Why I #wearorange

Orange-square

I wear orange for the children. I wear orange for the victims of gun suicides. I wear orange for the women who didn’t realize how unsafe they would be in their homes with a loaded gun sitting around. I wear orange for the victims of school shootings, mall shootings, airport shootings, warehouse shootings, shootings in driveways and cars, shootings of innocent people from stray bullets. I wear orange from terror related shootings from those caused by mentally unstable young men, racist and intolerant men, indefensible self defense shootings, shootings of and by officers, shootings of kids and teens carrying “fake” guns, shootings of mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, uncles, aunts, children, grandchildren, grandparents, cousins and friends.

I wear orange because we have a looney tunes gun culture that encourages people who have no business doing so, to buy, carry and own guns. I wear orange because our country’s gun laws are amazingly and dangerously lax. I wear orange because some of our elected leaders and the corporate gun lobby have no common sense. It’s all about power, control and profit over human lives and safe communities.

I wear orange for my sister, Barbara, who was shot and killed in a domestic shooting during a difficult and contentious divorce. I wear orange for Carin, for Shelly, Hadiya, Ben, Reema,  Carolyn,  Daniel,  Alison,  Jordan,  Christopher, Veronika, Jesse, Sam, Reuven, Daryl, Alicia, Neva, Jamar, Cindy, Matt, Laura, Jan, Alex, Michael,…………

Tomorrow my Brady Campaign chapter along with Protect Minnesota will hold a bell ringing at our Memorial Bell Garden, the only garden dedicated to victims of gun violence in the country. Our Mayor will issue a proclamation making it Gun Violence Victims awareness day in Duluth. There will be speakers representing clergy, health care, educators, parents of young children, gun owners and gay/lesbian people. We will ring the bell for victims of gun violence including the 49 victims of the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting marking the upcoming one year anniversary on June 12th.

One of our landmarks will be lit orange tomorrow evening in honor of gun violence victims.

Enger Tower

We honor victims and survivors. We remember them. We will not forget and we will demand the change that will make our communities and families safe from gun violence. Orange calls attention to us. It is bright and loud and not easily missed.

You can check out wearorange.com for more information about the origin of the day and watch the video on the website. We are turning America orange. Join us. Post a photo of yourself on Facebook wearing orange. Attend a local event marking the day and the week-end. Contribute your time, talent and money to a gun violence prevention group of your choice in the name of a friend, survivor or loved one.

The only way change will happen is to work together with others to make it happen.

Make it happen.

Taking sides on guns

NRA with ear muffsWhen it comes to innocent people being shot or taking their own lives with a gun or a child shooting someone or him/herself with a loaded unsecured gun, I thought there was only one side- common sense and safety. That was, of course, before I got involved in the gun violence prevention movement. In this movement we are all on the side of people not getting shot for really much of any reason. But we also recognize that guns are made to kill people and so, when there a lot of guns around and many of them unregulated and many of their owners also unregulated, there will be a lot of deaths and injuries.

But the silence from the gun lobby is deafening when it comes to actual people being shot and the epidemic of gun violence in our country. Is it on purpose? Is it just lack of empathy and compassion? Is it only political and in the interest of profit? Is it really true fear and paranoia that the government will come knocking on the door for their guns? Is it fear of zombies and the other? Is it just the second amendment which doesn’t say anything about guns for anyone who wants them no matter what? Is it avoidance of the truth? Is it ignorance of the laws or willful refusal to believe that gun laws can work? Is it some sort of fear of freedom being taken away when the lives lost were freedoms taken? Is it all about profits over lives? Is it about a culture change happening and fear of that change as fewer people hunt and fewer households own guns?

I don’t know that answer. I think all of the above are true actually. All I know for sure is that too many lives are taken every day by bullets and we can change that if we have the will and the political courage to do so. From the linked article above:

Is it too much to hope that America may be nearing the point of progress over the urgent — and long overdue — issue of gun violence? More than 5,000 people have been killed by guns since the start of this year. More than 10,000 have been injured. There have been more than 112 mass shootings. Just this week, amurder-suicide claimed two lives on the UCLA campus. In 2013, the U.S. saw more than 30,000 gun-related deaths. There’s cause to believe that 2016 will see a similarly horrifying tally.

