Yes, Virginia, there is a robust gun violence prevention majority

Posted with permission of a friend who attended the event

Yesterday the state of Virginia had a great opportunity to do the right thing after the mass shooting at Virginia Beach. Governor Northam called a special session to take up common sense gun bills supported by the majority of Virginians.

I just love the spin spun by the pro gun Republicans about the special session ( from the article abobve):

“This was purely a political stunt by the governor to bring us in to try to address gun violence,” Del. Terry Kilgore said. “To truly address gun violence and its root causes, you need to look at it over a longer period of time.”

“Over a longer period of time”? That is the favorite pro gun excuse for putting off dealing with the daily carnage happening all over the country. It’s been 20 years since the Columbine school shooting. Is that a long enough period of time to wait to deal with gun violence? Since Columbine, (given between 30,000 and 40,000 yearly gun deaths,) I took 35,000 average yearly gun deaths times 20 = 700,000 dead Americans. Is that enough for the pro gun lobby before we act?

Anyway, back to majority support for gun safety reform bills, Brady released polling data showing this to be true:

Leading up to the special session, Brady released polling of four key districts – HD 66 (represented by Speaker Cox), SD 3 (represented by Leader Norment), and SD 7 and 8 (encompassing Virginia Beach) – showing that Virginians want to see common-sense gun safety laws enacted in the Commonwealth. The full results can be found here, but highlights included:

83 percent of respondents – including 73 percent of Donald Trump voters – support an extreme risk law allowing family members or law enforcement to ask a judge to temporarily suspend a person’s access to guns if they have evidence that the person poses a significant threat to themselves or others;

62 percent – including 61 percent of respondents in Sen. Norment’s district – support banning the sale of military style semi-automatic assault weapons;

63 percent – including more than half of gun owners – support banning high-capacity magazines that hold over 10 bullets, such as the ones used in the Virginia Beach shooting;

67 percent – including 63 percent of respondents in Speaker Cox’s district – support allowing local jurisdictions to ban guns from public buildings and events and enforce that ban by detecting guns and restricting entry.

The majority of their constituents want them to act.

There were about 1000 gun violence prevention advocates at the planned hearings, many coming by the busload. The NRA, of course, denied and lied about how many people were there. Why? Because that is how they manage to skew the truth to get their way. Never mind public safety and public health. It’s all about power, influence, fear and paranoia.

Before the Republican majority leaders in the House and the Senate unceremoniously adjourned without hearing any bills, Delegate Chris Hurst gave a powerful and passionate speech on the floor before the hundreds in the gallery. Hurst was the boyfriend of Alison Parker, the reporter who was shot and murdered on live TV in Roanoke, Virginia in August of 2015. He ran on a platform of gun safety reform and won election to the Virginia House of Delegates. Please watch his amazingly cogent remarks in support of the bills not taken up by the Virginia Republicans:

Who are these people representing anyway? Not the majority of Virginians. Not the victims of the Virginia Beach mass shooting or their families and friends. Not the memory of Alison Parker and Adam Ward, killed on live TV or their families and friends. Not the next door neighbor who shot himself in a suicide because he was feeling hopeless. Not the families of women shot in domestic shootings in anger over a relationship. Not the kids who grab a parents’ loaded gun left out carelessly and end up dying from the bullets in that gun.

No. They are representing themselves and their fear that the weakened and corrupt corporate gun lobby might turn on them and work against them. Or maybe they actually believe the stupidity of the gun rights extremists who insist that passing any reasonable gun law will lead to registration and confiscation. They won’t, but never mind.

I am proud to know so many people who showed up at the Virginia capital to demand that something be done about our gun violence public health epidemic. They, and we, will not go away. This is not about gun rights. This is about common sense and doing the right thing for families and communities. This is about saving lives, period.

