Virginia Tech remembered as shootings continue in America

Virginia Tech Shooting AnniversaryTomorrow is April 16th ( one day from the late tax day deadline this year)

I want to first remember the victims of the Virginia Tech mass shooting which happened on April 16, 2007. It was the worst mass school shooting after Columbine and still remains one of our country’s deadliest mass shootings. 32 died and 17 were injured. The effects of that shooting, even 11 years later, live on for those who were there, those left behind and the entire community. Gun violence has a ripple effect. No one forgets. The corporate gun lobby wants us to forget. They are not succeeding. If anything, we are remembering more and more as more and more of these kind of shootings and every day homicides, suicides and unintentional shootings continue apace.

The young man who got his hands on a gun and shot up the Virginia Tech campus should not have had a gun and was clearly irresponsible with his gun. Not only was he irresponsible, he intentionally murdered innocent people. He was a supposed “legal” gun owner as his name was not in the FBI database flagging him as prohibited to buy a gun. It should have been but our loose gun laws allowed him to purchase that gun and kill people. Why did he want his gun? For self defense? No. To kill people.

Many gun owners are responsible with their guns and own them for hunting or sport. Many gun owners are not interested in shooting at people who they believe might do them harm because they are not paranoid. Most gun owners don’t just shoot first and ask questions later. In fact most Americans don’t do this because most Americans don’t own guns in their homes for hunting, sport or self protection. And they are more safe than those who do as it turns out.

I write all the time on this blog about the rare instances of needing a gun for self protection in your home or in public and the rare incidents of said uses of a gun. NPR posted this article a day ago about this very topic.:

The latest data show that people use guns for self-defense only rarely. According to a Harvard University analysis of figures from the National Crime Victimization Survey, people defended themselves with a gun in nearly 0.9 percent of crimes from 2007 to 2011.

David Hemenway, who led the Harvard research, argues that the risks of owning a gun outweigh the benefits of having one in the rare case where you might need to defend yourself.

“The average person … has basically no chance in their lifetime ever to use a gun in self-defense,” he tellsHere & Now‘s Robin Young. “But … every day, they have a chance to use the gun inappropriately. They have a chance, they get angry. They get scared.”

The gun rights advocates beg to differ with little evidence or actual facts- from the article:

But the research spread by the gun lobby paints a drastically different picture of self-defense gun uses. One of the most commonly cited estimates of defensive gun uses, published in 1995 by criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, concluded there are between 2.2 and 2.5 million defensive gun uses annually.

One of the main criticisms of this estimate is that researchers can’t seem to find the people who are shot by civilians defending themselves because they don’t show up in hospital records.

“The Kleck-Gertz survey suggests that the number of DGU respondents who reported shooting their assailant was over 200,000, over twice the number of those killed or treated [for gunshots] in emergency departments,” crime prevention researcher Philip Cook wrote in the book Envisioning Criminology.

Kleck says there is no record of these gunshot victims because most instances of self-defense gun use are not reported.

Hmmmm. Really? Why not report these incidents if it is so important to you? Because they are not happening, that’s why.

“The researchers who look at [Kleck’s study] say this is just bad science,” Hemenway says. “It’s a well-known problem in epidemiology that if something’s a rare event, and you just try to ask how many people have done this, you will get incredible overestimates.”

In fact, Cook told The Washington Post that the percentage of people who told Kleck they used a gun in self-defense is similar to the percentage of Americans who said they were abducted by aliensThe Post notes that “a more reasonable estimate” of self-defense gun uses equals about 100,000 annually, according to the NCVS data.

Check out this chart from the Gun Violence Archive for facts:

You can see for yourself how often guns are used defensively and how many end up being used to kill or injure someone by comparison.  Not even close.

The NRA extremists in the form of their leaders and their minions, have ratcheted up the fear and paranoia for so many decades that they have convinced a certain segment of gun owners that they should be afraid of their own shadows. They are afraid of the wrong thing.

Three incidents from the past day or two prove my point.

 

This one involved a black teen who got lost while looking for his school. He innocently knocked on the door of the home of one of those aforementioned paranoid and racist homeowners:

A black teenager was nearly shot and killed by a racist homeowner after missing his bus and trying to ask a neighbor for directions. (…)

“I got to the house, and I knocked on the lady’s door,” Brennan told the TV station. “Then she started yelling at me and she was like, ‘Why are you trying to break into my house?’ I was trying to explain to her that I was trying to get directions to Rochester High, and she kept yelling at me.”

“Then the guy came downstairs, and he grabbed the gun,” the teen added. “I saw it and started to run — and that’s when I heard the gunshot.”

The shot missed the fleeing teen, and Brennan said he kept running until he found a hiding place, and that’s when he broke down crying.

His crime was being Black and lost and knocking on the wrong door, apparently. And more from the boy:

“My mom says that black boys get shot because sometimes they don’t look their age, and I don’t look my age,” he said. “I’m 14, but I don’t look 14. I’m kind of happy that, like, I didn’t become a statistic.”

He was one of the lucky ones who did not become a statistic. But way too many do.

This gun owner should be held accountable for, at the least, reckless discharge of a gun and at the most, intent to injure or kill someone. Let’s see how this one turns out.

Another teenaged Oklahoma boy did, however, become a statistic. His own father shot and killed him in his haste to shoot first and ask questions later. Without that gun in his hand, his son would be alive today. And what did he do wrong? Let’s look:

When Tony Rutherford, 47, arrived in the middle of the night, he saw his older son’s pickup truck cut across a field. It was supposed to be parked.

According to the release, Rutherford “gave chase and fired his rifle at the driver several times.”

At least one of those rounds hit the driver, who was pronounced dead at the scene. That driver, found slumped over in the driver’s seat of the pickup, was later identified as Rutherford’s 13-year-old son.

“What is unique about this case is that we have a father who thought he was protecting an older son’s property, and in fact, he shot and killed his younger son, not knowing it was his younger son,” Jennifer Brown, OSBI spokeswoman, told KOAM.