Whose side are you on? Stopping some of these shootings or turning away from the carnage under our noses every day?

Thursday was #WearOrange day. By all standards, if counting many thousands of people participating in various events and posting photos of themselves on social media, it was a huge success. I was involved in organizing 2 of these events in my city. As always, we have speakers talking about why they are involved and why we need to deal with our public health epidemic. The Mayor issued a proclamation making my city orange for the day in memory and honor of gun violence victims. She held up a picture that a young boy had sent her with the words, “no more guns.” The Police Chief spoke about gun safety and the importance of storing guns safely to prevent them from being stolen and becoming crime guns. A woman spoke about the pain of losing her father when he took the gun he bought for self defense and used it to kill himself, leaving their family without a father.

And then a gun owner and hunter spoke about the need for putting our heads together and forgetting about our differences so we can save lives and prevent at least some of the gun violence. He is a strong proponent of requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales with the understanding that his own guns will NOT be taken from him nor will his rights to shoot those guns as long as he doesn’t shoot another human being.

It turns out that on the same day as our events, a Minnesota woman was found shot dead in her home, shot by the same man who had traveled to UCLA and shot a professor dead and then himself. The shooter had a hit list and he had 2 semi automatic guns, presumably bought legally. And that is the conundrum. Many people can buy guns legally and may never use those guns to shoot another human being or themselves. They may never bring it out to play with or show to someone and have it discharge. They may never drop their gun in a public place where it “accidentally” discharges. They may never leave that gun unattended, unsecured and loaded for young children or teens to find to use in a shooting.

But the fact is, far too many of these people are not safe with their guns. And we don’t know who will become unsafe or when they might become unsafe. That is the problem with our sides. My hunter friend spoke of how in other democratized countries that allow private ownership of guns, there just are not a lot of the incidents I described above. Does that mean that those folks are more careful and more safe? Maybe. But we do know that laws exist in those countries that make gun ownership a very awesome responsibility and difficult to get in the first place.

I maintain that stronger laws change the way in which people look at guns. People are less cavalier when their gun is harder to obtain and they have to go through more regulations to get a gun. They understand that they have to be safe given that they have been carefully vetted and can’t just get guns willy nilly with no background check through the internet or on the streets.

Let’s compare gun ownership to driving a car. We seem to have a common understanding that there are certain rules that everyone who wants to drive one has to follow- no exceptions. Everyone has to take drivers’ training. Everyone has to be at least 16. Everyone has to take a test. Everyone has to purchase insurance ( though some don’t). Everyone needs to wear a seat belt and follow the traffic laws. Most people actually do follow traffic rules as it turns out. Without laws and rules, our streets would be chaos.

And surely we can say that our gun culture causes chaos. Our inner city areas are chaos. Losing a loved one to a bullet causes not only grief, but chaos in one’s life. Mass shootings cause chaos. Shooting young children causes chaos. A gun suicide causes chaos in the family.

I spoke at our local event about the reason for the day, which I wrote about in my last post. Some of my readers will ask why there are so many gun deaths in Chicago like that of Hadiye Pendleton, when Chicago has strict gun laws. It’s the classic excuse given for doing nothing about stopping gun deaths because there are so many gun deaths. This illogical reasoning has been allowed to be a part of our discussion for far too long. It’s not difficult to understand when the neighboring states of Indiana and others flood the state with guns that can’t be bought in Chicago or Illinois. A brilliant article from The Trace shows us where the guns come from. From the article:

Not coincidentally, as the visualization above shows, in 2010, 2011, and 2014, the annual count of Illinois crime guns originating in Indiana topped 1,o00 guns per year. (In 2012 and 2013, there was a big dip in Illinois crime guns coming from Indiana, though the ATF isn’t sure why.) Mississippi was next in line, trafficking about a third as many guns into the state. At least four others exported more than 500 guns to Illinois during 2010–14. Five more states sent more than 400 each.

