The chilling effect of guns

foggy:rainyAt the end of my last post, I linked to some articles about the white terrorism event in Charlottesville, Virginia. Since that time, of course, unless you have been living under a rock, you know the political and actual fall-out of that awful “rally”.

It was a  chilly rainy foggy day in my hometown yesterday as I started this post. It has felt chilly everywhere in the U.S. since last week-end. The entire country felt a chill when neo-Nazis, White Supremacists, White terror alt-right groups come to a city to cause trouble and make a point, we can expect chilling results. When they come armed and wearing shields, helmets, carrying lit tiki torches, it was meant to intimidate everyone else. When hateful angry chants come out of their mouths, it was meant to intimidate and to entice others to protest against them. They were prepared for violence. They trained for violence. They knew exactly what they were doing.

White Nationalists, nazis and neo-nazis, KKK members are all unsavory characters who made a conscious decision to descend on Charlottesville to make a point. They hate Jews, Muslims, Black people, Brown people, anyone who is not white and doesn’t look like them. Remember the first and actual Nazis of Germany who demanded a pure Aryan race?

That didn’t work out well at all. We fought a world war to stop this kind of hatred. My Dad fought in World War II. He would be horrified, if he were alive today, at what is going on in our country.  It was a dark time in our world as Jews were almost eradicated by Hitler and his gang of miscreants, terrorists, killers and truly ugly and deplorable people.

Mistakenly we believed that after the atrocities of World War II, we left that kind of bigotry behind us. But white supremacists and white terrorists have been amongst us and sort of underground but sometimes raise their ugly heads.

Mistakenly we believed that once the Civil Rights movement allowed black people to vote as equal citizens and children and teens to attend the schools in their neighborhoods and the college of their choice, we could stop dealing with the hate.

Mistakenly we thought our first Black President would provide an example of how anyone can become President of the United States. And then anyone did. Our 45th President isn’t just anyone as it turns out. His election and his presidency are an alt right reaction to our first Black President and to the increase in the population of “others” who are not of the white Christian persuasion.

Thus we have hatred and fear. We have a President who wants to stop those “others” from coming into our country. He wants to stop them from voting and wants to get rid of policies that they believe disadvantage the pure white people of our country.

White privilege is raising its’ ugly head. The extremists representing this point of view have been welcomed into one of our major political parties. Armed militia members are welcome to carry weapons of war on their backs in cities all over America. They are because we haven’t stopped them. We have been complicit. Some of our leaders care more about their majority and their own elections than they care about our democracy and the public safety of American citizens. That has become obviously clear in recent weeks.

Follow the money. Follow the power. Follow the influence. Follow the culture and the rhetoric. Follow elections. Follow the hatred, the fear, the paranoia of some white people and you will find the anger at the bottom of all of this.

We’ve had our share of white terror attacks:

Here’s their breakdown on the number of deaths caused by individuals of different ideologies: 95 by jihadist, 68 by far-right, and eight by black separatist/national/supremacist.

Even individuals who carry out jihadist attacks, however, are sometimes American citizens or longtime residents.

“The terrorist threat in the United States is almost entirely homegrown, as no foreign terrorist organization has successfully directed and orchestrated an attack in the United States since 9/11,” said Albert Ford, a program associate with the International Security and Fellows programs at New America.

Of 418 individuals tracked by New America who are accused of jihadist terrorism related crimes in the United States since 9/11, 85 percent of them were either U.S. citizens or U.S. legal residents, and about half were born American citizens, Ford said.

And further, in case you believe the notion that terror attacks in America are mostly committed by radical Islamic terrorists, this is interesting from the above article:

Until the Orlando nightclub shooting, “the number of deaths caused by far-right-wing attacks outnumbered those caused by jihadism-related attacks,” Ford said.

These are not “nice” or “good” people.

You’ve just got to love this video of the group who went to Charlottesville to cause trouble.

 

Above is an interview with the reporter but you can watch the entire video here.

Listen to their words. They knew what they were doing.

As we all know a woman was killed as the result of a home grown white terrorist in Charlottesville.  But never mind that Heather Heyer was killed by one of their own. They don’t mind if a few people are killed. That was what I heard one White Supremacist say on a network interview. Really?

