From sea to shining sea

From Gun Violence Archive Facebook page

Please read the updates at the end of this post. There have been 2 more mass shootings within the last 24 hours.

“…America, America God shed his grace on thee. And crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea.”

That patriotic song came to mind this past week as mass shootings took the lives of many Americans from one coast to the other and in the middle:

At least eight people were killed, and 46 were injured, in mass shootings that spanned the country from Washington, DC, to Kennewick, Washington, according to the Gun Violence Archive’s tally. The organization defines a mass shooting as a single incident in which at least four people are shot not including the gunman.

The numbers follow a trend seen every summer in America — as temperatures heat up, killings become more likely.

An analysis from The New York Times last year found that more than twice as many people were shot in northern cities such as Chicago when it’s hot as when it’s cold.

“Summer time an’ the livin’ is easy……”

The mass shootings happened in just a few days’ time. Shooting is easy in America.

At the Gilroy Garlic Festival 3 were killed and 12 injured by bullets when a 19 year old with an assault rifle cut his way through a security fence to inflict carnage on innocent food fair attendees. Two were children. He bought his gun in Nevada where the minimum age for purchasing a rifle ( even an assault rifle) is 19. In California, where the shooting occurred, he could not have bought that same rifle until he was 21. One can argue that no one should be able to buy an AK-47 weapon meant for war.

Only in America can we find people who have survived 2 mass shootings in the span of less than 2 years as was highlighted in the linked article above:

After surviving the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, three friends were not expecting history to repeat itself two years later.

In 2017, Christopher and George Cook were in Las Vegas during the Route 91 Harvest festival, an outdoor country music concert, when a gunman fired into the crowd killing 58 and injuring more than 500. They managed to escape with no injuries. (…) Sunday, the brothers attended the Gilroy Garlic Festival when a gunman opened fire. Three people were killed and 12 injured.

Physically the Cook brothers escaped unharmed, however mentally, Christopher told CNN he’s been dealing with a wave of emotions.

“You think you’re grateful for everything you have until something like this happens,” he said.

America the beautiful. An American tragedy.

The first linked article goes on to list the mass shootings all over the U.S. including:

4 shot and injured in Washington D.C.

4 injured in Chicago

4 injured in Uniontown, PA

1 dead, 5 injured in Philadelphia

1 dead, 3 injured in Wichita, Kansas

1 killed, 11 injured in Brooklyn, N.Y.

1 killed, 3 injured in Kennewick, WA

The article missed a shooting in Wisconsin when 5 were killed and 2 injured in Chippewa County, WI.

And yet, no action on passage of a federal assault weapons ban, criminal background check bill or Extreme Risk Protection Order bill.

Where is common sense?

And no action in the MInnesota Senate whose leadership refused to take up any gun safety reform bills.

Where is common sense?

It is true in our America the beautiful that 8 children a day are shot (some injured, some dead).

It is true in America the beautiful that 100 Americans a day die from gunshot injuries. Hundreds more are injured daily.

From the Brady site: ” Every year, 113,108 people are shot.

The chart above comes from Gun Violence Archive. Why do we need a site to keep track of American shootings? What a sad state of affairs. We have had 248 mass shootings so far this year according to Gun Violence Archive. It is August 1st and day 213. Let that sink in.

It doesn’t have to be like this. Americans are demanding that leaders stand up and do their jobs to keep us all safe so we can enjoy going to festivals, state fairs, schools, work, concerts, movies, etc. without fear of being shot.

In my state of Minnesota officials of the Minnesota state fair are ready to take more precautions realizing that with the crowds who attend every day, because anything can happen:

Katie Galioto at the Star Tribune checks in on local event officials and law enforcement following the recent shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival: “A State Fair spokesperson said Minnesota’s famed get-together, which attracted more than 2 million people last summer, involves the coordination of federal, state and local agencies. 

The gun rights advocates have tried to convince Minnesota State Fair officials that they should be allowed to carry loaded guns at the Fair. They have been turned down. Just imagine the chaos if someone or many armed citizens started shooting bullets around in a crowd of running people. I can’t , but they must imagine themselves as heroes. They are wrong.

