Questions to ask about guns and gun violence

ASK display with rocksYesterday, the Northland Brady Campaign, Protect Minnesota chapter asked parents some questions. Volunteers ( askers) sat in 8 local parks/playgrounds with ASK materials and either approached parents or parents approached them to see what was set up on the picnic tables. It was a cool and windy day, thus the Lake Superior rocks to hold down the brochures and other materials. This was our first attempt at taking the ASK campaign out to parents where they hang out with their kids. The reception was all positive once people understood what we were all about.

One man, though, approached the table and told the volunteers that he had 3 gun safes where he keeps his many firearms safely locked up. He then blustered that there were 3 reasons to own guns:

  • Self defense
  • Hunting
  • Fighting against the government

Right. There are several things to talk about here.

Guns bought for self defense (mostly pistols) and left around in homes are more likely to be used against you or someone you love than for self defense. That is why the ASK campaign is encouraging parents to ask the awkward question about whether there are unsecured loaded guns in the homes where their children play. ( see my previous post)

That is why the need to lock up guns to prevent avoidable accidents and suicides by children and teens. That is why locking guns securely can keep criminals or those who should not have guns from gaining access to them after they steal them from a home. Many guns obtained this way result in crimes. From this article in The Trace:

Privately owned firearms are stolen in America with alarming frequency: between 300,000 and 600,000 every year, a forthcoming survey of gun ownership by researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities will show. At the high end, that’s more than 1,600 guns stolen every day, more than one every minute. That’s enough firearms to provide a weapon for every instance of gun violence in the country each year — several times over.

That is why the questions need to be asked.

Hunting? Many people own guns just for hunting and hopefully have proper training and keep their hunting guns locked up in secure gun safes. Most people do not object to hunting guns. Hunting is a sport and often a family tradition. I grew up in an outdoors hunting/fishing/camping family and was exposed to hunting guns at an early age. I learned how to shoot a .22 hunting gun but chose not to hunt with my mom, dad and brother. My husband is a hunter though now does not hunt any more. We have his guns stored in a locked metal safe. My daughter told me though that when she was young, before my sister was murdered and I got involved in this issue, she knew where the hunting guns were stored ( unloaded but not locked). Funny thing about that, most kids do know where those guns are. That is why we need to ask the important questions of other parents.

Now though, fewer kids are interested in hunting and the sale of hunting guns decreased with this lack of interest in the sport. That is why the corporate gun lobby shifted emphasis to self defense and concealed carry to open up a new marked for firearm sales. Businesses and industry do this all the time. Changes are made to boost sales and profit. The difference between most businesses and the firearm business is that guns are the only product sold to the public without the consumer product safety regulations used for other products to guard against harm and the only products sold that are meant to kill or harm another human being.

Guns used to fight against the government? Yes. It turns out that a new Pew study shows how many people own guns and how many know someone who has been shot. The facts are inverse to what they should be if we had strong gun laws and a gun culture that did not promote guns for tyranny and self defense just in case. Of the minority of Americans who own guns, many of them own many guns.:

Overall, Americans own an estimated 265 million guns – more than one gun for every American adult, according to the study by researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities. Half of those guns – 133 million – were in the hands of just 3% of American adults, so-called “super owners” who possessed an average of 17 guns each, it showed.

Questions need to be asked.

There are militia groups all over America getting ready for the apocalypse or a hostile take-over of the government and they are armed heavily. So far, most states let them be but they are watched carefully just in case. The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps track of these groups now on the rise. Guns don’t go well with hate, racism and anti-government sentiments.

