A “memoraversary”

The last week has been a difficult one for the entire country. For victims and survivors it has been worse than difficult. High profile shootings bring back too many memories. The press coverage, the constant conversation about the guns, bullets, the victims, the injuries…

PTSD is what I call it. I believe the entire country is experiencing PTSD after the last week of mass shootings. The nonsensical talk about video games, lack of praying in school, mental illness and every other excuse offered by those who refuse to talk about the root of the problem is enough to make us sick. We know what the problem is. We have experienced it.

It’s the guns stupid. Plain and simply it’s easy access to guns. The hate shooting in El Paso was a horrendous act of violence directed at immigrants, people of color, hispanic people- the “other”. An assault rifle. Premeditated murder. Unrepentant killer. A legal gun purchase.

We’ve heard it ad nauseum before- hundreds of times.

The shooting in Dayton appears to be a domestic related shooting but the premeditation involving body armour, an assault rifle with a 100 round drum magazine is inexplicable. Why?

In talking about the high profile mass shootings, we often forget about the “everyday” shootings happening regularly. Over 100 a day. The domestic homicides. The suicides. The unintentional shootings by kids, officer involved shootings. They are all around us every day. They leave victims and survivors in their wake. They leave a ripple effect going wider and wider. With all of the shootings, there are few of us remaining who have not been affected by a shooting.

I am one of those people feeling the PTSD in the past week. Thoughts of my own family dealing with the domestic shooting of my sister came back. The phone call came back. It brought back the days between the shooting and the funeral and the days following dealing with the after effects and grief and moving forward.

Moving forward for me was getting involved and working with Brady and Protect Minnesota to prevent shootings in any form. It has been a long and frustrating journey. We go round and round and make small steps towards progress because we are swimming upstream against a formidable force of opposition and a culture of guns that stops us from doing what almost everyone knows is the right thing to do.

Today is the anniversary of the shooting death of my sister, Barbara Lund. What should we call the anniversary of the death of a loved one? That question was asked recently in a group of Brady chapter leaders. Anniversary seems like not quite the right word. Every year on this date I write about my sister, who was murdered by her estranged husband on Aug. 5, 1992.

It’s been a long time but we miss her still. I can still hear her voice and remember her vivacious personality at family events. She was a force. She was a beauty queen. She was a skier, an artist, a mother, a sister, a wife, an ex-wife, a step-mom, a tennis player, a pilot, an entertainer, politically active, and an all around adventurous person. People never forgot her once they met her.

She would have been a fierce advocate for doing the right thing in my memory had I died before her by some untimely violent death. She would have worked for background checks on all gun sales and the many issues that have been in the forefront in the decades since her death.

But a stronger background check system would not have stopped my sister’s shooting. Her estranged husband was a legal gun owner. Perhaps an Extreme Risk Protection Order law however could have prevented what happened that day in August in 1992. There had been a restraining order. He was becoming aggressive with phone messages to her. He was becoming, in general, more resistant to the divorce proceedings even being in contempt of court for refusing to comply with the proceedings. They were separated by then and she told friends she was worried about his guns.

But using his guns to kill her and her friend because he was angry? Why? Where is common sense?

Others have similar stories with somewhat different details. Some women survive the bullets. Many do not. Domestic murders often involve more than one person and most often happen when a woman is trying to leave the relationship- whether marriage or not. Sometimes it takes a half dozen times to actually leave. When children, money and pets are involved, it’s difficult to leave.

I have learned a lot since Aug. 5, 1992. Now we all know more and we all know that we can do something about this carnage. If there is a difficulty in the relationship and the man ( for it is almost always the man) owns guns, we must think differently. We must be hyper aware. If there is a threat to the gun owners’ self or others, if Extreme Risk Protection Orders are law, guns can be removed, at least temporarily.

A woman is 5 times more likely to be killed in intimate violence situations when a gun is present. In my sister’s case there was no physical violence but rather increasing signs of anger and depression over his losing control of money and control.

If there is a difficult relationship between domestic partners or spouses, a gun can make it deadly instantly. Getting away from the relationship or getting guns away from the person who could be a danger to themselves or others is of utmost importance.

End Family Fire is a new campaign to highlight the risks of guns in the home. These risks are for suicide, domestic homicide, school shootings (most school shooters get their guns from their own homes) or “accidental gun discharges”. Considering the risks there is no reason not to be more cautious about guns in the home. At the very least they need to be stored safely ( in a metal gun case) and/or with a trigger lock and away from ammunition.

Too many gun owners think their loaded guns must be at the ready at home just in case. This flawed thinking leads to way too many avoidable deaths and injuries. A gun is much more likely to be used against you or someone in the home than in self defense.

You may think that something like this can never happen in your family or your community. You may be right. But if I were you I would err on the side of safety and caution to prevent personal tragedy. None of the families of the tragic and deadly mass shootings and “everyday” shootings ever thought it would happen to them either. My last post was about the rash of mass shootings in the last week. Since I wrote that post, dozens more have died of gunshot injuries.

We don’t have to live like this. But we do have to demand that our leaders make sure our lives are safe from preventable gun violence. Our personal responsibility is to be aware, be safe, be sensible around guns, and don’t do anything stupid or dangerous. Lives depend on getting this right.