Yes, really. They don’t care if people die. They are angry white guys ( and a few women) with violence and evil in their hearts and minds.

And the #fakenews and outright lies going around is making it all so much worse. For example, Charlottesville police were NOT told to stand down.

For example, the Nazis were not “quietly protesting” as claimed by our very own President. If he meant it was quiet to walk along (armed) issuing insults and offensive remarks about Jews and Black people while holding their KKK like tiki torches ( we all know what that was intended to mean), he was wrong of course. Was he wrong intentionally? Was it a dog whistle? We don’t really know because that’s the way things go these days in America.

And though we can admit that some on the “left” reacted with violent incidents.,  the facts show that the “alt-right” group who sponsored the event displayed their willingness to intimidate and use violence.

And then there is the gun rights extremism now becoming increasingly strident and threatening. Hyperbole and ramping up fear for their own cause of promoting the sale of guns is very dangerous. From the article:

(… )

In a Feb. 24 speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the National Rifle Assocation’s Wayne LaPierre linked those events with incidents of people being attacked if they supported the president.

“Right now, we face a gathering of forces that are willing to use violence against us,” warned LaPierre. “If the violent left brings their terror to our communities, our neighborhoods, or into our homes, they will be met with the resolve and the strength and the full force of American freedom in the hands of the American people. Among them and behind them are some of the most radical political elements there are. Anarchists, Marxists, communists and the whole rest of the left-wing Socialist brigade.”

On March 31, the footage of the inaugural rioting appeared for the first time in a political TV ad. In “Extremists,” a commercial produced by the Congressional Leadership Fund super PAC to defeat Georgia congressional candidate Jon Ossoff, footage of peaceful Women’s March events — one of which Ossoff attended — was blended with footage of anarchists smashing windows and starting fires.

I attended the Women’s March in D.C. There was zero violence. A small group of people not associated with the Women’s March was involved the day before in some violent incidents.  But never mind the facts.

And now, as if Charlottesville was not enough, they intend to force themselves into other American cities.

What could possibly go wrong? As the rhetoric heats up, we can expect to see more and more armed citizens who fancy themselves as militia and insurrectionists ready to “take their country back” and ” make America great again.”

It will not go well.

The NRA has become more and more radical and dangerous as they display some questionable and threatening videos on NRA TV and in speeches to conservative groups. Several articles have been written in the past week about the reality of the NRA’s leaders and lobbyists. They are not representing average gun owners.

An article from Huffington Post:

The last thing I would like to see is one of those white supremacists taking the NRA at its word and going out gunning after members of a “terrorist cell.” But if Wayne-o keeps equating carrying a gun with patriotism and Trump-o keeps saying that patriots can make America great again, you have all the ingredients for someone to walk up to a crowd of demonstrators, pull out a cannon and bang away.

The New Yorker wrote this about the increasing push for violence by the NRA.:

It is, of course, perfectly within the prerogative of an advocacy group to stir anxiety and fear among its members or potential members for the sake of attracting donations. But gun owners, contemplating whether to re-up their forty-dollar annual memberships or hand over their credit cards for the first time, might consider the fact that they’re being manipulated. And for those (rightly) outraged by the intimations of violence in the videos, it is worth weighing the reality that we’re part of the N.R.A.’s strategy, too.

There is really no question about what is going on with the corporate gun lobby.

And to make matters worse,  there’s a new App that promotes the selling of all types of firearms with no background checks. In light of recent events, there is no excuse for selling guns to just anyone who may not be a law abiding citizen. Gunswipe.com is a dangerous new way to sell guns.

What we need now are stronger laws to make sure guns are only in the hands of those who can be responsible for them. We are going backwards and it’s a dangerous backwards trajectory.

It’s getting chillier and chillier. Guns are helping with the chilling effect of extremist uprisings all over the country.:

Like ISIS attackers in Europe, the Charlottesville murderer used a car as his assault weapon. But Charlottesville this past weekend was crammed with anti-social personalities carrying sub-military firearms. It could just as easily have been one—or more—of those gun-carriers who made the decision to kill. If so, Americans might this week be mourning not one life lost to an attack, but dozens.

