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.

Bleak Friday

Basic RGB(Apologies for the formatting. Something went wrong with WordPress while posting.)

Yes, America, we just finished what is supposed to be a peaceful family holiday. As for me, it was one of the better Thanksgivings we have had. Our cabin has become the gathering place for our family so everyone converged in our small place for the holiday week-end. We managed to cook the dinner in our small kitchen and it was one of the best and tastiest yet. There were no arguments- no violence. Laughter, kids sliding and playing outside in the snow and memory making times.

Black Friday is here. Shopping has begun and deals are happening all over the internet and in stores. Americans love deals on things. The holidays are officially upon us, like it or not. As I wrote in my last post, the holidays mean something very different to victims and survivors of gun violence. Just as with any disease or accidental death, the unexpected loss of a loved one is very difficult at holiday times. Since my focus here is on gun safety reform and gun violence prevention, I write about the loss of loved ones in violent, often preventable deaths due to shootings.

And as we know, shootings don’t take a holidays. This year was no exception. In Kentucky, 2 were shot dead at a football game :

Gunfire erupted at an annual Thanksgiving Day football game in Kentucky, leaving two dead and four others wounded, Louisville Metro Police said Thursday.

A West Virginia man shot and killed a teen for bumping into him:

William Ronald Pulliam appeared unrepentant after fatally shooting a teenager during a confrontation outside a West Virginia discount store.

“The way I look at it, that’s another piece of trash off the street,” Pulliam allegedly told police, according to a criminal complaint.
But the 62-year-old man, in a jailhouse interview with CNN affiliate WCHS, categorically denied making that statement. He said he feared for his life when 15-year-old James Means allegedly pulled a gun on him. The complaint did not say Means had a gun.
This is “Stand Your Ground” on steroids. Without that gun, the teen would be alive today. Tell me again that more guns have made us safer and that an armed society is a polite society. These are lies perpetrated by the corporate gun lobby and their lackeys in Congress and our legislatures. A teen should not be dead over unsupported fear that he had a gun.

The incident began about 6 p.m. on Thursday. Local news station KOLO reported that “there was apparently a dispute over a parking spot” and said police characterized the shooting as a road rage incident.

Reno Police said two vehicles stopped near the exit of the parking lot, The Associated Press reported. It said: “Police said both persons involved were armed with weapons and a 33-year-old man was shot dead at the scene.”

 So much for “responsible” gun toting Americans with permits to carry.
Of course it makes no common sense but that is not what is driving our gun culture. Because if we practiced common sense, these kinds of shootings would be much more rare.
The Twin Cities area of Minnesota also saw 2 shootings right before the Thanksgiving holiday. One man was shot  and killed in his home and a woman was shot and injured in her workplace by her ex-husband. One was a domestic shooting which occur regularly in our country of guns. The other has not yet been determined but it appears that the victim may have been known by his shooter.
There are more that I likely missed or just did not report. About 80 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries.
So what should we do? Just let these kinds of shootings happen without making the slightest attempt to prevent them? Or without doing any meaningful and scientific research into the causes and effects of gun violence? Or without trying to keep guns away from people who shouldn’t have them?
Just because shootings have not yet affected you does mean that one day, you or someone you know or love could be a victim of a senseless and avoidable shooting. That means that you should be joining in efforts to prevent and reduce gun violence of all kinds- whether homicide, suicide, terrorism, or “accidental”.
It doesn’t have to be like this. The only reason it is is because as a country, we have let the corporate gun lobby and its lapdogs in Congress and legislatures have their way. Lies, deception, fear, paranoia and profits have kept us from saving lives. And we disagree on how that plays out in our everyday lives.
As it turns out, guns are deadly weapons and are dangerous products sold without proper vetting in too many cases and without any training required. The gun lobby has succeeded in getting some of us to think it’s OK for people with no training whatsoever or going through a permitting process to carry loaded guns on our streets.  The gun industry and lobby has convinced some of their lapdogs and members/minions that the shooting of 20 first graders and 6 educators was not enough to change our gun policy. Even the shooting of one of their own, Gabby Giffords, was not enough for Congress to act. I guess it wasn’t enough that 12 people were shot and killed at a Colorado movie theater or that 49 were killed at a GLBT nightclub and ……..
When is enough? What is enough?
It’s a bleak America if you really think hard about this.
And if we believe that President-elect Trump is going to drain the swamp of industry profits at the cost of human lives and lobbyist influence on our Congress and legislators, then I have a bridge to see you in Brooklyn. The NRA spent a lot of money to get him elected and if we think that won’t produce good results for them, we are dreaming. The interesting thing is that the opposite effect may be the result of Trump’s election. Minorities are now buying more guns to ostensibly protect themselves from the potential for more racism and acts of violence, hate crimes or intolerance towards them:

Scott, an African-American, is one of many minorities who have been flocking to gun stores to protect themselves, afraid Trump’s victory will incite more hate crimes.

“You feel that racists now feel like they can attack us just because the president is doing it,” Earl Curtis, the owner of Blue Ridge Arsenal in Chantilly, Virginia, told NBC News.

Gun store owners told NBC News that since November 8 they’re seeing up to four times as many black and minority customers — and black gun groups are reporting double the normal number of attendees at their meetings since the election.

This proliferation of weapons is just not good for America. It is a vicious circle that leads not to self protection but to more gun incidents and more injuries and deaths. We know that more guns has not led to fewer gun deaths but more. 
Back to the gun lobby, in this new article in The Trace, we see how the NRA actually cleverly and deceptively has worked for decades to make sure someone like Trump got elected. Sociologist and writer, Scott Meltzer, is interviewed for this article. Let’s take a look fat his observations from the linked article:

Yeah, I think the really interesting dynamic that the NRA has in its rhetoric and its language is that it frames itself and its members as victims of this culture war that’s removing guns and giving special rights to women and people of color and gays and lesbians. Its members are the new minority, they’re the new victims.

The flip side for the NRA is that it also frames its members as heroes, as freedom fighters. The group labels itself as the oldest civil rights organization in the country. It’s essentially a religion, it’s a faith. It’s a fundamental belief system, it’s the religion of freedom — that they have to literally fight ’til the death. That’s what Heston was saying with “from my cold, dead hands,” right? There are not a lot of other single-issue interest groups that would use that kind of rhetoric.

That kind of rhetoric is not based on fact but on raw emotion, fear, power, and loss of control. I get it that many good Americans own guns for hunting and self protection but again, most Americans have not bought into this kind of rhetoric and do understand that gun owning, gun rights and reasonable restrictions on guns and gun owners are not mutually exclusive.  It is because we want to keep ourselves, our loved ones and our families safe that we can agree on this. But what that means seems to be where we can’t meet in the middle. If this is about culture, it is essential that we are talking about the risk of guns and ways to prevent people from getting shot.
#Enough. Let’s get to work to change the conversation, the culture and policy so we can protect our children and families from devastating gun violence.

Halloween frights, elections and violence

skullHalloween is upon us. And it’s scary out there. In a few days, kids will be going door to door and hoping for lots of candy in their bags. Older kids like to scare people with their costumes and haunted houses and other haunted things are scaring people. This “older kid” was asked to remove his mask of a face with President Obama with a noose around his neck.He was attending a football game at the University of Wisconsin. Not funny. Scary and intimidating. We know what he meant.

Last night we were at a movie theater which is near a haunted ore boat that dresses up every year with all kinds of haunting music and displays of “brains”, “eyeballs” and other such scares inside. It is very popular with residents and visitors alike.

I am not so scared of things like that though I don’t particularly enjoy these kind of displays. I’m afraid of some of my fellow Americans. It’s just not funny or clever when hateful people display inappropriate halloween displays that mean something other than they look. Or maybe they do look exactly as intended.  A Florida resident got himself into some trouble by hanging 2 dummies from a tree:

There needs to be a hell of a lot of hate in your heart to think lynching people on Halloween is funny. And yet, here we are, Miami. A homeowner in Three Lakes, a small community in suburban Kendall, is celebrating the holiday by lynching two black-looking dummies in his or her yard. It’s also impossible to ignore what’s just in front of the display on the same lawn: A “Trump/Pence 2016” sign.

The Trump sign just seems to go with the display doesn’t it? Donald Trump is one scary man whose frightening rhetoric has reduced our election to its’ lowest point in decades.

