Lasting effects of gun violence

Today is the “anniversary” of the attempt to assassinate President Reagan. As we know, President Reagan survived the shooting and was back at work leading the country within the following month. But it was never the same for James Brady, President Reagan’s press secretary who suffered grievous injuries on March 30, 1981:

Besides Reagan, White House Press Secretary James BradySecret Service agent Tim McCarthy, and police officer Thomas Delahanty were also wounded. All three survived, but Brady suffered brain damage and was permanently disabled; Brady’s death in 2014 was considered a homicide because it was ultimately caused by this injury

His life became that of a survivor with continuing health and physical challenges. He retained his sense of humor and did the best he could to be cheerful. I met Brady once at a lunch for Brady United Against Gun Violence and spoke with him briefly. It was hard to understand him as his speech production was affected by his injuries. It was such an honor to be able to speak with him and meet him for the first time.

Sarah Brady became a force in the effort to get the Brady law eventually passed after 6 tries in 7 years. Because of her tireless and selfless efforts, we are safer now from gun violence. That is what drove her to keep going back to Congress to demand that something be done to stop people, like the man who shot her husband, from getting guns in the first place.

I served with Sarah on the Brady board and came to appreciate her wry humor, her feisty personality and plain spokenness. She was not afraid to speak up, to criticize when she thought something was wrong, to be appreciative when things were done right, and to engage in the important discussions about gun violence prevention. Sarah died in 2015 from cancer.

Since the shooting on March 30, 1981 that left Jim Brady permanently disabled, over one million Americans have died of gunshot injuries.

After the Brady Bill was enacted into law in 1993, a system of instant background checks on gun purchasers was set up by the FBI. The database includes the following:

  1. Has been convicted in any court of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year;
  2. Is a fugitive from justice;
  3. Is an unlawful user of or addicted to any controlled substance;
  4. Has been adjudicated as a mental defective or committed to a mental institution;
  5. Is an alien illegally or unlawfully in the United States;
  6. Has been discharged from the Armed Forces under dishonorable conditions;
  7. Having been a citizen of the United States, has renounced U.S. citizenship;
  8. Is subject to a court order that restrains the person from harassing, stalking, or threatening an intimate partner or child of such intimate partner, or;
  9. Has been convicted in any court of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence.

These prohibited gun purchaser categories are used by federally licensed firearms dealers to check the status of someone who wants to buy a gun. At the point of purchase, the buyer completes a Form 4473 to complete the purchase.

Because of the passage of the Brady law, over 3 million people seeking to purchase a gun from a licensed firearms dealer have been prohibited from doing so because they fall into one of the above categories. There is no question that Brady background checks have and do save lives.

As of the time of Sarah Brady’s death she was working on, along with many others in the gun violence prevention movement, expanding this system of background checks to all private sellers. What is generally referred to as a loophole in the law allows for private sellers to sell guns to anyone without requiring a background check. This loophole is equivalent to allowing some physicians, some teachers, some public accountants, some other professionals to practice their careers without being checked out to make sure they are not a felon, a domestic abuser, an illegal drug user, etc. That is the way it should be.

Especially now with the coronavirus outbreak, we certainly want patients to be treated by licensed professionals. And especially now when the Health and Human Services Department has deemed that gunshops are essential businesses with a surge in gun sales, we should want all gun sales to have a background check. These are stressful, dangerous and perilous times in the history of our country. There is a lot of fear and misinformation floating around as well as anxiety, depression and anger. When President Trump pronounced on Saturday that we was concerned about the potential for suicides, he forgot to mention that he had not shut down gun shops to make the means for suicide less likely. Whether he is right or wrong doesn’t it make common sense to stop one of the most efficient methods of suicide by shutting down gun shops? Suicide by gun accounts for at least half of all suicides; suicide by gun accounts for the majority of our gun deaths.

Something does not make sense with passing a law that made so much common sense and then letting some gun sales go without the checks that save lives. Something does not make sense in letting people who could be dangerous to themselves or others to buy a gun from a private seller without making sure that person can be responsible and safe. Something does not make sense that in this time of uncertainty, some counties across our states are declaring themselves second amendment sanctuaries to law enforcement ostensibly will not have to enact laws already on the books or new laws passed in many states to save lives.

Some things do not make sense. The shooting of Jim Brady did not make sense. My sister’s shooting did not make sense. The mass shootings at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Las Vegas, El Paso, Virginia Beach, Red Lake, Parkland, and all of the others so frequently occurring in our country don’t make any sense. Something does not make sense about stockpiling guns in this time of uncertainty. Something does not make sense about a public health epidemic out of control not receiving the attention it deserved and deserves.

But in this time of another public health pandemic, most things are shut down and on hold, including actions in Congress and state legislatures to deal with gun violence prevention. We will not forget. We will keep working on keeping Americans safe long after the current epidemic slows. A piece written by Jonathan Lowy from the Brady Center explains why this is so crucial:

The risks are great that guns will be stored unsafely and accessible to children and others who should not have access to them. And your semiautomatic can’t fend off the coronavirus, no matter how large your ammunition magazine is.

