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.

 

 

Millions against gun violence

guns everywhereThank you to One Million Moms and Dads Against Gun Violence for the image on the left. The numbers of parents and others against gun violence are surging. Why? Because we don’t believe that guns everywhere are making us safer. We can read the news articles and the headlines. Some of us have lost loved ones to bullets. We understand that we can do something about this constant and unsettling barrage of stories about shootings. In the last 2 days there were 2 college shootings. 2 more dead and 4 more injured. And this was a week after 9 were shot and killed and 9 others injured at Umpqua Community College in Oregon.  A Texas professor has gone public with his resignation saying he doesn’t feel safe with all of the guns around and when the Texas law allowing students to carry concealed guns on campus goes into affect in August, he doesn’t want to be there for what might likely happen.

There are millions of Americans who are angry and appalled at the latest violent incidents in the country. The headlines read like a country at war. In fact, in my local newspaper this morning there were 2 headlines for articles that appeared next to each other. The one on the left stated: “Two students die in shootings at Texas, Arizona college campuses“. The one on the right reads: ” Violence spreads to Gaza, where Hamas leader calls for uprising.” And then on another page, the headline reads: Obama in Roseburg urges nation to ‘come together’ over gun violence. My paper chose the headline above when running an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times by Maria L. La Ganga where the headline read: Obama, visiting Roseburg families,is confronted by angry gun rights activists“.

Appalling. The hatred and extremism of the folks protesting a visit by the President of their country to comfort yet the latest families by gun violence is inexcusable. If his had happened to any other President, we would have been calling these folks insurrectionists. The definition, from the link: “an act or instance of rising in revolt, rebellion, or resistance against civil authority or an established government.” Well?

But because it is the right wing extremists, so ugly in their hatred of a President who has done nothing to take away their rights or their guns, somehow they get away with it. Where else can people stand with loaded openly carried guns when the President’s motorcade comes by? And why were they allowed to do this? Rights? Armed intimidation by angry citizens?

There is a disconnect between reality and policy. It’s fueled by angry armed people who have been deceived by the corporate gun lobby and others on the right side of our political spectrum. It keeps them agitated and voting.

Insanity.

Which is it? Will we come together as a nation over gun violence or will the angry gun rights activists who represent a very small minority of Americans get their way because they are angry and armed? Time to start thinking about what this means. Decisions in America are not made at the end of a gun barrel. Bullets will not decide who will lead our country. If it comes to that, our democracy will end and we will become no better than the countries we criticize because they are constantly at war and where violence reigns.

Also in my local paper, a letter to the editor claimed this: Arming everyone is the answer to gun violence”:

There is just one obvious answer: Allow everyone to carry a gun either openly or concealed. Then, when some bad guy starts shooting, those around him will be able to defend themselves and others. This sounds a little crazy, but is there any other answer?

The suggestion that everyone should be armed is, of course, nonsensical given the facts. In developed democratized countries not at war, there are no headlines like the ones in my morning paper. Of course there are other answers and they don’t involve arming everyone. Guns in the hands of angry gun rights activists are not normal in other countries not at war. It should not be normal here.

What we have learned about most of the shooters involved in the latest rash of shootings on our campuses is that they were fascinated with guns and their parents even encouraged that fascination. The shooter in yesterday’s Arizona campus shooting, for example, loved his guns. And we found out after the Umpqua Community College shooting that the young man who decided to end the lives of 9 people also loved guns and was well versed in gun laws. He had a stockpile of guns which, at this point we are not sure whether were all purchased by him or also his gun loving mother. He was also someone who had developmental and emotional difficulties and should not have had easy access to guns.

Insanity.

A headline in another area newspaper said this: “‘Lucky One’, Matthew Downing, gives first statement about Oregon Community College massacre.” According to this account from one of the survivors, the Oregon shooter mercilessly slaughtered other human beings as though he was a machine. What happens to people when they have these kinds of thoughts and feelings and also access to guns? Something goes terribly wrong and innocent people are killed. From the above article:

Downing did so and said at that point Harper-Mercer fired into the center of the room and began asking students one by one if they were religious. The shooter fired at one student who said he was Christian and another who said she was Catholic.

The shooter reloaded two handguns with ammunition from his backpack during the killings, Downing said. Harper-Mercer was “firing on people who were just lying there,” Downing said.

Downing also said the shooter seemed to lose interest when a woman told him she couldn’t move her legs to stand up because of the pain.

Downing was lucky. He will never be the same. What he witnessed last week will always be in his brain and his life has changed forever. Lucky him.

Insanity.

Common sense tells us that things just can’t keep going the way they are. Millions of Americans are on the side of passing stronger gun laws to stop at least some of the massacres. Why would we not? We know the answer. The corporate gun lobby, representing mostly the gun industry and not their members, has a frightening hold on the country’s conversation about guns and on our political process:

In more than three decades of service to the NRA, Wayne LaPierre has done more than any other man alive to make America safe for crazed gunmen to build warlike arsenals and unleash terror on innocents at movie theaters and elementary schools. In the 1980s, he helped craft legislation to roll back gun control passed in the wake of the Kennedy and King assassinations. And since the late 1990s, twice he has destroyed political deals that might have made it hugely difficult for accused killers like Holmes and Lanza to get their hands on their weapons.

