Cloudy with a chance of shootings

I started to see the headlines in the media and then on Facebook and Twitter. It was one shooting after another over the week-end. Here is the list ( but there could be more):

You can’t make this up.

The Gun Violence Archive reports that so far this year, 12, 758 Americans have died from gunshot injuries. There have been 152 mass shootings so far this year. There has been a 73% increase in mass shootings this year over last year.

The forecast is deadly. It’s dangerous. Take cover and don’t go near your windows. Find a safe place where you will be protected from the violence.

It’s like a virus spreading around from city to city. No mask can save us from this one. It’s an ominous sign and we should heed the warning. Guns are almost literally falling from the sky.

Insanity reigns ( rains).

Only common sense can fix this.

Let’s do something and do something fast before the virus becomes too virulent to stop. Let’s do something before the winds and hail of bullets harm all of us.

The blame game or who can we blame for mass shootings?

I have been in a nonsensical “discussion” on a Facebook posting of a local TV station about the mass shooting in Indianapolis. In a ridiculous series of comments, which I must conclude come out of ignorance or political adherence to the destructive and dangerous views of the corporate gun lobby and Fox news, President Biden was blamed for the mass shooting. Yes. You read that right. Oh, and also the Democrats.

Here are a few of the comments to which I replied copied from the Facebook page:

  • ” I would like to know…let’s say in the last ten years…how many of these mass shooters were on Doctor prescribed medication?
  • “It’s almost daily now… 🤦🏼‍♂️And all they want to do is take away our guns so we can’t defend ourselves from these crazy people. Think about that…”
  • ” Funny how there’s always mass shootings when Democrats are in office…. weird….”
  • ” Let me guess its the guns fault not the person using it.”
  • “To many f’n nutjobs running around. Primary reason that I have my CCW. I hope it never happens, but I just might be the guy in line behind one of these nutjobs and you can rest assured that I will take him out long before he starts shooting!!!”
  • ” Funny how every single time the dems push for more gun control, there ends up being a bunch of shootings to support their agenda.”
  • ” You can’t carry at fedex while you’re working. Gun free zone gun control failed.yet again. Sad for all the families.”
  • “Why is it sense Biden and the democrats took the office,, were getting alot more shootings,,mmmm”

mmmm. You get the idea.

Why not blame everything but the American gun culture and the millions of guns that can be accessed by private citizens? Why not blame the Republican lapdogs for the corporate gun lobby for their refusal to act to save lives in the face of a national public health epidemic? Why not blame the NRA whose leaders have stood in the way of any kind of gun safety reform legislation that might actually allow most of us to be free from daily gun violence? Why not blame the outrageous lies and myths perpetrated by the corporate gun lobby over the last few decades such as ” the guys with the guns make the rules” or “only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun” or guns will be taken away from law abiding gun owners and not criminals if we pass a national background check bill to require background checks on all gun sales?

I have responded to this stuff for so long it is not necessary to do it again. It’s exhausting to tell the truth in the face of lies. The thing is, most Americans want stronger gun laws. Most Americans don’t carry guns around. Most Americans don’t even own guns. Most Americans understand who is to blame.

According to the article quoted above, this shooting could have potentially been prevented if we had Extreme Risk Protection Orders in place in all 50 states and by requiring background checks on all sales. The shooter had his gun removed by law enforcement a year ago at the request of his mother. So where and how did he get this gun? We don’t know yet. From the article cited above:

There have been reports in various news sources that the shooter used an AR15 style rifle for the shooting. Another person reported that an employee went to his car in the parking lot and got a gun out but the shooter shot that person. If true, so much for having a gun to prevent mass shootings and protect oneself.

Long before the shooting, Hole had been known to law enforcement. Last spring, after his mother reported her fears that he would attempt “suicide by cop,” he was questioned by authorities, and the police temporarily detained him for mental health reasons, FBI Indianapolis Special Agent in Charge Paul Keenan said.

With Hole’s shotgun seized and not returned, it was unclear how he had obtained the rifle used Thursday night.

And then there is this satire, which sometimes is the only way to make a point in a ridiculous discussion blaming everything but the proliferation of guns in America, from The Onion:

“This was a terrible tragedy, but sometimes these things just happen and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop them,” said Nebraska resident Andrew Clark, echoing sentiments expressed by tens of millions of individuals who reside in a nation where over half of the world’s deadliest mass shootings have occurred in the past 50 years and whose citizens are 20 times more likely to die of gun violence than those of other developed nations. “It’s a shame, but what can we do? There really wasn’t anything that was going to keep this individual from snapping and killing a lot of people if that’s what they really wanted.” At press time, residents of the only economically advanced nation in the world where roughly two mass shootings have occurred every month for the past eight years were referring to themselves and their situation as “helpless.”

Let’s just look at the real problem. This Washington Post article writer gets to the facts and the truth about our American national tragedy played out on an all too regular basis:

Earlier this month, Biden announced limited measures to tackle gun violence that included a crackdown on self-assembled “ghost guns.” But more stringent measures face an uphill battle in a divided Congress, where Republican lawmakers have long opposed any new gun limits.

Nearly 20,000 Americans died last year as a result of gun violence, not including suicide – 25% higher than in 2019, and more than in any other year in at least two decades, according to figures compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is those decades that many of the gun violence prevention organizations and individuals have been working hard to stop and prevent the gun violence that we now see elevated to numbers not seen since many of us began this work. In 1992 when my sister was murdered, the number of gun deaths were in the 40,000 plus range. Then the numbers came down during the late 1990s. In 1993 the Brady law was enacted requiring a background check system to be established called the National Instant Check System. Under that system, in place since then, over 3 million people have been prohibited from buying guns at federally licensed gun dealers. But the law left a big gap allowing for the private sales of guns with no background check required. 1 in 5 gun sales go without a background check. What if we allowed 1 in 5 people to drive without a driver’s license or training or 1 in 5 doctors to treat patients without getting their medical degree and the training required? What if allowed 1 in 5 passengers to board planes without going through the TSA checkpoints? Or what if allowed just anyone to teach our kids?