Unique? No actually, incidents like this happen often enough in America as to be of grave concern. I have written many many times in this blog about family members “accidentally” killing each other when they mistake them for someone else and don’t use an ounce of common sense.

The boy’s death was totally avoidable and senseless. How will that father be able to live with what he did?

And then there is this, all too common stupid and dangerous use of a gun- an 8 year old had a loaded gun and fired it off while walking home from school with friends!:

Detectives said the gun is legally owned by a family member of the child.

Police said that the child took the gun that morning without the owner’s knowledge, and carried it to Harper Elementary in his backpack.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Lock up your darned guns everybody. Safe storage can save lives. Where is common sense?

Do I have to remind you all that these two gun owners were “law abiding” until suddenly they weren’t? And the parents of the 8 year old? I have no words. They were the “good guys” with guns that NRA VP Wayne LaPierre loves to talk about. As recently as the CPAC convention, mentioned in the above linked article, La Pierre was using the same old unprovable and nonsensical argument about those good guys out there with guns. And this happened just a week after the Parkland school shooting that shocked the nation and caused everyone to take a different look at the National Rifle Association. Take a look at the continuing rants of this man who represents a group that represents a very small minority of Americans- about 1.5% of us.

Wayne- we actually hate the shootings.

Gun ownership is going down. The NRA’s reputation is in the toilet. They are now part of the Mueller investigation.

What LaPierre and others sometimes talk about but don’t often do much about is that gun ownership requires not only common sense but responsibility, training, and restraint. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill. And kill they do. They are the only product on the market not regulated for safety. There are no training requirements to own a gun and very few for carrying one in public.

We are changing the culture and the conversation more slowly than we should since the body count is increasing every year.  

Finally the messaging of the corporate gun lobby is falling apart. It’s well past time for that to happen. Just as with gay marriage, the dangers of smoking and secondhand smoke and driving while drunk changed laws and the culture, so too will allowing loose gun laws to lead to a national public health and safety epidemic.

Candidates and lawmakers are now publicly stating their support for measures that will save lives and claiming their “F” rating from the NRA proudly.

Yesterday I attended my congressional district convention as a delegate. Not one of the democratic candidates running or current sitting lawmakers were against passing reasonable laws to protect our kids and communities from the devastation of gun violence. Even those in districts where many gun owners and hunters live agreed that something has to be done. I had many conversations with these leaders and candidate as did many in the room. Gun violence prevention was on the top of the list as issues of concern.

The Parkland students and students all over this country are telling lawmakers that they are no longer willing to listen to their BS representing gun lobby speak. Students and others in the Virginia, Maryland, DC area came out for a rally at NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia yesterday.  They ( we) are not going away any time soon. We are more committed than ever to getting things done to save lives.

We are better than this and the public has had about #enough.

#Neveragain.

 

 

Gun stories in newspaper headlines

Breaking News Shows At This Time And InfoAs I was reading my local newspaper on-line  yesterday, 2 headlines caught my attention.

The first is a veteran’s story- one of many involving veterans with PTSD and guns. From the story:

 

The former National Guard soldier and Iraq War veteran shot and killed his father, Rick Defiel, on June 1, 2016, in the family’s home in Fergus Falls, Minn.

He was found not guilty due to mental deficiency and was committed to the Minnesota Security Hospital as mentally ill and dangerous.

Defiel spoke to a reporter as he explained why he shot and killed his father. His claim is that he killed his own father in self defense. But his family members say otherwise:

She said Dustin had a psychotic break caused by untreated post-traumatic stress disorder, and only God knows what’s in his mind.

“This is his truth,” Tammy Defiel said. “It’s just not the truth.”

This is a hard story for me. My brother, a Viet Nam veteran, has PTSD along with many other health problems, some of which are service related. I know that PTSD is very real and his sometimes delusional reactions to things around him make it difficult to ascertain what is real and what isn’t. But further, veterans with PTSD should not be around guns. The reporter said that the shooter “found” a gun.

Looking for protection, Defiel found a gun. He opened the door and saw his dad on the bed, yelling and swearing.

“I pointed the gun and shot. He started to get up, so I pointed the gun and shot again. I shot him twice,” Defiel said, to keep his dad from coming after him.

Defiel said he went into “military mode,” feeling his life was in danger.

Here is the story as reported at the time of the shooting. It was a “high powered rifle” used in the shooting and the story in the linked article does not fit with the shooter’s story. From this story about the shooting:

Steven Kalenberg, the fiancé of Dustin’s sister, told authorities that the family has been terrified of Dustin Defiel. At one time, Ricardo Defiel had firearms in the house, but removed them because of Dustin. Kalenberg also said Dustin’s brother and sister were so afraid of him that they did not give out their home addresses or telephone numbers and had limited contact with him.

An investigator who spoke to Defiel shortly before midnight Wednesday found him calm and emotionless.

Defiel, according to court records and media accounts, has had run-ins with the law for theft, drunken driving and violation of a restraining order. He was the subject of several civil commitment hearings. He was arrested by West Fargo police in September of 2014 after a woman noticed him peeking into garages in her neighborhood.

The family wisely removed firearms from their home. But the shooter had one anyway in spite of his arrests and his psychotic break.

There are people who should not have guns, period. And why anyone “needs” an AR-15 ostensibly for self defense is beyond me and most of the American public.

The second story is of a local man who was sentenced for firing off off 36 rounds with an assault style rifle- yes I said 36 rounds- in an attempt to kill his wife. How did he not succeed? From the story:

Rusty George Kallis, 41, of Proctor pleaded guilty in December to a charge of attempted premeditated first-degree murder. He admitted that he threatened his girlfriend and two children with the firearm before firing off more than three-dozen rounds at the woman, missing her but striking a house across the street, and later pointing the weapon at a neighbor.

Kallis was facing trial on 10 felony charges, with jury selection entering its second day, when he entered the plea on Dec. 13.

And yet another man who should not have had a gun got his hands on a gun anyway. All were lucky that no one is dead as a result of this man’s anger. Anger and guns don’t mix.