But there is an even more fundamental problem that may be at play with at least some of the binge-buying of guns. Some have a sense, it appears, that society may break down under the weight of this pandemic, and Americans will end up fighting each other for supplies, or food, or to maintain safety.  

In this post-apocalyptic Hobbesian state, guns will be needed. This is the same worldview that the National Rifle Association has been stoking for decades to fuel the notion that a gun is necessary for self-protection, evidenced by an inflammatory tweet last week. Some will even add, that is what the Framers intended when they wrote the Second Amendment into our Constitution. (…) And when we come out of this coronavirus, we must recommit to repairing the breaches of our society and establishing a caring community in which Americans recognize we are in this together, as a nation and, indeed, a world. Stockpiling firearms is not the answer and is contradictory to the very notions of government and society upon which our nation was founded.

Lowy is so right. We will come out of this on the other side. Many hundreds of thousands will have died or been changed forever by this time in our history. It would be an added tragedy to add gun avoidable and senseless deaths to coronavirus deaths.

The toll will be more than we can imagine right now. The toll of gun deaths has been more than we can fathom for decades. The bell tolls for the hundreds of thousands who will die or be affected.

Please be safe and healthy. These are difficult times. Having a gun in the home right now can make households and families less safe. If you own a gun please store it securely and unloaded. Please don’t let children or teens get their hands on a gun right now or ever. End Family Fire is working on awareness of the risks of guns in homes.

Sarah Brady knew the risks of guns owned by those who shouldn’t have them. I know the risks of guns in homes with domestic and marital strife. Too many parents have found out the hard way about the risks of guns to children who accessed them in curious moments. Too many families have found that a suicide by gun has forever changed their lives. Too many mass shootings have proven why we need to continue this national discussion about gun violence.

Blue Virginia offers hope to the nation

Yes, Virginia, there is hope. After the 2019 elections when gun violence prevention was the top issue and the reason the state turned “blue” the Virginia legislature is taking up long neglected gun safety reform bills.

The first bill passed was to ban guns at the Capitol complex. The question is why anyone feels the need to carry a loaded gun while at a hearing for a gun bill- or for any bill for that matter. If the reason is intimidation, they have failed. The gun safety reform groups are unarmed and unafraid and will not be bullied and intimidated by the “gun guys.”

From the above article:

The policy, which was set to take effect at midnight Friday, pointedly applies not just to visitors, who until now have been allowed to bring weapons into the building if they have a concealed-carry permit. The ban also applies to senators and delegates — even those who are law enforcement officers.

But as a practical matter, Capitol Police Col. Steve Pike said, the policy will not be enforced with lawmakers. Requiring them to pass through metal detectors would probably slow them down as they travel between the Capitol and the adjacent Pocahontas Building, which the ban also covers. In addition, he said, legislators are immune from prosecution during the session, under a law intended to ensure their performance of the people’s business is not impeded.

A practical matter? It seems pretty impractical to me to allow lawmakers to remain armed. For what possible reasons should they be armed now that their constituents are not. “Accidents” have happened. Take this one in Kentucky:

Democratic Kentucky State Rep. Leslie Combs doesn’t think her accidental discharge of a firearm in the state’s capitol building Tuesday afternoon was a big deal. “I am a gun owner, it happens,” Combs told reporters after the incident. 

Combs was apparently in the process of unloading her Ruger 380 semi-automatic handgun when it fired into the floor of the Capitol annex. No one was harmed by the gunshot, so she reported the incident to state police about two hours later. the lawmaker told the Courier-Journal that she has a concealed carry permit, and often brings the gun to work in her purse.  Here’s more from Combs: 

“I was purposely disarming it to put it up because I didn’t like it and I didn’t want to use it any more… I had had it in my purse I carry usually, and I thought I’m going to put that sucker away.”

I say put those “suckers” away permanently. We know what else happens but I will not use the word here. And “it” happens far too often when so called law abiding gun owners are irresponsible with their guns. Even when they think they are responsible, guns are deadly weapons and things go wrong. That seems like a good reason to practice common sense and just not carry the “sucker” around with you everywhere you go.

Sometimes these “accidental” gun discharges end with death or severe injury. I have written about incidents like this many times in this blog. A relative tries to get in the house and a loved one shoots them thinking they are an intruder. Just today a man discharged his gun in a crowded restaurant injuring an 80 year old woman. You can’t make this stuff up. A woman lives to age of 80 and gets shot in a restaurant by a reckless and irresponsible gun carrier. She was lucky and so was the gun owner. What if he had killed the woman? Does anyone want to live with the reality that they killed an innocent person in a totally avoidable situation?

But I digress. A 3 year old finds his brother’s loaded gun in a restaurant and shoots it off. The man was charged with several crimes. A gun fired from a woman’s purse and shot and killed her in a North Carolina restaurant.

The list is endless. Look them up for yourself. These don’t get a lot of attention but they should. Guns carried around loaded in public places are dangerous and should be re-considered. It’s time to change the conversation about the role of guns in public places.

