My travels with no guns

no guns allowedI posted earlier about a trip I was going to take with my family to Glacier National Park and to Seattle. I also posted about the gun laws in the states we would be traveling through on the Amtrak just as a way of comparison of gun laws. Montana, where we stayed for 4 days, has pretty loose gun laws and a high rate of gun suicides. From this article from The Trace, we find this:

Where the distinctive cause of death is gun suicides, the numbers also show much larger than usual shares of residents owning guns. Researchers led by epidemiologists at Columbia University calculated last year that Alaska, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming placed in the top six for state gun-ownership rates. At 62 percent and 57 percent, respectively, Alaska and Idaho are double the national gun ownership rate of 29 percent that the researchers used as a baseline.

The lethality of guns means that people who attempt suicide with them are more likely to succeed than those using other means.

In Montana, many of the gun deaths are suicides which we don’t usually hear about in the news unless it involves others as in mass shootings or domestic homicide/suicide. Of course we heard nothing about gun deaths while traveling but I do need to say that I did not see one gun while on our trip. I looked to see if anyone was open carrying. I suppose there could have been folks carrying concealed and I didn’t see it. But I also know that many of the people we saw were tourists with their families, likely with no interest in carrying a gun around.

While visiting Glacier Park we took a guided hike through the Trail of the Cedars to Avalanche Lake.

Avalanche Lake

It was stunning and amazingly wild. There were signs along the way suggesting what to do if one encountered a Grizzly Bear which some folks we talked to had seen. Our guide was not carrying a gun. They have common sense measures to avoid bears or deal with one if sighted. The National Park Service issues these warnings and safety tips without mentioning carrying a gun. We could have purchased bear spray in many places along our way but didn’t.  In fact, we were disappointed that we did not sight a bear off in the distance.

We did notice however, that our hotel in Whitefish, Montana posted a sign saying that guns were not allowed. And as you can see by the top photo on this post, the famous Mercantile store in Polebridge, Montana, an outpost at the far north end of Glacier Park and very isolated, does not want either guns or bear spray inside.


I can see why. It was crowded inside- lots of tourists and locals go there for provisions as it is the only place around for many miles. It’s historical purpose was to provide explorers and early visitors to the Park with food and other needed items for their trip into the wilderness.

While there we enjoyed the baked goods, sandwiches and Huckleberries we bought before we went into the amazingly beautiful Bowman Lake campground located within Glacier Park showing us another blue-green glacial lake. The day was rainy with low clouds so we did not get the view we hoped for. But it was beautiful nonetheless. Bowman Lake

Seattle, of course, is located in a state where the citizens decided for themselves that they wanted to require background checks on all gun sales. It is a funky and unusual city hosting the Pike Street Market with a sea of humanity, and the Space Needle where tourists gather to wait to go up into the Space Needle for the spectacular view. Guns are not needed there either. One vendor in a wheel chair who promised my granddaughter and I 2 magic tricks for $5 called me a liar in a loud voice when I said “maybe later”. He was right of course. I had no intention of buying his magic tricks. It did not end in any confrontation but I suppose it could have and people have been shot for less in angry confrontations.

At the top of the Space Needle the view was spectacular. This was also a very crowded place with shoulder to shoulder visitors. The beauty was incredible on the clear day we visited. Mount Ranier was showing off for us. It is unimaginable that anyone would want or need to carry a gun there where tourists were crowded in from countries all over the world to see the view from the top.

Mt. Ranier

(By the way, our bags were searched there as well for weapons or other contraband or dangerous items.)

So in the wilderness, the parks and the big cities, I saw no need for a gun. The Amtrak train depot had explicit instructions for declaring any guns and that they had to be packed in stored luggage and not on the train. In small compartments and aisles on trains that are jerking around and coming to sudden stops, one can see why a gun would just not work out well.

In 2009 Congress passed a Credit Card bill necessary for the economic recovery. In the sausage making of the bill and the need for the corporate gun lobby to get its’ fingerprints on just about anything, an amendment was added to the bill to allow guns in our National Parks. It was a bad idea. Most people thought it would not be a problem. But as we know, we are beginning to see the results of our guns everywhere gun culture where “accidental” discharges are happening just about anywhere some person with a gun who doesn’t understand that they are not needed everywhere, drops a gun or a gun drops by itself through carelessness and discharges. Sometimes there are deaths and injuries, other times not.

More guns are not making us safer.

