Guns and the midterm elections

FrightenedThe primary election in my state is history now. Many Democrats who have decided it is in their best interest to support reasonable gun safety reform were elected. I am happy about this. All over the country, (mostly) Democrats ran on the issue of guns safety reform or at the least decided not to run away from it:

 

 

 

“To win campaigns you need to have candidates who are their district. And so candidates should most certainly talk about the economic issues that we face,” said Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.), the head of the Democrats’ gun-violence prevention task force. “But they also need to talk about things that are important to the people they want to represent, and keeping your kids alive is certainly one of those issues.”

Minnesota candidates for Governor in the primary election ran on the gun issue or changed their minds about their previous positions to get elected. The candidate who had the worst record on gun safety reform and an A rating from the NRA came in third- for many reasons but her A rating did not sit well with Minnesotans. From the article:

“I’ve always gotten an F from the NRA, and Minnesotans need to know who is going to stand with them on this issue,” Murphy said in the final pre-primary ­debate this week.

Walz has said he has evolved on the gun issue and always been a pro-labor liberal on other issues. “The NRA you see now is not the NRA when they were teaching us gun safety classes when we were growing up,” he told the state news website MinnPost last year. On the trail, he says his experience attracting votes in a part of the state that little resembles the urban center of Minneapolis will help him not just win, but build consensus when he does.

The race heated up with the last-minute candidacy of Lori Swanson, the state’s longtime attorney general, who usually received positive NRA ratings. Dogged by accusations over whether she politicized her office, Swanson does not portray herself as a moderate; her final ad blitz includes one accusing Walz of failing to “stand up to Trump” by skipping House votes, and a super PAC supporting her campaign has sent out mail that pairs the years of Walz’s NRA endorsements with the years of deadly school shootings.

Tim Walz won the primary. He will need to stand firm and have a spine.

The Minnesota gun rights  folks ran this dark ad against Joe Radinovich who won the 8th Congressional district DFL primary. It’s so full of bull puckey I hardly know where to start. But this is the fear and paranoia that the NRA is instilling in its’ members and the false attacks we can expect from now until November.

Eek- a mouse! Run.

Joe and his family have been touched by gun violence in a major way. He owns guns, he hunts but he understands that gun safety reform does not lead to gun confiscation and registration as is claimed because he has common sense. He also knows that gun safety reform and gun rights are not mutually exclusive.

Joe’s opponent Pete Stauber, “having been grazed by a bullet in the head as a police officer” is running on gun rights. 

Go figure.

When Mr. Stauber was a police officer, he came to a vigil held by our chapter a few years ago. He rang the bell for officers who had been shot and injured or killed while in the line of duty. More guns have not made police officers feel safer. This year is no exception to the shootings of officers in the line of duty.

Let’s see how much corporate money Mr. Stauber will take from the NRA.

The thing is, officers would be safer if common sense gun laws were passed. Requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales would keep guns away from those who should not have them in the first place. Tightening up straw purchasing and trafficking laws would keep guns out of the hands of many who should not have them. Passing Extreme Risk Protection Orders would allow for law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from those who could be a danger to themselves or others ( including officers). Many deaths of officers come when answering calls about domestic abuse. These are among the most dangerous calls for officers, not to mention the women on the other side of that gun.

Safe storage of guns is also a key ingredient to preventing shootings and keeping stolen guns from getting onto the streets of our communities. There is so much that can be done to save lives without stepping on the rights of people to own guns if they are responsible and law abiding. I wrote about this in my last post.

It’s such a simple thing that can save lives and talking about this and the risk of guns in homes is not something from which to run but something that must be talked about in order to change the culture and the conversation. Candidates who speak honestly about keeping our kids and families safe will win elections.

On election night I spoke with a group of Democrats about this and mentioned for how many decades I had personally been working to get the party to embrace what the majority of Minnesotans and American voters have said they want. Many thousands of us have been diligently working with our own elected leaders to give them a spine about the issue of gun safety reform. It is beginning to work.

Republicans are running on opposing any gun safety reform life saving measures. If you think this seems perverse, you are right. Why would this be? What is the problem with life saving measures that will both keep us safe and allow law abiding Americans to have guns if they so choose?

Oh yes, the NRA is the Republican party.

The Republican party is afraid of the corporate gun lobby which is now enmeshed in the national scandal involving a Russian women, Maria Butina,, who infiltrated the NRA. Oh, and then there’s the issue of Russian money in the NRA coffers. Oh, and then there’s the problems with the NRA providing insurance to gun carriers ( Carry Guard) just in case, you know, a shooting happens while you are carrying a gun.

And this is who some of our lawmakers fear?

Get a spine.

The corporate gun lobby hides behind the second amendment whenever a bill or a suggest measure comes before their leadership. They pretend they might support such measures as in 2013 when Senators Joe Manchin and Pat Toomey thought they had support for a watered down bill to require background checks on all gun sales.  They were blind -sided by the fake NRA support of the bill and have been afraid to bring it up again because…….. lapdog politicians who have no spine.

