The “Be Attitudes”- changing the conversation

PrintDeja Vu. There are protests erupting all over America over the Muslim ban issued by executive order on Friday resulting in detaining immigrants from 7 Muslim countries.

How many protests and marches will it take for our President to understand that we don’t want this? He is wrong. His administration is wrong. His right hand man, Steve Bannon, a conspiracy theorist and alt right extremist, is in charge of the circus. He is now right in the thick of making decisions crucial to our national security. Very scary.

What could possibly go wrong?

We are seeing what is going wrong.

The sermon at my church service this morning was titled, “Be Attitudes”. The texts for the day were from Micah 6:1-8 and Matthew 5:1-12. I don’t wear my religion on my sleeve but I am a Christian and I practice my religion freely because America is a democracy. The past week has revealed to us that our democracy is at risk. That scares me. And that is why my church service was so important this morning. We all felt it. We all knew it. We all wanted what is happening to stop. We were emotional. We were hopeful that things might change.

I am not going to go out and buy a gun though. That is not the way out of this. The corporate gun lobby and @realDonaldTrump preach fear and intolerance. When people are afraid of “the other” they do things that could be dangerous. Guns for self defense against zombies and the scary dudes lurking around every corner get used more often to shoot someone known to the shooter in an accidental shooting, a homicide, or a suicide. And those are facts-inconvenient and scary as they are. That should frighten those who buy guns to use against someone else because they are not like oneself. That is what is bothering me. I am frightened for our country.

What with a Muslim ban, putting Steve Bannon in a national security position, repealing “Obamacare”, suggesting removing sanctions from Russia, an investigation into non-existent voter fraud, talk about nuclear weapons and taking oil from a sovereign country ( as just a few of the past week’s executive orders or tweets) we have plenty to fear.

The first week of the new administration was chaotic and unsettling. That is how dangerous egomaniacs seize power. But I take heart in the protests at airports and in cities all over the country again this week-end on the heels of the Women’s March. I wrote my last post about my experience in DC at that march.

This is a movement. It is peaceful but those involved know that this is not the country we want. In one day we went from a democracy to an oligarchy. Sowing the seeds of discontent has worked well for @realDonaldTrump and alternative facts are spewed by he and his actors with every word uttered.

Sales of the book 1984 went through the roof. We are here. 2017. We are in a world where the extremist amongst us have seized power ( well- were elected but Trump is obsessed with making sure he somehow steals back those 3 million votes he lost to Hillary) They are over reaching and are drunk with their power. It’s enough to make those of us who don’t see guns as a solution to think twice about it.

Will this get worse?  Most certainly before it gets better because Trump spokeswoman KellyAnn Conway said we should just get used to this kind of dictatorship-like behavior of her boss. It’s just the beginning? Phew.

What could possibly go wrong?

What with the corporate gun lobby out pushing for no permits for gun permit carriers, carrying assault rifles on our streets and pushing for guns to be carried in all the places where we feel safe with our families and where guns don’t belong, armed citizens will be roaming our streets and public places and we won’t know the “good guys with guns” from the “bad guys with guns.” Oh yes, also Stand Your Ground laws are rearing their ugly heads. What with intolerance of minorities and “the other” what could possibly go wrong?

Our new President has unleashed a monster. He has opened the gates for anger, fear and intolerance and the corporate gun lobby has a seat at the table. What does a “gun friendly” administration mean?

What could possibly go wrong?

But yesterday I was heartened by my conversations with folks in my community who came out in large numbers to a League of Women Voters’ sponsored Citizens in Action Workshop. Young people and people never involved before are ready to get involved. I was one of the speakers educating people about how to get involved in gun violence prevention efforts. When I was done, a man in the back of the room motioned for me to come and speak with him. We spent about 20 minutes discussing his revelations and suggestions.

The man teaches hunting safety courses and has for years. He has studied gun accidents and worries about the possibilities. That is because his grandfather was killed in a hunting accident. As I was speaking it occurred to him that he had been affected by gun violence and had never thought about it that way. One of his friends had also died in a hunting accident and he, himself, came close once to mistaking a hunter for a squirrel scurrying and making noise in the woods. It scared him.

Dying by gunshot injury is a violent, bloody and sudden death. It is violence to the body and the survivors suffer often from PTSD, a sort of violence to the psyche. Many people are affected by insidious and preventable gun violence.

The man and I talked about gun safety. He has many guns but they are very carefully locked and unloaded with ammunition far away from the hands of his young children.Unfortunately he has friends who do not do that and was interested in the ASK campaign that I spoke about. He strongly believes in Brady background checks for all guns but also has many friends who do a lot of trading and selling guns amongst themselves and is not sure that is a good idea. From there we discussed trafficking, stolen guns and bad apple gun dealers and I think he learned a lot from me that he didn’t know.

Now  he wants to know more and be involved and I hope he will be. This is what changing the conversation is all about. It’s common sense discussions in a polite and peaceful manner than can lead to safer communities.

So back to the beginning. Micah 6 Verse 8:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,[b]
    and to walk humbly with your God?

Do Justice. Love Kindness and walk humbly with your God. Today, Muslims are banned from entering our country. Tomorrow, who’s next? What is this intolerance? How will it end? Will those who foment intolerance use weapons to subject those whose religion and culture are different?

Gideon Lichfield wrote this poem for Trump’s inauguration:

First Trump came for the women
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a woman.

Then Trump came for the people with disabilities
And I did not speak out
Because I did not have a disability.

Then Trump came for the African Americans
And I did not speak out
Because I was not African American.

Then Trump came for the Mexicans
And I did not speak out
Because I was not Mexican.

Then Trump came for the Muslims
And I did not speak out
Because I was not Muslim.

Then Trump came for the gay, bi, and trans people
And I did not speak out
Because I was not gay, bi or trans.*

Then Trump came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew.**

Then Trump came for the journalists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a journalist.***

Then Trump came for the judges
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a judge.

