A close call

close callA few weeks ago, my daughter called me late in the evening to share some text messages from parents of kids at her own children’s middle school. The messages were in regard to a possible threat by a new student at the school who had apparently told other students that he intended to bring a gun to school and shoot kids. Naturally the reaction was panic and concern. Some parents had decided not to send their kids to school the next day. I advised that parents needed to speak with the principal to insure that he had done what he needed to do to deal with the situation. He had received many phone calls that night and actually, during the day some students went to him with their concerns about the student.

This is exactly what is supposed to happen. Students need to Speak Up and tell someone that a student is talking about shooting kids. Too often students try to protect other students or just don’t tell out of fear or indifference or thinking that it won’t happen. But in most school shootings other students knew ahead of the shooting. The Brady Campaign has a Speak Up program for students to report anonymously that another student intends to shoot other kids:

Although the hotline provides the mechanism through which students can report potentially life-saving information, it is critical that students are also provided with the motivation to do so. Our comprehensive public awareness campaign works to combat destructive social norms, such as the fear of retaliation or being labeled a “snitch.” The campaign sends the powerful message that students can and should “SPEAK UP” against violence.

Let me get back to this story. The principal had phoned the parents of the boy who had made the threat and the decision was that the student would not be in school the next day.

As the incident unfolded, my daughter chose to send her kids to school but did not tell them about the incident, trying not to panic them. But once they got on the bus, this was the topic of discussion. My grandson texted my daughter to ask if she knew that a boy intended to shoot kids at the school that day and my granddaughter asked her to come and pick her up because she was going to die. Some of this can be chalked up to pre-teen and teen-aged dramatic behavior and a tendency to overreact to things. But much of it can also be chalked up to the real fear that a school shooting  could, and does, happen anywhere.

During the day, she reassured the kids that they would be OK and I even got in on a group text exchange. Eventually my daughter went to the school during a break from work and spoke with the school resource officer. That officer was there on site as were other officers just in case. She was calmed by this discussion and nothing happened that day.

But it could have. We are a family who has already lost one loved one to a shooting. This close call was more upsetting to my daughter and to me because we know how it feels to hear that a loved one has been shot.

Too many school shootings have taken innocent children from their parents leaving them living around the hole left by their deaths. Since Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and the many other school shootings, parents understand the risk is all too real.

Only in America do parents have to be regularly concerned that an actual shooting could take their children away or leave them injured or forever scarred by witnessing a shooting. We are all suffering from PTSD from all of the shootings we see directly or indirectly on news media stories.

In 68% of school shootings the shooters get their guns from home. That means keeping guns away from potential school shooters is in the hands of parents or another responsible adult.  Adults can make school shootings less likely and less frequent by thinking about what they are doing with their own guns and how they are stored. Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill.

Just a little bit of common sense can stop shootings and stop kids from getting a loaded gun to take to school. Unless we change how we talk about potential and actual threats and think differently about the risks of guns in the home, the media will continue to report on school shootings. It doesn’t have to be this way.

We are better than this. The incident I described above was of concern to my family but ended with some lessons learned. Kids can speak up, adults must listen and act, parents talk to administrators and administrators call law enforcement. Authorities and school officials did their job and students were brave enough and scared enough to know what to do. Sometimes kids are smarter than the adults.

And I will end by suggesting that all parents find out more information about the ASK campaign so they can feel comfortable asking if there are loaded, unlocked guns in the homes where their children play and hang-out. Kids are curious; just telling them to stay away from guns does not work. It’s up to the adults to be responsible. It’s easy to do and asking can save lives. Millions of our children live in homes where guns are present.

Our children are both the victims and perpetrators of avoidable shootings in numbers that should alarm us. The corporate gun lobby is not alarmed. Many in Congress are not alarmed about something that should have all hands on deck to solve a very serious public health and safety epidemic. It is “not an accident” when children and teens gain access to guns and avoidably shoot or injure other children or even adults. Or to bring a gun to school, which happens on a regular basis in America. This article from The Trace has tracked how many times children and teens brought guns to their schools:

From August through mid-June, there were at least 269 incidents in which elementary, middle, and high school students were caught with guns on school grounds. That figure is an update to the March tally of 185 such incidents in the first five months of the school year. (Some incidents involved multiple students and multiple guns.)

In 2016, 269 incidents of kids bringing guns to school and this does not include any intentional school shootings:

Swanson, like many other gun safety advocates and researchers, believes government policy should focus on addressing Americans’ easy access to guns. Preventing tragedies like Sandy Hook requires more than expanding resources for mental health, he said ― the U.S. needs more laws restricting guns in households that include “at-risk” individuals. Swanson cited Lanza, who used his mother’s guns to carry out his attack, as an example of why this matters.

“A law like that would allow police officers to take away some of these guns,” Swanson said. “We shouldn’t have to live in a society where people have such easy access to such an efficient killing machine.”

Yet gun violence prevention efforts will likely encounter even more resistance under the incoming Donald Trump administration, with its close ties to the National Rifle Association, the most influential gun lobby in the country.

The NRA was Trump’s largest outside financial backer during the 2016 presidential race, spending more than $30 million to help his campaign.