In the wake of the murder of 20 first graders and 6 educators at Sandy Hook elementary school, the Senate lacked the backbone to do the right thing.

The cynicism and spineless fear of the NRA continues in the wake of the Parkland shooting that came on the heels of the Las Vegas and Sutherland, Texas church shooting. Trump uttered empty words and nothing happened.

This is the country we have but not the country we want or deserve. This is the country that weakened our gun laws (spineless politicians) so just about anyone can carry a gun around wherever they go under the auspices of self protection. And yet, every day, irresponsible gun owners make deadly and serious decisions about how to use their guns.

This is the country where a silly argument about Aretha Franklin ( after her death yesterday) can lead to a shooting.

Without that gun, an argument would have been an argument. With that gun, an argument could have been deadly.

Thanks NRA and spineless politicians.

This is not who we are but at the moment, as long as certain of our elected leaders have no spine to stand up the corporate NRA and other gun rights groups, shootings will continue unabated. As long as certain of our elected leaders run away from what the majority of us want, we will see senseless and avoidable shootings.

Common sense has been replaced by fear and complacency. I don’t think Americans are going to let this happen in the long term. The Trump Presidency has made spineless politicians look like the cowards and controlling people they are. But it has also brought new energy to the Democrats who are standing up strong and tall for what is right and good about our country.

#Enough

We can prevent senseless shootings

GVAToday is the 19th anniversary of the shooting at a Los Angeles Jewish Community Center that injured 3 children, a teen counselor and an office worker, 

People and kids just going about their daily lives when a White Supremacist opened fire. It was the shooting that propelled the Million Mom March as its’ founder Donna Dees Thomases watched in horror as those young children were led away from the scene holding on each other’s hands. 

”It was too much to bear,” she said this week at her home in this wealthy suburban community. ”This is what life has become in America. You can’t send your kids to nursery school anymore and expect them to be safe.”

A few days after the shootings, Ms. Dees-Thomases turned her emotions into action. She scribbled a strategy on the back of an envelope: a plan to send thousands of mothers to Washington to pressure legislators into enacting tougher gun legislation. A week later, she applied to the National Park Service to hold the Million Mom March on May 14.

”We can’t just be sitting around our kitchens, crying about gun violence,” she said. ”We have to do something.”

Senseless. What was this man doing with a gun?

Over my years of advocacy I have met the parents of one of the children and of the teen girl involved in the shooting. They have also become activists and remain so even after their children are adults.

But the trauma never goes away. The memories are always there. That is the insidious nature of gun violence. The ripple effects spread widely and affect many.

In my last post, I wrote about my sister’s shooting death anniversary on Aug. 5th. It has been 26 years for me. For others it has not been as long. Here are just a few other August shootings that we ought to remember if we care about victims and their families and the devastation of gun violence in our families and communities:

On August 5th, 2012 six innocent people were killed and 3 injured by bullets in a hate crime shooting at a Sikh Temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. 

This was another hate shooting. What was this man doing with a gun?

On August 6th, 1996 the daughter of a friend of mine in Duluth was shot and killed by her estranged husband as his anger increased over an ended relationship. Alcohol was a factor as well as the rage of a husband or partner when a woman is leaving him. This is the story we read far too often in local media reports. It is my story. It is the story of my friend. It is the story of thousands of Americans.

Why did he have a gun? It was too easy to buy one with no background check at a local Walmart store.

And on August 26th Alison Parker and Adam Ward were shot and killed on live TV as they were reporting a story for a CBS affiliate in Roanoke, Virginia. I have come to know Alison’s parents. They have been amazing advocates for common sense in the memory of their beautiful young daughter. The wounds are deep for them as they have lived around the hole left by their daughter’s untimely and violent death. Alison’s boyfriend, Chris Hurst ran on a platform of gun violence prevention and won a seat in the Virginia House of Delegates. He will not be a lapdog for the gun lobby.

Why did this shooter have a gun?

Of course there are others. The Gun Violence Archive is keeping track. If you check out this report from the last 72 hours, you can see the long list of shootings all over our country and it’s only August 10th.

These incidents happen every day of every month. It’s an American tragedy.

Why remember these shootings or any shootings for that matter? The gun lobby wants us to forget that this many people are shot and killed on a regular basis because then we might go away and stop pushing for reasonable laws to stop the carnage.

The corporate gun lobby has no common sense when it comes to guns and gun violence. That is becoming increasingly obvious as we learn more about the involvement of the NRA in the Russian meddling into our 2016 Presidential election. Apparently anything goes for the organization that was supposed to be supporting law abiding gun owners.

Who are they? It’s past time to expose the gun lobby’s single focus on suppressing any talk of or actions that would lead to saving lives by supporting lapdog politicians who will do their bidding. Things are changing however as candidates have decided they can run on the issue of common sense gun legislation and win. That’s because the public has finally had #enough and the accumulation of bodies from mass shootings is more than we can take.

