Nothing to see here….

map of gun deaths
From Gun Violence Archive

Yes. One can apparently buy a rocket propelled grenade launcher in America and keep it at home. That was the case in Minnesota this week as police seized a load of drugs and weapons from a rural home where they were stashed- just in case. From the story:

 

 

A search warrant Tuesday, Jan. 30, led to five arrests and uncovered drugs, nearly four dozen firearms and suspected explosives, including items found in a concrete bunker in the basement.

The items seized from the rural Willmar home included submachine guns, homemade silencers, night vision goggles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

Weapons of war in a bunker. What the he%^? Seriously. This is America where homegrown terrorists stockpile weapons and ammunition to be ready for… for…. what? What was the plan here? More from the article:

According to the criminal complaint, Monson had told someone that he had the addresses of a judge, a prosecutor and another attorney and intended to use explosives in or near their homes and vehicles.

The five people arrested face a variety of felony and misdemeanor drug and weapons charges.

Monson faces felony counts of possessing a firearm with an altered serial number, possessing a machine gun and possessing a firearm suppressor. He also faces two felony counts of fifth-degree drug possession and a gross misdemeanor count of being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

Jacobson faces two felony counts of possessing a firearm with an altered serial number, one felony count of possessing a machine gun and another felony count of possessing a firearm suppressor. He faces gross misdemeanor charges of fifth-degree drug possession, being a drug user in possession of a firearm and negligent storage of firearms accessible to a child.

Johnson faces a felony charge for possessing a firearm after having been convicted of a violent crime, a felony count of fifth-degree drug possession, and a gross misdemeanor count of being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

Quimby is charged with felony and gross misdemeanor fifth-degree drug possession and a gross misdemeanor count of being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

And so,  people who cannot legally purchase or possess firearms, let alone sub machine guns or a rocket propelled grenade launcher, were found in possession of these weapons of war anyway.

And have I mentioned that drugs and guns just don’t go together well? But they are often intertwined making it all the more dangerous.

What could possibly go wrong?

There are Americans stockpiling guns and ammunition with an intent to use them to terrorize other Americans. It is #NotNormal. They are living right under our noses in communities near you.

Could the Minnesota folks from the above article undergo a Brady background check at a Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer and walk away with these weapons legally? NO.

This is why we need to insist that all firearms and related paraphernalia require Brady background checks before they walk out of a store or gun show in the hands of someone who will not use them safely and legally.

We could do this. But we haven’t and we won’t as long as NRA and corporate gun lobby legislators control the country. Do these lawmakers think this is OK? They must.  Otherwise why wouldn’t they agree to pass some common sense legislation to stop this lunacy?

It’s beyond explanation of any kind why our lawmakers continue to allow this culture of violence. The gun violence public health epidemic is real. It is taking the lives of an increasing number of Americans on a daily basis.

Let’s check in with the Gun Violence Archive for the body count just in January of this year:  1334 dead and 2404 injured. 23 mass shootings so far in 2018. Look at the chart on the web page and the map I have provided above. Can you see one state where a gun incident has not happened in January of 2018? One month in America.

This is #NotNormal or inevitable dear readers. Most, if not all, of these shootings are totally preventable.

But let me get back to the above story about rocket propelled grenade launchers and other insanity. Where can one buy some of this stuff anyway? Here. and Here. and Here ( “And anti-personnel weapon. And anti-helicopter weapon. And anti-anything-worth-shooting weapon. And we-Afghans-are-celebrating-a-wedding weapon. And… well, you get the point)”. 

I guess this last one does not shoot grenades but some other kind of ordinance. That makes me feel so much better. People playing soldier at home in rural Minnesota should give us all pause. It is happening in every state actually.

The grenade launcher is legal to purchase after Congress let the assault weapons ban expire. There was a reason for not allowing the import, sale or possession of certain kinds of dangerous weapons under the Assault Weapons Ban. But the corporate gun lobby hated that some weapons were not available to the average citizen and so they bullied our politicians to get rid of legislation that could have saved some lives.

