Why people don’t like the NRA

Two men try to reach across the divideThere are many reasons not to like the National Rifle Association’s leaders and lobbyists. Many Americans have chosen to join the NRA for different reasons. As I have written before in this blog, the NRA has changed a lot over the last decades and even over just the last few years. Once it was an organization that supported shooting sports and those who enjoyed hunting and recreational shooting. Many gun owners and hunters have taken training classes and sent their children to classes to learn how to handle a hunting gun properly before going out into the woods with the gun. This is not a bad thing.

But of late, the NRA’s leadership has chosen a different face for the organization. It is not pretty. Take a look at some of the 23 points from this Media Matters article about the NRA’s lean towards racism:

Following Donald Trump’s presidential election victory, Chuck Holton, an NRATV correspondent who is a daily guest on the gun group’s programming, wrote on Twitter that the “party’s over” and it’s time to scrub “Obama’s mocacchino stain off of America!” using a term for a chocolate coffee drink.

In 2016, Holton claimed on an NRA program that white privilege is “just simply the culture that we have created, that our fathers and grandfathers have worked hard to create,” before saying that it would be nice if blacks joined whites in “respecting authority and taking responsibility for your own actions.”

In July, Holton warned on NRATV about the prospect of Black Lives Matter members committing mass murder and rape against whites in the United States.

Blatant racism, fear mongering, hatred of others, and outright intolerance have become the messaging by the current leadership of the NRA.  Do we have to talk about Ted Nugent again to make my point? There is as much common sense amongst this crowd as fits on the head of a pin.

The NRA is just too extreme for too many and has lost its’ original purpose to become an arm of the Republican party: 

Similarly, extremism has been profitable for the NRA. But as the GOP is learning, there is no easy route back from the fringe.

First, the NRA’s political power and fundraising depend on maintaining paranoia at a screaming pitch.

Second, the NRA has its own tea party problem. Gun groups that are even more extreme are ever eager to label the NRA a sellout — too willing to appease liberals or compromise freedom or indulge the girly-man politics of the mainstream. (…)

Extremism, of course, is a tricky game. If you don’t convert the country to your cause, you risk being marginalized. That’s already happening to the NRA in liberal states. The trend may expand.

Like open carry, NRA ideology doesn’t hold up well in real life. “Good guys with guns” too often turn out to be bad guys who kill. And what are the chances that a very stupid, very reckless “good guy” will eventually shoot an innocent person while trying to be a hero? I’d guess the chances are quite high. Meanwhile, social media readily spreads news stories of foolish gun owners leaving senseless destruction in their wake.

On a recent flight to Washington D.C. I sat next to a woman from South Dakota who asked why I was going to D.C. When I told her about my involvement with gun violence prevention, she absolutely agreed with me. And what’s more, she told me that she had family members and friends who were ranchers and owned guns for hunting and self protection. These people have mentioned to her that they do not like the extremism of the NRA and they are not in favor of assault rifles for common use understanding that they are not needed for hunting or self protection.

The thing is, these are the majority of us. The minority has become so extreme that they are “shooting themselves in the (collective) foot”. Look at the behavior of ex Judge Roy Moore at the celebration of his win in the Alabama special election Republican primary. He pulled out his gun and made sure everyone could see how macho he was and how supportive he would be of gun rights. What a ridiculous display by a man who won in spite of his unconstitutional behavior while serving on the Alabama Supreme Court- twice! For him to proclaim some sort of allegiance to the second amendment and its’ constitutionality is cynical at best.

I’m sure everyone remembers when President Trump suggested that he could step out onto 5th Avenue and shoot someone and his supporters would stick with him. He’s right. A certain number of people believe that this kind of behavior is fine for a President of the United States and leader of the free world. I believe it is totally dumbing down the office of the Presidency and gives license for bad behavior by others.

The bold, brash and bullying style of our very own President gives leave for others to act the same. We have an example of an increasingly corrupt man at the top who is surrounded by swamp monsters. What could possibly go wrong? And do they think we can’t see what they are doing in plain sight and even under the cover of darkness? Thanks goodness for the media who are reporting on the non fake news and revealing the truth along with evidence.

Where is the empathy and sensitivity towards the families and friends of the 33,000 victims of gun violence every year? Not there.

Evidence matters. Facts matter. The truth matters. People matter. Civility matters.

This study uses evidence to prove what most of us understand-  More guns do not equal a reduction in crime:

Most of this research—and there have been several dozen peer-reviewed studies—punctures the idea that guns stop violence. In a 2015 study using data from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for example, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University reported that firearm assaults were 6.8 times more common in the states with the most guns versus those with the least. Also in 2015 a combined analysis of 15 different studies found that people who had access to firearms at home were nearly twice as likely to be murdered as people who did not.

Do remember that Congress, under the influence of the NRA, has stopped funding to the CDC for research into the causes and effects of gun violence.

Lack of evidence = ignorance= myths = more power for NRA and corporate gun lobby + fear of gun lobby = lack of courage by elected leaders =more gun deaths and injuries.

Thanks NRA.

Even gun owners can see through the sham of the corporate gun lobby.

Average gun owners actually support what I support:

“We’re considered weirdos,” said George Legeros, a longtime Virginia gun owner who also supports universal background checks and limits on how many guns people may buy. “Anybody who tries to take guns away is a bad man. That’s why the NRA doesn’t represent me. For lack of a better word, they are too whacked-out. It’s one thing to be pro-gun. It’s another thing to have no common sense.”

