Guns at the borders

I have written before about how the loose gun laws in the U.S. actually are contributing to our border crisis. Here’s how (from an article in Common Dreams:

The link between homicide and migration is captured in this startling ratio from the Inter-American Dialogue in 2018: In Honduras, a 1 percent increase in homicides drives up migration by 120 percent. (…) But what I had not, and certainly should have, grasped is our nation’s central role in generating fear by allowing a flood of US weapons to continue across our southern border. The flood into Mexico alone includes “[m]ore than 212,000 illegal firearms” from the U.S. each year owing to “straw purchases,” observes the Los Angeles Times. 

Central America is hardest hit.

There, gun laws are comparatively strict, yet “homicide rates are among the highest on earth.” In El Salvador, with the world’s highest rate, almost half of weapons found at the country’s crime scenes are from the U.S. officials here estimate.

And more, from the article, that is pretty significant because it refers to how crime guns used in drug trafficking, homicide and terrorizing citizens in Mexico and other Central American countries come from our very own country:

The country has only one gun store. Located in Mexico City, it is guarded by the army. Seventy percent of guns seized in Mexico were originally sold in the U.S.—most of them in Texas, California, and Arizona according to the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. 

“Once in Mexico, these weapons end up in the hands of drug cartels or get shipped to gangs in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador,” says The Associated Press. In Honduras, “armed holdups on public transportation are a regular occurrence, where nearly half of the unregistered weapons originated in the U.S.,” reports the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.. 

“The number of firearms smuggled from the United States was so significant that nearly half of American gun dealers rely on that business to stay afloat,” reported the University of San Diego in 2013.

The author wonders why this is not more widely known. It is simple. The NRA and its lapdog politicians have conveniently sought to blame others for the problem. The outrage over what what was named Operation Fast and Furious, an ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and Explosives) operation to try to stem the sale of illegal guns used by the Mexican drug cartel to reap terror and violence and allow for more drugs to come into our own country was part of this blame game.

Though the Obama administration, the ATF and former AG Eric Holder are not blameless, trying to understand how guns get into Mexico illegally adding to the violence this was a worthy operation it seems to me:

Because federal law prohibits the ATF and local law enforcement agencies from releasing the results of crime gun traces, firearm trafficking patterns are hidden from public view. The trove of records reviewed by The Trace tell two clear stories: High-volume gun traffickers often depend on a single retail gun dealer for most of their wares. And rarely do those gun sellers face consequences.   (…) “It’s one big operation. You’ve got drugs — cocaine, marijuana, methamphetamine, heroin — coming up from South America and Central America to the U.S., which is a big consumer. And then you have money and guns going south,” said a former ATF official who worked in Mexico during the period in question. He spoke to The Trace on condition of anonymity because he still consults with law enforcement. “Guns are the tool of the trade,” he said. “People aren’t killing each other with machetes.”

A Minnesota man ( from the above article) trafficked guns he purchased at one gun store in southern Minnesota but he got caught.

Beginning in 2007, a Minnesota man named Paul Giovanni De La Rosa began purchasing guns and delivering them to a business partner who lived near Mexico City. In court documents, he was accused of smuggling more than 100 firearms over the course of 20 trips. The weapons included more than 40 Five-seveN pistols, which are favored by drug cartels because they fire a cartridge that can pierce body armor. After De La Rosa was caught at the Laredo border crossing with weapons hidden inside furniture, he was prosecuted and sentenced to three years in prison. He did not respond to a request for comment sent to his attorney.

Dozens of De La Rosa’s purchases were included in the trove of ATF records reviewed by The Trace. Of the 34 weapons tracked in that dataset, 28 were sold by a single store: Hart Brothers, in the town of Albert Lea, Minnesota.

Hart Brothers is now out of business. I wonder why.

From the quote in the above article from The Trace, this is key: ” Because federal law prohibits the ATF and local law enforcement agencies from releasing the results of crime gun traces, firearm trafficking patterns are hidden from public view.”

Brady and The Trace as well as other organizations have received some ATF trace data through a FOIA request. We have known why the ATF needs to be stronger, not weaker as the NRA minions in Congress want the organization to be-because the Republicans pushed through the Tiahrt amendment which passed in 2003. Why would the corporate gun lobby and some members of Congress not want us to know about crime gun traces? We know the answer. Information is not a friend of corruption, greed and illegal activity,

The ATF is vastly underfunded and under staffed on purpose. Thank you NRA and lapdog politicians.