Guns are readily available to just about anyone in America.

Many of the nation’s homicides are due to domestic disputes. This one I know because of my own sister’s shooting in a domestic dispute.

From the article:

In all, an average of at least 760 Americans are shot to death by current or former partners each year, a 2016 Associated Press analysis of national and state law enforcement data found. These numbers are probably an undercount, since not all agencies provide data. Nearly 75% of the victims in domestic violence shootings are the current wives or girlfriends of the men who killed them, the Associated Press found. Shooting deaths of men are much less frequent.

It doesn’t have to be this way. If we required Brady background checks on all gun sales, require safe storage of guns to avoid them being stolen or found by someone who could be dangerous to themselves or others, strengthen straw purchasing laws and pass Gun Violence Protective Orders or Extreme Risk Protective Orders, we could prevent some shootings.

And if we are not even interested in preventing at least some of our nation’s daily shootings, we are not doing the job of protecting our families.

What we need is a whole lot of common sense and the courage to take on one of our nation’s worst public health epidemics.

What I read in one edition of a local paper is just the tip of the iceberg. These stories often don’t grab the attention of the public or the media because they have become so common place that we just read and move on. But real people’s lives are affected by these every day shootings. A veteran with PTSD tells his story. But his family, telling a different story, now suffers from their own PTSD after losing a loved one to bullets. The family who was terrorized by an angry man with an AR-15 was lucky to get out alive. But they will never forget the horror of the day a man with a gun threatened to kill them.

It is not acceptable to think there is nothing that can be done to stop shootings. That is what the corporate gun lobby would have you believe.

They are wrong.

Many of our daily shootings are not “breaking news”. They are buried amidst many other stories. But they are breaking news to the families who are involved. And they break the hearts of way too many people every day.

It is #NotNormal and not inevitable that we read headlines about shootings in our local newspapers all over our country.

We are better than this and we have had #Enough.

 

 

Guns and snow blowers

winter_snow_116442You really can’t make this stuff up. A guy with a gun, ostensibly to be used in self defense, goes on the offensive for no apparent reason and a Michigan woman is tragically and senselessly dead:

 

 

Wendell said when he saw Bonge outside on Tuesday, Dec. 26, he made the decision to kill her. He told police he grabbed a gun from his home and went out to the driveway easement in front of his home where she was snowblowing, the affidavit shows.

Wendell said he went up behind Bonge, shot her in the back of the head and disposed of her body behind his residence on the 14000 block of 104th Avenue, according to the affidavit.

Seriously. This is the problem with guns in so many hands. They might just get used to kill someone in a moment of anger, frustration, craziness or whatever gets into the heads of people like this guy.

In my neck of the woods, I’m very familiar with snow blowers. They are not dangerous unless you put your hand into the machine which most people with any common sense understand. And often people help out their neighbors by snow blowing their driveways or sidewalks. My husband has done this many times and our neighbors have done the same for us. Snowblowers can be noisy. But so what? The idea that someone could get shot for this is insanity itself.

I have written before about killings over lawn mowing and other absurdities.

The gun extremists will tell us ( and they do tell me in comments) that these are just irresponsible people with guns. The thing is, people are responsible and/or legal until suddenly they are not. With a gun in hand, split second decisions to use it can and are deadly. There are far too many irresponsible gun owners out there. That is our problem.

Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill people. And kill they do- every day in large numbers.

This is not normal nor is it inevitable. But it is happening every day. And it is only happening every day in America where guns are abundant, gun rights seem to be supreme and politicians refuse to do the right thing.

Last night I met my new Senator Tina Smith. While there I spoke with many people in a roomful of about 200 folks about the gun issue. One woman had run for office and lost her election for a seat in the state legislature. She talked to me about the difficulty of the gun issue in her district. She said it is a district full of gun owners. Most Minnesota districts are full of gun owners. And she also said they were against common sense legislation on Brady background checks, for example. My answer was that even the gun owners in her district most likely represented the average American who time after time after time after time have agreed in polling that background checks are a good idea. The people she was hearing from were the minority of people and candidates need to be able to speak that truth. When elected while favoring reasonable gun measures a leader will represent the overwhelming majority of Americana and gun owners.

I also spoke with a state Senator about the forced departure of Minnesota Representative Tony Cornish, the NRA’s “go to” guy on guns. We were not sad to see him go. He left because of allegations about sexual harassment filed by several, including a lobbyist for a gun violence prevention group. The irony.

Cornish openly carried a gun around while at work in the Capitol and frankly intimidated people who did not agree with him. He also supported loosening conceal and carry laws, permitless carry and stand your ground legislation. He saw no problems with just about anybody owning and carrying guns.

This letter from former Representative Tony Cornish was found on a Twitter feed:

Screen Shot 2018-01-06 at 10.36.49 AM

He is imploring other Representatives not to pass any “gun control” bills or “anti-cop” bills. He also admits that a pretty influential group representing gun owners has disbanded (GOCRA). Not sad about that one. This group has tried hard to wield their influence but they have not succeeded at much other than intimidating law makers. They did manage to sink gun bills that would have actually strengthened gun laws and saved lives in 2013 after the Sandy Hook shooting. I don’t think that is anything about which to be proud.

The NRA represents a small minority of Americans and gun owners:

Three-in-ten U.S. adults say they currently own a gun, and of that group, 19% say they belong to the National Rifle Association. While the demographic profile of NRA members is similar to that of other gun owners, their political views, the way they use their firearms and their attitudes about gun policy differ significantly from gun owners who are not members of the organization.

19% of 30% = 5.7%. And for this, we are allowing an influential lobby group to make gun policy? Real people are losing their lives every day and we are afraid of 6% of Americans?

Sigh.

The sooner our leaders and candidates recognize this we will be in a safer place in our country.

Guns vs. trucks

car 2Of course the talk turned last week to the terror attack in New York City as it should have.  The reaction was horror and outrage. Our President wanted immediate action to ban citizens from certain countries from entering and to make our already extreme vetting more extreme.

