Love, justice and the rule of law win

pebbleIn the days leading up to the funerals of the 9 victims of the Charleston shooting at Mother Emanuel church, there aren’t many people who have not noticed the forgiveness and the grace of the families of the victims. Today, President Obama delivers the eulogy for Rev. Clemanta Pinckney, the much loved pastor of the Mother Emanuel church. He was loved by his congregation, by his family, by his constituents and by his fellow legislators from both sides of the aisle. He was so loved that his colleagues led the movement to remove the confederate flag from the state house in Columbia, South Carolina.

This is about the victims and about love and respect. When someone close to you personally, as with Rev. Pinkney, is killed in a heinous shooting, it makes a difference. It’s not just a random name or face of someone not known. It’s not just a gang member who some believe are disposable Americans. It’s not someone else’s friend or someone else’s sister, mother, brother or father. Now it’s yours.

Gun violence is affecting more and more people in America. With the increase in the number of guns in the country, it is inevitable that more families and friends will experience the violence from gunshots. The circle widens.

Just as with the issue of marriage equality, almost everyone can say they know someone who is gay, lesbian, bi-sexual or transgendered. That is, in part, why the marriage equality bills have passed in so many states and why the Supreme Court ruled in favor of marriage equality. Love won. Justice won. And the rule of law makes a difference.

Personally, my family has been affected by gun violence. We have friends and family members who are gay or lesbian. Several members of my family are health care providers and family members have suffered from health conditions that, had they not had health insurance, would have led to severe financial problems and stress and further health problems. I am not unique. I am amongst many of my fellow Americans.

Americans also won yesterday when the Court decided in favor of the Affordable Care Act. When millions of Americans are able to now get health insurance with no pre-existing conditions for less money, we all win. When more people are in the insurance pool, we all do or will eventually pay less for our health care. We win when people are kept healthier and out of our emergency rooms where the care is more expensive. We win when “kids” stay on their family’s health insurance and don’t have to worry about paying expensive premiums as they start out in new jobs and are paying back college loans. We win when women with breast cancer are not turned away from health insurance and left to go into bankruptcy or die.

As my former Senator Paul Wellstone said, “We all do better when we all do better.”

And that is true when we change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in America. It’s a public health and safety epidemic. The conversation is changing as it must. “Google” searches after the Charleston shooting, according to the linked article, changed to “gun control” from “gun shop”:

Google has released data on how Search users reacted to the violence on June 17. Itsnewly revamped Trends tool has a rundown of the kinds of topics people queried the search engine about in the days after the tragedy. One of the most interesting things the data show is that searches for “gun control” surpassed those for “gun shop” across the United States.

Searches for “gun shop” are usually more popular than “gun control,” according to data Google Trends averaged from the past year. But in the 72 hours following the Charleston shooting, “gun control” was the more popular search term in 45 states.

The ripple effect of a heinous racially motivated shooting.

If we care for our fellow citizens, no matter their sexual orientation, their color, their race or their age, and for justice, we understand that we need to stand up for doing something about the devastating violence that so affects our communities and our friends. Charleston will never be the same. Those families, those friends, those legislators, those community members will never be the same. My family has never been quite the same after my sister’s tragic death that took her life well before she should have died.

It’s time for love, justice and the law that often changes according to changing times. That has been true for the issue of marriage equality and now with health care. It hasn’t been as true for gun violence prevention. But that doesn’t mean it can’t or won’t change.

President Obama spoke today about the ripple effects of individual actions on the whole. A quote from the Dalai Lama is pictured above. Social change is happening. It can be frightening for some but energizing and exciting for others.

As people tell their personal stories about the gun violence that has affected them, they will be heard by more and more people. As the mass shootings and “everyday” shootings continue, more of us will be horrified that someone we knew experienced the terror of a crazed or angry gunman ( they are almost always men) as he pointed a gun at them and, in seconds, snuffed out a life. It’s hard to imagine this happening to someone you knew, respected and loved. But happen it did and does to far too many.

And wisdom wins over insanity and nonsense. After Republican Presidential candidate Mike Huckabee issued a statement, coming directly from the corporate gun lobby play book ,saying that the victims in Mother Emanuel church could have saved themselves had they been carrying a gun, the Charleston Mayor reacted with words of wisdom and common sense:

The Charleston mayor was left nearly speechless on Wednesday when asked to respond to Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s (R) comments that the victims in the Charleston shooting may have been able to stop the attack if they had been carrying handguns.

