Hostility at gun bill hearings

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

To continue where I left off in my last post, the threats and hostile acts by a minority of angry gun rights extremists continue. We now have information that revealed that one of the organizers of the extremist group “The Base” has lived in Russia and has been directing operations of the group from there:

The FBI has described the group as a “racially motivated violent extremist group” that “seeks to accelerate the downfall of the United States government, incite a race war, and establish a white ethno-state.” (…) One video posted online in March 2019 shows Nazzaro in Russia wearing a T-shirt with Vladimir Putin’s face and the words, “Russia, absolute power.”

“The Base” is considered to be a neo nazi militia group watched by the Southern Poverty Law Center and some of whose members were arrested before the pro gun rally in Virginia last week:

In the days leading up to the rally, the FBI arrested multiple members of “The Base,” a white nationalist group where some members hold neo-Nazi beliefs. Court documents show some members discussed attending the rally in Richmond with the intent of killing people.

The pro gun rally ended without violence, miraculously given the anger, tension and guns that were mixed in with the annual “lobby” day sponsored by the Virginia Citizens Defense League. Prominent on the website of the vcdl is this statement: ” The 2020 Legislative Session started January 8, 2020 and represents the greatest threat to gun rights Virginians have faced in modern times! 

The “funny” thing about “The Base” operations coming from a man living in Russia, who appears to really like Putin, is that we know that the Russians tried to influence the 2016 election by sending one of their own to influence the election through the NRA. Remember Maria Butina? The Russians do understand that gun rights go together with Republicans and that money and power go together. Sowing discord and even violence in America is one of Putin’s aims. Can we say he is succeeding to a certain degree? And can we say that President Trump is helping out by tweeting his support of this movement of violence against Americans?

This is about more than gun rights.

The thing is, there are no threats to gun rights when laws like universal Brady background checks and Extreme Risk Protection Order bills are passed in the name of public safety. Not one of these folks can tell us how this will affect their very own gun rights or those of their friends- at least no reason that makes any sense and is factual.

I had this “discussion” this week- on Tuesday- when the Minnesota Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on 4 gun bills in Hibbing, Minnesota, home of Bob Dylan located 1.5 hours to the north of my city of Duluth. The Republican leaders opined that holding the hearing in Hibbing would give rural folks a chance to speak up about gun issues:

Senate Republican leaders said they opted to hold the hearing after years of “dogging” from all sides of the issue and they chose Hibbing because they wanted rural constituents to have a stronger voice in the debate.

The problem with this line of reasoning is that it just isn’t true. I have been going to hearings at the Minnesota state Capitol for many years. There are just as many rural and urban gun owners and leaders there as the people like myself speaking for common sense gun legislation. People travel to wherever the hearings are held to make their viewpoints known.

Metropolitan gun lobbyists traveled to Hibbing to testify. Very few local gun owners testified. Instead, they brought in a lobbyist from NRA headquarters to speak on behalf of gun rights. Two men from the Twin Cities area testified on behalf of the gun owners of Minnesota. Some rented hotel rooms so they could make it to Hibbing for the hearing. Only two speakers on the side of gun violence prevention were from outside of northern Minnesota. One was state Public Safety commissioner John Harrington and the other was a woman whose father was shot 3 years ago. She lives in a small town north of the Twin Cities.

So when one of the gun rights “extremists” in the room asked why the Duluth Police Chief was there to testify, the answer is that he is at least from close by. Why was an NRA national spokesperson at the hearing?

The Hibbing hearing, unfortunately, magnified a stereotype about gun owners that most gun owners hate and don’t fit into. There were hundreds of angry men and women, some armed, in a smallish standing room only room brandishing their anger and bullying tactics from the beginning. One man interjected himself into a press conference held by the Democratic Senator (Ron Latz) who was bringing the background check and extreme risk protection order bills to the committee. This man yelled out questions and comments often yelling over the press. He did the same as I was being interviewed by a local T.V. reporter. Did I have to answer his questions just because he was there to bully and intimidate? No. But he insisted on a “conversation” with me about the hackneyed “slippery slope” argument.

At the beginning of the hearing, a man sitting in front of me yelled, “Where is the flag? No flag no respect. I’m outa here.” And he got up and left.

Nice.

I’m sure these folks are regular people with families they love just like I do and my friends do. They go to work and send their kids to school. Unfortunately the area where they live is economically depressed with many mining jobs lost leaving lots of anger and frustration. But something seems to happen to them whenever guns and gun safety reform come up. At the hearing, many insisted on being loud and interrupting and not listening. The others applauded their uncivil behavior. Our very own President has given “permission” for this kind of behavior. He is modeling it whenever he speaks. So what can we expect?

When any of us ( there were about 50 of us from the Duluth and Iron Range area in orange Protect Minnesota shirts and red Moms Demand Action shirts) were engaged by them, they mostly tried to shout over us.

I was on a bus that took many who had never attended a hearing before or never been in a roomful of angry armed people. Some were quite intimidated and worried about this. I can’t blame them. The crowd was racaus, rude, belligerent, and boorish as they interrupted the proceedings, yelled out comments and questions, insisted on answers, and several came close to being ejected. The Democratic Senator Ron Latz was personally verbally attacked by many.

The chair of the committee, Senator Limmer, lost control at the outset and never regained it. Here is my letter to the editor about that:

Sen. Limmer and the Republican Senate were under pressure to hear the bills, given that gun-safety reform is at the top of the list of concerns for Minnesotans and Americans; 84% of Minnesotans support requiring background checks on all gun sales. The group of angry folks who came to the Hibbing hearing reflected a minority of Minnesotans and gun owners.

Their angry voices reflected fear of losing something. Our fear is of losing lives to senseless gun violence.

As I said in my letter, one of our supporters was poked in the back by a man behind her who kept asking what she thought of comments made by one of his own. This is physical harassment. One man clapped his hands right next to the ears of a friend of mine sitting in front of her. Others booed at victims and even at the Chief of Police. They had no compunction about doing this-so sure were they that they deserved their rights to intimidate and bully others.