So it was a good first step for Virginia to ban guns in the Capitol buildings in the name of public safety. Next up, other bills concerning public safety and gun safety reform. Today 4 bills passed out of the Virginia Senate. This is cause for celebration and I’m sure my Virginia friends are ecstatic right now as well they should be.

Elections matter.

Let’s take a look at the Virginia Senate bills ( from the above linked article):

The bills now headed for the full Senate would require background checks on all firearms purchases, allow law enforcement to temporarily remove guns from individuals deemed a risk to themselves or others, let localities ban weapons from certain events and government buildings, and cap handgun purchases at one per month.

All common sense measures and all supported by the majority of voters in Virginia. The majority in the country and in almost all states want to make the country safer from gun violence and one very important way to do that is to pass stronger gun laws. It’s going to happen state by state and it will happen in the country as soon as we vote out those who oppose the public.

Voting with the NRA and the gun lobby is a losing proposition right now. The public is far ahead of some of our elected leaders who are still dinosaurs as far as gun laws go. There is still nonsensical talk about gun registration and gun confiscation as well as taking away rights. But in Virginia as in many states, there have been several high profile mass shootings and other shootings that have called attention to the lax gun laws and the devastation from bullets. The Virginia Tech shooting resulted in the death of 32 and others injured. The shooting of a young Richmond T.V. reporter Alison Parker on live T.V. was horrendous and unspeakable. And the latest was the mass shooting at Virginia Beach killing 12. Virginians just don’t want to get shot nor do they want their loved ones and friends to be shot. They want laws that will prevent and reduce some of the shootings.

And if the NRA and any other gun rights advocate can say how these stronger gun laws will affect their lifestyle, have at it. If they can tell us how doing nothing is saving lives, tell us about it. If they can claim that we are safer now after allowing so many guns to be carried in public places, give us some facts to show that. If they can tell us why they object to everyone getting a background check before purchasing a gun, tell us about it. If they can tell us why the background check system already in place has inconvenienced them and caused terrible consequences for themselves or their families, please step up. I may even print the answers and examine the logic.

I am excited about what’s happening in Virginia. The Minnesota Senate is going to hold hearings on several bills as well:

But the hearing will be held on Republicans’ terms: no votes will be cast and the meeting will be held in gun-friendly Hibbing.

The chair of the Senate Public Safety and Judiciary Committee on Thursday, Dec. 19, announced that he would take the panel on the road next month to talk about the plans to require background checks at the time of transfer of a firearm and to allow law enforcement to remove a person’s firearms if they are believed to pose a danger to themselves or others.

“Gun friendly Hibbing.” We know where Hibbing is and it is not all gun friendly. We have many Minnesotans for common sense gun legislation living in northern Minnesota and they will be there. But nice try. Sneaking around in small towns to get the “gun guys” out in large numbers is so obvious as to be suspect to say the least.

Criminal background check and Extreme Risk Protection Order bilsl are life saving bills favored by the majority of Minnesotans. 97% of Minnesotans want universal background checks. That is almost unanimous and includes the gun owners in Hibbing, Mn. Of those 75% were Republicans. The Senate Republicans are on the wrong side of the isse.

2020, as I wrote in a recent post, has started out as violent as 2019 ended. Just check out the Gun Violence Archive for the latest information about shootings.

There is hope. There is a change in the issue of gun violence. The NRA is weak, pathetic and corrupt. Our leaders are finally catching up to the public. So I look forward to more progress in 2020 and making elected leaders accountable for their actions. We are not having their excuses any more.

Sabbath attacks

Yesterday was the Jewish sabbath. In New York, a man ran into the home of a Rabbi celebrating Hanukkah with friends and family and stabbed 5 people leaving 2 seriously injured:

“It was a terrifying scene, the officials and witness reported, saying that the violence occurred at about 10 p.m. as numerous people were celebrating Hanukkah at the home of the rabbi, Chaim Rottenberg, in Monsey, which is in an area with a large population of ultra-Orthodox Jews. (…) Mr. Kohn said that after the attacker fled, he tried to enter a synagogue next door, Congregation Netzach Yisroel, which is led by Rabbi Rottenberg.

But people inside the synagogue apparently heard screams from the rabbi’s home and, fearful, locked the door so the attacker could not get in, Mr. Kohn said.

Why, you might ask, do I write about a mass stabbing? They are relatively rare compared to mass shootings and often leave the victims injured but not dead. Never mind though, the far right and the gun rights advocates love to tell you that knivings result in more deaths than “rifles”. Let’s take a look at this Politifact article to find out the truth:

When totaling the data from the FBI crime report, we see that 374 people were killed by rifles, while 1,604 were killed by knives or cutting instruments. That means about 4.3 times as many people were killed by knives or cutting instruments as were killed by rifles.

“He is comparing a full set of cutting instruments to a partial set of guns which makes cutting instruments look more deadly,” said Dr. James Nolan, a sociology professor at West Virginia University.

“The real story from the data is that the odds of being murdered by a firearm are nearly seven times higher than the odds of being murdered by a knife or cutting instrument,” he said.