Nearly 1 in 3 Americans own a gun. But only 5 million belong to the NRA, which is often portrayed as the voice of hunters, skeet shooters and other gun owners. The squelched majority could emerge as a powerful force in the gun control debate, gun control advocates say, if they ever gain traction — emphasis on if.

Most hunters and gun owners are law abiding and understand that they have a responsibility to be safe with their guns. They also understand that people like me are not about taking away guns or rights. They are not afraid of this. But the NRA leaders and lobbyists have scared a certain percentage of people into believing in lies, myths and misperceptions. And people are dying every day as a result.

This is not leading to a safer America. In fact, some recent figures show the opposite.

Gun suicides take the lives of many Americans but somehow the corporate gun lobby is in denial about the risks of guns in the home. Check out this evidence from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence that what I am writing is fact:

Though we are living in a time of rising suicide rates, many Americans, including our lawmakers, buy into the pervasive myth that suicides are inevitable. Confronting the Inevitability Myth thoroughly debunks this misconception by arming readers with data and research from across the field showing how gun access drives suicide risk in this country and, consequently, how effective gun policy and intervention programs can save more lives. A data supplement within the report takes an even deeper dive to show just how significantly guns contribute to state suicide rates: compared to all other variables, including race, gender, rurality, substance abuse, and severe mental illness, gun access correlates the most with suicide death.

Suicide is the leading cause of gun deaths in America. It is not inevitable and it is not inevitable that if a gun is not available another method will be used. Myths are leading to inadequate solutions to our nation’s gun violence epidemic.

More women were shot by their domestic partners in 2016 than in past years:

More than 1,600 women were murdered by men in 2015 and the most common weapon used was a gun, according to the new Violence Policy Center (VPC) study When Men Murder Women: An Analysis of 2015 Homicide Data. (…)

The study found that nationwide, 93 percent of women killed by men were murdered by someone they knew and that the most common weapon used was a gun.

“Women killed by men are most often killed by someone they know and more than half were killed by an intimate partner,” says Legislative Director Kristen Rand. “Much more must be done to identify and implement strategies to prevent these tragedies. More resources are needed at the federal, state, and local levels to help keep women safe.”

Though the rate of domestic murders has decreased, 1600 women are 1600 too many. We know that guns are the weapon of choice. They are easy and they are deadly and quick. I know this because of the murder of my sister. These are facts. These are real people with families who grieve for them. Why wouldn’t we agree that reducing this number should be a priority?

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I will be thinking of the many women who senselessly and avoidably lose their lives when a husband, partner, boyfriend takes out a gun and shoots them out of anger.

Where is common sense when it comes to reducing gun deaths and injuries and protecting us all from devastating gun violence?

There is a wide gulf between the perception of the two sides. I believe it can be bridged. But we need to be dealing with facts, evidence, the truth and common sense.

 

UPDATE:

It seems that NRA leader Wayne LaPierre is trying to cover up or lie about his organization’s racism on display for all to see. Josh Horwitz at Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has called him out here:

In his blog, LaPierre harkens back to a time when the NRA was an organization that valued responsible gun ownership, advocated for gun violence prevention legislation, and supported reasonable regulations on firearms.

But Wayne LaPierre’s NRA is not the NRA he references throughout most of his article. Today’s NRA is one that has made a calculated decision to stoke fear in order to sell guns — the fear of “inner city thugs,” “radical Muslims,” and “illegal aliens.” They have told their overwhelmingly white base that they should be afraid of people of color and need to buy guns to protect themselves.

For decades, NRA board members, leaders, and spokespeople have fanned the flames of hatred and racism. Sometimes their comments have been thinly veiled. Other times, they have been shockingly overt.

Horwitz then makes his own list of NRA racist comments and/or behavior.

And further, Horwitz ends with this:

The NRA is gaslighting us. They use slurs, race-bait, disparage people of color, and support racist politicians. Then they insist that they are the “safest place” for the same people they’ve degraded so openly.

They try to push guns into communities of color, claiming guns will help protect the people who live there. Then, they tell their members they need to buy guns because people of color are armed, dangerous “thugs.” It’s a transparent, disgraceful farce.

It’s disgraceful and shameful and also very dangerous. We see what they are doing. It’s hard to hide racism when it’s in plain sight.

We are better than this.

The yin and yang of gun policy

yinJust like the current political situation has left many of us, and I would suggest, the entire country reeling in confusion and chaos, so, too, gun policy has done the same. The gun  lobby is set to overturn just about anything that makes common sense when it comes to gun policy. A bill which passed through both houses of Congress and set to be signed by our current President, undid something our last President did to try to stem the tide of gun violence. President Obama’s executive order was meant to keep people with very serious mental health disabilities from being able to legally purchase guns by placing their names on the list of prohibited purchasers in the National Instant Check System. It was not meant as an evil attempt to confiscate guns or take away anyone’s rights to own guns who should be responsible with guns.

But, as these things go, it got caught up in the politics of gun policy. I found this article by Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence to be a very good summary of the provision and where we are now. Let me quote from what he wrote for Huffington Post:

I have felt this discomfort listening to the recent public debate about the Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that prohibited those with a mental health disability and an appointed representative payee from purchasing or possessing firearms. The policy, which Congress recently voted to repeal, was the Obama administration’s effort to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. President Obama deserves a lot of credit for doing everything in his power to reduce America’s gun violence epidemic. Unfortunately, by focusing the prohibition directly on a mental health disability, the rule furthered the mistaken belief that mental illness is a major cause of violence. (…)  I have felt this discomfort listening to the recent public debate about the Social Security Administration (SSA) rule that prohibited those with a mental health disability and an appointed representative payee from purchasing or possessing firearms. The policy, which Congress recently voted to repeal, was the Obama administration’s effort to keep guns out of the hands of dangerous people. President Obama deserves a lot of credit for doing everything in his power to reduce America’s gun violence epidemic. Unfortunately, by focusing the prohibition directly on a mental health disability, the rule furthered the mistaken belief that mental illness is a major cause of violence.