What in the world does a private citizen need with a rocket propelled grenade launcher? Is there an answer that makes any sense at all?

In other news of the #NotNormal, there was another school shooting this week in California involving a 12 year old shooter. Yes indeed- a 12 year old shot and injured 4 people :

A 12-year-old girl was booked on suspicion of negligent discharge of a firearm Thursday after a shooting at Sal Castro Middle School left four students injured, authorities said.

Los Angeles police do not believe that the shooting was intentional, spokesman Josh Rubenstein said Thursday evening.

“At this time, the information suggests that this was an isolated incident, involving the negligent discharge of a firearm, where innocent children and a staff member were unfortunately injured,” the LAPD said in a statement. (…)

“​​​Someone decided to bring a gun, I guess someone was accidentally playing around with it,” said Benjamin, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, whose guardian asked that his last name not be used. “They thought it was a fake gun.”

What? “I guess someone was accidentally playing around with it.” There are no accidents with guns. No one should be accidentally playing around with a gun. Period. Let alone a 12 year old child in a school.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. This is lunacy. Who thought it was a fake gun? This is total irresponsibility and preventable. This is #NotNormal not or inevitable.

Also in the news of the #NotNormal is the fact that an engineer sold altered armour piercing bullets to the Las Vegas shooter and is now charged for this sale to a madman who killed 58 people in just one shooting incident. From the article:

Tracer ammunition is built with a small pyrotechnic charge that produces a bright trail of light to allow a shooter to see the bullet’s trajectory during nighttime firing or other low visibility scenarios.

“At no time did I see anything suspicious or odd or any kind of a tell,” Haig told reporters.

The complaint says Haig told investigators that when Paddock bought the ammunition, he put on gloves before taking the box from Haig.

Nothing odd? Except for the fact that a man wanted to buy multiple rounds of tracer bullets that another man was not licensed to sell:

The 55-year-old aerospace engineer did not have a license to manufacture and sell the armor-piercing bullets he sold to Stephen Paddock in the weeks before the massacre that left 58 people dead.

Nothing to see here folks. Let’s move on to the next massacre.

Where is common sense?

 

Real people die every day

GVA
From the Gun Violence Archive

So every day people die of something. Opioid addiction is now killing about as many Americans as do guns. Sometimes the two go together. I have heard from some Police Chiefs that guns also come along with the drugs. Why? Good question. Intimidation? Potential vindictiveness if a drug deal goes wrong? What we do know is that guns and drugs do not go together- they are a dangerous combination.

And please take note of the linked article above as it comes from research by the Centers for Disease Control which is allowed by Congress for the drug/opioid epidemic. Not so for gun deaths and injuries. Why? The NRA and corporate gun lobby of course. Thanks guys.

Apparently it would interfere with the national narrative about gun rights and the money and influence that come to lapdog politicians doing the bidding of the corporate gun lobby if we knew the truth about gun deaths and injuries. And maybe we would see more photos, stories from families, and get into the causes so we could prevent at least some of the deaths. For that is what public health epidemic research is all about.

I am thankful that the Gun Violence Archive is keeping track of gun homicides ( they do not include suicides in their numbers) so we know what is happening around the country.

When I wrote on New Year’s,  there were zero Americans killed by gun violence in 2018 at that point.  Not so now. It didn’t take long, according to the Gun Violence Archive, to report on the numbers. So far in 2018 ( it’s Jan. 5th) 144 Americans have died from gun homicides. That’s about 30 a day. That’s an epidemic.

The thing is, these numbers represent real people with real families who loved them and will miss them terribly.

For the life of me, I don’t get how gun rights extremists don’t get that about gun violence. Is it really true that a certain number of gun deaths should be tolerated so they can have unfettered gun rights? If so, shame on all of us for letting that be the narrative being allowed to fester.