Laying blame at the feet of others is the M.O. used by those who want power and control and are willing to corrupt the conversation for their own selfish agenda. Hating President Obama and his Attorney General Eric Holder was ubiquitous and overt. Republican leadership did everything they could to discredit our first Black President. They held Holder in contempt of Congress.

And Trump hating and now attacking those who are trying to get to the bottom of his immigration mess at the border is shameless at the least. Rep. Elijah Cummings was holding him and his administration responsible for the horrendous conditions at border detention centers. The detention centers are a stain on our democracy and our history.

Let’s be clear. What is happening now at the border is not the fault of the ATF, President Obama or AG Eric Holder. President Trump, his sycophants in the administration and his Republican minions have made the situation much worse and now, of course, blame everyone but themselves. That is actually how Rep. Elijah Cummings found himself the subject of more of Trump’s offensive and racist Tweets. Comparing Baltimore with the border situation is a shameless way of diverting attention away from the terrible problems created by the Tweeter in Chief.

The Baltimore Sun pushed back in a great editorial piece laying it out like it is. We all must push back on what is happening at the border, what our President is tweeting, and the overt racism and intolerance as well as attacks on entire cities and members of Congress totally unbefitting a President, let alone anyone else.

Finally, while we would not sink to name-calling in the Trumpian manner — or ruefully point out that he failed to spell the congressman’s name correctly (it’s Cummings, not Cumming) — we would tell the most dishonest man to ever occupy the Oval Office, the mocker of war heroes, the gleeful grabber of women’s private parts, the serial bankrupter of businesses, the useful idiot of Vladimir Putin and the guy who insisted there are “good people” among murderous neo-Nazis that he’s still not fooling most Americans into believing he’s even slightly competent in his current post. Or that he possesses a scintilla of integrity. Better to have some vermin living in your neighborhood than to be one.

We all must step forward and take responsibility for the terrible situation at the border and in our impoverished cities. Passing strong gun laws would help fix both violent situations at home and in neighboring countries. We can see how guns make it into the Baltimore area but we are not doing anything about it:

“I would say approximately 60 percent statewide of firearms that are seized by Maryland law enforcement are not Maryland guns, that goes up exponentially in places like Baltimore City and Prince George’s County,” Lopez said.

Maryland has some of the toughest gun laws in the country. Buyers are required to wait seven days after purchase to actually take possession of a handgun. There is no instant background check, and buyers are limited to one purchase per month.

Laws are far more lax in states to the south and west.

In West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, background checks are instant, and there is no waiting period and no limit on how many guns you can purchase at once.

The disparity between gun laws state by state complicates the effort to reduce gun violence, currently an urgent priority in Baltimore.

There is no shortage of supply. (…) “It’s not difficult at all,” Guy said. “Not only are those that are involved in intentionally violent activities have quick access to guns, even those kids that are fearful that if they are not protecting themselves, that they could be another victim, but it’s easy for them to get guns too.”

Passing a federal universal background check law requiring that every buyer is checked out to make sure he/she is not a prohibited purchaser would save lives. That makes common sense. Passing and enforcing straw purchasing and gun trafficking laws would help stop some of the sales of guns that end up in Mexico and other Central American countries. These laws would also prevent some of the trafficking into our major urban areas. Holding irresponsible gun dealers accountable also will stop the practice of selling to those who can’t and shouldn’t get their hands on guns. These same laws would affect violence in our urban centers all over the country.

Immigration, violence, poverty and guns go together. They shouldn’t but they do. President Trump just connected the border situation with urban poverty and violence. In many ways he is right but he doesn’t know it. His intent was to denigrate, attack and criticize and his Tweets have only drawn attention to the atrocious conditions in both places. Plus I’m pretty sure he did not want us all to know that his own son-in-law Jared Kushner is partly responsible for the “rat infested” living conditions in Baltimore. Seriously- you really can’t make this stuff up.

It’s in our hands to affect change. We don’t have to accept what has become an untenable situation. Holding our leaders accountable for their negligence is key to making change happen.

Take action. Not sides.

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.

Are there stray bullets?

