25 years later- unhappy anniversary

crying womanThis will be a long post. But then again, 25 years is a long time since the death of my sister. It’s a long time to have worked on gun violence prevention. It’s a long time living with the fact that we seem to be febile in the face of the gun lobby influence and have allowed lapdog politicians to do their bidding. And while the fight to prevent gun violence continues so do the deaths due to firearms injuries.

Too many families  mark the anniversaries of the death of a loved one to gun violence. What an unhappy anniversary. It brings back the memories of the phone call and/or the visit from law enforcement announcing that a shooting had taken the life of your child, parent, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, grandchild or grandparent or a good friend. Gun violence has a ripple effect so the broader community and sometimes the entire country is affected by heinous shootings. It is in our consciousness and our collective memories and our collective culture.

Today is the 25th anniversary of the shooting death of my sister, Barbara. She was a beautiful lively, talented artist and pilot. She was a biker, a very good downhill skier, a tennis player, a beauty queen, a mother and step-mother, very involved in her community and a world traveler. In high school her friends called her Bugs. I still am not sure why. Because she grew up in Duluth, some of her friends still live here and I run into them occasionally. They always have fond memories to share of her as she was loved by many.

In spite of the fact that her estranged husband ( 2nd husband) killed her, the adult children from her first marriage and adult child from her second marriage along with the adult children from his first marriage remain close to each other. His first wife has taken on the role of grandmother to the grandchildren my sister never met. My husband, my children and I all remain close with all of them. It was because of my sister’s ability to love and draw people together that we have remained a close family.

We could have been angry and divorced ourselves from his family, but my mother was forgiving to a fault and kept them all close. The thing is, we loved them all and had no idea that my soon to be ex brother-in-law was capable of shooting and killing two people. That is how it often is. Family members are surprised proclaiming that the shooter was such a nice person or a quiet guy or the family seemed to be so happy. What went wrong? It was so unexpected. That is the risk of having a gun so accessible in situations of anger and domestic disputes.:

DID YOU KNOW?  Keeping a gun in the home raises the risk of homicide.

    • States with the highest levels of gun ownership have 114 percent higher firearm homicide rates and 60 percent higher homicide rates than states with the lowest gun ownership (Miller, Hemenway, and Azrael, 2007, pp. 659, 660).
    • The risk of homicide is three times higher in homes with firearms (Kellermann, 1993, p. 1084).
  • Higher gun ownership puts both men and women at a higher risk for homicide, particularly gun homicide (Harvard School of Public Health, Harvard Injury Control Research Center, 2009).

Stunning.

I will always remember the night of the phone call about my sister’s death- actually on August 6 because her body and that of her friend were not discovered until the next day. When my nephew told me that my sister had died I assumed it was a plane crash since she was a pilot. Or anything else besides a shooting. How can one imagine that happening to a loved one? The violence. I often wonder how it would have been for her in the seconds before death after 1,2 and then a third bullet entered her body. Unimaginable. I can’t go there.photo of Barbara

Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill people. I won’t repeat the figures here again but we know that a lot of people die needlessly from firearm injuries. We also know that we are NOT helpless to change the trajectory of the number of gun deaths. More guns means more gun deaths. That is just a common sense fact.

We are not dealing in common sense though. Tragically we are dealing with a powerful and well funded corporate gun lobby that has become an arm of the extreme right wing of our nation. They use the second amendment as cover for their ever increasingly extreme agenda, aimed at arming anyone everywhere. We will not be safer as a country.

On this 25th anniversary of my sister’s death, I want to also remember the 5 year anniversary of the Sikh temple shooting in Wisconsin,   6 died that day because of a hate filled white supremacist who killed just because. That is the American tragedy playing out regularly every day, week, month and year.

This shooting was just one of the very many mass shootings in America. Only in America is this a regular part of a nation’s culture. It doesn’t have to be this way.

I have some suggestions:

Stop making this about the second amendment. It is about preventing gun deaths and injuries.

Stop the ludicrous assertion that passing a universal background check to require Brady background checks for all gun sales will inevitably lead to gun confiscation. That is a lie.

