reader and also to mention a mass shooting that occurred on this day as well.)

23 years ago today, my sister, Barbara Lund, was shot and killed by her estranged husband during difficult and protracted divorce proceedings. Actually the family learned about the shooting on August 6th after the bodies of my sister and her friend, Kevin, laid in the house of the shooter for 24 hours before he admitted to what he had done to his lawyer.

Barbara was vivacious, beautiful, adventurous, a loving mother, sports minded, an artist, a pilot, and many other things. She was loved by many and made an impact on those who knew her. I admired her and loved her deeply. When she was around, life was never dull.

The memories never go away but over time, the pain becomes weaker. The hole left by her death is one we live around. Her name is mentioned less. But we can see some of her in her grandchildren, who she never met. We can laugh about happy memories. We remember the last time we all saw her. We try not to think about the phone calls and the immediate aftermath of her shooting. We try not to remember the media coverage and how awful it all was at the time. And most of all, I try not to remember the phone call we had to make to my mother who was at her cabin tucked far away on the scenic Gunflint Trail in northern Minnesota.

Many of us have these memories and the pain and the grief. Little things remind us of our loved one or our friend. That can be both good and bad. In July, my sister’s birthday passed us by with little notice but it was always close to my own July birthday.

Over the years, I have met the loved ones of many other people whose memories are strong and painful. There are too many of us. I see and hear their pain and we hug and share our grief.

And we share our resolve to work hard so that other families won’t go through what we all go through. But we are met with strong resistance from a corporate gun lobby who don’t share our pain or our grief. They share in their profits and their way of life that includes having lots of guns and their false belief that the second amendment is under some sort of attack. The gun lobby tells them this. Right wing extremists tell them this. They tell them we are coming for their guns. They tell them Hillary Clinton will take away the second amendment ( which can’t be done without a constitutional amendment to do so).  They tell them their rights will be taken with any common sense measure to keep people from being shot.

It makes no sense. None of it.

Today I read that gun rights extremists won’t adhere to the new California laws passed there requiring registration of assault rifles and restrictions on the size of ammunition magazines sold. They won’t follow the laws on the books. California’s gun death rate is low compared to other states. We don’t have to guess why.

Long Rails Textured

I am leaving for a vacation on a train trip with my family tomorrow. We will board the train in St. Paul and travel to Glacier Park through North Dakota and Montana. And then, after some days at Glacier enjoying the park we will again board the plane for Seattle where we will spend some time before flying home to Minnesota.

 

As I always do when I travel, I explore gun laws in the places we visit. Let’s look at North Dakota first.  From the link ( Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence):

North Dakota does not:

Now let’s look at the gun death rate in North Dakota:

In 2013, North Dakota had the 24th highest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. This represents a significant increase from its position as the state with the 33rd highest gun death rate in 2010. North Dakota had the 35th highest rate of crime gun exports among the states in 2009–meaning that crime guns originally sold in North Dakota were recovered after being used in crimes in other states at the 35th highest rate among the states.

Not so good.

Now for Montana ( also from the Law Center):

Among other things, Montana does not:

And as for gun death rates:

In 2013, Montana had the 5th highest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. Montana also had the 14th highest rate of crime gun exports among the states in 2009–meaning that crime guns originally sold in Montana were recovered after being used in crimes in other states at the 14th highest rate per capita among the states.

Gun suicides are high in Montana:

Suicide is the leading cause of gun-related deaths across the country in recent years. Of the 33,636 firearm deaths in 2013, more than 21,000 were suicides. In fact, suicide accounted for more than half of gun-related deaths in all but one state with the most gun violence. In three states — Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming — suicide accounted for more than 80% of all firearm deaths.

It turns out that the suicide gun death rate in Montana places it in the top 20 states for gun death rates.

At the request of a commenter, I am including Idaho gun law and death information. Our train will also travel through a small area of Idaho on the way to Glacier National Park. Here it is ( from the Law Center):

Idaho does not:

As to gun death rates in Idaho:

In 2013, Idaho had the 14th highest rate of gun deaths per capita among the states. 227 Idahoans died from firearm-related injuries in Idaho that year. Additionally, according to Mayors Against Illegal Guns, in 2009, Idaho supplied the 18th highest number of crime guns to other states per capita, and the state exports more than twice as many crime guns as it imports.

