Minnesotans and background checks

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Minnesota State Fair attendees, a pretty good cross section of Minnesotans from all over the state, have once again confirmed that requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales is something that ought to happen. From the report released after the Fair closed:

 

2. Should criminal background checks be required on all gun sales, including private transactions and at gun shows? Yes…………………………………………… 86.2%……………… (5,556) No……………………………………………. 11.5%………………… (739) Undecided/No Opinion ………………. 2.3%………………….. (150)

These poll results are consistent with all other polls taken about this issue both in Minnesota and nationally. Not once have a clear majority of Minnesotans said they don’t want background checks on all gun sales. That being the case, what has been the response of our Minnesota legislators?

Sigh.

In 2013 the Minnesota legislature had an opportunity to pass a law to require background checks on all sales at gun shows and on-line. In spite of several polls showing strong support from Minnesotans taken by the Star Tribune and by KSTP news network, the bill never got a vote in the House.

Aren’t we better than this? A small minority of Minnesotans think, apparently, that felons, domestic abusers, those adjudicated mentally ill, fugitives and others who definitely should not have guns should be able to buy them anyway- and buy them legally. Or, is this denial? Or is it something else? What could it be?

Selling guns without background checks is not illegal if one is a private seller. Why? Because we have allowed our legislature to be bullied by the gun lobbyists and leaders who make false claims that requiring the very same background checks now performed by federally licensed firearms dealers (FFLs)extended to private sellers would lead to gun registration and confiscation. This kind of ludicrous claim should not be accepted by our legislators any more.

Why have they believed it before? Fear. Fear of whom? Money? Influence? Fear of losing? The small minority of noisy gun owners who have drunk the kool aid of the far right have kept up this mantra of fear and paranoia for so many years that it is hard to break through it with the truth.

The truth is that Brady background checks will save lives if applied to all gun sales. The gun lobby hates the fact that over 2 million gun buyers have been prohibited from purchasing from federally licensed dealers since the Brady law took effect in 1994. What don’t they like? They have made false claims that those who have been denied shouldn’t have been. But this article from The Trace highlights the numbers and the reasons why someone was denied purchasing a firearm. Felons, fugitives, domestic abusers, illegal aliens, someone under indictment, unlawful users of controlled substances, and others have not been able to purchase guns from FFLs.

We should be thankful and relieved that these prohibited purchasers who tried to buy guns were denied. But they are NOT denied if buying from a private seller at a gun show, an on-line site, classified newspaper ad or flea market.

This is stupid, dangerous and ludicrous. It makes no common sense.

No one is saying that requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales will lead to no gun deaths. We know better. There are many ways for prohibited people to get guns. This is but one way to cut off an easy market for those who shouldn’t have guns. Not closing down this “loophole” is insanity at the least and dangerous and irresponsible at the most. And, of course, requiring background checks IS constitutional and has been for over 20 years.

It’s time for a change. The public understands this issue very well. Some in our Congress and legislatures are in denial and in the pockets of the corporate gun lobby and those who believe their gun rights include the potential need to overthrow their own government. These are strong views believed by some and they can have these views whether or not we require background checks on all gun sales. But they should not prevent us from passing laws that will save lives and change a culture that has included allowing easy access to guns by people who should not have it.

If we but follow the money we also see the influence of the gun manufacturers on the gun lobby and vice versa. If sales of guns are important enough to prevent our passing laws that will save lives, we need a change in the conversation, the culture and policy. There is no proof that gun sales will go down if background checks are required on all sales. Is there proof that law abiding gun buyers will stop buying guns from private sellers if they have to undergo a background check identical to the one they undergo at an FFL?

Questions need to be asked and answered. We’ve had #Enough.

Terror- again- in America

assault rifleAn alleged act of domestic terror has taken the lives of what are reported to be 20 people with another 42 or so injured. One man with an assault rifle and a handgun was able to take hostages and inflict terror in a popular Orlando, Florida nightclub in just seconds.

CNN reports that for every person injured, 6 medical personnel are required to treat them. And now the nurses, physicians and others are also traumatized by this incident.

The country is traumatized collectively when we see news of shootings like this one.

In America, these things happen. We call these types of incidents terror. Early reports indicate that the shooter may have had a radical ideology or maybe even somehow ISIS related political leanings. We will learn more soon enough.

Meanwhile, there are many questions to be asked and answers will hopefully come. But one big question is where the guns came from? In America it is far too easy for just about anyone to access an assault rifle. Was this man a “law abiding” buyer? Was he on a terror watch list? Or was he just another angry person with guns ready to shoot people for whatever reason? It appears that he was a “lone wolf.”