Our leaders’ responsibility is to pass laws to make it less easy for people who should not have guns to get them. It is to make it harder to get guns. It should be. Guns are lethal weapons and they are responsible for horrendous carnage. This is national public health emergency and we must do something.

In memory of my sister and the many thousands of Americans who have died from gunshot injuries since her death and before, I demand action. I honor the lives lost with action.

Pearls and guns

Earlier this week, a group of New Hampshire legislators donned their pearls to mock gun violence prevention advocates. Yes, it’s true. A bunch of men did this thinking they were so clever. Other words come to mind but misogyny is at the top of the list. Because gun violence prevention groups have many women leading the charge, some gun rights advocates have decided that women can be intimidated and mocked with no repercussions. That’s the way it is.

Here is the article with photos of the men who wore their pearls:

Images from the statehouse — where legislators were considering arguments over a bill that would make it easier to take guns away from potentially dangerous people — caromed across social media as critics lobbed accusations of sexism and insensitivity at the necklace-wearing men.
The implication was clear, they said: These politicians thought gun-control activists were “clutching their pearls” in overwrought and self-righteous outrage — and, specifically, female outrage.
The advocates, who were volunteers with the group Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said they felt mocked, as if some of the lawmakers were not interested in hearing how gun violence has affected their lives.

I wonder if any of those men have been affected by gun violence? I wonder if they had been, would they have still worn those pearls? The fact is, I have never worn pearls while advocating for common sense gun legislation or lobbying or visiting with Congress members or legislators or speaking at a meeting or holding a vigil. I have never seen any other woman do so either. But I have seen many men come dressed with armed pistols in holsters at hearings.

But then this was uttered in defense of the pearl wearing ( from the article):

Online, members of the Women’s Defense League of New Hampshire, a pro-guns organization, have said Watts and other Moms Demand Action members have it all wrong: the pearls symbolize opposition to the bill itself and support for the Second Amendment and the Women’s Defense League — support for women, not denigration of them.
“The PEARLS are in support of the Women’s Defense League. Women who ACTUALLY PROMOTE GUN SAFETY and WOMEN’S RIGHTS,” tweeted Kimberly Morin, president of the group.

I call BS. This just can’t be believed. We all know what the wearing of the pearls was all about and it wasn’t in support of women. The very bill they proclaimed opposition to will serve to protect women from harm. It’s an Extreme Risk Protection Order bill meant to keep people who could be dangerous to themselves or others from having or purchasing guns. This includes the many women who fear for their lives from domestic abuse and partners/spouses who might kill them with a firearm. From the article:

The bill, known as a “red flag” law, would allow family members and law enforcement agencies to obtain court orders that restrict gun access for individuals who may pose an immediate risk to themselves or others. If New Hampshire adopts the legislation, it would join 14 states that have done so, many in the wake of deadly mass shootings.

You can’t make this stuff up. Pearls. Not pearls of wisdom. Pearls of wisdom and common sense tell us that too many people are dying and are injured by bullets. Here are just a few of the recent shooting incidents in America that point to exactly why we need to pass stronger gun laws and change the culture around guns and gun violence:

And those are just a few of the many more happening every day in America. at increasing frequency. If guns made us safer, why are these incidents happening?

These people, and everyone really, should check out End Family Fire to learn about the risk of loaded guns to themselves and others. If you decide to bring a gun into your home or carry it around with you, don’t you already understand those risks? It should be automatic but the gun lobby prefers to have people believe they will be invincible with their guns. Why is there no training required before walking out of a gun store or from a gun show with a deadly weapon? Or before allowing people to carry guns in public in many states?

But back to pearls, as I began this post.Pearls have a symbolism as described in this article:

Pearls symbolize wisdom acquired through experience. They are believed to attract wealth and luck as well as offer protection. Known for their calming effect, pearls can balance one’s karma, strengthen relationships, and keep children safe. The pearl is also said to symbolize the purity, generosity, integrity, and loyalty of its wearer.

I think I’ll wear my pearls more often.

#Enough

Hearings in Congress

Congress has finally, after 2 years or more, begun the work they were elected to do. Previous Republican led committees have failed us. Democrats tried in 2013 after the shooting of 20 first graders. But the NRA choked that effort and Republicans refused. The issue of gun violence has turned partisan even though gun deaths take the lives of anyone no matter what their political stripe is. The NRA became an arm of the Republican party and made sure that Trump got elected. And Trump failed to even mention gun violence in his state of the union address. Unbelievable given the numbers and the mass shootings.

The Democrats are in charge of the House now and this week there have been hearings on just about every major issue of our times. Thank goodness we are going to hear the truth and from expert witnesses. Some in Congress have not wanted the truth because it exposes inconvenient facts.

Of course my interest was on the H.R. 8 hearing in the House Judiciary Committee. It was, as one could expect, not without some fireworks and angry exchanges. It was the first hearing on expanding background checks to all gun sales since 2011. The first witness was Aalaya Eastmond, a Parkland shooting survivor. Aalaya saved herself by staying hidden under the dead body of a classmate. Just imagine that, if you can. This is a teen-aged girl who testified like the calm, articulate young adult she has become. You can watch the hearing here.

