Extremism in our legislatures

Caroon
Published in the Duluth News Tribune

I have written many times about Stand Your Ground laws. As more states are now passing these laws more people will be in danger of being shot and injured or killed senselessly. Not that any shooting makes much sense.  This story from The Trace, highlights an example of the first “Stand Your Ground” case in Missouri after their new law passed:

Missouri was the first state to pass a “stand your ground” law since the shooting death of Trayvon Martin in Florida brought notoriety to such legislation in 2013. Before taking that step, Missouri law followed the “castle doctrine,” which says that a person may shoot an intruder to his home, if perceiving the situation as life-threatening.

Schoeneberg, for his part, is worried about gun owners understanding that the new, more permissive “stand your ground” law still has limits. “I think that people think this is a license to do more than they’re really allowed,” he says.

This is the story of so many other similar cases. Can you shoot someone because of a cell phone robbery? If you can, should you? Can you shoot someone who is sitting drunk in the car in your garage? Should you? Can you shoot someone who has broken into your house and is taking a shower in your very own shower? Should you?

The answer is yes if you want to face the consequences.  If someone else’s life is worth so little that you would take it over things like this we have a serious public health and safety problem and a problem with the morality of taking human lives.  Some people think this is OK.

Some legislators in Minnesota are lapdogs for the gun lobby and will get a floor vote in the House on Stand Your Ground in the next few days. Why? Because rights…….Because ALEC…… Because the corporate gun lobby agenda…..

It’s that simple but it’s really that complicated.

Minnesota nice? Not so much. Because once you have the idea in your head that you can now shoot someone who you perceive to be a danger ( even if they really aren’t) you can shoot first and ask questions later.There is nothing about Stand Your Ground laws that are good for public safety and the health of our communities. In fact, the laws make our communities and families less safe.

But common sense about these things does not exist in the minds of those who have decided that laws like this are OK.

The gun extremists have been standing their ground as they push ludicrous and dangerous bills through our state legislatures and Congress. Consider permitless carry which did not make it far in the Minnesota House. From this article in The Trace:

The concept, rooted in constitutional originalism, assumes that the authors of the Second Amendment envisioned an unfettered right to wield a gun for personal defense. In this view, any limitation on an individual’s right to carry guns, however small, is unjust. Full stop. As such, passing constitutional-carry legislation is seen by proponents as a restoration, not an expansion, of gun freedoms.

As with the “campus carry” movement, the push for permitless carry has come from the grassroots more than from the National Rifle Association. While the nation’s largest gun lobby champions the latest bills in its press releases, local lobbyists who take the NRA’s absolutist rhetoric at face value find themselves chafing at its corporate model of working hand-in-glove with establishment politicians.

The resulting friction has fed into the upheaval taking place within gun politics (and American conservatism as a whole) since the rise of the Tea Party, which has left the NRA frequently following, rather than steering, the emboldened extremes of its coalition. Activists in several states told The Trace that the NRA — which did not respond to requests for comment for this story — has not helped their cause. In one state, they point to direct evidence that the NRA has undercut their proposals.

Hmmm. Even the NRA does not like these bills? It looks like Stand Your Ground is dead in the Minnesota legislature for this session. I wonder why? Many of us have sent post cards, sent emails and made phone calls. We have visited offices, held rallies against these dangerous bills, and held up signs outside of the House chambers. It is not a popular bill but again, pushed by extremists.

Then who are these extremists? They are in the minority when it comes to support for sensible gun laws. They are not members of your grandfather’s or even your father’s NRA. They are anti-Obama, anti government, anti immigration fanatics pushing for laws that they believe would allow them to protect themselves from zombies and “the other”. Scary stuff if you ask me. They are the “don’t tread on me” guys. They carry the Gadsden Flag for effect and as a symbol understood by other extremists.  Take a look in case you don’t know about it:  Anarcho-Gadsden_flag.svg

A local gun owner and now former NRA member wrote this great piece the other day in my local paper. He understands common sense and extremism and he has chosen the former. From his opinion piece:

The measure was supported by the NRA and its favored legislators. For decades I was a member of the National Rifle Association and had its conspicuous round insignia on my cars and trucks. I was even enrolled into the “National Rifle Association of America Millennium Honor Roll.” It wasn’t that I thought the NRA and its members had some ill intent when I decided to discontinue my membership; it was because of the evermore unlikeable image of the NRA to many people. An organization that used to mostly represented hunters and sport shooters, and even wildlife conservation has become a spokesperson for the manufacturers and marketers of military-like assault weapons. If you want to see this trend, just go to a gun show and see all the black and camouflaged semi-automatics that are replacing the aesthetically appealing guns with contoured fine wooden stocks and elegant inlays and engraving. These new quasi-machine guns have all sorts of unusual configurations and often are collapsible to be more easily concealed. The guns displayed at shows more and more like those in news photos of confiscated gang weapons.

