In memory- Las Vegas victims

Las Vegas 2Today we remember the 58 innocent Americans whose lives were lost senselessly in the devastating shooting at a concert in Las Vegas. One year ago today, the carnage once again captured the nation’s attention and left us horrified as the news filtered out.

Who could imagine that one man standing high above the crowd in a hotel room with a high powered rifle fitted with a bump stock could do so much damage? It’s an American tragedy and it happens with such frequency that we grow numb.

Before the Las Vegas shooting became the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history, the Pulse Nightclub shooting ended with 49 dead. Soon to follow would the Sutherland, Texas church shooting and then the Parkland, Florida school shooting. 

Between them, 151 innocent Americans were left dead.

How many more will it take before we do something about the daily carnage?

Of course, about 38,000 Americans, give or take, have lost their lives to bullets since the Las Vegas shooting. It should frighten and concern us that the number of the dead bodies is increasing in recent years.

Our collective common sense tells us that we can be better than this. The fact that we aren’t even trying is a travesty.

Elections are coming up soon enough. The issue of gun violence has become a major issue of concern in elections after the Parkland students made us all sit up and notice. Their efforts to register voters and get out the vote have been impressive to say the least. Students are registering students in large numbers at high schools and campuses all over America:

But youth voter registration has surged since the Parkland shooting, according to an analysis by the consulting group TargetSmart. Among 39 states where data is available, voter registration by 18-29-year-olds went up an average 2.2 percent, the group found. In Pennsylvania, which has a race for governor and House and Senate races that could determine which party controls each chamber next year, youth registration rose 16.1 percent. In Florida, the hike was eight percent; in Colorado, 2.3 percent, and in Ohio, the rise was six percent.

 

“I absolutely think 2018 is going to be different,” both in terms of young voter participation and the impact of the gun issue, says Isabelle James, political director for Giffords, a gun-safety group founded by the former congresswoman. “Young people are engaged at an unprecedented level, and it started before Parkland,” she says.

Protect Minnesota is now involved with voter registration all over the state. National gun violence prevention groups, like the Brady Campaign, are also registering voters. It is encouraging to see the young people so involved and making gun violence an issue in this year’s election.

Yesterday, the Duluth News Tribune ran an opinion piece that I wrote with the co-president of our local Brady Campaign chapter also working with Protect Minnesota.

Here is what we said:

 

Local View: Elect leaders who will change the culture of gun violence

A year ago tomorrow, on Oct. 1, 2017, a man in a hotel room in Las Vegas, high above a gathering of concertgoers, unleashed 1,100 rounds of bullets at anyone in his high-powered rifle’s sights. Using a bump stock to make his rifle more deadly, he killed 58 people and injured 851 in a matter of minutes. Concert attendees scrambled to safety or hid under bodies to avoid the bullets. The injured still suffer from physical and psychological wounds, and the trauma ripples through friends and families.

This tragedy was added to a pile that already included the Pulse nightclub and numerous shootings in schools, churches, theaters, and places of work. After a while one becomes weary.

We all have heard arguments over why these happen and what should be done about them. There is no doubt it’s a very complex, multilayered public health issue that needs to be addressed from many angles.

However, there is one common denominator: the gun. If any of these shooters had been thwarted from getting a deadly weapon, maybe some of their victims would be alive today.

Keeping guns out of the hands of people intent on doing harm is a daunting task. There are some safeguards in place, but they have loopholes. Any attempts to close those loopholes or pass new laws that might keep guns away from those who cannot handle them responsibly have proven to be almost impossible. Our elected officials have stonewalled changes, in spite of a majority of the public, including gun owners, wanting more safeguards. Through financial support, the powerful gun lobby has maintained a tight grip on our elected leaders.

It is understandable, when faced with the complexity of the gun-violence epidemic, to do nothing. But we ignore this issue at our own peril.

There are small steps we can take that would, in time, make a difference. Some common-sense measures include requiring background checks on all sales, requiring waiting periods for gun purchases, and enacting extreme-risk protection orders so guns can be temporarily taken from people who could be dangerous to themselves or others.

In addition, the bump stock feature, the unregulated add-on device that allowed the Las Vegas shooter to unleash numerous bullets in seconds, needs to be banned. At the very least it should be tightly regulated.

