Unlucky gun stuff and Irish gun laws

shamrockAs you know, today is St. Patrick’s Day. It’s also my daughter’s birthday. Neither my husband nor I have any Irish heritage but because of her birthday, we always feel a kinship. We used to dress our daughter in green clothing which she really didn’t like. There are many photos of her looking a bit unhappy until she got old enough to decide for herself what she was going to wear on her birthday. I don’t think she wears green much any more on this day.

I know that there is the saying that the Irish have luck on their side. There’s the 4 leaf clover and the Blarney Stone, green beer, etc. But a lot of people are unlucky when it comes to guns no matter what day of the year it is. Every day close to 90 Americans die from gunshot injuries- many from suicide. It doesn’t have to be that way and anyone who is a survivor of a family member who has shot him/herself feels pretty unlucky that that person had access to a gun.

Veterans, after a vote in the House yesterday, will be unlucky enough to be able to legally purchase guns even if they have been identified as having mental illness severe enough to deem them prohibited purchasers. This makes absolutely no common sense. 

And what could possibly go wrong?:

“About 170,000 disabled veterans are deemed mentally incompetent by the VA,” NPR’s Quil Lawrence reports. “A guardian makes legal decisions for them, and their names go on an FBI list so they can’t purchase guns. House Republicans sponsored the Veterans’ Second Amendment Protection Act to change that.”

Opponents of the bill say that easing gun ownership for mentally disabled veterans would make them a greater threat to themselves. As recently as 2014, an average of 20 veterans per day died from suicide, according to statistics released last year by the VA Suicide Prevention Program. Between 2001 and 2014, the VA said, the suicide rate among U.S. veterans rose by more than 32 percent. (…)

On the other side of the issue, Rep. Anthony Brown, D-Md., said, “When a determination is made that a veteran is mentally incompetent or incapacitated — for whatever reason — that determination is made to protect them, not to punish or deprive them.”

Critics of the bill include retired Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the former vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army. Speaking to Quil about why he opposed the bill, Chiarelli said, “Every single study you can read on this shows you that people in crisis — because suicide is such a spontaneous event — when they separate themselves from personal weapons the incidence of suicide goes down tremendously.”

#factsmatter

America is unlucky enough to have a corporate gun lobby that doesn’t really care about what would be in the interest of public health and safety. If they did, they would not have pushed this ludicrous measure with their lapdogs in Congress. They claim to care about unfairness and rights but the bottom line is that there are some people who should not be able to access guns, period.

Many disagree with what the House just did but when you have absolute power, you think you can force anything on a country that doesn’t want this. Do the families of the Veterans who can buy guns even though they shouldn’t and then kill themselves with said gun feel lucky on this day?

You know the answer.

This article in The Trace highlights efforts to try to prevent suicides on military bases.:

Military suicides used to be rare. Throughout the 20th century, the suicide rate among active-duty service members was lower than the population at large. But after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, the numbers began to climb. In 2006, for the first time, the Army’s suicide rate, routinely the highest among the branches of the armed services, surpassed that of the national population. By 2010, suicide had become a military crisis. That year, there were 163 suicides in the Army, an 87-percent increase from five years before.

It is a population that is especially vulnerable: many service members return from combat with some degree of post-traumatic stress or traumatic brain injury, both of which can contribute to depression and suicidal thoughts. Easy access to guns, which prove fatal much more often than other means of attempting suicide, may exacerbate the problem.

While it is laudatory that the military has made efforts to deal with the problem of suicides among the military it is also disturbing that there is clear denial among some that suicide is a health problem faced by many in our military. Denying the facts does not lead to real solutions. And clearly the fact that the gun lobby lapdogs in Congress are willing to either deny the facts or knowingly reverse good policy that could prevent some military suicides is disturbing at most.

As I said, we are unlucky to live in a country where some of our leaders are either outright lying or denying the truth.