A predecessor once characterized the NRA as being “one of the world’s great religions,” and 64-year-old LaPierre is a strange fit to be its pope. LaPierre did not come from gun culture. He wasn’t a hunter, a marksman, a military man or a Second Amendment activist. “He’s not a true believer,” says NRA biographer Osha Gray Davidson. “He’s the first NRA chief you can say that about.”

But judging from the commentaries, comments, news coverage and finally, some courage by some of our politicians, things are changing. We are not letting candidates for the highest office in the land get away with saying, ” ‘Hey guys, everybody attack him. He may shoot me, but he can’t get us all,’” Seriously? There are more where this came from in this Salon article.

Picture yourself in the room with the Oregon shooter. Someone ( an Army veteran) did actually try to rush the shooter but he was shot and disabled by the shooter. But never mind that. Dr. Ben Carson is sure he would have done it differently and the outcome would have been different as a result.

Picture a room full of first graders. And one of them, Sarah, says to Jack- “Hey everybody, we can take this guy down. Everybody attack him.”

Insanity.

People like Dr. Ben Carson are in an increasingly small minority. The NRA, for example, represents ( or they say they are representing) about 4 million gun owners- give or take a million. A small percentage of Americans own guns.  Even fewer of these are actually members of the NRA. And for those folks, we are letting our kids and others be slaughtered?

Insanity.

In a recent post I wrote about the anger over the string of shootings- one following on the heels of another. We are turning that anger into action. Please join one of the many organizations working to prevent gun violence and let your voice be heard.

Where is common sense? We are better than this.

UPDATE:

Speaking of millions in favor of stronger gun laws and expanding Brady background checks, I ran across 2 articles in the Washington Post written by gun owners who want change. The headline on the first one is” “I’m a gun owner. The NRA doesn’t speak for me.”  The second article, also in the Washington Post, has this headline:Most gun owners support background checks and other limits. So why aren’t their voices heard?”

We know the answer to the question asked in the second article. And we also know that the first article’s writer is saying what many reasonable gun owners are saying. The NRA does not speak for them. So when our elected leaders wrap their heads around this idea, something will change and lives will be saved. Until then- calling all gun owners. Join with us in our efforts to make change happen. We need your voices.

UPDATE#2:

Since I mentioned the anti-government gun extremists who showed up to protest President Obama’s visit to Roseburg, Oregon, I feel the need to let my readers know that the man who organized the protest rally is a convicted felon.  Hmmmmm.

Insanity.

Breaking news- mass shootings and gun insanity as far as the eye can see.

Latest News - Gold 3D Words on Digital Background.

On Thursday of this week, the breaking news was all about mass shootings. One could not look at any news media without the interrupted programming reporting about the shooting of Marines at a Naval recruiting center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. And today, the news is that another victim has died of the injuries sustained in Thursday’s mass shooting. Also on that day, the jury of the Aurora theater shooting trial returned a guilty verdict. Common sense happened. In addition, there was news about the upcoming trial of the Charleston church mass shooter. America was consumed by mass shooting.

What we didn’t hear about that day was that 80 other Americans died from gunshot injuries and hundreds more sustained injuries. What the news media did’t talk about was a spree shooting in Maine that killed 2 and injured 5. How did this guy get his gun, by the way?

Will there be a day when we won’t be talking about another mass shooting? When will we do something about all of this? Congress took a break from their work while families were grieving and people were being shot. This statement from the Brady Campaign is perfect:

The two stories dominating news headlines across the country both center on the issue of gun violence – an epidemic that kills 89 people in America every day, and injures hundreds more. Congress’ response to a grieving nation: another three-day weekend.

“Today marks one month from the Charleston church shooting, while just yesterday four Marines were killed while serving their country on US soil and the Aurora movie theater shooter was convicted for murdering twelve people. Gun violence leads the news today in every congressional district in America, and this doesn’t count local shooting incidents that fail to make national news,” said Brady Campaign President Dan Gross. “The issue of gun violence is very much on the public’s mind and the last thing Congress should be doing is taking another break. Our elected leaders should make it a priority to take immediate action to keep guns out of the wrong hands and that starts by taking a vote on H.R. 1217.”

Isn’t it time for them to get to work on solving one of our country’s most pressing public health and safety problems? When 32,000 Americans die in one year from gun injuries, isn’t it time to break out common sense, put our collective heads together and start working on solutions? For there are solutions and we are ignoring them.

I write often about, at the least, requiring background checks for all gun sales. 92% of Americans, and yes, even gun owners, favor this solution. Why is this not the solution? Why would we even think about allowing anyone who purchases a deadly weapon to not go through a background check? It’s insane.

A group of faith leaders has written about another solution and is imploring President Obama to use it in this New York Times piece:

For more than a year, we and fellow religious leaders across the nation have worked to persuade President Obama to use what we believe is the most powerful tool government has in this area: its purchasing power. The federal government is the nation’s top gun buyer. It purchases more than a quarter of the guns and ammunition sold legally in the United States. State and local law enforcement agencies also purchase a large share. Major gun manufacturers depend on these taxpayer-funded purchases. For the government to keep buying guns from these companies — purchases meant to ensure public safety — without making demands for change is to squander its leverage.