This is America the beautiful. This is the America where just about anyone can get their hands on a gun of any type to inflict mass carnage, pain and grief on innocent families all over our beautiful country.

This is America- the land of the free and the land of the armed.

I don’t find this beautiful. I’m sure you don’t either. Please contact your elected officials and demand action. That is the only way we can make America safe again.

Update:

As you are reading my post I am adding yet another deadly mass shooting happening right now. El Paso, Texas is the scene of the latest carnage on a beautiful summer day. A Walmart store to be specific where at least one has died and 18 or more are injured in a mass shooting with an AK-47 rifle. Do I have to mention an assault weapons ban?

Another update about the El Paso shooting– it appears now that 20 are dead and 26 injured. The type of rifle has not been definitively identified but some reports say it was an AK-47. With that many dead, it is likely:

20 people were killed in the shooting.

Officials are exploring capital murder charges.

Authorities are investigating a manifesto in connection with the shooting.

Hospitals and emergency workers are treating victims.

Witnesses described the violent scene.

El Paso has been at the center of the migrant crisis.

Officials expressed their sympathies.

Who knew that I would be writing about a 2nd mass shooting within a 24 hour period. Dayton, Ohio was the scene for the latest one leaving 9 dead and others injured. As more information becomes available I will write more. But here is what we know so far:

Unconfirmed eyewitness accounts indicated a person who was denied entry at a bar opened fire. Police said the shooting took place after 1 a.m.

Anger and guns don’t go together. Why did this angry man have a long gun as it was reported in another article? Why would he shoot people at a bar because he couldn’t get in? Why did he have a gun in the first place?

Defying the gun lobby talking points, he was most likely not mentally ill. He was angry. And because we have such easy access to guns in our country, this is possible.

THIS IS NOT NORMAL.

Asking about guns

Have you asked if there are unlocked loaded guns in the homes where your children or grandchildren hang-out? Have you stored your own guns so people who should not have guns don’t get their hands on them?

Today is ASK day. Every year on the summer solstice, Brady holds ASK day. Asking if there are unsecured guns around is a life saving measure. Every day, children find guns in their own homes or the homes of someone else. Children are curious. They can find anything. Check out this video from End Family Fire.

8 children a day are shot with guns they should not have had access to. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Why are so many adults with gun so reckless and irresponsible? Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill others. They should be treated that way rather than just another thing that is lying around the house.

Safe storage also prevents suicides. If guns are inaccessible or difficult to find, a suicidal person may not act on the spur of the moment. Since most gun deaths are suicides, this is an important life saving measures.

Health Care providers should be asking simple questions during histories and physicals. Are there guns in your home? Are they locked up away from ammunition? I am not just talking about pediatricians. I am talking about adults who may be suicidal or in the midst of marital strife. Asking a simple question could save a life. But the NRA does not want health care providers asking this life saving question. Why not?:

For their part, Wintemute and his colleagues did not argue that doctors should tell patients to stop owning guns. Rather, as Wintemute told The Post, doctors should educate themselves about gun ownership, in order to offer nonjudgmental advice on safe gun storage. Plus, no matter how many times a doctor asks patients about their firearm safety, as Eugene Volokh noted in The Post in December 2015, the guns will not vanish.

There are so many unanswered questions about guns and gun violence. That is why it was so important that last week the U..S House passed a larger bill that contained $50 million for CDC research into gun violence. Gun rights advocates don’t like research. Why not? Good question. One that is unanswered except for postulation that they are afraid that research will show what we already know- that guns are a risk to those who own them. And that guns are killing too many Americans causing a public health epidemic. But let’s take a look at how the Dickey Amendment has affected government research:

“The NRA told everybody, ‘You either can do research, or you can keep your guns. But if you let the research go forward, you will all lose all of your guns,’ ” Rosenberg tells Here & Now‘s Robin Young.

