Is it too extreme to speak the truth about gun violence?

personal photo of book

In my last post I wrote about the businesses who have decided to “come out” and tell their customers that they want nothing to do with their openly carried guns in their places of business. This would not have happened a month ago. But after the heinous shooting at an El Paso Walmart, it became obvious that any business could be the next one found in a Wikipedia entry for a mass shooting site. Who wants that to be your legacy?

Now the tide is coming in and it’s turning. A few days ago, 150 chief executives of some of America’s largest companies sent a letter to the Senate telling them that it’s “simply unacceptable” to not act on bills that could stop some of the gun violence that is affecting their customers and their businesses.

This is huge:

The letter — which urges the Republican-controlled Senate to enact bills already introduced in the Democrat-led House of Representatives — is the most concerted effort by the business community to enter the gun debate, one of the most polarizing issues in the nation and one that was long considered off limits.

It’s been “off limits” for far too long. The corporate gun lobby has made it so. And our elected leaders and many influential business leaders and others, for that matter, who could have made a difference decades ago have now decided to weigh in.

The thing is, the public has been ahead of elected leaders for decades now. Look at the latest poll which is just one of many showing the same results over the last few decades. Support is undeniable. But deny does Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump and the Republicans who have run out of excuses.

Why has it taken so long to act? Sometimes this is the way the system works I guess. But it does take bold action and a constant drumbeat of advocacy and also, I guess, one too many mass shootings, before it enters the collective consciousness of a country exhausted by the carnage.

When shootings in Dayton, Ohio, El Paso, Texas and then Odessa, Texas showed how people with AR-15s can inflict so much damage to human bodies in such a short time happened in rapid succession that appeared to be too much even for business leaders.

Let’s be clear. It’s been too much ever since the Columbine shooting became one of the first mass shootings to get the attention of the country. When our kids became the targets and the victims, mothers marched on DC in the Million Mom March in 2000. We were horrified at the shooting at a Jewish Day Care Center in California followed by the Columbine shooting and one brave woman, Donna Dees Thomases, stepped forward to lead the charge.

But that was 20 years ago. Since then, hundreds of thousands of Americans have died from gunshot injuries needlessly. We let the NRA lead the conversation with the second amendment as their foil to stop any common sense action to stop the next shooting. We let the gun lobby continue to protect gun manufacturer profits over lives. We let our leaders get away with avoiding any discussion about the role guns actually play in gun violence.

We are all to blame for this in a way. The Democrats got scared that if they touched the “third rail” of gun violence they would lose their seats. Never mind that thousands lost their loved ones. We tried. We have held rallies and hundreds of vigils. We have lobbied at the state and federal level. We have sent letters, made phone calls, visited with our leaders, lit candles, rang bells, and demanded action. We have lie-ins and sit-ins and stood up for common sense. We have protested in the streets of our towns and in the nation’s Capitol.

Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was shot and severely wounded at a Tucson gathering outside of a mall and a group named for her and now called Giffords was formed. After the totally unimaginable happened at Sandy Hook elementary school a new group of mothers and others began- Moms Demand Action and Everytown.

Together, groups who have been working for decades like Brady, Coalition to Stop Gun Violence and many independent state groups (States United) have been joined by a host of other groups to demand action. We are making a difference. Congress is now hearing us but the Republicans are not listening.

Even a few months ago, Democrats vying to become our next President would not have touched the issue of gun violence. But something happened after the Parkland shooting. The student survivors fought back and made their voices loud and clear. March For Our Lives joined the others and it was hard to ignore their young and articulate voices.

The tide is changing. At this week’s Democratic debate, candidates tripped all over themselves to be the one with the best plan for preventing gun violence. The loudest voice was that of former Texas Congressman Beto O’Rourke who represented El Paso. El Paso, the site of the mass shooting at a Walmart that was carried out by a White Supremacist whose rhetoric matched that of our sitting President. O’Rourke suspended his campaign to be with the victims in El Paso and it changed him.

Sitting with those whose sisters, brothers, children, aunts, uncles, mothers, fathers, cousins and friends have just been shot and killed so suddenly and violently is hard work. Who among us wants to listen to those stories? But we must hear their stories if change is to happen. And it was so clear that the shooter in the El Paso incident should not have had a gun. It was so clear that the Dayton shooter should not have had a gun but they both got them anyway.

And then, the Odessa shooting showed us how, if we had passed a law requiring a background check on every gun sale, we could have prevented the shooting death of 7 innocent people and the permanent disfigurement of the face of a 17 month old baby.

So when Beto O’Rourke described sitting with the mother of a 15 year old girl as she died from the horrendous injuries caused by bullets from an AR-15, it was too much. There were so many injured people because AR-15s can do that- shoot as many people as possible in as short a time as possible, that ambulances couldn’t respond to the mayhem. And so, the 15 year old died as her mother watched her bleed to death.

And now we have the famous statement made by Beto O’Rourke calling for a mandatory buyback of AR-15s and AK-47 assault style weapons originally meant for war. His description of why these weapons have been used and are used by the military was something we have not heard a candidate say before. His passion was genuine and heard loudly and clearly.

Even some Democrats came unglued and are wringing their hands. Oh my- what will happen now? Will we lose voters? Did we make people too angry? Will we lose the Presidency? What should we do about this perceived threat to gun rights? I guess time will tell how this shakes out. At the least it started a very important discussion about weapons designed for war in the hands of civilians.

What Beto O’Rourke did was “accidentally” or on purpose speak the truth. The public knows that it is AR-15s that have been used in many of our mass shootings. The public at large does not want these weapons in circulation so they get into the hands of people who intend mass carnage. Even many gun owners don’t want them, don’t need them, and are willing to give them up.

O’Rourke’s loud call was heard by a sitting Texas state Senator who issued a tweet heard ’round the country.

And this, dear readers, is why we need to act and act soon. When gun rights extremists occupy our state houses and Congress and believe they can own any weapon they want to own with no restrictions and then issue threatening rhetoric at candidates for office, we have turned a very dangerous corner.

