We should never forget

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We shouldn’t think these will be the worst.

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

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

Where is common sense?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I just know deeply . . . ”

He cut off the thought and began another.

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

He tapped his fingers over his heart.

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

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

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

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

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

Every day – we remember.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#Enough

 

 

Vote them out

Time cover
Time magazine

This week, the Minnesota House Public Safety committee did not have the courage to take a vote on whether to move a background check bill and a Gun Violence Protection Order bill out of committee for a vote. Those who voted against taking the bills off the table where they had been since hearings about a month ago were cowardly, afraid, insensitive, clueless, and tone deaf. If they don’t get what the student movement is about, they will find out. After the vote in the committee, red and orange shirted Moms Demand Action and Protect Minnesota volunteers got up and walked out chanting “Vote them out.”

The students have made a difference in Minnesota and all over the country. Their voices are resonating in the halls of our legislatures and Congress. Were it not for students politely asking why the Minnesota Senate would not hear the gun safety bills sitting in committee and being “escorted” out of the room, the Senator Democratic minority leader Tom Bakk may not have written this extraordinary piece in today’s Duluth News Tribune,:

I want it to be clear: I support these students’ efforts to motivate the institution into holding hearings. I support several common-sense gun-safety measures. And I’d welcome another opportunity for bipartisan compromise in the state Senate. We owe it our students.

It is not lost on Senator Bakk that there will be at least 2 student marches today in small towns in his district, in the middle of hunting and gun owning country. There will be at least 13 marches today all over Minnesota. Let the student voices be heard. They will make the difference.

We’ve had #enough of this equivocating, avoidance, and ignoring a national public health epidemic that is killing our kids. We will remember in November the cowardice of these legislators. The student movement is staring them in the face. Tomorrow it is expected that tens of thousands of people will be marching all over our country to demand action and common sense from our leaders. March For Our Lives is happening. I marched in the Million Mom March in 2000 with 750,000 others who had hope. But nothing happened. Why? The Republicans were in control of the House and Senate and paid allegiance to the corporate gun lobby. They abrogated their responsibility to our kids. The Columbine school shooting had occurred shortly before the march. Even that could not persuade them.

The Million Mom March chapters merged with the Brady Campaign in chapters all over the country. We are actively involved with the students who are planning the marches all over the country and with the students who have come to DC to march. By hosting workshops, speakers and events, they are helping the students hone their messaging and their skills as well as registering them to vote. All of the gun violence prevention groups are involved with this effort. It is to support the kids. They are leading and we should get out of the way. Many of them will be voting in November and this issue will be at the top of their priorities.

The shootings have continued unabated since the Columbine shooting first awoke our collective conscience about the horror of school shootings. Since then, regular school mass shootings and mass shootings at other places have become commonplace in our country. And many of us have worked tirelessly to make the changes we deserve in the name of the victims. We have been waiting for the young people to get involved but we did not expect it to look like this.

Today I will march with the students and community for the sake of my dead sister and all of the other victims of gun violence. I will march for all of those Parkland students and students from Minnesota and all 50 states who will be in DC for this momentous occasion. And it will be momentous!

Today is also the anniversary of a school shooting in Jonesboro, Arkansas, leaving 5 dead. Since the shooters were so young- 11 and 13, – so young to become mass shooters. From the article:

The two were reportedly planning a shooting and getaway, with news reports at the time detailing how Johnson took his parents’ car and the boys broke into Golden’s grandparents’ home where his grandfather kept his guns unlocked. One of the pair then pulled the fire alarm at lunch and opened fire when people started to flee.

“They were hiding in bushes and shooting at us,” Spencer said. “We didn’t know what was going on. It was an ambush. It was chaos.

How do young boys like this get ideas like those described above? The gun came from the home of a grandfather where they were unlocked. In 1998 this was the 2nd deadliest mass shooting in our history. How things have changed. Columbine happened in 1999.

If you read the entire article you will see that these two shooters (Jonesboro) are now adult men, out after serving 10 years and both wanting to possess or possessing firearms:

As for Johnson, he obtained a firearm at some point after his release. After a traffic stop in Arkansas in 2007, he was arrested for possessing a firearm in the presence of a controlled substance. The lawyer who represented him in that case, Jack Schisler, told ABC News that in more than 20 years of practicing law, he has never seen that charge used. When asked why that particular charge was used, Schisler said: “Because he’s Mitchell Johnson, Jonesboro school shooter. That’s my opinion.”