The narrative is and should be that gun violence is a public health epidemic, period. The numbers are increasing, in fact, of gun incidents, gun deaths and injuries. Did you look at the image at the top of this post? These are not fabricated or #fakenews. They are real.

From 2014 to 2017, looking at the chart above, there was a pretty significant increase in all categories of records kept by the Gun Violence Archive. Why are we not alarmed by this? And if we add the number of suicides, we are looking at a large number of Americans dead because of firearms and access to them by so many people. More guns=more gun deaths.

I say we go for common sense in 2018 and not allow ourselves to be silenced by those who want to confuse the public health epidemic of gun violence with the second amendment. We already know that the public is with us on the issue so our job is to get them to become louder and more committed to the gun issue in 2018. It is an election issue and should be raised wherever there are candidates running. Don’t let anyone run away from the issue just because they are afraid of the minority opinion. Tell them the truth but first learn the truth and become familiar with the facts.

Contribute your time, energy, talents and money. The NRA raised a record amount of money in 2016 to get Trump and their lapdogs elected and look what we got:

Trump made fears about gun violence a central part of his campaign, but as president he has done little to curb that violence. At the same time, he has methodically, if quietly, taken steps to relax gun control policies. The Justice Department tightened the definition of who qualifies as a “fugitive from justice” when it comes to gun ownership, in effect making it easier for certain people with arrest warrants to possess firearms. The Interior Department removed a ban on hunting with lead ammunition on federal lands. And a bill signed last February prohibited the Social Security Administration from reporting recipients with mental impairments to a national background-check database. The NRA applauded the latter two actions.

Sigh.

We got politicians beholden to the dangerous agenda of a corporate and influential lobby that must be paid back with loyalty and laws that will make us all less safe.

And then use real stories and talk about the victims. If we don’t do that, we haven’t done enough. They are all around us every day. The Brady Campaign has posted many of these real stories in videos and narratives. Other organizations are doing the same thing. The gun lobby does not like these victim stories and they don’t like it when the narrative moves towards ways to prevent gun violence right after a mass shooting or an “everyday” shooting. Why not? If we waited until there were no shootings we would never talk about it. That is what they want.

People like me are telling our stories. Our stories are of real family members who we loved and who we miss dearly. My sister’s family and friends will never forget her vivacious personality, her beautiful face, her adventuresome nature, her artistic ability, her love of sports and exercise and her love for her family.

Real people are shot every day. Don’t ever forget that.

Drive by shootings and gun policy

bonnieclydeRemember Bonnie and Clyde? I do. There were a lot of drive-by shootings and road rage shootings committed by the infamous couple who died in their car of multiple bullet wounds at the hands of law enforcement. Those were the “good old days” when bullets were flying and machine guns were easily available to those who shouldn’t have had them. Revenge, gangs, anger, too much alcohol and guns- bad combinations.

Bonnie and Clyde were killed in 1934.

Remember Elliott Ness and Al Capone and the mafia era? The years of prohibition created mayhem on the streets of some of our cities. It was just after this time period that Congress decided that machine guns and silencers should not be available to average citizens without very strict regulations. In 1934, the National Firearms Act was passed:

With the passage of the NFA, these guns immediately faced severe restrictions.  While owning them is still technically legal, they must be registered (which isn’t exactly easy) and they are taxed more heavily ($200 for owning a silencer, for example, or as low as $5 for some smooth bore pistols, like the Serbu Super Shorty pictured earlier).  Anyone wanting to own one or manufacture one has to go through the BATFE for approval. (…) But firearms enthusiasts should look at it from a cautionary perspective, as well.  This was possible.  In fact, it is one of several legislative acts that govern the way we think about firearms.  And the NFA will be the cornerstone on which new restrictions will be built.

Few, if any, crimes are committed with these weapons because so few people own them and those who do go through a long and expensive process to get them. But it could only be a matter of time as the corporate gun lobby is driving by to get laws passed in many of our states to allow people to purchase silencers. When more people own silencers, will they, too, end up in the illegal market? How will they be used? Keep track of this as the push is on to get them into more hands. My own state of Minnesota passed such a law a few years ago:

Anderson, who sometimes carries a weapon to the Capitol, says that he intends to buy silencers for some of his guns. He outlined the process he’ll have to go through: He’ll have to get approval from the Cass County sheriff; pass a state background check; apply to the federal government to possess the silencer, sending $200 along with his application (which needs to include the serial number of the silencer he intends to purchase); go through a federal background check that might take months; and finally, make the purchase of an item that is fairly pricey (upwards of $700).

“It’s ludicrous that we have to go through all of this at the federal level,” Anderson said. “This is an item you should be able to walk into a store and just purchase. We need to work on the federal law. But still, this is a pretty big step.”

Yup. It’s just a matter of time before silencers are available with no background checks from private sellers and on-line just like guns are in most states. That is why we need to stop the drive-by policies of the corporate gun lobby and put the brakes on these bills. What we need is to make sure ALL gun sales, including ammunition and paraphernalia go through Brady background checks.

Why the resistance to this? It’s a minority who oppose it. Their reasons make no sense and aren’t even true. Time to make sure we do the right thing and stop people from getting shot in their cars, in their homes, and anywhere else.

Today, we have more guns than any other democratized country in the world. Over 300 million. We also have the highest number of gun deaths per capita and the weakest gun laws. Other countries don’t have a second amendment or a corporate gun lobby like ours. Sure there are some people in other countries who want to loosen the laws that have been passed. But it isn’t happening because other countries are watching our mass shootings and every day carnage and understand that our loose laws contribute.

The NRA and others in the corporate gun lobby have flown or driven into almost every state of the union and left us with the worst gun policies in the world.  This was done very purposely to drive up profits for the industry and deceive the public into believing that the second amendment includes allowing anyone to buy a gun and carry it everywhere. That is NOT what the founding fathers had in mind when the amendment was written. And, of course, we need to remember why the founding fathers wrote that amendment into our Constitution in the first place. From this Mother Jones article with an interview with author Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center:

MW: Yes. And that might be noteworthy for some. There were plenty of guns. There was the right to defend yourself, which was part of English common law handed down from England. But there were also gun restrictions at the same time. There were many. There were limits, for example, on where you could store gunpowder. You couldn’t have a loaded gun in your house in Boston. There were lots of limits on who could own guns for all different kinds of reasons. There was anexpectation that you should be able to own a gun. But they didn’t think they were writing that expectation into the Constitution with the Second Amendment.

MJ: So then why focus on the Second Amendment and not the English Bill of Rights or other things the framers drew on that more clearly address individual gun ownership?

MW: We are not governed today, in 2014, by British common law. Law evolved, the country evolved. It was a very rural place. There were no cities. There were no police forces. It was a completely different way of living. So gun rights activists turned this into a constitutional crusade. Those who want more guns and fewer restrictions realized they could gain some higher ground if they claimed the Constitution.

Has the world changed since the second amendment was written? Of course. Check this video from States United to Prevent Gun Violence for a graphic image of how much guns have changed since the amendment was written.

I happen to believe that the Constitution is a living document that can change when change is required to keep Americans safe and healthy.

Ever since the 1977 Cincinnati NRA convention revolt (see article above), the gun lobby has changed -transformed itself into a lobby group that doesn’t represent its’ original purpose nor its’ members. They changed to a group that protects and supports the gun industry profits and vice versa. As a result, the landscape changed as well regarding gun policy.

One of the goals of this change  was passing laws in almost all states to allow people to carry guns in their cars and public places. The charade was that people needed guns for self defense everywhere they went. Our legislators bought it because-  rights. Never mind that the second amendment does not mention the right to carry guns for personal protection. These laws had the effect of changing the culture around guns. It became OK for people to have guns with or without a permit on their person.