I have been thinking about all of the shootings since I last wrote and shooting anniversaries ( 5 victims remembered one year after the Annapolis Capital Gazette newspaper office). We have a mass shooting every day in America and could be doing a memorial every day as well. This is the sad state of gun violence in America in the week leading up to our nation’s July 4th celebration.

Is there such a thing as a stray bullet? Every bullet shot out of a firearm finds a place to land. Most often they land in the bodies of innocent humans going about their everyday business. Take, for example, the headline of an article in today’s Duluth News Tribune- “Drive-by shooting in St. Paul injures 5“:

The shootings in the Payne-Phalen area happened about two hours after a man was killed in a shooting, also on the city’s East Side, but Sgt. Mike Ernster said police don’t believe the cases are related.

Officers responded to a two-story house at 909 Desoto Street about 10:30 p.m. on a report of shots fired and found four people injured.

Note that there was a shooting homicide a few hours earlier. No doubt we will learn more about this shooting of 5. No matter who they were or what the circumstances, we know that bullets are flying in our neighborhoods and homes, injuring or killing about 100 a day.

These are daily headlines all over America. They are commonplace enough that most people just shrug and move on. In another country, people would be outraged about it and do something about it or have already done something about it so these are not headlines in their media outlets.

We are an America in love with our guns. Other countries have hunters and recreational shooters but do not own handguns for protection. Other countries also do not have a second amendment or powerful and influential gun lobby making the rules for gun ownership. That could change in America because the once powerful gun lobby has been exposed for the corrupt organization it is and is having so many financial difficulties that there hateful and fear mongering NRATV has been canceled. Dana Loesch’s voice will be silenced for the moment and her terrible screeds against those of us who want common sense gun laws and a gun culture that includes gun safety reform will not be heard by the gun rights extremists.

Her lies and deceptions have been influencing the far right for several years and fomenting the people with guns who are waiting for their insurrection moment. From the Media Matters article above:

The morning after the first Democratic primary debate, Loesch took to Fox & Friends to criticize Democratic presidential candidates’ positions on gun violence prevention. Loesch claimed the candidates hide their “confiscation” plans by calling them “mandatory buybacks.” 

The former NRA spokesperson went on to baselessly claim a new Gallup poll shows “there are more people who think that 9/11 was an inside job” and “more people believe the moon landing was fake than actually want gun control.” 

Fake news. Some people can be controlled by lack of understanding and education about issues. Facts actually do matter. Basing policy and public opinion on false information and lies is dangerous to our country. We have a President who lies with almost every word that comes out of his mouth. So to attribute lies about guns and gun safety reform to those who were telling the truth in the Democratic primaries is the height of hypocrisy. So far it has worked for a certain segment of the population who also call themselves patriots.

Do guns = patriotism? No, is the answer. But on July 4th and other holidays like New Years Eve, some people believe they can do whatever they want with their guns and fire them into the air in celebration. They forgot or never thought of the fact that bullets don’t know where to stop until they hit something. Celebratory gunfire takes the lives or injures innocent people every year when stray bullets go up and then, as is inevitable, come back down. My friend Joe Jaskolka, is one of the innocent victims of such a stray bullet.

Joe’s life and those of his loved ones and friends were forever changed by a stray bullet.

Another stray bullet found its’ way into the body of a Minnesota motorcyclist just traveling innocently and trying to enjoy his ride. A reckless and irresponsible gun owner was target shooting nearby not thinking that bullets actually fly around in the area:

Good advice. The funny thing about this statement ( not funny really) is that too often shooters are sure of their targets which is why so many Americans have died from bullets. And the other bit of hypocrisy is that even people who are trained to use weapons such as law enforcement officers and military members frequently miss their intended targets.

And we want teachers to have guns in schools to protect our children? Do we want this teacher to carry her gun in her classroom after pulling it out to threaten someone who got in front of her at a McDonald’s drive through line? I think not.

Guns are dangerous weapons designed to kill. They should not be owned, stored or carried cavalierly as they too often are.

We are at our cabin for the week of July 4th. We have heard someone target shooting across the lake and not too far from the road that goes past our lake. We think it is the sound of a shotgun which would be less dangerous to others. But it isn’t even close to hunting season so why be shooting now? But then we do hear the sound of a rifle which means there are bullets flying around that could actually hit someone else. And yes, people have a right to shoot off guns in rural areas on property they own or at gun ranges, But if they are not careful, innocent people could be their targets.