So what next? President Biden understands common sense. He understands that gun violence in America. From the article quoted above:

“Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence,” he said. “It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation. We can, and must, do more to act and to save lives.”

Later on Friday, Biden said U.S. firearms deaths are a “national embarrassment” and called on Congress to ban military-style “assault” firearms.

“This has to end. It’s a national embarrassment,” Biden said at a White House press conference alongside Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

It is more than an embarrassment. it is a tragedy unfolding before our eyes every day. The Gun Violence Archive keeps track of shootings of all kinds. This is what has happened so far in 2021- there have been 148 mass shootings so far and including all forms of gun violence, 12, 515 American souls have died of gunshot injuries. When we study methods of death in our country, if that many people had died so far to this date, we would be demanding that something be done. We have been. But nothing is happening.

Ignoring these deaths, these victims, these numbers, this terrible tragedy is just not sustainable. Blaming everything but the truth does nothing of course. That’s the point. If we do nothing, the bodies will pile up. It could be your loved one or friend next. So many are dying that it’s inevitable that all of us will be directly affected by gun violence. For sure all of us suffer from the PTSD and exhaustion of stories about gun deaths in the news.

On the 14th anniversary of the shooting of 32 at Virginia Tech, we now also have an anniversary of the 8 shot in Indianapolis. On April 20th, we will remember the 12 victims of one of the nation’s first mass school shootings- Columbine. We are all to blame that we have done virtually nothing to protect our kids and our citizens from suffering from shootings.

We are all to blame.

In memory and honor with action:

Matthew R. Alexander, 32; Samaria Blackwell, 19; Amarjeet Johal, 66; Jaswinder Kaur, 64; Jaswinder Singh, 68; Amarjit Sekhon, 48; Karli Smith, 19; and John Weisert, 74.

Gun! Run!

Those are the words I heard an employee of the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, Colorado say as he described the scene of the mass shooting on Monday. Someone yelled these words and of course, everyone knew what they meant. Someone had a gun. Run from it. He did not say anyone offered to stand up to the shooter and try to defend the people inside of the store.

Customers were just going about their daily business buying groceries, picking up a coffee, getting a COVID vaccine- the things we do when we least expect a crazed gunman to open fire randomly with an alleged assault type rifle. Colorado is an “open carry” state allowing gun permit carriers to carry long guns on their persons. It might not be unusual to see someone carrying a long gun around- in America that is. In most other countries, citizens would assume their country was at war if there were people carrying rifles around. But I digress.

Running away in a panic with adrenaline racing through your body is the usual scenario at mass shootings. The first and obvious instinct is to run to get away from the shooter. In many or almost all of the recent mass shooting from Sandy Hook to Aurora, to Las Vegas to Sutherland the shooter chooses the weapon most likely to kill as many people as possible in as short a time as possible- to the most damage to create havoc and attention. It is not an accident that weapons like AR-15s are chosen by shooters. They know the damage that will be done. The bullets do more damage to tissue and organs, causing more death than other guns.

That is not, of course, what the gun lobby or its’ lapdogs in Congress. They exclaimed in loud and convincing voices that the best way to deal with mass shootings and all shootings is for everyone to have more guns and for the country to have fewer and looser laws rather than the opposite. Actually most Americans disagree with this claim and so does the evidence. But let’s check out Senator Ted Cruz’s angry and defensive comments at the Senate hearing yesterday on gun violence ( long planned before the Atlanta and Boulder mass shootings):

OK. Really Senator Cruz? Ridiculous theater? Poor choice of words. It surely was no theater performance when my sister was shot and killed by her estranged husband. How is theater for the Democrats on the committee to point out the obvious- that we have the highest rate of gun violence of all democratic countries not at war. It’s not theater. It’s not anything of which to be proud. It’s insanity and an American tragedy. The gaslighting from the speakers and Senators was as if they had a script for how to turn everything on it’s head and make all of them into the victims.

But the public knows better. Senator Cruz and other Republican lapdogs to the gun lobby did everything they could to distract from the two tragic and horrendous mass shootings that happened within one week of the hearing. How can you bloviate about the loss of 18 American lives in just 2 shootings, let alone the 100 plus a day that die from gunshot injuries due to domestic violence, suicides and unintentional shootings?

Senator Cruz and others opposed to 2 common sense gun laws passed by the House 2 weeks ago to merely keep guns away from those who shouldn’t have them are the drama queens. Near the end of the hearing, Senator Jon Ossoff, newly elected from Georgia where one of the shootings happened, asked one of the pro-gun speakers if she agreed that felons should not have guns. Her answer was yes.

Where is the gun lobby and lapdog plan for keeping guns away from potentially dangerous people? Where is their solution to our gun violence public health epidemic?

The deceptions offered by the pro gun speakers and their Senate lapdogs were amazingly transparent. Here are a few things that were offered or claimed:

All I know is that the majority of Americans, who agree on almost nothing, do agree that something must be done about gun violence in America. People want to be safe from being shot when they are in public places. They don’t want their children to be shot in school. They don’t want to have to say, as is said after all of the mass shootings, “this doesn’t happen in communities like ours.” YES. It does, it can and it will.

