Guns in everyday life

at the RotundaUnfortunately “everyday shootings” and other incidents involving guns leave families devastated or lead us to wonder why so many American guns lead to so much gun crime and injuries and deaths.

Where to start? How about this one? A Colorado woman was charged with 35 felonies the other day because of stupidity and dangerousness with guns:

A woman was charged with selling stolen guns out of a parking lot and a man was charged with threatening his girlfriend’s family, and another man was charged with trespassing and acting out, according to reports. They all made their first court appearances on Monday with 35th District Court Judge Jack Barker presiding.

Meredith M. Atwell, 37, of Huttig, was arrested Friday and charged with selling nine stolen firearms, and potentially more, said Capt. Charlie Phillips of the Union County Sheriff’s Office. (…)

Phillips added 13 counts of possession of a firearm by a certain person and 13 counts of theft of a firearm, making a total of 35 felony counts.

Deputies say they have connected Atwell to stolen guns from Camden, Magnolia, El Dorado, and other parts of Union County.

“And all of this was to supply a drug habit,” Phillips said.

Deputies are looking for more guns and seeking out more arrests connected with the case.

You can’t make this stuff up. If we want to know where crime guns come from, here is just one incident about stolen guns and a whole bunch of other crimes all to “supply a drug habit.”  Guns and drugs are a bad mix. We should do something about both. Luckily for all this did not lead to someone losing a life. But given time, it would have.

And did you hear the one about the Minnesota man who shot at a letter carrier’s car and then somehow was found dead in his home of a gunshot wound? :

Authorities say the mail carrier was making deliveries late Monday morning when gunshots shattered the rear window of his vehicle in Polk County. A deputy who responded was confronted by Huderle armed with a rifle. Huderle fired at the deputy, striking the squad car.

Investigators say an officer with the Pine to Prairie Drug Task Force returned fire. Huderle was later found dead outside his home with a high-powered rifle.

Why? I guess it’s “have gun, will shoot”. Be careful out there.

How about a Minnesota border patrol agent who used his own service gun and shot and killed himself in broad daylight in the parking lot of the border crossing area?:

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer apparently shot and killed himself in the parking area of the U.S. port of entry at the Pigeon River on Sunday afternoon. (…) “This is an extremely tough loss,” Eliasen said, describing the deceased as a veteran officer who had lived in the region for some time. “He was well-known and respected in the community and protective service agencies, and our hearts and prayers are with his family, colleagues and community during this difficult time.”

Veteran officer or not, legal gun owner or not, this sad and tragic case is why we have so many gun deaths in America. Over half of all gun deaths are suicide. We are not having an adult conversation about the risks of guns and how having a gun can result in a homicide, accidental shooting or suicide close to home. Suicide by gun is most often fatal- there is no chance to change your mind or have a second chance at life. Now another Minnesota family is devastated and to the outside world, nothing seemed to be wrong. If there were mental health or other problems that led to the fatal decision of the officer, it’s an American tragedy that the man had a gun convenient to him to end his life.

Gun violence restraining ( or protective) orders can save lives.  Sometimes families and friends know when someone is having mental illness problems or other problems that would make that person a danger to him or herself. They could report the person to law enforcement and guns can be temporarily removed.

But we are not passing laws that will allow that to happen. Why? The corporate gun lobby and their lapdogs in Congress and legislators all over America don’t represent the majority of people who understand that common sense laws could save lives.

Too sad and disturbing really.

The American political world is so topsy turvy right now with every day and almost every hour of every day bringing us more scary and disturbing revelations about our own President that these incidents almost feel trivial. They are not to those involved.

Take, for example, the recent London terror attack also involving  gunfire. The only one to die by gunfire was the perpetrator who was shot by an officer. London officers usually do not carry guns but some near the Parliament buildings do actually carry guns now. This deliberate decision was decided out of common sense and the idea that public safety does not depend on guns. From the above article:

And yet more than 90 percent of the capital’s police officers carry out their daily duties without a gun. Most rely on other tools to keep their city safe: canisters of mace, handcuffs, batons and occasionally stun-guns. (…)

Giving everyday police officers guns sends the wrong message to communities, so this thinking goes, and can actually cause more problems than it solves.

Although there are higher numbers of armed police guarding Parliament, the attacker who rushed the gates Wednesday was shot dead by a relatively rare member of the country’s security forces — one who had been trained to use a firearm.

Some of these gun-wielding officers patrol the city in pairs, others are members of crack response teams — units dressed in body-armor, helmets and carrying long rifles — who are called to the scene of violent incidents like these.

In most instances, they don’t use their weapons.

So different from our own armed society and along with it, heavily armed law enforcement officers. More from the article:

It’s a world away from the United States, where cops killed 1,092 people in 2016, according to figures compiled by The Guardian.

Of course it’s easier for police to remain unarmed if civilians do the same. Out of every 100 people in Britain, fewer than four of them owns a firearm, according to GunPolicy.org, a project run by Australia’s University of Sydney. In the U.S. there is more than one gun per person.

Ah. There’s the rub. Fewer gun owning citizens means less need for officers to carry guns and fewer gun deaths. Such common sense is needed in America right now. Instead, we have the opposite. Read below.

Predictably the NRA’s first response to the London attack is…. you guessed it….more guns for Americans. If only those victims would have sensed a car coming towards them to mow them down, they could have shot at the driver. Or if only someone had stopped to shoot at the victim as he went after the officer with a knife instead of running away from the danger as they were told to do. Sadly an officer is dead but another officer trained with a gun shot the alleged terrorist.

We ought to be thinking about how we can stop terror attacks without having guns enter every conversation. The real conversation about guns should be about preventing our own homegrown terror due to the number of mass shootings, domestic shootings, shootings of young men of color,  easy access to guns by children and teens, and gun suicides. But we have the NRA and the corporate gun lobby putting their fear and paranoia front and center to stop the conversation we should be having.

And speaking of the NRA, this great article from the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence points out the connection between health care and guns:

While mental illness is not a significant risk factor for violence against others, mental illness does increase the risk of suicide. About 90 percent of those who die from suicide experienced symptoms of mental illness prior to their death, and these individuals are often undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, untreated, or undertreated. Speaker Ryan’s American Health Care Act (AHCA), which is expected to come up for a vote today, fails those at risk of suicide by stripping mental health care from individuals who depend on it.

In drafting the AHCA, House Republicans had the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to improved mental health care. They had the opportunity to prioritize individuals living with behavioral health problems. They had the opportunity to save lives.

But, predictably, they didn’t take it.

The Republican health care did not pass for lack of votes in their own caucus and lack of leadership. In addition, the bill was a horribly written bill designed to rig the system in favor of the wealthy and take health care away from the poor, middle class and sick people. Such cynicism is unacceptable and proved to be fatal to the passage of the bill, thank goodness. Mental illness health care has improved under the ACA and would have suffered under the now dead Republican health care act.

You may remember that NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre tried to excuse and deny the Sandy Hook shooting of 20 first graders by passing it off to mental illness ( and presumably not much to do with access to guns):

At moments, the NRA and supporters almost sounded like liberal gun-control advocates. “We have a mental health system in this country that has completely and totally collapsed,” Mr LaPierre told NBC television on December 23rd last year, days after the Newtown murders. The NRA backs the FBI-run instant background checks system used by gun dealers when selling firearms, Mr LaPierre noted. It supports putting all those adjudicated mentally incompetent into the system, and deplores the fact that many states are still putting only a small number of records into the system. (…)

Mr LaPierre’s line is both clear and not. He supports improving the quality of the federal database used for background checks, but opposes using that same database more often, calling any talk of universal background checks a ruse paving the way for the creation of the national gun register that the government craves, so it can confiscate America’s guns.