Instead of completely shutting down the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Rosenberg says Congress presented the Dickey Amendment as a compromise. But the center’s budget was eventually cut by $2.5 million, and Rosenberg was fired in 1999.

Jay Dickey, the Republican congressman from Arkansas who spearheaded the legislation, told NPR in 2015 that he regretted his role in pushing through the provision.

“It wasn’t necessary that all research stop,” Dickey said. “It just couldn’t be the collection of data so that they can advocate gun control. That’s all we were talking about. But for some reason, it just stopped altogether.”

Research will lead to a safer America, not banning guns. Good grief.

I have one last question, just for this post- why would a “law abiding” Washington gun owner do something like this man did?

“We got into an argument about putting a gate up in the kitchen to block the baby because he is mobile,” Wilson told investigators.

Wilson said he told his daughter it was unfeasible to do a structural change, court documents say.

“Wendall Wilson executed his adult daughter over a petty argument about the installation of [a] baby gate,” prosecutors said in court documents.

Wilson said his daughter had a tendency to “escalate” their arguments and said this particular argument got out of hand, according to court documents.

Why? Without the gun, she would be alive. Look at the photo in the article of the police officer carrying the 13 month old baby away from the scene. Most shootings occur between people who know each other in moments of anger.

Why?

Where is common sense?

Twelve more

It’s happened again. News programs were interrupted with news of a mass workplace shooting in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

Sigh.

Tears. Weeping.

Grief.

Exhaustion.

Devastation.

Cries for doing something.

Statements from gun violence prevention groups and elected leaders who care about lives of innocent people taken in a matter of second.

Brady.

Coalition to Stop Gun Violence

Statements about the incident- a gunfight. A silencer used. People couldn’t tell how close the shooter was thanks to the silencer. The NRA and its’ lapdog politicians floated a bill to make silencers easier to obtain. But then the Las Vegas shooting happened. And now this.

Extended magazines. More weapons found at the shooter’s home.

Why do we allow extended magazines again? For what are they useful other than shooting as many people as possible in a very short time?

Workplace shootings are becoming more common. What should businesses do? Read this:

There were 1553 firearm workplace homicides during the study period. Robbery crime trended downward from 2011 to 2015. In contrast, non-robbery crimes constituted almost 50% of the homicides and trended upward in recent years. Customers and co-workers were the most frequent perpetrators of non-robbery crimes, most after an argument. While customers and co-workers who commit these crimes were often armed at the time of the argument, some were not and retrieved a firearm from an unspecified location before committing a homicide. Thus, immediate and ready firearm access was commonly observed in argumentative workplace deaths.
Conclusions
Limiting firearm access in the workplace is a possible measure for preventing deadly workplace violence and should be considered as part of a comprehensive strategy for addressing this reemerging public health concern.

Where is common sense?

As the shooting was happening, our local Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota chapter, together with Moms Demand Action and the Duluth Federation of Teachers was holding a Wear Orange kick-off for June as gun violence prevention awareness month.

Speakers were amazing. Two students stepped to the microphone to talk about how it is for students in these days of mass school shootings. A 7th grade girl read a poem she had written after the Parkland shooting. A high school junior spoke of student lockdowns and how frightening they are. He asked where the elected leaders were and cited the large contribution given by the NRA to our newly elected Republican Congressman who voted against the House passed background check and Charleston loophole bills.

Powerful statements from our kids. And adults have failed them.

The Mayor read a proclamation making June 7th gun violence prevention awareness day in Duluth. The city of Duluth posted this on their Facebook page and what were the comments by the insensitive gun rights extremists? She’s taking away guns and rights.

Be quiet. Stop it. No one’s guns will be taken away. Stop trying to scare and intimidate. We are not listening any more. They are a very distinct minority.

The School Superintendent spoke of a near tragedy in one of the Duluth schools when a credible threat occurred and a man was arrested inside of the school. Authorities found guns in his car in the school parking lot.

Shame on those who refuse to move- who refuse to acknowledge our public health epidemic because they are beholden to a failed and corrupt gun rights organization. They are listening to an ever decreasing minority of gun rights extremists.