So if we follow the logical conclusion here, shouldn’t we make sure that there are uniform laws in all states to keep places like Chicago and some of our other large urban cities from providing the guns that kill innocent 15 year old girls (Hadiye Pendelton in Chicago)  and grandmothers (Birdell Beeks in Minneapolis) in their neighborhoods?

And then there’s Chuck’s gun shop in Chicago – a bad apple gun dealer. The shop has been the “target” of many protests over the past few years as the Brady Campaign and others have drawn attention to the loose practices of Chuck’s that allow crime guns to get into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. Shouldn’t we do something about bad apple gun dealers? People are getting shot. But the gun lobby has pressured Congress to underfund the ATF which is the agency responsible for monitoring gun dealers like Chuck’s to make sure they are following the laws. Let’s enforce the laws already on the books.

There is some good news here, though. In spite of the gun industry immunity law (PLCAA) lawsuits filed against bad apple gun dealers (Badger Guns in Milwaukee) and others are winning in our courts.

Whose side are you on?

Watch here as President Obama answers a question from a man who is concerned about his gun rights, at a PBS Newshour town hall. His response is exactly mine and the millions of Americans who agree that doing something about people getting shot will not take away the rights of people to own guns. And this exchange shows the sides taken by Americans on the issue of guns and gun rights. There should be no sides when it comes to saving lives. But when it comes to guns, there are sides.

Whose side are you on?

Massachusetts is having a similar problem. Lots of the states crime guns are coming into the state from Vermont where gun laws barely exist:

Many local officials say inconsistent gun laws are fueling the trade. Most northeastern states have enacted laws that extend background check requirements for gun purchases to include firearms sold at gun shows and unlicensed dealers. But Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine do not require such checks on private sales, making it easier for people with criminal records to buy guns in those states, and move them around New England.

“We have good gun laws in Massachusetts, but our problem is most of the guns that seem to be coming in and being used in crimes are coming from other states,” Boston Police Commissioner William Evans tells The Trace. “It’s hard for us when so many come from our border states that have lax laws.”

The gun extremists like to talk about Vermont having few gun deaths in spite of loose gun laws. They are ignoring the fact that Vermont has high gun suicide and domestic shooting death rates. In addition, weak gun laws are allowing people to be able buy guns that end up in other states where it’s more difficult to buy a gun. From this article:

Again, in universal terms, the total number of homicides, domestic violence cases, and gun-related deaths is indeed small, which can make some of these rate statistics seem exaggerated. But the argument can be made that they’re also less deceptive than the happy reports of a Second Amendment oasis in the heart of New England. A truer picture lies in this final statistic: Vermont, which is virtually impossible to traverse without a car, is a state where firearms deaths outnumber traffic deaths.

So back to my original question- Whose side are you on? The side of public health and safety? Or on the side of allowing anyone to get a gun, including many who shouldn’t?- felons, domestic abusers, those adjudicated mentally ill, fugitives, terrorists, etc. Interestingly many on the side of unfettered gun rights actually don’t think criminals should have guns- or so they say. So how do they think we can stop them from getting guns if we don’t actually stop them from getting guns?

We don’t have to take sides. Gun owners and NRA members are actually on the side of common sense with me. You’d never know it though from the general rhetoric that the gun lobby spews and often gets away with because they go unchallenged. Why? Good question. Some of the arguments and statements by the gun lobby are being taken apart by more people who are doing the research the corporate gun lobby hates and has tried to stop. This is shedding bright light on the real problem in America. Too many people are getting shot.

Orange is a bold and bright color. It makes a statement. Hunters wear orange to protect themselves from being shot by other hunters while out in the woods. Last fall my grandchildren were at our cabin during deer hunting season. We could hear gunshots in the woods nearby. When they were outside, I insisted that they all wear bright orange hats which they happily did since it was also cold outside. We turned America orange to make a bold and bright statement on Thursday. Monuments all over America turned orange including the Enger Tower in my city of Duluth.  Enger tower orange

We rang the bell at Enger Park for victims of gun violence- domestic murders, suicides, a young Minneapolis girl who was just sitting in her house doing homework when a bullet flying in her neighborhood snuffed out her young life; and many others. We shouldn’t be surprised but always are at the number of people who ring the bell for relatives or people they know who have died from gunshot injuries. People who shouldn’t have been shot.

