Loopholes

After traveling in Greece, I am recovering from jet lag and getting back to my life. Nothing stopped in the U.S. while I was gone of course. The Mueller report was released with all of the concomitant and expected chaos and controversy. The weather was awful in Minnesota while I was gone. Actually the weather was cool and a bit rainy in Greece for the first part of our trip and our guide explained that the snow capped mountains we saw were very unusual for April in Greece. In a normal year, there is not snow on the mountains in April there. But this was not a normal year.

Clearly it is not a normal year in the U.S. A President and presidency is run amok. The Mueller report revealed that there were enough instances of obstruction of justice to make us all know that this is not normal. And there is no excuse for calling it not normal because what is happening is frightening and dangerous to our democracy. But never mind, the President and his sycophants carry on as if there is nothing to see here even though it is as obvious as a large wart on someone’s nose that we have a serious crisis on our hands.

Speaking of crises- the coverage of the NRA convention, going on as I write, has been amusing and interesting. It reveals an organization also run amok.

From the article:

Turmoil racking the National Rifle Association is threatening to turn the group’s annual convention into outright civil war, as insurgents maneuver to oust Wayne LaPierre, the foremost voice of the American gun rights movement.
The confrontation pits Mr. LaPierre, the organization’s longtime chief executive, against its recently installed president, Oliver L. North, the central figure in the Reagan-era Iran-contra affair, who remains a hero to many on the right.
Behind it is a widening crisis involving a legal battle between the N.R.A. and its most influential contractor, Ackerman McQueen, amid renewed threats from regulators in New York, where the N.R.A. is chartered, to investigate the group’s tax-exempt status. With contributions lagging, the N.R.A. is also facing an increasingly well-financed gun control movement, motivated by a string of mass shootings.

Count me as not sad about this state of affairs. The NRA has stopped common sense gun legislation for way too long for its’ own financial and political purposes. They are not considering the loss of life in increasingly large numbers, spewing hate and paranoia instead of working with us to find solutions to our national gun violence epidemic. It’s time for a reckoning. They have wielded undue influence and money for decades as the bodies pile up. The American public is against what they are doing but some of our lapdog politicians are too afraid to stand up. That is changing though as the U.S House passed several gun laws in the new Congress to keep people who could be dangerous with guns from getting them. The Minnesota House is poised to do the same and other states have passed recent laws to make their residents safe from shootings.

The second amendment is NOT sacrosanct as we are finding out. Laws have passed in spite of the now weakened NRA. The organization has veered off course and they are eating their own. The NRA allegedly took money from the Russians. That is a scandal worth investigating. They have misused their non-profit status over and over again. We all know about the money they take in from gun manufacturers and now, possibly foreign countries.

And meanwhile, during the now controversial and as usual, hateful NRA annual convention, Maria Butina, Russian operative(?) was sentenced to 18 months in prison. She tried to claim she was not a spy. If that is true, pigs will fly. Butina’s job was to get to the Trump campaign via the NRA which the Russians knew could happen. Because of course, the NRA gave more money to Trump’s campaign than has ever been given to any other campaign.

They exploited campaign finance loopholes and now they are getting caught. As is explained in the above article Giffords is taking them on in a lawsuit. It’s about time for accountability:

The worst news for the NRA, however, may be a new lawsuit filed against the Federal Exchange Commission. The FEC is being sued by nonprofit group, Giffords, for failing to uphold financial laws allegedly broken by the NRA.

Back to the second amendment, misusing its’ meaning is ripe for those who are true believers in the hype about an amendment written in the late 1800s when powder guns were the norm. Look, for example, at an article about a Minnesota teen ( 16 years old) who wore a shirt to school displaying the American flag with bullets and handgrenades instead of stars of stripes. Patriotic? NOT. Considering the number of school shootings and lockdowns that our kids must endure, this is plain and simply provocative and meant to be so. From the article:

Valerius said he wore the sweatshirt as a show of support for the Second Amendment, and feels that there should be a “loophole” in the dress code for that type of expression. He wore it to school again Friday.

A loophole? Let’s talk about loopholes that allow anyone, even domestic abusers, teens, felons and those adjudicated mentally ill to purchase any kind of gun they want and then use it to kill people. That is a loophole.

An example of this wonderful loophole in our gun laws is the vigilante extremist who was arrested at the New Mexico border with Mexico for essentially kidnapping asylum seekers. He was a felon with a gun. Where did he get the gun? Easy enough in America. From the article:

Hector Balderas, New Mexico’s attorney general, said federal agents had arrested the leader, Larry Mitchell Hopkins, who had been operating under the alias Johnny Horton Jr. Mr. Balderas said in a statement that Mr. Hopkins was arrested on charges of firearms possession by a felon.

Sigh. Innocent people are terrorized every day by gun extremists. We have our very own home grown terrorists who think they can do anything with their guns and their rights. Only in America.

Trump has been busy encouraging this danger by speaking total falsehoods, fear and paranoia at the NRA convention. It was sickening, actually, to watch and hear but the gun toting crowd loved it. Er, uh, oops- they can’t carry their guns at NRA conventions because……?

Trump also announced during this crazy speech that he would make the world less safe by refusing to sign on to the U.N. Small Arms Treaty which NRA lapdogs in Congress and now the Presidency claim will take away gun rights in America. I like this reasoning from the article quoted from the Protect Minnesota Facebook page because it explains the second amendment and gun rights nonsense so well:

” 1) The NRA, on behalf of gun manufacturers, gets Trump to revoke the small arms trafficking agreement. 2) Arms manufacturers get rich selling guns to gangs in countries like Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. 3) Armed gangs make life unbearable for the citizens in those countries. Thousands are forced to leave and walk across a continent to “safety” in the US. 4) Trump convinces Americans the these asylum-seekers are dangerous criminals. 5) Frightened Americans buy more guns to protect their families. 6) Arms manufacturers get even richer. The NRA has done its job.”

This is the fact checking of his speech which is always necessary because Trump never tells the truth while speaking to his base:

Members of MS-13, a violent street gang, are a tiny fraction of the number of people apprehended while trying to illegally cross the southwestern border.
In the 2019 fiscal year thus far, border officials apprehended more than 360,000 people trying to illegally cross the border. Of those people, 221, or 0.06 percent, were MS-13 members.

(See above statement from Protect Minnesota)

(…) The 2014 Arms Trade Treaty regulates international sales of conventional weapons (like tanks, combat vehicles, warships, missiles and firearms). It does not “surrender American sovereignty” over gun laws to the United Nations or hand enforcement powers over guns to “foreign bureaucrats.”
The United States was a signatory to the treaty, but did not ratify it as 101 other nations have. Mr. Trump withdrew the United States’ signature during his speech.
The treaty aims to establish international norms for regulating arms sales between countries and addressing illegal arms sales. It prohibits selling weapons to nations that are under arms embargoes or will use them to commit genocide, terrorism, war crimes or attacks against civilians. (…) “It has absolutely no effect on U.S. domestic gun laws,” said Daryl G. Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association, which supports the treaty.
Adam Winkler, a Second Amendment expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, agreed and noted that withdrawing the United States as a signatory would have very little impact given that the Senate never ratified the treaty. What Mr. Trump is relinquishing, Mr. Kimball said, is a seat at the international table to set global standards and better enforcement in countries most affected by the illegal arms trade. (…)

You can watch a video of his entrance when someone in the audience throws a cell phone at the President. Thank God no guns are allowed inside of the convention.