Ireland has had its’ own problems, of course, like all countries do. But one thing they don’t worry too much about is gun homicide and suicide. Why? Strong gun laws that prevent senseless shootings. Let’s take a look at the laws here:

Ireland has some of the least permissive firearm legislation in Europe. In order to possess a limited range of hunting and sport-shooting firearms,1 gun owners must renew their firearm certificates every three years.2 3 Although small arms-related death, injury and crime remain relatively low, rising rates of gun violence and firearm ownership in the Republic ― in particular the possession and misuse of handguns ― have become sources of national concern.4 In 2009, the private possession of handguns was curtailed. Licensing of all pistols and revolvers using centrefire ammunition was capped through ‘grandfathering,’ with new licences restricted to a limited range of small-calibre .22 rimfire handguns and .177 air pistols.3 5 The possession and use of realistic imitation firearms in a public place is prohibited.6 7 Ireland is an active supporter of the United Nations process to reduce gun injury (UNPoA).8

As a result, gun homicides, suicides and gun crimes are low according to these numbers:

Gun Homicide

Of the 84 homicides reported by police in 2007, 18 (21 per cent) involved firearms ― eight fewer than the 26 gun homicides in 2006.29 Although the rate of firearm homicide in Ireland remains comparatively low (0.61 per 100,000 population in 2006, and 0.41 in 2007),30 31 gun killings have increased markedly since 1991, when the rate was 0.03.32 From 1995 to 1999 the firearm homicide rate averaged 0.28.33 34

Gun Suicide

Of 8,547 suicides recorded in Ireland from 1980-2003, 725 (8.5 per cent) were completed with a firearm.35 In the years 2001-05, the proportion averaged seven per cent.36 If the average number of firearm suicides reported in 2001-07 (33 per annum) remained steady during 2008, the annual rate of gun suicide in Ireland that year would be 0.74 per 100,000 population,36 31 down from 0.94 in 1991.37

Gun suicide is six times more common in rural areas than in cities, and 94 per cent of victims are male.38 Although total suicides (all methods) rose in Ireland from 200 per annum in 1980 to nearly 500 in 2003, gun suicides remained relatively static, averaging 31 self-inflicted shooting deaths each year over 23 years, with an annual high of 50 and a low of 14.39

Gun Crime

In the five years from 2001-2005, the Garda reported 1,690 robberies and aggravated burglaries committed with firearms, for an average of 338 per year. A peak year was 2004, with 428 armed robberies and burglaries.40 In the years 2003-2007, fewer than one in five gun crimes resulted in a conviction.41 In 2009, the Department of Justice reported a 31 percent decrease in crime involving discharge of a firearm, while the number of firearm possession cases increased by 8 percent.42

In addition there are some common sense policies in place to make sure public safety is protected:

It is illegal for any civilian to use, carry or possess a firearm or ammunition without a valid firearm certificate which correctly specifies the owner, the weapon, the ammunition and its maximum permitted quantity. (…) Applicants must prove ‘good reason’ for ownership of the firearm applied for, and the Garda must be satisfied that the applicant can be permitted to possess, use and carry the firearms ‘without danger to the public safety or security or the peace.’ If the ‘good reason’ for firearm possession is target shooting, the owner must belong to a police-approved rifle or pistol club. Where application is for a restricted firearm, the applicant must have ‘good and sufficient reason for requiring such a firearm’ and must additionally demonstrate that ‘the firearm is the only type of weapon appropriate for the purpose (….) An applicant must provide proof of identification and age, proof of competence with the firearm concerned, and proof of secure storage for weapons and ammunition while not in use. Potential gun owners must, when making an application for a firearm certificate, give written permission for the police to consult a doctor, psychiatrist or psychologist to confirm the applicant’s good physical and mental health, and must nominate two additional referees to attest to the applicant’s character. Minimum qualifications for character referees are set out in the Garda Commissioner’s Guidelines as to the Practical Application and Operation of the Firearms Acts, 1925-2009.53 54 55

Though attesting to character can lead to conflicts and potential mistakes, at the least, the Irish government cares about people who have mental health issues getting access to guns. In America, we do not- at least some do not anyway.

The solution to the problem of people who cannot manage their affairs, Veterans with clear mental health difficulties and others who are known to family members or friends to be of a state of mind that having a gun would pose a potential risk to themselves or others is to find ways for these people not to have guns.

A gun violence restraining order or protection order is one solution that is not going anywhere in most states that have introduced a bill for public safety.

Never mind public health and safety. That is not on the top of the list these days in a Republican led government that is slashing programs, lying about serious matters and denying the true state of American people in need.

Back to the beginning of this post- there are a lot of unlucky people in America whose lives have drastically changed because a gun was available to someone who should not have had one or because of a totally avoidable accidental discharge. The incident below is just one of many occurring far too often in America:

The parents of a 12-year-old boy who was shot to death while home alone with his younger brother were charged Wednesday with involuntary manslaughter.

Damian Holmes, 12, and his brother, 9, were left home alone Tuesday night in the 3300 block of Michigan Avenue when they found a gun and started playing with it, police said.