When you look at firearms murders overall, the number is staggeringly different: 11,004 murders out of 15,070 total murders were committed with firearms. That is, 73 percent of U.S. murders were committed with firearms — 3.4 percent of firearm murders were committed with a rifle. The other categories are shotguns, handguns and “type unknown.”

So comparing apples to oranges is misleading. Knives can be dangerous for sure. When used as a weapon they can kill and injure. And what happened in New York is reprehensible at the least. It’s hate and anti-Semitic nature make it a domestic terrorism attack. Unfortunately those are on the increase in America. What makes it even worse than usual is that the current occupant of the White House encourages hate and intolerance and fails to speak out against White Supremacism, Racism and anti-Semitism:

Indeed, the most dangerous thing about living at a time of constant stories about anti-Semitism is how quickly the hatred is normalized. Two and a half years ago, chants of “Jews will not replace us” in Charlottesville, Virginia, stunned America; today, anti-Semitism is just a part of the news cycle.And so, as we take stock after this latest news, it’s time to face three uncomfortable truths. First, despite his claims, Giuliani’s comments are unmistakably anti-Semitic. Second, this anti-Semitism is not merely vile but dangerous: The anti-Soros tropes like those evoked by Giuliani may tacitly encourage those prone to violence, resulting in Jewish bodies on the streets. Most disturbingly, we can’t write this off as the inebriated ravings of a single man. Everything Giuliani said had been repeated, over and over, by President Donald Trump, by Republican lawmakers and by Fox News hosts.

We can’t forget the recent shootings in synagogues- Tree of Life and Poway mass shootings are still fresh in our minds. In the linked article you can see an increase in the 21st century of attacks on synagogues. Something is rotten.

Note that as of the time I wrote this, there has not been one tweet or one statement from our President about the attack at the New York home of the Rabbi.

No words.

And speaking of shootings at places of worship, there have been quite a number of them as well over the past few years. I won’t name them here but I’m sure you know of them.

One happened just this morning at White Settlement church in Texas. Two are dead and one injured. From another article, it seems that an armed member, perhaps a security guard at the church, shot the shooter. Not before, of course, the shooter got off a few rounds and did the damage. These kind of things take everyone by surprise because why would you think you might be shot while taking communion at a church service on a Sunday morning?

Do I have to remind you that the deadliest shooting at a place of worship also happened in Texas- at Sutherland Springs, leaving 26 dead?

It’s the sabbath in America when many Americans practice their faith in different ways. Have we come to needing armed guards at churches? Do we need them wherever we go because that is what may happen? But how would that work? Or should we all carry our guns with us wherever we go? That will make for a safer America for sure.

It’s heartening to see that an unarmed group of volunteers calling themselves the Guardian Angels will be patrolling the streets near where the stabbing attack occurred and in Jewish neighborhoods. No guns. No knives. Just people making a statement that we are not going to let these attacks deter us from living our lives and we will not let them frighten us (though they most certainly do at some level).

It’s clear that we need leadership from our elected leaders to protect us. That is the bottom line.

Instead of dealing with an out of control gun culture and culture of fear, intolerance, hate and paranoia, some are ignoring the crisis and acquiescing to the corporate gun lobby’s myths. It’s a sad and chaotic way to live but that is the way some like it because then they can control everything and make money doing it.

Call me cynical if you must but we are ending 2019 with a record number of gun deaths according to Gun Violence Archive and all of the everyday media reports of shootings. Will things change in 2020? Will common sense break out? I think you know the answer to that. As long as our leaders would rather support corporate money and power rather than what the majority of Americans want them to do, this will be our sabbath and worship days, and our school days, and our shopping at malls, and going to work, and enjoying concerts and movies. This will be our fate as a country unless we get new leaders who will stand up for what is morally the right thing to do and stop the shootings.

If we can’t or won’t change the laws and the culture, we will change the leaders.

Let’s get to work.

This is not normal. It doesn’t have to be like this.

And let us take a minute to remember the victims of both attacks. They have names. They have family and communities grieving their losses and grieving that their faith stirs hate enough to want them dead.

Background checks and gingerbread houses

Yesterday I stopped to pick up my best friend at her house. Her son-in-law and granddaughter were outside of her door picking up her background check form that would be submitted to her granddaughter’s teacher so that she could enter the school building to help with her granddaughter’s 3rd grade class make gingerbread houses.

Her granddaughter was quite clear that this was required because of the near school shooting that happened last spring in Duluth. In a matter of fact voice she stated that her school had to go on a “soft” lock-down because someone with a gun was in the nearby high school. All Duluth schools went on lock-down that day. No one connected with the schools has forgotten what happened that day. Duluth could have been in the news for a mass shooting of innocent school children but because law enforcement acted quickly and relative reported the man to law enforcement the man was arrested before he could do any serious harm.

The harm done still lives inside of students and teachers. As I wrote in my last post, one of the students who huddled with friends in the orchestra room fearing she was going to die, has not forgotten. PTSD is real. Kids go to school wondering if there will be a shooting that day. It is no at the top of their minds most likely but it lurks under the surface.

And companies are profiting from this fear by training educators and children to participate in lock-down drills that make them responsible for stopping a shooter, not the elected leaders who could actually do something about it. I will write more about this later.