As I was reading the morning paper, I noticed an article that struck me about our American gun culture. It turns out that a Canadian sniper killed an Iraqi fighter from a distance of 2.2 miles with a .50 sniper rifle. Yes, bullets can fly that far and kill someone. Who knows what might come between the sniper and the target. But as I read the article, I thought about the fact that in America this kind of rifle is available to anyone who wants one.  And even without a background check. For just thousands, you, too, can own a gun that could shoot down a plane:

A 50 caliber rifle can hit a target accurately from distances of 1,000 to 2,000 yards, depending on the skill of the shooter, and can reach targets at a longer range, sacrificing accuracy.2  Designed for use in urban combat situations, these weapons can penetrate structures and destroy or disable light armored vehicles, radar dishes, helicopters, stationary and taxiing airplanes, and other “high-value” military targets.3

Despite their deadly power, or perhaps because of it, 50 caliber rifles are proliferating on the civilian market. Because they are considered long guns, however, they are subject to less regulation than handguns.4  In fact, under federal law and the laws of nearly all states, any 18-year-old who passes a background check may purchase a 50 caliber rifle.5 Moreover, because federal law and the laws of most states do not require private sellers to conduct background checks, 50 caliber rifles may easily be purchased by criminals at gun shows and elsewhere.

Questions need to be asked.

It turns out that the man who stabbed an officer at the Flint, Michigan airport tried to buy a gun ostensibly for this attack ( considered by some to be a terror attack) but he was turned away from a licensed dealer because he was not an American citizen. Luckily for all, he did not choose to go to a private seller at a gun show or on-line or this attack could have resulted in much more tragedy and devastation.

Brady background checks work.

Asking the right questions works.

Common sense works.

Safe storage works.

Sensible gun laws work in other countries and right here at home. 

None of these are a “magic bullet” but in combination, we know we can save lives.

Though only Americans not on board with all of this common sense are those who are lapdogs to the corporate gun lobby. The majority is already there.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The conversation is changing- one person at a time. The culture will change as the conversation changes. And gun laws can be made stronger when the culture and conversation changes. Whether the change in laws comes first to change the culture or the change to the culture and conversation come first to change the laws is moot.

It will change with awareness, persistence and knowledge. The majority are already there.

Asking saves kids.

Answers will save American families and communities from the devastation of gun violence.

Where are you?

 

 

Drive by shootings and gun policy

bonnieclydeRemember Bonnie and Clyde? I do. There were a lot of drive-by shootings and road rage shootings committed by the infamous couple who died in their car of multiple bullet wounds at the hands of law enforcement. Those were the “good old days” when bullets were flying and machine guns were easily available to those who shouldn’t have had them. Revenge, gangs, anger, too much alcohol and guns- bad combinations.

Bonnie and Clyde were killed in 1934.

Remember Elliott Ness and Al Capone and the mafia era? The years of prohibition created mayhem on the streets of some of our cities. It was just after this time period that Congress decided that machine guns and silencers should not be available to average citizens without very strict regulations. In 1934, the National Firearms Act was passed:

With the passage of the NFA, these guns immediately faced severe restrictions.  While owning them is still technically legal, they must be registered (which isn’t exactly easy) and they are taxed more heavily ($200 for owning a silencer, for example, or as low as $5 for some smooth bore pistols, like the Serbu Super Shorty pictured earlier).  Anyone wanting to own one or manufacture one has to go through the BATFE for approval. (…) But firearms enthusiasts should look at it from a cautionary perspective, as well.  This was possible.  In fact, it is one of several legislative acts that govern the way we think about firearms.  And the NFA will be the cornerstone on which new restrictions will be built.

Few, if any, crimes are committed with these weapons because so few people own them and those who do go through a long and expensive process to get them. But it could only be a matter of time as the corporate gun lobby is driving by to get laws passed in many of our states to allow people to purchase silencers. When more people own silencers, will they, too, end up in the illegal market? How will they be used? Keep track of this as the push is on to get them into more hands. My own state of Minnesota passed such a law a few years ago:

Anderson, who sometimes carries a weapon to the Capitol, says that he intends to buy silencers for some of his guns. He outlined the process he’ll have to go through: He’ll have to get approval from the Cass County sheriff; pass a state background check; apply to the federal government to possess the silencer, sending $200 along with his application (which needs to include the serial number of the silencer he intends to purchase); go through a federal background check that might take months; and finally, make the purchase of an item that is fairly pricey (upwards of $700).

“It’s ludicrous that we have to go through all of this at the federal level,” Anderson said. “This is an item you should be able to walk into a store and just purchase. We need to work on the federal law. But still, this is a pretty big step.”