Well, back to loophole nonsense. Why would the NRA want to have this woman teaching gun safety to others? She shot an unarmed person and got away with it- another loophole. From the article:

A former Tulsa police officer acquitted in the shooting death of an unarmed man is expected to teach a National Rifle Association course next month.

I want to end with where I began- with our trip to Greece where the origin of the phrase “Molon Labe” began:

Today is the anniversary of the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC), one of the most famous battles in history . King Leonidas of Sparta said the phrase Molon Labe (means “Come and take them” in ancient Greek) to Xerxes I of Persia 2492 years ago when the Persians asked the Spartans to lay down their arms and surrender.

The second amendment apologists have misused this one as well. We visited the site where the battle of Thermopylae took place and where this phrase was used in its’ original context.

The “second amendment” folks claim this phrase for their own purposes which is to let people know that they will resist any attempts to take away their guns or their rights as if that is going to happen. It is yet another loophole in language that has been exploited for political purposes.

The photo shows the famous statue of King Leonidas.

Resisting common sense and any attempts to keep the rest of us safe from danger and shootings by exploiting the meanings of language is disingenuous at the least. They are like the goats ( in photo from my trip taken on the Greek island of Kefalonia) who take risks, follow the ersatz leader and sometimes do dangerous things that could hurt the herd.

Working together works out better in the end for all of us. In Greece and in most other democratized countries, they think the U.S is just crazy when it comes to guns. Our guides told us that in Greece, it is very hard to get a gun of any kind. They are only used for hunting and not much for that , as it turns out. When it comes to semi-automatic assault rifles, they proclaimed their dangerousness and surprise that in America, just about anyone could have one. They don’t believe that guns are necessary for much of anything in Greece and their gun death rate , among the lowest in the world, proves that they have common sense. The ancient Greeks were very wise as are the modern Greeks that we encountered on our trip.

And so it is always instructive to travel for many reasons but getting a perspective on what’s going on at home is useful and mind expanding. We are a country unto our own when it comes to loopholes and gun laws.

A country at unrest

Modern medicine concept: Anxiety on Yellow Brickwall .I have not written for a while due to campaigning for candidates who actually care about saving lives by supporting gun violence prevention efforts. It’s refreshing to know they are out there representing the majority of Americans who agree with common sense.

Today was a day of what appears to be homegrown terrorism that we have not seen for a while in our country. I remember when the DC Snipers terrorized Washington D.C. and the surrounding area. Just a few guns and people were afraid to leave their homes. It was a frightening time. We have had many home grown terrorist attacks in this country using mostly firearms.:

A recent government report shows that from Sept. 12, 2001, to Dec. 31, 2016, there were 85 deadly attacks in the United States by violent extremists.

Most of the attacks were carried out by far-right violent extremists. But more people died during attacks connected with Islamic jihadist extremists.  (…)

Of those 225 deaths:

• 106 individuals were killed by far-right violent extremists in 62 separate incidents;

• 119 individuals were killed by radical Islamist violent extremists in 23 separate incidents;

• The number of people killed in a given year ranged from one to 49. (…)

GAO noted that 41 percent of the deaths caused by a radical Islamist during the reviewed period happened in one incident: the 2016 Orlando nightclub shooting. In June 2016, Omar Mateen, born in the United States to Afghan parents, killed 49 people at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

But today it was pipe bombs sent to the offices or homes of Democrats. Something is terribly wrong with this no matter who was targeted. Republicans are arguing that Congressman Steve Scalise was targeted by a left-wing nut job was just as bad as what happened today.

It’s true. That was a devastating attack on an innocent lawmaker just enjoying a baseball practice with his colleagues. But what good does it do to bring up this comparison? What it feels like to me is that the Republicans are just not willing to deal with the “elephant in the room”.

But now that President Trump has been in office for the better part of two years, we have seen out of control rhetoric coming straight from the mouth of the guy at the top. The President is supposed to be a role model and there to soothe Americans in crises and tamp down dangerous rhetoric. But Trump has no compunctions about intimidating and fomenting fear and potential violence against the media and his “political enemies”.  The examples just keep adding up.

Who is going to speak out against this? Who in the Republican party will call out the dangerous rhetoric coming out of the mouth of their own leader?

The angry mob is the latest insult issued by the President,  trying to make those of us in pussy hats the “bad guys”.  This is purely to get his base riled up and riled up they are. The other day he extolled the virtues of the Montana Congressman who body-slammed a reporter.

The crowd laughed.

For Trump, that was A-O-K.  I can give many other examples but his attacks against the press- ( focusing on CNN)  all except state TV ( oh- er FOX news) is what authoritarian rulers do. Where are we?

CNN President Jeff Zucker responded:

CNN’s President Jeff Zucker blamed President Trump and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders for the series of bomb threats that surfaced on Wednesday.

“There is a total and complete lack of understanding at the White House about the seriousness of their continued attacks on the media,” Mr. Zucker said in a statement.

“The President, and especially the White House Press Secretary, should understand their words matter. Thus far, they have shown no comprehension of that,” he continued.

And as it turns out, Trump’s daughter-in-law signed her name to a campaign email attacking CNN even after the pipe bombs were discovered:

“Here’s what CNN said. What do you say?” the email states. “I have some breaking news for CNN… That is the real America that exists outside of the liberal bubble.”

“It’s time for us to give the media another wake-up call from the American people,” the email continues. “The President needs you to take the Media Accountability Survey to do your part in fighting back against the fake news’ attacks and bias against hardworking Americans.”

The email asks for responses to the survey by 11:59 p.m.

One of the questions is: “Do you trust the mainstream media to put the interests of Americans first?” with the options Yes, No, No Opinion and Other.

While such emails are generally scheduled ahead of time, the campaign would have had the option of canceling in light of Wednesday morning’s events.

I ask you- who is the enemy of the people?

Is there no decency in Trump world?

The press attacks have been drawn into sharp focus when, a Washington Post U. S. resident who was a Saudi citizen, was brutally murdered in istanbul allegedly and most likely by the Saudis at the top. Is it any coincidence that Trump is a good friend to these folks or that his son-in-law has fostered the relationship?

It’s very hard to avoid the obvious here. When the bully-in-chief spouts and encourages violence at his “rallies”, what should we expect? And worse yet, just tonight at a rally in Milwaukee the crowd was getting warmed up by yelling “Lock Her Up” in reference to one of the recipients of the pipe bombs. 

The election is over. President Obama is not the President anymore. Trump is not running against Hillary Clinton any more. CNN is a respected world-wide media company but Trump hates them because they tell the truth about him.

These are scary times. Americans are armed to the hilt and ready to go in case of insurrections. But who will start this? Not the women with pussy hats.

There is a rise in right wing violence in our country. Consider what happened in Charlottesville last year. Isn’t it more than a coincidence that the President actually called himself a Nationalist a few days ago? :

The response to this development from Trump and his apparatchiks has been to spread fantasies about mass immigration of violent, criminal brown people; to demonize Muslims; to cook up nightmares about an exploding crime rate that’s concentrated in cities with large black populations. All these dark forces are contrasted with Real America, the Silent Majority who want to Make It Great Again. During the election, Trump shared disgusting propaganda that radically inflated the prevalence of black-on-white crime. This week, Trump has even combined some of these greatest hits, unleashing the insane lie that there are “unknown Middle Easterners” embedded in a caravan of Central American immigrants and refugees headed for the U.S. southern border.