“[The NRA] is going to expect something in return for that investment,” Watts said. “They’re going to have a champion in the White House.”

I referred to the Children’s Firearms Safety Alliance in my last post and I will refer to it again. From the site:

AS OF MAY 10, 2017, THIS YEAR:
37 KIDS KILLED
68 KIDS INJURED
5 ADULTS INJURED
1 ADULT KILLED

2016 TOTALS:
121 KIDS KILLED
176 KIDS INJURED
21 ADULTS SHOT….ALL BY KIDS

There are far too many close calls with guns involving children and teens. And there are far too many actual shooting incidents involving our children and teens.

The real tragedy here is that too many in Congress, and now our very own President, don’t care about the children. That is an American tragedy.

Follow the money. Money and power over our children.

Children go to school to learn, form relationships with other children, participate in enriching activities and to become responsible future adults. They should not have to be concerned for their own safety or that another student threatens to bring a gun to school to shoot them. Children are anxious enough about far too many things. This should not be one of them.

Who is protecting our children?

Keeping our kids safe is the primary job of parents and other adults. It’s one of the primary jobs of our elected leaders as well. If it isn’t, shame on them all.

It’s past time to step up and do the right thing.

Minnesota nice?

minnesota-niceThe last few days has revealed the lunacy of an armed society in Minnesota. Not that it isn’t happening in every state of our “great” country every day. But the last few days have been particularly concerning. Let’s take a look at the Minnesota gun culture as it has been reported in news stories.

First up- a Winona man apparently was shot by an “accidental” discharge and has now died of his gunshot injuries. There are no “accidental” gun discharges. There are avoidable, senseless accidents with guns that shouldn’t have happened. Why? Because guns are deadly weapons designed to kill or injure humans or animals. They must be taken seriously and their owners must not “play” with them or clean them without knowing if there is a round in the chamber, or get them out while drinking, or let children access them and all of those other common sense admonitions that go with dangerous things.

Second- a first grader brought a gun to a St. Paul school where it discharged, injuring the floor tiles and luckily not another child or adult. As we said when I was writing for the Kid Shootings blog- Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. This is lunacy.

Third- a shooting took place at an Anoka area gas station. Law enforcement engaged in the high speed chase on highways and freeways ending with a crash and the suspect being shot and injured by law enforcement.

And now the same St. Cloud mall that suffered the September mass stabbing incident was under lock-down because a man was seen with a gun.

Shortly after 7 p.m., St. Cloud police Sgt. Jason Burke said in a news release that ““Initial information is that a male and female were in an argument outside the mall by the food court. During the argument, two males unknown to them approached, one of the males lifted the front of his shirt and showed the couple a gun in his waistband. The gun was not pointed at the couple, no threats were made, and no injuries have been reported.

It will be interesting to find out who these 2 reported guys with guns were.

And as an aside, people arguing in malls should take it outside or in private so they don’t frighten people around them. Fear is all around us now after the most contentious election in recent history. The corporate gun lobby has helped stoke that fear and suspicion that could lead to us being less safe rather than safer:

Trump bore little resemblance to the lifelong heartland conservatives whom the NRA typically backed. He was an Ivy League-educated real estate heir with a gold-plated private jet and a foreign, former-model third wife. Trump and Melania had wed at a glamorous ceremony where Bill and Hillary Clinton had been among the guests. A proud New York City resident, Trump didn’t seem to have much regard for the attachments many Americans felt towards guns, never mind the policy purity the NRA demands of other candidates. In a 2000 book, he’d even written, “I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.”

But from the outset of his campaign, Trump adopted an incendiary message that matched the NRA’s own. He hurled invectives at establishment politicians in both parties. He described a once-great nation under assault and in sharp decline, rhetoric that electrified white Americans brimming with grievance.

This is our President-elect.

Sigh.

We will not be safer with more guns around us in this atmosphere of fear.

But I digress.

Another fatal shooting in North Minneapolis yesterday adds up to a very violent year in that section of Minneapolis that has residents very concerned for their own safety. From the article:

For the third day in a row, the pop-pop-pop of gunfire punctuated the midday calm near a north Minneapolis strip mall, this time leaving a young man dead and detectives searching for answers.

This is simply not the kind of communities we want for our children and families. The proliferation of guns on our streets is a serious public health and safety epidemic. No one is immune from it. It adds to the fear and suspicion of others and spirals out of control.

And last, the Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile has been charged with manslaughter:

In an extraordinary move by a Minnesota prosecutor, authorities said the officer, not the civilian, is to blame for the tragic events that turned a traffic stop in a Twin Cities suburb into a flash point in the national debate over racial profiling and police use of force.

You may remember that the shooting of Castile resulted in demonstrations on the streets of Minnesota and all over the country for that matter. These are incidents that have escalated all over America. Unarmed and armed men of color have been shot by officers in what seems like increasing frequency. Race plays a role. Armed citizens plays a role. Fear plays a role. There should be some very serious conversations about what all of this means for the safety of Americans. Will we have them? Will we ignore this at the peril of our communities?