As recently as 2009, the nation retained a capacity to be shocked when individuals carried weapons to political events. Such was the case in Phoenix, Arizona, on August 18, 2009:

A man toting an assault rifle was among a dozen protesters carrying weapons while demonstrating outside President Obama’s speech to veterans on Monday, but no laws were broken. It was the second instance in recent days in which weapons have been seen near presidential events.

The man who followed Obama with a rifle in Arizona was sending a wordless message. Not so the man who had showed up a few days before at an Obama event in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. With a handgun strapped to his thigh, he carried a placard reading: “It is time to water the tree of liberty!”—a reference to Thomas Jefferson’s famous remark about the periodic need for revolutionary bloodshed.

(…)

What can be done? We can begin by acknowledging that America’s ranching days are behind it. Within metropolitan areas, there is no reason—zero—that a weapon should ever be carried openly. The purpose is always to intimidate—to frighten others away from their lawful rights, not only free speech and lawful assembly, but voting as well. This happened in Loudon County, Virginia, on Election Day 2016:

A man wearing a Donald Trump shirt and carrying a weapon stood outside a voting location in Loudon County, Virginia. … ‘I had my 9-year-old son with me. I felt intimidated,’ [Erika] Cotti said. ‘And I had to explain to my 9-year-old why a man with a 357 magnum is standing outside the polling station.’

Cotti said the man offered her a Republican sample ballot, which she declined.

‘He’s like, “Who are you going to vote for, crooked Hillary?” And I was like, “That’s really none of your business,”’ Cotti said, adding that the man was standing in the sidewalk outside of the office when they left and blocking their path.

Guns are deadly weapons designed to kill and they intimidate others when openly carried. That is the truth. In this polarized gun crazed culture representing extremist groups, what we definitely don’t need is more intimidation with guns because it will inevitably lead to more injuries and deaths.

No other democracy on Earth tolerates such antics. When libertarian-minded Americans lament the over-militarization of police, they might give some thought to what it takes to police a society where potential lawbreakers think it their right to accumulate force that would do credit to a Somali warlord. And not only accumulate it, but carry that force into public to brandish against fellow citizens who think differently from their local paramilitaries.

(..)

It’s not necessary to live like this. No other advanced democracy does. As Americans critically self-examine the forces in their society that enabled the tragedy in Charlottesville, they might give a thought as well to the permission they allow the even graver tragedy that might have happened—and that sooner or later, surely will.

The time has come. Even common sense won’t quell the insatiable gun rights extremists who want to force their will and their guns onto the rest of us. If we don’t get this and deal with this, there will be more and more violence and our democracy will descend into insurrectionism.

Time to act. Time to prevent shootings and deaths. Time to prevent far right extremist groups from arming themselves and marching in our cities against all that our democracy stands for.

One side is plainly wrong. We are not this kind of country, or so I thought. The fact that some Americans are is downright frightening and chilling.

While the rhetoric and the extremist groups are heating up the country, the effect is making us all chilly.

 

UPDATE:

An article written for the New York Times by John Feinblatt of Everytown for Gun Safety calls out open carry for what it is:

Rejecting open carry is not about guns. Rejecting open carry is about rejecting terror and honoring fundamental American traditions. In Charlottesville, we saw the dystopian alternative — the most un-American racist and extremist hatred, turning our First and Second Amendment rights on their heads and trying to intimidate the rest of us into silence.

We will not be silenced by your guns.

Stunts and games with guns are deadly

dominoesSometimes when I read accounts of really stupid and dangerous incidents with guns, I want to cry. Take this Minnesota story for just one of many examples:

A woman shot and killed her boyfriend in a “stunt” gone tragically wrong allegedly to increase their presence on YouTube:

As part of a young couple’s quest for YouTube fame, a 19-year-old woman shot at a book her boyfriend was holding against his chest, killing him at close range outside their northwestern Minnesota home. (…)

Ruiz held up the book — described by County Attorney James Brue as a hardcover encyclopedia — and Perez pulled the trigger on a .50-caliber Desert Eagle pistol, trying to see whether the bullet would go through, according to the criminal complaint.