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the passage of the Assault Weapons Ban and the 15th anniversary of its’ death. which was famously allowed to sunset in 2004 after only 10 years of keeping us safer from weapons designed for war. The gun lobby keeps trying to tell us that these weapons don’t kill many people compared to other guns. They tell us that they love them and we hate them because they are scary looking. They tell us that they need them for hunting and sport.

No. When they kill, they kill many at a time and the bullets do much more damage to human tissue. That is why the military likes them.

No. They are not good for hunting.

No. They are not needed by anyone for self defense or sport.

Here are some facts offered by Brady that were sent out on social media yesterday:

“In shootings with assault weapons or high-capacity magazines, 155% more people are shot and 47% more people are killed. These weapons of war were designed for mass destruction. (…) According to the @nytimes, the federal assault weapon ban — which ran from Sept. 13, 1994 to Sept. 13, 2004 — was associated with a 25% drop in gun massacres and 40% percent drop in fatalities.  (…) On September 13, 2004, Congress let the federal assault weapons ban expire. In the decade after, America saw a 347% increase in fatalities in gun massacres. Enough is enough. Congress: it’s past time to end this bloodshed and #BanAssaultWeapons now! “

Yes. We can save lives if we ban assault weapons. Yes. We can save lives if we pass universal background check and red flag laws. Yes. We can do this. Yes. It’s past time. Yes. Beto O’Rourke said something that people are talking about. Was it too extreme?

Was it to extreme for 53 Americans to be shot in mass shootings just in August?

Is it too extreme that the Republicans have stopped every reasonable gun bill coming their way and let Americans die as a result?

Is it too extreme to let the NRA write our gun bills?

Is ti too extreme that the NRA had help from Russia to get our current President get elected?

Is it too extreme that our President swings like a pendulum whenever a mass shooting happens and then fails to act?

Is the cost of an assault weapons buy-back too extreme?

Is the actual cost in billions of dollars attributed to gun violence and all that happens in the aftermath too extreme?

Is it too extreme that a group of student survivors had to write their own plan, in the absence of action from Congress, to stop gun violence?

Is it too extreme that a book, “If I Don’t Make It, I Love You” was published because children are texting their parents in terror during lock-down drills and during actual shootings? Survivors who wrote in the book are not extreme people. They are average Americans who have experienced the terror of school shootings and survived to tell their stories.

Is it too extreme that our children are the targets of mass shooters?

Is it too extreme that the American Federation of Teachers, March For Our Lives and Brady teamed up to run an ad in Politico showing a student hiding under a desk during a lock-down drill?

Is it too extreme that our schools have been forced to have these drills in the first place because our leaders refuse to act to prevent school shooters from getting guns in the first place?

I know the answers. I own the book pictured above and know some of the people who wrote sections of that book. I understand that even still, decades after shootings, they do not forget the terror. I also know some people affected by mass shootings and “everyday shootings” like my own sister’s. I know the emotional and financial trauma suffered by too many. I have met some of the survivors of these shootings and seen the sadness in their eyes.

You know the answers. The public understands. The Democrats are not afraid anymore. American business leaders are not afraid anymore. Teachers, parents and students are not afraid to speak out. Survivors are not afraid. The stakes are high. Lives are at stake.

The only ones still afraid of the corporate gun lobby are the ones who can make the difference.They are afraid they will lose their power and influence and yes, campaign donations. If they won’t act, we will. We will make sure they are voted out of office and left to wonder what happened and why they refused to act on our nation’s epidemic of gun violence.

#Enough

Valentine’s Day Massacre

On February 14th, 1929, in the midst of prohibition and Al Capone’s mob, there was a massacre in Chicago:

Chicago’s gang war reached its bloody climax in the so-called St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of 1929. One of Capone’s longtime enemies, the Irish gangster George “Bugs” Moran, ran his bootlegging operations out of a garage on the North Side of Chicago. On February 14, seven members of Moran’s operation were gunned down while standing lined up, facing the wall of the garage. Some 70 rounds of ammunition were fired. When police officers from Chicago’s 36th District arrived, they found one gang member, Frank Gusenberg, barely alive. In the few minutes before he died, they pressed him to reveal what had happened, but Gusenberg wouldn’t talk.

In 1934, as a result of the gang and mob violence in Chicago and elsewhere, often with the use of machine guns and silencers, Congress passed the 1934 National Firearms Act. This law required restrictions on the sale and possession of automatic guns like machine guns and also on gun silencers. Some wanted to ban these guns outright but in the end, the compromise was a national registry for these firearms, along with a lengthy waiting period and a $200 tax meant to discourage people from buying these products. The NRA supported the law. And Congress did something about the awful violence from the weapons on the list of those restricted.

And it worked. Machine guns and silencers are rarely, if ever, used in crime or shootings. Never mind that the corporate gun lobby and its’ minions in Congress would just love to have silencers back on the market so that anyone could have one. Imagine the Sandy Hook or Marjory Stoneman Douglas or any other mass shooting death toll if others in the buildings or vicinity did not hear gunshots going off to alert them to an emergency. It was actually the heinous mass shooting at a Las Vegas music concert, involving multiple rounds of ammunition and a bump stock on an assault rifle that derailed the bill to make silencers easier to purchase.

Good grief. What were they thinking in the first place? Never mind. The gun lobby does not like gun laws unless they loosen the restrictions on deadly weapons.

On Valentine’s Day of 2008 5 students were shot and killed and 17 injured at Northern Illinois University. 

A Graduate student who had stopped taking his medication for a psychiatric condition carried a shotgun and 3 handguns with many rounds of ammunition- because he could. Happy Valentine’s Day America.

Last Valentine’s Day there was a massacre as well. 17 students and teachers were massacred by a young man with a semiautomatic rifle who shot off 100 rounds into the bodies of human beings going about their everyday lives at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida:

It is the deadliest shooting at a high school in United States history, surpassing the Columbine High School massacre that took place on April 20, 1999. The shooting came at a period of heightened public support for gun control following attacks in Las Vegas, Nevada and Sutherland Springs, Texas respectively in October and November 2017.