And now Trump is coming for the Constitution of the United States
And if I do not speak out, what am I?

Sigh.

Back to the “Beattitudes” from Matthew– From verses 11 and 12:

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Today we offered prayers for our leaders and our country that intolerance and persecution would not become the way we deal with immigration and those who need our help.

I thought we were better than this. Was I ( am I) wrong? Have we become this kind of country in just one week? What is the answer?

We are seeing it on the streets. We are seeing it in post card writing gatherings, marches, phone calls and letters. We want it all to be peaceful. When our leaders are stoking this kind of fear and intolerance, it does foment anger and horror.

Violence is not the answer. Guns are not the answer. More people with more guns is not the answer. People want to feel safe from violence, persecution and intolerance. Immigrants should be welcome here. 3 of my grandparents were immigrants.

Further, what was the immediacy of these executive orders? Did we have a terror attack I did not know about? And the countries from where most of the previous attackers came from are not on the list of those banned from entering our country. What kind of sense does this make?

Here’s a fact:

Toddlers have killed more people than those on the list of banned immigrants:

Toddlers have shot about one person a week for the past two years and by May, toddlers were behind more U.S. shootings in 2016 than Muslim terrorists were.

The problem speaks to the ubiquity and normalcy of guns in the U.S. and childrens’ access to loaded guns, shooting — sometimes fatally — either themselves or others.

And this is going around on Facebook:

shootings-by-immigrants

There’s more.

When an administration issues a statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day without mentioning Jews and then issues an executive order to ban Muslims, we have a very serious situation. The fact that administration talking heads are trying to “clarify” what all of this means without any apology or admitting that they have just created chaos and dystopia is frightening and dangerous.

We are less safe because of our new President.

I can only pray for peace and non-violence.

 

 

New Years Resolutions

new-year-resolutionsHappy 2017 everyone. I have been avoiding the fact that in just  few short weeks, @realDonaldTrump will become our next President. And so I have also been avoiding other things in my life as I grapple with what is going on around me. Time has flown already since the New Year’s holiday. Family time and taking care of things for a relative who has a disability has not allowed me to think much about the new year. But I was drawn back in upon seeing some tweets and Facebook posts about shootings around the new year. It happens every year and, as I have written many times, gun violence does not take a holiday.

In spite of those facts, Congress and legislatures in many states, controlled by gun lobby lapdogs, will disappoint us with their resolutions to loosen laws that save lives and prevent shootings.

Let’s start with the Texas lawmaker who was the victim of celebratory gunfire on New Year’s Eve. Every year, irresponsible gun owners and carriers don’t think about the great risk to others when they decide to shoot loaded guns into the air. Bullets, as we know, have certain trajectories and so when they go up, the natural physics is that they come back down. Whoever or whatever happens to be under the trajectory will be hit.

It seems that the lawmaker is OK and luckily for him, will not suffer from a life long debilitating injury like my friend Joe Jaskolka has. In fact, he is now ready to support a law to deal with celebratory gunfire:

“If my legislation could help save a life, you know, then definitely that’s what we’re gonna be looking at doing,” the Weslaco Democrat said Monday in a phone interview from the Valley Baptist Medical Center shortly before he was released.

That’s what I’m talking about- saving a life ( or lives). Is there something bad about that?

When people are affected by gun violence, it often changes things and makes them realize that this could happen to anyone.

Common sense is what it takes to save lives and keep citizens safe from gun violence.

Some are not as lucky as this lawmaker. Take my friend Joe Jaskolka, for instance. His life has been affected greatly and negatively since a bullet landed in his head from celebratory gunfire:

I got maybe a half-block away from my Grandmother’s home before a “Celebratory bullet” pierced my skull. Better yet, when my cousin Jeff ran back in the house to report to an adult to call 911, “Joe’s just lying on the ground, everyone must have thought I was joking”, but a child with a bullet-hole in the top of his cranium, when my parents (and aunts, uncles, and fellow cousins) were all trying to figure out what happened to me, crazy scenarios started to be heard.

When police searched the rooftops in a few block radius a day later, they found over 700 spent bullets!

When everyone at the party figured out my condition, they along with the medical staff at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) must have all figured I was dead.  You know you’re a dead man when the hospital has a priest sitting with your parents in the Emergency Room to wait for bad news.

Joe was 11 when this happened. When I met him years ago at a national meeting he was sitting in a wheel chair with obvious physical disabilities. We have remained friends for years.

Real stories are worth many gun lobby myths.

Closer to home, several things happened in Minnesota. Two men from the Twin Cities area were shot behind a local Superior, Wisconsin bar. One died in the shooting and one was injured. It was not random. Most shootings are not in fact.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety announced rather quietly that more states were added to the list of those whose carry permits would not be reciprocated in Minnesota. Why? Not strong enough regulations in Ohio, Tennessee, Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Now there is some common sense.

If anyone can honestly tell me that it is safe for teens under 21 and those without permits to carry will be safe on our streets, then they are not using common sense. For in Minnesota, that is what we have decided we want people to have training and have a permit and be 21. Why would we allow less than that anywhere? Follow the money and the links between the gun lobby which pushes bills to allow anyone to buy and carry guns and the gun industry profits.

And speaking of the gun industry, it looks like gun stocks are falling after the election of the gun lobby’s candidate, Donald Trump. @realDonaldTrump won’t take guns away so no worries- except that people won’t flock to gun stores to buy guns now unless they are afraid of the fear of a President who will confiscate their guns. Now what? Looser laws that will create new markets for deadly weapons.

Of course, Hillary Clinton was not going to take guns away either but the gun lobby said she was. President Obama did not take guns away but the gun lobby said he would. Don’t believe the gun lobby.