This rhetoric, we are continually reminded, is effective

These are dangerous times. I now am convinced that Trump could walk out onto 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and his supporters wouldn’t care. 

Please remember that the NRA spent more money to get Trump elected than in previous Presidential elections- $30 million. They understood that this guy would support their dangerous agenda.

Do remember that the NRA’s spokesperson Wayne LaPierre has said that “the guys with the guns make the rules” and on NRA TV, Dana Loesch has issued statements of hate and violence against liberals and the media. This is not your grandfather’s NRA. This is an extremist group.

Do you remember when Alex Jones ( friend of President Trump) made up conspiracy theories claiming that Sandy Hook and all mass shootings didn’t happen but the victims were actors? I do. The families do.

This is more than despicable. It is so disgusting there are hardly words and it adds to the hate and dangerous rhetoric exhibited by some who have loud voices in the media who should be hiding in a basement somewhere. But they have been given voice by the current party in charge because it keeps the base all revved up and ready to vote.

It is just a matter of time before someone is killed because of a political atmosphere filled with hate, paranoia, fear and made-up stories about mobs and caravans ( paid for by Democrats) and people who opposed Judge Kavanaugh’s appointment to the Supreme Court.. 

The country is full of anxiety created by a chaotic President whose M.O. is yelling, blaming, crowing about himself, lying and cheating. Let’s hope the perpetrator of the terror threats is found soon and held responsible. Then we will know what this is all about. With 2 weeks to the election, it is vitally important that this person is caught.

We are better than this.

“Good” grief

Charlie BrownI often use the words “good grief” to describe my anger, frustration, distaste, exasperation, disbelief and any number of other emotions when other words do not suffice.

Charlie Brown, the iconic character in Charles Schultz’s  Peanuts cartoons, which also became television specials, used this term often to express his frustration.

So how do these words find themselves into my post today? How does the funeral of a friend, a summit on gun violence as a public health issue, a hunting accident, an officer’s response to tragedy,  a racist incident at a Minnesota college, a road rage incident, the acquittal of a St. Louis police officer, tabling at a local festival and a gun suicide intersect?

Grief. Anger. Victims. Awe. Inspiration. Organizing. Keeping children safe from gun injuries and death.

Yesterday I attended the funeral of a friend. We met his family at church many years ago and his wife, in particular, became my friend and a member of my church book group. As she always does at funerals, my minister wove his story of love, compassion for his family and community, his humor, his fun loving life style and his courage in the face of his cancer diagnosis into the sermon. He was a volunteer firefighter and a Viet Nam veteran. No one was left without a tissue. We were all touched by his 3 adult daughters telling us about their dad and his 3 sons-in-law reading the verses. There were so many things we hadn’t known about our friend and it took his death for us to find out. He was an avid hunter, fisherman, outdoorsman, volunteer, grandparent to 6, and good man who made his mark on his circle of friends and the community at large. The grief of this family over the loss of a man who died too young will continue through their lives and they will live with the hole left by his death.

Grief is grief no matter how a death happened. With my friend it was cancer. There are many causes of death, of course. Suicides take the lives of way too many Americans and are on the rise in Minnesota. In Minnesota suicides by gun account for about 75% of gun deaths.

One of the topics of the Protect Minnesota 2 day summit I attended last week about gun violence and public health was the prevalence of gun suicides across the country and in Minnesota. There was much discussion about access to loaded guns, discussions about how much mental illness contributes to suicides and about other conditions or behaviors that contribute to suicides and suicides by gun.

An article in the Washington Post written by the wife of a gun suicide victim says it all:

I believe my husband’s decision to end his life two years ago was made seconds before it happened. His fate was sealed only when he reached for one of his guns for the last time. Once the hammer started to fall, that was it.

When our American gun culture doesn’t consider the risks of guns to those who should so clearly not have them, we have a serious public health crisis. Yes, it is a crisis.

I do not oppose the Second Amendment, but we desperately need to start changing the conversation about gun ownership in this country. My husband was a casualty of a jacked-up marketing fable that convinces men, women and children that their castles are unsafe unless they are guarded with guns.

Far more guns kill people in suicides, accidents, mistakes or fits of rage than from an intruder in the night. Families, partners and friends must acknowledge this reality when discussing having guns in the home. We also need politicians to support policies that give families the power they need to save their loved ones.

We can save our loved ones by enacting sensible and common sense measures such as requiring a Brady background check on all gun sales and Gun Violence Protective Orders. In fact, these make so much common sense that the majority of Americans and even gun owners agree. We can prevent at least some of the grief of gun deaths and injuries.

At the Protect Minnesota summit we heard from a panel of survivors, each of whom had lost a loved one to gun violence or had survived a shooting. To say the least, it was powerful and emotional and full of the grief of the survivors. This is why those in the gun violence prevention movement do what we do. We really don’t want others to feel the grief we have all felt.

survivors

There is a lot of grief to go around and some of it is actually in the form of anger. At the Protect Minnesota summit mentioned above there were local and national speakers highlighting ways in which we can reduce and prevent urban gun violence. Much of it was based on the racism associated with shootings in urban areas. And a lot of time was spent on how and why young men of color “need” guns that often end up in the wrong hands or in gun crimes, and worse, gun tragedies.

So when the “shooting” incident reported by a security guard at St. Catherine’s College in St. Paul made the media rounds, it first appeared to be another school shooting. A campus was locked down and law enforcement were called to the scene looking for the perpetrator. As it turned out, the perpetrator was the security guard himself who had irresponsibly brought his own firearm to work and “accidentally” discharged it, shooting himself in the shoulder.  He said he was afraid he would lose his job if he reported the truth and so he fabricated a shooter- of course a young black man wearing a hoodie:

Police arrested Ahlers, 25, on Wednesday, after he told investigators during questioning that he accidentally shot himself with his handgun and lied about it because he feared losing his job, according to St. Paul police. St. Kate’s prohibits people, including security guards, from carrying guns on campus.

St. Kate’s terminated Ahlers on Thursday. University President Becky Roloff said in a statement that the university “strongly condemns racial discrimination, racial stereotyping, and racial profiling of any kind. The statements attributed to the former employee concerning the race of an alleged suspect are deeply troubling and do not reflect our values.”

The man lost his job. A campus was locked down for nothing. Police were involved in an unnecessary search for a black man. And there are no “accidental” shootings. There is irresponsible handling of a deadly weapon however.

A St. Catherine University security guard put African-American men at risk of being hurt or killed during an intense manhunt in St. Paul, after he allegedly falsely accused a black male of shooting him, community leaders said Friday.

There were real implications to what Brent Patrick Ahlers told police, said community activist Robert McClain. He received calls regarding three people stopped by police during the search for the “suspect” Tuesday night, including by officers with guns drawn.

“When they look for someone who they assume is an active shooter, they don’t look in a nice way,” McClain said. “They don’t stop and ask questions in a nice way, so you victimize people who haven’t done a thing.

Good grief.

Law enforcement officers are a part of our communities and there to serve us and protect us from harm. Sometimes that does not work out well and there are plenty of recent incidents of officer involved shootings of young black men gone wrong that have left families and communities grieving. The latest outcry has come in St. Louis where the last two days have seen protests after the acquittal of an officer who shot and killed a black man.

We have a lot of work to do regarding relationships between law enforcement and communities of color. It is understandable that people of color are angry over the acquittals of officers after shootings of black men. This is a uniquely American problem and it is because of all of the guns in our communities. Officers are armed and citizens are armed. It doesn’t work out well and racism plays a part. When everyone is armed, too many people do not feel safe.