Not so much after the Las Vegas shooting when it was much too soon to discuss any policy changes because…. rights. Never mind that #45 rarely mentioned the victims of the NYC terror attack because he was too busy blaming Senator Schumer for the law that allowed the “terrorist” to enter the U.S. in 2010. He was wrong.

The reaction to the New York City terror attack was outrage and the cry to take immediate action to change laws. The reaction to the Las Vegas shooting was outrage but let’s not do anything about it.

There have, of course, been other terror attacks in the U.S., including many that included mass shootings. But those who owe allegiance to the corporate gun lobby prefer not to acknowledge the attacks involving guns as terror attacks.

So let’s consider a few things that have made the news or have been brought to our attention since the Las Vegas shooting and during the most recent terror attack:

Ought we to have truck control since that seems to be the new terror method used by extremists?

Could someone with a carried gun have saved the day in the NYC attack?

No.

And speaking of the gun lobby myth that armed citizens can and should save the day in a public shooting, check out this article about how that idea backfired in the latest Walmart shooting in Colorado. (It is not uncommon for shootings to occur at Walmart stores but this one was more deadly than most) . From the article:

But police in Thornton, Colo., said that in this case the well-intentioned gun carriers set the stage for chaos, stalling efforts to capture the suspect in the Wednesday night shooting that killed three people. (…)

But the videos showed several people in the store with their guns drawn. That forced detectives to watch more video, following the armed shoppers throughout the store in an effort to distinguish the good guys from the bad guy, Avila said.

Investigators went “back to ground zero” several times as they struggled to pinpoint the suspect, he said.

And finally this, from the linked article:

In a 2014 FBI report, researchers examined more than 100 shootings between 2000 and 2012 and found that civilians stopped about 1 in 6 active shooters — usually by tackling the gunman, not shooting him.

The corporate gun lobby is deceiving us.

We must do a better job of getting out the common sense discussion about how risky it is to have loaded guns sitting around the house ( or in public places). This Texas mother had a gun. She shot and killed her two young daughters.

A domestic shooting in Wisconsin took the lives of 3. The headlines call this an altercation. When a gun is readily available altercations turn to death in seconds.

This Minnesota couple is dead from a murder/suicide– another altercation between people who knew each other or had a relationship.

Deer hunting season opened this week-end in Minnesota. Every year there are mishaps with hunting guns that end in injury or death.

But sometimes those hunting “accidents” are actually intentional shootings.

Last year, a Minnesota father of 4 was out hunting and was murdered in the woods. The rifle used has now been found. Armed with a hunting gun, someone shoots someone out in the woods intentionally and it often appears to be an “accident.”

On top of everything else, gun deaths are on the rise in America. No thanks to the corporate gun lobby’s refusal to support any effort to lower gun deaths. From the article:

Overall, the firearm death rate rose to 12 deaths per 100,000 people last year, up from 11 in 2015, according to the report released Friday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Before that, the rate had hovered just above 10 — a level it had fallen to in the late 1990s.

Death rates rose from 90 per day to 104 per day.

Stunning.

So yes, trucks are a new weapon of mass destruction used now by terrorists. There have been an increasing number of these kinds of attacks. And we need to do whatever it takes to stop them from happening.

But trucks are not designed to kill people. They do occasionally get used to intentionally kill people and we have a different perspective after they have been used in terror attacks all over the world. Guns are designed to kill people. And kill they do. Much more often than trucks.

Guns have been the weapon of choice for many of the acts of terror committed daily and mass shootings on a regular basis. From the article:

But a new study suggests that these violent methods, while all horrific, are not equally deadly.

In a research letter published Friday in JAMA Internal Medicine, investigators report that although guns were used in fewer than 10% of terrorist attacks worldwide between 2002 and 2016, they were responsible for more than half the resulting deaths.

There should be no equivocation when it comes to that. If we leave the solutions in the hands of those who have a vested interest in selling weapons of mass destruction, we will not get this right.

We have now learned that the Las Vegas “terrorist” was depressed over losing a lot of his wealth gambling over the past few years. Why that is a reason to shoot innocent people is the big question. But when you have access to as many guns and dangerous accessories you want or need, it’s easy to act out your anger and depression.

One state just got it right. Massachusetts passed a ban on bump fire stocks. This is what happens when legislators and the Governor are not loyal to the corporate gun lobby. Common sense actually dictates public health and safety.

The Gun Violence Archive is keeping track of shootings in America. Since the Las Vegas shooting, if we use the average of about 100 Americans a day who die from gunshot injuries, close to 2800 Americans have died since the Las Vegas shooting.

In what country or world is this OK? It is not too soon to talk about how we can prevent the daily carnage of gun deaths. It is too late. On behalf of the 104 Americans who lose their lives every day to gun violence, I will work to reduce that number and prevent shootings.

Since I posted this, there has been a mass shooting at a church in a small Texas town. Early reports are that there are multiple deaths and injuries. They keep coming and coming and coming. How many more? How many times have I asked that?

Congress? Anyone?

UPDATE:

We now know that 26 are dead after the deadliest church shooting in America. The youngest victim- 5 years old. The oldest- 72 years old. It has been reported that the 14 year old daughter of the pastor of the church was one of the victims. So now this shooting has a name: “The deadliest church shooting in America.”  Just as the Las Vegas shooting has been titled the “deadliest mass shooting in America.” And all of this in just one month’s time.

We have all become victims of the corporate gun lobby and an impotent Congress that cares more for ideology and campaign contributions than human lives. We are held hostage by this group of Americans and continue to watch as victim after victim piles up.  As a friend wrote in an email: ” We Are being denied legislative and policy relief through preventable solutions, that we know work, and could save lives!”

We live in troubled and dangerous times. If you don’t think this can happen anywhere in the U.S. you are mistaken. It has, and it will. That’s when you have to realize that none of us are immune to the whims of a shooters who can amass weapons of mass destruction and multiple rounds of high capacity magazines. The shooter used an AR-15 type semi-automatic assault rifle. By all accounts, he was using magazines with multiple rounds.