Some of the leading brands of handguns purchased by the government — Glock, Smith & Wesson, Sig Sauer, Beretta, Colt, Sturm, Ruger & Company — are also leading brands used in crimes. Among the brands of handguns recovered by the Chicago Police Department at crime scenes between January 2012 and October 2013, all six of these companies ranked in the top 11. When police officers carrying Glocks are recovering Glocks at crime scenes on a regular basis, shouldn’t this prompt questions about whether the police department could use its influence to reduce the number of guns that end up in the hands of criminals? When Smith & Wessons turn up frequently in the hands of criminals, shouldn’t questions be asked when Smith & Wesson seeks a contract with the federal government?

There are specific suggestions made by these faith leaders that could lead to safer practices of selling guns to make sure guns don’t fall into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. Why would we not require these gun dealers to more accountable for what they are doing? They are selling deadly weapons designed to kill people.

Along the line of common sense solutions suggested in the above linked piece is another article that highlights the gun sale policies of Walmart, the nation’s largest seller of guns:

Current federal guidelines offer dealers a degree of discretion in the small percentage of cases where background checks don’t clear within two hours and are placed under review, after which many retailers will opt to proceed with the sale even if an approval or denial hasn’t been issued when the three-day mark passes. Walmart’s own background check policies have surpassed federal requirements since 2002, when the company decided that it would no longer sell guns to customers without a completed approval from NICS. The company refuses to sell a gun without a concrete all-clear from the federal system.

“The fact is, a gun dealer is not required to sell a gun to anybody,” Jonathan Lowy, director of the Legal Action Project of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, tells The Trace. In default proceed sales, he argues, it’s safer not to. In a 2000 FBI study, the agency found that a person whose background check takes over 24 hours to complete is also 20 times more likely to be a prohibited purchaser. “Walmart realized that it’s just not good practice as a responsible corporate citizen to supply guns to those people,” says Lowy.

Walmart, the nation’s largest gun retailer, sells rifles, shotguns, and ammunition in some 1,700 outlets. (It doesn’t offer handguns, except in the state of Alaska.) In 2008, the company adopted even more rigorous standards by implementing a 10-point code of conduct as part of a partnership with the gun safety group Mayors Against Illegal Guns. In addition to refusing default proceed sales, Walmart agreed to videotape all firearm transactions, require background checks for all employees handling or selling guns, and create a system to trace guns sold by the company that are later linked to crimes, among other measures. (Mayors Against Illegal Guns is an earlier iteration of Everytown for Gun Safety, a seed donor of The Trace.)

Other gun dealers need to follow these simple good practices when selling guns. Lives depend on it.

Making sure kids and teens don’t access guns can also save lives. The ASK campaign is all about asking if there are loaded, unsecured guns in the homes where your kids play and hang out. Making sure if you are gun owners yourself, you do the same, is crucial.

The solution is not more guns, by the way. There is absolutely no evidence that works. In fact the opposite is likely true. For example, this Georgia navy recruiter accidentally shot himself in the leg with his personal weapon carried into a recruiting center. But now, of course, Republican Presidential candidates and gun rights activists are suggesting that if only those Chattanooga victims would have had guns, they could have protected themselves.

Pandering.

How would that have worked? The shooter shot from a distance spraying the buildings with bullets and it happened by surprise as these events always do. Perhaps military members working in these facilities should be armed but armed and trained. But even then, it may not stop the next armed attacker from spraying bullets from a distance. Like in any situation where a gunman shows up, chaos ensues and more guns do not ensure more safety and fewer deaths.

Even armed officers and law enforcement are shot and killed or injured in “guns allowed” zones. One of the first victims in Chattanooga was an armed police officer who was injured and couldn’t stop the shooter. I have written often about the shootings of armed officers in Tacoma, Washington, Pittsburgh, New York and other places.

Arming more people is not the answer. The answer is to have fewer armed citizens. There are far too many guns circulating in America. There are far too many people who shouldn’t be abel to have guns who can access them far too easily. The evidence is mounting that in America we make it easy for shooters like the Aurora shooter, the Columbine shooters, the Charleston shooter, the Chattanooga shooter, the Sandy Hook shooter and all of the others to gain access to deadly weapons.

A new study that draws the same conclusion as others, finds that guns for self defense are used very infrequently and that, indeed, do not actually make much difference and could make things worse for the gun owners. From the article in The Trace:

Despite these advantages, even the NCVS is almost certainly overestimating defensive gun use. The fact is that defensive gun use is an inherently rare phenomenon: Any survey, no matter how well designed, will produce a final estimate that is much higher than its true incidence because of false positives. Not only is this a well-established statistical phenomenon, it’s also supported by new data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA) — the most comprehensive and systematic effort to catalog every publicly available defensive gun use report — which finds that there were fewer than 1,600 verified DGUs in 2014.

In response to GVA data, pro-gun advocates have been forced to argue that the reason researchers can barely find .064 percent of the 2.5 million DGUs a year claimed by Kleck and Gertz is because virtually nobody reports their defensive gun use to the police. This argument is problematic. For starters, it would seem to imply that the vast majority of people using guns in self-defense are irresponsible citizens who use their firearm to ward off an attempted crime, and then, perhaps uncertain about the legality of their action, are leery of interacting with the police. It would also imply that while these citizens ostensibly stopped a crime serious enough to justify brandishing a firearm, they aren’t at all concerned about informing the police about a criminal who remains on the street.