Other witnesses laid out the reasons why requiring a background check on all gun sales is one very good way to stop people who shouldn’t be able to get guns from getting guns anyway. Many other things can be done to stop this inane public health epidemic. Dr. Joseph Sakran, a trauma surgeon, survivor of a shooting and board member of the Brady Campaign testified to the committee using his experiences and expertise:

Firearm injury and death in America is not only a disease,1 but a public health crisis in the United States. Every day, an average of 109 individuals are killed and more than 240 people suffer injuries secondary to firearm violence.23 While the United States is a world leader in many arenas, we are failing when it comes to firearm injury prevention. Firearm-related injury and death is a public health problem creating a vast burden of disease across the spectrum of ages and socioeconomic groups in this country. Additionally, firearm-related violence has a substantial economic burden of over 229 billion dollars per year to the United States health care system.45 Most concerning despite advances in trauma systems and health care capabilities, the fatality rate secondary to firearms has not significantly changed or improved.67  (…)We have both the opportunity and responsibility to comprehensively address gun violence as the true public health crisis that it is. This is not a Democrat versus Republican issue. It’s a uniquely American issue and it is uniquely in each of your hands to help fix it.
The America I’m fighting for is one where parents no longer have to fear the phone call that my parents received, that the Parkland parents received, and literally hundreds of others in communities across this country are receiving every single day. As a trauma surgeon, I have to look into the eyes of these parents and it’s nothing less than heartbreaking. The medical community implores you: the time for action is now. There is no one solution to this complex health problem, which is why we must come together as a country to build consensus and support and develop a research informed, data-driven, approach so that we can help you, as our policy-makers, to ensure the public safety of Americans all across this great nation.

One would never know that the issue is not a Republican vs. Democratic issue during the hearing. Republican committee member Matt Gaetz threw in specious comments about illegal immigrants shooting Americans and even went to “the wall”. This set off a series of interruptions by some of the Parkland parents in the hearing room. In turn, Representative Gaetz pointed his finger at the aggrieved parents and wanted them thrown out. This was a low point of the hearing. The one year anniversary of the Parkland shooting is next week. Where is any kind of empathy or concern for those people?

Does Rep. Gaetz understand that if background checks on all gun sales are required, those illegal immigrants will have a much harder time getting their hands on guns. Since they are prohibited purchasers, they would no longer be able to get guns through private sellers. Yes, there are guns out there to be had but where do they come from in the first place? They don’t fall out of the sky. All guns start as legal purchases ( even those bought from private sellers in states that allow that since it is not so far illegal) . From there, they get into the illegal market or in the wrong hands through straw purchasing, through “bad apple” gun dealers, by being stolen, or trafficked on the street. Requiring background checks on all gun sales will stop some of these other ways that guns get into the wrong hands.

And further, of course Rep. Gaetz is wrong to try to compare any shootings by illegal immigrants with the overall shooting deaths of American citizens by American citizens. There is no comparison.

Other specious comments from committee members and expert witnesses alike caught my attention. In fact, outright lies were told. The following are those lies and deceptions:

Background checks on all gun sales will lead to gun registration. Actually since the Brady Law was enacted and started working to require background checks on sales at federally licensed firearms dealers, there has been no gun registration. The expanded background checks will be the same ones now already in existence. There will be no gun registration.

Background checks on all gun sales will affect law abiding citizens who want to carry guns for self defense. How would that happen? If someone who is law abiding wants to carry a gun, they should not be affected by the requirement to get a background check on said gun. It’s only those who shouldn’t have guns in the first place who will be affected by H.R. 8.

There are millions of defensive gun uses every year, therefore guns are needed to protect people. Actually no. This has been debunked over and over and over again. It’s not true and it’s never been proven. But the gun rights advocates trot it out frequently. Professor Joyce Malcom of George Mason University School of Law came to the hearing with this information for the committee. If there were millions per year we would know about it and hear about it in media and police reports. The Gun Violence Archive is actually keeping track of these numbers and here is what they have found. So far this year there have been 130 defensive gun uses. These are the ones actually reported and verified. That’s the best way to use data. The professor who testified at the hearing admitted that her numbers were mostly anecdotal. Hmmm.

The reason gun deaths decreased after the mid 1990s is because so many states passed conceal and carry laws.  This was also claimed by Professor Malcom ( see above). There is no proof of this either. Those on the side of gun safety reform can also say that the Brady Law was enacted and began to work to require background checks on all gun sales during that time as well.

This great article published in the Scientific American ( yes-science, evidence, facts) counters most of the corporate gun lobby’s specious arguments about defensive gun use and crime and more guns leading to less crime and violence. From the article:

A closer look at the who, what, where and why of gun violence also sheds some light on the self-defense claim. Most Americans with concealed carry permits are white men living in rural areas, yet it is young black men in urban areas who disproportionately encounter violence. Violent crimes are also geographically concentrated: Between 1980 and 2008, half of all of Boston’s gun violence occurred on only 3 percent of the city’s streets and intersections. And in Seattle, over a 14-year-period, every single juvenile crime incident took place on less than 5 percent of street segments. In other words, most people carrying guns have only a small chance of encountering situations in which they could use them for self-defense. (…) The belief that more guns lead to fewer crimes is founded on the idea that guns are dangerous when bad guys have them, so we should get more guns into the hands of good guys. Yet Cook, the Duke economist, says this good guy/bad guy dichotomy is a false and dangerous one. Even upstanding American citizens are only human—they can “lose their temper, or exercise poor judgment, or misinterpret a situation, or have a few drinks,” he explains, and if they’re carrying guns when they do, bad things can ensue. In 2013 in Ionia, Mich., a road rage incident led two drivers—both concealed carry permit holders—to get out of their cars, take out their guns and kill each other.