Challenge the NRA and other extreme gun rights groups when they cross over a line and stoke up lies and fear. Take this latest from Dana Loesch of NRA TV, for just one example:

Dana Loesch, spokesperson for the National Rifle Association, is yet again making headlines for controversial reasons. On Friday, during an interview with Grant Stichfield on the NRA TV channel, Loesch equated penalizing gun owners with shaming rape victims. Her comments were in response to a study conducted by the Center for American Progress indicating an increased rate of gun thefts in Southern states — with most of the stolen firearms ending up illegally trafficked and utilized in robberies and violent crimes. Texas, Georgia, and Florida topped the list with over 8,100 thefts of licensed firearms between 2012 and 2016. The Center for American Progress suggested implementing laws enforcing stricter storage guidelines for gun owners.

Loesch argued that focusing on gun owners rather than on those stealing the guns is analogous to shaming victims of sexual assault:

Good grief. What nonsense. No wonder some gun owners are moving away from this organization.

So we should encourage more reasonable gun owners who generally agree with the gun violence prevention groups to raise their voices. Many believe the NRA has become too extreme for them and have left the organization. Here is just one who wrote about his displeasure with the NRA:

As a gun owner and defender of the Second Amendment, I’m here to tell you the NRA has lost its ever-loving mind.

The nation’s largest firearms organization began its slide into moral degeneracy as late as the early 2000s, when actor Charlton Heston became its five-term president (a feat for which the NRA’s rules had to be changed to allow him to serve longer), before going public with his battle with Alzheimer’s disease and retiring. Under Heston’s firebrand leadership, the NRA’s rhetoric shifted its focus from working with lawmakers across the country to defend Second Amendment rights, to recasting the group as the front-line warrior in a crusade against the entire progressive movement in a culture war that they claimed had engulfed the country. (…)

A responsible NRA would be working for, not against, universal background checks on all firearms sales. As a responsible gun owner, it’s my job to ensure anyone I transfer a weapon to is in fact legally permitted to possess one. That’s the bare minimum due diligence that should be expected of me, and the vast majority of Americans and even gun owners agree. But not the NRA.

Pass the law to close the gap with Brady background checks that now allows private sellers to sell guns without knowing whether the buyer is a felon, a domestic abuser or someone dangerously mentally ill.

Pass laws to require safe storage of guns.

Strengthen gun trafficking laws.

Crack down on straw purchasing. The Brady Center won a settlement against a Florida gun dealer and announced it today. The message from the gun dealer who sold a gun through a straw purchase which was used in a fatal shooting:

“We must exercise great caution and due diligence with great responsibility in preventing firearms from getting in the wrong hands of people who seek to harm us all. I support laws that protect our Second Amendment and the laws that protect our society from criminal elements who would abuse that right to the detriment of others. I encourage all gun dealers, including the new owner of my gun shop, to implement such measures.”

Hold every gun dealer and every gun owner responsible for being safe with guns and business practices. Lives can be saved.

Educate parents about ASKing if there are loaded, unsecured guns in homes where their children play. One big question could save a life.

Form coalitions of like minded people who are interested in keeping people from shooting themselves or others such as faith groups, gun owners, law enforcement, mental health organizations, domestic violence associations, health care providers, communities of color, LGBTQ community, educators, parents, business leaders and other gun violence prevention groups.

Crack down on irresponsible gun dealers. (See above article about the Brady Center settlement against an irresponsible gun dealer)

Don’t loosen gun carry permit laws. New research suggests that the passage of the conceal (and open) carry laws have led to more gun violence.

Change the conversation about the risks of guns to families and communities. Push back when bad advice or faulty information is in the public domain like the recent Dear Abby column about kids and guns. After the Brady Campaign and other organizations and volunteers weighed in Abby wrote a column with new advice and changed her mind. 

Remember the victims and survivors and make sure their stories are told. They are the voices of the movement to prevent shootings.

Stop saying our thoughts and prayers are with you and do something about the gun violence epidemic. TAKE ACTION.

Join one of the many gun violence prevention groups working to end gun violence at the local, state and national level. Join them in sending emails, postcards, making phone calls, lobbying at offices, tabling, speaking out, going to rallies, bell ringings, other events. They need you.

Work together for common sense.

I will end by suggesting that the current culture of incivility, sometimes including our own friends, on social media is disturbing. It starts from the top. With a President who has mentioned violence at rallies and said that he could shoot someone on 5th Avenue without losing supporters, we have hit some new lows in civility. With trolls making rude and offensive comments when they disagree with someone, how can we have a civil society? It’s a frightening trend.

With members of both parties attacking each other and then the other party, how can we expect civility? With more armed people walking around with loaded guns in public, can we expect civility?