As we remember the victims of the Las Vegas shooting, let us also remember that it doesn’t have to be this way. It is up to us to elect leaders who will be the voices calling for laws to protect their constituents. With our support they can change the culture of gun violence and the conversation about the role of guns in our everyday lives.

A new generation is stepping up to demand action. The Parkland students led the way in bravery and activism to show adults that change can happen if our voices are loud and clear. Our leaders need to listen to the majority of us who are telling them that we want change and we want action.

We ask our candidates to stop their campaigns for 58 minutes on Monday, Oct. 1 to remember the victims. We ask them to consider that this is not a zero-sum game. The Second Amendment can coexist with the rights of all of us to be safe from gun violence.

In the name of the 58 victims who died tragically one year ago, we invite candidates and elected leaders to work with us, their constituents, to reduce gun violence.

Joan Peterson and Mary Streufert are co-presidents of the Northland Chapter of the Brady Campaign/Protect MN. Both the Duluth women have lost family members to gun violence.

For the families of the victims and for the survivors, their lives have been dark since the shooting one year ago. They are suffering from PTSD and other emotional and physical difficulties that just won’t go away:

Fudenberg heard the gunshots through his phone. Popping sounds. He can’t forget them. His protocol has been to show up at any scene if there were two or more dead. The investigator told him there were at least 20. Maybe more.

Cheney saw his friend absorb the news. His face locked in an expression he’d never seen.

“The change in him was instant,” Cheney said. “We had been talking and joking and, suddenly, it was gone.”

Fudenberg was dropped off first by the driver. Cheney didn’t see him again until he was on television, giving updates on the deceased. It would be two more weeks before he would see his friend again in person. Over that dinner, Cheney would see some cracks.

The veteran coroner would cry. It wouldn’t be the last time.

This is the ripple effect of gun violence that we don’t deal with well.
Remember the names of the victims and demand that your candidates and leaders take a stand on gun safety reform.
So on this day, our country has experienced 2 mass shootings.
#Enough
 

 

 

 

Shootings at work

Laptop Screen with Safety Database Concept.Are you safe from a shooting while at work?

In the last 24 hours there have been 3 shootings at a place of work. Disgruntled employee? Get a gun? Domestic dispute? Get a gun and go to the place of work where person with whom you are in a relationship works and shoot her/him and others.

No problem. Easy access to guns makes this all possible.

In Minnesota the worst workplace shooting happened on September 27th, 2012. The anniversary of the Accent Signage shooting is coming right up.

Family and friends will be have to face the memories of that deadly day and relive the experience as they have for the past 6 years. Four were murdered. The gunman shot himself and died at the scene. Four were injured, and one of the injured died later.

I have come to know some of the victims’ family members. We are bound together now because we are in a unique club of people whose family members have been senselessly murdered by bullets.

It’s hard to move on from your own memories when the shootings continue as a reminder.

In the last 24 hours there have been 3 workplace shootings.

In Wisconsin, a man walked into a software company and shot and injured 4. He was shot by police at the scene.

In Aberdeen, Maryland, 3 innocent people were shot dead at a Rite Aid distribution center. 4 were injured and the shooter shot herself and later died. It is unusual for the shooter to be a female but not unusual for some sort of problem to end in a deadly shooting. The woman was a temporary employee. I’m sure we will learn more about her and maybe what led to the shooting.

From the above linked article:

“It’s very real. You don’t know where it’s going to happen, who it’s going to happen to. It’s just very scary and I just pray for all of them. They will need all the strength they can muster to get through this,” said neighbor Brigitte Kent. “You don’t know what’s going on in her mind, and a lot of times you don’t know. You don’t see any type of warning signs to watch for. People just suffer in silence.”

Another woman who lives in the neighborhood spoke with 11 News, but did not want to be identified.

“What makes someone do something like that? What is it? Twenty six years old. You haven’t done anything at 26. Nothing at all at 26,” the neighbor said. “Every time you hear something, it comes closer to somebody else’s home, somebody else’s school, workplace. It comes closer. It’s right here! I had no clue that her family lived this close.”