He talks of improving mental-health treatment, but then uses the harshest possible language to describe the mentally ill, telling NBC:

We have no national database of these lunatics… We have a completely cracked mentally ill system that’s got these monsters walking the streets.

So what is really going on? Interviewing the Democratic governor of Connecticut, Dannel Malloy, he accused the NRA of a “bait-and-switch”, in which the gun lobby is trying to appear constructive without allowing any gun rules to change.

Let’s just enforce the laws already on the books (unless we don’t like them) and not try to solve the problem of easy access to guns because…. rights.

We need to fix our background check system, our mental health system, our healthcare system,  our lack of attention to stolen guns and straw purchasing along with gun trafficking and many other policies that can make us safer. But do we?

No.

As an aside, there are fixes to Obamacare that can keep the good things about the law, including paying for mental health care, but change the things that have not worked. But for the far right, it is all or nothing and no adult conversations to try to find middle ground.

The sad reality in America is that there are places where people can meet in the middle because the public actually is in the middle on health care, on guns, on access to women’s health care, the environment and so many other crucial issues. As long as we have fealty to ideological extreme positions on these issues, we will be worse off.

We just have to be better than this.

Back to public health and gun violence, Protect Minnesota and volunteers from the Brady Campaign chapters , the public health community and other organizations had a great lobby day this past week with health care providers and others visiting their legislators The volunteers delivered packets containing the lists of reasons gun carry permits have been denied or revoked by county. Each legislator got a packet containing information about the county they represent. Research and facts matter. This is information the gun lobby does not want known. But it is now.

About 200 people gathered in the Capitol rotunda for a rousing rally and to hear fantastic speakers from the public health community as well as victims of gun violence. If only the public could hear the many amazing speeches about the effects of gun violence and the “cure” for gun violence.

One of the speakers, Athena Adkins, spoke about the tragic and avoidable death of a young law clerk last spring n the office where her husband works .  She spoke about the horror when learning that the bullets were intended for her husband:

According to the criminal complaint, Petersen had hired attorney Dan Adkins from the law firm but was “displeased with the way his case was being handled.” He expressed his concerns to Adkins via phone calls and text messages before and on Thursday.

“On the afternoon of April 7, Petersen fired [Adkins] by text message and demanded his money back,” the complaint said. “Petersen expressed a belief that [Adkins] was ignoring his messages.”

Adkins was in court at the time and couldn’t respond to Petersen, according to the complaint.

When Petersen arrived at the law firm, located above St. Paul’s historic W.A. Frost & Company restaurant in the 300 block of Selby Avenue, he apparently found only Passauer. Adkins and colleague James Gempeler arrived at the firm just after the shooting and found Passauer fatally wounded, sitting in his desk chair. He was pronounced dead at 4:30 p.m. (…) “It’s unbelievable,” he said Friday of what transpired in the law office. “Gun violence is totally out of control. It’s amazing how it impacts the victim, the victim’s family, the whole neighborhood.”

Yes. It is amazing isn’t it? The impact of gun violence is like a whirlpool sucking everyone into it. The bullets were intended for Adkins but the law clerk was there and in the way of the shooter’s anger and desire for retribution for a perceived wrong. A gun made this all so quick and easy.

The shooter was a prohibited purchaser.:

Petersen has a lengthy and violent criminal past that includes convictions for drive-by shooting, second-degree assault, carrying a pistol without a permit, first-degree damage to property, aiding and abetting in the sale of narcotics, fleeing police in a motor vehicle, drunken driving and disorderly conduct, court records show.

Sigh.

These are the people who could be able to carry loaded guns in public if some in the Minnesota legislature have their way. We won’t know the “good guys” with guns from the “bad guys” with guns in a permitless system. It’s easy for the “bad guys” to access guns with no background checks and carry them around to shoot someone with whom they have a beef. Way too easy.

Another speaker, a Youth Program Developer and Mental Health worker at HCMC  (Hennepin County Medical Center) spoke about the proliferation of guns in the neighborhoods of color. He spoke about how easy it is for the youth to get cheap guns on the streets and the need to prevent that. Guns don’t fall from the sky. They all start out as legal purchases  and get onto the streets from traffickers who obtained their guns with no background checks ( or even with them), straw purchasing or stealing them.

Stand Your Ground laws disproportionately affect people of color. None of us would be safer if that bill became law but some members of the House Public Safety Committee prefer to only think about their own self defense in public where the need for a gun is rare indeed. Most shootings happen in homes or in places where no one has a chance to react given the surprise effect of gun violence. In spite of what the gun lobby loves to say, and did say in the public hearing regarding this bill, guns bought for self defense more often get used to harm someone known to or loved by the shooter. From this report( linked)  by the Violence Policy Center:

The center also dives into the thorny thicket of how often the presence of a gun stops a crime — either violent or against property, such as a burglary — from happening. The gun lobby trots out an annual figure of 2.5 million such instances. But an analysis of five years’ worth of stats collected by the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey puts the number much, much lower — about 67,740 times a year. (…) So what conclusions can we draw from this? The notion that a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun is a romanticized vision of the nature of violent crime.

So far the two dangerous and unpopular bills are not included in an Omnibus Public Safety bill but we know that the gun lobby minions are pressing for their inclusion. Most members of the legislature do not want to have to vote on these measures. They understand that they are NRA and corporate gun lobby bills pushed onto the public but not sought by the public. Never mind. The gun lobby wants its’ way. They want more loaded guns in public carried by people who shouldn’t have them and they want people to be able to shoot first and ask questions later. It defies common sense and the facts.

#Factsmatter. People are dying every day in American and on average, one a day in Minnesota. This is simply not OK. More and more people are discovering the truth about the extreme agenda of far right politicians and pushing back.

Unlucky gun stuff and Irish gun laws

shamrockAs you know, today is St. Patrick’s Day. It’s also my daughter’s birthday. Neither my husband nor I have any Irish heritage but because of her birthday, we always feel a kinship. We used to dress our daughter in green clothing which she really didn’t like. There are many photos of her looking a bit unhappy until she got old enough to decide for herself what she was going to wear on her birthday. I don’t think she wears green much any more on this day.

I know that there is the saying that the Irish have luck on their side. There’s the 4 leaf clover and the Blarney Stone, green beer, etc. But a lot of people are unlucky when it comes to guns no matter what day of the year it is. Every day close to 90 Americans die from gunshot injuries- many from suicide. It doesn’t have to be that way and anyone who is a survivor of a family member who has shot him/herself feels pretty unlucky that that person had access to a gun.

Veterans, after a vote in the House yesterday, will be unlucky enough to be able to legally purchase guns even if they have been identified as having mental illness severe enough to deem them prohibited purchasers. This makes absolutely no common sense. 

And what could possibly go wrong?:

“About 170,000 disabled veterans are deemed mentally incompetent by the VA,” NPR’s Quil Lawrence reports. “A guardian makes legal decisions for them, and their names go on an FBI list so they can’t purchase guns. House Republicans sponsored the Veterans’ Second Amendment Protection Act to change that.”