Social media allows a platform for organizing and promoting causes as well as keeping in touch with each other. But when it also becomes a platform for open criticism of even other friendly organizations or candidates or friends and family members, how can we expect people to settle disputes peacefully and without use of force? With the wide gap between Americans politically, the fear and paranoia is real. What we don’t need is ramping it up to include the idea of violence against each other and particularly with guns. Gun rights and the second amendment go only so far. The NRA’s leaders and lobbyists and other gun rights organizations have increasingly associated themselves with one political party in our country. The rhetoric has become more violent and suggestive of “second amendment remedies”. Why? The question should be asked and answered.

We are better than this. I am sure we all want to leave our country and the world a better and safer place for our children and grandchildren. That is what my sister would have wanted and that is why I am persisting. In her name I carry on. I stand on the legacy and lost lives of the 825,000 Americans who have died from gunshot injuries since 1992. That’s right. 25 multiplied by 33,000 is that much. In 1992 when my sister was shot and killed gun deaths were actually higher than 33,000 per year.

And last, I want to pay tribute to Jim Brady who died 3 years ago yesterday. I met him once and immediately was taken by his sense of humor and engaging personality even as he suffered from the decades long firearm injuries he suffered in the assassination attempt on the life of President Reagan. Jim and his wife Sarah persisted in spite of the terrible situation in which they found themselves, and got the Brady Law passed. Lives have been saved as a result.

I honor all victims of gun violence on this anniversary of my sister’s shooting death. Many things have changed since her death but one thing has not- gun violence is a thing. It’s a thing that needs fixing.

Shed a tear. Ring the bell. Light a candle. Pick a flower. Think for a minute the horror of losing a loved one in a shooting. And then take action and do something about it.

An agenda of lies

flying-monkeysSo, it seems that lies are what will form the policies important to Americans in the new administration. I have cited some of the many myths and lies promoted by the corporate gun lobby, most specifically by Mr. Wayne LaPierre. Now LaPierre has a seat in the White House so he is whispering his lies into the ears of the President and, on that basis, new rules and policies will be issued. They are already starting.

The House voted to overturn an Obama administration order that those on Social Security disability benefits who cannot manage their affairs should not be able to buy guns legally.:

The rule sought to limit the ability of those with mental illness to purchase guns but drew criticism for casting too wide a net and not providing the opportunity for due process. Opponents of the rule, including the National Rifle Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, also said the broad range of reasons that could be used to designate someone for the SSA database include conditions that should not stop a gun purchase.

The question is, do we err on the side of safety or not? Brady background checks save lives. There is a reason for them. There are some people who should not have guns, period. If this is an overreach as some have claimed, why not find a middle ground or a place where safety comes first. The corporate gun lobby is just waiting to roll back all gun safety regulations. Guns everywhere owned and carried by anyone is their alternative fact. It flies in the face of common sense and safety.

But never mind. Common sense is nowhere to be seen and will be nowhere to be seen for years. The public safety and health of our nation’s citizens is at risk. We will not be safer when people who are so disabled, mentally, that they can’t manage their affairs own and carry guns around. In what world does that even compute?

Take my brother, for example. His increasingly fragile health due to Parkinson’s Disease with concomitant mental problems and some dementia, should deem him unsafe with a gun. Luckily his guns are stored at a friend’s home so I will not worry about this as his sister and caretaker. There are days when he mentions suicide. For him, access to a gun would be dangerous to himself and others. His balance is awful, he falls frequently, sometimes he has episodes of hallucinations due to his PTSD and Parkinsons’.

But the gun lobby thinks this is just okey dokey for all of us.

They are wrong but they will get their way. Sadly, that is what things have come to in America. Caring for people’s health and safety finds itself at the bottom of the list of priorities. It’s all about profit and stroking the egos and fund raising of cronies.

In our “new America” anything goes for the gun lobby. They have been drooling about this moment for a long time. This article from The Trace pretty much sums it up:

They’ve become viable because we’ve seen a rightward shift in American politics, generally speaking. Ideas that are viable today would have been seen as far too extreme 20 years ago. The rightwing itself has become far more conservative. There’s all kinds of data on this. Democrats, ideologically, are pretty much where they’ve been over the last 20 years. But Republicans have become far more conservative. That’s part of the reason why Trump won. The gun bills the NRA pushes are part of this larger rightward shift — that, and the never-ending drumbeat from NRA that gun rights are under attack. The inevitable consequence of all the apocalyptic rhetoric is that you continually move toward what would have been considered an extremist agenda in years gone by. Part of the reason the NRA keeps moving in that directions is that it has gotten much of what it wants. The NRA has to keep developing new measures to enact to have a purpose, maintain support, and keep the base motivated.