But officers are often involved in non-violent support of their communities. A story in the Duluth News Tribune caught my attention this morning. It is written by a female officer who comforted a young girl during the rescue of her father and sister in their drownings in Lake Superior. Officers are often traumatized by tragic incidents and sometimes even leave the force. But this officer chose to write a beautiful story about how she spent hours with a young girl who had lost her father and sister. Thanks goodness for officers like this one and their dedication to their communities and the victims of tragic incidents.

There was a law enforcement panel at the Protect Minnesota summit last week. All participants were caring, dedicated and educated individuals who cared a lot about how gun violence affects their communities and they are working to lessen the impact of gun crimes and gun violence. They all agreed that they saw too many gun suicides and too much urban violence and they want to work with us to solve important problems and lessen the grief that devastates families and communities.

And we know that many officers are themselves victims of shootings when trying to intervene in incidents or in actual ambushes by people who hate officers or have a grudge of some kind.  We have our very own home-grown terrorists. This is yet another element to our gun violence epidemic that we are ignoring at the risk of losing lives.

Good grief.

The grief that comes with a violent and sudden death never goes away. Another story in the Duluth News Tribune this morning was so poignant and difficult but I am grateful for the man who told his story of grief over an accidental shooting that took the life of his son while hunting decades ago:

He allowed Mark to move ahead a few steps. Just then, a grouse flushed along the trail.

“When a grouse flushes, your instinct is to be quick,” Kern said.

He was. He shouldered his shotgun and swung on the fleeing bird. In that split-second, he wasn’t aware that Mark had moved directly into the path of his shot.

“I shot him right in the back of the head,” Kern said. “Killed him instantly.”

He speaks openly about that day, not without showing some emotion. He shares his story with others from time to time. He hopes it might serve as a powerful reminder to other hunters about the importance of safe gun handling, about being aware of where one’s hunting partners are, about understanding the finality of an ill-advised shot.

…”the finality of an ill-advised shot.” Bullets are often final.

Hunting season is happening right now in Minnesota. Every year we hear of hunting accidents involving guns and too often it is one family member or a friend shooting another family member or friend. The guilt and pain that comes with that must be unimaginable. But this man goes on with his life as best he can and lives forever with his grief. More from the linked story:

Over the years, Kern has regained his inner strength and a sense of who he is. He believes strongly that each of us has “a force” within. A kind of energy. A spirit.

He cannot, of course, forget what happened on that long-ago September day. He doesn’t try to bury the memory. He fully acknowledges the reality of what he did.

“This happened to me,” he says.

The loss of a child is too painful to consider but it has happened to members of my family and to friends. Most have thankfully not been due to gun deaths. Yesterday my chapter set up a table at a local event to educated the public about how they can reduce the chances that a child will be “accidentally” shot in the home of friends. The ASK campaign encourages parents and gives them the language to ask that awkward question. Most gun owning families actually think this is a good idea and if they are storing their guns unloaded and secured, they can avoid the awful tragedy of an “accidental” shooting. It was ( and is) well received and allowed us to have many great conversations with parents and others about the risks of unsecured guns and other issues related to guns and gun violence.  ASK

Every day in America about 7 children a day die from gunshot injuries. Some survive and survive with lifetime physical and emotional injuries and PTSD. (PTSD was a topic of discussion also at the Northstar conference on gun violence and public health.) A road rage shooting that is now being reported in the media has left one innocent little boy with terrible head injuries but hopefully not with long term disabilities related to the shooting. The article is titled: ” Children Under Fire”.

Good grief.

How can this be a title for a story? It can be because in America, people carry guns around with them in their cars. And stupidly and tragically, they shoot other people when they get angry over their driving.  From the article:

“Stop!” Hill screamed, turning to check on her son, who, just before midnight on Aug. 6, had become one of the nearly two dozen children shot — intentionally, accidentally or randomly — every day in the United States. What follows almost all of those incidents are frantic efforts to save the lives of kids wounded in homes and schools, on street corners and playgrounds, at movie theaters and shopping centers.

Good grief.

(…) On average, 23 children were shot each day in the United States in 2015, according to a Post review of the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. That’s at least one bullet striking a growing body every 63 minutes.

In total, an estimated 8,400 children were hit, and more died — 1,458 — than in any year since at least 2010. That death toll exceeds the entire number of U.S. military fatalities in Afghanistan this decade.

Many incidents, though, never become public because they happen in small towns or the injuries aren’t deemed newsworthy or the triggers are pulled by teens committing suicide.

Caring for children wounded by gunfire comes with a substantial price tag. Ted Miller, an economist who has studied the topic for nearly 30 years, estimated that the medical and mental health costs for just the 2015 victims will exceed $290 million.

Good grief.

There is nothing good about grief. In America, the grief of families because of gun violence is remarkable, avoidable, preventable, and a national public health epidemic. We can do something about all of this but a minority of gun extremists and the corporate gun lobby get in the way of common sense. I wonder if they read about these incidents or have experienced the grief associated with gun deaths? I don’t wish it on anyone but stories must be told in order to make change.

In this post I have told quite a few stories. They involve victims, law enforcement officers, survivors, the grief experienced by the family of my friend, children, communities and families.

And I haven’t even touched on domestic shootings like the one that took my sister’s life. But they, too, happen every day. More grief.

Domestic Violence Awareness Month is October– soon. I will write more then.

We are better than this.

Not rocket science

rocketscientist_01So where were we? Oh yes, talking about why it’s a myth that more guns make us safer.

It’s difficult to discern and predict who may become dangerous with a gun. I know that from personal experience. But there does come a point where we ought to err on the side of preventing a potential tragedy.

There really are some people who should not have guns. One would think that would be a no-brainer and an area of agreement. One would be right. Even NRA members- 74% of them or so- believe that all gun sales should have Brady background checks to keep guns out of the hands of people who could be dangerous with them or who have abused them in the past, committed a felony, abused a partner, spent time in a mental institution, a fugitive from justice, or a teen-ager.

So who opposes such a reasonable measure? The corporate gun lobby of course. Their reasons? A lie.

Not selling guns to prohibited individuals is really a good idea for the public safety and health of our citizens. But sell them we do. Private sellers can set up tables at gun shows and flea markets or sell guns through on-line sites like Armslist.com And they can sell their guns to anyone they want to without asking them for ID or requiring a background check. Whenever this comes up the gun lobby insists that having private sellers do the same background checks that federally licensed dealers have been doing now for 23 years now ( enactment of the Brady law) it will lead to certain gun registration or ( YIKES!!) confiscation.

Such nonsense has filled the void of reasonable conversation for so many years that some actually believe this lie. But I have also found that the other lie perpetrated by the gun lobby that all gun sales do require background checks is believed by many.

They do not of course. Private sales account for about 40% of gun sales. No background check, no ID, have gun will travel. That is simply not OK and makes no sense.

So making sure we are not dealing with alternative facts but rather the truth and the facts will make us safer. Of course, the other lie is that any research into the causes and effects of gun violence are fake news or fake science. That is because those kinds of studies do not support the idea that more guns make us safer and everyone should have one.

This is not rocket science. This is about safety and stopping shootings. It’s that simple.

Take, for example, the oft repeated lies of the gun lobby and those who believe them about Chicago gun crime and/or other crime. There is an insistence that Chicago and Illinois have strong gun laws but the crime rate and shootings are high so, obviously ( to them) strong gun laws don’t work.