Certainly the efforts of the gun lobby to overturn a provision meant to be life saving are fraught with the past history and statements of those in the lobby who have claimed that we ought to just center our efforts to prevent gun violence on mental illness:

Senator Charles Grassley, Republican of Iowa, envisioned people with “an eating disorder” being barred from buying a gun. To the contrary, the rule was focused narrowly on disabled individuals who require a trustee for personal management. They would have had the right to appeal. Senator Grassley himself noted last year the flaws in the background check database when he proposed greater cooperation among federal agencies with relevant information.

“The Republicans are so hypocritical on this issue,” said Senator Christopher Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut. He has fought for both stronger gun controls and better mental health care in the aftermath of the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Conn. A mentally troubled individual used a legally purchased assault weapon and shot to death 20 children and six school workers. The disability rule was a response to that tragedy after Congress refused to tighten gun safety laws.

Ah- the hypocrisy.

Sigh.

And so, this provision, though not perfect, was centered on the concerns that some people are, indeed, potentially dangerous to themselves or others. There are ways to deal with this conundrum and public health and safety concern without throwing the proverbial baby out with the bath water. Horwitz suggests Gun Violence Restraining Orders or, in Minnesota, a proposed Gun Violence Protection Order bill, to deal with concerns that family members have about a loved one who could become dangerous if they have access to a firearm.

The article ends like this:

Prohibitions on gun ownership are critically important. The United States’ gun laws include far too many loopholes that allow dangerous people to do harm. But the laws we support should be based on research and focused on dangerous behavior – not genetics, not diagnoses. If we want our movement to succeed, a data-driven strategy is the only way forward.

Yes. We have work to do. It does not have be either/or. It should be a rational discussion about how we can save lives and protect families and communities from insidious gun violence that takes the lives of 33,000 of us- most due to suicide.

All of this is the opening salvo in what will surely be attempts by the corporate gun lobby to weaken gun laws in the states and through federal legislation. We will not be safer as a result.

And that is why we need to recognize the risk of guns in the home and guns in the hands of people who could become dangerous to themselves or others. So the other side of this week’s gun policy was a Florida court decision that overturned a previous Florida court decision that allowed the bill, nicknamed “Docs vs. Glocks”, to stop physicians and healthcare providers from talking to patients about the risks of guns to their families. Just as physicians, physician assistants, nurses ask questions about whether we feel safe in our homes when going for our annual physicals, they should be able to ask about guns. They ask about smoking, alcohol use, bike helmets, stored poisons, seat belts, child car seats, and many other things that could cause harm to our health or well being.

From the above-linked article:

Stop for a moment and consider that the Second Amendment injury here lies not in the possibility that a physician can do anything to take away anyone’s gun, but in the outside chance that she will use her knowledge of actual medical evidence to suggest that guns can kill people and her patient might listen to her. This is literally an argument for a constitutional right not to learn stuff from people who know stuff because you might then feel bad about the stuff you own.

It is a fact that firearms injuries take the lives of almost as many, if not more of us than auto accidents. Domestic shootings take the lives of far too many (mostly) women. Gun suicides are a very real risk to families.

So the recent ruling was a victory for common sense and first amendment rights of those who provide healthcare to practice their profession as they were taught and as they are charged to do by their Hippocratic Oath.

Lawyers for the Brady Center were involved in this case and did a great job of defending the rights of professionals to do their jobs and to keep us safe from devastating gun violence. More toddlers have shot Americans than terrorists. Isn’t this a national public health and safety epidemic? Is there any rational reason to keep this from happening however we can?

Below is from the Brady Center’s statement, in its’ entirety,  about the ruling:

Today, in a landmark decision with national repercussions, a federal appeals court struck down an NRA-backed Florida law that restricted doctors from talking to their patients about the risks of guns. The decision by the full panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta is a victory for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence and Ropes & Gray, who brought the lawsuit on behalf of doctors who believed the law violated their First Amendment rights.

Wollschlaeger v. Scott was filed on June 6, 2011, challenging the Florida law, under which doctors can be censored, fined, and have their licenses to practice medicine revoked if the Florida Board of Medicine found they violated the law.

Dan Gross, President of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said, “The gun lobby and its lap dogs don’t want Americans to know the truth about the danger of guns in the home because it will hurt their bottom line. The fact is, guns are far more likely to kill a child or family member than protect them. We are pleased the Court recognized Americans have a constitutional right to hear the truth about guns, and the gun lobby has no right to silence doctors or keep patients in the dark. We will continue to work with the medical community to get the truth out, to protect American children and families from the scourge of gun violence.”

Jonathan Lowy, co-counsel in the case and Director of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence’s Legal Action Project, said: “Today’s ruling is an important victory for public safety and free speech rights, and a crushing defeat for the corporate gun lobby and the politicians who do its bidding. Politicians and special interest lobbies have no business standing between doctors and their patients, or keeping doctors from telling people the truth about the risks of guns or other products. Doctors have the right to decide how best to advice patients about risks that may endanger their families, and parents have a right to full information so they can make smart, informed decisions about how to keep their families safe.”

