We are at war with each other

crossIt’s no secret. The political atmosphere was hateful and angry before the Orlando shooting. Now it’s worse. We are war with each other. History will look back on the America of the 2000s and write about how we turned our backs on the millions of victims of gun violence and their families. Historians will write about how a country allowed the massacre of 20 first graders to happen without trying to do something to prevent the next one. History will not be kind when it comes to America and mass shootings and gun violence in general.

If we lined up the crosses of all Americans killed by gun violence since 1968, they would form a field larger than that at Normandy (France), Gettysburg, Appomattox, Arlington and other cemeteries combined where fallen American military personnel are buried.

Are we at war?

Today is the first anniversary of the Charleston church shooting that took the lives of 9 innocent Americans while praying at Mother Emanuel church. History will write about how our weak gun laws allowed a young man with hate and racism in his heart to buy a gun in spite of his prohibited purchaser status. Thanks to the corporate gun lobby and their minions in Congress, a three day default proceed provision was written into the Brady law. What that means is that if the record keeping and data bases don’t communicate with each other and get information into the law enforcement system by 3 days after the purchase of a gun, the purchaser can walk away with the gun anyway.

Nine precious lives were taken because of that provision in our law that makes absolutely no common sense. But in America, sales and profits of selling guns takes precedent over saving lives.

Today, the families of the 9 killed in Charleston are remembering their loved ones. Here is one article written by the brother of one of the victims in remembrance.:

We may be back here again soon. Not in Charleston, not in a church, but somewhere in our country someone is going to experience some type of pain simply because of the proliferation of guns, and the Achilles heel of our country, racism, that we can’t seem to get past. So we got to not just forgive and forget, but we have to remember to continue to fight for those things that make our society better today than it was yesterday.

What will historians write about how we responded to this crime of hate and racism?

I wrote in my last post that things were changing concerning guns and the conversation about gun violence after the Orlando shooting. No sooner had I posted my article than a filibuster broke out in the U.S. Senate led by Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Senator Murphy was in attendance when the families of the first graders massacred at Sandy Hook learned that theirs were the 20 who didn’t come out alive. He is not going to forget or let us forget about that heinous and bloody day in American history.

Has the accumulation of all of the mass shootings in recent years just been too much? Are we, at long last, ready to do something?

It looks like there may be a vote now on some gun safety reform provisions as a result of that filibuster. At the least, the conversation changed for 15 hours when 40 Democratic Senators, 2 Republicans and 1 independent joined in and articulately and passionately talked about our national gun violence scourge. They stood with the victims. They spoke for the victims’ families. They spoke for the majority of Americans who can see that change has to happen in order to stop the daily war in our streets and our homes and public places.

Even the generals are weighing in. General Stanley McCrystal wrote this piece for the New York Times today. From his opinion piece comes something very important to the conversation about guns in America:

Here at home, many of us are alarmed by the carnage. We are alarmed by loopholes that let felons and domestic abusers get hold of guns without a background check. We are alarmed that a known or suspected terrorist can go to a federally licensed firearms dealer where background checks are conducted, pass that background check, legally purchase a firearm and walk out the door.

Now veterans are speaking out. Last Friday, two days before the tragedy in Orlando, a new initiative, the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense, led by the Navy combat veteran Capt. Mark Kelly and his wife, the former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was announced. Those of us serving on its advisory committee come from every branch of our military and virtually every rank. We are trained in the use of firearms, and many of us have served in combat. And we all think our country must do more to save lives from being cut short by gun violence.

Are we alarmed enough to do something at long last?

Listen to the voices of common sense and experience. Those on the side of the corporate gun lobby are most often also strong supporters of our military. Not that the rest of us aren’t but those who oppose reasonable gun measures can often be heard to proclaim themselves as patriotic Americans- more patriotic than the rest of us. What’s so patriotic about allowing our citizens to be massacred by people who shouldn’t have guns?

The inanity of the conversation about gun violence in our country has been taking place for far too long. Not any more. People are joining gun violence prevention organizations in large numbers asking what they can do to help. Spontaneous rallies have occurred. Monetary donations have been received. Hundreds of thousands of calls were made to Senators in 24 hours urging participation in the filibuster and what will hopefully be upcoming votes.

We have had #Enough. Action is needed. No more words and thoughts and prayers.