Speaking of innocent victims there have been a number of “accidental” shootings of children by children. Two children were injured in Texas when another got access to a shotgun and shot it, as children will do. Yes, even shotguns need to be stored safely away from ammunition. Or this grandmother whose purse was the “holster” for a concealed carried gun:

Kayden Stuber was staying with his grandmother and aunt while his parents were at work, and according to local authorities, the child went into his grandma’s purse — which was sitting on the bed — and “in some way retrieved, was handling the gun when it discharged,” Greenville County Coroner Kent Dill says. Deputies and emergency responders rushed to the scene, but Kayden was pronounced dead on the way to the hospital.

An innocent two year old is dead and the entire family is traumatized. The ripple effect of gun violence is real.

These are American tragedies and not only senseless but avoidable.

The thing is, there are far too many irresponsible gun owners who have been convinced that owning a gun for self defense and maybe carrying one around for protection is a good idea. There is no training required when one purchases a gun for any reason. There should be.

And some states have loosened concealed carry laws to the point where no permits or training are required and want a national law that would recognize the permits from any other state regardless of the regulations.

So far the law has failed to pass. How can any politician even think this is a good idea? Simple- they are lapdogs for the corporate gun lobby.

Our politicians are not thinking through the facts and one fact should trump all others. Passing stronger gun laws is patriotic and will result in a safer America. Stronger gun laws will not infringe on our constitution or gun rights. It will make them stronger as well.

Back to my original thesis- there really are no stray bullets. There are bullets intended for someone else. There are bullets intended for someone loved or known by the shooter. There are bullets that are not locked away from children, suicidal adults, felons, burglars, domestic abusers, terrorists and others who should not have them. There are bullets shot by irresponsible gun owners who think it’s fun to target shoot or shoot into the air without bothering to think about the consequences and where the bullets might land.

Have a safe and happy July 4th however you celebrate. If your celebration includes guns, please use them safely and think about your surroundings. And for goodness sake, don’t let children use those guns or find them lying around loaded. Safe storage of guns saves lives. It keeps small hands from accessing them. It keeps people who are suicidal from accessing them. It keeps people who could be a danger to themselves or others from accessing them.

Being a patriot also means caring enough about our country to care about the safety of its’ families and communities. Being free from shootings is being a free country where we all feel safe in our communities.

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.

Stupid and Dangerous- series 100

Back when I was writing my blog on Blogger before it was hacked (who would do something like that?) , I wrote a bunch of posts that I called Stupid and Dangerous and started numbering them. The thing is, I just couldn’t keep numbering because there are so many stupid and dangerous incidents with guns. I had trouble keeping up.

In the last few weeks there have been enough of them that I decided that I must write again about how irresponsible and stupid so many gun owners are with their dangerous weapons. The risks are many when one brings a gun into one’s home or carries in public. Enough so, that reconsideration may be necessary in order to stay safe.

So let me begin my list of stupid, dangerous and sometimes deadly incidents with guns:

  • A man in Washington state hid drugs in his butt and pocket and then his not too well hidden gun fired, shooting him in the testicles. (How often do gun rights extremists claim this cannot happen?) Yes, one wants to feel for the guy, but really? Come on. He was a convicted felon with drugs and a gun: “Wilson, who is a 13-time convicted felon, told his girlfriend to dispose of the weapon before heading to the hospital, the paper said…..When the ex-con finally went to the hospital, a balloon of marijuana slipped out of his anus while a doctor was operating on the gunshot wound, court records show….Cops also arrived at the hospital when alerted of the gunshot wound and searched Wilson’s car where they discovered a bag of meth in the blood-stained jeans he was wearing when he shot himself. ” No more words necessary

And of course, none of these involve the many many other shooting incidents happening every day that are intentional. Common sense tells us that this is not normal. But in America, of course, it is. Sadly it is because our leaders have decided they would rather be lapdogs to the corporate gun lobby than to protect us from gun violence.

Guns are dangerous. Many gun owners understand that and take care not to let stupid and dangerous things happen with their guns. But there are so many guns out there owned by people who shouldn’t have them in the first place thanks to our loose gun laws and elected leaders with no backbone, that incidents like the ones I described above seem to be on the increase.