Former Republican Congressman David Jolly got it right. Our gun laws are broken. If we care about innocent lives and all lives, we will fix our broken system like other democratized countries have done.

President Trump responds to the shooting?

Democratic Presidential candidates are heartsick and furious.

So are we all. The majority of us know that passing stronger gun laws and changing our gun culture will not take away rights to own guns. The insistence that the second amendment means no gun laws allows daily carnage.

A writer for CNN says that we have a cult of guns in America. He is so right:

None of this will stop unless the cult of guns is curbed.
This won’t be easy; the cult has a lot of money behind it. The money pours in from the “devout”: small-time contributions to the NRA that amount to hundreds of millions of dollars each year. This money is used, in our skewed version of democracy, to influence politicians, who are only too happy to be bought.
Our Congress is swamped with men and women, our so-called representatives, who do not represent the majority view, which is that guns must be curtailed.

According to Gun Violence Archive this is the 150th mass shooting of the year. That happened before half of 2019 is over. We still have 7 months for the bodies to add up.

This is NOT NORMAL.

After posting this post I found another post by Shaun King who wrote about how we handle mass shootings in America:

That’s the game we play. To get through dinner, to get through a movie or a game, to get through quality time with our loved ones, we must temporarily suspend our knowledge that people are being slaughtered all around us. We speak of the Wild Wild West as some nostalgic era of the past, but we’re living it. The United States is the only nation in the world that has more guns than people. And it shows. Americans are shooting and killing themselves and killing others with guns at a pace that should be treated as a dire National Emergency. If we just enacted a fraction of the basic standards and norms held by the rest of the world, our nation would be so much safer.

Who have we become as a nation, as people with moral compasses, as people of compassion for others, as people who espouse non-violence?

Who do we want to be? Is this it? Reading names of victims after every mass shooting? Posting photos of those who lost their lives yesterday in “everyday shootings”?

I think not. We are better than this.

At this morning’s press conference in Virginia Beach, the names and photos of the victims were released by the City Manager of the city who said their names in with an emotional voice:

“They leave a void that will never be filled,” Hansen said. 

Too many voids.

Wear Orange on June 7th for gun violence prevention awareness. Wear it for the victims. Wear it for Hadiye Pendleton whose family started the observance of the day. Do your part. Get activated, Make noise and most of all, hold elected officials accountable for their inaction.

Stolen guns, stolen lives

It should be a no brainer that all guns need to be locked up away from the hands of those who should not have them. Those hands would be children, teens, those individuals having a crisis in their lives making them dangerous with guns and thieves. Guns are one of the most stolen items from homes. I just read an account from someone on a local neighborhood site letting neighbors know that there was someone breaking into homes and that a gun was stolen from one of the homes. Hopefully the gun owner reported the gun stolen because it is now in the illegal market for guns leading to more guns on our streets.

And then there is this from the Minneapolis Star Tribune about crime guns in the city of Minneapolis:

“In October, police were called to an apartment complex across the street from the police union’s headquarters in Northeast, after the worker found the bag of guns inside a room that’s used to access the building’s HVAC system, according to filings in the case. Peeking inside, he counted seven handguns.
Police say the firearms were traced to a burglary last July at an Ashland, Wis., pawnshop where more than 30 guns were taken. No arrests have been announced in the case, which is being investigated by the ATF.
Another of the stolen firearms — a Ruger .380-caliber handgun — was apparently recovered last September at a south Minneapolis gas station.”