And no more blaming President Obama for what happened in Orlando. Shamefully Arizona Senator John McCain ( among others) has gone over the line of common sense and sanity to join in some of the lunacy regarding the Orlando shooting. From the article:

Sen. John McCain said Thursday that President Barack Obama was “directly responsible” for the massacre at the gay nightclub in Orlando, though McCain later said he “misspoke.” “Barack Obama is directly responsible for it because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al Qaeda went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures — utter failures, by pulling everybody out of Iraq, thinking that conflicts end just because you leave. So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies,” McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Really Senator McCain?

We are better than this.

There is a gun culture that has promoted the civilian ownership of weapons of war that is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. For 10 years we had a ban on these kinds of guns but our weak politicians, with pressure from the gun lobby let it lapse. Since then these weapons designed for use in war time have been used to kill countless Americans. Sandy Hook. Aurora.San Bernardino….. It doesn’t have to be this way.

This Boston Globe editorial is asking for us to return to sanity and common sense when it comes to military style assault rifles:

There is nothing more American today than a mass shooting, the quickest way for the wicked among us to join the ranks of the reviled. Their motives are many, but their opportunity is limited only by their gun and ammunition magazine brand preference. In this country, the federal government limits duck hunters to weapons that carry only three shells, to protect the duck population. But you can buy an assault weapon in seven minutes and an unlimited number of bullets to fire with it. For every McDonald’s in the United States, there are four federally licensed gun dealers and an untold number of unregulated private dealers who can legally sell an unlimited number of guns out of their homes, backpacks, and car trunks without requiring a criminal background check or proof of ID.

These weren’t the guns, and this wasn’t the America, that the Founders foresaw. That is why we need a new assault weapons ban, written for the realities we face in 2016.

What did the founding fathers envision? Gun rights extremists tell us that what we have now is exactly what was meant by the founding fathers when they wrote the second amendment. That is, in part, responsible for what happened in Orlando.

There is a weak system of regulating who gets guns that is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Racism and hatred is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando.

Presidential politics and extreme rhetoric is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. One of our Presidential candidates is fear mongering and hating certain groups even thought they aren’t responsible for what happened in Orlando. (“Trump’s discourse, both leading up to and following the Orlando shooting, begins with a pathos of fear but ends with an appeal to anger.”)

We are better than this.

Even tolerance of anti-government groups and support for them has allowed the current culture to get a foot hold in American and leads to other acts of violence. For example, the stand-off by armed Americans proclaiming it was all about the federal government taking something from them, was not only ignored but even supported by some on the right and Donald Trump himself:

That chummy relationship with extremists didn’t start with Malheur. In fact, Donald Trump expressed admiration for Cliven Bundy at the time of the 2014 confrontation between his armed supporters and law enforcement officers over Bundy’s refusal to pay grazing fees for his cattle on government land.

“I like him, I like his spirit, his spunk…I respect him,” Trump told Fox News in April that year. Bundy’s sons led the Malheur standoff, which eventually resulted in their arrest and the killing of one of the occupiers at a roadblock by state police.

“Republican Congressional leaders have done nothing to combat this growing threat,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) “Indeed, they ignored a Democratic request … to hold a Natural Resources Committee hearing on this issue.”

History will judge us for this kind of anti-government extremism.

It’s not President Obama. It’s those who hate him. More from the above article:

“This antigovernment movement has exploded since President Obama took office. In 2008, we documented approximately 150 radical antigovernment groups. Last year, we counted almost 1,000,” he added. “The movement is dangerous. It includes almost 300 armed militia groups committed to resisting what they see as a tyrannical federal government.”

Thompson pointedly compared the anti-government crowd with foreign, and foreign-inspired, terrorists. Domestic terrorists have the same goal, he said, “to harm and incite fear within our borders.”

Congress, he said, “must take this growing threat seriously and take action.”

Our politicians weak spines are in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Individuals who have become self radicalized and terror groups who want us to be terrorized by actions of unstable angry young men who have troubled pasts and intolerance of others are in part responsible for what happened in Orlando:

Oppositional. Lacks remorse. Verbally abusive. These are some of the terms teachers and school counselors used to describe a young Omar Mateen, according to elementary and middle school records.