Speaking of taking guns away, Congress and the Minnesota state legislatures are back in session. The gun lobby will be busy convincing Congress and state legislators that more guns are needed by more people to keep them safe. They are wrong, according to the facts and reality. But never mind the truth. As I have written before in a previous post, up is down and black is white.

As Mark Twain once said, ” “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”” That is more true today than ever.

One of the first orders of business in the Republican led House ( aside from the insane ethics debacle) was to introduce a measure to fine any House member who live streams from the House floor. Republicans didn’t like it when Rep. John Lewis and other Democrats staged a sit-in last June to ask for a vote on background checks. Now they want to silence members who don’t share the views of the gun lobby lapdogs but rather the majority of Americans.

Shame on them. But they have no shame. They would rather punish opposing views than save lives apparently.

But thankfully there are some in Congress who are not afraid of the gun lobby. Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey will re-introduce a bill to allow government agencies to do research on the public health crisis of gun violence.

We will see a lot of gun bills going both ways but the conservatives, Republican lapdogs for the gun lobby and those who are afraid to stand against that group are giddy with the idea that they can weaken gun laws and allow more dangerous behavior with guns than ever before. For the life of my sister, I can’t understand this glee at weakening laws that save lives. People will die as a result. Will that matter to these lapdogs?

Does it matter to them that one toddler a week has shot someone in 2015 and now 2016? If not, why not? Avoiding the truth means avoiding the facts that these kinds of shootings are avoidable.

Maybe if one of their own is struck down by a stray bullet or shot by a crazed or angry person or a toddler who shouldn’t have had a gun in the first place ( when it could have been prevented) one or two of them will realize how wrong they have been.

It will be a busy few months (years). Let’s hope we can keep the pressure on this issue and shed light on those who take money from the nation’s most powerful lobby- the NRA. 1Pulse4America is keeping track. It is not a pretty picture. When North Carolina Senator Burr takes over $800,000 from the NRA in “blood money” we can count on him to oppose common sense gun legislation that could save lives.

For if a legislator or Congress member is beholden to the gun lobby, we are less safe as a result.

Facts matter. Accountability matters. Lives matter more than anything else.

Happy New Year everyone. I resolve to do whatever it takes to prevent gun violence and save lives. How about you?

Tis the season….

Christmas horizontal banners backgroundIt’s the Christmas season. And, oh yes, the Chanukah season and the approach of the new year. Here in my neck of the woods, we are expecting a major winter ice/snow/rain storm event on Christmas day which will interfere with the holiday celebrations tomorrow.

But nothing interferes more with the holidays than the shooting of a loved one. I write often about how shootings don’t take a holiday. They happen every day in our beloved country. Easter, Halloween, Memorial Day, Labor Day, New Years, Christmas, whatever. 90 a day die from gunshot injuries.

Merry Christmas.

In Faribault, Minnesota a family is grieving the loss of two loved ones after a murder/suicide occurred a few days before the holiday. It was another domestic shooting. The shooter took guns and ammunition from his son’s home and gunned down his ex-wife at her place of work and then shot and killed himself. He was an ex police officer:

The shootings took place less than a week after Barbara Larson served her former husband with a harassment restraining order, Pederson said. The couple divorced in 2014.

Richard Larson retired from the city’s police department in 2008 after serving Faribault for about 25 years, Pederson said. He was a captain when he retired.

Sigh.

Another police officer’s gun was used by his 2 year old child to kill himself “accidentally”. The Cleveland family will be mourning the senseless and avoidable loss of their precious child all over irresponsible storage of a gun the child should never have accessed:

The boy is the son of a 54-year-old Cleveland police officer, Jose “Tony” Pedro, who was hired in 1993. Cleveland police said the gun was the officer’s service weapon.

Aren’t these the “good guys” with guns? I’m just asking.

Where is common sense?

Guns are a risk to those who choose to own them. With rights come responsibilities. What is it that we don’t get about that in America?

But I digress because I wanted to write about a shooting closer to my home. In Cloquet, Minnesota:

A victim, who police said was in his 30s, was found inside a residence with multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to a Duluth hospital, where he was pronounced dead.(…) “I don’t believe it was a random act,” Ferrell said a few hours after the shooting. “I’m sure they are aware of each other. I just don’t know what the circumstances are or what led up to the shooting.”

Most shootings happen between people who know each other. Guns for self defense are often used against someone known to the shooter. The myth of the gun lobby’s mantra that more guns make us safer is just that. A myth. A deadly myth as it turns out.

More guns are clearly not making us safer. An armed society is clearly not a polite society.

And more families are mourning the senseless loss of a loved one at a holiday time that is supposed to be merry and happy. Not for many.

I’m sure I don’t have to remind my readers that the holidays can be sad and depressing for many. And gun suicides account for the majority of gun deaths in America:

Despite an alarming uptick in homicides in some urban areas in the last few years, violent death rates are significantly lower than they were in the 1990s. There is one notable exception to this trend. Suicide rates for men and women have steadily increased for the past 15 years.

The statistics are bleak. Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. From ages 10 to 34, it is the second leading cause. Last year, at least 40,000 people in the U.S. died by suicide. From 1999 to 2014, the suicide rate for men and women jumped 24 percent.

Guns make it all so easy.

Also I shouldn’t have to remind my readers that toddlers have killed more people than terrorists in America:

According to the Washington Post, our nation’s nurseries are housing more than just unbearable levels of cuteness: Twenty-three people have been shot by toddlers in the U.S. since the start of 2016 — exactly 23 more than have been shot by Muslim terrorists over the same period.

So please tell me again how it is that a gun in the home for self defense will make the owners safer from strangers, home invaders, terrorists or zombies? I don’t buy it.

The Gun Violence Archive is keeping track of gun deaths and injuries in America in case you don’t believe the numbers. 356 children under 11 have been killed or injured by guns in 2016 so far. 11 in the last week alone have been killed.

Stunning. Shocking.