  • People should be allowed to carry guns everywhere
  • Passing universal background checks will only punish law abiding gun owners
  • Guns for self defense are used 1/2 million times a year.
  • Passing the 2 expanded Brady background check bills would result in gun confiscation
  • The Democrats have had an agenda to take guns away for years,
  • People of color, disabled Americans and LGBTQ Americans would be safer if they carried guns
  • People would not be allowed to use guns for self defense if the 2 bills were passed into law
  • Someone with a gun could absolutely stop, prevent mass shootings or save lives at mass shootings
  • We can absolutely tell “good guys” with guns from “bad guys” with guns even though the Atlanta shooter was a supposed “good guy” because he was not a prohibited purchase and got his gun legally.
  • Only “good guys” with guns can save us if they happen to be at the site of every mass shooting
  • There were more but you get the picture.

As long as we our lapdog lawmakers stand in the way of what 90% of Americans want the bodies will pile up.As long as ignore gun violence without offering up sensible solutions, the entire country will experience PTSD. With 40,000 plus gun deaths a year, we are to the point where almost all of us know someone who has been shot or has a family member who died from gun violence. It’s stunning. The Washington Post had this to say today about the situation:

Until two lethal rampages this month, mass shootings had largely been absent from headlines during the coronavirus pandemic. But people were still dying — at a record rate.

Washington Post

“In 2020, gun violence killed nearly 20,000 Americans, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive, more than any other year in at least two decades. An additional 24,000 people died by suicide with a gun.

The vast majority of these tragedies happen far from the glare of the national spotlight, unfolding instead in homes or on city streets and — like the covid-19 crisis — disproportionately affecting communities of color.”

The Washington Post article used the Gun Violence Archive as its’ source as I always do.

Senators on the side of support for passing the laws passed by the House cited evidence and pleaded for evidence based decision making. While it’s true that the evidence is strongly in favor of passing stronger gun laws, much of what will happen will be based on emotion and political will.

We have a gun problem in America- that being that we have too many with easy access to anyone who wants one. Solving this problem seems herculean. It doesn’t have to be. Other countries have acted swiftly and strongly after heinous mass shootings ( New Zealand for example):

“On March 15, a gunman opened fire on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayers, killing 50 people and injuring many more. It was the country’s first mass shooting in more than a decade. Three days later, cabinet members agreed to develop a massive overhaul of the nation’s gun laws, including a ban on military-style assault weapons.

That show of unified political will, leading to swift action, stands in contrast to the U.S., where there has been more push-and-pull after innumerable high-profile mass shootings in recent years: at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut and a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012, Emanuel AME Church in Charleston in 2015, Orlando’s Pulse nightclub in 2016, at a Las Vegas country music festival and a Texas church in 2017, at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida and a Pittsburgh synagogue last year (and the list goes on).”

https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/why-the-u-s-and-new-zealands-responses-to-mass-shootings-are-so-different

Now we are focusing our attention on the two shooters and motives for the shootings. Does it really matter? They both got access to a gun and fit the profile of an angry young man who decided to shoot people for maybe no particular reason. Guns make that all too easy to do. If the shooter of the Atlanta massage parlors had a sexual thing for Asian women, couldn’t he have fixed that without a gun? Maybe get some help? If the Boulder shooter had a reason to hate shoppers, couldn’t he have solved his problem another way- without a gun? There really are no excuses for any of these shootings. There never are. If there is mental illness involved, why have access to a gun? How does that happen in the first place? Yes, we need attention paid to mental illness which is a disease and we are not adequately funding services. But that does not mean we cannot work on solutions to our gun violence problem and at least try to stop dangerously angry, mentally ill people and domestic abusers from getting guns.

This is going to be a fight. It shouldn’t be. It is not partisan. Republicans and gun owners support stronger gun laws. Republicans and Democrats are shot and do the shooting. It’s a uniquely American problem and needs a uniquely American solution. We will keep working on the solution and raising our voices. We know they hear us. They are just deaf to the reality that doing something about it will not be bad for them politically. Or do they cynically want the gun violence numbers to remain high so they can use the numbers to support the sale of guns and to keep their base angry and fearful?

Just asking……

In memory of the Atlanta and Boulder shooting victims :

Rikki Olds- grocery store manager

Denny Stong – 20

Neven Stanisic – 23

Tralona Bartkowiak – 49

Erik Talley- 51 Police Officer

Suzanne Fountain – 59

Teri Leiker – 5

1Kevin Mahoney – 61

Lynn Murray – 62

Jody Waters – 65

Soon Chung Park, age 74

Hyun Jung Grant, age 51

Suncha Kim, age 69

Yong Yue, age 63

Delaina Ashley Yaun, age 33

Paul Andre Michels, age 54

Xiaojie Tan, age 49

Daoyou Feng, age 44

The most important day

Today is the most significant inauguration in my lifetime. The countdown has begun. By 11:00 my time President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will take over the reins of a much wounded America. The past 4 years have been a national nightmare. It has been exhausting to watch the daily and hourly tweets from an unfit, unhinged and dangerous President. He left the country in worse shape that he found it but we should have taken a cue from his own inauguration address when he used the word “carnage” to describe the country. Now we can look back on that speech and understand that Trump was actually predicting the mayhem that ended his presidency.

Presidents have to deal with all kinds of unexpected events that shape their time in office. Certainly Trump could not have predicted the death and destruction a pandemic would do to the country and the world. But we elect Presidents so they can deal with crises like the coronavirus pandemic. We expect that they will be surrounded by expertise and intelligence that will keep us safe and that they will do everything they can to prevent or stop the threat. We expect common sense.

Boy were a lot of people wrong. I was not one of them. But I could do nothing to stop this man from doing almost nothing to stop the spread of the pandemic that has taken the lives of 400,000 precious Americans. I could do nothing while the nation watched as anti-Semitic White Supremacist rioters turned Charlottesville, Virginia into a scene of death. They were armed of course. They always are. Because they can be. They intimidate. They bully. And sometimes they act with their guns to cause more death and destruction.

Let’s review one a few of the racist and hate-filled shootings during Trump’s presidency.