There have been incidents of gun discharges in our National Parks. According to this article, they may be an anomaly but if one person were to be killed we would likely not call it an anomaly.

Last week a careless man carrying a gun into the Old Faithful Lodge, “accidentally” discharged his gun. Guns are not allowed in the Lodge but they are allowed in the Park. The result? A shot rang out where hundreds of tourists were trying to enjoy their vacation. From the article:

Charissa Reid, a spokeswoman for the park, said a maintenance worker reported to park law enforcement Wednesday afternoon that a gun went off inside a men’s bathroom at the Old Faithful Lodge.

No one was injured. The shot is believed to have been accidental, based on statements from multiple witnesses, including at least one who was in the bathroom at the time.

Park rangers are investigating but have not been able to identify the man with the gun. He is presumed to have fled after the incident. (…)

People are allowed to carry guns inside Yellowstone National Park. A ban on firearms inside park boundaries was lifted in 2010. But people aren’t allowed to bring guns into any of the park’s buildings or any of the buildings operated by the concessionaire company, like Old Faithful Lodge.

Shooting a gun inside Yellowstone National Park is illegal.

I have a question. If shooting a gun inside of the Parks is illegal, why carry one in the first place? Just asking.

Another place that guns will not be allowed this year is at the Minnesota State Fair. From the article:

No weapons of any sort will be allowed on the fairgrounds, he said. No fireworks — “we have plenty of our own.” Ditto for alcoholic beverages.

No need for guns at a State Fair. Most state fairs do bag searches and require people to go through metal detectors. As it turns out, guns have been banned from the State Fair for a long time now and the gun rights activists don’t like it. But I am guessing they among the small minority who think guns are a good idea at a fair, teaming with people, small kids running around and babies in strollers. We know that loaded guns have been “accidentally” discharged in many public places. This is about public safety and nothing else. The gun rights folks cannot guarantee that everyone with a gun will be safe with that gun while carrying. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill or harm others. There are no reasons to take chances in public places where families and large crowds of people gather.

As more people own and carry guns, it is inevitable that more crazy and dangerous incidents will occur in public places and anywhere, for that matter. It is time to ask serious questions about the need for so many guns in public places and get answers as to why they are necessary. Guns in public places have created a real conundrum. It is not working out as many thought it would. They are not being used for self defense often enough to allow for loaded guns in public places. But rather enough incidents of “accidental” discharges have occurred to make us all wonder why they are allowed to be carried in the first place. And our children are clearly at risk from loaded guns at home and other places.

We are better than this. It’s time for all of us to put our heads together and work out the best way to keep Americans safe from gun violence. Since the majority wants that to happen anyway, it’s our leaders who have the onus to make it happen. It’s up to the rest of us to pressure our leaders, change the conversation and eventually the culture of gun violence that only occurs in America.

We’ve had #Enough.



Speaking of traveling, we did rent a car while visiting Glacier Park. This Tennessee family found a loaded gun in their rental car where 2 small children were sitting. Luckily they found the gun before something tragic occurred. This is just not OK. There are too many careless gun owners out there not thinking about the consequences of their carelessness. There are no excuses for carelessness with guns.


The litany of gun incidents grows by the day

Sigh simple icon newsletter for web and application design - vector

I came across this article written for the Miami Herald that just blew me away. I don’t even know where to begin. You will have to read this yourself because the article’s author just made a list of the shootings- mostly “accidental” in nature just in his state of Florida in the past month or less. It is downright scary. Guns in the home for self defense are leading to more and more stupid and dangerous behavior often leading to serious injuries or deaths. This is just plain insane.

What does the Florida legislature do about this? They want more guns and looser gun laws. One wonders at what point this litany of the shootings will rise to the level of concern or more importantly, urgency.

How can we continue to ignore reality? Why do the stories keep coming of 2 or 3 year olds accessing their parents’ guns and shooting them off “accidentally”? A 31 year old Alabama father is dead at the hands of his 2 year old. There are no words. Kids and guns don’t mix.

In other news of gun incidents and shootings,  an article in the New York Times highlights the many incidents of shootings and near misses in parks and forest lands all over the country. From the article:

Hiking groups and conservationists say policies that broadly allow shooting and a scarcity of enforcement officers have turned many national forests and millions of Western acres run by the Bureau of Land Management into free-fire zones. People complain about finding shot-up couches and cars deep in forests, or of being pinned down by gunfire where a hiking or biking trail crosses a makeshift target range. (…)

Over the Fourth of July weekend in Pike National Forest in Colorado, a 60-year-old camper preparing to make s’mores with his grandchildren was killed when a stray bullet arced into his campsite. The camper, Glenn Martin, said “ow,” his daughter said, and when his family ran to help him, there was a hole in his shirt and blood pouring from his mouth.