A round struck Damian in the head about 10:35 p.m; police are not saying who fired the shot.

The boys’ father came home and took the 12-year-old to the hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Until we make it clear that loaded guns in homes pose a risk to those living in the home, this will continue to happen in unlucky America. Until we hold adults responsible for being irresponsible with guns, this will continue to happen in America. Until we insist that gun owners lock their guns up, unloaded, to insure that guns are not stolen, or accessed by young kids and teens, this will continue to happen.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Calling all responsible gun owners……

Even officers of the law need to follow these common sense ideas about guns. In Minnesota, an officer’s gun was stolen and used in a shooting. Now someone is dead as a result. This is all senseless.

It’s more than luck. It’s responsibility and changing and the conversation, the culture and the laws. Until we do that, we will be less safe- especially when Congress is in session. As Mark Twain once said:

  • “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”[3]Cscr-featured.svg   
Simple: No one’s life, liberty or property are safe while Congress is making laws.

May the luck of the Irish be with you today. Stay safe out there. And as we consider what Congress is all about concerning rolling back common sense gun laws, I would like to believe this:

Irish proverb

 

 

 

 

Clowns amongst us

clownHappy Halloween.

Yesterday I wrote about scary things happening politically on the eve of Halloween. It’s still scary out there and getting worse.

This morning I had a conversation with my daughter who was unaware of the scare about clown masks and almost bought one for her teen-aged son. Quickly she realized this would not be a good idea, thankfully. Then she read an article about people in clown costumes threatening small children and committing crimes and got more alarmed, wondering about human nature in general and the lunacy of our country of late. She is not alone.

When people dressed as clowns or using Facebook posts as clowns threatening to commit school shootings or other violent threats, we have a problem. It’s bad enough that people without masks make these threats but using a clown mask/costume to hide an identity makes it more frightening.

I don’t know about you but I was always creeped out by the Joker of Batman movies. And many people are genuinely afraid of clowns. But now there is more than good reason to be afraid of people in clown outfits or acting like clowns.

We can ‘t escape the association of The Dark Knight with the 2012 shooting in the Aurora theater that claimed the lives of 12 during the midnight showing of the The Dark Knight Rises.  That was truly frightening and tragic, to say the least. I can’t even go there without thinking about friends who lost their loved ones in that shooting.

Who needs this kind of frightening stuff on a holiday that is supposed to be for kids but has been co-opted by adults whose intentions are sometimes evil or dangerous? But do people need to arm themselves against clowns now? A group of Florida parents have decided that carrying guns around while their kids trick or treat is the way to go. This seems like a bad idea to me because mistakenly shooting an innocent person is the more likely scenario than actually needing a gun to protect oneself from a clown with bad intentions. From the article:

Brevard County authorities say clown fears could endanger someone who is dressing up as a clown as a joke. Palm Bay Police Lt. Mike Banish fears that someone dressing like a clown could end up getting seriously injured.

“The problem is that someone dressed like a clown could scare someone and there’s a possibility, a possibility you could end up with someone getting shot,” Bandish said. “A person could think that they’re about to get robbed.”

Whatever happened to common sense? Why does everything have to become fearful and threatening?

The election is scary enough and is leaving many Americans with an uncertain and sick feeling in the pits of their stomachs. When people feel unsettled about things, they also feel fearful and maybe think that arming themselves is the answer. But we know already that more guns have not made us safer,  contrary to what the corporate gun lobby would have you believe.

But, as usual, we are afraid of the wrong things. We should be afraid that just anyone can purchase a firearm with no proof that they are not felons, adjudicated mentally ill, a domestic abuser, a terrorist or someone who should not be able to get a gun. Private gun sellers can sell guns to anyone with no background checks at on-line sites or at gun shows. We have made this possible because our elected leaders are afraid of the corporate gun lobby’s influence on their own election or re-election and so they listen to those who do not represent that majority of us who want background checks on all gun sales. 

Women should be especially afraid that their abusers can still get their hands on guns even after they have been deemed to be prohibited purchasers. This article by The Trace shows how easy that is:

This scenario is not unusual. Under federal law, anyone convicted of domestic violence or subject to a domestic violence protective order is prohibited from possessing a gun. But abusers are often able to buy a firearm anyway, or are allowed to keep one they already own, and they end up using it to shoot a wife, girlfriend, or other intimate partner.