I have great respect for our law enforcement officers and have written frequently about officers under assault by armed citizens. The job of our officers is made all the more dangerous by so many armed Americans and it has led to a vicious circle of arming up to protect themselves from citizens who are allowed to carry their guns in public places or are involved in domestic disputes. Armed citizenry is not the norm in other democratized countries and therefore, law enforcement officers are not often the target of ambushes. In fact, in some countries, officers are not armed. Interestingly, there are far fewer gun deaths in almost all over democratized countries not at war. Coincidence?

What is particularly disturbing is the number of ambushes of American officers leading to tragic deaths of officers:

The attacks on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge that left eight officers dead earlier this month sent waves of fear through law enforcement agencies across the country, with departments ordering officers to double up on patrols as a safety measure.

These deaths contributed to a grim tally this year. Through last week, 32 officers were shot and killed in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, a nonprofit group that tracks these deaths. More than half of the officers fatally shot died in ambushes, the group said in a report released Thursday.

President-elect Donald Trump will have to deal with this American tragedy. Time will tell if he will and if he does, how he will.

An armed society is not a polite society. Our children and families should not have to be exposed to this kind of violence and potential violence. This is lunacy, not niceness.

“Minnesota nice” is a myth.

These are only the gun deaths we know about. About 80% of gun deaths in Minnesota are suicides. These are not usually reported in the media unless they are homicide/suicides, often occurring in domestic shootings. Passing stronger gun laws reduces gun homicides and suicides as it turns out.

But requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales is under assault. The continued myths coming from the corporate gun lobby don’t make us safer.

Who are we? Do we care about our fellow citizens no matter who they are? There are certain truths that should be self-evident. One of them is that we have a moral responsibility to protect our citizens from those who would do them harm and I am not just talking about terrorism. The truth is that toddlers have killed more of their fellow Americans than terrorists:

According to the Washington Post, our nation’s nurseries are housing more than just unbearable levels of cuteness: Twenty-three people have been shot by toddlers in the U.S. since the start of 2016 — exactly 23 more than have been shot by Muslim terrorists over the same period.

Please look at the map in the above linked article showing that in “red states” that typically have looser gun laws, more shootings by toddlers have occurred. Coincidence?

Banning Muslims and deporting Mexicans, as our President-elect and apparently many in the Republican party want to do to protect us will not change this.

The Brady Campaign and other gun violence prevention organizations have solutions that often don’t involve legislation. Check out what can be done to make us safer by making sure guns are locked and stored away from tiny hands and the hands of others who should not have access to guns.

As I wrote about in my last post, things will not be getting better now that the corporate gun lobby believes they have a seat in the White House. How will that make us safer? It won’t. I have yet to hear how plans to repeal strong gun laws will result in fewer shootings and fewer deaths. In fact, the opposite is true.

But we are now living in a country where lies and deception are taken for the truth. It’s a scary time for those of us who have been working for peaceful solutions and safer communities. It’s downright sobering that in a country where “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is under assault.

The world is beautiful and scary

gooseberryLast Sunday, my minister said that the world is both beautiful and scary in a sermon relating to one of the readings of the day. She is so right. Most of the time, I find the world to be beautiful. In spite of my family’s having dealt with the domestic shooting of my sister, we have all moved on the best we could living around the hole left by my sister’s death. Life seems beautiful and we are lucky for that.

But then something happens to bring the grief and sadness to the surface again. Recent shootings, especially the very public shooting of 2 reporters in Virginia, brought those scary feelings back instantly. Gun violence is so unexpected and violent. Thoughts of a loved one experiencing that horror, pain, violence and fear are hard to push back down again. People die from auto accidents, household accidents, diseases, and sometimes by homicide. But gun deaths for the most part are so senseless and preventable.

So maybe we should all put our heads in the sand and pretend it’s not happening. We could roll ourselves up in a ball and move on. But many of us have not done that. We have made ourselves advocates for preventing the awful effects of gun violence on other families. So I read. I act. I write. I talk.

The daily news of gun incidents is hard to ignore. But it’s important to keep writing and talking. Most people become numbed to the issue and just want to live their lives without thinking about gun violence. But just as with auto accidents, diseases and other causes of injury and death the majority of parents do what they can to keep their families safe and healthy. Gun safety reform and awareness of the dangers of guns should be a part of the safe and healthy life styles that we all practice . We, as adults, will not be here forever. Our children will be around longer than us and  we owe it to them to keep them safe and teach them healthy habits. We should do #WhatEverItTakes. When 8 children a day are dying from gun homicides, suicides or accidents, we can’t take it lightly. And many more are injured and suffer life long disabilities and/or emotional distress.

Given that, how can a parent shoot a one month old child? Now that is downright scary. A man brought a gun to a church in Selma, Alabama on Sunday but was noticed before he could get off a lot of shots. He wounded his wife, his one month old son, and a man who tried to get the gun away from him. This was yet another case of a domestic dispute gone terribly wrong. From the article:

Earl Carswell said Sunday’s incident could have been much worse.

“If (Minter) had been aiming, and wasn’t somebody pulling on him, he could have killed three, four or five folks,” Carswell said. “But thank the Lord he got pulled off. As soon as that gun appeared, they grabbed a hold of it.”