“A war zone,” said Paul Magnuson, who owns a cycle shop in Woodland Park, Colo., and rides mountain bikes in the same forest where Mr. Martin died. His customers have complained about bullets whistling overhead, and Mr. Magnuson said he had gotten used to yelling out to alert target shooters that he was coming. (…) The federal agencies that manage national forests and open lands have tallied a growing number of shooting violations in the backcountry in recent years. The Forest Service recorded 1,712 shooting incidents across the country last year, up about 10 percent from a decade ago. More than a thousand of those reports ended with a warning or citation, but in some, Forest Service officers did not find who had fired or evidence of a violation after investigating a complaint.

Always at the ready to protect the rights of gun owners over public safety, the NRA is encouraging more of this kind of thing in spite of reality. More from the article:

When federal agencies have proposed closing areas to shooting, theNational Rifle Association and other shooting groups have objected, urging members to write letters and attend meetings to keep the land open to guns. The N.R.A. has also supported a bill backed by several congressional Republicans that would tell federal land managers to make sure public lands are open to hunters and people who shoot recreationally.

Public safety be damned. Just make sure people can shoot at targets or hunt wherever they please. Aren’t there just some places where people should not have guns?  It’s bad enough that far too many “responsible” gun owners are leaving their loaded guns out for children to find. But target shooting and hunting in areas where people go to hike, camp and enjoy the quiet of nature just doesn’t make common sense. Why are the rights of people to shoot off their guns everywhere more sacrosanct than the rights of the public to be safe in public places?

And, of course, Congress, at the behest of the corporate gun lobby, attached an amendment to a must pass 2009 credit card bill to allow guns in our national parks. It is now the law. How’s it working out so far? This is the insane gun culture that is leading to a long list of shooting incidents that continues daily. Allowing guns everywhere has clearly not made us safer.

And speaking of being unsafe, a group as described as the “Beverly Hillbillies” in this article, is “protecting” an Oklahoma gun shop from Muslims:

The Muskogee County sheriff said he wasn’t surprised someone had been hurt by the volunteer patrol after watching them work, comparing the patrols to the fictional clan from “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

“I saw several of those gentlemen out there yesterday,” said Sheriff Charles Pearson. “The way they were holding their weapons, with the fingers on the triggers, you can tell a couple of these gentlemen have no idea about weapons safety. It’s like the Clampetts have come to town.”

One of those volunteers, who claimed to be a combat veteran and would identify himself only as “Eagle One,” disputed the sheriff’s characterization of the volunteers.

“Don’t paint us as ignorant hillbillies,” he said. “We just believe in people’s constitutional rights, and we’re here to make sure they get them.”

The man insisted he held no prejudice against Muslims — despite volunteering to carry a gun to stop Muslims from attempting to do business inside the gun shop.

The problem is, one of these guys dropped his gun and shot himself:

The store was closed Tuesday after the accidental shooting, which the store owner blamed on faulty equipment.

“The gentleman was a close and personal friend of ours, not a guard nor a customer,” the store owner said. “He is a very sweet and dear friend who we consider to be like family. He came over today to help fix a door in my office and as he bent over his weapon fell from a malfunctioning chest holster and went off when it hit the floor.”

You can’t make this stuff up. Where are all of those responsible gun owners?
A sweet and dear friend…” The gun guys “guarding” the gun shop with their loaded weapons are extremists standing across the street from a convenience store where children and family shop. Nice.

There’s been another mass shooting in our country. In Rochester, NY, someone shot at a group of people standing on the street from a car and killed 3, injured 4. This appears to be gang related. The young people were playing basketball at a Boys and Girls Club in efforts to get kids into activities other than violence. One of the victims was someone who worked at the club. The main question here is where do these young people get their guns? Why the violence? It’s a serious problem in our country that we are not dealing with effectively. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. It’s more than just gun violence. No matter which way we look at this, it’s a tragic and senseless loss of life.