A few hours before the shooting, a posting went up on Perez’s Twitter account that read: “Me and Pedro are probably going to shoot one of the most dangerous videos ever. HIS idea not MINE.” The note included two wide-eyed emoji faces and another of an eye-covering monkey with a gaping mouth.

No words.

They rolled the dice and tragically lost.

Playing games while carrying is also a bad idea. Someone got mad at friends while playing dominoes in Las Vegas and got a gun from his car to shoot and kill two people. No joke.

Two men in their 20s died Sunday night after an argument broke out over a game of dominoes at a northeast Las Vegas home, Las Vegas police said.

Officers responded about 7:20 p.m. to a shooting call at the home on the 4400 block of Wendy Lane, near East Craig and North Walnut roads, according to Metropolitan Police Department homicide Lt. Dan McGrath.

After the argument began, another man retrieved a gun from his car, went back inside the home and opened fire, McGrath said. Detectives are working to “positively identify” and arrest the suspected shooter, who knew the men killed.

Who knew a simple game of dominoes could become deadly? My husband’s aunt and his mother used to have real arguments over their games of Cribbage while at their cabin. I’m sure glad neither of them had a gun. Because guns are dangerous and deadly. What is it about that that some people just can’t understand? The American gun culture is out of control.

On my old blog site, I wrote about a board game gone terribly wrong in Minnesota.

Becoming angry while playing friendly games with friends or family should not result in death or injury. But this is the American gun culture. It is out of control.

One of my favorite sources, The Trace, posted an article today about how research has shown that more “law abiding” conceal and carry gun permit holders have actually contributed to more crime:

In a new working paper published on June 21 by the National Bureau of Economic Research, academics at Stanford Law School ran that data through four different statistical models  — including one developed by Lott for More Guns, Less Crime — and came back with an unambiguous conclusion: states that made it easier for their citizens to go armed in public had higher levels of non-fatal violent crime than those states that restricted the right to carry. The exception was the narrower category of murder; there, the researchers determined that any effect on homicide rates by expanded gun-carry policies is statistically insignificant.

While other studies conducted since 1994 have undermined Lott’s thesis, the new paper is the most comprehensive and assertive debunking of the more-guns-less-crime formula.

“For years, the question has been, is there any public safety benefit to right to carry laws? That is now settled,” said paper’s lead author, John Donohue. “The answer is no.”

I am not surprised but know that there will be pushback from the gun rights community because this debunks their notions that more guns= less crime when actual research says “NO”.

New polling from Pew research reveals how the country is very divided about some things concerning guns and unified about others:

Republicans and Democrats find rare common ground on some gun policy proposals in the U.S. Large majorities in both parties continue to favor preventing people with mental illnesses from buying guns, barring gun purchases by people on federal no-fly or watch lists, and background checks for private gun sales and sales at gun shows.

Yet there are sharp partisan differences on several other issues – particularly on whether to let people carry concealed guns in more places and to allow teachers and officials to carry guns in K-12 schools, a new Pew Research Center survey has found.

And Republicans and Democrats have stark, fundamental differences on questions relating to the causes of gun violence – and even whether gun violence is a serious problem in the country.

In what world do people not think gun violence is a serious problem? Just asking……

How did gun violence prevention and gun policy get to be a Republican/Democratic issue dividing the country? Just asking……

Because gun violence does not discriminate between political parties. Republicans and Democrats ( and Independents) alike are shot and killed every day. They also shoot people every day. My now ex and deceased brother-in-law was a Republican. My sister was a Democrat. Gun violence is an issue that affects us all but the corporate gun lobby has become a favored Republican organization:

That partisan split could provide a hint as to why Republicans are so united today behind the NRA. Some of America’s biggest social-issue shifts have been driven by motives other than ideology; young people regardless of party have buoyed America’s increasing tolerance of same-sex marriage and marijuana legalization, for example.

Gun rights, by contrast, have magnetized Americans toward the political poles. So Republicans might be naturally lining up with the more conservative factions in their party on everything from gun rights to immigration.

But Republicans also have a fairly complex relationship with gun laws. And in fact, the shift described above might undersell it.

Witness their changes over time on the idea of protecting gun ownership versus controlling it. Republicans’ lines are much squigglier than Democrats. But the trend among Republicans since 2008 is clear as day: gun rights over gun control. What was an even split seven years ago is now a 3-to-1 edge in favor of gun rights.