And finally, the state of Washington (from the Law Center again) where a referendum changed the laws there (by 60% approval)to require background checks on all gun sales. From the first link:

Among other things, Washington:

  • Requires a background check prior to the transfer of a firearm between private parties;
  • Requires firearm dealers to obtain a state license, and imposes a background check on all dealer employees;
  • Prohibits certain domestic violence misdemeanants and persons subject to a domestic violence order of protection from purchasing or possessing any firearms; and
  • Requires that all firearms dealers have a state license in order to transfer ammunition.

Gun death rates are lower in Washington:

In 2013, Washington had the 11th lowest number of gun deaths per capita among the states. Washington had the 17th lowest rate of crime gun exports among the states in 2009–meaning that crime guns originally sold in Washington were recovered after being used in crimes in other states at the 17th lowest rate among the states.

Gun laws matter.

In states that require background checks on all gun sales, there are fewer gun homicides, fewer domestic shooting deaths and less gun crime.

Facts matter. Laws matter.

I want to point out that today is also the 4th anniversary of the heinous hate crime that occurred at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin:

On August 5, 2012, a massacre took place at the gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, where 40-year-old Wade Michael Page fatally shot six people and wounded four others.[3][4] Page committed suicide by shooting himself in the head after he was shot in the stomach by a responding police officer.

Page was an American white supremacist and Army veteran from Cudahy, Wisconsin. Apart from the shooter, all of the dead were members of theSikh faith.

We have continued to endure mass shootings like this one all over America without doing a thing to stop them. The families of those shot at the Sikh Temple have told their stories. I have heard them. Stories matter. That is why I tell my story and why so many of us who have lost loved ones tell our stories. For if our leaders can’t look at our photos and hear our stories and still refuse to pass stronger gun laws, then who are we as a nation? Who are we if we don’t do whatever we can to stop and prevent devastating gun violence in our families and our communities.

Life goes on for those of us who have lost someone to bullets. It goes on in a different way. I can write about my sister’s death without crying now. I can take trips with my family and not think about her. But gun violence doesn’t take a trip or a vacation. In the 10 days I will be traveling, 900 people will die due to bullets.

We are better than this. Our gun laws have gone “off the rails” thanks to a corporate gun lobby more interested in making profits than in saving lives. There is no excuse for this. We need to get back on track and do the right thing. By the right thing, I mean to change laws, change the conversation, change the culture where we can and stop people from being shot. All of this can be done without taking away the rights of law abiding gun owners.

My purpose is to keep the attention on gun violence and urge support for reasonable measures to prevent families from losing someone in a very sudden and violent death, often avoidable. If we do the right thing, we can lessen the impact of gun violence on more families. We can hear fewer stories and keep our children and families safer.

Let’s get to work in the name of my sister and the other victims. That is the least we can do.

Taking sides on guns

NRA with ear muffsWhen it comes to innocent people being shot or taking their own lives with a gun or a child shooting someone or him/herself with a loaded unsecured gun, I thought there was only one side- common sense and safety. That was, of course, before I got involved in the gun violence prevention movement. In this movement we are all on the side of people not getting shot for really much of any reason. But we also recognize that guns are made to kill people and so, when there a lot of guns around and many of them unregulated and many of their owners also unregulated, there will be a lot of deaths and injuries.

But the silence from the gun lobby is deafening when it comes to actual people being shot and the epidemic of gun violence in our country. Is it on purpose? Is it just lack of empathy and compassion? Is it only political and in the interest of profit? Is it really true fear and paranoia that the government will come knocking on the door for their guns? Is it fear of zombies and the other? Is it just the second amendment which doesn’t say anything about guns for anyone who wants them no matter what? Is it avoidance of the truth? Is it ignorance of the laws or willful refusal to believe that gun laws can work? Is it some sort of fear of freedom being taken away when the lives lost were freedoms taken? Is it all about profits over lives? Is it about a culture change happening and fear of that change as fewer people hunt and fewer households own guns?