We just can’t continue on this trajectory or this level of violence. The time for action has long passed. My side of the issue can be blamed for some of this. But the bold and bright truth of the matter is that when people are getting shot and the problem is being ignored and the conversation is being stifled by those with a vested interest in selling their products, we have a big and deadly problem. No one wants to get shot. We will wear orange, have marches, turn monuments orange and continue to demand the changes in our laws and the conversation that all of the victims and their families deserve. We are Americans against being shot. #Enough now.

 

Wear Orange day

Wear OrangeIn one week , on June 2nd, people all over the country will participate in Wear Orange Day- national day of awareness for gun violence prevention. There will activities such as walks, proclamations by Mayors, gatherings of participants wearing orange, posting of selfies and photos on social media, turning city structures orange and generally remembering victims of gun violence.

The day was started by friends and family of 15 year old Hadiye Pendleton, a young Chicago girl who was shot on the street when she became the innocent victim of bullets flying in her neighborhood. One week before her shooting, Hadiye had been with her school’s band playing at President Obama’s 2013 Inauguration.

Hadiye was one of about 90 Americans who were shot that day. Since she was killed, more than 3 years have passed leaving another 100,000 dead and more than 200,000 injured. Yes. That’s true. If these deaths were reported on the nightly news like the deaths of our military members who were killed in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were, the public would be outraged. Does the public know that more people have died from gunshot injuries since 1968 in America than all Americans have died in wars since the Revolutionary War?

Actually the public is outraged but our leaders are afraid to stand up to the corporate gun lobby and do something that makes common sense to stop the shootings. How can one not be outraged by what is happening daily in our homes, on our streets, in our public places, at gun ranges, in cars, schools, workplaces, military bases and anywhere else where people gather? Take these for example:

In Minneapolis, shootings have increased dramatically in the North side neighborhoods. From this article:

In roughly the first five months of the year, 123 people have been shot in Minneapolis — 97 of them on the North Side — compared with 65 during the same period last year. At the current pace, north Minneapolis will eclipse last year’s total of gunshot victims by late September. Aggravated assaults, which include shootings and are considered a key measure of a city’s safety, are up 14 percent across Minneapolis.

Lots of talk in the article about solutions including working with the youth, more police presence, concern about increased gang presence and some mention of easy access to guns:

Much of the violence, they say, stems from the increasingly easy access to guns on the streets and young people’s willingness to use them in response to insults exchanged on social media and in online music videos.

“It is ridiculous,” said Council President Barbara Johnson, adding that she’d heard from constituents of her North Side ward complaining of having their houses shot up. “We’ve got neighborhoods being held hostage by these jerks.”

Indeed. Neighborhoods held hostage by youth with guns. Are we at war? And, of course, one of the solutions would be to pass stronger laws to regulate how guns get into the hands of the hostage takers. But in Minnesota a state pre-emption law prohibits cities from passing laws stricter than state laws. More from the article:

Council Member Cam Gordon, who is on the Public Safety committee, said that some of the blame rested with a three-decade-old state law that stripped cities of the power to regulate firearms and ammunition within their limits, except regulations targeting the “discharge of firearms.”

“I believe it is time for the Legislature to restore that authority and to give us more flexibility in determining how best to register and regulate handguns in Minneapolis,” Gordon wrote in a blog post addressing the problem.

In other words, we can do something about this but our leaders won’t let us.

Sigh.

Other incidents that should make us all go out to wear orange on June 2nd are below:

A 7 year old girl was shot and killed when a felon ( prohibited from owning guns) gave a 3 year old a rifle while the family was target shooting and the 3 year old, not nearly old enough or responsible enough to be handling a gun, shot the gun. The bullet hit the 7 year old, killing her. People have been arrested.

Sigh.

