The “Be Attitudes”- changing the conversation

PrintDeja Vu. There are protests erupting all over America over the Muslim ban issued by executive order on Friday resulting in detaining immigrants from 7 Muslim countries.

How many protests and marches will it take for our President to understand that we don’t want this? He is wrong. His administration is wrong. His right hand man, Steve Bannon, a conspiracy theorist and alt right extremist, is in charge of the circus. He is now right in the thick of making decisions crucial to our national security. Very scary.

What could possibly go wrong?

We are seeing what is going wrong.

The sermon at my church service this morning was titled, “Be Attitudes”. The texts for the day were from Micah 6:1-8 and Matthew 5:1-12. I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve but I am a Christian and I practice my religion freely because America is a democracy. The past week has revealed to us that our democracy is at risk. That scares me. And that is why my church service was so important this morning. We all felt it. We all knew it. We all wanted what is happening to stop. We were emotional. We were hopeful that things might change.

I am not going to go out and buy a gun though. That is not the way out of this. The corporate gun lobby and @realDonaldTrump preach fear and intolerance. When people are afraid of “the other” they do things that could be dangerous. Guns for self defense against zombies and the scary dudes lurking around every corner get used more often to shoot someone known to the shooter in an accidental shooting, a homicide, or a suicide. And those are facts-inconvenient and scary as they are. That should frighten those who buy guns to use against someone else because they are not like oneself. That is what is bothering me. I am frightened for our country.

What with a Muslim ban, putting Steve Bannon in a national security position, repealing “Obamacare”, suggesting removing sanctions from Russia, an investigation into non-existent voter fraud, talk about nuclear weapons and taking oil from a sovereign country ( as just a few of the past week’s executive orders or tweets) we have plenty to fear.

The first week of the new administration was chaotic and unsettling. That is how dangerous egomaniacs seize power. But I take heart in the protests at airports and in cities all over the country again this week-end on the heels of the Women’s March. I wrote my last post about my experience in DC at that march.

This is a movement. It is peaceful but those involved know that this is not the country we want. In one day we went from a democracy to an oligarchy. Sowing the seeds of discontent has worked well for @realDonaldTrump and alternative facts are spewed by he and his actors with every word uttered.

Sales of the book 1984 went through the roof. We are here. 2017. We are in a world where the extremist amongst us have seized power ( well- were elected but Trump is obsessed with making sure he somehow steals back those 3 million votes he lost to Hillary) They are over reaching and are drunk with their power. It’s enough to make those of us who don’t see guns as a solution to think twice about it.

Will this get worse?  Most certainly before it gets better because Trump spokeswoman KellyAnn Conway said we should just get used to this kind of dictatorship-like behavior of her boss. It’s just the beginning? Phew.

What could possibly go wrong?

What with the corporate gun lobby out pushing for no permits for gun permit carriers, carrying assault rifles on our streets and pushing for guns to be carried in all the places where we feel safe with our families and where guns don’t belong, armed citizens will be roaming our streets and public places and we won’t know the “good guys with guns” from the “bad guys with guns.” Oh yes, also Stand Your Ground laws are rearing their ugly heads. What with intolerance of minorities and “the other” what could possibly go wrong?

Our new President has unleashed a monster. He has opened the gates for anger, fear and intolerance and the corporate gun lobby has a seat at the table. What does a “gun friendly” administration mean?

What could possibly go wrong?

But yesterday I was heartened by my conversations with folks in my community who came out in large numbers to a League of Women Voters’ sponsored Citizens in Action Workshop. Young people and people never involved before are ready to get involved. I was one of the speakers educating people about how to get involved in gun violence prevention efforts. When I was done, a man in the back of the room motioned for me to come and speak with him. We spent about 20 minutes discussing his revelations and suggestions.

The man teaches hunting safety courses and has for years. He has studied gun accidents and worries about the possibilities. That is because his grandfather was killed in a hunting accident. As I was speaking it occurred to him that he had been affected by gun violence and had never thought about it that way. One of his friends had also died in a hunting accident and he, himself, came close once to mistaking a hunter for a squirrel scurrying and making noise in the woods. It scared him.

