But for the guns…..

american-flag-gun-stockBut for the guns, thousands of Americans would be alive today to live their lives as the rest of us are doing. They would be singing, dancing, working, studying, playing, shopping, eating, loving, reading books, traveling, and just living.

Take this young man from Chicago-Delmonte Johnson for one example:

Mr. Johnson, a 19-year-old who loved to sing and dance, who was an athlete and a budding social activist, will not get to see that vision realized. He was shot and killed Wednesday after playing basketball near his home.

Image
Delmonte Johnson, in red, with his family in an undated photo.

Mr. Johnson’s death was tragic and unnecessary and enraging. It was also the sort of death that’s become far too common in America, and in particular in Mr. Johnson’s hometown, where more than 2,000 people have been shot so far this year, nearly 400 of them fatally. While mass shootings involving high-powered guns and high death tolls have claimed an outsize portion of the nation’s collective grief — and its headlines — street shootings like the one that killed Delmonte Johnson are far more common.

Yes. Far too common.

And then take this man who was minding his own business when a cop walked into the wrong apartment ( she thought it was her own), saw him there and shot and killed him. This one has to be almost a first, or is it?:

Amber Guyger, who is white, was off-duty when she shot Botham Shem Jean, a black man, in his apartment, police said Thursday. Guyger told police she thought she was entering her own apartment not realizing she was on the wrong floor. Upon encountering Jean, she thought her home was being burglarized and opened fire, according to police.
Botham, a 26-year-old native of St. Lucia, was unarmed. He died at a hospital.

Enter the NRA with their lame and usual excuse- if only the victim had also been armed, all would have been hunky dory:

“This could have been very different if Botham Jean had been, say, he was a law-abiding gun owner and he saw somebody coming into his apartment,” Loesch said on NRATV’s Relentless on Monday. “I don’t think there’s any context that the actions would have been justified. If I see somebody coming into my house and I’m not expecting them and they’re walking in like they own the place, I would—I would act to defend myself.”

Social media users balked at the suggestion that a gun could have saved Jean, who was born on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

“If Botham Jean had a gun and killed a police officer he’d be in jail held without bond and Trump would be nonstop tweeting about that immigrant who killed that poor cop,” Comedian Sarah Cooper tweeted in response to Loesch’s remarks.

Sometimes the NRA’s line of reasoning is so ridiculous as to be unbelievable and totally unhinged. As if people are sitting around in their own apartments armed just in case someone happens to come in who doesn’t belong there and, of course, be totally prepared for a cop with a gun. ( Oh right- that is what the NRA and gun rights advocates believe).

I think they can retire this argument. It makes no common sense and it’s stupid.

The mother of Philando Castile challenged the flawed reasoning of Dana Loesch- mouthpiece for the NRA:

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch is “asinine” to suggest Botham Jean might still be alive today if only he was “a law-abiding gun owner,” Valerie Castile told the Daily News. (…)

Castile is the mother of Philando Castile, the Minnesota public school employee who had a valid concealed carry permit when he was shot to death by a police officer during a routine traffic stop in Minnesota two years ago.

“My son was a licensed gun owner and it didn’t help him. He’s dead because he gave that information to an officer,” Castile said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, called out the NRA spokeswoman for being "one-sided."
Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, called out the NRA spokeswoman for being “one-sided.” (CRAIG LASSIG / Getty Images)

 

Castile called Loesch “reckless” and “one-sided” for using Jean’s tragic death to further the NRA’s agenda.

“(Jean) was in his own home. Inside a nice building with security. He had a right to feel safe in his own home. He wasn’t expecting someone to come in uninvited. He shouldn’t have to always keep a gun on his hip. That’s asinine,” Castile said.

“That officer was dead wrong. Just hold her accountable. Don’t try to spin the story. My son was a good guy, and (the NRA) tried to spin it. The truth is, he’s dead for being honest and telling the truth,” she said.

Reckless is a great word for the NRA’s claims. Loesch was actually suggesting that Jean should have shot a police officer. What would have happened then? A black man with a gun shooting an officer? Stand your ground laws don’t work out so well for people of color.

And then take these Twin Cities area victims all shot in one short period time:

“It’s unacceptable,” Frey said. “Gun violence is one of the most insidious issues we have confronting our country and our response as a city is gong to be swift and strong.”

His comments came as police scrambled to ward off any retaliatory violence after a weekend in which 10 people were shot, four of them fatally. Most of the shootings occurred over a 48-hour stretch on Friday and Saturday.

It’s the guns. It’s actually the bullets from the guns that are killing all of these people-mostly innocent of wrongdoing but now dead. California wants to do something about the bullets. That liberal bastion of a state has managed to pass some of the nation’s strongest gun laws and also has one of the lowest gun death rates in the country. Gun rights advocates love to criticize the laws in California because they don’t seem to stop all shootings. But they have it all wrong. What is going on in California is saving lives. California has lower gun death rates than most other states.

Let’s review. Firearm deaths account for the majority of overall homicides in our country. Guns make a difference.

Suicide by gun accounts for the majority of overall gun deaths in America.

America has more mass shootings than any other developed country not at war.

America has more guns per capita than most other countries and the most gun deaths per capita.

And I want to end by remembering the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting that occurred on this date 5 years ago..

Twelve died and 3 injured because of a gunman who should not have had a gun:

The government contractor who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yardlast week was driven by delusions that he was being controlled by low-frequency radio waves and scratched the words “End the torment!” on the barrel of the shotgun he used, the FBI said Wednesday, offering new, chilling details of the attack.