“That is so ridiculous,” Charleston Mayor Joseph Riley told Fox News radio host Alan Colmes. “I mean, I knew these people. I’m looking that their pictures right now in front of me. They weren’t going to be carrying handguns. You want an 87-year old retired lady or you want a minister to be carrying a handgun or a 78-year old retired lady that used to work for the city of Charleston? That is so insane. You want those elderly people carrying handguns? Is that the best we can do in America?”

No. We can and must do better. Wisdom and facts win. Love wins. Justice wins. Common sense wins.

That is why we need to keep working on those common sense solutions to the violence that has affected so many of us. Because, in the end, we all win when fewer of us are being shot to death in our public places and in our homes.

It may come about as a result of a changed law. It may come about as a changed heart or a changed mind. It may come about as a changed conversation and a changed view of the problem. It will start with individuals and groups who are working to make these changes.

Today, love, justice and the rule of law win over injustice, hatred, fear, paranoia, intolerance, violence and refusal to change in the face of facts and real human consequences if we do nothing.

Gun lobby secrets


I am trying WordPress out for my blog so this is crossposted from

The gun lobby is trying hard to keep the real facts about the causes and effects of gun violence from going public. Not only do events on the ground interfere with their dangerous mantra that more guns make us safer but there are more groups and individuals doing research and writing about the truth. This article by Mike Weiss takes on the gun lobby yet again:

“According to the FBI, from 2000 to 2012 there were slightly more than 200,000 homicide victims of which slightly more than two-thirds were killed with guns. This is an average of 10,400 gun homicides each year, a remarkably-stable number over the past thirteen years. Of these gun killings, slightly more than 15 percent involved women as victims, or roughly 21,000 over the same span of years. When women are homicide victims, most if not virtually all of these shootings grew out of some sort of IPV. Let’s not forget, incidentally, that men were also shot to death by their girlfriends or their wives an average of 700 times per year. Taken together, domestic violence probably claimed more than 2,200 victims annually between 2000 and 2012, or one-fifth of all gun fatalities during those years.

The degree to which homicide grows out of personal disputes is shown by the fact that of the total murders committed in 2012, only slightly more than 20 percent took place during the commission of other crimes. The rest happened because people who knew each other, and in most cases knew each other on a long-term, continuous basis, got into an argument about money, or who dissed who, or who was sleeping with someone else, or some other dumb thing. And many times they were drunk or high on drugs, but no matter what, like Walter Mosley says, “sooner or later” the gun goes off.

Here’s the bottom line on gun violence and crime. Every year 20,000+ shoot themselves intentionally, which is suicide. Another thousand, give or take a hundred, kill themselves accidentally with a gun. Then another 10,000 use a gun to kill someone else, but 8,000 of those shootings had nothing to do with other violent crimes. If we define gun violence as using a gun to end a human life, the FBI is telling us that less than 10 percent of those fatalities would be eliminated if we got rid of all violent crime. The NRA can try to convince its members that the reason for gun violence is that there’s too much crime, but the data from the FBI clearly indicates that the reason for gun violence is that there are too many guns.”

(For your clarification IPV, referenced above, is Intimate Partner Violence.)

This is very important information and should be imprinted into the brains of our decision-makers. The corporate gun lobby loves to blame criminals with guns for most of the gun deaths. They are wrong, of course. Ordinary “law abiding” gun owners can become criminals in just a few seconds after they pull the trigger. But this view of gun rights is what ramps up the fear and paranoia about the need for guns. In actuality, after people are convinced that they need a gun for self defense, the rest is what we read about in media reports every day. It’s domestic shootings, it’s “accidental” gun discharges and it’s suicide by gun that take the most lives. And we can actually prevent some of these gun deaths. But we are in denial. Shhh. Be quiet. If the secret gets out, what will happen? Will people start storing their guns more safely? Will they still go out and buy guns? Will they demand stronger gun laws?

Remember that the gun lobby and its’ lapdog politicians have actually stopped the CDC from researching the causes and effects of gun violence. The thinking was, of course, that the facts might not support the idea that more guns make us safer. President Obama issued an executive order after the Sandy Hook school shooting to allow the CDC to do that much needed research. So far it isn’t happening. Why? More from the linked article:

But today the CDC still avoids gun-violence research, demonstrating what many see as the depth of its fear about returning to one of the country’s most divisive debates. The agency recently was asked by The Washington Post why it was still sitting on the sidelines of firearms studies. It declined to make an official available for an interview but responded with a statement noting it had commissioned an agenda of possible research goals but still lacked the dedicated funding to pursue it.