Follow the money and the influence.

So we have a power hungry President who sows conflict and chaos and owes the gun lobby who sow fear and paranoia. Not a good combination.

People who have narcissistic character disorder, as many ascribe to our new President, use “flying monkeys” to scare the public and intimidate them into believing in their false statements and agendas. A former family member of mine is a narcissist. There is no way to argue with people who exhibit these traits. They are always right even if they are patently wrong and their flying monkeys and sycophants agree and even foment more fear and lying. Blaming the victims and gaslighting are their MO.

We are here now.

Take last night’s appearance by Presidential advisor Kellyann Conway on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews . When asked about the extreme and controversial immigration executive order, her defense, and indeed the reason it was done had to do with a non-existent massacre in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Unfortunately Matthews did not call her out on her bold and blatant lie but others did.

Below is from the Brady Campaign President, Dan Gross:

Conway’s comments were made during an interview on MSNBC during which she also stated, “You just look at what’s happened in Orlando in San Bernardino…and avert your gaze…and look the other way and say ‘eh, things happen.” We agree, which is why, in light of the “Bowling Green Massacre,” we are calling on the administration to take action to keep guns out of dangerous hands, including terrorists. It could start by signing this draft Executive Order.

The draft Executive Order would be based on facts and a willingness to prevent gun violence and save lives. But we know that alternative facts are the name of the game at the White House now. Conway did not get away with her lie. And it’s possible she actually believes that this event occurred which is even more frightening.

Does she (and to Trump’s flying monkeys) know that 33,000 Americans a year are killed by gunshot injuries? Do they know that toddlers kill more people with guns than terrorist? Of course not. Or if they do, either they don’t believe in the truth or they have chosen to ignore it because of their dangerous agenda.

Shouldn’t we be doing something about this urgently? It’s an American tragedy and a public health crisis. Where are the executive orders?

Conway also lied about the Orlando shooter, who she frequently cites as a reason we need draconian immigration rules. The Orlando shooter was born in America. How would extreme vetting at the border have stopped him from shooting up 49 gay people at a nightclub?

Simply put- it is a lie.

Being surrounded by liars, conspiracy theorists  and flying monkeys will lead to destruction from within. Meanwhile, how will the country fare?

It’s going to be a long 4 years, if our President lasts that long. A President who lies and believes in his lies or lies intentionally or lies to protect himself or lies to promote a dangerous agenda will soon be caught with one too many of them.

It’s only been 2 weeks. The nation is suffering from PTSD. And if that is also by design, the meanness and evilness of that is hard to square with a country based on democratic principles and the rule of law.

We are better than this.

 

 

Background checks work

Map pointer with Check mark.Yes they do. Some of my readers think they don’t. I have yet to hear a reason that is based on facts and common sense. These folks do buy guns from Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers they tell me and are willing to submit themselves to the “terribly inconvenient” process of the 3 minute phone call.

Today is the anniversary of the enactment of the Brady Law. Since that day 23 years ago, according to the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence, 3 million gun buyers have been stopped from buying a gun legally from a licensed dealer. That is no small thing. Stopping a felon, domestic abuser, someone who is or has been adjudicated and/or dangerously mentally ill from getting a gun saves lives. One would think that would be a good thing.

But interestingly and inexplicably, those same folks who have submitted to legal background checks are against the very same checks from private sellers at gun shows, flea markets or on-line. They try to tell me there is something different about a private seller asking for a Brady background check from a buyer. There is not. In most states that have passed a law to require background checks on all gun sales the private seller takes a buyer to a licensed dealer for the phone call to the FBI’s instant check system.

Easy peasy.

Also background checks do NOT lead to gun registration or confiscation. In the 23 years of requiring gun purchasers to undergo a simple background check, that has not happened.

Another gun lobby myth.