“They were looking at the fact that because he was a juvenile when he got involved in the Jonesboro school shooting and, essentially, got out when he was 21 years old, that didn’t sit well with a lot of people. And I think they thought this would be probably the most powerful charge,” Schisler said.

“….that didn’t sit well with a lot of people.” I wonder why? When you kill 5 innocent people for no reason at all, you shouldn’t have guns, period. It sounds like Johnson was not thinking that as a murderer, he ought not to use a controlled substance with a gun in his possession.

Where is common sense?

This week a 16 year old Minnesota boy took a loaded handgun to school and was caught and arrested. Could we have had a mass school shooting in Minnesota? Yes. Of course. Why else does a 16 year old bring a gun to school? How and why does he even have a gun in his possession? Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. On the same day the Minnesota legislature refused to consider common sense, a 17 year old Maryland teen brought a gun he took from home ( belonged to his father) and shot and injured one boy and critically injured a girl with whom he had been in a relationship. She has now died. The boy died when a school resource officer shot him.

Far too often relationships end in shootings. That is the story of my sister. If a gun is not present, relationships are less likely to end in death.

After the march tomorrow I will be leaving on a trip to Florida, the gunshine state, with my family. I will likely be away from my blog but the way things have been going I may actually have to write while away. As we now know, Governor Rick Scott, up for re-election, signed a law to make Florida safer. This was in direct response to the Parkland students raising their voices and challenging the adults to do something to stop the shootings. But I will be watchful given that Florida’s gun death rate is higher than in Minnesota at 26th out of 50 states.

Congress passed some weak provisions in the omnibus bill just signed by President Trump hoping we will go away and not bother him or them any more. That is where they are wrong. We see what they did. Their weak kneed and limp response is shameful. We noticed. From the article:

The three provisions drew a lukewarm response from gun-control advocates. On the one hand, they were encouraged that a Republican majority resolutely opposed to restrictions on gun access felt compelled to pass even a modest, bipartisan bill in that direction. But they worried that the move would sap momentum for more expansive changes they believe are necessary to actually prevent gun violence and mass shootings.

“Congress clearly feels the pressure from Americans demanding action, but these baby steps forward aren’t enough,” said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety. “Congress needs to buck the NRA and go big on gun safety. If they don’t, voters will throw them out.”

Just last week Congress introduced the WOOFF bill after a dog died in an overhead compartment on an airplane. Really? One dog dies and Congress introduces an immediate bill to deal keeping pets safe. But 17 kids die in a mass school shooting and- nothing? This is lunacy.

As I board my plane I will think about all of this in perspective. Things are so out of whack when we care more about pets than we do about our kids. We have a serious public health epidemic called gun violence. Now at least the CDC will get to maybe do some research but with no funding, maybe not? We know the cause and we know the effects. The cause is too easy access to the way too many guns in America. The effect? – shootings and dead people.

Congress and the President nibbled around the edges. They did little to affect the change that is required to protect our students from harm. Congress, do no harm. Voters are watching and voters care. Nothing will be the same after the Parkland shooting and today’s marches.

#Neveragain

As I soak up the sun in Florida I will think about the students who were massacred at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. I will celebrate that the response by our country’s teens and the adults who support them was immediate and forceful. And I will be saddened by the totally inadequate and irresponsible response by our Congress and state legislatures.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas, for whom the now infamous high school is named, had it right:

Marjory Stoneman Douglas

 

 

It’s the kids, stupid

March for Our Lives
from the Brady Campaign

What do our leaders not get about the movement that is taking place in our country right now? Why are they ignoring the voices of the kids who understand the sound of an AR-15 killing their friends? Why do they continue to mouth the same old tired NRA talking points when pretending that nothing can be done as did Senator Ted Cruz yesterday on MSNBC’s Morning Joe?

 

Cruz was wrong but was smooth in his lies and deceptions brought to him and us by the NRA and corporate gun lobby. We aren’t having it. #WeCallBS. 

I have been working with teens and young adults in my city to support their plans for student Walk-outs on March 14th and a local March For Our Lives on March 24th. With each exchange with the students I have become more impressed with their energy and resolve to do something about the lack of action on laws and actions that would protect them from shootings in their schools.

Adults want to support these kids knowing that their voices are being heard and that they are the leaders for this cause. Many national gun violence prevention organizations and other organizations are lining up to co-sponsor the walk-outs and marches.

Kids are afraid. Why wouldn’t they be? They are the targets and sitting ducks for school shooters who have killed students all over our country in surprise attacks against their own classmates. They are also able to get their hands on guns far too easily.