Valerie Parlave, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said that Aaron Alexis, 34, began the shooting knowing he would be killed. A search of Alexis’s electronic devices, she said, indicated that he was “prepared to die during the attack and that he accepted death as the inevitable consequence of his actions.”

In America, people like this have easy access to guns.

Let us all take a moment and remember the victims.

It’s the guns. We can’t avoid the truth. But then, for some in today’s American political craziness truth is not truth any more.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Stand up for the truth and for action. Tell your candidates you want them to do something about gun violence. And by that I mean do something. Don’t pander to the nation’s large corporate gun lobby. It’s a paper tiger. The majority of Americans do actually understand that we have a serious problem with guns and loose gun laws.

#Enough

Virginia Tech remembered as shootings continue in America

Virginia Tech Shooting AnniversaryTomorrow is April 16th ( one day from the late tax day deadline this year)

I want to first remember the victims of the Virginia Tech mass shooting which happened on April 16, 2007. It was the worst mass school shooting after Columbine and still remains one of our country’s deadliest mass shootings. 32 died and 17 were injured. The effects of that shooting, even 11 years later, live on for those who were there, those left behind and the entire community. Gun violence has a ripple effect. No one forgets. The corporate gun lobby wants us to forget. They are not succeeding. If anything, we are remembering more and more as more and more of these kind of shootings and every day homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings continue apace.

The young man who got his hands on a gun and shot up the Virginia Tech campus should not have had a gun and was clearly irresponsible with his gun. Not only was he irresponsible, he intentionally murdered innocent people. He was a supposed “legal” gun owner as his name was not in the FBI database flagging him as prohibited to buy a gun. It should have been but our loose gun laws allowed him to purchase that gun and kill people. Why did he want his gun? For self defense? No. To kill people.

Many gun owners are responsible with their guns and own them for hunting or sport. Many gun owners are not interested in shooting at people who they believe might do them harm because they are not paranoid. Most gun owners don’t just shoot first and ask questions later. In fact most Americans don’t do this because most Americans don’t own guns in their homes for hunting, sport or self protection. And they are more safe than those who do as it turns out.

I write all the time on this blog about the rare instances of needing a gun for self protection in your home or in public and the rare incidents of said uses of a gun. NPR posted this article a day ago about this very topic.:

The latest data show that people use guns for self-defense only rarely. According to a Harvard University analysis of figures from the National Crime Victimization Survey, people defended themselves with a gun in nearly 0.9 percent of crimes from 2007 to 2011.

David Hemenway, who led the Harvard research, argues that the risks of owning a gun outweigh the benefits of having one in the rare case where you might need to defend yourself.

“The average person … has basically no chance in their lifetime ever to use a gun in self-defense,” he tellsHere & Now‘s Robin Young. “But … every day, they have a chance to use the gun inappropriately. They have a chance, they get angry. They get scared.”

The gun rights advocates beg to differ with little evidence or actual facts- from the article:

But the research spread by the gun lobby paints a drastically different picture of self-defense gun uses. One of the most commonly cited estimates of defensive gun uses, published in 1995 by criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, concluded there are between 2.2 and 2.5 million defensive gun uses annually.

One of the main criticisms of this estimate is that researchers can’t seem to find the people who are shot by civilians defending themselves because they don’t show up in hospital records.

“The Kleck-Gertz survey suggests that the number of DGU respondents who reported shooting their assailant was over 200,000, over twice the number of those killed or treated [for gunshots] in emergency departments,” crime prevention researcher Philip Cook wrote in the book Envisioning Criminology.

Kleck says there is no record of these gunshot victims because most instances of self-defense gun use are not reported.

Hmmmm. Really? Why not report these incidents if it is so important to you? Because they are not happening, that’s why.

“The researchers who look at [Kleck’s study] say this is just bad science,” Hemenway says. “It’s a well-known problem in epidemiology that if something’s a rare event, and you just try to ask how many people have done this, you will get incredible overestimates.”

In fact, Cook told The Washington Post that the percentage of people who told Kleck they used a gun in self-defense is similar to the percentage of Americans who said they were abducted by aliensThe Post notes that “a more reasonable estimate” of self-defense gun uses equals about 100,000 annually, according to the NCVS data.

Check out this chart from the Gun Violence Archive for facts:

You can see for yourself how often guns are used defensively and how many end up being used to kill or injure someone by comparison.  Not even close.

The NRA extremists in the form of their leaders and their minions, have ratcheted up the fear and paranoia for so many decades that they have convinced a certain segment of gun owners that they should be afraid of their own shadows. They are afraid of the wrong thing.

Three incidents from the past day or two prove my point.

 

This one involved a black teen who got lost while looking for his school. He innocently knocked on the door of the home of one of those aforementioned paranoid and racist homeowners:

A black teenager was nearly shot and killed by a racist homeowner after missing his bus and trying to ask a neighbor for directions. (…)

“I got to the house, and I knocked on the lady’s door,” Brennan told the TV station. “Then she started yelling at me and she was like, ‘Why are you trying to break into my house?’ I was trying to explain to her that I was trying to get directions to Rochester High, and she kept yelling at me.”

“Then the guy came downstairs, and he grabbed the gun,” the teen added. “I saw it and started to run — and that’s when I heard the gunshot.”

The shot missed the fleeing teen, and Brennan said he kept running until he found a hiding place, and that’s when he broke down crying.