And by do something, I mean pass the universal background check bill passed by the U.S. House last February. Minnesota Senators could pass the background check sitting idle on their desks as well after the House passed the bill last spring. But common sense is not happening when it should given the gun violence epidemic.

Does it make any sense, for example, that a man who has served time for various felony offenses, can walk into a Duluth bar and threaten people with a gun?:

At the time of the incident, Curry was on supervised release for a federal conviction for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance. He also has convictions in Minnesota for attempted second-degree burglary, aiding and abetting second-degree assault and escape from custody.

Could or should this man have passed a background check at a federally licensed firearms dealers? No. Could he get a gun anyway? Yes. And that is our problem and the foolishness and danger of not requiring background checks on all gun sales but getting them on volunteers in our schools.

The thing is, the man who was caught at a high school in Duluth last year passed a first background check so he could coach kids with disabilities. But a more thorough check may have found him to be someone who should not be in schools working with kids if not more. An Extreme Risk Protection Order could have prevented him from having guns given that he was reported by a family member for comments he had made. In addition, he appeared to have mental health difficulties that should have prevented him from having a gun.

Miller, the defense attorney, said his client has mental health diagnoses and believes that he was not thinking clearly at the time he made the statements. He added that he does not believe the weapons were actually capable of fully automatic fire, indicating a probable cause challenge would likely be made to that charge.

“…fully automatic fire…” What are we thinking? Why should any gun or any gun kit that could make a gun capable of automatic fire be available to anyone?

We know requiring background checks on all gun sales will not save every life. But not to require them is an abrogation of our responsibility of a polite and democratic society. We all have a right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Happiness is being able to help your granddaughter make a gingerbread house in her school classroom without fear of being shot.

Rather than do the right thing and do whatever is necessary to make guns harder to access for those who should not have them,we engage companies to train our children to fight off school shooters.

The Trace has published this article about ALICE training:

Drills can also be traumatic for the children involved, and schools considering training options have the difficult task of weighing the need for protection from intruders against the risk of doing further harm. “There is no evidence that lockdown drills with kids learning to barricade or defend themselves enhances security,” said Dr. Nancy Rappaport, an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. And the drills “may have unintended consequences of creating terror for students.”

And more:

There are no national standards or specific licensing requirements dictating who can or can’t start an active shooter training company, he said, which is part of the problem. “People are claiming to be subject matter experts because they feel they are, or have written a book,” he said.

Czyz said he is so convinced that teachers are the ones who need to be prepared that he doesn’t train children in active shooter drills, only in preventative measures and situational awareness. He doesn’t want to risk training a potential shooter, and was spooked by reports that the Parkland shooter may have used his knowledge of the school’s drill procedure to guide his attack. (The gunman reportedly set off the fire alarm before his rampage, which may have complicated the school’s lockdown.)

This is all about the kids. If we can’t protect them from being shot, who are we? All kids should be able to go about their business of being students and not worry about being shot. The fact that we have to have lock-down drills using techniques from companies like ALICE is a statement about us. New information about these kinds of trainings should make us wonder what we are doing to our kids.

I know my friend had a great time with her granddaughter and I assume all were safe. And let’s hope that everyone stays safe for the remainder of the school year of 2019.

7 years after Sandy Hook

Again, we are at that date again. We are remembering the 26 innocent victims of that awful day in 2012.

My Northland Brady/Protect Minnesota chapter held a vigil yesterday to honor those 26 lives and to highlight the effect gun violence has on all of us. Gun violence takes the form of suicides, homicides, mass shootings and “accidental shootings” along with actions taken by law enforcement. We have had so many mass shootings that we are all suffering from PTSD.

The headline of the hard copy of the Duluth News Tribune is this: “We are children, dying before we live.” That was a quote from a Duluth student who experienced a real lockdown last April of all Duluth schools when a man threatened to shoot up a school and was found in one of the local high schools. The student noted that it’s been 8 months and 8 days since her lease on life was extended because she thought she was going to die that day:

Karin Berdahl, now a student at Drake University in Iowa, noted that it had been eight months and eight days since she was in the orchestra room at Duluth East High School “cradling myself and my friend, shaking with terror” after an alert was given about a man with a gun in the school.

She was born two years after the Columbine High School shooting in Littleton, Colo., Berdahl said, and was 11 when the Sandy Hook shooting took place.

“I have never lived in a time where gun violence isn’t prevalent,” she said. “I have never not lived with that fear. Restrictions can be set in place. Laws can be passed. I was lucky that day; many are not. We are children, dying before we live.”

And this, dear readers is the American tragedy of gun violence. The Executive Director of Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs spoke about the trainings he does in Australia for the coordinated community response to domestic abuse known as the Duluth Model. In Australia, there is domestic abuse as there is everywhere in the world. But women are not being killed by their abusers in regular incidents as we hear and read about every day in our own country.