The only thing we can know for sure is what we have empirical data on: Namely, that there is a reliable floor for defensive gun use estimates at around 1,600 a year. In addition, according to the most recent data on defensive gun use, we have reliable evidence showing that owning a firearm does not give individuals any significant advantage in a criminal confrontation, and they are no less likely to lose property or be injured by using a gun in self defense.

Facts matter. We need to re-think our insane gun culture and the claims made by the corporate gun lobby. For saving lives is the most important thing we can do and if the facts point to stronger gun laws and discussing the role of guns and gun violence in our communities that don’t fit with the claims made otherwise, it’s time to change the conversation.

As if to punctuate the evidence about our daily news and breaking news reports about shootings, Everytown for Gun Safety has a new report about the trends in mass shootings and other shootings. It is not a pretty picture. You can read the facts for yourself but surely the report reveals that more guns and more easy access to guns had made our country far less safe. Let’s look at just one fact, though, considering the shootings of the past few weeks:

Here’s some further evidence to support this point. Last year, Media Matters noted that response rates to mass shootings are generally within minutes of the first shot fired. During the September 2013 Navy Yard shooting which claimed 13 lives, for example, local police arrived within two to three minutes and members of the Yard’s armed security force had already fired at the shooter but failed to stop him. In 2012, Mother Jones found absolutely no evidence that even a single mass shooter had considered whether someone in the area could legally be carrying a firearm. Instead, shooters choose locations based on their personal connection to the site — and don’t seem to care much about whether someone might be firing back at them. Perhaps that’s because many mass shooters are suicidal; Everytown says that in 42% of incidents, the shooter killed themselves.

Facts matter. We can’t let this trend continue.

Today is my birthday. I have much to be thankful for. So today I will celebrate with the usual cards, birthday cake, time with friends, calls from family and time at our beloved cabin on a lake.

Too many people will not be celebrating birthdays. Too many families will not be able to celebrate the birthdays of their loved ones, killed by gun violence. It’s all around us.

We are better than this.

UPDATE:

This article about an Oregon felon arrested with guns and ammunition is the poster child for everything that’s wrong with our American gun culture:

Broke told police that he had the gun “out of concern for his safety because of all the guns on the street,” court documents state.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

Memorial Day and remembering Isla Vista victims and gun violence victims

the memoriesIt’s Memorial Day week-end. We all know that this holiday is meant to remember our fallen military members and also to those now serving. We have a lot of people to remember given the American war victims. Let us all also remember the victims of gun violence on this day of patriotism. It is our patriotic duty to do all we can to prevent more victims of gunshot injuries. The bodies are piling up with numbers of dead increasing in recent years.:

Car crashes killed 33,561 people in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Firearms killed 32,251 people in the United States in 2011, the most recent yearfor which the Centers for Disease Control has data.

But this year gun deaths are expected to surpass car deaths. That’s according to a Center for American Progress report, which cites CDC data that shows guns will kill more Americans under 25 than cars in 2015. Already more than a quarter of the teenagers—15 years old and up—who die of injuries in the United States are killed in gun-related incidents, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

This is stunning information. Will we remember it when we remember others this Memorial Day?

I will remember my father who served in World War ll. I will honor by brother who served in Viet Nam and now has PTSD and other related illnesses. And I want us also to remember that more people have died from gunshot injuries since 1968, the year of Robert Kennedy’s assassination, than all Americans who have died serving our country since the Revolutionary War. We need a national day of remembrance for those victims as well. Everytown is promoting that we hold June 2nd as that day starting this year. Other gun violence prevention organizations will join in this day of remembrance.

So let’s start by remembering a shooting that took place one year ago. It’s been a year since a young mentally ill man got himself a gun and shot up a bunch of people at the Isla Vista campus. Just as with most mass shooters, the young man who took so many lives one year ago knew what he was doing when he bought his guns and ammunition. From this article by Josh Sugarman of the Violence Policy Center:

Josh Sugarmann, executive director of the Violence Policy Center, states: “The tragedy in Isla Vista is just the latest example of the human price paid on a daily basis for an unregulated gun industry that has embraced ever-increasing lethality as the way to make a profit. The gun industry is marketing weapons originally designed for military and law enforcement to the civilian population. Its financial beneficiaries in the NRA then fight to stop any and all effective gun violence prevention policies. The rest of us are caught in the crossfire when these weapons are used in mass shootings.”

Key facts on the guns used in Isla Vista:

  • The Austrian Glock 34 pistol has an extended barrel for greater accuracy. Glock pistols are frequently used by mass shooters, as explained in this 2011 VPC backgrounder The Glock Pistol: A Favorite of Mass Shooters.
  • Elliot Rodger, the Isla Vista shooter, wrote in his manifesto: “I had already done some research on handguns, and I decided to purchase the Glock 34 semiautomatic pistol, an efficient and highly accurate weapon. I signed all of the papers and was told that my pickup day was in mid-December.”
  • The shooter also owned two Swiss Sig Sauer P226 pistols. Rodger wrote that the Sig was “more efficient” than the Glock.
  • Both Sig Sauer and Glock are “Corporate Partners” of the National Rifle Association. As detailed in the VPC’s 2013 study Blood Money II: How Gun Industry Dollars Fund the NRA, since 2005, Glock has given between $250,000 and $499,999 to the NRA (the range is due to the giving levels defined within the NRA’s “Corporate Partners Program”).