Dying by gunshot injury is a violent, bloody and sudden death. It is violence to the body and the survivors suffer often from PTSD, a sort of violence to the psyche. Many people are affected by insidious and preventable gun violence.

The man and I talked about gun safety. He has many guns but they are very carefully locked and unloaded with ammunition far away from the hands of his young children.Unfortunately he has friends who do not do that and was interested in the ASK campaign that I spoke about. He strongly believes in Brady background checks for all guns but also has many friends who do a lot of trading and selling guns amongst themselves and is not sure that is a good idea. From there we discussed trafficking, stolen guns and bad apple gun dealers and I think he learned a lot from me that he didn’t know.

Now  he wants to know more and be involved and I hope he will be. This is what changing the conversation is all about. It’s common sense discussions in a polite and peaceful manner than can lead to safer communities.

So back to the beginning. Micah 6 Verse 8:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,[b]
    and to walk humbly with your God?

Do Justice. Love Kindness and walk humbly with your God. Today, Muslims are banned from entering our country. Tomorrow, who’s next? What is this intolerance? How will it end? Will those who foment intolerance use weapons to subject those whose religion and culture are different?

Gideon Lichfield wrote this poem for Trump’s inauguration:

First Trump came for the women
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a woman.

Then Trump came for the people with disabilities
And I did not speak out
Because I did not have a disability.

Then Trump came for the African Americans
And I did not speak out
Because I was not African American.

Then Trump came for the Mexicans
And I did not speak out
Because I was not Mexican.

Then Trump came for the Muslims
And I did not speak out
Because I was not Muslim.

Then Trump came for the gay, bi, and trans people
And I did not speak out
Because I was not gay, bi or trans.*

Then Trump came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew.**

Then Trump came for the journalists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a journalist.***

Then Trump came for the judges
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a judge.

And now Trump is coming for the Constitution of the United States
And if I do not speak out, what am I?

Sigh.

Back to the “Beattitudes” from Matthew– From verses 11 and 12:

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Today we offered prayers for our leaders and our country that intolerance and persecution would not become the way we deal with immigration and those who need our help.

I thought we were better than this. Was I ( am I) wrong? Have we become this kind of country in just one week? What is the answer?

We are seeing it on the streets. We are seeing it in post card writing gatherings, marches, phone calls and letters. We want it all to be peaceful. When our leaders are stoking this kind of fear and intolerance, it does foment anger and horror.

Violence is not the answer. Guns are not the answer. More people with more guns is not the answer. People want to feel safe from violence, persecution and intolerance. Immigrants should be welcome here. 3 of my grandparents were immigrants.

Further, what was the immediacy of these executive orders? Did we have a terror attack I did not know about? And the countries from where most of the previous attackers came from are not on the list of those banned from entering our country. What kind of sense does this make?

Here’s a fact:

Toddlers have killed more people than those on the list of banned immigrants:

Toddlers have shot about one person a week for the past two years and by May, toddlers were behind more U.S. shootings in 2016 than Muslim terrorists were.

The problem speaks to the ubiquity and normalcy of guns in the U.S. and childrens’ access to loaded guns, shooting — sometimes fatally — either themselves or others.

And this is going around on Facebook:

shootings-by-immigrants

There’s more.

When an administration issues a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day without mentioning Jews and then issues an executive order to ban Muslims, we have a very serious situation. The fact that administration talking heads are trying to “clarify” what all of this means without any apology or admitting that they have just created chaos and dystopia is frightening and dangerous.

We are less safe because of our new President.

I can only pray for peace and non-violence.

 

 

Guns dropping. Bullets flying. Kids dying. Parents and guns don’t go together.

droppingAs a follow-up to yesterday’s post, I need to write something. Armed Americans are dangerous. What is wrong with parents carrying guns around with them wherever they go or leaving guns out for kids and teens to find them? Guns in public places are proving to be quite dangerous to the health and well being of our kids and communities. And guns dropping are much more dangerous than dropping a rock on your foot. Recent news backs up my assertion.