And speaking of myths, there is new research to dispel the one that shooters look for gun free zones where no guns are allowed to carry out mass shootings. That is not true. It’s interesting that when research is actually done, we get facts that can make a difference to our public health and safety. The Trace wrote about it today:

The Johns Hopkins study warns that introducing more guns on campus could have the unintended consequence of risking the safety of the students and faculty that gun-rights supporters say they are there to protect. Research shows that college students are at an increased risk for suicide and prone to impulsive behavior. One report, cited by the authors, found that firearms were the most common means of suicide among males, accounting for for almost a third of suicides by college students of that demographic. College students are also susceptible to risky behaviors — such as alcohol or drug abuse — which have strong associations with increased levels of violence.

This is common sense.  The corporate gun lobby turns common sense on its’ head and makes fiction out of facts. We are, according to this article, in a “post truth” era in our country. Fact has become fiction. Fiction has become fact. President-elect Trump has lied about most everything during the campaign and then taken some of it back telling us this is what he meant in the first place. Black is white. The sky is under us now and the ground is above us.

From the article:

This effect is known as the “illusion of truth” – when you hear certain information so many times, you believe it, regardless of its accuracy. Political lies stay with us not because of their authenticity, but because manipulative campaign strategists understand psychology.

The majority of the time, this information works against our best interest. (…)

Just this week, The Oxford Dictionary sealed our fate by naming “post-truth” the word of the year, defining it as:

“Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

The greatest problem of our future is not political; it is not economic; it is not even rational. It’s the battle of fact versus fiction.

Sadly, a Trump victory illustrates that we are no longer able to distinguish between the two.

The above is an opinion piece by Samuel C. Spitale writing for the Huffington Post. I happen to agree with it.

Brady background checks work. But about 40% of sales don’t require a background check. That is not OK. Every person who adopts a pet must get a background check. Every person who works with children in churches must go through a background check. Physicians and accountants go through background checks. There are no exceptions. Why should there be exceptions for the purchase of a deadly weapon designed to kill another human being?

Background checks provide useful information in order to keep us and our children safe from fraud, sexual predators, those who would do us harm, those who can’t and won’t be responsible. That’s a good thing. It’s all about public health and safety.

Let’s make up up and down down. Believe in the facts which tell us that when we restrict access to guns to only those who can handle them responsibly and safely, we can prevent some of the daily carnage from gunshot injuries. If we push the conversation towards gun safety reform- meaning reforming the practices of law abiding gun owners to make sure all guns are locked and unloaded away from the hands of children and teens and to keep them from being stolen and used in a crime. If we talk about the risks of guns to their owners providing the research and the facts that access to a loaded gun can result in an avoidable suicide or accidental gun discharge we can expect fewer gun deaths and injuries. If we talk the facts about gun free zones, we turn fiction into action and keep guns away from places they are not needed or should be.

The facts support the above. It is not fiction or myth that gun violence can be reduced and prevented if we pass stronger gun laws and stand stronger against the myths and fiction as promoted by the gun lobby.

Let’s get to work and deal with the facts. It’s past time to Finish the Job and require background checks on all gun sales.

 

UPDATE:

As always, one of my readers whose comments are not approved by me for various reasons, made a claim that the Brady Campaign is lying about how many gun purchases have been stopped legally since the Brady Law took effect in 1994. Here is the low down on that based on facts from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence ( which employs lawyers who do research into gun violence):

Since the enactment of the Brady law on March 1, 1994, through December 31, 2012, background checks blocked more than 2.4 million prohibited purchasers like domestic abusers, convicted felons, mentally ill persons, and other dangerous individuals from purchasing a firearm or receiving a permit to purchase or carry a firearm.1

In 2012 alone, background checks blocked 192,043 prohibited persons from gaining access to firearms,2 including 82,000 felons or roughly 225 felons every day.3

Statistics reported by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence confirm that background checks work and have had a significant positive impact on national crime rates. Before the Brady law was enacted, America’s gun homicide rate was on a dramatic rise, increasing by 55 percent from 1984 to 1993 even as non-gun homicides were falling over this period.4 After Brady background checks were required, however, gun murders began to steadily decline and ultimately fell by 32 percent from 1993 to 2006.5 The rate of robberies and aggravated assaults committed with firearms also decreased by 42 percent over this period.6

Now one can argue that crime rates were on the decrease already for other reasons but surely a law that has stopped felons, domestic abusers and others who shouldn’t have guns made it harder for these folks to get guns that end up used in crimes. So when we combine efforts to stem the devastation of gun crimes, we can save lives. If the folks who want to argue about this have better ideas, I’m all ears.