You don’t know where it’s going to happen. It’s more than scary. It is a serious national public health and safety epidemic left ignored by our leaders at all levels of government. Why? The question has to be asked and answers must come.

But I digress. There was a third shooting at a workplace- this time in a Pennsylvania court building lobby. Four were injured and the gunman shot and killed by law enforcement:

Fayette County District Attorney Richard Bower said the gunman walked up to the building, which houses the office of District Magistrate Daniel Shimshock, and shot a Masontown police officer in a lobby and then shot two men and a woman.

Another police officer from the German Township police department who ran into the building then shot the suspect several times, and the suspect died from his wounds, officials said.

The suspect was charged with strangulation, assault and other charges stemming from a domestic incident several weeks ago and he was due to have a hearing on Wednesday, Bower said.

A presumably armed officer was shot and injured. The suspect clearly should not have had access to a gun but in America, it’s easy to get one no matter who you are or how dangerous you could be with a deadly weapon.

Speaking of courthouse shootings and domestic shootings, the aunt of a friend of mine was shot and killed at the Hennepin County courthouse by a woman who should not have had access to a gun. That anniversary is coming up on September 29th. It’s been 15 years since that shooting happened and still her family members grieve and relive the day they got the news. From the article:

“The evidence shows that defendant Berkovitz came into the Hennepin County Government Center that morning with a loaded gun, and with obsessive resentment against the two victims,” says Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar.

The complaint details a scene where Berkovitz waited on the 17th floor with a century-old loaded gun she’d bought this past summer at a gun show — a .38-caliber Smith and Wesson revolver she’d learned to use by shooting target practice. Kordell and Hendrickson appear to have had safety concerns when they arrived that morning. The two asked a security officer to accompany them to the 17th floor, which he did.

Lori Wachter, Hendrickson’s sister, said her brother was concerned about Berkovitz. “He did mention her and we called her the ‘crazy lady’ because she was harassing him quite a bit,” she said. “He did screen his calls. So when we’d call him, we’d always get the answering machine, and when he found out it was us calling, he would answer and start talking. That’s all we knew about her.”

Seriously- where is common sense? Why do have to keep writing about these shootings? Why has nothing happened? Why do I have to keep asking that?

You may remember another recent workplace shooting. A gunman shot up innocent people at a newspaper office in Annapolis, Maryland in June. 

5 were left dead and 3 injured. The gunman was apprehended.

The victims and survivors are crying out for change. The country is asking for stronger gun laws. Congress looks the other way. The corporate gun lobby is lapping at their feet yelling that gun laws won’t change anything.

They are wrong. They are spineless. They are cowards in the face of money and influence.

Until we get serious and extend and pass a stronger Brady background check law to insist that all gun sales get a background check, we will have shootings. Until we pass Extreme Risk Protection Order laws that will keep guns away from people who could be a danger to themselves or others, we will have shootings. Until we admit that every gun owner needs training before they walk away from a gun sale, we will have shootings. Until we make sure all guns are safely secured to keep them out of the hands of children, teens and from those who steal them from homes, we will have shootings. (ASK campaign) Until we admit that there are risks to owning guns and having them around in the home, we will have more shootings (End Family Fire).  Until we allow the necessary research into the causes and effects of gun violence, we will have shootings. Until we allow victims to bring lawsuits against gun manufacturers and dealers who are irresponsible, we will have shootings. Until we enforce the laws already on the books, we will have shootings.

Until our elected leaders stop being lapdogs for the gun industry, we will have shootings.

We are better than this.

But for the guns…..

american-flag-gun-stockBut for the guns, thousands of Americans would be alive today to live their lives as the rest of us are doing. They would be singing, dancing, working, studying, playing, shopping, eating, loving, reading books, traveling, and just living.

Take this young man from Chicago-Delmonte Johnson for one example:

Mr. Johnson, a 19-year-old who loved to sing and dance, who was an athlete and a budding social activist, will not get to see that vision realized. He was shot and killed Wednesday after playing basketball near his home.

Image
Delmonte Johnson, in red, with his family in an undated photo.

