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.

Asking about guns

Have you asked if there are unlocked loaded guns in the homes where your children or grandchildren hang-out? Have you stored your own guns so people who should not have guns don’t get their hands on them?

Today is ASK day. Every year on the summer solstice, Brady holds ASK day. Asking if there are unsecured guns around is a life saving measure. Every day, children find guns in their own homes or the homes of someone else. Children are curious. They can find anything. Check out this video from End Family Fire.

8 children a day are shot with guns they should not have had access to. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Why are so many adults with gun so reckless and irresponsible? Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill others. They should be treated that way rather than just another thing that is lying around the house.

Safe storage also prevents suicides. If guns are inaccessible or difficult to find, a suicidal person may not act on the spur of the moment. Since most gun deaths are suicides, this is an important life saving measures.

Health Care providers should be asking simple questions during histories and physicals. Are there guns in your home? Are they locked up away from ammunition? I am not just talking about pediatricians. I am talking about adults who may be suicidal or in the midst of marital strife. Asking a simple question could save a life. But the NRA does not want health care providers asking this life saving question. Why not?:

For their part, Wintemute and his colleagues did not argue that doctors should tell patients to stop owning guns. Rather, as Wintemute told The Post, doctors should educate themselves about gun ownership, in order to offer nonjudgmental advice on safe gun storage. Plus, no matter how many times a doctor asks patients about their firearm safety, as Eugene Volokh noted in The Post in December 2015, the guns will not vanish.

There are so many unanswered questions about guns and gun violence. That is why it was so important that last week the U..S House passed a larger bill that contained $50 million for CDC research into gun violence. Gun rights advocates don’t like research. Why not? Good question. One that is unanswered except for postulation that they are afraid that research will show what we already know- that guns are a risk to those who own them. And that guns are killing too many Americans causing a public health epidemic. But let’s take a look at how the Dickey Amendment has affected government research:

“The NRA told everybody, ‘You either can do research, or you can keep your guns. But if you let the research go forward, you will all lose all of your guns,’ ” Rosenberg tells Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Instead of completely shutting down the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Rosenberg says Congress presented the Dickey Amendment as a compromise. But the center’s budget was eventually cut by $2.5 million, and Rosenberg was fired in 1999.

Jay Dickey, the Republican congressman from Arkansas who spearheaded the legislation, told NPR in 2015 that he regretted his role in pushing through the provision.

“It wasn’t necessary that all research stop,” Dickey said. “It just couldn’t be the collection of data so that they can advocate gun control. That’s all we were talking about. But for some reason, it just stopped altogether.”

Research will lead to a safer America, not banning guns. Good grief.

I have one last question, just for this post- why would a “law abiding” Washington gun owner do something like this man did?

“We got into an argument about putting a gate up in the kitchen to block the baby because he is mobile,” Wilson told investigators.

Wilson said he told his daughter it was unfeasible to do a structural change, court documents say.

“Wendall Wilson executed his adult daughter over a petty argument about the installation of [a] baby gate,” prosecutors said in court documents.

Wilson said his daughter had a tendency to “escalate” their arguments and said this particular argument got out of hand, according to court documents.

Why? Without the gun, she would be alive. Look at the photo in the article of the police officer carrying the 13 month old baby away from the scene. Most shootings occur between people who know each other in moments of anger.

Why?

Where is common sense?

Violence against women and babies

Yes. In America, babies get shot. Toddlers pick up guns and shoot themselves or others or get shot and the NRA tried to stop the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Just another day in America.

Let’s look at all of these one by one.

In Alabama, a 6 month old baby was shot and killed by her own father.

Yes. This actually happened. From the article:

Police in Alabama confirm that over the weekend, a 6-month-old girl was fatally shot by her father, who then turned the gun on himself in an apparent murder-suicide.

There was a domestic dispute, following the filing of a restraining order that ended in a homicide of a baby and a suicide of the father. Too awful for words. Who shoots a 6 month old baby?

Domestic abusers are particularly dangerous with guns. And yet, some Republican members of the House and soon the Senate, voted or will vote against the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The NRA decided to get involved and scored the vote. But the diminished NRA representing an ever smaller and extreme group of gun owners, lost. Who’s afraid of the NRA? Who’s afraid of those bullies? 33 Republicans joined the Democrats ( except for Collin Peterson of Minnesota- not my Rep.) in voting for common sense and were not afraid of the NRA.