So how is it that known abusers, convicted of a crime or subject to a restraining order, come to have a firearm in their possession? Often, they are able to exploit gaps in the federal background check system or in state laws designed to remove firearms from abusers’ homes. Here are seven ways that commonly happens.

Read the seven ways and then know why our laws need to change.

Scary.

This sad story of a young Colorado man with severe mental illness who shot people up last Halloween is an example of why we need laws  (like this California law) that will allow family members to report someone who could be dangerous to him/herself or others allowing for guns to be removed.

Four years ago, the parents of Japanese exchange student, Yoshihiro Hattori, shot and killed when he went to the wrong house for a Halloween party, urged Americans to pass stronger gun laws:

The heartbreak led Yoshihiro’s parents to lobby for a change in US gun laws. They collected nearly 2 million Japanese signatures calling for tighter gun control, and personally handed them over to then President Bill Clinton. They donated compensation from their civil trial to anti-gun groups, and continue to support their efforts from afar.

Yet, on a recent trip back to Baton Rouge, Mieko Hattori said she was shocked to learn more than two dozen states had enacted “Stand your ground” laws that expand a person’s right to self-defense.

Twenty-four years after this tragic shooting, we are still in the same place we were that Halloween of 1992.

The clowns of the corporate gun lobby are still scaring American elected leaders into being afraid to enact the laws that could save lives.

#Enough.

This year, the shootings have already begun:

2 shot and killed at a New York Halloween party.

It’s scary enough out there with the election in its’ last week before we elect a new President. But if you want to be more scared, read journalist Benjy Sarlin ‘s piece about Donald Trump’s violent and vengeful rhetoric:

It has also expressed itself at Trump’s rallies, where supporters have reflected the candidate’s harsh tone.

“We’re all Second Amendment pros, we want our country back like he just said, and she’s not going to give it to us,” a Trump voter, Tammy Wilson, said at a Florida rally this month after predicting people would “rise up” if Trump loses.

The Trump campaign did not respond to requests for comment for this story. With Trump’s language heating up in the final days and his list of enemies growing fast, some civil rights groups and law enforcement officials are raising fears that things could get out of hand.

“We are concerned about the possibility of violence on Election Day and afterwards,” Heidi Beirich of the Southern Poverty Law Center told NBC News. (…)

Twice Trump has made jokes that seem to float the notion of Clinton being assassinated. In August he suggested “Second Amendment people” could prevent her from filling a Supreme Court seat. It was widely perceived as a reference to violence, although the campaign denied that was his intent. In September, he said Clinton’s bodyguards should disarm and then “see what happens to her.”

Trump has also shown unprecedented tolerance for supporters who engage in more overt threats. He enthusiastically defended the character of an adviser, Al Baldasaro, after he repeatedly said Clinton “should be shot by a firing squad,” even after his campaign distanced itself from the remarks.

And more from this article should have us all concerned this Halloween and on election day and beyond:

This fear is especially pronounced because Trump has cast such a wide net in picking targets, and they often have a racial, ethnic, or religious component. He’s regularly made false claims about American Muslims celebrating terrorism or refusing to turn in an attacker and warned that “other communities” — almost invariably cities with large minority populations — are out to steal the election. Recently, Trump told Fox News “illegal immigrants are voting all over the country.”

“What happens on Nov. 9 is anyone’s guess, but some of these trend lines of mainstreaming and broadening bigotry and incidents of violence and hints of a dark conspiracy are very concerning,” Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, said in an interview.

The clownish and dangerous behavior and rhetoric of a major party candidate for President of the United States is no Halloween joke. It’s for real and it’s frightening. He has convinced some of his supporters that violence just may be the solution to his falsified and perceived paranoia about election results.

We are better than this.

My suggestions? Pass a law to require Brady background checks on all gun sales.Don’t dress as a clown on Halloween. Don’t carry your gun around on Halloween. Don’t mistake a fake clown for a real clown. Use your common sense and stay safe.

 

Halloween frights, elections and violence

skullHalloween is upon us. And it’s scary out there. In a few days, kids will be going door to door and hoping for lots of candy in their bags. Older kids like to scare people with their costumes and haunted houses and other haunted things are scaring people. This “older kid” was asked to remove his mask of a face with President Obama with a noose around his neck.He was attending a football game at the University of Wisconsin. Not funny. Scary and intimidating. We know what he meant.

Last night we were at a movie theater which is near a haunted ore boat that dresses up every year with all kinds of haunting music and displays of “brains”, “eyeballs” and other such scares inside. It is very popular with residents and visitors alike.