Again.

These acts of terror take place all over the world. In Israel, 4 people were shot dead the other day. It was an act of terror. But in America they happen regularly and take the lives of innocent people. This could be an actual act of terror similar to the San Bernardino shooting. Or it could be “just” another mass shooting similar to Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Aurora or one of the many many acts of senseless gun violence and mass shootings that happen on a regular basis.

These shootings cause those of us who have been affected by gun violence to relive our own terror after learning the news of a loved one shot and killed or injured.

Just the other day a young woman singer who had competed on “The Voice” , Christina Grimmie, was gunned down by a lone gunman while Grimmie was signing autographs. He was armed with 2 guns and a knife. Who was he? Why? This bold act was one of many that happened on that day.

With a gun in hand, it’s easy to shoot someone you know or don’t know in an instant.

So the last big question is what are we going to do about the guns and the easy access to them in America? Common sense tells us that we must do something about our laws, our gun culture, hate, terror, anger or whatever turned out to the be the cause of this particular shooting.

But we can’t ignore the guns.

Remember that in America we not only do little to regulate the purchase of assault rifles, we encourage their sale and try to convince the public they are just “common sporting rifles”.

Profits.

And anyone can buy one without a background check at gun shows, flea markets, estate and garage sales, on line on Facebook or Armslist.com. 

Even known terrorists can buy guns in America and we can’t stop them.

Thank you corporate gun lobby.

What are we going to do?

We can’t shrug our shoulders and believe nothing is to be done. That would be negligence.

#Enough.

It’s a sad day in our country and also frightening, to say the least.

We are better than this.

 

UPDATE:

The Mayor of Orlando is reporting that 50 are dead in the horrific nightclub shooting with more likely to be added to the list of the dead. There are no words for this.

Taking sides on guns

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whose side are you on?

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

Whose side are you on?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

An inconvenient truth-Minnesotans and the country want background checks

inconvenientThere is an inconvenient truth about guns and elected leaders. The burden of lack of common sense gun laws is borne by the victims and survivors and their families and friends. It is borne by our communities and our children. It is inconvenient to bury a loved one whose life was taken suddenly and violently from senseless gun violence.

Though the Minnesota legislature has turned down many opportunities to pass a law requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales, Minnesotans have said consistently that they want this law. A new poll by the Star Tribune showed 82% support for such a law. And yes, even gun owners want this to happen. The usual is the case in this poll:

That’s according to a Star Tribune Minnesota Poll, which found 82-percent support for criminal background checks on all gun sales including in private transactions and at gun shows. The overwhelming majority support extends across gender, income and political party lines, and to every part of the state, with even 78 percent of residents outside the Twin Cities expressing support.

Whether such laws would actually reduce mass shootings produced far less certainty. Only 15 percent felt it would help “a lot,” while 45 percent expected it to help “not much” or “not at all.” Those results also split much more along gender and party lines, with a majority of both men and Republicans thinking it would make little or no difference. Women and Democrats were more likely to think it would.

Men and Republicans. Hmm. Who is mostly in charge of the Minnesota legislature? Yup.

Whether or not Brady background checks on all gun sales would stop mass shootings seems open to debate. And background checks will not, of course, stop all shootings. But a one woman polled said, “How can it hurt?” Indeed. Why we don’t at least try is the question that needs to be asked. The fact that we don’t tells us who is in control and it’s not the majority of Minnesotans. It is time for our leaders to bear the burden of lack of action and do the right thing.

It’s significant to note that even rural Minnesotans want Brady background checks. The comment from one of the gun owners polled was consistent with those who don’t want background checks for fear that they can’t sell a gun to their brother without doing a background check. One thing to consider is that we have to hope that the person selling is not a domestic abuser who got his/her gun without a background check from another private seller. This is one way that guns get into the hands of those who shouldn’t have them. How often are relatives involved in providing guns to others? That is a question that should be asked and answered. But further, most background check laws exempt those who buy from and sell to close relatives. But let’s hope that those who do this make darned sure the relative is a responsible gun owner who doesn’t intend harm to others.

So this poll is not a surprise. But it must be a surprise to our legislators that their constituents want them to do the right thing. Or is it? Many of them turn their backs on common sense and vote with the corporate gun lobby instead. I believe they understand that they could do the right thing but they are afraid to stand up to the din of the corporate gun lobbyists who park themselves in their offices. This is not acceptable any more. The gun issue is one of the main issues of the Presidential election and should be one of the main issues for down ballot races as well.

