Protecting your potatoes

We have hit a new marker in the President’s dog whistles to potential supporters. Today, in a meeting with farmers, he brought up the second amendment. Why? It’s a dog whistle and used to ramp up fear and paranoia so those farmers will certainly vote for him. I mean if I thought my potatoes were at risk during this pandemic or any other time, I would certainly think about my guns and gun rights. Wouldn’t you?

From this article:

Said Trump: “We’re going after Virginia, with your crazy governor, we’re going after Virginia.”

He then made a reference to gun rights to the farmers present: “They want to take your Second Amendment away. You’ll have nobody guarding your potatoes.”

Yes. He said that. You can’t make this stuff up.

What does it mean that Trump links ” going after Virginia” with second amendment rights? Not too subtle. Is this a threat?

Here’s the thing. Do you need to guard your potatoes? Of course it’s total nonsense to use the tired old meme about taking away your second amendment rights. After the Democrats took the House and Senate in Virginia, the first thing they did was to pass common sense gun laws. The last time I looked, no one’s guns or gun rights were taken away from them. Instead, the citizens of Virginia just got a whole lot safer and less likely to die from shootings.

Isn’t that a good thing?

This election season is already becoming insane but with the second amendment “hanging in the balance” it may just turn deadly as well. The worry is those folks who are openly carrying their guns around ostensibly guarding ….? What are they guarding? That’s what I don’t get. They claim to be guarding some sort of right to be free or die. But what they are really doing is causing the spread of the coronavirus around to their friends, families and strangers. From the article:

Thus do right-wing extremists exploit America’s lax gun laws for political gain. Of course, the open carrying of rifles or handguns is a recipe for intimidation and potentially deadly confusion, even when not politically motivated. If shots ring out on a street full of armed pedestrians, how are the police supposed to identify the culprit? (…) The lesson is that armed political movements of any ideology can endanger democracy, and that a consistent, rational reading of the Constitution would empower states to rein them in.

What about our rights to be safe from these guardians of insanity? Generally speaking the public does not like seeing people strut around with assault rifles and rocket launchers strapped around their chests.

It’s armed insurrection. It’s domestic terrorism.

And generally speaking the public does not want the coronavirus spreading to them or those close to them. When close to 100,000 Americans have died from one cause in the course of 2 months, wouldn’t you think we could be together in our efforts to stop the spread of the disease so more of us don’t succombe to a deadly novel virus? Wouldn’t you think these guys with the guns who think they are making the rules would join with the governors of their states and do whatever they could to make sure we can keep people from ending up on a ventilator? Wouldn’t you think these folks would want to keep our health care providers and front line workers safe from getting sick so they can take care of all of us- serve food, pack groceries, fill prescriptions, sell plants and building materials?

Wouldn’t you think?

UPDATE:

I am not the only one wondering what the President meant by guarding your potatoes. This parody from the Washington Post highlights how ludicrous Trump’s statement was ( see above):

I got a call from an old friend from potato guardian training. He washed out; people were always taking potatoes from under his nose, and he was a laughingstock among us. Now he works in finance. He asked if I had heard the news about the governor and what he was planning to do. I said I hadn’t, so he told me. I can’t believe the governor would come for our Second Amendment rights. No potato will be safe then. It’s monstrous.

Exactly. Nothing is safe without those second amendment rights. Not even potatoes.

Freedom or die

The last week or so has been eye opening and appalling as anti government, pro-gun, pro-Trump extremists were pushing for more ways to kill or harm us. And by that I mean both with guns and with the coronavirus. There’s quite a list of examples but below are just a few:

It would be hard to make this stuff up wouldn’t it? This did not happen in other countries that have also suffered from the same virus. Unlike America, they don’t suffer from armed insurrectionists threatening and shooting their fellow citizens.

On another front, people are dying from bullets in the midst of our pandemic. There have been several shootings in Minnesota, one in particular that has drawn the attention of the media and citizens. A gun permit holder shot and killed a young black man during an altercation over a fender bender because he “thought” the man was going for a gun when he put his hand in his waist. This is called Shoot First, Ask Questions Later. And, of course, the victim cannot tell his side of the story. But he was unarmed. Here is more from the article:

Trifiletti later told police that Lewis appeared to be reaching toward his waistband as he advanced toward Trifiletti, who’d grabbed a handgun from his glove box and fired several shots, striking Lewis four times. The man has a legal permit to carry, a law enforcement source confirmed.