Opponents of the bill say that easing gun ownership for mentally disabled veterans would make them a greater threat to themselves. As recently as 2014, an average of 20 veterans per day died from suicide, according to statistics released last year by the VA Suicide Prevention Program. Between 2001 and 2014, the VA said, the suicide rate among U.S. veterans rose by more than 32 percent. (…)

On the other side of the issue, Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., said, “When a determination is made that a veteran is mentally incompetent or incapacitated — for whatever reason — that determination is made to protect them, not to punish or deprive them.”

Critics of the bill include retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the former vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army. Speaking to Quil about why he opposed the bill, Chiarelli said, “Every single study you can read on this shows you that people in crisis — because suicide is such a spontaneous event — when they separate themselves from personal weapons the incidence of suicide goes down tremendously.”

#factsmatter

America is unlucky enough to have a corporate gun lobby that doesn’t really care about what would be in the interest of public health and safety. If they did, they would not have pushed this ludicrous measure with their lapdogs in Congress. They claim to care about unfairness and rights but the bottom line is that there are some people who should not be able to access guns, period.

Many disagree with what the House just did but when you have absolute power, you think you can force anything on a country that doesn’t want this. Do the families of the Veterans who can buy guns even though they shouldn’t and then kill themselves with said gun feel lucky on this day?

You know the answer.

This article in The Trace highlights efforts to try to prevent suicides on military bases.:

Military suicides used to be rare. Throughout the 20th century, the suicide rate among active-duty service members was lower than the population at large. But after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, the numbers began to climb. In 2006, for the first time, the Army’s suicide rate, routinely the highest among the branches of the armed services, surpassed that of the national population. By 2010, suicide had become a military crisis. That year, there were 163 suicides in the Army, an 87-percent increase from five years before.

It is a population that is especially vulnerable: many service members return from combat with some degree of post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury, both of which can contribute to depression and suicidal thoughts. Easy access to guns, which prove fatal much more often than other means of attempting suicide, may exacerbate the problem.

While it is laudatory that the military has made efforts to deal with the problem of suicides among the military it is also disturbing that there is clear denial among some that suicide is a health problem faced by many in our military. Denying the facts does not lead to real solutions. And clearly the fact that the gun lobby lapdogs in Congress are willing to either deny the facts or knowingly reverse good policy that could prevent some military suicides is disturbing at most.

As I said, we are unlucky to live in a country where some of our leaders are either outright lying or denying the truth.

Ireland has had its’ own problems, of course, like all countries do. But one thing they don’t worry too much about is gun homicide and suicide. Why? Strong gun laws that prevent senseless shootings. Let’s take a look at the laws here:

Ireland has some of the least permissive firearm legislation in Europe. In order to possess a limited range of hunting and sport-shooting firearms,1 gun owners must renew their firearm certificates every three years.2 3 Although small arms-related death, injury and crime remain relatively low, rising rates of gun violence and firearm ownership in the Republic ― in particular the possession and misuse of handguns ― have become sources of national concern.4 In 2009, the private possession of handguns was curtailed. Licensing of all pistols and revolvers using centrefire ammunition was capped through ‘grandfathering,’ with new licences restricted to a limited range of small-calibre .22 rimfire handguns and .177 air pistols.3 5 The possession and use of realistic imitation firearms in a public place is prohibited.6 7 Ireland is an active supporter of the United Nations process to reduce gun injury (UNPoA).8

As a result, gun homicides, suicides and gun crimes are low according to these numbers:

Gun Homicide

Of the 84 homicides reported by police in 2007, 18 (21 per cent) involved firearms ― eight fewer than the 26 gun homicides in 2006.29 Although the rate of firearm homicide in Ireland remains comparatively low (0.61 per 100,000 population in 2006, and 0.41 in 2007),30 31 gun killings have increased markedly since 1991, when the rate was 0.03.32 From 1995 to 1999 the firearm homicide rate averaged 0.28.33 34

Gun Suicide

Of 8,547 suicides recorded in Ireland from 1980-2003, 725 (8.5 per cent) were completed with a firearm.35 In the years 2001-05, the proportion averaged seven per cent.36 If the average number of firearm suicides reported in 2001-07 (33 per annum) remained steady during 2008, the annual rate of gun suicide in Ireland that year would be 0.74 per 100,000 population,36 31 down from 0.94 in 1991.37

Gun suicide is six times more common in rural areas than in cities, and 94 per cent of victims are male.38 Although total suicides (all methods) rose in Ireland from 200 per annum in 1980 to nearly 500 in 2003, gun suicides remained relatively static, averaging 31 self-inflicted shooting deaths each year over 23 years, with an annual high of 50 and a low of 14.39

Gun Crime

In the five years from 2001-2005, the Garda reported 1,690 robberies and aggravated burglaries committed with firearms, for an average of 338 per year. A peak year was 2004, with 428 armed robberies and burglaries.40 In the years 2003-2007, fewer than one in five gun crimes resulted in a conviction.41 In 2009, the Department of Justice reported a 31 percent decrease in crime involving discharge of a firearm, while the number of firearm possession cases increased by 8 percent.42

In addition there are some common sense policies in place to make sure public safety is protected:

It is illegal for any civilian to use, carry or possess a firearm or ammunition without a valid firearm certificate which correctly specifies the owner, the weapon, the ammunition and its maximum permitted quantity. (…) Applicants must prove ‘good reason’ for ownership of the firearm applied for, and the Garda must be satisfied that the applicant can be permitted to possess, use and carry the firearms ‘without danger to the public safety or security or the peace.’ If the ‘good reason’ for firearm possession is target shooting, the owner must belong to a police-approved rifle or pistol club. Where application is for a restricted firearm, the applicant must have ‘good and sufficient reason for requiring such a firearm’ and must additionally demonstrate that ‘the firearm is the only type of weapon appropriate for the purpose (….) An applicant must provide proof of identification and age, proof of competence with the firearm concerned, and proof of secure storage for weapons and ammunition while not in use. Potential gun owners must, when making an application for a firearm certificate, give written permission for the police to consult a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist to confirm the applicant’s good physical and mental health, and must nominate two additional referees to attest to the applicant’s character. Minimum qualifications for character referees are set out in the Garda Commissioner’s Guidelines as to the Practical Application and Operation of the Firearms Acts, 1925-2009.53 54 55

Though attesting to character can lead to conflicts and potential mistakes, at the least, the Irish government cares about people who have mental health issues getting access to guns. In America, we do not- at least some do not anyway.

The solution to the problem of people who cannot manage their affairs, Veterans with clear mental health difficulties and others who are known to family members or friends to be of a state of mind that having a gun would pose a potential risk to themselves or others is to find ways for these people not to have guns.

A gun violence restraining order or protection order is one solution that is not going anywhere in most states that have introduced a bill for public safety.

Never mind public health and safety. That is not on the top of the list these days in a Republican led government that is slashing programs, lying about serious matters and denying the true state of American people in need.

Back to the beginning of this post- there are a lot of unlucky people in America whose lives have drastically changed because a gun was available to someone who should not have had one or because of a totally avoidable accidental discharge. The incident below is just one of many occurring far too often in America:

The parents of a 12-year-old boy who was shot to death while home alone with his younger brother were charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter.

Damian Holmes, 12, and his brother, 9, were left home alone Tuesday night in the 3300 block of Michigan Avenue when they found a gun and started playing with it, police said.

A round struck Damian in the head about 10:35 p.m; police are not saying who fired the shot.

