Lasting effects of gun violence

Today is the “anniversary” of the attempt to assassinate President Reagan. As we know, President Reagan survived the shooting and was back at work leading the country within the following month. But it was never the same for James Brady, President Reagan’s press secretary who suffered grievous injuries on March 30, 1981:

Besides Reagan, White House Press Secretary James BradySecret Service agent Tim McCarthy, and police officer Thomas Delahanty were also wounded. All three survived, but Brady suffered brain damage and was permanently disabled; Brady’s death in 2014 was considered a homicide because it was ultimately caused by this injury

His life became that of a survivor with continuing health and physical challenges. He retained his sense of humor and did the best he could to be cheerful. I met Brady once at a lunch for Brady United Against Gun Violence and spoke with him briefly. It was hard to understand him as his speech production was affected by his injuries. It was such an honor to be able to speak with him and meet him for the first time.

Sarah Brady became a force in the effort to get the Brady law eventually passed after 6 tries in 7 years. Because of her tireless and selfless efforts, we are safer now from gun violence. That is what drove her to keep going back to Congress to demand that something be done to stop people, like the man who shot her husband, from getting guns in the first place.

I served with Sarah on the Brady board and came to appreciate her wry humor, her feisty personality and plain spokenness. She was not afraid to speak up, to criticize when she thought something was wrong, to be appreciative when things were done right, and to engage in the important discussions about gun violence prevention. Sarah died in 2015 from cancer.

Since the shooting on March 30, 1981 that left Jim Brady permanently disabled, over one million Americans have died of gunshot injuries.

After the Brady Bill was enacted into law in 1993, a system of instant background checks on gun purchasers was set up by the FBI. The database includes the following:

  1. Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  2. Is a fugitive from justice;
  3. Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
  4. Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution;
  5. Is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
  6. Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
  7. Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced U.S. citizenship;
  8. Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner, or;
  9. Has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

These prohibited gun purchaser categories are used by federally licensed firearms dealers to check the status of someone who wants to buy a gun. At the point of purchase, the buyer completes a Form 4473 to complete the purchase.

Because of the passage of the Brady law, over 3 million people seeking to purchase a gun from a licensed firearms dealer have been prohibited from doing so because they fall into one of the above categories. There is no question that Brady background checks have and do save lives.

As of the time of Sarah Brady’s death she was working on, along with many others in the gun violence prevention movement, expanding this system of background checks to all private sellers. What is generally referred to as a loophole in the law allows for private sellers to sell guns to anyone without requiring a background check. This loophole is equivalent to allowing some physicians, some teachers, some public accountants, some other professionals to practice their careers without being checked out to make sure they are not a felon, a domestic abuser, an illegal drug user, etc. That is the way it should be.

Especially now with the coronavirus outbreak, we certainly want patients to be treated by licensed professionals. And especially now when the Health and Human Services Department has deemed that gunshops are essential businesses with a surge in gun sales, we should want all gun sales to have a background check. These are stressful, dangerous and perilous times in the history of our country. There is a lot of fear and misinformation floating around as well as anxiety, depression and anger. When President Trump pronounced on Saturday that we was concerned about the potential for suicides, he forgot to mention that he had not shut down gun shops to make the means for suicide less likely. Whether he is right or wrong doesn’t it make common sense to stop one of the most efficient methods of suicide by shutting down gun shops? Suicide by gun accounts for at least half of all suicides; suicide by gun accounts for the majority of our gun deaths.

Something does not make sense with passing a law that made so much common sense and then letting some gun sales go without the checks that save lives. Something does not make sense in letting people who could be dangerous to themselves or others to buy a gun from a private seller without making sure that person can be responsible and safe. Something does not make sense that in this time of uncertainty, some counties across our states are declaring themselves second amendment sanctuaries to law enforcement ostensibly will not have to enact laws already on the books or new laws passed in many states to save lives.

Some things do not make sense. The shooting of Jim Brady did not make sense. My sister’s shooting did not make sense. The mass shootings at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Las Vegas, El Paso, Virginia Beach, Red Lake, Parkland, and all of the others so frequently occurring in our country don’t make any sense. Something does not make sense about stockpiling guns in this time of uncertainty. Something does not make sense about a public health epidemic out of control not receiving the attention it deserved and deserves.

But in this time of another public health pandemic, most things are shut down and on hold, including actions in Congress and state legislatures to deal with gun violence prevention. We will not forget. We will keep working on keeping Americans safe long after the current epidemic slows. A piece written by Jonathan Lowy from the Brady Center explains why this is so crucial:

The risks are great that guns will be stored unsafely and accessible to children and others who should not have access to them. And your semiautomatic can’t fend off the coronavirus, no matter how large your ammunition magazine is.