I don’t know that answer. I think all of the above are true actually. All I know for sure is that too many lives are taken every day by bullets and we can change that if we have the will and the political courage to do so. From the linked article above:

Is it too much to hope that America may be nearing the point of progress over the urgent — and long overdue — issue of gun violence? More than 5,000 people have been killed by guns since the start of this year. More than 10,000 have been injured. There have been more than 112 mass shootings. Just this week, amurder-suicide claimed two lives on the UCLA campus. In 2013, the U.S. saw more than 30,000 gun-related deaths. There’s cause to believe that 2016 will see a similarly horrifying tally.

Whose side are you on? Stopping some of these shootings or turning away from the carnage under our noses every day?

Thursday was #WearOrange day. By all standards, if counting many thousands of people participating in various events and posting photos of themselves on social media, it was a huge success. I was involved in organizing 2 of these events in my city. As always, we have speakers talking about why they are involved and why we need to deal with our public health epidemic. The Mayor issued a proclamation making my city orange for the day in memory and honor of gun violence victims. She held up a picture that a young boy had sent her with the words, “no more guns.” The Police Chief spoke about gun safety and the importance of storing guns safely to prevent them from being stolen and becoming crime guns. A woman spoke about the pain of losing her father when he took the gun he bought for self defense and used it to kill himself, leaving their family without a father.

And then a gun owner and hunter spoke about the need for putting our heads together and forgetting about our differences so we can save lives and prevent at least some of the gun violence. He is a strong proponent of requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales with the understanding that his own guns will NOT be taken from him nor will his rights to shoot those guns as long as he doesn’t shoot another human being.

It turns out that on the same day as our events, a Minnesota woman was found shot dead in her home, shot by the same man who had traveled to UCLA and shot a professor dead and then himself. The shooter had a hit list and he had 2 semi automatic guns, presumably bought legally. And that is the conundrum. Many people can buy guns legally and may never use those guns to shoot another human being or themselves. They may never bring it out to play with or show to someone and have it discharge. They may never drop their gun in a public place where it “accidentally” discharges. They may never leave that gun unattended, unsecured and loaded for young children or teens to find to use in a shooting.

But the fact is, far too many of these people are not safe with their guns. And we don’t know who will become unsafe or when they might become unsafe. That is the problem with our sides. My hunter friend spoke of how in other democratized countries that allow private ownership of guns, there just are not a lot of the incidents I described above. Does that mean that those folks are more careful and more safe? Maybe. But we do know that laws exist in those countries that make gun ownership a very awesome responsibility and difficult to get in the first place.

I maintain that stronger laws change the way in which people look at guns. People are less cavalier when their gun is harder to obtain and they have to go through more regulations to get a gun. They understand that they have to be safe given that they have been carefully vetted and can’t just get guns willy nilly with no background check through the internet or on the streets.

Let’s compare gun ownership to driving a car. We seem to have a common understanding that there are certain rules that everyone who wants to drive one has to follow- no exceptions. Everyone has to take drivers’ training. Everyone has to be at least 16. Everyone has to take a test. Everyone has to purchase insurance ( though some don’t). Everyone needs to wear a seat belt and follow the traffic laws. Most people actually do follow traffic rules as it turns out. Without laws and rules, our streets would be chaos.

And surely we can say that our gun culture causes chaos. Our inner city areas are chaos. Losing a loved one to a bullet causes not only grief, but chaos in one’s life. Mass shootings cause chaos. Shooting young children causes chaos. A gun suicide causes chaos in the family.

I spoke at our local event about the reason for the day, which I wrote about in my last post. Some of my readers will ask why there are so many gun deaths in Chicago like that of Hadiye Pendleton, when Chicago has strict gun laws. It’s the classic excuse given for doing nothing about stopping gun deaths because there are so many gun deaths. This illogical reasoning has been allowed to be a part of our discussion for far too long. It’s not difficult to understand when the neighboring states of Indiana and others flood the state with guns that can’t be bought in Chicago or Illinois. A brilliant article from The Trace shows us where the guns come from. From the article:

Not coincidentally, as the visualization above shows, in 2010, 2011, and 2014, the annual count of Illinois crime guns originating in Indiana topped 1,o00 guns per year. (In 2012 and 2013, there was a big dip in Illinois crime guns coming from Indiana, though the ATF isn’t sure why.) Mississippi was next in line, trafficking about a third as many guns into the state. At least four others exported more than 500 guns to Illinois during 2010–14. Five more states sent more than 400 each.