His crime was being Black and lost and knocking on the wrong door, apparently. And more from the boy:

“My mom says that black boys get shot because sometimes they don’t look their age, and I don’t look my age,” he said. “I’m 14, but I don’t look 14. I’m kind of happy that, like, I didn’t become a statistic.”

He was one of the lucky ones who did not become a statistic. But way too many do.

This gun owner should be held accountable for, at the least, reckless discharge of a gun and at the most, intent to injure or kill someone. Let’s see how this one turns out.

Another teenaged Oklahoma boy did, however, become a statistic. His own father shot and killed him in his haste to shoot first and ask questions later. Without that gun in his hand, his son would be alive today. And what did he do wrong? Let’s look:

When Tony Rutherford, 47, arrived in the middle of the night, he saw his older son’s pickup truck cut across a field. It was supposed to be parked.

According to the release, Rutherford “gave chase and fired his rifle at the driver several times.”

At least one of those rounds hit the driver, who was pronounced dead at the scene. That driver, found slumped over in the driver’s seat of the pickup, was later identified as Rutherford’s 13-year-old son.

“What is unique about this case is that we have a father who thought he was protecting an older son’s property, and in fact, he shot and killed his younger son, not knowing it was his younger son,” Jennifer Brown, OSBI spokeswoman, told KOAM.

Unique? No actually, incidents like this happen often enough in America as to be of grave concern. I have written many many times in this blog about family members “accidentally” killing each other when they mistake them for someone else and don’t use an ounce of common sense.

The boy’s death was totally avoidable and senseless. How will that father be able to live with what he did?

And then there is this, all too common stupid and dangerous use of a gun- an 8 year old had a loaded gun and fired it off while walking home from school with friends!:

Detectives said the gun is legally owned by a family member of the child.

Police said that the child took the gun that morning without the owner’s knowledge, and carried it to Harper Elementary in his backpack.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Lock up your darned guns everybody. Safe storage can save lives. Where is common sense?

Do I have to remind you all that these two gun owners were “law abiding” until suddenly they weren’t? And the parents of the 8 year old? I have no words. They were the “good guys” with guns that NRA VP Wayne LaPierre loves to talk about. As recently as the CPAC convention, mentioned in the above linked article, La Pierre was using the same old unprovable and nonsensical argument about those good guys out there with guns. And this happened just a week after the Parkland school shooting that shocked the nation and caused everyone to take a different look at the National Rifle Association. Take a look at the continuing rants of this man who represents a group that represents a very small minority of Americans- about 1.5% of us.

Wayne- we actually hate the shootings.

Gun ownership is going down. The NRA’s reputation is in the toilet. They are now part of the Mueller investigation.

What LaPierre and others sometimes talk about but don’t often do much about is that gun ownership requires not only common sense but responsibility, training, and restraint. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill. And kill they do. They are the only product on the market not regulated for safety. There are no training requirements to own a gun and very few for carrying one in public.

We are changing the culture and the conversation more slowly than we should since the body count is increasing every year.  

Finally the messaging of the corporate gun lobby is falling apart. It’s well past time for that to happen. Just as with gay marriage, the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke and driving while drunk changed laws and the culture, so too will allowing loose gun laws to lead to a national public health and safety epidemic.

Candidates and lawmakers are now publicly stating their support for measures that will save lives and claiming their “F” rating from the NRA proudly.

Yesterday I attended my congressional district convention as a delegate. Not one of the democratic candidates running or current sitting lawmakers were against passing reasonable laws to protect our kids and communities from the devastation of gun violence. Even those in districts where many gun owners and hunters live agreed that something has to be done. I had many conversations with these leaders and candidate as did many in the room. Gun violence prevention was on the top of the list as issues of concern.

The Parkland students and students all over this country are telling lawmakers that they are no longer willing to listen to their BS representing gun lobby speak. Students and others in the Virginia, Maryland, DC area came out for a rally at NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia yesterday.  They ( we) are not going away any time soon. We are more committed than ever to getting things done to save lives.

We are better than this and the public has had about #enough.

#Neveragain.

 

 

The dark before the light

0be6f-winter-solstice-signToday is the winter solstice. The shortest day of the year. Our national political situation feels very dark but I am hopeful that shedding light on the truth and evidenced-based research into the causes and effects of gun violence will help protect the vulnerable amongst us from their entitlement to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As we go into the new year it is worth remembering that almost 100 Americans lose their lives to gunshot injuries. That is more than 33,000 a year and another 70,000 or so are injured by guns. That includes transgender people and fetuses.  Mass shootings are happening far too frequently and affect our diversity of citizensScience-based studies have been stifled about the cause and effect of gun violence.

Everyone is vulnerable to getting shot anywhere and that is not going to change unless we all speak out and stand up like this military officer did at his hearing to be approved by a Senate committee for a job at the Department of Defense.:

“I’d also like to, and I may get in trouble with other members of the committee, just say how insane it is that in the United States of America a civilian can go out and buy a semiautomatic assault rifle like an AR-15,” Dr. Dean Winslow, the nominee for the Department of Defense’s top health affairs job, said during his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Armed Services Committee today.

Winslow was responding to a question from Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) asking if the Texas gunman, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley, should’ve received a “dishonorable discharge” from the military — the worst possible way to leave the armed forces — instead of a “bad conduct discharge” for assaulting his spouse and child.

He was not approved.