It’s an American tragedy that a public health gun death epidemic is treated as a partisan issue.

But is it? Let’s take a look at more recent polling from Quinnipiac showing more broad support for gun safety reform issues. In this poll and others, Americans broadly rejected the Republican health care plan- even Republicans. Americans seem to agree that the plan is a really bad idea for them. And they also agreed about most policies to prevent gun deaths. Let’s take a look from the linked article:

American voters support 94 – 5 percent, including 92 – 8 percent among voters in households where there is a gun, background checks for all gun buyers. Support is over 90 percent in every listed group.

It’s too easy to buy a gun in the U.S. today, 57 percent of voters say, while 6 percent say it’s too difficult and 32 percent say it’s about right.

If more people carried guns, the U.S. would be less safe, 57 percent of voters say, while 35 percent say the nation would be safer.

American voters say 79 – 17 percent that the way people talk about politics in the U.S. today contributes to violence. This belief is strongly held among all listed groups.

The recent shooting of a U.S. Congressman and several other people in Virginia will have no impact on how people talk about politics, 53 percent of voters say, while 11 percent say it will have a positive impact and 31 percent say it will have a negative impact.

This is agreement that we should be doing more to reduce and prevent gun violence. So why aren’t we? We know the answer. And speaking of politics contributing to violence, there has been much discussion today after our very own President again tweeted out some offensive things against two media personalities. The White House response was the usual defensive one claiming that the President doesn’t advocate violence. Quite a few Republican leaders denounced the tweets but until their actions follow their words, this will continue unabated. And we will all be the worse for it.

Words matter. Did we elect a fighter to be a our President? ( I did not vote for #45) I don’t even know what that means. Presidents are not supposed to openly fight with the press, with women, with anyone who talks about him/her. This President thinks he is still a candidate and a businessman. His thin skin has become his worst enemy leading him to bully, intimidate, tweet inappropriate and offensive words and alienate most of the country. Does he realize that he is actually the President of the United States?

Self restraint and discipline is what is needed. Being tough with world leaders when necessary, with Congress when necessary, with his cabinet members when necessary, but not with the American people and the press. But being tough does not mean being tough like a schoolyard bully. It doesn’t mean throwing verbal punches at innocent people.

And, by the way, a free press is protected in the First Amendment and necessary for a democracy. Any leader who thinks otherwise is flirting with the kind of authoritarianism that is just not American.

And where are his supporters? Do they believe this behavior is OK? It’s not under any standards.

Of course we can all find video and media clips of the President advocating violence and egging on his supporters.

(As an aside, the President was wrong about Mika Brzezinski bleeding on New Year’s Eve.) And here is an article written by Joe Scarborough and Mika in today’s Washington Post asking some serious questions about the President’s dangerous tweets.

This is an embarrassing, sad, unprecedented, unPresidential, offensive, deplorable, vulgar, appalling state of affairs and lack of discipline and common sense that we can’t tolerate. If words that encourage violence come from the top, some people take them seriously and do likewise. We have become an angry, impolite and intolerant country. Having more guns around does not make this any better.

Gun violence often happens when people are angry and intolerant of others or feel that vengeance is the way to make it better. Too many young people are out on our streets with guns used to get even or vent anger.

So back to what is going on in my state of Minnesota….. The St. Paul Police Chief has verified what most of us in the gun violence prevention movement know to be true. Gun violence is a public health crisis:

While addressing the St. Paul City Council, Police Chief Todd Axtell called a significant rise in gun violence a, “public health crisis.”

“As of Wednesday, the number of gunshots fired is up 61 percent, homicides are up and the number of guns recovered off the street is 286,” Axtell said. (…)

Axtell also noted that half of the city’s 13 homicide victims this year were teenagers and the suspects in most of those crimes were teenaged perpetrators as well. The chief added that the summer season may see a rise in gun violence.

“Just last night alone … we had three arrests, five shots fired incidents throughout the city and three guns were recovered,” Axtell said. “This is just one night of work.”