The Chief of Police spoke about Extreme Risk Protection Orders and why they would save lives:

This year, Tusken said, he consulted with St. Louis County Sheriff Ross Litman when it became known to police that a man with a permit to carry was mentally unstable. Without a red flag law in place, there was nothing police could do to protect the man from himself or o

A parent spoke and teared up about having to think about her sons being victims of a school shooting and she chose not to think about every day as she sne them off to school in the morning.A teacher and President of the Duluth Federation of Teachers ( a co-sponsor of the event) spoke about how teachers’ jobs had changed after all of the school shootings because now they have to think about an active shooter in their building and classroom and go through lock-down drills that traumatize kids and educators alike.

A gun owner spoke about how the NRA is fear mongering scaring people into thinking they must have their guns for self protection. He said that it isn’t gun safety reform that threatens their rights but rather it is gun violence itself. And further, no legal gun owners’ rights will be affected if common sense gun legislation measures are passed. They are lying.

The President of the Duluth chapter of the NAACP spoke about and remembered his brother and sister, both victims of shootings. A leader from the native American community spoke about how gun violence has affected his members. I read a statement from a transgender leader from our community who could not attend but spoke about how much guns and gun violence affect their community- both homicides and suicides. A veteran remembered the many veterans who die daily from gun suicides.

Gun violence affects us all. So many people are suffering from the after effects of shootings that have torn their families apart. The last speaker was a local woman whose brother was shot and killed last December- almost one year ago now. From the article:

For Wendy Waha, that person was Kevin John Weiss, killed in a shooting a year and three days earlier outside a Gary-New Duluth residence.

“Our innocence has been shattered, and life feels a lot less safe and a lot more violent,” Waha said. “We now think about things like guns, and that such a weapon doesn’t allow for second chances, or grace, or restorative ends to conflict.”

Waha spoke calmly and forcefully for nearly five minutes. But when it came time to say her brother’s name before ringing the bell, she faltered. After tearfully reciting his name, she added, “I would ask everyone here to please take action to do something that helps put common (sense) gun laws into place in order to end this insanity.”

Yes. Our innocence has been shattered. It is never the same. For the parents of the children shot 7 years ago today at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, they are now coming to grips with the idea that their children have been dead as long as they were alive. I read an article about the family of Noah Pozner, one of the children killed, as they deal with the ugly and offensive hoaxers who claim that Sandy Hook never happened and they have attacked these families and made their lives miserable. Their grief should have been enough. But this is so over the top, there are hardly words:

A month before what would have been his son Noah’s 13th birthday, Lenny Pozner told a jury about the last time he saw him, when he dropped him off at school on Dec. 14, 2012.

“It was cold, but he jumped out not wearing his jacket, and he had one arm in one sleeve and his backpack on the other arm, and he was kind of juggling both and walking into the school that way,” Mr. Pozner told a Wisconsin jury in October. “And that’s — that’s the last visual that I have of Noah.” (…) “We had a private viewing where we opened the coffin, and I got a chance to say one last goodbye to Noah,” Mr. Pozner said, as some jurors wept. “I remember saying goodbye to him and kissing him on his forehead,” which because the child had been shot in the face, “was the only part of him that was not covered.”

Do our leaders get this? Noah’s forehead was all that was left of his face. Dying by bullets from a gun is gruesome. The Duluth Police Chief spoke about how officers and first responders cannot unsee what they see when at the scene of a shooting. And the health care community also suffers from PTSD and the nightmare of treating gunshot injuries and those who die from their injuries. A retired nurse whose father took his life by firearm when she was a young woman, spoke about how it is for those who treat gunshot victims:

We tend to the living.

Injuries include paralysis, chronic pain, Loss of limbs, Need for long term ventilators and feeding tubes  PTSD, and the latest concern is lead poisoning since often bullet fragments are unable to be removed. The most memorable patient I have cared for literally was left without a face.

Think of this with the Las Vegas shooting: 58 dead, but 620 sustained injuries, many who will suffer for a lifetime. A handgun wound usually requires one surgery, but an AR15 averages 3-10 surgeries.

Gun violence is insidious. It is violent. It shatters families and communities and leaves behind it a wake of grief and PTSD. It affects us all.

Let us remember the 26 who died one year ago today. Please watch this YouTube video. It is emotional and powerful.

Just a few more broken hearts

We’ve had another of those weeks. We’ve had just a few too many shootings and more than a few broken hearts. It’s America after all. What do we expect? We’ve also had some scary incidents like this one where a woman with a gun decided to threaten a McDonald’s employee over giving her jelly instead of ketchup. I mean wouldn’t that just make you so mad that you would want to kill someone? And if you had a gun you could.

She should have her gun rights and permit to carry taken away from her. She is clearly dangerous to others. From the article:

She was arrested Tuesday and charged with three counts of aggravated assault and unlawful possession of a weapon.

Oh right. She possessed the weapon unlawfully. How does that happen? Where did she get her gun?

Another “law abiding gun owner” was in the news this past week for leaving her gun around for her toddler to find. The toddler, thinking it was a toy gun, put it in his mouth and shot and killed himself last year. The Colorado woman was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Responsible gun owners lock up their guns so toddlers can’t find them. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Kids and guns don’t go together well.