I guess we can’t speak our minds about guns and gun violence and talk common sense in America where gun violence takes more lives than in any other democratized country not at war.

In this new America since January of this year, speaking the truth and voicing your views are under attack and it is truly frightening.

What is also frightening is that the far right “Trump TV” is talking about a coup. What does that mean? Will there be armed people taking over the government? I fear that with all those armed insurrectionists out there with arsenals and the fomenting of paranoia of government coming from those in the government, it could lead to tragic consequences. Half of U.S. guns are owned by just 3% of gun owners. That seems like a signal that some folks in our country are ready for something- not sure what yet.

But maybe these two know something. Alex Jones, conspiracy theorist and nut job, and Roger Stone, friend of our President, made a video of themselves at a gun range getting ready for civil war if Trump either resigns or is impeached. Let’s take a look:

The visit was documented in a nearly one-and-a-half-hour-long December 19 video posted to Jones’ YouTube channel with the title “Roger Stone Prepares For Civil War After Trump Is Removed From Office: LIVE AUTO GUNFIRE.”

Jones set up the video by explaining that when Stone “was recently asked by TMZ what happens if Trump is assassinated or overthrown, he said it would cause a civil war.”

I suppose I don’t need to remind my readers that “overthrown” is a dark word fraught with accusations and pregnant with meaning to some. If the President leaves of his own accord, is asked to leave after things get too dicey or is impeached, this is not being overthrown as if in a third world country.

But then again, the way things are going with attempts to ban words, stifle the media, shut down entire departments, “overthrow” regulations that are important for public health and safety, throwing people off of health care, attacking the FBI and the Justice Department, attacking immigrants and minorities, threatening to fire Special Prosecutor Robert Mueller, tweeting false accusations, blaming past administrations, meeting in secret to pass bills and “investigate” former administrations, avoiding a serious investigation into the actual known threat of Russian interference in our elections and much much more, it feels like we are a third world country.

We are better than this. When conspiracy theorists and lunatics arm themselves to the teeth in preparation for a civil war, we are in a dangerous place.

But there are actually some things we can do. Certainly making sure that we resist these machinations to “burn down the house” as Rep. Adam Schiff said last night in an interview on the Rachel Maddow show. Peacefully resisting and protesting any move to shut down our freedoms of the press, freedom to express ourselves, and any attempt to take down our democracy are an option.

And regarding the ever contentious issue of gun rights and gun violence, the Brady Campaign has an idea. Start talking more common sense with friends and relatives over the holidays when people are gathered together and the conversation turns to politics  (which it most likely will given the chaos happening all around us).

Let’s take a look:

A good discussion always starts with a place of common understanding. Find the ideals that unite you both – like respecting constitutional rights, while also preventing gun deaths – and focus on those. Starting at a point of understanding and recognition of your shared beliefs will lay the groundwork for a more productive conversation, and remind you why you’re having this conversation. It’s important to emphasize working together to accomplish a common goal, rather than view this discussion as a quick way to change someone’s mind.

And more:

This step is the crux of what most people think of when they envision of a “political debate.” But it doesn’t need to be intimidating or scary. Keep in mind the tips we’ve given you up to this point – remain engaged and open, don’t get defensive, and continue to share your viewpoints in a calm, rational manner. It’s okay if you find a place where you disagree – that is bound to happen – but this is where you can share the results of common-sense solutions like background checks with your audience.

It is too important to our liberty, our freedom, our rights, our democracy, the safety of our families and friends, to excuse extreme thoughts and behavior. For there is common ground in the middle. We know this from the polling done for many years now. Almost everyone agrees on requiring background checks for all gun sales, for example. And many other measures to strengthen our gun laws are also supported by a majority of Americans.

If we treat each other with respect and dignity without name calling and attacking, we will be a better country. And if we have conversations and make policy in the light of day instead of secretly and in the dark, even if we don’t agree, we can at least understand how it happened and have a chance to rebut or attempt to change minds.

The one thing I know for sure is that arming up will lead to bad things. Loaded guns in volatile and angry situations will inevitably lead to chaos and tragedy.

In the new year, I have to hope that shedding light on the truth and finding common ground on many issues, but particularly on the gun issue, can bring our country out of the darkness of the gun violence epidemic where we have been hiding for way too long. This is about safety and the health of our communities and families.

Happy solstice. Happy holidays. May your holidays be peaceful and joyful. And stay safe wherever you are.

 

Gun rights odds and ends and white terrorism

odd

This post has been edited since first posted.

 Walmart store, allegedly and reportedly in Evanston, Indiana put up a display of rifles touting them as part of their going back to school marketing. How odd. How disturbing. A woman took a photo, it went viral, and voila- we have the gun rights culture out front and center for the bold and clueless treatment of guns. The linked article reports that Walmart apologized and the display was taken down but also wondered if it was a fake photo or doctored in some way. Both cannot be true and the mystery remains.

But why go there at all? The thing is, it’s so believable that there would be a marketing display of this sort that naturally people were upset. In the midst of all of the heinous shootings involving kids and the thought of one’s own child as a victim of a school shooting or the shooter for that matter, why go there?

The answer is… gun rights. What is odd about that display anyway? Isn’t it normal for guns to be marketed like this to increase sales? Never mind that it might be offensive to many.