This one I know for sure. An everyday ordinary argument during a contentious divorce and an armed estranged husband led to my sister’s death. A road rage incident in Minneapolis along the I35 freeway led to the shooting and injuring of a school bus driver. The shooter is claiming self defense which law enforcement has found to be totally untrue ( and I would say insane) This man is the poster child for what is wrong with our gun carrying minority of citizens who believe they need these guns for self defense and they are lowering the crime rate by having their loaded guns with them at all times.

Clearly the gun lobby and their spokespeople are wrong about what they are saying.

Women need guns to protect themselves from being raped.  A young woman testified to this at the committee hearing. She also claimed that expanding background checks would be a “financial burden”. She is wrong on both counts. Her first argument has also been debunked over and over again. The financial burden argument is also specious. Why is it not a burden to get a $25 (on average) background check when buying at a federally licensed firearms dealer. If one can afford to buy a gun, one can afford to get the background check. Just as if one can afford a car, one can afford to get the title, registration and insurance. If not, don’t buy one.

Just this one article explains:

However, since rape seems to be Dana Loesch’s main concern, we can focus more on that. When it comes to rape, well, it is most likely to occur in states that have the most relaxed gun laws. For every woman who could, theoretically, fend a man off with a gun, there is a man who could intimidate a woman into having sex with a gun. One woman, during debates about whether or not guns should be allowed on college campuses, claimed, “If my rapist had a gun at school, I have no doubt I would be dead.”
Even if the manufacturers make them a cute shade of pink, guns are not tools that are helpful to women. They kill far more women than they save. But Dana Loesch is right about one thing—the world can be a dangerous place for women. Rape is horrible. And one way to help make the world safer for women is to make weapons like guns harder for dangerous people to get.

Also in this article is the commonly known fact that” Women are 100 times more likely to be fatally shot by a man with a gun than use one for self defense.”

There are facts. There are too many gun deaths. Too many guns are leading to too many people dying from gunshot injuries. Stronger gun laws have been shown to reduce and prevent gun deaths. It is undeniable.

In the end, common sense will lead us to stronger gun laws and safer communities. That is what this is about. It is not about registration, or charging people too much, or taking away the right to use a gun for self defense, or owning a gun to reduce crime and shootings. It is about making sure that guns are not used to harm others- mostly known to the shooters- or are used in absolutely senseless deaths like the many mass shootings, the “unintentional” shootings of and by children, suicides that can be prevented, in domestic disputes, to kill young men of color, in road rage and all of the other preventable uses of guns.

It’s about the guns. It’s about gun violence. It’s about public health and safety. It’s about facts and evidence. It’s about saving lives. Even one life. It could be someone you know or love next time.

Kaddish- for the mourners

vigilOn Monday of this week, I attended a vigil for the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting. 150-200 people attended on a cold fall day and crowded into a small gathering place on a busy street corner in Duluth. There were chants and songs and prayers along with speeches from local community leaders. I spoke as a person whose sister was murdered by bullets. Our Mayor spoke and my minister as well as a local elder from the NAACP. Many from the local Jewish community were there as well and expressed such sadness and mourning for the anti-Semitic attack on their brothers and sisters of faith.

It has been 26 years since my sister was shot. Sometimes it feels like just yesterday. The memories come and go as does the pain and the grief. I don’t cry much any more when speaking. But when the leader of the Synagogue asked us to sing and pray Kaddish for the dead and told us to think of our own losses, I cried. That moment was so emotional and powerful and almost haunting.

The vigil was testament to the solidarity we all feel when attacks come against one group of people because of anti-Semitism or racism or anti-GLBTQ or anti-abortion, or anti-Christianity or just because.

Following on the heels of the pipe bomb threats to high profile Democrats it felt like something was terribly wrong.

And predictably, the President said these words after the mass shooting at the synagogue:

When asked if the shooting indicated a need to revisit gun laws, Trump replied that the shooting “has little to do with it” and that an armed guard might have been able to stop the gunman “immediately.”
Asked if he was advocating for armed guards inside of places of worship, Trump replied, “no, it’s certainly an option.”

These are corporate gun lobby words that mean nothing. Rarely has someone who is armed stopped a mass shooting. In this case, the synagogue often did have armed guards as has become necessary for many synagogues in the current atmosphere in our country. But that is different than arming worshipers. If we have to go to our places of worship with guns,  then we have lost our freedom to worship in peace and tranquility.

I did speak with the person at our church in charge of building issues. He told me that we do have an evacuation plan just in case but we haven’t paid a lot of attention to it. I think it’s time to talk about this but it won’t involve weapons.

Something is terribly wrong. There is no way of avoiding the obvious. Hatred and fear of the “other” is increasing in intensity and promoted by hate groups and some of our very own leaders. The President is at the top of the heap of this fear. At the moment, in a ploy to drive his base to the polls, he has dangerously and cynically decided to issue an unconstitutional order to deny citizenship based on birth rites. The country awaits the fall-out from this ludicrous idea.