A Walmart in El Paso, Texas that left 23 dead and 23 injured- mostly people of color.

Gilroy Garlic festival shooting in California- perpetrated by a young white man with White Supremacy leanings. 3 died with others injured.

Virginia Beach, Virginia where a white disgruntled male shot and killed 12 people and left others injured.

Another White Supremacist shot and killed 11 at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

There are others of course. Every President has faced mass shootings as only happen in America. Other Presidents have expressed sympathies and brought the country together in their remarks or their actions after the shooting. President Obama famously broke into singing Amazing Grace at the memorial for the victims of the Mother Emanuel church shooting in Charleston, S.C.

Here is a full list for your perusal.

Gun deaths have increased in the last 4 years so they are now at one of the highest in many years. According to the Gun Violence Archive.In 2020, 43, 465 Americans died from gun violence.

In the last 4 years we have also seen an increase in heavily armed citizens at our state capitols and on our streets strutting around with openly held loaded guns at the ready. This is #notnormal and we can’t let it be. I will hope to see a decrease in such violent intimidation of American citizens and elected leaders whose lives have been threatened over the last 4 years. When a sitting Governor Gretchen Whitmer is the victim of a plot to kidnap her and kill her, we have a serious problem. This must stop but I fear it won’t. At least we will have a new President who will call out dangerous people like those in Michigan who were thankfully arrested.

That is carnage and much of it happens on our streets and in homes a few at a time.

Yes. There has been carnage. Trump’s presidency ended with the Jan. 6th insurrection attack of the U.S. Capitol. He incited the White Supremacists, the neo Nazis, the militia groups, the dangerous crowd of his supporters who had violent intentions on their minds and in their hearts. He is and was a sore loser and a dangerous man. He left us with the national PTSD after the worst event that has happened in America in many generations.

There is hope. A new day is dawning as I write this. Last night I lit 4 candles- one each for 100,000 victims of the COVID pandemic. President elect Biden and Vice President elect Kamala Harris led a beautiful, powerful and emotional ceremony of remembrance for the victims. The country wept as we experienced a cathartic moment that was necessary. There is national PTSD about the damage done physically, emotionally and economically to our country. President Trump mishandled the pandemic so badly that he is responsible for many of the deaths. He is responsible for the deaths at the U.S. Capitol. He is responsible for the rise of domestic violence and White Supremacy in America.

Never again.

I look forward to a common sense, decent, caring, competent White House team and administration. The country needs healing. I have no illusions about getting the gun laws passed that will save lives and have been ignored for decades. But I do have hope that we will pay attention to our nation’s gun violence epidemic and at least try to do the right thing.

Welcome President Biden and Vice President Harris. A lot rests on your shoulders. May you succeed and may you bring us hope and the unity that is needed to heal us from the monster that has been serving as the President of our country for 4 hate-filled, angry, twitter-filled rants and unsettling years.

An unhappy New Year in Minnesota

Image from Duluth News Tribune

I am really tired of seeing the stock photos of police car flashing lights and crime scene tape on the front page of my local paper. Just in the last few weeks, Minnesotans and the Northland area have been involved in a long list deadly and/or dangerous shooting incidents. Sadly I can make a list of these incidents as if they were a shopping list or a “to-do” list. And the thing is, those affected are real people and real families suffering from the after affects of senseless shooting incidents. Neighborhoods are traumatized by the sound of gunfire.Only in America is this the case. The New Year will not be a happy one for many.

Here is just some of the incidents from the last few weeks in Minnesota and the Northland:

A domestic shooting in the Bemidji area left one person dead and 2 arrested.

A 16 year old boy was shot and killed allegedly in an incident of teens sitting in a truck while drinking alcohol

A person was shot and gravely injured in downtown Duluth

Minneapolis police shot and killed an alleged felony at a gas station after the victim supposedly fired his gun

A gun “accidentally” discharged in a Superior Kwik Trip store

A hand grenade was found in the recycling center in Duluth

In St. Paul a 2 year old died from gunshot injuries inside of a home where adults were present.

A 17 year old is dead from gunshot injuries sustained in a North Minneapolis shooting

And these were the headlines that littered the media sources in Minnesota and the Northland. Have we become numb to the fact that guns are creating a terrible public health epidemic in our country? Media all over the country report these incidents daily. It’s a fact of life in America.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The devastation of gun violence in our communities is endemic. It’s traumatizing. It’s violent. It is painful and leaves too many families grieving over avoidable deaths and injuries.

The Gun Violence Archive reports shooting incidents in real time. As of today, the last day of 2020, 43,322 Americans have lost their lives to bullets. Let that sink in.

This is not normal. It should be alarming to all who care about their fellow Americans. The fact that our state legislators and Congress have not addressed this scourge head-on is not only an embarrassment, it is an American tragedy. This is simply not happening in other civilized countries not at war.

There are so many things that can be done about this national epidemic. There is no vaccine for it as there is now for COVID. But there are common sense solutions that have been tragically avoided. The majority of Americans know there are solutions and support the solutions. But some of our elected officials either ignore it or purposely do nothing. We don’t have good answers as to why they are doing this other than decades of allowing it. Pressure from the paper tiger called the NRA has a lot to do with it. Big money influences people in office. Fear of public sentiment has for decades shaped the conversation even when it’s a very small number of people who hold the views that have kept solutions from happening.

Unfortunately in a year when gun purchases went up and fear over whatever people have feared in the age of COVID, general support for gun laws that could make a difference is down. Overall support still remains strong for specific individual gun laws ;ike universal background checks.

We have work to do. If people better understood how gun violence is affecting communities and the risks of guns in homes and in public, minds can be changed.