Mr. Johnson’s death was tragic and unnecessary and enraging. It was also the sort of death that’s become far too common in America, and in particular in Mr. Johnson’s hometown, where more than 2,000 people have been shot so far this year, nearly 400 of them fatally. While mass shootings involving high-powered guns and high death tolls have claimed an outsize portion of the nation’s collective grief — and its headlines — street shootings like the one that killed Delmonte Johnson are far more common.

Yes. Far too common.

And then take this man who was minding his own business when a cop walked into the wrong apartment ( she thought it was her own), saw him there and shot and killed him. This one has to be almost a first, or is it?:

Amber Guyger, who is white, was off-duty when she shot Botham Shem Jean, a black man, in his apartment, police said Thursday. Guyger told police she thought she was entering her own apartment not realizing she was on the wrong floor. Upon encountering Jean, she thought her home was being burglarized and opened fire, according to police.
Botham, a 26-year-old native of St. Lucia, was unarmed. He died at a hospital.

Enter the NRA with their lame and usual excuse- if only the victim had also been armed, all would have been hunky dory:

“This could have been very different if Botham Jean had been, say, he was a law-abiding gun owner and he saw somebody coming into his apartment,” Loesch said on NRATV’s Relentless on Monday. “I don’t think there’s any context that the actions would have been justified. If I see somebody coming into my house and I’m not expecting them and they’re walking in like they own the place, I would—I would act to defend myself.”

Social media users balked at the suggestion that a gun could have saved Jean, who was born on the Caribbean island of St. Lucia.

“If Botham Jean had a gun and killed a police officer he’d be in jail held without bond and Trump would be nonstop tweeting about that immigrant who killed that poor cop,” Comedian Sarah Cooper tweeted in response to Loesch’s remarks.

Sometimes the NRA’s line of reasoning is so ridiculous as to be unbelievable and totally unhinged. As if people are sitting around in their own apartments armed just in case someone happens to come in who doesn’t belong there and, of course, be totally prepared for a cop with a gun. ( Oh right- that is what the NRA and gun rights advocates believe).

I think they can retire this argument. It makes no common sense and it’s stupid.

The mother of Philando Castile challenged the flawed reasoning of Dana Loesch- mouthpiece for the NRA:

NRA spokeswoman Dana Loesch is “asinine” to suggest Botham Jean might still be alive today if only he was “a law-abiding gun owner,” Valerie Castile told the Daily News. (…)

Castile is the mother of Philando Castile, the Minnesota public school employee who had a valid concealed carry permit when he was shot to death by a police officer during a routine traffic stop in Minnesota two years ago.

“My son was a licensed gun owner and it didn’t help him. He’s dead because he gave that information to an officer,” Castile said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, called out the NRA spokeswoman for being "one-sided."
Valerie Castile, mother of Philando Castile, called out the NRA spokeswoman for being “one-sided.” (CRAIG LASSIG / Getty Images)

 

Castile called Loesch “reckless” and “one-sided” for using Jean’s tragic death to further the NRA’s agenda.

“(Jean) was in his own home. Inside a nice building with security. He had a right to feel safe in his own home. He wasn’t expecting someone to come in uninvited. He shouldn’t have to always keep a gun on his hip. That’s asinine,” Castile said.

“That officer was dead wrong. Just hold her accountable. Don’t try to spin the story. My son was a good guy, and (the NRA) tried to spin it. The truth is, he’s dead for being honest and telling the truth,” she said.

Reckless is a great word for the NRA’s claims. Loesch was actually suggesting that Jean should have shot a police officer. What would have happened then? A black man with a gun shooting an officer? Stand your ground laws don’t work out so well for people of color.

And then take these Twin Cities area victims all shot in one short period time:

“It’s unacceptable,” Frey said. “Gun violence is one of the most insidious issues we have confronting our country and our response as a city is gong to be swift and strong.”

His comments came as police scrambled to ward off any retaliatory violence after a weekend in which 10 people were shot, four of them fatally. Most of the shootings occurred over a 48-hour stretch on Friday and Saturday.

It’s the guns. It’s actually the bullets from the guns that are killing all of these people-mostly innocent of wrongdoing but now dead. California wants to do something about the bullets. That liberal bastion of a state has managed to pass some of the nation’s strongest gun laws and also has one of the lowest gun death rates in the country. Gun rights advocates love to criticize the laws in California because they don’t seem to stop all shootings. But they have it all wrong. What is going on in California is saving lives. California has lower gun death rates than most other states.