They would be wrong. In spite of stronger gun laws than some neighboring states, Chicago’s murder rate is high. The overall crime rate is not,  as President Trump asserts ( and lies about) the highest it has been in 45-47years. In fact, it is at it’s lowest with a peak last year. Why? There are many reasons for what is happening in Chicago. One of them is that 60% of the guns come in to the city from surrounding states with looser gun laws.

Maybe this chart from The Trace will explain things even better. Note that Chicago has fewer gun crimes than many other cities in America. Why does the administration and Republicans as well pick on Chicago? Shall we take a guess given where the other cities are? I’m just saying.

chicago-murders

If we don’t try to stop some of this by passing a national law to require Brady background checks on all gun sales, cities and states that have strong gun laws cannot stop or prevent some of the deadly carnage resulting from guns coming in from somewhere else.

In my own city, there have been 5 shootings in 2 weeks.Read what the police chief had to say about this:

Sunday’s incident is the fifth shooting in Duluth that resulted in injuries in the past 16 days, with at least two additional armed robberies reported during that time. Duluth officials have called the latest outbreak of gunplay a statistical anomaly, noting overall crime rates are dropping. Police Chief Mike Tusken, however, has said there has been an uptick in gun-related activity. Police confiscated more than twice as many firearms from criminals in 2016 compared to 2015, the chief said.

Tusken did not comment to reporters Sunday but did post on his Facebook page: “I empathize how these incidents create fear and angst. Those who use guns to settle disputes harm not only their intended victims but also rob our neighborhoods of a sense of security. For these reasons, we pursue these criminals with great vigor.”

In this article, Chief Tusken is quoted:

“What concerns me is that you have a proliferation of more guns accessible by more people who should not own them, and then that human factor that there’s a propensity — and what appears to be no reluctance whatsoever — to use them,” he said.

Tusken, though, reiterated that he considers the recent rash of gun crimes to be a “tremendous anomaly.” He stressed that none of the shootings were considered random.

Yes, there are people who should not own guns. And yes, most shootings are not random but rather among people who know each other. I know that from personal experience. And facts and research show it to be true. From the linked article:

This is, in many ways, intuitive: The prevalence of guns can cause petty arguments and conflicts to escalate into deadly encounters. People of every country get into arguments and fights with friends, family, and peers. But in the US, it’s much more likely that someone will get angry at an argument, pull out a gun, and kill someone.

These three studies aren’t the only ones to reach similar conclusions. Multiple reviews of the research, including the Harvard Injury Control Research Center’s aggregation of the evidence, have consistently found a correlation between gun ownership and gun deaths — including homicides, suicides, and accidental shootings — after controlling for other factors.

So arguments among friends and family members can lead to deaths by firearms which cause the majority of homicides.

So to another myth- buy a gun for self defense and you will be safer. Fake news. Buy a gun for self defense and you and your family are more at risk for being shot:

Tragically, a record number of Americans subscribe to some version of this mythology, with 63 percent (67 percent of men polled and 58 percent of women) believing that guns truly do make them safer. The public’s confidence in firearms, however, is woefully misguided: The evidence overwhelmingly shows that guns leave everybody less safe, including their owners.

 

A study from October 2013 analyzed data from 27 developed nations to examine the impact of firearm prevalence on the mortality rate. It found an extremely strong direct relationship between the number of firearms and firearm deaths. The paper concludes: “The current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis that guns make a nation safer.” This finding is bolstered by several previous studies that have revealed a significant link between gun ownership and firearm-related deaths. This international comparison is especially harrowing for women and children, who die from gun violence in America at far higher rates than in other countries.

Facts matter- or they should. But we are living in a new country now where alternative facts and fake science have risen to new prominence and it comes right from the top.

Do the gun rights advocates think this is OK? I’m just asking. Because it sure seems like it. If they don’t think it’s OK, why are they not insisting that we make common sense changes to keep our families and communities safer from devastating gun violence.

Do gun rights advocates think the man who shot into a crowd of Black Lives Matters protesters in Minnesota because he was a racist and wanted to prove a point is OK with a gun?  Remember, he was a “good guy” with a gun. From the article:

Texts and photos taken from Scarsella’s cellphone and computer, many of which were not presented at trial, show a deeply racist man who talked about being part of a “reserve militia.” He took selfies with his gun in his waistband, wrote frequently about shooting blacks and was passionate about the gun he would eventually use to shoot protesters.

Frightening at best. Some people should not have guns. And when they use them in this way, they should not be able to claim self defense and get away with it. But the gun lobby thinks it would perfectly OK for someone like this to get away with shooting someone because…. Stand Your Ground– coming up for consideration in a state near you, including Minnesota.

Communities of color are rightly concerned and fearful of these kind of alternative facts and lies. They are more at risk now because we are not dealing with science and facts.

(I am editing this to include another great article about the dangers of guns compared to the dangers of terrorists). Nicholas Kristof New York Times writer) wrote this today:

Above all, fear spouses: Husbands are incomparably more deadly in America than jihadist terrorists.

And husbands are so deadly in part because in America they have ready access to firearms, even when they have a history of violence. In other countries, brutish husbands put wives in hospitals; in America, they put them in graves.

Yet Trump is raging about a risk from refugees that seems manageable, even as he talks about relaxing rules on another threat, guns, that is infinitely more lethal.

“I will get rid of gun-free zones on schools,” Trump said last year. “My first day, it gets signed, O.K., my first day.” Trump hasn’t in fact signed such an order, but his education secretary, Betsy DeVos, backed him up at her confirmation hearing last month, saying that guns might be necessary in schools because of “potential grizzlies.”

Domestic violence takes more lives than grizzly bears or terrorists. This is not rocket science. It doesn’t have to be this way and we must demand the truth and the facts.

It is so clear that more guns are not making us safer and particularly more guns in the hands of people who clearly have no business with a gun anywhere. So why are some of our leaders supporting measures to make it so easy for loaded guns to be in the hands of so many people?  It doesn’t seem to matter that the public is not demanding armed people in every nook and cranny of their communities. The public really is not comfortable with armed people with little or no training and no vetting via a background check walking around everywhere with their guns strapped openly to their bodies.

This is home grown terrorism. We lose more people to gunshot injuries that occur because of even law abiding gun owners who shoot a loved one, allow a toddler to get their small hands on a gun, or leave a gun available for a teen to use in a suicide than to terrorists coming in from other countries. And we are going to perform “extreme vetting” on immigrants, most of whom are not coming across our borders to do harm to others, but not on people who buy guns that are used to shoot another human being?

This is not rocket science. But it is science and fact that America is a country where more citizens own guns than any other democratized country not at war and also a higher gun death rate than almost any other nation:

Americans are 10 times more likely to be killed by guns than people in other developed countries, a new study finds.

There you have it. Facts. Science. Proof.

Until we are allowed by those in charge to deal with facts and science, nothing will change. It is downright frightening that facts are being changed or denied to suit the agenda of those who believe in the lies. Or do they? Is this about money? Likely. Is it about power and influence over elected officials and the voting public? Likely.

We are better than this. The pressure to tell the truth will continue with those who believe we are not safer with more guns everywhere carried into places where we hang out with our families and friends. And that happens to be the majority of Americans.

We will raise our voices. We will make noise. We will demand the truth and the facts and hold our leaders responsible for their choices that make Americans less safe.

 

 

Who do you trust?