How in the world can a mother be holding a gun or having a gun on her person while braiding her daughter’s hair? Yes, you guessed it. The gun dropped to the floor and killed the 8 year old daughter of the gun owner. This is so outrageous on so many levels and highlights the craziness of our insane gun culture. More from the article:

Marsha Lynch said she was braiding her daughter’s hair when a handgun fell to the floor and fired, striking her in the leg and then shooting her 8-year-old daughter in the head.

Sharia Lynch died from the gunshot wound before she could be airlifted to an area hospital.

“She was a precious little girl, she made everybody laugh — she was the kind of kid in class everybody loved,” said Ann Arnold, principal of Sara Ragsdale Elementary School. “Our hearts are just broke. We’ve got a lot of tears going on, of course. We’re in shock right now.”

The Paulding County Sheriff’s Office is investigating whether the gun belonged to Lynch or her adult son, and authorities also want to know why the .9 mm handgun fired when it was dropped.

A firearms expert said a standard safety feature should have prevented the accidental firing unless the gun had been altered to give it a shorter trigger pull.

All of our children are precious. Why expose them to loaded guns and take a chance that a bullet could kill them in their own home? They are too precious to be shot and killed in our schools and on our streets. They are too precious for this kind of careless and cavalier attitude towards guns. They are too precious for us to be ignoring stronger gun laws just because some of us are afraid of the gun lobby.

Please read this report from the Brady Campaign- The Truth about Kids and Guns if you don’t believe me. 1,700,000 children live with unlocked, loaded guns in their homes.

The corporate gun lobby and gun extremists are so intent on selling guns and making people feel afraid of their own shadows that people have been duped into believing having a gun in the home will make them safer. The facts and the actual incidents happening every day do not bear that out. Many folks who walk out of gun stores or permit to carry classes ( if they are even required) do so with absolutely no knowledge of guns or shooting or gun safety. If we want to keep our homes safe from shooting our children in stupid and dangerous “accidents” like this one, we need to mandate training classes and make sure people pass them with an A. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill people. Allowing just anyone to buy one or carry one around without the respect and seriousness it deserves is a national tragedy.

It was just a matter of time before our loose gun laws played out in our homes, in public places and on our streets.

And while I am on the topic of carelessness with guns, I must ask why anyone needs a gun in the doctor’s office? This Texas woman’s mother must have thought her doctor’s office would be a dangerous place when she herself was the one who caused the danger to herself and others. The gun found in the purse dropped causing a bullet to go through the wall of an office, striking a patient in the thigh.

Good grief. People sometimes get bad news from their health care providers. What they don’t need is a bullet flying around in the office. If they have a serious disease that could take their life or that of a loved one, getting hit and injured or killed by a bullet would be the height of irony. This is just plain ludicrous and an example of our gun culture gone awry.

Wouldn’t it be better to treat gun violence like the public health epidemic it is? Many reports and editorials have been written by public health providers. This latest one implores us to do something about the crisis of our kids dying from bullets in large numbers.

Gun violence is a public health issue that profoundly affects children and families. Firearm injuries are among the top three killers of kids.

As a pediatrician, I have a duty to protect children. And the data is clear: strong gun laws positively impact families and lower accidental gun deaths, homicides, and suicides in youth.

I firmly support the American Academy of Pediatrics’ stance that Congress needs to find a way forward on gun safety legislation that improves the background-check system (including the elimination of gun show loopholes), reduces gun trafficking, requires safe firearm storage, bans all high-capacity magazines, passes stronger handgun regulations, enacts a strong, effective ban on assault weapons, and supports research to generate effective approaches to prevention and healing.

If you aren’t concerned about the above incidents and what I write about here regularly, you should be. You can be part of the solution by demanding changes to our laws that make common sense. (…) 

We cannot afford to be silent on gun violence. I strongly encourage action on this issue, with appropriate legislation passed, research supported, and families able to access bolstered mental health services to heal those who are already victims of schoolyard killings, drive-by shootings, or accidental gun-related injuries in the home. Call your congresspeople. Take action to help be the change we need.

I hope that we can all agree that reducing gun violence would be good for America. Certainly, there is no simple, overnight solution. It took the better part of four decades to improve traffic safety. Let’s hope it won’t take that long to improve gun safety.