And Congress did…………?

So again we are here imploring Congress to have the spine to stand up to the interests of the corporate gun lobby. In my last post, I wrote about the hearing that occurred last week- H.R. 8 to require background checks on all gun sales. H.R. 8 was passed out of the House Judiciary Committee last night. This will be the first such bill to get a hearing, pass out of committee and get a vote on the House floor in decades. We expect the bill to get a floor vote later this month. This is the best news I have heard in a long time. The timing was not a coincidence. It passed just as the country will be remembering the victims of the Parkland shooting. Thank you to the members of the committee who voted with the American public. It was, of course, a party-line vote with all Republicans voting against it. Why? We know the answer.

There will be a vote in the House but the Senate, controlled by Republicans and the Presidency, bought and paid for by the NRA ( and perhaps in collusion with the Russians) will be too afraid to do the right thing. They will fail us again.

Meanwhile, what is going on with the Parkland students who have been so eloquent and have changed the entire conversation around gun violence in America?:

The teens haven’t stopped working, urging young people to register and vote even though some of the students thrust into celebrity are barely old enough to vote themselves. They’ve been lobbying for tighter restrictions on firearms and challenging the National Rifle Association and the politicians it supports.
More: After Parkland shooting: A day-by-day fight over guns in America 
“I’ll always care about the issues that face our nation,” Kasky told USA TODAY. “And I will always feel dedicated to helping play a part in solving them.”
Kris Brown, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, lauded the students as articulate – and understandably angry. She noted that after the 2012 attack at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, the survivors were very young children whose parents took up the challenge. High-schoolers made the scene different, she said.

“A lot of time the media is rushing to the site of a mass shooting but not finding a lot of people to talk to,” Brown said. “Here, you had people willing to talk, and articulate.” (…) The school will mark the tragic anniversary Thursday with a Day of Service and Love. Students will be serving breakfast to local first responders and packing meals for undernourished children. Mental health experts and therapy dogs will be there. At 10:17 a.m., the entire district and the community is asked to observe a moment of silence to honor the 17 who lost their lives. (…) There was no significant federal legislation, but the Trump administration did issue a federal regulation banning bump stocks.
The shootings “started a journey that we are still witnessing,” Brown said. “These kids are still out there, and they have made change.”

They are still out there, many still hoping for common sense from Congress. As teen-agers they have been amazingiy resilient, articulate, brave, bold and persistent. But they, like those of us who have been doing this for decades, have discovered how difficult it is to change the gun laws and the conversation around guns and gun violence.

It doesn’t have to be this way but here we are. Only in America.

Today please take action. Participate in a service in your community. Donate to a gun violence prevention organization of your choice. Call your Congress members and ask them to support H.R. 8 in the name of the victims and survivors of the Parkland shooting. Attend a local event if there is one. In Minnesota there is a Protect Minnesota Broken Hearts day in remembrance of the Parkland shooting victims and a lobby day to let legislators know that we want them to support legislation to expand background checks and for Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

And, as always happens after one of the many mass shootings in America, parents of the victims get involved in passionate pleas to do something. They know the pain. They grieve. They are angry. They are resolved. They want something to happen. Such is the case with one of the most high profile of the Parkland parents, Fred Guttenberg. Here is an article about him:

Guttenberg used to own Dunkin’ Donuts franchises; now he’s become a full-time activist opposing the NRA and telling any politician who will listen about what happened to his daughter, a high school freshman and competitive dancer. He has one rule: “I wouldn’t ever sit down with these people — I stood,” Guttenberg says. “I did not want to make anybody feel comfortable talking about what happened to my daughter…the second-to-last to be shot, on the third floor of this school, running from an active shooter. One shot in her spine. Because it could have been their kid, and they’re going to know that.”

“It could have been their kid”…… Yes it could have and could be. Once it happens your whole perspective changes. Nothing is the same and suddenly gun violence is a thing. I appreciate the parents who put themselves out there knowing that ugly conspiracy theorists will attack them and deny their grief as if it isn’t real; knowing that the gun lobby will argue against common sense and lie and deceive in spite of the tragic violence happening every day.

What if it was their kid? What if it was their sister, father, mother, brother, good friend?

I will be in spirit with the students, friends and parents and with those who are taking action. Sadly, I will be attending the funeral of a very good friend and supporting her family. As it turns out they are a gun owning family who have always supported common sense gun legislation. They understand that gun laws and owning guns can co-exist.

I will be grieving with my good friend’s family today. I will also grieve for my own sister as I do at the funerals of others. But I will rejoice that we are moving forward to change how things are to how they can and should be.

In memory of the victims of the Parkland shooting:

Alyssa Alhadeff, 14

Scott Beigel, 35

Martin Duque Anguiano, 14

Nicholas Dworet, 17

Aaron Feis, 37

Jaime Guttenberg, 14

Chris Hixon, 49

Luke Hoyer, 15

Cara Loughran, 14

Gina Montalto, 14

Joaquin Oliver, 17

Alaina Petty, 14

Meadow Pollack, 18

Helena Ramsay, 17

Alex Schachter, 14

Carmen Schentrup, 16

Peter Wang, 15

3 + 9 equals mass shooting

Protect MinnesotaYesterday another mass shooting happened in America. It is probably not a surprise that it happened again in Florida. The gun laws in Florida are particularly loose ones and Florida has become the laboratory of the NRA’s agenda, thanks to NRA Board member Marion Hammer.

But things are changing even in Florida after the Parkland students and the country stood up and said “no more”in marches and student walkouts all over America that came from the March For Our Lives movement.

A shooter decided to direct his anger or frustration or whatever the heck he was thinking at innocent other people who were just hanging out at a gaming tournament in Jacksonville, Florida. And so now we have to think twice about going to gaming events as well as schools, shopping malls, churches, parks, stores, being in homes, workplaces, colleges, preschools, and other places where American citizens go everyday.