Gun dealers and pawn shops also need to store their guns safely and institute safety measures in their businesses to keep guns from being stolen. Stolen guns increase the risk that one will be used in a crime or get into the hands of kids on our streets who use them against each other in gang situations. And too often innocent people, not involved in this activity, are shot and killed as was a woman named Birdell Beeks, shot while sitting in her car with her granddaughter:

The fatal shooting of the 58-year-old grandmother a year and a half ago stirred outrage. Investigators say it was set into motion when a gang rival crossed over an invisible territorial boundary on Broadway Avenue in north Minneapolis.
Tipped off to the rival’s presence by a 165-second phone call, Ezeka went outside and fired a handgun nine times towards the rival’s car. One of those bullets hit and killed Birdell Beeks, whose van was stopped at an intersection across the street. (…) “When you point a gun and you fire it, you do so with the intent that you’re going to destroy whatever you’re firing at,” Mathews said. “We all know what guns do.”
Mathews also argued that if Ezeka really meant to scare his rival, he could have fired the gun in the air or waved it around. Mathews says nine shots fired in just a couple seconds “doesn’t sound like shots that are meant to scare.”

The problem with this argument is that the person who wanted to “scare” his rival should not have had a gun in the first place. And firing a gun into the air is a really bad idea. What goes up always comes down. Don’t wave a gun around either. Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill. We should be working really hard to prevent such easy access to guns in our communities with no excuses for those who use them dangerously.

We can’t get our loved ones back after incidents like this as Birdell Beeks’ daughter (who I have come to know well) says ( from the article):

Members of the close-knit Beeks family have packed one side of the courtroom each day of the trial, comforting one another during the sometimes graphic testimony or chatting quietly during court delays. Birdell Beeks’ daughter Sa’Lesha testified that her mother was a “pillar of the community.”
After the verdict, Beeks said she didn’t see any remorse from Ezeka, and she can’t forgive him, but the prospect of Ezeka spending his life prison is bittersweet.
“It doesn’t bring my mom back, but we got justice,” Sa’Lesha Beeks said, “almost in a sad way, because two lives were lost.”
Granddaughter Ne’Asha Griffin, who is now 17, told the court that her grandmother had always been her “cheerleader.” Griffin, who’s heading to college in Florida this year, said she’s set her college acceptance letter next to the urn containing her grandmother’s ashes.

Lives are stolen. Innocence is stolen. Future plans are stolen. Productivity for the shot person is stolen. Family members are stolen. Peace and tranquility are stolen. The right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness is stolen because guns are stolen and end up in the hands of people who should not have them. (other loose laws contribute to stealing lives as well)

The latest school shooting came about as a result of a gun “stolen” from home by a teen-ager who wanted to shoot up a school:

Two sources with knowledge of the investigation told Denver7 on Wednesday that investigators believed the guns were stolen from the parents. But Denver7 could not report at the time the manner in which the weapons might have been secured.
The sources said Wednesday they believe the parents of the 18-year-old suspect bought the weapons legally and that the guns were stolen by the suspects. People under age 21 are not allowed to purchase handguns in Colorado.

Earlier in the article it was reported that the students smashed the gun safe to get into it. If the guns were in a glass case, it would be easy to smash it open and certainly the teens would have known the guns were there. A more secure gun safe would have been almost impossible to smash. I would not say the guns were “stolen”.

Most school shooters are teens who got their guns from home and are affiliated in some way with the school. And yet, some would have us believe otherwise as did this active shooter training video made in Pennsylvania to train officers for school shootings. They got it very wrong:

A video of an active shooting drill at a Pennsylvania school has received sharp criticism over the decision to dress an actor playing a would-be shooter in what appears to be a Middle Eastern-style headdress.
The simulation video, which was made in January and only intended for internal training purposes, shows an actor abruptly entering a classroom and firing a shot, followed by a loud scream and students ducking their heads. The school said that two actors were used during the filming.

In the first scene, it’s not clear if an actor is wearing a headdress — but a few minutes later, after police officers have caught up with him, there’s a clearer picture of him wearing a headdress with his hands up.

The extremist gun lobby and some lawmakers and our very own President would have us believe that this is the way school shootings occur in America. Further this is who we should be very afraid of and why we all need to have our guns for self protection. People like this are lurking in every shadow waiting to attack us. We should be afraid of someone in middle eastern style head wear with a mask on his face. We should be a afraid of a person of color.

What we should be afraid of is the recklessness with which parents and adults store their guns in their own homes. We should be afraid of the frequency of unintentional shootings with guns found by young children. We should be afraid of how often guns for “self protection” are used to kill others in homes or for suicide.