Many are not only offended but many have experienced gun violence in their lives. Shooting anniversaries come and go and it’s one more year since the death or injury of a loved one. Yet another such shooting anniversary occurred with little notice. In 1999 a White Supremacist with hate in his heart and on his mind decided to shoot at kids and teens at a Jewish Community Center day care in L.A.  Five were wounded after 70 shots were fired. It’s quite amazing that more people weren’t injured or killed. The children of two friends were among the wounded. These are mothers I have met through my network of gun violence prevention advocates. The son of one of them, only of pre-school age has now grown into a wonderful young man with nothing but some physical and emotional scars left. The other was a teen girl who is now happily married and doing fine. But the feelings never go away and the scars and memories are still there. The horror of the phone call that your child has been shot lives just below the surface.

It was this shooting that motivated Donna Dees Thomases to start planning what has become one of the largest marches on the National Mall- the Million Mom March. which took place in May of 2000. And the movement continues. Activists and advocates lobby, march and organize still today for non-violence and common sense solutions to gun violence.

Speaking of common sense solutions to violence, how can we hope that will happen when white supremacists gather together to foment hate, racism and intolerance.  But that is what they will do this week-end in an alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

There are concerns about public safety of course as there will be counter protesters as well. Hopefully no gun carrying or gunshots at these rallies. From the article:

Thomas asked that protesters from both camps to pledge to remain nonviolent.

“I urge groups on both sides to publicly commit to a nonviolent assembly,” he said. “Your commitment may influence the small minority that may seek to jeopardize public safety and will also serve to strengthen bonds throughout our community, reduce a growing cloud of fear, and emotionally disarm those who would delight in provoking others towards violent actions.”

Yet, yesterday, Trump’s deputy assistant and counterterrorism adviser, Sebastian Gorka, ridiculed the idea of lone-wolf terrorists and played down the threat of white supremacist violence.
Lone wolf shootings have become more common in America. They should be rare and odd but they are not. There are angry people fueled by white supremacist leanings, terrorist group leanings, anger over politics, race, a grievance against law enforcement or an organization and loosely associated with such groups who have wrecked havoc on innocent Americans. Take a look at this article:

Lone wolf attacks are rare — there have been perhaps 100 successful politically motivated attacks pulled off by a solo actor in the United States since the 1940s. But they began attracting special attention from the national security community more than a decade ago when Al Qaeda started encouraging them. By 2010, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta declared that lone wolf attacks could pose “the main threat to this country.” The next year, President Barack Obama laid out the problem on CNN: “When you’ve got one person who is deranged or driven by a hateful ideology, they can do a lot of damage, and it’s a lot harder to trace those lone wolf operators.”

Researchers believe lone wolf attackers are fundamentally different than people who participate in organized political violence. In an effort to better understand the phenomenon, the Department of Justice has funded two groups of researchers to compile databases of historic lone wolf attacks, so they can be analyzed for trends, psychological profiles — and, the authorities hope, insight into how to prevent them.

We all know that Donald Trump changed his views about gun policy as he was seeking to be our President. Of course he did. Follow the money and power. As an aside, our President has changed his position on many issues and one doesn’t know what will come out of his mouth at any given moment. Lies, #fakenews, incendiary rhetoric, ramping up war rhetoric, blaming others, bullying others, criticizing his own “friends” and allies, throwing people under the bus for his own expediency and blurting out mistruths that could end us all up in a lot of trouble. It is not only odd but disconcerting and quite scary.

(Maybe I should buy a gun!)   grrr

But I digress. It does no good to ignore or deny that these kinds of attacks take place. The shooters are most often angry men and often known to have mental illness. And they have access to guns because… it’s America where gun rights trump the right of all of us to be safe from attacks by people wielding guns in order to hurt others. Ignoring and denying that these incidents happen gives an excuse for doing nothing about them.

More from the above-linked article:

In the early years, a high percentage of lone wolf attacks employed explosives. But that has changed: “The lone wolf’s preferred weaponry is now a staggering range of high-velocity firearms,” Hamm and Spaaij write.

They attribute this trend to controls on the purchase of bomb-making materials enacted after the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995 and the permissiveness of U.S. gun laws.

“Permissiveness of U.S. gun laws…” This is the truth but the gun rights extremists want our laws to be even more permissive so that anyone can buy and carry guns everywhere. This is not normal. It is odd compared to almost all other democratized countries not at war.

When the commander in chief keeps changing his own mind about guns and gun policy and ramping up fear and paranoia, of course we have more violent and intolerant rhetoric. The gun culture we have is not the gun culture we should have. There is no reason why we can’t all work together to at least try to stop some of the shootings. Changing the conversation and working towards making guns accessible only to those who can reasonably handle them and are not under the category of felons, domestic abusers, known terrorists ( on the terror no-fly list), adjudicated mentally ill, drug abusers, or potentially dangerous to themselves or others would save lives.

That should not be so difficult. It’s all about common sense.

Gun rights to some people seems to mean no responsibility with that deadly weapon. Allowing guns to be accessible to small children is inviting tragedy. Every day in America, guns fall into small hands. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Take one of the latest incidents ending badly:

A Kansas City 5 year old is dead by his own hands when he found a gun in his home and shot himself. Without the kind of discussion, research, common sense measures to prevent shootings and whatever it takes to stop this irresponsible gun behavior we can expect our children to continue to suffer from gunshot injuries and deaths.

A 16 year old Mississippi teen fatally shot his 6 year old brother to “scare” him: 

Craft illegally came into possession of the handgun, according to Gulfport police Chief Leonard Papania. The teen has been charged with manslaughter.