I am not so scared of things like that though I don’t particularly enjoy these kind of displays. I’m afraid of some of my fellow Americans. It’s just not funny or clever when hateful people display inappropriate halloween displays that mean something other than they look. Or maybe they do look exactly as intended.  A Florida resident got himself into some trouble by hanging 2 dummies from a tree:

There needs to be a hell of a lot of hate in your heart to think lynching people on Halloween is funny. And yet, here we are, Miami. A homeowner in Three Lakes, a small community in suburban Kendall, is celebrating the holiday by lynching two black-looking dummies in his or her yard. It’s also impossible to ignore what’s just in front of the display on the same lawn: A “Trump/Pence 2016” sign.

The Trump sign just seems to go with the display doesn’t it? Donald Trump is one scary man whose frightening rhetoric has reduced our election to its’ lowest point in decades.

I think it’s safe to say that this has been one of the craziest and mind blowing elections in modern memory. With 10 days to go, “bombs” are exploding all over the place with misinformation and total melt-down of some in the media and most on the Republican side of the aisle over a report issued by FBI Director James Comey.  Reasonable people can argue about this but there are also facts. The scary thing is that Trump and his GOP buddies are distorting it out of all proportion and as we learn more we learn how wrong they have been. It’s downright scary that a lie can travel this quickly and that this late election cycle report happened in the first place.

But there are a lot more scary things going on this election season.

Trump says the election will be rigged with no evidence to support the allegations. This has led to some of his supporters believing they can resort to violence if their candidate doesn’t win. Or, as an aside, actual voter fraud by Trump supporters. An Iowa Republican voter tried to vote twice, fearing that her first vote would not be counted. She was arrested for fraud. Now that is a rigged election.

But back to the potential for violence in this election. Some Americans are talking about taking up arms on election day and the day after they will start the revolution. And with so many militia and other hate groups already formed, that is certainly a possibility.

Americans in general are heavily armed with some owning arsenals:

Overall, Americans own an estimated 265 million guns – more than one gun for every American adult, according to the study by researchers at Harvard and Northeastern universities. Half of those guns – 133 million – were in the hands of just 3% of American adults, so-called “super owners” who possessed an average of 17 guns each, it showed.

It is not difficult to imagine that those with hyped up fear of their own government are ready to fight against it or start a revolution when they don’t believe in the results of a democratic election. The corporate gun lobby has promoted this kind of fear and paranoia for years. And, militia groups and hate groups are at an all time high.

 

Former Illinois Representative Joe Walsh, not known for his subtlety or  common sense, said this past week that he would be taking up his musket the day after the election if Hillary Clinton wins. He tried to excuse his hyperbolic and threatening comments by saying this:

The former Illinois congressman said he’s used the phrase “grab your musket” multiple times over the past several years but never meant that Donald Trump supporters should literally reach for their firearms.
“If I wanted people to take up arms, why would I recommend people take up an antique like a musket?” Walsh asked. “That’s just silly.”
We know what he meant. It was a not so subtle suggestion that he would take up arms and that he wanted others to do the same. There are no excuses for this kind of talk during an election. I wonder how closely he will be watched by law enforcement authorities? I’m just saying.

I’m pretty sure this kind of public talk about violence and taking up arms during and after a democratic American election is not a first but its’ frequency and boldness is. And it has never been promoted by a major party candidate for President before. But Trump is no ordinary candidate.

Which came first, Donald Trump’s paranoid and frightening rhetoric or the rhetoric of his supporters, some of them white supremacists and racists?   What we are now seeing is encouragement of these types of groups and sentiments rising to the surface. It’s an ugly side of America that has the rest of the world worried. Other countries have seen the result of these kind of dangerous despots and “patriots”.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, militia and insurrectionist groups are on the rise. Check out the hate map on their site. 894 hate groups are living amongst us. Just last week I came across this article about a group of folks fomenting fear and possible violence in my own state of Minnesota:

“Are you prepared?” Guandolo called out. “Are you prepared for the two or three dozen jihadis in, pick a city in Minnesota, with mortars or shoulder-fired rockets? You don’t think they can get those in the United States?”

North and central Minnesota have become fertile ground for traveling speakers who have built national careers spreading alarm about the danger they say Islam poses inside U.S. borders. At dozens of rural churches and schools, speakers have warned crowds about refugees and called on them to be prepared to oppose Muslims in Minnesota. This comes at a time of mounting political tension over immigration ahead of the contentious presidential election.