I think it’s safe to say that this has been one of the craziest and mind blowing elections in modern memory. With 10 days to go, “bombs” are exploding all over the place with misinformation and total melt-down of some in the media and most on the Republican side of the aisle over a report issued by FBI Director James Comey.  Reasonable people can argue about this but there are also facts. The scary thing is that Trump and his GOP buddies are distorting it out of all proportion and as we learn more we learn how wrong they have been. It’s downright scary that a lie can travel this quickly and that this late election cycle report happened in the first place.

But there are a lot more scary things going on this election season.

Trump says the election will be rigged with no evidence to support the allegations. This has led to some of his supporters believing they can resort to violence if their candidate doesn’t win. Or, as an aside, actual voter fraud by Trump supporters. An Iowa Republican voter tried to vote twice, fearing that her first vote would not be counted. She was arrested for fraud. Now that is a rigged election.

But back to the potential for violence in this election. Some Americans are talking about taking up arms on election day and the day after they will start the revolution. And with so many militia and other hate groups already formed, that is certainly a possibility.

Americans in general are heavily armed with some owning arsenals:

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.

It is not difficult to imagine that those with hyped up fear of their own government are ready to fight against it or start a revolution when they don’t believe in the results of a democratic election. The corporate gun lobby has promoted this kind of fear and paranoia for years. And, militia groups and hate groups are at an all time high.

 

Former Illinois Representative Joe Walsh, not known for his subtlety or  common sense, said this past week that he would be taking up his musket the day after the election if Hillary Clinton wins. He tried to excuse his hyperbolic and threatening comments by saying this:

The former Illinois congressman said he’s used the phrase “grab your musket” multiple times over the past several years but never meant that Donald Trump supporters should literally reach for their firearms.
“If I wanted people to take up arms, why would I recommend people take up an antique like a musket?” Walsh asked. “That’s just silly.”
We know what he meant. It was a not so subtle suggestion that he would take up arms and that he wanted others to do the same. There are no excuses for this kind of talk during an election. I wonder how closely he will be watched by law enforcement authorities? I’m just saying.

I’m pretty sure this kind of public talk about violence and taking up arms during and after a democratic American election is not a first but its’ frequency and boldness is. And it has never been promoted by a major party candidate for President before. But Trump is no ordinary candidate.

Which came first, Donald Trump’s paranoid and frightening rhetoric or the rhetoric of his supporters, some of them white supremacists and racists?   What we are now seeing is encouragement of these types of groups and sentiments rising to the surface. It’s an ugly side of America that has the rest of the world worried. Other countries have seen the result of these kind of dangerous despots and “patriots”.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, militia and insurrectionist groups are on the rise. Check out the hate map on their site. 894 hate groups are living amongst us. Just last week I came across this article about a group of folks fomenting fear and possible violence in my own state of Minnesota:

“Are you prepared?” Guandolo called out. “Are you prepared for the two or three dozen jihadis in, pick a city in Minnesota, with mortars or shoulder-fired rockets? You don’t think they can get those in the United States?”

North and central Minnesota have become fertile ground for traveling speakers who have built national careers spreading alarm about the danger they say Islam poses inside U.S. borders. At dozens of rural churches and schools, speakers have warned crowds about refugees and called on them to be prepared to oppose Muslims in Minnesota. This comes at a time of mounting political tension over immigration ahead of the contentious presidential election.

Thanks to Donald Trump, the anti-Muslim fear has risen to the surface and been exaggerated to the point of possible violence.  And more, from the article:

“Islam is not a religion,” he said, highlighting one of his frequent talking points. “It’s a savage cult. Therefore, it is unconstitutional for a Muslim to practice Islam in America.”

Dakdok argues for the mass deportation of Muslims from the United States. He wears a Donald Trump pin on his suit jacket. He warns of the end times.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Guandolo often works with ACT!, which they call the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in America.

Dakdok holds the bulk of his Minnesota events in small northern towns — places with few, if any Muslims. So does Guandolo, and he said that’s intentional. The Twin Cities, he told the Warroad crowd, are overrun with Muslims.