2020 was the annus horribilis for many reasons. COVID 19 has ravaged our country leaving 341,000 dead. It is common knowledge that we could have saved some of these lives had we acted sooner and better. By we, I mean the current administration. But we didn’t. We didn’t act soon enough for the victims of gun violence either.

We have elected a new President, Joe Biden, whose support for common sense gun safety reform is well known. He won anyway. The current occupant of the White House, if you can call him that, took on the gun extremist mantra and used it even though we all know he does not genuinely hold those beliefs. He panered to the far right. It’s a sham. It’s the Wizard of Oz fooling us into thinking there is nothing we can do.

We have no illusions that 2021 will lead to immediate solutions for the scourge of COVID 19. It will take most of the year to get us all vaccinated and back to normal. It will also take some backbone to stand up to those who refuse to do anything about the gun violence public health epidemic. Both are huge problems that don’t have easy solutions. But the solutions are there if we make up our common minds that we intend to do something about it.

The national discussion will change. Change will happen, albeit slowly. Lives can be saved. Families and communities don’t have to live with gun violence as an everyday occurrence.

There is hope in spite of incredible grief and trauma. We are all experiencing a form of PTSD since the pandemic hit the world early this year. Nothing is the same. Nothing will ever be the same. But a new President is coming with a team of people who actually are qualified for the positions they will hold. Expertise and science is back. The truth is back. The public will not be fooled by those with evil and malignant intentions.

I hope you will have a very small celebration and stay safe. Don’t shoot guns into the air, by the way. What goes up must come down. I have posted before about my friend Joe Jaskolka, whose life changed forever in 1999 after a New Year’s Eve celebration when a stupid gun owner shot a bullet into the air that landed in the brain of an innocent young boy. His life and his family’s life was changed forever on that New Year’s Eve. I leave you with this message about the danger of bullets and guns.

Be safe. Stay safe. Don’t bring guns to parties. Don’t fire a gun into the air. Don’t leave your guns out for kids and teens to find. Don’t drink and shoot. Don’t use a gun in an angry dispute. Don’t leave your guns unlocked and loaded. Store them safely. Don’t use a gun to take your own life. Save lives. Have some common sense.

Happy New Year.

Children in the crosshairs

Photo from CNN.com

It’s all about the children today- and every day actually. If we don’t protect our children from harm, who are we? On so many levels and in so many ways, we have failed our children. Do you remember where you were when you heard the news 8 years ago that 20 innocent beautiful first graders and 6 educators were massacred by a young man who should never had had access to a gun? I do. I was on my way from Duluth to the Twin Cities for a holiday program for one of my grandsons. All I could think about was him and his little pre-school friends performing music for parents and grandparents having their lives snuffed out violently and in a bloody few minutes of horror. Or, I should say, I couldn’t imagine it. I remember the director of the pre-school making a statement about the shooting before the program began. Sobering.

Eight years later, today, the parents,, grandparents, family and friends of those little children and educators will be re-living the horror of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that rocked the country. The pain never goes away. There is a hole in the lives of all who knew the victims. They live around the hole. Some do better than others. The father of one of the children killed took his own life last year. He just couldn’t keep going after losing his beloved daughter. The ripple effect of gun violence is real. PTSD is real. Heartbreak is real. Grief is real.

What about this don’t we get as a country? What craziness is this that 8 years after the shooting on Dec. 14th, 2012 we have done nothing. Nothing………

Who are we? Why do we let our children remain in the crosshairs of weapons designed for war that are sold legally in a country where there are more guns than people? Why? Teens can get their hands on guns. Teens shoot other teens in school shootings or in urban neighborhoods where guns are a way of life. Teens shoot themselves regularly in a moment of despair, depression or anguish over something that might not have caused a death had a gun not been available to them.

It’s an American tragedy. Gun Violence Archive is keeping track of deaths and injuries from bullets. It’s stunning that we even have to keep track of such things. But as of today, according to Gun Violence Archive, 275 children aged 0-11 have died from gunshot injuries and another 658 have been injured. 996 children aged 12-17 have died from gunshot injuries and another 2910 have been injured.

Let the numbers sink in.

We don’t know the kind of injuries but we do know that some of these children will live forever with physical and emotional scars.

Our Northland Chapter held a virtual vigil on Dec. 11th to remember the victims of Sandy Hook and all victims of gun violence. We have held a vigil every year for 8 years following the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. We do it to remind us all that the shootings continue unabated. From an OpEd piece written by myself and another chapter leader for the Duluth News Tribune:

If we don’t remember the victims, we will never act to prevent more senseless gun violence. We can make a difference if we demand the changes that lead to safer communities.

People should be safe from gun violence when they go about their daily business. Children should be safe from gun violence wherever they are. We can decrease the number of gun homicides and suicides through common-sense precautions and legislation. (…)

The behavior we put up with is the behavior we get more of. By speaking up and taking responsibility to store guns unloaded and locked, we can begin to reduce the threat of dangerous gunfire in our neighborhoods. Duluth Police Chief Mike Tusken has asked for the community to help identify those who are being reckless with their guns and disturbing the peace of our neighborhoods.

With the right to own and carry a gun comes the serious responsibility to use it sparingly and wisely and to keep it away from others who cannot handle that responsibility.

Contrary to what some say, we are not trying to take rights or guns away. We want to make sure that guns are bought legally and with proper vetting to make sure owners are up to the responsibility.

That’s all. Simple. Common sense.

We can save lives if we choose to. The fact that, as a country, we have not chosen to do so is an abysmal and catastrophic failure. We have failed to protect our children. Our bad.

In looking for the numbers of mass shootings since Sandy Hook I found this article from CNN:

Gun violence has been overshadowed this year by the pandemic, the struggling economy and the victory of Joseph Biden in the presidential election. There hasn’t been a high-profile mass shooting, on the scale of Sandy Hook, since the pandemic began. Mass shootings that dominated the news include 50 killed at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando in 2016, 59 killed at the Harvest music festival in Las Vegas in 2017, and 17 killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, in 2018.