PrintApparently there are many in America who trust no one but themselves. Trust in government has been eroded over years, sometimes for good reasons, sometimes not. But it’s clear that the minority of Americans who oppose background checks on all gun sales actually believe it will lead to confiscation of their guns.

The Trace has again done some research into who the people are who oppose those on the terror watch list from being stopped from getting guns and those who oppose background checks on all gun sales. Results were interesting but not necessarily surprising.From the article:

The Pew Research Center provided The Trace with a breakout of respondents to a July 2015 poll who indicated opposition to expanded background checks. The numbers show that people who oppose requiring checks at gun shows are more likely to be male, white, and lack a college degree than those that support such laws.

Among opponents of expanded checks, the gender split is 57 percent male to 42 percent female.

Forty-nine percent were white, 15 percent were black. In that same pool, those whose schooling stopped at high school were nearly five times as likely to oppose background checks at gun shows than those with a college degree.

By a nearly two-to-one margin, opponents of background checks at gun shows are also less likely to say that they do not live in a gun-owning household.

I have a question for these folks. Do you honestly think that those who have been identified as known terrorists should be able to purchase guns legally from licensed dealers?

Do you really think it is more important to protect the rights of those few who are on the list by mistake than to protect the next 50 people gathered together in a public place from being shot by someone who has terrorist leanings?

The Orlando shooting is still being investigated as to whether the shooter was a terrorists but he clearly had some leanings in that direction. There is no proof that the shooting was directed by any terror group.

That being said, the shooter was also mentally unstable according to many, angry, according to many, and a domestic abuser according to his first wife. There are many reasons why this guy should not have had a gun. But we have made it easy for anyone to get a gun no matter what. The Brady law had a built in loophole put there on purpose by the gun lobby. It allowed for private sellers of guns to not have to require background checks on sales.

So do you honestly believe people who shouldn’t have guns should be able to get them anyway with no background check?

Do you really believe that the very same Brady background check you have been getting for many years now when you buy a gun from a licensed seller will lead to gun registration or confiscation if a private seller requires the check?

Do you honestly believe that only “good guys” with guns can stop “bad guys” with guns?

Do you believe that everyone who legally buys a gun will be safe with that gun?

Do you really believe the government is coming for your guns?

Do you actually believe that your small arsenal of guns would protect you against that scenario should it actually happen?

Do you understand that your guns are more likely to be used to shoot someone close to you than to be used in self defense?

Do you really believe in the fear and paranoia foisted on you by the corporate gun lobby?

Do you trust that this guy is telling you the truth?:

I’m just asking.

Common sense indicates that background checks on all gun sales will only affect those who shouldn’t have guns. It also is proven that in states ( and in countries) where background checks on all gun sales are required, lives are saved. Yes, it’s true. Lives are saved.

Do you honestly want to save lives and prevent gun violence? Do you want to prevent your teen-ager from committing suicide with one of your guns? Do you want to keep your child from getting your loaded gun and shooting him/herself or a friend or sibling? Do you want to keep someone from stealing your gun and using it in a crime? Do you care about the lives of young black people who are dying in great numbers from bullets because guns are so readily available to them? Do you want to keep your neighbor from “accidentally” discharging his/her gun and having the bullet come flying through your wall, or hitting you in the leg in a public place? Do you trust that your child or grandchild will absolutely not pick up a loaded gun and fire it?

Who do you trust? Do you trust everyone with a gun? Do you trust people who have bought their guns legally though they shouldn’t have one? Do you trust that your armed neighbor is not going to have too much to drink and bring out his gun and shoot you? Do you trust the young man next door who just might have terrorist leanings, with his gun? Do you trust the mentally unstable young man who lives down the street with guns?

It comes down to what we are willing to do to save lives and keep our children and communities safe from mass shootings like that that just happened in Orlando and from the tens of thousands of suicides, domestic homicides, gang shootings, “accidental discharges” of guns leading to death and injury, home grown terror attacks, actual terror attacks, and other shootings. I trust that passing stronger laws will save lives and prevent shootings. My trust is backed up by the facts.

I happen to trust the government. I am not afraid of the government. I am not afraid of armed people lurking around every corner to shoot me. Government is not perfect. But going it alone and living life with the fear and paranoia so many people experience must be exhausting. By nature I am a positive person. I have lost a sister in a domestic shooting that should have made me distrustful but instead it made me resolved to do something to keep other families from experiencing what my family has.

And I trust that the Senate Democrats did the right thing when they forced a vote on Monday. The amendments failed but their resolve is a model of what can be done when there is resolve and a moral imperative from the majority of Americans on your side. I trust the House Democrats who are, as I write, having a “sit-in” on the House floor to force a vote on the no-fly, no-buy bill and an expanded background check bill. It sounds like a vote will happen:

In a move rich with historic symbolism, Lewis, a Democratic congressman from Georgia, and fellow Democrats sat down at the front of the chamber in an unusual demonstration of civil disobedience challenging Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.
“Sometimes you have to do something out of the ordinary. Sometimes you have to make a way out of no way. We have been too quiet for too long,” Lewis said. “There comes a time when you have to say something, when you have to make a little noise, when you have to move your feet. This is the time. Now is the time to get in the way. The time to act is now. We will be silent no more.”
I trust Representative John Lewis because he has brought the issue of gun violence right where it belongs- at the forefront of our political arena. Just like Senator Chris Murphy did last week when he began the successful filibuster that led to the Senate votes this week.

I trust that eventually we will get this right and sit down and stand up for victims. I trust that this time, the gun lobby and its’ minions are not going to dominate the conversation. Why? Because Americans have had #Enough and want to #DisarmHate.

Who do you trust?

Do you trust those who are standing ( or sitting down for) the victims who want the carnage and massacres to stop or those whose profits depend on selling guns and keeping people fearful and paranoid about gun confiscation?

#NoBillNoBreak

Watching the House members who are sitting in the House chamber is inspiring to the millions of Americans who want stronger gun laws. We have lost trust in our leaders and the system to do something about the daily carnage and regular massacres. There is no excuse for doing nothing except in some sort of twisted belief in the corporate gun lobby’s lies and deceptions.

And I am very proud of some of my Minnesota delegation for taking part in this historic action. Times are changing and the voices of the majority are being heard loudly and clearly.

It’s about time. How many tens and hundreds of thousands more Americans will need to die before our leaders vote for common sense?

We are at war with each other

crossIt’s no secret. The political atmosphere was hateful and angry before the Orlando shooting. Now it’s worse. We are war with each other. History will look back on the America of the 2000s and write about how we turned our backs on the millions of victims of gun violence and their families. Historians will write about how a country allowed the massacre of 20 first graders to happen without trying to do something to prevent the next one. History will not be kind when it comes to America and mass shootings and gun violence in general.

If we lined up the crosses of all Americans killed by gun violence since 1968, they would form a field larger than that at Normandy (France), Gettysburg, Appomattox, Arlington and other cemeteries combined where fallen American military personnel are buried.

Are we at war?

Today is the first anniversary of the Charleston church shooting that took the lives of 9 innocent Americans while praying at Mother Emanuel church. History will write about how our weak gun laws allowed a young man with hate and racism in his heart to buy a gun in spite of his prohibited purchaser status. Thanks to the corporate gun lobby and their minions in Congress, a three day default proceed provision was written into the Brady law. What that means is that if the record keeping and data bases don’t communicate with each other and get information into the law enforcement system by 3 days after the purchase of a gun, the purchaser can walk away with the gun anyway.

Nine precious lives were taken because of that provision in our law that makes absolutely no common sense. But in America, sales and profits of selling guns takes precedent over saving lives.