A Texas gun company made a gun with a “Hello Kitty” coating on it that makes it look like a toy. From the article:

 “We do have some critics that think we shouldn’t make a gun look like a toy, but I disagree. Gun safety should be taught in schools and should be taught by families,” says Lemley. He says that taking the mystery out of guns can make for a safer society.

Children are dying every day from “accidental” gun discharges. Apparently these folks don’t get into what happens with their wares once they leave their shop.

Sigh.

Or there’s this one, as just one of many other examples I could provide here but don’t have the space to do: A gun left in a cabinet was found by a teen ager who discharged the gun, killing a friend:

The Glock had been left in a kitchen cabinet, loaded and chambered. Brooklynn’s friend accessed the gun while they were in the kitchen. There were no charges in Brooklynn’s death. It was ruled an accident.

This kind of tragedy is preventable, and it starts with the responsibility of adults. Our home state of Nevada is among 14 with child-access prevention laws that impose a weaker standard for criminal liability. Brooklynn’s death by an unsecured gun, and the complete failure of the justice system, was the catalyst for my husband and I to create the Brooklynn Mae Mohler Foundation. Our goal is to educate others, with the hope of preventing these senseless tragedies from affecting more families. No parent should ever have to endure this daily agony.

The mother of the victim wrote this heart wrenching article for Vogue which is doing a series of very personal articles about gun violence leading up to Wear Orange day. There is something to do about these avoidable and horrific gun deaths. ASK if there are unlocked, loaded guns in the homes where your children play. It’s a simple solution requiring no law changes and it changes the conversation about the risks of guns in homes. The ASK campaign can and does save lives.

I don’t think I have to write more do I? Too many innocent Americans die every day from a gun epidemic that should have the attention of our law makers. Our neighborhoods and homes are littered with dead bodies and people injured by bullets who will suffer life-long affects from the bullet wounds.

This is a public health and safety epidemic of epic proportion left ignored by the people who can do something about it. Thanks to the corporate gun lobby and the folks who believe them, we are doing little or nothing to prevent 90 Americans a day from dying from gun suicides, homicides and “accidental” gun deaths.That is why wearing orange and doing so nation-wide to call attention to the epidemic is not only important but necessary.

I will be wearing orange on June 2nd. Will you?

We’ve had #Enough and know that we can do better than sitting back, shrugging our shoulders and saying nothing can be done. That is not true. There are many solutions to the problem of gun violence. It starts with you. And then your friends and family. And then your city, your state and the nation. Join us.

 

#WearingOrange on June 2- national Gun Violence Awareness day

social_brady_wear-orange_facebook-cover-851x315-orangeOn June 2, the nation, or a good part of it anyway, will be #WearingOrange for a cause. The cause is a national day for gun violence awareness followed by the month of June with more awareness events and actions. The reason? The parents of one young girl are asking us to do this in her memory. For on June 2, tomorrow, she would be 18 years old. The reason they will not be celebrating her birthday is because she was shot and killed in January of 2013 just days after playing with her Chicago school band at President Obama’s inauguration. Her name was Hadiya Pendleton.

Here’s more about the day of gun violence awareness. Some New York lawmakers declared June to be gun violence awareness month in 2011.  The idea has since spread and now has the endorsement of gun violence prevention groups and other groups from all over the country representing tens of thousands of Americans, if not more. In 2013 a group of Hadiya’s friends promoted the wearing of the color orange in memory of Hadiya and other gun violence victims:

The color orange is a “hunter’s orange,” said Victor Taylor, a co-organizer of the project and a King senior.

“You know, when people are in the wilderness, and they don’t want to be shot by other hunters,” Taylor said. “You don’t want to be invisible.”

Hunters want to be safe from being shot while hunting. So do Americans want to be safe from the gun violence that takes far too many lives.

“You don’t want to be invisible”. Exactly. Victims sometimes become invisible. Every day in our country over 80 people die from gunshot injuries. There are many mass shootings in our country which get the attention of the public, the media and even lawmakers for a while. And then, the corporate gun lobby steps in and does their job of making themselves the victims of proposed changes to laws that would actually prevent senseless shootings. It’s totally backwards and insane, in fact, but it happens. It makes absolutely no common sense. But it is the America we have, not the country most people want or deserve.