There’s more. And it’s more of the same old stuff. The corporate gun lobby is helping with the easy access of guns to mass shooters and people who just want guns for self defense but end up using them in intentional or unintentional shootings. It’s a travesty and an American tragedy.

But some states deal with tragedies differently than others. California almost immediately acted to get a law passed called the Gun Violence Restraining Order meant to temporarily remove guns from those deemed potentially dangerous to themselves or others. Read this commentary from a Brady Campaign activist about the importance of that law.

The shooting spree left 6 innocent people dead and 14 injured and terrorized the Isla Vista area. Three of the dead were shot, and 3 stabbed. Some of the wounded were hit by his car and others by bullets.

The shooters’ parents knew of his mental illness and other problems which he posted about on a You Tube video. Some weeks before the shooting they asked law enforcement to check on Rodger’s status and try to do something to stop what they knew could be coming. From this article:

“Police might have done more to find out about access to firearms, just given the family’s concern about Rodger’s emotional state. There’s no reason that police responding to people in crisis couldn’t routinely address gun risk–talk about it, try to remove guns in various ways–instead of focusing on trying to predict when exactly somebody is going to be violent; that’s very difficult even for experienced psychiatrists.” (…)

Swanson is now planning to study a training intervention for CIT police officers to routinely inquire about guns in mental health crisis calls. When guns are present, officers might use de-escalation skills to temporarily remove weapons from individuals at-risk of violence or suicide.  If one happens to be in a state such as Indiana that has a preemptive “dangerous person” gun seizure law, police can remove firearms without a warrant, pending a judicial hearing, even if the person with mental illness is not imminently dangerous at the time and wouldn’t meet criteria for involuntary commitment.

The Consortium for Risk-Based Firearms Policy has issued many recommendations in this area. One recommendation concerns the idea of a gun violence restraining order (GVRO) to restrict access to weapons among individuals who might pose a temporary danger to themselves or others. As Swanson and collaborators describe it, the main idea is to “create a new restraining order process to allow family members and intimate partners to petition the court to authorize removal of firearms, and to prohibit firearms purchase and possession temporarily based on a credible risk.”

An ER Physician who attended to the injured after the Isla Vista shooting has written this moving and poignant piece about what it was like that night and why we continue to have the gun carnage that so devastates our families. “Sometimes You Hear the Bullet”:

Over the next few weeks, I was left with haunting questions. Questions that remain unanswered.

Why is it so much easier and so much less expensive to acquire a firearm and large quantities of ammunition than it is to get an appointment with a mental-health professional within three months? Why is the wait longer to see a psychiatrist than to acquire a gun?

Why are there so many more discount gun stores than psychiatric hospitals and mental-health clinics in our country?

Would a well-armed Isla Vista, armed teachers, armed students, or armed fire fighters and EMTs make the body count higher or lower?

Why do we invest so little in mental-health surveillance and mental-health interventions in our schools? Why do so many of the perpetrators slip under the radar? Why are we so often caught off guard?

For all my friends who are responsible gun owners, how do we keep guns and ammunition out of the wrong hands? Would a tax on ammunition to fund mental-health resources be reasonable? What if it were necessary to have certification of having met with a mental-health professional prior to obtaining a permit to purchase a gun?

Why is there so much hate and anger in our society that drives young men mad with feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and rage? What can we do as a community to limit people acting out this anger with violence?

We can actually prevent gun violence. The corporate gun lobby loves to tell us that passing any new laws will only punish their own. They are wrong of course and that kind of “logic” goes against all common sense. Of course laws can matter. They matter for all kinds of things in our every day lives. Under pressure from Ralph Nader and other consumer watchdog groups, and law suits after auto accident deaths and injuries that safety features could have prevented, the car industry started spending more money to add seat belts, air bags and other safety features to cars. And yes, the price of cars increased. That is the price we pay for safety and customers understand that now.

Law suits and public pressure led to bans on smoking in public places because we now understand that we can prevent diseases related to smoking and second-hand smoke. Restaurant and bar owners resisted laws that required them to ban smoking in their establishments but guess what? People are still going out to eat and frequenting bars and restaurants. The fear of loss of business didn’t happen and we are all protected from the effects of inhaled smoke from cigarettes. We are healthier as a result and we are seeing a decrease in health care costs for those impacted by conditions and diseases related to smoking.

Laws matter.

Driving without seat belts or speeding are now illegal. Fewer people are dying.

We know now that we can reduce deaths and injuries from driving while drunk. Why did this one take so long to happen? It took lawsuits and public pressure from MADD and other consumer watchdog groups to get the attention of our lawmakers. Laws that penalize people for driving with blood alcohol levels above a certain limit have reduced auto accidents related to drunk driving. And our awareness of the problem, along with fear of arrest and the desire to save lives has been a change in social mores.

Laws matter. Drunk driving is punishable and we have learned to use designated drivers instead of driving drunk.

So how does this work for gun violence and the laws that do or could make us safer? Not so well. We do know that in states and countries that have strong gun laws, fewer people die of gunshot injuries. That should be good proof that we can change laws and get good results right? Not so much actually. For the corporate gun lobby is all about profits over saving lives. And the corporate gun lobby is famous for buying the influence of political leaders all over the country. Sometimes this is so obvious as to be egregious.