We need to make it an issue. It is up to us to ask our elected officials if they will vote with the majority of their constituents and pass laws that will keep us safer from shootings. There is no reason not to vote in favor of a law that could save lives.

And speaking of polls, Presidential candidate Donald Trump has claimed that his polling shows strong enough support for him that he could step outside on 5th Avenue and shoot someone and no one would care. Really Donald Trump? This kind of rhetoric fans the flames of violent solutions and the gun lobby’s mantra that guns make us all safer and that everyone should carry one. And yes, we would care if you actually shot someone on the streets of New York City even though some of your supporters in the room where you made that statement laughed. Did they laugh because they didn’t dare not? Did they laugh because they were nervous about what you just said? Did they laugh because they actually believed that you could shoot someone and get away with it because you are Donald Trump and they think you should be the leader of the free world? Just imagine this rhetoric coming from the President of the United States.

This kind of offensive rhetoric is an example of how far politicians will go to gain the favor of a small minority of Americans who resist all efforts to keep our communities safe from gun violence. The NRA’s numbers show an increasing drop in their claimed membership according to this article from The Trace:

The National Rifle Association’s (NRA) New York state financial disclosure forms for 2014 are now online, and like past years’ tax filings, the documents provide a rare glimpse at the organization’s inner machinery. The group’s total revenues fell from more than $347 million in 2013 to roughly $310 million. Contributing to the decline was a drop in income collected from its members. Revenue from annual dues fell from $175 million to $128 million in 2014, a drop of 27 percent.

The precise size of NRA’s membership — the core of the group’s perceived political muscle — has long been a mystery. In January 2013, Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre boasted before Congress that he served 4.5 million members. Speaking at an NRA convention a few months later, he upped that figure to 5 million. On January 5, in a statement responding to President Barack Obama’s executive actions on guns, the group described itself as “more than 5 million members strong.”

But the truth of those numbers is a matter of debate — the NRA has never allowed an outside party to authenticate its membership, and independent estimates predict a much smaller number. Circulation audits of American Rifleman and other NRA-published magazines that are sent to every member come in at around 3 million. One former board membertold the Washington Post in 1998 that when the NRA counts its size, it includes many deceased lifetime members.

I have written about this before. I know people who have dropped their memberships. I know people who get cards from the NRA enrolling them in their membership. One of my friends is a lifetime member of the NRA because her father bought her a membership when she was a child. She does own a gun but she is working hard alongside gun violence prevention groups in Minnesota to pass reasonable laws. I have a friend who likes to shoot guns at a local gun club. In order to join this club, he has to also join the NRA. He does not believe in what the NRA does and supports my efforts to pass common sense gun laws.

The inconvenient truth is that most Americans want their leaders to pass stronger gun laws and enforce the laws we have. This has been consistently shown in national and state polling for many years now. Even gun owners want reasonable gun laws.

So what are we waiting for? We are waiting for our leaders to get out from under the thumb of what was once a more powerful gun lobby. They are not your father’s or grandfather’s gun safety organizations any more. They are in existence to protect their own perceived power and the profits of the gun industry it represents.

The gun lobby doesn’t want us to know how easy it is for prohibited people to get access to guns. They don’t want us to know how easy it is for kids and teens to access the guns that are used in “accidental” shootings and suicides. 80% of gun deaths in Minnesota are due to suicide. In states that have required background checks on all gun sales, suicides have decreased as have domestic shootings. The proof is in the numbers and the inconvenient truth.

They don’t want us to know that American service members are shooting themselves on a regular basis. They don’t want us to talk about how easy it is to get a gun on internet sites. They don’t want us to know about the 89 Americans who die every day from gunshot injuries.

This is an inconvenient truth. But the public is way ahead of their leaders. It’s time for our leaders to catch up to reality and stop being afraid of the bully in the room. It’s time for us all to raise our collective voices and demand that something be done. That time is coming in Minnesota and all over our country where the majority has had #Enough. 

The aftermath of the Chattanooga mass shooting

puzzle piecesAs always, after mass shootings, people on both sides start offering solutions. The most common sense solution to come from this particular shooting is to expand our background check system to require background checks on all gun sales. Why? It’s just a good idea in general. But the Chattanooga shooter got many of his guns through the Internet site, Armslist.com where buyers and sellers can be connected to make gun sales.