On 8/8/18 the Brady Center released its’ new campaign called End Family Fire.

End Family Fire is about safe storage of guns. The thing is, too many people are not responsible with deadly weapons. Check out this story about the campaign:

The new campaign, “End Family Fire,” begins on Wednesday and aims to educate the public on the importance of safe firearm storage. “Family fire,” a phrase created for the campaign, refers to shootings that cause injury or death and involve improperly stored or misused guns found in the home.

“We want everyone who is driving down the street, listening to the radio, watching TV, to hear this term, to go to our website and to internalize what family fire is,” said Kris Brown, a president of the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, the gun control organization leading a coalition of groups behind the campaign, which it produced in partnership with the Ad Council, the nonprofit.

Watch one of the videos:

8 children a day are killed or injured by guns. Is that the America we want? The answer, of course is a resounding NO. But what are we going to do?

The narrative must change in order for the issue to change our elected leaders and also our national conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our American society. This campaign is like MADD and the campaign on second hand smoke. They both changed the culture, the conversation and the laws. Social norm change comes slowly and while we are waiting, people are dying.

We just can’t afford to let that happen.

A big fat NO to 3D guns and other gun rights dangers

3D gun
from CNN.com

Technology could change the gun safety reform movement and the conversation about guns and gun violence.  In the words of the young man who created plans for how to make 3D guns on printers: 

 

“I want to reserve a space for the humane. I hope I would react humanely. And I hope it would affect me. But does that lead me to apologise for what was done? And I appeal back to standard discussions about respect for civil liberties. What does that mean? It means people will abuse these rights. But what does it mean, as a structural feature, to have access to military weapons as a society? I’m not trying to brush it off but it means accepting people will abuse their liberties, but that’s why they deserve protection. If no one is going to abuse a gun, it wouldn’t be a right worth protecting. If no one was going to make a speech, we wouldn’t need to defend the principle of freedom of speech. The same thing with the right to be secure in your possessions.”

The problem with Wilson’s argument is that’s it’s an argument, one that you might formulate in the sixth-form debating society. And on the other side, there would be a dead person. Your mother, perhaps. Or your son who, if it hadn’t been for Wilson, and his desire to push the boundaries of internet freedom further, would still be alive. But I can’t get through on this point.

Coming from an avowed libertarian and anarchist, these are worrisome words. “The right to secure your possessions” is an interesting turn on language. Given that every day, there are incidents where otherwise “law abiding gun owners” don’t secure their possessions and people end up dead, what in the world does this guy mean?

The thing is, guns are deadly weapons designed to kill people. Do people have a right to secure opioids in their possession if they are illegally obtained? Can one do anything with them if they so choose?  From the article:

Criminal laws often change because of shifting societal attitudes or in response to other events. One example is the decriminalization and reduced penalties involved in possessing small amounts of marijuana. But the destruction caused by the opioid epidemic and explosion in prescription drug misuse and abuse has led to the opposite result. Louisiana laws regarding possession of heroin, opiates, and prescription drugs have become harsher, and prosecutors throughout the state have been aggressively seeking convictions as part of efforts to fight the crisis.

It is not hard to understand why law enforcement is attacking these crimes so vigorously. In 2016, for the first time in history, more people died in New Orleans from drug overdoses than were killed in homicides. It is estimated that 175 Americans die from opioid overdoses every single day, and the personal and economic damage caused by opioid abuse is astronomical.

If you are arrested for possession of heroin or the unlawful possession of opioids or other prescription medications, you could be facing hefty fines, significant time behind bars, and other serious consequences.

And so, there are shifting societal attitudes in response to gun violence. In fact, 97% of Americans agree that we ought to require a criminal Brady background check every time a gun is sold. That doesn’t happen as we all know. Private sellers are allowed to sell guns in their possession to anyone who wants to buy them. It could be a felon. It could be a domestic abuser. It could be someone who has been adjudicated mentally ill. The seller wouldn’t know that of course, unless the buyer was subjected to an easy and quick background check through the FBI’s National Instant Check System.

But if one can possess a plastic gun made at home on a 3D printer, who is to know anything about the person who has made that gun?

The plans for such guns will be allowed to be posted on-line starting on Aug. 1st. Thanks Trump.

What could possibly go wrong? From the article:

Last month, the agency agreed to settle a multi-year legal battle with Texan Cody Wilson, who claimed in a lawsuit the government infringed on his right to free speech for posting the programming code online to print a 3D gun. He was ordered to take it down for violating US export laws.

The administration said in the settlement, which was not made public but provided by his attorneys to certain media outlets, that Mr Wilson’s charity group Defense Distributed could post the code online and it agreed to pay $40,000 of his legal fees.

And further:

“The government fought us all the way and then all of the sudden folded their tent,” Alan Gottlieb of the Second Amendment Foundation, a gun rights group who assisted Mr Wilson on the case, told CNN.

Though the lawsuit had been filed during the Obama administration, Mr Gottlieb said much of the case had been handled by career civil servants not political appointees of Mr Trump.