On top of that the President said on national TV that he intends to deploy 10,000-15,000 troops to our border to stop the “invasion”, as he has pronounced it, from the south. Thousands of refugees are peacefully walking towards the Mexican border from Honduras where they are afraid to live in their own country.

The Honduran migrants headed northward as part of a massive caravan are fleeing for different reasons — rank poverty, gang threats and a globalized economy that left them behind. They’re so desperate, they told me, they’re willing to gamble on a dangerous trip.

It is families with children and people of all ages and yet, the President claims these poor people are gang members and criminals and maybe a few Middle Easterners thrown in for good measure to frighten us all to death.

I am daily horrified and disgusted by this anger and fear. It should not be this way. I may be naive but I really do believe that we are better than this. Any common sense about this kind of rhetoric has flown away into thin air. We need it back.

Can we get our nation back? Can we have a calm and peaceful national conversation about any of this? As the election grows closer, the rhetoric grows more and more coarse. The ghouls of Halloween are with us every day now.

We should be praying and singing Kaddish for our country. My friend, Rabbi Michael Adam Latz, has written this piece for City Pages:

Our kids know anti-Semitism is real and it concerns them. They see it through the lens of understanding police brutality against unarmed African American men, the attacks on trans people and Muslims and Native People and Latinx and migrants and those with disabilities. They recognize that none of us are free until all of us are free.

They know in their bones that the attack on the synagogue in Pittsburgh was absolutely an attack on the Jewish people—and was the same attack on the Sikh Temple in Wisconsin and the AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Our children know that unless and until we address bigotry and racism and hatred for all, none of us will be safe. (…) We—all of us—need one another. We are facing mighty waves of bigotry and violence, intolerance and cynicism. The way we will make it to shore—the way we will survive and thrive and build a community worthy of our children’s dreams—is to hold on to one another and swim to the shore, together.

We need each other and we also need a leader who can bring us together in these moments of violence and upheaval. We don’t have that leader. Who will do this? Who will fix this? When will it stop?

When will they ever learn?

When I spoke on Monday I read the words of former President Barack Obama which got to the core of the matter:

Screen Shot 2018-11-01 at 2.05.04 PM

Amen.

Guns and potato chips

potatochips_005350I frequently run into stories about people getting shot in arguments about simple things or objects just because. I have written about arguments over lawn mowers, garbage cans, property ( that’s a more common cause for a shooting), dogs, etc. But here is a new reason for shooting someone- eating my potato chips. Yes. It’s true. A South Carolina man shot and seriously injured his cousin after said cousin ate the chips he told him not to eat.

But the story started changing after the victim recovered enough for further questioning. The teen told investigators that Langdale shot him after warning him not to eat his salt and vinegar potato chips.

 

“Do not touch my chips, or I’ll shoot you,” Langdale allegedly told the victim according to a sheriff’s incident report, obtained by the Charleston Post and Courier.

People are killed for much more serious arguments actually. My sister is dead over a serious argument during a contentious divorce. No one should die because of that but a gun and several rounds of ammunition were available to my now dead estranged brother-in-law. And the result was 2 dead people. All because of money and a divorce.

I really am not fond of vinegar flavored potato chips. They are sour tasting to me but many love them. I guess a man with a gun loved them a little too much and now he is arrested for attempted murder.

It is about the guns after all. This man was presumably a “good guy with a gun” until he wasn’t. That’s the thing. It only takes seconds to make that very serious decision to use a loaded deadly weapon in the heat of the moment to seriously injure or kill someone.

Each of us has the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” in America. Too often that right is taken from us for reasons that are beyond our control- like disease, weather ( Hurricane Michael), war, poor health, poverty, no health care, etc.

In our country, we can count on the daily carnage of gun violence as one way to take away life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Every day in our country is an American tragedy and yet we do nothing.

When will we ever learn? It’s not for lack of trying of course because many people like myself have been sounding the alarm and asking for common sense for decades now. And for that we have been treated like an “angry mob” and those bad people who will take away the guns of all of those “good people” and “law abiding” armed citizens.

The “angry mob” that our President and the GOP has now concocted as a reason not to vote for the Democrats is unarmed. The other angry mob walks around with AR15s strapped to their bodies and shows up in public places with loaded guns to intimidate the rest of us. Remember Charlottesville?

This is dangerous rhetoric fomented by our very own President and assisted by the corporate gun lobby with the promotion of fear and paranoia. Remember Wayne LaPierre and the “guys with the guns make the rules”?

No Mr. LaPierre. They don’t.

Let’s hope the rules are not made by armed citizens.  When that rhetoric is part of our national daily media, guys with guns get the idea that they just might be justified in shooting someone over potato chips or elections.

Elections are coming up. It’s October with less than a month to go. Peaceful and fair elections have always been the American way. Without that, we are not a democracy.

October is also Domestic Violence Awareness month.

The statistics are chilling. When a gun is in the home, women are at great risk during domestic arguments. 

This week I attended the annual fund raiser for Safe Haven which is a shelter for abused women in Duluth. Every year, either a woman who has been abused and used the shelter tells her story to the audience or a film is shown with interviews of some of the women who have been abused. Out of the 3 stories told by the women interviewed for this year’s film, 2 of them had experienced the terror of their abuser holding a gun to her head or having a gun aimed at her during the abusers abusive tirades. They lived to tell their stories.