The problem with legalized carrying of guns in public places is that when armed citizens and even law enforcement officers believe that anyone could be armed (because a certain number are) they assume that putting your hand on your waist band means you are have a gun and you are going to shoot.

And the excuse given by permit holders in these incidents is that they were shooting in self defense. In Minnesota the law requires a duty to retreat first unless in your own home, before shooting someone. There is no excuse for shooting innocent people for no reason.

Common sense tells us that if the shooter had been a person of color there would be no excuses allowed. Stand Your Ground laws have penalized black people more than whites in these situations. And more black people are shot in “self defense” incidents:

When white shooters kill Black victims, the resulting homicides are deemed justifiable 11 times more frequently than when the shooter is Black and the victim is white.6

Controlling for other factors—such as who initiated the confrontation and whether or not the victim was armed—Florida Stand Your Ground cases with minority victims are half as likely to lead to conviction, compared to cases with white victims.7

I can’t leave this post until I talk about the heinous case of Ahmaud Arbery who was shot in the back by 2 white men in Georgia. A video shows that Arbery appeared to have been ambushed. Once the video was released the public was so angered and the media coverage so intense that the shooters were finally arrested after more than 2 months of getting away with murder. (Coincidentally the video was made by a friend of the shooter who was following Arbery and the 2 shooters for some reason. But why was he doing a video in the first place? Was this shooting planned ahead of time?)

It seems that some in positions to know better would have let this go if they could have:

Arbery’s family and their attorneys say Arbery was out for a jog when he was killed. They believe he was the victim of racial profilingand have called the killing a lynching.

“Once again, a black man was lynched in Georgia. It was an unfortunate incident because we see this too often,” NAACP President Derrick Johnson said in a press conference Friday. “That is a sad statement in where we are in this nation.”

It wasn’t until the video was released that public pressure and reporting about the shooting led to the arrest of the shooters. In just a few minutes 2 men with a gun snuffed out an innocent life and changed their own lives forever. For what?

Georgia is a Stand Your Ground state. It will be important to watch this case to make sure justice is done for the victim. This was a murder by vigilantes. This is an American tragedy.

Charles Blow writing for the New York Times had this to say:

But there is a clear problem here: Arbery had committed no offense. His only offense, the thing that drew suspicion, was that he was black and male and running through these white men’s neighborhood. (…)

Arbery was enjoying a nice run on a beautiful day when he began to be stalked by armed men.

What must that have felt like?

What must he have felt when he approached the truck and saw that one of the stalkers was brandishing a shotgun?

What must he have thought when he fought for the gun?

Ahmaud Arbery was a 25 year old human being out for a jog. He happened to be black while jogging. He jogged almost every day according to his family who loved him and will miss him every day.

When there are more guns added to the mix and more stress from the stay at home orders and job loss, there will be more gun deaths. A surge in gun purchases means a surge in gun deaths and injuries. From the Annals of Internal Medicine:

Since February 2020, as U.S. public health efforts have focused on containing the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), gun sales in the country have skyrocketed. In March, more than 2.5 million firearms were sold, including 1.5 million handguns (1). In the best of times, increased gun ownership is associated with a heightened risk for firearm-related suicide (2). These are not the best of times. The United States faces an unprecedented combination of a public health and economic disaster. The physical distancing necessary to curb transmission of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 has disrupted social networks. Many people live in isolation, and the mental health of the population will likely suffer. Combined, these forces create a climate with the potential to increase firearm-related suicides.The firearm-related suicide crisis was mounting well before COVID-19. From 2006 to 2018, firearm-related suicide rates increased by more than 25% (3). In 2018 alone, there were 24 432 firearm-related suicides in the United States (3). Simultaneously, the number of firearm background checks increased from 10 036 933 in 2006 to 28 369 750 in 2019—an annual increase of 14% (4).

Gun violence is an epidemic in the midst of our coronavirus pandemic. The guns purchased in panic will be in homes and on our streets for the years to come. The gun lobby would have us believe that an armed society is a polite society. We have been treated to daily photos, videos and stories about armed Americans intimidating, injuring, threatening and killing innocent human beings during the coronavirus pandemic. The public understands that the gun lobby is dead wrong. The public is in favor of stronger gun laws and doing something to save lives.