So if we follow the logical conclusion here, shouldn’t we make sure that there are uniform laws in all states to keep places like Chicago and some of our other large urban cities from providing the guns that kill innocent 15 year old girls (Hadiye Pendelton in Chicago)  and grandmothers (Birdell Beeks in Minneapolis) in their neighborhoods?

And then there’s Chuck’s gun shop in Chicago – a bad apple gun dealer. The shop has been the “target” of many protests over the past few years as the Brady Campaign and others have drawn attention to the loose practices of Chuck’s that allow crime guns to get into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. Shouldn’t we do something about bad apple gun dealers? People are getting shot. But the gun lobby has pressured Congress to underfund the ATF which is the agency responsible for monitoring gun dealers like Chuck’s to make sure they are following the laws. Let’s enforce the laws already on the books.

There is some good news here, though. In spite of the gun industry immunity law (PLCAA) lawsuits filed against bad apple gun dealers (Badger Guns in Milwaukee) and others are winning in our courts.

Whose side are you on?

Watch here as President Obama answers a question from a man who is concerned about his gun rights, at a PBS Newshour town hall. His response is exactly mine and the millions of Americans who agree that doing something about people getting shot will not take away the rights of people to own guns. And this exchange shows the sides taken by Americans on the issue of guns and gun rights. There should be no sides when it comes to saving lives. But when it comes to guns, there are sides.

Whose side are you on?

Massachusetts is having a similar problem. Lots of the states crime guns are coming into the state from Vermont where gun laws barely exist:

Many local officials say inconsistent gun laws are fueling the trade. Most northeastern states have enacted laws that extend background check requirements for gun purchases to include firearms sold at gun shows and unlicensed dealers. But Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine do not require such checks on private sales, making it easier for people with criminal records to buy guns in those states, and move them around New England.

“We have good gun laws in Massachusetts, but our problem is most of the guns that seem to be coming in and being used in crimes are coming from other states,” Boston Police Commissioner William Evans tells The Trace. “It’s hard for us when so many come from our border states that have lax laws.”

The gun extremists like to talk about Vermont having few gun deaths in spite of loose gun laws. They are ignoring the fact that Vermont has high gun suicide and domestic shooting death rates. In addition, weak gun laws are allowing people to be able buy guns that end up in other states where it’s more difficult to buy a gun. From this article:

Again, in universal terms, the total number of homicides, domestic violence cases, and gun-related deaths is indeed small, which can make some of these rate statistics seem exaggerated. But the argument can be made that they’re also less deceptive than the happy reports of a Second Amendment oasis in the heart of New England. A truer picture lies in this final statistic: Vermont, which is virtually impossible to traverse without a car, is a state where firearms deaths outnumber traffic deaths.

So back to my original question- Whose side are you on? The side of public health and safety? Or on the side of allowing anyone to get a gun, including many who shouldn’t?- felons, domestic abusers, those adjudicated mentally ill, fugitives, terrorists, etc. Interestingly many on the side of unfettered gun rights actually don’t think criminals should have guns- or so they say. So how do they think we can stop them from getting guns if we don’t actually stop them from getting guns?

We don’t have to take sides. Gun owners and NRA members are actually on the side of common sense with me. You’d never know it though from the general rhetoric that the gun lobby spews and often gets away with because they go unchallenged. Why? Good question. Some of the arguments and statements by the gun lobby are being taken apart by more people who are doing the research the corporate gun lobby hates and has tried to stop. This is shedding bright light on the real problem in America. Too many people are getting shot.