There is other research to indicate that fewer denials of gun purchases have occurred in recent years. There may be a good reason for that based on this Everytown article:

However, between 2000 and 2013, the share of total background checks denied fell by more than half, from 1.6% to 0.7%. This is consistent with the hypothesis that criminals are increasingly aware that a background check will block them from buying guns at licensed dealers—and are seeking guns from unlicensed sellers online and at gun

shows, where no background checks are required under current law. In a September 2013 investigation of illegal online gun sales, Felon Seeks Firearm, Everytown found that 1 in 30 people seeking guns from unlicensed sellers on the national website Armslist.com had a criminal record or domestic violence history that prohibited gun ownership. This is nearly four times the share of people seeking firearms at licensed dealers who are prohibited and blocked by the background check system. (…)

Seems like a very good case for requiring background checks on all gun sales. And why not? Who will it hurt? Not law abiding gun owners no matter what they say. It will stop those who shouldn’t have deadly weapons and won’t be responsible but will be potentially dangerous.

Resisting a reasonable provision that will save lives is antithetical to public health and safety. If those who resist give some fact-based reasoning to show otherwise, then maybe we can have a discussion. But as long as their only reason is that more gun sales will profit the gun industry and hysteria about guns being confiscated then we can’t have the discussion. Further what is the gun industry going to do now that they have a gun friendly Congress and President? What will they come up with now to scare people into buying guns and being against common sense?

 

Minnesota nice?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is our President-elect.

Sigh.

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

But I digress.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Minnesota nice” is a myth.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 4, 2016- Who will protect the children?

Happy 4th of July Card, Traditional American Banner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He died.

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

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

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

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

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

What can we do?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Enough.

Be safe out there today and Happy Fourth of July.

 

UPDATE:

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

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

Guns vs. lawn mowers

Illustration of lawn mower man smiling standing with arms folded facing front done in cartoon style on isolated white background.

There has been an interesting back and forth on the Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota Facebook page about the gun giveaway promotion by a local Ford/Chrysler dealer. I wrote about this in a previous post. The dealer is now responding to the action taken by a group of people who felt the promotion was the wrong message to send to the public and consumers. It was not meant for any other purpose than that. What happened was more than a few phone calls to the dealer and to the Ford Motor company about this particular business policy. The dealer made claims about this being about the second amendment but the last time I checked there was nothing about a right to give guns away in a business deal. He also said callers were mean. I wonder if he means that the callers were insistent and emphatic in their opposition to the business deal. If we want to talk about mean, we can talk about the rude and offensive comments made by those who agreed with this business deal on the Facebook page. Many were deleted and blocked for that reason.

In the business promotion, car buyers had the choice between a lawn mower or one of two types of Ruger pistols. Several news sources have covered this story. This one from the Minneapolis based CBS affiliate WCCO media and also this one from BringMeTheNews.com.

I want to say that I have written several blog posts about guns and lawn mowers on my other blogging site- Here and  here. These were about arguments over lawn mowers. Are lawn mowers dangerous? Apparently fights over them can be. And yes, there are accidents and injuries due to lawn mowers as the owner of the car dealership pointed out as his excuse for why it was OK to give guns away. But as the article above points out:

Accidents are the leading cause of death for kids at just about all ages.

Although the leading causes of these accidental deaths include car accidents,drownings, poisonings, fires, falls and gun accidents, there are many hidden dangers that parents are less aware of that can lead to accidents and tragedies.

Death by lawnmower is rare compared to death by gunshot injuries. 95 deaths in a year compared to 30,000. The gun rights folks often point to other causes of death in their denial that gunshot injuries actually do kill a lot of Americans.

And I would like to include this article about the idea that, as one of the commenters in the story about the car dealer said, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” The article, written in 2013 for the Armed With Reason blog debunks this gun lobby myth. It’s a long article but important. But here’s one section I love:

Guns may not kill people, but gun culture does.

6 Academic Responses to “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People”

Lawnmowers don’t mow lawns, people do.  But if you want to mow a lot of grass in a very short period of time with very little effort or coordination, you’re going to need a lawnmower.   And if you want to be brutally efficient about it, why not get a John Deere semi-automatic riding lawnmower? The X758 is a popular model that can literally mow down entire fields at the push of a button, and can be picked up without any hassle at your local Walmart.