It goes without saying that something needs to be done. Keep the pressure on your elected leaders to do whatever needs to be done to stop the above mentioned incidents and keep us all safe from this lunacy. Join a gun violence prevention organization. Talk to your legislators and Congress members. Talk to your friends. Safely store your guns and ask others to do the same. Make sure people are trained properly before going anywhere or doing anything with a loaded weapon.

The gun lobby would love to normalize the carrying of guns in public so we just get used to having people with guns everywhere. Should we just get used to these “normal” people shooting the rest of us?

Embracing hope through action

Today is the 6th anniversary of the shooting that shocked and rocked the country. Never before Dec. 14th 2012 had an unhinged shooter carried weapons meant for war and massacres to an elementary school and opened fire indiscriminately on innocent 6 and 7 year olds and 6 adults, massacring their young bodies. Never before. But not never again. Since the massacre 6 years ago, 600,000 Americans have been shot. Of those, over a third died of their gunshot injuries. 

We had hope back then that this heinous shooting would at long last, loosen the grip the corporate gun lobby had on our nation’s elected leaders and actually allow stronger gun laws to pass. But we were woefully and tragically wrong. There was a bi-partisan bill. There was hope.

Even Blue Dog Democrat, Senator Joe Manchin, an avid gun owner and NRA politician, cried in his office when the Sandy Hook parents came to him with their pleas to do something. It was a raw moment. It was public. 

We had hope. Even the grief and tears of the parents of the 6 and 7 year olds so soon after the shooting was not enough for the lapdog politicians in thrall with the second amendment. 

We had hope. Hope was not enough. 

Yesterday at our local 6th annual vigil in memory of the Sandy Hook and other gun violence victims a pastor quoted these words

“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

We are angry at the way things are. We have had hope shattered too many times. Which mass shooting will be enough for our leaders? How many victims shot all at once in rapid succession with a mad man holding weapons meant for war would it take? How many………….?

The title of our local vigil was “Embracing Hope Through Action”. Speakers talked about past efforts and present situations. The last speaker was a student at our local university who helped organize our local March For Our Lives chapter. She is an emerging leader who gave us hope because the students have had the courage to step up and look up, as she said. They have nothing to lose. They taught the adults how to do this.

And so it took a group of vocal and determined older high school students, not willing to sit down and shut up after their friends were shot at another shooting that shocked and rocked the nation last Valentine’s Day in Parkland, Florida, to affect change. 

There is common sense after all. Even Florida, the state owned by the NRA, passed stronger gun laws after the Parkland students insisted- no demanded- in very loud voices. Over 1 million people marched in over 700 marches nation-wide on March 24th last year. Students walked out of their schools in moving 17 minutes of actions and silence in memory of the 17 shot at a high school in Parkland, Florida.

The tiny survivors of Sandy Hook elementary school couldn’t make demands. For one thing, they were all traumatized by what had occurred and seeing the bloody bodies of their friends and classmates. They still are. The parents were traumatized and so many felt relief that their child was not one of the bullet ridden bodies left lying on the floors of a building no longer in existence. 

But the memories were not erased by the demolition of the building that was once a happy place of learning. They live on. 

We remember them today and always. We are still angry that our leaders couldn’t have the courage to do the right thing after what happened 6 years ago today.

But we still have hope. That is what allows us to get on and do the hard work of advocacy on behalf of our loved ones. 

This is a “no brainer”. Why should it be so hard? It should be easy. 

And it shouldn’t take courage to make noise and stand up for what we know well over 90% of Americans support. It takes resolve and doing the right thing.

The winds of change are blowing. Our young people are the hope. Our young people have courage. They are showing us how to do this. They have taken on conventional wisdom and attacked those who have stood in the way of the common sense and doing what is morally and lawfully right. 

The 2018 election saw NRA “A” rated candidates and sitting Congress members go down to defeat to candidates who embraced gun safety reform. 

There is hope.

We can and will do this in the names of the victims and survivors. 

Today we remember:

from CNN.com

Anniversaries

Photo in Google photos and provided by Yoko Ono

It’s becoming more and more difficult to remember gun violence victims on the anniversaries of their deaths. There are so many that there is hardly one day in a calendar without a notation about a mass shooting, the shooting of a loved one, or the shooting of a person known to all because of their fame. There is, of course, the anniversaries of the shootings of President John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. Every year, we think about them and their legacies on the day of their death by bullets. 

Today is the anniversary of the shooting death of Beatles singer John Lennon.