Yup. It’s just a matter of time before silencers are available with no background checks from private sellers and on-line just like guns are in most states. That is why we need to stop the drive-by policies of the corporate gun lobby and put the brakes on these bills. What we need is to make sure ALL gun sales, including ammunition and paraphernalia go through Brady background checks.

Why the resistance to this? It’s a minority who oppose it. Their reasons make no sense and aren’t even true. Time to make sure we do the right thing and stop people from getting shot in their cars, in their homes, and anywhere else.

Today, we have more guns than any other democratized country in the world. Over 300 million. We also have the highest number of gun deaths per capita and the weakest gun laws. Other countries don’t have a second amendment or a corporate gun lobby like ours. Sure there are some people in other countries who want to loosen the laws that have been passed. But it isn’t happening because other countries are watching our mass shootings and every day carnage and understand that our loose laws contribute.

The NRA and others in the corporate gun lobby have flown or driven into almost every state of the union and left us with the worst gun policies in the world.  This was done very purposely to drive up profits for the industry and deceive the public into believing that the second amendment includes allowing anyone to buy a gun and carry it everywhere. That is NOT what the founding fathers had in mind when the amendment was written. And, of course, we need to remember why the founding fathers wrote that amendment into our Constitution in the first place. From this Mother Jones article with an interview with author Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center:

MW: Yes. And that might be noteworthy for some. There were plenty of guns. There was the right to defend yourself, which was part of English common law handed down from England. But there were also gun restrictions at the same time. There were many. There were limits, for example, on where you could store gunpowder. You couldn’t have a loaded gun in your house in Boston. There were lots of limits on who could own guns for all different kinds of reasons. There was anexpectation that you should be able to own a gun. But they didn’t think they were writing that expectation into the Constitution with the Second Amendment.

MJ: So then why focus on the Second Amendment and not the English Bill of Rights or other things the framers drew on that more clearly address individual gun ownership?

MW: We are not governed today, in 2014, by British common law. Law evolved, the country evolved. It was a very rural place. There were no cities. There were no police forces. It was a completely different way of living. So gun rights activists turned this into a constitutional crusade. Those who want more guns and fewer restrictions realized they could gain some higher ground if they claimed the Constitution.

Has the world changed since the second amendment was written? Of course. Check this video from States United to Prevent Gun Violence for a graphic image of how much guns have changed since the amendment was written.

I happen to believe that the Constitution is a living document that can change when change is required to keep Americans safe and healthy.

Ever since the 1977 Cincinnati NRA convention revolt (see article above), the gun lobby has changed -transformed itself into a lobby group that doesn’t represent its’ original purpose nor its’ members. They changed to a group that protects and supports the gun industry profits and vice versa. As a result, the landscape changed as well regarding gun policy.

One of the goals of this change  was passing laws in almost all states to allow people to carry guns in their cars and public places. The charade was that people needed guns for self defense everywhere they went. Our legislators bought it because-  rights. Never mind that the second amendment does not mention the right to carry guns for personal protection. These laws had the effect of changing the culture around guns. It became OK for people to have guns with or without a permit on their person.

Former Representative Gabby Giffords spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Her appearance caused a stir in the hall as well it should have. Her speech was simple and short because of her brain injury. Do you remember that her shooter had a gun with no permitting process as is allowed by Arizona law? I do.

It wasn’t so many years ago that it would have been unusual for guns to be found in cars and used in drive-bys or accidental shootings. Two recent examples in my own state:

Man follows couple on local road and shoots and injures one passenger:

Jesse Jay Bohanon was charged in Carlton County District Court Tuesday with three counts of second-degree attempted murder while committing a drive-by shooting, three counts of second-degree assault, one count of drive-by shooting, one count of dangerous weapons-intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and/or ammunition.

Where did this felon get his gun? It’s easy in our country for that to happen.

Man shot and killed in bar by someone  who allegedly fired shots car at the bar. “The man, yet to be charged, is jailed on suspicion of assault and second-degree murder during a drive-by shooting, suggesting that he fired the shots from a vehicle.”