Take the Lawful Commerce in Arms law passed by Congress in 2005. In contrast to all other industries, the gun industry was granted immunity from lawsuits that would require safety features on firearms and safe practices by manufacturers and dealers. This had clearly not led to anything good. From the article:

In 2005, former President George W. Bush signed into law the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act – the “No. 1 legislative priority of the National Rifle Association” – which immunized gun makers and dealers from civil lawsuits for the crimes committed with the products they sell, a significant barrier to a comprehensive gun violence prevention strategy. Despite recent reporting on proposed efforts to prevent another tragedy like the one in Newtown, a Media Matters search of Nexis revealed major newspapers and evening television news have not explained this significant legal immunity.

Faced with an increasing number of successful lawsuits over reckless business practices that funneled guns into the hands of criminals, the 2005 immunity law was a victory for the NRA, which “lobbied lawmakers intensely” to shield gun makers and dealers from personal injury law. As described by Erwin Chemerinsky, a leading constitutional scholar and the Dean of the University of California-Irvine School of Law, by eliminating this route for victims to hold the gun industry accountable in court, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act was a complete deviation from basic “principles of products liability“:

Laws matter. Loose gun laws do not save lives.

One egregious example of this kind of pandering to the gun industry is a recent law suit filed by the parents of one of the victims of the Aurora Theater shooting. This one is on vivid display because of the current trial of the shooter of that tragic incident. The parents of Jessica Ghawi filed a suit against the ammunition company that provided the drum magazine to the shooter.  A Colorado District court judge recently decided in favor of the ammunition company and ordered the Phillips to pay back the legal costs for the law suit. Yes, really. This happened. From the article:

Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, whose daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was one of 12 people killed in the July 2012 attack, had sued four online retailers that provided bullets, gun magazines and body armor alleged to have been used in the shooting. They accused the retailers of selling the items without concern about the mental fitness of the buyer or the items’ intended use. (…)  In an order issued Friday, Senior U.S. District Judge Richard Matsch ruled state and federal laws protect ammunition sellers from such lawsuits. He dismissed the case. (…)

And to make this all the worse, the judge ordered the Phillips to pay back the legal costs of the lawsuit. Last night’s Rachel Maddow show highlighted the outrage over the idea that a victim’s family had to pay the legal costs back to the ammunition company they attempted to sue on behalf of victims everywhere. We should all be very outraged by this. It’s time to call out this kind of insane fealty to the gun industry which represents a decreasing number of Americans who own fewer and fewer guns.

The thing is, there are real victims who were real people with real families whose potential will now not be realized. In their memory we ought to realize that we can’t continue along the road to more and more gun deaths without doing something to prevent them. So why can’t we? The NRA and the corporate gun lobby.

So let’s get this straight. A new study by the Violence Policy Center tells us that the NRA/corporate gun lobby represents only 1 in 5 Americans. The big question is why a minority group representing an industry has the ear of many of our elected leaders. It’s very important that we let our leaders know that they don’t have to be afraid of the incendiary rhetoric coming from a group that does not have the best interests of our children and families in mind. When people can be massacred in a movie theater and the parents of one of the victims are ordered to pay back the ammunition company from which the shooter ordered his bullets of death and destruction, something is very very wrong.

From the above article:

One of the greatest successes of the NRA and the gun industry has been their ability to act as if they represent a majority of Americans. This is in spite of the fact that the NRA represents only a tiny fraction of gun owners, let alone all Americans, and gunmakers are a relatively small industry compared with other manufacturers of consumer goods. Yet this mistaken belief in their own popularity — based on nothing more than chest-thumping and false assertions — is what drives the NRA and itsfinancial backers in the gun industry as they push for policies and legislation that benefit only them, from one law after the next that expands concealed carry in public spaces to a militarized product line that facilitates public mayhem.

The facts are these. A clear majority — two thirds — of Americans don’t have guns in their homes. Almost four out of five Americans don’t personally own a gun. And as the gun-owning population continues to age and die off, fewer Americans are taking their place.

After the carnage at the “biker gang” shoot-out in Waco, Texas, many are asking questions about our armed society. The gun lobby loves to claim that an “armed society is a polite society”. How could they be more wrong? A great article from the Dallas News examines our armed society and raises the questions and concerns we all should be raising:

There is simply no need for a civilized society to tolerate the type of gun-related violence that Americans seem to accept as normal. Other modern industrial countries have realized, in some cases long ago, that it is unnecessary for people in a free society to have easy access to guns.

The solution to gun-related crime is not further arming the public. It involves enacting comprehensive gun control laws that prohibit many forms of gun ownership, significantly curtailing or eliminating access to and the ability to purchase guns, and implementing programs in which the government confiscates or purchases illegal guns already in circulation among the public.

For those firearms that are legal, ownership should be tied not only to background checks, but to extensive and mandatory training in the safe use and storage of weapons. Evidence from other countries shows clearly that these types of measures will significantly reduce gun-related deaths and lead to a safer and more secure society.

In an era of extreme concern about national security, Americans need to recognize that one of the greatest threats to national security is their own heavily armed population. We need to enact legislation that will greatly reduce gun-related crimes and protect people from the dangers associated with widespread gun access and ownership. Unfortunately, our proven inability to handle widespread gun ownership suggests strongly that the way to do this is to deeply restrict access to and ownership of most types of guns.

Americans should ask themselves whether they want to live in a society that is secure because everyone is ready to shoot one another or one that is secure because people have peace of mind and experience freedom from violence and the freedom to pursue their lives in safety and happiness rather than fear.