I am a League of Women Voters debate and forum moderator. We practice the Speak Your Peace Rules of Civility Project and state them at the beginning of every event. This hearing was the total opposite of peace and civility.

What is this fear and anger really about? As I have said probably thousands of times in this blog and in other places, if these people are law abiding citizens they will not have to worry about a thing. If they believe it is inconvenient to show a permit to purchase a gun at a licensed dealer and also to a private seller, I wonder how they feel when they stand in line at the license bureau to renew their driver’s license or their car license plate?

It’s inconvenient to bury a loved one who was shot. It’s inconvenient to read about your family in the newspaper and have reporters surround your family to take photos. It’s inconvenient to go to court where the killers of your loved ones stand trial and you have to re-live the trauma. It’s inconvenient to have to go through the personal effects of your loved one and decide how to part with their things. It’s inconvenient to have to speak with your back to a hostile crowd in a hearing room of armed people and know their anger over perceived loss of rights extends to you.

It took me several days to recover from the day at the hearing. The righteous and obnoxious folks we encountered at the hearing have no empathy for what it feels like to be surrounded by people with misplaced anger and hostility. We are not the enemy. We disagree about how to approach public safety. But we know the majority happens to be with us. We wish them no harm or ill will. We are not angry with them except when they verbally attack one of us. We do not want their guns. Their rights will not be taken away.

But too many of our loved ones are.

There is no need for them to threaten us or bully us. It’s not necessary. They will have their guns if they go through background checks. If they, in a moment of anger or mental anguish, may harm themselves or someone else, they may have guns temporarily removed for their own safety. Because if one of those “law abiding” gun owners shoots someone in a moment of anger, they will never be the same. Their lives will be as upended as the victim but killing another human being is a very serious thing and an awesome responsibility.

They don’t have to argue with us about defensive gun uses, or tell us that people kill themselves with knives too, (but check the lethality of guns compared to knives- apples to oranges) or about the Dickey Amendment or about the myth about the slippery slope as they did last Tuesday. Those are side issues and deflect from the bottom line. And we do have facts that are not being considered by those who insist we are wrong and the enemy.

In America, we shoot too many of our own. Too many of our own die by gun suicide. We want to change that and, contrary to NRA hype, it can be done without interfering with rights and gun ownership.

Too many of our own are shot “accidentally” ( 4 year Indiana old boy dies when shot by father’s gun while wrestling) What law owning and carrying father intends for that to happen? But seriously, what was he thinking? If you refuse to listen to those of us just trying to tell you that guns are a risk and needed to be treated as a threat to your own safety or that of your family, perhaps these regular incidents would not happen and more children would be alive. If a gun carrier is so cavalier about safety that he carries his gun in his pants ( without a holster apparently?) bad things happen. What gun carrier wrestles with is little boy wearing a gun?

He must be devastated. How tragic this is and my heart goes out to all of them. This will be their nightmare for the rest of their lives.

Where is common sense?

That is all we are asking.

I tried to tell one of the angry men about the Gun Violence Archive and that he should look at it to see how many people have died from gun violence compared to defensive uses of guns. He talked over me and didn’t want to hear it but I am going to leave you with this just in case.

He told me I should join the NRA after I tried to tell him the truth. I told him I would not do that and that my sister had been shot to death in a domestic shooting. He did not know what to do with this information but sometimes one must be blunt to get the point across.

What is "gunnormal" in 2020?

Screen shot from Gun Violence Archive Twitter Feed

2020 is off to a violent start. I just saw the Twitter feed from Gun Violence Archive showing us the current states since the start of this year. It’s Jan. 6th folks. We’re off to the races so to speak. 6 mass shootings in 6 days. What other country endures a mass shooting a day? What other country does nothing about something as tragic and insane as our own gun violence epidemic?

Will 2020 be a banner year for gun violence? If this keeps up, maybe it will be. That would be the new normal.

Is this the new normal? Gun rights extremists gathering en masse locked and loaded outside of the Virginia state house to make a point? What point? Look at us. We are armed and dangerous and we will intimidate the legislature into voting against common sense gun legislation. What could possibly go wrong? From the article:

What began as a handful of rural Virginia counties declaring themselves “Second Amendment sanctuaries” has jumped the state’s borders and become an Internet phenomenon. Far-right websites and commenters are declaring that Virginia is the place to take a stand against what they see as a national trend of weakening gun rights.

Now they are coming from out of state with their guns. They sure are exercised about the probability that at long last, Virginia is likely to join other states who have passed stronger gun laws. And gun rights still exist.

And so a Nevada-based group called the Oath Keepers said it’s sending training teams to help form posses and militia in Virginia. The leader of a Georgia militia called Three Percent Security Force has posted videos and calls to arms on Facebook, urging “patriots” to converge on Richmond. The right-wing YouTuber “American Joe Show” warned without evidence that Virginia will cut the power grid to stop the army of protesters — one of a host of false and exaggerated rumors spreading online.

Remember Charlottesville?

Fear and paranoia abound. Fake news and outright lies are ramping up the anger that could be a dangerous combination with guns. Hatred of those who they believe are going to take something from them is in there as well. It is unfounded but real to them. Showing up en masse armed and angry will not solve their hatred and fears. The reality is that this is not normal. I think it will not turn out well for the armed ersatz militia in Virginia. Even the NRA is distancing itself from this insane movement:

Response to that agenda has become so heated that the nation’s most visible gun-rights group, the National Rifle Association, is taking an intentionally lower-key approach. It will sponsor town halls in three rural locations around Virginia in the coming weeks, aimed at explaining proposed legislation.

The majority of the public nationally and in Virginia want stronger gun laws. It was the biggest issue of the 2019 election that turned Virginia blue. The public will not side with these extremists. Let’s hope there is no violence. And also let’s hope this is not a trend when other legislators consider laws to keep us safer.

And speaking of keeping us safer, let’s talk about our children in schools all over America in the year 2020. Some schools have gone so far in their school safety plan as to have “poop buckets” delivered to classrooms to be used as children are hunkering down during an active shooting.

No more words for this one. It is not normal. The majority want to see our leaders pass measures to keep guns away from school shooters. In a far simpler and common sense way to do this, parents who are gun owners must store their guns safely so a troubled or angry kid can’t get a gun to shoot up his schoolmates. Most school shooters get their guns from their own homes.