Ropes & Gray partner Doug Hallward-Driemeier said, “This decision is critical to the health and safety of Florida families. It makes clear that the First Amendment does not allow the government, on the basis of politics, to interfere with a doctor providing her best medical advice to her patient.”

Nancy Evans, Brady Campaign Sarasota Chapter president, said, “This is an incredible victory not only for Florida doctors but for our entire nation. I joined the fight a year ago because I believe our doctors should be able to have any conversations necessary to keep their patients healthy and safe. I am so thankful the court struck down this terrible law.”

The lawsuit was brought by the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the firms law Ropes & Gray LLP and Astigarraga Davis, on behalf of individual Florida doctors, as well as organizations representing 11,000 Florida health care providers, including the Florida Pediatric Society/Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians, Florida Chapter, and the American College of Physicians, Florida Chapter. Douglas Hallward-Driemeier of Ropes and Gray argued the case as lead counsel for the Plaintiffs.

In 2012, a trial judge in the Southern District of Florida held that the law was unconstitutional and granted a preliminary injunction. In 2014 a divided three judge panel of the 11th Circuit reversed. The full 11th Circuit heard the case en banc in 2016.

Numerous studies have proven that a gun in the home actually makes its residents less safe — 89% of unintentional shooting deaths of children occur in the home. The reality is that a gun in the home is more likely to be used in a homicide, suicide, or accidental shooting, than in self-defense. Recent research has shown that one third of all households with children under the age of 18 have a firearm, and more than 40% of these households store their guns unlocked.

So there we have it. The yin and yang of gun policy in America. I believe these opposing views of our world affect almost all of us. Who among us does not have a family member or a close friend who we feel could be, perhaps temporarily, potentially dangerous if they have access to a firearm? Who among us does not trust their physicians or healthcare providers to do what they were trained to do professionally to keep us healthy and safe?

If you want to understand the wide ranging ripple effect of gun violence and the financial, emotional and physical toll it takes on individuals, families, communities and our health care system ( which costs us all financially) take a look at this amazing story of a man who received a face transplant at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota after attempting a gun suicide. Ironically his new face came from another young man who died from gunshot injuries in a gun suicide.

This is an emotional story at the least…. the ripple effect of gun violence.

There are no evil motives here. There are only sincere and fact-based attempts to prevent gun violence and the effects it has on our families and communities.

But we have a world where it’s us vs. them with no common sense conversation or policy in the middle. We are talking about our families and our children and grandchildren. Let’s look at what the true interests are on both sides of this issue and come down on the side of public health and safety, not profits or power.

 

 

April- shooting anniversaries and an important birthday

April foolEvery April, some families have to stop what they are doing and remember an awful anniversary. The country also remembers certain April dates as those of mass shootings and violent events that we can’t forget:

April 13- Thomas Jefferson’s birthday

April 15- Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent shooting of one of the perpetrators and eventual capture and shooting of the other

April 16- Virginia Tech shooting

April 19- Oklahoma City bombing by gun rights extremist

April 20- Columbine shooting

April is a cruel month according to poet T.S. Eliot:

 

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
Summer surprised us, coming over the Starnbergersee
With a shower of rain; we stopped in the colonnade,
And went on in sunlight, into the Hofgarten,
And drank coffee, and talked for an hour.
This of course refers to the spring weather which has been particularly cruel in Minnesota this year. We are one day wearing winter coats and boots and shoveling and the next sitting outside in short sleeves and enjoying the spring sun.
But for the victims of these now famous shootings and attacks, April is unforgettable. How can we forget the 32 shot dead at Virginia Tech? How can we forget the first big school shooting that left 12 dead and the country reeling? How can we forget the Oklahoma bombing that left 168 innocent people dead. The man who committed this heinous act was a gun extremist and had anti-government sentiments. The Boston Marathon Bombing did end with shootings and left 3 people there to watch the finish of the race dead.
And what does Thomas Jefferson’s birthday have to do with any of this? Let’s take a look at this article that dispels the myths associated with some of his quotes that are used by gun extremists and far right political extremists:
Saul Cornell, a professor at Fordham University, said some quotations may need context, especially those from the “losing side” of debates. He added that he believes both sides of the gun conversation tend to oversimplify the Founding Fathers’ historical intent.
“Without being too professorial about it,” he said, “depending on what theory of the Constitution we use, you can get very different interpretations of the Second Amendment.”
Cornell, who is the Paul and Diane Guenther Chair in American History at the school, said the Constitution incorporates lessons learned while the nation was under the Articles of Confederation. He said the turmoil of Shays’ Rebellion stirred up fears of mob rule among many leaders.
He also compared the militias of early America to a form of taxation, saying that citizens had what Jefferson referred to as a “right and duty” to be armed. That is, they were required to buy weapons in addition to being allowed to possess them. Militia membership was often compulsory, Cornell said.
He questions whether the Founding Fathers would have welcomed the idea of people taking up arms against their newly hatched constitutional government instead of using governmental procedure to settle differences, which sometimes is referred to as the “ballots vs. bullets” debate.
The quote that has sometimes been used by extremists is: ” The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” So what does that mean? From this article in the Huffington Post by Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence:
Those who hold the belief that the Second Amendment gives them an individual right to take violent action against our government should it lapse into “tyranny” have isolated Jefferson’s “tree of liberty” quote in order to justify a radical ideology. The truth is that Jefferson’s views on private rebellion were far more thoughtful and nuanced. While scholars like Saul Cornell have acknowledged that Jefferson affirmed an individual right to keep arms for private purposes, he never described disorganized or spontaneous insurrection as a right. Jefferson instead envisioned“a universally armed citizenry organized into well-regulated militia units based on a system of ‘ward republics’” as a deterrent against “usurpers” and a key guarantor of a healthy republic.
In today’s hyperbolic and sometimes even violence-prone political environment it is important to understand that armed Americans ready to fight against their own government or for a particular candidate is not a democracy. We use ballots- not bullets- and hopefully common sense, to change our leaders. Our Founding Fathers wanted it that way. I doubt that they envisioned armed Americans ready to fight their own government or use their guns to intimidate and bully other Americans.