This article highlights a study in the JAMA Pediatrics about safe storage of guns and suicides and unintentional gun deaths:

How guns are stored matters. A study published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics has found that even a modest increase in owners who lock up their guns would pay off in an outsize drop in gun deaths. (…) Last year, a study based on a national survey in 2015 found that about one in three of all households in the United States owned at least one gun. Of those households with both guns and children at home, more than 20 percent reported storing them both loaded and unlocked — the least-safe way. An additional 50 percent stored them either loaded or unlocked. (…) This meant that about 7 percent of all children in the United States lived in a house in which at least one gun was stored in an unsafe manner. This was about twice the number reported in the previous national survey, published in 2002. Other research suggests that many people in gun-owning households, typically not the primary owner of the gun, think they are safely stored when they are not.

Yes, some gun owners believe they need easy access to their guns in case of a home invasion ( or whatever other reason they may have). But they don’t seem to be thinking about easy access to those same guns by kids, teens and others who should not have them.

Guns are a risk because they are deadly weapons designed to kill people. If you or someone you know decides to bring a gun into your home, please think about the chance that that gun will be used against you or someone you know.

There are things we can do about all of the above. The sad and disturbing fact is that we aren’t doing what needs to be done. Common sense informs us that dangerous things in homes need to be made safer for our children and others living in the home. We lock poisons, hopefully medications, cleaning supplies and other such things away. We put covers over electric outlets when toddlers are crawling around. We use gates to keep kids from falling down stairs or getting into things that would be dangerous. We put kids in federally approved car seats and have to follow the laws about when kids can go without the seats. Kids wear bike helmets and safety gear for sports for good reasons.

But guns? Not so much.

I will end by again shining a light on End Family Fire (endfamilyfire.org) which is designed to educate parents and adults about the risk of guns in homes and bring more awareness to those risks. Saving lives is the bottom line.

Check out this video about how kids find everything ( and we all know they do):

Kids find anything. Kids do anything. Some kids get their hands on guns by taking them from their parents or another known adult. Some get guns by stealing them or getting them from someone who stole them. Some guns get into the hands of kids in other ways. But remember this- guns don’t fall from trees. They start out as legal purchases and then pass through other hands in various ways. And that is why we need to pay attention, be responsible, educate others, be more aware, pass stronger gun laws and make noise about keeping our kids safe.

Our children are losing their lives. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Reunification

posted on Facebook page of GVPers for Pro GVP Candidates

Well, here is a different word to describe how parents can find out if their child was the one shot in a school shooting- a reunification center. The parents who are not reunified will then know that their son or daughter was the victim of yet another school shooting.

What parent wants that to happen? NONE.

What about Congress members and the Minnesota House and Senate members beholden to the NRA who refuse to support common sense legislation that will save lives and potentially stop a school shooter? What if they had to go to one of these centers waiting to see if they would be reunited with their kids?

That was the scene yesterday at the STEM school in Colorado where 2 kids from the school got their hands on a gun and decided to shoot their classmates. One is dead. Kendrick Castillo. Say his name. From the article:

Ms. Giasolli said Mr. Castillo’s split-second decision to lunge for the gunman gave the other students a precious few seconds of cover to dive under their desks or rush the gunman. Ms. Giasolli said a cluster of boys then tackled the gunman, allowing her and others to flee the classroom.

This is how it is now in America. A student sacrifices him/herself selflessly and manages to save other lives. Is this the way our kids should be spending their school days? This is war. Like soldiers sacrificing themselves.

And by the way, the shooters at the STEM school were a juvenile female and an adult ( 18 years old I believe) male? What the heck? Where did the guns come from. Most school shooters get their guns at home.

Last week it was Riley Howell at the University of North Carolina.