In the past few weeks since the Parkland shooting there have been numerous incidents of threats to schools by young kids. In Minnesota, one particularly alarming incident involved a 13 year old Vadnais Heights boy who had threatened to shoot up a school:

The father of a Vadnais Heights boy who allegedly threatened to shoot up his school owned several illegal firearms and kept loaded guns out in the open, according to charges filed Monday.

Christopher Stowe, 41, was charged in Ramsey County District Court with two felony counts of prohibited possession of machine guns and short-barreled shotguns and one count of gross misdemeanor negligent storage of firearms where a child can access them.

Authorities on Friday seized a cache of firearms, ammunition and at least two explosive devices from Stowe’s split-level home on Desoto Street. Some of the firearms were unsecured, and a ballistic vest was also recovered, authorities said. (…) “During the execution of the search warrant, law enforcement officers also observed that several of the firearms were a [sic] loaded and located out in the open and accessible to children in the home,” the charges said. “[The boy] was home alone when law enforcement officers first arrived to execute the search warrant.”

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. What was this family planning? And what were they thinking? Some gun owners have a total lack of common sense when it comes to storing their guns safely away from the hands of children. This family seemed clueless about the guns that were left loaded laying around their home. There are no excuses for this behavior around lethal weapons. Had this boy shot up his classmates at his school, I am quite sure they would have thought differently about their own lack of common sense.

The stakes are high. What is it about the risk of loaded guns in homes that some people don’t understand? I say it’s the gun culture gone wrong. It’s the Senator Ted Cruz nonsensical arguments that filter down to some gun owners who are vulnerable to the lies and paranoia spewed by the lobbyists and leaders of the NRA.

The AR-15s used in recent mass shootings take more lives at once which is why they are used. A Parkland physician wrote this article about the damage done to body tissue and organs when bullets come from assault type rifles. From the article:

I was looking at a CT scan of one of the mass-shooting victims from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, who had been brought to the trauma center during my call shift. The organ looked like an overripe melon smashed by a sledgehammer, and was bleeding extensively. How could a gunshot wound have caused this much damage? (…) Routine handgun injuries leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks through the victim’s body that are roughly the size of the bullet. If the bullet does not directly hit something crucial like the heart or the aorta, and the victim does not bleed to death before being transported to our care at the trauma center, chances are that we can save him. The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different: They travel at a higher velocity and are far more lethal than routine bullets fired from a handgun. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than—and imparting more than three times the energy of—a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun. An AR-15 rifle outfitted with a magazine with 50 rounds allows many more lethal bullets to be delivered quickly without reloading.

This is why the kids are scared. This is why the kids, parents and teachers know that trying to make ordinary hunting rifles seem the same as assault style rifles is “BS”. This is why the kids are angry.

The kids are not having it. There have been small walk-outs and protests all over the country. Just yesterday, hundreds (some say 2000) students from 2 high schools in St Paul, Minnesota walked to the state Capitol to express their anger and frustration:

“We’ve sat through many school shootings, and we’ve watched, and we’ve listened and we’ve waited for something to change, and nothing has changed,” said one of the organizers, Clare Fitzpatrick, a 18-year-old senior from Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul. (…)

“I just hope that we can change this. I just hope that everybody that they can make this work, and we can change the gun violence. And find out a way to keep guns away from schools.”

Fitzpatrick said students want the Minnesota Legislature to take action.

“We’ve received silence from our legislators that can’t pass a bill to help our students, and I think our first priority should be passing legislation that’s going to help save lives of students.”

Another article explains that other students joined the students who walked to the Capitol adding to the crowd to make it around 5000 students-and it’s not even the day of the March For Our Lives! From the article:

Arie Walker, a sophomore from St. Paul Academy and Summit School, said the mass shootings have instilled fear in her. Before she comes to school, she said, she thinks about what students could be thinking. She said this has made it hard for her to trust her peers.

“It builds tension,” Walker said. “We shouldn’t be scared that someone is going to come to school and shoot us.”

Tension is the least of what is happening.

And yet another source about this walk-out:

“As a group of students, we come here today with total diversity of opinion,” Doyle said in an interview. “As you look around, there are people here with signs with specific demands. As a group, we’re here to promote legislative action. I don’t think that high schoolers should have to write the bills for legislators. That’s why they’re in there. And that’s why we’re out here — to encourage them to write those bills.”

No, high schoolers shouldn’t have to write bills but right now I am thinking they could do a much better job of it than the legislators who have no courage or conviction.