The boys’ father came home and took the 12-year-old to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Until we make it clear that loaded guns in homes pose a risk to those living in the home, this will continue to happen in unlucky America. Until we hold adults responsible for being irresponsible with guns, this will continue to happen in America. Until we insist that gun owners lock their guns up, unloaded, to insure that guns are not stolen, or accessed by young kids and teens, this will continue to happen.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Calling all responsible gun owners……

Even officers of the law need to follow these common sense ideas about guns. In Minnesota, an officer’s gun was stolen and used in a shooting. Now someone is dead as a result. This is all senseless.

It’s more than luck. It’s responsibility and changing and the conversation, the culture and the laws. Until we do that, we will be less safe- especially when Congress is in session. As Mark Twain once said:

  • “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”[3]Cscr-featured.svg   
Simple: No one’s life, liberty or property are safe while Congress is making laws.

May the luck of the Irish be with you today. Stay safe out there. And as we consider what Congress is all about concerning rolling back common sense gun laws, I would like to believe this:

Irish proverb

 

 

 

 

The yin and yang of gun policy

yinJust like the current political situation has left many of us, and I would suggest, the entire country reeling in confusion and chaos, so, too, gun policy has done the same. The gun  lobby is set to overturn just about anything that makes common sense when it comes to gun policy. A bill which passed through both houses of Congress and set to be signed by our current President, undid something our last President did to try to stem the tide of gun violence. President Obama’s executive order was meant to keep people with very serious mental health disabilities from being able to legally purchase guns by placing their names on the list of prohibited purchasers in the National Instant Check System. It was not meant as an evil attempt to confiscate guns or take away anyone’s rights to own guns who should be responsible with guns.

But, as these things go, it got caught up in the politics of gun policy. I found this article by Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence to be a very good summary of the provision and where we are now. Let me quote from what he wrote for Huffington Post:

I have felt this discomfort listening to the recent public debate about the Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that prohibited those with a mental health disability and an appointed representative payee from purchasing or possessing firearms. The policy, which Congress recently voted to repeal, was the Obama administration’s effort to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. President Obama deserves a lot of credit for doing everything in his power to reduce America’s gun violence epidemic. Unfortunately, by focusing the prohibition directly on a mental health disability, the rule furthered the mistaken belief that mental illness is a major cause of violence. (…)  I have felt this discomfort listening to the recent public debate about the Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that prohibited those with a mental health disability and an appointed representative payee from purchasing or possessing firearms. The policy, which Congress recently voted to repeal, was the Obama administration’s effort to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. President Obama deserves a lot of credit for doing everything in his power to reduce America’s gun violence epidemic. Unfortunately, by focusing the prohibition directly on a mental health disability, the rule furthered the mistaken belief that mental illness is a major cause of violence.

Certainly the efforts of the gun lobby to overturn a provision meant to be life saving are fraught with the past history and statements of those in the lobby who have claimed that we ought to just center our efforts to prevent gun violence on mental illness:

Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, envisioned people with “an eating disorder” being barred from buying a gun. To the contrary, the rule was focused narrowly on disabled individuals who require a trustee for personal management. They would have had the right to appeal. Senator Grassley himself noted last year the flaws in the background check database when he proposed greater cooperation among federal agencies with relevant information.

“The Republicans are so hypocritical on this issue,” said Senator Christopher Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut. He has fought for both stronger gun controls and better mental health care in the aftermath of the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Conn. A mentally troubled individual used a legally purchased assault weapon and shot to death 20 children and six school workers. The disability rule was a response to that tragedy after Congress refused to tighten gun safety laws.

Ah- the hypocrisy.

Sigh.

And so, this provision, though not perfect, was centered on the concerns that some people are, indeed, potentially dangerous to themselves or others. There are ways to deal with this conundrum and public health and safety concern without throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water. Horwitz suggests Gun Violence Restraining Orders or, in Minnesota, a proposed Gun Violence Protection Order bill, to deal with concerns that family members have about a loved one who could become dangerous if they have access to a firearm.

The article ends like this:

Prohibitions on gun ownership are critically important. The United States’ gun laws include far too many loopholes that allow dangerous people to do harm. But the laws we support should be based on research and focused on dangerous behavior – not genetics, not diagnoses. If we want our movement to succeed, a data-driven strategy is the only way forward.

Yes. We have work to do. It does not have be either/or. It should be a rational discussion about how we can save lives and protect families and communities from insidious gun violence that takes the lives of 33,000 of us- most due to suicide.

All of this is the opening salvo in what will surely be attempts by the corporate gun lobby to weaken gun laws in the states and through federal legislation. We will not be safer as a result.

And that is why we need to recognize the risk of guns in the home and guns in the hands of people who could become dangerous to themselves or others. So the other side of this week’s gun policy was a Florida court decision that overturned a previous Florida court decision that allowed the bill, nicknamed “Docs vs. Glocks”, to stop physicians and healthcare providers from talking to patients about the risks of guns to their families. Just as physicians, physician assistants, nurses ask questions about whether we feel safe in our homes when going for our annual physicals, they should be able to ask about guns. They ask about smoking, alcohol use, bike helmets, stored poisons, seat belts, child car seats, and many other things that could cause harm to our health or well being.

From the above-linked article:

Stop for a moment and consider that the Second Amendment injury here lies not in the possibility that a physician can do anything to take away anyone’s gun, but in the outside chance that she will use her knowledge of actual medical evidence to suggest that guns can kill people and her patient might listen to her. This is literally an argument for a constitutional right not to learn stuff from people who know stuff because you might then feel bad about the stuff you own.

It is a fact that firearms injuries take the lives of almost as many, if not more of us than auto accidents. Domestic shootings take the lives of far too many (mostly) women. Gun suicides are a very real risk to families.

So the recent ruling was a victory for common sense and first amendment rights of those who provide healthcare to practice their profession as they were taught and as they are charged to do by their Hippocratic Oath.

Lawyers for the Brady Center were involved in this case and did a great job of defending the rights of professionals to do their jobs and to keep us safe from devastating gun violence. More toddlers have shot Americans than terrorists. Isn’t this a national public health and safety epidemic? Is there any rational reason to keep this from happening however we can?

Below is from the Brady Center’s statement, in its’ entirety,  about the ruling:

Today, in a landmark decision with national repercussions, a federal appeals court struck down an NRA-backed Florida law that restricted doctors from talking to their patients about the risks of guns. The decision by the full panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta is a victory for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Ropes & Gray, who brought the lawsuit on behalf of doctors who believed the law violated their First Amendment rights.

Wollschlaeger v. Scott was filed on June 6, 2011, challenging the Florida law, under which doctors can be censored, fined, and have their licenses to practice medicine revoked if the Florida Board of Medicine found they violated the law.

Dan Gross, President of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said, “The gun lobby and its lap dogs don’t want Americans to know the truth about the danger of guns in the home because it will hurt their bottom line. The fact is, guns are far more likely to kill a child or family member than protect them. We are pleased the Court recognized Americans have a constitutional right to hear the truth about guns, and the gun lobby has no right to silence doctors or keep patients in the dark. We will continue to work with the medical community to get the truth out, to protect American children and families from the scourge of gun violence.”

Jonathan Lowy, co-counsel in the case and Director of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s Legal Action Project, said: “Today’s ruling is an important victory for public safety and free speech rights, and a crushing defeat for the corporate gun lobby and the politicians who do its bidding. Politicians and special interest lobbies have no business standing between doctors and their patients, or keeping doctors from telling people the truth about the risks of guns or other products. Doctors have the right to decide how best to advice patients about risks that may endanger their families, and parents have a right to full information so they can make smart, informed decisions about how to keep their families safe.”