Philip J. Cook, a sociologist with the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University and author of “The Gun Debate: What Everybody Needs to Know,” said that six of the 10 deadliest mass murders in U.S. history have happened since Sandy Hook. The most recent high-profile mass shooting was in 2019, at a WalMart in El Paso, Texas, where 22 people were killed. He said the deadliest mass shooting in 2020 was a domestic incident in North Carolina where a man killed six family members and then himself.

“It was a tragic event, but not a public event, and the number of deaths was smaller than the cases that have become famous,” said Cook. “The Sandy Hook massacre was a great shock to the political stasis around gun control.”

President Barack Obama tried, and failed, to implement stricter gun control. In 2013, Congress failed to pass a bill to restrict assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, which have been used in multiple mass shootings.

“The states were inspired to go their separate ways, with red states loosening gun regulations and blue states tightening them,” said Cook, noting that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, spearheaded the SAFE Act in 2013, which bans most assault weapons. 

But the federal government has implemented virtually no gun control laws, aside from the 2019 ban on bump stocks used in the Las Vegas mass shooting to speed up the rate of fire.

While some see mass shootings as reason for more gun control, others see mass shootings as reason to buy more guns. Mark Oliva, public affairs director for the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a gun industry group that happens to be based in Newtown, described mass shootings as a “crime problem and not one of lawful firearm ownership.”

“The first crime committed by the murderer at Sandy Hook was theft of the firearm belonging to his mother,” he said. “The second crime was the brutal murder of his own mother, before he continued with his unspeakable acts.”

Shame on us.

Remember all of the children who have died since this day 8 years ago. The numbers are staggering.

And remember these 26 today:

Charlotte Bacon, 6

Daniel Barden, 7

Rachel Davino, 29

Olivia Engel, 6

Josephine Gay, 7

Ana M Marquez-Greene, 6

Dylan Hockley, 6

Dawn Hochsprung, 47

Madeline F. Hsu, 6

Catherine V. Hubbard, 6

Chase Kowalski, 7

Jesse Lewis, 6

James Mattioli, 6

Grace McDonnell, 7

Anne Marie Murphy, 52

Emilie Parker, 6

Jack Pinto, 6

Noah Pozner, 6

Caroline Previdi, 6

Jessica Rekos, 6

Avielle Richman, 6

Lauren Rousseau, 30

Mary Sherlach, 56

Victoria Soto, 27

Benjamin Wheeler, 6

Allison N Wyatt, 6

Another epidemic amidst the pandemic

Image may contain: sky, tree, outdoor, nature and water

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.

No photo description available.


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.

Anniversaries of gun safety reform

On Thursday this week it will have been one year since the U.S. House of Representatives voted on and passed the universal background check bill.

It is also the anniversary of the enactment of the Brady background check bill on Feb. 28, 1994.

Federally and in many states, criminal background checks on the sale of guns are not required for all gun sales. There is a private sale loophole that is big enough for 22% of sales to go through. That means that anyone can purchase a gun through a private sale at a gun show, on-line or at a flea market (the most frequently used venues):

But as effective as the original Brady Bill has proven, its current structure has resulted in several loopholes in the background check system of today. Today, one in five gun sales are conducted without a background check — through gun shows, private sales, and over the internet in online sales. More than 90 percent of Americans agree that anyone who buys a gun — no matter where or how — should go through a Brady Background Check. But loopholes in our nation’s gun laws mean that too often guns fall into the wrong hands.

Gun rights advocates often argue that we already do background checks on all gun sales. They are wrong. Are they willfully wrong or do they just not know the facts? Or are they lying? Hard to know.

They also argue that criminals will get guns anyway no matter if we pass the law. Let’s look at that deceptive argument:

“Background checks work,” Rep. Mike Thompson of California, the lead Democratic author on the background checks bill, said on the House floor. “Every day, they stop 170 felons and 50 domestic abusers from getting a gun from a licensed dealer. But, in some states, those same people can go into a gun show or go online and buy a gun without a background check. This bill will help stop them from doing so.

“Some will argue that criminals won’t follow the law,” he said. “If that is the case, then why do we have laws against murder? People still commit murder. Why do we have laws against stealing? People still steal. This is flawed logic. Don’t fall for it.”

The truth is that the Brady background check bill was written with an exception for private sales of guns. In 1993 it seemed that the NRA won that point with the idea in mind that private sales would not result in selling to prohibited purchasers or if they did, maybe it didn’t matter? Who knows?

It matters. Now, private sellers often have collections as large as the federally licensed dealer next to them at a gun show. Or they advertise their guns, ammunition and other accessories like silencers on Armslist.com and make a sale without checking ID or doing a background check. For some reason there are gun rights advocates who don’t appear to know about Armslist.com. There are also elected representatives who don’t understand it. I have educated a few of them about on-line sales. When writing new laws, it’s key to know what is in them before either voting for or advocating against.

It is disingenuous to argue that we already do background checks on all gun sales. In case the opponents believe or lie about the reason people like me support bills to require a background check on all gun sales here is the real reason. Background checks can save lives.

Why not require a background check on all gun sales? What is the reason to be against it? Rights…..confiscation…..registration. All wrong. There is no reason that makes any common sense to be against requiring a simple background check that takes just minutes on a gun sale.

Now let’s look at the Charleston loophole bill. This bill, passed on 2/28/19, closes the loophole in current law that allows a default proceed of a gun sale. In plain language, it allows someone whose background is questionable but whose information doesn’t come into the NICS within 3 days to walk away with the gun. Thus did the shooter of 9 people at the Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, get his gun. He was a white supremacist and a prohibited purchaser. And he devastated the lives of 9 families in just a few seconds.