You can check what guns are available for sale in your own state or city by clicking on the site and going to your state. Then you can click on private party and see that many, if not most, of the guns sold on this site are sold by private parties where background checks are not required. That’s just crazy. I checked on my own state of Minnesota for today and here is what I found. There are 6 handguns listed for sale for today, all from private parties.

Clearly we have a problem. The interesting thing about Internet sales is that the gun rights extremists are in denial about how they work. They make claims that all guns purchased on the Internet have to be picked up at a federally licensed firearms dealer. That, of course, is only for those purchased at a gun dealer on-line. The sites like Armslist are for connecting buyers with sellers and so have no requirement that background checks will be required. This is a dangerous market place for selling guns and we know that other shooters have bought guns from this site. If we don’t do anything about this, more dangerous people will purchase guns this way and it will be legal because we have not made it illegal. That is unacceptable. Lives can be saved. Not to do so by stopping these kinds of sales is not only irresponsible, it is negligent.

It’s vitally important to look towards background checks to save lives. The Charleston shooter who massacred 9 innocent black people in a church, should not have been able to purchase his gun. But an error in our FBI NICS system allowed the sale to go through. Had he been unable to get that gun at the gun dealer, he could easily have used a private sale on an Internet site or found a private seller at a gun show or other venue. This is not a puzzle. It’s solvable. Let’s put the pieces together.

Instead, the other solution now in the news is to arm all state side military members so they can protect themselves. There are many reasons why this is NOT a good idea. This article from The Trace explains it”:

Most service members — 99 percent of airmen, 88 percent of sailors, and about two-thirds of soldiers and Marines — are not in direct combat roles, but instead are technical workers whose specialties support those “tip of the spear” troops. These include navigators, supply clerks, water purification specialists, and camera crews. Roughly the same breakdown applies to the backgrounds of recruiters and reservists. Practically speaking, this means that your average military member’s firearms experience may only go as far as some boot camp familiarization with a service rifle on a “static range,” plinking at paper targets to qualify for a marksmanship ribbon. Some servicesare more stringent than others — “every Marine is a rifleman,” the old saw goes, but even most Marines only qualify annually in the narrow realm of target marksmanship, not tactical handgunning or law enforcement uses of firearms. Civilians may believe that all members of the military are “stone-cold killer weapons experts,” as former Army Special Forces officer and Pentagon official Steven P. Bucci told the Boston Globe, but their files say otherwise.

The upshot is that your average service member is more qualified than most civilians to handle guns, but no more qualified to neutralize an active shooter than the average professional mechanic is to race the Daytona 500.

And they don’t need to be, because most military sites have dedicated baseDepartment of Defense police and military members like MPs and masters-at-arms who specialize in armed law enforcement. (…) The result of all of the above: Hardly any military office meets the definition of a “gun-free zone,” but every military office does observe strict discipline on gun use. “Arming DoD personnel with firearms shall be limited and controlled,” the policy states, limiting armaments to “qualified personnel” — those who apply and qualify to carry weapons, then undergo special training — “when required for assigned duties and there is reasonable expectation that DoD installations, property, or personnel lives or DoD assets will be jeopardized if personnel are not armed.” When determining if those conditions are met, commanders are required to consider “the possible consequences of accidental or indiscriminate use of those arms.”

And more about why arming all military as a bad idea just as arming all citizens is ( from the article):

That’s to say nothing of other shootings — such as the 2013 Navy Yard murders or multiple fatal killings at Fort Bragg, home of the Army’s airborne and special forces — perpetrated by the very same uniformed and civilian military personnel that conservatives seek to arm. Dating back to 1994, there had been 20 shootings on or around military installations before the Chattanooga tragedy. All of them were committed by disgruntled uniformed or civilian military workers. As one Navy training brief on active-shooter situations points out: “Most attackers had no history of prior violent or criminal behavior.”

Beyond the practical concerns about an increase in accidents and criminal killings, military planners have another reason to be sanguine about arming service members en masse: It poses an inherent risk to civil liberties in the United States. Since the late 1800s, the Posse Comitatus Act has limited the federal government’s ability to use military members to carry out domestic law enforcement duties. It originated in the rollback of Reconstruction-era policing of the South, but since then, the law has been widely praised as a safeguard against federal martial law on the streets of America. Second Amendment advocates who often defend personal firearms ownership as a check against government abuse and tyranny would likely be among the first Americans to criticize arming domestic military members wholesale in the name of “security.”