In more news, a 12 year old Michigan boy described as “mentally impaired” shot and killed a pregnant woman when he got his grandfather’s shotgun out of his safe and shot through a wall, killing the woman. The woman was sleeping. Just another responsible gun owner. Perhaps that grandfather should have considered whether having any loaded guns around this boy was a good idea. Kids do find ways to get at guns because they are curious and guns are fascinating. Certainly guns are fascinating to a good number of Americans.

Mike the Gun Guy has blogged about this incident wondering what the answer to this serious problem is. If 12 year old “mentally impaired” kids can find the key to a gun safe and shoot off a gun that ends up killing someone, are gun safes the answer? Are locking guns the answer? Will CAP ( Child Access Prevention) laws keep adults from leaving guns around where kids can find them? Or is the answer that we need fewer guns in homes, most especially homes with kids? From the linked blog:

The problem with relying on CAP laws and safe storage is that most unintentional shootings occur not because a little kid grabs a gun, but because the owner or one of his friends does something impulsive or dumb while the gun is being used in a lawful and legal way. In 2013, there were 2,590 unintentional gun injury victims ages 15 to 19, but nearly 2,000 of these victims were 18 years old, which meant that they were lawfully able to use a gun.  The gun accident rate for the 18-19 age group was 22.74, drops to 9.38 for ages 20-35, to 7.82 for ages 35-44 and down to 3.16 for ages 45-54.  This decrease in gun accident rates moving up the age scale is exactly what we find in rates by age bracket for accidents involving cars.

Everyone is in favor of using guns safely; the NRA talks about it all the time. What nobody wants to face, however, is the simple fact that when you have 300 million dangerous weapons floating around, a certain number are going to be used every day in stupid and senseless ways.  If CAP laws and safe storage prevented every unintentional gun injury to children, the overall deaths and injuries would drop by 3 percent.  CAP laws and gun locks are necessary, but they don’t really respond to the fact that 300 million extremely lethal weapons are owned by humans, and at some time or another every one of us will be careless or forget.

Guns are dangerous and deadly weapons designed to kill human beings ( or animals) They should be treated as such. There is a cavalier attitude towards guns amongst a certain population of Americans. Exposing young kids and teens to guns is not necessarily a good idea- particularly to hand guns. Gun safety and gun safety reform are not necessarily the same thing. Teaching kids to use a hunting gun while supervised by an adult to enjoy family recreation is one thing. But we have a different culture about guns now than several decades ago when handguns were more rare in homes and hunting guns were the main type of guns owned by private citizens. What happened to change that? From this article:

Vizzard noted that the gun industry has evolved slowly in recent decades from a “stodgy and conservative” business, which sold mostly rifles and sporting arms, to one that now traffics in paramilitary weapons and handguns. The NRA and the gun industry “have grown closer as the business has changed,” he said.

The intertwining interests of the NRA and the gun industry are also underscored by the gun company executives on the NRA board.

Among the gun industry heavyweights on the 76-seat NRA board are Ronnie Barrett, CEO of Tennessee-based Barrett Firearms Manufacturing, which makes a military-style rifle sold with high-capacity magazines. Pete Brownell, who heads Iowa-based Brownells Inc., another maker of high-capacity magazines, also sits on the NRA board.

These companies and other gun industry giants have ponied up big bucks to the NRA since 2005, according to a list of NRA corporate partners posted at its last convention.

So here we are in 2015, left with a gun culture that is out of control and we are doing nothing about it. We could if we put our minds to it. And there are some things we know that could make a difference. For example, we know that older teens and young adults engage in more risky behavior than other age groups. Car accidents among that group are higher than in other age groups. Drug and alcohol use is high among that age group. We have managed to pass stronger laws about driving while drunk, seat belt laws to keep accident victims safer from injury, and other safety improvements to cars. Attempts to deal with alcohol consumption among young people are ever present.

And yet, we don’t do enough to keep these vulnerable young adults from owning guns and using guns. It is significant that gun accidents are more prevalent among those in the 18-35 year old age bracket and most especially 18-19 year olds. And yet, the gun lobby pushes for lowering the age of owning and carrying guns and also for guns on college campuses where they clearly do not belong. ( see my last blog post).

As I have written before, it is inevitable that with so many guns in circulation and more coming, thanks to the push from the corporate gun lobby, there will be more unintentional and intentional gun deaths. Stronger laws may or may not address this situation. But surely a change to our conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in this country along with some serious discussions about the risks of guns in the home is way overdue.

It’s past time for common sense. The situation will require all hands on deck. So let’s get to work.