How do teen-agers get their guns? From irresponsible adults. Stealing. Buying on the street from others who have bought guns legally or got them illegally themselves. From their homes. From a relative. From a friend. Any of these scenarios is likely and something we must address as communities and as a country. Guns don’t fall from the sky. All guns start out as legal purchases. From there, too many of them get into the hands of children, teens, criminals and others who should not have access to guns.

This is an American tragedy. It is not happening in other democratized countries.

Our gun culture is not a game or a stunt. We have serious problems that are not being addressed and people are dying every day senselessly and avoidably. It doesn’t help that rhetoric is ramping up and becoming more and more angry and hyperbolic.

Along that line, we need to talk about the latest video from the NRA by their new young star, Dana Loesch.  

Can we talk about advocating violence and encouraging armed insurrection in America? Here is what Loesch is saying under the umbrella of the NRA. I do love the hypocrisy:

In other words, Loesch is telling us that she and the NRA appropriated the imagery of a clenched first, even though when it’s associated with the left, it stands, in her mind, for violent protest or being a whiny loser. She also urges her critics to “take a Midol” and “get a grip,” which is wild advice coming from a woman who made an eight-minute video sitting three inches from a camera yelling about leftists lighting garbage can fires.

But it’s a call to arms that is alarming here and considering the political atmosphere, it wouldn’t take much for a terrible incident to start something we don’t want to see in America. This is no game. This is serious stuff , so for Loesch to feign surprise at the pushback is dishonest and cynical. More from the linked article:

The NRA is getting a little of the sweet, white-hot outrage they so crave with a new and deranged ad featuring their spokesperson, pundit Dana Loesch. The ad explicitly positions Real Americans against the violent, lying left, and—given that it’s an ad for a gun lobbying organization—it reads a lot like a call to take up arms against those menacing liberals. But who is Dana Loesch, why is she in my face, and where does this fit in with the proud tradition of batshit NRA ads?

Who is she? Who is anybody who uses a media platform to encourage violence while representing an organization that encourages the sale of the weapons that cause the violence in this country?

The domino effect of gun violence is all too real  and it’s making us less safe. The dangerous rhetoric we are hearing every day is contributing to a sense of unease and mistrust. The potential for actual violence based on the rhetoric is also real.

Too many families and communities are suffering devastating loss from gun injuries and death. We ought to be discouraging violent and hyperbolic talk instead of hearing it from the top and in ads meant to cause anger and fear of others.

We are better than this.

Halloween frights, elections and violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Americans in general are heavily armed with some owning arsenals:

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Arrogance? Fear? Ignorance? Paranoia? Desperation?

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

We are better than this.

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

I want my country back.

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

Armed white men, or insurrectionists or ….

Marine“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” So in our country we do have a “well regulated militia” in the form of our standing military and national guard. What gives people the idea that they need to perform that role ala the second amendment?

 

Frightening and crazy things are happening in a small town in Oregon in the name of militias. Armed insurgents have taken over a government building in Burns, Oregon under the auspices of protecting land rights. Now it is turning into a possible movement that could spread to other places in the country. This article highlights what is actually going on in Oregon. From the article:

Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward said in a statement Sunday that the group of armed protesters came to town under false pretenses.

“These men came to Harney County claiming to be part of militia groups supporting local ranchers, when in reality these men had alternative motives to attempt to over throw the county and federal government in hopes to spark a movement across the United States,” Ward said.

The sheriff says he is working with local and federal authorities to keep the citizens in his county safe and to resolve the situation as quickly and peacefully as possible.

People in Burns are used to worrying about friction between the federal government and locals, but takeover is raising concerns to a new high.

Keith Landon, a longtime resident of Burns and employee at the Reid Country Store, said he knows local law enforcement officials who fear their kids will be targeted by angry militia members. The mother of one of his kids is now involved with an officer, Landon said, and they decided to send their children to another town after they were allegedly threatened by an angry protester.

“I’m hoping most of it’s just muscle, trying to push,” Landon said. “But it’s a scary thing.”

This is terrorism. The people of the town of Burns are rightfully worried and scared as well they should be. When armed people take over, all bets are off. My friend from Oregon, Baldr Odinson, who blogs has written this post about what is going on:

And the only “tyranny” here is a bunch of armed now-felons terrorizing the local community.

