It took a long time for the public and media to understand the “side effects” from shootings. As with the COVID vaccines, meant to protect us from a potentially deadly and highly infectious disease, we need a vaccine from shootings. Yes, there are side effects but getting the public vaccinated is of the utmost importance to get life back to normal. Wouldn’t it be great if we has a vaccine to prevent the side effects of people dying or being injured from bullets? The side effects of gun violence are myriad.
That vaccine would be in the form of reasonable gun laws proposed by legislatures and Congress. The vaccine would also be in the form of campaigns to get gun owners to store their guns safely away from those who could be dangerous with a loaded gun taken from a home or car such as the Be Smart program. It could be in the form of parents asking if there are loaded unlocked guns in the homes where their children play or hang out. It could be an awareness campaign about the risks of guns in homes such as End Family Fire. It could be in the form of appointing a permanent director for the ATF ( as President Biden has offering the name of David Chipman, former ATF agent), long underfunded on purpose and vilified by the gun rights extremists. The ATF has been left without a director for decades on purpose at the bidding of the gun extremists in Congress. It could be in the form of funding research into the causes and effects of gun violence, underfunded by the lapdog politicians in Congress. ( It finally happened in 2020) It could be in the form of community violence intervention efforts to reduce shootings in our urban communities as well as cracking down on Ghost Guns both in the President Biden’s recent Executive Orders.
And of course, it could and should be requiring a Brady background check on ALL gun sales so that every transaction is treated the same way. This, of course, would prevent felons, domestic abusers, adjudicate mentally ill people and others who are looking for a gun to use to shoot people, from easily getting a gun without a background check on-line or at a gunshow. Extreme Risk Protection Orders, when applied the way they should be, would also save lives.
As an aside, there was a recent seizure of Ghost guns and other dangerous weapons in a Pennsylvania raid:
“Investigators discovered 21.5 pounds of crystal methamphetamine with a street value of $968,200,” Shapiro’s office said in a statement. They also discovered “six fully assembled ghost guns, three 80 percent receivers used to make ghost guns, four assault rifles, three handguns, and various ghost gun parts, along with drug and Nazi paraphernalia.”
So-called ghost guns are homemade firearms often made from parts bought online, which do not have traceable serial numbers. They have recently been the subject of executive actions by President Joe Biden to curb their use through federal regulation.
What could possibly go wrong with the scene described above? ( and why the Nazi paraphernalia, often found at gun shows?) After the Jan. 6th insurrection on our nation’s Capitol, one would think this would not be allowed. It is certainly a symptom of something terribly wrong in America. That is a topic for another post.
All of these measures could save us from ourselves. Isn’t it just preposterous that anyone could be against these vaccines for our public health epidemic of gun violence? Only a small minority are as it turns out but somehow they have managed to keep us from curing our disease. It’s not unlike COVID vaccine deniers who refuse to be part of the solution and just add to the problem. Some of the anti-vax opposition is based on nonsense or crazy conspiracy theories. We must oppose that in order to get our country back to normal. Unfortunately some of the denial is political just as is refusing to admit that gun safety reform will work to protect us from devastating gun violence in all of its’ forms. Some of it is misinformation or lack of knowledge about the effects of the vaccine.
Is that on purpose do you think? Some days I wonder at the lack of responsibility and failure of people to seek out correct and valid information. Yes, there is fear of the unknown. But we do now know that the vaccines work. I know if from personal experience. Just as the corporate gun lobby has fomented fear and hysteria over what the effect of common sense gun safety reform would actually mean and look like, there is fear and misinformation around gun violence prevention. A misinformed public is not good for democracy and public safety.
But I digress.
PTSD after mass shootings and “every day” domestic shootings, suicides, community violence, and unintended shootings is real. We know that now. When citizens have to worry that wherever they go to work, play, pray, shop, learn, and celebrate outdoor events there could be a person with a gun who intends to do harm, something is wrong in America.
This is a uniquely American disease. Other countries have found the vaccine for the potential violence and snuffed it out before it kills people by the hundreds every day. That vaccine is strong gun laws and the recognition that guns carried around and owned by anyone and everyone is just not healthy.
In the six weeks since a gunman killed 10 people — including his manager and two colleagues — at the King Soopers market in Boulder, Loomis has come to avoid crowds and public places. He is sad, angry and anxious,and following months of working the front lines of pandemic, worn out.
“A lot of people are quitting, and others are still too shaken up to talk about what happened,” the 21-year-old cashier said. “Wherever I go now, I’m looking at people, thinking, ‘Does he have an assault rifle? Was that a gunshot? How do I escape?’ ” (…)
The prolonged stress, public health experts say, can lead to depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease and other conditions. Now they’re dealing with one more stressor, said Bethany Brand, a psychology professor at Towson University in Maryland who specializes in trauma.
“Statistically the odds of any one grocery worker being killed at work are extremely small, but that is not how our brains work,” she said. “The impact of these events is real with heightened levels of stress and anxiety for many employees.”
Even workers not directly affected by the shootings say they are struggling to sleep and are fearful of going to work, as they confront an ever-present threat of gun violence in the workplace. On April 20, less than a month after the Boulder shootings, a gunman opened fire in a Stop & Shop in Long Island, killing one manager and injuring two employees.
This is #notnormal. Except, of course, it is. Last week I saw a headline of a news story come across my iPhone that a 6th grader brought a gun to Plymouth Middle School in Minnesota. My son lives in Plymouth, Mn. His oldest son and my grandson goes to middle school but his school is in the Wayzata school district. My first reaction was panic as was that of my son and his wife until we realized that the school in question was in the Robbinsdale school district. Phew. Crisis averted. Except it wasn’t for the Plymouth Middle School after this 6th grader, who took a gun from his home, shot off bullets into the ceiling. Phew. Crisis averted. Except for the trauma of the event on everyone involved.
And the father who owned that gun? He apologized. According to the above linked article, he believed his son to be suicidal and spoke about the effect of COVID on our kids. I get that part. It’s been tough. What he didn’t talk about is why he had a loaded handgun sitting in his bedroom for his son to get his hands on. If he knew his son was suicidal, safe storage was the vaccine for that.
We need more than apologies.
Minnesota has a Child Access Prevention Law but it does not appear that the father will be charged. Every gun in the hands of a child must first pass through the hands of an adult. Was this the child’s fault? Was he trained not to touch a loaded gun because it could be dangerous? Because we know that just does not work. Children will, just like adults, think a gun is just another thing around the house if it is not treated like a dangerous weapon designed to kill others. Parents need to understand the consequences of irresponsibly storing a gun. The father, the boy and the entire Robbinsdale community are lucky the incident was not deadly.
The fallout of the middle school shooter is all around us. The entire community is wondering how this could have happened in their school or place of work. Way too often, the first comments after a shooting are that these things just don’t happen in their city, their school, their grocery store, their concert, their movie theater- until they do.
If we just practice common sense, we can reduce and prevent shootings. It’s not rocket science. It’s simple. If we care that over 40,000 Americans a year lose their lives ( an increase not seen in decades) to mostly preventable shootings, we will put our heads together with politicians on both sides of the aisle, with gun owners, with parents, professionals, educators, CEOs of companies, victims, survivors, faith leaders, community activists, and youth. We will get it done. Whatever it takes to get this done we do know that the #timeisnow for all of that to happen. We also know that the time was decades ago but we have failed our citizens. We have failed our children. We have failed.
Let’s do this.