The bill would make the time longer before letting someone walk away with a gun if there are “red flags” in that person’s background:

Critics of the current system say the Charleston shooter would have been barred from obtaining the gun had investigators had more time to dig into his record and discovered his drug arrest.

We have been waiting a year now for Senator McConnell to take these bills out from under the dust of his desk and bring them to the floor of the Senate for a vote. Why won’t he? Ask him.

Does President Trump want the bills to pass? No. Does the NRA want the bills to pass? No. Do the far right extremists want the bills to pass? No. Does the American public want the bills to pass?

YES.

Coincidentally, Protect Minnesota will be holding a lobby day on Thursday to rally the House to pass the criminal background check bill and the Extreme Risk Protection Order bill- both of which will save lives. The Senate, of course, has refused to take up the bills so far. But we are pressing on and intend to keep pushing for common sense to happen sooner rather than later.

So let’s get on with it. According to the Gun Violence Archive, so far this year there have been over 6000 gun deaths and more injuries. That is more than last year at this time. And so, what will we do? Turn our backs on victims and survivors and say we don’t care? Or say we care and then do nothing? Or continue to take money and influence from the corporate gun lobby to stop the bills?

What will it be? Lives or rights? We all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The time is now. The time is 20 or 30 years ago.

This is an American tragedy and a public health epidemic crying out for a solution.

Traveling with your gun

It seems that the American public is no longer safe no matter where they are. A California shooting on a Greyhound bus may be a first for the scene of a mass shooting– One dead and 5 injured. Until firearms carry laws passed in the early 2000s in many states, there weren’t so many shootings in public places. Shootings took place at home mostly in the form of domestic shootings or suicides. They still do but mass shootings have become a regular happening. The Columbine school shooting was one of the first mass (school) shootings that caught the attention of the public in a big way because so many victims were left dead and they were kids.

Speaking of guns and buses, does anyone remember last winter’s incident involving a school bus driver and a “law abiding” carry holder in Minnesota?:

A Minnesota man who shot and wounded a school bus driver on a Minneapolis freeway during a snowstorm has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison.

Thirty-two-year-old Kenneth Lilly, of St. Paul, pleaded guilty in August to first-degree assault for the February attack that left Thomas Benson deaf in one ear and unable to continue working as a bus driver due to nerve damage in his hand.

Another article about the shooting says this about the shooter:

The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office says Lilly was cleared in a previous shooting, in which he shot and killed a 16-year-old armed robbery suspect in 2015. At that time, the county attorney found that no criminal charges were “appropriate.”

It appears that the man, a supposed security guard, has a trigger finger and should not have had that gun on that day. His anger combined with a gun has now left him serving time.

Unfortunately and tragically times are changing. Guns are so easily and readily available to just about anyone. No matter if they can pass a background check- they can get a gun. No matter if they are a domestic abuser- they can get a gun. No matter if they are dangerously mentally ill or a felon, they can get a gun. No matter if they live in a state with strong gun laws, they can get a gun. California is one of those states where gun deaths are actually low compared to some states and were strong gun laws have been passed. But the weak laws in neighboring states allow guns to come into California anyway:

California has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. But the tragedy that played out on Sunday, in which three people were killed and 12 wounded, illustrated a familiar problem for states that have ratcheted up their own gun laws in recent years, only to see them neutralized by neighboring states with more lax rules.

The above article was referring to the mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival last July where 3 were shot dead and 17 wounded. Have gun will travel to other states. Have gun will travel on buses and to malls and Congress on your Corner events like the one that killed 6 and left U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and others permanently injured and disabled.

The gun lobby, of course, will tell you that the world is dangerous so you must carry a gun to protect yourself or have one at the ready at home. The opposite is true of course. Many times “law abiding” gun owners and gun carriers are the shooters. “Unintentional shootings” happen far too often. Mistaken identity has left more than a few dead or injured. It happens primarily in America where gun rights advocates insist that the second amendment protects them and allows them to have guns no matter what.

A Super Bowl ad funded by the Michael Bloomberg campaign got it right. Watch the ad for yourself:

Galandrian Kemp who speaks about George, her murdered son, ends with these words: “You have a right to live. No one has a right to take your life and dreams”

Exactly. That is what this is all about. There is no need to travel with a gun. One can’t even compare defensive gun uses to the number of daily gun deaths. Bodies are piling up as I write. They are killed on buses, in cars, in homes, in malls, on the streets, in schools and offices, in hospitals, in every corner of America. But rarely are guns used in self defense. According to the Gun Violence Archive, as of today 3583 Americans have died by firearm. There have been 132 defensive gun uses. Common sense tells us that guns are more often used to kill someone than in self defense.

Yes, some choose to carry firearms. And sometimes they are used in legitimate self defense. Mostly the firearms in homes and carried are never fired to kill or injure another human being and most gun owners are safe with their guns.

We can stipulate to all of that. But given that the number of gun deaths and injuries are the highest in our country of all industrialized democratized countries in the world, it is worth discussing why the minority of gun owners ( more extreme in their positions) resist attempts to prevent and cure our national public health epidemic. Given that we all have the right to our lives and dreams it seems like a no brainer.

There is a responsibility to safely store and handle lethal weapons. With rights come responsibilities. Lives can be saved if gun owners think twice or three times before using a gun in anger, disputes, depression or against themselves. Lives are changed in just an instant when a gun is the weapon.