Orange is a bold and bright color. It makes a statement. Hunters wear orange to protect themselves from being shot by other hunters while out in the woods. Last fall my grandchildren were at our cabin during deer hunting season. We could hear gunshots in the woods nearby. When they were outside, I insisted that they all wear bright orange hats which they happily did since it was also cold outside. We turned America orange to make a bold and bright statement on Thursday. Monuments all over America turned orange including the Enger Tower in my city of Duluth.  Enger tower orange

We rang the bell at Enger Park for victims of gun violence- domestic murders, suicides, a young Minneapolis girl who was just sitting in her house doing homework when a bullet flying in her neighborhood snuffed out her young life; and many others. We shouldn’t be surprised but always are at the number of people who ring the bell for relatives or people they know who have died from gunshot injuries. People who shouldn’t have been shot.

We just can’t continue on this trajectory or this level of violence. The time for action has long passed. My side of the issue can be blamed for some of this. But the bold and bright truth of the matter is that when people are getting shot and the problem is being ignored and the conversation is being stifled by those with a vested interest in selling their products, we have a big and deadly problem. No one wants to get shot. We will wear orange, have marches, turn monuments orange and continue to demand the changes in our laws and the conversation that all of the victims and their families deserve. We are Americans against being shot. #Enough now.

 

Sounding the alarm bells

alarm bellHow can we be so cavalier and casual about the recent week-end’s carnage due to shootings? Does the public pay attention any more or have we become numb to what is happening around them? People have busy lives. I get that. I pay attention because I blog and because I am so involved. But getting people to understand that we don’t have to tolerate the 90 gun deaths a day is too important to let go. The corporate gun lobby doesn’t want us to know how many people are shot and killed or injured. Guns are dangerous. They are designed to kill people. Once we pass the stronger gun laws that the public wants and the conversation changes to talking about the awesome responsibility of gun ownership, it’s possible that fewer people may want to buy firearms.

Follow the money. Profit trumps saving lives.

Last Saturday, an Uber driver went on a spree shooting, allegedly in between passenger stops. 6 people are now senselessly and tragically dead in Kalamazoo, Michigan as a result:

New details emerged about the victims, ordinary people with no connection to Mr. Dalton, enjoying simple pleasures on an unseasonably warm day — taking a walk, eyeing cars at a dealership. Outside a Cracker Barrel restaurant, a makeshift memorial and yellow caution tape marked the site where four women were shot dead and a teenage girl seriously injured.

Lt. Dale Hinz of the Michigan State Police said the people who were shot outside the restaurant just before 10:30 p.m., in the last of three assaults, had dined there earlier in the evening. He said they had then car-pooled to a performance on Western Michigan University’s campus in Kalamazoo, leaving one car behind. Afterward, they returned to the restaurant. “They had just pulled into the parking lot and just gotten back to their respective vehicles” when they were shot, Lieutenant Hinz said.

This latest rampage was just one of 6 last week-end alone leaving 10 dead and 19 wounded. In addition to the spree/mass shootings, there were the usual shootings that happen on an hourly basis in homes, businesses, schools, churches, streets, in bars and restaurants and other places where Americans gather. More from the article:

According to data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), 80 people were killed and 150 wounded by gunfire between Friday afternoon and Sunday night — a rate of more than one fatality per hour. The new figures bring the total of gun deaths in 2016 to 1,754, according to GVA’s count. An additional 3,437 people have been injured by bullets.

These numbers do not include suicides unless they are known to media sources.

These stunning numbers should be alarming. Are they? Common sense would tell us that losing this many people to one cause should sound some bells and lead to a major discussion about how to solve the problem. But common sense is subverted by some kind of prevailing opinion not supported by the majority of Americans, that doing anything about the gun violence epidemic would violate rights. Meanwhile, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness has been taken from way too many victims of senseless shootings leaving devastating grief and sadness for the families, friends and communities.

And speaking of risks and responsibilities, how many more times will we see a “law abiding” gun owner and conceal carry permit holder lay his/her gun down in a home with children and have it end in a tragedy like this one?:

Neither of them noticed the little boy approach the table where Lonaker had left his .38 revolver. No one watched as he picked it up, the weapon clumsy and cold in his tiny hands. And no one saw him pull the trigger, sending a bullet flying toward his father.