Will we invest in our kids? More from the linked article:

As seen elsewhere, the school shooting in Florida seems to have triggered a rash of copycat threats. At least 21 threats have been made against Minnesota schools in the last three weeks, resulting in recent lockdowns and school closures at Minneapolis’ Patrick Henry High School, schools in the Cambridge-Isanti Public Schools and Orono Public Schools districts.

In response to Governor Dayton’s safe schools request, a Superintendent had this to say ( from thea article):

Speaking in support of Dayton’s proposal, Orono Public Schools Superintendent Karen Orcutt said it’s important that schools are given flexibility in how they invest in safety and security features because no two schools’ needs are exactly the same. But having recently endured a lockdown that lasted nearly six hours as police and the FBI investigated a “serious shooting threat” coming from inside one of the district’s buildings, she says it became clear that more needs to be done.

“All of these things we had going for us did not assure nor comfort the parents of these children, who spent the whole day under a threat and a lockdown,” she said.

Our kids are under threat almost every day. The adults are not listening or doing nearly enough.

Listen to the kids. They are leading the adults and we should listen to them. They are wiser than the adults and they are affected by gun violence in ways adults are not. There have been 18 incidents of guns firing at or in schools already this year alone. And it’s only March. Here’s one that just happened in Alabama.

We can expect to see more shootings in schools and everywhere else for that matter. We can also expect to see many thousands of students involved in Walk-outs scheduled for March 14th at 10:00 a.m. in each time zone. So far, as I write, students at 2300 schools will walk out of classes for 17 minutes and each will do something different during their protests.

On March 24th it is expected that there could be 500,000 students and others in Washington D.C. at a March For Our Lives. Marches will occur in cities all over the country and the world for that matter. People are angry. They want their voices to be heard and they want our leaders to act. They have had #Enough.

Why are they not acting? Have we been taken hostage by a hostile enemy? Have some of our leaders lost their mandate to protect their constituents from harm? Apparently.

At least in Florida, nicknamed the “gunshine state” the kids got to the legislators and they passed a bill that will help prevent some shootings. They could have gone further to save lives but this is a first step and a slippery slope to common sense. In spite of Marion Hammer, the legislators acted. Finally the voices of those who matter were heard. The NRA be damned.

The NRA has dug in its’ heels as it usually does. No capitulation for them. No compromising either. Just listen to their spokeswoman, Dana Loesch,  threaten the media and others on NRA TV:

“To the politicians who would rather watch America burn than lose one ounce of their own personal power, to the late night posts that think their opinion is the only opinions that matter.

“To the Joy-Ann Reids, the Morning Joes, the Mikas. To those who stain honest reporting with partisanship.

“To those who bring bias and propaganda to CNN, The Washington Post and The New York Times… your time is running out. The clock starts now.”

She then turns over the sand timer before the screen fades to black and a message appears promoting Loesch’s new show on NRATV.

Perhaps the NRA’s time is running out.

No wonder so many people and businesses are distancing themselves from the organization.

The majority of people are supportive of reasonable gun laws understanding that the second amendment does not preclude passing laws to keep our children safe.

Health care providers who deal with kids and teens understand the risks and the public health aspect of gun violence. This Minnesota group of physicians has come forward to urge more research on gun violence. They understand the need to keep kids and teens safe from gun violence since they are the ones who deal with the injured and the dead. They also understand the devastation to bodies caused by bullets in ways that we cannot. A physician from Parkland, Florida, wrote this piece about the damage done to victims since she has seen it and we have not.

This is about our kids. If we can’t do the right thing for our kids, who are we? Kids are demanding action in ways that adults have not been able to. Our next generation is being snuffed out by senseless and avoidable shootings. Our kids are becoming shooters. The lost potential is staggering, not to mention the cost in not only dollars, but dealing with the aftermath of shootings and the PTSD that will be with some of these kids for years. Watching a friend or fellow student bleed out from a gunshot wound right in front of your eyes can’t be unseen.

Do this for our kids. It’s the only thing we can do. And do it right to make it matter.

Listen to the kids in one of the videos from the March For Our Lives site. #Whatif #Neveragain :

 

Listen up- The last school shooting

listenLet’s make the Parkland shooting the last school shooting said one of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school students interviewed after 17 of his school classmates were slaughtered.

The last school shooting took the lives of 17 Parkland, Florida students and educators and traumatized the entire nation. The injured will recover, some with life long debilitating injuries, others left with only the trauma. We are all traumatized.