Mateen, who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday in the worstmass shooting in modern U.S. history, had a troubling record of behavioral issues throughout his elementary and middle school years, ranging from simply disrupting class to outright aggressive conflicts with classmates.

Our almost total ignoring of the hundreds of thousands of gun violence victims is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Fear and paranoia promoted by the corporate gun lobby and extremists on the right are in part to blame for what happened in Orlando.

All we know is that blame is not going to change the fact that too many Americans have been killed in mass shootings and every day shootings. We need to deal with fear, paranoia, hate, racism, misogyny, anti-gay sentiments, terror, intolerance, mental health and whatever else causes someone to kill others. But to ignore the guns is a national shame and putting our heads in the sand.

This can’t be the new normal. We can’t let it be. We will do whatever it takes. The nation is asking for our leaders to do something. Increased interest in strongly regulating assault style rifles and high capacity magazines has surfaced. The gun lobby hates any renewed discussion but we are not going to let the gun lobby lead that discussion. A majority of Americans want something to happen.

Something has changed. New ways of invoking terror in Americans has sparked a national conversation but I am concerned that it has further divided us and made the conversation more hate-filled and acrimonious than ever.

We are better than this.

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.

Snowplows, guns and other gun nonsense

snow_ploughIt’s been another interesting week in the world of guns and gun violence, as always. Several days ago I wrote about a New Jersey woman who asked some friends to shoot a neighbor who temporarily borrowed a shovel to help another neighbor. I wrote about it because you can’t make this stuff up. It’s happening in communities all over our country and soon to come to your own community if it has not already.

Apparently snow and cold are causing some gun owners to leave all common sense behind in their anger or while under the influence of alcohol. Neither of these goes together well with holding a loaded gun.

Take this one for example when a Massachusetts when a man driving while drunk and loaded, fired off shots at a snowplow that annoyed him:

A Massachusetts man apparently got frustrated while driving behind a snow plow and opened fire.

Bruce O’Brien was arrested after firing his gun three times while driving in Plymouth during a snowstorm about 7 p.m. Saturday, reported The Manomet Current.

Police said the 60-year-old O’Brien was driving drunk when he fired the shots.

None of the shots hit any cars or homes, and police aren’t sure whether the Whitman man was shooting at the snow plow.

I get the frustration of driving behind a snowplow since I live in Northern Minnesota. But I also get the “rules of engagement” when following a snowplow on a street or freeway. And one of them is not to get out a gun and start shooting bullets.

I think I posted about the good samaritan in North Carolina who was shot and killed by a drunk and loaded guy in the recent east coast snowstorm:

The Catawba County Sheriff’s Office says a 27-year-old Good Samaritan was shot and killed yesterday by a man he stopped to help.

The victim has been identified as 27-year-old Jefferson Heavner of Newton.

Investigators say the suspect, Marvin Jacob Lee, has been charged with first-degree murder and will appear in a Catawba County court on Monday. The sheriff’s office says Lee was drunk when he ran his vehicle off the side of Mathis Church Road during the snowstorm on Friday afternoon.

A group of people stopped to help Lee, including Heavner.

Investigators say that when Lee became aware that Heavner was going to call police for help, Lee got out of his vehicle and fired his gun, killing Heavner. Lee then got back in his vehicle and a standoff ensued until a SWAT team finally got Lee out of the truck and arrested him.

Making any more comments about these senseless shootings seems senseless. It’s what we’ve come to in America. When more people are armed, more people will be shot and more stupid and dangerous incidents will happen with guns. It’s just the way it is but it doesn’t have to be this way.

Steps are being taken to make us safer from people who shouldn’t have guns. President Obama has changed the conversation with his Executive Orders announced several weeks ago.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Facebook has announced that it will not allow guns to be sold peer to peer on its’ platform. Why? Most, if not all of these guns, go without Brady background checks. That’s simply a bad idea. The President’s new executive orders will beef up monitoring of on-line gun sales. A Kentucky teen purchased a gun through a Facebook gun sale meeting place was someone who could not legally purchase a gun from a licensed dealer. 

In 2014, several gun safety reform groups worked to get Facebook to change its’ policy regarding sales of guns. At that time some changes were made but they did not go far enough because private gun sales were still allowed with no background checks. But as of this past week, that has changed.