Over 70,000 Americans- almost 80,000 have died from the coronavirus and the numbers keep climbing. It is frightening that a disease can be so deadly and so communicable. Scientists and health care providers are working hard to find measures to treat the virus and/or lessen the severity of the disease. Until a vaccine is released to give us all immunity from this awful disease, deaths will continue.

Now we need a vaccine from shootings. There are laws that can reduce and prevent gun violence -like a vaccine. Common sense works too. Staying safe from gun violence means locking up guns, not carrying them around in situations that could become volatile, checking on friends and loved ones to make sure they are not suicidal or homicidal, and just thinking about the risks of guns right now and always.

Stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay at home unless you have important and necessary items. Social distance. Wear masks. It’s not just for you, it’s for all of us. We are all in this together and can prevent the spread of the disease by following easy and simple measures. Our freedoms have been temporarily restricted to save lives. It’s not an either or proposition. We don’t have the freedom to kill people and we should not the freedom to willfully spread the coronavirus by protesting against the very things that can prevent all of us from dying. We all have the freedom of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

May Day with guns

Use this free printable May Day Basket to celebrate May Day ...

Happy May Day. As per my last post, the armed protesters are still protesting and causing a fuss about the life saving stay at home orders. Yesterday they outdid themselves by showing up armed in great numbers and almost literally breaking into the Michigan state Capitol building where the state legislature was in session.

It was not a pretty picture. In fact it frightened most of America when they saw the heavily armed men with assault style rifles and more- some said automatic weapons- carried around their shoulders and across their chests. Yes, open carry is allowed in Michigan, but come on. This was no ordinary protest. Some Senators donned bullet proof vests out of fear of these home grown terrorists standing in the balcony above them with their guns. From the above article:

While not all the protesters were armed, there were some armed men in the crowd inside. Michigan is an open-carry state, and people are allowed to openly carry inside the state Capitol, though signs and banners are banned from the building to prevent potential damage to the architecture.

Democratic state Sen. Dayna Polehanki tweeted that some of her colleagues had worn bulletproof vests to cast their votes.

And, of course, Trump weighed in on twitter because he can’t help himself calling them good people just like he did during the Charlottesville protests. No. They are not good people:

In a tweet on Friday morning, President Donald Trump described protesters in Michigan as “very good people” and suggested that the governor should strike a deal with them.

On Thursday, hundreds of protesters — many of them carrying guns — descended on the Michigan Capitol to oppose Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s extension of the state’s stay-at-home order by another two weeks, to May 15.

“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire,” Trump wrote. “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

No. The Governor of Michigan should not give a little to these dangerous terrorists. They can be angry. But they can’t be angry while armed to the teeth making threats to capitol police and yelling in their faces spewing who knows what at them. That is why we wear masks. Upwards of 25% of coronavirus victims are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic.

Elected officials need not back down to armed crazed angry white guys with guns. Intimidation with guns is not new but going after our elected officials over the stay at home orders is a new dangerous thing. As it turns out these folks may become sick or make someone else sick with coronavirus and those who get it will spread to others leading to the death of some and leading to filling up hospitals with sick people that they can’t really handle.

This movement is sick and twisted.

May Day is a day of hope for the coming summer and celebrating spring. It has also been used a show of military force by some communist countries. The day itself has an interesting and controversial history.

Here are some photos of May Day celebrations and photos from around the world showing differences in the emphasis of the day.

Decades ago, my husband and I took a 3 month tour of Europe with another couple and encountered a May Day parade in the former Yugoslavia featuring tanks and a military show of force. I have never forgotten feeling very uncomfortable and a little fearful because, of course, this does not happen in America.

But yesterday, perhaps it did. A show of force of military style weapons meant to intimidate, pure and simply. It is the talk of the world now. Protests have taken place in other parts of the world for the same reason as people here are doing. But they were and are not carrying guns around wearing camo clothing.

There is no common sense in what is going on right now in our country. The President has botched the response to the coronavirus outbreak in so many ways that I can’t list them. He only cares about his re-election which is pretty obvious. Tens of thousands have died and many other sickened. The PTSD will be overwhelming for the country and Americans.

Angry white men with guns only adds to the anxiety and the PTSD. It is not OK. It is not right. It should be illegal but we have allowed laws to pass that make this all legal. And now we see what it means. The NRA and corporate gun lobby made sure that that happened and some are now involved in encouraging the armed protests. Will these people stay silent in the coming months leading up to the election?