Many other examples of drive-by shootings exist. The city of Des Moines, Iowa has seen an increase in drive-by shootings as just one example.

Many examples of road rage involving gun violence exist as well with some dead victims.

Here is one. And another. And another. And another.

Common sense suggests that having guns in cars is not a good idea. Small children find them in the glove box or the back seat and shoot them. I have written about more than a few of these recently- a small child shot and injured his own mother, a gun loving person. Another toddler killed his own mom with a gun found in the car.

And then there are the people who get caught for illegal drugs and guns like this case in Daytona, Florida:

Of the 29 people, 18 were arrested on Tuesday. Nine were arrested in the course of the operation.

And police are looking for two others who are targets of the operation: Tiffany Malcom, 33, and Robert Smith, 27. Smith, Chitwood revealed Wednesday, is a person of interest in the murder of Deandre Smith, who was shot to death as he drove his car on the Oakridge Boulevard Bridge on May 10, 2015.

Eleven people were charged with federal firearms violations. Nine were charged with state drug and firearms crimes.

What is it about criminals shooting each other in cars? Don’t they know that stray bullets hit innocent people?  A beloved grandmother was shot and killed by a stray bullet in Minneapolis in May while sitting in her car minding her own business. They don’t care really when they have anger and vengeance on their minds. Bullets don’t know where to stop and there are way too many of them flying from and into cars all over America. And the gun lobby doesn’t seem to care that people like the 29 arrested in Daytona found guns so easily to traffic drugs and kill other people.

Drive-by gun policy comes from the corporate gun lobby who send NRA or other representatives into states to lobby and write bill language. And then they leave us with bad policies that have led to more gun deaths and injuries. Lives are too precious to leave gun policy to those whose interest is in selling their product. Finding new markets for new guns leaves us with too many grieving families and devastated communities.

It takes a while for new policies to change the landscape and become effective. So about 11-12 years after many states passed conceal ( or open) and carry laws, we see how they are working. Most gun permit holders are safe with their guns and do not misuse them. But enough of them have been dangerous- either intentionally or accidentally that an argument could be made that we need to strengthen these laws.

Rather than people needing to use guns for self defense, those guns are being used in shootings- drive-bys or other shootings. Few instances of defensive gun uses make the case for conceal and carry weak.

We are just plain not safer with more guns on our streets, in our cars and in our homes, schools, places of work and where we play. Using guns for hunting and sport shooting is one thing. Having them around in places where we gather or drive our cars makes no common sense. But because the NRA and corporate gun lobby drives by our states and promotes weakening our gun laws, the result has been the devastation in communities all over our country.

Last night I watched Hillary Clinton accept the nomination of the Democratic party to be the first woman to have that honor. It was thrilling to know that I have lived in a time when a woman can be nominated for and hopefully win the Presidency. Among other things she said in her acceptance speech was this ( meme by Brady Campaign):

Hillary and guns

Thank you Hillary. We are just trying to keep people from getting shot by people who shouldn’t have guns. Let’s get to work to make the changes we all deserve.

 

 

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?

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.

 

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.

 

 

Happy Sytennde Mai and gun laws in Norway

syttende_mai_drinking_glassToday is Sytennde Mai or Norwegian Constitution day. Here is more about this big Norwegian celebration day:

The 17th of May (Syttende Mai) is Norway’s Constitution Day, a wonderful spring holiday celebrated with red, white and blue ribbons and flags, national costumes and big smiles as Norwegians everywhere mark the historic signing of their Constitution (Grunnloven) in 1814. That year marked the beginning of Norway’s gaining her independence from Sweden, fully realized in 1905.

The 17th of May evolved over the years in Norway as a day for people to rally for political change or to stand unified during the German occupation (1940-45), when open celebration of the holiday was strictly forbidden. Today, thousands march in children’s and people’s parades all over the country and wherever Norwegians are found–expressing their cultural pride, joy in springtime and honoring those citizens who created Norway’s constitutional government, founding her independence.

The Syttende Mai parades are not military but of Norway’s citizens, marching to the bright music of community and school bands. Decorations of leafy birch branches–in celebration of winter’s end–and Norway’s flag of red, white and blue make for a festive atmosphere.