How do 16 year olds access guns? That question must be asked and answered. They should not have guns, period. But this is gun rights in America. Solutions can be found if we have good research into the problem, talk about the risks of guns in homes, attack gun trafficking, lost and stolen guns, straw purchasing and require Brady background checks on all gun sales.

This writer for Forbes has written about this American tragedy and the denial of it in America.:

 

Today, 19 children will die or receive emergency treatment for a gunshot wound in the U.S. And tomorrow, another 19 will. And then another 19 the next day. In fact, 91% of all children who die from firearms in high-income countries across the world come from the United States, and guns are the third leading cause of death for all children between ages 1 and 17. Those are a handful of the sobering statistics reported in a new study on gun violence in Pediatrics.

Yet the myth persists that the freedom to own a gun without a universal requirement of background checks or a legal requirement to store those guns safely and out of children’s reach supersedes the lives of American children. Until the U.S. as a whole decides to recognize and accept what the tremendous cost of current lenient gun laws is, more than 1,000 more children will die next year. And the year after that. (Read here how to reduce your child’s risk.)

Yes. We have gun rights and we also have gun rights myths. Guns are killing us and most especially, our children. This is not OK. It’s odd. It’s not normal. We can do something about it if we stop the denial and raise our voices. It doesn’t have to be this way. Young children should not die from gunshot injuries, robbing them of a future and their families of watching them grow up to contribute to society. Young children dying from gunshot injuries should be rare and odd.

Try ASKing if there are loaded unsecured guns where your children play and make sure you, yourself lock your guns away, unloaded, from curious hands or from theft.

And speaking of young children being shot, this awful incident happened in Cleveland when a road rage incident ended with the shooting of a 4 year old:

A 4-year-old boy is in serious condition after he was shot in the head in an apparent road rage incident overnight in Cleveland, Ohio, the Cleveland Police Department said.

Police said the shooting happened while a mother was driving her 4-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter.

After the mother honked her horn to pass another car blocking the road, that car allegedly followed the mother onto the freeway and fired shots into the woman’s car, police said.

What is wrong with us? Why are people driving on our roads armed? What is so dangerous out there to warrant this kind of behavior? This is a gun culture gone wrong.

A friend posted a photo on her Facebook page of a man open carrying at a dog park to which she took her dog. She had never seen someone open carrying a loaded gun before and found it odd. It is. It’s not normal. Others on her Facebook page were not aware that people can open carry guns in many states and were upset and disgusted to see this photo. People don’t like seeing armed citizens around where they go to work, play, learn, worship and hang out.

Commenters on her page wondered what is so dangerous at a dog park? Will the man have to shoot another dog? Will a dog owner make him angry? Will that gun “accidentally” fall off of his belt  (not sure how gun is attached to belt)  when he leans over or chases the dog? There are no “accidental gun discharges but nevertheless they happen. I write about these incidents too often and they should be odd. Why aren’t they?

I have posted this photo with permission from my friend.

man at dog park

Should this be normal? A minority of Americans practice their gun rights by carrying concealed or openly. So far instances of having to use carried guns for self defense are rare compared to the risk of having guns around in the home. But the reason given by many gun rights activists is that they must own and carry their guns for self defense.

( This was added after I first posted) And then stuff like this happens.:

A pistol-packing senior tried to reserve a parking space in Queens Wednesday by firing off a few rounds.

Yvonne Cosby, 76, let off two gunshots from the window of her Brookville home because she was angry that a man had parked outside her house, cops said.

Miraculously, Cosby missed her target. Police were eventually able to calm her down and take her into custody, cops said.

It’s very clear that some people should not have guns. We need to re-think the idea that just anybody can pack heat and have a gun for “self defense”. This woman’s family will now hopefully understand that she is dangerous to herself or others and should have her gun removed from her home.

There is something wrong with a gun culture where there are almost more guns than people. And to make it worse gun ownership has gone down and now fewer people own more guns per person. Normal? There is something wrong when gun deaths happen at such a rate as to be a national public health epidemic that we ignore and deny at our peril. There is something wrong with idolizing guns and gun rights to the point that we dare not challenge it or those who believe in the myths.

Gun rights and gun responsibility along with sensible gun laws can go hand in hand. They are not mutually exclusive. Since most gun owners agree with this, we ought to be on our way to sensible solutions, right?

haha

There is nothing funny about it. In the end, this is about saving lives and need not set gun rights against the right to be free from devastating gun violence.

 

UPDATE:

Sadly, as predicted, violence has broken out at the “alt-right neo-nazi rally in Charlottesville, VA. The Governor has declared a state of emergency.

 

This is not who we are as a country and what is happening is truly frightening. From an article posted last night:

A group of three dozen self-described “militia” – men who were wearing full camouflage and were armed with long guns – said they were there to help keep the peace, but they also did not break up the fights.

There were vicious clashes on Market Street in front of Emancipation Park, where the rally was to begin at noon. A large contingent of white nationalist rallygoers holding shields and swinging wooden clubs rushed through a line of counterprotesters. (..,)

Tensions began Friday night, as several hundred white supremacists chanted “White lives matter!” “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” as they carried torches marched in a parade through the University of Virginia campus.

The fast-paced march was made up almost exclusively of men in their 20s and 30s, though there were some who looked to be in their mid-teens.

Very frightening. Where do we live? This is America but then again, this is not America.