But there is an even more fundamental problem that may be at play with at least some of the binge-buying of guns. Some have a sense, it appears, that society may break down under the weight of this pandemic, and Americans will end up fighting each other for supplies, or food, or to maintain safety.  

In this post-apocalyptic Hobbesian state, guns will be needed. This is the same worldview that the National Rifle Association has been stoking for decades to fuel the notion that a gun is necessary for self-protection, evidenced by an inflammatory tweet last week. Some will even add, that is what the Framers intended when they wrote the Second Amendment into our Constitution. (…) And when we come out of this coronavirus, we must recommit to repairing the breaches of our society and establishing a caring community in which Americans recognize we are in this together, as a nation and, indeed, a world. Stockpiling firearms is not the answer and is contradictory to the very notions of government and society upon which our nation was founded.

Lowy is so right. We will come out of this on the other side. Many hundreds of thousands will have died or been changed forever by this time in our history. It would be an added tragedy to add gun avoidable and senseless deaths to coronavirus deaths.

The toll will be more than we can imagine right now. The toll of gun deaths has been more than we can fathom for decades. The bell tolls for the hundreds of thousands who will die or be affected.

Please be safe and healthy. These are difficult times. Having a gun in the home right now can make households and families less safe. If you own a gun please store it securely and unloaded. Please don’t let children or teens get their hands on a gun right now or ever. End Family Fire is working on awareness of the risks of guns in homes.

Sarah Brady knew the risks of guns owned by those who shouldn’t have them. I know the risks of guns in homes with domestic and marital strife. Too many parents have found out the hard way about the risks of guns to children who accessed them in curious moments. Too many families have found that a suicide by gun has forever changed their lives. Too many mass shootings have proven why we need to continue this national discussion about gun violence.

The stockpiling mentality

Thanks to Guns Down America for this image

Like all of you, my mind has been on many important daily life decisions. My husband and I have moved to our cabin to practice good social distancing. We have the amenities we need and the supplies to last for a few weeks but we do have some grocery and convenience stores 15 minutes away so we can replenish. We have tried hard not to hoard items needed by others. About 3 weeks ago, while spending some time at our cabin I did a little shopping and noticed some things in the center aisle of the local Walmart store including large bottles of hand sanitizer, packages of Clorox wipes and also some smaller bottles of hand sanitizer. I am the kind of person who does like to be prepared so I bought one of each. Little did I know that within a week or so, these items would be out of stock.

For some reason toilet paper has been the item most coveted by customers. I guess we can’t do without it and maybe we ought to consider the European and Japanese practice of using bidets to clean their bottoms after using the toilet. People have been posting about this on Facebook. It would also solve the problem os using up our precious resources for bodily functions.

Lots of changes and interruptions to our daily lives have caused anxiety and stress for many. That is why I want to talk about another product on the market that Americans are buying in large numbers or stockpiling- that would be guns and ammunition. Already many Americans have been stockpiling guns and ammunition in readiness for some sort of government take-over, or confiscation, or an actual civil war. I have written about this before in another post. A small percentage of Americans own a large number of guns. From the above linked article:

Gun sales are surging in many U.S. states, especially in those hit hardest by the coronavirus — California, New York and Washington. But there’s also been an uptick in less-affected areas, with some first-time gun buyers fearing an unraveling of the social order and some gun owners worried that the government might use its emergency powers to restrict gun purchases.

An incident at a St. Louis Missouri Walmart is just one example of many to come with more guns in public places during our national crisis:

The call for police came about 7:42 p.m. after a customer, a 60-year-old man, reportedly got into an argument with a Walmart employee.

The customer assaulted the employee, and they began fighting until the customer pulled a gun out of his pocket. The Walmart employee grabbed the customer’s hand and a shot fired into the ceiling, police said.

By the way, I have also written often about gun incidents at Walmart stores. What’s the problem with Walmart and guns? Just asking…..

What in the world is the importance of having guns and ammunition in this national health care pandemic? I don’t get it. Guns can’t protect people from the disease certainly. Are people afraid of other people? Are they afraid of being robbed? Are they ready in case a stranger comes asking for help to shoot that person just in case?

What if I’m at the local grocery store and I take the last loaf of bread off the shelf? If the man or woman a few feet away also wants that bread and is armed, will he or she point a gun at me to get the bread? That’s what I’m afraid of.

What if someone loses their job and is feeling depressed and angry with the world and has a loaded gun at the ready? Will that person use that gun on a family member or him or herself? Possibly. That’s what we need to be afraid of.