Another sad aspect with the NRA: after every major shooting tragedy, out comes its leader, Wayne LaPierre, to warn us that the Constitution will be in jeopardy if some sensible legislation to reduce gun violence is passed.

The NRA does not represent gun owners any more and they are beginning to wise up as more and more extreme bills are pushed in our legislatures and Congress.

And the writer sums up the culture of gun extremism nicely as he says:

The stated purpose of the permitless carry bill in St. Paul is public safety. But this will not be achieved by having even more gun carriers who won’t bother with gun-safety training or the permitting process or who may be mentally ill.

Statistics notwithstanding, even an occasional widely reported “accident” — such as the Target shopper wounded when another customer’s gun went off or the horror of the Walmart shopper whose child got the pistol out of her purse and killed himself — has even more of us deciding we would prefer not to have guns casually carried around by the firearms-inept. It also defies logic to pretend that evermore pervasive guns will reduce the incidence of bar and road-rage shootings and urban gunfights.

The proposed law in Minnesota would have other adverse effects: Even more of those annoying, black-and-white “guns not allowed” signs would crop up. More potential visitors might think Minnesota is returning to gunslinging Wild-West days. The perception could grow stronger that we gun owners aren’t satisfied to have our guns safely at home, out with us hunting, or at a safe shooting range. And it certainly would not enhance our image of “Minnesota Nice.”

( The political cartoon at the top accompanied this opinion piece and certainly does express the truth of the permitless carry bills).

How will we know “good guys” with guns from “bad guys” with guns if everyone is armed and no one has training or a permit. Further they can “stand their ground” and shoot someone without consequence. ( Or so they are led to believe).

It doesn’t always work out well for those who have claimed justifiable self defense. One such case is the 2014 Minnesota man who was lying in wait for two teens who were burglarizing his house. He lured them to his basement and shot them dead and shot many times claiming it was in self defense. It was brutal and bloody.

He shot the teens multiple times point blank and referred to them as vermin.

Good guy with a gun?

He was found guilty by a jury and went to prison. Luckily for all, Minnesota did not have a Stand Your Ground law but even then, when it is so obvious that a killing is not justifiable as in the case of Jordan Davis in Florida, shot by a white man because he did not like the loud music a car full of black teens were playing. 

He is in prison. Good guy with a gun?

Florida has a Stand Your Ground law.

The shooters made a terrible mistake and their mistaken ideas or perceptions turned deadly costing lives and sending them to prison. If you are prepared to go to prison over your deadly mistake, then by all means, carry a gun with no training or permit and stand your ground over perceived fear. Try to explain it to a jury and live with what you did.

This is extremism. We don’t need it or want it in our communities. It is making us all less safe. Even terrorists are benefiting from the NRA/gun lobby extremism as ISIS is informing their members that they can easily by guns at American gun shows and on-line with no Brady background checks. This is what the NRA claimed:

For the right-winger who wants to feel tough on terrorism but soft on guns, this tension has long been difficult to resolve. It became a lot harder at the beginning of May, when ISIS openly praised the U.S.’ lack of gun control. In response, the NRA released a video trotting out a wild conspiracy theory, claiming that ISIS is praising lax gun laws in an effort to dupe gullible Americans into supporting gun control.

Ludicrous. Dangerous. Stupid. You can’t make this stuff up.

An Ohio man fits the description of an extremist and home grown terrorist. Check this out:

More than 60 guns were found in the home of a man who fatally shot his former girlfriend, her co-worker and a newly appointed police chief before turning a gun on himself, authorities said.

The guns were found Friday at the home of 43-year-old Thomas Hartless by sheriff’s deputies and investigators from the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation hours after the killings at a nursing home in Kirkersville, The Newark Advocate reported.

Kirkersville Police Chief Steven Eric DiSario died from a shotgun wound outside the nursing home. Nurse Marlina Medrano, who had previously sought protective orders against Hartless in connection with domestic violence cases, was shot multiple times with a handgun and a shotgun. Nurse’s aide Cindy Krantz was killed with a shotgun.