Despite struggling with several churchgoers, Carswell said Minter was able to squeeze off seven rounds.

“Bullets don’t got any sense, they just go whichever way,” he said. “It could have been a hairy thing quick, I mean sure enough.”

(…) “When I think about it (today), I get jittery,” he said.

Jackson said he believes residents “are still in shock that something like this could happen in Selma.

This is probably the first church shooting we have had, but unfortunately this is the world we live in now,” he continued. “Church used to be off limits, even to the worst criminals, as far as committing a crime in the church. Now times have changed.”

Carswell said he has lived in Selma for 61 years and many churchgoers have been known to carry guns into worship service. Carswell said himself carried one into church for 10 years.

“This is the first time anyone has ever pulled it and even showed it,” he said.

“…. but unfortunately this is the world we live in now.”” Yes. It’s unfortunate but not inevitable. It’s hard to believe that this is the first time there has been a problem with guns in worship services in Selma given that people have been carrying guns into churches for years. Why? Why are guns needed during church services? What are people scared of in church? Church services are mostly beautiful and peaceful or joyous. If we are scared of people with guns coming into churches, it’s because we, as a country, have allowed our laws to be weakened to the point of allowing guns in our churches.

And why is that when people “snap” it’s a gun that they turn to to “solve” their problems?

Our gun culture encourages almost everyone to own and carry guns and we don’t make serious attempts to stop people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them. When someone like the man in the Selma church “snaps” a gun changes everything in an instant from normal, beautiful, calm, happy,…. to scary. The shooting at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston was scary not only because 9 people were shot but because of the shooter’s motives. He was associated with white supremacists and had racist sentiments. The recent fomenting of racism and anti-Muslim statements made by Republican Presidential candidates is making our world scarier. Combined with people who shouldn’t be able to own guns, we have a potential “perfect storm”.

Part of this is the consequence of a culture of guns that is based on fear of others who are not like us and fear of others with guns. It’s a vicious circle.

Bullets don’t have any sense of course as is mentioned in the above linked article. That’s the point.  They have trajectories that can be predictable or not. Guns with bullets in them are dangerous and people who carry guns and own them can become dangerous in a split second.

Speaking of becoming dangerous in a split second, we really do need to have a very serious discussion immediately about kids bringing guns to school. Going to school should be a positive experience. We all know that is not the case for all children given their race, religion, home life experiences, intellect, etc. Many factors can make learning difficult for some. But school, at least, is supposed to be a safe place. Not so any more. From this article in The Trace, we learn that:

Since the school year began roughly one month ago, there have been at least 29 incidents in which elementary, middle school, and high school students were caught bringing firearms to school, according to a survey of media reports. Most have involved teenagers.

This bears repeating- “…there have been at least 29 incidents in which elementary, middle school, and high school students were caught bringing firearms to school....” Very frightening. What are we going to do to keep our kids and students safe? Every gun in the hands of a child or teen must first pass through the hands of an adult. What in the world are adult gun owners thinking? The problem appears to be that people have such a cavalier attitude towards guns that they don’t seem to realize how dangerous they are. Guns are mostly not used for self defense. When will we get this into our collective heads? When will we stop listening to the gun lobby who tells people the opposite?

Scary to say the least. And the problem comes from easy access to guns. We now have more guns around than ever before. It is inevitable that they will make it into the wrong hands. There is just no common sense to our gun culture and our gun laws.

Yesterday I took a little time away from the cares of the world and this blog and gun violence prevention. I drove up along the North Shore of Lake Superior on a gorgeous day to enjoy the beauty of the nature around me. I was not scared of anyone or anything. I saw no guns. I saw no one who looked like they were scared about some idiot with a gun in the parking lot or along the trail. What I saw was people enjoying the beautiful day with cameras carried instead of guns. Thanks goodness most people don’t carry guns or feel the need to own them. At least not where I live. And not the people with whom I am friends. And if they do have guns, they use them mostly for hunting in the beautiful woods that are all around my area of northern Minnesota. Not only do people hunt, they love the beauty of the woods in the fall and the sport of hunting.

Until we get to the point of of a serious national discussion about the dangers of guns, even for “law abiding” gun owners, the incidents I read and write about will continue. The corporate gun lobby is aiding and abetting our insane gun culture to boost sales and preserve a narrative that is just not based on the truth. Maybe some of those folks should take a walk in the woods and enjoy the beauty around them instead of thinking of ways to sell guns.

Happy April Fools’ Day- Hypocrisy as far as the eye can see

Cure for Hypocrisy - Blister Pack of Pills.It’s April Fools’ Day. Let’s not be fooled by the corporate gun lobby. They have fooled our nation and our nation’s elected leaders for far too long.

Yes, guns do contribute to our economy, no question about that. This article reveals some very large profits for the gun lobby’s most profitable group- the NRA. They also contribute to deaths and injuries- many of which are avoidable. And that is no joke. There is, as it turns out, a lot of hypocrisy that comes with the money and power of the corporate gun lobby. Is there a cure for that hypocrisy? Action, changing the conversation, making sure our elected leaders are dealing with facts, organizing the public who is already in favor of doing something about gun violence and much more.