The truth is that in these trying times families are spending more time together in smaller spaces unable to go out and do the usual activities. Tempers flare. Depression happens. Angry moments could turn deadly with a gun at the ready. Small kids and teens, now home from school, can find unsecured guns and use one for suicide by gun or unintentionally shooting someone else or him or herself. This is real. It is not a made up supposition because in “normal” times these kinds of incidents happen almost every day.

End Family Fire reminds families about the risks of loaded guns unsecured in homes for children. But also for teens. And don’t forget that one of the items someone may want to steal are your guns and ammunition and then your own weapons could be in the hands of someone who should not have access to guns.

As financial worries continue with loss of jobs, the drop in the stock market, and not enough money to purchase the necessities it’s really hard to imagine spending a lot of money on guns and ammunition. Guns are not cheap. According to an article in my local paper, it’s the ammunition but also handguns and AR-15s. Why AR-15s? We aren’t having large gatherings so mass shootings with assault style weapons should be on the decrease. How many people does someone need to shoot in their madness over the national coronavirus disaster? From the article:

“Panic buying is never good,” she said. “It disrupts everything. This may be the third or fourth time this has happened, but you want a store that’s stocked. You want to be able to plan. I know that sounds backward, but we want enough ammo for everybody.”

That’s not the case, however, as locally ammunition has been disappearing fast. The Northland is beginning to mirror the country as a whole as buyers begin to gobble up weapons and ammunition as state and federal guidance advises isolation away from even modest-sized groups amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition the article mentions the problem with a backlog of background checks. That is not a good thing but at least buying from a federally licensed firearms dealers requires a background check so the guns won’t get into the wrong hands:

It’s not just ammo and the guns that are being impacted. The required background checks on firearms sales aren’t processing as swiftly as usual.

“The system can only handle so many people, and it’s really gotten backed up,” Kukull said. “You might have to wait a week or more. It has nothing to do with the customers’ backgrounds; it only has to do with the system being overwhelmed.”

Even though we are all worried and scared, common sense needs to be the deciding factor in keeping ourselves and our families safe. Guns just won’t do it. But washing hands, using hand sanitizer if you have it, keeping social distance and not going out with friends will be the best way to keep families safe.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, 8250 Americans have died from gunshot injuries in 2020. Coronavirus will exceed this quickly- as I write this the number of cases reported is 7323 and the number of deaths is 115.

Please stay safe and practice good health habits. Keep your families safe but if are one of those people stockpiling guns and ammunition, for goodness sake, lock them up away from the ammunition. You could save lives of others or even your own.

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.

7 years after Sandy Hook

Again, we are at that date again. We are remembering the 26 innocent victims of that awful day in 2012.

My Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota chapter held a vigil yesterday to honor those 26 lives and to highlight the effect gun violence has on all of us. Gun violence takes the form of suicides, homicides, mass shootings and “accidental shootings” along with actions taken by law enforcement. We have had so many mass shootings that we are all suffering from PTSD.

The headline of the hard copy of the Duluth News Tribune is this: “We are children, dying before we live.” That was a quote from a Duluth student who experienced a real lockdown last April of all Duluth schools when a man threatened to shoot up a school and was found in one of the local high schools. The student noted that it’s been 8 months and 8 days since her lease on life was extended because she thought she was going to die that day:

Karin Berdahl, now a student at Drake University in Iowa, noted that it had been eight months and eight days since she was in the orchestra room at Duluth East High School “cradling myself and my friend, shaking with terror” after an alert was given about a man with a gun in the school.

She was born two years after the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colo., Berdahl said, and was 11 when the Sandy Hook shooting took place.

“I have never lived in a time where gun violence isn’t prevalent,” she said. “I have never not lived with that fear. Restrictions can be set in place. Laws can be passed. I was lucky that day; many are not. We are children, dying before we live.”

And this, dear readers is the American tragedy of gun violence. The Executive Director of Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs spoke about the trainings he does in Australia for the coordinated community response to domestic abuse known as the Duluth Model. In Australia, there is domestic abuse as there is everywhere in the world. But women are not being killed by their abusers in regular incidents as we hear and read about every day in our own country.

The Chief of Police spoke about Extreme Risk Protection Orders and why they would save lives:

This year, Tusken said, he consulted with St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman when it became known to police that a man with a permit to carry was mentally unstable. Without a red flag law in place, there was nothing police could do to protect the man from himself or o

A parent spoke and teared up about having to think about her sons being victims of a school shooting and she chose not to think about every day as she sne them off to school in the morning.A teacher and President of the Duluth Federation of Teachers ( a co-sponsor of the event) spoke about how teachers’ jobs had changed after all of the school shootings because now they have to think about an active shooter in their building and classroom and go through lock-down drills that traumatize kids and educators alike.