We need the freedom to pursue our lives in safety. Many have lost that freedom due to gun violence. Yes, Americans have their gun rights but they don’t have the right to make the rest of us unsafe in our homes and communities. We can do better than this. Let us remember the many victims of gun violence on this Memorial Day. They have given their lives as well to the insanity of the American gun culture and the spineless cooperation to the gun lobby by our leaders. It’s time for all of that to change. And we will change it by continuing our own efforts in the pursuit of stronger gun laws, educating the public about the risks of guns in homes, programs to get parents to ask about guns in homes where their children and teens play and hang-out, holding the gun industry responsible for bad actions, and supporting the many victims whose stories are so compelling and poignant that they should change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in America.

Lock them up- be a responsible gun owner

safeLock up your guns. A felon with a stolen assault rifle threatened to shoot his Seattle area girlfriend’s home:

A woman called 911 just after midnight to say her boyfriend was carrying a rifle and threatening to kill her. She said the couple had been arguing when the 45-year-old man pulled out an AK-47 style rifle and said he would “shoot up the house,” according to police. The woman’s children were home at the time. (…) After arresting the suspect and seizing the gun, police learned the rifle had been reported stolen in an April 8 burglary in the same neighborhood. Police also learned the suspect is a convicted felon and not legally allowed to possess a firearm.

He was booked into King County Jail for investigation of harassment, possession of a stolen firearm, and a weapons possession violation, according to police.

Stolen guns account for 10-15% of crime guns. Lock up your guns. Be a responsible gun owner. Why leave guns out unsecured and loaded anyway? I suppose that zombie is going to burst into your house so you have to be ready to shoot?

Here’s a scary incident in Pennsylvania where a group of teen-agers found an abandoned house containing an arsenal of guns. The kids took some of the guns and actually played with them in the woods. Kids are curious. Teens know enough about guns to know they are interesting and not toys. As the officer in the story said, everyone was lucky that no one was injured or worse. But please check the video that goes with this news story. This was an irresponsible gun owner for sure. The 93 year old man who owns the house was in a hospital and obviously not in his home.

Questions need to be asked. Why were his guns out in plain sight where anyone could find them? A felon(s) for example could have done a lot of harm with those guns. Stolen guns get into the illegal gun market and then used in crimes that sometimes result in deaths of innocent people. Why did this man feel a need for so many guns? Listen to the officer describe them. They are certainly not needed for self defense or hunting. Just looking at these guns tells a story about gun ownership in America. Some in our country believe they will need guns to fight against their own government or to use in what, as I wrote in my last post, against nightmare scenarios of ISIS terrorists, hurricanes, zombies, a pack of roaming home invaders, etc.

Questions should also be asked about how our U.S. Capitol security secure their firearms when on duty? It seems as if some carelessness is occurring, particularly in bathrooms. And right there in the bathroom in House Speaker John Boehner’s office? From the article:

When a member of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s security detail left his Glock and magazine stuffed in the toilet seat cover holder of a Capitol Visitor Center bathroom stall, a CVC worker found the gun, according to a source familiar with the Jan. 29 incident and two other disturbing instances when Capitol Police left loaded firearms in problematic places.

A 7- or 8-year-old child visiting the Capitol with his parents found the next loaded Glock lost by a dignitary protection officer, according to the source. A member of the security detail for John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, allegedly left the firearm in the bathroom of the Speaker’s Suite on March 24.

A third Glock was found the night of April 16 by a janitor cleaning the Capitol Police headquarters building on D Street NE. The weapon was left in plain sight, sparking additional concern about the department charged with protecting one of the world’s most important and frequently visited complexes.

Seriously. What gives with people taking off their guns while using the toilet? I guess they get in the way or they are heavy, or whatever. I support law enforcement officers wearing their weapons but really, it’s crucial that they keep track of their guns. There are no excuses for this kind of carelessness with deadly weapons. The incident in the above article could have lead to a tragedy or another stolen gun. This is all about the gun culture. When people wear guns, and yes, even law enforcement, it is an onerous responsibility. Too many things can and do go wrong.

The Brady Campaign ‘s Dan Gross made this statement about this insane incident:

“This is the America Speaker Boehner envisions and promotes — where guns are accessible to everyone, everywhere without any concern whose hands they wind up in. Thanks in large part to gun lobby lap dogs like John Boehner, Congress has ignored the overwhelming will and safety of the American people, and done nothing to protect our children from the dangers of guns. Maybe at least this incident can serve as a reminder to the rest of us to do what we can to keep our kids safe by asking if there are unlocked guns where our children play, apparently whether it’s the house of a neighbor or The House of Representatives.”

But this case also points out what seems to be the truth about gun ownership in America. We know from several recent surveys that the number of homes with guns has decreased in the last 20 years or so, but the number of guns owned has not- except for Republicans. Curious. But that’s for another day. Some gun owners own lots of guns and keep buying them because, because, because…. rights….fear…..paranoia…..the government confiscation program President Obama started the day he took office…. Hillary Clinton coming for your guns………

Sigh. Meanwhile, when gun owners don’t safely secure their guns, felons, teens, and others who should not have guns have easy access to them. The gun lobby usually resists efforts to pass mandatory reporting of lost and stolen guns. From this informative article by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, we find that 500,000 guns are stolen annually from residences and yet only 173,000 of these are reported stolen. Where do we think the rest of the guns are? Passing stronger gun laws to require reporting of lost and stolen guns can prevent some of the gun trafficking in our country. Why would we not want to do that? From the article above:

The public overwhelmingly supports laws requiring the reporting of lost or stolen firearms. A nationwide poll in 2011 found that 94% of Americans surveyed favor laws to require the reporting of lost or stolen firearms.6

Seems like the right and popular thing to do.