“It is possible for us to conduct firearm-related research within the context of our efforts to address youth violence, domestic violence, sexual violence, and suicide,” CDC spokeswoman Courtney Lenard wrote, “but our resources are very limited.”

Ah- the fear of our politicians to take on the flawed reasoning of the gun lobby and refusal to fund the efforts. Meanwhile, 80 Americans a day are dying from gunshot injuries. Where is common sense?

But others are joining the gun violence research community and doing some private research that is revealing what we already know- guns are not making us safer. Indeed, guns are clearly making us less safe and contributing to the avoidable and senseless deaths of far too many of us. In fact, gun deaths will soon eclipse automobile deaths as a cause of death. This should be a huge wake-up call. The public gets this. But the lapdog politicians act like the Emperor parading around with no clothes on. The truth is there for all to see but denied by those who can actually do something to change it.

The gun lobby doesn’t want you to know or talk about the fact that gun suicides account for the largest number of gun deaths in America. A new study by the Journal of American Medical Association reveals the truth about gun suicides. This is a stunning report but not surprising to the gun violence prevention organizations. From the article:

Suicide is the third leading cause of death for adolescents and young adults, and those who live in rural areas are especially at risk.

For young people between the ages of 10 and 24, the suicide rates in rural areas are nearly double those of urban areas, according to a study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics. And that disparity is growing.

The study, which analyzed data from 1996-2010, also found over half of the young people who killed themselves during that time period themselves had used a gun. And the rates for suicide by firearm were especially high in rural areas — about three times the rates for urban areas.

The number of young people committing suicide by hanging or suffocation increased, the study found, and the number of people using firearms decreased slightly. But firearms still accounted for the majority of deaths, at 51 percent, followed by hanging or suffocation, 34; percent; poisoning 8 percent; and other means 7 percent.

Shhh. Don’t tell anybody that we could prevent a lot of gun deaths with safe storage of guns to prevent easy access to teens and children. Guns are dangerous. It’s that simple. But the gun lobby doesn’t want people to know that.

The gun lobby doesn’t want to stop arming dangerous people at home or abroad. Read this article about the resistance to an International Arms Treaty by the gun lobby and its’ lapdog politicians:

The National Rifle Association’s outsize influence on American politics, including its notorious suppression of universal background checks and further research into gun violence, is well known. But it may come as a surprise that the NRA influences U.S. foreign policy as well — specifically, the implementation of international treaties.

Most guns used in armed conflicts aren’t manufactured in the combat zones where they end up. They are made in more developed countries and then shipped elsewhere. This process is possible because of a lack of global cooperation in regulating arms shipments. As Oxfam has pointed out, there are more international laws governing the trade of bananas than governing guns. Governments simply don’t know when guns are being sold, where they’re going or how they’re going to be used.

The Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) is the United Nations’ bid to assert some semblance of control over the unregulated $85-billion-a-year international arms market. As Reuters described it, the treaty “aims to set standards for all cross-border transfers of conventional weapons, ranging from small firearms to tanks and attack helicopters. It would create binding requirements for states to review cross-border contracts to ensure that weapons will not be used in human rights abuses, terrorism, violations of humanitarian law or organized crime.”

Most observers, including representatives of the 130 nations that have already signed, welcomed the effort to track where weapons are going and how they are used. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called the ATT a “significant step” in making the world a safer place. Only three countries opposed the treaty: Syria, Iran and North Korea.

Enter the NRA, one of the most powerful pressure groups in Washington, with over 5 million members and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue each year. Even though the ATT would not regulate domestic sales, the NRA vehemently opposes U.S. ratification of the treaty. It charges that that the ATT would create a worldwide gun registry and transfer power from Congress to the U.N. But for all intents and purposes, the U.S. already tracks overseas sales of guns, and the ATT would not automatically create a registry of individual owners. Congressional authority to approve treaties hasn’t been impinged; the treaty, after all, will take effect only if it’s ratified by the Senate.

Another dirty little secret the gun lobby doesn’t want you to know.

It’s difficult to comprehend such a backwards resistance to common sense and measures to save lives. But we are talking about the corporate gun lobby and the industry that sells expensive guns and ammunition to people all over the world who shouldn’t have them. Guns are inherently dangerous weapons designed to kill people and some designed to kill a lot of people in a short time. The fact that the corporate gun lobby is so resistant to any efforts to prevent shootings is a national shame. Hiding behind the second amendment has been the MO of the gun lobby. But more people are noticing this way of doing business and calling into question the gun lobby’s agenda.