Surely we are better than this and if so, we need to work much harder to change these statistics. For the statistics are real children with real families. They are not just statistics.

If there is a gun in the home for hunting or sport, the onus is on the owner to lock it up away from the hands of toddlers, people who are experiencing domestic problems, people experiencing severe mental difficulties, suicidal teens or adults, or thieves.

In America, our cavalier attitude about guns and gun rights is leading us to deadly outcomes.

There are too many empty chairs around holiday tables every year. The one belonging to my sister has been empty for 24 years now. But we remember her fondly for her hosting amazing Christmas gatherings full of fun and holiday chaos.

Tis the season to be jolly. Hopefully you will all have a jolly holiday no matter what you celebrate.

And may the grinch not spoil things for your family.

Merry Christmas ( and yes, I am a liberal and Donald Trump didn’t just allow me to say that to my friends). Happy Chanukah. Happy Kwanzaa and everything else.

Stay safe and warm out there wherever you are.

 

Background checks work

Map pointer with Check mark.Yes they do. Some of my readers think they don’t. I have yet to hear a reason that is based on facts and common sense. These folks do buy guns from Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers they tell me and are willing to submit themselves to the “terribly inconvenient” process of the 3 minute phone call.

Today is the anniversary of the enactment of the Brady Law. Since that day 23 years ago, according to the Brady Campaign to prevent gun violence, 3 million gun buyers have been stopped from buying a gun legally from a licensed dealer. That is no small thing. Stopping a felon, domestic abuser, someone who is or has been adjudicated and/or dangerously mentally ill from getting a gun saves lives. One would think that would be a good thing.

But interestingly and inexplicably, those same folks who have submitted to legal background checks are against the very same checks from private sellers at gun shows, flea markets or on-line. They try to tell me there is something different about a private seller asking for a Brady background check from a buyer. There is not. In most states that have passed a law to require background checks on all gun sales the private seller takes a buyer to a licensed dealer for the phone call to the FBI’s instant check system.

Easy peasy.

Also background checks do NOT lead to gun registration or confiscation. In the 23 years of requiring gun purchasers to undergo a simple background check, that has not happened.

Another gun lobby myth.

And speaking of myths, there is new research to dispel the one that shooters look for gun free zones where no guns are allowed to carry out mass shootings. That is not true. It’s interesting that when research is actually done, we get facts that can make a difference to our public health and safety. The Trace wrote about it today:

The Johns Hopkins study warns that introducing more guns on campus could have the unintended consequence of risking the safety of the students and faculty that gun-rights supporters say they are there to protect. Research shows that college students are at an increased risk for suicide and prone to impulsive behavior. One report, cited by the authors, found that firearms were the most common means of suicide among males, accounting for for almost a third of suicides by college students of that demographic. College students are also susceptible to risky behaviors — such as alcohol or drug abuse — which have strong associations with increased levels of violence.

This is common sense.  The corporate gun lobby turns common sense on its’ head and makes fiction out of facts. We are, according to this article, in a “post truth” era in our country. Fact has become fiction. Fiction has become fact. President-elect Trump has lied about most everything during the campaign and then taken some of it back telling us this is what he meant in the first place. Black is white. The sky is under us now and the ground is above us.

From the article:

This effect is known as the “illusion of truth” – when you hear certain information so many times, you believe it, regardless of its accuracy. Political lies stay with us not because of their authenticity, but because manipulative campaign strategists understand psychology.

The majority of the time, this information works against our best interest. (…)

Just this week, The Oxford Dictionary sealed our fate by naming “post-truth” the word of the year, defining it as:

“Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.”

The greatest problem of our future is not political; it is not economic; it is not even rational. It’s the battle of fact versus fiction.

Sadly, a Trump victory illustrates that we are no longer able to distinguish between the two.

The above is an opinion piece by Samuel C. Spitale writing for the Huffington Post. I happen to agree with it.

Brady background checks work. But about 40% of sales don’t require a background check. That is not OK. Every person who adopts a pet must get a background check. Every person who works with children in churches must go through a background check. Physicians and accountants go through background checks. There are no exceptions. Why should there be exceptions for the purchase of a deadly weapon designed to kill another human being?

Background checks provide useful information in order to keep us and our children safe from fraud, sexual predators, those who would do us harm, those who can’t and won’t be responsible. That’s a good thing. It’s all about public health and safety.

Let’s make up up and down down. Believe in the facts which tell us that when we restrict access to guns to only those who can handle them responsibly and safely, we can prevent some of the daily carnage from gunshot injuries. If we push the conversation towards gun safety reform- meaning reforming the practices of law abiding gun owners to make sure all guns are locked and unloaded away from the hands of children and teens and to keep them from being stolen and used in a crime. If we talk about the risks of guns to their owners providing the research and the facts that access to a loaded gun can result in an avoidable suicide or accidental gun discharge we can expect fewer gun deaths and injuries. If we talk the facts about gun free zones, we turn fiction into action and keep guns away from places they are not needed or should be.

The facts support the above. It is not fiction or myth that gun violence can be reduced and prevented if we pass stronger gun laws and stand stronger against the myths and fiction as promoted by the gun lobby.

Let’s get to work and deal with the facts. It’s past time to Finish the Job and require background checks on all gun sales.