 

ANOTHER UPDATE:

There is enough material here for a new post but I will add to this one instead. The NRA has decided to continue its’ offensive, rude, threatening and dangerous rhetoric by suggesting that North Korea should bomb California instead of Guam. The NRA has become an extremist group that supports violence and they are the “good guys with the guns”?   From the article:

Stinchfield later deleted the tweet and then apologized.

“It was meant as a joke and I regret it,” he told the New York Daily News. “What’s going on with North Korea is no laughing matter.”

 NO. It was not meant as a joke. He got caught. He meant it and it’s NOT FUNNY. Just as President Trump claimed that it was a good thing that Putin cut all of those embassy jobs because they were trying to cut the State Department budget and later tried to claim that it was satire. NO. It was NOT SATIRE. He meant it. Apparently he also told the Governor of Guam that this tough talk would be good for tourism there as well. NOT SATIRE. Stupid and dangerous talk.
Words matter. Words often lead to actions. We are seeing it play out in real time in Charlottesville, Virginia. No Mr. LaPierre, “the guys with the guns make the rules”-
NOT.  We’ve had it with this hate, intolerance, paranoia and threats of violence. This is not who we are.

 

 

 

 

Women’s March and the NRA

We are not safeThe Women’s March is taking on the NRA. Why? Because the NRA has been using videos to encourage their members to use violence against protesters. Seriously. In what country do we live again? If protesters aren’t safe from intimidation and violence, we are not a democracy any more. When the media is attacked by our very own President and he encourages intolerance and lies about what he calls #fakenews, we are not a democracy. Violence is not the answer in a democracy.

We already know that women are less safe when a gun is in the home. Women should not feel unsafe at home, at work, at malls, at protest marches or wherever they are doing what they are supposed to be doing. I know this from personal experience.

In fact no one is safer when a gun is present in the home.

Guns are a risk to their owners and others. They can be used in a few seconds to “solve a problem” or kill an innocent person or people with whom they disagree.

Protesters should be protected from violence and be able to participate in non-violent marches and events without fear of violence. That is the way the Women’s March on DC and other cities all across the America in January- non violent, peaceful protests to show our resistance to and our fears and concerns about our newly elected President. Women took the lead and we are not going away. Protests have erupted all over the country against the hapless and selfish agenda pushed by our President and his cronies in Congress.

And our concerns have been realized as the news of what the Trump campaign, Trump family members and maybe even the President himself did and have been doing to our country’s Democracy and the office of the Presidency. The news gets more complicated and more concerning every day.

Back to the NRA, no one is safe when one powerful interest group and industry group ramps up fear, violence, paranoia and intolerance.

Below is the NRA video in question. Let me know if you think this is OK.

The “clenched fist of truth” is all #fakenews. The ad is so over the top that there are really no words to describe it- other than alarming.

If vigilantes or one individual unhinged person acts on what the above video is suggesting, it could be tragic and deadly.

When so many guns are available and accessible to just about anyone, it would be easy for someone to act on their anger and intolerance. We can hope for common sense but that isn’t what is happening for a minority of Americans who believe in this dangerous nonsense.

So I think we can agree that this is meant to ramp up intolerance and violence towards those with whom you don’t agree. Is it also to sell more guns as is the habit of the NRA and the corporate gun lobby. In several of my past posts, I have written about the encouragement and tolerance of violence towards others coming directly from the top in the person of our very own President. As we know, the NRA has a seat at the table of our President and their agendas are linked.

But today, many are acting and protesting the NRA ad attacking protesters. The Women’s March is taking on the NRA- marching from the NRA headquarters in Virginia to the Department of Justice building in Washington D.C. It’s a dirty job but someone has to do it.

I am so proud of those people who have decided that enough is enough. The lies, innuendos, threats and dangerous rhetoric are not scaring these people.

Will these people be safe from gun violence or other forms of violence? Will the NRA harass them and follow them and film them and make another insipid and dangerous ad showing how the Women’s March is ruining America? Will they ramp up the lies some more to encourage yet more violence? The answer is YES.

Are they not ashamed? Embarrassed?

The answer would be NO.

Watch for more in the news media about this march and protest. The truth is that America has more guns and more gun deaths than any other democratized country. More guns have not and will not make us safer. Every day innocent people are killed or injured by firearms due to suicide, homicide or “accidental” shootings.

When enough Americans raise their own voices and let the elected leaders who are afraid to raise theirs know that that is not OK, maybe something will change? Or will it take another tragedy?

The corporate gun lobby and the NRA have had their way for too long. The country is waking up to the clever and disingenuous tactics used by a powerful industry and lobby group. It’s past time.

The thing is, we have had those tragedies already. Sandy Hook. Columbine. Virginia Tech. San Bernardino. Red Lake. Aurora. Clackamas Mall. Pulse nightclub. And……………………….

What will it take?

It’s time to take the moral high ground and do whatever it takes to prevent violence and intimidation. From an article about the march from the NRA to the DOJ:

“I’ve never ever believed that the NRA is more powerful than the people,” Mallory said. “As long as people of good moral conscience come together … I believe we will be victorious.”

The NRA was the largest outside donor to Trump’s campaign. That means the Women’s March, Everytown for Gun Safety and other groups participating in the protest are not only taking on the NRA, but the political establishment, providing an opportunity for the movement to demonstrate the scope of its influence.

#NRA2DOJ

#Enough

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?