A gun owner spoke about how the NRA is fear mongering scaring people into thinking they must have their guns for self protection. He said that it isn’t gun safety reform that threatens their rights but rather it is gun violence itself. And further, no legal gun owners’ rights will be affected if common sense gun legislation measures are passed. They are lying.

The President of the Duluth chapter of the NAACP spoke about and remembered his brother and sister, both victims of shootings. A leader from the native American community spoke about how gun violence has affected his members. I read a statement from a transgender leader from our community who could not attend but spoke about how much guns and gun violence affect their community- both homicides and suicides. A veteran remembered the many veterans who die daily from gun suicides.

Gun violence affects us all. So many people are suffering from the after effects of shootings that have torn their families apart. The last speaker was a local woman whose brother was shot and killed last December- almost one year ago now. From the article:

For Wendy Waha, that person was Kevin John Weiss, killed in a shooting a year and three days earlier outside a Gary-New Duluth residence.

“Our innocence has been shattered, and life feels a lot less safe and a lot more violent,” Waha said. “We now think about things like guns, and that such a weapon doesn’t allow for second chances, or grace, or restorative ends to conflict.”

Waha spoke calmly and forcefully for nearly five minutes. But when it came time to say her brother’s name before ringing the bell, she faltered. After tearfully reciting his name, she added, “I would ask everyone here to please take action to do something that helps put common (sense) gun laws into place in order to end this insanity.”

Yes. Our innocence has been shattered. It is never the same. For the parents of the children shot 7 years ago today at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, they are now coming to grips with the idea that their children have been dead as long as they were alive. I read an article about the family of Noah Pozner, one of the children killed, as they deal with the ugly and offensive hoaxers who claim that Sandy Hook never happened and they have attacked these families and made their lives miserable. Their grief should have been enough. But this is so over the top, there are hardly words:

A month before what would have been his son Noah’s 13th birthday, Lenny Pozner told a jury about the last time he saw him, when he dropped him off at school on Dec. 14, 2012.

“It was cold, but he jumped out not wearing his jacket, and he had one arm in one sleeve and his backpack on the other arm, and he was kind of juggling both and walking into the school that way,” Mr. Pozner told a Wisconsin jury in October. “And that’s — that’s the last visual that I have of Noah.” (…) “We had a private viewing where we opened the coffin, and I got a chance to say one last goodbye to Noah,” Mr. Pozner said, as some jurors wept. “I remember saying goodbye to him and kissing him on his forehead,” which because the child had been shot in the face, “was the only part of him that was not covered.”

Do our leaders get this? Noah’s forehead was all that was left of his face. Dying by bullets from a gun is gruesome. The Duluth Police Chief spoke about how officers and first responders cannot unsee what they see when at the scene of a shooting. And the health care community also suffers from PTSD and the nightmare of treating gunshot injuries and those who die from their injuries. A retired nurse whose father took his life by firearm when she was a young woman, spoke about how it is for those who treat gunshot victims:

We tend to the living.

Injuries include paralysis, chronic pain, Loss of limbs, Need for long term ventilators and feeding tubes  PTSD, and the latest concern is lead poisoning since often bullet fragments are unable to be removed. The most memorable patient I have cared for literally was left without a face.

Think of this with the Las Vegas shooting: 58 dead, but 620 sustained injuries, many who will suffer for a lifetime. A handgun wound usually requires one surgery, but an AR15 averages 3-10 surgeries.

Gun violence is insidious. It is violent. It shatters families and communities and leaves behind it a wake of grief and PTSD. It affects us all.

Let us remember the 26 who died one year ago today. Please watch this YouTube video. It is emotional and powerful.

Knives, tusks, guns and terror attacks

The world stopped for a while on Friday when a now known terrorist killed 2 innocent British citizens in a knife attack. Bystanders acted quickly by grabbing something called a narwhal tusk and a few fire extinguishers before police arrived with guns to shoot him. (A narwhal tusk is very long and sharp, made of ivory) Much has been made of these brave citizens who acted without thinking about their own safety. Likely they saved more innocent people from being killed or injured. And- without guns.

Raise your hand if you have heard of a narwhal tusk used as a weapon.

(As an aside, I actually saw a narwhal tusk on display while at the Hofburg palace museum in Vienna in October. It was a curious item to be displayed there and we wondered at the time about it. It turns out to be an item of the myth of Unicorns.)

Let us stop for a minute to remember the two victims of the attack- both graduates of Cambridge University:

Saskia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25, were both involved with Learning Together, a network of academics and criminal justice organizations, which was hosting an event at Fishmonger’s Hall where the attack began on Friday.