 

UPDATE:

As always, one of my readers whose comments are not approved by me for various reasons, made a claim that the Brady Campaign is lying about how many gun purchases have been stopped legally since the Brady Law took effect in 1994. Here is the low down on that based on facts from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence ( which employs lawyers who do research into gun violence):

Since the enactment of the Brady law on March 1, 1994, through December 31, 2012, background checks blocked more than 2.4 million prohibited purchasers like domestic abusers, convicted felons, mentally ill persons, and other dangerous individuals from purchasing a firearm or receiving a permit to purchase or carry a firearm.1

In 2012 alone, background checks blocked 192,043 prohibited persons from gaining access to firearms,2 including 82,000 felons or roughly 225 felons every day.3

Statistics reported by the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence confirm that background checks work and have had a significant positive impact on national crime rates. Before the Brady law was enacted, America’s gun homicide rate was on a dramatic rise, increasing by 55 percent from 1984 to 1993 even as non-gun homicides were falling over this period.4 After Brady background checks were required, however, gun murders began to steadily decline and ultimately fell by 32 percent from 1993 to 2006.5 The rate of robberies and aggravated assaults committed with firearms also decreased by 42 percent over this period.6

Now one can argue that crime rates were on the decrease already for other reasons but surely a law that has stopped felons, domestic abusers and others who shouldn’t have guns made it harder for these folks to get guns that end up used in crimes. So when we combine efforts to stem the devastation of gun crimes, we can save lives. If the folks who want to argue about this have better ideas, I’m all ears.

There is other research to indicate that fewer denials of gun purchases have occurred in recent years. There may be a good reason for that based on this Everytown article:

However, between 2000 and 2013, the share of total background checks denied fell by more than half, from 1.6% to 0.7%. This is consistent with the hypothesis that criminals are increasingly aware that a background check will block them from buying guns at licensed dealers—and are seeking guns from unlicensed sellers online and at gun

shows, where no background checks are required under current law. In a September 2013 investigation of illegal online gun sales, Felon Seeks Firearm, Everytown found that 1 in 30 people seeking guns from unlicensed sellers on the national website Armslist.com had a criminal record or domestic violence history that prohibited gun ownership. This is nearly four times the share of people seeking firearms at licensed dealers who are prohibited and blocked by the background check system. (…)

Seems like a very good case for requiring background checks on all gun sales. And why not? Who will it hurt? Not law abiding gun owners no matter what they say. It will stop those who shouldn’t have deadly weapons and won’t be responsible but will be potentially dangerous.

Resisting a reasonable provision that will save lives is antithetical to public health and safety. If those who resist give some fact-based reasoning to show otherwise, then maybe we can have a discussion. But as long as their only reason is that more gun sales will profit the gun industry and hysteria about guns being confiscated then we can’t have the discussion. Further what is the gun industry going to do now that they have a gun friendly Congress and President? What will they come up with now to scare people into buying guns and being against common sense?

 

Minnesota nice?

minnesota-niceThe last few days has revealed the lunacy of an armed society in Minnesota. Not that it isn’t happening in every state of our “great” country every day. But the last few days have been particularly concerning. Let’s take a look at the Minnesota gun culture as it has been reported in news stories.

First up- a Winona man apparently was shot by an “accidental” discharge and has now died of his gunshot injuries. There are no “accidental” gun discharges. There are avoidable, senseless accidents with guns that shouldn’t have happened. Why? Because guns are deadly weapons designed to kill or injure humans or animals. They must be taken seriously and their owners must not “play” with them or clean them without knowing if there is a round in the chamber, or get them out while drinking, or let children access them and all of those other common sense admonitions that go with dangerous things.

Second- a first grader brought a gun to a St. Paul school where it discharged, injuring the floor tiles and luckily not another child or adult. As we said when I was writing for the Kid Shootings blog- Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. This is lunacy.

Third- a shooting took place at an Anoka area gas station. Law enforcement engaged in the high speed chase on highways and freeways ending with a crash and the suspect being shot and injured by law enforcement.

And now the same St. Cloud mall that suffered the September mass stabbing incident was under lock-down because a man was seen with a gun.

Shortly after 7 p.m., St. Cloud police Sgt. Jason Burke said in a news release that ““Initial information is that a male and female were in an argument outside the mall by the food court. During the argument, two males unknown to them approached, one of the males lifted the front of his shirt and showed the couple a gun in his waistband. The gun was not pointed at the couple, no threats were made, and no injuries have been reported.

It will be interesting to find out who these 2 reported guys with guns were.

And as an aside, people arguing in malls should take it outside or in private so they don’t frighten people around them. Fear is all around us now after the most contentious election in recent history. The corporate gun lobby has helped stoke that fear and suspicion that could lead to us being less safe rather than safer:

Trump bore little resemblance to the lifelong heartland conservatives whom the NRA typically backed. He was an Ivy League-educated real estate heir with a gold-plated private jet and a foreign, former-model third wife. Trump and Melania had wed at a glamorous ceremony where Bill and Hillary Clinton had been among the guests. A proud New York City resident, Trump didn’t seem to have much regard for the attachments many Americans felt towards guns, never mind the policy purity the NRA demands of other candidates. In a 2000 book, he’d even written, “I support the ban on assault weapons and I also support a slightly longer waiting period to purchase a gun.”

But from the outset of his campaign, Trump adopted an incendiary message that matched the NRA’s own. He hurled invectives at establishment politicians in both parties. He described a once-great nation under assault and in sharp decline, rhetoric that electrified white Americans brimming with grievance.

This is our President-elect.

Sigh.

We will not be safer with more guns around us in this atmosphere of fear.

But I digress.

Another fatal shooting in North Minneapolis yesterday adds up to a very violent year in that section of Minneapolis that has residents very concerned for their own safety. From the article:

For the third day in a row, the pop-pop-pop of gunfire punctuated the midday calm near a north Minneapolis strip mall, this time leaving a young man dead and detectives searching for answers.

This is simply not the kind of communities we want for our children and families. The proliferation of guns on our streets is a serious public health and safety epidemic. No one is immune from it. It adds to the fear and suspicion of others and spirals out of control.

And last, the Minneapolis police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile has been charged with manslaughter:

In an extraordinary move by a Minnesota prosecutor, authorities said the officer, not the civilian, is to blame for the tragic events that turned a traffic stop in a Twin Cities suburb into a flash point in the national debate over racial profiling and police use of force.