Money buys power and influence. When it comes to the gun lobby, the big money is there to stop reasonable measures to prevent gun deaths. Even common sense measures that won’t affect their own members are resisted fiercely. The majority of Americans and even gun owners agree that we should, at the least, support requiring background checks on all gun sales. But that, of course, won’t prevent all gun deaths. That is understood.

But some common sense about the risks of guns in the home would lead to fewer gun deaths. The gun lobby does not adequately address the risks and instead pushes for more people to own guns and have them at home, loaded and ready for whatever action people mistakenly believe might lead them to have to shoot someone. Instead, those very guns are used to kill someone in the home in a domestic homicide, or a child who finds a gun and shoots him/herself or someone else or a teen who is distraught and has a bad day, or an adult with severe mental illness whose actions may be suicidal. The list goes on an on and so does the carnage from guns.

Let’s take a look at the hypocrisy pushed by this well funded gun lobby. In Florida, the same state pushing for guns on campus and K12 schools to supposedly make students safer, there is an outcry over requiring helmets for girls’ LaCrosse team members. From the linked article above:

Boys’ lacrosse teams nationwide have worn hard-shell helmets for many years. Girls, who play by vastly different rules that generally forbid contact, have historically spurned most protective gear. In Florida, where lacrosse is a new sport, state officials instead reasoned that all lacrosse players are at risk for head trauma and defied the sport’s traditionalists by mandating a soft form of headgear for everyone in a girls’ lacrosse game or practice. (Goalies in girls’ lacrosse have worn helmets for several decades.)

But in a volatile example of how thorny and tangled the debate can become as communities nationwide implement new rules to protect the brains of young athletes, Florida’s mandate has created a combative firestorm that has reverberated across the country. (…) But proponents of the rule point to data that shows that girls’ lacrosse has the fifth-highest rate of concussions in high school sports — only football, ice hockey, boys’ lacrosse and girls’ soccer rank higher. As the Florida High School Athletic Association board of directors was deliberating on whether to approve headgear, it heard emotional testimony from a mother whose daughter had sustained a devastating head injury while playing lacrosse.

OK. I guess everything has two sides. But it is in the interest of safety for our kids that these proposals are made in the first place- not to harm anyone or make things difficult. My son played LaCrosse as a club sport while in college. Helmets were required. There was no questioning whether or not players should wear them. LaCrosse is a contact sports with injuries coming with the game. My son once had an injury that sidelined him for a month- not to his head, thankfully.

But back to the gun lobby push for more guns where kids and teens live, hang out or go to school…..

According to this article, 20 children ( up to age 18) a day are hospitalized for gunshot injuries. About 8 of these die every day from intentional or unintentional injuries.

How many kids and teens are hospitalized every day from sports injuries? It turns out, according to this article- about 8000- a significant number.  We all know that traumatic brain injuries from concussions are a real concern for both kids and adults when it comes to sports injuries. A lot of attention is paid to this issue and in fact, one promising NFL player has announced that he is leaving the game because of fear of permanent disabilities from potential head injuries. This is serious stuff and we owe it to our children to pay attention and keep them as safe as possible while playing sports.

How many kids and teens die from sports injuries every year? It looks like 39 in 2011 according to this article. So many more kids and teens suffer from sports related injuries than from gunshot injuries. But guns are lethal weapons and they actually kill many many more children per year than sports injuries. About 2920 or close to 3000 kids and teens die every year from gunshot injuries.

What are we doing about sports injuries? Making sure kids wear the proper protective gear. Examining the rules of the games to keep kids from hurting each other such as no checking from behind in hockey which has caused a good number of terrible injuries ( one recent one right here in Minnesota). Also coaches receive a lot of training about injuries and rules of the games to make sure kids are safe.

What are we doing about gun injuries and deaths? Good question. Gunshot injuries take the lives of thousands. And yet, we sit in the stands and watch instead of cheering for preventive measures. The gun lobby should not be the loudest voice in the arena of gun safety reform and gun violence prevention.

What is the cure for the hypocrisy? One obvious one is to keep kids and teens from easy access to guns in homes and on our streets. Gun suicides account for the majority of gun deaths and teens are among the highest age group for death by gun suicide. From another article about teens and suicide:

Twelve or more U.S. case control studies have compared individuals who died by suicide with those who did not and found those dying by suicide were more likely to live in homes with guns.

For example, Brent and colleagues studied three groups of adolescents: 47 suicide decedents, 47 inpatient attempters, and 47 psychiatric inpatients who had never attempted suicide. Those who died by suicide were twice as likely to have a gun at home than either of the other two groups:

                                    Adolescent                 Adolescent Psychiatric Inpatients
                                    Suicides                    Attempters            Non-attempters
Firearm in home:            72%                              37%                        38%

And further, from the article:

Ecologic studies that compare states with high gun ownership levels to those with low gun ownership levels find that in the U.S., where there are more guns, there are more suicides. The higher suicide rates result from higher firearm suicides; the non-firearm suicide rate is about equal across states.