More than 60 guns. Domestic violence and protective orders. Police chief shot and killed and 2 others and then himself.

Extremism. Good guy with a gun?

And speaking of extremists, Donald Trump is actually considering appointing one of them (Sheriff David Clarke) to a high position in the Department of Homeland Security according to this article from The Trace:

Clarke’s resume as a public safety official is riddled with scandals and accusations of serious abuse. In May, a grand jury recommended that Clarke face criminal charges for his role in the death of a mentally ill inmate at the county jail after guards withheld water from the man for a week. In 2013, a woman falsely accused of drunken driving by one of Clarke’s deputies — the officer had crashed into her while watching a movie in his car — sued Clarke for civil rights violations. The outspoken sheriff, an avid Dallas Cowboys fan, also drew criticism after he had deputies detain a man who asked why he didn’t support Wisconsin’s own Green Bay Packers. After 15 years in office, he was headed toward a possible 2018 re-election campaign with two-thirds of local voters disapproving of his performance.

But as a right-wing firebrand, Clarke’s star has been steadily rising. He owes that in no small part to the National Rifle Association. Clarke, a regular Fox News contributor and public speaker, is part of a stable of public figures tapped by the NRA as the group has expanded its purview beyond gun rights and claimed for itself a role as a conservative vanguard that eagerly jumps into many of the nation’s most divisive cultural and ideological fights. (…)

Riding the NRA’s platform to national prominence, Clarke has used his turn in the spotlight to compare Black Lives Matter to ISIS (he called people protesting police shootings, “subhuman creeps”) and echo the NRA in dubiously linking immigration to violent crime. At a mid-October 2016 campaign rally, when Trump’s poll numbers were sinking, Clarke warned that the election would be rigged. “It’s pitchfork and torches times,” he said.

In the wake of Trump’s victory, reports emerged that Clarke had travelled to Russia and Israel in late 2015 with a delegation of gun-rights A-listers, including the former NRA president David Keene. In Russia, the group met with representatives of the much smaller Russian gun-rights community, including Dmitry Rogozin, a Russian deputy prime minister who supervises the defense industry and is under sanctions from the United States for his role in the annexation of Crimea from Ukraine.

Clarke’s expenses for the trip, estimated at nearly $40,000, were paid for with funds from the NRA’s top tier of donors, the Ring of Freedom, and the Right to Bear Arms, a Russian gun-rights organization.

What are they thinking? If this is the kind of law enforcement officer running things in Milwaukee and then possibly at a national level, or public safety is in serious trouble. We don’t need these kinds of extremists getting away with running important institutions and departments anywhere.

It would be a travesty if Clarke is appointed and doesn’t need Senate confirmation. The Trump administration is in enough hot water over their failure to properly and thoroughly vet at least one high level official ( General Michael Flynn). This carelessness and obedience to power and money is absolutely not draining the swamp. It is overflowing what we already have and leading to cynicism and decision making based on power, control and money.

Who’s in charge? Where is common sense? What kind of communities do we want for our children and families?

If the Trump administration stands their ground about Clarke, we will know exactly why their is potential corruption and total lack of decorum and concern for our country’s security. Trump himself has potentially compromised our national security by allegedly giving classified information to the Russians. What could possibly go wrong with Sheriff Clarke in town?

It’s absolutely necessary that we have qualified, serious and ethical people running our country. Homeland security is serious business. Putting a gun extremist in a high level position is ludicrous. Is this a payback for support of the NRA? Just asking.

Our safety and democracy depend on it and we must demand that our safety comes first before adherence to the agenda of an extremist group.

The majority of gun owners and the majority of Americans don’t want extreme and dangerous gun bills.

It’s time to stand up and stand against extremism wherever it rears its’ head.

Join groups like Protect Minnesota, working to end gun violence in my state. And the Brady Campaign, a chapter of which I lead in Minnesota and sit on the national board. The Brady Center’s new Disarm Hate and Arm People with Facts crowdrise campaign. The facts are that guns in homes and on our streets are causing risk to our families and communities. This crowdrise campaign is in part in memory of the 49 people shot and killed at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando last June 11th. As we approach the first anniversary of that shooting, it’s important to remember how easily one hateful extremist could snuff out so many lives.

#Enough

 

 

New Years Resolutions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Real stories are worth many gun lobby myths.