Anyone remember that the NRA spent over $30 million to make sure Trump was elected? 

Thanks NRA.

Was it Russian money as is asked in the above article?:

The F.B.I. and special counsel Robert Mueller are investigating meetings between N.R.A. officials and powerful Russian operatives, trying to determine if those contacts had anything to do with the gun group spending $30 million to help elect Donald Trumptriple what it invested on behalf of Mitt Romneyin 2012. The use of foreign money in American political campaigns is illegal. One encounter of particular interest to investigators is between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian banker at an N.R.A. dinner. (…) Torshin—who Spanish authorities wanted to arrest in 2013 on money-laundering allegations—made energetic efforts to ingratiate himself with the Trump campaign. (Torshin was never charged and has denied any wrongdoing in the money-laundering case.) He met Donald Trump Jr. at a private dinner during the N.R.A.’s convention in Louisville, Kentucky, in May 2016. Alan Futerfas, a lawyer for Trump Jr., has dismissed the conversation between his client and Torshin as “all gun-related small talk.”

Really? “Gun related small talk”? Doubtful.

Since the above linked article was written, we now know about an actual Russian spy who spent some time getting to know leaders from the NRA and other conservative folks who had influence into the Trump campaign. I wrote my last post about this.

So back to 3D guns. Is there any common sense at all to allowing anyone to make a gun in the comfort of their own home?

The answer just has to be NO. People who will be a danger to themselves or others, if they have the funds to invest in the required printer, could make a gun like this and carry out a crime against an innocent person(s). This is just not the kind of America we want or should have. Gun rights do not include anything that anyone wants to do. There are limits.

And speaking of limits and the NRA, can we touch for a minute on the tragic incident in Florida, the gunshine state, involving a white man who shot and killed a black man in a dispute over a parking space?  Because of Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, the shooter will most likely go free. There is still another step but the sheriff has said he will not charge the man with murder because of this law. Read below:

Sheriff’s detectives said Michael Drejka, 47, approached Jacobs while her boyfriend Markeis McGlockton, and the couple’s 5-year-old son, Markeis Jr., went into the store. Drejka and Jacobs began arguing about her parking in the handicapped parking space.
Witnesses told police that McGlockton came outside, walked over to Drejka while he was arguing and “forcibly pushed” Drejka, causing him to fall.
“This is a violent push, this wasn’t a shove, this wasn’t just a tap,” Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a Friday press conference.
In response, the news release stated, Drejka pulled out a handgun while he was on the ground and shot McGlockton in the chest.
“Witnesses say McGlockton walked back into the convenient store where he collapsed,” the release stated. He was taken to a hospital where he died.
The state of Florida has made it even harder for victims’ families to get a hearing in court over the murder of an unarmed ( most often) loved one:
The framework of Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law was changed this year, Gualtieri said. Before, the defendant/shooter used “stand your ground” as a defense and had to prove they were in fear of further body harm, the law now says the state attorney has to provide “clear and convincing evidence” that the defendant/shooter is not entitled to “stand your ground” immunities.
“Nowhere else is there anything like this in criminal law where somebody asserts something and the burden then shifts to the other person,” Gualtieri said. “That’s a very heavy standard and it puts the burden on the state.”
Gualtieri said the case will go to the state attorney. Meanwhile, “Drejka will not be charged, will not be arrested by us … either (the state attorney) will concur or not and if he concurs, there will be no arrest.”
Thanks NRA.
Over 30,000 Americans are killed by bullets every year. It is a health care epidemic.
And we are doing nothing but making it worse. And by we, I mean the NRA lapdogs in Congress and our state legislatures. 
Elections are coming. Vote for candidates who will actually care about saving lives. Gun rights and gun safety reform are not mutually exclusive no matter what the corporate gun lobby would like you to believe.
UPDATE:
All 3 of the major gun violence prevention groups are working together to make sure the instructions for making 3D guns do not go up on a website as has been allowed by our government. Thanks to the Brady Center, Everytown and Giffords for working together to keep America safe from senseless shootings.:

WASHINGTON– Attorneys representing the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Everytown for Gun Safety and Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence have informed a Texas federal court that they anticipate filing legal action within days related to a settlement that would allow new designs for downloadable, untraceable guns to become public and available world-wide as early as August 1. The gun safety organizations urged the court to consider the public safety and national security risks posed by the settlement, which would let Defense Distributed —a company run by a self-proclaimed anarchist who wants to undermine gun safety laws —post its gun blueprints online in the form of Computer Aided Design files.

“[T]his settlement is far from ordinary,” the gun safety organizations write in a letter available here. “It is dangerous, irreparable and – as the government itself has emphatically argued for years – raises issues of national defense and national security of the highest order.  It is also, we believe, illegal.”

This is very good news indeed. National security is at stake here. What kind of country to we want? I would argue that we don’t want people making 3D guns in their living rooms and potentially committing acts of terror on the American public.