For example, one study (Miller 2007) used survey-based measures of state household firearm ownership (from the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System) while controlling for state-level measures of mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, and other factors associated with suicide. The study found that males and females and people of all age groups were at higher risk for suicide if they lived in a state with high firearm prevalence. This is perhaps most concrete when looking not at rates or regression results but at raw numbers. The authors compared the 40 million people who live in the states with the lowest firearm prevalence (HI, MA, RI, NJ, CT, NY) to about the same number living in the states with the highest firearm prevalence (WY, SD, AK, WV, MT, AR, MS, ID, ND, AL, KY, WI, LA, TN, UT). Overall suicides were almost twice as high in the high-gun states, even though non-firearm suicides were about equal.

I don’t know about you, but there is pretty strong evidence that restricting access to guns by kids and teens can save lives. Another cause of gun death is young children shooting themselves or others after gaining access to guns. This appears to be happening on a more regular basis all over our country. Either that, or the media is reporting on what’s happening out there so we are aware. It’s pretty sobering to see the actual numbers of incidents. A study by Everytown for Gun Safety  has collected data and revealed the problem quite graphically:

About a third of American children live in homes with firearms, and of these households, 43 percent contain at least one unlocked firearm. Thirteen percent of households with guns contain at least one firearm that is unlocked and loaded or stored with ammunition.6 In all, more than two million American children live in homes with unsecured guns — and 1.7 million live in homes with guns that are both loaded and unlocked.7 Children in these homes are at elevated risk of being injured or killed in unintentional shootings.8 Studies have shown that a majority of unintentional gun deaths of children occur in the home, and that the highest numbers of unintentional child shootings take place in the late afternoon hours, when children are home from school but their parents may still be working.9 Parents underestimate the extent to which their children know where their household guns are stored and the frequency with which children handle household guns unsupervised. A Harvard survey of children in gun-owning households found that more than 70 percent of children under age 10 knew where their parents stored their guns — even when they were hidden — and 36 percent of the children reported handling the weapons. Thirty nine percent of parents who thought their child was unaware of the location of the household’s gun were contradicted by their children, and one of every five parents who believed their child had not handled the gun was mistaken.10

I don’t know about you but this seems like strong evidence that restricting access to young children by gun owners will save lives. We need much more discussion about this. In Texas, after a rash of child gun deaths due to easy access, this article was written:

This should never, ever happen. There are some simple gun-storage rules that, if followed, would all but eliminate the risk of unintentional child shooting deaths in this country. If the gun is loaded, it should be on your person. Otherwise, it should be in a gun safe. It is never OK to leave a loaded gun on a table, or under a bed, or on a high shelf, and simply assume that your kids won’t find it, or that they know better than to touch it if they do. That’s not just bad parenting; that’s willful self-delusion. Anyone who has ever spent more than three minutes around kids knows that kids don’t know better, about anything. They lack the self-control, life experience, and emotional maturity to reliably stop themselves from making bad decisions.

Parents should know better. And when they don’t—where gun storage is concerned—they should be held responsible. Some states agree. According to the nonprofit Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, 28 states (plus D.C.) have passed child access prevention laws (known as CAP laws), which make it a crime to store firearms in a way that makes them readily accessible to children. While there isn’t much data to draw from, the data that exist suggest that strong CAP laws correlate with declines in child-shooting deaths in those jurisdictions.

“Houston, we have a problem.” I could write reams about this and should. We should all be focusing our attention on this national epidemic as well as sports related injuries. Let’s do what makes the most common sense and make sure guns are stored safely away from the hands of children and teens and ammunition is stored in a separate place from the guns. Why don’t we? Good question. Too many people purchase guns for self defense and don’t have any training about how to use or store them. The gun lobby promotes guns for everyone everywhere. When that is the national gun culture, we will continue to see children and teens dying needlessly from avoidable and preventable gun deaths. Until we adequately address the actual risks of guns in homes, we won’t be doing enough to protect our children and teens from avoidable deaths and injuries.

This is insanity. We can do something about this but we don’t. Why? The national gun lobby has undue influence on our culture and our elected leaders. For years, theirs is the mantra we hear. “More guns make us safer” or “only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun.” These things don’t make any sense given the actual numbers of gun deaths and injuries and proof that in states with high gun ownership, both gun suicides and homicides are greater than states that have strong gun laws and fewer guns. The proof is there.

But what we get from the corporate gun lobby is proposals like these:

In Alabama- allowing kids under 18 to own and carry guns.

In Illinois- teaching young kids to shoot guns at a gun range.

In many states- pushing guns in schools and college campuses

North Dakota and Montana have rejected the guns in schools idea showing some resistance to ideas that make no common sense given the actual facts of the matter. I wrote in my latest post about what a Michigan school district has concocted to deal with an armed visitor to a school.

Here is one common sense measure that everyone with kids and grandchildren can take- ask if there are guns in the homes where kids play( ASK campaign). One mother wrote this about the ask:

That question I would ask over and over, “do you keep guns?” ended some friendships before they ever began. A couple of old friends were motivated to buy gun safes. It was as if the possibility of something bad happening had never occurred to them before the question was asked. Parents believe that because they have told their child not to touch a gun, that they won’t. But studies say that simply isn’t true.