Heroes all. But why? For what? It’s not for a worthy cause. it is an act of violence perpetrated on innocent people who die “in the line of duty.” It’s the 3rd mass shooting in that many weeks where one person sacrificed him/herself to save someone else. Remember the synagogue shooting in California? It’s hard to think back that far- 11 days- because of the frequency of mass shootings. Read more:

The nation’s three latest mass shootings, each occurring over an 11-day span beginning at the Chabad of Poway temple on April 27, have given us our latest heroes – just like shootings at a high school in Parkland, Florida, a Waffle House in Nashville, Tennessee, a synagogue in Pittsburgh and elsewhere did last year. 

Who will be the hero next week? Who will be the victims next week? Who will it be tomorrow or next week? Your friend? Your child? Your neighbor’s? Your cousin’s? Your legislator’s? Your banker’s? Your health care provider’s?

These lives lost are lost potential and a lost future. We can’t get them back. We don’t know how they would have contributed to their communities. They won’t go to college or work at a job of their choice. They won’t be at holiday events with their families. They represent the thousands who die senselessly every day in our country.

So how about you? Have you experienced a shooting or do you know someone who has been murdered or used a gun in suicide? Do you know someone whose child found a loaded gun at home and shot someone or him/herself with that gun? Do you know someone who carries a gun around recklessly and the gun fires while in her purse injuring her husband? ( I have written blog posts about these kinds of incidents)

What will you do? How will you react? What will you feel if you have to go to a reunification center to find your child after a school shooting? Would you sacrifice your life for the common good? A photo of the reunification center after the STEM shooting has been posted in several places. It is an unimaginable scene.

There is PTSD. When I posted the article about the latest school shooting yesterday, friends commented that they are feeling traumatized after a near shooting incident at a high school in Duluth in early April.

The trauma is palpable and real. Our kids are sitting ducks. Places of worship are vulnerable to shooters. We do have shootings in places of business, in places of worship, in malls, but school shootings seem to be the most often used for shooters who think they have a reason to kill people.

The corporate gun lobby and gun rights advocates would have us believe that an armed individual could save the day. It rarely happens due to confusion, adrenalin, panic, not being in the place at the time of a shooting,

I have an idea. Instead of arming more people which is what the gun lobby wants so having guns everywhere becomes normal ( and adds to profits), let’s pass stronger gun laws to stop the shootings in the first place. Let’s change the conversation about gun violence in America. Let’s change our culture of guns everywhere. It can be done. In fact, we must do it if we care about our kids and grandkids.

This is not normal. Say it after me- this is NOT normal.

Loopholes

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

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

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

From the article:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(See above statement from Protect Minnesota)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The photo shows the famous statue of King Leonidas.

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

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

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

Violence against women and babies

Yes. In America, babies get shot. Toddlers pick up guns and shoot themselves or others or get shot and the NRA tried to stop the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Just another day in America.

Let’s look at all of these one by one.

In Alabama, a 6 month old baby was shot and killed by her own father.

Yes. This actually happened. From the article:

Police in Alabama confirm that over the weekend, a 6-month-old girl was fatally shot by her father, who then turned the gun on himself in an apparent murder-suicide.

There was a domestic dispute, following the filing of a restraining order that ended in a homicide of a baby and a suicide of the father. Too awful for words. Who shoots a 6 month old baby?

Domestic abusers are particularly dangerous with guns. And yet, some Republican members of the House and soon the Senate, voted or will vote against the re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act. The NRA decided to get involved and scored the vote. But the diminished NRA representing an ever smaller and extreme group of gun owners, lost. Who’s afraid of the NRA? Who’s afraid of those bullies? 33 Republicans joined the Democrats ( except for Collin Peterson of Minnesota- not my Rep.) in voting for common sense and were not afraid of the NRA.

Rep. Eric Swalwell is not afraid of the NRA though he was threatened by an NRA member He even tweeted out the voicemail message left by the guy who felt the need to try to intimidate the outspoken California Congressman. Listen to what he says and tell me that this is OK.

What is wrong with these guys with their guns? Intimidation and bullying is not OK and we call BS on these folks. The gun lobby does not apparently care if babies and women are shot to death over domestic disputes. That is the only conclusion that can be drawn by their actions.