They are cowards:

Brady president and Virginia resident Kris Brown, who witnessed the special session in Richmond in person today, stated,

“Today, Tommy Norment and Kirk Cox revealed themselves as nothing short of cowards. They refused to take even the smallest actions that would honor the victims of the Virginia Beach shooting, not to mention the victims of gun violence in Virginia every single day. Even if the Assembly committees recommend any bills, Norment and Cox have made clear that they won’t take any action until after Election Day. But if these ‘leaders’ won’t enact solutions that their own constituents are demanding, then we’re going to fight tooth and nail for representatives who will. There are 119 days between now and Election Day, and we are going to work every single one of them to ensure that the next time these votes come around, we’re going to see real and meaningful action instead of this shameful nonsense.”

If those in opposition want to make up reasons the bills should not get a hearing, they can keep trying to deceive the public. But the public isn’t having it any more. The public is sickened by the carnage. This is not the America we want. Thanks to lapdog politicians, it is the America we have.

Things are changing. Gun violence is now a top issue in the elections and will be in 2020. Now we know, however, that the NRA allegedly used influence and money from the Russians to get their candidate(s) elected last time. We are watching the NRA. So is the country. There is a new narrative about the corrupt pro gun organization.

Virginia is a microcosm of sentiment and opinions in most other states in our country. Polling has told us for years that the majority is in favor of passing stronger gun laws. So let’s do it then.

We are watching.

We should never forget

MLK dream memeOne of the things about mass shootings and everyday shootings is that we have a tendency to forget about them and the victims because so many others come behind them to take a place in our collective conscience.

The gun lobby and their lapdog politicians want us to forget about them because remembering all of the carnage serves to put the focus squarely where it belongs- on their resistance to any common sense gun safety reform measure that could save lives and prevent the shootings.

So today I am going to remind us about a shooting anniversary. 9 years ago today, 13 were massacred at a Citizenship class in Binghamton, New York:

 

A gunman invaded an immigration services center in downtown Binghamton, N.Y., during citizenship classes on Friday and shot 13 people to death and critically wounded 4 others before killing himself in a paroxysm of violence that turned a quiet civic setting into scenes of carnage and chaos. (…)

Two pistols and a satchel of ammunition were found with the body. In what the police took to be evidence of preparation and premeditation, the assailant had driven a borrowed car up against the center’s back door to barricade it against escape, then had walked in the rain around to the front to begin the attack.

What motivated the assault remained a mystery. Binghamton officials said the assailant apparently had ties to the center, which helps immigrants and refugees with counseling, resettlement and other issues.

This was just another mass shooting but, according to the article:

It was the nation’s worst mass shooting since April 16, 2007, when Seung-Hui Cho, 23, shot and killed 32 people in a dormitory and classroom at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va., then killed himself in the largest shooting in modern American history. In the last month, 25 people, including 2 gunmen, were slain in three mass shootings, in North Carolina, California and Alabama.

Since then, of course, our country has experienced other horrendous mass shootings. To name just a few:

Sandy Hook in 2012- the slaughter of 20 first graders and 6 educators.

Aurora theater shooting in 2012- leaving 12 dead and 70 injured.

Pulse Nightclub shooting in 2016 with 49 dead and 58 injured.

Las Vegas in 2017- 58 massacred and 851  injured!Parklan

Sutherland, Texas church shooting left 26 dead and 20 injured.

Parkland school shooting on Feb. 14th of this year leaving 17 dead and 17 injured.

We shouldn’t think these will be the worst.

Because some of our leaders have chosen to close their eyes and ears to these tragic shootings of innocent Americans, we know there will be more.

They are not acting to stop the next shooting or prevent easy access to guns by those who shouldn’t have them or stop military style assault rifles from being too easily available for the slaughter of our kids.

Where is common sense?

Back to the inauspicious anniversary of the shooting at a citizenship class in Binghamton, New York, it does seem as if the community and the nation has moved on:

Eight years later, the world has largely forgotten about Binghamton, its tragedy turned achingly familiar by the shootings that have followed. This is far from a mournful place, and the little memorial park that residents built by the Chenango River is quiet and tasteful. But the rampage still affects the community and its people in subtle ways. (…)

“It was an episode that ripped apart our delusion that we were safe from all that,” said Gerald R. Smith, a 63-year-old historian who works out of the Broome County Public Library downtown.