But, hey, there is a long history of militia members and groups committing crimes and plots, including murder, insurrection, and even genocidal schemes.  So it’s not like this is totally unexpected.  In most countries, “citizen militias” would be outlawed for what they are: homegrown terrorist organizations. This is just the latest and, perhaps, most flagrant of examples.

This occupation follows a peaceful parade by around 100 anti-government sympathizers earlier in the day in Burns, Oregon, organized by a small-time right-wing talk show host.  They met in a Safeway parking lot to do speeches, then marched a mile to the home of one of the convicted ranchers they support, and then drove to the local Sheriff’s office to throw pennies at the building for some reason (which were quickly snatched up by a couple of girls), before returning to the Safeway parking lot.  But pro-gun bullieshate peaceful protests.  Successful peaceful protests run counter to their flawed argument that guns are needed to enact change.

(…) I can’t imagine a more pitiful example of a “revolution” than this.  Not only do the Hammonds and the community not want the militia there, but the crime is taking place in one of the most remote and sparsely-populated areas of Oregon, at a time of year when no one goes there, and in a month when the temperatures are at the lowest.  At the time I’m writing this, it is -1 degrees Fahrenheit.  Good luck staying warm, felons, particularly after your electricity is cut and any fuel for your generators (if you have any) runs out.

It’ll be interesting to see how law enforcement and the government respond to this situation in the coming days.  The insurrectionists and Bundy family are clearly wanting a shoot-out to occur, a la Ruby Ridge, making them some sort of “martyr” to their extremist cause.  But I’m guessing that, if they don’t fire first, they are more likely to be surrounded in a siege until they either give up or they freeze to death.  Assuming they survive, it is comforting to know that their new felon status will prevent them from legally purchasing or possessing firearms.

So what we have here is anti-government sentiment expressed with firearms. That is quite different from, for example, protests by Black Lives Matter groups to work towards racial justice and calling attention to law enforcement shootings of young black people. Thrse are unarmed people protesting and yes, there has been, unfortunately, looting and property damage when it gets out of control. But there have also been armed white folks taking matters into their own hands as in what happened in Minneapolis last month.

Christopher Ingraham of the Washington Post wonders what exactly we should call these folks. He even has a poll question which I answered. Most who responded called them terrorists or extremists. Going forward, if this continues in other places as it looks like it could, we should call it like it is and not be afraid of offending the corporate gun lobby or the armed folks themselves. But then, they are armed. Sticky situation

Anti-government sentiments are being fomented by none other than Presidential candidate Donald Trump and other (mostly) Republican candidates.  The corporate gun lobby also spews out fear and paranoia of gun confiscation and government take-over of rights and guns if any reasonable gun safety reform laws are passed.

We are seeing the results of the fear, paranoia, and hatred acted out in small towns and large urban areas all over America. When it comes to the gun culture in our country, we are seeing what has been predicted by the gun rights extremists and the right wing extremists. Fighting against government policies should not come at the end of a barrel. Using the threat of violence is not patriotic or the American way. We change things through discussions, lobbying, getting involved, voting, organizing and having some common sense.

If we are going to start using guns and the threat of guns to change the government, the leaders and/or the policies, we are not a democracy any more. This is ludicrous. And it points to the dangers that come with fear mongering.

We have better things to do in this country like trying to keep our children and communities safe from gun violence. Let’s get to work on that and put away the guns.

 

Guns, puppies and other stupid and dangerous stuff

dog122There really aren’t adequate words for the stupidity of some of our gun owning Americans. It seems that we are beyond being able to legislate common sense for some “law abiding gun owners.” Even changing the conversation may not be enough to stop some of the stupid and dangerous things that happen with guns. There are over 300 million guns circulating or sitting around in this country. It is inevitable that bad things will happen with so many weapons designed to kill people ( or animals when used for legal hunting purposes) in the hands of so many people. We lack adequate training and the accompanying respect that should come with the awesome responsibility of owning and/or using a gun for any purpose. Instead, our insane gun culture results in the daily carnage that takes the lives of human beings. And it comes with unbelievable incidents with guns that just shouldn’t be happening and don’t happen anywhere else in the world without “second amendment rights.”