In the United Kingdom, citizens do not carry guns nor do they own many of them without a lot of regulations and laws. Police did not used to be armed but are now, given the world in which we live. Fairly regular terror attacks have occurred in the UK- none with firearms. Many have died but it doesn’t even come close to the toll of American lives lost in armed terror attacks in our country:

Terrorist attacks are much more likely to involve firearms in the U.S. than in many other high-income industrialized countries, a new study suggests.

Researchers examined data on 2,817 terrorist attacks in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand from 2002 to 2016.

Nearly all of the countries with attacks had at least 10 incidents. Among these countries, the U.S. had the highest proportion of attacks involving guns, at 20 percent, followed by the Netherlands at 14 percent.

“The overall burden of firearm violence is much greater in the United States compared to other high-income countries,” said lead study author Dr. Robert Tessler of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

“Our findings indicate that terrorist attacks involving firearms are deadlier compared to attacks with other weapons, regardless of the country,” Tessler said by email.

We should also remember that in the U.S. those on the known terror watch list can legally buy guns because we have not made it illegal.

You can’t make this stuff up.

There is a truth here that seems to go unnoticed by our elected officials in Congress who are beholden to the influence of the corporate gun lobby instead of to the majority of Americans who want them to protect us from senseless gun violence. I should say that these leaders notice but choose to do nothing. Since the U.S. House passed the bill requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales in February of this year, 27,670 Americans have died from firearms injuries.

Stunning.

#DoSomething

As long as Senator Mitch McConnell (President Trump) is in charge of the Senate, we can expect to see more deaths of innocent Americans. They are happening all around us every day. Suicides, homicides and “accidental” gun deaths are in news reports today as I write. There is no common sense amongst Senate Republicans at the moment. Their hands are bloodied and stained with their willful neglect and refusal to do what’s right.

And as long as there are people who insist on perpetuating the myth that more people with guns in public places ( “good guys with guns”) can save the day to stop terror attacks, the deaths will continue. A friend of our very own President had this to say about the terror attack in London:

“Takeaway from #LondonBridge incident: If law-abiding Londoners could carry firearms legally, it probably wouldn’t have happened. Amazing how bold the terrorists are when they know their victims will be unarmed,” he wrote.

Piers Morgan was among those to criticise Wohl’s response, with the Irish Post Award winner tweeting: “How can anyone be this dumb?”

Dumb is a good word for it. Just how would a “good guy” with a gun have been in the exact place when a terrorist decided to attack? And just what would that armed citizen have done to stop an attack that took place in a flash of a second surprising innocent people going about their business? And what makes those who say these dumb things believe they, themselves, would be able to act so quickly to save the day when chaos reigns and adrenaline is taking over the ability to act calmly and rationally? And just what makes those who believe in this myth believe that when law enforcement arrives on the scene, as they usually do pretty quickly, they themselves will not be mistaken for the attacker?

Alas, none of these common sense questions have answers that make any sense-except to themselves.

Rather than prevent so many guns from getting into the hands of people who should not have them or flood our streets with guns, our leaders are aiding and abetting the flooding of weapons into our streets, homes, businesses and public places. And, for the record, many of these guns used in attacks are could possibly have been prevented with stronger laws to keep the perpetrators from getting guns in the first place:

Mass shootings are not a random, inevitable element of American life today. Rather, this report illuminates trends that can help point lawmakers to strategies to curb these tragedies. These trends include that mass shootings are often:

perpetrated by someone who was legally prohibited from possessing a firearm;

perpetrated by someone who displayed prior warning signs;

intermingled with acts of domestic violence; and

far deadlier when they involve assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

All of our mass shootings to me are domestic terror attacks. Some have involved weapons legally owned such as at the Aurora theater shooting, the Sutherland Springs church shooting,( though he should have been prohibited), the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, and others.

Until we put our collective heads together to solve and treat our national gun violence epidemic, we will have more terror attacks, mass shootings, suicides, homicides and small children finding guns they shouldn’t have to shoot themselves or someone else avoidably and senselessly.

A 14 year old Texas boy found a gun and shot and gravely injured himself. It was a “reckless injury” as reported by law enforcement. The mother said her son had access to guns in the home. The 3 boys were passing it around. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

In the same story linked above, the police officer reported in great detail about an officer involved shooting. A Texas airman, obviously suicidal, aimed his weapon at the officers who responded. He then shot and killed himself with his weapon.

Lock up those guns all of you “law abiding” gun owners and good guys with guns. Be aware of military members, veterans and the risk of suicide.

Just today, in the midst of a lot of snow, 2 Minneapolis children were shot and killed while playing outside in the snow. What the H$%T?