Thanks to Donald Trump, the anti-Muslim fear has risen to the surface and been exaggerated to the point of possible violence.  And more, from the article:

“Islam is not a religion,” he said, highlighting one of his frequent talking points. “It’s a savage cult. Therefore, it is unconstitutional for a Muslim to practice Islam in America.”

Dakdok argues for the mass deportation of Muslims from the United States. He wears a Donald Trump pin on his suit jacket. He warns of the end times.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, Guandolo often works with ACT!, which they call the largest grassroots anti-Muslim group in America.

Dakdok holds the bulk of his Minnesota events in small northern towns — places with few, if any Muslims. So does Guandolo, and he said that’s intentional. The Twin Cities, he told the Warroad crowd, are overrun with Muslims.

Where is common sense? Why do Americans believe such hyperbole and fear? Without proselytizers like Trump and Dakdok, this would not bubble to the surface but be held at bey by those with integrity and the best interests of our democracy in their hearts and minds. But when hatred and venom against and fear of someone who could become the first  woman President in a free and fair election take over hearts and minds, this is what some believe is justified. From the linked article by above: by Bill Moyers:

A Democrat running for president is going to be smeared by the Republicans. This goes without saying. But a Democratic woman running for president gets extra layers of smear, though the smear required new material to work with. Clinton could still be viewedfavorably when she ran for the presidential nomination in 2007-08 — consistent, overall, with how she was viewed during the more than two decades between 1992 and 2014. Benghazi and emails were not yet in the picture. Now, should Clinton get to the White House, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) will be ready: He’s sharpening his pencils and knives, planning “years” of hearings on Clinton depredations. (…)  So much for the traditional political niceties. I suppose it’s remotely possible that a male potential president would be treated this way — but none has been. Ever.

Moyers is right. No male candidate has been treated to the abuse that Hillary Clinton has endured. President Obama was certainly treated to racism and a fear of our first Black President in addition to the decision by Republican leadership to refuse to work with him. We will look back on this time period in our history and hang our heads in shame.

Its no secret that I am a supporter of Hillary Clinton. I agree with her policy statements and her embrace of the gun violence issue to represent the majority of Americans who want stronger gun laws. I find what is happening now about Wikileaks and James Comey’s letter to Congress to be frightening for our democracy. This Washington Post article gets to the core of why the email “scandal” should be an eye opener to all of us and not because of anything Hillary did wrong but because of an invasion of privacy that could affect all of us. From the article:

A question we need to ask is why the leaked emails have been embraced as acceptable contributions to public discourse, rather than shunned as stolen property, and what this means for how we think about politics and privacy. Richard Nixon faced impeachment as a result of his coverup of the Watergate break-in, a parallel attempt to steal private communications from an opponent’s campaign. Somehow, a physical break-in sparks visceral repugnance in a way that hacking into computer accounts does not. That should give us all pause, because it is a testament to a frightening new reality: That communication technology has steadily amplified the breakdown in the line between public and private. Without a zone of privacy in which we can talk freely to those who are close to us, no one is safe. That’s the sense in which WikiLeaks is a threat not only to the presidential campaign of a particular candidate, but to us all.

I get this one. My computer has been hacked and there are people in the gun rights community who hate what I write and stand for. Some years ago, one of them threatened to post my home address. Someone tried to take over my blog as well. And I have been on the receiving end of some not so subtle comments intimating violence and threats. Many people working on gun violence prevention have had this experience. Why? Take a guess. This kind of invasion of privacy and intimidation is scary. There are actual trolls out there waiting to do harm and not just on Halloween.

Social media has made all of this even scarier. There are obvious benefits to the use of social media and email to organize people and voters. But when it is used to intimidate and interfere with free and fair elections, that is scary.

And speaking of scary, some elementary school polling places have canceled classes on election day because of fear of violence and whatever the far right element of our country have in mind for the day. Our kids and teachers should not have to be scared on election day. That is for third world un-democratized countries.

And speaking of third world countries, some Americans have given notice that the revolution will begin if the vastly under qualified Donald Trump does not win. You can’t make this stuff up. But here, from the above linked article:

Jared Halbrook, 25, of Green Bay, Wis., said that if Mr. Trump lost to Hillary Clinton, which he worried would happen through a stolen election, it could lead to “another Revolutionary War.”

“People are going to march on the capitols,” said Mr. Halbrook, who works at a call center. “They’re going to do whatever needs to be done to get her out of office, because she does not belong there.”