Some wonder if April has some significance when it comes to violence. This article explores that idea and comes to the conclusion that in America, at least, mass shootings occur in any and every month and we know that shootings happen every day of every month to the tune of 90 a day.

For my family August was a cruel month. For others it was December when 20 first graders and 6 educators were shot dead by a young angry mentally disturbed man who should not have had access to guns.

Gun violence is cruel and devastating. In American it is particularly and uniquely so.It doesn’t have to be that way. We shouldn’t be thinking about certain months or certain dates in light of violent events that took place then. Too many families hate the anniversaries of the shooting deaths of their loved ones or friends.

It’s past time to change the conversation and do something. Today a petition with 200,000 signatures to ask Congress to repeal the PLCAA law was delivered. A protest outside of the hotel where the NSSF was meeting also happened. The National Shooting Sports Foundation opposed the Senate background check bill in 2013 much to the great consternation of gun violence prevention activists and victims. It is located in Newtown, Connecticut where the Sandy Hook shooting took place.

April is a busy month for activists whose mission it is to call attention to our American public health epidemic and ask our leaders to do something about it. The month starts out with April Fools’ Day. We will not be fooled by the false and deceptive rhetoric of the corporate gun lobby. And we can’t let our elected leaders be fooled either. It is no joke to have a loved one’s life cut short by a bullet. And that is why we are acting today, this month and every month.

Check out the Facebook page of Newtown Action Alliance and the Twitter feed of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence for photos showing the activists working for victims. This is what change looks like. Let’s keep going and make it happen.

Hillary derangement syndrome

derangedSome people hate Hillary Clinton. They hate her with a fervor that is unreasonable and over the top. Often there is no reasoning with these folks, many of them Bernie Sanders supporters. I just can’t figure out that kind of hatred. I don’t hate Bernie Sanders. I don’t hate Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or Donald Trump. I vehemently disagree with their policies and their tactics. And I am actually fearful for our country if Donald Trump were to be elected our President. It is beyond my capability to comprehend that this could happen.

I happen to support Hillary Clinton. Her positions fall into line with mine, for the most part. Especially her views about guns and gun violence. There are a few things on which I will disagree with her. No politician is pure. They disappoint us because we want them to represent everything we believe. We want to trust them. And then reality happens. Debate happens. Compromise happens. And soon enough, we are not happy.

Wayne LaPierre and the gun rights extremists have had Obama derangement syndrome since the day he was elected ( or before). Claims of gun confiscation and hysteria over gun rights have been flung around for 8 years. Interestingly, guns have not been confiscated nor have rights been taken from anyone but those who should not have guns.

I wrote in my last post about some people who should not have guns- domestic abusers. There are too many deaths of American (mostly) women every day because an angry, deranged, suicidal, depressed, drunk or otherwise spouse, partner, ex spouse, ex partner, sibling or other family member had access to a gun. Tragedies are happening all around us. And we are turning our heads. Actually most people feel helpless to do anything until we educate them and they realize that guns in the home are more dangerous for homicide, suicide and accidental shootings than for self defense. This new article from The Trace confirms this:

A recent study published in The Journal of Preventive Medicine offers new support for the argument that owning a gun does not make you safer. The study, led by David Hemenway, Ph.D., of the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, examines data from the National Crime Victimization Survey — an annual survey of 90,000 households — and shows not only that so-called “defensive gun use” (DGU) rarely protects a person from harm, but also that such incidents are much more rare than gun advocates claim.

A 2014 Gallup poll suggests that Americans increasingly perceive owning firearms as an effective means of self-defense — having a gun makes one less likely to become a victim of a crime. But as Hemenway’s study demonstrates, this belief is not supported by crime statistics. Contrary to what many gun advocates argue, the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) data reveals that having a gun provides no statistically significant benefit to a would-be victim during a criminal confrontation.

Perception is not reality. Facts matter as it turns out and can save lives. More from the article:

In his new NCVS study, Hemenway also found that defensive gun use is exceedingly infrequent. While smaller private surveys estimated that there are up to 2.5 million DGUs on an annual basis, the NCVS data indicates that victims used guns defensively in less than 1 percent of attempted or completed crimes, with an annual total of less than 70,000. (…)

The only thing we can know for sure is what we have empirical data on: Namely, that there is a reliable floor for defensive gun use estimates at around 1,600 a year. In addition, according to the most recent data on defensive gun use, we have reliable evidence showing that owning a firearm does not give individuals any significant advantage in a criminal confrontation, and they are no less likely to lose property or be injured by using a gun in self defense.

This being the case, why take the chance that something like this awful tragedy in Minnesota could happen to your family. From the story:

Everyone in the community is struggling to explain what would cause the 17-year-old boy, David Cunningham to do this. His father, Tom Cunningham, didn’t want to speak on camera. But he gave us some clues about his son’s growing despondence.