I am worried about what is going to happen with these “good guys” with guns if things don’t go their way.

It’s May. We are just flattening the curve of coronavirus deaths. We are not done with this malignant disease in any way, shape or form. We have a long ways to go.It’s time to practice patience even though it is extremely difficult. It’s time to be together about what we need to do as Americans because we are truly all in this together. What you do today could affect me tomorrow. It could affect your cousin or your neighbor or your sister or your mother.

Guns are not needed now. In fact more guns will not and do not make us safer. Gun violence has continued apace during this crisis even though crime has gone down. Suicide hotlines are experiencing a huge increase in calls. Domestic abuse hotlines as well. We know that the majority of suicides and domestic homicides are by gun.

The other day a physician, Dr. Sarah Breen, committed suicide in reaction to what she was seeing every day on the front line. She had also contracted the virus herself. The method of her suicide has not been reported. But in this article it is clearly stated that another health care provider used a gun to kill himself:

Two days earlier, a Bronx EMT witnessing the virus’ ruthless toll fatally shot himself with a gun belonging to his retired NYPD cop dad.

We will see more of this, sadly. Guns and a coronavirus pandemic do not got together and should not. Please don’t buy a gun because of the pandemic. Guns are a risk in your home and now more than ever. Check End Family Fire about the risks and the solutions. Please store guns safely. Please don’t act in a moment of anger or despair. So far we have lost more than 60,000 Americans. We will lose many more. And we will lost more to gun violence.

“Side with Safety”.

Gun deaths are avoidable and preventable. Coronavirus can be avoided if the proper measures are practiced. In the end, a majority of Americans may be affected one way or another by the virus until a vaccine is developed. That is a ways away.

Put away your guns. Stay safe. Stop intimidating and making things dangerous and threatening to others. The folks who are doing this are foolish and look foolish.

We are better than this.

Enjoy May Day and be hopeful that if we all act together we can go together into our new future where maybe nothing will be the same.

In remembrance of Dr. Sarah Breen.

Another epidemic amidst the pandemic

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Good morning. As I write this I sit in my cabin coronavirus hide-away looking at the sun begin to shine across the lake. It’s Easter week-end. We will not be spending Easter with our family as we often have done on this holiday week-end at our cabin. Instead, it’s just the two of us. We will connect with our kids and grandkids via one of the various apps designed to hold face to face virtual conversations. It will have to suffice. Instead of hugs it will be a chance just to see everyone and know they are OK.

Our daughter is a health care provider but not one on the front lines in a hospital. For that we give thanks this week-end. Her job has been affected by the coronavirus in that her healthcare system has had to furlough doctors, physician assistants, nurses, lab techs and others because they are bleeding money. She has taken a one week furlough without pay as have thousands of other professional staff so the hospitals can serve the coronavirus patients. She is lucky that has a job and that it is essential as she answers patient calls and has seen some patients in her office who are not COVID related. So far in Minnesota, we have had fewer than many other states but we know it’s coming here. My county has experienced an increase in cases of late.

Just as the pandemic has caused confusion, distress, disastrous changes to life as we know it and death, so has gun violence. Gun violence prevention advocates have been talking about and writing about our concerns that the surge of gun buying left possible because gun shops have been deemed essential businesses during the pandemic will result in increased probability of suicide, domestic shootings and unintentional shootings. It’s happening. Gun deaths have not been reduced during the pandemic as you might think could happen. There are fewer people out and about on our streets so certain types of gun violence are likely reduced due to young urban men shooting at each other. We won’t know this for sure until we can do more study and research during and after the pandemic surge abates.

Brady is keeping track of shootings though so we have some data. It is not pretty. We know people are dying of coronavirus now- a new disease requiring data so we know exactly how many people have the disease and how many are dying. This is crucial to stemming the disease and getting us back to some sense of normalcy. Unfortunately our testing capabilities are woefully inadequate to the task at hand. In spite of what our President says, we are not testing enough people so we can track the disease and figure out how to get our economy up and running.