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

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

Now there is some common sense.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanksgiving memories

Rowan branchSo many Americans will have empty seats at their Thanksgiving tables this year because of senseless acts of gun violence. Some will be because of gun suicides, the most common form of gun violence in America. I send my hugs and condolences to those families. But wishes, hugs and forms of sympathetic expressions are just not enough.

And for the families of the 4 officers who were shot in just one day, 2 of whom were allegedly targeted by some ill intentioned person with a gun, there will be no normal Thanksgiving and maybe not for many years. One officer died from his injuries. From the article:

McManus said he believed Marconi was slain because he was a police officer.

“I think the uniform was the target, and the first person who happened along was the person he targeted,” McManus said. (…)

In St. Louis, a police sergeant was hospitalized in critical condition but expected to survive after being shot twice in the face Sunday night in what the police chief called an “ambush.”

In America ambushes by armed people against armed law enforcement officers have happened with some regularity.  Tacoma. Philadelphia. Pittsburgh. Iowa. New York. And others. So much for having a gun for protection ( as do officers) keeping you from getting shot by someone else with a gun.

Families are grieving. They have lost sons, brothers, uncles, fathers. They have lost sisters, mothers, daughters and aunts. And many of the deaths were avoidable if we only would put our heads together to prevent a portion of the devastation. We can do it. Of course we can. But we haven’t. It is an American tragedy that has been playing out for decades.

Those of us who have lost loved ones to gun violence can be thankful for the memories that make us both sad and happy. We can be thankful that we still have other family members and friends and that we can make the most of what we have. I know I am thankful for all of the wonderful people I have met over the years through my volunteer work with various gun violence prevention organizations. I feel thankful that there is a network of victims and survivors nation-wide who can share their stories and help each other get through the bad times. And I am thankful that so many of them have become stronger people as a result of their stories and their advocacy.

Today is the anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. If you were alive then, you can’t forget where you were or the aftermath of that tragedy. Just thinking about it now makes me anxious because the days right after the assassination were so potently sad and full of fear and anxiety for Americans. We watched much of it unfold on national television which made it all the more horrible.

The Kennedy family has suffered 2 such assassinations and have had empty seats around their Thanksgiving tables for a long long time. The pain and memories never go away. My family has had an empty chair for almost 24 years now. Holidays are always times that bring forth memories and now, we can mostly find happy ones. But the hole left in our hearts never goes away.

And so it is in America.

We could strengthen our laws to stop at least some people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them by requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales. But we aren’t doing that. We could do more about lost and stolen gun legislation and launching public health campaigns about the dangers of not storing guns safely at home. ( 400 guns were stolen by teens from the home of a felon who could not possess them.)

Does one person need 400 guns? What was the felon going to do with these guns? How and why did this felon even have these guns given that he can’t legally buy them from federally licensed firearms dealers? And what were the teens planning to do with them?

Sigh.

We could be talking more about the danger of unlocked, loaded guns in homes where children live. Why aren’t we doing more about this? The gun lobby doesn’t really like this kind of talk.

We could be talking more about the risk of loaded guns for people who may have mental or physical health problems that could make them dangerous to themselves or others. But we aren’t really doing much about that either.

The thing is, most Americans have common sense and actually want something to be done. The Center for American Progress did a post election poll of Trump and Clinton voters. The results may surprise some people but not me. I know that all polling, at least about gun violence prevention measures, has been the same for decades. They show strong support from Republicans, Democrats, gun owners, non gun owners and even NRA members for requiring background checks on all gun sales.

102 Pass legislation requiring background checks on all gun sales, including those sold online or at gun shows. ……………………………………………………… 57 31 9 3 88 12 76 Trump Voters………………………………………………… 47 35 12 6 82 18 64 Clinton Voters ……………………………………………….. 68 25 5 1 93 7 87

What about this does the gun lobby and its’ minions in Congress and state legislators not get?

Oh right. It’s the gun industry and the corporate gun lobby that have those folks at their mercy. How sad is that? And Donald Trump says he’s going to “drain the swamp”?

I have my doubts. If he decides to stay beholden to the lobbyists of the gun industry who manage to get their way in spite of what the public wants and in spite of the continuing gun violence epidemic in our country, he will be adding swamp monsters and filling it up.

But victims and survivors move on with their lives. Many of them work hard for gun violence prevention measures and speak out against the deceptions presented by the corporate gun lobby. More guns do not make us safer. There is proof of that in every day incidents that leave innocent people dead from their gunshot injuries. An armed society is certainly not a polite society and gun free zones do not lead to more gun deaths.