Check out End Family Fire to see how curious kids are and how easy it is for kids and teens to find a gun to use in an unintentional shooting, a school shooting or a suicide.

I have an idea- or maybe several for that matter. Regarding the “poop buckets”, I think we ought to have them delivered to state legislators and Congress members just in case they have a lock down drill and an active shooter. Then they can experience what it’s like to be a kid in school in 2020.

Another idea is for our leaders to speak up using the right language to talk about why it’s a good idea to pass stronger gun laws. There is enough proof that strong gun laws mean fewer deaths and injuries. And it’s not gun control. It is gun violence prevention or gun safety reform. Groups working to prevent gun violence are trying to take away the risk of guns to innocent people. They actually do want to either take away or keep away guns from people who have already been deemed to be prohibited to purchase one.

Gun violence prevention and gun rights are not mutually exclusive. The gun rights extremists have made the argument for decades now that they are. They are wrong. We can have both. All that law abiding gun owners need to do is go through a background check for each gun sale- simple and short and not inconvenient. Then they need to be sure they are trained to operate their deadly weapon because not doing so can result in tragedy.

Locking up their guns should be mandatory but if not, at least strongly recommended for many obvious reasons. And finally let’s hope that the many law abiding gun owners out there won’t decide to use their gun(s) in an argument, in moments of anger, despair, during a difficult relationship separation, while drinking alcohol or to get even with someone.

Simple. Common sense. Normal in most other places in the world.

Twelve more

It’s happened again. News programs were interrupted with news of a mass workplace shooting in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Sigh.

Tears. Weeping.

Grief.

Exhaustion.

Devastation.

Cries for doing something.

Statements from gun violence prevention groups and elected leaders who care about lives of innocent people taken in a matter of second.

Brady.

Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

Statements about the incident- a gunfight. A silencer used. People couldn’t tell how close the shooter was thanks to the silencer. The NRA and its’ lapdog politicians floated a bill to make silencers easier to obtain. But then the Las Vegas shooting happened. And now this.

Extended magazines. More weapons found at the shooter’s home.

Why do we allow extended magazines again? For what are they useful other than shooting as many people as possible in a very short time?

Workplace shootings are becoming more common. What should businesses do? Read this:

There were 1553 firearm workplace homicides during the study period. Robbery crime trended downward from 2011 to 2015. In contrast, non-robbery crimes constituted almost 50% of the homicides and trended upward in recent years. Customers and co-workers were the most frequent perpetrators of non-robbery crimes, most after an argument. While customers and co-workers who commit these crimes were often armed at the time of the argument, some were not and retrieved a firearm from an unspecified location before committing a homicide. Thus, immediate and ready firearm access was commonly observed in argumentative workplace deaths.
Conclusions
Limiting firearm access in the workplace is a possible measure for preventing deadly workplace violence and should be considered as part of a comprehensive strategy for addressing this reemerging public health concern.

Where is common sense?

As the shooting was happening, our local Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota chapter, together with Moms Demand Action and the Duluth Federation of Teachers was holding a Wear Orange kick-off for June as gun violence prevention awareness month.

Speakers were amazing. Two students stepped to the microphone to talk about how it is for students in these days of mass school shootings. A 7th grade girl read a poem she had written after the Parkland shooting. A high school junior spoke of student lockdowns and how frightening they are. He asked where the elected leaders were and cited the large contribution given by the NRA to our newly elected Republican Congressman who voted against the House passed background check and Charleston loophole bills.

Powerful statements from our kids. And adults have failed them.

The Mayor read a proclamation making June 7th gun violence prevention awareness day in Duluth. The city of Duluth posted this on their Facebook page and what were the comments by the insensitive gun rights extremists? She’s taking away guns and rights.

Be quiet. Stop it. No one’s guns will be taken away. Stop trying to scare and intimidate. We are not listening any more. They are a very distinct minority.

The School Superintendent spoke of a near tragedy in one of the Duluth schools when a credible threat occurred and a man was arrested inside of the school. Authorities found guns in his car in the school parking lot.

Shame on those who refuse to move- who refuse to acknowledge our public health epidemic because they are beholden to a failed and corrupt gun rights organization. They are listening to an ever decreasing minority of gun rights extremists.

Former Republican Congressman David Jolly got it right. Our gun laws are broken. If we care about innocent lives and all lives, we will fix our broken system like other democratized countries have done.

President Trump responds to the shooting?

Democratic Presidential candidates are heartsick and furious.

So are we all. The majority of us know that passing stronger gun laws and changing our gun culture will not take away rights to own guns. The insistence that the second amendment means no gun laws allows daily carnage.

A writer for CNN says that we have a cult of guns in America. He is so right:

None of this will stop unless the cult of guns is curbed.
This won’t be easy; the cult has a lot of money behind it. The money pours in from the “devout”: small-time contributions to the NRA that amount to hundreds of millions of dollars each year. This money is used, in our skewed version of democracy, to influence politicians, who are only too happy to be bought.
Our Congress is swamped with men and women, our so-called representatives, who do not represent the majority view, which is that guns must be curtailed.

According to Gun Violence Archive this is the 150th mass shooting of the year. That happened before half of 2019 is over. We still have 7 months for the bodies to add up.

This is NOT NORMAL.

After posting this post I found another post by Shaun King who wrote about how we handle mass shootings in America:

That’s the game we play. To get through dinner, to get through a movie or a game, to get through quality time with our loved ones, we must temporarily suspend our knowledge that people are being slaughtered all around us. We speak of the Wild Wild West as some nostalgic era of the past, but we’re living it. The United States is the only nation in the world that has more guns than people. And it shows. Americans are shooting and killing themselves and killing others with guns at a pace that should be treated as a dire National Emergency. If we just enacted a fraction of the basic standards and norms held by the rest of the world, our nation would be so much safer.

Who have we become as a nation, as people with moral compasses, as people of compassion for others, as people who espouse non-violence?

Who do we want to be? Is this it? Reading names of victims after every mass shooting? Posting photos of those who lost their lives yesterday in “everyday shootings”?