A former District Court Judge was the keynote speaker for this event. He had seen a lot of domestic abuse cases over his years as a local attorney and then a judge. He spoke about seeing generations of men who had come before him as abusers- a grandfather, then his son and then his son. His message was that violence begets violence. Violence is not the way to win arguments or elections. But it can become the ultimate control over others.

I am adding this new report by the Brady Campaign about domestic violence and guns:

Every hour, 1,141 people become victims of domestic violence. About 3 people are shot and killed every single day by an intimate partner with a gun. Millions more are victimized, threatened, intimidated, or terrified into silence by the presence of one. They will survive with emotional (and sometimes physical) scars of the time that a person they loved hurt them. The stories of Sara, Kate, Rachael, and Kimberly are the voices of real people who have been affected by the intersection of domestic violence and guns in this country. Sara and Shelley didn’t survive their attacks. We owe a duty to them and to the survivors who lived. It is our job to call on Congress and state legislators to pass meaningful laws to prevent more men and women from becoming victims of domestic violence every year.

There is much much more to the above linked report including the real stories of women who have survived domestic violence- or not.

Loaded guns can become weapons of terror within seconds. The assumption is, or what I am told anyway by those who own guns for self protection, that a gun will be used to save the lives of one’s family during a robbery or an assault of some kind. But the thing is, owning a gun is risky business. Unless the owner is properly trained ( which many are not), stores guns securely in a safe away from the curious hands of a child or teen- or a burglar, they can be used to harm others. 

There are certain facts here. A gun in the home is more likely to be used to kill or injure oneself or someone in the home than it is to be used for self defense. There are real risks associated with gun ownership just like the risks of driving while drunk or smoking in public places.

Check out the Brady Campaign’s End Family Fire site to learn more about the risks.

And I will end with some observations I made while tabling a few days ago for Protect Minnesota at the St. Louis County Health and Human Services conference. This conference is attended by social workers and health care personnel from all over the state and is always full of people ready to learn. Our table was a popular one. Many stopped by to take information and have conversations.

One woman took lots of our information about safe storage of guns, ASK, and talking points about gun violence prevention. She told me she was a social worker who went into many homes of families who needed services for one reason or another. In one home, a woman lived alone with her children after being abused by her spouse. She told the social worker that she kept a loaded gun in the dresser drawer next to her bed just in case he came calling. This horrified the social worker as she asked the woman if her children were also in that bedroom. She said that her 3 year old slept with her.

So the social worker explained the risks of having this loaded gun around unsecured both to herself and her children. They went to a local Goodwill store and found a gun safe there for less than $10 and brought it home. The gun is now secured in this small safe hidden in the bedroom closet.

That is common sense.

Also at that 2 day conference, we gave away 200 trigger locks before 10:00 a.m. of the first day. People support what we do and what to be safe if they own guns.

Had that South Carolina man had his gun safely stored and not at the ready in his hands, his cousin would not have suffered serious injuries over a dispute about potato chips and the shooter would not have been arrested. Both lives have been forever changed because of the gun.

It doesn’t have to be this way. With some common sense and awareness about the risks of loaded guns we can save lives. With stronger gun laws, we can save lives.

That is the bottom line.

 

But for the guns…..

american-flag-gun-stockBut for the guns, thousands of Americans would be alive today to live their lives as the rest of us are doing. They would be singing, dancing, working, studying, playing, shopping, eating, loving, reading books, traveling, and just living.

Take this young man from Chicago-Delmonte Johnson for one example:

Mr. Johnson, a 19-year-old who loved to sing and dance, who was an athlete and a budding social activist, will not get to see that vision realized. He was shot and killed Wednesday after playing basketball near his home.

Image
Delmonte Johnson, in red, with his family in an undated photo.

Mr. Johnson’s death was tragic and unnecessary and enraging. It was also the sort of death that’s become far too common in America, and in particular in Mr. Johnson’s hometown, where more than 2,000 people have been shot so far this year, nearly 400 of them fatally. While mass shootings involving high-powered guns and high death tolls have claimed an outsize portion of the nation’s collective grief — and its headlines — street shootings like the one that killed Delmonte Johnson are far more common.

Yes. Far too common.

And then take this man who was minding his own business when a cop walked into the wrong apartment ( she thought it was her own), saw him there and shot and killed him. This one has to be almost a first, or is it?:

Amber Guyger, who is white, was off-duty when she shot Botham Shem Jean, a black man, in his apartment, police said Thursday. Guyger told police she thought she was entering her own apartment not realizing she was on the wrong floor. Upon encountering Jean, she thought her home was being burglarized and opened fire, according to police.
Botham, a 26-year-old native of St. Lucia, was unarmed. He died at a hospital.

Enter the NRA with their lame and usual excuse- if only the victim had also been armed, all would have been hunky dory:

“This could have been very different if Botham Jean had been, say, he was a law-abiding gun owner and he saw somebody coming into his apartment,” Loesch said on NRATV’s Relentless on Monday. “I don’t think there’s any context that the actions would have been justified. If I see somebody coming into my house and I’m not expecting them and they’re walking in like they own the place, I would—I would act to defend myself.”

