Connections- shootings and coronavirus deaths

Yes There is a connection. How could there not be? We are a nation of people who have mourned or are mourning the deaths of loved ones who died of gunshot injuries. They are not with us on holidays. They are missed. Their lives were lost in mostly unavoidable senseless acts of violence which take many forms- domestic shootings, gun suicides, urban violence, police violence, unintentional shootings, mass shootings, school shootings and more rarely, random acts of violence.

There was a random act of violence in Nevada the other day- on Thanksgiving. Happy thanksgiving. A couple in Nevada thought, apparently, that driving around shooting innocent people might be a thing to do on the holiday. It’s America. Should we be surprised?:

One person was shot dead and four others injured on Thanksgiving after police in Henderson, Nevada say a man and woman fired at people while driving in the city. 

“It is believed that the suspects were driving around the city randomly shooting at citizens with no apparent motive,” Henderson police said in a news release.

Henderson police officers responding to the Thursday shooting at the 800 block of East Lake Mead Parkway found a 22-year-old man who had died from an apparent gunshot wound, a 23-year-old injured woman, a 18-year-old injured man, a 53-year-old injured man, and a 41-year-old injured man, all suffering from apparent gunshot wounds, according to a news release. 

How is this related to COVID you might ask? As I wrote in my last post, shootings have continued in many forms during the shut downs and restrictions due to the pandemic. Not so many mass shootings because of the fact that the masses are not really gathering in many places as targets for shooters. But nevertheless, people are dying from gunshot injuries.

In El Paso, for example, the numbers of the dead from COVID are staggering. The community is struggling to deal with the bodies and the grief. El Paso was the sight of a heinous hate shooting at a Walmart store targeting Latino citizens a little over a year ago. The community was still reeling from the after effects of that shooting when COVID spread in our country last winter.

This article highlights the pile-on of grief for the victims of the virus on top of still grieving for those lost in August of 2019. How much can one community take? From the article:

The city unified in the face of hatred last year, adopting the “El Paso Strong” ethos after 23 people were killed in an allegedly racist attack at a Walmart. El Paso is now struggling to summon the solidarity to transcend indifference and fatigue as scores of people are dying each day in a persisting pandemic.

“Unfortunately, as human beings, we want to see things for ourselves. We physically watched the shooting and could see the danger,” said Ana Lilia Holman, whose 86-year-old father, William Howard Holman, died of covid-19 on Nov. 12. “But we can’t see this virus, so people tend to doubt how severe it really is.”

We should not doubt that coronavirus is spreading at an uncontrolled pace all across our country. And yet, there are deniers. There are those who don’t believe the virus exists or if it does, they will not be affected. They will not get sick or die. That only happens to others. So they don’t have to wear a mask or social distance because that’s just for other people. They know better.

Certain lawmakers are in denial or believe they can hide from the consequences of their failure to help America in the face of a national emergency. Why? History will look back on this time and wonder how a whole group of politicians chose not to act. Americans died as a result.

Gun violence won’t happen to those deniers either. If we hide in the sand and pretend it’s not happening, then it’s not something we need to address. The same lawmakers who are failing us about the spread of the virus and failing to help us in this national emergency are doing the same about gun violence. They have failed us. They have acquiesced to a rich and powerful gun lobby and a distinct minority of Americans who have conjured up false reasons for not acting on gun violence. They will do anything to keep their fragile control over America to shape it the way they want it to be in spite of public opinion, research and science showing them to be wrong.

People have died. People are dying. People will die. As long as we let these lawmakers get away with their failed policies and their inhumane decisions to let people die, we will also fail.

The connection is unmistakable. We have a national gun violence epidemic in the midst of the worst public health virus pandemic in a century.

We will have to deal with the aftermath and ripple effects of the pandemic and the gun violence epidemic for many years to come.

Where is common sense?

The gun nuts and nutty rhetoric and logic

nutsOregon just passed a new law requiring background checks on all gun sales. This makes 7 states plus the District of Columbia having now required that all gun sales have background checks. It’s more than interesting to watch the gun nuts go all nutty about the idea that everyone now needs to go through a background check when purchasing a gun. These folks take it all personally as if the law was meant to punish them. Think about it. How could a law that requires Brady background checks,which most of these folks already undergo when purchasing their guns at federally licensed firearms dealers, punish them? What about the tired old mantra that we need to enforce the laws already on the books?- an excuse to stop progress towards safer communities. It’s backwards thinking promoted by the corporate gun lobby. Don’t believe them. This law will only stop people who shouldn’t be able to purchase guns from purchasing them anyway.

Gun nuts have been getting away with these talking points for many years. Apparently they don’t like laws that get in the way of unfettered access to guns. They want their guns with no hassle, no laws in the way.