Rep. Eric Swalwell is not afraid of the NRA though he was threatened by an NRA member He even tweeted out the voicemail message left by the guy who felt the need to try to intimidate the outspoken California Congressman. Listen to what he says and tell me that this is OK.

What is wrong with these guys with their guns? Intimidation and bullying is not OK and we call BS on these folks. The gun lobby does not apparently care if babies and women are shot to death over domestic disputes. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn by their actions.

And I don’t want to forget that yesterday was the anniversary of the shooting death of Martin Luther King Jr. Please remember how easy it was for his shooter to get his gun even though he was a felon. What has changed?

Oh- and I wanted to highlight the most ridiculous irresponsible incident with guns that is hard to beat. There have been many other such follies but this one is right up there with the best ( or worst). From the article:

A police affidavit says the two men are neighbors and were drinking on a deck Sunday when Ferris told Hicks to shoot him with a .22-caliber rifle while Ferris wore the vest. The affidavit says the shot left a red mark on Ferris’ chest and that he was angry because it hurt. 

Duh. Alcohol and drugs do not go together, nor does being stupid with guns. This happened in Arkansas where gun laws are pretty loose. The state also has a high rate of gun deaths.

I will be away from my blog again for a 2 week trip to Greece. I have already written about the gun laws in Greece when I took a previous trip there. They are much more strict than those in America, thank goodness. Also very few people die from gunshot injuries in Greece. (I had trouble finding current information) There is common sense regarding gun laws in other parts of the world.

And speaking of other parts of the world and guns, a Wisconsin woman will likely be doing jail time after stupidly carrying a gun with her on a cruise to the Cayman Islands where guns are not allowed. Her excuse? I can carry my gun in Wisconsin. I thought I could take it with me wherever I go.

She was wrong of course. Only in America can people carry guns wherever they go. From the article: ” Guns and ammunition are strictly regulated in the Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica, as several other visitors have learned recently. “

She had no common sense and now she is in trouble and according to the above linked article, she is not the only American gun permit holder to get into trouble for traveling with guns.

I have a question. What is so dangerous on a cruise ship that someone needs to carry a gun on board. Are the Caymans dangerous? It turns out that they have little crime but there is the usual pickpocketing of tourists found anywhere that having a gun on one’s person would do little to prevent; unless Americans want to shoot pickpocketers. Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist, comes to mind when I think of pickpockets. “You’ve got to pick a pocket or two.” I have experienced this while traveling but carrying a gun never occurred to me.

And before I go, I wanted to say that we saw no armed people while on our trip to the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and the other places we visited in Utah and Arizona. Because the danger in those places is not something having a gun could prevent. Three people died at the Grand Canyon after we left the Park. Two fell to their deaths into the Canyon. How horrible. I can see how this can happen as there are so many narrow trails and outlooks with no guard rails or barriers. It was a bit icy and muddy leading to some slippery conditions on the Bright Angel Trail when we hiked it. People need to be careful of course.

Something else happened on our trip though that really affected me. While traveling I learned of the death by suicide of one of the fathers of a Sandy Hook victim. He was searching for answers after his daughter was so brutally massacred by one young man with a bunch of bullets and firearms.

In the few weeks before that 2 Parkland students also took their lives- all by firearm ( the easiest and quickest way to die). This is the ripple effect of gun violence. It is also a reminder that suicide by firearm takes the lives of many Americans and in fact, is the majority of gun deaths in America. I was so saddened by these deaths. It happened that we visited the Chapel of the Holy Cross built up near the beautiful rock formations of Sedona, Arizona. It was a small, beautiful chapel in an awe-inspiring location. Inside were the usual red candles to light in memory of someone. Though I am not Catholic, I decided to light 3 candles in memory of the victims of shootings in the aftermath of mass shootings.

Please remember that the PTSD caused by losing a loved one in a heinous and violent shooting is real. It is yet another reason why we must prevent and reduce shootings to save lives.

While I am gone, gun deaths and injuries will continue. The Gun Violence Archive continues to keep track and here is the latest. So far the numbers are alarmingly high as they have been for decades.

From Gun Violence Archive

Be careful out there if you are traveling and make sure that you and your family are safe from gun violence at home. If you have a gun, please lock it up away from the hands of children and teens and from those who want to steal them. I will end by referring my readers to Brady’s End Family Fire, a campaign to highlight the dangers and risks of guns.