Texas has loose gun laws and is an “open carry” state. How would anyone know if the shooter was up to a crime by just looking at him walking around with a rifle?

This is a sad day for our country.

There are no shooting accidents

gun accidentCollectively we are shooting ourselves in the foot by ignoring the truth about the risks of guns. And, as it turns out we are shooting ourselves ( collectively- our children, teens and adults) in the arms, chest, head and other body parts.

Today I am going to focus on the “Truth about Kids and Guns” as the Brady Campaign has called their report.:

The majority of all child and teen gun deaths happen in a home; it’s even more for our youngest children. So although improved legislation is critical to keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people, it is not the entire answer. When it comes to kids, the danger is rarely outside their own homes, or the homes of their family and friends. That means we don’t need to wait for Congress or anyone else to start reducing the toll guns take on our children.

Why do we continue to call the shooting of a child by another child an accident? Why do we continue to call a child finding a gun in a purse and shooting him/herself an accident? What should we call it when a parent handles or cleans a gun inside of the house and a bullet discharges from the gun, hitting and killing a child in another room?

#notanaccident

Not common sense.

I call it irresponsible gun ownership. I call it lack of training. I call it careless and stupid. I call it negligence. I call it not understanding the grievous risk of loaded guns as deadly weapons. I call it the American tragedy and the American gun culture gone wrong. I call it gun rights extremists convincing people that they just must have a gun in their home or their purse or loaded in a holster while walking around in public without a warning label on the gun similar to what we have on packs of cigarettes. Or on alcoholic beverages. 

We do seem to understand that there are some products that can lead to serious health problems and even death and so we at least try to get the public to understand the risks. It may not be as effective as we would like but over time, we have come to understand the risks associated with smoking and alcohol.

So then when an Ohio father cleans his gun in his home and doesn’t check to make sure there is not a bullet still in the chamber, isn’t that a risk to owning a gun and shouldn’t there be more discussion about this risk? Shouldn’t there be warning labels or something that comes with a gun purchase to highlight this risk? Shouldn’t there be mandatory training for anyone who purchases a gun from a licensed dealer? ( not to mention all of the guns sold by private sellers on-line with no anything required).

From the above linked article:

Akron police say 27-year-old Dexter Brooks said he was trying to unload his gun Saturday afternoon at the family’s home when he fired a shot, thinking the gun was empty. Police say the bullet went through a staircase into a lower-level bathroom, where it struck the girl in the head. She was hospitalized in critical condition.

Tragic. Devastating. Avoidable. Preventable. Stupid.

And the one about the gun found in a grandma’s purse by a grandchild looking for candy?:

When the 4-year-old slipped her hand into her grandmother’s purse, she was searching for something sweet, her father told the Tampa Bay Times.

Shane Zoller told the newspaper that his daughter, Yanelly, was looking for candy while visiting her grandparents last week in North Tampa, Florida. Instead, she found a handgun, then accidentally shot and killed herself, Zoller said.

#notanaccident

I know that gun rights advocates say these are just irresponsible people who have nothing to do with them. The thing is, these same advocates are not on board with pushing the public health approach to gun violence. We ALL need to be educating people about the risks of owning guns. Instead, the corporate gun lobby encourages everyone and anyone to buy a gun for self protection and then the guns get used this way instead. Guns are rarely used for self protection: 

There are, of course, plenty of solid arguments for robust 2nd Amendment protections. Millions of people use guns for sport and recreation every day. The vast majority of gun owners are responsible citizens, not criminals.

But, though some people certainly use guns for self-defense, the data suggest that overall, guns are used far more often for killing than self-defense. As a result, it may be worth thinking twice about arguments for more guns in schools, churches and other public places.

And that’s the truth of the matter. The truth is also that a gun in the home is much more likely to get used to injure or kill someone also in the home or even in public places.

More from the above linked article about child shootings in America:

As The Post’s John Woodrow Cox reported last week, an average of 23 children were shot each day in 2015, according to a review of the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That’s at least one bullet every 63 minutes.

That year, an estimated 8,400 children were struck, and 1,458 of them died – more than in any year since at least 2010. That death toll amounted to more than the entire number of U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan over the past 10 years.

#Enough

There are many more incidents where these came from. Children are dying in high number and more than military fatalities in Afghanistan over the last 10 years. Why are we not making a huge fuss about this?

Rights…..

Lack of courage and backbone…

Lapdog politicians….

Noisy, greedy and power grabbing gun lobby…..

Myths. Misinformation

And I haven’t even mentioned the gun “accidents” that kill adults. 

More guns make us safer.

 

We are better than this.

 

No common sense

peacockIn what world is it OK for a teacher to take young children on a field trip to a gun range? It’s not normal to do this and trying to teach children about history by exposing them to loaded guns when they can’t handle that responsibility or understand the true risks of loaded guns is deplorable. There is no common sense in this very flawed and potentially dangerous decision:

 

Holdheide Academy owner Tammy Dorsten told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that Wednesday’s controversial trip to Hi-Caliber Firearms was intended to “enrich” the children, who were learning about Annie Oakley, Bill Pecos and Davy Crockett, per Georgia’s required curriculum.

Dorsten said she got the idea after students at the Woodstock school thought the sharpshooters’ firing skills were simple.

Why would there even be a discussion with second graders about sharp shooting skills? If people want to talk about this at home, go ahead as long as it comes with the discussion about how dangerous guns are in the hands of anyone, let alone second graders. But teaching about this in a school lesson? No words.

Let’s review how many children have died because of gunshot injuries just this year. The Gun Violence Archive site is keeping track of all of this, thank goodness. If it weren’t for the media and sites like GVA we wouldn’t know what is actually going on in our country. The numbers collected so far in 2017 equal 478 for children aged 0-11 injured or killed by a firearm.

What about this do some folks not understand? This is just not the way things happened decades ago while I was a child. Why? Because there were not a lot of handguns sitting around in people’s homes. There were plenty of hunting guns, including in my own house since I was raised by a hunting family. But it was very rare to hear about small children finding a gun around and “playing” with it and shooting him/herself or someone else. It just didn’t happen.