 

 

Terror in the workplace

person_climbing_140648Terror attacks all over the globe have made travelers and citizens uneasy and frightened. All over Europe terror attacks have been on the increase. Cable news is all over these attacks, dropping all other news to cover them for the remainder of the day’s news cycles. We watch in horror as video clips are repeatedly shown to us and talking heads examine what it all means.

Several of the recent attacks have involved vehicles mowing people down- the latest in ISIS strategy to terrorize us all. Some have involved knifes and some guns. European gun laws are typically much stronger than American gun laws making it much more difficult for terrorists, felons, domestic abusers and those adjudicated mentally ill people to get their hands on guns.

Our own President saw fit in one of his tweet storms to speak the gun lobby nonsense after the recent London terror attack and used it as an opportunity to try to turn the gun debate in American upside down. Many of us in the gun violence prevention community took issue with that cynical tweet, including Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut:

Sen. Chris Murphy, who has been a longtime advocate for strict gun-violence-prevention laws, said Trump “clearly doesn’t read his own intelligence reports.’’

“As we speak, terrorist recruiters are telling terrorists to buy assault rifles online or at gun shows because it’s so easy to do,’’ Murphy said. “We need to keep guns away from criminals and terrorists, and President Trump should be working with Congress to do so.’’

It’s easy to get guns in America for anyone, including terrorists. And we sit back and do nothing about this?

In America, we have terror attacks almost every day. A few have been actual terror attacks perpetrated by those whose sympathies lie with terror organizations but not actually directed by those organizations. The San Bernardino shooting was one of these attacks:

According to the FBI’s investigation, the perpetrators were “homegrown violent extremists” inspired by foreign terrorist groups. They were not directed by such groups and were not part of any terrorist cell or network. FBI investigators have said that Farook and Malik had become radicalized over several years prior to the attack, consuming “poison on the internet” and expressing a commitment to jihadism and martyrdom in private messages to each other. Farook and Malik had traveled to Saudi Arabia in the years before the attack. The couple had amassed a large stockpile of weapons, ammunition, and bomb-making equipment in their home.

A few days ago, a workplace shooting in Orlando terrorized people and killed 5 and then himself:

“We have no indication that this subject is a participant in any type of terror organization,” Demings told reporters Monday morning. “What this is at this point is likely a workplace violence incident.” 

The sheriff did not say why the company fired Neumann, but he noted that about three years ago, deputies responded to an incident at the business in which Neumann was accused of battering another employee. Deputies did not file charges in the incident, Demings said.

Neumann, a U.S. Army veteran who was honorably discharged in 1999, had a criminal history that included a DUI and minor drug possession, Demings said. The sheriff said Neumann did not have a concealed-weapons permit.

The shooter had a criminal history. He did not have a concealed weapons permit but he did have a gun. Thanks to our weak gun laws and the lapdog politicians for the corporate gun lobby, this is possible in America. This tape re-runs many times a year in our country. In fact, these kinds of shootings are happening with increasing frequency. Sometimes workplace shootings are the result of domestic difficulties. Let’s take a look at the above article that documents what is going on in our country that we don’t seem to be paying enough attention to:

The most recent records by the Bureau of Labor Statistics say workplace homicides rose by 2 percent to 417 cases in 2015, with shootings increasing by 15 percent. The 354 shootings in 2015 represent the first increase since 2012. (…)

There’s a change in some quarters on how to react.

“‘See something, say something’ is kind of tiresome,” said active shooter prevention expert and author Chris Grollnek. “You see out-of-ordinary behavior, make a quick note. And if you’re in a bad situation, it’s get up, get out. There is no more hiding under a desk.”

In America we need to know how to react to active shooters in the workplace, at schools, malls, and wherever people gather in large numbers. Not to mention in the home where active shootings take place every day.

So we can build walls to keep out potential “terrorists” on our borders. But where are the walls to keep people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them, no matter who they are? Where are the walls against men ( for it is mostly men) shooting women during domestic disputes? Where are the walls to keep people from shooting innocent people at airports? Where are the walls to keep children from getting their hands on guns and shooting themselves, a friend or a family member? Where are the walls to keep us from discussing gun violence as a public health epidemic?

The wall that stands in the way of common sense is a high one in America. This invisible wall comes from lack of courage and conviction. It comes from power and control and, of course, money. It all comes down to money in the end. The profits of the firearms industry are more important to some of our elected leaders than the lives of their constituents.

We need a different kind of invisible wall in our country. Breaking down the barriers to common sense when it comes to gun laws, a sensible conversation filled with facts rather than rhetoric, a gun culture that has moved from guns in the home for hunting and sport to guns at the ready for a zombie apocalypse. When just a small minority of Americans own most of the guns in circulation according to statistics that are collectible but not inclusive, we have a serious problem. From the linked article:

Half of those guns belong to just 3% of the adult population. These super-owners have anywhere between eight and 140 guns each, with the group average being 17, according to the study.

Overall, there are an estimated 55 million gun owners in the U.S.: Most have an average of three guns; half own one or two guns; and the number of guns owned by Americans has gone up by 70 million over that same time period.

Meanwhile the number of Americans who own guns has decreased from 25% to 22% since 1994. And the study also found that there has been a dramatic increase in gun theft, nearly doubling from 230,000 per year to 400,000 per year.

This is the story of the American gun culture. It’s past time for a change. Certainly understanding that we have our very own problem with home-grown terrorists is key to changing how we talk about the issue of gun violence and how we can prevent and reduce it.

We have some high walls to climb. The barriers in our way are artificial and invisible but they are there.