Home for the holidays

It’s always hard to write at this time of the year knowing that so many people will not be at home for the holidays- not at anyone’s home. At the end of the year, the news is not really good is it? A Government shut-down and an unpredictable and unhinged President causing the markets to tank right before the Christian holiday of Christmas. The retirement in protest of our Secretary of Defense, causing shock waves the world over. Common sense has flown the coop, so to speak.

And to add to the chaos and bad news, gun death rates are up to a level not seen in a long long time. The CDC is keeping track. The latest numbers show that our nation’s lax gun laws and our gun culture are contributing to the pile of bodies getting higher and higher. Gun suicides take the most lives followed by homicides and then unintentional shootings. Most if not all are preventable and senseless.

Our leaders are adding to the chaos and the problems by not having the spine to stand up to the corporate gun lobby and its’ minions who cry stupid things like: Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

Well yes. Too true. And the point of this nonsensical myth that is pushed?

Guns make it all too easy and too quick. An “ordinary” argument between two people can turn deadly in a second when a gun is involved. Anger and guns don’t go together. Domestic disputes and guns don’t go together. Young men with mass shootings on their minds don’t go together with guns. Alcohol and drugs and guns don’t go together. Dangerous mental illness and guns don’t go together. Children and guns don’t go together.

But together is where we find the collision that leads to senseless gun deaths and injuries. We have a public health epidemic. If almost 40,000 people died from auto accidents, wouldn’t we do something? Oh right, we did. If tens of thousands died from smoking and second- hand smoke wouldn’t we do something? Oh right, we did. If we knew that lettuce caused Salmonella, wouldn’t we do something? Oh right… If baby toys have parts that come off easily and can lead to choking deaths, wouldn’t we do something? Oh right again.

So what is it about gun violence that paralyzes us? Fear of the gun lobby? Yes. Fear of not being elected again? Yes. Fear of the mythical power of the gun extremists? Yes. Fear to challenge the current conversation around gun violence? Yes. Fear of having guns taken away ( by the gun rights extremists)? Yes. Being uninformed about the facts? Yes. Fear of compromise? Yes. Fear of having difficult conversations? Yes. Fear of the second amendment? Yes.

All of these and more. But we aren’t having it any more. Gun safety reform or gun violence prevention is on the front burner. Too many mass shootings and too many daily accounts of deadly disputes and too many families affected by shooting deaths is leading to a different conversation.

Too many gun owners are sick and tired of the fear and paranoia coming from the gun lobby. Too many gun owners are also sick of the devastation of gun violence and don’t like to be lumped in with the extremists who refuse to do anything.

As it turns out, it’s almost unanimous that we want our leaders to pass stronger gun laws. 97% after the Parkland shooting! That many Americans can’t agree on anything else

There are common sense solutions to our public health epidemic. And they will be pursued vigorously. In the name of our family members and friends and the far too many victims, we will continue to demand action to stop the carnage.

Not all solutions involve legislation. Awareness of the risks of guns to gun owners must become the new narrative to save lives. The Brady Campaign’s End Family Fire is a new way to talk about this. ASKing if there is an unsecured loaded gun in the homes where your children and teens play and hang out can save lives from gun deaths. Safely storing guns to keep them away from children, teens and from being stolen can save lives. Most school shooters get their guns from home.

And the big thing is changing the conversation and the narrative around the role of guns and gun violence in our country full of guns and gun violence.

You can’t know what’s like to not have a loved one be home with you for the holidays because their life was snuffed out in a violent and unexpected shooting unless suddenly you do. In case you think this can’t happen to you, think again. In case you think a mass shooting or a domestic shooting can’t happen to someone you know or love, think again. In case you think your teen-aged child or elderly parent won’t find a loaded gun and take their own life, think again. In case you think your brother or father or sister, home after serving our country in the military won’t suffer from PTSD and decide to use a loaded gun to end it all, think again.

One person in my family will be missing for the holidays because she was shot and killed in a domestic shooting. Her grandchildren never got to meet her. They will only know of her through photos and stories. She was vibrant, beautiful, talented, smart, unafraid to speak out and unafraid to fight for herself. And now we are without her.

Parents of young children and teens whose lives have been ended by bullets will never know the potential of that child or teen. Lives lost are lost potential and future contributions to society. Gun violence has a ripple effect and about now, we are all affected by the violence because we can’t avoid what is going on around us.

I wish my readers and followers a happy holiday and safe travels if you are going home for the holidays or if your family is coming home to you. I also wish a safe and peaceful Christmas free of shootings. One year, when we pass stronger gun laws and stop being afraid of the corporate gun lobby, that will be possible.