Where is common sense? Why do Americans believe such hyperbole and fear? Without proselytizers like Trump and Dakdok, this would not bubble to the surface but be held at bey by those with integrity and the best interests of our democracy in their hearts and minds. But when hatred and venom against and fear of someone who could become the first  woman President in a free and fair election take over hearts and minds, this is what some believe is justified. From the linked article by above: by Bill Moyers:

A Democrat running for president is going to be smeared by the Republicans. This goes without saying. But a Democratic woman running for president gets extra layers of smear, though the smear required new material to work with. Clinton could still be viewedfavorably when she ran for the presidential nomination in 2007-08 — consistent, overall, with how she was viewed during the more than two decades between 1992 and 2014. Benghazi and emails were not yet in the picture. Now, should Clinton get to the White House, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) will be ready: He’s sharpening his pencils and knives, planning “years” of hearings on Clinton depredations. (…)  So much for the traditional political niceties. I suppose it’s remotely possible that a male potential president would be treated this way — but none has been. Ever.

Moyers is right. No male candidate has been treated to the abuse that Hillary Clinton has endured. President Obama was certainly treated to racism and a fear of our first Black President in addition to the decision by Republican leadership to refuse to work with him. We will look back on this time period in our history and hang our heads in shame.

Its no secret that I am a supporter of Hillary Clinton. I agree with her policy statements and her embrace of the gun violence issue to represent the majority of Americans who want stronger gun laws. I find what is happening now about Wikileaks and James Comey’s letter to Congress to be frightening for our democracy. This Washington Post article gets to the core of why the email “scandal” should be an eye opener to all of us and not because of anything Hillary did wrong but because of an invasion of privacy that could affect all of us. From the article:

A question we need to ask is why the leaked emails have been embraced as acceptable contributions to public discourse, rather than shunned as stolen property, and what this means for how we think about politics and privacy. Richard Nixon faced impeachment as a result of his coverup of the Watergate break-in, a parallel attempt to steal private communications from an opponent’s campaign. Somehow, a physical break-in sparks visceral repugnance in a way that hacking into computer accounts does not. That should give us all pause, because it is a testament to a frightening new reality: That communication technology has steadily amplified the breakdown in the line between public and private. Without a zone of privacy in which we can talk freely to those who are close to us, no one is safe. That’s the sense in which WikiLeaks is a threat not only to the presidential campaign of a particular candidate, but to us all.

I get this one. My computer has been hacked and there are people in the gun rights community who hate what I write and stand for. Some years ago, one of them threatened to post my home address. Someone tried to take over my blog as well. And I have been on the receiving end of some not so subtle comments intimating violence and threats. Many people working on gun violence prevention have had this experience. Why? Take a guess. This kind of invasion of privacy and intimidation is scary. There are actual trolls out there waiting to do harm and not just on Halloween.

Social media has made all of this even scarier. There are obvious benefits to the use of social media and email to organize people and voters. But when it is used to intimidate and interfere with free and fair elections, that is scary.

And speaking of scary, some elementary school polling places have canceled classes on election day because of fear of violence and whatever the far right element of our country have in mind for the day. Our kids and teachers should not have to be scared on election day. That is for third world un-democratized countries.

And speaking of third world countries, some Americans have given notice that the revolution will begin if the vastly under qualified Donald Trump does not win. You can’t make this stuff up. But here, from the above linked article:

Jared Halbrook, 25, of Green Bay, Wis., said that if Mr. Trump lost to Hillary Clinton, which he worried would happen through a stolen election, it could lead to “another Revolutionary War.”

“People are going to march on the capitols,” said Mr. Halbrook, who works at a call center. “They’re going to do whatever needs to be done to get her out of office, because she does not belong there.”

“If push comes to shove,” he added, and Mrs. Clinton “has to go by any means necessary, it will be done.” (…)

 

No question about what Mr. Halbrook means here. These are the guys with the guns talking  big and making threats. Their fear and paranoia, stoked by the NRA and the corporate gun lobby and now their very own candidate Donald Trump, have taken over any reasonable thinking about the issues of the country and what democracy means. It’s frightening stuff at the least.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We are a democracy. Power is passed from one party and one President to another without violence or threats of violence. It has been since the birth of our democracy. What makes the people whose thoughts are so contorted believe that democracy includes this kind of violence? What makes them believe that our democratic election will be rigged causing them to want to overthrow the results? We know the answer to that. Donald Trump. His suggestions about voter intimidation and suppression have now been legally challenged by the Democratic National Committee.  This is not what we do in a democracy. Why do they believe they can get away with this?

Arrogance? Fear? Ignorance? Paranoia? Desperation?