Ropes & Gray partner Doug Hallward-Driemeier said, “This decision is critical to the health and safety of Florida families. It makes clear that the First Amendment does not allow the government, on the basis of politics, to interfere with a doctor providing her best medical advice to her patient.”

Nancy Evans, Brady Campaign Sarasota Chapter president, said, “This is an incredible victory not only for Florida doctors but for our entire nation. I joined the fight a year ago because I believe our doctors should be able to have any conversations necessary to keep their patients healthy and safe. I am so thankful the court struck down this terrible law.”

The lawsuit was brought by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the firms law Ropes & Gray LLP and Astigarraga Davis, on behalf of individual Florida doctors, as well as organizations representing 11,000 Florida health care providers, including the Florida Pediatric Society/Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, Florida Chapter, and the American College of Physicians, Florida Chapter. Douglas Hallward-Driemeier of Ropes and Gray argued the case as lead counsel for the Plaintiffs.

In 2012, a trial judge in the Southern District of Florida held that the law was unconstitutional and granted a preliminary injunction. In 2014 a divided three judge panel of the 11th Circuit reversed. The full 11th Circuit heard the case en banc in 2016.

Numerous studies have proven that a gun in the home actually makes its residents less safe — 89% of unintentional shooting deaths of children occur in the home. The reality is that a gun in the home is more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide, or accidental shooting, than in self-defense. Recent research has shown that one third of all households with children under the age of 18 have a firearm, and more than 40% of these households store their guns unlocked.

So there we have it. The yin and yang of gun policy in America. I believe these opposing views of our world affect almost all of us. Who among us does not have a family member or a close friend who we feel could be, perhaps temporarily, potentially dangerous if they have access to a firearm? Who among us does not trust their physicians or healthcare providers to do what they were trained to do professionally to keep us healthy and safe?

If you want to understand the wide ranging ripple effect of gun violence and the financial, emotional and physical toll it takes on individuals, families, communities and our health care system ( which costs us all financially) take a look at this amazing story of a man who received a face transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota after attempting a gun suicide. Ironically his new face came from another young man who died from gunshot injuries in a gun suicide.

This is an emotional story at the least…. the ripple effect of gun violence.

There are no evil motives here. There are only sincere and fact-based attempts to prevent gun violence and the effects it has on our families and communities.

But we have a world where it’s us vs. them with no common sense conversation or policy in the middle. We are talking about our families and our children and grandchildren. Let’s look at what the true interests are on both sides of this issue and come down on the side of public health and safety, not profits or power.

 

 

Guns in airports- the new normal?

Sanity Insanity Means Health Care And AdvertisementAs it turns out 44 states allow permit holders to carry guns in the common unsecured areas at airports across the country. Coincidentally, Florida is not one of them. But that didn’t factor into the mass shooting at the Ft. Lauderdale airport yesterday.

I have been wondering ,since I assume the gun lobby reaction might be this-would someone with a loaded gun, assuming they had not been on a flight because guns are not allowed for passengers traveling on planes, had stopped the shooter? Very doubtful. As we have seen now after watching many videos and hearing from travelers, panic and chaos ensued. People ran, abandoning their luggage, wherever they could to save themselves from being shot. They ended on the tarmac, parking areas, hiding behind cars or luggage. They grabbed their children, their mothers, their friends and ran. That is the first response to an active shooter. Keep yourself and your family from being shot.

Adding one more person with a gun to the mix of panic and chaos would have assured even more confusion and possibly more deaths and injuries.

5 people are dead and 8 injured by bullets. Others were injured in the rush to escape. More families are grieving. More families are worried at the sides of hospital beds. More people affected by gun violence in America.

Minnesotans were affected by this shooting. Names of the victims have not been released yet. But we have heard from Minnesotans who were on the Delta flight that began in Anchorage, Alaska. They witnessed the shooting and the death and the chaos. Some were going on a cruise to take advantage of warmer weather during this frigid Minnesota January. Their cruise will now be different than they intended. Why?

Gun violence has a ripple effect. Those who were at that baggage claim area witnessed people dying after being shot in the head point blank. One man said he smelled the smoke from the bullets fired and thought the shooter was just behind him. He will never forget that. Some passengers spent hours on the tarmac or sheltered in place. Some passengers spent hours on planes parked on the tarmac.

Those at the baggage claim most likely thought that gun violence would never affect them. But in America, mass shootings happen at least every week and shootings happen every day. 90 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries from homicides, suicides and “accidental” gun discharges.

Gun violence affects more than those directly hit by a bullet and their loved ones and friends. As it turns out, it affects all of us. We watch, horrified, on a regular basis as mass shooting after mass shooting takes place on live TV. The coverage is 24/7. We are all traumatized. Some suffer from PTSD after every one of these events, thinking of their own loved one who was shot in the head or torso and died from the injuries.

Is this the new normal?

Let’s talk about guns at airports. Guns can be packed in checked luggage at U.S. airports. If you intend to do this you must declare that you have a gun packed in your checked luggage. It must be in a hard sided locked case without ammunition which must be separate. The shooter appeared to have grabbed his luggage off the carousel and gone into a bathroom where he unpacked the gun, loaded it and started randomly shooting- reloading twice.

Yes, someone could have walked into that baggage claim area with a loaded gun having parked a car or arrived by taxi and done the same thing. Guns everywhere is the norm in America and people are carrying guns everywhere. That is what the corporate gun lobby has imposed on Americans with the help of the lapdog politicians who believed in the lies and deceptions that more guns make us safer. And what we have is mass shootings in every public place in our country and also, actually more frequently, in private homes all over the country. They occur most often in guns allowed zones as it turns out.

The gun lobby yells that these shootings only happen in gun free zones. In the case of this particular shooting, they are right. But in most cases, they are wrong. Don’t believe them.

On a personal level, my sister’s shooting death happened in a guns allowed zone- a private home where most shootings occur actually.

Because gun carrying has increased with almost every state having passed laws to allow ordinary citizens to carry guns, people do carry their guns around. If they are responsible, they will know where that gun is at all times and make sure it does not fall out of their pants or their purse, etc.  That is why it is so ludicrous that so many airline passengers say they “forgot” they had a gun in their carry-on luggage. I urge you to read this TSA blog for more information.

The TSA reports that in the week between Christmas and Jan. 4th alone, they found 53 guns in carry-ons. In 2015, according to the linked blog above:

Also significant, 2,653 firearms were discovered in carry-on bags at checkpoints across the country, averaging more than seven firearms per day. Of those, 2,198 (83 percent)were loaded. Firearms were intercepted at a total of 236 airports; 12 more airports than last year. There was a 20 percent increase in firearm discoveries from 2014’s total of2,212. Pictured are just some of the firearms discovered in 2015.

Wow. They have found many guns with rounds chambered and ready to go. Check out the photos provided on the blog. Grenades? Yes. Why not?

Where is common sense?

If you are a responsible gun owner, you will know where your gun is and you will also know that there are many things that cannot be brought on board airplanes. I travel enough to be very careful about what I take in my carry-ons because I don’t want to be stopped and frisked or have my carry-on luggage searched. It is annoying to me as a traveler when someone takes something they shouldn’t in their carry-ons because it slows the TSA line down and adds to the stress of traveling.

But I am happy that the TSA does such a good job of checking these things. I don’t want people armed on my flights nor do I want a grenade to go off on my flight. Remember that this happened after the terror attack of 9/11 to keep us safe. And yet, more people are terrorized by gun violence in a few weeks time than died in the attacks of 9/11. And, for goodness sake, more toddlers kill people with guns left for them to access by an adult than terrorists.