Once, when Chloe was in second grade, a mother called me apologizing before I could even get out hello. “I’m so sorry,” she said, “Alex would never harm Chloe, I just want you to know.” I had no idea what she was talking about. But it turned out that her son, Alex, had been teasing another girl in the class, and Chloe had told him to stop. “I’m going to shoot you dead,” 8-year-old Alex had said. “I know where my grandfather keeps his gun, I’m going to bring his gun to school tomorrow and kill you.” Chloe had come home and never mentioned it to me, but she had ratted Alex out to her teacher, who had mentioned it to the mom. The school never called me.

Another is to take a public health approach to gun safety reform. This gun owner has some good advice when it comes to that- do what the NRA did- change the conversation but change it back to making this about public health and safety as it should be. From the article:

At the same time that public health researchers argue that the risks of guns outweighs the benefits, the NRA pushes the opposite point of view.  And while research clearly supports the public health position on gun risk, the NRA continues to use a bogus telephone surveyby Gary Kleck and some thoroughly-discredited statistical nonsense from John Lott to sell the idea that guns are essential tools  in protecting us from crime. Using the fear of crime as a justification for guns is a master stroke of marketing because a majority of Americans now agree with the pro-gun point of view.

Know why the NRA and its allies have been so successful selling the positive utility of guns?  Because they have adopted a public health strategy for convincing the public and the lawmakers that what they are saying is true. First, identify the disease, which in this case is harm caused by crime.  Then identify how the disease is spread, in this case contact with a criminal.  Now develop a vaccine, i.e., the gun, and immunize as many as people as possible with concealed carry, now legal in all 50 states.

The problem in trying to sell the public health solution to any medical problem, as David Hemenway reminds us, is that unlike medicine, “the focus of public health is not on cure, but on prevention.” This usually requires a long, comprehensive strategy combining research, education and laws. Recognizing that most people aren’t usually responsive to solutions which don’t immediately work, the NRA has fast-tracked the process. The real problem in the gun debate is that the side which is totally resistant to an honest, public health approach to guns has shown itself remarkably adept at turning that same approach on its head and getting exactly what it wants.

Mike is right. It’s time to turn the conversation in the right direction. Gun rights and gun safety reform are not mutually exclusive. Don’t be fooled into thinking so. Even though the corporate gun lobby tries to make us believe the opposite, don’t believe it. Evidence comes down on the side of public safety and common sense. Please join me in changing the conversation and changing gun laws to make our communities safe from the devastation of gun violence that affects far too many. If we can pass laws about LaCrosse helmets and rules about checking from behind, we can pass reasonable gun laws for our own good, safety and health.

Gun deaths and injuries are nothing to fool around about.

Love affair with guns

This is cross posted at commongunsense.com.

love affair- lipsI know that my views on the subject of guns and gun violence do not mesh much at all with the gun rights extremists or those who believe in the fear created by the corporate gun lobby. Yes, of course, many people own guns for self defense and for hunting and enjoy them for sport. It becomes a family affair to go hunting every year and my family also did that. I grew up around hunting and hunting guns. I didn’t grow up around fear and paranoia or in a neighborhood where a lot of crime happened. No one in my house talked about needing a gun for self defense. But the violence that comes when some who own guns for self defense in their homes use them for murder has affected my family. I do know that fear. I know the fear of losing someone close to me because of someone who feared others. I know the pain of a phone call telling me that my only sister had been shot to death by her estranged husband, someone who loved his guns.

It’s a culture in America- the gun culture- not seen in any other country in the civilized world. People love guns. They love their power. They love their accuracy when they shoot at targets. They love the protection that they believe guns can provide. They love using them to hunt and some love to collect guns. I know many of these people. But I don’t know very many gun owners who ascribe to the corporate gun lobby’s mantra about guns everywhere and for everyone and anyone. The gun owners I know support gun safety reform.

An author, Susan Straight, wrote this piece about her husband’s love of guns and what that did to her family. I like this piece because it expresses the differing views about guns that exist all around us. We seem to live in two different worlds and can’t agree on what we should be doing to keep our communities safe from gun violence. One side, represented by a minority, believe that guns everywhere are safe and there should be no restrictions or, apparently no common sense when it comes to lethal weapons. The other, the majority of us, believe that gun rights and gun safety reform are not mutually exclusive and that we can save lives with reasonable reforms. We also believe that having tough conversations about the risks of guns in homes has to happen. One example, that could have been helpful to the writer of the article above, is to ASK if there are guns in the homes where your children play and hang out. I wonder how Straight’s husband would have reacted had that question been asked of him? Would he have stored those guns more safely away from his own kids and their friends? Maybe. It’s luck that his daughters didn’t handle the many guns in their home.

From the above linked article:

We had three children, and suddenly he had 10 guns. I didn’t feel protected. I felt like I was living with a different man, one who didn’t play basketball and read Sports Illustrated like before, one who baked his guns clean and read Guns & Ammo. Our house and garage and vehicle, my spouse, carried instruments of death. The 9 mm handgun on the dresser, shockingly heavy to me, could have been picked up, dropped, fired, by fingers smaller than mine. And I couldn’t forgive that.