11 were injured in a mass shooting at a celebration in New Orleans. Guns and altercations do not go together. Do people need guns at a rowdy celebration? Not really. It’s obviously dangerous and reckless.

And at the National Zoo in D.C. a family thought that fireworks let off by some people nearby were gunshots, closing down the zoo.

The country has PTSD from so many shootings in public places. We shouldn’t have to live like this. From the article:

On Twitter, some visitors inside the zoo said the false alarm caused panic.

“Within 10 minutes people calmed,” Twitter Ashley (@WeinDC) wrote.
“But people were running and carrying kids and screaming gun. It wasn’t great.”

Another Twitter user by the name of Sammie Fritts said that her and her husband left immediately after hearing others shout about a shooter.

‘We didn’t stay long enough to find out,” she wrote. “My husband saw my anxiety attack about to happen and got me out of there asap.”

It is still unclear how many kids had the fireworks and where they were shot from.

We have a serious unsolved problem.

And while we are reporting on all of these senseless shootings, the gun lobby is hoping the Supreme Court will come down in favor of their notion that the second amendment means that people have a right to carry guns in public. In the aftermath of and the midst of mass shootings and school shootings after shootings, will the Court come down on the side of common sense? In light of the fact that more guns in public places have resulted in more death and injury it would be a travesty if the Court expanded the meaning of the second amendment.

So there we have it. More people are dying from gun injuries. Some people believe stupidly that more guns make us safer wherever we are, including from unexpected terror attacks. Children and teens are harming or killing themselves on a regular basis. Senseless homicides are happening all over the country- even in a Minneapolis snow bank. Military members and veterans are using firearms to kill themselves at a stunning rate of 22 per day. And the gun rights community wants to expand gun rights.

We are better than this. Where is common sense?

A historic day

On this day in 1963, President John Kennedy was assassinated. I will never forget that day and the days that followed. In my home town, anyway, the news flew around fast. School was dismissed and I think there was no school for quite a few days afterward as the nation was in mourning. Still sticking in my mind is sitting with my parents watching the T.V. in our living room when Jack Ruby shot and killed the shooter on live TV before our very eyes. I always remember my sister letting out a scream of disbelief. We had never seen anything like this before on live T.V.- only in movies and T.V. shows.

How times have changed. We now see shootings on live T.V. and the coverage of them almost 24 hours a day. President Kennedy’s shooting shocked us all. These things don’t happen in America. Could Oswald have been a legal purchaser of a gun? He ordered it from a mail order catalog:

 Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963, with a mail-order Mannlicher-Carcano 6.5 millimeter bolt-action rifle, for which he paid $19.95 plus shipping and handling.

Fifty years later, obtaining guns via mail is less common because the U.S. Postal Service imposes major restrictions on firearms shipments.

But despite a myriad of federal and state laws regulating gun transactions, buying a firearm via the Internet is commonplace.

Where Oswald mailed his money order with a coupon torn from an ad in the National Rifle Association‘s American Rifleman magazine, troubled individuals today can search online and similarly get their hands on powerful weapons with no questions asked, gun control advocates claim.

Even back then the NRA was involved in gun deaths though they were still doing more reasonable things like supporting hunters and teaching gun safety classes. I imagine there weren’t as many people then to worry about ordering a bolt action rifle because we just didn’t have mass shootings then. Now we have military style assault rifles available at places like Armslist.com so just about anyone can get their hands on one of these weapons of mass destruction with no background check.

By the way, when I googled Armslist I took a look at the front page. Here is the problem. There is a photo of a gun that looks sort of like a military pistol- maybe a semi-automatic? held by a guy wearing gloves. The wording on the photo goes like this: ” GEAR FOR YOUR DAILY GUNFIGHT”.

Really? This is the difference between 1963 and today.

Right.

The article about Kennedy’s assassination (above) was written in 2013 and 7 years later, nothing has changed. Let’s remember that since Robert Kennedy, President Kennedy’s brother, was assassinated in 1968 more Americans have died from gunshot injuries than all American military members who have died in an American war combined. Stunning.

Now the country mourns shootings of famous people, shootings of relatives and friends, suicide deaths of Veterans, farmers, police officers, “accidental” shootings of children, mass shootings at schools and malls and domestic murders like the one that took the life of my sister.

American Presidents are much more protected now than in 1963. The Secret Service has increased in numbers and the type of protection they provide. Cars outfitted with armour and other protections are taken so a President’s life is not in as much danger. The armoured vehicle used is actually called “The Beast”. Still though, I worry that no matter who our President is, all it takes is one person bent on doing harm with a gun easily obtained to change history.