Insanity.

All of this is the result of our unique and deadly gun culture. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can actually prevent and reduce gun violence by enacting stronger laws about the people who buy and carry guns. I saw a recent meme using the gun lobby’s claim that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Yes they do. That is why we need to keep some people from getting their hands on guns.

The shooter at the Ft. Lauderdale airport for example, we now know had some severe mental health problems. He had served in the National Guard and served a year in Iraq. He came back a changed man and even checked himself into a mental facility after telling the FBI in Alaska that he heard voices in his head.He had gone AWOL several times and got a general discharge ( likely for mental health reasons).  And yet, he was able to buy a gun. In Alaska a permit is not required to carry a gun. Good idea?

The shooter had domestic problems with his girlfriend in Alaska where he had lived and was a security guard. There were some misdemeanors on his record.

There has been a report that the shooter was a permit to carry holder. Some of the gun rights folks on Twitter feeds have disputed that. Alaska does not require a permit as such to carry a gun  for anyone over 21 who can legally possess a firearm so most likely the shooter could carry that gun, permit or not. No training requirements or classes required. Just carry a gun if you over 21.

Does this shooter look like someone who should be able to buy and carry a gun?

We can do something about this. The shooter’s family knew about his difficulties and mental health problems. There is a life saving measure that is called Gun Violence Restraining Order or Gun Violence Protective Order. Several states have passed such laws. In Minnesota it has been proposed but the legislature refused to hear it and take a vote.

The shooter’s guns could have been removed from his possession temporarily under a law like this and his name could have been placed on the list of prohibited purchasers through our FBI’s national instant check system. Of course, we also need to require that every gun purchase go through a Brady background check in order to fully save lives. Why? Because the NICS list is only for federally licensed firearms dealers. Private sellers do not have to require life saving background checks.

If we can save lives, why would we not? Do we really want those who are dangerously mentally ill carrying guns around in public places and shooting innocent Americans? If not, why do legislators refuse to hear bills that could prevent this?

We have a choice. Insanity or sanity. I know what I choose.

Ask your elected leaders to save lives. If they refuse to vote on this life saving measure, ask them why? They must be held accountable for refusing to consider options that could potentially save innocent lives.

What is normal shouldn’t be. In this year when a President who is turning everything upside down under the guise of shaking things up, we are experiencing abnormal behavior. We can’t normalize it because it could be dangerous for our democracy. Just as we can’t normalize gun violence and pretend we can’t do a thing about it.

Ask President-elect Trump if he has more than thoughts and prayers after mass shootings. He will be faced with as many, if not more, than President Obama faced during his 8 years in office. That is reality, not fiction. Tweeting about it is not enough Mr. Trump. Do something and stop tweeting.

But please do remember that the gun lobby supported President elect Trump by giving him tons of money and he owes them now. That’s called “draining the swamp” er uh……

President Obama’s response to this latest one at least mentioned the number of mass shootings we endure in our country:

“We’re heartbroken for families who have been affected,” Obama said in an interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

The president commented on the frequency of mass shootings in the US saying, “These tragedies have happened too often during the eight years that I’ve been president.

In an interview published by the BBC in 2015, Obama called the rise in mass shootings during his presidency his biggest frustration.

And yes, those of us working on gun violence prevention comment after tragedies such as the Ft. Lauderdale shooting and take criticism for “using” a tragedy to further our agenda. What? There is not a day  when we don’t have gun violence. Mass shootings are so frequent that if we wait until a different time we will never be able to talk about gun violence. And that is the agenda of the gun lobby and it’s minions. They don’t want us to talk about gun tragedies and gun deaths. This does not fit into their own scenario that guns make us safer. And so they try to stop us.

We will not be stopped.

My agenda is saving lives and living in a sane country. What’s yours?

So we will write and talk about the inconvenience of gun deaths, mass shootings, suicides, domestic homicides, toddlers killing people in increasing numbers, guns found in carry-on bags, irresponsible gun owners, the effects of weak gun laws and whatever it takes to save lives. For if even one life is saved by our “agenda” we will have accomplished something important.

What we want is action- not thoughts and prayers. Check out the images below that were posted on Twitter feeds and Facebook yesterday.

garbage-truck

screenshot-2017-01-07-08-17-29

Gun suicide prevention

suicide_20kThis week is National Suicide Prevention Week. We can’t talk suicide without talking about guns. Why? Because suicide by gun is the majority of gun deaths in America.

From this article in The Trace, written for this week of awareness about suicide:

 

In 2014, there were 42,773 suicides, and 21,334 of these were carried out with a gun, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Suicides comprise two-thirds of all gun deaths. The typical victim of a gun homicide is a young, black male. The typical suicide victim is a middle-aged white man. Roughly 80 percent of suicide victims are men, and 83 percent are white.

Young people are also at an elevated risk of gun suicide. Among those aged 10 to 19, there were 2,259 suicides in 2014. Nearly half of those deaths — 41 percent — involved firearms, according to data from the CDC. The only more common cause of death for young people is accidental injuries, a category that includes traffic accidents and drownings.

Some gun rights advocates deny these statistics, or I should say, ignore them. To them, suicide by guns don’t matter. I have heard in comments on my blog and in other places from some of these folks that if people want to kill themselves we should let them. This Philadelphia father (Farid Naib) would totally disagree with that:

The video, which coincides with National Suicide Prevention Week, highlights how quickly things can go wrong for kids, who lack the perspective to realize things are not as dire as they seem. Farid and his two children had just returned from a ski trip, and “life was about as good as it could be.” But after Cayman received an email from school saying he was failing a course, he found the gun, took it to a remote section of the family’s large property and killed himself. “This was in the space of 20 or 30 minutes,” says Farid, who’d always believed there’d be warning signs if a child was contemplating suicide. “There were none. Kids get upset. And they make bad decisions when they’re upset. Having a gun in house that they can access, you give them the ability to make that bad decision permanent.”
Read more at http://www.phillymag.com/news/2015/09/11/cayman-naib-father-brady-campaign-video/#EeE5Faq7t23YMw5s.99

Farid Naib has told this story very poignantly because, as you can imagine, the pain is almost unbearable. It was his own gun that he had for self protection. And now his son, Cayman is dead over a momentary bad day. I have seen Mr. Naib speak at a conference and heard him tell his story. It was not easy but he knew that telling his story may help others understand the risk of guns in their homes and the tragic results that could occur as a result.

As part of my work to prevent gun violence, I have met people from all over America who have lost loved ones to gun suicide. It is a violent death. And it is often avoidable. Suicides by gun count in the total number of gun deaths in America. Why would they not?

Mental health is certainly a public health and safety problem. Easy access to guns is also a public health and safety problem. The combination is lethal.

Please read this blog post by a young woman who lives with a mental health disorder and why she knows a gun would be a terrible idea for her. From the writings of Bryan Barks who works for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:

Now, after years of therapy and the right combination of medications, I have my bachelor’s degree, live in DC, and have been able to pursue a career in a field I am passionate about — gun violence prevention. I lead a normal life, though I am aware of my bipolar disorder every day and struggle with my moods often — even in periods of relative stability.

While I try not to relive the most painful parts of my past, every time I think of the lives lost to suicide by firearms — nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths — I think about how different my story could have been if guns were involved. (…)

I know there are responsible, law-abiding individuals who have personal reasons for owning guns. But when someone in a household is in crisis, temporarily removing the quickest, most effective means of suicide can be life-saving. To call suicide inevitable is to give up on people with mental illness — people who could be successful, happy, full of life with the right treatment plan. Retrieving guns after the worst has passed is easy. Retrieving a life lost in a moment of desperation is impossible.