Both my husband and I are of Norwegian ancestry. My maternal grandfather emigrated from Norway. My husband’s maternal grandparents, along with several of his aunts and uncles, also emigrated to Minnesota from Norway. We have visited with and stayed with relatives from both of our families on a trip to Norway many years ago. We happened to be in Oslo for the May 17th celebration. It was a great experience to be there for the festivities and see the national costumes and even get a glimpse of the King and Queen waving to the crowds from the palace balcony.

In July of 2011 the Norwegians experienced a horrendous mass shooting. Anders Brevik, a right wing extremist, killed 77 people in the worst attack since World War ll. From this article:

The 2011 Norway attacks were two sequential lone wolf terrorist attacks against the government, the civilian population, and a Workers’ Youth League (AUF)-run summer camp in the Oslo region on 22 July 2011, claiming a total of 77 lives.

The first was a car bomb explosion in Oslo within Regjeringskvartalet, the executive government quarter of Norway, at 15:25:22 (CEST).[1] The bomb was made from a mixture of fertiliser and fuel oil[13][14] and placed in the back of a car.[15] The car was placed in front of the office block housing the office of Prime MinisterJens Stoltenberg and other government buildings.[16] The explosion killed eight people and injured at least 209 people, twelve of them seriously.[10][11][12]

The second attack occurred less than two hours later at a summer camp on the island of Utøya in Tyrifjorden, Buskerud. The camp was organized by the AUF, the youth division of the ruling Norwegian Labour Party (AP). A gunman dressed in a homemade police uniform and showing false identification[17][18] gained access to the island and subsequently opened fire at the participants, killing 69 of them,[7][8] and injuring at least 110 people, 55 of them seriously;[11][12] the 69th victim died in a hospital two days after the massacre.[9] Among the dead were personal friends of Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and the stepbrother of Norway’s crown princess Mette-Marit.[19]

It was the deadliest attack in Norway since World War II,[20][21] and a survey found that one in four Norwegians knew “someone affected by the attacks”.[22] The European Union, NATO and several countries around the world expressed their support for Norway and condemned the attacks. On 13 August 2012, Norway’s prime minister received the Gjørv Report which concluded that Norway’s police could have prevented the bombing of central Oslo and caught the gunman faster at Utøya, and that more security and emergency measures to prevent further attacks and “mitigate adverse effects” should have been implemented on 22 July.[23]

My city had a beautiful memorial service for the victims of that awful incident. I attended the service and was touched by the outpouring from local folks of Norwegian ancestry and many who just came to express their concerns and sympathies.

Let’s look at more about Norwegian gun laws and how this lone wolf terrorist obtained his weapons and ammunition. More from the above article:

Breivik spent six days in Prague in late August and early September 2010. He chose the Czech Republic because the country has some of the most relaxed laws regarding guns and drugs in Europe. Following his Internet inquiry, Breivik noted that “Prague is known for maybe being the most important transit site point for illicit drugs and weapons in Europe”. Despite the fact that Prague has one of the lowest crime rates among European capitals,[33] Breivik expressed reservations about his personal safety, writing that he believed Prague to be a dangerous place with “many brutal and cynical criminals”.[34] (…)  

Breivik had several fake police badges printed to wear with a police uniform, which he had acquired illegally on the Internet, and which he later wore during the attack.[17][18] Contrary to his expectations, he was unable to get any firearms in the Czech Republic, commenting that it was the “first major setback in [his] operation”. In the end, he concluded that Prague was “far from an ideal city to buy guns”, nothing like “what the BBC reported”, and that he had felt “safer in Prague than in Oslo”.[32][34][36]

You may remember that I wrote about the gun laws in several countries on a recent river boat cruise of the Danube. The Czech Republic was one of them, along with Germany, Slovakia, Austria and Hungary. Brevik was mistaken. Though the Czech Republic’s gun laws are somewhat looser than other European countries, they are stricter than he was led to believe and he was very wrong about Prague in particular. The only danger we faced there was from the crowded streets and making sure our personal belongings were safe from pick pockets.