The thing is, this nutty way of thinking allows felons, adjudicated mentally ill people, domestic abusers, and others who shouldn’t have guns to get them easily. The Million Mom March and Brady Chapters have been advocating for expanding Brady background checks for the last 15 years. Even after the horrific shooting of 20 first graders at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut, the gun lobby stood in the way of common sense. Our Senators couldn’t even muster support for something that made so much sense and was a compromise piece of legislation, after spending time with the parents of the nation’s most horrific shooting. Shame on them all.

Other groups have joined the fray since May 14, 2000 increasing the number of people advocating openly and loudly for Brady background checks and other measures to keep our children and our communities safe from devastating gun violence. Most of these got involved after the shooting in Newtown because they, like the rest of us, were horrified that something like this could happen in our country. They are getting a dose of the gun lobby’s nuttiness that the rest of us have experienced for many years. They are also experiencing the fierce opposition to even the smallest measures to make us safer.

Together we are having an impact however. We welcome the new folks who have joined us in the fray. We already know that the general public and even gun owners and NRA members are with us. For at least 15 years, polling has been consistent about that. We also already know that some of our politicians have been cowed by the corporate gun lobby whose minions speak of gun confiscation and taking away rights if we just but pass small but reasonable measures to keep the majority safe.

What we need now is for the gun nuttery to be openly recognized. We can look to this recent article in the Washington Post about a “constitutional” Wisconsin Sheriff and his extreme nutty views about guns and gun violence for what the minority is thinking. His views are crazy and unsubstantiated but somehow he continues to be re-elected. Let’s take a look:

Less than 24 hours after Officers Benjamin J. Deen, 34, and Liquori Tate, 24, of the Hattiesburg Police Department were gunned down during a traffic stop, Milwakuee County Sheriff David A. Clarke linked the deaths to events in Ferguson, Mo., and said in a series of tweets that the president is to blame.

[Four suspects in custody after shooting deaths of two Mississippi police officers]

“Obama started this war on police intentionally,” Clarke wrote. “Right in line with his community agitating.”

Clarke, a conservative folk hero who has predicted that a second American revolution will be fought over gun rights, is a regular Fox News guest with55,000 followers on Twitter. In 2013, he ran radio ads telling people to fight back against violent criminals instead of relying on 911, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

America’s 1st Freedom, an NRA publication, has called the outspoken Clarke “NRA’s Favorite Sheriff.” Earlier this year, he was presented with the Charlton Heston Courage Under Fire Award at the Conservative Political Action Conference.

Right then. The NRA leaders love this guy. He is a perfect foil for their extreme views about the world. And he is encouraging people to protect themselves from all of those violent criminals out there waiting to get them rather than to rely on his very own services as a Sheriff. You really can’t make this stuff up.  From this article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clarke Jr. set off alarm bells Friday with a radio spot some view as a call for citizens to arm themselves.

In the radio ad, Clarke tells residents personal safety isn’t a spectator sport anymore, and that “I need you in the game.”

“With officers laid off and furloughed, simply calling 911 and waiting is no longer your best option,” Clarke intones.

“You could beg for mercy from a violent criminal, hide under the bed, or you can fight back.”

Clarke urges listeners to take a firearm safety course and handle a firearm “so you can defend yourself until we get there.”

“You have a duty to protect yourself and your family. We’re partners now. Can I count on you?”

The thing is, what Clarke says is simply not true. Continue reading the article. This is the fear and paranoia that the corporate  gun lobby needs in order to stay in business. It’s what we in the world of gun violence prevention movement have been fighting against. The fact that our politicians have been duped into believing this nutty rhetoric should be alarming and a lesson for why we need to keep working to advocate for what we know is right.

The gun lobby has actually become more nutty in the 15 years since I have been involved. They have gained ground by weakening gun laws all over the country claiming that any law to strengthen our safety is a violation of their rights. Their other specious claim is that any stronger gun law punishes their own. That, of course, is not true and ridiculous but they manage to get away with it because of our own lawmakers’ lack of backbone when it comees to challenging this “logic”. Here are just a few of the inane efforts to deceive gun owners, the public and lawmakers:

George Zimmerman made the news again. This time, he was on the other end of a gun nut who shot at him in a claimed road rage incident in Florida. The shooter has been in other disputes with Zimmerman and claimed “self defense.” Ha! You just can’t make this stuff up. It’s just plain nuts that Zimmerman was not held legally accountable for the death of an innocent Black teen-ager and even nuttier that he is out and about causing more trouble.

How many more incidents should be tolerated for the man who has already killed another human being?  This is the 4th one since he killed Trayvon Martin. Some people should not have guns and yes, they should lose their gun rights. This is a guy who is the poster child for what can go wrong in our twisted and dangerous gun culture. We don’t need Stand Your Ground laws so people like Zimmerman can walk away from a murder. We don’t need guns everywhere carried by anyone.