The American Academy of Pediatrics is spot on. Don’t listen to what the gun lobby says about this. They are dead wrong. And I mean that metaphorically and literally. Remember that the Florida legislature passed a law penalizing health care providers for talking to parents about the risks of guns in their homes. 

Ludicrous.

Pay attention to what is going on in your state’s legislature. What happens in Florida and Texas often shows up in legislatures all over our country. The gun lobby is foaming at the mouth to loosen our gun laws to make it easier for dangerous people to get guns and to have virtually no laws about who can carry guns in public and where they can carry them. This is the virtual slippery slope towards towards lawlessness and anarchy. And that is what the corporate gun lobby seems to want.

Is this what you want? Is this the kind of country you want for your children and your families? Do you want to be sitting in your doctor’s office with armed citizens who aren’t properly trained to carry guns and know little about them? Do you want your kids to play in a home where a mother needs her gun with her at all times, including when she is braiding her daughter’s hair? Do you want a world where bullets are flying on our streets taking the lives of innocent people? Do you want a world where gangs and people who shouldn’t have guns are having wars in our streets because of easy access to guns? Do you want a country where easy access to guns is killing our kids on a daily basis in “accidents”, suicides and homicides?

If not, join a gun violence prevention group and get active. Ask your candidates what they intend to do about this shameful and ludicrous public health and safety problem. Demand that your elected officials have a position on how to prevent the shootings. Don’t let them get away with the deceptive gun lobby arguments. Challenge them to stand with the victims to make sure we are safe from the gun violence that is devastating our communities.

We are better than this.

Gun safety 101

few reasons people shot peopleAmerica is awash with guns. So now what? People kill each other over things that shouldn’t result in someone becoming dead. If you don’t believe me look at what Parents Against Gun Violence puts together every month about the reasons people shoot each other. You can get on their Facebook page and click on the incident to see that they are not making this stuff up.

What should we do? For we are clearly not practicing gun safety in America. Obviously banning guns will never happen. How would it happen? Never mind though. That is what the gun extremists tell the world whenever they don’t want a reasonable gun law passed that would only make it harder for people who shouldn’t have guns to get them anyway.

What do they say about all of those “accidental” shootings that I read about every day? It’s mostly kids but even “responsible” gun owners discharge their guns unintentionally. When it’s kids and teens, those “responsible” gun owners have to be adults. For every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Take this case as a tragic example ( only one of many)- Some Florida teens found a gun in a gun box in a garage. They passed it around and pulled the trigger feeling fairly certain that the gun was unloaded ( how would teens know this?). There was one round in the chamber after all and now a young boy is senselessly dead.

Why does this happen so often? It is happening often by the way. From the article:

BSO, coincidentally, has been planning to have a firearms safety class next Tuesday in Cooper City. The class will focus on safety lessons for children ages 11 to 14. It will discuss topics like properly securing firearms and the dangers of guns.

The Sheriff’s office wants to teach kids about gun safety. What’s wrong with this picture? They want to discuss properly securing firearms with teens? This is the wrong audience for that. Teens are not the gun owners. The adults own the guns. Teens can’t buy guns. Why aren’t the adults required to attend a mandatory class when they buy a gun to teach them that what they just bought is a dangerous product designed to kill another human being? What is wrong with us?

Meanwhile a “responsible” gun owner shot and injured his own daughter. Seriously. In what other country do parents “accidentally” shoot their own kids? Didn’t they have Gun Safety 101? Likely not. Actually very few people get proper training to shoot those deadly weapons they buy for self defense. How then, one wonders, will they know what to do if they actually need that gun to protect themselves or their family?  Because six states have passed laws that don’t even require a gun permit holder to touch a gun before carrying one around in public let alone any kind of training. Other states require permits but no training. Insane. But I digress. From the article:

The dad was trying to show his daughter how to draw a gun when the firearm went off, police said, according to NBC Miami.

You really can’t make this stuff up. Why would you show your daughter how to draw a gun? In what scenario should a young girl be expected to draw a gun on someone? In what safety course did this man learn that having a loaded gun while “playing” with it or showing it to someone else is a good idea?

My friend at New Trajectory blog has written a new post about people getting shot at gun stores. As I said, you can’t make this stuff up.