On this Halloween eve, let us all hope for non-violence and common sense. Working together towards peaceful and reasonable solutions is the way to solve our nation’s most pressing problems. We have been treated to some pretty scary tricks during this election season. Violent solutions would be frightening to say the least.

We are better than this.

This election can’t be over soon enough. But even after it is over, I am scared that threats against our first woman President and total obstruction to her agenda will lead to an inability to work together and make our country worse.

I want my country back.

After publishing this post, I ran across this amazing song written by Sara Barreilles and Leslie Odom, Jr. for This American Life. Please watch and listen:

Gunned down in America

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Follow-up to Christmas Murder/suicides

Trend - Puzzle on the Place of Missing Pieces.

My last blog post was about the horrendous murder/suicides that happened in parts of our country at Christmas time. Shootings don’t take a holiday. I would like to follow up with this article by Christopher Ingraham writing for the Washington Post:

In a grim reminder that violence in America never takes a holiday, 27 people were killed and 63 injured in shooting incidents on Christmas Day this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. This tally does not include people who shot themselves in suicide.

The number of Americans killed in gun homicides on Christmas Day is comparable to the number of people killed in gun homicides in an entire year in places like Australia or Britain. The 27 people killed by guns in America on Christmas this year is equal to the total number of people killed in gun homicides in an entire year in Austria, New Zealand, Norway, Slovenia, Estonia, Bermuda, Hong Kong and Iceland, combined. (…)

So far this year, we’ve averaged roughly 36 gun fatalities and 73 gun injuries each day, according to the Gun Violence Archive. So the Christmas Day tally represents something of a temporary de-escalation in the violence, but not a huge one.

This year has brought renewed attention to the problem of mass shooting incidents in America. But the spate of Christmas Day violence is a reminder that many more people are killed and injured in a relentless daily drumbeat of gun crime that barely makes the headlines.

Grim. Unnecessary and unacceptable. Senseless. Avoidable.

An American tragedy.

Is this the trend in our country? More gun deaths and injuries? More guns? More people carrying in more public places? More domestic murder/suicides? More suicides? More young black people killed on the streets? More children killing themselves and others?

There are some alarming trends that need to be mentioned. Americans who own guns own an average of more than 8- up from just over four 20 years ago. Thanks to Christopher Ingraham again for doing the data gathering for this one. The obvious question is why anyone needs that many guns? I know there are collectors. But there are also folks with arsenals of weapons stored out of fear and paranoia stoked by the corporate gun lobby. The are ready for the government to try to confiscate those guns which is what the NRA and others screams at them. And they plan to shoot their way out when the “jack booted government thugs” come a callin’.

#enough

Where is common sense?

What will it take?

Where are you Congress? What are you waiting for? Why are you not acting? Don’t be afraid of the corporate gun lobby. There are no excuses for this carnage. They have nothing to add to the conversation if all that they want is more guns and more gun sales. Gun safety is a public health problem in America. We need to address it like we address any other public health epidemic- with research, with laws, with resolve to keep our children and our communities safe from devastating gun violence.

We’re waiting.

President Obama is tired of waiting for you and is ready to act where Congress refuses out of fear of the loudest voices from the gun lobby. We will not be quiet any more. The loudest voices are keeping us from acting in the interest of saving lives. If the President acts, all gun sales will require a Brady background check. And why don’t they now? Because some private sellers doing the same business as licensed firearms dealers are selling their guns to anyone with no background check. Who knows who is buying those guns? No other exceptions for background checks exist when they are used to hire people, screen people who adopt pets, make sure volunteers are not felons or child sex abusers or adjudicated mentally ill. Not so with guns. Exceptions are granted for selling deadly weapons. It’s time for that to change.

I can’t wait for the screaming after this happens. Wayne LaPierre will no doubt be apoplectic. It should be interesting.

Why do we think that the total number of gun deaths in other countries doesn’t even come close to the number of Americans killed in one day? Common sense gun laws and a reasonable gun culture that respects ownership but requires strict regulations. I submit that those folks are not suffering as a result. In fact, they must be pretty happy that 27 of their own citizens were actually not shot to death over the holidays. That’s something to celebrate.

Let’s get to work.

We just must be better than this.

Contribute to a gun violence prevention organization of your choice and raise your voices with us in 2016 to demand change. The American gun culture is out of control.