Today, the families of the 9 killed in Charleston are remembering their loved ones. Here is one article written by the brother of one of the victims in remembrance.:

We may be back here again soon. Not in Charleston, not in a church, but somewhere in our country someone is going to experience some type of pain simply because of the proliferation of guns, and the Achilles heel of our country, racism, that we can’t seem to get past. So we got to not just forgive and forget, but we have to remember to continue to fight for those things that make our society better today than it was yesterday.

What will historians write about how we responded to this crime of hate and racism?

I wrote in my last post that things were changing concerning guns and the conversation about gun violence after the Orlando shooting. No sooner had I posted my article than a filibuster broke out in the U.S. Senate led by Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut. Senator Murphy was in attendance when the families of the first graders massacred at Sandy Hook learned that theirs were the 20 who didn’t come out alive. He is not going to forget or let us forget about that heinous and bloody day in American history.

Has the accumulation of all of the mass shootings in recent years just been too much? Are we, at long last, ready to do something?

It looks like there may be a vote now on some gun safety reform provisions as a result of that filibuster. At the least, the conversation changed for 15 hours when 40 Democratic Senators, 2 Republicans and 1 independent joined in and articulately and passionately talked about our national gun violence scourge. They stood with the victims. They spoke for the victims’ families. They spoke for the majority of Americans who can see that change has to happen in order to stop the daily war in our streets and our homes and public places.

Even the generals are weighing in. General Stanley McCrystal wrote this piece for the New York Times today. From his opinion piece comes something very important to the conversation about guns in America:

Here at home, many of us are alarmed by the carnage. We are alarmed by loopholes that let felons and domestic abusers get hold of guns without a background check. We are alarmed that a known or suspected terrorist can go to a federally licensed firearms dealer where background checks are conducted, pass that background check, legally purchase a firearm and walk out the door.

Now veterans are speaking out. Last Friday, two days before the tragedy in Orlando, a new initiative, the Veterans Coalition for Common Sense, led by the Navy combat veteran Capt. Mark Kelly and his wife, the former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, was announced. Those of us serving on its advisory committee come from every branch of our military and virtually every rank. We are trained in the use of firearms, and many of us have served in combat. And we all think our country must do more to save lives from being cut short by gun violence.

Are we alarmed enough to do something at long last?

Listen to the voices of common sense and experience. Those on the side of the corporate gun lobby are most often also strong supporters of our military. Not that the rest of us aren’t but those who oppose reasonable gun measures can often be heard to proclaim themselves as patriotic Americans- more patriotic than the rest of us. What’s so patriotic about allowing our citizens to be massacred by people who shouldn’t have guns?

The inanity of the conversation about gun violence in our country has been taking place for far too long. Not any more. People are joining gun violence prevention organizations in large numbers asking what they can do to help. Spontaneous rallies have occurred. Monetary donations have been received. Hundreds of thousands of calls were made to Senators in 24 hours urging participation in the filibuster and what will hopefully be upcoming votes.

We have had #Enough. Action is needed. No more words and thoughts and prayers.

And no more blaming President Obama for what happened in Orlando. Shamefully Arizona Senator John McCain ( among others) has gone over the line of common sense and sanity to join in some of the lunacy regarding the Orlando shooting. From the article:

Sen. John McCain said Thursday that President Barack Obama was “directly responsible” for the massacre at the gay nightclub in Orlando, though McCain later said he “misspoke.” “Barack Obama is directly responsible for it because when he pulled everybody out of Iraq, al Qaeda went to Syria, became ISIS, and ISIS is what it is today thanks to Barack Obama’s failures — utter failures, by pulling everybody out of Iraq, thinking that conflicts end just because you leave. So the responsibility for it lies with President Barack Obama and his failed policies,” McCain told reporters on Capitol Hill.

Really Senator McCain?

We are better than this.

There is a gun culture that has promoted the civilian ownership of weapons of war that is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. For 10 years we had a ban on these kinds of guns but our weak politicians, with pressure from the gun lobby let it lapse. Since then these weapons designed for use in war time have been used to kill countless Americans. Sandy Hook. Aurora.San Bernardino….. It doesn’t have to be this way.

This Boston Globe editorial is asking for us to return to sanity and common sense when it comes to military style assault rifles:

There is nothing more American today than a mass shooting, the quickest way for the wicked among us to join the ranks of the reviled. Their motives are many, but their opportunity is limited only by their gun and ammunition magazine brand preference. In this country, the federal government limits duck hunters to weapons that carry only three shells, to protect the duck population. But you can buy an assault weapon in seven minutes and an unlimited number of bullets to fire with it. For every McDonald’s in the United States, there are four federally licensed gun dealers and an untold number of unregulated private dealers who can legally sell an unlimited number of guns out of their homes, backpacks, and car trunks without requiring a criminal background check or proof of ID.

These weren’t the guns, and this wasn’t the America, that the Founders foresaw. That is why we need a new assault weapons ban, written for the realities we face in 2016.

What did the founding fathers envision? Gun rights extremists tell us that what we have now is exactly what was meant by the founding fathers when they wrote the second amendment. That is, in part, responsible for what happened in Orlando.

There is a weak system of regulating who gets guns that is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Racism and hatred is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando.

Presidential politics and extreme rhetoric is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. One of our Presidential candidates is fear mongering and hating certain groups even thought they aren’t responsible for what happened in Orlando. (“Trump’s discourse, both leading up to and following the Orlando shooting, begins with a pathos of fear but ends with an appeal to anger.”)

We are better than this.

Even tolerance of anti-government groups and support for them has allowed the current culture to get a foot hold in American and leads to other acts of violence. For example, the stand-off by armed Americans proclaiming it was all about the federal government taking something from them, was not only ignored but even supported by some on the right and Donald Trump himself:

That chummy relationship with extremists didn’t start with Malheur. In fact, Donald Trump expressed admiration for Cliven Bundy at the time of the 2014 confrontation between his armed supporters and law enforcement officers over Bundy’s refusal to pay grazing fees for his cattle on government land.

“I like him, I like his spirit, his spunk…I respect him,” Trump told Fox News in April that year. Bundy’s sons led the Malheur standoff, which eventually resulted in their arrest and the killing of one of the occupiers at a roadblock by state police.

“Republican Congressional leaders have done nothing to combat this growing threat,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) “Indeed, they ignored a Democratic request … to hold a Natural Resources Committee hearing on this issue.”

History will judge us for this kind of anti-government extremism.

It’s not President Obama. It’s those who hate him. More from the above article:

“This antigovernment movement has exploded since President Obama took office. In 2008, we documented approximately 150 radical antigovernment groups. Last year, we counted almost 1,000,” he added. “The movement is dangerous. It includes almost 300 armed militia groups committed to resisting what they see as a tyrannical federal government.”

Thompson pointedly compared the anti-government crowd with foreign, and foreign-inspired, terrorists. Domestic terrorists have the same goal, he said, “to harm and incite fear within our borders.”

Congress, he said, “must take this growing threat seriously and take action.”

Our politicians weak spines are in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Individuals who have become self radicalized and terror groups who want us to be terrorized by actions of unstable angry young men who have troubled pasts and intolerance of others are in part responsible for what happened in Orlando:

Oppositional. Lacks remorse. Verbally abusive. These are some of the terms teachers and school counselors used to describe a young Omar Mateen, according to elementary and middle school records.