But I digress.  You can see from this section of the above linked article that Brevik had to lie in order to get a gun through legal channels in Norway since their laws are pretty strict about a permit to own handguns:

Originally, Breivik intended to try to obtain weapons in Germany or Serbia if his mission in Prague failed. The Czech disappointment led him to procure his weapons through legal channels.[36] He decided to obtain a semi-automatic rifle and a Glock pistol legally in Norway, noting that he had a “clean criminal record, hunting license, and two guns (a Benelli Nova12 gaugepump-action shotgun and a .308bolt-action rifle) already for seven years”, and that obtaining the guns legally should therefore not be a problem.[32]

Upon returning to Norway, Breivik obtained a legal permit for a .223-caliberRuger Mini-14 semi-automatic carbine, ostensibly for the purpose of hunting deer. He bought it in late 2010 for €1,400 ($2000). He wanted to purchase a 7.62x39mmRuger Mini-30 semi-automatic carbine, but did however for unknown reasons buy the Mini-14.

Getting a permit for the pistol proved more difficult, as he had to demonstrate regular attendance at a sport shooting club.[34] He also bought ten 30-round magazines for the rifle from a United States supplier, and six magazines for the pistol (including four 30-round magazines) in Norway. From November 2010 to January 2011 he went through 15 training sessions at the Oslo Pistol Club, and by mid-January his application to purchase a Glockpistol was approved.[37][38]

Brevik actually had to go through training sessions in order to get a permit to purchase a gun. What a novel idea! And where did he obtain the ammunition?:

Anders Behring Breivik wrote in a 1,500-page manifesto that he bought 10 30-round ammunition clips for his .223 caliber rifle from an unnamed small U.S. supplier, which then in turn acquired the clips from other suppliers. Norway forbids the sale of clips for hunting rifles that hold more than three bullets, according to Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

Breivik wrote in his manifesto that while he could have purchased the high-capacity magazines in Sweden, they would have been significantly more expensive than ordering them from a U.S. supplier. He wrote that he spent $550 for the 10 clips. He also described legally buying four 30-round clips for a Glock handgun in Norway.

Not surprising. Everyone knows that it’s easy to obtain guns and ammunition in the U.S.

So here is another look at the gun laws in Norway. Norway ranks 44th in the world for the number of civilian owned firearms.  The rate of gun homicides in 2012 was .10 per 100,000, far lower than that of our own country. The rate of gun suicides in Norway was 1.63 per 100,000, higher than gun homicides as it is in almost all democratized, developed countries. In Norway, as in most other countries, licensing and registration of firearms and owners is required and carrying guns in public is prohibited.

There is, as I have written many times before, an unmistakable link between strong gun laws and low gun civilian deaths and injuries. This is a case for our advocating for stronger gun laws in our own country. Norwegians and most other countries are using common sense when it comes to protecting their children and communities from devastating gun violence. Occasionally a mass shooting occurs in one of these countries even with stronger gun laws. In some countries, a change to stronger gun laws has occurred after high profile mass shootings. The shootings in Dunblane, Scotland and Port  Arthur, Australia are two examples. 

In Scotland, 16 children and one adult were shot and killed in 1996 by a “loner obsessed with guns”. And here is how the UK responded to this horrendous shooting:

In the wake of the 1987 Hungerford massacre, in which one lone gunman killed 16 people, Britain introduced new legislation — the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 — making registration mandatory for owning shotguns and banning semi-automatic and pump-action weapons.

Within a year and a half of the Dunblane massacre, UK lawmakers had passed a ban on the private ownership of all handguns in mainland Britain, giving the country some of the toughest anti-gun legislation in the world. After both shootings there were firearm amnesties across the UK, resulting in the surrender of thousands of firearms and rounds of ammunition.

Britain has never had a “gun culture” like that of the United States, but there were about 200,000 legally-registered handguns in Britain before the ban, most owned by sports shooters. All small-bore pistols, including the .22 caliber, were included in the ban, along with rifles used by target shooters. Penalties for anyone found in possession of illegal firearms range from heavy fines to prison terms of up to 10 years.