But never mind, the gun rights extremists are trying to claim this is against their second amendment rights. These guys are just plain confused and wrong. But the corporate gun lobby has convinced them that anything that makes common sense concerning gun policy and gun laws is violating their “God given” rights.  A simple explanation was offered for why they are wrong in this article written by a lawyer:

Predictably, after the announcement, the “Obummer is coming for my guns”/”Molon Labe”/”Come and Take it” crowd immediately started throwing a hissy fit about their 2nd Amendment rights (if you need proof, head over to any right wing Facebook page and you’ll find hundreds, if not thousands of comments regarding Facebook “violating people’s 2nd Amendment rights”). The problem however, is that these statement are entirely incorrect, because the 2nd Amendment doesn’t apply in this situation. So clearly, these people either skipped the day in civics class where they were taught about  the state action doctrine and therefore clearly (and laughably) don’t seem to realize the Bill of Rights doesn’t apply, or worse they simply just don’t seem to care that their understanding of the Constitution is flawed at best, and flat out incorrect at worst. Maybe it’s time for a remedial lesson?

Now, we seriously should not have to go over this concept every damn time something along these lines occurs, but unfortunately, here we go again. The reason the 2nd Amendment does not apply in this situation, is because Facebook is a private company; Facebook is not the government. Therefore, if Facebook decides to ban private gun sales on its social media platform, Facebook has every right to do so; and not only is Facebook not violating anyone’s 2nd Amendment rights, the 2nd Amendment isn’t implicated.

Stand down everyone. Obama is not coming for your guns and neither is the government. Facebook has sensibly decided on a policy that they have a right to decide given that they are a private company. I thought these were the guys who love individual liberty, less government and private industry. Go figure.

In other good news, the Brady Campaign has been working to repeal the PLCAA law that has allowed the gun industry protection from law suits that no other industry enjoys. There was a victory this week when repeal legislation was introduced in the U.S. Senate and several Brady activists walked into Sen. Bernie Sanders’ office to talk to staff about the repeal bill. Several hours after these folks visited with Sanders’ staff, the Brady Campaign got a call saying that Sen. Sanders would sign on to the legislation to repeal the law he voted in favor of in 2005. From the article:

According to a release from the Brady Campaign, Sanders will co-sponsor the repeal of the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act, which protects gun manufacturers in lawsuits involving shootings. Sanders had voted in favor of the protections while in the Senate and has up to this point resisted reversing course on the issue.

The Brady Campaign says that Sanders decided to support the legislation “hours after meeting with Brady activists,” and that his staff also met with victims of gun violence.

For Sanders, it’s all an effort to undo the damage of a 2005 vote for a bill that protected gun manufacturers from lawsuits when their firearms are used in crimes. Then-New York Sen. Hillary Clinton opposed that bill, and has repeatedly pointed to Sanders’ vote as evidence he was aligned with the National Rifle Association.

This is what change and activism looks like. This is what happens when the majority of Americans are fed up with being snowed by the corporate gun lobby blizzard of #badideas and leaves us and victims and survivors out in the cold. This time around, the discussion about the causes and effects of gun violence is heating up in the Presidential election.

Change is in the air. We can shed the light of day on the politicians who have bowed down to the corporate gun lobby for fear of their mythical power. Gun rights extremists are a minority of Americans and even gun owners who have held sway for far too long. We have had #Enough. Let’s get to work.

Guns and shovels

ShovelUnless you have been living under a rock, you know about the snow storm that hit the east coast last week-end. Millions of people were left to clear snow from their sidewalks and hope the plow didn’t come by while they were clearing snow from their cars. As a northern Minnesota person, I know about this. Shoveling is back breaking.

Once, many years ago, we got stuck on the remote Gunflint Trail near Grand Marais, Minnesota. during an unexpected snow storm. We went to cross country ski and enjoy my parents’ small cabin on a remote lake near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. It was a great get-away from our (then) small daughter who was left behind with her grandma. But when the time came to go home, we faced some difficult driving conditions and the snow was drifted up on the cabin road where a long lake abutted the road. We got stuck in a snow drift and did not have a shovel. There happened to be a rustic home around the corner and so we walked there and knocked on the door. No one was home and we noticed a shovel outside of the front door.

So we took the shovel to get out of that drift and intended to bring it back to the house. But the driving was so bad that we had to drive a ways down the road and keep going. we hoped the owners would find the shovel standing up on the side of the road where we left it. I have a vivid memory of that trip.