This love affair with guns has led to a push to “normalize” the shooting and carrying of guns in public places. It is not really about self defense. It’s about an agenda to get the rest of us to approve of guns everywhere. What we have now is back yard shooting ranges in residential neighborhoods like this one in Florida that is apparently legal. And even though, on the face of it, this is a very stupid and dangerous law, or lack thereof, because it is legal, nothing can be done- until some innocent child or adult is killed by one of those bullets that is bound to go astray. Where is common sense?

In Michigan where the gun extremists managed to get a law passed allowing guns in schools,  a local school district has had to concoct a flow chart for how to deal with people with guns in their schools. No, I am not making this up. Check it out for yourself and see if you think this is the definition of insanity:

A visitor spotted with a holstered handgun — a pistol or revolver — would be taken into a designated area and asked the purpose of the visit, according to the chart.

Should a visitor have an unholstered pistol or any long gun, such as a rifle or shotgun, there would be announcement of a lockdown and the building principal and law enforcement would be called in.

Craig McCrumb, Durand schools superintendent, has said the guidelines and protocol have been discussed so the district is proactive on the issue, with safety in mind for the students. The guidelines are not yet approved.

“We still see ourselves fine-tuning the document. It could stay the same or it could still yet be tweaked,” he said.

Below and to the right is the flow chart, which comes from the above linked article. If you think this is the way our schools should protect the safety of our children, raise your hand.

And if said visitor with a holstered ( or openly carried) gun means bad intent, what then? It’s too late. How will the school know who is whom? Is the gun carrier a “good guy” with a gun or a “bad guy” with a gun? This is ludicrous and unnecessary. There is no need for guns in schools. To think that a parent or visitor with a gun just may be at the right place at the right time to stop a school shooter is like whistling in the wind. The chances are slim to none. And even if they were, the chances of being able to stop a shooting before it happens are also slim to none. But if a school administrator has to stop and ask a potential shooter ( because they won’t know one from another) a bunch of questions, time is lost in locking down the school or trying to prevent the person from entering.

A minority of gun owners believe themselves to be potential heroes however so this is what we get. Either that or they find every place they go to be so dangerous that they can’t be without their guns. The truth of the matter is that more kids are shot in their homes than in schools. And that, mostly, with legally purchased guns by law abiding citizens. Never mind the facts. When you are having a love affair, facts don’t matter. From the linked article:

However, fewer than 2 percent of student homicides — whether by gun or any other means — take place at school, on the way to or from school or at a school-sponsored event, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. From July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011, the most recent year for which data are available, 11 of the 1,336 homicides (0.8 percent) of school-age children happened at school. While that number fluctuates each year, it has remained below 2 percent since the Indicators of School Crime and Safety annual reports started in 1992.

The CDC estimates the odds of a student age 5 to 18 being a victim of a school-associated homicide at about 1 in 2.5 million.

Nonfatal gun violence occurs in schools only sporadically. According to a 2013 report from the Bureau of Justice and Statistics, most nonfatal gun violence (across all age groups) occurs at the victim’s home (42 percent) or in an open area, on the street or on public transportation (23 percent). Less than 1 percent takes place in schools.

In other words, despite the significant hours children log at school and despite a rise in active shooter situations in and outside schools, children are more likely to be shot at a friend or relative’s house or in a parking lot or garage or shopping mall than at their school.

“Schools are safe,” said Larry Johnson, the president and director of public safety of the National Association of School Safety and Law Enforcement Officials, which oversees school security programs. “I think people are forgetting the fact that schools are sometimes safer than the homes.”

Further, because of our love affair with guns, it is now legal in some states like Michigan for a visitor to a school to carry a loaded gun around where children gather to learn and play. So who will get fired or be in trouble if someone on the staff, presumably an administrator, questions the visitor with a gun? Because these folks don’t want to be questioned about carrying guns around and when stopped, they challenge the person who stopped them. It’s just a matter of time before a school principal will be sued because he/she questioned the legality of a gun carrier in his/her school. This is the definition of insanity.

Every day I am sent or run across a large number of articles about real shooting deaths that happen on purpose or by “accident”. This one caught my eye because of the stupidity of what happened. A woman who was arguing with her new husband over who was going to drive the car home tried to put the loaded gun in a “safer” place in the car and the gun discharged somehow killing her own niece. She was sentenced a few days ago for the shooting that occurred last April. Now the lives of a whole lot of people are forever changed because a loaded gun was somewhere within easy reach and combined with drinking alcohol, an innocent person is dead. The whole thing was avoidable and irresponsible. But when we have a love affair with guns, this is the price we pay.

There is no common sense when it comes to gun policy in America. It is based on fear, hyperbole and the influence of a very well funded and fierce lobby sponsored by the gun industry which encourages more guns everywhere. It doesn’t have to be this way. We are better than this and can change the conversation about guns and gun violence as well as pass some reasonable gun safety laws to stop some of the daily shootings. It’s well past time to do this and time to get to work.