It’s exhausting

heavyloadI don't know about you but I have been left mentally exhausted by the political events of this past week. My mind has been scattered and I can't seem to concentrate on much aside from the Trump reality show playing out every day. It's like a soap opera. One must tune in to see the next episode and watch the drama unfold. We have a "drama queen" as  a President. He loves the spotlight and the attention and he demands loyalty and idiotic  support of an agenda that in the mind of many of us is becoming more and more frightening as he digs in and circles the fire. Just now, our very own President lied again about what happened when Obama was President- guns would be taken away. I think he meant Clinton but anyway- he lied and said your guns would be gone.

And two days ago, a new Communications Director at the White House (Anthony Scaramucci) who is actually not yet able to be paid for his new job because he has to sell off his multi-million dollar business, let loose with a tirade of ugliness and profanity that sent a chill into the political air. And, by the way, Scaramucci is actually firing people even though he is not officially on the job. You just can't make this stuff up.

It's exhausting to listen to all of those lies and offensive rhetoric.

So relief is the feeling of today. Also some celebrating that when people organize and get involved and demand change or resist terrible votes on terrible bills, democracy wins.

It's a heavy lift to make sure Americans have access and get affordable health care. It's an exhausting process. But it needs to happen.

It's a heavy lift to get measures to prevent and reduce gun violence in place as well.

As always, many Americans have died from gunshot injuries during this week of health care debate and other debacles- most of them avoidable. In fact at 90 a day, about 630 Americans have died from gunshot injuries since last Friday. That's exhausting.

What appears to be a domestic murder/suicide in Winona, Minnesota led to the death of two young people.  Guns are dangerous. When a gun is available things like this happen on a regular basis. There is no sense to it but it's the American gun culture gone wrong.

Also in Minnesota this week, another small child got access to a loaded gun and shot and injured another child. This is avoidable and senseless. A mother was arrested because every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. From the article:

A 21-year-old woman was arrested in St. Paul’s Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood Tuesday evening after a child apparently found a gun in her purse and shot a 4-year-old girl in the leg.

The girl was taken to Regions Hospital with a nonlife threatening gunshot wound to her left leg, said Sgt. Mike Ernster, a police spokesman.

No guns in purses. Period. This is not the first time as we remember the awful incident where a young Idaho child found his mother's gun in her purse and shot and killed her. 

It's exhausting.

Speaking of access to guns by young children and the health care system, here is a new campaign from States United to prevent gun violence in partnership with the Brady Campaign's ASK campaign. Check it out.

Yes, there is a lot of blood. Bullets kill. They do a lot of damage once entering a human body. That is why they are so much more deadly than other weapons. What happens when a bullet goes through the skin and muscle is usually only seen by health care providers, law enforcement, and coroners. It's not pretty. Perhaps if more people became aware of the actual damage to human organs from the bullets they shoot out of their guns intentionally or unintentionally, they would stop thinking  of guns as just tools. They are tools of destruction and death. There really is no way around that.

So a Kentucky  photographer decided to record the damage done by bullets to make it graphic and use it as art. For art imitates life and in the case of shootings, it's powerful stuff. The photographer got more interested in the actual victims of shootings as he proceeded with his project and started memorializing victims in an interesting way through graphs. From The Trace article:

“Murder statistics can become abstract,” he said. “This is a way to remember the victims. In the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, gun violence was massive, but then it returned to ‘normal’ levels, and it seems like we don’t think about it anymore.” With HAIL, he hopes to make the consequences of gun fire are harder to forget.

It is impossible to forget the consequences if you have lost a loved one to gun violence. Survivors of gun injuries never forget the impact of a bullet and the damage done leaving many of them forever disabled. Rep. Gabby Giffords is just one high profile walking example of the destruction of bullets. James Brady, now dead from the decades long effects of his gunshot injuries after being shot by a man who tried to assassinate President Reagan is another. They are the walking wounded, or in many cases, they can't walk any more.

Bullets do a lot of damage. The results of shootings cause grief, pain, devastation and costs to Americans. Victims and survivors undergo medical services for their injuries and recovery and often forever. Mental health services help family members with how to live on after a heinous shooting. Court costs are also costs to tax payers.