Armed intimidation of students

intimidationWhat makes a group of grown men so afraid? A group of students traveling the country advocating for gun safety reform. It’s called #RoadToChange.

It’s really almost comical if it wasn’t also threatening and intimidating. Check out the photo of the vehicle used by a bunch of armed gun extremists who are following the Parkland students around as they rally the public for gun safety reform.:

 

“The hostile environment created toward gun advocates in the Northeast is not unlike the hostile environments a black man would have experienced in the South hundreds of years ago,” he said Tuesday.

Good grief. So not true. And more:

The Georgia trooper was far friendlier. In another video taken by someone in Melchior’s entourage, the trooper said he saw Melchior drive past in the armored vehicle — missing the replica machine gun at that point but still with Utah Gun Exchange logos on the side — and thought “I gotta talk to this guy.”

The Georgia officer had a tattoo that appears to be the logo of a paramilitary organization called The Three Percenters, which bills itself as a national defense organization. He ended up signing the truck and left with a T-shirt for the gun exchange.

In Melchior’s view, it showed a divide among members of law enforcement.

“We received different treatment under the law based on who we encountered,” Melchior said. “That’s problematic.”

I couldn’t disagree more. What’s problematic is that the Georgia officer shrugged off the lunacy and the potentially dangerous and intimidating vehicle as they harass students around the country. And what’s more, is the tattoo sported by the officer showing where his sympathies lie- presumably not with common sense gun legislation.

This is not normal and not necessary. No one is going to take guns away from law abiding citizens. What is their point? In case you missed it, there was a good back and forth conversation as written on Twitter that a Parkland student posted. In the end, a gun rights advocate and a gun safety reform minded student survivor could agree on some basic truths. That is what can be accomplished if we put our heads together. It’s hard to do that if guys come around armed and driving wannabe tanks.

This is not child’s play or funny. This is serious business involving intimidation and armed citizens so afraid themselves that they are trying to get others to be afraid. But the students are not afraid.

This is also how true change will happen. Kudos to the Parkland students who are having these amazing common sense conversations.

Interesting, groups of gun rights advocates have attracted very small numbers of people to their counter protests. It’s about time that they stop pushing for their extreme views which the majority of Americans have rejected. And most gun owners actually agree with the goals of the Parkland students.

And speaking of the Parkland shooting, it’s time to talk more about the attitude towards allowing the teen shooter to buy his guns. His mother has been called now an enabler as she allowed the troubled teen to purchase his guns. She is now dead and so did not know about what those guns she thought he should have did to 17 innocent people.

From the article:

“His mother was an enabler, and his mother contributed to this significantly,” Gualtieri said at a Tuesday meeting of the commission, held at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. “To the point where at one time when they said that he wanted to buy a gun and the counselors from the school said he shouldn’t have a gun, his mother said ‘I don’t care. If he wants a gun, he can have a gun.’”

But a review of Nikolas Cruz’s psychiatric memos show it wasn’t as simple or uncontested as that. His mother initially resisted and they battled over the issue.

A mental health counselor paid a visit to the Cruz home in September 2016 when Nikolas Cruz acted out because his mother refused to take him to get a state-issued ID, which he would have needed to buy a gun. He turned 18 that month, legally old enough to make the purchase on his own. (…)

“I’m not concerned, and l’m not afraid,” she said. “My son has pellet guns and has always respected the rules of where they can and can’t be used.”

The school’s JROTC program already had banned Cruz from firing guns with the group during shooting practice.

A longtime friend of Lynda Cruz’s said she thought Lynda Cruz gave in to her son’s desire to buy a gun because she feared him. He had been physically violent with her, according to Broward Sheriff’s Office records and recent witness statements.

“I think she was afraid of him, actually,” the friend said.

His mother was wrong. She should have been concerned. More people should be concerned about how easy it is to get their hands on guns and use them to murder others. This is simply not OK.

None of this is OK. It’s time for it all to change. The only way it will change is to change the lapdog politicians who are afraid of the corporate gun lobby and armed people like the guys traveling the country in a look alike army tank to intimidate kids who are just trying to stop the shootings.

We are better than this.

Freedom from gun violence

dove of freedomHappy July 4th. Today is, of course, the day we celebrate our independence from a tyrannical government. If we are not vigilant we could be there again. Freedom obviously means different things to different people. But universally it should mean that people ought to be free from violence; free from oppression; free to express opinions; free to live a life without fear of losing health care, a way to make a living, being able to make decisions about own’s own body, free from intolerance and racism, free from discrimination , losing the right to vote, the fear of not being able to marry who you love, the right to the rule of law, the right to live in society within reasonable and common sense rules and laws so that what is good for the most of us is good for all of us. For one never knows when those freedoms might unexpectedly be taken away by circumstances beyond our control or by despotic and self serving leaders.