I’m belaboring the analogy, but the point should be clear:  Guns may not kill people, but people with guns do, and they do so more often and more efficiently than people without guns.  People do not behave in a vacuum. They are influenced by their environment, and when that environment is occupied by guns, people behave aggressively and impulsively.  Even the NRA is unable to follow its own strict logic behind “guns don’t kill people.” In searching for a scapegoat, Wayne LaPierre often accuses media, video games, Obama’s budget, and anything else he can find that isn’t a gun. The point being these fruitless attempts to shift blame are an implicit acknowledgement that we are influenced by our surrounding environment, an environment that includes guns.

So following this analogy, let’s talk about the clever language that has been used by the corporate gun lobby and their minions for many decades to deflect any talk about common sense gun laws. Lawn mowers don’t mow lawns, people do. Drills don’t screw screws into boards, people do. Saws don’t cut wood, people do. Hammers don’t pound in nails, people do. Vacuum cleaners don’t clean rugs, people do. Mops don’t clean floors, people do. You get the idea. How have these folks gotten away with their nonsense for so long? They make no sense but our leaders have listened to these folks and their myths to the detriment of public health and safety in our county.

If you read further into the article you can see why guns DO ACTUALLY KILL PEOPLE. One example given early on is the accidental gun deaths of and by children. Surely those children did not intend to shoot anyone. The gun was discharged by mistake. Adults make the same mistakes. Take this recent one for example where an Alabama man “accidentally” shot his pregnant girlfriend in the face:

The Gadsden Times reportsthat deputies were called to the couple’s home on Whites Chapel Road around 9 p.m. Thursday after the unidentified man called 911 and said he’d accidentally shot his girlfriend. When deputies arrived, they found the man trying to put pressure on the woman’s wound.

There’s just got to be more to this story. And in most of these incidents the gun owners get away with what they have done. Why? They were reckless and irresponsible with their guns. This is unacceptable. Often law enforcement is afraid to charge someone because…rights. Never mind the rights of the rest of us to be safe from idiots like this guy.

The other gun lobby myth is that more guns will make us safer. That has definitely not been the case. We are far less safe than most other democratized, civilized countries not at war because of our 300 million guns. Just ask the pregnant woman who got shot in the face if she feels safer now.

But I digress. Back to the above story. Did the gun shoot the pregnant woman? Did the man shoot her? Did the man with the gun shoot her? Would this have happened if the man had not had that gun in his hand?

I don’t have enough space here to list the many accidental shootings by children that have come to my attention just over the past few days but I can assure you, guns did not make those children safer. But I’ll post about just this one where a Michigan boy with developmental disabilities got his grandfather’s gun safe key and “accidentally” shot and killed a woman sleeping in the other room.  Why do these keep happening? And they do. More from the article:

According to his grandfather the boy “got up before anybody this morning at 5:30 a.m. He said he was in my pocket trying to get change and he found the gun safe key. It’s always locked up, and I always have the key on me.”

The grandfather said that when the boy tried to unload the shotgun he unintentionally dischargedthe gun.  The pellets went through a nearby closet wall and struck a 28-year-old woman who was sleeping in the living room.

The grandfather said “we turned the light on and we could see all the blood. It was only minutes. She was still breathing, but by the time the police got here, she’d passed away.”

The boy is staying with a family member.  The grandfather said his grandson is an apprentice hunter and has used guns before.  He said the boy “handled guns very safely and wouldn’t touch a gun unless he was told it was okay to pick it up.” He added that the boy “doesn’t realize what he’s done.”

The thing is, kids pick up guns no matter what you tell them. I have written about that many times before on this blog. I’m sorry but this does not sound like a responsible gun owner to me. Twelve year old children without developmental problems are barely old enough to handle the responsibility of guns. This man’s judgement was clearly impaired and now someone is dead. Avoidable and insane but part of our American gun culture and another American tragedy.

I would like to add this one for a particular reason. A 2 year old Virginia boy shot himself with a gun he found in his parents’ top dresser drawer. Now some in the gun lobby will try to deny this could happen and that little kids just won’t find those guns hidden away in dresser drawers. But this ABC 20/20 show proved that this is exactly what can and does happen. These are all avoidable and senseless shootings, not that any make sense.

open carry thugs
From Moms Demand Action Facebook page

Speaking of not making any sense, there’s the open carry folks who are out and about intimidating their neighbors. I do love this photo and article about the Indianapolis folks who think they are making a point by walking around in a residential neighborhood on Memorial Day week-end to show their “patriotism”. A photo of this classy group was posted on the Moms Demand Action Facebook page because, as it happens, the founder of that organization lives nearby to where they carried their assault weapons. Check out it:

“There’s not a thing we can do about it,” ZPD Chief Robert Knox said. “They’re exercising their second amendment right to bear arms and their first amendment right to peaceably get together and walk down the street like anybody else.”