The thing is, Columbine should have been the last school shooting. Virginia Tech should have been the last school shooting. Sandy Hook for sure should have been the last school shooting. Our kids are sitting ducks. But ducks are better protected from bullets than kids given that duck hunters must use a plug to prevent a hunter from using more than 3 shots at a time. It’s to sustain the duck population for future hunters.

Who is sustaining the population of our children?

Something is different this time. Teachers, students, parents, law enforcement and the media- all speaking out in stronger and more urgent voices asking the “adults” in Congress to act on behalf of our children.

Insanity is the word that comes to mind.

We are all exhausted but we are not numb and we are not stupid. We understand what is going on here. We get that our loose gun laws are killing our precious human resources and snuffing out the potential of dozens of kids to live a productive life with their friends and family.

Last night 300 people came out for a vigil outside of NRA headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia. Some of my friends were there.

1000 people came out in Parkland to honor the victims. But without action, none of this matters.

Speaking of the NRA, I can’t even begin to add up the media articles and stories about how much that organization has contributed to the mayhem and carnage. The time has come to turn on the corporate gun lobby, whose profit motive has become the main reason for existence. It is not your father’s or your grandfather’s NRA any more.

Listen to the voices of gun owners and former NRA members.

Listen to the voice of just one teacher:

Don’t tell me teachers should be carrying weapons in the classroom — we’re not police.

It’s our job to assign books, create lessons and lead discussions that make students think critically and help them see the world a little differently: I want them to read “The Outsiders” in my class and remember it when they’re adults and their kids are reading it.

Don’t tell me there’s nothing we can do about guns. Yes, Americans have a constitutional right to bear arms — but it’s not limitless. And we all have the right to live.

Listen to the voice of the Broward County Sheriff:

““If you’re an elected official, and you want to keep things the way they are ― if you want to keep gun laws as they are now ― you will not get re-elected in Broward County,” Israel told a crowd that erupted in cheers.”

Listen to the voice of just one parent:

“Stop accepting blood money.”

Listen to the students. They are our future. They are being massacred in every more frequent mass shootings. But they are fighting back:

“Please, this is the 18th one this year. That’s unacceptable. We’re children. You guys are the adults,” David Hogg said during an interview on CNN.

And well they should. Read this frightening article about real and not so real threats made by students after the Parkland shooting.  My God. What is going on? Where are the adults in the room?

Remember that every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

Talk about the influence of even the Russians in our gun violence epidemic in America.

The NRA has a connection with the Russians.

The NRA has connections with our President. The Brady Center went to court to get a white paper written with the help of the NRA presented to the President right before his inauguration.

So can we talk?

Talk about Brady background checks.

Talk about Extreme Risk Protection Orders.

Talk about Assault Rifles:

Equally important for a gunman looking to do a lot of damage in a hurry: AR-15-style weapons are fed with box magazines that can be swapped out quickly. The standard magazine holds 30 rounds. Equipped in this way, a gunman can fire more than a hundred rounds in minutes.

The Parkland shooter had “countless magazines” for his AR-15, the local sheriff said. And there is still one more reason the weapons are so popular in states like Florida: They are easy to buy — and for Nikolas Cruz, 19, the shooting suspect, far easier to obtain than a handgun.

The Washington Post goes further about another assault weapons ban:

He calls the results “staggering.” Compared with the 10-year period before the ban, the number of gun massacres during the ban period fell by 37 percent, and the number of people dying from gun massacres fell by 43 percent. But after the ban lapsed in 2004, the numbers shot up again — an astonishing 183 percent increase in massacres and a 239 percent increase in massacre deaths. (…)

On a scale of effectiveness ranging from 1 (not effective) to 10 (highly effective), the expert panel gave an average score of 6.8 to both an assault weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity magazines, the highest ratings among the nearly 30 policies surveyed. (…) More strikingly, substantial numbers of gun owners supported the measures as well: 48 percent of gun owners in that poll said they would support a ban on assault style weapons, and 44 percent said they favored a ban on high-capacity magazines. A Quinnipiac poll conducted later in the year showed similar numbers.

Talk about research on the causes and effects of gun violence.

Talk about how much money our leaders are getting from the NRA.

Ask all candidates what their plans are for preventing shootings and saving lives.

And yes, talk about the Second Amendment:

Ideally we would also rethink the Second Amendment in an age where firearms are far more lethal than in the 18th century and where we no longer require minutemen to protect our liberties from the redcoats. But it’s not necessary to repeal the Second Amendment. The courts have consistently upheld gun regulations in the past, including a federal assault-weapon ban that was in effect from 1994 to 2004 and a Maryland ban that went into effect in 2013.