Let’s review. Firearm deaths account for the majority of overall homicides in our country. Guns make a difference.

Suicide by gun accounts for the majority of overall gun deaths in America.

America has more mass shootings than any other developed country not at war.

America has more guns per capita than most other countries and the most gun deaths per capita.

And I want to end by remembering the victims of the Washington Navy Yard shooting that occurred on this date 5 years ago..

Twelve died and 3 injured because of a gunman who should not have had a gun:

The government contractor who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yardlast week was driven by delusions that he was being controlled by low-frequency radio waves and scratched the words “End the torment!” on the barrel of the shotgun he used, the FBI said Wednesday, offering new, chilling details of the attack.

Valerie Parlave, assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, said that Aaron Alexis, 34, began the shooting knowing he would be killed. A search of Alexis’s electronic devices, she said, indicated that he was “prepared to die during the attack and that he accepted death as the inevitable consequence of his actions.”

In America, people like this have easy access to guns.

Let us all take a moment and remember the victims.

It’s the guns. We can’t avoid the truth. But then, for some in today’s American political craziness truth is not truth any more.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Stand up for the truth and for action. Tell your candidates you want them to do something about gun violence. And by that I mean do something. Don’t pander to the nation’s large corporate gun lobby. It’s a paper tiger. The majority of Americans do actually understand that we have a serious problem with guns and loose gun laws.

#Enough

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

Another anniversary

photo of BarbaraEvery year on this day, I write a memorial to my sister, Barbara Lund. I try not to dwell on the day my sister was murdered by her estranged husband. It was a day that changed the “age of innocence” about gun violence for our family. I mean, really, who ever thinks that a family member will be shot to death? My sister was in her second marriage but trying to get out of it after more than 20 years together with the man who would eventually kill her. The most vulnerable and dangerous time for women is when they are leaving or attempting to leave a relationship.

I wish we had all known then what we know now. I have no idea whether a tragedy could have been averted but I have learned that not doing something is not an option.

On Aug. 5th of 1992 my sister, now in a new relationship after a long and protracted and contentious divorce process, drove to her estranged husband’s home to deliver some paperwork that he needed to sign. ( He was also in a new relationship) She went with her partner because, as we learned later, she was actually nervous about her estranged husband. She knew he had guns in his home. Apparently, something I learned later but was not aware of, he did keep a lot of guns around his house.

We don’t know some of the details because my estranged brother-in-law killed himself months after the shootings of my sister and her partner leaving us with a lot of unanswered questions. ( That is another story) We do know that he said he thought he was killing her lawyers and doesn’t remember much except that he sort of blanked out during the shooting. That is often said by shooters. The loud noise. The sudden death. The blood. The chaos.

There is much more but you don’t need to know all of the details to know that when a gun is at the ready, disputes over relationships and divorces turn deadly in an instant. Even the shooters are surprised by it and often take their own lives at the same time in desperation. Taking a human life ( or two) is something no one, unless maybe those serving in the military or law enforcement, expects will happen.

What I know now is that my life changed as I got involved with advocacy groups like the Brady Campaign  and Protect Minnesota and others to prevent families from devastating, insidious, tragic, senseless and mostly preventable shootings.

There are ways to keep guns away from people who should not have them and change the conversation about the risks of guns in homes. Brady background checks will and do save lives if we expect that all buyers should have one no matter what.  Extreme Risk Protection Orders (Red Flag laws) also can save lives. Look at what has happened in Florida just since the laws passed there in response to the Parkland shooting and the pressure put on lawmakers by the outspoken and courageous students:

Hundreds of gun owners in Florida have been ordered to give up their guns under a new law that took effect after the deadly Parkland shooting in February, according to a report published Monday.

The Risk Protection Order, signed by Florida Gov. Rick Scott just three weeks after a gunman killed 17 people at Stoneman Douglas, aims to temporarily remove weapons from gun owners who have been deemed by a judge to possibly be a threat to themselves or others.

 

Yes. We can save lives.

Let’s do it together.