Back to President Kennedy’s assassination. As with all gun deaths, life changes irreversibly. His family was never the same. They remained in the limelight. Jackie Kennedy could hardly live her life and eventually, of course married Aristotle Onassis, an unlikely match for her. And tragically the young John Kennedy died in an airplane crash in 1999. The Kennedy family suffered a lot of losses and still the younger generations are into politics, causes and sometimes trouble.

Today we remember the lost potential of the life of John F. Kennedy. We will never know what he could have accomplished or if he would have won re-election and make further contributions to our country. Looking back, we now see a man who was in almost constant pain that he didn’t show. We also know of his affairs about which some knew but have now been revealed. He was an imperfect man. He was an imperfect President.

But because he died so young and so tragically, there is a fairy tale aspect to his life and his legacy. Today we remember his life and his Presidency and understand that since 1963, no other President has been killed by gunfire but attempts have been made on several Presidents including famously on the life of President Reagan which led eventually to the passing of the Brady Law. Jim Brady, then President Reagan’s press secretary was badly injured and lived his life changed forever by a bullet. He and his wife Sarah worked tirelessly to pass the Brady bill into law and finally in 1993 it was signed into law by President Bill Clinton.

A gun was used also to threaten the life of President Gerald Ford.

One would think that after this violent history of gun violence in America we would have the common sense to pass much stronger gun laws. But such is not the case.

I have hope that in time the majority will win and laws to prevent gun violence will pass in the U.S. Congress and be signed into law by a President who cares more for saving lives than saving his (her) own political skin.

End Family Fire in Minnesota

It’s hard not to despair every day about the deaths due to firearms. Minnesota has had a rough week but then, who hasn’t when it comes to gun violence? I have been asked how I don’t get too depressed or how do I keep myself healthy emotionally, mentally and even physically faced with the involvement with the gun violence prevention movement?

The last question first- my family, friends, faith community, local community and statewide and national gun violence prevention friends keep each other healthy. We mourn. We ring bells. We act. We support each other and carry on in the names of the victims. For what else can we do? Everyone handles the stresses differently. I immerse myself in photography, exercise, reading books, spending time at our cabin and with our family enjoying watching my grandchildren grow into fun and productive human beings. Their sports activities keep us busy. Their school activities- musical and otherwise are an outlet and provide happiness. Travel is also a great way to forget about the violence and the world’s problems.

Now to the first about Minnesota. This week 2 Minnesota law enforcement officers used guns to kill themselves. Suicide by gun. Not uncommon as it turns out. But 2 in one week- unrelated to each other? From the article:

A study released in September found that police officers are at a higher risk of suicide than any other profession.The rate of 13 out of 100,000 deaths by suicide in the general population rises to 17 out of 100,000 for police officers, with 167 police officers taking their own lives in 2018.

Police officers risk their lives every day on the job. They see the carnage caused by homicides, suicides, domestic abuse, auto accidents and the like. It has to be very stressful to experience this every day on the job. The unexpected happens and officers respond.

Officers also have easy access to guns. When contemplating suicide, if there is an easy way out, a gun is the fastest and most efficient.

So what should we do about this? Police departments are providing officers with ways of handling stress and dealing with their emotional health. It is not enough and more recognition of the serious risks should be discussed more openly. It is difficult for people trained to be tough and authoritative to admit that they have vulnerabilities and difficulties handling their stressful and dangerous jobs.

Brady’s End Family Fire is a program designed for discussion of the risks of guns in the home. No matter who the gun owner happens to me, a better understanding of the actual risks posed when a gun for self protection or used on the job can still cause unintentional or intentional deaths.

So that is the lesson for some Minnesota teens who last week in St. Paul “accidentally” pulled the trigger on a stolen gun and killed a friend. This tragedy was so avoidable in many ways:

The St. Paul Police Department says Jones-Morris was shot Wednesday afternoon at a home on the 100 block of Annapolis Street, near the city’s border with West St. Paul. Police say a 15-year-old boy told investigators he accidentally shot Jones-Morris while playing with a gun that he didn’t know was loaded.

That teen and a 16-year-old boy were charged in the shooting Thursday. The criminal complaint says the 16-year-old admitted to stealing the gun from an SUV last week. Both are being held at the Ramsey County Juvenile Detention Center.

“So many people are just broken down and shocked,” said friend Alex Hogg.

How many times does “so many people are just broken down and shocked” have to be quoted in an article about the gun death of one of our teens whose life’s potential will never be reached? This young man was a football and basketball star at his school and had many friends. His personality was a happy one- making others laugh.

Let’s talk about some of the precursors of this avoidable death. The teens stole a gun from a car. That was illegal. What about the “responsible” gun owner who left a gun in his/her car easy to steal? What is his/her responsibility here? Every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first pass through the hands of an adult. Teens can’t buy guns. Stealing is one easy way to get one.