And that is why we intend to make a difference. Mike the Gun Guy reflected on why this national day of awareness and the month of actions will make a difference:

I think that June 2, touted as Gun Violence Awareness Day, may mark a true turning-point in the argument about guns. The pro-gun community can lobby all it wants for laws that make it easier to own or carry guns, but fewer gun restrictions won’t really matter if the country’s dominant culture becomes anti-gun. And while the NRA has been promoting gun ownership as their response to the “culture wars,” the millennial culture that is emerging and will define the country appears to be solidly anti-gun. (…)

Gun Violence Awareness Day, as reported ruefully by Brietbart and other pro-gun blogs, garnered support from movie, song and media personalities like Russell Simmons, Aasif Mandvi, Padma Lakshmi, Amanda Peet, Tunde Adebimpe and many, many more.  I’m actually a pre-boomer, and I don’t have the faintest idea who any of these people are.  But I do know the celebs who show up each year at the NRA shindig; guys like Chuck Norris and Ollie North. Wow – talk about young, hip and cool.

Another master-stroke in planning this event was using orange to build identity and awareness for the folks who get involved.  Orange, or blaze orange as it is known, has always been worn by hunters and many states require it for anyone goes out after game. Brady and Shannon’s Moms, among other organizations, have lately moved into the safety space which was owned lock, stock and barrel by the NRA. Guess who now shares and could soon own that space?

Until recently, the playing field where gun violence arguments played out was controlled by the NRA. But right now the field is tilting the other way.  And notice how millennial culture has no problem attaching the word ‘violence’ to the word ‘guns.’  This alone should make the NRA wonder if their message can win or even compete for hearts and minds.  The NRA always assumed that gun owners would defend their guns while everyone else just sat by.  After June 2nd, I wouldn’t want to take that assumption to the bank.

The message is changing. That must happen before the culture and laws change. Our message is strong. We understand that gun violence has become a serious national public health and safety epidemic and we also know that we can do something about this epidemic with the right prescriptions and treatment.

From Dan Gross President of the Brady Campaign and  Nathaniel Pendelton, Hadiya’s father comes this piece about June 2 and wearing orange:

Most of us have been affected by gun violence or know someone who has. This June we are honoring the victims of this epidemic by wearing orange on June 2 and by redoubling our commitment to the solutions that will result in a safer Chicago for everyone. (…)

June 2 would have been Hadiya’s 18th birthday, but because of a shooting on January 29, 2013, her young life ended. She loved this city and she had dreams: dreams of going to college and of becoming a journalist–dreams of traveling the world. Her death was not just our loss–it was Chicago’s loss. It was this world’s loss. Let her legacy be one of inspiring us to make the impact on the world that she dreamed of making when she was alive.

Participate in Gun Violence Awareness Month and remember to wear your orange on June 2. Together, we can end the epidemic of gun deaths in our nation and help to fulfill Hadiya’s Promise.

We owe it to the lives lost to promise to do something to stop others from not being able to reach their human potential. Hadiya”s young life had already shown the promise of success. Her life was taken far too soon in a senseless act of violence. You can see more information on the website named Hadiya’s Promise.

If you want more information about wearing orange, please check out this site for how you can be involved. Also on this site you can see all of the organizations who have endorsed this campaign. There will be other actions coming up for the month of June as were listed in the article by Dan Gross and Nathaniel Pendelton, linked above. Please find out how you can support gun violence awareness month and help us change the message and change the conversation so we can change the gun culture and do something positive to prevent gun violence. We know we can do this. The majority of Americans support reasonable gun laws and also want to stop the violence. No one wants to lose a loved one or a friend to a gunshot injury yet far too many of us have and do.

We are better than this. Let’s get to work. Do this for Hadiya and for the 32,000 Americans who die every year from gunshot injuries. Make your voices heard above the loud and often obnoxious din of the gun lobby’s deceptions and opposition to common sense.

Wear Orange for saving lives and common sense.

Hadiya’s parents wrote this opinion piece about the wear orange day.