It is unquestionable that too many guns and too easy access to guns by just about everyone is leading to an unsafe society. It is also an impolite and violent society. The culture of the corporate gun lobby is what the problem actually is. When so many people can buy so many guns of most any type so easily, we can expect to see just about every corner of our country experiencing gun deaths and injuries.

In Jacksonville, Florida yesterday, 2 were shot dead by the shooter who shot himself and 11 were injured, 9 by gunfire.

The 2 innocent people who died of their gunshot injuries were Taylor Robinson and Eli Clayton. Look at their faces and say their names.

In a live recording from the scene, gunshots can be heard and then screaming and the sound of people running. That is what the first reaction is- run for your life. If anyone had a gun there, they didn’t use it to stop the carnage. It would be rare if they did.

And the sound of bullets firing from a gun, screaming and running have become part of the American landscape.

The math is not good for shootings in Florida- or anywhere else for that matter.  The Parkland shooting has changed the landscape about gun safety reform in our country. It’s only been 6 months since that heinous shooting. And it’s only been about a week since a shooting at a high school football game in Jacksonville left 1 shot dead and 2 injured in an apparent gang member shooting:

“It is shocking. I was actually here, at the game,” Superintendent Diana Greene told the Times Union. “It was a great game and for it to end in violence like this is just unfortunate, and quite frankly, we should all be saying unacceptable.”

The superintendent said everyone coming into the game had to undergo a magnetic detector wand search and that security inside the game area was tight.

“This is a community issue,” Greene said. “I need parents, students to stand up. If you see something, say something.”

Friday’s shooting followed by one week a shooting at a high school football game in Palm Beach County, Fla., where two adults were wounded.

Really? A shooting the week before at another Florida football game before the Jacksonville shooting?

I would say it’s an understatement that this is a community issue important enough for parents and students to stand up and say something.

Where is common sense?

And let’s ask the obvious question. Where are all of the guns coming from?  Stolen? Trafficking? Straw purchasing? Private sale with not background check? Whatever the source, we can do something about all of it if we put our minds together and decide to stand up for common sense and right.

As kids go back to school, they will be facing another year where no parent knows whether their child will make it home after school. Children are fearful of being shot. In my last post, I discussed products sold to protect our children from harm. And I also discussed the ludicrous notion proposed by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to spend federal funds to arm teachers.

How many kids are affected by gun violence every day? 8. Eight is 8 too many. The numbers are too high and shouldn’t add up to death or injury by bullets. How many kids have lost their lives so far this year to bullets? According to the Gun Violence Archive= 2236. 

Until we decide that the best way forward is prevention rather than taking measures after the fact or measures that deal with a shooting in progress, we will not protect our children and our citizens from gun violence.

The Brady Campaign’s new campaign to talk about the risks of family fire- End Family Fire- is a way to look at gun violence from the prevention and public health aspect as it should be. Passing stronger laws can prevent shootings. All gun violence prevention organizations at the state and federal level are promoting prevention measures and proactive measures to save lives.

Speaking of the Brady Campaign, here is a statement about the Jacksonville shooting:

“Americans deserve to be safe, whether at school, a football game, a club, an airport, an art exhibition, a church, a workplace, a concert, or — as of today — a gaming tournament. We await the details of this shooter’s plans and how he got his gun, but we already know that far more gun deaths happen every day in America than among any other industrialized nation. We can stop the shootings if we enforce our existing gun laws, including the Brady background check system, and eliminate the gaps in our our nation’s laws that make it far too easy for dangerous people to get firearms to use as killing machines.”

Protect Minnesota is urging young people and students to get involved in a new text program. Check out the meme above for more information. The Brady Campaign also has a text for action program (877-877) as do most other groups.  Brady’s #TeamEnough is a good way to get involved for young people.

Many good things are going on and I’m proud to be part of it all.

But where are Congress and our legislators?

We are better than this.

#Enough

In support of safe communities

register to voteWe have a problem ( we have many actually) in the country with so many senior Americans living in homes with guns. In my last post, I wrote about the need for Red Flag laws in order to save lives. A fine example of how these laws work to save lives is this incident of a woman whose husband “accidentally” shot her in the stomach. He had dementia but still she brought out his guns at his request so he could look at them. Unfortunately for all, he picked up one of the guns, pulled the trigger and shot his wife in the stomach. She lived. And yet, she was OK with this because she didn’t want to take away his dignity. But what’s more important here?

Education of the public is needed to explain the provisions of these kinds of laws. Families of gun owners often don’t believe that a loved one could possibly be a danger or pose a risk. But why take a risk with lethal weapons? From the article:

About a year before the shooting, Dee reluctantly took away his car keys. When he still insisted on driving, she sold the car. When he wanted to check on their guns, she locked them in their safe in a shed behind the house and changed the combination.

Dee did the right thing in taking away the car keys. She could have avoided getting shot had she not taken the guns out of the locked gun safe.

At the end of the piece, a common sense discussion occurs with another woman who made the decision to sell her husband’s guns. And further, the article ends with an interview with a physician and the dilemma about talking to elderly patients about guns in the home. This may the time to remind my readers that the NRA has tried to stop physicians from asking about guns in homes. Why? Second amendment I guess.

There really are some people who should not have guns.

This is a no brainer. Of course we have to have these discussions. And of course health care providers should talk to patients about the risk of guns in the home. And of course we need to pass more Red Flag laws. It’s all a matter of common sense and has nothing to do with rights. It’s about safer families and communities.

The Parkland students are touring the country with the Road to Change tour this summer. They are also talking about safer communities wherever they go. There are many ways to have safer communities. One is to pass stronger gun laws. These students understand that because they experienced a tragedy on Feb. 14th at their school and nothing has been the same since.

They are asking, “When is this going to end?”

Good question.