I think not. We are better than this.

At this morning’s press conference in Virginia Beach, the names and photos of the victims were released by the City Manager of the city who said their names in with an emotional voice:

“They leave a void that will never be filled,” Hansen said. 

Too many voids.

Wear Orange on June 7th for gun violence prevention awareness. Wear it for the victims. Wear it for Hadiye Pendleton whose family started the observance of the day. Do your part. Get activated, Make noise and most of all, hold elected officials accountable for their inaction.

Memorial Day warning for Veterans

Every year America celebrates Memorial Day, formerly known as Decoration Day. A little history

Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings and participating in parades. Unofficially, it marks the beginning of the summer season.

My family is at our cabin for the week-end preparing for the summer season after the long winter. The dock is in, the pontoon is in, tables and umbrellas are up and the grill has been going. We had a cabin association meeting yesterday. There I heard that a man with a cabin on our lake ( not at the meeting) drove by my next door neighbor’s house and just past the house, he stopped and shot his gun out the window. Really? How stupid and dangerous is that? Another cabin owner, a lawyer, said that was illegal, of course. The next time I talk to him, I will be mentioning this incident and reminding him of my grandchildren and all of the other people he could put at risk with his carelessness.

But back to the point of this post, since the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, we are identifying more veterans with PTSD. My brother, who served in Viet Nam, suffers greatly from PTSD and Parkinson’s Disease,both attributed to his service years. It is sad and upsetting that his life is so limited now. He talks of suicide at the Veterans’ Home where he lives. I know that if he were living at a place on his own, he would have tried and maybe succeeded to use one of his guns for suicide. I removed his guns from his house after he moved to assisted living knowing that he could never use those guns responsibly again.

Guns are a risk to our Veterans.

In the wake of an increase in Veterans’ suicides, we can’t run away any more. And, a new study shows that Veterans are not opposed to removing their firearms during crisis times:

In 2016, the suicide rate for male veterans was about 40% higher than non-veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The rate for female veterans was even worse.
Many of those suicides involve firearms, and research has shown that reducing access to means of suicide can help prevent what is sometimes an impulsive act.
And there’s a growing body of research that people like Rolf should be talking about guns – with their doctor.

Lynn Rolf III said rumors that a PTSD diagnosis could endanger his security clearance were one reason he delayed seeking mental health treatment.Chris Haxel / KCUR
“It’s very clear that veterans are at higher risk to die from suicide (than the general population,)” said Dr. Marcia Valenstein, a researcher, psychiatrist and professor emeritus at the University of Michigan. “Veterans with mental health conditions are at even greater risk.”
Many doctors worry their patients will get mad if they try to talk about guns, Valenstein says. For VA doctors working with patients who were in the military, that concern is amplified because veterans are perceived as being more conservative and unwilling to part with their weapons.
Valenstein and a team of researchers surveyed VA patients who had already received mental health treatment. They asked how open the veterans might be to a series of interventions, ranging from basic screening questions and free gun locks to temporarily storing their guns with family members or in a VA-managed program.
The results were surprising: 93% of respondents were open to a low-intensity technique, such as talking about guns with their doctor. About 75% of veterans also endorsed at least one of the more intensive options.
“I think this is pretty clear that this is a positive response from veterans and high-risk veterans in mental health care,” Valensten said.
The key factor, she says: making these interventions voluntary.

We can make the intervention voluntary which may work for some. But for others it could be too late. That is why background checks on all gun sales and Extreme Risk Protection Orders bills are so important to get passed wherever we can. 15 states now have Red Flag laws. They save lives because family members can report that a veteran or military family member ( or non veteran) could be dangerous to themselves or others and should not have access to a gun.

Also remember that the extremist corporate gun lobby does not want health care providers talking to their patients about the risks of guns? Why? Follow the money and influence. According to the NRA, physicians should “stay in their own lane.” Of course talking to patients about risks in their home is exactly their own lane, prompting many physicians and other health care providers to tweet #thisismylane. Really the NRA should stay in their own lane and leave the rest of us alone.

It turns out that many lives could have been saved if the Air Force had reported the veteran who shot up the Sutherland Springs, Texas church and killed 26 and injured 20 in a matter of seconds. From the article:

The service failed six times to submit records to the FBI that would have barred the troubled former airman from buying the guns he used in the November 2017 massacre at a church in Sutherland Springs, Tex., a Pentagon inspector general’s report concluded.
On at least four occasions during and after criminal proceedings against Kelley concerning domestic violence, the Air Force should have submitted the former service member’s fingerprints to the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division, the 131-page report concludes. On two other occasions, it should have submitted to the FBI the final disposition report — which states the results of a case, after proceedings occur.

Why? What are they afraid of? As the previous article mentioned, even military health care providers are afraid to bring up the subject of guns. They should be more afraid not to. Part of the reason for this is the current gun culture which scares people into thinking that mentioning the risks of guns to themselves or others might trample on their rights. Good grief. What about the rights of those 26 whose family members celebrate Memorial Day much differently today than they did before the shooting.

And now the families of the victims can sue the government over the shooting. Often courts are the abiters of what makes common sense and what is right no matter what the extremists believe is right. From the article:

U.S. District Judge Xavier Rodriguez’s Thursday ruling is a huge victory for the nine families in the case, which allows them to put federal authorities on trial for alleged negligence. Rodriguez dismissed the government’s motion to throw out the case and said the families can begin the discovery process, which allows their lawyers to gather documents and seek interviews with which to make their case.

Victims deserve to be heard and deserve to have some peace after horrific mass shootings like the one in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The shooter should not have been able to get a gun. He got it from a licensed dealer and his name should have been on the FBI’s list of prohibited purchasers. But let’s also talk about how easy it would have been for the shooter to get a gun from a private seller had he been turned away by the licensed dealer.

We have a serious problem in America. Veterans are dying by suicide at an alarming rate:

Veterans are twice as likely as civilians to die by suicide, the Department of Veterans Affairs said Monday in its latest report on suicide.
Veterans make up more than 14 percent of all suicides, although they account for only 8 percent of the total population, the VA report said. (…) Guns were used in two-thirds of suicides by veterans in 2015. Having access to firearms raises the risk of suicide, experts have found.