Meanwhile, while all of this, and much more more, were happening, the Gun Violence Archive is keeping track of numbers. It’s not a good trend. According to the folks at this site, the following is true:

We have had 36 more mass shootings this year than last.
We have had 866 more deaths.
We have had 2,973 more injuries reported.
We have had 1,456 more Officer Involved incidents.

At the bottom of this post is the graph showing the numbers. Can we say we have a national gun violence epidemic? The answer is quite equivocally YES. Check it out for yourself.

So what to do? The answer is not complicated. It’s pretty simple actually if we all use a little common sense and put our heads together to do what’s right for public health and safety. Requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales is the most important thing we can do. Fix the NICS so that all the crucial records of prohibited purchasers are in the system. Fix the system so that there is no “default proceed” for selling guns until a background check is completed. Stopping domestic abusers from getting guns. Requiring people to report lost or stolen guns is another. Strengthening gun trafficking laws is important as is passing stronger straw purchasing laws. The gun lobby loves to say we need to enforce the laws on the books. OK. How about this problem? Some judges are granting felons their gun rights back even when they shouldn’t. Is that a good idea? ASK if there are unsecured guns in the homes where your children/grandchildren play. Lock up your guns if you have them to reduce the chance that someone ( a child, teen, burglar, vulnerable, dangerously mental ill person, person with anger issues) isn’t able to get a gun anyway. Gun suicides take more lives than homicides.

So how about mandatory training and maybe even requiring insurance for owners of deadly weapons? Would that be so inconvenient? Because buying a gun is way too easy. Here’s what’s required now:

To buy one, I would need to fill out a 4473 — a six-page form from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

I’d have to write my name and address. My Social Security Number is optional. And there’s half a page of “yes or no” questions.

“Have you ever been convicted in any court of a felony, or any other crime, for which the judge could have imprisoned you for more than one year, even if you received a shorter sentence including probation?”

“Are you an unlawful user of, or addicted to, marijuana or any depressant, stimulant, narcotic drug, or any other controlled substance?”

Arthur has to write down the type of gun — the make and model and the serial number. Then, he calls the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, in Clarksburg, W.V., and he gives them only the most basic information: name, address, driver’s license number.

“They give me a ‘yay’ or ‘nay,’ and out the door you go,” he says. “It’s quick and easy. And we take credit cards.”

Quick and easy and out the door you go with your gun.  It should be hard to buy a gun.

But the corporate gun lobby has a hissy fit whenever any of these solutions are suggested. God forbid that we actually do something about the devastation of gun violence. Because what will happen to profits if people decide that guns are a danger to themselves or their families? What happens if training is required as it is to drive a car and more time and effort has to be expended to get a gun? What happens if people must have a background check no matter where they buy a gun?

Most likely fewer gun deaths and safer communities.

Until we can speak the truth about our American gun culture, even the pandering bought and paid for politicians will do insane things to get themselves elected. The most recent is Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s claim that Texans ( I’m sure all of them) make their bacon on the barrel of a machine gun. Watch this. Hmmm. The gun lobby gets angry with gun violence prevention advocates for not using the correct terminology. Doesn’t Senator Cruz know the difference between an automatic machine gun and a semi-automatic AR-15? Guess not. He was making his bacon on a semi-automatic. So if he gets that wrong, what else will he get wrong?

But why make a video like this in the first place when you are running for office? Is it cute? Is it showing respect for guns? Is it safe? Is it necessary to get elected to act like a clown to get into the good graces of the gun extremists?

This is the America we have. Is this the America we want or deserve?

This is why America needs a major tutorial about the role of guns and gun violence in our country. What our politicians should be doing is figuring out how to lower the rate of gun violence in America instead of cavalierly buying votes by showing prowess while making bacon ton he barrel of a gun.

Where is common sense?

Gun Violence Archive

Bullets and fireworks

Fireworks set to glow with hearts and stars on a black background
Fireworks set to glow with hearts and stars on a black background

July 4th is the iconic American holiday. I plan to spend it with my family at our cabin enjoying the sun and the water as well as time spent together. We will go to a nearby fireworks display as will millions of Americans. Every year, people are harmed by fireworks of some kind. Last year, several were killed, including this Detroit man. From the article:

It happened following a barbecue on Plainview. A witness says the victim picked up an explosive to set it off when it shot in his direction.