While the students were in Minneapolis, I went to a picnic and met some of them. It was great to chat a bit with Emma Gonzalez and David Hogg, two of the outspoken Parkland students who have become heroes to many. I had a particularly good conversation with a student from Chicago who joined the tour as the group stopped there on their tour. We talked about easy access to guns, about the homicides in Chicago, about the difference between urban gun violence and gun suicides which can be prevalent in more urban areas. In the end, it’s the bullets that take lives whether homicide or suicide.

We agreed that we would all be safer if we passed a federal background check law to stop guns from states with more lenient gun laws making their way into states like Illinois with stronger gun laws. Chuck’s gun shop came up as the Brady Campaign has organized some protests there to show how Bad Apple Gun Dealers can add to urban gun violence.

While the students were in Minneapolis they did several things. One of the major goals is to register young people to vote in order to make the changes we need. They did register voters. They also attended a vigil for Thurman Blevins, the man shot by police in Minneapolis in a confrontation that turned deadly. To date there are conflicting reports about this shooting and it appears that the body camera footage of the officers will be released soon. Clearly guns cause a lot of conflict, a lot of heartache, a lot of tragedy and senseless violence in our communities no matter who is shooting them.  There are too many guns out there and as a result there are too many shootings. There is also fear about the too many guns in our communities leading to more fear from citizens and officers alike often leading to more shootings.

There were also more active shooting incidents last year than in previous years. This should come as no surprise to most of us and particularly not to the Parkland community or any community where recent shootings have taken place.This new FBI report released recently has the facts about this. From the article:

Active shooting incidents have continued to plague the nation but last year, there were 30 incidents across the U.S. — the highest number since the FBI began tracking the phenomenon. Last year also broke a record for the highest death toll in any single year.

“Faced with so many tragedies, society routinely wrestles with a fundamental question: can anything be done to prevent attacks on our loved ones, our children, our schools, our churches, concerts and communities?” the study says. “There is cause for hope because there is something that can be done.”

And also of interest is the fact that most of the shooters in these incidents got their guns legally ( though maybe shouldn’t have):

The 30-page report examines active shooter incidents from 2000 to 2013 and suspects in 63 cases, finding suspects showed signs before they attacked but law enforcement wasn’t notified in more than half the cases until it was too late.

Forty percent of suspects purchased a firearm or multiple guns legally for the sole purpose of an attack. Another 35 percent already legally owned a gun before planning an attack, meaning 75 percent of active shooter incidents reviewed by the FBI legally owned the gun they used in the attack.

The remaining suspects stole, borrowed or purchased a weapon illegally.

It’s so easy to get guns in America. If one intends to carry out a shooting, one can do it without a problem. Speaking of legal and illegal guns, the Heller decision is now 10 years old. 

The Supreme Court decided in Heller the second amendment could be interpreted to mean that individuals have the right to have guns in their homes, more or less ignoring the section of the amendment that deals with a “well regulated militia” as had been an established precedent previous to the decision.

The above linked article from the Brady Center discusses that decision and what it has meant for our country’s gun laws and public safety.

And what a day to mention this given that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement today. What will this mean for gun rights and gun violence prevention? Here is the statement from the Brady Campaign about Kennedy’s retirement from the bench.  From the statement:

“President Trump has made no secret of his desires to reshape the Supreme Court to be hostile to common sense gun laws. Indeed, the NRA and the gun lobby are already celebrating today’s announcement. We will see what the coming weeks hold and who is appointed to the nation’s highest court, but rest assured – we will continue the fight to protect Americans’ right to be safe from gun violence. Brady has been fighting in the courts for 30 years, and we aren’t going anywhere. We’re up to the challenge.”

We are up to the challenges facing us and will continue our work to keep our families and communities safe from devastating gun violence. We stand behind the students in their efforts to make changes. We stand with the rule of law. We stand with common sense. We stand with the victims.

And we stand with the rights of everyone qualified to be able to vote. For that is the way to make the changes that are needed in our communities and to public health and safety. We must protect that right above all things. Pay attention to what is going on around you and do whatever it takes to make sure our rights to safe communities, our rights to vote, our rights to health care, women’s rights, civil rights, workers rights, rights to marry who we love, and the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are preserved. Our democracy is under siege. We have to work to save lives and our democracy.

 

 

Do Something

santa-fe-high-school14-ap-ml-180518_hpEmbed_8x5_992
Michael Ciaglo/Houston Chronicle via AP

There are hardly words any more. All I know is that I almost felt numb after today’s school shooting in Santa Fe, Texas. 10 are left dead and 10 injured. How can we endure this again and again and again and again.

We can’t.

We must do something. We can’t go numb. The Star Tribune published this editorial today after the shooting. I couldn’t agree more. Please don’t go numb:

Instead, a busy school morning was shattered by gunfire, and now 10 people are dead, mostly students, and more wounded. Some escaped by running, at a teacher’s instruction, to the theater department’s storage room, where they huddled while the smell of gunpowder hung in the air. Paige Curry, according to the Houston Chronicle, hid for half an hour, “on the phone with my mom the whole time.” Imagine being the mother who gets that early morning call from a terrified child who might be gunned down while you’re still on the phone with her. A daughter who is relying on your voice to calm her even as you wonder whether you will ever hear her voice again.

Imagine.

Can you?

Look at the photo accompanying the piece. LOOK AT THE PHOTO. WHAT IF THAT WERE YOU?

It could be- that’s the thing.

This is a media release written for our local press:

On March 24th 2018, about 1000 students and community members marched in Duluth Minnesota, saying that we have had ENOUGH of innocent students losing their lives to gun violence in America. Months later, it’s happened again, this time in a Texas school. Students at this school claimed they weren’t surprised that it happened to them.

Please join us June 2nd for National Gun Violence Awareness Day and lend your voice to demanding much needed change. https://www.facebook.com/events/192992358010479/

March For Our Lives Duluth, the Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota chapter and Moms Demand Action Duluth chapter are saddened and angered by yet another mass school shooting in America. Kids should not be sitting ducks and have to endure the fear of bullets in their schools and classrooms. After the Parkland school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, 17 students were killed. Now 10 more families will have to suffer the devastation of the loss of a loved one.