Yes, it can happen here, Binghamton learned the hard way, in a small city of about 46,000, roughly the size of Attleboro or Leominster.

The ripple effect of gun violence swirls around us in communities all over our country. The families and friends of the victims never forget. They learn to live around the hole in their hearts and their lives caused by a senseless shooting. But some things cannot be forgotten or erased from the collective memories of a small town north of New York City. The shooting will never make sense as they never do. More from the linked article:

King is 55, a trim, well-spoken man who keeps a packed schedule. The growing number of mass shootings in the years after Binghamton — the litany that opens this story is just a sampling — has driven him to deep frustration. Though he never raises his voice in an hourlong interview at his office, his exasperation is clear.

“I’m sickened that another group of innocent people will go through what we did,” he said last week, with news of the Sutherland Springs shooting still fresh.

“I just know deeply . . . ”

He cut off the thought and began another.

“Those families now — they have no idea the recovery . . . ”

He tapped his fingers over his heart.

“You can’t go to the cinema. Can’t go to the mall. Can’t go to church. Can’t go to school. My temple has had a policeman outside since 9/11,” he said. “It’s sick.”

It is sick. There is something wrong in our country. We have a serious public health and safety epidemic and we are ignoring it because……… because……… the corporate gun lobby’s hold on our elected leaders. There can be no other explanation.

Tomorrow will be the 50th anniversary of the shooting of Dr.  Martin Luther King Jr. I will always remember the news of the shooting of a man who was a national hero of the civil rights movement in our country. A woman at the scene of King’s shooting at a Memphis hotel still recalls the event tearfully in this story. 

People don’t forget seeing dead bodies. They don’t forget hearing gunshots. They don’t forget becoming a part of a national tragedy that they had no idea was coming when they woke up that morning. They don’t forget the sirens. They don’t forget the shock and the chaos. They don’t forget the phone call telling them that a loved one has been shot and killed in an unexpected and violent way.

These are our collective memories. Mass shootings. Shootings of political leaders. Shooting of a loved one. Shooting of a friend or a neighbor. We don’t forget. For if we do, we will never do what is right in the name of the victims.

Every day – we remember.

The movement created by the Parkland shooting student survivors is changing everything and making sure we do not forget the lives lost. They will not let us forget and they will not let our leaders forget:

Stoneman Douglas students from Parkland, Florida, and the people they’ve inspired seem intent on keeping the issue of gun violence front and center in the coming weeks: Marches and rallies have continued, and there are plans for a nationwide school walkout on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre.

Victoria Kaplan, organizing director for MoveOn.org, said she considers those steps “really strong indicators” that political engagement will continue through November — and perhaps far beyond.

And Kris Brown, Co-President of the Brady Campaign made this observation ( from the above linked article):

Brown said frequent lockdown and mass shooter drills at schools around the country have shown kids what needs to change.

“For many kids, this is how they grew up, and it’s a reminder, every time they go through it, of how little has been done to truly protect them,” Brown said. “The answer that the adults have put into place, they know, really, is not going to stop it from happening again.”

“I don’t see them just walking away from this,” she added. “This is something that’s deeply personal, like, ‘You’ve told me this is the way our government is supposed to work. I see that this is — pardon my French — a bastardization of it. Fix it, and if you’re not going to fix it, then get out of the way.’”

A major motivator is students’ visceral anger at “the corruption of our political system,” as Ambler characterized it.

No, we won’t forget that our system has been corrupted by the corporate gun lobby and its’ corporate money given to our leaders and used to intimidate voters and leaders alike.  Follow the money.

The students are reminded whenever they have active shooter drills in their schools hoping that their school will not be next.

Every time another shooting happens, we should remember those that came before and remember who is standing in the way of the changes we deserve.

The students and young people are keeping the dream of change alive.

The Gun Violence Archive does not forget. In fact, the organization is keeping track of our daily carnage. Here is what they have posted today:

The dreams of too many shattered. The potential of too many people unrealized. The grief for the lost lives. The bodies piled up. The American tragedy.

#Enough