How did we get here? Simple. The corporate gun lobby changed organizations like the NRA into a lobby for the gun industry instead of a group to support shooting and hunting sports. When hunting waned and gun sales declined, there had to be a way to encourage gun sales. That way was to convince average Americans that they needed a gun for self defense. And then to convince legislators that the next step was for the carrying of those guns into public places because…… well, because of all the lurking dangerous shadows and trolls, zombies and dangerous people not like themselves out and about ready to pounce.

Follow the money.

Oh, and then there is the unhinged idea that the government is coming to do harm in the face our first Black President or any Democratic President, for that matter. Because the NRA and other pro gun rights groups have become an arm of the Republican party and, in particular, the far right extremists.

We have seen this in action when armed citizens roam our streets with long guns strapped around their bodies or handguns openly holstered to remind us that they can protect us all or that they mean to intimidate anyone out there who is watching.

The most recent display of the gun rights extremists in action took place in Charlottesville during the KKK/neo nazi/alt right event that ended in the death of one woman. Watching armed “militia” members strut on the streets displaying their weapons like a male Peacock displaying its’ beautiful feathers was a scary sight indeed. It was meant to be that way. Have gun will travel and intimidate.

The Southern Poverty Law Center is also keeping track of these folks. Somebody has to. Many are armed and potentially dangerous and they intend to cause trouble if they believe in their own fears and paranoia about the government. One question to ask is if they are “well regulated” which is the illusive phrase in the second amendment is about.

As the above linked article highlights, we have a serious problem in our country because we have failed to have an adult reasonable discussion about what it means to be well regulated. And so as a nation we are failing our children and grandchildren. We allow children to be killed and to kill every day in numbers that would have caused other reasonable democratic countries not at war to regulate and regulate fast.

We should be alarmed about this. Instead, we continue on the deadly path we are now on because the corporate gun lobby has convinced scared and lapdog politicians to ignore a national public health and safety epidemic. Instead, some insist that more guns will make us safer and that sham has become the narrative for gun rights.

The narrative needs to change if we are to save our children and families from the devastation of gun tragedies. And, of course, we need to include the entire nation because we aren’t saving our adults either.

We have to get this right. Facts matter.

For example, guns for self defense are much much more likely to be used to kill or injure someone in the home or the gun’s owner than to be used for self defense.

The Violence Policy Center, linked here, is keeping track. Of course gun rights extremists think this is #fakenews. Their problem is that facts are stubborn things. When we dive into them, we find the truth. From the link above:

The use of guns in self-defense by private citizens is extremely rare. VPC research has found a gun is far more likely to be used in a homicide or suicide than in a justifiable homicide. More guns are stolen each year than are used in self-defense.

The gun lobby seeks to expand the carrying of concealed, loaded handguns into an ever-increasing number of public spaces, while at the same time blocking any restrictions on the availability of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. The main argument used to advance these policies is that guns are a common and effective tool for self-defense. This argument is false.

A series of VPC studies on guns and self-defense thoroughly disprove the NRA myth. These studies analyze national data from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR) and the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).

From the above linked fact based article: ” When analyzing the most reliable data available, what is most striking is that in a nation of more than 300 million guns, how rarely firearms are used in self-defense.”

But never mind facts and common sense.

The Brady Campaign published a report called The Truth About Kids and Guns. 

Yes. There are truths that cannot be ignored. If we care about the next generation, we will deal with guns and gun violence as a serious public health epidemic. The truth is that kids are dying every day in avoidable, senseless shootings.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. With rights come responsibilities. There are way too many gun owners, adults and parents who are just not responsible with their guns. As a result, our children are dying. Too many adults don’t realize that guns are too often not securely stored, loaded, just waiting for a young curious child to find.

The ASK campaign is all about responsible gun ownership and the education of parents and adults about the risks of loaded and unsecured guns to our children.

The result of this ignorance and willful irresponsibility is deadly.

There is no excuse for taking second graders to a gun range on a field trip. Children have died or shot someone else at gun ranges or in homes or cars or public places under the “watchful” eyes of adults.

Remember when a nine year old girl was allowed to shoot an Uzi at a gun range and shot and killed the instructor?

Remember when a father brought his 8 year old son to a gun show to shoot a machine gun and the boy ended up dead?

Remember when that 4 year old Florida boy was playing with a loaded gun in the back seat of his gun rights activist mother and “accidentally” shot her in the back?

Remember when that 2 year old idaho boy found a loaded gun in his mother’s purse ( for self defense) and shot and killed his very own mother?

One of these incidents is one too many. And these incidents are just a very few of far too many.

Guns are not meant for small children.

The prevalence of gun deaths among small children is an American tragedy in which the gun rights extremists have convinced some amongst us that the second amendment means unfettered rights for anyone to own and bear a firearm with no regulations whatsoever. This is a sham and a lie. And it’s leading to the deaths of our children.

 

Gun rights odds and ends and white terrorism

odd

This post has been edited since first posted.

 Walmart store, allegedly and reportedly in Evanston, Indiana put up a display of rifles touting them as part of their going back to school marketing. How odd. How disturbing. A woman took a photo, it went viral, and voila- we have the gun rights culture out front and center for the bold and clueless treatment of guns. The linked article reports that Walmart apologized and the display was taken down but also wondered if it was a fake photo or doctored in some way. Both cannot be true and the mystery remains.

But why go there at all? The thing is, it’s so believable that there would be a marketing display of this sort that naturally people were upset. In the midst of all of the heinous shootings involving kids and the thought of one’s own child as a victim of a school shooting or the shooter for that matter, why go there?

The answer is… gun rights. What is odd about that display anyway? Isn’t it normal for guns to be marketed like this to increase sales? Never mind that it might be offensive to many.