Isn’t this exactly what the gun rights extremists are afraid of? A heavily armed government is going to come for their guns. There will be tyranny so they prepare themselves by arming up. Perhaps the “solution” to arm all military who serve in non combat roles in our own country will give the gun nuts even more fuel for their crazy and paranoid ideas about the government surely out to get them. This will drive up gun sales yet again. It’s a vicious circle for sure.

And the article ends with the obvious:

But arming all military workers everywhere is not one of those sensible new measures. At best, it’s the gut feeling of a car repairman in Connecticut and the political stumpers that pander to him; at worst, it’s the xenophobic expression of pathos by conservative chickenhawks. One of their more ornery (or, possibly, more honest) spokesmen, actor and right-wing activist James Woods, displayed the latter sensibility on Twitter last week. “Chattanooga exposes AGAIN several liberal fallacies,” he wrote. “‘Gun free zones’ are ‘safe’; military shouldn’t be armed; POTUS cares about military.”

This is a particular gun-loving, Islam-fearing ideology taken to its logical conclusion. By this logic, every inch of public space in America is an active battleground, and every American who opposes the militarization of that space (including war-worn Army brass like Odierno) hates America and its troops. It is precisely the sort of emotional argument for a perpetual combat footing that shouldn’t be mixed with lethal weaponry, proffered by precisely the sort of sideline sitters who would never take part in the war. Actual military security experts know better.

Having an armed American is just not going to make us safer. We need to come up with other solutions to the problem of armed people who shouldn’t be on the ready to attack military facilities, movie theaters, schools, shopping malls, and churches.

This does not have to be a puzzle. The pieces fit if we make them and have the will to work on it. But so far, even after the recent mass shootings in Charleston and now Chattanooga, we are not doing what needs to be done for public health and safety.

Proactive and preventative measures, like background checks for all guns sales,  have the most chance of saving lives. It’s time for us to get to work to stop the next mass shooting and the next domestic shooting and the next time someone shoots a disabled veteran with his own gun while he is guarding sea turtle nests. Our insane gun culture, thanks to the corporate gun lobby and its’ bought and paid for politicians, is coming home to roost. It’s time for a change. Let’s get to work for we are better than this.

And I would be remiss if I did not ask for a moment to think about the victims of the Aurora theater shooting, 3 years ago today. The shooter was just found guilty by a jury just last week so the families have had some sense of relief. But today, they remember the 12 of their loved ones who were shot dead by a young man who should not have had access to guns and ammunition. And 70 more were wounded.

In memory of Sarah Brady

Sarah Brady
This photo is from the Brady Campaign.

America lost a treasure yesterday with the death of Sarah Brady. She was a courageous woman who was tough and persistent while at the same time caring and a true friend to those who knew her. From this article:

“In the history of our nation, there are few people, if any, who are directly responsible for saving as many lives as Sarah and Jim,” Brady Campaign and Center President Dan Gross said in a statement.

Brady became a gun control activist after her husband, White House press secretary James Brady, was shot in the head during an assassination attempt against President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

James Brady died in August of last year.

The Brady Campaign says the legislation Sarah Brady championed after James Brady’s shooting has prevented the sale of more than 2.4 million firearms “to criminals and other dangerous people.”

At the 1996 Democratic convention in Chicago, Sarah Brady was invited to speak because in the preceding term President Bill Clinton had signed the Brady bill. Brady called that moment “the proudest moment of our lives,” but she also called for continued work on gun control.

“This battle is not about guns; it’s about families, it’s about children, it’s about our future,” Brady said. “You can’t have stronger families without safer children. The gun lobby likes to say that Jim and I are trying to take guns away from hunters and sportsmen. The gun lobby is wrong. To the hunters and sportsmen of America we say, keep your guns. But just give us the laws that we need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and out of the hands of children.”

Her advice to those who knew her was that we should never give up. She and her husband Jim who died last year after living with the consequences of his shooting in 1981, never gave up in their fight to get the Brady Law enacted. Because of their efforts, lives have been saved. There is no question that stopping people who shouldn’t have guns at one of the points of sale will also make it harder for those people to get guns to use in crime and shootings. Since the law was enacted about 2 million gun sales have been stopped when prohibited people have attempted to buy guns at federally licensed gun dealers.

But we have not yet finished the job started by Sarah and Jim Brady. Until we require background checks for all gun sales, we will be allowing felons, domestic abusers and adjudicated mentally ill people (and others) to legally purchase guns they should not have. There are markets for guns through private sellers at gun shows, on the Internet and other venues who don’t require background checks on buyers. The American public knows this and agrees that background checks on all guns sales are a very good idea for public safety. Sarah understood this well and worked until the end of her life on efforts to expand Brady background checks to all gun sales.