With rights come responsibilities. More from the above linked article:

“Please keep your guns in a secure location out of reach of children,” his statement implored. “This was a tragic accident. Please make certain that firearms in your homes are not accessible to anyone — especially children. Many firearms accidents in the home can be prevented simply by making sure that firearms are kept unloaded and safely stored, with ammunition secured in a separate location. Please keep your guns in a secure location out of reach of children.

“This is a tragedy that is told and retold all across the country and a tragedy that can be avoided.”

Lonaker’s death is at least the 18th accidental shooting by an American child under age 10 this year, according to a Washington Post survey of news reports. Six of those incidents were fatal, and in every other one, the victim was also a child. In three cases, the person killed was the child who accidentally pulled the trigger.

This should not be the new normal. This is NOT normal anywhere else in the world. A 6 year old boy will never be the same because his own father left a gun within easy reach thinking nothing could possibly happen. The ripple effect of this tragedy will be wide and severe for all concerned.

Sound the bell for another senseless lost life due to bullets.

More vigils, More flowers. More candles. More bell ringings. More speeches about the ravages of gun violence. More avoidance by elected leaders and candidates. More people joining the club of gun violence victims and survivors.

Sound the bell. It’s past time for action. We have to be better than this and we’ve had #Enough.

 

Duped by the gun lobby

Tnotrocketsciencehis is not rocket science. Stronger gun laws will save lives. There is actually proof that weak laws contribute to more gun deaths and injuries and the proliferation of firearms in America have not saved lives. Americans have been duped by the corporate gun lobby. Slight of hand tactics and slogans have confused the reality and managed to win support from elected leaders and some of the public. As a result, gun deaths have continued unabated and in some places now contribute to more deaths than auto accidents.

And all for profits and power.

This week-end, my husband and I went to see Merchants of Doubt at a local theater. It was very well done and powerful. Most people do understand that the big corporations and businesses are all about profit and keeping their political power in order to make more profits. Anything goes for some of them. The movie is about climate change and those who deny its’ existence but in order to get to that talking point, examples were given of the tobacco industry and energy companies tactics to deny the facts. From this review of the movie:

His phrasing—scientific, precise, and bloodless—perfectly illustrates Merchants Of Doubt’s central thesis. As science historian Naomi Oreskes, co-author of the book the film is based on, says, “If this is not a scientific debate, what kind of debate is it?” The answer, of course, is a political debate. And political debates are won by rhetoric and tribalism. The most illuminating passages in Merchants Of Doubt are those which illuminate the role of tribal identity in not only the global warming debate but also the rise of the Tea Party. As Skeptic magazine editor and lifelong libertarian Michael Shermer discovered when, after long doubting that global warming was real, his opinion was changed by a close examination of the overwhelming scientific evidence. When documentarians follow him to a libertarian convention where he debates a climate change skeptic, audience members attack him as with phrases like “That’s what YOUR TEAM wants us to think!”  (…) The problem with this kind of issue documentary is that it seems like preaching to the choir. No one who views their identity as a conservative in good standing is going to voluntarily watch this film, and if they’re exposed to it, they’ll just call it more lies. Indeed, the documentarians’ methodology of following the money and questioning the neutrality of so-called impartial observers naturally leads to the question, “Who’s paying for this?” Just because I agree with it—and I do, wholeheartedly—doesn’t mean I shouldn’t ask hard questions of it. Merchants Of Doubt’s thesis is that slick communicators willing to use any tactics available, regardless of morality, are the ones who can win political debates. The slickness and clarity of the production means the filmmakers have taken that lesson to heart.

The movie was not about gun violence prevention or the debate about gun rights but it could have been. Some of the scientists and writers who were interviewed for the movie talked of the backlash, the harsh criticisms, the threatening comments, e-mails and phone calls they received from those on the other “team” who absolutely would not listen to anything but their own echo chamber. Even when presented with facts, if the opposition team is noisy and clever enough and has enough money to employ stealth tactics to deceive the public, big issues of our times don’t get addressed and solved; or they are solved too late for too many.