Health care, gun violence, economic, political, elections, non-profits, and many other issues and problems come together and are in need of solutions. Unlike the health care bill debacle brought to us by a President, Senators and Representatives who had only their own win and ideology behind their bills, there are common sense solutions. But like the health care debacle, it has become so political and divisive that solutions seem to be far off.

It doesn't have to be this way. If we are all about doing what's best for all of us to keep us healthy, safe, having enough money to feed and clothe our families, educating our children and young adults, providing jobs with living wages, taking care of our environment to preserve it for our children and grandchildren, then we will do the right thing.

Everyone wants to be safe from gun violence. We are not all safe. Everyone needs and wants good affordable health care. The ACA was a start but needs fixing, not repealing and replacing. Everyone wants a good job that has benefits and can provide for their families. Everyone wants their kids to be well educated. Everyone wants to retire gracefully and with dignity.

This is a time to reflect on where we have gone awry on so many issues and concerns. We are lurching towards a country that is not a democracy. We are living with a man at the helm who cares more about his own ego and image than he does about the people he represents. The ugliness, the language, the accusations, the verbal attacks, the tone deafness when speaking to a group of young boys, the angry tweeting, the attacks against the GLBTQ community, the attacks on minorities and immigrants, the taking apart of regular order, the destruction of the office of the Presidency, the violent and threatening rhetoric, the ignorance, the lying, the lack of attention to our national security, the lack of resolve to stop a foreign country from interfering with our elections, the blaming of others for one's own faults and shortcomings, the lack of accountability and more are becoming more frightening.

We need to take our country back. We need to stop the violence. We need to stop the threats and the vulgar public language. We need to feel safe in our own communities. We need to hold our leaders accountable for their mistakes and their ignorance.

It's exhausting to wake up to chaos every day. If that is the plan, it's working. If not, it's unacceptable and should stop before we go off the cliff.

It doesn't have to be this way. We don't need to be exhausted every day.

We can do something positive. For example, in Minnesota law enforcement is working with gun sellers and gun owners to make sure guns are safely stored against stealing. This seminar reinforced Minnesota's stringent storage laws for licensed dealers. There should be the same for home gun owners but so far, there is not. There could be.

Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek opened the seminar with remarks that charted a link between a recent uptick in violent crime and firearms hitting the streets from thefts or straw purchases, in which a stand-in buys a firearm for someone who’s been banned from making such a purchase.

“I’m asking you, I’m pleading with you,” Stanek told the firearms dealers, “when you go home at night, lock up those firearms.”

Usset expressed skepticism that large sellers would have the time every evening to lock away each of their long guns.

But he said he’s been securing his handguns before going home each evening since burglary 22 years ago.

“Because when they break in that’s what they’re after,” he said.

If it means saving lives, is it too much to ask to lock up ALL guns? Seems like a good idea to me.

Gun violence is also exhausting to the families, the victims and the survivors. Working to end gun violence is also exhausting. But there are courageous people who continue the fight no matter what because they don't want a lost life to lead to despair. Instead, they are working towards hope and a solution to our nation's public health epidemic.

Watch this story told by one of the survivors of the Pulse Nightclub shooting. 

Angel's need for health care is great after he was shot and injured. Without health care, how do the victims get the care they need? Why would we deny them coverage? They are victims of senseless shootings and a gun culture gone wrong. America has more mass shootings and everyday shootings than any other democratized country not at war. We also have among the worst guaranteed affordable health care of almost all of those democratized countries.

Health care is a right. Being safe from gun violence is a right.

It's exhausting but, nevertheless, we will persist.