“…like anybody else”? NO. Wrong. These folks are not like everybody else. The second amendment does not give people the right to do whatever the heck they want to do with their guns. This is insane and reflective of the American gun culture. Here’s one more article about this sleazy group of gun extremists. There are not too many words for this kind of tactic. All I know is that we don’t need people openly carrying loaded guns near the home of gun violence prevention advocates as a lark and clearly to intimidate people who work to prevent gun violence. It is not amusing. It is not funny. It has nothing to do with gun rights or the second amendment. It has nothing to do with a civil society. This is simply not OK.

And speaking of the insane gun culture, we should take a look at what else is insane with the stupid and dangerous gun culture pushed by the corporate gun lobby. Can anyone target practice close to homes just because of the second amendment? I say no. In Massachusetts (a reader corrected my posting that this was a California case)  someone thought he could. Let’s take a look:

“It was a piece of paper hanging between two trees with nothing behind it,” he said.

The bullet traveled 1,500 feet from a nearby farm, through a few thinly wooded acres, across a pair of frequently used railroad tracks, through the Costa home’s siding, exterior wall, bathroom wall and closet, before it lodged in the first floor hallway plaster.

Police responded to the scene and Costa’s home was evacuated on Jan. 14. The round pierced the wall about seven feet from his daughter’s head as she sat on a kitchen stool studying World War I.

Here’s the response from the pro gun side:

Gun rights activists have labeled the pending bylaw “anti-freedom” and “anti-Second Amendment” in an online campaign.

“We’re always concerned when we see things like this,” said Jim Wallace, executive director of the Northborough-based Gun Owners Action League (GOAL).

GOAL has sounded the alarm, urging its local members to attend a May 19 public hearing on the bylaw and reminding them to vote on June 1.

“It seems to be a pattern across the state,” Wallace said. “This has sprung up in a bunch of different towns, and it seems like an organized attempt to make things tougher on gun owners in the state.”

Initially, Berkley police said they could not press charges in the January incident at the Costa home, despite successfully tracking the round to a group of target-shooters on a nearby farm.

There is no pattern. This is all made up anger and total hypocrisy. This kind of intimidation should not be acceptable anywhere. The alarm sounded should come from the side of keeping people safe from stray bullets in neighborhoods. A few inches different and the target shooting gun owner would be singing a different tune and his pals in the pro gun lobby would be taking a seat quietly with the only alarm bells ringing at the funeral of a little girl.

And just one more, I promise. Speaking of the hypocrisy of the gun lobby saying that guns make us safer, check out this particularly stupid and dangerous incident:

Martinez’s older brother, Tom Cline, said Martinez died in the most senseless way.

Around 9:45 p.m. Friday, “Miguel was fooling around with his buddies. They were in possession of a gun and a bulletproof vest,” Cline said Saturday.

Cline said friends encouraged his brother to put on the vest. The three friends with Martinez assured him that he would not be hurt, Cline said.

According to the sheriff’s department, Lambert fired the gun.

“The kid had shot my brother. The bullet penetrated the top of his vest,” said Cline. “My brother was hit. My brother said he couldn’t breathe.”

According to Cline, one person ran for help. Two men carried Martinez up the bike path to meet deputies, but Martinez died.

“My brother did not deserve this death,” Cline said. “I want everybody to know Miguel Henry Martinez was a good boy.”

Cline said he believes his brother might have survived the shooting if someone called for help sooner. He said he doesn’t know where the bulletproof vest or gun came from.

Big OOPS. This is the American gun culture where things like this happen every day. It’s also the American tragedy.

Really, you just can’t make this stuff up. These folks may be “law abiding” because they passed background checks and because open carry and target shooting in neighborhoods is stupidly allowed by our spineless legislatures. These incidents are all examples of the “mad men” culture to which Dan Gross of the Brady Campaign referred in my recent post. Once we thought some dangerous and unsafe behaviors were OK but we found out differently. It’s just a matter of time before so many of these incidents happen that it will be impossible to avoid the obvious solution- changing the conversation about our gun culture and passing stronger gun laws that will lead to improved public health and safety.

It is past time for the insanity to stop. We are better than this. Let’s get to work.