But now, I guess “borrowing” a shovel can be dangerous as it was for this man in New Jersey after the snow storm. From the article:

Newark police say a man told them he found the shovel on the sidewalk on Sunday and was using it to clear an elderly neighbor’s walkway after a major snowstorm when the woman accused him of stealing her shovel.

The man returned the shovel. He was later walking when he said he was approached by the woman and several males and one of the males shot him in the buttocks on orders from the woman.

So why in the world would using a shovel to clear someone’s driveway promote the anger that this woman felt? Without that gun, what would have happened instead? No one would have been shot and injured for sure. Maybe an argument. Guns make arguments dangerous. And where are the “law abiding” gun owners who are responsible with their loaded guns? Is there enough common sense out there for gun owners like this woman to restrain themselves and put the gun away? If you read this blog, you know how often I write about incidents like this one.

Why should we have incidents like this one? We shouldn’t, period. When a gun is available and easily accessible it may be used to harm someone. What is it about the risk of loaded guns that some “law abiding” gun owners don’t understand? Have they been led to believe that a loaded gun will protect them from shadows and terrorists lurking in every corner so their fear causes them to stop thinking about a gun as a deadly weapon designed to kill someone? Or do they think it’s simply OK to shoot someone if they insult you or borrow something or have too much to drink and lose judgement? It’s really hard to wrap one’s head around this lunacy. As long as some people buy the ideas of the corporate gun lobby we will continue to read about these stupid and dangerous incidents in our media.

We have had #enough of this. It’s time to change that conversation about guns and gun violence and get to work to do something sensible about it. There are just plain no excuses for this kind of behavior. Let’s get to work.

 

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.

 

Peace and justice on Thanksgiving

Puzzle Pieces: Justice Concept.

As Thanksgiving approaches we should all pause and think about what is going on right now in our country. The Paris terror attacks have elevated the fear, anger and paranoia of Americans for good reason. But since the terror attack, some of the reactions have been amazingly uneducated and utterly frightening. I have been writing about this in my last few blog posts.

But now terror has hit Minnesota in the form of an attack by armed (alleged) white supremacists in Minneapolis against members of the Black Lives Matters protest over the shooting of a young black man by police last week.

This is a domestic terror attack- there is not another word for it. When so many people have been encouraged to arm themselves for perceived threats to their safety, this is inevitable. When so much hate, anger and fear is spewed on the air waves every day, what do we expect? More guns have definitely not made us safer or more polite. We have a violent and racist society.

Mike the Gun Guy has written about the Minneapolis shooting. It’s something to consider. From his post:

If you don’t think there’s a connection between the Black Lives Matter protestor who was beaten up at a Trump rally in Alabama and the attempted killing of peaceful demonstrators in Minneapolis, then you haven’t been paying attention to the news or the Trump campaign.  When you stand up in front of a cheering-jeering audience and call someone a ‘jerk’ or a ‘dope’ or a ‘crazy’ because they yell something during your speech, you’ve abandoned any degree of public civility and are now just pandering to the lowest and meanest folks in the crowd. (…)

But they don’t have to keep quiet if they can go to a rally headlined by Trump.  And they don’t have to keep quiet when they walk up to a demonstration held by Black Lives Matter because another Black man may have been gunned down by the cops.  After all, these guys have a Constitutional right to call someone a name and they also have a Constitutional right to walk around with a gun.  Put those two rights together and you know what you get?  You get three young Black men in the hospital with gunshot wounds and the cops, in a shooting which took place right outside a police station, still looking for the guys who pulled out the guns.

It happened right outside the police station.  Think about that.

Didn’t these armed thugs know that armed police officers were nearby? Of course they did. They didn’t care. Their hate, racism and anger fueled them and combined with guns, it didn’t go well. The suspects have all been arrested.

We don’t know yet what exactly happened in the case of the shooting of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis. Both sides have a story to tell and evidence to bring. An investigation will hopefully bring some justice and peace to citizens of the 4th precinct.

No matter what happened to Jamar Clark, one can understand mistrust of officers by people of color given the incidents that have happened over many years’ time. The tenuous relationship between people of color and law enforcement has been much in the news all over our country.