And I don’t want to forget that yesterday was the anniversary of the shooting death of Martin Luther King Jr. Please remember how easy it was for his shooter to get his gun even though he was a felon. What has changed?

Oh- and I wanted to highlight the most ridiculous irresponsible incident with guns that is hard to beat. There have been many other such follies but this one is right up there with the best ( or worst). From the article:

A police affidavit says the two men are neighbors and were drinking on a deck Sunday when Ferris told Hicks to shoot him with a .22-caliber rifle while Ferris wore the vest. The affidavit says the shot left a red mark on Ferris’ chest and that he was angry because it hurt. 

Duh. Alcohol and drugs do not go together, nor does being stupid with guns. This happened in Arkansas where gun laws are pretty loose. The state also has a high rate of gun deaths.

I will be away from my blog again for a 2 week trip to Greece. I have already written about the gun laws in Greece when I took a previous trip there. They are much more strict than those in America, thank goodness. Also very few people die from gunshot injuries in Greece. (I had trouble finding current information) There is common sense regarding gun laws in other parts of the world.

And speaking of other parts of the world and guns, a Wisconsin woman will likely be doing jail time after stupidly carrying a gun with her on a cruise to the Cayman Islands where guns are not allowed. Her excuse? I can carry my gun in Wisconsin. I thought I could take it with me wherever I go.

She was wrong of course. Only in America can people carry guns wherever they go. From the article: ” Guns and ammunition are strictly regulated in the Cayman Islands, a British overseas territory south of Cuba and northwest of Jamaica, as several other visitors have learned recently. “

She had no common sense and now she is in trouble and according to the above linked article, she is not the only American gun permit holder to get into trouble for traveling with guns.

I have a question. What is so dangerous on a cruise ship that someone needs to carry a gun on board. Are the Caymans dangerous? It turns out that they have little crime but there is the usual pickpocketing of tourists found anywhere that having a gun on one’s person would do little to prevent; unless Americans want to shoot pickpocketers. Dickens’ novel, Oliver Twist, comes to mind when I think of pickpockets. “You’ve got to pick a pocket or two.” I have experienced this while traveling but carrying a gun never occurred to me.

And before I go, I wanted to say that we saw no armed people while on our trip to the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park and the other places we visited in Utah and Arizona. Because the danger in those places is not something having a gun could prevent. Three people died at the Grand Canyon after we left the Park. Two fell to their deaths into the Canyon. How horrible. I can see how this can happen as there are so many narrow trails and outlooks with no guard rails or barriers. It was a bit icy and muddy leading to some slippery conditions on the Bright Angel Trail when we hiked it. People need to be careful of course.

Something else happened on our trip though that really affected me. While traveling I learned of the death by suicide of one of the fathers of a Sandy Hook victim. He was searching for answers after his daughter was so brutally massacred by one young man with a bunch of bullets and firearms.

In the few weeks before that 2 Parkland students also took their lives- all by firearm ( the easiest and quickest way to die). This is the ripple effect of gun violence. It is also a reminder that suicide by firearm takes the lives of many Americans and in fact, is the majority of gun deaths in America. I was so saddened by these deaths. It happened that we visited the Chapel of the Holy Cross built up near the beautiful rock formations of Sedona, Arizona. It was a small, beautiful chapel in an awe-inspiring location. Inside were the usual red candles to light in memory of someone. Though I am not Catholic, I decided to light 3 candles in memory of the victims of shootings in the aftermath of mass shootings.

Please remember that the PTSD caused by losing a loved one in a heinous and violent shooting is real. It is yet another reason why we must prevent and reduce shootings to save lives.

While I am gone, gun deaths and injuries will continue. The Gun Violence Archive continues to keep track and here is the latest. So far the numbers are alarmingly high as they have been for decades.

From Gun Violence Archive

Be careful out there if you are traveling and make sure that you and your family are safe from gun violence at home. If you have a gun, please lock it up away from the hands of children and teens and from those who want to steal them. I will end by referring my readers to Brady’s End Family Fire, a campaign to highlight the dangers and risks of guns.