Former Representative Gabby Giffords spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Her appearance caused a stir in the hall as well it should have. Her speech was simple and short because of her brain injury. Do you remember that her shooter had a gun with no permitting process as is allowed by Arizona law? I do.

It wasn’t so many years ago that it would have been unusual for guns to be found in cars and used in drive-bys or accidental shootings. Two recent examples in my own state:

Man follows couple on local road and shoots and injures one passenger:

Jesse Jay Bohanon was charged in Carlton County District Court Tuesday with three counts of second-degree attempted murder while committing a drive-by shooting, three counts of second-degree assault, one count of drive-by shooting, one count of dangerous weapons-intentional discharge of firearm that endangers safety and one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm and/or ammunition.

Where did this felon get his gun? It’s easy in our country for that to happen.

Man shot and killed in bar by someone  who allegedly fired shots car at the bar. “The man, yet to be charged, is jailed on suspicion of assault and second-degree murder during a drive-by shooting, suggesting that he fired the shots from a vehicle.”

Many other examples of drive-by shootings exist. The city of Des Moines, Iowa has seen an increase in drive-by shootings as just one example.

Many examples of road rage involving gun violence exist as well with some dead victims.

Here is one. And another. And another. And another.

Common sense suggests that having guns in cars is not a good idea. Small children find them in the glove box or the back seat and shoot them. I have written about more than a few of these recently- a small child shot and injured his own mother, a gun loving person. Another toddler killed his own mom with a gun found in the car.

And then there are the people who get caught for illegal drugs and guns like this case in Daytona, Florida:

Of the 29 people, 18 were arrested on Tuesday. Nine were arrested in the course of the operation.

And police are looking for two others who are targets of the operation: Tiffany Malcom, 33, and Robert Smith, 27. Smith, Chitwood revealed Wednesday, is a person of interest in the murder of Deandre Smith, who was shot to death as he drove his car on the Oakridge Boulevard Bridge on May 10, 2015.

Eleven people were charged with federal firearms violations. Nine were charged with state drug and firearms crimes.

What is it about criminals shooting each other in cars? Don’t they know that stray bullets hit innocent people?  A beloved grandmother was shot and killed by a stray bullet in Minneapolis in May while sitting in her car minding her own business. They don’t care really when they have anger and vengeance on their minds. Bullets don’t know where to stop and there are way too many of them flying from and into cars all over America. And the gun lobby doesn’t seem to care that people like the 29 arrested in Daytona found guns so easily to traffic drugs and kill other people.

Drive-by gun policy comes from the corporate gun lobby who send NRA or other representatives into states to lobby and write bill language. And then they leave us with bad policies that have led to more gun deaths and injuries. Lives are too precious to leave gun policy to those whose interest is in selling their product. Finding new markets for new guns leaves us with too many grieving families and devastated communities.

It takes a while for new policies to change the landscape and become effective. So about 11-12 years after many states passed conceal ( or open) and carry laws, we see how they are working. Most gun permit holders are safe with their guns and do not misuse them. But enough of them have been dangerous- either intentionally or accidentally that an argument could be made that we need to strengthen these laws.

Rather than people needing to use guns for self defense, those guns are being used in shootings- drive-bys or other shootings. Few instances of defensive gun uses make the case for conceal and carry weak.

We are just plain not safer with more guns on our streets, in our cars and in our homes, schools, places of work and where we play. Using guns for hunting and sport shooting is one thing. Having them around in places where we gather or drive our cars makes no common sense. But because the NRA and corporate gun lobby drives by our states and promotes weakening our gun laws, the result has been the devastation in communities all over our country.

Last night I watched Hillary Clinton accept the nomination of the Democratic party to be the first woman to have that honor. It was thrilling to know that I have lived in a time when a woman can be nominated for and hopefully win the Presidency. Among other things she said in her acceptance speech was this ( meme by Brady Campaign):

Hillary and guns

Thank you Hillary. We are just trying to keep people from getting shot by people who shouldn’t have guns. Let’s get to work to make the changes we all deserve.