You may remember that the shooting of Castile resulted in demonstrations on the streets of Minnesota and all over the country for that matter. These are incidents that have escalated all over America. Unarmed and armed men of color have been shot by officers in what seems like increasing frequency. Race plays a role. Armed citizens plays a role. Fear plays a role. There should be some very serious conversations about what all of this means for the safety of Americans. Will we have them? Will we ignore this at the peril of our communities?

I have great respect for our law enforcement officers and have written frequently about officers under assault by armed citizens. The job of our officers is made all the more dangerous by so many armed Americans and it has led to a vicious circle of arming up to protect themselves from citizens who are allowed to carry their guns in public places or are involved in domestic disputes. Armed citizenry is not the norm in other democratized countries and therefore, law enforcement officers are not often the target of ambushes. In fact, in some countries, officers are not armed. Interestingly, there are far fewer gun deaths in almost all over democratized countries not at war. Coincidence?

What is particularly disturbing is the number of ambushes of American officers leading to tragic deaths of officers:

The attacks on police in Dallas and Baton Rouge that left eight officers dead earlier this month sent waves of fear through law enforcement agencies across the country, with departments ordering officers to double up on patrols as a safety measure.

These deaths contributed to a grim tally this year. Through last week, 32 officers were shot and killed in the line of duty, according to the National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, a nonprofit group that tracks these deaths. More than half of the officers fatally shot died in ambushes, the group said in a report released Thursday.

President-elect Donald Trump will have to deal with this American tragedy. Time will tell if he will and if he does, how he will.

An armed society is not a polite society. Our children and families should not have to be exposed to this kind of violence and potential violence. This is lunacy, not niceness.

“Minnesota nice” is a myth.

These are only the gun deaths we know about. About 80% of gun deaths in Minnesota are suicides. These are not usually reported in the media unless they are homicide/suicides, often occurring in domestic shootings. Passing stronger gun laws reduces gun homicides and suicides as it turns out.

But requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales is under assault. The continued myths coming from the corporate gun lobby don’t make us safer.

Who are we? Do we care about our fellow citizens no matter who they are? There are certain truths that should be self-evident. One of them is that we have a moral responsibility to protect our citizens from those who would do them harm and I am not just talking about terrorism. The truth is that toddlers have killed more of their fellow Americans than terrorists:

According to the Washington Post, our nation’s nurseries are housing more than just unbearable levels of cuteness: Twenty-three people have been shot by toddlers in the U.S. since the start of 2016 — exactly 23 more than have been shot by Muslim terrorists over the same period.

Please look at the map in the above linked article showing that in “red states” that typically have looser gun laws, more shootings by toddlers have occurred. Coincidence?

Banning Muslims and deporting Mexicans, as our President-elect and apparently many in the Republican party want to do to protect us will not change this.

The Brady Campaign and other gun violence prevention organizations have solutions that often don’t involve legislation. Check out what can be done to make us safer by making sure guns are locked and stored away from tiny hands and the hands of others who should not have access to guns.

As I wrote about in my last post, things will not be getting better now that the corporate gun lobby believes they have a seat in the White House. How will that make us safer? It won’t. I have yet to hear how plans to repeal strong gun laws will result in fewer shootings and fewer deaths. In fact, the opposite is true.

But we are now living in a country where lies and deception are taken for the truth. It’s a scary time for those of us who have been working for peaceful solutions and safer communities. It’s downright sobering that in a country where “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” is under assault.

Toddlers and guns

dartgunGuns are not toys. They are deadly weapons designed to kill other human beings. Children sometimes think they are toys or their curiosity about guns, perhaps natural for some reason, can lead them to pick guns up. Children, and especially very young children and toddlers just can’t be taught to be responsible with guns no matter what the gun lobby may say. About 7 children a day die from gunshot injuries in America. And what are we doing about it?

In the last few weeks, a host of articles, PSAs and other information have been released about toddlers and guns and kids and guns. In what other country would anyone even think they had to alert the public to the dangers of toddlers with guns? This is insanity. It’s also dangerous to ignore it but ignore we have.

Let’s start with this article written by Zak Cheney Rice for Mic.com:

According to the Washington Post, our nation’s nurseries are housing more than just unbearable levels of cuteness: Twenty-three people have been shot by toddlers in the U.S. since the start of 2016 — exactly 23 more than have been shot by Muslim terrorists over the same period.

Cheney Rice’s article was written to compare the ugly rhetoric about Muslims during this election in which one Donald Trump has raised the idea that all Muslims should be banned because of course, they are dangerous to Americans. Are they? Sure there have been some recent terror attacks committed by people who happen to be Muslim extremists. But there have also been far more home grown terror attacks committed by Americans who are not Muslim.

So let’s get back to kids, and particularly toddlers with guns. How do toddlers get their hands on guns? Are they dangerous human beings who should be prohibited from guns? Not unless their parents or another adult make them so. For without the adults, toddlers would not be anywhere near loaded guns. So keeping toddlers from getting guns is the responsibility of “law abiding” gun owners.

A new PSA was released on this subject last week. Check it out:

This edgy PSA may be scary and some may say, too much. But you can’t miss the point. A Washington Post article talks about the PSA:

“This PSA is satire,” Dan Gross, president of the Brady Campaign, said. “But the public health crisis it calls attention to is anything but. Whether the trigger is pulled by a toddler, a convicted felon, domestic abuser, or terrorist, we have a problem in America with guns too easily falling into the wrong hands. And that translates to hundreds of lives lost or changed forever every single day.”

There is so much here to write about that it’s difficult to unpack but this quote from the above linked article refers to yet another article written about this public health epidemic:

Last week, the Associated Press and USA Today released findings from a 2½-year analysis of minors killed by firearms. The study — which looked at accidental shootings involving children ages 17 and younger from Jan. 1, 2014, to June 30 of this year — analyzed more than 1,000 incidents in total, according to USA Today.