Yet instead of instituting such common-sense safeguards, Congress is moving in the opposite direction. Early in 2017, Congress passed and President Trump signed a bill that revoked an Obama-era regulation that would have made it harder for mentally ill people to buy guns. Toward the end of the year, the House passed legislation that would force every state to honor concealed-carry permits — meaning that a resident of Oklahoma could pack heat in the District of Columbia or New York City.

And talk about all of these things with common sense conversations and actions.

Talk about the insanity of American gun laws and shootings as the rest of the world is watching this insanity unfold. This article highlights an Australian perspective into our shootings.

Do we love our children as much as we love our guns? That is a very important question that needs an answer.

Make this the last school shooting. Because the last one has started a movement and a conversation that is not going away. The accumulation of bodies and inaction by Congress and state legislatures if finally just too much for a nation that sees more gun violence than any other democratized country not at war. Our kids are the victims of knock-off military style weapons used in war. As one friend said, our children have become war correspondents, live streaming a shooter killing their friends and texting parents as the shooting occurs.

With the help of adults, students are going to take national action as the Women’s March has organized a national student walk-out set for March 14th.

We shouldn’t have to do this. This is an American tragedy.

Listen up Mr. President. Spend more than 6 minutes “listening” to the victims of the shooting at the Parkland hospital. Your tone deaf anemic, robotic statement a day after the shooting did not even mention the word guns or gun violence. Your lack of passion and empathy was disheartening and disturbing. Have a nice week-end on the golf course at Mar-a-Lago.

We are better than this.

We have had #Enough.

Valentine’s Day massacre

heartOur hearts are broken again.

Students carrying Valentine day balloons walked out of a school in Parkland, Florida, unhurt but traumatized. 17 didn’t make it. Others injured. 

They hugged each other and then their parents as they reunited.

An all too familiar scene watched on TV news on a regular basis.

This is an American tragedy. This is at least the 12th school shooting this year, some say it’s the 18th. It’s too many whatever it is. It’s only February 14th.

Only in America do we need to read articles like this about the motives behind mass shootings and school shootings. 

A 19 year old former student who had been expelled got into the school and decided today would be the day to shoot up a bunch of high school kids. He was viewed as volatile and fascinated with guns. He was viewed as a threat when expelled last year. A young white disenfranchised boy/man got his hands on an AR-15 and multiple rounds of ammunition. He wore a gas mask and set off the fire alarm so kids would come out into the hallway.

#Sick

#Notnormal

Not inevitable.

#Enough

Only in America.

Students coming out of the school in a line with their hands up. Parents frantic. Students texting and even taking a video of the actual shooting. Good grief. PTSD for all and everyone should watch that video to see what our kids have to go through on almost a daily basis.

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.

Where is common sense?

The NRA is an arm of the Republican party. What is wrong with them? Do they think this is OK? We keep saying what will it take before enough is enough? We keep offering thoughts and prayers. And yet, they keep taking money from the NRA. They keep supporting the agenda of the NRA. It is a dangerous and deadly agenda.

#Nomorethoughtsandprayers.

We want action. We want to save lives.

Our hearts are broken. Families are broken. Friends will never be the same. They knew the victims. They got shot themselves. They holed up in a closet. They cried. They were frightened out of their wits.

And it goes on and on and on and on.

There are no more words or excuses.

Our hearts are broken.

Nothing to see here….

map of gun deaths
From Gun Violence Archive

Yes. One can apparently buy a rocket propelled grenade launcher in America and keep it at home. That was the case in Minnesota this week as police seized a load of drugs and weapons from a rural home where they were stashed- just in case. From the story:

 

 

A search warrant Tuesday, Jan. 30, led to five arrests and uncovered drugs, nearly four dozen firearms and suspected explosives, including items found in a concrete bunker in the basement.

The items seized from the rural Willmar home included submachine guns, homemade silencers, night vision goggles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.

Weapons of war in a bunker. What the he%^? Seriously. This is America where homegrown terrorists stockpile weapons and ammunition to be ready for… for…. what? What was the plan here? More from the article:

According to the criminal complaint, Monson had told someone that he had the addresses of a judge, a prosecutor and another attorney and intended to use explosives in or near their homes and vehicles.

The five people arrested face a variety of felony and misdemeanor drug and weapons charges.