Social media users balked at the suggestion that a gun could have saved Jean, who was born on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

“If Botham Jean had a gun and killed a police officer he’d be in jail held without bond and Trump would be nonstop tweeting about that immigrant who killed that poor cop,” Comedian Sarah Cooper tweeted in response to Loesch’s remarks.

Sometimes the NRA’s line of reasoning is so ridiculous as to be unbelievable and totally unhinged. As if people are sitting around in their own apartments armed just in case someone happens to come in who doesn’t belong there and, of course, be totally prepared for a cop with a gun. ( Oh right- that is what the NRA and gun rights advocates believe).

I think they can retire this argument. It makes no common sense and it’s stupid.

The mother of Philando Castile challenged the flawed reasoning of Dana Loesch- mouthpiece for the NRA:

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch is “asinine” to suggest Botham Jean might still be alive today if only he was “a law-abiding gun owner,” Valerie Castile told the Daily News. (…)

Castile is the mother of Philando Castile, the Minnesota public school employee who had a valid concealed carry permit when he was shot to death by a police officer during a routine traffic stop in Minnesota two years ago.

“My son was a licensed gun owner and it didn’t help him. He’s dead because he gave that information to an officer,” Castile said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, called out the NRA spokeswoman for being "one-sided."
Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, called out the NRA spokeswoman for being “one-sided.” (CRAIG LASSIG / Getty Images)

 

Castile called Loesch “reckless” and “one-sided” for using Jean’s tragic death to further the NRA’s agenda.

“(Jean) was in his own home. Inside a nice building with security. He had a right to feel safe in his own home. He wasn’t expecting someone to come in uninvited. He shouldn’t have to always keep a gun on his hip. That’s asinine,” Castile said.

“That officer was dead wrong. Just hold her accountable. Don’t try to spin the story. My son was a good guy, and (the NRA) tried to spin it. The truth is, he’s dead for being honest and telling the truth,” she said.

Reckless is a great word for the NRA’s claims. Loesch was actually suggesting that Jean should have shot a police officer. What would have happened then? A black man with a gun shooting an officer? Stand your ground laws don’t work out so well for people of color.

And then take these Twin Cities area victims all shot in one short period time:

“It’s unacceptable,” Frey said. “Gun violence is one of the most insidious issues we have confronting our country and our response as a city is gong to be swift and strong.”

His comments came as police scrambled to ward off any retaliatory violence after a weekend in which 10 people were shot, four of them fatally. Most of the shootings occurred over a 48-hour stretch on Friday and Saturday.

It’s the guns. It’s actually the bullets from the guns that are killing all of these people-mostly innocent of wrongdoing but now dead. California wants to do something about the bullets. That liberal bastion of a state has managed to pass some of the nation’s strongest gun laws and also has one of the lowest gun death rates in the country. Gun rights advocates love to criticize the laws in California because they don’t seem to stop all shootings. But they have it all wrong. What is going on in California is saving lives. California has lower gun death rates than most other states.

Let’s review. Firearm deaths account for the majority of overall homicides in our country. Guns make a difference.

Suicide by gun accounts for the majority of overall gun deaths in America.

America has more mass shootings than any other developed country not at war.

America has more guns per capita than most other countries and the most gun deaths per capita.

And I want to end by remembering the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting that occurred on this date 5 years ago..

Twelve died and 3 injured because of a gunman who should not have had a gun:

The government contractor who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yardlast week was driven by delusions that he was being controlled by low-frequency radio waves and scratched the words “End the torment!” on the barrel of the shotgun he used, the FBI said Wednesday, offering new, chilling details of the attack.

Valerie Parlave, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said that Aaron Alexis, 34, began the shooting knowing he would be killed. A search of Alexis’s electronic devices, she said, indicated that he was “prepared to die during the attack and that he accepted death as the inevitable consequence of his actions.”

In America, people like this have easy access to guns.

Let us all take a moment and remember the victims.

It’s the guns. We can’t avoid the truth. But then, for some in today’s American political craziness truth is not truth any more.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Stand up for the truth and for action. Tell your candidates you want them to do something about gun violence. And by that I mean do something. Don’t pander to the nation’s large corporate gun lobby. It’s a paper tiger. The majority of Americans do actually understand that we have a serious problem with guns and loose gun laws.

#Enough

Guns and the midterm elections

FrightenedThe primary election in my state is history now. Many Democrats who have decided it is in their best interest to support reasonable gun safety reform were elected. I am happy about this. All over the country, (mostly) Democrats ran on the issue of guns safety reform or at the least decided not to run away from it:

 

 

 

“To win campaigns you need to have candidates who are their district. And so candidates should most certainly talk about the economic issues that we face,” said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), the head of the Democrats’ gun-violence prevention task force. “But they also need to talk about things that are important to the people they want to represent, and keeping your kids alive is certainly one of those issues.”

Minnesota candidates for Governor in the primary election ran on the gun issue or changed their minds about their previous positions to get elected. The candidate who had the worst record on gun safety reform and an A rating from the NRA came in third- for many reasons but her A rating did not sit well with Minnesotans. From the article:

“I’ve always gotten an F from the NRA, and Minnesotans need to know who is going to stand with them on this issue,” Murphy said in the final pre-primary ­debate this week.