Let’s be thankful for those who have common sense. Let’s be hopeful that our Congress and state legislators stop following the money and being lapdogs for the gun lobby. Let’s also be hopeful that President-elect Donald Trump will be willing to shake things up regarding the gun lobby’s influence on our country’s gun policies.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Be safe out there. As I often write, gun violence does not take a holiday.

Gunned down in America

Super Bald Eagle Character - 2America- the land of the free and home of the brave. Also the country of guns, guns, guns. The last few weeks have given us another full frontal view of what it means to “bear arms” in a country with almost as many guns as people. So here are just a few of the things that have happened that we need to think about:

So let’s review. Fewer Americans own the majority of guns in the land of the free. People are open carrying these guns in small numbers but have managed to pass laws to allow people without proper vetting to carry guns in public. And in states where standing your ground is considered to be brave, if a shooting should happen while the “law abiding” shooter claims self defense the shooter does not have to face the usual legal process for killing someone.

More mass shootings happen in the land of the free and home of the brave than in any other country and they have increased in frequency. Some lawmakers are willing to sacrifice common sense for their adherence to a powerful gun lobby that represents a distinct minority of Americans. Follow the money. Conceal and open carry laws allow for the proliferation of guns on our streets and in our neighborhood public places. And we have learned from a study cited in an article above that people who own and carry guns do so in fear of other people. Law enforcement officers can’t tell “good guys” with guns from “bad guys” with guns. And are black men legally carrying guns more likely to be deemed “bad guys” with guns than white guys with guns? I’m just asking.

“Law abiding” gun owners are not locking their guns safely away from being stolen by those who shouldn’t be able to get their hands on guns. We don’t pass laws that include mandatory reporting of lost and stolen guns and we have no laws requiring that guns be locked securely away from ammunition. Guns make it to the streets and the illegal market when they are stolen. Of course the fact that we allow those very same people who are deemed to be prohibited purchasers at a federally licensed firearms dealer to buy those very same guns from private sellers on-line or at gun shows and flea markets is ludicrous and dangerous.

We are free to own and carry guns in America. But we should be free from devastating gun violence as well. We don’t have to sit by and let this happen. The corporate gun lobby, through it’s lapdogs in Congress,  has suppressed research about the causes and effects of gun violence. Luckily for the brave amongst us, there are non-government researchers who are showing us the real problem with guns. They are a risk to those who own and carry them and become a risk to other innocent people as a result. We know, thanks to research and surveys done by credible sources, that fewer Americans own guns but own a lot of them on average. That being the case, how do we get our elected leaders to stop bowing to a very well funded and vocal lobby which represents mostly themselves and not average gun owners in the land of the free?

Maybe exposing their votes and their acceptance of campaign contributions from the gun lobby will help. The Brady Campaign has released a new lapdog scorecard showing who are the lapdogs for the gun lobby in Congress. Check it out. You can click on your own state and find out. The thing is, the majority of Americans, gun owners or not, and even NRA members, support strengthening our gun laws. If this is the land of the free and home of the brave, the brave need to speak out and do the right thing in the name of saving lives.

The model of fear is a bad idea when dealing with deadly weapons. Some in our country have ramped up fear of others, fear of those who don’t look like us, fear of shadows lurking in every corner awaiting a chance to get us. If you don’t believe me, you can look at this new campaign ad made by the NRA about why gun owners should fear Hillary Clinton and vote for Donald Trump. It’s another big lie but it gets people to the gun stores. Follow the money.

Fear is not a good way to make laws and change the conversation. It is counter productive and leads us to fear the wrong things. Why are we not fearful that just about anyone can gain access to a deadly weapon and carry it around in public or use it for bad intentions? Why are we not concerned that those on a no-fly list are not on the no-buy list for guns? Though not a perfect solution, it sure seems like we ought to be able to stop at least some dangerous people from being to get guns.

If you think all of this is insane, please get involved to make the changes we all deserve. That would be changes to gun laws to make them stronger so we can prevent some of the daily carnage. It also means changing the conversation to make people think twice about whether or not a gun for self defense makes sense for them. And if it does, at the least, make sure these folks have good training in using a deadly weapon designed to kill other people and have the common sense to lock up their guns unloaded to avoid stolen guns or someone, like a child or teen, accessing the gun. And make darned sure that dangerous people or those who could become dangerous to themselves or others either can’t get guns or have them removed until the danger is over or permanently, whichever happens first.