Another recent article highlights a suicide emergency among young veterans:

Veterans aged 18 to 34 have higher rates of suicide than any other age group, the VA says in its National Suicide Data Report. The rate for those young veterans increased to 45 suicide deaths per 100,000 population in 2016, up from 40.4 in 2015, even as the overall veteran suicide rate decreased slightly, according to a copy of the report reviewed by the Guardian.
Many vets in that age group served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

(…) Veterans were also more likely than other Americans to kill themselves using a gun. In 2016, 70% of veteran suicides were by firearm, compared with 48% of non-veterans.

This is serious. Some of our lapdog politicians are shrugging it off because…..????? Rights? Campaign contributions? Drinking the gun lobby’s kool-aid? Whatever the reason, they are negligent. Much like the Air Force was negligent in not reporting a name of a potentially dangerous service member to the NICS database, politicians are failing us and acting as if gun deaths and injuries are just a normal experience in America.

It is NOT NORMAL for so many people to die from bullets.

Background checks on gun sales and Extreme Risk Protection Orders are constitutional. The extreme gun lobby makes up nonsense about the laws claiming all sorts of fake facts leading to fear and paranoia amongst a few who make a lot of noise. We can’t listen to them.

Whether suicide, domestic shootings, gang violence, unintentional shootings, mass shootings, something must change. People can’t even attend a Memorial Day party without being shot up as did 10 in this New Jersey mass shooting yesterday. 9 were injured and one has now dies as a result of a drive-by shooting. Why do we let so many people carry guns around in public? It’s leading to blood running in our streets. Since I wrote my last post, another 3 or 4 stupid and dangerous incidents by “law abiding” gun owners have occurred. They are becoming more frequent. It took time before the result of loosening conceal and carry laws started having consequences.

Please have a safe memorial day and honor those who have died in the service of our country. But as you honor them, remember the ones who have died as a result of bullets here at home. If we are patriotic, we will do something about this national public health and safety epidemic.

Be a patriot.

Happy 2019

I have no doubt that 2019 will take up where 2018 ended with stupid, dangerous and insane gun incidents in our gun crazy country. The end of this year is full of shootings and gun deaths and general insanity featuring “law abiding” gun owners.

This incident in Florida ( again in Florida) struck me as the “poster child” for what our spineless politicians have bestowed upon us all when they decided it was perfectly OK for ordinary citizens to carry weapons of war around in public places. From the article ( and please check out the video accompanying the article):

According to officials, 60-year-old Robert Miller brought the rifle into the store because he was upset over the price of two packs of cigarettes.
“I’m speechless,” said customer Jacques Momeerhouse. “Do we need all of that?”
The arrest report said Miller had entered the supermarket prior to the incident to buy two packs of Pall Mall cigarettes, but he left because the price was $11 and he only had $10.
Investigators said Miller was so upset about the dollar difference that he grabbed his long rifle and returned to confront the clerk.

You really can’t make this stuff up. And worse, in the video, there were others in the store who seemed to not be too alarmed by the fact that a man armed with an AR-15 was walking around the store making threats. This is exactly what the NRA and the corporate gun lobby wants- to normalize armed citizens in our public places.

I call this the definition of insanity.

There is absolutely no reason for ordinary citizens to be able to carry loaded weapons around in public. The proof is in the pudding. More guns have in fact not made us safer. The opposite is true. More guns have led to an increase in the number of gun deaths which have now surpassed auto accidents in lethality.

It is unsustainable to continue along this trajectory.

As I have noted before, in the midst of the devastating carnage, there is hope that the narrative and the laws are changing and will change. The survivors of the Parkland shooting have changed the way we talk about gun violence forever. We can’t take back what happened last February 14th. It was almost literally the shots heard ’round the world. It’s because those courageous and angry students chose to cry out instead of cringing in the face of the opposition to any common sense coming from the gun rights extremists.

What we know is that we can do something about senseless gun deaths. It is not a hopeless cause as some of the gun rights extremists want us to believe when they say that “guns don’t kill people, people do”, or “if you pass stronger gun laws, the criminals will still get their guns”, or “only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun” and other inanities that we have allowed to stand for far too long.

Speaking of inanities regarding gun rights extremists, this article appeared in the Denver Post. 

Read carefully. The writer openly proclaims that he does not intend to follow the laws of Boulder, Colorado regarding registering his gun with authorities if he plans to carry it in public. The photo itself is enough to make us all want to cry. A grown man with a long gun slung over his shoulder walking his young child in a stroller down the street. This is just not normal. What is this guy so afraid of that he needs to carry a long gun in public while pushing his baby down the street? This narrative is not popular with the majority of Americans. What we need is common sense if we intend to take back the narrative and allow us all to live in safety without having to worry about some nut with a loaded gun in public corroding our otherwise peaceful day with our families and friends.

We’re not having it. The many families affected by the shooting death of a loved one, whether to homicide, suicide or “accidental” discharge of a gun do feel hopeless at times because many of them, like me, have been pouring their hearts and souls into getting laws passed and changing the conversation about our nation’s public health epidemic.

2019 will bring change and hope. The newly formed Democratic majority in the U.S. House of Representatives will take up legislation to strengthen our gun laws. If new laws are passed, a tone is set in the country that we don’t intend to allow the carnage to continue. It also sets a moral tone that in this country, we care about victims and we care about our families and their safety. Laws alone can’t fix our terrible problem with gun deaths but they can set the tone for a kinder, gentler nation that no longer accepts the uncommon wisdom that has set the tone until now.

In Minnesota the newly formed Democratic majority intends to take up laws like requiring background checks on all gun sales and Extreme Risk Protection Orders that will save lives. I look forward to it.

The thing is, when even a provision to ban bump stocks (used in the Las Vegas shooting) is held up by Gun Owners of America ( to the right of the NRA)  it is perfectly obvious that there is no interest whatsoever in saving lives. It’s about them and their power and money. There’s really no other way to look at it. And suing to get their way is their M.O. From the article:

“These dangerous regulations can go much farther than just bump stocks,” Erich Pratt, executive director of GOA said in a statement. “The goal of the anti-gun left is, ultimately, not just banning bump stocks, but, rather, putting ‘points on the board’ toward its goal of banning civilian ownership of all firearms.”

Really? Just another nonsensical statement that is not only not true but totally false. There have been no attempts to ban citizen ownership of all firearms nor will there be. Pratt knows this but it is necessary to continue the narrative of fear and paranoia to keep control of a dying gun rights movement.

So I wish my readers a Happy New Year and a safe and peaceful ending to 2018. It was a deadly year. It was also a year of chaos for our country. In addition to all of the other investigations into Russian influence in our 2016 election and corruption charges, one of them has also changed the image of the NRA forever. There’s no turning the clock back on the corrupt behavior of those whose interest was in influencing an election and maintaining power and control.

We are better than this.

Happy New Year.

NRA news

This morning we learned the news that former President George H.W. Bush has died. I am not a Republican and did not support President Bush’s policies but he served with honor and integrity and was an honest man. Many Americans look back to those days and remember that at the least, there was not corruption, daily lies and chaos. 

George H.W. Bush had the integrity to resign from the NRA when the organization made verbal attacks against law enforcement after the Oklahoma City bombings. He wrote a letter resigning his life membership from the NRA.:

I am a gun owner and an avid hunter. Over the years I have agreed with most of N.R.A.’s objectives, particularly your educational and training efforts, and your fundamental stance in favor of owning guns.


However, your broadside against Federal agents deeply offends my own sense of decency and honor; and it offends my concept of service to country. It indirectly slanders a wide array of government law enforcement officials, who are out there, day and night, laying their lives on the line for all of us.


How refreshing. The current occupant of the White House is so far from doing anything honestly and above board that we look back at former Presidents who have the courage of their convictions with admiration.

I believe we could actually expect the opposite from our current President. Anything for his base. And who is his base? Are the NRA extreme gun rights advocates a large part of his base? Let’s take a look at the number of members of the organization compared to the total U.S. population. From an article written by Mike Weisser ( Mike the Gun Guy) in the Huffington Post in 2017:

Now since the NRA itself claims only to have 5 million members, how do we explain that all of a sudden the organization has added 9 million more to its membership rolls? Here’s how the NRA is handling it as of today: “we have millions more Americans who support us and will tell pollsters they are members, even when they are not.” And to underscore this point, the NRA website also linked to a story from The Washington Times (a real, balanced piece of journalism) which states that the Pew report shows that 21 percent of gun owners had contacted a public official about gun policy at some point in their lives, but only 12 percent of the non-owners said they did.

Another article posted after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida analyzed the numbers game played by the NRA in order to make the organization seem bigger and more powerful than it actually is:

Still, if there are an estimated 55 million gun owners in the U.S., even at 5 million members the NRA would account for less than 10 percent of the gun owning community.
“Let’s say it’s 10 million [members],” said Ware, the South Carolinian gun owner. “That’s still a fraction of the gun owners out there.”

A fraction of the gun owners out there- that is significant. If this is the organization that has successfully bought and paid for many of our elected leaders and represents a fraction of gun owners and even fewer Americans, we ought to be yelling from the roof tops to demand the action that over 90% of Americans want. 

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Brady Law. Back in 1993, even the NRA supported the idea that if someone wanted to buy a gun their background should be checked out to make sure they were not a felon, a domestic abuser, someone who was adjudicated mentally ill, etc. This was a no brainer. But when the law passed, with support of the NRA, there was an exception for private sellers of guns. That exception has proven to be deadly. There are many examples of mass shooters, domestic abusers and others who got guns through private sales and used them to murder innocent people. Columbine. Wisconsin Spa shooting. Charleston church shooting……..

Since the passage of the law, according to Mark Glaze, writing for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence:

Under the current law, only people who buy their guns from federally licensed gun dealers are required by federal law to pass a background check. Unlicensed “private sellers” who sell at gun shows or over the Internet, are not required to conduct checks – a major gap that has grown exponentially larger as a portion of the marketplace for guns has moved online and away from bricks-and-mortar dealers.
Felons and other prohibited purchasers are well aware of this private sale loophole – and they exploit it every day. Researchers have estimated that as many as 22% of gun sales are conducted by private sellers – with no background checks and no questions asked.
In response to this lethal gap in the law, 20 states and the District of Columbia have acted to expand background checks to include at least some private sales, including those conducted by unlicensed sellers at gun shows, on the Internet and anywhere else.
And these laws are saving lives: when, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting massacre, Connecticut enacted a universal background check system, the state saw a 40% reduction in gun homicides and a 15% reduction in gun suicides.
Overall, from 2009 to 2012, states that required background checks on all handgun sales or permits had 35% fewer gun deaths per capita than states without that background check requirement.
Researchers have also found that, after adjusting for population, states that require background checks on all handgun sales experience less than half as many mass shooting incidents (52% fewer) as states without that background check requirement. (…) Brady background checks are more popular in America than pizza. A 2018 Quinnipiac poll showed that 97% of Americans support universal checks, including 97% of gun owners. And a 2012 survey by GOP pollster Frank Luntz found that even 74% of NRA members support this common-sense reform.
And we know voters have their eye on this issue. Polls both before and after the 2018 midterms showed gun safety was one of the top issues for voters. And a survey of 11 battleground House districts conducted by the Brady Campaign and the American Federation of Teachers showed that voters were much more likely to support candidates who support universal checks.

Change and common sense are coming to America. The 2018 elections will prove to be a game changer in America for many reasons. 

The news of the day is happening fast and furiously. Much of it is related to the Mueller investigation into whether our very own President colluded with the Russians and now, as a result of the investigation, there may actually be attempts at obstruction of justice.

Buried in some of this news was this one about the Russian woman, Maria Butina,  who allegedly attempted to help the Russians gain access to the President through the NRA. It should be more alarming that this happened but then, it’s become such an everyday occurrence that alarm has become complacency or else not wanting  to know.

Let’s look at what this article is saying about the consequences to the country and to the NRA once Butina spills her knowledge:

Prosecutors now allege that Torshin was, in fact, directing Butina’s gun rights networking in the US, as part of a Russian influence effort. If the government wants to get to the bottom of whether the NRA was getting Russian money to boost Trump, Butina may possess valuable information about Torshin’s role in the alleged scheme. (…) Butina, as Torshin’s collaborator and as Erickson’s partner, was smack dab in the middle of this effort in May 2016. In fact, during this same month, Butina herself was part of a group that unsuccessfully sought a meeting with the Trump campaign. So it’s likely she could shed light on Erickson’s and the NRA’s efforts to connect Trump’s campaign and the Kremlin. (…) Though the campaign declined, Butina went to the event. During the audience Q&A, she asked Trump a question about whether he had plans to continue Russian sanctions, which Butina called “damaging” to both the American and Russia economies. Trump reassured her that he didn’t think the sanctions were needed. In May 2016, as the NRA hosted its convention in Louisville, Butina briefly met with Donald Trump Jr., and gave a speech at a NRA fundraiser involving Kentucky Republican Gov. Matt Bevin

I don’t know about you but I smell trouble ahead for Butina, the administration and the NRA. The organization is now having financial and legal problems related both to this investigation and the intense scrutiny placed on the NRA after the Parkland shooting. The activated students have not been shy about going after the powerful interest lobby. And it’s past time for that to happen. But it took the future generation to do what many of the adults have been unable to do. 

This article explains more about the NRA’s financial problems:

More noteworthy than its drop in contributions, though, was its decline in membership dues. The NRA took in more than $128 million in dues last year—a significant sum, but down considerably from the $163 million it took in the year prior. That decline, more than the drop in direct contributions, appears to indicate a dwindling, if still formidable, base of public support. Asked for comment on the decline, an NRA spokesperson pointed to reporting showing that the organization’s magazine subscriptions have shot up this year, interpreted as an indicator of an accompanying membership surge. (…) That loss in funding comes at a tricky political moment for the organization. Rarely has the NRA had so staunch an ally in the White House. But the group, which built significant political heft on the back of Obama-era threats to key gun-rights priorities, has also become a lightning rod in the still-raging debate over gun control and mass shootings in the U.S. And several recently elected House Democrats ran explicitly on pledges to go after the gun lobby when in office.
Under President Trump, the NRA has also adopted a more aggressive advocacy posture exceeding its traditional focus on gun-rights issues exclusively. It recently launched a stand-alone political commentary platform, NRA TV, that has veered into culture-war issues at best tangentially related to the Second Amendment.


So where are we? I say we are at an important time in our country’s history. One cannot avoid the sense that the corruption, lies and coverups are coming to a head. The involvement of the NRA in some of this news will not be good for the organization- once a respected group that supported gun safety and hunters. Things have changed. The country is going to experience more chaos and controversy.

When the truth is revealed, let’s hope that Americans will have the common sense to handle whatever happens peacefully without violence. There is a worry that those gun rights extremists, many of whom own many guns just in case they need them for an insurrection, may not stay on the sidelines:

“It seems like this is a theme that’s kind of resonating out there — that the militias feel there is an impending civil war that’s brewing between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, the militia versus antifa,” Johnson said. “That’s very concerning when you have a movement that is as well-armed [as militias], and conducts paramilitary training, and stockpiling and prepping and everything else. When you have them getting paranoid and discussing the possibility of a civil war, it’s not out of the realm of possibility of them actually trying trying to instigate it or provoke it.”

And so I end where I began- with my tribute to former President George H.W. Bush and his honor and integrity. And with my concern that the current occupant of the White House and the related investigations into corruption, collusions and possible obstruction of justice could lead to possible violence. The NRA is in the middle of both my tribute and my concerns about the current situation.

NRA convention hypocrisy

nogunsat NRAWell, it’s that time of year again. The NRA convention trots out good old Wayne LaPierre, bearer of fear and paranoia, to whip up the crowd and make everyone want to go right out to buy a gun to protect themselves from all of the evilness out there. It’s mostly in the form of Democrats and those silly liberal gun violence prevention activists. We are a scary bunch for sure. We’re coming for their guns but just haven’t figured out how to find out where they are and how we would get them.

Never mind. They say we’re still coming. It’s going to be Armegeddon for sure. Or maybe a Civil War. That would be fun.

And for the first time in history, a sitting President addressed the convention for the 3rd time ( once as a candidate). Does anyone remember when the President sat in a room in the White House assuring victims and survivors after the Parkland shooting that he would do something about the epidemic of gun violence? Yes. He said he would. And then he taunted politicians about their fear of the NRA. What’s to be afraid of anyway?

Let’s watch what the President said and then reflect on the 180 degree turn around after spending time with NRA leaders:

We are talking about the lives of our children. Such hypocrisy and disingenuous ( and even lies) are disturbing to say the least. We are better than this.

Trump also believes (in his speech to the NRA) that the NRA just loves the country. Take a look:

“This is a great organization that loves this country,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Dallas. “The NRA is a truly great organization that loves this country. And we have a record crowd.”

This is Trump’s fourth consecutive address to the NRA’s annual meeting, but his first remarks to the group since the tragic Parkland, Florida, high school shooting that left 17 dead and sparked a national student-led push for gun law reform.

“The world is watching and we’re going to come up with a solution,” Trump assured a group of people affected by the nation’s deadliest school shootings during an emotional White House listening session one week after the attack.

Not true. Trump will NOT come up with a solution. He’s lying. Neither will the country loving NRA. They have shown us time after time that they don’t care about the lives lost. Remember when Charleston Heston went to the NRA convention in Denver right after the Columbine shooting? I do. So do the victims and survivors of that shooting. You can see his famous remarks:

Back to the meeting the President had with victims and survivors- He suggested a few good measures that would actually save lives and prevent some of those victims and survivors from having to advocate for preventing devastating shootings. What happened? The NRA came calling. And soon enough, Trump stopped talking about preventing shootings and was back to his bluster and hypocrisy.

#WeCallBS

And does it make any sense at all for the President to carry on at the convention so soon after all of the talk about gun violence in light of so many recent mass shootings? Here are a few of his ludicrous remarks:

Mr. Trump, as he has in the past, made the case for arming teachers, and getting rid of gun-free zones.