This is the 22nd school shooting of the year already. We are also concerned with the 96 Americans, 8 of them children, who lose their lives to bullets every day in our country. A few days ago a 7 year old first grader in Plymouth, Minnesota found a loaded gun in a box and shot and killed himself. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

It is unavoidable to talk about the role of guns in our national public health crisis. Please see this article by columnist David Frum. https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2018/05/its-the-guns/560771/?utm_source=atlfb

The Minnesota legislature had several chances to pass a universal background check and Extreme Risk Protection Order bill but failed 90% of Minnesotans by refusing to vote them out of committee or bring them to the floor. This is not OK with us.

The fact that gun injuries have taken more lives than U. S. service members is simply outrageous. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/politics/wp/2018/05/18/2018-has-been-deadlier-for-schoolchildren-than-service-members/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.53767397c367

Elected leaders are responsible for bringing life saving bills to votes. The fact that they have not should be a wake-up call to us all. 97% of Americans support universal background checks. Only 1.5% of Americans are NRA members. Most gun owners and NRA members support these life saving measures.

We are calling on our elected leaders to act immediately to pass life saving bills. We are also calling on Minnesotans and Americans to listen to these young leaders who are demanding change.

June 2nd is National Wear Orange and Gun Violence Awareness Day. In Duluth, activists and the public will be standing on the corners of Lake Avenue and Superior St. from 10:00 a.m. to Noon holding signs and wearing orange to demand change to our gun laws and our gun culture. We urge people who are fed up with the inaction of our leaders to come and wave a sign in solidarity with the families who are hurting and grieving after this horrendous loss of life in Santa Fe, Texas.

 

We are tired of being tired of the carnage.

The whole country has had #Enough.

After Parkland we said #Neveragain.

But here we are again.

Where is common sense?

Our hearts are broken.

Protect Minnesota is holding a rally today to demand the change Minnesotans deserve before the session is over.

The Minnesota legislature is scrambling to finish the session. Will they finish without enacting any gun safety reform measures? If so, shame on them.

I end with the statement from the Brady Campaign:

Brady Campaign co-presidents Kris Brown and Avery Gardiner stated:

“We are heartbroken today. Once again, children are shot in their school. Once again, another mass shooting has grabbed the headlines, and meanwhile, so many other shootings go by without any attention. We’ve asked this time and time again – what will it take? What will it take for Congress to step up and do their jobs to protect innocent children from gun violence? Our hearts go out to the victims and their loved ones today, and we fervently hope that perhaps this is the day when our elected officials stand and take action.”

Do something.

 

Happy Mother’s Day

pitcher_flwrs_csIt’s that day when we remember our mothers. Mothers deserve our respect. Everyone has one for one thing. My sister was shot and killed in 1992, leaving behind 3 children and 3 step children. Her grandchildren were born after her death so they never got to know her and her adult children do not have a mother to whom to send flowers and a card.

Mothers started a movement in 2000 with the Million Mom March which I attended. It was on Mother’s Day and was meant to call attention to the fact that mothers cared a lot about losing children, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and others to gunshot injuries. All we wanted were some common sense gun measures that would save lives. President Clinton and Hillary Clinton were there that day to support the mostly mothers in the crowd,

The mother who started the movement, Donna Dees-Thomases was so incensed about the shooting at the Jewish Community Day Care in 1999 that she got a permit for the march thinking that maybe 50,000 would show up. And then Columbine happened. And then the country was tuned in to school shootings and 750.000 showed up on the National Mall to demand changes to our gun laws.

Some of the mothers whose children survived the shooting at the Jewish Community Center marched in 2000 and have remained active in efforts to stop gun violence.

But Congress chose not to listen to the mothers who marched that day.

The Brady Campaign merged with the Million Mom March and its’ chapters continue to work for gun safety reform.

One small measure passed after the Virginia Tech shooting- to require states to send the records of those who were adjudicated mentally ill to the FBI data base so people like the shooter of 32 at Virginia Tech would be prohibited from buying guns at Federally Licensed Dealers only. Many mothers lost children on that day and some of them whose children survived have become activists for gun violence prevention.

Let us not forget though that this symbolic measure is not enough to stop someone intent on harming others from getting guns from private sellers at gun shows or on-line. Because…..rights?

And then the Aurora theater shooting happened. I have come to know one mother who lost her only daughter (Jessica Ghawi) in that horrific shooting. Her mother Sandy has been working ever since so that other mothers won’t suffer the pain she has suffered.

After that shooting, what did Congress do?

Right.

 

 

And then 20 small children were massacred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December of 2014. Mothers lost their precious children in what has become a marker for the cowardice of Congress failing mothers and others by not passing a background check bill that came before them.

The NRA opposed the bill. Enough said.

I know the mother of a young TV journalist, Allison Parker, who was shot on live TV by someone who should not have had a gun. Her anguish is palpable but Barbara is not deterred by the cowardice of our leaders.

The meaning of mother’s day for those mothers and the families of mothers who have lost their lives to gun violence is forever changed.

After Sandy Hook, Shannon Watts started a movement called Moms Demand Action. Shannon Watts is a mother. So are most of the members of MDA. They are also fathers, brothers, sisters, and others who work to prevent gun violence. She is also threatened and mocked by the NRA and others who must be quite unnerved by hundreds of thousands of mothers demanding change.

What has happened since then? Some states have passed universal background check laws. Some have passed assault weapons bans.. Some have passed Extreme Risk Protection Orders. 

But in defiance of the majority and of mothers, many states have also made it easier for people who shouldn’t have guns to get them. 

Shameful.

 

It’s more than a shame. Shame is not enough for the lack of leadership and courage by many of our leaders. The mothers and others in the groups I have mentioned represent the 97% of us who are asking for change in the name of the dead and injured. The corporate gun lobby and specifically the NRA represents about 7% of gun owners and even fewer of the entire nation.