Just as we have not done enough research into the causes and effects of gun violence and kept better figures about deaths and injuries. Facts matter. Research matters. Understanding reality matters. In order to cure and reduce deaths, sickness, and injuries we need facts. But when some with an agenda keep the facts away from the public and stop research, we are left with ignorance- on purpose. The CDC, now struggling to provide us with the information we need and the testing that is crucial, was stopped from researching gun violence years ago in an attempt to keep us from learning the facts about gun violence. Thank you corporate gun lobby and the elected officials who allowed this to happen. ( sarcasm intended)

After shootings like Sandy Hook and Parkland, others have filled the void. The Trace is one example as they write about and provide crucial information about our gun violence epidemic. The Gun Violence Archive has provided us with information about daily shootings that has proved to be invaluable in understanding the spread of gun violence around he country.

Just a little from the new Brady tracking of shootings ( above link):

The COVID-19 global pandemic risks exacerbating gun violence in all of its forms, including domestic violenceunintentional shootingsfirearm suicide, and everyday gun violence. So far, the devastating results have left public health and government officials pleading for an end to the violence, as gun violence victims compete for space and vital resources inside our health system’s overcrowded intensive care units.

“Doctors like me are trying to keep the world safe from the coronavirus pandemic. But thousands of families in America are already caught in the country’s existing epidemic: gun violence.”Dr. Elinore Kaufman, a fellow in surgical critical care and trauma surgery at the University of Pennsylvania.

When our nation overcomes the COVID-19 global pandemic, the epidemic of gun violence will not have paused. One woman will still be shot and killed by a former or current partner nearly every 16 hours; eight children and teens will still be unintentionally injured or killed due to an unlocked or unsupervised gun in the home; and Black men will still be 13 times more likely than white men to be shot and killed with a gun.

When you look at the incidents of gun violence, broken down by “category” you can see the number of domestic related shootings, the number of unintentional shootings, the number related directly to coronavirus, and the number of suicides (less information available about suicides because of lack of reporting)

I participated in a Webinar this past week sponsored by Brady to learn more about our response to the surge in gun buying and what that will mean for our families. It is not a pretty picture. I learned that some of the reasons people are buying guns is because of the fear of a breakdown in our society, a fear that law enforcement will be sick with the virus and unable to respond to threats to safety, and fear of prisoners released during the pandemic ( most of whom were convicted of non- violent crimes).

These are scary times for sure. We already knew that we had a gun violence epidemic and that gun deaths and injuries have been on the rise in recent years. Now we know that because of the current pandemic, gun violence may increase more. Guns don’t wear out. Many of the gun buyers during this surge of purchases are first time buyers making even some of the gun shop owners nervous. The guns will be in homes long after the pandemic abates. That means, inevitably, more deaths and injuries. Common sense tells us that this will be true. More guns = more shootings and more death and injury. That has always been true.

The key to stemming this tide of violence, if we can do so, is to strongly encourage safe storage of guns. Guns must be stored unloaded and locked away from those who should not be able to access them. We know that small children are curious and can access guns easily when they are left unsecured. We know that suicides are more successful with guns than other methods. We know that domestic abusers use guns to threaten and injure or kill spouses and partners. We know these things.

And we cannot have this discussion without talking about expanding background checks to all gun sales. If a domestic abuser wants a gun he ( or she) can easily get one through a private sale. Extreme Risk Protection Orders are very important now that so many guns in homes where the risk of someone being a danger to him or herself or someone else is very real. Also making sure gun sales do not proceed after the 3 day wait ( called the Charleston loophole) without a background check is more important than ever but the U.S. Senate has failed to even hear that bill after it passed in the House last year.

Now more than ever stronger gun laws are essential to pass. That should be an essential service to our communities and our families.

Check out End Family Fire for all the reasons we should be concerned about the risks of guns in homes.

Please talk to friends and family about guns in their homes at this stressful and volatile time. Please tell them to store guns safely if they feel they must have them. Guns will not protect us from the coronavirus. They will make us less safe. Please talk to friends and family who may be experiencing domestic strife to make sure guns are kept away from abusers and to be mindful of the risk they pose to our families. Domestic abuse organizations are still working and are a resource for victims of abuse. Please refer those who you think may be at risk for suicide to the suicide hotline. There has been an unfortunate exponential increase to the calls to the hotline.

There is so much more to write about and I will be doing so in the coming days about the surge of gun buying in the midst of a pandemic and the risks of guns in the home. Please stay safe at home and spend some virtual time with your families on this holiday week-end.

Below are some resources for families.

Suicidehotlines.com At this site you can find hotlines specific to your state.

Here is domestic abuse hotline information.

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