This morning I read this column written by Dana Milbank, writer for the Washington Post ( the media outlet Trump loves to hate) about our freedoms. From his article:

This isn’t just a linguistic de-emphasis of freedom; Trump has made common cause with dictators and played down human rights abroad while starting a trade war with democratic allies. At home he has questioned due process for refugees, taken immigrant children from their parents, imposed a travel ban on several Muslim-majority nations and declared the media the enemy of the American people. He is now poised to shift the balance on the Supreme Court away from abortion rights and gay rights.

In a very real sense, the fight against Trump is a battle for freedom.

It’s 2018. We should not be a in a battle for our freedoms. But this is where we are right now. Some on the far lunatic right like Alex Jones ( conspiracy theorist and fear monger who Trump loves to love) has put out there that the Democrats are going to start a Civil War today:

The conspiracy theorist tweeted his prediction on Monday, accompanied by a video in which he claimed that “elite publications” were calling for a “civil emergency” using civil unrest and “racial strife” to force out President Trump.

We must be free of this anger, fear mongering and downright lunacy. The fact that our President is on board with this guy says it all.

The President had to relent and allow government buildings to lower their flags to half mast after the shooting of 5 journalists at the Capital Gazette office in Annapolis, Maryland. The fact that someone in the White House refused the original request by the Annapolis Mayor says it all. Why didn’t they intuitively do the right thing? They really don’t seem to care about the lives lost to gun violence. Or if they do, they have a strange way of showing it.

Who does this President stand with? Who does he stand up for? What does he stand up for? Thousands a year lose their lives to gun violence in America, the land of the free. And yet Senator Majority leader Mitch McConnell cynically and dangerously says that the federal government can’t do anything to stop school shootings:

McConnell delivered his remarks amid a push for tougher gun safety laws in America, after a school shooting in Parkland, Fla., claimed 17 lives.

Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was killed in the Florida attack, said McConnell was full of it.

“Honestly, the man should resign. He either is intentionally useless or he’s just evil,” Guttenberg told the Daily News.

The outspoken activist insisted there’s plenty the federal government could do to combat violence in American schools.

“They could allow the CDC to study gun violence. They could strengthen background checks, ban high capacity magazines,” he said. “There’s a lot they can do, but they can’t do anything if they’re not allowed. Mitch McConnell is nothing more than a roadblock.”

The Kentucky Republican, who has a 93% rating from the NRA, has repeatedly blocked gun-control proposals.

This is what we’ve got right now in America. Lapdog politicians who are pushing to restrict many of our other freedoms but willing to ignore one of the most important freedoms- to live without gun violence.

STOP.

YES WE CAN STOP SHOOTINGS. YES, THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT CAN ACT TO PREVENT GUN VIOLENCE PASS A BRADY BACKGROUND CHECK LAW AND A RED FLAG LAW.

MR. MAJORITY LEADER- STOP THE STUFF AND NONSENSE.

And further, of course, is the hope on the right that any nominee for the Supreme Court open position will further erode the laws that have kept us free and safe from some of the gun violence. The far right and the corporate gun lobby have shown us they resent any restrictions on guns- the kind of guns, who can carry them, and where they can be carried. One of their favorite justices, Antonin Scalia, knew that there should be some restrictions and said so in the 2008 Heller decision– something the corporate gun lobby and Congress loves to conveniently forget. So we do have some constitutional rights to be safe from gun violence after all.

This line of reasoning posed by the corporate gun lobby and the far right extremists ( and even the current GOP party leaders) is dangerous and will lead to chaos and yes, Mr. Jones, even violence. Let’s hope that is not the case but the threat will not be coming from the Democrats who want to stop the violence. Look to those who believe in conspiracy theories, threaten journalists with violence, try to restrict basicl freedoms, rights to vote, and stockpile their weapons for a future war against their own government.

Let me just say that on this July Fourth holiday, what can be done is a commitment to changing the conversation about the causes and effects of gun violence, change the gun culture and change the laws so we can be safe and free from gun violence in our schools, our places of work, our shopping malls, our homes, our parks, our wherever we gather together as a community.

If we give up our freedoms such as freedom of speech and others without also challenging the idea that the misinterpreted meaning of the second amendment means freedom for anyone to purchase and own any kind of gun and carry it anywhere one pleases, we will be giving up our democracy.

Stay firm and strong and keep fighting attempts to take away our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Happy Fourth. Stay safe out there everyone. There are some restrictions on fireworks and personal fireworks can lead to injuries. Celebratory shooting is simply not OK no matter what anyone says. What goes up must come down- a simple law of Physics not understood by some irresponsible gun owners.  Shooting off guns on the Fourth of July is dangerous business and not in the spirit of the celebration.

This is a great day to think about what you can do about our national public health epidemic and our national dilemma about freedoms and civil rights. The best thing you can do is to consider all of this and VOTE in your primaries and the November election.

Common sense is at stake. Lives are at stake. Freedoms are at stake.

Gun laws in Canada

Banff-Hero-AUR0018949-1735x1153Today my family is on the way to Banff, Alberta in Canada. It is a long anticipated trip with our entire family. We are caravaning with 2 cars and 9 people for the trip. As with our other travels, I like to blog about the gun laws where we are going to compare them to what American gun laws looks like.