So now let’s look at this USA Today article:

The findings: During the first six months of this year, minors died from accidental shootings — at their own hands, or at the hands of other children or adults — at a pace of one every other day, far more than limited federal statistics indicate.

Tragedies like the death of Bryson Mees-Hernandez play out repeatedly across the country. Curious toddlers find unsecured, loaded handguns in their homes and vehicles, and fatally shoot themselves and others. Teenagers, often showing off guns to their friends and siblings, end up shooting them instead.

This is an American tragedy.

Two friends have started a new campaign to call attention to toddlers and children who kill with guns. They are determined to prevent these shootings. The Childrens Firearm Safety Alliance has been launched to find solutions to this under reported epidemic. From the link:

The prevalence of these incidents is astounding, even though we don’t have anything near adequate data on this type of tragedy. Reporting by the Washington Post has found about one shooting by a young child a week in America. This is likely an undercount, as many instances do not make the news unless it’s a parent or a sibling who dies. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention finds that at least six children are injured in an unintentional shooting every day. (…)

A new national initiative announced in mid-October seeks change. The Children’s Firearm Safety Alliance is coordinating physicians, law enforcement, prosecutors, lawmakers and other advocates to look at what can be done nationally through policy work, legislation and education around gun safety.

It has promoted the hashtag #NotAnAccident and propagated this disturbing tidbit: You are more likely to be shot by a U.S. toddler than by a terrorist. The ongoing psychological trauma of these shootings shouldn’t be discounted. What an awful burden it must be for someone to carry through life knowing that, as a young child, he or she took a life or caused serious injury.

Keeping a loaded gun unsecured and within easy reach of a toddler ought to be considered a criminal act of negligence. A portion of the law that was struck down in Heller understood this. It’s time to admit that upholding a person’s right to own a gun doesn’t need to conflict with efforts to keep young children’s tiny hands away from pulling triggers.

Tiny hands can pull triggers.

Others have entered the messaging about toddlers and guns. Gary Younge  who writes for The Guardian, has a new book out about kids who have been shot. I listened to an interview with him yesterday on Minnesota Public Radio. The title of Younge’s book says it all- Another Day in the Death of America. Younge is not writing in general about kids all over the world and guns. He is writing about the particular tragedy of kids and guns in America. While on air yesterday, he made that point. This is not happening in other countries and he should know as he is British. From the linked article:

Samuel is one of the 10 people known to have been killed by guns on 23 November 2013. That’s the day Guardian journalist Gary Younge randomly selected for this book, after which he spent 18 months unearthing the stories that lay behind these young lives and their premature deaths. It is a gripping account that leads the reader through places as disparate as the vast corn and soya fields of Michigan and the killing fields of Chicago, where gunfire is now so common that dogs are said to have stopped barking at it. It’s a journey through a deeply troubled America that will make its reader want to join the author in howling at the moon.

Howling at the moon. Indeed, that is what we all should be doing and in fact many of us have been. But our howls have been ignored by those who could make a difference by passing policies that could prevent some of the shootings and by awakening the country to the problem that is that kids and guns do not go together. The corporate gun lobby would have us believing otherwise which is deceptive at the least and has led to way too many parents and adults thinking a gun in the home will protect them from evil. But the evil is coming from their own guns found by children and used in “accidental” shootings.

Changing the conversation and changing the gun culture to reflect what the majority of Americans actually believe and practice rather than what the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre espouses, would result in fewer gun deaths. Because safely storing guns away from the hands of children and teens will make everyone safer. Because even though telling children not to touch guns is not enough.Because guns are deadly weapons designed to kill and with rights come responsibilities. Because more guns have not made us safer.

But, not to be forgotten, the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre has a new warning and more lies for voters just before the election.

Yikes!

Take a look at the fear mongering in the video produced by the NRA and almost total hysteria about guns being taken away and the end of the world, apparently, if that were to happen. It won’t of course but fear sells and that’s the point. More fear for some people equals more gun sales. And more gun sales and more guns in more homes can lead to more small children shooting themselves or other kids ( or even parents).

Good grief.

Nuts.

We simply cannot sit back and let our children’s lives be placed at risk when there are solutions. Even responsible gun owners make mistakes and/or listen to the wrong message about what owning a gun means.

We need to tell the truth about the dangers of loaded guns in our homes.

Parents and adults can do something pro-active about the kids and guns epidemic. One common sense solution is to ASK if there are unlocked, loaded guns where children play. The Brady Campaign’s ASK campaign gives language to parents to have the difficult conversation that could save lives. Asking saves lives.

Also at the Brady Campaign web site, you can find this great report called The Truth about Kids and Guns.

The Trace is also keeping track of kids and guns incidents and other articles concerning gun safety for kids.

Kids can take a pledge to help end gun violence through this Student Pledge to End Gun Violence:

The Student Pledge Against Gun Violence is a national program that honors the role that young people, through their own decisions, can play in reducing gun violence.

Why not get kids involved in decisions that can make them safer?

Everytown for Gun Safety has also been collecting information about child gun deaths and solutions that can prevent the devastating loss of a child to an avoidable death.

The American Public Health Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics have been on board with child safety and guns for a long time. Gun violence is a national public health epidemic and needs to be treated as such.

And we can’t forget the years long push by the Children’s Defense Fund to talk about kids and gun violence and the need to prevent our children from dying from gunshot injuries. Their long time slogan- Protect Children Not Guns says it all.

The Gun Violence Archive has become the source that collects the necessary data for us all to understand the American tragedy of gun deaths and injuries. According to their charts, 553 children from 0-11 have died from gunshot injuries in 2016. Teens from 12-17 who have been killed or injured accounts for 2571 incidents. This is stunning and simply unacceptable. The fact that we do accept this without howling says a lot about America.