We had another mass shooting at a military base. There have been a number of these. Pensacola Navy Base suffered through it this time. A Saudi air force member in the U.S. for training at the base opened fire and killed 3, injured 8 and law enforcement then killed him. Sound familiar?

Investigations are continuing about whether this was a terror attack on the U.S. I believe all mass shootings are terror attacks but if this shooter was associated with an actual known terrorist group, then it will likely be labeled a terror attack. I believe that would the first official one since 9/11. Time will tell. He bought his gun legally by the way. Sometimes legal guns and law abiding gun owners do bad things with their guns. Guns are lethal weapons designed to kill others.

One thing of grave concern is this:

The night before the attack, Lieutenant Alshamrani showed videos of mass shootings at a dinner party, according to a person who was briefed on the investigation.

Only in America could a would-be mass shooter have videos of mass shootings available to him. Only in America. Only in America can we have so much to write about regarding shootings and firearms incidents. Only in America do these things happen so regularly that we often pay them attention briefly and move on. We’ve already moved on.

Oh yes, there was almost another mass shooting in San Diego last week but the potential shooter stupidly posted things on his Facebook page that were alarming. Police were able to gain a search warrant:

Steve Andrew Homoki, 30, was arrested and charged with multiple felony assault weapons charges, possession of a high capacity magazine, and child endangerment.

San Diego Police say Homoki posted graphic videos online depicting assault weapons being pointed at unknowing pedestrians outside The Sofia Hotel in downtown San Diego.

California has passed an Extreme Risk Protection Order so law enforcement can take guns away from those who are a danger to themselves or others. Gun laws work. Thank goodness we didn’t have to wake up to yet another mass shooting last week.

So with more broken hearts this past week, the victims and survivors’ families will never move on. That’s the American tragedy. I wrote an opinion piece for my local newspaper last week after 2 heinous domestic shooting incidents in Minneapolis. It sickened me to think of a father, as I wrote in my last post, shooting his young sons as he greeted them at the door and they ran out into the snow. We ought to all be outraged by this. Many of us are. But not the ones who can do something about it- namely the Republican led U.S. Senate.

Last week was the annual national vigil for victims of gun violence started after the Sandy Hook shooting 7 years ago. As is the tradition, victims come forth with photos of their loved ones and speak their names. There are speakers and reflections about gun violence- once again. It’s a broken record and it’s broken hearts over and over and over again.

In Duluth we will have a community gathering on Friday to highlight how gun violence affects us all. It does. If we had any common sense we wouldn’t let it continue unabated.

So this was last week. A new week has begun. No doubt there will be “just a few shootings” again.

It’s in our hands to do the right thing. We will keep pushing, lighting candles, demanding action, ringing bells, writing articles, testifying at hearings, lobbying, rallying and whatever it takes.

Knives, tusks, guns and terror attacks

The world stopped for a while on Friday when a now known terrorist killed 2 innocent British citizens in a knife attack. Bystanders acted quickly by grabbing something called a narwhal tusk and a few fire extinguishers before police arrived with guns to shoot him. (A narwhal tusk is very long and sharp, made of ivory) Much has been made of these brave citizens who acted without thinking about their own safety. Likely they saved more innocent people from being killed or injured. And- without guns.

Raise your hand if you have heard of a narwhal tusk used as a weapon.

(As an aside, I actually saw a narwhal tusk on display while at the Hofburg palace museum in Vienna in October. It was a curious item to be displayed there and we wondered at the time about it. It turns out to be an item of the myth of Unicorns.)

Let us stop for a minute to remember the two victims of the attack- both graduates of Cambridge University:

Saskia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25, were both involved with Learning Together, a network of academics and criminal justice organizations, which was hosting an event at Fishmonger’s Hall where the attack began on Friday.

In the United Kingdom, citizens do not carry guns nor do they own many of them without a lot of regulations and laws. Police did not used to be armed but are now, given the world in which we live. Fairly regular terror attacks have occurred in the UK- none with firearms. Many have died but it doesn’t even come close to the toll of American lives lost in armed terror attacks in our country:

Terrorist attacks are much more likely to involve firearms in the U.S. than in many other high-income industrialized countries, a new study suggests.

Researchers examined data on 2,817 terrorist attacks in the United States, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and New Zealand from 2002 to 2016.

Nearly all of the countries with attacks had at least 10 incidents. Among these countries, the U.S. had the highest proportion of attacks involving guns, at 20 percent, followed by the Netherlands at 14 percent.

“The overall burden of firearm violence is much greater in the United States compared to other high-income countries,” said lead study author Dr. Robert Tessler of the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

“Our findings indicate that terrorist attacks involving firearms are deadlier compared to attacks with other weapons, regardless of the country,” Tessler said by email.

We should also remember that in the U.S. those on the known terror watch list can legally buy guns because we have not made it illegal.

You can’t make this stuff up.

There is a truth here that seems to go unnoticed by our elected officials in Congress who are beholden to the influence of the corporate gun lobby instead of to the majority of Americans who want them to protect us from senseless gun violence. I should say that these leaders notice but choose to do nothing. Since the U.S. House passed the bill requiring Brady background checks on all gun sales in February of this year, 27,670 Americans have died from firearms injuries.