“If push comes to shove,” he added, and Mrs. Clinton “has to go by any means necessary, it will be done.” (…)

 

No question about what Mr. Halbrook means here. These are the guys with the guns talking  big and making threats. Their fear and paranoia, stoked by the NRA and the corporate gun lobby and now their very own candidate Donald Trump, have taken over any reasonable thinking about the issues of the country and what democracy means. It’s frightening stuff at the least.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We are a democracy. Power is passed from one party and one President to another without violence or threats of violence. It has been since the birth of our democracy. What makes the people whose thoughts are so contorted believe that democracy includes this kind of violence? What makes them believe that our democratic election will be rigged causing them to want to overthrow the results? We know the answer to that. Donald Trump. His suggestions about voter intimidation and suppression have now been legally challenged by the Democratic National Committee.  This is not what we do in a democracy. Why do they believe they can get away with this?

Arrogance? Fear? Ignorance? Paranoia? Desperation?

On this Halloween eve, let us all hope for non-violence and common sense. Working together towards peaceful and reasonable solutions is the way to solve our nation’s most pressing problems. We have been treated to some pretty scary tricks during this election season. Violent solutions would be frightening to say the least.

We are better than this.

This election can’t be over soon enough. But even after it is over, I am scared that threats against our first woman President and total obstruction to her agenda will lead to an inability to work together and make our country worse.

I want my country back.

After publishing this post, I ran across this amazing song written by Sara Barreilles and Leslie Odom, Jr. for This American Life. Please watch and listen:

Halloween fear and paranoia

halloween_zombieWas it a coincidence that the writer of this letter that appeared in my home town newspaper was trying to scare everyone into believing the gun lobby’s lame talking points? I am going to share the entire text of this letter below:

There are some people who feel we should ban all guns in America. They feel that when there is an incident when someone goes out and kills people that the gun manufacturers are responsible. They feel the gun manufacturers should be sued for these incidents.

But if you did that, you wouldn’t be holding the individual who killed the people responsible.

Recently, a 25-year-old woman drove her car into a crowd of people, killing four and injuring 48. Are you going to hold the automobile manufacturer responsible for this accident? Here again, you pick and choose who you want to be held accountable.

Those who go out and cause all of these deaths and incidents are the ones who need to be held accountable, not the manufacturers of cars and guns and knives, etc.

People kill people, and it doesn’t matter what they use to do it.

This lame deception is the scary talk coming from, yes, the corporate gun lobby. I would remind my readers that the gun industry are the ones who are immune from most lawsuits, thanks to the corporate gun lobby. No other industry shares such immunity from accountability for faulty products or practices. The NRA and its’ friends in Congress just love to trick people into believing their false arguments.

And when a car’s design or malfunction causes an accident to happen, more often than not, lawsuits are filed and the manufacturer is held responsible. This is what leads to changes in design and practices of the auto industry. That is how the gun industry is different from most others. When lives are lost or injuries are sustained because of faulty design or practices, the public takes notice, legal action happens and changes will lead to lives saved.

The writer is wrong. Congress has picked and chosen who is responsible and they granted immunity to only one- the gun industry.

And when a person purposely drives a car into a crowd of people, killing innocent people, he/she is held accountable unless it was a faulty design of the vehicle. But let’s go further here with the writer’s reasoning. How many times do we read or hear about the accident he used as an example?

Here’s one- people were injured but not killed.

Here is the example the writer chose. Let’s look at what happened here, from the article:

“I opened the door and asked her how she was doing, what happened, felt her neck,” he said. “She just looked at me and said she was trying to kill herself. I said, ‘What?’ And she said, ‘I was trying to kill myself.’ And I asked her why and she said, ‘to be free,’” Oglesby said. (…)

Four people were killed in the crash, and 47 were hurt. One of those who died was two years old. Eleven of the injured were 13 years old or younger. (…)

Immediately after the crash, Chambers was taken into custody for suspicion of driving under the influence.

She now faces four counts of second-degree murder. She made a court appearance Monday, via closed-circuit video, during which bond was set at $1 million.

Chambers’ attorney, Tony Coleman believes that mental illness may have played a role in the crash.

Does any of this sound familiar to you? Much has been made about mental illness as a source for our gun violence problem. It is a deflection about the actual problem which is that when people are severely mentally ill and have access to a gun, bad things happen. The media is replete with way too many examples of this on a regular basis- more regular than the example above. This woman claims to have been suicidal and was under the influence of alcohol. This is a terrible tragedy for all involved.