Sarah was not afraid of the gun lobby. Gun violence prevention advocates are not afraid of the gun lobby. It’s our elected leaders who are so afraid of the corporate gun lobby that they give in to their false claims that background checks on all gun sales will only affect law abiding citizens and inevitably lead to gun registration. In the 20 years that Brady background checks have been in existence there has been no gun registration. But never mind the facts.

This is backwards logic but the gun lobby gets away with this talking point with our leaders. Not so with the public who can understand that if you are a legal buyer, a background check won’t affect you. Legal buyers go through background checks every day to purchase guns from licensed gun dealers and are barely inconvenienced as a result. It will be those who should not have guns who will suffer from the inconvenience of being turned away by a seller. And that inconvenience may just stop a shooting. The inconvenience of burying a loved one after a shooting is an actual inconvenience. The other one is fabricated by a group whose getting their way means profit, power and influence.

Sarah and Jim Brady knew that inconvenience well. Their life changed in the instant the bullet hit Jim’s head in 1981. An armed man who shouldn’t have had a gun shot that bullet that killed one and injured not only Brady but President Reagan. This happened in spite of armed security and police at the scene lending the lie to the NRA’s ridiculous statement that only good guys can stop bad guys with guns.

Jim Brady lived with the paralysis and other problems that come from a head injury from a bullet. Bullets do serious damage to body tissue and organs. Jim Brady’s sense of humor, though, was not lost in the shooting but as his life progressed, it was difficult to understand his speech. He, along with Sarah, were relentless in their cause to keep guns away from those who shouldn’t have them. Sarah was his loving partner and his legs in her visits to the U.S. Capitol to get the Brady law passed.

After the Million Mom March in 2000, Sarah Brady recognized the value of grassroots organizing and advocates in states all over America. The Million Mom March merged with Handgun Control, Inc. in 2001 to form the now Brady Campaign/Center and Sarah continued working with chapter members all over the country on gun violence prevention measures. In the 15th year of the Million Mom March, chapter leaders and members will not only continue the work begun by Sarah and Jim Brady but will renew our efforts to change the conversation about guns and expand Brady background checks. In Sarah’s memory, we are energized to get the job done.

I had opportunities to work with Sarah and knew of her intellect and her well thought out remarks about gun violence prevention. She was wise and listened well. She was also feisty and fought for what was right if she thought someone was doing the wrong thing. Sarah was also charming and opened up her life to other advocates, making them her friends immediately.

Sarah Brady will be missed by many. Her dreams of finishing the job will not die because she did. Those of us who knew her and those who didn’t will continue in our efforts on her behalf and in her memory. Sarah knew what common sense was all about. To her it meant that gun laws can co-exist with gun ownership and gun rights. In fact, she and Jim came at the issue from the side of protecting their young son from a gun to which he was accidentally exposed by a friend. She grew up in a home with guns but when her young son found a gun in the truck of a friend, she realized that something had to change. She knew that gun safety reform was about children and families.

Here is the official statement from the Brady Campaign about Sarah Brady’s death:

“All of us at the Brady Campaign and Center to Prevent Gun Violence are heartbroken over the passing of Sarah Brady. Together with her husband Jim ‘Bear’ Brady, Sarah was the heart and soul of this organization and the successful movement it has become today. In the history of our nation, there are few people, if any, who are directly responsible for saving as many lives as Sarah and Jim. There are countless people walking around today who would not be were it not for Sarah Brady’s remarkable resilience, compassion and – what she always said she enjoyed the most – her hard work in the trenches with this organization, which she continued right up to the very end.

“Sarah and Jim are responsible for the passage of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act (the ‘Brady Law’) which has prevented more than 2.4 million sales of firearms to criminals and other dangerous people and remains, by far, the most significant achievement in the history of the gun violence prevention movement. Our nation has lost a great hero, and I have lost a dear friend. I am certain that she would want nothing more than to know we are carrying on her and Jim’s legacy with the same fiery compassion and dedication that made her so remarkable.”

The Brady Campaign/Center are named for Jim Brady and will continue to work in their name to keep our communities safe from gun violence and to change the conversation about the risks of guns. We mourn the loss of a great woman who has left behind an amazing legacy for the rest of us. She was a mentor and role model to many and we loved her for her kindness but also her fierce advocacy.