A Chicago officer just turned himself into police over the shooting of a black teen in October of 2014. It turns out that the officer shot the teen 16 times, many of the bullets shot after the teen was lying dead on the street.

These are difficult times for America. When there are so many guns on our streets and in our homes, the inevitable result is mistrust of others. Yes, black teens and young men are dying in greater numbers than their white counterparts. Yes, white men are dying more often than their counterparts of color in gun suicides. Toddlers and small children are “accidentally” shooting themselves and others at an alarming rate. Mass shootings occupy our media spaces on a regular basis. Yes, white radicalized home grown terrorists are shooting people of color. Stand Your Ground laws are unmistakably aimed at people of color and affect them at a greater rate than white people.  And yes, black young men are also shooting each other and innocent people in gang related shootings all over America. Police officers are being shot by others in various scenarios. And police officers are sometimes shooting  young men of color in sometimes justified shootings, sometimes not.

The issue of race and guns needs to be examined so we can understand the issues faced by our communities of color. It is not without controversy as nothing is with gun rights and gun violence prevention. The Trace has written about the history of race and gun rights. It’s worth the read for a better understanding of what is going on in our own country right now.

It’s impossible not to connect the dots from this article with the summer shooting of 9 Black people at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, South Carolina. It was an act of terror and it was an act of overt racism.

Home grown extremists are shooting Americans on a pretty regular basis.

We have a gun problem that is contributing to all of the above.

Minnesota has had a rough year for shootings. There have been many shootings in the communities of color. There have been horrific domestic shootings and the usual suicides which account for 80% of gun deaths in Minnesota. Just yesterday, a man in a domestic dispute was shot and killed by officers in a Minnesota suburb. Domestic cases are among the most dangerous for officers.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Getting a handle on our nation’s public health and safety gun violence epidemic won’t be easy. But we shouldn’t stop until we have the conversation we deserve about the causes and effects of devastating gun violence. Common sense and resolve have to lead the discussion.  Facts will be important but our sense of justice and common values should be at the forefront of the discussion and decision making.

You may have conversations around your Thanksgiving table with family and friends about the many controversial  topics surrounding us. There are terror attacks, Syrian refugees, what to do with old aunt Sally, how to deal with cousin Peter, what to do about Uncle Joe’s drinking, where to go shopping on Black Friday and other important and not so important topics. If shootings and gun violence come up there are some answers to some of your gun toting relatives in this article in The Trace. “Arming” yourself with the facts rather than arguing at an emotional level may make your Thanksgiving table conversation less confrontational.

This Thanksgiving is going to be very difficult for a lot of people who are missing a family member because of a deadly shooting. Please think of them while you are with your own family and friends. And stay safe this holiday season.

God help us all. We will need all the help we can get to deal with all of the tragedy and unrest surrounding us.

Gunned down Americans- Rest in Peace

RIPIn what country are we living again? Historically we have understood that there are countries where awful violence affects the citizens and the rest of the world watches in horror. I would suggest that in the last week in America, the rest of the world has watched in horror as a disgruntled employee gunned down 2 journalists because….? Actually other nation’s citizens have been watching our gun violence in horror for years now but last week was particularly horrific.

We know more about the shooter of the journalists now and understand that he was an angry man and potentially violent. He had to be physically removed from the TV station after throwing things and making threats against other employees. 

As a result of that shooting, there has been a focus on the issue of gun violence prevention because Alison Parker’s father has chosen to use his grief to call attention to our nation’s lax gun laws and has proclaimed that he will work hard to make change happen. I wish him all the luck with that and we are all expecting to work with him. Many other family members of shooting victims have come forward over the years to work on the issue. This beautiful piece, written by the mother of a Sandy Hook school shooting victim, encourages Parker to get involved and offers hope:

Please use your emotions, your love for your daughter and the pain caused by the gaping hole in your life, and focus them into this issue. Once you’ve been touched by violence, saving the lives of others is the only way forward. Whether you choose to fight for policy and political change, or whether you decide to get ahead of the violence and prevent it before it happens (as I chose), always know you are never alone.

We are on a long, difficult road together, but with my son, your daughter and hundreds of thousands of others across the states, we will get there. I promise.

When will our leaders make this promise in the name of the victims and survivors? Unfortunately for them and for the country, not much happens as a result because of our entrenched gun culture and refusal of the corporate gun lobby to actually work to stop the shootings. Our leaders put their fingers to the wind and believe ( erroneously) that if they challenge the gun lobby, they can’t get re-elected.

I would also offer that if we had stronger gun laws and screening of potential gun purchasers and gun carriers more carefully as is done in a lot of other countries, the shooter of the 2 young journalists would likely not have been considered as someone who could legally buy a gun. And in a system where all sales require background checks or personal information as in other countries, there would be few avenues for him to purchase a gun. So angry people do kill people by other means but not anywhere close to the killings by firearms ( in America).

And we thought this shooting of 2 young journalist on live TV and recorded by the shooter was horrific. It was. And then yesterday, another execution occurred. A Texas state trooper was gunned down execution style while he stopped for gas at a convenience store. The details of this are almost too awful to contemplate. From the article:

A man shot a uniformed sheriff’s deputy “execution-style” while he fueled his patrol car in the Houston area, killing him instantly, authorities said.

Deputy Darren H. Goforth, 47, was returning to his car after pumping gas Friday night.

The gunman walked up from behind him and opened fire for no apparent reason, Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman said.

When Goforth fell to the ground, the gunman stood over him and shot him some more, authorities said. He died at the scene.

“He was literally gunned down in what appears to be an unprovoked, execution-style killing,” Hickman said. “I have been in law enforcement for 45 years, I have never seen anything this cold-blooded.”

Well, dear readers. This is the America we now have in no small part because of our twisted and paranoid gun culture. The corporate gun lobby is promoting guns for everyone everywhere and that is what we have.

(I am editing this post to include details about the shooter of the Texas law enforcement officer. He has been caught.):

Sheriff Ron Hickman released few details about the suspect Saturday in a press conference. Miles has a list of prior convictions including resisting arrest, trespassing and disorderly conduct with a fire arm, he said.

He was able to get a gun, of course. And now an innocent law enforcement was gunned down and his family will grieve for him forever. Senseless.

So now what? Is this how it’s going to be? Domestic shootings happen between people who know each other and one ( usually a male) decides to take out his anger by killing a spouse/partner and whoever else happens to be in the way. Suicides happen quietly but sometimes are also the motivation of mass shooters who were likely suicidal in the first place but had to shoot others first for some inexplicable reason. It happens quite often that way. The shooter kills himself after shooting all the others. Too hard to face what he/they did or knowing how awful it was to shoot other human beings, why live with those images in your head? And we do have a problem with young people in our large cities who may or may not be members of local gangs but who shoot each other over slights or arguments about territory or whatever. Easy access to guns adds to this urban violence problem. Also often enough, innocent people get caught in the cross fire and are killed by stray bullets. It happens often enough to alarm us. We are gunning each other down in America.

Are we alarmed? Do we care that we now have execution style shootings going on in our communities? Hyped up fears and mistrust of law enforcement officers  (and government) have caused other attacks in public places, here ,and here. There are others where these come from. And then the opposite happens. Officers themselves shoot and kill ( often) people of color over things that should not result in a shooting death. We have the recent shootings of Michael Brown, Walter Scott and Tamir Rice  to name just a few. We are gunning each other down in America.

Anti government sentiment, whipped up by extremists and the gun lobby, also result in horrific shootings. Take the shooting in Las Vegas in 2014 for just one example but there are many others. The Southern Poverty Law Center keeps track of potentially dangerous extremists groups who represent racist, white supremacist, anti government sentiments. These folks are armed and can do a lot of damage.And shootings also have killed some of our military members serving on US soil, also this summer, in the Chattanooga shooting. Expect to see more of these shootings like the one in the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston this summer. The hate and racism exhibited by the shooter there seems to have been some sort of catalyst for the shooter of the Virginia journalist or so he claimed.

It just may be true that one mass shooting contributes to another, and to another and the cycle continues until we decide we’ve had enough like Australia did after a horrific 1996 mass shooting there. For now, though, we are gunning each other down.

Officers fear for their lives every day because there are so many citizens with guns that they, themselves, get caught in situations where they believe they are defending themselves. When carrying a gun, officer or citizen) it’s there to use and sometimes judgment is impaired or race plays a role or fear. Some citizens apparently fear for their lives every day as well and sometimes kill others over something that shouldn’t result in a death. And with new Stand Your Ground Laws, people like George Zimmerman can do this and not be accountable for the death of an unarmed young black man.

The result is that the violence is increasing. The Gun Violence Archive is keeping track. There have been over 33,569 shooting incidents so far in 2015. It’s only August. So far this year there have been 247 mass shooting (4 or more shot and injured or killed) incidents in America. We have 4 months left in the year. What will happen next? We keep thinking we have seen the worst. When 20 first graders are gunned down by a young man who never should have had access to guns and we do nothing, we can expect to see more. When people are gunned down in movie theaters, churches, malls, schools and everywhere we go for no apparent reason, we are officially a country that has lost it’s moral compass in efforts to appease a group of armed Americans so fearful of losing something they value that they will allow just about any kind of carnage to keep their way of life. But there appears to be disregard for the valuable lives lost because of our love affair with guns.That love affair with guns has resulted in what we are now seeing in our media and on the streets of our communities.

There are ways to change what we are doing to keep guns away from volatile, angry people who don’t necessarily find themselves on the prohibited purchaser list for gun purchases at a licensed dealer. And, of course, we can require that every gun sale go through a Brady background check no matter where a gun is purchased.

But we aren’t doing these things.

A new report/study by Criminologist Adam Lankford points to our American gun culture as exceptional compared to other countries and provides some interesting ideas about why these kinds of shootings happen mostly in America. He was interviewed for this article:

“For decades, people have wondered if the dark side of American exceptionalism is a cultural propensity for violence,” he wrote, “and in recent years, perhaps no form of violence is seen as more uniquely American than public mass shootings.”

Lankford, author of “The Myth of Martyrdom: What Really Drives Suicide Bombers, Rampage Shooters, and Other Self-Destructive Killers,” looked at the situation globally, and considered a wide range of relative factors — the state of mental health coverage, the availability of guns, the valorization of fame, and other cultural differences. (…)

What the data clearly show is a strong relationship between firearm ownership rates – what is the percentage of firearms owned by civilians in a country – and the number of public mass shooters. That’s what I found in my study of 171 countries – that relationship was very strong. And it was even strong when you removed the United States from the analysis – it explains the variations in other countries as well. So that seems to be one of the critical factors, and the United States has five times the number of mass shootings than any other country – five times the second-ranked country – from 1966 to 2012 – and we have the world’s leading firearm ownership rate among civilians. (…)

There is nearly one handgun for every person in America – far higher than the ratio in ever other country in the world. How consequential is that?

Very consequential. It effects both who can get a gun to carry out an attack, and how many guns someone who’s decided to carry out an attack can get, which directly, in turn, effects the number of people they kill. One of the findings of my study is that attackers who use multiple guns kill significantly more victims. That was a global finding. (…)

It would be a great day for America if people struggling with mental health problems and had some motive to carry out an attack decided to take a different path because they couldn’t find the firearms they wanted.

That would be a great day, indeed. Let’s get to work to make that happen because we just have to be better than this. We can’t let the world look at us as people who gun down other Americans in public places because they hold a grudge in the workplace, are angry over a separation, are angry in general, or have mental illness that could lead to thoughts of homicide.

Yes. We are gunned down America.

In spite of all of this, gun violence prevention advocates are not going away. We will continue to discuss gun violence and solutions to the problem in the midst of yet another shooting even though the gun lobby doesn’t want us to “dance in the blood of the victims.” If we waited until we had no shooting tragedies, we would wait a very long time and that is exactly what the gun rights advocates want. Mass shootings, execution style shootings, keeping track of shooting incidents, writing about the carnage, witnessing a shooting live on TV, hearing about a neighbor killed by a  souse or partner- they won’t go away no matter what the gun lobby thinks. Ignoring it would be a total abrogation of our responsibilities to make sure our families and children are safe. And it would be a moral lapse of huge proportions.

No, we will not back down in the face of the fierce resistance of an armed minority of Americans. The public is with us. We will continue. Andy Parker’s voice will be heard and added to the many others like him working for reform.  The voices of other high profile shooting victims ‘ families will be heard. Those of us who have lost someone in a domestic shooting will continue to force the conversation to happen. We will be heard. But in the meantime, we are killing each other every day.

Where is common sense?

Rest in Peace America.