Many are not only offended but many have experienced gun violence in their lives. Shooting anniversaries come and go and it’s one more year since the death or injury of a loved one. Yet another such shooting anniversary occurred with little notice. In 1999 a White Supremacist with hate in his heart and on his mind decided to shoot at kids and teens at a Jewish Community Center day care in L.A.  Five were wounded after 70 shots were fired. It’s quite amazing that more people weren’t injured or killed. The children of two friends were among the wounded. These are mothers I have met through my network of gun violence prevention advocates. The son of one of them, only of pre-school age has now grown into a wonderful young man with nothing but some physical and emotional scars left. The other was a teen girl who is now happily married and doing fine. But the feelings never go away and the scars and memories are still there. The horror of the phone call that your child has been shot lives just below the surface.

It was this shooting that motivated Donna Dees Thomases to start planning what has become one of the largest marches on the National Mall- the Million Mom March. which took place in May of 2000. And the movement continues. Activists and advocates lobby, march and organize still today for non-violence and common sense solutions to gun violence.

Speaking of common sense solutions to violence, how can we hope that will happen when white supremacists gather together to foment hate, racism and intolerance.  But that is what they will do this week-end in an alt-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

There are concerns about public safety of course as there will be counter protesters as well. Hopefully no gun carrying or gunshots at these rallies. From the article:

Thomas asked that protesters from both camps to pledge to remain nonviolent.

“I urge groups on both sides to publicly commit to a nonviolent assembly,” he said. “Your commitment may influence the small minority that may seek to jeopardize public safety and will also serve to strengthen bonds throughout our community, reduce a growing cloud of fear, and emotionally disarm those who would delight in provoking others towards violent actions.”

Yet, yesterday, Trump’s deputy assistant and counterterrorism adviser, Sebastian Gorka, ridiculed the idea of lone-wolf terrorists and played down the threat of white supremacist violence.
Lone wolf shootings have become more common in America. They should be rare and odd but they are not. There are angry people fueled by white supremacist leanings, terrorist group leanings, anger over politics, race, a grievance against law enforcement or an organization and loosely associated with such groups who have wrecked havoc on innocent Americans. Take a look at this article:

Lone wolf attacks are rare — there have been perhaps 100 successful politically motivated attacks pulled off by a solo actor in the United States since the 1940s. But they began attracting special attention from the national security community more than a decade ago when Al Qaeda started encouraging them. By 2010, then-CIA Director Leon Panetta declared that lone wolf attacks could pose “the main threat to this country.” The next year, President Barack Obama laid out the problem on CNN: “When you’ve got one person who is deranged or driven by a hateful ideology, they can do a lot of damage, and it’s a lot harder to trace those lone wolf operators.”

Researchers believe lone wolf attackers are fundamentally different than people who participate in organized political violence. In an effort to better understand the phenomenon, the Department of Justice has funded two groups of researchers to compile databases of historic lone wolf attacks, so they can be analyzed for trends, psychological profiles — and, the authorities hope, insight into how to prevent them.

We all know that Donald Trump changed his views about gun policy as he was seeking to be our President. Of course he did. Follow the money and power. As an aside, our President has changed his position on many issues and one doesn’t know what will come out of his mouth at any given moment. Lies, #fakenews, incendiary rhetoric, ramping up war rhetoric, blaming others, bullying others, criticizing his own “friends” and allies, throwing people under the bus for his own expediency and blurting out mistruths that could end us all up in a lot of trouble. It is not only odd but disconcerting and quite scary.

(Maybe I should buy a gun!)   grrr

But I digress. It does no good to ignore or deny that these kinds of attacks take place. The shooters are most often angry men and often known to have mental illness. And they have access to guns because… it’s America where gun rights trump the right of all of us to be safe from attacks by people wielding guns in order to hurt others. Ignoring and denying that these incidents happen gives an excuse for doing nothing about them.

More from the above-linked article:

In the early years, a high percentage of lone wolf attacks employed explosives. But that has changed: “The lone wolf’s preferred weaponry is now a staggering range of high-velocity firearms,” Hamm and Spaaij write.

They attribute this trend to controls on the purchase of bomb-making materials enacted after the Oklahoma City bombings in 1995 and the permissiveness of U.S. gun laws.

“Permissiveness of U.S. gun laws…” This is the truth but the gun rights extremists want our laws to be even more permissive so that anyone can buy and carry guns everywhere. This is not normal. It is odd compared to almost all other democratized countries not at war.

When the commander in chief keeps changing his own mind about guns and gun policy and ramping up fear and paranoia, of course we have more violent and intolerant rhetoric. The gun culture we have is not the gun culture we should have. There is no reason why we can’t all work together to at least try to stop some of the shootings. Changing the conversation and working towards making guns accessible only to those who can reasonably handle them and are not under the category of felons, domestic abusers, known terrorists ( on the terror no-fly list), adjudicated mentally ill, drug abusers, or potentially dangerous to themselves or others would save lives.

That should not be so difficult. It’s all about common sense.

Gun rights to some people seems to mean no responsibility with that deadly weapon. Allowing guns to be accessible to small children is inviting tragedy. Every day in America, guns fall into small hands. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Take one of the latest incidents ending badly:

A Kansas City 5 year old is dead by his own hands when he found a gun in his home and shot himself. Without the kind of discussion, research, common sense measures to prevent shootings and whatever it takes to stop this irresponsible gun behavior we can expect our children to continue to suffer from gunshot injuries and deaths.

A 16 year old Mississippi teen fatally shot his 6 year old brother to “scare” him: 

Craft illegally came into possession of the handgun, according to Gulfport police Chief Leonard Papania. The teen has been charged with manslaughter.

How do 16 year olds access guns? That question must be asked and answered. They should not have guns, period. But this is gun rights in America. Solutions can be found if we have good research into the problem, talk about the risks of guns in homes, attack gun trafficking, lost and stolen guns, straw purchasing and require Brady background checks on all gun sales.

This writer for Forbes has written about this American tragedy and the denial of it in America.:

 

Today, 19 children will die or receive emergency treatment for a gunshot wound in the U.S. And tomorrow, another 19 will. And then another 19 the next day. In fact, 91% of all children who die from firearms in high-income countries across the world come from the United States, and guns are the third leading cause of death for all children between ages 1 and 17. Those are a handful of the sobering statistics reported in a new study on gun violence in Pediatrics.