I spent a day at the Minnesota Capitol this week testifying against a bill that would allow Minnesotans to purchase gun silencers and carry their guns at the Capitol with no notification. Let me talk about each of these individually because there are things the gun lobby promotes through some kind if circular and illogical reasoning that, when examined carefully, makes no sense. It is similar to the “Emperor Has No Clothes.”

We heard from the supporters of the bill that gun silencers or suppressors as they are called by the gun community, are really not that much quieter than using a gun without a silencer. So then why a silencer? With a silencer, according to those in support, (from their own website) a gun shot will only be 8 times louder than a jack hammer. Really? Where is any evidence of this claim? There were no hearing or medical professionals there to support the claims that silencers will protect hearing. Wearing protective hearing devices, however, may be a cheaper and easier way to do this without changing a law that shouldn’t be changed. Check out this ad from Cabelas. The pictured ear muff lowers by 22 decibels the sound of a gun shot while also enhancing the ability to hear your hunting partner or other sounds around you while hunting. The claims made by the gun lobby advocates were that silencers would lower the sound by 30 decibels. The difference is not so much and the cost is much less to buy an ear muff like this. It would serve the same purpose without changing a law that could allow more people to own silencers that could possibly be used by people with bad intent. Makes common sense doesn’t it?

And carrying guns without notification is another circular argument. As of now, those who intend to carry guns at the Capitol ( a very dangerous place to be sure) need to let Capitol security know this. Presumably then security will have some assurance that those they see with guns in the halls of the Capitol are “law abiding” permit holders. But now the gun lobby’s circular reasoning is that no notification is necessary because computerized records hold the information about Minnesota gun permit holders. That’s enough notification. The problem with this line of reasoning is that Capitol security could access this information but only if they have reason to believe someone they see with a gun is not a permit holder. How will they know if someone is or isn’t? I don’t see how they will. This opens the door to someone who does not have a legal permit to walk around our Capitol where school kids come for tours, people are there for rally days and lobbying and committee hearings on controversial subjects ( like guns, for example) take place during the sessions. If no one needs to notify security, anyone could potentially carry their gun around with them. And waiting for Capitol security to approach a gun carrier to ask may be too late.


Here is another article about the gun lobby’s agenda to pass bills in states to assure that citizens can now use silencers on their guns. Check out the photos included in the article of the gun silencer company advertising for their product. The gun rights enthusiasts at the recent hearing didn’t like my pointing that out to legislators and showing the pictures. But I didn’t make this up. The ads show people in camo or military gear with their gun silencers-not duck hunters who are interested in saving their hearing. Why? Because that is not the true reason for pushing the legislation.

The thing is, the federal government regulates silencers (suppressors) as Class III weapons for good reason. I don’t know about you but it appears that most people have a clear understanding of what gun silencers are meant to do. The myth that these silencers are a must buy for hunters to protect their hearing is just that- a myth. These bills are not appearing on agendas of state legislatures because a majority of hunters are clamoring for silencers. Every hunter I have spoken to about this bill has expressed surprise that the bill even got a hearing. One man in my community, widely respected for his support of hunting sports, told me that he did actually lose some hearing in one ear from duck hunting as a child with no protective ear covering. But he told me that silencers were not the answer and couldn’t imagine hunting with a gun silencer.

No, the bills are coming from the corporate gun lobby and a minority of gun rights advocates who do the bidding of the industry. Why not make a profit if you can add yet another product to the array already available? Yes, the silencers will still be heavily regulated. But, if the bill passes, they will also now be more available to more people. Whenever guns ( and accessories) are more available to private citizens, they are also inevitably more available to those who shouldn’t have them.

The gun lobby really doesn’t want you to know all of this because their message that more guns make us safer is just not acting out in real life. Most people understand this- in fact the majority of Americans actually agree with me. 92%, and yes, that includes gun owners, want background checks on all gun sales. If that were the case, perhaps allowing silencers or people carrying guns at the Capitol would make more sense. I wonder if the gun lobby considers that their resistance to common sense gun laws actually hurts their case for changing gun laws? If we had a strong set of gun laws to keep guns and gun accessories like suppressors away from people who shouldn’t have them, those who are law abiding could make their push for some of their ideas from a better vantage point. So when the gun rights advocates use the UK as an example of a country where suppressors are allowed, they forget that the gun laws in the UK are very strong and very different from our own. It’s comparing apples to oranges. Check out this video for how suppressors are used in the UK- pretty strictly regulated as are guns:

So let’s talk the truth and stop denying the facts. Staying quiet about all of this is what the gun lobby wants. We have a lot of work to do to have a serious national conversation about guns and gun violence in our country. It’s past time for that to happen.