Monson faces felony counts of possessing a firearm with an altered serial number, possessing a machine gun and possessing a firearm suppressor. He also faces two felony counts of fifth-degree drug possession and a gross misdemeanor count of being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

Jacobson faces two felony counts of possessing a firearm with an altered serial number, one felony count of possessing a machine gun and another felony count of possessing a firearm suppressor. He faces gross misdemeanor charges of fifth-degree drug possession, being a drug user in possession of a firearm and negligent storage of firearms accessible to a child.

Johnson faces a felony charge for possessing a firearm after having been convicted of a violent crime, a felony count of fifth-degree drug possession, and a gross misdemeanor count of being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

Quimby is charged with felony and gross misdemeanor fifth-degree drug possession and a gross misdemeanor count of being a drug user in possession of a firearm.

And so,  people who cannot legally purchase or possess firearms, let alone sub machine guns or a rocket propelled grenade launcher, were found in possession of these weapons of war anyway.

And have I mentioned that drugs and guns just don’t go together well? But they are often intertwined making it all the more dangerous.

What could possibly go wrong?

There are Americans stockpiling guns and ammunition with an intent to use them to terrorize other Americans. It is #NotNormal. They are living right under our noses in communities near you.

Could the Minnesota folks from the above article undergo a Brady background check at a Federally Licensed Firearms Dealer and walk away with these weapons legally? NO.

This is why we need to insist that all firearms and related paraphernalia require Brady background checks before they walk out of a store or gun show in the hands of someone who will not use them safely and legally.

We could do this. But we haven’t and we won’t as long as NRA and corporate gun lobby legislators control the country. Do these lawmakers think this is OK? They must.  Otherwise why wouldn’t they agree to pass some common sense legislation to stop this lunacy?

It’s beyond explanation of any kind why our lawmakers continue to allow this culture of violence. The gun violence public health epidemic is real. It is taking the lives of an increasing number of Americans on a daily basis.

Let’s check in with the Gun Violence Archive for the body count just in January of this year:  1334 dead and 2404 injured. 23 mass shootings so far in 2018. Look at the chart on the web page and the map I have provided above. Can you see one state where a gun incident has not happened in January of 2018? One month in America.

This is #NotNormal or inevitable dear readers. Most, if not all, of these shootings are totally preventable.

But let me get back to the above story about rocket propelled grenade launchers and other insanity. Where can one buy some of this stuff anyway? Here. and Here. and Here ( “And anti-personnel weapon. And anti-helicopter weapon. And anti-anything-worth-shooting weapon. And we-Afghans-are-celebrating-a-wedding weapon. And… well, you get the point)”. 

I guess this last one does not shoot grenades but some other kind of ordinance. That makes me feel so much better. People playing soldier at home in rural Minnesota should give us all pause. It is happening in every state actually.

The grenade launcher is legal to purchase after Congress let the assault weapons ban expire. There was a reason for not allowing the import, sale or possession of certain kinds of dangerous weapons under the Assault Weapons Ban. But the corporate gun lobby hated that some weapons were not available to the average citizen and so they bullied our politicians to get rid of legislation that could have saved some lives.

What in the world does a private citizen need with a rocket propelled grenade launcher? Is there an answer that makes any sense at all?

In other news of the #NotNormal, there was another school shooting this week in California involving a 12 year old shooter. Yes indeed- a 12 year old shot and injured 4 people :

A 12-year-old girl was booked on suspicion of negligent discharge of a firearm Thursday after a shooting at Sal Castro Middle School left four students injured, authorities said.

Los Angeles police do not believe that the shooting was intentional, spokesman Josh Rubenstein said Thursday evening.

“At this time, the information suggests that this was an isolated incident, involving the negligent discharge of a firearm, where innocent children and a staff member were unfortunately injured,” the LAPD said in a statement. (…)

“​​​Someone decided to bring a gun, I guess someone was accidentally playing around with it,” said Benjamin, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, whose guardian asked that his last name not be used. “They thought it was a fake gun.”

What? “I guess someone was accidentally playing around with it.” There are no accidents with guns. No one should be accidentally playing around with a gun. Period. Let alone a 12 year old child in a school.

Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. This is lunacy. Who thought it was a fake gun? This is total irresponsibility and preventable. This is #NotNormal not or inevitable.

Also in the news of the #NotNormal is the fact that an engineer sold altered armour piercing bullets to the Las Vegas shooter and is now charged for this sale to a madman who killed 58 people in just one shooting incident. From the article:

Tracer ammunition is built with a small pyrotechnic charge that produces a bright trail of light to allow a shooter to see the bullet’s trajectory during nighttime firing or other low visibility scenarios.