There is also a responsibility to reign in your rhetoric when you are an elected leader. For example, it’s a pretty dangerous idea for a state lawmaker to say it’s legal to shoot communists. We don’t have to use much imagination to know who he is talking about. (And who, really are communists? We know the right and Trump are going to use that word to describe the Democratic candidate no matter who he or she is. Let’s take a look:

Rep. Rodney Garcia, a state lawmaker in Montana, told a roomful of Republicans he believes the U.S. Constitution says socialists can be jailed or shot simply for being socialists. Garcia initially made the statement at an election event, then he reiterated it to a Billings Gazette reporter. And then, (…) Garcia was not able to say where he finds that in the Constitution, the Billings Gazette reported.

Anthony Johnstone, a law professor at the University of Montana, told The Washington Post that “nothing in the Constitution of the United States authorizes the government to punish socialists or anyone else on the basis of their political beliefs.” In fact, the First Amendment prohibits punishing political speech, and the Constitution of Montana “expressly prohibits discrimination on the basis of political beliefs,” Johnstone said. All state lawmakers swear an oath to uphold those doctrines.

Never mind….. rights.

He should get an ethics violation at the least. And does he have a carry permit? I question how he will use it if confronted with a candidate running for office who is in the left position of many Democrats. You don’t get so shoot people with whom you disagree politically. You just don’t.

Unless of course your are Donald Trump who believes he can shoot someone on 5th Avenue and not lose his supporters.

You can’t make this stuff up.

After experiencing the anger of Minnesotans 2 weeks ago at a hearing that I mentioned in my last post, I get the feeling that we can’t overcome this anger to get to a solution that will move us forward towards saving lives. We are not the enemy as one man told one of the bus riders who traveled to Hibbing, Minnesota to attend a hearing on gun bills. We disagree about how to get to the solution. If those folks are truly law abiding gun owners, they have nothing to fear. But the NRA and right wing extreme talking points have fueled anger, fear, paranoia, misinformation and hyperbole.

In the end, we ought to be safe traveling on buses and in the mall, and in our homes, and our kids should be safe from shootings in their schools. Arming more people is just not the solution. And allowing easy access to guns for those who clearly should not have them is just plain stupid and dangerous.

Our better angels should prevail. In my city, there will be a Better Angels training to get people on opposite sides of controversial issues to engage and try to get to some place where we can agree. Our country has become so polarized over the last few decades that I wonder if that is even possible. The current occupant of the White House tweets many times a day to foment the polarization. Never before has a President been so demeaning and called so many people names. Never before has a President engaged in hourly lies to misinform the public and cause damage to the national psyche. And never before has a President encouraged violence in tweets or excused it for that matter.

Never before has social media and more mobility been a factor in some of the violence and polarization. People travel with their guns to shoot people, to attend rallies, to attend hearings and they come from out of state and from far away.

Take this article from the Star Tribune about the increasing gang violence in the Twin Cities:

She offered another, simpler explanation: As society becomes more mobile, many young gang members, lacking stable housing, are staying with relatives or girlfriends around the metro area. (…)

Bill Finney, another Ramsey County undersheriff and former St. Paul police chief, suspects that teens feuding online set up meeting spots at transit stations along the light-rail line to settle their differences in person. Last year, he witnessed such an encounter as two boys wielding knives greeted another pair getting off the train. The attack resulted in a stabbing, Finney said.

Before the internet, graffiti was the medium of choice to diss a rival, experts say. The emboldened could, under the cover of darkness, spray paint an anonymous message on an adversary’s property.

But an explosion of social media has accelerated those disputes. Today, teens flock to Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube to disrespect one another through flashy rap videos without ever leaving their homes. The words are not veiled, and neither is the poster. Retribution is swift.

At the end of the above article mention is made about getting the guns off the streets. That is really the main problem here. Easy access to guns allows the violence to increase and results in tragic loss of life. The gun rights extremists often write off gang violence as an excuse to do nothing about the violence. Gang members have families who love them and when they die, their families mourn for them. We can’t just write off a whole group of citizens. Sometimes the violence of gangs harms and kills innocent people like the mother of my friend Bunny Beeks who as sitting in her car when a bullet flying in the street hit her and killed her.

Never before has there been such an outright display of weaponry as we have seen in Virginia and Kentucky in the past few weeks. A meme is going around with a photo of the armed Kentuckians going around the metal detectors at the state Capitol while others, unarmed, had to go through the detectors. And by armed, I mean AR-15s strapped around their shoulders and chests. Check out the photos in the linked articles and tell me if you would feel safer surrounded by these folks. You can’t make this stuff up.

It is not normal nor should it become normal. It will take elected leaders to step up and call out this dangerous and bullying behavior if the rest of us are to feel safe. I have been told by some in the gun rights community that I should not fear being surrounded by people carrying guns. They are, after all, law abiding citizens. My response? If I feel unsafe surrounded by armed citizens then I feel unsafe. They don’t seem to understand that the majority of us do not care to see people carrying guns around in public. And particularly people dressed in masks and military gear.

We are not at war- or not yet anyway. But I fear that with the increased polarization and the increase in armed rallies and citizens ready to engage in civil war, we just may see one.

That would be tragic to say the least.

We are better than this.

UPDATE:

I need to add something to my original post that supports my view that we don’t need armed people everywhere to respond to crises. According to this article. the Greyhound bus driver in the incident where a shooter killed 1 and injured 5 was unarmed. He talked the shooter down without a gun pointed at him:

After the gunman opened fire, the bus driver pulled over to the shoulder and “was able to persuade the shooter” to get off the bus, Sgt. Brian Pennings with the California Highway Patrol said during a news conference Monday morning.

The suspect “voluntarily” got off the bus, leaving a black handgun behind, Pennings said. Officers located him on the shoulder and took him into custody without incident.

The bus driver, who was not injured, “handled the situation professionally and appropriately to minimize any more possible victims,” Pennings said.

Even if the driver had been armed, how was he to respond with a gun while driving the bus and keeping the other passengers safe? This is the myth of the gun lobby suggesting that if only someone had a gun…….