Mateen, who killed 49 people at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., on Sunday in the worstmass shooting in modern U.S. history, had a troubling record of behavioral issues throughout his elementary and middle school years, ranging from simply disrupting class to outright aggressive conflicts with classmates.

Our almost total ignoring of the hundreds of thousands of gun violence victims is in part responsible for what happened in Orlando. Fear and paranoia promoted by the corporate gun lobby and extremists on the right are in part to blame for what happened in Orlando.

All we know is that blame is not going to change the fact that too many Americans have been killed in mass shootings and every day shootings. We need to deal with fear, paranoia, hate, racism, misogyny, anti-gay sentiments, terror, intolerance, mental health and whatever else causes someone to kill others. But to ignore the guns is a national shame and putting our heads in the sand.

This can’t be the new normal. We can’t let it be. We will do whatever it takes. The nation is asking for our leaders to do something. Increased interest in strongly regulating assault style rifles and high capacity magazines has surfaced. The gun lobby hates any renewed discussion but we are not going to let the gun lobby lead that discussion. A majority of Americans want something to happen.

Something has changed. New ways of invoking terror in Americans has sparked a national conversation but I am concerned that it has further divided us and made the conversation more hate-filled and acrimonious than ever.

We are better than this.

Where do terrorists live?

gun_rally002-4_3
Image from USA Today

It turns out that American terrorists mostly live in several states though the Southern Poverty Law Center keeps track of insurrectionists, militia groups, and terrorists in all 50 states. Check out the map for where they live in your own state. Let’s take a look at this article about the most recent of our mass terror attacks– that being the shooting up of a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs. From the article:

Among dozens of avowedly Christian, anti-Semitic, and right-wing terrorists cataloged by the Anti-Defamation League and theSouthern Poverty Law Center, you’ll find many from these two states: Charles Robert Barefoot Jr., a North Carolina Klan leader who was convicted in 2012 on charges involving firearms, explosives, and violent conspiracy. Kody Brittingham, a Marine at Camp Lejeune who confessed to plotting the assassination of President Obama. Paul Chastain, a South Carolina militiaman who tried to acquire plastic explosives and threatened to kill federal officials. Steve Bixby, a violent activist from an anti-Semitic household, who gunned down two police officers in Abbeville, South Carolina. Daniel Schertz, a klansman arrested in Greenville, South Carolina, and later convicted, on weapons charges involving racist bomb plots.

And then there’s Dylann Roof. After allegedly murdering nine black people in a Charleston, South Carolina, church this summer, Roof drove more than three hours north, to Shelby, North Carolina. Nobody stopped him at the state border. The boundary between North and South Carolina, like the boundary between Syria and Iraq, is a joke.

North and South Carolina apparently host a good number of home grown terrorists. What is it about these states? Loose gun laws for one. Ultra conservative political persuasion for another. Clinging to the Confederate Flag and what it stands for as the Charleston church shooting ramped up for yet another. There is so much important information in this article for us to digest. We can only hope that our politicians will actually digest it and think about what they are saying. Denying Syrian refugees entrance into our country will not solve our problem with home grown terrorism. As it turns out, according to the above article:” Of the 77 people killed in these 27 incidents, two-thirds died at the hands of anti-abortion fanatics, “Christian Identity” zealots, white anti-Semites, or other right-wing militants.”

Yikes. Congress- we have a problem. Are you watching and listening?

There are militia groups and terror cells in all 50 states. But then there are the “lone wolf” types like the shooter in Colorado Springs who fly under the radar, basically unknown or little known to law enforcement. But they can ALL get their hands on weapons in the US. That is why we have so many more of these attacks than other countries. In the above article, the author hones in on the basic reason for the existence of the militia groups- they are afraid for their second amendment rights. Because surely President Obama and those awful gun grabbers are going to take away their guns and their rights. 

It’s already happening, right? We are coming for their guns. According to the NRA and other gun lobby groups, this is the scenario of the immediate future. From this article by Josh Horwitz of Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, the NRA is encouraging insurrectionism:

An even more disturbing NRA revelation was largely ignored by media last week, however. On October 20, the NRA tweeted a link to a blog post by North Carolinian and former PJ Media writer Bob Owens with the text, “Make no mistake, anti-gunners are ‘calling for forcible disarmament.'”

The blog post, titled, “Gun Confiscation Fantasies are Fast-Tracking the Democrat Party to Destruction,” is a deeply insurrectionist screed in which Owens fantasizes about a violent civil war with Democrats who support gun reform.

If you believe this, I have a bridge to sell you…..

And then there are the Open Carry extremists who insist on walking our streets with their military style weapons. Remember the one who killed 3 people last month in Colorado Springs?

Also apparently “law abiding” militia members are not so safe with their own guns. In North Dakota, one member shot another– too much alcohol, militia mentality and guns just are not a good mix. From the article: ” “They have some very different beliefs about the world. Their beliefs didn’t mix.””

Sigh. When your politics don’t mix and you are armed, tragedy happens. What about this are we not understanding?

We are war with each other. A portion of our own citizens are armed and ready to fight those who are in another camp, or of another political or religious persuasion, or another color, or another ideological position about abortion, terrorism, gun rights or immigration.

For the sake of common sense and public health and safety, we just have to be dealing with the true dangers before us every day. Can a group of Black Lives Matter protesters not gather together without fear of alleged white supremacists shooting at them? Is there a possibility they won’t even be charged for shooting and injuring 5 black people? Insanity.

Can women not go to an abortion clinic for needed health care procedures and sometimes abortions ( legal under the law) without fear of being shot up? Can refugees or immigrants not go to public places without fear of being beat up because they look different?  Several disturbing anti-Muslim incidents have surfaced lately and they will surely increase in number if the gun rights extremists, Presidential candidates and politicians keeping fanning the flames of hate, intolerance and insurrectionism.

It is now revealed that the Colorado Springs shooter ranted about “no more body parts.” Remember where that came from? I do. Fake videos.

This one happened in Minnesota when a Muslim woman was beaten by a beer mug by an intolerant woman customer.

A Muslim cab driver was shot and injured by a gun guy in Pittsburgh because he was a Muslim.

We are living in an unsettling time in American history. Terror attacks abroad are of obvious concern. But the anger and concern should be turned inward towards our own policies and dangerous rhetoric. It’s past time for this to change. Let’s get to work and demand that our lawmakers do something that will actually keep us safe.

This will be cross posted on commongunsense.com.

UPDATE:

Many are writing similar articles and posts about America’s home grown terrorists after the Planned Parenthood shooting. This one notes even higher numbers of attacks than I had reported from above articles:

Though terrorism perpetrated by Muslims receives a disproportionate amount of attention from politicians and reporters, the reality is that right-wing extremists pose a much greater threat to people in the United States than terrorists connected to ISIS or similar organizations. As UNC Professor Charles Kurzman and Duke Professor David Schanzer explained last June in the New York Times, Islam-inspired terror attacks “accounted for 50 fatalities over the past 13 and a half years.” Meanwhile, “right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities.” (…)

Kurzman and Schanzer also surveyed hundreds of law enforcement agencies regarding their assessment of various threats. Of the 382 agencies they spoke with, “74 percent reported anti-government extremism as one of the top three terrorist threats in their jurisdiction,” while only “39 percent listed extremism connected with Al Qaeda or like-minded terrorist organizations.”

Meanwhile, the percentage of refugees that are connected to terrorist plots is vanishingly small.

Let’s get our priorities straight. They are now misplaced and misunderstood by people who should know better.