Tom Cunningham is trying desperately to cope with the horrifying scene. Returning from town, he saw the family’s German shepherd dead on the back step. Inside lay the bodies of his two teenage children.

“No, we have no motive at this point,” Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze said.

Two teens are dead. A 17 year old boy was despondent. He had access to a gun. More investigation will reveal what kind of gun it was and where it came from. And now another family and community are devastated. Guns are dangerous. They are designed to kill. And kill they do. Yes, a gun by itself doesn’t kill  unless there is some sort of discharge of a gun that ends up killing some by accident like this one where an Iowa Veteran dropped a gun that discharged and the bullet killed him. This is only one of many like this. People with guns kill many people and themselves every day in our country. They are not killing people very often with knives, hammers, clubs, chairs, or other heavy items. It’s the guns.

And I can’t leave this topic until I write about the one of the Washington man taking a selfie with a gun who ended up dead as a result.  Uffda. Be careful out there.

So what does any of this have to do with Hillary derangement syndrome? Mr. Wayne LaPierre, Executive VP of the NRA is at it again. He delivered yet another speech at this year’s CPAC conference making old, tired and false claims about Hillary Clinton coming for your guns. Let’s take a look at what he said:

The trigger-happy head of the National Rifle Association warned women Thursday that they face a dangerous future should Hillary Clinton wind up in the White House.

“All of America’s women, you aren’t free if you aren’t free to defend yourself,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said during a rambling speech Thursday at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference. “If President Obama, Hillary Clinton or anyone else denies you that right, they don’t really care about you at all.”

Good grief. Is he serious? Women in America are more likely to be shot and killed by a partner than in any other democratized country in the world. But never mind. Common sense is not one of LaPierre’s strong suits. More from the article:

LaPierre, speaking at a conference hall where weapons were banned, took aim at Clinton, telling the Democratic front-runner to “bring it on” in the fight over gun control.

“All of America’s women, you aren’t free if you aren’t free to defend yourself,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said during a rambling speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

“All of America’s women, you aren’t free if you aren’t free to defend yourself,” NRA CEO Wayne LaPierre said during a rambling speech at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference.

“Mrs. Clinton, if you want to come after the NRA, and if you want to fight over the God-given rights of America’s 100 million gun owners, if you want to turn this election into a bare-knuckled brawl for the survival of our constitutional freedoms, bring it on,” LaPierre said. “We aren’t going anywhere, and we aren’t hard to find.”

Is this a challenge? And God-given? Find me a place in the Bible or other religious writings about guns being given to people by God. This is stupid and dangerous rhetoric and also ludicrous. LaPierre just can’t fathom that people who want to pass laws to prevent shootings aren’t coming for his guns. American women should be very afraid when Wayne LaPierre ramps up fear and paranoia as he does when he speaks.

In another article about LaPierre’s speech, Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence says it all:

Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, said: “It’s the same populist, fear-mongering speech. It’s amazing to me that Wayne LaPierre has been making the same speech for 25 years. We have a complex problem of gun violence in America and the only come to the table with: ‘We need more freedom.’ It sounds more hollow every time he says it.”

More reaction from his speech addresses the reality of gun violence in American and the total obstruction of the gun lobby to do anything real about it:

LaPierre’s remarks were condemned by the Newtown Action Alliance, a gun control pressure group formed in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook killings. It’s chairperson, Po Murray, said: “Wayne LaPierre supported universal background checks until the NRA decided to pursue an extreme agenda of arming anyone, anywhere and everywhere. He will say and do anything to elect a president who will promote the gun lobby’s efforts to put guns everywhere in a greedy pursuit of corporate profits for the gun industry. His job is to fire up the NRA supporters with fear, lies and rhetoric.

“Currently, Hillary Clinton is the only presidential candidate who stands with the families and communities impacted by gun violence. She is pushing for sensible gun laws. Justice Antonin Scalia stated, ‘Like most rights, the right secured by the second amendment is not unlimited …’ and Connecticut passed the second strongest gun laws after the Sandy Hook tragedy.”

Murray added: “Meanwhile, the NRA is aggressively pursuing an agenda to put guns on campuses and allowing anyone to carry guns without permits. In an era of increased mass shootings, voters have a clear choice this November. We choose Hillary Clinton.”

Since the Sandy Hook shooting, rather than armed security guards protecting children from a shooter, which has not happened once since that shooting, this has happened instead:

A gun of a security guard was left in a school bathroom.

An officer’s gun discharged in a school.

But never mind. LaPierre said this about children and school shootings:

Recalling the shooting of 20 young children and six of their adult carers at Sandy Hook elementary school in Connecticut in 2012, LaPierre said the NRA was unfairly attacked and blamed. “I simply and honestly proposed that our schools, our children, should be protected at least as much as our jewellery stores or banks or stadiums, and maybe the Oscars in Hollywood the other night. The national news media savaged me. What parent wouldn’t feel safer dropping their kids off at school with a police car parked out front? (…) He went on: “As a result, millions of our children go to school today, no longer the sitting ducks of the worst and most dangerous of all lies – gun-free zones. The news media, protected by their own armed security, will never admit it, but today, millions of children are safer for one reason: the NRA. The overwhelming majority of Americans agree with the simple truth that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. The politicians and the media be damned!”