There are many issues before us during this chaotic election season. Gun violence is just one of them that has now taken hold and supported by the majority of Americans. Lawmakers are feeling this and have become more outspoken about the issue. I am a Democrat. For many years I have been working on my own elected leaders to be bold and speak out. It is finally happening. It took many years of advocating, meetings, vigils, sending emails, making phone calls and insisting on change.

That is what we have to do with so many other issues like health care, immigration, the economy, getting big money out of our politics, medicare, social security and the environment. It won’t happen overnight but suddenly it will take hold.

The Parkland shooting has moved the needle at long last on the issue of preventing gun violence. It wasn’t the Sandy Hook shooting or the Aurora theater shooting or the Las Vegas shooting or the Pulse Nightclub shooting, many of which took more lives than the Parkland shooting. But it was an accumulation that threw the public over the edge. Thanks to those courageous and outspoken students for the change we are seeing in our country.

It takes us all working together raising our voices and persistence.

We all have our stories to tell. Some are about the loss of life due to bullets. Some about insidious diseases or conditions. Some are about suicide by any means. Some are about immigration or about health care or about losing a job or about cancer, or Parkinson’s, or depression or Alzheimer’s or heart disease. All of these are in my family. Many of these are in families of people I know and care about.

At some point there is an intersection of the issues and that is this-  making us all safer, healthier and caring for one another when it needs to happen.

Gun violence is a public health epidemic where it intersects with health care. Gun violence is an economic issue as deaths by gun cost our law enforcement, legal and health care system a lot of money. Gun violence has an intersection with immigration. Gun violence has an intersection with education as so many of the mass shootings have happened in our schools. Gun violence has an obvious intersection with domestic abuse and violence.  

And to add to this list, gun violence intersects with terrorism and national security because we know terrorists can buy guns in the U.S. and we aren’t stopping them from doing so because of a big gap in our laws. This is a matter of national security as well. And if we don’t think the fomenting of fear and paranoia against the media and the increased presence of militia and other hate groups who are armed isn’t another big issue, we are not paying attention to a serious problem.

And yes, gun violence intersects with big money in politics as the NRA has become a lobbying and big money influencer in our politics and elections. That is why so many of our leaders won’t stand up and do the right thing.

We don’t need a repeat of what happened last August in Charlottesville but the same group is gathering in Oregon and a “Unite the Right” rally on the National Mall in D.C. next week-end. Let’s hope nothing goes wrong.

Many of these issues are the American tragedy. Failure to deal with all of them is failure to keep America safe and do the right thing for our citizens.school

When common sense prevails, we will all be better off.

On this day I remember not only my beautiful sister Barbara Lund but all my friends and people I don’t know who have suffered the grief of the sudden, unexpected and violent death of a loved one from bullets shot out of guns that are too readily available.

As my former Senator Paul Wellstone said, ” We all do better when we all do better.

Nothing could be more true.

 

UPDATE:

I posted this before I went to church this morning and I was inspired by the service to write more.  It was the annual outdoor service under a tent near the vegetable and wild flower garden planted behind the parking lot. There was great music, a wonderful children’s time, a great sermon and the closeness of the congregation gathered together in this sweet sultry summer morning. The minister of my church reminded the congregation that this was the 27th anniversary of her first service at our church.

In an odd confluence of events, it was one year after she began her ministry that my sister was murdered. On August 7th after our family finally learned of the news of the murder and all family members were informed, I called my minister to share what had happened with her. Her response was as it always is with her- so supportive and caring and kind and gentle with just the right things to say. After all of that, though, she told me that her husband, who had not yet moved to Duluth because he hadn’t found a job yet, was on his job as a Police Officer in Minnetonka, Minnesota on August 6th. He was one of the first officers to enter the home of my estranged brother-in-law, now taken to the mental ward of a Twin Cities area hospital by his lawyers ( another long story). He was one of the first officers to find her body and that of her partner. He was there. He saw the horrific scene.

Once and only once, I had the nerve to talk to him about the crime scene. I think I didn’t really want to know the details. I wanted to remember her as the vibrant, beautiful, talented, high spirited sister I knew who was trying to be happy. The last time I saw her was at my daughter’s graduation from high school less than 2 months before her murder.