“It was one of the most shocking things that has ever happened in this country and it united the country in a feeling that we had to do something,” Gill Marshall Andrews, of the Gun Control Network, told CNN. “And I don’t think that it would have been possible to make the kind of progress that we have made without that tragedy.”

Now there is the kind of common sense not seen in the U.S. even after the slaughter of 20 6 and 7 year olds in Newtown, Connecticut in 2012. In Australia, something similar happened after the massacre of 35 people, also in 1996, at Port Arthur in Tasmania. A disturbed young man accomplished this awful shooting. Let’s take a look at what happened after that shooting:

It moved public opinion.In the wake of the shooting, “a national upwelling of grief and revulsion saw pollsters reporting 90–95% public approval for stringent new gun laws.”

A conservative politician took the lead.Australia’s conservative Prime Minister John Howard spearheaded a push by Australian states and territories to severely restrict gun ownership that year, in what came to be known as the National Firearms Agreement.

It targeted the kinds of guns used in massacres.“As the Port Arthur gunman and several other mass killers had used semi-automatic weapons, the new gun laws banned rapid-fire long guns, specifically to reduce their availability for mass shootings.”

It encouraged people to turn in guns. The government “bought back more than 650,000 of these weapons from existing owners, and tightened requirements for licensing, registration, and safe storage of firearms.”

It wasn’t free. “Total public expenditures were about A$320 million (US$230 million), or approximately A$500 per gun, which isn’t much less than what it costs to buy one.”

But it was paid for. ”The buyback program was financed by an additional 0.2% levy on national health insurance.”

Again, this was the kind of common sense not seen in America. And the result?

Gun homicide rates fell.In the 7 years before the NFA, the average annual firearm homicide rate per 100 000 was 0.43 (range:0.27–0.60), whereas for the 7 years after NFA, the average annual firearm homicide rate was 0.25 (range: 0.16–0.33).” (…)

  1. In the 18 years up to and including 1996, the year of the massacre at Port Arthur, Australia experienced 13 mass shootings. In these events alone, 112 people were shot dead and at least another 52 wounded (table 1). In the 10.5 years since Port Arthur and the revised gun laws, no mass shootings have occurred in Australia.” [Mass shooting defined as five or more dead. None have occurred since the publication of the paper in 2006, either. -eds.]

  2. Gun suicides declined. “In the 18 years (1979–96) [before the law], there were 8850 firearm suicides (annual average 491.7). In the 7 years for which reliable data are available after the announcement of the new gun laws, there were 1726 firearm suicides, an annual average of 246.6.

Let’s get this straight. America loses over 30,000 of its’ citizens to firearms injuries every year. The majority of these are suicides followed by homicides and then accidental gun deaths. This is the American tragedy and we can’t let it continue.

Anyone who says that gun laws don’t matter is deceiving you. The American corporate gun lobby has managed this deception for many years now with little scrutiny from the media and too many of our politicians. There is proof that stronger gun laws lead to fewer gun deaths. So what we need in our own country is a common set of facts that are known and believed by our elected leaders and the general public. For this is how change can happen. This is how we can make sure that our nation’s public health and safety epidemic of gun violence can be addressed in a reasonable way. And by reasonable I mean that we need to make sure that all guns are kept from some people who shouldn’t have them. It’s pretty simple. Those who shouldn’t have them are children, suicidal teens and adults, domestic abusers, felons, those with adjudicated and severe mental illness, terrorists, gang members, and others on the prohibited purchasers list now who can get guns anyway without background checks and through straw purchasing, stolen guns and unsecured guns in homes.

We can save lives if we put our minds to it, deal with the issue from a fact based perspective, have a change in our conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities and put our heads together to protect our children so they can grow into adults who contribute to their society and reach their human potential. Too many lives are cut short before that happens.

So back to Norway and Sytennde Mai– I hope all of my Norwegian relatives had a wonderful celebration. And I hope they will all be safe from harm. I do know that they are much less likely to be harmed by firearms than their cousins in America. It doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s get to work to change laws, hearts and minds.