Second, teens cannot be responsible with guns. Guns are not toys to be “played with”. Everyone who touches a gun should have some kind of training on how to operate a deadly weapon and the risks of having one in their hands. How often do we hear about people who did not realize there was a bullet in the chamber?

Efforts to safety proof guns have been rebuffed by the corporate gun lobby. Smart guns could save lives and in this case, would have. But the technology is not there yet. My opinion is that if we can create the will and technology to send Americans to the moon and into space, we can develop better guns that will keep us safer.

Safe storage of guns whether in cars or homes would save lives and this case would have. Stronger laws for safe storage and mandatory reporting of lost or stolen guns would save lives. But we aren’t passing those laws in many places either.

And it doesn’t have to be a law. It’s just common sense really isn’t it? Responsible gun owners understand that their guns are to be respected and gun safety is key to avoid the gun incidents I have written about here. But even in the hands of responsible gun owners, things go wrong. Combined with anger over just about anything, a domestic abuse, a bad grade in school, despair, depression, drug and alcohol use, or “playing” with a gun and/or cleaning a gun, tragedy and heartbreak can be an unfortunate and deadly outcome.

There was one more incident this week in Oklahoma that I want to talk about. Yet another 3 year old found a gun left carelessly in a bathroom in a public place.:

The restaurant, located near May Avenue and Grand Boulevard, has a sign on the door that reads, “No handguns,” but a customer brought one in anyway and left it behind by mistake.

“I got a call from my daughter, and she was quite alarmed.” Dennis Pealor said.

Pealor told KOCO 5 that his daughter’s family was eating brunch Sunday at La Baguette when his son-in-law escorted their 3-year-old to the bathroom.

“Immediately, she points to this item on the toilet paper holder and says, ‘Daddy. What’s that?'” Pealor said.

According to a police report, a semi-automatic handgun was found in the stall. The report states that a 77-year-old man from Duncan used the restroom and left the restaurant, forgetting the weapon was in there.

No handguns allowed but someone who thought he could ignore the law brought his gun in anyway? Why? What is so dangerous about a restaurant? And then he leaves the gun in the toilet stall? Good grief. This is what happens when more people carry guns around in public. We are not safer.

These incidents have become too common place but also had the owners understood the risks of guns by applying the End Family Fire tenets, carelessness that could have led to an awful outcome would be avoided.

And my last concern is about the irresponsible United States Senate for its’ failure to pass the Violence Against Women Act. This has never happened before. Too many women and children lose their lives to domestic violence- and most to firearms. This is national disgrace:

The bill would eliminate the so-called boyfriend loophole by expanding a current ban on firearm purchases for spouses or formerly married partners convicted of abuse or under a restraining order to include dating partners who were never legally married.

More than 30 House Republicans voted for the measure. But the opposition from most House Republicans, as well as the NRA, made it unlikely it would pass the GOP-controlled Senate.

Of course. The NRA.

For 30 years, Minnesota has been keeping track of the numbers of people who have died from domestic violence:

Known for years as the annual Femicide Report, it started in 1989 as a way to fill in a gap in reporting gender-bias violence against women and girls. There was no other state or national group collecting this kind of data at the time, and to this day no state agency collects comparable data.

“Every month or so a woman, and or her children, and or her partner or mother or neighbor got killed, and it was like a flash in the pan,” said Julie Tilley, who first decided to start collecting the names as a staffer at the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women.

“One of our goals was not only to honor the victims of this horrendous violence but to make this violence visible. It was so clear to us at that time that people weren’t seeing what was happening all around us.”

The Clothesline Project is a visual display of tee shirts designed by family or friends of a victim of domestic or sexual violence. We must make the violence visible. I once found my sister’s name on a tee shirt at a display by the project. It was a very emotional moment for me as I held on to the shirt with her name as the clothesline stretched out with the many other names.

We must say their names and see their faces. It’s the stories of the victims that should change the conversation. That is why I do this advocacy.

Today I remember Minnesotans:

Da’Qwan Jones-Morris, 17

South St. Paul PD Officer Cory Slifko

Rogers PD Officer Blake Neumann

We all remember the many victims of mass shootings that have occurred in November- Thousand Oaks, CA one year ago on Nov. 7 leaving 12 dead, Sutherland Springs,Texas church shooting 2 years ago on Nov. 5 leaving 26 dead and 20 wounded ( for just 2). Minnesota has seen an upsurge in shooting deaths this year. What will we do about it? That remains to be seen but we have to #dosomething. It’s in our hands to make our kids, teens and communities safer.

We are better than this.