Stunning.

#DoSomething

As long as Senator Mitch McConnell (President Trump) is in charge of the Senate, we can expect to see more deaths of innocent Americans. They are happening all around us every day. Suicides, homicides and “accidental” gun deaths are in news reports today as I write. There is no common sense amongst Senate Republicans at the moment. Their hands are bloodied and stained with their willful neglect and refusal to do what’s right.

And as long as there are people who insist on perpetuating the myth that more people with guns in public places ( “good guys with guns”) can save the day to stop terror attacks, the deaths will continue. A friend of our very own President had this to say about the terror attack in London:

“Takeaway from #LondonBridge incident: If law-abiding Londoners could carry firearms legally, it probably wouldn’t have happened. Amazing how bold the terrorists are when they know their victims will be unarmed,” he wrote.

Piers Morgan was among those to criticise Wohl’s response, with the Irish Post Award winner tweeting: “How can anyone be this dumb?”

Dumb is a good word for it. Just how would a “good guy” with a gun have been in the exact place when a terrorist decided to attack? And just what would that armed citizen have done to stop an attack that took place in a flash of a second surprising innocent people going about their business? And what makes those who say these dumb things believe they, themselves, would be able to act so quickly to save the day when chaos reigns and adrenaline is taking over the ability to act calmly and rationally? And just what makes those who believe in this myth believe that when law enforcement arrives on the scene, as they usually do pretty quickly, they themselves will not be mistaken for the attacker?

Alas, none of these common sense questions have answers that make any sense-except to themselves.

Rather than prevent so many guns from getting into the hands of people who should not have them or flood our streets with guns, our leaders are aiding and abetting the flooding of weapons into our streets, homes, businesses and public places. And, for the record, many of these guns used in attacks are could possibly have been prevented with stronger laws to keep the perpetrators from getting guns in the first place:

Mass shootings are not a random, inevitable element of American life today. Rather, this report illuminates trends that can help point lawmakers to strategies to curb these tragedies. These trends include that mass shootings are often:

perpetrated by someone who was legally prohibited from possessing a firearm;

perpetrated by someone who displayed prior warning signs;

intermingled with acts of domestic violence; and

far deadlier when they involve assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

All of our mass shootings to me are domestic terror attacks. Some have involved weapons legally owned such as at the Aurora theater shooting, the Sutherland Springs church shooting,( though he should have been prohibited), the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, and others.

Until we put our collective heads together to solve and treat our national gun violence epidemic, we will have more terror attacks, mass shootings, suicides, homicides and small children finding guns they shouldn’t have to shoot themselves or someone else avoidably and senselessly.

A 14 year old Texas boy found a gun and shot and gravely injured himself. It was a “reckless injury” as reported by law enforcement. The mother said her son had access to guns in the home. The 3 boys were passing it around. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult.

In the same story linked above, the police officer reported in great detail about an officer involved shooting. A Texas airman, obviously suicidal, aimed his weapon at the officers who responded. He then shot and killed himself with his weapon.

Lock up those guns all of you “law abiding” gun owners and good guys with guns. Be aware of military members, veterans and the risk of suicide.

Just today, in the midst of a lot of snow, 2 Minneapolis children were shot and killed while playing outside in the snow. What the H$%T?

11 were injured in a mass shooting at a celebration in New Orleans. Guns and altercations do not go together. Do people need guns at a rowdy celebration? Not really. It’s obviously dangerous and reckless.

And at the National Zoo in D.C. a family thought that fireworks let off by some people nearby were gunshots, closing down the zoo.

The country has PTSD from so many shootings in public places. We shouldn’t have to live like this. From the article:

On Twitter, some visitors inside the zoo said the false alarm caused panic.

“Within 10 minutes people calmed,” Twitter Ashley (@WeinDC) wrote.
“But people were running and carrying kids and screaming gun. It wasn’t great.”

Another Twitter user by the name of Sammie Fritts said that her and her husband left immediately after hearing others shout about a shooter.

‘We didn’t stay long enough to find out,” she wrote. “My husband saw my anxiety attack about to happen and got me out of there asap.”

It is still unclear how many kids had the fireworks and where they were shot from.

We have a serious unsolved problem.

And while we are reporting on all of these senseless shootings, the gun lobby is hoping the Supreme Court will come down in favor of their notion that the second amendment means that people have a right to carry guns in public. In the aftermath of and the midst of mass shootings and school shootings after shootings, will the Court come down on the side of common sense? In light of the fact that more guns in public places have resulted in more death and injury it would be a travesty if the Court expanded the meaning of the second amendment.

So there we have it. More people are dying from gun injuries. Some people believe stupidly that more guns make us safer wherever we are, including from unexpected terror attacks. Children and teens are harming or killing themselves on a regular basis. Senseless homicides are happening all over the country- even in a Minneapolis snow bank. Military members and veterans are using firearms to kill themselves at a stunning rate of 22 per day. And the gun rights community wants to expand gun rights.

We are better than this. Where is common sense?