We have work to do. But we also have to counter erroneous claims by the corporate gun lobby that have become common talking points in our country. If we are the land of the free and home of the brave, we need to be brave enough to stand up for the truth and against those whose claims about freedom do not reflect reality.

Of “Mad Men”, lapdogs, car dealers, gun giveaways and biker gang shoot-outs

Texas bikers
Thanks to Parents Against Gun Violence

There is always so much to write about that it’s difficult to find the starting point. But I think I’ll start with the biker gang shoot-out in Waco, Texas on Sunday because the irony is so delicious. Let’s first take a look at who showed up at this massacre that took the lives of 9, left at least 18  injured and led to the arrest of 172 or so.  You really can’t make this stuff up. From the article:

Open Carry advocates and bikers packed the State Capitol grounds in January in hopes of pushing for more lax gun laws. Among those bikers was Mike Lynch, who was also one of the culprits in the Waco bloodbath. (…)

Mike is one of the 172 bikers who were arrested after the carnage in Waco, leaving 9 dead and at least 18 injured.

In January, at least 2,000 bikers made their way to the State Capitol for a day of lobbying. Gun rights was at the top of their list of priorities, Fox 8 reported.

“They’re going to try to take our guns because some looney toon killed a bunch of people,” one biker said in January.

I can’t fit anymore irony in one sentence than that.

Lynch wrote on Facebook, “What a great day!” above a post referencing their attendance at the Texas Capitol.

So when we let the gun lobby and its’ minions write our gun laws, this is what we get- a lot of dead people in a massacre that most law enforcement said they have never seen in all of their years of working in the field. And it’s true that the gun lobby, whose interests are not that of even most gun owners, write the laws.

I love this statement about what happened in Waco from the Brady Campaign:

“Everything is big in Texas,” said Jonathan Hutson, spokesman for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. “Including big biker shootouts and even bigger loopholes that allow criminals and other dangerous people to buy guns without a Brady background check at gun shows and online”

Ah- the irony again. Now here was a group of mad men, for the perpetrators were mostly men. And mad they were- over some slight that allegedly happened in a restaurant bathroom and perhaps someone drove over someone’s foot in the parking lot? That’s enough to make you mad all right. But did people have to die over these petty arguments? The answer is, of course, NO. But when a gun, and in this case other weapons as well, are available, it’s easy to kill someone in an instant in an argument.

What I am saying is that guns are the most commonly used weapon in homicides. And this case was a prime example. Other weapons were used but the 9 who died apparently, from the information I have found,  all died of gunshot injuries:

….“When you get in an argument with a group of outlaw motorcyclists,” Thompson wrote, “your chances of emerging unmaimed depend on the number of heavy-handed allies you can muster in the time it takes to smash a beer bottle. In this league, sportsmanship is for old liberals and young fools.” The addition of guns proved predictably deadly. But whose bullets killed whom and why?

As if on cue, the right wing is blaming law enforcement for the deaths. At this point we don’t know who killed whom. But it seems clear from several articles that the biker gangs had made some statements threatening to shoot police officers.

And as if to make the public, who mostly support common sense when it comes to gun laws– yes- even in Texas- madder, the Texas legislature is thinking about expanding gun rights to allow just about anyone to open carry their pistols and other guns and with a provision that prevents law enforcement from asking them for their permit to carry. Seems like a good idea, right? This is the gun culture we have, thanks to spineless politicians who care more about their campaign treasure chests and saluting to the corporate gun lobby than about common sense and actually doing something about the public safety they were elected to protect. This is the definition of mad men– meant broadly to include all legislators.

They are lapdogs to the gun lobby. Shame on all of them. Check out this Brady Campaign video for the satire and the truth about our politicians:

Sigh.

Closer to home, a local car dealer decided it would be a good idea to give pistols away in a promotion to get customers to buy cars. Great idea, right? What message does this send to the public? Why do we think giving away a deadly weapon should be a part of a business promotion?  Some of my Facebook friends alerted me to the one page prominent ad in the local newspaper. This prompted quite a big discussion on Facebook and through e-mail about what we could do to express our concerns about such an ad. ad for gun give away

Yesterday more than a few phone calls were made by concerned citizens to both the local newspaper and the local car dealer. We learned that the Pawn Shop that had apparently donated the guns for the promotion, is a licensed firearms dealer and will perform background checks on any person who walks away from the gun dealer with a gun. The problem is that there was no disclaimer to that effect in the ad as there should have been. We also learned that the both the newspaper personnel and the car dealer representatives to whom we spoke were quite adamant that a background check should be required. If that is the case and the importance of a Brady background check was expressed, one wonders why there is so much resistance to requiring all gun sales to have one? Calling attention to the fact that many gun sales go without background checks will help to change the conversation about the role of guns and gun violence in our communities.