The thing is, lives depend on our getting this right. Lives depend on believing the facts and the evidence even if it means lower profits and less power for corporations and the wealthy. Lives have been saved because the truth about the risks of smoking and second hand smoke finally won out over the powerful tobacco companies. Law suits helped. The same is true for safety measures on cars and drunk driving laws. It took years of fighting against a powerful and well funded industry and some law suits.

Thus we are now at a pivotal moment for climate change. The evidence shows that if we don’t change what we are doing with energy, with water conservation, with greenhouse gases, with fuel and electrical usage, with our daily living habits, the earth will not be the same for our children and grandchildren. But the voices of denial inexplicably win the battles. They won’t win the war but it might not matter. And why does this happen? Ideology. Fear. Anger. Ignorance. Hatred for the other “team.” Loss of profits and power.

All of this can be applied to the battle over gun rights and gun safety reform. For it is a battle. It is fierce and it gets down to which team you are on. And we are at a pivotal point as gun death rates stay the same or rise. Does it matter that lives are being lost every day to firearms injuries many of which could be saved? Just like with the auto and tobacco industries, denial and outright deception too often win. Solutions are right in front of us and make so much common sense but politics stop us from saving lives.

It doesn’t work this way, at least about guns and gun rights, in other countries. Why? Common sense. Morality. Interest in public health and safety. Concern for the common good. No second amendment. No gun rights extremists. Fewer gun owners. No NRA or corporate gun lobby.

Speaking of the corporate gun lobby, the NRA convention held this past week-end in Nashville, is over. It was the usual fare only some of the rhetoric was more strident than ever. Hatred of President Obama is now turning to hatred of the now declared Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. If we think the evil and repugnant rhetoric and hatred towards President Obama was over the top, wait until the women hating, Clinton hating folks get started. It should be interesting. And the NRA will be right in the midst of the battle as evidenced by their own Wayne LaPierre’s speech at the convention.

After warning once again that Obama is going to turn America into a country that “you and I won’t recognize” (*yawn*), LaPierre switched gears towards attacking Hillary Clinton. When LaPierre suggests Clinton may be elected president, the crowd loudly boos and one person screams “Never!” LaPierre grimaces at the thought:

“I have to tell you, eight years of one demographically symbolic president is enough.”

“Demographically symbolic”? LaPierre just stood before tens of thousands of people and accused the president of being a token black guy. Following this logic, Hillary would be the token woman. LaPierre makes it obvious that what he wants is a return to less diverse times. The overwhelmingly white, overwhelmingly male crowd seems to agree, interrupting LaPierre’s speech with enthusiastic cheers.

LaPierre’s remarks are the latest bold attempt by the conservative movement to reject Obama and Clinton based solely on the fact that they are members of minority groups (in Clinton’s case, not in number of women, but in their disenfranchisement) and therefore don’t constitute a true representation of what right-wingers believes a president looks like: white, male, and donning an American flag on their lapel.

Just read this over-the-top rhetoric from gun rights extremists at the NRA convention if you don’t believe me. Sounds like the world is about to come to an end. From the linked article:

“They think that they’re better and smarter than we are, as if they’re more sophisticated and intellectually evolved than we are,” Porter said.

“When it comes to those elitists, looking down their noses and telling us how to live, it’s time they got the message loud and clear,” he said. “You elitists live however your want, but when it comes to us, get your hands off our freedom and leave us the hell alone.”

Uff da. Sounds like fighting words. Either that or total nonsense. I’ll go with the latter. Can these folks be serious? Elitists? Who are elitists? I suppose we don’t need to remind them of the huge salaries of the top executives of NRA leaders. And don’t get me started about the “intellectually evolved” statement. Do these folks really believe their own words?

Disturbing to say the least.

Here is more insight into the angry and fear mongering words at the convention.

Some reporters got in to the convention and have written about what they saw and heard. This one is a pretty good summary.