Walz has said he has evolved on the gun issue and always been a pro-labor liberal on other issues. “The NRA you see now is not the NRA when they were teaching us gun safety classes when we were growing up,” he told the state news website MinnPost last year. On the trail, he says his experience attracting votes in a part of the state that little resembles the urban center of Minneapolis will help him not just win, but build consensus when he does.

The race heated up with the last-minute candidacy of Lori Swanson, the state’s longtime attorney general, who usually received positive NRA ratings. Dogged by accusations over whether she politicized her office, Swanson does not portray herself as a moderate; her final ad blitz includes one accusing Walz of failing to “stand up to Trump” by skipping House votes, and a super PAC supporting her campaign has sent out mail that pairs the years of Walz’s NRA endorsements with the years of deadly school shootings.

Tim Walz won the primary. He will need to stand firm and have a spine.

The Minnesota gun rights  folks ran this dark ad against Joe Radinovich who won the 8th Congressional district DFL primary. It’s so full of bull puckey I hardly know where to start. But this is the fear and paranoia that the NRA is instilling in its’ members and the false attacks we can expect from now until November.

Eek- a mouse! Run.

Joe and his family have been touched by gun violence in a major way. He owns guns, he hunts but he understands that gun safety reform does not lead to gun confiscation and registration as is claimed because he has common sense. He also knows that gun safety reform and gun rights are not mutually exclusive.

Joe’s opponent Pete Stauber, “having been grazed by a bullet in the head as a police officer” is running on gun rights. 

Go figure.

When Mr. Stauber was a police officer, he came to a vigil held by our chapter a few years ago. He rang the bell for officers who had been shot and injured or killed while in the line of duty. More guns have not made police officers feel safer. This year is no exception to the shootings of officers in the line of duty.

Let’s see how much corporate money Mr. Stauber will take from the NRA.

The thing is, officers would be safer if common sense gun laws were passed. Requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales would keep guns away from those who should not have them in the first place. Tightening up straw purchasing and trafficking laws would keep guns out of the hands of many who should not have them. Passing Extreme Risk Protection Orders would allow for law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from those who could be a danger to themselves or others ( including officers). Many deaths of officers come when answering calls about domestic abuse. These are among the most dangerous calls for officers, not to mention the women on the other side of that gun.

Safe storage of guns is also a key ingredient to preventing shootings and keeping stolen guns from getting onto the streets of our communities. There is so much that can be done to save lives without stepping on the rights of people to own guns if they are responsible and law abiding. I wrote about this in my last post.

It’s such a simple thing that can save lives and talking about this and the risk of guns in homes is not something from which to run but something that must be talked about in order to change the culture and the conversation. Candidates who speak honestly about keeping our kids and families safe will win elections.

On election night I spoke with a group of Democrats about this and mentioned for how many decades I had personally been working to get the party to embrace what the majority of Minnesotans and American voters have said they want. Many thousands of us have been diligently working with our own elected leaders to give them a spine about the issue of gun safety reform. It is beginning to work.

Republicans are running on opposing any gun safety reform life saving measures. If you think this seems perverse, you are right. Why would this be? What is the problem with life saving measures that will both keep us safe and allow law abiding Americans to have guns if they so choose?

Oh yes, the NRA is the Republican party.

The Republican party is afraid of the corporate gun lobby which is now enmeshed in the national scandal involving a Russian women, Maria Butina,, who infiltrated the NRA. Oh, and then there’s the issue of Russian money in the NRA coffers. Oh, and then there’s the problems with the NRA providing insurance to gun carriers ( Carry Guard) just in case, you know, a shooting happens while you are carrying a gun.

And this is who some of our lawmakers fear?

Get a spine.

The corporate gun lobby hides behind the second amendment whenever a bill or a suggest measure comes before their leadership. They pretend they might support such measures as in 2013 when Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey thought they had support for a watered down bill to require background checks on all gun sales.  They were blind -sided by the fake NRA support of the bill and have been afraid to bring it up again because…….. lapdog politicians who have no spine.

In the wake of the murder of 20 first graders and 6 educators at Sandy Hook elementary school, the Senate lacked the backbone to do the right thing.

The cynicism and spineless fear of the NRA continues in the wake of the Parkland shooting that came on the heels of the Las Vegas and Sutherland, Texas church shooting. Trump uttered empty words and nothing happened.

This is the country we have but not the country we want or deserve. This is the country that weakened our gun laws (spineless politicians) so just about anyone can carry a gun around wherever they go under the auspices of self protection. And yet, every day, irresponsible gun owners make deadly and serious decisions about how to use their guns.

This is the country where a silly argument about Aretha Franklin ( after her death yesterday) can lead to a shooting.

Without that gun, an argument would have been an argument. With that gun, an argument could have been deadly.

Thanks NRA and spineless politicians.

This is not who we are but at the moment, as long as certain of our elected leaders have no spine to stand up the corporate NRA and other gun rights groups, shootings will continue unabated. As long as certain of our elected leaders run away from what the majority of us want, we will see senseless and avoidable shootings.

Common sense has been replaced by fear and complacency. I don’t think Americans are going to let this happen in the long term. The Trump Presidency has made spineless politicians look like the cowards and controlling people they are. But it has also brought new energy to the Democrats who are standing up strong and tall for what is right and good about our country.

#Enough