By coincidence, I took my car to my dealer for an oil change and some other maintenance yesterday where I spoke to one of the managers who I know. He said that this ad was the topic of their morning meeting. They were quite concerned about the lack of information about whether a background check would be required. Their other concern was for the bad message this sends to the public leaving them embarrassed for car dealers who have to sink to giving guns away to get business.

What is happening here is that the veritable “chickens are coming home to roost.” When we sit back and allow the insane and well funded single interest gun lobby groups to make our laws without thought to the consequences, we encourage such a cavalier attitude towards guns that when something happens like the Waco shooting, people are taken aback and proclaim surprise. When a car dealer gives gun away in a prominently placed ad in a local paper, some people just think it’s part of our culture and no big deal. Others, however, take notice and they don’t like it. The problem for this gun dealer here was that the ad was so large and the image of the two pistols so obvious that it called attention to itself. That is what they wanted but I don’t think the result is what they expected.

This is NOT the gun culture the general public wants. But it is the gun culture we have. It is also not the culture we have to accept. Things are changing.

Dan Gross, President of the Brady Campaign wrote this great piece yesterday about how changes to social mores occur over time and how we have learned to do a better job of protecting our children and our communities from hard, sometimes the hard way.  From the article:

And then it struck me, what could be more inspiring than Mad Men? Not only as a great way to end a speech, but as a powerful demonstration of how much the world can change and how quickly that change can happen.

In less than a generation how many of the things we see on that show have gone from perfectly acceptable — even glamorous or sexy — to socially unconscionable? How many dangerous, reckless or harmful things that we used to do without second thought, are things we would not even consider doing now? (…)

The fact is, if we can just keep guns only out of the hands of people that every sane American believes should not have them in the first place, and inspire safe, responsible behavior around the dangers and risks of guns in the home, we can create extraordinary change.

But first, we have to stop talking about guns as a partisan political debate and start talking about gun deaths as the public health and safety issue that they are.

Don Draper famously said, “If you don’t like what’s being talked about, change the conversation.” That is precisely what we must do to address the problem of gun deaths and injuries in our nation. Just like all the other issues that have changed so dramatically in the generation since Mad Men, we have to start talking about solutions based on our common goals and values, like health, safety and freedom from fear.

Dan Gross is right. Gun violence is a public health and safety epidemic. Making that worse by passing looser gun laws rather than stronger laws has deadly results. Promoting gun giveaways for advertising promotions is just not a good idea given the increase in gun deaths and the obvious public health problem resulting from our cavalier and insane gun culture. We don’t have to accept the way things are. We can step up to make change and it can happen in small ways as well as large. The “Mad Men” culture isn’t the culture we have today, though some would say that the advertising culture prevalently featured in the popular series still exists in some ways. But luckily we know better about some things and people no longer openly smoke and drink in the work place or let kids play with plastic bags over their heads.

If local car dealers realize that they shouldn’t give guns away as a way to get people to buy cars, then change will happen. If Texas legislators are scrutinized for their own role in listening to the wrong people while making gun laws, then change will happen.

It is so obvious that something is terribly broken with our American gun culture. But why do we let it continue without making the changes we deserve? Ask your legislators to be responsible decision makers when it comes to public safety. Ask them to stop being lapdogs to an industry that sells deadly weapons without concern for public safety. Ask other parents if there are unsecured guns in homes where your children play. Ask businesses to think twice about allowing loaded guns in places where families gather. Ask questions when you aren’t sure a policy is going to actually keep children and families safe from devastating gun violence. Make phone calls, send e-mails, realize that laws matter and there are consequences to bad laws.

We can’t shrug our shoulders and just walk away thinking that nothing will change anyway so why bother. We can make a difference if we put our heads together for common sense.

Let’s get to work. It’s past time to challenge things that have become socially acceptable but are actually harmful and dangerous. Let’s do it before more harm is done. Lives are at stake and we are better than this.