Guns also have a way of mysteriously going “missing” from certain gun dealers:

One of ATF’s core functions is to oversee the firearms industry, which includes gun manufacturers, importers, and retail dealers. ATF’s primary tool to ensure that gun dealers comply with federal laws and regulations is through regular inspections, during which investigators review the dealer’s records and required paperwork, inspect the inventory, and look for other irregularities that may indicate illegal diversion of guns to criminals.

Federal law restricts ATF from conducting more than one such compliance inspection of a gun dealer each year, but current resource limitations make it impossible for the agency to conduct an annual or even biannual inspection of the roughly 60,000 gun dealers in the United States. With only around 600 inspectors available to conduct these inspections—inspectors who must divide their time between prospective dealers, explosives retailers, and active gun dealers—ATF is currently only able to inspect  licensed gun dealers an average of once every five years. An Office of the Inspector General, or OIG, investigation of ATF’s federal firearms licensee inspection program found that between 2007 and 2012 more than 58 percent of licensees had not been inspected for more than five years.

One way to fill the gap in the infrequent inspections is to require gun dealers to regularly check their inventory against their sales records to ensure that all guns are accounted for. Because federal law requires licensed gun dealers to report lost or stolen guns to ATF, keeping an inventory would be an effective way of ensuring that missing guns are promptly identified and reported to law enforcement. Taking a regular inventory would also help law-abiding gun dealers quickly identify any security breaches compromising their stock.

Despite the common-sense appeal of requiring gun dealers to conduct a periodic inventory reconciliation, the law prevents ATF from doing so. In 2004, citing the burdens that inventory inspections might impose on gun dealers, the NRA and others in the gun lobby shut down efforts to rein in the problem of gun dealers failing to maintain control of their inventories by adding a rider to the annual appropriations bill—one of the so-called Tiahrt Amendments—that specifically prohibits ATF from requiring dealers to conduct an annual inventory.

This ban on mandatory inventory reconciliation by gun dealers is unique among retailers of potentially dangerous consumer products. ATF requires explosives dealers, for example, to take a physical inventory at least once a year and keep a record of the inventory on file and available for inspection. Likewise, retail pharmacies are required under federal law to take an inventory of controlled substances every two years. Yet in the context of one of the most dangerous consumer products, the federal government is prohibited from requiring this common-sense business practice.

Sigh. The corporate gun lobby at your service, protecting you and your family from gun deaths and injuries. Note in the article the now infamous cases of “lost” guns that have been used to kill innocent Americans. The most famous of these is the D.C. Sniper case ( from the linked article above):

Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply, Tacoma, Washington

In 2002 John Allen Muhammad, the “Beltway sniper,” terrorized the Washington, D.C., metro area when he and his teenage accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, gunned down 10 people over the course of several weeks. The Bushmaster XM-15 assault rifle used in the attacks was one of 238 guns that disappeared from the inventory of Bull’s Eye Shooter Supply over a three-year period.

Where is common sense when you need it? Why are we allowing the corporate gun lobby to dictate gun laws that actually lead to more deaths and injuries? The question has to be asked and answered.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, safely securing your guns. Gun safes are readily available. Or how about trigger locks?  You can order them on-line easily and for a small price compared to that of a shot person. Or how about smart guns? A reminder to my readers- the corporate gun lobby opposes smart gun technology. Remember just about a year ago when a Maryland gun shop owner got himself into hot water with the gun rights extremists for trying to sell smart guns? Go figure. Lunacy abounds.

These folks love to complain about felons and evil folks out and about with their guns so they can get people to the gun shops to buy lots of guns. But when technology becomes available or current safety measures are encouraged to keep those very people from stealing guns or accessing them and then using them in a crime or worse, a shooting- not so much.

Here’s a great website that talks about safe firearms storage. Note that it is the national crime prevention council so obviously this organization understands that guns that are not safely stored can get used in crime.

We can talk about yet one more case of children accessing guns they shouldn’t have. Two Kentucky brothers aged 6 and 7 brought two handguns to school- one of them loaded. What is going on in our country? How many more of these before gun owners realize that they have a responsibility with that lethal weapon(s)? Don’t you just love the pink pistol? It’s meant to be attractive to women and kids. And attractive it is. These little boys liked it enough to bring it to their school.

I am updating this post to add one more place where some parents think their guns are “safely” secured from kids. An Arizona father was storing his guns rolled up in the bed sheets when, naturally, his curious 2 year old found the gun and shot himself in the face. Naturally, because more and more gun owners are showing us that too many guns means too many irresponsible gun owners.

In my previous post I referred to the ASK campaign encouraging parents and care givers to ask if there are guns where their children play or hang-out. This is very important for changing the conversation and saving lives. When will we get down to the business of saving the lives of our children and everyone else? Well, I guess when the majority makes a bigger noise than the gun lobby. And when our legislators get the back bone to stand up to the ferocious gun lobby whose primary industry is profits. And that’s the bottom line.