 

Mothers and women continue their efforts to demand change. The Women’s March after the inaugural of our 45th President in protest the election of a man who does not support issues that affect most women and their families. Many mothers were there that day and our kids watched as we marched in DC and all over America in one of the biggest marches in DC. Gun safety reform was one of the issues and continues to one of the issues of concern for the Women’s March.

The student movement that began on Valentine’s Day of this year after the Parkland shooting has stirred up the country and changed everything. The mothers of those students are proud of their kids and the courage they exhibit that our leaders have not. Again- a record breaking crowd in DC came out on March 24th to March For Our Lives and let our leaders know that change must happen.

The President made some initial noise but as always, he sputters and spouts and preens for the cameras and then does nothing. Or worse, he goes in the opposite direction.

How can you raise the hopes of victims and survivors and then crash them after such a horrendous shooting?

Shameful and cynical.

We’ve collectively had #Enough. We know we are better than this but our leaders are failing us. They are letting mothers and others die senseless and avoidable deaths because they lack the courage of the mothers, students and others who are raising their voices and fighting back.

They are letting our children be sitting ducks in our schools. They are failing the next generation.

But change is coming. Mothers will not be silent. Remember the origin of this holiday:

The origins of Mother’s Day as celebrated in the United States date back to the 19th century. In the years before the Civil War, Ann Reeves Jarvis of West Virginia helped start “Mothers’ Day Work Clubs” to teach local women how to properly care for their children.

These clubs later became a unifying force in a region of the country still divided over the Civil War. In 1868 Jarvis organized “Mothers’ Friendship Day,” at which mothers gathered with former Union and Confederate soldiers to promote reconciliation.

Another precursor to Mother’s Day came from the abolitionist and suffragette Julia Ward Howe. In 1870 Howe wrote the “Mother’s Day Proclamation,” a call to action that asked mothers to unite in promoting world peace. In 1873 Howe campaigned for a “Mother’s Peace Day” to be celebrated every June 2.

Mothers and others just want our leaders to do the right thing. Doing it soon will save the lives of many.

It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the Star Tribune editorial board published this piece for today’s edition:

Gun violence is not a Democrat-vs.-Republican issue. It’s not a rural-vs.-urban issue. And despite what leaders are telling you, there is ample time left to pass legislation that would make a real difference. When they need to beat the clock, legislators pass massive bills in minutes with virtually no discussion. That’s not an ideal way to legislate, but make no mistake, it happens. Avoiding debate all session and then claiming a lack of time is cowardly and falls short of the leadership Minnesotans expect.

Republicans should pass their school security package as a stand-alone bill, knowing Gov. Mark Dayton would sign it. They should pass enhanced criminal-background checks. That issue has been discussed for years at the Capitol.

“What is it going to take in Minnesota and American society to curb gun violence?” Serier asked an editorial writer. “In our schools we have to have active-shooter drills for kindergartners. That is one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever heard of. If that’s the world we’re living in, it’s time to change it.”

Will it take mothers losing more children and children losing more mothers?

The answer is yes since nothing is being done to stop the devastation.

Pass the bills supported by almost everyone. Give mothers a gift that will last forever. Give flowers and gifts but the lasting gift of knowing that we can prevent some of the senseless shootings in our communities will at the least give mothers peace of mind.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone. Enjoy your families. Keep working for common sense and making our families safe from gun violence.

Keep marching and keep advocating.

NRA convention hypocrisy

nogunsat NRAWell, it’s that time of year again. The NRA convention trots out good old Wayne LaPierre, bearer of fear and paranoia, to whip up the crowd and make everyone want to go right out to buy a gun to protect themselves from all of the evilness out there. It’s mostly in the form of Democrats and those silly liberal gun violence prevention activists. We are a scary bunch for sure. We’re coming for their guns but just haven’t figured out how to find out where they are and how we would get them.

Never mind. They say we’re still coming. It’s going to be Armegeddon for sure. Or maybe a Civil War. That would be fun.

And for the first time in history, a sitting President addressed the convention for the 3rd time ( once as a candidate). Does anyone remember when the President sat in a room in the White House assuring victims and survivors after the Parkland shooting that he would do something about the epidemic of gun violence? Yes. He said he would. And then he taunted politicians about their fear of the NRA. What’s to be afraid of anyway?

Let’s watch what the President said and then reflect on the 180 degree turn around after spending time with NRA leaders:

We are talking about the lives of our children. Such hypocrisy and disingenuous ( and even lies) are disturbing to say the least. We are better than this.

Trump also believes (in his speech to the NRA) that the NRA just loves the country. Take a look:

“This is a great organization that loves this country,” Trump told reporters aboard Air Force One en route to Dallas. “The NRA is a truly great organization that loves this country. And we have a record crowd.”

This is Trump’s fourth consecutive address to the NRA’s annual meeting, but his first remarks to the group since the tragic Parkland, Florida, high school shooting that left 17 dead and sparked a national student-led push for gun law reform.

“The world is watching and we’re going to come up with a solution,” Trump assured a group of people affected by the nation’s deadliest school shootings during an emotional White House listening session one week after the attack.

Not true. Trump will NOT come up with a solution. He’s lying. Neither will the country loving NRA. They have shown us time after time that they don’t care about the lives lost. Remember when Charleston Heston went to the NRA convention in Denver right after the Columbine shooting? I do. So do the victims and survivors of that shooting. You can see his famous remarks:

Back to the meeting the President had with victims and survivors- He suggested a few good measures that would actually save lives and prevent some of those victims and survivors from having to advocate for preventing devastating shootings. What happened? The NRA came calling. And soon enough, Trump stopped talking about preventing shootings and was back to his bluster and hypocrisy.

#WeCallBS

And does it make any sense at all for the President to carry on at the convention so soon after all of the talk about gun violence in light of so many recent mass shootings? Here are a few of his ludicrous remarks:

Mr. Trump, as he has in the past, made the case for arming teachers, and getting rid of gun-free zones.

He also mourned the Parkland shooting victims.