Maine’s Governor, along with 5 others, signed on to an amicus brief to attempt to repeal California’s strong conceal/carry law- claiming punishment for gun owners. Nuts.

The NRA’s own Wayne LaPierre is lying again- using a false conspiracy theory claiming that President Obama is out to ban all ammunition sales. He’s wrong but never mind. Nuts.

The Tennessee Governor signed a law also similar to one signed in Indiana to interfere with federal gun regulations because, you know, states shouldn’t follow federal law. How this benefits gun owners and law abiding citizens is not spelled out. It will actually benefit the felons and others who should not have guns. My theory is that this is on purpose so when felons have more guns, the gun lobby can hysterically cry that more citizens need their guns for self protection against the felons with guns. It’s nuts. What could possibly go wrong?

And in a cynical attempt to roll back “knife rights” the NRA is involved in legislative measures to allow possession of more dangerous knives for “law abiding” citizens. Nuts. From the article:

“I don’t see knives posing that big of a danger to the public,” Representative Harold Dutton Jr., who sponsored the bill, said in an interview. “Now that we’re going to let everybody have a gun, I think we ought to set knives free.”

This twisted “logic” is actually more nutty than we think. The gun nuts like to argue that knives take more lives than guns. They are wrong of course and it can be easily proven. The claim is that knives kill more people than long guns. That would be true. But total gun homicides in this FBI report from 2011 were 8523 compared to total knife homicides of 1694.

Here’s my theory. If we allow more dangerous knives we will certainly have a rise in deaths from knives. Then the gun lobby can say that knives are just as lethal as guns so what’s the problem?

The thing is, these measures increase the likelihood of deaths and injuries to innocent people all over our country. It’s just plain nuts.

We are better than this. But arguing with nuts is just nuts. It isn’t worth the argument. The problem is that our legislators refuse to use logic and get cowed by the nuts. They are bullied into taking positions counter to public health and safety. And what we will surely see is an increase in deaths and injuries. In states with strong gun laws and fewer guns, there are fewer gun deaths. The same is true in most other civilized, developed democratized countries not at war. We have the proof. We just need our elected leaders to speak the truth and not be afraid of the nuts.

Isn’t it past time to speak the truth and get on with ways to save lives? Why are the gun nuts winning the argument with our elected leaders? They shouldn’t be. If you believe, like most Americans do, that too many of our leaders are lapdogs for the gun lobby, please let them know how you feel. Also please join a group working on preventing gun violence. As we celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Million Mom March, I see a strong and committed group of Americans who are not going away. We are stronger than ever and we will call out the nutty gun logic so we can base policy on facts.

UPDATE:

I found this article that was written along the same theme that I wrote about in this post. That would be that the gun lobby’s fueling of fear and paranoia is a vicious circle. When the fear causes more guns and more guns cause fear, we have a serious problem. We are not talking about just any consumer product. We are talking about deadly weapons designed to kill people. From the article:

The gun rights movement warns of a society riddled with pervasive threats—increasingly, they come from police officers, or their absence, or their recklessness. And the NRA gets its way: there are more guns on our streets than ever. This in turn makes the job of policing that much harder—and the possibility of police violence more frequent. Perhaps police might retreat from criminal encounters, which increasingly risk turning out badly—where someone dies, or they are charged with a crime. Either way, the gun rights movement will bellow that we need still more guns and more armed citizens. Despairing in the face of criminal and police violence, African Americans appear to be joining this view.

We are mired in a classic negative feedback loop. The gun rights movement is good at making its predictions come true. It bemoans a society delivered unto violence, coming from every corner, and will make sure of that.

This is more than nutty. It’s dangerous and unacceptable. I know we can do better.

UPDATE:

I am going to update this post both as another example of the nuttiness and stupidity of the gun nuts and in response to a comment made that I shouldn’t call all hard core gun guys nutty. This is the new mantra from the NRA who do say they represent about 4 million members, more or less- Hillary Clinton is now going to take away the guns that Barack Obama didn’t manage to get his cold dead hands on. From the article:

The NRA then baselessly links this non-existent firearm registry scheme to gun confiscation, declaring, “Gun registration has been considered the holy grail — the queen on the chessboard and the key to the kingdom — by every gun-ban group, every genocidal regime and every would-be tyrant around the world since King George sent his redcoats to seize the colonists’ arms at Lexington and Concord. That’s not hyperbole. It’s history.”

The article concludes, “Hillary Clinton’s apparent ultimate aim is as direct and undeviating as an argon laser: ‘Universal’ background checks … which depend on universal gun registration … which inevitably, invariably, leads to gun confiscation.”

So we will now be hearing this for the upcoming election cycle because the NRA’s leaders have to find a way to gin up the fear and paranoia to make sure to protect gun sales and the industry. It’s just plain nuts. The worst of it is that so many people believe it. I suppose they didn’t notice that President Obama did not actually manage to get their guns. Never mind the facts and common sense.