The thing is, facts matter. The claims made by the corporate gun lobby, many of the candidates for the Republican nomination who spoke at the NRA convention and the gun rights extremists who believe what they are told without checking for accuracy, are false. There is a truth out there in the real world. In the real world people in the U.S. are dying at a high rate- at an epidemic rate in fact. This article from the Washington Post fact checked the claims that America has a higher gun death rate than most other “civilized” countries.  From the article:

Post foreign affairs blogger Max Fisher concluded, “The U.S. gun murder rate isabout 20 times the average for all other countries on this chart. That means that Americans are 20 times as likely to be killed by a gun than is someone from another developed country.”

A related fact-check from PolitiFact examined a 2011 study by researchers of the Harvard School of Public Health and UCLA School of Public Health. Their findings, while based on data for 23 high-income, populous countries from the World Health Organization now almost a decade old (2003), mirror more recent trends.

The United States, they found, has more firearms per capita, the most permissive gun control laws and a disproportionate amount of firearm-related deaths from homicides, suicides and accidents.

“The United States had a homicide rate 6.9 times higher than those in the other high-income countries, driven by a firearm homicide rate that was 19.5 times higher than those in the other high-income countries,” the report says. “For 15 year olds to 24 year olds, the firearm homicide rate in the United States was 42.7 times higher than in the other countries.”

This is stunning. Of course, it’s been stunning for many years now but we continue along this path without taking action to change it. If we want to know why, we can refer back to what has just happened at the NRA convention in Nashville. There they continued with the push for more guns for everyone everywhere because, of course, more guns make us all safer. The article I have linked is based on studies and collections of data that show the exact opposite. What’s the problem here?

Profits. The gun industry is a large industry and needs to profit, like other industries. So back to where I started. One team wants to save lives and prevent gun violence that is so devastating to so many all over America. The other team wants what they think they have always had and deserve and facts don’t matter. If they had not been duped, they would realize that a simple thing like background checks on all gun sales would actually strengthen the second amendment. If that wasn’t the case, why did the leaders and organizers of the NRA convention insist that any firearms purchased on the convention floor be sent to the closest licensed dealer so the buyer could go through a background check?

To avoid reality and the facts about gun deaths, the gun lobby has their slick talking points that don’t get questioned as often as they should. If they were, we would find that they are not based on facts. Does it matter? When you are playing for the gun rights team, slick talking points replace a serious conversation based on facts. Here are just a few of those talking points:

  • Just enforce the laws already on the books-meant to distract from the fact that gun laws have actually been weakened and it’s difficult to enforce trafficking laws when one state makes it easy for felons and domestic abusers to bring guns into a state where it’s harder. The number 20,000 existing gun laws is thrown around. If we check with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence which researches gun laws, we can see that that really can’t be true. I also was directed recently to a fact check article about this number, 20,000, that is used by gun extremists. Check it out for yourself and you will see that the number cannot be verified. So don’t be duped.
  • More guns make mean less crime. This is a much used phrase that is not based on fact. An old discredited study by gun rights activist John Lott has been used to get conceal carry laws passed all over America. Don’t be duped.
  • Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. This, of course, is simply not true and can’t be proved but it’s out there as some sort of “fact” that needs to be challenged. It’s a myth. Check it out from the link. Don’t be duped.
  • If we pass reasonable gun laws, only criminals will get guns and law abiding citizens will be punished. This one begs credulity because requiring background checks on all gun sales, for example, will stop the “bad guys” from getting guns without stopping any law abiding citizen from getting a gun. If this were true, why did those who ordered a gun from one of the displays at the NRA convention have to get a background check at the nearest licensed dealer to their home? Because they were following state and federal laws. Hmmmm. If only the laws required this for every gun sale.
  • Universal background checks will lead to gun registration. No, not true. In the 20 years of the Brady law’s existence, this has not happened and it won’t.
  • Guns make us safer. Another myth. If guns stopped gun violence and made us safer, why do we continue to have the highest rate of gun deaths per capita in the civilized world?

There are more but I think my point has been made.

America, we’ve been duped. Let’s stop the game playing. There should be only one team here because there is only one right answer- preventing death and saving lives through common sense laws and gun safety reform. Gun safety reform and gun rights are not mutually exclusive.