Thousands of children have died of gunshot injuries in their own homes since the Sandy Hook shooting because LaPierre and the gun lobby has convinced them that guns in the home will protect them from evil lurking around every corner. LaPierre’s claims that the media savaged him is ridiculous. If they criticized him, it was for good reason. His words ring false.

You just can’t make this stuff up. The overwhelming majority of Americans actually do NOT agree that “the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” In fact the majority of Americans agree that we should require background checks on all gun sales to prevent some of our shootings.

We can only guess at what LaPierre meant by the last line in the highlighted paragraph above- more of the same angry rhetoric that means nothing.

We are better than this and we’ve had #enough of the ugly lying rhetoric. This is about saving lives.

 

 

Changing the tone of the conversation about gun violence prevention

Congress and guns

Isn’t this a sad image? The fact that someone made this political cartoon says all we need to know about the tone of the gun culture in America. For Congress has failed to act to save lives repeatedly. The corporate gun lobby has Congress firmly in it’s grasp. What is it about strengthening gun laws? Why is the gun lobby so resistant? It’s about fear. It’s about paranoia. It’s about profits for the gun industry. It’s about holding on to a culture that has changed since our own fathers and grandfathers joined the NRA. The gun lobby opposes measures that can save lives. Even though these measures won’t affect their rights to own guns for hunting, self defense and recreation, they stand against them.

It makes even less sense after a string of mass shootings in our country ending with the shooting of 9 innocent black Americans at a Charleston church. This won’t be the last of these and the gun lobby continues to foment the fear, hatred and paranoia that can influence the (mostly) young white males who have committed these heinous shootings. What’s happening is not President Obama’s fault. He has not taken people’s rights or guns away. Blaming everything but the proliferation of guns- the easy access to guns- the lax gun laws that allow easy access- the cavalier attitude towards guns and gun safety- the lack of responsibility exhibited by some gun owners- the lack of our elected leaders to deal with public health and safety measures against gun violence-the lack of an American discussion about the role of guns and gun violence…… is what is leading to the carnage.

By all rights we ought to all be fed up with this insanity. President Obama clearly is and has said so in many eulogies delivered since he took office.

President Obama delivered an amazing eulogy at the funeral of Rev./Senator Clementa Pinckney on Friday. It was, itself, full of grace and poignancy. By now you have seen it. Among the beautiful and powerful remarks made at the eulogy on Friday were these about gun violence prevention:

“We’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation,” Mr Obama said at the funeral.

“The vast majority of Americans, the majority of gun owners, want to do something about this.” (…)

“Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete. But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again,” he said.

Right from his many references to grace and then the singing of Amazing Grace at the eulogy, the words ring true:

“Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me….
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now, I see.

We do need to stop being blinded by the outdated ideas of the corporate gun lobby. They just don’t fit with what is going on in real life every day. What we need is sanity. What we have now is insane. And even gun owners can agree that the gun carnage just can’t continue without our doing something about it.

An article written about gun laws and the gun culture in Japan is instructive about what citizens in other countries think about the insanity here.  You can read about the strict regulations of guns and their owners in this article which highlights why laws matter. Japanese citizens who want to own and shoot guns must take classes, register their guns, prove that their guns are stored safely in their homes and go through stringent checks by law enforcement for their mental and physical ability to be safe with a gun. At the end of the article, the man interviewed for the piece said this:

“You should have a reason for having a gun, and if you don’t have a reason, you shouldn’t be allowed to have a gun,” he said while he prepared his rifle for his next round of practice.

Indeed, further along the range, Yanagida seemed a bit puzzled when asked about using his guns in self-defense: “I never thought about using my guns to protect myself.”

If only that was the case in our own country. How many people would still be alive today? How many parents would have their children to love or their parents or siblings? How many communities would not be talking about the violence that took the lives of their citizens?

Australia passed significant new laws after the massacre of 1996 that killed 35 people. The American gun lobby loves to pass off what happened in Australia as something it wasn’t and isn’t. Here’s an article to counter the deceptions of the gun lobby and why we, too, should pass stronger laws to stop the carnage.

And unrelated to the Charleston shooting there are some great quotes from people in articles about some of the many every day shootings and insane gun incidents that speak to our need for common sense and common ground about gun violence prevention. This one comes from a Police Chief in Mississippi after the Walmart incident in which a man bought a rifle, loaded it and carried it around in the store. I wrote about it before because at the time of the incident, the man was not arrested. It seemed that law enforcement had to grant him deference because he was a white guy with gun rights after all.  But upon further review, the man and his friend were arrested for disturbing the public peace. Check out what the Sheriff said about the incident:

“The possession, carrying and use of firearms require not only training and skill, but intelligence and responsibility. When persons act with deficiency in intelligence and responsibility, it can be both dangerous and unlawful.” Chief Leonard Papania stated.

Intelligence and responsibility are both needed but way too often are deficient. We can all agree to that and we should be able to put our heads together to fix it.

And the wisdom of a young mother who was shot in the leg by a gang member who thought that just because he had a gun he could shoot it at a passing car with a rival gang member inside. He missed. That happens. And the bullet hit a young mother walking her young child across the street. The 15 month old was hospitalized and now may have life long difficulties. Here is what the mother said:

“There’s a better way to solve your problems than shooting guns. … A lot of power is in a gun. You can’t always control it,” Spielman said.

Too true. When guns are available, they will and do get used to solve problems. And they are powerful and can’t always be controlled. What about this don’t we get in our country? Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill others. It should be difficult to get one and difficult to use one. We make it far too easy and people who can’t be responsible with a deadly weapon are able to get one anyway. That is the problem with our gun culture. It’s not sane.