Good news about gun reform and gun policy

Good news red stamp
Good news red stamp

Since I have been doing the work I do with gun violence prevention over the last 15 years, I have seen support for expanded background checks and other reasonable gun laws remain strong and almost unchanged. The latest Pew Research Center poll shows that the majority of Americans on all sides of the issue and political persuasion continue to support measures they know will reduce shootings and gun violence:

Two years after the failure of Senate legislation to expand background checks on gun purchases, the public continues to overwhelmingly support making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks. Currently, 85% of Americans – including large majorities of Democrats (88%) and Republicans (79%) – favor expanded background checks, little changed from May 2013 (81%). (…)

Nearly eight-in-ten (79%) favor laws to prevent people with mental illness from purchasing guns, 70% back the creation of a federal database to track all gun sales, while a smaller majority (57%) supports a ban on assault-style weapons.

Almost identical shares of Republicans (81%) and Democrats (79%) support laws to prevent the mentally ill from buying guns. But other proposals are more divisive: 85% of Democrats favor creation of a database for the federal government to track gun sales, compared with 55% of Republicans. And while 70% of Democrats back an assault-weapons ban, only about half of Republicans (48%) favor this proposal. (…)

While there is broad support for several specific gun policy proposals – and opinion on these measures has not changed significantly since 2013 – the public continues to be more evenly divided in fundamental attitudes about whether it is more important to control gun ownership or to protect the right of Americans to own guns.

Currently, 50% say it is more important to control gun ownership, while 47% say it is more important to protect the right of Americans to own guns.

Let’s be clear. Our politicians are not listening to the majority because too many of them are in the deep pockets of the corporate gun lobby. The influence of a minority has a hold on policies that could save lives. The right of Americans to own guns will not be affected by expanded background checks. Only Americans who should not have guns in the first place will be affected by such a law. In states and in countries that have strong gun laws, fewer people are dying from gunshot injuries. There is unmistakable evidence that this is true.

But the gun lobby doesn’t like evidence or research because it mostly does not come down on their side of this hyperbolic and controversial issue. Never mind the gun lobby. Research is happening anyway and there is nothing they can do to stop it when it comes from a place they can’t control or de-fund.

The gun lobby would love the American public to believe that they are having a lot of success and the rest of us aren’t. Some pretty big wins have come on the side of gun safety reform. Laws to keep guns from domestic abusers have now passed in 18 states since 2013. Other gun safety reform bills are highlighted at the link above from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. According to the Law Center, 18 states have passed some form of background checks for private gun sales. Expanded background check laws were recently passed in Oregon and Washington state with others in the works.

Another bit of good news about gun laws and research comes from the city of Seattle where a law was passed to tax ammunition and weapons sales with the proceeds to go to research about gun violence and prevention. This article from The Trace goes into more detail. From the article:

e Seattle City Council voted Monday to tax firearm and ammunition sales to fund research and prevention programs aimed at gun violence reduction. One initiative that local officials say the sales tax could fund is an “intervention” program under development at the city’s Harborview Medical Center, where patients admitted for gunshot wounds are far more likely to be rehospitalized for another gun injury, commit a crime, or end up murdered, according to a 2014 study by the hospital.

While many public health experts have singled out trauma wards as places to intervene in the cycle of urban violence, the proposed Harborview model borrows heavily from methods generally used in areas other than gun violence prevention. For instance, instead of losing contact with patients once they leave the hospital, as is normally the case, trauma center physicians and social workers would stay in communication with victims of gun violence, mimicking treatment services for those dealing with alcohol or substance abuse. The program was developed by University of Washington academics and physicians in 2014, and is expected to launch later this year.

It is worth studying to see if this kind of model could be duplicated in other hospitals in large urban areas where many young people with gunshot injuries are treated. If lives can be saved and we can reduce the financial, emotional and physical costs to gun violence as a result, it is a win-win. More from the article:

Although both alcohol abuse and gun violence are examples of risky, dangerous behaviors, the social workers and physicians at Harborview acknowledge there is no evidence the hospital’s approach will work. There is no research that shows substance-abuse treatment methods can be effective when applied to gun violence victims, and ultimately reduce violent crime. Harborview will produce a study of its work, which will be the first of its kind.

“It’s important to note that we want to test this,” Haggerty says. “We’re not assuming that just because [substance-abuse treatment programs] are strong models that they’ll be effective in this case.”