“At no time did I see anything suspicious or odd or any kind of a tell,” Haig told reporters.

The complaint says Haig told investigators that when Paddock bought the ammunition, he put on gloves before taking the box from Haig.

Nothing odd? Except for the fact that a man wanted to buy multiple rounds of tracer bullets that another man was not licensed to sell:

The 55-year-old aerospace engineer did not have a license to manufacture and sell the armor-piercing bullets he sold to Stephen Paddock in the weeks before the massacre that left 58 people dead.

Nothing to see here folks. Let’s move on to the next massacre.

Where is common sense?

 

The true cost of shootings

sunriseI want to follow up my previous post with a commentary on the true cost of shootings. As we now know, 2 Kentucky high school students were killed and 18 injured by a 15 year old with a gun on Wednesday. Let me say that again- 2 killed and 18 injured by one 15 year old with a gun.

No words.

There is no logical or reasonable explanation for what happened that day. Nor is there ever an explanation that makes any common sense for why a young person with access to a gun they should not been able to access takes it to a school and shoots peers. Surely they are not thinking about the consequences of their actions. They are in the moment of whatever was in their heads to cause them to massacre other innocent human beings.

The true cost of this culture that exists almost exclusively in America, is, of course, death and devastation that affects families and friends for the remainder of their lives. The true cost is the phone calls that change lives forever.

A Kentucky mother got a phone call from her dying daughter during Wednesday’s massacre- a call no parent should have to remember:

“She called me and all I could hear was voices, chaos in the background,” Bailey’s mother, Secret Holt, told ABC affiliate WKRN on Wednesday. “She couldn’t say anything and I tried to call her name over and over and over and she never responded.”

A daughter whose last act was to try to talk to her parents. One cannot imagine what that would be like for the young girl whose life was violently snuffed out senselessly and avoidably.

A father spotted his son’s socks in an ambulance and knew what that meant:

Brian Cope knew it was bad when he spotted Preston’s socks in an ambulance as he and his wife, Teresa, reached the chaotic scene at the school, he told the Courier-Journal.
They arrived not long before Preston, sprawled on a stretcher with a head wound, was pronounced dead en route to a Nashville hospital, the newspaper said.
“Just senseless. it was just senseless,” Brian Cope told the Courier-Journal.

Senseless. How many times have we said that and I have written that?

Too many.

For one family, the phone call will forever be a nightmare. It is only one part of the cost of shootings and gun violence in America that far too many families experience every day. My family has experienced the phone call- a phone call I will never forget. I will never forget the voice of my sister’s son telling me to sit down while he delivered the news of my sister’s death in a domestic shooting.

For the other, hearing about a school shooting via media ( not sure how) or some kind of message that they should not have had to hear wondering if their own son was a victim.

Those killed will never experience another sunrise or a sunset. Families and friends will grieve and try to deal in the best way they know how with the devastating loss of their son, daughter, sister, mother, brother, aunt, friend, husband, wife….. In time, they will be able to enjoy the simple things in life like enjoying a sunrise, eating out, traveling, family events, holidays, etc. It will be very difficult and nothing will be the same. The tears will flow unexpectedly in a moment of a fleeting memory or something to remind one of their lost loved one. A scene, a look in someone’s eyes, a person who looks eerily like the loved one, going to a place loved by the victim, a toast to the person killed at a family event, etc.

The true cost of gun violence and shootings is unimaginable. There are economic costs. There are emotional costs. There are court costs, health care costs, law enforcement costs, even the cost of cleaning up a horrific crime scene. Sandy Hook Elementary school was torn down after that massacre. Emergency responders suffer from PTSD after some of these deadly and bloody mass shooting.  Too many memories.

The one article about the economic costs asks if America can afford the cost of gun violence? The answer is a resounding NO.

This is what gets lost in the ludicrous debate over gun rights. Those on the side of never agreeing to common sense laws that could save lives don’t get this reality. For them, it appears to be the cost of “freedom”. They are free to enjoy the sunrises and sunsets. They have no memories of a loved one whose life was violently and suddenly taken by someone with a gun in his/her hand loaded with bullets intended for innocent people whose only fault was being in the right place at the right time going to school, work, or wherever shootings occur suddenly.

It is not inevitable or normal for so many parents to lose children so violently in senseless and avoidable school shootings.

That is why I have been and will continue to work to make sure Americans get to see the sunrises and sunsets and enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

We are better than this.