Yet the myth persists that the freedom to own a gun without a universal requirement of background checks or a legal requirement to store those guns safely and out of children’s reach supersedes the lives of American children. Until the U.S. as a whole decides to recognize and accept what the tremendous cost of current lenient gun laws is, more than 1,000 more children will die next year. And the year after that. (Read here how to reduce your child’s risk.)

Yes. We have gun rights and we also have gun rights myths. Guns are killing us and most especially, our children. This is not OK. It’s odd. It’s not normal. We can do something about it if we stop the denial and raise our voices. It doesn’t have to be this way. Young children should not die from gunshot injuries, robbing them of a future and their families of watching them grow up to contribute to society. Young children dying from gunshot injuries should be rare and odd.

Try ASKing if there are loaded unsecured guns where your children play and make sure you, yourself lock your guns away, unloaded, from curious hands or from theft.

And speaking of young children being shot, this awful incident happened in Cleveland when a road rage incident ended with the shooting of a 4 year old:

A 4-year-old boy is in serious condition after he was shot in the head in an apparent road rage incident overnight in Cleveland, Ohio, the Cleveland Police Department said.

Police said the shooting happened while a mother was driving her 4-year-old son and 7-year-old daughter.

After the mother honked her horn to pass another car blocking the road, that car allegedly followed the mother onto the freeway and fired shots into the woman’s car, police said.

What is wrong with us? Why are people driving on our roads armed? What is so dangerous out there to warrant this kind of behavior? This is a gun culture gone wrong.

A friend posted a photo on her Facebook page of a man open carrying at a dog park to which she took her dog. She had never seen someone open carrying a loaded gun before and found it odd. It is. It’s not normal. Others on her Facebook page were not aware that people can open carry guns in many states and were upset and disgusted to see this photo. People don’t like seeing armed citizens around where they go to work, play, learn, worship and hang out.

Commenters on her page wondered what is so dangerous at a dog park? Will the man have to shoot another dog? Will a dog owner make him angry? Will that gun “accidentally” fall off of his belt  (not sure how gun is attached to belt)  when he leans over or chases the dog? There are no “accidental gun discharges but nevertheless they happen. I write about these incidents too often and they should be odd. Why aren’t they?

I have posted this photo with permission from my friend.

man at dog park

Should this be normal? A minority of Americans practice their gun rights by carrying concealed or openly. So far instances of having to use carried guns for self defense are rare compared to the risk of having guns around in the home. But the reason given by many gun rights activists is that they must own and carry their guns for self defense.

( This was added after I first posted) And then stuff like this happens.:

A pistol-packing senior tried to reserve a parking space in Queens Wednesday by firing off a few rounds.

Yvonne Cosby, 76, let off two gunshots from the window of her Brookville home because she was angry that a man had parked outside her house, cops said.

Miraculously, Cosby missed her target. Police were eventually able to calm her down and take her into custody, cops said.

It’s very clear that some people should not have guns. We need to re-think the idea that just anybody can pack heat and have a gun for “self defense”. This woman’s family will now hopefully understand that she is dangerous to herself or others and should have her gun removed from her home.

There is something wrong with a gun culture where there are almost more guns than people. And to make it worse gun ownership has gone down and now fewer people own more guns per person. Normal? There is something wrong when gun deaths happen at such a rate as to be a national public health epidemic that we ignore and deny at our peril. There is something wrong with idolizing guns and gun rights to the point that we dare not challenge it or those who believe in the myths.

Gun rights and gun responsibility along with sensible gun laws can go hand in hand. They are not mutually exclusive. Since most gun owners agree with this, we ought to be on our way to sensible solutions, right?

haha

There is nothing funny about it. In the end, this is about saving lives and need not set gun rights against the right to be free from devastating gun violence.

 

UPDATE:

Sadly, as predicted, violence has broken out at the “alt-right neo-nazi rally in Charlottesville, VA. The Governor has declared a state of emergency.

 

This is not who we are as a country and what is happening is truly frightening. From an article posted last night:

A group of three dozen self-described “militia” – men who were wearing full camouflage and were armed with long guns – said they were there to help keep the peace, but they also did not break up the fights.

There were vicious clashes on Market Street in front of Emancipation Park, where the rally was to begin at noon. A large contingent of white nationalist rallygoers holding shields and swinging wooden clubs rushed through a line of counterprotesters. (..,)

Tensions began Friday night, as several hundred white supremacists chanted “White lives matter!” “You will not replace us!” and “Jews will not replace us!” as they carried torches marched in a parade through the University of Virginia campus.

The fast-paced march was made up almost exclusively of men in their 20s and 30s, though there were some who looked to be in their mid-teens.

Very frightening. Where do we live? This is America but then again, this is not America.

 

ANOTHER UPDATE:

There is enough material here for a new post but I will add to this one instead. The NRA has decided to continue its’ offensive, rude, threatening and dangerous rhetoric by suggesting that North Korea should bomb California instead of Guam. The NRA has become an extremist group that supports violence and they are the “good guys with the guns”?   From the article:

Stinchfield later deleted the tweet and then apologized.

“It was meant as a joke and I regret it,” he told the New York Daily News. “What’s going on with North Korea is no laughing matter.”

 NO. It was not meant as a joke. He got caught. He meant it and it’s NOT FUNNY. Just as President Trump claimed that it was a good thing that Putin cut all of those embassy jobs because they were trying to cut the State Department budget and later tried to claim that it was satire. NO. It was NOT SATIRE. He meant it. Apparently he also told the Governor of Guam that this tough talk would be good for tourism there as well. NOT SATIRE. Stupid and dangerous talk.
Words matter. Words often lead to actions. We are seeing it play out in real time in Charlottesville, Virginia. No Mr. LaPierre, “the guys with the guns make the rules”-
NOT.  We’ve had it with this hate, intolerance, paranoia and threats of violence. This is not who we are.