“Our entire nation was filled with shock and grief by the monstrous attack on a high school in Parkland, Florida,” Mr. Trump said. “We mourn for the victims and their families.”

WHAT? Come on.

Back to the NRA convention, the crowd got a double barreled pleasure since VP Pence also showed up. Have you ever seen Pence with a gun by the way? Does he even hunt? I don’t know if he has much in the line of gun creds but he sure has been cozy with the NRA. 

And neither does Trump. But what they do have is Republican extremism and that’s what the NRA is all about today.

They are not your grandfather’s NRA. They are all about fear and terror:

You don’t have to be a media critic to parse the message: The NRA was casting virtually everyone but gun-owning conservatives as enemies of the state, seemingly encouraging its audience to arm themselves against their fellow Americans. Women’s March Co-President Tamika Mallory, a single black mother from New York, published an open letter on the group’s web site calling on the NRA to take the video down. “The video you sponsored,” she wrote, “suggests armed violence against communities of color, progressives, and anyone who does not agree with this administration’s policies.”

“I’m here to tell you: Not a chance,” replied Grant Stinchfield, Loesch’s angry-white-male counterpart, in an NRA TV video that called Mallory out by name, along with Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson. “We don’t apologize for warning America about chaos creators who want to impose their will upon us through their violence and lies.”

Dana Loesch, NRA TV personality and spokeswoman for fear, will be talking at the NRA convention. She represents the new face of the NRA since it has become an extremist organization. From the linked article:

The NRA of Loesch and Stinchfield would have been utterly unrecognizable to the organization’s membership as recently as 50 years ago. From its founding in 1871 throughout most of the twentieth century, the NRA was largely a firearms-safety and marksmanship-training organization. The NRA kept its members informed about legislation affecting gun owners, but it had no official lobbying arm, and it was a political nonentity. But with the passage of the Gun Control Act of 1968, everything began to change.

Yes. And everything is beginning to chance the other way, at long last. Activists, including Victims groups will be visible and noisy outside of he NRA convention.

Carry Guard insurance, sold by the NRA, is now in trouble as well:

In a Wednesday announcement, the New York State Department of Financial Services said the NRA’s Carry Guard program “unlawfully provided liability insurance to gun owners for certain acts of intentional wrongdoing,” and that the group solicited coverage to New York residents without a license from the state. Lockton, the world’s largest privately held insurance brokerage, has agreed to pay the state $7 million for the violations, and will terminate Carry Guard policies held by New Yorkers.

Department of Financial Services Superintendent Maria T. Vullo described the conduct as “an egregious violation of public policy.” (…)

Following the February mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, Chubb disclosed that it had decided not to renew its contract to underwrite the program. Lockton also stated its intention to no longer act as broker and administrator for Carry Guard.

“It’s a major step back,” Peter Kochenburger, the executive director of the Insurance Law Center at the University of Connecticut Law School, told The Trace’s Mike Spies in February. “To keep this going, the NRA will have to find another insurance company to underwrite this. It’s hard to imagine another publicly traded company, or a company like State Farm, stepping in.”

It turns out that companies are not happy with the idea that they may have to pay out if some “good guy” with a gun shoots someone intentionally and gets away with it. I wonder why?

I wonder, by the way, if they will send Ted Nugent out to offend people? At least his images and some products with his name on them will be there.

Oh, and among the items featured on display at the shopping area of the convention is a gun that looks like a cell phone. I’m pretty sure I wrote about this before. But let’s marvel at the total lack of sensibility and common sense involved with this new weapon. What could possibly go wrong?

Does anyone remember the recent shooting of Stephon Clark?

What could possibly go wrong with a gun like this? I can’t even begin to enumerate how wrong this is.

Sigh.

Police officers, ever on the alert when they are in tense situations, have mistaken all kinds of common objects for guns.  It seems ridiculous on its’ face but it’s America where just about anyone can own and carry a gun.

Also featured at the NRA convention is a gun free zone. No good guys with guns to protect the President and Vice President. What are they afraid of?

The Brady Campaign has a great new report out with a timeline about what the NRA has been up to in the past year. The report, titled “Fear and Fanaticism; a year like no other” is spot on. Given the number of horrendous mass shootings in the past year, setting a record of the number of deaths (Las Vegas) the country has had a deadly year. The report includes a list of some of the shootings and the response by the NRA.

mass shooting image Brady

There’s a new atmosphere out there after the Parkland shooting. The majority of Americans have found their voices and they are speaking out. For too long, people resistant to the extremes of the NRA have remained quiet. It’s easier that way because the trolls and critics pounce and it’s not pretty.

Not this time. There are many people like me at the NRA convention this year letting them know how we feel. We aren’t having their nonsensical rhetoric and their myths. And we are getting ready for the fall elections when the issue of gun safety reform will be front and center. Candidates will have to decide on whose side they stand. Preventing shootings and protecting our families from devastation really has no side. It’s a human and moral issue and part of our American values. It’s not about gun sales. It’s not about rights. It’s not about power and control. It’s not about money and influence.

It’s about our lives. That is why students and others came out in very large numbers to March For Our Lives events all over out country. They are not done yet. In fact, they have only begun and many will be voters in the mid-term elections.

It’s Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

#NoRA

UPDATE:

I used the hashtag #NoRA but did not include the article referring to the latest effort against the powerful organization. A group of 100 celebrities and activists have sent a letter to Wayne LaPierre in which they have pledged to a series of actions to reduce the influence of the organization on politicians:

In an open letter to NRA Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre, which was first obtained by TIME, the more than 100 members of the newly formed NoRA Initiative — short for No Rifle Association — pledge to reduce the NRA’s influence in American politics through a series of voter registration drives, nationwide art campaigns, demonstrations and boycotts. (…) She says the group has “surprises up our sleeves,” including for events timed to the NRA’s annual convention in Dallas May 3-6. “When like-minded people come together for the common good and for a cause they believe in,” Milano said, “they can move mountains.”

I look forward to the actions and to changing the influence of the corporate gun lobby’s money and influence that has led to inaction to save lives.