As I write often here, we can and must change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our country. We can change the tone and set the tone of the conversation by passing stronger laws and having a common sense and civil conversation. Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut knows that Congress can set that tone and change the conversation:

“The question for political leaders is whether we can live with ourselves if we continue our thundering silence in the face of these seemingly endless tragedies. Whatever you think the answer is – changing firearms laws, fixing our mental health system, increasing resources for law enforcement – the time to act was long before today. The excuse that legislative action is not a guarantee that tragedy won’t strike again is just a mask for cowardice or cold-heartedness. I shudder to think what it says about us as a nation if we don’t even try to make a good faith attempt to end this carnage.”

Senator Murphy gets to the heart of the matter. We aren’t even trying to stop the carnage. What does that say about us?

And of course, as I write constantly here, the majority of gun owners not only do not belong to the NRA or another gun lobby organization, they actually don’t like the NRA and are in favor of common sense gun measures and changing the conversation about gun violence and gun safety reform. Read this great article written in the Washington Post by just one of these reasonable gun owners:

I agree with the NRA on one point: Tightening controls on gun ownership will not eliminate gun violence. And it may not do much to address the psychopathology of young men who commit mass murder. Timothy McVeigh and the Tsarnaev brothers committed their crimes with bombs, while Adam Lanza, with no criminal record, inexplicably stole his mother’s guns, murdered her, and headed off to Sandy Hook Elementary School.

But by filtering out at least some people who are poor candidates for responsible ownership, gun control will reduce the steady bloodletting of everyday life in our cities, a pervasive environment of danger that police departments around the country have decried, calling for greater handgun controls.

Rather than being our American birthright, gun ownership should be a privilege earned after thorough examination and training, like driving a car. But in 21st-century America, arms-bearing is an inalienable right, thanks to 27 anachronistic words of a constitution ratified in an 18th-century world of slow-loading muskets. (…) The Charleston massacre probably won’t result in gun reform, but its survivors have challenged the NRA’s bleak, seething worldview by suggesting that kindness can be the dominant mood of our public life. By offering perhaps premature forgiveness to the young man who killed their loved ones with a legally purchased Glock semiautomatic, they have shown us the possibility of living a more open, less timid existence. They imagine a world of joy, community and shelter, not fear, hatred and violence.

We can imagine a world less fearful and more safe from devastating gun violence but it will only come to fruition when our elected leaders realize they can stop being afraid of the corporate gun lobby. It is a minority of gun owners and a minority of Americans. It is the job of our elected leaders to do what’s right and best for the majority of their constituents. They have not done this with gun policy. It’s time for that to change.

There should be no excuses for what happened in Charleston or no blaming the victims. That is tawdry, unseemly and offensive to all. But the gun lobby and its’ minions have a way of blaming the victims as an excuse for why we shouldn’t do anything about the easy access to guns and the promotion of guns in every nook and cranny or our country, including churches. Josh Horwitz of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence wrote this piece today about why blaming the victims is insane:

The nine innocent Americans murdered in Charleston were exercising their fundamental freedom to worship in a manner of their own choosing. Because they chose to pray without weapons does not mean they were “waiting for it.” It means that they were trying to live their lives as the Constitution envisions — in “domestic tranquility.”

The reality is that blaming the victim is deplorable, no matter the circumstances, and is a strategy to avoid dealing with tough problems. But as we have seen with the epidemic of sexual assault, domestic violence and gun violence, avoidance just ensures that the violence continues. One way to honor those killed in Charleston is to make sure that we as a country refuse to tolerate a “they asked for it” mentality for one more second.

Nobody asks for gun violence. Nobody wants to be shot. Everybody is against that idea and everybody should have a desire to do something about it. The gun lobby and gun extremists can look on from a distance and make these insane excuses and claims. But gun violence is affecting more and more of us every day and the circle of grief is getting wider as I wrote in my last post. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can change the conversation and the tone of the conversation away from rights to responsibilities and to tolerance, love and keeping our fellow Americans safe from devastating gun violence.

Look what has happened in the past week or so. America is having a different conversation about the Confederate flag, about racism, about forgiveness, about health care, about marriage equality and yes, about gun violence prevention. Laws do matter as we have seen with the need for the South Carolina legislature to act to take down the Confederate flag at their capitol. The Affordable Care Act is the law of our country and the Supreme Court upheld this in their ruling this past week. Marriage Equality is now the law of the land. Though the conversations about racism and the flag are extremely important, so is the conversation about stronger gun laws. Stronger gun laws can also become the law of the land.

UPDATE:

I want to include this great post from a blogger writing for Huffington Post. From the article by Steve Nelson:

If the rest of us concede the unimpeded right for you to have an arsenal at the ready, will you stop open carry legislation? Will you reverse the idiotic laws that allow guns on college campuses? Will you stop parading your rifles around parking lots and playgrounds full of small children? Will you agree that reasonable regulations that keep weapons out of the hands of the mentally ill or career felons might be good for all of us?

Yes, I know that Dylann Roof’s gun purchase was legal. Perhaps no regulation would have prevented him from attaining a weapon. But is it possible that this disturbed young man felt entitled to take things into his own hands because of our gun culture? Was his irrational fear and hatred of black folks fueled by others who arm themselves against largely imaginary threats? Can any reasonable person deny that such tragedies are more likely when the surrounding culture screams, “Arm yourself! Stand your ground! Danger is all around!”?

Just what would it take to convince you to bring the United States into the civilized world?