This morning’s church service was a reminder to me about how supportive my minister and everyone in my church has been to me over the years. One year after my sister’s murder, I asked my minister to lead a celebration of life for my sister on the shore of Lake Superior. Friends and family attended. The minister read the eulogy from my sister’s memorial service as it was held quite privately in a church in the Twin Cities so not many of my friends attended.

Since that time, our chapter has held many vigils and events around gun violence prevention and I have led many mission moments about gun violence- too many. My minister has spoken many times at our vigils and has spoken out publicly about this issue. Gun violence has a ripple effect you see. The people in my church are affected by what happened to me and they support my efforts and they support stronger gun laws and preventing shootings.

I am humbled today by all of the emotions and the memories. I know that the majority is with me. If only the leaders of our country would step up and be with us so we can save lives.

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Vigil for Las Vegas shooting victims at my church in Oct. 2017

 

Another shooting anniversary and NRA spies amongst us

yellow roseI want to start this post by recognizing that today is the day before the anniversary of the tragic murder of 12 and the injuring of 58 by bullets at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater. My friends, Sandi and Lonni Phillips are grieving for their murdered daughter, Jessica Ghawi who was brutally shot that day 6 years ago.  They have gone through hell and back after that day. Who wouldn’t? I stand with them in their pain and their attempts to make changes to our gun laws and to support other victims. Thanks to the NRA, the shooter at the theater was able to purchase a hundred round drum magazine so he could carry out his massacre.

Remember the victims of that horrendous shooting: Jonathan Blunk, Alexander Boik, Jesse Childress, Gordon Cowden, Jessica Ghawi, John Larimer, Matt McQuinn, Micayla Medek, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, Alex Sullivan, Alexander Teves, and Rebecca Wingo. And let us also remember that the injured have and will suffer from life long injuries and likely PTSD after the horror of the shooting scene.

Thank you NRA. Thank you corporate gun lobby.

Since July of 2012, about 200,000 Americans have been killed by bullets and we have experienced multiple (1772) horrific mass shootings– Sandy Hook, Charleston, Las Vegas, Pulse Nightclub, Parkland, Sutherland, …………………………………………………………………………….

Our Congress has done nothing.

Thanks NRA.

And meanwhile, closer to to the present as the families of the Aurora shooting try to honor their loved ones’ deaths and both remember and try to forget what happened that day, the NRA is still at it. I assume you have read or heard the news about the arrested Russian spy and her connections to the NRA and Republicans.

Yes it’s true. There are Russian/NRA spies working on behalf of the Republicans and our very own President:

Amid the sprawling scandal over Russian interference with the 2016 election, there’s long been an odd subplot over Russian ties to, of all groups, the National Rifle Association — ties that, according to McClatchy, have been investigated by the FBI.

Now the arrest of 29-year-old Russian national Maria Butina on charges of conspiracy and acting as an agent of a foreign government has put those questions about the famous gun rights group on center stage.

But despite the new indictment (which is not part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe), the full extent of what happened here remains mysterious.

Odd subplot is right. It’s not normal and it’s more than odd. But the Russians knew that the NRA would be helpful… because that’s the kind of organization it has become.

You just can’t make this stuff up.

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I wrote a blog post on my former blog site about sleeping with an NRA spy. It seems that anything goes with the organization that is opposed to common sense laws that could save lives.

Now of course, the NRA has become an extremist organization where board members like Ted Nugent regularly speak hate and violence themselves.:

Ted Nugent dedicated a song during his concert on Tuesday in Virginia to “dumb f***” protesters like Andy Parker, who is the father of a gun violence victim.

The outspoken Republican rocker, who’s no stranger to controversy, said to the audience, according to the Roanoke Times, “If I get too political, f*** you.”

Nugent also dedicated his set to “everybody, including those dumb motherf*****s that were protesting me because they’re still grieving. When you lose a loved one, we pray for you when you lose a loved one. We all prayed for him, didn’t we? How the f*** do you hate the Nugent family when we’re praying for you? You dumb f****.”