Let’s now look at how many people actually succeed in killing themselves by bullets when suicidal. The statistics are enough to scare all of us. In 2010, according to this article, over 19,000 people succeeded in committing suicide by gun. More recent data from the Centers for Disease Control show that over 21,000 Americans used firearms to commit suicide. I think we can all agree that suicide by gun takes the lives of exponentially more people than suicide by car.

The same is true with mental illness and alcohol though drunk driving does have a huge toll. In my state of Minnesota alone, drunk driving related deaths took the lives of 1442 people from 2003-2012. This does not include car accident deaths not due to drunk driving of course, which is many more. In approximately that same time period, about 300 ( or more)  gun deaths per year took the lives of Minnesotans leaving us with a toll of about 3150 deaths. 

So do guns kill people? Yes. Do car accidents kill people? Yes. Are cars designed to kill people? No. Are guns designed to kill people? Yes.

What should we be more scared of? Guns or cars? Who should we be more scared of? People with guns or people driving cars? Do more people own cars than own guns? The answer is yes. If the statistics that can be accessed are true, there is about 1 gun per person in the United States but only about 32% of people own these guns.

Guns are lethal weapons that are accountable for 32,000 deaths per year and about 70,000 injuries. Cars, not designed to kill, take the lives of about 33,000 per year. In some states, gun deaths are surpassing automobile accident deaths in young adults.

We have not banned cars as the result of the large number of deaths and injuries caused by automobile accidents. Instead we have reformed the industry and enacted stronger laws. We are not banning guns either. But what we want is the same amount of safety regulations for firearms as we have for automobiles and then we can talk about comparing the two. When firearms are registered like cars and gun owners are licensed like car drivers and the product has safety features designed to reduce injuries and deaths like cars, then we can compare. When we require the same amount of training we require in order to buy a gun as we do for getting a driver’s license, then we can compare the two.

Common sense has prevailed for almost every other cause of death in America. As a country we dig down and try to fix what we know is wrong. Collectively we do care about people dying from natural causes or accidents. That’s who we are. Research is done. Studies are released. We look for causes and effects. We change product design or treatment regimens or try new medications or interventions. That’s who we are.

So why not the same for firearms? We know the answer. The answer is in this letter. The corporate gun lobby is trying to deflect the real problem. It IS guns. People with guns are killing Americans at alarming rates. Bullets from guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them or even people who are law abiding actually do kill people. And those bullets kill more people than any other type of object such as knives, baseball bats or blunt objects. Don’t be tricked into thinking otherwise.

We should be scared. Instead many of our elected leaders are running scared from the gun lobbyists and gun rights extremists.

When victims and survivors are “treated” worse than gun lobbyists, we have a problem. But we will not be tricked any more. Our politicians should not be tricked either. Our mission will be to make sure they are not.

We can better than this. When Mothers Against Drunk Driving was formed, things happened. Our country responded by making changes to our drunk driving laws and over time, campaigns were launched to make sure there was a designated driver when groups were at parties or bars where alcohol is served. Culture change came with law changes or the other way around. Why? Because we decided as a country that we couldn’t tolerate the senseless deaths due to drunk driving.

Mothers speak truth to power on many issues, including the gun issue. The Million Mom March has resulted in women and others all over the country pushing for gun safety reform. The newly formed Moms Demand Action for Gunsense is doing the same as is Moms Rising. There are other groups started by women as well that are making a difference. Since we represent millions and the majority who want stronger gun laws, our voices will be heard. We have had #enough of the excuses espoused by this letter writer and the minority of Americans who fight any and all gun safety reform measures using their lame arguments and excuses.

The letter writer would like us to do nothing because his claim that guns don’t kill people is an excuse for doing nothing. That is not how this works or how it should work. It’s time for that to change and change is coming. This man can try to use fear and paranoia as a tactic to scare Americans into buying guns to protect themselves from zombies and other “scary”people out there. But he only needs to look at reality to know that it is not those scary zombies or “the other” killing people with guns. It’s us. It’s toddlers accessing guns they shouldn’t be able to access. It’s teens accessing guns to kill themselves. It’s older men shooting themselves with the guns they own. It’s stray bullets that are discharged by guns that the owner didn’t shoot intentionally or when it drops out of a purse or a pants pocket.

Yes, guns kill people.

On that note- I wish my readers a Happy and safe, gun death free Halloween.