Guns matter. If family members and friends recognize some of the signs or understand that having a gun around during times of depression, crisis, family problems and other problems, lives could be saved. The image at the top shows the truth of the matter. Many people who survive suicide attempts don’t try to kill themselves again. A gun is much more lethal than other methods and ends in death more efficiently and quickly.

My brother-in-law committed suicide by jumping off a very high bridge. He knew it would be fatal and it was an awful event in the lives of our family. He was my husband’s only sibling. Between us we have each lost a sibling- one to suicide, one to homicide. We understand how devastating this loss of a loved one can be. We have handled our grief in different ways. My husband is more quiet and pensive and thinks about things we maybe could have done differently to recognize his brother’s depressed state and intentions. That’s typical when someone commits suicide.

Another brother-in-law , my sister’s first husband, had undiagnosed bi-polar disorder and could be angry and volatile. It was difficult to raise a family and deal with his ups and downs. He never owned guns for which we were all thankful. It was her second husband, with depression and a lot of anger who used his gun ( he owned many) and shot and killed her.

My brother, who served in the Viet Nam war has PTSD along with Parkinsons disease, depression and is now a former alcoholic. He owns many guns, even his service pistol. When we realized that his mental, emotional and physical status was such that he could become a danger to himself, we took the guns away and they have not yet been returned to him. He gave us permission to do this. Other families can do the same.

Which brings me to the issue of military suicides:

With nearly half of all suicides in the military having been committed with privately owned firearms, the Pentagon and Congress are moving to establish policies intended to separate at-risk service members from their personal weapons.

The issue is a thorny one for the Pentagon. Gun rights advocates and many service members fiercely oppose any policies that could be construed as limiting the private ownership of firearms.

But as suicides continue to rise this year, senior Defense Department officials are developing a suicide prevention campaign that will encourage friends and families of potentially suicidal service members to safely store or voluntarily remove personal firearms from their homes.

This is a serious public health and safety problem and guns cannot be ignored as part of the problem and the solution. But it is not something we can’t work to solve.

My path has been to get involved in ways to reduce gun deaths of all kinds by educating people, lobbying, learning about the issue, being involved in my local Brady Campaign chapter and the independent state group, Protect Minnesota as well as serving on the Board of Trustees of the Brady Campaign. I have traveled to Washington DC for meetings and conferences and meetings with my Congressional delegation many times. I have spoken to groups large and small, written OpEd pieces, testified at the state legislature, organized events, and many other things. It’s been a path of some victories and many challenges.

Because of the people I have met who have lost loved ones, I am determined to continue what I am doing to make a difference. Telling stories about the risks of guns to families is important. Many gun suicides are unreported in the media so we don’t often hear about them. Families are bereft, may feel “guilty” about a family suicide or reluctant to speak about it. But more family members are speaking out. And, as it turns out, laws can matter.

In states with strong gun laws and less gun ownership gun suicides are lower than in other states. A Harvard School of Public Heath study reflects the facts:

The lesson? Many lives would likely be saved if people disposed of their firearms, kept them locked away, or stored them outside the home. Says HSPH Professor of Health Policy David Hemenway, the ICRC’s director: “Studies show that most attempters act on impulse, in moments of panic or despair. Once the acute feelings ease, 90 percent do not go on to die by suicide.”

But few can survive a gun blast. That’s why the ICRC’s Catherine Barber has launched Means Matter, a campaign that asks the public to help prevent suicide deaths by adopting practices and policies that keep guns out of the hands of vulnerable adults and children. For details, visit www.meansmatter.org.

The Violence Policy Center confirms what the Harvard School of Public Health reported about the rate of gun ownership and the rate of gun deaths:

“Year after year, the evidence is clear that states with fewer guns and strong gun laws have far lower rates of gun death,” says VPC Legislative Director Kristen Rand. “States with strong gun violence prevention laws consistently have the lowest gun death rates in the nation. In states with weak gun laws and easy availability of guns, the rates of death by gunfire are far higher.”

And far too often murders are also suicides in progress. Suicidal people with guns seem to want to take others with them. Their angry or depressed states of mind seek a final solution for their own problems by taking the lives of others. From this article:

What can we do to stop the killing? Murder-suicides are nearly always committed with a gun, and it is critical to stop potential killers from having easy access to firearms. One important step would be to restrict access to guns for individuals who have a history of domestic violence or have threatened suicide. Policymakers at the state and federal levels should pass stronger domestic violence prevention legislation to help keep guns away from domestic abusers. States should also establish domestic violence task forces. In addition, we need aggressive enforcement of laws that prohibit individuals with a misdemeanor domestic violence conviction or who are the subject of a restraining order for domestic violence from purchasing or possessing a firearm.

Finally, we should establish a comprehensive, nationwide database to track murder-suicides, in order to fully understand the scope of this problem and how we can stop it.

Suicide is commonly misperceived as a solitary, desperate act. Yet our research shows that murder-suicides claim the lives of spouses, intimate partners, and children — and nearly always involve a gun. We must immediately take steps to help prevent this especially horrific form of domestic violence.

As we study the issues of gun violence, we can learn more about the causes and effects and some are drawing a line from suicidal people to mass shootings. From this article:

Mass murder is a form of suicide in that the perpetrator of such atrocities is often an enraged and fatalistic individual who intends to die at the scene of the massacre. From this perspective, the increase in mass shootings over the last ten years is very consistent with the increase in suicide.

To sum this up, guns matter for those considering suicide. Gun suicides account for the majority of our country’s gun deaths. We don’t have to accept this nor should we. As a country we don’t sit back and accept the rate of death from auto accidents or smoking. We dig in and do something about reducing the chances of death and injury. Gun suicides are preventable. The fact that we are doing little to stop them is a sad commentary on our American gun culture. If we but do some common sense things and have the necessary national discussion we can save lives.

It’s past time to deal with the tragedy of suicide and gun suicides in particular. Let’s get to work. Join an organization working on gun violence prevention and get involved. The organization with which I am involved is the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and also the state independent group, Protect Minnesota. They can use your help, your energy, your financial donations and your talents.

 

 

 

 

More anger in Minnesota

angry_manIn my last post I wrote about a road rage incident that left an innocent woman with gunshot injuries just because she honked her horn at another car. The shooter has still not been apprehended though I suspect that will eventually happen since there is a photo of the car now on the internet.

Since that last post, there was another shooting in Minnesota- a fatal shooting at a St. Paul law office involving an angry man who decided to “settle” his differences with his lawyer by shooting the law clerk sitting in the office. He was apparently so angry that he didn’t realize he allegedly shot the wrong person. But never mind. When people who shouldn’t have guns use them in the heat of an angry moment, nothing matters to them. I know that from personal experience.

The shooter in this case was  prohibited purchaser. From the article linked above:

Petersen has a lengthy and violent criminal past that includes convictions for drive-by shooting, second-degree assault, carrying a pistol without a permit, first-degree damage to property, aiding and abetting in the sale of narcotics, fleeing police in a motor vehicle, drunken driving and disorderly conduct, court records show.

Where did he get the gun and the ammunition given that he couldn’t buy it from a licensed dealer? There are many ways. From a private seller on-line or at a gun show. From a friend through a straw purchase. He could have stolen it. Or maybe someone who didn’t know his violent and criminal past just gave it to him? Or he bought it on the street from someone else who may have come by it illegally or legally, for that matter.