He also mourned the Parkland shooting victims.

“Our entire nation was filled with shock and grief by the monstrous attack on a high school in Parkland, Florida,” Mr. Trump said. “We mourn for the victims and their families.”

WHAT? Come on.

Back to the NRA convention, the crowd got a double barreled pleasure since VP Pence also showed up. Have you ever seen Pence with a gun by the way? Does he even hunt? I don’t know if he has much in the line of gun creds but he sure has been cozy with the NRA. 

And neither does Trump. But what they do have is Republican extremism and that’s what the NRA is all about today.

They are not your grandfather’s NRA. They are all about fear and terror:

You don’t have to be a media critic to parse the message: The NRA was casting virtually everyone but gun-owning conservatives as enemies of the state, seemingly encouraging its audience to arm themselves against their fellow Americans. Women’s March Co-President Tamika Mallory, a single black mother from New York, published an open letter on the group’s web site calling on the NRA to take the video down. “The video you sponsored,” she wrote, “suggests armed violence against communities of color, progressives, and anyone who does not agree with this administration’s policies.”

“I’m here to tell you: Not a chance,” replied Grant Stinchfield, Loesch’s angry-white-male counterpart, in an NRA TV video that called Mallory out by name, along with Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson. “We don’t apologize for warning America about chaos creators who want to impose their will upon us through their violence and lies.”

Dana Loesch, NRA TV personality and spokeswoman for fear, will be talking at the NRA convention. She represents the new face of the NRA since it has become an extremist organization. From the linked article:

The NRA of Loesch and Stinchfield would have been utterly unrecognizable to the organization’s membership as recently as 50 years ago. From its founding in 1871 throughout most of the twentieth century, the NRA was largely a firearms-safety and marksmanship-training organization. The NRA kept its members informed about legislation affecting gun owners, but it had no official lobbying arm, and it was a political nonentity. But with the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968, everything began to change.

Yes. And everything is beginning to chance the other way, at long last. Activists, including Victims groups will be visible and noisy outside of he NRA convention.

Carry Guard insurance, sold by the NRA, is now in trouble as well:

In a Wednesday announcement, the New York State Department of Financial Services said the NRA’s Carry Guard program “unlawfully provided liability insurance to gun owners for certain acts of intentional wrongdoing,” and that the group solicited coverage to New York residents without a license from the state. Lockton, the world’s largest privately held insurance brokerage, has agreed to pay the state $7 million for the violations, and will terminate Carry Guard policies held by New Yorkers.

Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo described the conduct as “an egregious violation of public policy.” (…)

Following the February mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Chubb disclosed that it had decided not to renew its contract to underwrite the program. Lockton also stated its intention to no longer act as broker and administrator for Carry Guard.

“It’s a major step back,” Peter Kochenburger, the executive director of the Insurance Law Center at the University of Connecticut Law School, told The Trace’s Mike Spies in February. “To keep this going, the NRA will have to find another insurance company to underwrite this. It’s hard to imagine another publicly traded company, or a company like State Farm, stepping in.”

It turns out that companies are not happy with the idea that they may have to pay out if some “good guy” with a gun shoots someone intentionally and gets away with it. I wonder why?

I wonder, by the way, if they will send Ted Nugent out to offend people? At least his images and some products with his name on them will be there.

Oh, and among the items featured on display at the shopping area of the convention is a gun that looks like a cell phone. I’m pretty sure I wrote about this before. But let’s marvel at the total lack of sensibility and common sense involved with this new weapon. What could possibly go wrong?

Does anyone remember the recent shooting of Stephon Clark?

What could possibly go wrong with a gun like this? I can’t even begin to enumerate how wrong this is.

Sigh.

Police officers, ever on the alert when they are in tense situations, have mistaken all kinds of common objects for guns.  It seems ridiculous on its’ face but it’s America where just about anyone can own and carry a gun.

Also featured at the NRA convention is a gun free zone. No good guys with guns to protect the President and Vice President. What are they afraid of?

The Brady Campaign has a great new report out with a timeline about what the NRA has been up to in the past year. The report, titled “Fear and Fanaticism; a year like no other” is spot on. Given the number of horrendous mass shootings in the past year, setting a record of the number of deaths (Las Vegas) the country has had a deadly year. The report includes a list of some of the shootings and the response by the NRA.

mass shooting image Brady

There’s a new atmosphere out there after the Parkland shooting. The majority of Americans have found their voices and they are speaking out. For too long, people resistant to the extremes of the NRA have remained quiet. It’s easier that way because the trolls and critics pounce and it’s not pretty.

Not this time. There are many people like me at the NRA convention this year letting them know how we feel. We aren’t having their nonsensical rhetoric and their myths. And we are getting ready for the fall elections when the issue of gun safety reform will be front and center. Candidates will have to decide on whose side they stand. Preventing shootings and protecting our families from devastation really has no side. It’s a human and moral issue and part of our American values. It’s not about gun sales. It’s not about rights. It’s not about power and control. It’s not about money and influence.

It’s about our lives. That is why students and others came out in very large numbers to March For Our Lives events all over out country. They are not done yet. In fact, they have only begun and many will be voters in the mid-term elections.

It’s Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

#NoRA

UPDATE:

I used the hashtag #NoRA but did not include the article referring to the latest effort against the powerful organization. A group of 100 celebrities and activists have sent a letter to Wayne LaPierre in which they have pledged to a series of actions to reduce the influence of the organization on politicians:

In an open letter to NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, which was first obtained by TIME, the more than 100 members of the newly formed NoRA Initiative — short for No Rifle Association — pledge to reduce the NRA’s influence in American politics through a series of voter registration drives, nationwide art campaigns, demonstrations and boycotts. (…) She says the group has “surprises up our sleeves,” including for events timed to the NRA’s annual convention in Dallas May 3-6. “When like-minded people come together for the common good and for a cause they believe in,” Milano said, “they can move mountains.”

I look forward to the actions and to changing the influence of the corporate gun lobby’s money and influence that has led to inaction to save lives.