But the fact that so many are finally uncovering the facts and exposing them can only lead to stronger policy solutions and a change in the conversation. As a result, our kids will be safer from gun deaths and injuries.

If we can’t protect our children from avoidable unintentional, or even intentional, injury and death who are we as a country?

With all of this evidence and research, we know we have a serious problem that must be addressed.

We can do much better and we must do much better if we truly care about the health and safety of our children.

 

Scared to death of the dentist

Dentist2Has anyone seen “Little Shop of Horrors”? The mocking and funny musical about a sadistic dentist is amusing and a bit of the truth. Note that a gun was not used as intended because Seymour ( character in the play) could not bring himself to shoot Orin. Instead he killed him with nitrous oxide.

But back to dentists and the fear of them. People don’t seem to like to go to the dentist. Often it involves pain. And there’s a bit of humiliation as one sits in the chair, captive to a drill or a clamp. Having someone fool around with your mouth is disconcerting.

Apparently some gun carrying Americans feel unusually afraid of dentists to the point of packing heat while sitting in the chair. Nothing really good can come of carrying a gun around everywhere one goes and then, either forgetting the gun is in your pocket or knowingly carrying one around unholstered out of “necessity”  or fear. So one Ohio man found out the horror of packing while under the influence of  nitrous oxide. You can’t make this stuff up. From the article:

James White, 72, apparently thought he heard his cellphone ring, and when he went to answer it, he somehow fired his gun.

In a 911 call obtained by the station, an employee at New Carlisle Dental Group can be heard saying, “we have a patient here who accidentally shot himself with a gun.”

Big oops.

And more:

White has a permit to carry a concealed weapon, but now it looks like the dentist office is going to have a stricter policy about allowing weapons in the building.

Video shows fatal abuse by Oklahoma dentist, prosecutors say

“Going into a doctor’s office where you might be placed under some kind of medication, you might not want to carry a weapon in there,” Sgt. Christina Evans-Fisher of the Clark County Sheriff’s Office told WCMH. “Think of your safety and the safety of those around you.”

Too many legal gun carriers don’t think about safety. Why not? They think they are thinking about safety but they aren’t really doing that. They are exercising their right to be stupid and dangerous with a deadly weapon.

Where is common sense?

I have written about “accidental” gun discharges happening in many places in our country but a dentist’s office is not one of them- until now. “Law abiding” gun owners have carelessly discharged guns in bathrooms, Starbucks stores, hospitals, schools, stores, cars, at work, bars, restaurants, apartments, homes, on the streets, military recruiting centers,  and almost everywhere families gather to spend time together. Small children have killed siblings, themselves and others with guns found left loaded and within easy reach of children. Some idiots even post their “accidental” discharges on YouTube videos.

Now some of my readers will make comments about these folks being stupid with their guns and that they are the exception. Though that has a grain of truth to it, it seems to me that we ought to be doing whatever we can to make sure those “exceptions” ,which happen far too often, don’t become the rule. There should be no exceptions with guns. They are deadly weapons designed to kill and harm people.

I write often about instances like this one. It is simply not true that guns everywhere make us safer and protect us from harm. What is true is that many people with guns are carrying loaded deadly weapons around with them without thought to the risk to themselves or others. This dangerous behavior is promoted by the American corporate gun lobby and supported by our politicians.

These things don’t happen in other civilized countries. Why? People in other countries don’t consider that carrying guns around is a thing. It’s also not a right as the gun extremists claim it is here. Other countries also don’t have the high rate of gun deaths that we experience in America nor the mass shootings that occur way too often here.

Some have distorted the right to bear arms into the right to carry them everywhere regardless of the public’s right to be safe from armed citizens. What is required of the rest of us,who understand that loaded weapons everywhere are a risk to public safety, is to change the conversation and change the culture that has led to the current situation.

LWe’ve had #enough. The careless Ohio man who confused his phone for a gun only shot himself and the injuries were not serious. They could have been. Or the dentist working on his teeth could have been the true victim of the horror of a gun death.

This is a public health and safety problem that needs serious attention and study. My guess is that if there was a CDC study about the risks of gun carriers in public, it would reveal that they are actually not saving lives or preventing crime but increasing public health and safety risks. The Violence Policy Center has studied the numbers of justifiable self defense shootings compared to the number of gun deaths by suicide, homicide or unintentional. Here is the conclusion from data gathered of actual incidents:

The reality of self-defense gun use bears no resemblance to the exaggerated claims of the gun lobby and gun industry. The number of justifiable homicides that occur in our nation each year pale in comparison to criminal homicides, let alone gun suicides and fatal unintentional shootings. And contrary to the common stereotype promulgated by the gun lobby, those killed in justifiable homicide incidents don’t always fit the expected profile of an attack by a stranger: in 35.5 percent of the justifiable homicides that occurred in 2012 the persons shot were known to the shooter. The devastation guns inflict on our nation each and every year is clear: more than 33,000 dead, more than 81,000 wounded, and an untold number of lives traumatized and communities shattered. Unexamined claims of the efficacy and frequency of the self-defense use of firearms are the default rationale offered by the gun lobby and gun industry for this unceasing, bloody toll. The idea that firearms are frequently used in self-defense is the primary argument that the gun lobby and firearms industry use to expand the carrying of firearms into an ever-increasing number of public spaces and even to prevent the regulation of military-style semiautomatic assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines. Yet this argument is hollow and the assertions false. When analyzing the most reliable data available, what is most striking is that in a nation of more than 300 million guns, how rarely firearms are used in self-defense.14

Conclusion? Guns carried and owned for self defense get used more often to shoot someone intentionally, unintentionally, in a domestic shooting, suicide, by kids and by others who shouldn’t have guns in the first place. If we change the conversation, change the culture and have a serious discussion about how passing stronger laws can also send a message that, in America, we care about the lives of our citizens too much to let the carnage by bullets continue.

We are better than this.