Yes. It’s true. That is what he said. I know Andy and Barbara Parker. Their daughter Alison was shot and killed on live TV almost 3 years ago now. Why would Nugent attack the father of a young woman so brutally murdered by someone who should not have had a gun? The NRA must sanction this kind of totally offensive and crude rhetoric because they have not denounced it. What you don’t say is as important as what you do. The true agenda of the NRA is out there in plain site for all of us to see.

The irony of all of this is that the majority of NRA members do NOT agree with the agenda of the organization to which they have paid their membership dues. The majority want Brady background checks on all gun sales which the NRA has scuttled all attempts to pass in the U.S. Congress- even after the shooting of 20 6 and 7 year olds at Sandy Hook Elementary School:

Sixty-nine percent of NRA members expressed support for comprehensive background checks. A proposal to implement universal background checks would apply to all gun sales, rather than just purchases made at licensed retailers, according to the Giffords Law Center, a gun control advocacy group.

The other irony is that the outspoken and offensive Ted Nugent didn’t allow gun carrying concert goers to carry their guns into his latest Roanoke concert. What is he afraid of? I will remind my readers that Alison Parker was shot and killed in Roanoke. Is that why? Was he afraid of the Parker family? Because Andy is so scary when he speaks out against the violence that took the life of his daughter.

Or maybe some of the irresponsible gun owners who, on a regular basis, “accidentally” fire their guns and hurt or kill someone? Like this father? He shot and killed his 6 year old daughter while cleaning his gun. There are no accidents with guns. They are lethal weapons designed to kill. Everyone needs to

Or maybe someone who intentionally means harm. Remember the shooting at the Las Vegas concert?

There is really no question that Russia has been involved in our last Presidential election. Trump is having trouble publicly admitting it but he knows about it and has since before he was inaugurated our 45th President. Not sure what to call this but many words come to mind.

The NRA was also involved in the Presidential election in ways that we should all question. Answers need to come forth. We know that the NRA spent $30 million to get Donald Trump elected. But now it seems like more than just money was spent on the election:

The F.B.I. and special counsel Robert Mueller are investigating meetings between N.R.A. officials and powerful Russian operatives, trying to determine if those contacts had anything to do with the gun group spending $30 million to help elect Donald Trumptriple what it invested on behalf of Mitt Romneyin 2012. The use of foreign money in American political campaigns is illegal. One encounter of particular interest to investigators is between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian banker at an N.R.A. dinner.

The Russian wooing of N.R.A. executives goes back to at least 2011, when that same banker and politician, Alexander Torshin, befriended David Keene, who was then president of the gun-rights organization. Torshin soon became a “life member,” attending the N.R.A.’s annual conventions and introducing comrades to other gun-group officials. In 2015, Torshin welcomed an N.R.A. delegation to Moscow that included Keene and Joe Gregory, then head of the “Ring of Freedom” program, which is reserved for top donors to the N.R.A. Among the other hosts were Dmitry Rogozin, who until last month was the deputy prime minister overseeing Russia’s defense industry, and Sergei Rudov, head of the Saint Basil the Great Charitable Foundation, one of Russia’s wealthiest philanthropies.

Maria Butina apparently used sex to gain power and influence into the Republican party on behalf of the Russians. She inserted herself into CPAC, the religious right wing and the NRA to get information and to influence elected leaders and others to get Trump elected.

It worked. And now she is behind bars without bail.

It’s hard to fathom this intrigue. It reads like a spy novel but it’s happening in real life. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

The NRA is not your father’s NRA. The NRA is not an organization to support gun owners and hunters. It is an organization that is an arm of the Republican party and its’ intentions are to elect people who will support their agenda to loosen gun laws, to nominate Supreme Court justices who will help loosen gun laws and to make sure the country’s majority does not get what they want and need to be safe in their communities.

We ought to be better than this. The corruption is palpable and increasingly dangerous for our democracy. We just cannot let this be our country. We are the model of democracy for the world. If we become an autocracy and just another country beholden to corrupt leaders at the top and big money, we can expect to see bad things happen.

I, for one, am going to continue pushing for common sense and protesting the influence of Russians and the big money NRA in our politics.

Freedom from gun violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

STOP.

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

MR. MAJORITY LEADER- STOP THE STUFF AND NONSENSE.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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