With rights come responsibilities. Too often that is forgotten once a gun is in hand. And things happen quickly without the lack of respect and responsibility that should be automatic. With lax gun laws and a corporate gun lobby encouraging anyone and everyone to own a gun with few restrictions and no training, too  many people lack the common sense that comes with other potentially dangerous products. Driving a car comes with mandatory training, a permit, a licensing test, registration of the vehicle, traffic laws, following safety laws like wearing seat belts, penalties for not following the law and being able to have the money to buy a car.

Not so with guns. But let’s get to the point of this post.

A story from Arkansas where a police chief resigned because of fear for his young family highlights what happens when extremists show disdain for law enforcement and are not afraid to let them know. From the article:

Bald Knob Police Chief Erek Balentine is resigning, saying he feels that doing so will better the safety of his family.

His announcement of resignation comes just days after his truck was vandalized overnight. The phrase “2 Amendment” was written in spray paint on the sides of the vehicle.

The gun rights advocates believe they should be able to carry their guns anywhere and the carry laws (often written by the gun lobby) are obtuse and vague purposely. As a result, the gun rights extremists challenge laws all over our country to make a point. And officers of the law and the public are left to try to interpret the laws the best they can. In Arkansas, because of the case of the arrest of a man open carrying in a McDonald’s, there is still confusion over the law. Until we figure out how to tell a “good guy” with a gun from a “bad guy” with a gun, this will continue. Can we tell the difference? Shootings happen in public places often enough that it’s natural for the public, business owners and law enforcement officers to assume the worst. That is the problem with allowing carrying of guns in public places. The second amendment was written at a time that did not anticipate this kind of use of guns.

When someone goes so far as burning the truck of a police chief because they disagree with him on gun rights we have a serious problem- it’s called insurrectionism. It’s dangerous and more than stupid.

And then there’s the idea that shooting puppies is one way to get rid of them. But the last laugh on this stupid Florida gun owner came from the puppy:

A man who tried to shoot seven puppies was shot himself when one of the dogs put its paw on the revolver’s trigger. Jerry Allen Bradford, 37, was being treated at a hospital for a gunshot wound to his wrist.

Bradford said he decided to shoot the 3-month-old shepherd-mix dogs in the head because he couldn’t find them a home, according to the sheriff’s office.

On Monday, Bradford was holding two puppies — one in his arms and another in his left hand — when the dog in his hand wiggled and put its paw on the trigger of the .38-caliber revolver. The gun then discharged, the sheriff’s report said.

First of all, couldn’t the guy find a home from these puppies? Why shoot them at all? But- guns. As someone remarked on my Facebook page, ” Only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad puppy with a gun.” Ludicrous stuff. Another comment on this article on Facebook was, “Guns don’t kill people, puppies do.”

Along the line of stupid people with guns and dogs, a Texas woman asked for some of her Facebook friends to shoot her dog because….. well- she couldn’t take care of it. How about finding a home for the dog? A dog shelter maybe? What is wrong with us? And who wants to shoot a dog when they shoot back?

I don’t spend time at gun ranges. I have some friends who do and talk about how safety comes first and people have to follow the safety rules or will not be allowed to shoot at the range. But more often than they should by all rights be happening, there are serious accidents that sometimes result in death or serious injury at gun ranges. One such happened recently at a range in North Carolina when a military veteran was killed after a gun misfired. I don’t understand this. When guns misfire, should there be some responsibility assigned? Was it the fault of the man who fired the gun? Or was it a manufacturing flaw? And even if it was, there is no recourse because the gun lobby made sure that the gun industry is immune from legal action that could hold them responsible if negligence is found.

To wrap this up, what I’m writing here is that too many things can go wrong when guns are present. Every day, too many people die from gunshot injuries- most of them totally avoidable and senseless. But since our gun culture is so embedded in our political system, we just can’t seem to loosen the hold the gun lobby has.  When that happens, I expect that we will, at long last, do the right thing and pass laws to prevent at least some of our gun injuries and deaths.

Also, I’m just wondering why I so often write about incidents that happen in Florida and Texas, home to some of the most lax gun laws and high number of gun owners in the country.

Where is common sense?