Merry Christmas- This is what change looks like

bauble_decoration_297288As 2016 is soon to be upon us, change is in the air regarding guns and the conversation about the causes and effects of gun violence. I wrote in my last post about new research about gun violence that is educating people about the insidious nature of a devastating public health and safety epidemic. If we understand the causes, we can work on common sense solutions.

Let’s look at the ways in which change is coming.

The NBA has teamed up with Everytown for Gun Safety to run ads during NBA basketball games starting on Christmas Day.

The NRA lost a lawsuit involving the city of Seattle’s decision to add a new tax on guns and ammunition.

The Supreme Court refused to take a case involving a ban on assault weapons in Highland Park, Illinois.

The Governor and Attorney General of Virginia are continuing to make news as they have now decided that Virginia will stop honoring the concealed carry permits of 25 other states, including my own state of Minnesota.

Earlier this year, Governor McAuliffe signed an executive order banning open carry of guns in some Virginia public buildings.

Connecticut Governor Malloy took action to stop those on the known terror watch list from being able to legally buy guns.

Bad apple gun dealer, owner of Stag Arms in Connecticut got caught with felony possession of a machine gun not registered to his company and other such charges. He can no longer own his business or be involved in it in any way.

A conspiracy theorist and Florida university professor, involved in a disgusting movement harassing parents of the Sandy Hook shooting victims, has come under fire for his views and could be fired.

This is what change looks like. The public has had #enough. The shootings at the Planned Parenthood building in Colorado Springs and the terror attack that killed 14 people in San Bernardino have changed the conversation. It is long past time for that to have happened. It’s too late for Andy and Barbara Parker. It’s too late for Chris Hurst. It’s too late for Sandy and Lonnie Phillips. It’s too late for the parents of the 20 first graders who were massacred by a teen who shouldn’t have had access to guns. It’s too late for Colin Goddard. It’s too late for Bob Weiss and Lucy McBath and Richard Martinez. The list is too long for this blog.

It’s too late for the 89 Americans a day who lose their lives to gunshot injuries.

2016 will bring more change and more common sense. As the fear and paranoia will ramp up during the presidential election, more people will buy guns and more accidental shootings will happen and more children will die. More women will be shot by their abusers. More teens and older white men will take their own lives with guns that are accessible in their homes. More gang shootings in our large cities will lead to devastating deaths and injuries. More angry men will shoot innocent people in public places and at home. More and more and more.

There will be more victims. But the victims will not be quiet. They will fight back.

As more people like my friend at Accidents Happen Guns Kill and the Ohh Shoot blog write about the dangers of guns in homes, the public will be made aware of the risks to owning guns and hopefully think twice about leaving loaded guns around rather than storing them safely. As more parents are made aware that they should ASK if there are loaded guns in the homes where their children play, children will be safer. As more awareness of bad apple gun dealers ends with consequences for gun dealers who are providing guns to felons and others who shouldn’t have them, communities will become more safe.

The corporate gun lobby has gone too far and will have more defeats thanks to their unyielding resistance to common sense gun laws that the American public wants. When even their own members agree with the gun violence prevention groups, it is becoming more obvious that Wayne LaPierre and his fellow gun rights extremists are out of touch with even their own.

The Trace has published it’s list of 15 statistics about gun violence in 2015 that rose to the top of importance. Such facts as 8% of gun owners own more than 10 guns and deaths from car accidents are going down as deaths from guns remain steady or increase. And toddlers are killing themselves or others at a rate of once per week. There is much more in this great article that will change the conversation.

There will be more awareness and more talk about solutions and more laws passed to make it harder for dangerous and potentially dangerous people to get their hands on guns. There will be more people involved with gun violence prevention groups and more voices raised to let our leaders know that we have had more than #enough. There will be more bloggers and groups writing about the truth of our insane American gun culture.

#NRAdefeat will be trending on Twitter.

As we go into the Christmas holiday, I will be thinking of the family members missed around the tree and for whom there will be no gifts. There will be no gifts from them to their family members this year. We have missed gifts to and from my sister for 23 years now.

We remember them. We honor them. We will continue our march to common sense and making America safe from gun violence again.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate the holiday. To those who celebrate and those who don’t I wish peace and fond remembrances of your loved ones.