First of all, who needs a gun in this beautiful place? I would hope we don’t run into a Grizzly Bear. But actually bear spray seems to be the “weapon” of choice when it comes to a very rare encounter with a Grizzly.

But I digress. Back to Canadien gun laws.

I always remember that the film producer Michael Moore made a trip to Canada in his award winning film, Bowling for Columbine. The laws are starkly different than ours. Even though Canadiens own a lot of guns, gun deaths and injuries are few. Let’s take a look:

According to a StatsCan report from 2012 – the most recent year available – the U.S. suffered a total of 8,813 murders involving the use of firearms that year. Canada, in the same year, recorded just 172 firearms-related homicides.

“When looking at firearm-related homicide rates in comparable countries, Canada’s rate is about seven times lower than that of the United States (3.5 per 100,000 population), although it is higher than several other peer countries. While Canada’s firearm-related homicide rate is similar to those in Ireland and Switzerland, it is significantly higher than the rates in Japan (0.01 per 100,000 population) and the United Kingdom (0.06 per 100,000 population),” states StatsCan’s findings, which do not include Quebec figures.

Presently, Canadian law classifies firearms into three categories: prohibited, restricted, and non-restricted. Prohibited firearms include military-grade assault weapons such as AK-47s and sawn-off rifles or shotguns. Handguns are generally classified as restricted weapons, while rifles and shotguns are usually non-restricted. The AR-15 rifles used by the San Bernardino suspects is classified as restricted.

That explains a lot. Gun laws work. And more:

Anyone wishing to buy a gun in Canada and/or ammunition must have a valid licence under the Firearms Act. To obtain a firearms licence, all applicants must undergo a screening process, which includes a safety course, criminal history and background checks, provision of personal references, and a mandatory waiting period.

So then, what about gun deaths and injuries:

Overall, Americans are almost 70 per cent more likely to die at the end of a gun — shot by someone else, by themselves, by accident — than Canadians are to die in a car accident.

Thirty-five per cent more likely to be shot to death than Canadians are to die of a fall.

American firearm death rates are almost three times higher than Canadian death rates of ovarian cancer and Parkinson’s; 42 per cent higher than Canadian prostate cancer deaths; 10 per cent higher than pneumonia.

Stunning and proof positive that strong gun laws work without totally restricting guns themselves. And that is the ludicrous myth presented to us by the corporate gun lobby. If we pass one law, all guns will be confiscated. On its’ face, it doesn’t even make sense. It won’t happen and it hasn’t happened in Canada or other countries where people actually have to go through a stringent process to purchase a gun. In America, we go through that process to buy a car, to adopt a pet, to buy Sudafed, and many other things in our daily lives.

Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill people. The fact that we don’t regulate these lethal weapons better and the people who are purchasing them is an American tragedy. We are unique in many ways in our country. Our President wants us be exceptional. We are, unfortunately. More people die from gun deaths and injuries every day than in any other industrialized country not at war.

What we want is just common sense based on the evidence. The evidence is in. The suicide rate is going up.:

Montana experienced about 29 suicides for every 100,000 people — the highest in the nation — compared with about seven people out of every 100,000 in the District of Columbia — the lowest. As a whole, the nation saw 15 people dying by suicide for every 100,000 in 2016.
“The most common method was firearm, followed by hanging or suffocation, followed by poisoning,” Schuchat said. “Opioids were present in 31% of individuals who died by poisoning.” She added that intentionality is difficult to determine in cases in which a person dies by overdose.

We will be traveling through North Dakota and Montana on our way there. There are lots of guns available to residents of those states and loose gun laws. So no surprises that the suicide rate is high in Montana.

The overall number of people killed by guns is going up. But our Congress stands still and does nothing. Some of our state legislatures have managed to pass stronger gun laws. Not in Minnesota. Generally speaking states with strong gun laws have fewer gun deaths.

Any questions?

What are we doing about this?

So why is this happening? We know the answer. Limp, scared lapdog politicians afraid to stand up to the gun lobby. The NRA makes up about 1.8% of Americans. Most gun owners want stronger gun laws. I have spoken with many.

The best thing that has happened after a national tragedy in Parkland, Florida is that the kids are speaking up. They are making a difference. At the recent Minnesota DFL convention, held on Wear Orange week-end, gun violence became one of the most important issues there. Finally, the issue is on the radar screen and has the attention of the Democrats at least. If the Republicans avoid it, they may be sorry.

We have a long ways to go but we are moving. And we are not afraid to be bold. The time is long passed to address our public health epidemic of gun violence.

While I am in Canada, I will be unlikely to see gun toting people where I will be with my family. I know that I will at the least be safe from gun violence. Now let’s hope we are safe from other things like auto accidents, falls on the trails, etc. I look forward to getting away from the negativity and chaos of American politics.