The 2004 study of Youth ALIVE! and Caught in the Crossfire revealed some limitations to hospital-based counseling as a means of limiting gun violence. While arrests declined dramatically for those young people in the program, researchers found they were no less likely to be reinjured.

How will Harborview know if it works?

Much the same way it judged the success of its alcohol-intervention initiative: If the people receiving the treatment show a decline in frequency of hospitalization, arrest, or death. Caseworkers will also rely on participants to report on their health and mental status along with whether they avoid guns after receiving services.

Research and studies are important tools to be used for the benefit of all. Gun violence is a public health issue and ought to be studied just like other issues related to public health such as smoking, or drunk driving or alcohol abuse. Health care providers are interested in the social determinants that affect the health of patients. Shootings and gun violence interfere with healthy communities and citizens.

California is getting things done with gun safety reform as well. The city of Los Angeles just passed a law banning high capacity magazine sales:

“People who want to defend their families don’t need a 100-round drum magazine and an automatic weapon to do it,” said Krekorian, who championed the ban at a rally Tuesday outside City Hall. But if someone wanted to do harm, Krekorian added, “imagine what a gunman on this sidewalk could do with that kind of firepower with a crowd like this.”

Los Angeles lawmakers first sought to draft such rules more than two years ago. Survivors of gun violence lamented that it had taken so long for the council to press forward with the ban and urged lawmakers to act. Among them were Ruett and Rhonda Foster, whose 7-year-old son, Evan, was killed 18 years ago when a gunman fired scores of bullets at a local park, peppering their car with more than a dozen shots.

If their attacker could not fire so many bullets before reloading, “Evan might still be here today,” Ruett Foster told the council on Tuesday.

Naturally the gun lobby objects and threatened to sue over the law. They don’t like the laws on the books when they are not the laws they didn’t get to write and therefore influence the decisions made by the lawmakers. But in California, the gun lobby doesn’t have the influence it has in other states. More from the article:

The Los Angeles ordinance is modeled on rules adopted in San Francisco and Sunnyvale that have so far survived legal challenges. Leftwich, from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, assured the council it was on “firm legal ground.” But Barvir, whose firm represents gun rights groups, said the legal battles are not over and clients are considering litigation over the L.A. rules.

Another article from The Trace wrote about why California is so successful at getting common sense gun laws passed. From the article:

California has long been proactive — or, perhaps more accurately, swiftly reactive — in its responses to headline-generating acts of gun violence. “Our Sandy Hook event, if you will, was the Stockton School Yard shooting in 1989,” says Amanda Wilcox, legislation and policy chair for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence’s California chapters. The shooting, which left five dead at an elementary school, spurred a host of legislative activity, according to Wilcox. Today, the state has universal background checks for all gun purchases (including those at gun shows), a 10-day waiting period for purchases, and an assault weapons ban.

The Golden State has a great deal of leeway to pursue stricter policies, in part because gun-rights organizations like the NRA struggle to project power on the West Coast. Democratic majorities dominate legislatures at the state and local levels, and even California-based gun-rights advocacy groups have difficulty passing legislation. “In California, [gun rights groups] aren’t able to move their own bills,” says Wilcox. Meanwhile, the state is home to a number of large urban centers, which generally favor tighter gun restrictions. “It’s demographics,” says Adam Winkler, a law professor at the University of California Los Angeles. “There’s political leanings, concerns about crime in urban areas, and issues related to very high support for gun control among minority communities.”

These are issues in other states as well but consider the political atmosphere in California- a blue state where we already see that Democrats in general are more supportive of stronger gun laws than Republicans who dominate the politics in red states. It’s no coincidence that California’s rate of gun deaths is smaller than most other states.

So in the midst of a spike of mass shootings and shootings on the increase, we can look to some of this good news and know that resistance to passing common sense gun laws is misguided. We can look to the models of what some cities and states are doing and use those models for passing laws all over the country that will make a difference in saving lives.

This is not gun rights versus gun safety reform. It’s life versus death. It’s reason versus fear and paranoia. It’s fact based decision making and it’s what the majority wants. So let’s get to work and make it happen all over America.