“I tried to notify the media, the legislature, anyone I could that legalizing these powerful professional-grade fireworks is wrong for Michigan,” said retired police sergeant David Malhalab. “There is no price you can put on a life, a hand, a child, an eye, a mother or a father.”

So legislatures also have regulated certain types of fireworks because of their potential to harm citizens. There are known risks, including fires started by fireworks. This report, including numbers for injuries, deaths and fires, shows the dangers of fireworks. In 2014 over 10,000 people were treated for fireworks related injuries and 11 people died. Young children were among the highest age group treated for injuries. Most of these were from misuse or malfunctioning of the fireworks.

So the take away here is that caution should be practiced when using fireworks. Because of dry conditions, the state of Oregon is warning citizens about potential fireworks bans if conditions become worse.

So we know that fireworks can be harmful and hopefully your own family will be safe from any injuries or problems associated with the usual fireworks displays or family celebrations with smaller fireworks.

We also know that guns can be harmful and celebratory gunfire on this holiday has caused “accidental” injuries and deaths. Given that gun owners should understand that bullets that are fired into the air must come down somewhere, it’s really hard to understand why celebratory gunfire still occurs. Warnings are already issued in some places:

The Hernando County Sheriff’s Office will be taking a zero tolerance stance on any and all illegal gun use and gun crime during the holiday.

“There are many ways to safely celebrate with family and friends. Discharging  a firearm is NOT one of them,” said Sheriff Al Nienhuis.  “It’s just too easy for people to get hurt.  Leave the firearms at home, in a safe and secure location.”

Good advice. But it will not be followed by some who feel the need to bring their guns with them wherever they go. From the reports above, the risks of being injured by fireworks are greater than any risk of having to use a gun for self defense in a public place where families gather to enjoy the holiday celebrations.

For example, this Missouri woman was injured when someone at the July 4th celebration she was attending stupidly shot a gun into the air and the bullet that came down lodged in her face:

A stray bullet hit a Missouri woman just under her eye while she was watching fireworks on Independence Day.

The bullet is thought to have come from a rambunctious reveler who shot his gun into the air to honor our freedoms. Spoiler alert: Celebratory gunfire is not one of them.

“I’m sure they were celebrating,” Janet Brewer told the Daily News. “There was no one around us who had guns. It had to come from a distance.”

Brewer, of Fenton, is not against the Second Amendment but thinks irresponsible gun ownership is “way out of hand.”

“We are trying to get out there just how dangerous shooting something in the air can be,” she said. “I’m just lucky to be here. If it were an inch higher, it would have gone through my eye and gone through my head and killed me.”

The second amendment does not guarantee that one can do anything with one’s gun. With rights come responsibilities. Let’s look at more incidents involving stupid and dangerous behavior with guns on July 4th.

An 11 year old Kansas girl died when a bullet fired from over a mile away hit her and killed her during a July 4th celebration. Here is a quote from the girl’s mother:” “A gun is not a toy; it should not be out at any point of celebration, because that’s how my daughter lost her life. A bullet traveled quite a distance and hit her in the neck,” she said.”

A gun is not a toy. It’s a weapon designed to kill and needs to be treated as such. Here’s an article about a 7 year old Virginia child who was killed by July 4th celebratory gun fire and about celebratory gun fire in general. Gun rights advocates and gun violence prevention advocates all agree that people should not shoot guns into the air.

My state of Minnesota has passed some strict regulations about where certain kinds of fireworks can be used and which ones are banned. Some fireworks are not allowed in public places and some are banned for private citizens. So here’s a question? Most fireworks are not allowed in public spaces but loaded guns are. Does this make any sense? I say no. It’s time to think through what public safety actually means. If it’s not safe for fireworks in public, why is it safe to allow people to carry guns in public places? Isn’t it time for this to change?

July 4th should be a holiday for fun and time with families and friends. And it should be a safe time for all. So be careful out there with fireworks and take the advice of the Sheriff from the above article: “Leave the firearms at home in a safe and secure location.”

Happy 4th to all.