I also know that the G-7 summit will be in Canada and that our President will be in the same country as me again.  I doubt that he will give one thought to gun violence and how Canada has managed to be mostly safe from mass shootings and every day shootings. But he intends to leave the summit early before other things of grave importance to the U.S. and the world will be discussed:

By pulling out early, Trump will skip sessions focused on climate change, the oceans and clean energy. He will also miss the traditional group-photo opportunity among fellow heads of state. The president may also miss the opportunity to host a summit-ending news conference, something world leaders traditionally do. The leader of the host nation, in this case Trudeau, also takes questions and gives closing remarks. Trump chose not to hold a news conference last year, becoming the only G-7 leader not to do so before leaving Italy, according to The Hill. He opted instead for a speech at a nearby naval air station.

Avoiding tough issues is no way to solve them. The world is crying out for dealing with important issues facing us all.

While I am gone, there will be memorials to the 49 victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting 2 years ago on June 12th. There will be one in my home town which I will miss. People want to take action and do something. And they will come and remember and sign up to get active to do something. We will make sure they do.

I intend to write more about the Pulse shooting later.

Until then we will be enjoying the beauty of Banff.

Robert Kennedy Jr. – 50 years later

Robert_F._Kennedy_grave_in_Arlington_National_CemeteryIt’s been 50 years since the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. I remember when it happened. It was only a few months after the shooting of Martin Luther King so the nation had just experienced the loss of another great leader. It was one of those times in American life when things stopped for a while and people cried and mourned in disbelief.

Since Robert Kennedy was killed, over 1.5 million Americans have died from gunshot injuries. 

And it continues.

Bobby’s family somehow moved on with the grace and dignity shown after the assassination of President John Kennedy. Now, another brother. Another father. Another uncle. Another husband. Another cousin.

I had the honor to serve on the Brady Board of Trustees with Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the oldest of the Kennedy children. She became a strong advocate for gun violence prevention and many other causes in which she believes. Here are some of her reflections on this momentous anniversary:

“‘How do we make moral choices? How do we help our fellow human being?'” Townsend said. “That is the most meaningful thing you can do.”

And it was their faith in the answers he offered that helped him build a coalition that’s implausible, if not impossible, to imagine today. “He could speak to white working class men and women because they trusted him that he would fight for them, and he also fought for African-Americans,” said Townsend. “If you talked to those who met him, you never sensed that he felt he was better than you. He was with you.”

Stopping the shootings of our children and innocent Americans is a moral choice. Our job is to help our fellow human beings do the right thing. That is why I am doing this work and remaining a fierce advocate for gun safety reform that can save lives.

And I believe that Bobby Kennedy would not have been influenced by the corporate gun lobby. In 1968 the NRA was a very different kind of organization than what it has now become. When Kennedy ran for President the NRA was an organization to support hunters and teach gun safety. Now it is an extremist group that accounts for about 1.8% of Americans with influence it should not have. We need more leaders like Bobby Kennedy to stand up to the corporate gun lobby instead of the lapdogs we have sitting in their seats refusing to stand up for the victims of gun violence.

Tomorrow the country will mark the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s death with a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.

Many will be there to share their memories, to represent victims, to praise Robert Kennedy. From the linked article:

On Wednesday, Kerry Kennedy will join former president Bill Clinton at her father’s resting place in Arlington National Cemetery, for a memorial service marking the 50th anniversary of his death. Civil rights hero John Lewis, 78, and 18-year-old gun control activist Emma González will be among those reading quotations from the slain senator’s works. Two are inscribed in granite near the plain white cross at his grave: “Some men see things as they are and ask ‘Why?’ I dream things that never were and ask, ‘Why not?’” and: “… each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope …”

It is so fitting that one of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school shooting survivors will be in attendance. For she would have been honored by the Bobby Kennedy of 1968. She represents those whose voices can’t be heard just as Kennedy’s voice was taken from him far too soon. He would have stood with the victims and survivors and cried with them and acted on their behalf.

His potential to be a great leader was snuffed out in seconds by a gunman. Bullets end lives quickly leaving memories, legacies, unrealized potential and talent behind in aftermath.

What could have been different about our country if Bobby Kennedy had become our President? It may be an exercise in futility to wonder that but it’s interesting to think about what could have been given his positions and his passion for justice.

Compared to what we have now, our country would be a different place. We might actually have passion for people who need our help. We might actually be doing something about racism, about gun violence, about immigration and social justice.

The people seemed to sense that about Kennedy as his body was carried by train across the country while thousands of Americans waved and grieved along the side of the tracks.

My last post was about memories of gun violence victims. Bobby Kennedy was a gun violence victim.

Today I remember him and think about what could have been. I was honored to be invited to attend the ceremony but was unable to attend. I will be watching as it is televised.

Today we should all remember that our country does not have to tolerate this senseless loss of life. We can prevent shootings. We can do something about easy access to guns. We can pass stronger gun laws. We can change the conversation and the culture of gun violence. We can save lives. We can be a country with common sense approaches to the gun violence epidemic affecting our country.

We remember Robert F. Kennedy.