It is important to know these things if we are to prevent at least some of the daily shootings in America. Anger and guns don’t mix. A violent criminal past and guns don’t mix. Alcohol and guns don’t mix. Dangerous mental illness and guns don’t mix. But too often, this is the mix that ends in death.

A study was done recently about guns and anger. From the article:

Angry people with ready access to guns are typically young or middle-aged men, who at times lose their temper, smash and break things, or get into physical fights, according to the study co-authored by scientists at Duke, Harvard, and Columbia universities.

Study participants who owned six or more firearms were also far more likely than people with only one or two firearms to carry guns outside the home and to have a history of impulsive, angry behavior.

“As we try to balance constitutional rights and public safety regarding people with mental illness, the traditional legal approach has been to prohibit firearms from involuntarily-committed psychiatric patients,” said Jeffrey Swanson, Ph.D., professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke Medicine and lead author of the study. “But now we have more evidence that current laws don’t necessarily keep firearms out of the hands of a lot of potentially dangerous individuals.” (…)

Kessler, Swanson and co-authors reason that looking at a prospective gun buyer’s history of misdemeanor convictions, including violent offenses and multiple convictions for impaired driving, could be more effective at preventing gun violence in the U.S. than screening based on mental health treatment history.

As for those who already own or have access to firearms, the researchers suggest the data could support “dangerous persons” gun removal laws, like those in Connecticut and Indiana, or a “gun violence restraining order” law like California recently enacted. Such laws give family members and law enforcement a legal tool to immediately seize guns and prevent gun or ammunition purchases by people who show warning signs of impending violence.

We should heed the results. One of the problems with our gun violence epidemic is that we don’t have enough data to show us who has the guns, how they got them, when they use them, if they carry them, why they use them, and who they shoot. Medical groups and some common sense Congress members are trying to fix that but, of course, the gun lobby will have none of it. Even though they claim that criminals should not have guns but will get them anyway, they do nothing to make sure they don’t get them in the first place.

Sigh.

It appears that an awful lot of shootings are done in moments of anger.

When I’m angry, I do feel like I want to do something to the person with whom I am angry or the person who wronged me. But what I want to do is to get them to stop what they are doing or apologize if an apology is due. Or I want them so suffer some consequence. But do I want them dead? No. If I had a gun, could I use it in an angry situation? Possibly.

Angry confrontations should not result in death. But too often they do. Guns happen to be the most effective weapon when it comes to killing or injuring others. When a gun is at the ready, it just may be used in the wrong way. Most gun owners are responsible with their guns and their guns. But since others are not, it’s time for all of us to get together and do something about this uniquely American problem where there is about one gun per person.

One of the things, aside from legislation, that can fix some of our problems with gun violence is education and awareness. Where are friends and family members when they know someone should not have a gun but has one anyway? Where are friends and family members when they see violent tendencies in someone they know and love and also know that person has a gun? Doing whatever is necessary to make sure guns are not in the hands of a person like this can save lives. Gun violence protection orders like the one introduced in the Minnesota legislature and other states as well, can help.

This is all about common sense and public health and safety. Anyone who thinks there are other motives needs to think about what has happened in Minnesota in the past week. It’s not OK and we’ve had #Enough of senseless shootings that devastate our families and our communities.

Guns and washing clothes

washing_machineI have written before about various disputes over things (like lawn mowers, garbage cans, etc.) that have ended in death or injury from gun fire. Here is yet another- a dispute over washing clothes has ended in the death of 4 people in the Los Angeles area. The easy access to a gun and alcohol can be deadly. From the article:

A man shot and killed his wife and two others in his home on New Year’s Eve before his son wrestled the gun away and fatally shot him in a chain of events apparently set off by a dispute over a washing machine, authorities said Friday.

The two other victims killed were the son’s 48-year-old girlfriend who also lives at the house in Rowland Heights and a 27-year-old man who was visiting, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

The 54-year-old father was a heavy drinker with a large gun collection, and authorities had made dozens of previous trips to the home, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said.

This is the American gun culture out of control. Guns make disputes like this deadly. People can argue over all sorts of things but when a gun is at the ready, sometimes they die. I know that from personal experience.

Devastating shootings affect the lives of many. There is a ripple effect when mass domestic shootings like this happen. Now the son who witnessed the shootings is being held on murder charges for killing his father after he wrestled the gun from him. Good grief.

According to the writers of the Gun Violence Archive, 200 incidents that they know of involving guns and shooting have been recorded so far in 2016. It’s January 2nd. Check it out for yourself on their above linked website if you don’t believe me.

Raise your hand if you believe this is the way of life we, as Americans, should accept. The corporate gun lobby does everything in its’ ubiquitous power to stop any kind of common sense measure to prevent at least some of the shootings. With wide recognition by the public that passing laws such as expanded Brady background checks are a good idea, why doesn’t Congress just go ahead and vote to keep us safer? Rural Democratic legislators and Republicans who are in charge of a lot of our state houses are doing everything they can to reverse common sense and make it easier for just anyone to buy, own and carry guns in public. Who are they afraid of? We know the answer.

All of this adds up to a gun culture that is no longer accepted but is allowed because of feckless, timid and scared elected leaders. They are the only ones who can act through law to keep us safer. And we need them to be afraid of us and afraid of the victims and survivors who have a lot at stake to keep other Americans from suffering from devastating gun violence.

Some of our citizens have become so scared and paranoid about needing guns for protection against zombies, terrorists, people of color, President Obama, and shadows in every corner that we now have 89 Americans a day dying from gunshot injuries.

Citizens and gun owners can act positively by storing guns safely from kids, teens or being stolen. They can stop taking risks that end in death. They can be more responsible with their guns. Measures ( one has been proposed)  like requiring liability insurance on gun owners could make people more responsible much like we do with cars because car accidents can kill others unintentionally. We can tax guns and ammunition (now law in Seattle) like we do cars upon purchase so that people understand that if they want a gun, they will have to come up with tax money. Why? Because gun deaths and injuries are costing Americans a lot of money.

And why are gun buyers not required to take a class to teach them about the risks and responsibilities of gun owning  before they walk out the door of the gun shop just like we do with anyone who wants to drive a car?

And perhaps a stiff tax on ammunition would have stopped the shooter of the Aurora theater victims to think twice before ordering thousands of rounds of ammunition to be used to slaughter innocent people.

All of these things are done for good reason. And there are no exceptions. Everyone has to take driving lessons. Everyone has to pay state sales taxes when buying a car. Everyone has to register their car and get a license for that car. Proof of insurance is required but we know that some ignore this and then we all pay when an accident happens. Driving while drunk has severe penalties now. What about operating a gun while drunk? There are laws in states that allow guns in bars and restaurants that say someone with that permit can’t drink beyond the state approved legal limit. But who’s checking to see if that is the case? Bar owners don’t ask their customers if they are carrying a gun before serving them their 5th beer. It’s too late once a shooting happens. But our legislators were convinced that everything would be just fine for those “responsible” gun owners and carriers because they don’t break the laws- until they do. That’s what laws are for- to protect us all and keep us safe from those who can’t or won’t be responsible.

If you think the man who shot those folks over a dispute over washing clothes while under the influence of alcohol was responsible, think again. He should not have had access to guns.

So in 2016, what is past due is a discussion that involves reasonable people from both sides to get to a place where we can prevent some of the shootings however we can and protect rights and gun ownership. It is done in most other places in the world and in some of our own states with good results.

Let’s get to work.