The much loved Lennon was shot and killed outside of his home in New York City:

Lennon was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman in the archway of the Dakota, his residence in New York City. Lennon had just returned from Record Plant Studio with his wife, Yoko Ono.
After sustaining four major gunshot wounds, Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital.

From the above linked Wikipedia article:

Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival by Dr. Lynn at 11:15 p.m.,[29] but the time of 11:07 p.m. has also been reported.[30] The surgeon noted—as did other witnesses—that a Beatles song (“All My Loving“) came over the hospital’s sound system at the moment Lennon was pronounced dead.[31] Lennon’s body was then taken to the city morgue at 520 First Avenue for an autopsy. The cause of death was reported on his death certificate as “hypovolemic shock, caused by the loss of more than 80% of blood volume due to multiple through-and-through gunshot wounds to the left shoulder and left chest resulting in damage to the left lung, the left subclavian artery, the aorta and aortic arch“. The pathologist who performed the autopsy on Lennon also stated in his report that even with prompt medical treatment, no person could have lived for more than a few minutes with such multiple bullet injuries to all of the major arteries and veins around the heart.[32]

An article was posted recently  about whether we should be able to see photos of the deadly wounds caused by bullets. 

I chose not to see the damage done to my sister’s body after her shooting. I wanted to remember her as the vibrant, beautiful woman she was in life. But perhaps showing the damage would bring the message home to those who are much too cavalier about gun violence and don’t seem to get the devastation to families when a loved one is suddenly and violently murdered.

From the above linked article:

I think that gun control has now become as emotionally charged and intractable as civil rights and the Vietnam War once were. The American College of Physicians was joined in 2015 by nearly 60 other organizations, including the American Public Health Association and the American Bar Association, in a call to address gun violence as a public-health threat. Last month, in Annals of Internal Medicine, the physicians’ group issued a position paper with recommendations for reducing firearms-related injuries and deaths. The National Rifle Association responded with a tweet that read, “Someone should tell self-important anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane. Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control.”
The NRA was exaggerating, but that edition of the journal did contain several articles, letters and editorials on gun control. Doctors, who have seen the carnage, want it stopped. I have little doubt that most of the rest of us would react the same way. Daniel Wasserman, the head rabbi of a Pittsburgh synagogue that neighbors the Tree of Life Congregation where 11 people were massacred by a virulently anti-Semitic gunman in October, told a New York Times writer that “unless someone is a soldier in a war zone, I defy anyone to tell me they’ve seen what I just saw.” We should see what he saw. Wasserman went on to say that he knew who one victim was because he recognized the hair on a piece of skull. We should see that too.

My brother served in Viet Nam. He is haunted yet today by what he saw there and suffers from PTSD along with Parkinson’s Disease and many other diagnoses. My sister was abruptly taken from my life by bullets. My brother has been slowly taken from me because of a war that occurred many years ago and the nightmares he has suffered ever since. 

I write this because the iconic image of the blood stained glasses of John Lennon and the description of his injuries should be enough for us to stand up and cry for common sense. But that has never been #enough for us. In America, the also iconic symbol of resistance to any measures that can save lives, the NRA, has for too long now commanded the narrative that has resulted in lapdog politicians, afraid to stand with the majority of Americans. 

As a new majority in the U.S House of Representatives takes control in January, they have a chance to do what over 90% of Americans want to have happen. Will those who have resisted all of these years follow an organization that has been exposed for it’s possible illegal influence over our last election? Will those who have received a lot of money from the NRA and a coveted “A” rating from the organization understand that the organization could be failing and will lose its’ influence over our elections and our elected leaders? Will Congress understand going forward that “A” rated candidates lost to “F” rated candidates? 

We can hope. But more than that, we can demand the change we deserve and want in the name of the victims of gun violence. Next week will mark the 6th anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting- the one that should have resulted in change, at long last. But it didn’t. Shame on us all for letting so many anniversaries of that shooting go by without making change happen. It took outspoken high school students who survived a school shooting on Valentine’s Day of 2018 to shake up the system and take on the organization that doesn’t want us to see those blood stained glasses or the heinous and devastating injuries to the bodies of our loved ones. Things might change in a hurry if we did.

If one can imagine their own loved one with those same injuries and the pain and suffering that came with them, perhaps they would demand the change so we can stop our vigils and remembrances on shooting anniversaries.

Imagine: